"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: May 2008

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That Sinking Feeling

Dear Chien-Ming,

I have really enjoyed watching you pitch over the past few years. I know that you have run into a little bit of trouble recently and I just wanted to let you know that we’re still behind you and that we’ll be rooting for you tonight. Who cares that ground balls tend to zip through the infield out there in Minnie. Do your thing, Strech.

Sending all my best,


p.s. Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Yankee Panky #52: Under the Radar

Take the Mets’ struggles, add the Willie Randolph-SportsNet NY "Will he be fired" drama, and for good measure, bring Joe Torre’s return to New York into the mix, and you have a recipe for keeping Yankee news relatively quiet for a week. The big news, and rightfully so, is Ian Kennedy’s timely placement on the disabled list, which paves the way for Joba Chamberlain to mosey into the rotation Tuesday night in Toronto. Despite everyone, including me, espousing what they believe Joba’s role is best suited to be, this shift was inevitable. Given the dilapidated state of the rotation, he could very well become the most reliable arm in the quintet.

Mark Feinsand, in this morning’s editions of the Daily News, wrote that Joba should not be treated as a savior. He’s right, and so is Joe Girardi, who is no magician at concealing his disdain for the hype.

"It doesn’t matter what I say," Girardi told reporters. "Every time he came out of the bullpen people expected him not to give up a run. When there is a lot of hype around you it’s hard to control people’s expectations, and I understand that."

This means LaTroy Hawkins must figure out how to get people out in the seventh inning, provided Joe Girardi wants to enlist the former Cub tandem and disreputable law firm of Hawkins and Farnsworth to preserve leads in crunchtime.

I’m curious to see how things develop in terms of coverage, pressure from Steinbrenners the Younger, depending on Joba’s success.

One thing that we as fans and not-so-casual observers can agree upon: the rotation needs an anchor, and at this point, why not Joba?


Now I Hold My Crotch Cause I’m Top Notch

Yesterday I quoted a passage from Roger Angell about Reggie Jackson. Angell wrote that no matter what Reggie Jackson did at the plate–make a weak out, get a single or hit a home run–it was “full value.” I feel the same way about Alex Rodriguez in a way that I haven’t for any player since probably Reggie himself. At the very least, I don’t know that I’ve craved full value from a player more than anyone since Reggie. It’s an infantile reaction yet one that is also based on an adult’s appreciation of greatness.

At some point in my twenties I really started appreciating great players simply for being great. Players that I might have found a reason to despise as a kid–because I didn’t like their name or the way they looked–I became resigned to appreciating. It’s as if there was an invisible line in my mind and after a guy surpassed it and reached a certain level of excellence it was my responsibility to admire them first and foremost. Everything else was about my petty hang-ups. Unless of course I thought he was a mook because of something I knew about him off-the-field, like he beat his wife or something like that.

It’s not that Rodriguez necessarily provides full value in all of his at-bats, it’s that we demand it from him and when he fails it has a weight that seperates him from other players, even other great players. It’s the money, the looks and the talent. I’ve seen Rodriguez in the locker room and he has the self-possessed narcissicm of an elite model. He knows you want to stare at him. He looks like Superman and he’s pretty too. He almost glows. But most of all, it is the blinding talent. The pursuit of something perfect. I love the drama of that. That a strikeout or a failure to drive in a runner from second seems bigger, deeper with Rodriguez.

I derive full value from his at bats because of the expectations I place on them. For me, each of his at-bats holds the promise of getting to watch one of the great all time players do something great. It’s like sheer sensation. Rodriguez’s swing was mentioned as one of the finest thing in sports in a terrific thread over at YankeefanvsSox fan on Friday that was sparked by Mark Lamster’s appreciation of Mariano Rivera.

Just standing in the box, he looks like the ulitimate hitter. He’s greater than Reggie Jackson and yet lacks the thing that made Jackson great, separated him from the other great players, the thing that has made Jeter great. But there is value in watching Rodriguez fail because he is playing for immortality.

