"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: April 2008

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Cut The Crap

The first three Yankees to come to the plate last night reached base, but with the bases loaded and no outs, the Bombers only managed to plate two of those men. After sending seven men to the plate in that inning and making Jeremy Bonderman throw 27 pitches, they only got three more men on base all night against Bonderman and lefty reliever Clay Rapada, and none of those three reached second base.

Andy Pettitte held a slim 2-1 lead heading into the fifth, but just as he did in Cleveland, blew it on a home run in the fifth, this one a two-run shot by Marcus Thames. Placido Polanco, who is 6 for 10 on the series, led off the sixth with a solo shot off Pettitte, who yielded another run later that inning. Polanco hit another off Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth to set the final at 6-2.

That thoroughly dispiriting and spiritless performance by the Yankees was made all the more dreary by the news mid-game that Phil Hughes is being put on the disabled list due to a sore right oblique muscle. The story Hughes and the Yankees seem to have cobbled together is that Hughes tweaked the muscle in his rain-shortened start in Chicago, but didn’t think it was severe enough to mention. After coming out of Tuesday’s came, he told the trainers that he was having some discomfort there. The pain became worse overnight, and team doctor Stuart Hershon told Hughes and the team that Hughes would likely have to miss his next start, thus prompting the Yankees, who were already discussing what to do with their struggling youngster, to place Hughes on the DL.

Of course, Joe Girardi has made such a habit of lying to the press about team injuries and team decisions and so many injuries–from Morgan Ensberg’s ankle to Wilson Betemit’s conjuctivitis, to Joba Chamberlain’s hamstrings, to this one–have either come out of nowhere or been unsubstantiated rumors, that it’s become impossible to take the team at it’s word, particularly when the DL gives them an easy short-term solution for Hughes struggles. Hughes said after the game that he hasn’t had an MRI. So we’re left wondering if we should be concerned about an injury-prone young pitcher with a troublesome oblique injury, something that conjures comparisons to the A’s extremely talented and extremely fragile Rich Harden, or pleased that Hughes is going to get a minimum of two weeks to clear his mind and work on his mechanics and tertiary pitches in the hope of rebooting his season in mid-May while the rotation gets a temporary upgrade in the person of Darrell Rasner (who has gone 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 4.5 K/BB ratio for Scranton thus far).

This all puts a very bad taste in my mouth, yes because of the team’s poor play (3.17 runs scored per game and a 2-4 record over their last six games), yes because of the talent stacking up on the disabled list (Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Phil Hughes all hitting the DL within the span of four days), but above all because the new administration seems determined to leave the team’s fans and the media who inform those fans in the dark.

Roll With It

Chris Stewart’s Yankee debut didn’t go s’good last night. He went 0-for-3 at the plate with a strikeout and was repeatedly crossed up by Phil Hughes, resulting in two passed balls. Fortunately, Chad Moeller cleared waivers and has been reinstated on the 25-man roster, forcing Stewart back to Scranton (and off the 40-man via a DFA, though the move hasn’t been announced yet). Meanwhile, Chris Britton, who was optioned yesterday, was recalled today following Ross Ohlendorf’s 3 1/3-inning outing last night (Alex Rodriguez hitting the DL allows the Yankees to skip the ten-day rule). Of course, Britton could be back on the Scranton shuttle after Ian Kennedy’s start tomorrow, as Wilson Betemit is now eligible to come off the DL just in time to fill the hole at his natural position of third base. Chad Jennings reports that Betemit is scheduled to join the Scranton team for a rehab assignment tomorrow.

Andy Pettitte will look to ease the strain on the pen tonight. In his last start he lasted just five innings against the Indians, turning in his worst outing of the year. The Tigers righty-heavy lineup would seem to be a bad match for Pettitte. Indeed, Andy’s been hell on lefties in the early going, but righties have been doing well against him. The thing is, that’s unusual. On his career, Pettitte has almost no platoon split at all and when he does have one it tends to be a reverse split. Andy pitched a gem in his only outing against Detroit last year (8 IP, 5 H, 1 R). I’d expect some bounce back tonight.

Opposing Andy will be Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman feels like he’s been around forever at this point–as the first-round high school draft pick that steeled Billy Beane’s resolve to draft college arms in the “Moneyball” draft, as a key player in the three-team Jeff Weaver/Ted Lilly/Carlos Peña trade, as a 19-game loser on the 113-loss 2003 Tigers team, and as a perennial breakout candidate who still hasn’t made that leap–but he’s still just 25. Bonderman improved steadily from 2003 to 2006, but last year he fell apart in conjunction with the Tigers’ second-half slide that I mentioned in my series preview (first 18 starts: 10-1, 3.53; last ten starts: 1-8 8.23). A sore elbow was the culprit, but he was shut down in early September and expected to make a full recovery over the winter. In the early going, however, he’s been maddeningly inconsistent, failing to turn in a single quality start in five outings and pitching inefficiently, with just 58 percent of his pitches going for strikes on the season. Bonderman struck out just ten men in his first four starts (22 2/3 innings) before striking out seven Rangers in 4 2/3 in his last start, but after walking 8 in his first 17 2/3 innings he’s now walked 13 in his last 9 2/3. It doesn’t bode well for Bonderman that the Yankees drew eight walks of his teammates last night. Also worth noting: while Bonderman has kept his ERA at a respectable 4.28, he has five unearned runs on his ledger already, giving him a 5.93 RA (run average).

