"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: October 2007

           Newer posts

Cold Crush (ed)

The Yankees took it on the chin last night in Game One of the ALDS, getting smacked around by the Indians to the tune of 12-3. Chien-Ming Wang was absolutely awful and was duly pounded. The Yankee offense made C.C. Sabathia throw a lot of pitches early, and had him right where they wanted him, but Sabathia worked out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the fifth inning, the Indians scored five in the bottom of the inning, and the game was essentially over.

Yanks will look to old reliable Andy Pettitte late this afternoon in Game Two.
Good thing too, as Pettitte is 70-33 following a loss in his Yankee career, and 6-3 in Game 2 starts. Since 1995, the Yankees are 5-0 in the ALDS after dropping the first game. Let’s hope the trend continues…


ALDS Game One: Can I Start This?

Well, here we are again. One year later and the Yanks are in the post-season once more. Before the game starts, I just want to express how grateful I am that our team is back in the playoffs. It’s something that’s simply not to be taken for granted, cause it ain’t going to last forever. Moreover, I want to let you guys know how much Cliff and I appreciate the fact that you keep coming back to chill at the Banter. You make blogging a true pleasure.

As per usual, Cliff did a bang-up job of previewing the series this morning. Here is what Jay Jaffe thinks (Oh, and while you are at it,dig this piece on Alex Rodriguez by Steven Goldman).

I think that Sabathia is going to overwhelm the Yanks tonight. I hope I’m wrong, of course. It’s on our boy Chien-Ming to match Cleveland’s big fella. I know he can, but will he? Will the Yanks’ left-handed hitters be able to do anything against CC? Will the Yankees’ fielding hold-up for Wang?

I’ll feel good about the Bombers’ chances so long as they can take one of two games in Cleveland, won’t you?

Yo, I’m amped for the game. I’ll be blogging the entire series over at SI.com (just as Cliff is blogging the Phillies-Rockies series). While you are making the rounds, sure to check for Emma’s blog over at Newsday.

Now, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.

Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

ALDS Preview: Yankees and Indians

The position-by-position comparison is a tired old trope, but it’s fun as hell, and it’s actually a decent way to compare two teams. Or it almost is. Rather than compare two teams by position on the field, I prefer to compare them by position in the lineup. This corrects for teams that have, for example, power-hitting shortstops that hit in the middle of the order and banjo hitting first basemen who hit at the bottom. Rather than compare the apples and oranges of, say Alex Rodriguez and Casey Blake, I’ll compare Rodriguez to the Indians cleanup hitter and Blake to Doug Mientkiewicz. I reserve the right to fudge the lineups just a smidge to produce better comparisons, though in this case I only need to swap Hideki Matsui back up to the fifth spot, where he hit often enough this year anyway. Also included below are comparisons of the pitching staffs. The Yankee lineup (save for the flop of Matsui and Posada in the order) and roster below reflect those announced by the team. The Indians have yet to announce their roster, so the below is my best guess.

Name Pos AVG/OBP/SLG EqA SB (%)
Johnny Damon LF .270/.351/.396 .279 27 (90%)
Grady Sizemore CF .277/.390/.462 .306 33 (77%)

This one is closer than the stats might have you believe. Johnny Damon struggled through the first half of the season with a variety of injuries, compounding his problems by resisting (and ultimately avoiding) his first ever trip to the disabled list. Looking like a very old 33, Damon lost the center field job to Melky Carbrera by June 1, and by July 20, he was hitting just .234/.338/.322. It was then that Joe Torre finally decided that starting Damon at DH wasn’t sufficient, that he needed full days off as well. Damon did not start the first game of the Yankees’ double-header against the Devil Rays on July 21 and, almost as if the lack of rest was wearing him down mentally as well as physically, Damon flipped the switch in the nightcap and hit .319/.369/.493 over the remainder of the season. Looking at his monthly splits, Damon has improved every month since June as he’s slowly healed up from his rough first half. I’ll still give the edge to Sizemore, who, at 24, is still making improvements in his game that are not health related (he drew nearly twice as many walks this year as he did in his rookie season in 2005, and is no longer a liability against lefty pitching), but with Damon back at full strength and performing like he in his first year as a Yankee, it’s very close, especially when you consider that, despite Damon’s early struggles, Sizemore struck out nearly twice as many times as Johnny this season.