On Friday night against Glen Perkins, the Twins’ young left-hander, Rodriguez provided full value in each of his first three at-bats. Early during his first time up Rodriguez ripped a ball foul down the left field line. His swing was so quick, he hit it so hard that he smiled as he got back in the box. (According to Michael Kay, Rodriguez had put on a show during bp.) He worked the count and then smashed a line drive right at the shortstop, knocking him two steps back. Rodriguez’s swing was perfect and when he bounced out of his follow-through, he stood erect as if to punctuate just how hard he had just struck the ball. It was the move of a Roman emperor, regal, arrogant, justified. Even in making an out, Rodriguez had won.

In his next at bat, Rodriguez worked the count and then drilled a liner to left for an RBI single. He stood up again after his follow through. At first I was a little taken aback, thinking he might have had a chance at a double if he had been running instead of admiring. But after seeing the replay, his display, while no less cocky, was understandable because he knew that he had hit the ball too hard get a double. The next time up, Rodriguez crushed a line drive over the centerfielder’s head for an RBI double and drove Perkins from the game. But the at bat was such a pleasure to watch–Rodriguez locked in, laying off the weak stuff, getting good hacks at the rest, even the few that he swung through–that the outcome seemed secondary.

He was grazed by the second pitch the next time up and hit a high pop fly that dropped in front of a diving Carlos Gomez for a hustle double in the ninth.

In addition to Rodriguez, Abreu had three hits including two triples. Melky had three hits, and Hideki Matsui continued to deliver. He’s on such a hot streak that it seems as if his every blooper and bleeder drives in a run. The Yanks had 16 hits in all. Mike Mussina was hurt by Shelley Duncan’s error in the first which led to four runs, but he didn’t completely lose it, went six, and improved his record to 8-4. Farmadooke gave up an eighth inning solo shot to Justin Morneau which closed a Yankee lead to 6-5, before Mariano Rivera closed the door in the ninth.

Mike Lamb swung at the first pitch Rivera threw him, cracked his bat, and softly lined the ball at Rivera’s feet. The sound of the ball coming off the bat was piteful. Brendan Harris got in two good hacks, worked the count full and then took a cutter, low on the inside corner for ball four. A pitch Rivera usually gets. Gomez fouled off the second pitch from Rivera and broke his bat. He lunged and fouled off a cutter, outside, and then waved at another one, further outside, for strike three.

“School is in session,” said Ken Singleton on the YES broadcast.

Pinch-hitter Craig Monroe took a called strike on the outside corner then laid off a fastball, high. He swung late and through another cutter and ended the game looking down as a pee at the knees crossed the outside corner. Precision. Artistry. Something close to perfection.

Yanks 6, Twins 5.

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins

2007 Record: 79-83 (.488)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 80-82 (.495)

2008 Record: 28-25 (.528)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 25-28 (.480)

Manager: Ron Gardenhire
General Manager: Bill Smith

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (96/96)

Who’s Replacing Whom:

Carlos Gomez replaces Torii Hunter
Delman Young replaces Jason Tyner and Lew Ford
Brendan Harris replaces Luis Castillo
Adam Everett replaces Jason Bartlett
Alexi Casilli is filling in for Everett (DL) in the infield, while Howie Clark is filling in for Everett on the roster
Mike Lamb replaces Nick Punto at third base
Matt Macri is filling in for Punto (DL) on the bench
Craig Monroe replaces Jeff Cirillo
Nick Blackburn inherits Johan Santana’s starts
Kevin Slowey inherits Matt Garza’s starts
Livan Hernandez replaces Carlos Silva
Glen Perkins is taking the place of Scott Baker (DL) in the rotation
Baker inherited Sidney Ponson’s starts
Jesse Crain inherits the relief innings of Pat Neshek (DL)
Brian Bass replaces Ramon Ortiz
Craig Breslow replaces the relief innings of Perkins, Blackburn, and Julio DePaula

25-man Roster:

1B – Justin Morneau (L)
2B – Alexi Casilla (S)
SS – Brendan Harris (R)
3B – Mike Lamb (L)
C – Joe Mauer (L)
RF – Michael Cuddyer (R)
CF – Carlos Gomez (R)
LF – Delmon Young (R)


R – Craig Monroe (OF)
R – Mike Redmond (C)
L – Howie Clark (IF)
R – Matt Macri (IF)


R – Nick Blackburn
R – Livan Hernandez
R – Kevin Slowey
L – Glen Perkins
R – Boof Bonser