Alberto Gonzalez starts in place of Morgan Ensberg at third base tonight. Melky “Got Homers” Cabrera moves up to the sixth spot, ahead of the struggling Robinson Cano, catcher Jose Molina, and Gonzalez.

Update: Stewart was optioned, but not designated for assignment. Rather, to make room for Moeller on the 40-man, Sean Henn, who had been pitching well on rehab assignment with Scranton, was DFAed. Chad Jennings has some reaction to the move.

Ten Essential Baseball Books

Last month I received an e-mail from Chris Illuminati, the content editor of Phillyburbs.com. He told me he was asking different people for one baseball book that they’d consider essential. I picked "No Cheering From the Press Box," Jerome Holtzman’s wonderful collection of interviews with old time sports writers, but sent Chris a list of ten essential books just for the fun of it. Shortly after the story ran I thought it’d be fun to ask a group of seamheads–historians, biographers, columnists, beat writers, screenwriters, novelists–for a list of their ten essential baseball books. Not the ten best books or even the ten most essential books just ten essential ones.

I deliberately rigged the question because there are more than just ten essential books in any self-respecting baseball libray. But I was more interested in lists that would reveal the quirks and personal tastes of each individual rather than trying to assemble an authoratative or comprehensive poll. 

The top vote getters are interesting–though not particularly surprising–and because the lists are so subjective there are no consensus selections. "Ball Four" and "The Glory of Their Times" and "The Bill James Historical Abstract" were the top picks, though some people distinctly went with the original Historical Abstract while others chose the new one.  Bill James got more votes than any individual writer followed by Roger Angell (the most common difficulty for the contributors seemed to be which Angell compilation to go with).

I heard back from 55 people via e-mail and even trooped to the far reaches of the upper east side to visit Ray Robinson and get his list (I also had some partial responses and decided not to include them). A total of 168 different books were selected.  Here are the results.  Tomorrow, I’ll post the individual ballots.

Table 1: Here are the top 15 (7 or more votes):

Rank Title Author Total
1 Ball Four, by Jim Bouton Jim Bouton and Leonard Schecter 35
2 The Glory of Their Times Lawrence Ritter 29
3 The Bill James Historical Abstract Bill James 27
4 Boys of Summer Roger Kahn 20
4 Moneyball Michael Lewis 20
6 Veeck as in Wreck Bill Veeck and Ed Linn 16
7 Babe Robert Cremer 15
7 Lords of the Realm John Heylar 15
9 The Summer Game Roger Angell 14
10 Eight Men Out Eliott Asnoff 13
11 A False Spring Pat Jordan 10
12 The Summer of ’49 David Halberstam 9
12 The Natural Bernard Malamud 9
14 Baseball’s Great Experiment Jules Tygiel 8
15 Dollar Sign on the Muscle Kevin Kerrane 7

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Cold Yanks Fall Flat

During the early innings of the game last night, I caught up with an old college buddy. As we chatted on the phone, I became aware that his three-year-old was making a racket in the background–the same irritating noise over and again. When I asked my friend if his kid was okay he said, “He’s fine, he just wants attention.”

I was reminded of the child’s insistent noise-making in the eighth inning of the game. The Yankees were down 6-2, their offense listless again. On the YES broadcast, Michael Kay wondered if the team’s brutal schedule–they have had just one day off in April–had something to do with their flat performance. It was brick cold at the Stadium and the fans who remained were the die-hards. As Kay and Al Leiter spoke, I became aware of a loud clanging, a stick knocking on a cowbell out in the bleachers most likely. The banging did not stop all inning as a small group of fans tried to rally the team into action and to keep themselves warm and awake. It felt like the old days, when the Stadium wasn’t always packed and small groups of fans felt compelled to announce their presence with authority.

Denny Bautista, a string bean of a relief pitcher for the Tigers with a propensity for wildness was doing his best to help the Yankees out. He walked the bases full and then hit Derek Jeter to force in a run. Jim Leyland looked as if he was ready to strangulate Bautista. The skinny pitcher, who has enormous teeth, thick, full lips, and a weak chin, had completely unraveled. He looked like a schlimiel as he trudged off the mound, his shirt untucked, but like a cat who has just accidentally fallen off the kitchen counter, he tried to maintain a sense of arrogance, making him look even more foolish.