Name Pos AVG/OBP/SLG EqA SB (%)
Derek Jeter SS .322/.388/.452 .300 15 (65%)
Asdrubal Cabrerra 2B .283/.354/.421 .280 0

This one is the mismatch the last appeared to be on first glance. Cabrerra didn’t become the Tribe’s starting second sacker until mid-August, when the team finally realized that they could no longer both fight for the division and wait for offseason acquisition Josh Barfield to break out. Cabrera, who was acquired from the Mariners last June for Eduardo Perez, spent most of the 2007 season playing shortstop for double-A Akron while posting a hitting line not unlike Jeter’s above. Of course that was at double-A, and Cabrera had never hit like that before in his life save for a short stint at A-ball in 2005. Nonetheless, the Indians figured anything was worth a try, and were pleasantly surprised when the 21-year-old Venezuelan thrived at second base, hitting .308/.361/.477 over his first month in the big leagues. He cooled off over the final two weeks, of course, so it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll perform in the postseason with just 159 major league at-bats under his belt, but it’s safe to say he’s unlikely to out-perform Jeter. The Yankee captain was hobbled in the second-half of the season, suffering from a nagging knee injury that sapped his power, but he rallied in September to hit .311/.363/.495 and finished the season with a 15-game hitting streak during which he hit .386/.397/.653. What’s more, Jeter’s poor success rate on the bases was largely a first-half phenomenon. Jeter was a mere 7 for 14 on the bases in the first half, but stole 8 of 9 successfully in the second half. Perhaps his sore knee forced him to steal with smarts rather than with speed.


Yankee Panky # 26: Playoff Prep

In any other year, the Yankees would be starting their Division Series with the inappropriately-logoed team from Cleveland today, or even yesterday. But by virtue of MLB’s insane methodology to let TV further dictate start dates under the guise of giving the team with the best league record "an advantage," we must wait until Thursday.

But we won’t have to wait too long. With early starts to all the games in the Yankees-Indians series — Games 1 and 2 start at 6:30 and 5 p.m., respectively, Sunday’s Game 3 start is scheduled for 6:30, Game 4 is next Monday at 6 and Game 5 next Wednesday at 5 — we have at least a week before we see the annual "playoff games should start earlier so kids on the East Coast can stay up to watch it" column from Post Sports TV critic Phil Mushnick. I’m looking forward to that one, because he always cuts through the B.S., and provides me with a good laugh.

At any rate, since we do have some extra time, let’s quickly reflect on the 2007 regular season coverage and look ahead to the playoffs. Feel free to agree or disagree with your comments below.

Disclaimer: The opinions presented are not reflective of the proprietors of Baseball Toaster or my esteemed colleagues here at Bronx Banter, who allow me to put my warped thoughts in this space.

• NY Daily News. No paper sends more writers to more places, and gets as many different angles. The Times may break more stories and have more words to work with, but the Daily News fills space and gets straight to the point.

• LoHud, Peter Abraham. He understands the in-game blog function and doesn’t try to be something he’s not. The NY Times’ "Bats" item, with Tyler Kepner, Ben Shpigel, Jack Curry et al, is a close second.

• Tie between Tyler Kepner (NY Times) and George King (NY Post). I would likely choose these two even if I had not seen them in action and know how they go about their business. One is a by-the-book, work the phones guy who looks for angles and stories where others may not; the other is a clubhouse schmoozer who has sources pretty much everywhere. They are both extremely effective reporters in their way, and good writers. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the beat guys, because it’s a thankless grind of a gig, but Kepner and King consistently churn out high-quality work.

Honorable mention: Dom Amore, Hartford Courant. A veteran beat man who’s witnessed plenty of Yankee history. I’m continually amazed at the accuracy of his quotes, given that he barely jots down notes or uses a recorder. His brain capacity is incredible. I’ve seen him in action. It’s uncanny; because many of us aren’t directly exposed to him due to his Hartford base, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

• Bob Klapisch — The Record/ESPN.com. I chose Klapisch over Joel Sherman for the following reason: Klapisch, who pitched at Columbia and still plays some semipro ball, thinks like a player and brings a knowledge of the game that pierces his stories.

• Being wholly unbiased, Bronx Banter. Although I must say, now that I’ve had a chance to read more of the blogs listed on the right side of the screen, there’s a lot of strong information outside the mainstream, which has restored my faith in the intelligence of Yankee fans. After five years of eyeing and moderating the YES boards, reading your comments here and viewing the other communities has been educational.

BEST YANKEES BLOGGER • There are many talented Yankee wordsmiths. For consistency in tone, fairness, humor, etc., Steven Goldman is the best.

• Tie between the following: Kay, Singleton, Flaherty Kay, Girardi, Leiter

We saw it at the tail end of last year; there’s no way to replace Jim Kaat. With so many permutations of people to match with primary play-by-play men Michael Kay and Kenny Singleton, YES’s two-man setup suffered a bit because Kaat transitioned so well between the analyst role with Kay and the dual role with Singleton.