R – Joe Nathan
R – Matt Guerrier
L – Dennys Reyes
R – Juan Rincon
R – Jesse Crain
R – Brian Bass
L – Craig Breslow

15-day DL: R – Adam Everett (SS), S – Nick Punto (IF), S – Matt Tolbert (IF), R – Scott Baker
60-day DL: R – Pat Neshek

Typical Lineup:

R – Carlos Gomez (CF)
S – Alexi Casilla (2B)
L – Joe Mauer (C)
L – Justin Morneau (1B)
R – Michael Cuddyer (RF)
L – Jason Kubel (DH)
R – Delmon Young (LF)
L – Mike Lamb (3B)
R – Brendan Harris (SS)


Dropping Science like when Galileo Dropped the Orange

Excellent post by Tyler Kepner over at Bats today. I’m tempted to excerpt it but I like the whole damn thing and can’t make up my mind what to choose without lifting it all. So, just go over and check it out.

And speaking of dropping science, well, I just can’t resist.

May Farm Report

Hey, check it out, I remembered to do another one of these! (For those who missed it, here’s the April Farm Report.) This month I’m adding bold faced names.

Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre

The big news out of Scranton is the impending opt-out of Jason Lane and the recent signing of Ben Broussard. Lane has hit .287/.387/.521 in May and can opt-out at the end of the month (which is tomorrow). A righty outfielder who has been working out at first base, he’s just an older Shelley Duncan with more major league experience, but given the poor performance of the newer model, it may be worth giving the old chassis another kick.

Former Indian and Mariner Broussard is a 31-year-old lefty first baseman who can play the outfield corners. He was signed by the Rangers during the offseason and released by them earlier this month. His .225/.288/.393 career line against lefties in the major leagues makes him a bad fit for the Yankees and is the reason he was available in the first place. He has three doubles and a walk in seven plate appearances for Scranton.

Speaking of first-base depth, or the lack thereof, Juan Miranda is back on the DL after reinjuring his shoulder. He played just six games in May. Eric Duncan‘s promising April turned into a typically disappointing May (.205/.300/.269).

That .269 SLG for Duncan makes me wonder if the wind was blowing in all month, as Brett Gardner‘s April power surge also vanished in May as his game returned to it’s previous form with outstanding on-base (.431) and stolen-base numbers (15 for 18), but a sub-.400 slugging percentage. On the season, Gardner is hitting .285/.405/.442 with 19 steals in 26 attempts (73 percent success).

Shifting to the pitchers, with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy on the DL, Joba Chamberlain moving into the rotation alongside Darrell Rasner, Kei Igawa having shown that he’s made no improvements since last year, Steven White having been bounced to the bullpen, and Alan Horne having been on the DL since early April, the sixth starter on the Yankee depth chart is converted reliever Dan Giese, who posted a 2.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 3.38 K/BB ratio in five May starts. Jeff Marquez was better in May than he was in April, but still had just two quality starts in five tries. Jeff Karstens has yet to achieve the feat since being activated and optioned. He was awful in his last start. Daniel McCutchen could surpass Giese by the time I do my next Farm Report. His one triple-A start thus far was quality, though he gave up ten hits and took the loss.

Things are more encouraging out in the bullpen. After a rough April, Scott Patterson found his footing in May and posted a 1.59 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and struck out eight men against just one walk. He’s now the triple-A closer. J.B. Cox has yet to allow a run in triple-A and has a 0.55 WHIP, though he’s struck out just three men in 7 1/3 innings. David Robertson, who like Cox and McCutchen was promoted during May, has struck out 14 in 13 triple-A innings without allowing a home run and posted a 2.77 ERA, but has also walked 10. Once he gets those walks down, he’ll be ready.