Bobby Abreu grounded out weakly to third to end the inning. The Bombers managed to plate another run in the ninth but then Todd Jones, aggresive and throwing strikes, got his three outs and that was the game. Robinson Cano, who homered–a line drive shot into the right field seats–in his first at bat, whiffed on three pitches to end the game (the last pitch was over his head), in an undisciplined at bat that has become all too common this year. The Yanks left 13 men on base and deserved to lose the game.

Final score. Tigers 6, Yanks 4.

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Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers

2007 Record: 88-74 (.543)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 90-72 (.553)

Manager: Jim Leyland
General Manager: Dave Dombrowski

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Comerica Park (101/101)

Who’s Replacing Whom:

Miguel Cabrera replaces Sean Casey
Jacque Jones replaces Craig Monroe
Edgar Renteria replaces Brandon Inge in the lineup
Brandon Inge replaces Mike Rabelo on the bench
Ramon Santiago takes over Omar Infante’s playing time
Armando Galarraga is filling in for Dontrelle Willis (DL)
Dontrelle Willis (DL) replaces Andrew Miller and Chad Durbin
Kenny Rogers takes back starts from Jair Jurrjens and Mike Maroth
Aquilino Lopez is filling in for Fernando Rodney (DL)
Denny Bautista is filling in for Joel Zumaya (DL) and replacing Wil Ledezma Clay Rapada is taking over for Tim Byrdak and Macay McBride

25-man Roster:

1B – Miguel Cabrera (R)
2B – Placido Polanco (R)
SS – Edgar Renteria (R)
3B – Carlos Guillen (S)
C – Ivan Rodriguez (R)
RF – Magglio Ordoñez (R)
CF – Curtis Granderson (L)
LF – Jacque Jones (L)
DH – Gary Sheffield (R)

Bench:

UT – Brandon Inge (R)
OF – Marcus Thames (R)
OF – Ryan Raburn (R)
IF – Ramon Santiago (R)

Rotation:

R – Justin Verlander
L – Kenny Rogers
R – Jeremy Bonderman
L – Nate Robertson
R – Armando Galarraga

Bullpen

R – Todd Jones
R – Jason Grilli
L – Bobby Seay
R – Aquilino Lopez
R – Denny Bautista
R – Zach Miner
L – Clay Rapada

15-day DL: L – Dontrelle Willis, R – Joel Zumaya, R – Fernando Rodney, R – Vance Wilson (C)

Restricted List: R – Francisco Cruceta

Typical Lineup:

L – Curtis Granderson (CF)
R – Placido Polanco (2B)
R – Gary Sheffield (DH)
R – Magglio Ordoñez (RF)
R – Miguel Cabrera (1B)
S – Carlos Guillen (3B)
R – Edgar Renteria (SS)
R – Ivan Rodriguez (C)
L – Jacque Jones (LF)

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If You Build It (They Will Win)

Over at The Baseball Analysts, Rich Lederer has an insightful interview with Dan Levitt, author of Ed Barrow: The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty. Here’s a peak:

Rich: Your subtitle “The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty” suggests that the Bronx Bombers have had multiple dynasties. How would you define these dynasties and what was Barrow’s role in each of them?

Dan: There is no official definition, of course, but I identify the first Yankees’ dynasty as the period from 1921 through the end of WWII in which they won 14 pennants and 10 World Series. Not surprisingly, this era corresponded to Barrow’s tenure with the club. In early 1945 the Yankees were sold to a new ownership entity ending Barrow’s term at the helm and a long period of stability. The mercurial Larry MacPhail’s approach to running a front office was materially different from Barrow’s. By the time MacPhail left and George Weiss took over, the post-war bonus-baby era of talent acquisition was in place. In sum, the huge disruption caused to American life by WWII, the dramatic change in Yankee ownership, a change of managers, and the post-war change in talent acquisition and wide-spread expansion of the farm system throughout baseball makes the period around the end of WWII a natural demarcation point.

Within Barrow’s “first dynasty” I would suggest there were really three different phases: 1921 – 1923, 1926 – 1928, and 1936 – 1943. Much of Barrow’s genius lay is reading the environment correctly so that he could build and then rebuild on the fly. After joining the Yankees, Barrow spent roughly $450,000 to buy up the rest of Boston owner Harry Frazee’s best players. This avenue dried up in 1923 when Frazee sold the team – he was out of good players by this time anyway – and other major league teams were not sellers during the roaring twenties. To restock his team in the mid-1920s Barrow assembled a terrific team of scouts and bought top talent from the independent minors. In the 1930s the onset of the Depression led to new rules regarding the ownership of minor league franchises. With these revised, more favorable rules in place, owner Jacob Ruppert demanded Barrow start a farm system. Barrow quickly developed the best minor league organization in the league while his scouts redirected their efforts to nation’s best amateurs to stock it.

Rich: Ed Barrow managed Ruth in 1918 and 1919 when the latter was playing for the Red Sox. It was during this time when Ruth was spending less time as a pitcher and more time as an outfielder. How much influence did Barrow have in converting the Babe from one of the best pitchers in the league to the premier slugger in the game?