With that said, I was very impressed with some of the three-man arrangements, particularly the ones noted above. If Joe Girardi doesn’t take a managerial job next year, I look for his workload in the booth to increase to 75 games or so. Same with John Flaherty.

Flaherty and Girardi prove one of the unwritten rules of baseball coverage: if you want to gain information on the team and learn more about game strategy or what makes opposing players tick, the backup catcher is the best resource.

• David Justice. He’s fair, he’s complete, and he’s honest in his assessment.

Now to the general on-field stories…

• Alex Rodriguez. If his batting average was 50 points higher, we’d be talking Triple Crown. Easily one of the top five composite offensive seasons ever by a Yankees right-handed batter, what’s interesting about his performance was how all the tabloid stories stopped once he decided to shut up, say "F— it" and focus on baseball.

• Joba Chamberlain and the cult following he’s gained. A couple of weeks ago, Times columnist Harvey Araton echoed sentiments presented in this space by this author — make Joba the Shut (down reliever) Mariano Rivera’s heir apparent. He’s got a ringing endorsement from another hallowed Yankees stopper: Goose Gossage.

• Andy Pettitte. Not that he won 14 games, but if the bullpen came through for him in the first six weeks of the season, he might have had a shot at 20.

• 3-way tie between Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, and any reliever not named Joba Chamberlain (yes, that includes Mariano Rivera). I don’t know about you, but I’m surprised the criticism of the aforementioned players wasn’t more pronounced. Winning has a way of masking cynicism among the scribes.

• Joe Torre boycotting the Daily News writers in Boston following the publication of the bonehead headline "Torre to A-Rod: Shut Up." I’ve seen Torre verbally pants writers without raising his voice when asked a question that he considered to have crossed the line of professionalism. This, however, was undeserved, since the actual reports have no control over the headlines associated with their stories.

• Of all the ridiculous offensive numbers and ZIP code level ERAs posted by the pitching staff at various points of the year, Bob Abreu’s 123 runs scored stood out as the quietest, most unassuming gaudy number among the starting nine. Through all the derision and prolonged slumps he endured, I was stunned to find that Abreu’s run total was second in the AL only to A-Rod’s absurd 143.

* * *

To review, I thought the composite coverage during the regular season was solid. There are always going to be some kinks, but over the course of an eight-month grind, mistakes will be made and quotes, columns and stories will be misinterpreted.

We’re all wondering whether guys like A-Rod, Abreu, Clemens and Mussina will raise their games against the Indians. (The "pressure’s on A-Rod" stories were published in full force Tuesday, and Mike Greenberg issued a "cut him some slack" missive on Wednesday’s ESPN Radio show.) I’ve found that the writers are at their best in the postseason also. Do you agree? Do Playoff Pullout sections of the local papers enhance coverage or is it a bit gluttonous? Overall, what improvements do you think should be made from the mainstream coverage? If you were on the beat or were being paid to lend your opinion to the postseason Yankees coverage, how would you make your coverage stand out in the various media platforms, given the various constraints that may be placed upon you by your employer? How would you juggle staying at a press conference to get a quote with going to the clubhouse to get something that may be more useful? These are all considerations that must be made on the fly, as the entire coverage process becomes more standardized and teams relinquish control of information flow and player availability to MLB.

Next week … a review of TBS’s TV coverage and YES’s pre and postgames.

Gangster Boogie

Is everyone sick of the Alex Rodriguez playoff storyline yet? I know many people are, but it’ll be hard to avoid until Rodriguez has that one or two big offensive games for the Yanks. In the meantime, Pete Abe has some interesting audio from Rodriguez, and Howard Bryant has a nice, long piece on the potential King of New York. I like this quote from Kevin Millar:

“When is he just going to say, ‘I’m the baddest [dude] out there?’ ” Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar says. ” ‘I hit .320 with 40 and 130 RBIs, every [stupid] year, and what about it?’ What is anyone going to say to that? Nobody can challenge him in this game because nobody else is that good. He spent a lot of time trying to be liked. I just want him to say, ‘Don’t [mess] with me, because none of you [guys] can do what I do.’ That’s all he has to do, ’cause he’s a straight-up gangster.”

…All you heard was Papa don’t hit me no more!

The Waiting Game

Man, it feels strange having to wait another couple of days for the Yankees playoff season to start, doesn’t it? I’m already getting hyped-up and there’s a long time to go before first pitch, Thursday night. (Wonder how Alex Rodriguez feels? No pressure, big dog.) Meanwhile, the Yanks are “hopeful” that Roger Clemens will start Game 3.

We’ve got time to kibbitz. What do you make of the non-prime time schedule? What about Shelley Duncanstein possibly getting the Game One nod over Hideki Matsui? Yo peoples, whatta ya hear, whatta ya say?

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