Extra Value is What You Get

YES is broadcasting Game 6 of the 1978 World Serious tonight. I tuned in just in time to catch Reggie’s bomb of Bob Welch, a first pitch shot that served as revenge for Welch’s dramatic K of Jackson earlier in the series. Jackson admired the blast, though his posturing is tame by today’s standards, and then tipped his hat to the Dodger faithful after he crossed home plate. In a short, 1994 New Yorker tribute to Jackson called “Swingtime,” Roger Angell noted this home run as one of Jackson’s career highlights. Here’s more from the piece:

Coming up out of the dugout before his next at-bat in a big game, Reggie Jackson was always accompanied by an invisible entourage: he was the heavyweight champion headed down the aisle for another title defense. The batter’s box was his prize ring, and once he’d dug in there–with those gauntleted arms, the squashed-down helmet, the shades and the shoulders–all hearts beat faster. It really didn’t matter what came next–a pop-up or a ground ball, a single or a dinger, or one of those tunneling-to-Peru strikeouts that ended with his helmet askew, his massive legs twisted into taffy ropes, and the man lurching and staggering as he fought for balance down there in the center of our shouting–because what he gave us, game after game, throughout a twenty-one-year career, was full value.

…From first to last, he was excessive; he excelled at excess…His ego, like his swing, took your breath away, but the dazzled, infuriated beat writers and columnists had to concede that it probably arose from the same deeply hidden, unforgiving self-doubt that whipped him to such baseball hieghts, mostly in the hard late going.

I think Angell gets to the heart of Jackson’s gift–no matter what he did when he was at-bat, he always gave us full value. There aren’t many athletes you can say that about.

He Punches like a F****** Mule Kick



I know the NBA home office will be thrilled and delighted if the Celtics and Lakers reach the Finals, something that is a very real possibility (the Lakers can knock the Spurs out tonight, the Celts can finish the Pistons tomorrow). If that happens, we’ll see plenty of highlights from the 80s, when both teams brought out the best (and occasionally the worst) in each other and generally elevated the game to spirited heights of competiveness. And we’ll also hear from the old cast of characters, including Bill Russell.

Here is a classic story from "Second Wind: Memoirs of an Opinonated Man," by Russell with the historian Taylor Branch (1979, Random House; currently out-of-print). It’s about Russell’s grandfather and his mule, Kate. Russell’s family was from Monroe, Louisiana and he lived down there until he was about ten (his family later moved to the Bay Area where Russell played junior high hoops with Frank Robinson, who in turn played baseball with Curt Flood and Vada Pinson). He called his father’s father, The Old Man. When Russell was four or five (1938-9), he followed his grandfather and Kate around one day:

I could tell that Kate and the Old Man understood each other. One day I was walking along with them when Kate decided to go off and stand in a ditch. Being an honest mule, she had a stubborn, mulish personality, and she stood there with this determined look on her face. It was as if Kate were saying, Okay, I got you now. We’re going to do this my way." The Old Man did everything he could to get Kate back up on the road. I watched him talk to her, and push, pull, shove and kick—a tough job, because there must have been nine hundred pounds of mule there. The Old Man would get Kate’s front up on the raod and be cooing into her ear, but when he walked around to pull up her taile end, the front would sidle back into the ditch again—so he’d take a deep breath and start over. I was taking all this in, and I couldn’t believe that the Old Man didn’t lose his temper.

After a long ordeal, Kate finally wound up back on the road. The Old Man looked exhausted, and the mule must have taken some satisfaction from all the effort she’d cost him. She looked fresh and relaxed, standing there as warm and lazy as the country air. The Old Man leaned on Kate and rested there for a minute or two; then out of nowhere he hauled off and punched her with his bare fist. Wack, just once, right on the side of the neck. The thud was so loud that I must have jumped a foot. The mule gently swayed back and forth groggily; then her front legs buckled and she collapsed to her knees. Then the hindquarters slowly buckled and settled down too. Kate looked all bent and contorted, like a squatting camel, as she sat there with a vacant stare in her eyes. I was dumbstruck. Right in front of my eyes the Old Man had knocked out a MULE with one punch.

He never said a word to me or to the mule. He just let Kate sit there for a minute, and then he grabbed her by the head and picked her up. "Okay, let’s go," he said quietly, and we started off again as if nothing had happened.

That sight stuck in my mind so vividly that I learned a practical lesson from it. I got into very few fights when I played for the Celtics, but every single one of them was in the last quarter, after the game was decided. You have to choose when to fight, and that is the time. The Old Man knew he’d have been in big trouble if he’d knocked that mule down in the ditch, so he waited until it didn’t cost him anything. Then he relieved his frustration and gave Kate something to think about.