Dan: Barrow was the key actor in moving the Babe from pitcher to the field. To appreciate the boldness of this move one needs to first realize that Ruth was an exceptional pitcher: in 1916 he completed the season 23-12 while leading the league with a 1.75 ERA; the next year he finished second in the league in wins with a 24-13 record and seventh in ERA at 2.01. Outfielder Harry Hooper (who also acted as something of a bench coach for Barrow – remember, Barrow was seven years removed from managing and thirteen from managing in the majors) argued that Ruth’s prodigious hitting would make him more valuable as a regular in the field. On May 6, 1918 with first baseman Dick Hoblitzel nursing an injured finger, Barrow started Ruth at first base, his first non-pitching appearance in the field after more than three years in the Majors. Ruth made Barrow and Hooper look like geniuses, going two-for-four with a home run. Over the next several weeks Barrow often used Ruth in the field when he was not pitching, mostly in left field after Hoblitzel returned.

Barrow has rightfully received widespread credit for converting Ruth to the field. Hooper certainly deserves recognition for realizing Ruth’s potential as a regular and pushing for it, but Barrow warrants the bulk of the acclaim. When a decision has a clearly identifiable decision maker who has both the authority and the responsibility to make it, that person deserves most of the credit for a successful outcome and the blame for an unsuccessful one. Had the second-best pitcher in baseball (to Walter Johnson) underperformed in his new role and then returned to the mound at anything less than his previous ability, it would have been Barrow who suffered the condemnation and abuse from the fans, the press, and, perhaps most importantly, his players.

Excellent stuff from Levitt and Lederer. I’m really looking forward to reading this book.

Ad Infinitum

I always try to be understanding when listening to baseball announcers. It’s hard to talk intelligently and authoritatively about anything for four straight hours, let alone do that almost every day for six months. If I ever tried, the network would most likely owe the FCC millions in fines by the first half-hour mark, and by day three I’d be babbling about my dog and The Wire and snickering like a 12-year-old boy at White Sox coach Rusty Kuntz. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Beyond that, it’s difficult for announcers to decide exactly who to address: the casual fan who watches a game or two per week, or the die-hards who see nearly every at-bat? I expect many Bronx Banter readers fall in the latter category, but broadcasters don’t want to alienate the large proportion of viewers who don’t follow the team as closely. It’s completely understandable, but still, all the repetition can be hard on us regulars.

All of which is just a roundabout introduction to the real subject of my rant today: ads.

When the YES network debuted, I was a college junior, and thrilled at the concept of an all-Yankees network to feed my obsession. I wrote about its first few weeks for the college paper, and noted:

…as a new channel, it doesn’t seem to have many advertisers just yet—half the commercials are for actual YES programs, and the other half consists of exactly five low-budget local ads, aired repeatedly. If this keeps up, I may have to eat at the Captain’s Galley restaurant in West Haven—as the man in the ad says (in a very unfortunate pirate voice), it’s time to "experience the legend for yourself!" I might drive there in my brand new car from Quality Hyundai, conveniently located on I-95 between Exits 52 and 53.

Turns out, that wasn’t just a new-channel quirk; YES still runs the same spots over and over and over again, half-inning after half-inning, and sometimes year after year, though they tend to be more upscale these days. (Well, except for Procede). I now think back fondly on the pirate voice that shilled for The Captain’s Galley. If you live in the tri-state area, have basic cable, and watch a lot of Yankees games, you will be uncomfortably familiar with the following:

“Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.”

"Attention, men with thinning hair!"

“A Platinum ownership experience can only be achieved from the Lexus Platinum Dealer Network.”

I must have heard that last godforsaken sentence roughly – and this is just an estimate – 5,678,328,304 times. I often fast-forward through commercials these days (bless you, brilliant Tivo inventors), change the channel, or simply tune them out; but something this ubiquitous, and this irritating, simply cannot be ignored. They show it during every single inning, sometimes more than once. Every day. During Mets games, too, and Knicks games, at least back when I could watch those without clawing at my own eyes. It’s horrifying to contemplate just how often I’ve seen that spokes-snob, in her black cocktail dress and pearls, traipse across her cheap CGI map blathering on about luxury.

Look, Lexus lady: I don’t want to “achieve a platinum ownership experience.” I might, one day, want to “buy a car,” but since I live in New York, probably not. If I ever do — unless I have an unknown wealthy uncle somewhere who’s secretly planning to bequeath me his estate — it is unlikely to be a Lexus. So despite the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars the company has spent pounding this insipid message into my skull, I WILL NEVER BUY YOUR PRODUCT. In fact, at this point, no mater how much money I had or how great a deal it was or how much I liked the car, I’d refuse to buy a Lexus on principles alone. The people behind this ad, and responsible for its placement, cannot be allowed to win.