Eat your heart out Mongo.

Getting Closer to God in a Tight Situation

Thanks to Pete Abraham, I caught Mike Hayes’ interview with Bob Sheppard over at a place called Busted Halo:

BH: What a lot of people don’t know about you is that you’ve been a speech teacher for most of your life at the high school and college level. Do you consider yourself a speech teacher first and the Yankee announcer second?

BS: I’m a teacher first and a Yankee announcer second or maybe third or fourth. Primarily, my whole training has been to be a speech teacher. That’s what I decided to do when I was early in college at St. John’s (University in New York). For many years I was teaching high school speech during the day, St. John’s in the late afternoons and evenings and some of the summer times, and in the meantime, I was still at Yankee Stadium doing the night games and the weekend games.

We will hopefully see Mr. Sheppard later this summer. The old place just ain’t the same without him.

Back in Business

For the past couple of seasons, Jay Jaffe’s blogging has slowed considerably as his writing for BP, the New York Sun, etc. has increased. However, Jay’s been back at it this spring at The Futility Infielder, which is good news for us. Check out this recent post on Doc Ellis and this fine one on his grandfather, Bernie.

Today gives Jay’s excellent piece on Marvin Miller. Peep, don’t sleep.

Strictly Business

Last night, Andy Pettitte turned in his third straight quality start, the Yankee offense scattered four runs against Jeremy Guthrie and company, and Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera, likely appearing as a relief tandem for the last time, combined to nail down the Yankees’ win.

The first two batters Pettitte faced reached base, but Andy wiggled out of the jam. In the top of the second, Hideki Matsui doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch, and Jason Giambi miraculously hit a groundball RBI single through the right side of a drawn-in and shifted infield that had three men lined up on the edge of the grass between first and second base.

In the third, Melky Cabrera led off with a double and moved to third on a groundout, but Derek Jeter struck out and Bobby Abreu was unable to pick his captain up. Brian Roberts began the bottom of the third with and infield single and Melvin Mora made it count with a two-run homer off Pettitte, but Giambi evened things up with a 410-foot shot to Eutaw Street (his second plaque-worthy shot in as many days) with two outs in the top of the fourth.

In the fifth, Jeter made up for his missed opportunity earlier in the game by hitting a sac fly to plate Cabrera from third with one out following another Melky double advanced by a Damon hit. Roberts doubled in the bottom of the inning, but Andy Pettitte picked him off second, catching him cold a third of the way off the bag. That was the key play in the game as the Yankees never relinquished their slim 3-2 lead.

Chamberlain came on with two out and none on in the seventh to face Mora, who had a bunt single, a homer, and a walk against Pettitte to that point. Mora singled off Chamberlain, and Joba walked Nick Markakis to put the go-ahead run on base, but he settled down from there, striking out Kevin Millar and cruising through the eighth with two more Ks.

The Yankees added a run in the ninth, which made the decision to leave Chamberlain in to finish the game seem like an obvious one given that he was scheduled to throw 55 pitches and had thrown only 28, but Joe Girardi proved he’s a slave to the save and brought in Mariano Rivera the day after his 31-pitch outing on Wednesday night.

Not that it was a terrible call, just a needless one. Mo pitched around an Alex Rodriguez error for a scoreless ninth to nail down the win, and Chamberlain finished his work in the bullpen, throwing 14 pitches, sitting to simulate an inning break, throwing pre-inning warmups, then finishing with 13 pitches to hit his 55-pitch goal.

It was a quick and easy game that helped the Yankees avoid embarrassment and head into their off day and trip out to Minnesota with a good feeling. All decisions on Joba’s next appearance and exactly who will replace Ian Kennedy in the rotation early next week remain to be made. It was just a good, solid 4-2 win in which nothing went wrong and no one got hurt.

I’ll take that.

Salvage Operation

The Yankees arrived in Baltimore looking to build on a five-game winning streak and continue their climb into the thick of the AL East race. Instead, they find themselves sending Andy Pettitte to the mound tonight in an attempt to avoid a sweep, while being guaranteed to arrive in Minneapolis as a last-place team, even if they pull out a win tonight.

Pettitte’s opponent, Jeremy Guthrie, is the only Baltimore starter who has not yet faced the Yankees this year. Guthrie beat the Yanks twice amid his 2007 breakout season, but stumbled against them in their final confrontation in August. With Erik Bedard in Seattle, Guthrie has responded to the responsibility of being the O’s best starter this year, following a poor Opening Day outing with eight quality starts in ten tries (and just missing in the other two). Guthrie has a 3.22 ERA over that span. Unfortunately, his teammates have only scored 3.09 runs per game for him, saddling him with a losing 2-4 record over that stretch. In his last two starts, Guthrie allowed just two runs in 13 2/3 innings, but lost both games by scores of 2-1 and 2-0. Given that the two teams just played an exhausting 10-9 11-inning affair last night, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similarly low-scoring game tonight.

Pettitte is coming off a pair of quality starts in which he struck out 16 men in 12 innings against just two walks and no home runs. Chad Moeller caught both of those starts and he’ll catch Pettitte again tonight. Moeller is 4 for his last 12 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch, and in catching Darrell Rasner’s and Andy Pettitte’s recent successes could indeed be securing his roster spot beyond Jorge Posada’s expected return next week. This is why giving Jose Molina a two-year $4-million deal was a dumb idea. As I concluded my post suggesting the Yankees resign him: “Jose Molina is as good a choice as any, and he can be easily replaced mid-season if he fails to maintain a replacement-level performance.”


Funny thing happened on my way home last night. As I was walking across 6th avenue my ankle gave in. It’s the same foot I broke years ago and it remains prone to twisting. I got a cab home and then Emily took me to the emergency room. Fortunately, nothing’s broken–there might be a minor fracture, otherwise just some torn ligaments, a bad sprain. I got suited up with crutches and returned home to watch Mariano’s two innings. Then I went to bed. I didn’t even hear about Derek Jeter’s tough night until this morning. Pete Abraham called it one of Jeter’s worst games as a Yankee. In the most recent edition of The Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman writes:

Back in December, writing the Jeter comment for this year’s Baseball Prospectus annual, I said, “For years, Jeter’s offense has made him a net positive at shortstop despite his defense. The second half of 2007, taken together with his age, suggests that the day of reckoning may finally have arrived.” Emphasis on “may” added-if you have the book, you will note that the qualifier isn’t there. Cliff Corcoran, who reviewed the text in his sagacious way, and an experienced follower of the Yankees in his own right, argued that we should strike it, making the statement more definitive: “The day of reckoning has finally arrived.”

“Argue” is probably too strong a word for what Cliff did, as I didn’t argue with him. I noted the change and mentally shrugged, saying, “He’s right. By all available evidence, the time has come.” Yet, in the back of my mind, I was still hedging. “This is Derek Jeter! He’s got an edge, baby!” (Of course he does; he’s the only one who can afford the gas.) As time has gone by, I’ve become more convinced that that change was the right one, and become grateful for it, as Jeter’s performance has borne out the more emphatic prediction.

Tough times for Jeter and the Yanks right about now.

The Best Laid Plans . . .

The Yankees and Orioles combined to hit nine home runs through the first five innings of last night’s game. By the time the smoke cleared, both starting pitchers were gone (though the Yankees’ Ian Kennedy left due to a strained latissimus dorsi muscle after a scoreless inning) and the game was tied at 8-8. Seven relievers then combined to push the game past a one-hour rain delay and into the 11th inning with the score unchanged.

Facing Matt Albers in the Oriole hurler’s second inning of work, Johnny Damon led off the top of the 11th with a walk. Derek Jeter followed Damon and reached base when Baltimore third baesman Melvin Mora picked up a bunt that might have run foul. When Mora threw that ball to first base only to discover that Brian Roberts wasn’t covering the bag, Jeter and Damon moved up to second and third. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley then had Albers walk Bobby Abreu to set up the force at every base despite the fact that it would bring Alex Rodriguez to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. The gamble paid off as Rodriguez took a ball, then hit a screaming one-hopper at the drawn-in Roberts. Roberts dropped to a knee and snagged the ball as it skipped over his head, then started a 4-2-5 double-play that erased Damon at home and Jeter by an eyelash at third base. Still, with men on first and second, Hideki Matsui delivered a two-out RBI single right through Albers’ legs to give the Yankees a 9-8 lead heading into the bottom of the 11th.