Furthermore, if I do one day get a car… guess which brand of insurance I will NOT EVER be purchasing for it?

So sure, Michael Kay’s thrice-repeated anecdotes can be frustrating at times, but the guy’s trying his best to do a challenging job. Whereas I’m now convinced that limey Geico lizard is the computer-generated embodiment of pure unyielding evil.

And if I ever run into "salon expert Guiseppe Franco" on the street, I will not be held accountable for my actions.

Killing ‘Em Softly

After five innings last night, the Yankees were trailing 2-0 and being no-hit by Aaron Laffey. They then exploded with the following rally:

Melky Cabrera broke up the no-no with an infield single on a Baltimore chop that hopped over third baseman Casey Blake’s head to shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Derek Jeter followed with a squibber down the third base line that took a sharp left turn on Blake allowing Jeter to reach with another infield single. Bobby Abreu then singled to shallow left field to load the bases with no outs. Down 1-2 in the count, Alex Rodriguez was hit in the left thigh to plate the first Yankee run. Next, Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui both hit slow bouncing balls to first base, exchanging two outs for two runs. That inexplicably drove Laffey from the game at 78 pitches. Facing reliever Jensen Lewis, Morgan Ensberg hit a weak chop that nearly rolled to a stop even with the mound. Lewis got to the ball first, but was forced to eat it as Ensberg reached with another infield single, this one plating the fourth Yankee run.

Joked Ensberg after the game, “We’ve tried hitting the ball hard. Robby Cano knows it, too. Jason [Giambi has] hit the ball real hard, but that doesn’t work. We need to start using the entire bat. We need to start dribbling balls and rolling balls over, which is exactly what we did.”

The Yankees added a fifth run in the eighth off Lewis when Johnny Damon pinch-hit for the aching Rodriguez (more on that below), walked, and was plated by a well-struck double by Hideki Matsui. Not that they needed it. Jonathan Albaladejo, Kyle Farnsworth, Joba Chamberlain, and Mariano Rivera each tossed a scoreless inning to wrap up the win for starter Mike Mussina. Kyle, Joba, and Mo combined for three perfect frames, striking out one man each. Farnsworth, who threw eight of his 12 pitches for strikes, effectively worked a new cutter into his usual fastball/slider mix. Albaladejo had runners on the corners with two outs via a walk and a single, but struck out David Dellucci to escape his inning. Mussina was sharp again, though less efficient. He didn’t allow an extra base hit in his five innings, but the two runs he allowed both came in the bottom of the fifth, which started with four straight singles. Moose did well to escape that inning with just two runs allowed, but Girardi was right to lift him once the Yankees got the lead in the top of the next frame.

As for Rodriguez, his right quad is the one that’s been bothering him and the pitch from Laffey hit him in the left thigh, but coming out of the box on a groundball to second in the first inning, he aggravated the right thigh. Rodriguez slowed up after just four strides on that groundout and appeared to be limping when he scored in the sixth, prompting Giardi to pinch-hit for him in his next at-bat. After the game, Rodriguez said he was probably only running at 50 percent when he scored and that he probably came back too quickly from the initial injury. Rodriguez plans to shut himself down for a few days. Said Rodriguez after the game, “There’s no way I could play tomorrow. . . . I had a quad injury like this in my senior year in high school and it lingered on for a couple months, so it’s important to get it right. . . . I think Jeter took the right approach where he took a litte bit more time, and that’s probably what I need, too. . . . Joe [Girardi] said [I'll sit] one day, and we’ll take it from there, but if I had to guess, I would probably guess probably more than one day. . . . When I get back out there I want to be closer to 100 percent than I am now.”

As for Jorge Posada, who was absent from the Yankee dugout for the first time since September 1, 1996, there was no word last night on his diagnosis/prognosis, though I’m hopeful that we’ll hear something prior to tonight’s opener against the Tigers.

Time To Split

It’s cold and rainy in Cleveland with a chance of snow (!), but the Yanks aren’t scheduled to return there this season, so they’ll likely make every attempt to get the game in, much like they did on their final day in Chicago, when rain twice interrupted the game and ended Phil Hughes night after just two innings.

Mike Mussina will be the man contending with the elements tonight. Moose is coming off the gem he twirled against the Chisox when he had unusually good movement on his non-curve pitches. He and the Yankee hitters will be facing 23-year-old lefty groundballer Aaron Laffey. Laffey was reliably average in his nine starts for the Tribe as a rookie last year. He lasted five or more innings in all but one start (and four innings in the exception) and allowed no more than four runs in any of those five-plus-inning starts (he allowed five runs in the four-inning outing). Tonight will be his first time facing the Yankees.

Laffey is the third of five lefty starters the Yankees are facing in a six-day span. In the first two of those games, Joe Girardi has radically rearranged his lineup, leaving some of his best hitters on the bench, and received four runs of total offense as a result. Resting Bobby Abreu I understand, as Abreu’s the one left-handed Yankee hitter who really struggles against his own kind. Using the opposing lefty as an excuse to rest the struggling Robinson Cano I also understand. Sitting Hideki Matsui for two straight days just because there’s a lefty on the mound I do not understand.