To that point, Joe Girardi had done what I’ve long admonished Yankee managers to do, that is use Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of a tied game on the road. The first part of the plan worked perfectly. Rivera pitched two scoreless innings, extending the game to the point at which the Yankees were able to take a lead in the top of the 11th. Unfortunately, because of Kennedy’s injury, by that point Giardi had also used both Edwar Ramirez and Kyle Farnsworth for 1 1/3 scoreless innings each and Ross Ohlendorf for 2 1/3 innings of long relief, leaving just LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Veras in his bullpen.

Both Hawkins and Veras had pitched and pitched poorly the night before with nearly identical pitch totals. Girardi chose Hawkins, who had thrown 12 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings prior to Monday, over Veras, who had allowed four runs over his last 4 1/3 innings, all four runs being scored by the Orioles on home runs by Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott, who were the third and fourth hitters due up in the bottom of the 11th. It was the right choice, but Girardi got the wrong result.

Hawkins gave up a leadoff single to Melvin Mora, then, after a fly out, a game-tying double into the left field gap by Huff. The relay home from defensive replacement Melky Cabrera to Jeter to catcher Jose Molina was just a bit late and offline and allowed Huff to advance to third. Girardi then intentionally walked Scott and Kevin Millar, who had two of those nine early-game homers, to set up the force at every base in the hope of an inning-ending double play, or at the very least a force out at home. Instead, Alex Cintron, who had pinch-run earlier in the game, hit the first pitch he saw from Hawkins to deep right field. It might have been the second out, but it was deep enough to plate Huff with the winning run even if it was. Bobby Abreu chased it briefly but ultimately let it fall as the Orioles began to celebrate their 10-9 win.

It was an ugly, sloppy game that saw the teams combine to make five errors, and the Yankees blow a pair of four-run leads (one by Kennedy, one by Ohlendorf), but Joe Girardi gave his team its best chance to walk away the victors. The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry and leave us not but grief and pain for promised joy.

As for Ian Kennedy, he might have solved the Yankees’ rotation crunch by landing on the DL with that lat strain. He’ll also allow the Yankees to bring up a reliever today to stock the overtaxed bullpen. Joba Chamberlain’s scheduled outing tonight should also help give the pen some needed rest. The Yankees won’t be able to speculate about Joba’s ability to take Kenendy’s next start until they see the former’s performance tonight, however.


No Pressure

Ian Kennedy starts for the Yankees tonight. Joba Chamberlain is scheduled to throw 50 to 55 pitches tomorrow night. These two facts are not unrelated.

Chamberlain’s pitch counts will increase by ten-to-15 pitches with each outing, and Joe Girardi has acknowledged that Joba’s next appearance after tomorrow night’s game (or Friday night’s, if tomorrow night’s starter, Andy Pettitte, works too deep into tomorrow’s game) might have to be a start, as Joba could be up to 70 pitches for that outing. While Girardi hasn’t ruled out using a six-man rotation during this transition period, eventually Joba’s arrival in the rotation will mean someone already in the rotation will have to leave it.

Looking at the names of the five Yankee starters, Darrell Rasner would seem like the odd man out, but he’s been the Yankees’ best starter in May, posting a 1.80 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in four starts. Looking that the numbers, Kennedy and his 7.27 ERA is the obvious choice to get the boot, but unlike Andy Pettitte or Mike Mussina, Ian Kennedy is expected to be a part of the Yankees’ future success, and thus any strides he makes toward that success need to be encouraged and built upon.

Kennedy has a much higher innings limit this season than either Chamberlain or the injured Phil Hughes, and thus his short outings in April and missed turns in May could already have sufficiently limited his innings for the season. That means the Yankees don’t need to move Kennedy into the bullpen to protect his arm the way they did Chamberlain both last and this year. What’s more, Kennedy’s brief demotion to Scranton proved that he’s already too good for the minor leagues. That is to say that, if Kennedy can pitch like he did at the end of last season, there’s no good reason for the Yankees to take him out of the rotation.