Prior to sitting out the last two games, Matsui was riding a seven-game hitting streak during which he had hit .318/.516/.500. On his career, Matsui has hit a respectable .293/.359/.448 against lefties. He is 0 for 9 with a walk in his career against C.C. Sabathia, so I understand Giardi’s reasoning for sitting Matsui yesterday, but if that was the plan, he should have started Hideki on Saturday. Tonight, Matsui’s back in the lineup, but Johnny Damon is sitting out. Damon is hitting .433/.485/.800 over his last seven games with two homers and five doubles. On his career, Damon has hit .286/.349/.404 against lefties. Against lefties the last two days he’s gone 5 for 9 with two of those doubles. I just don’t understand resting the team’s hottest hitter when the offense has sputtered for three straight days.

Shelley Duncan and Morgan Ensberg combined to reach base once in 12 plate appearances over the last two games. Duncan, who was the guy who got on base, sits tonight. Ensberg plays third as Girardi uses the DH to protect Alex Rodriguez’s tender quad.

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Miss List

Man, I miss this cat.

Just sayin…

Risky Business

Here’s Will Caroll’s take on Jorge Posada:

The worst-case scenario for the Yankees has always been injuries. The moves that the team needs to make around any DL move throw things off, certainly more than what we see in Boston. Posada seemed to come back from his “dead arm,” but just a week later it’s clear that the shoulder isn’t going to hold up. What’s not as clear is the path back. Remember that MRI that reportedly showed no structural damage? Now, not so much, because Posada has a torn rotator cuff, the same muscle (the subscapularis) that has Rich Harden on the shelf. Posada will head to Birmingham for an examination and consultation with Jim Andrews. After the announcement, Posada seemed very emotional, which could indicate that he knows this is a longer-term injury or could just be a reaction to being placed on the DL for the first time. A subscapular tear is a bad thing for a catcher, and it isn’t something that one can come back from quickly, though surgery doesn’t look like an option. I’m setting Posada’s DXL at 30, but remember that he could come back as a DH more quickly than that. The problem is that’s not what the Yankees need, and certainly not what they thought they were signing, though they had to understand the risks of signing an older catcher, even one as durable as Posada.

(Tell Me Why?) I Don’t Like Mondays

It is a cold, rainy spring day in New York. The skies are dark and the Yankees and their fans are going to continue feeling anxious until their is more definitive word on the extent of Jorge Posada’s injury. If he needs surgery, he could be lost from 4-6 months. According to Tyler Kepner in the Times:

Posada will return to New York with the Yankees after Monday’s game, and he said he wanted to visit Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, Ala., who operated on his labrum in 2001.

Andrews has read the M.R.I. results, and Posada has said that surgery will not be necessary. But the problem has not improved as Posada hoped, raising the specter of an operation.

After the initial M.R.I., the Yankees said the injury was a strained shoulder. But a strain is a euphemism for a tear, and Posada seemed concerned about the extent of it.

“It’s not getting any better, so we’ve got to find out what it really is,” Posada said. “The M.R.I. showed a strained muscle, and I think it’s more than that.”

…”It’s early, and we’ve got to be smart about it,” Posada said.

…”But it’s really disappointing to work really hard and not feel good. I worked really hard to be back at it. I’m even apologizing to the Yankees, because I signed a good contract.”

Meanwhile, it’s an election year, so here is a pefect twist in the Roger Clemens saga.

Book it, Pluto

Terry Pluto, the veteran Cleveland newspaperman, is also the author of several entertaining books, including The Curse of Rocky Colavito and Loose Balls. His latest effort, Dealing, is covers the Indians from their Gashouse Gorilla days in the 90s through the Dolans, up to the current team. Over at the Plain-Dealer, five chapters of Pluto’s book are excerpted. Check ‘em out.

A Gem and Some Gloomy News

Oh, man, Sunday was fun if you enjoy a good, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. Both Chien-Ming Wang (5-0) and C.C. Sabathia (1-4) were dealing. Wang had tremendous stuff, mixing in a sharp, late-breaking slider and a split-finger fastball to go with his sinker. He gave up just four hits and two walks over seven innings, while striking out–dig this–nine batters. Sabathia was a load too, allowing just four hits and a walk over eight innings while striking out eight. The big fella made one mistake–a lovely-sounding solo home run to Melky Cabrera. That was all the scoring, as the Yanks won, 1-0. Joba Chamberlain pitched a perfect eighth, Mariano did the same in the ninth.

A nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Now, for the bad news. As first reported by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, Jorge Posada is headed to the Disabled List for the first time in his fourteen-year career. According to Pete Abe:

The muscle tear in Posada’s shoulder left him unable to throw today and he will be examined by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., later this week.

“It’s very disappointing,” Posada said. “The biggest disappointment in my career.”

Posada seemed almost close to tears as he spoke. “It’s not getting any better and we have to find out what really it is,” he said. “The MRI showed a strained muscle and I think it’s more than that. I want to find out really what it is.”

It doesn’t come as a surprise that Posada got hurt this year. That’s what happens to players–especially catchers–when they get older. We can only hope that the other durable Yankee veterans–Rivera, Rodriguez and Jeter–continue to buck the odds and remain healthy.

I’ll say it again…what’s up with Girardi and the Yankees being so cryptic about the injuries so far this year?

Gainin’ on Ya

God Bless CC and its Vanilla Suburbs…

Let’s hope our man Chien Ming is on his game today as the Yanks face C.C. Sabathia and try to salvage something positive out of another awful time at the Jake.

Time to get on the stick boys. 

 

 

 

On the Low…

So what gives with the secrets?

Sweet Treats

Making Gaufrettes, Belgian Waffle cookies with my ma.

 

 
 

 

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Grumble, Grumble, Grumble

Well, my streak of fury-less baseball watching is over as the Yankees lost to the Indians 4-3 on Saturday afternoon. It started off poorly and got worse. Em and I listened to the first few innings on our way back from my mom’s house, where we made traditional Belgian waffle cookies this afternoon. It was late in the day and I was crashing from all the sugar. Add John Sterling, a dash of S. Waldman, and well, it was not a good combination. Especially–or “ekspecially,” as Paul O’Neill likes to say, with Ian Kennedy nowhere near the strike zone in the early going.

We got home in time to watch the majority of the game with more friends, Buck and McCarver, who made sure to keep us updated on the baseball game inbetween talking about the NFL draft. To be hoenst, it was a frustrating day for both sides, a game that moved in fits-and-starts, with failed rallies, hard-hit balls turned into outs, lucky double plays, failed bunt attempts (that means you, Melky), and a horrid missed call at second base. The Yankees had no business winning the game and yet they had their chances. They had 12 hits. Alex Rodriguez had a spirited 11-pitch at bat with runners on in the seventh, and just missed three pitches in the sequence, fouling them off, before going down on strikes. Later, with the game tied in the top of the ninth, Mariano Rivera warming in the bullpen, and runners on the corners, Derek Jeter hit into a double play. Here’s the play-by-play ugliness.

Ross Olendorf took the loss when he allowed a bases loaded single to Victor Martinez. But the Yankee pitchers were behind in the count all day long–Kennedy regrouped in his final two innings, but didn’t give the team any length and was subpar once again; LaTroy Hawkins threw six straight balls before throwing a strike, walked the lead-off man in the sixth and seventh, while Kyle Farnsworth walked the first man in the eighth.

Ah, I’m sore just thinking about it. And I’m not the only one who is irritated. Hopefully, the boys will show up tomorrow.

Kids Today

FOX missed the marquee pitching matchup of the Cleveland/New York series by one day. Chien-Ming Wang and C.C. Sabathia rematch Game One of last year’s ALDS tomorrow, but today 25-year-old Jeremy Sowers makes his season debut against 23-year-old Ian Kennedy and his 9.64 ERA. This is Kennedy’s first start since pissing off Joe Girardi by nibbling against the Orioles and walking five men in 2 2/3 innings. Kennedy had pitched well in his two outings prior to that, throwing a quality start at the Rays before getting hit in the hip by a comebacker and pitching well in relief on a rain-soaked night night in Kansas City, retiring nine of his last ten batters after allowing two of the first four to score. He says he’s gotten the message, so look for Kennedy to attack the zone today.

Like Kennedy, Sowers was college hurler who was drafted in the first-round and moved quickly through the minors. Kennedy was drafted 21st overall out of USC in 2006 and made his major league debut in September 2007. Sowers was taken sixth overall out of Vanderbilt in 2004 and made his major league debut in June 2006. Sowers was strong in his rookie season with the Indians, but stumbled as a sophomore last year, pitching his way off the team by mid-June. The issue seemed to be a decline in his ability to induce groundballs, which combined with the steep reduction in his strikeout rate upon reaching the majors essentially eliminated his ability to get hitters out with any consistency. That said, in his one major league start since then, Sowers shut out the Mariners for five innings. Sowers last faced the Yankees last April and got lit up for six runs in 2 2/3 innings, though he also pitched a gem against them in his second major league game in early June 2006.

Sowers is the first of three consecutive lefty starters the Yankees will face to conclude this series. They’ve faced just two previous lefty starters this season, beating John Bale in Kansas City and losing to Brian Burres in Baltimore. In both games, Joe Girardi sat both Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi. In their places, he played Hideki Matsui in right field and worked Morgan Ensberg into the lineup. He also used the non-catching version of Jorge Posada in those games, at DH against Bale and first base against Burres. With Posada back behind the plate, Girardi will need another righty bat if he wants to continue to rest Abreu and Giambi against lefties.

Enter Shelley Duncan, who has been recalled and will start in right field today (no word yet on who’s being optioned to make room for him). Giambi, coming off his two-homer game last night, stays in the lineup, but lefties Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano do not. Alberto Gonzalez starts at second base for the second time in his major league career. Morgan Ensberg plays third while Alex Rodriguez takes Matsui’s usual spot as the DH. Given Giaradi’s tendencies thus far, I’d expect to see a different combination against lefty C.C. Sabathia tomorrow. Oh, and unrelated to the pitcher on the mound, Jose Molina will catch in today’s late-day game after last night’s night game.

Home Run Derby

Eight of the ten runs scored in last night’s game in Cleveland were driven in by home runs. The two that weren’t were scored by the Indians and amounted to the difference in their 6-4 victory over the Yankees. The first of those runs came in the bottom of the first after Cleveland leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore reached base on a tough error by Jason Giambi (a hard high hopper to his right kicked off the heal of his glove) and was replaced by Jamey Carroll via a fielder’s choice. Carroll stole second ahead of a high throw that appeared to slip out of Jorge Posada’s hand, moved to third on a groundout, and was plated by a well-placed two-out single by Jhonny Peralta. The second of those runs came against reliever Billy Traber in the sixth. Traber retired the first two men he faced, both of them righties, but walked lefty-hitting Sizemore. Sizemore then stole second on Traber’s slow, elongated delivery and was plated by a single by the right-handed Carroll.

In between, Giambi compensated for his error with a pair of towering homers off Cleveland starter Paul Byrd to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead. Andy Pettitte then coughed up that lead in the fifth when a pair of two-out singles were plated by a Peralta homer that gave the Indians a lead they’d never relinquish. Five pitches later, Franklin Gutierrez added a solo homer of his own. Both Cleveland dingers came on 3-1 counts.

The Indians stole three bases in three tries with Posada behind the plate, but two of them came against Traber’s slow delivery (despite working from the stretch, Traber brings his arm way back and pauses before delivering the pitch). Posada didn’t even bother making a throw on either of those steals as the runners had ridiculous jumps on Traber. Carroll’s steal against Pettitte also came off a great jump, and Posada’s throw appeared to slip out of his hand. So, we still don’t have a good sense of how well Posada is throwing.

On the upside, Jonathan Albaladejo followed Traber with two scoreless, hitless innings, and Giambi is now second in the AL in homers despite the fact that he’s still hitting just .186. That average combined with his .347 OBP and .492 SLG make Giambi’s April a great comp for the final season of Three True Outcome Hero Rob Deer’s career:

Deer 1996: .180/.359/.480, 64 PA, 4 HR, 14 BB, 30 K, 2 singles
Giambi 08: .186/.347/.492, 75 PA, 5 HR, 14 BB, 11 K, 3 singles

The key difference in the above two lines is the strikeouts, which is a good reason to be optimistic about Giambi rounding out his offensive game as the season progresses.

In other news, Brian Bruney’s potentially season-ending foot injury was part of a tragicomic week of bad luck that saw his uncle suffer a heart attack and his truck get wrecked when the 18-wheeler that was moving it to New York got in an accident.

Finally, Morgan Ensberg has a guest post up over on Phil Hughes’ blog, for what it’s worth.

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians

2007 Record: 96-66 (.593)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 92-70 (.570)

Manager: Eric Wedge
General Manager: Mark Shapiro

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Jacobs Field (103/102)

Who’s Replacing Whom:

25-man Roster:

1B – Ryan Garko (R)
2B – Asdrubal Cabrera (S)
SS – Jhonny Peralta (R)
3B – Casey Blake (R)
C – Victor Martinez (S)
RF – Franklin Gutierrez (R)
CF – Grady Sizemore (L)
LF – David Dellucci (L)
DH – Travis Hafner (L)

Bench:

R – Jason Michaels (OF)
R – Jamey Carroll (IF)
R – Kelly Shoppach (C)
R – Andy Marte (3B)
R – Ben Francisco (OF)

Rotation:

L – C.C. Sabathia
R – Fausto Carmona
L – Cliff Lee
R – Paul Byrd
L – Jeremy Sowers

Bullpen:

R – Rafael Betancourt
L – Rafael Perez
R – Jensen Lewis
R – Masahide Kobayashi
R – Jorge Julio
L – Craig Breslow
R – Tom Mastny

15-day DL: R – Jake Westbrook, R – Joe Borowski, L – Shin-Soo Choo (OF)

Typical Lineup:

L – Grady Sizemore (CF)
L – David Dellucci (LF)
L – Travis Hafner (DH)
S – Victor Martinez (C)
R – Jhonny Peralta (SS)
R – Ryan Garko (1B)
S – Asdrubal Cabrera (2B)
R – Franklin Gutierrez (RF)
R – Casey Blake (3B)

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