Kennedy already has one plus in his column, as his last start, also against these Orioles, saw him turn in a strong six innings while allowing just one run. Still, Kennedy will have to repeat the feat tonight while decreasing his walks (he issued four in that last start) in order to have much hope of holding on to his rotation spot. If he does that, he’ll make Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman’s lives difficult, but in a very good way, and could shift the pressure to Old Man Mussina.

Behind Kennedy tonight, Wilson Betemit gets the start at first base while Melky Cabrera gets the night off and the Damatsambi rotates around to fill the gaps. They’ll all face lefty Brian Burres, who out-duelled Kennedy last Thursday in the Bronx with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball before Jason Johnson came on and blew the game. This will be Burres’s third start of the season against the Bombers. He’s allowed just that one run in 13 1/3 innings across his previous two starts against the Yanks, throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings against them at Camden Yards on April 19.

And Now, the End is Near

It doesn’t take long to go from top of the world to the end of the line, does it?  As Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodrgiuez continue to move past their prime years, I often wonder how long they will last. Which one will be injured the most?  Will one of them just fall off the table seemingly overnight?   

Trot Nixon was the heart of the Red Sox "Dirt Dog" teams just a minute ago.  Now, he’s close to finished.  Here’s an interesting AP story

No matter how it plays out, I think the transition to life after baseball might be particularly tough for Jeter. Here is Dennis Eckersley, always a straight-shooter, talking to Mike Bryan in spring training 1988, from the book "Baseball Lives:"

People say baseball players should go out and have fun. No way. To me, baseball is pressure. I always feel it. This is work. The fun is afterwards, when you shake hands.

When I was a rookie I’d tear stuff up. Now I keep it in. What good is smashing a light on the way up the tunnel? But I still can’t sleep at night if I stink. I’ve always tried to change that and act like a normal guy when I got home. "Hi, honey, what’s happening?" I can’t. It’s there. It doesn’t go away. But maybe that’s why I’ve been successful in my career, because I care. I don’t have fun. I pitch scared. That’s what makes me go. Nothing wrong with being scared if you can channel it.

I issued to hide behind my cockiness. Don’t let the other team know you’re scared. I got crazy on the mound. Strike a guy out, throw my fist around—"Yeah!" Not real classy, but I was a raw kid. I didn’t care. It wasn’t fake. It was me. This wasn’t taken very kindly by a lot of people. They couldn’t wait to light me up. That’s the price you pay.

I wish I was a little happier in this game. What is so great about this shit? You get the money, and then you’re used to the money. You start making half a million a year, next thing you know you need half a million a year. And the heat is on!

Used to be neat to just be a big-league ballplayer, but that wore off. I’m still proud, but I don’t want people to bother me about it. I wish my personality with people was better. I find myself becoming short with people. Going to the store. Getting gas.

If you’re not happy with when you’re doing lousy, then not happy when you’re doing well, when the hell are you going to be happy? This game will humble you in a heartbeat. Soon as you starting getting happy, Boom! For the fans—and this is just a guess—they think the money takes out the feeling. I may be wrong but I think they think, "What the hell is he worrying about? He’s still getting’ paid." There may be a few players who don’t give 100 percent, but I always thought if you were good enough to make that kind of money, you’d have enough pride to play like that, wouldn’t you think? You don’t just turn it on or off.

In Case You Missed It…

Go ahead and check out Joe Posnanski’s post on Derek Jeter.

When You Want to Send a Steak Back, Michael Dorsey is a Name

Has an actor’s off-camera clashing with a director ever produced as much on-screen delight as the battle that was waged between Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollock in Tootsie?  I loved the Hoffman-Pollock scenes in "Tootsie," a movie filled with highlights (Bill Murray and Terri Garr almost walked off with the movie in smaller roles).  I thought of the Russina Tea Room scene this morning when I learned that Pollock died yesterday at the age of 73.  Hollywood has lost a true pro.


What is your favorite grown-up indulgence?  On a daily basis, I’d have to say it is that I use paper towels with reckless abandon.  Maybe it was because they were practically rationed in my house as a kid.  Whatever the reason, I use them like mad when I’m in the kitchen cooking and I love it. 

On Sunday, I went out to Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where my friend Johnny Red Sox and some of his pals have a serious wiffle ball game cooking each weekend (dude, they keep score, they are serious).  After playing a game, John threw me batting practice for fifteen minutes.  Talk about indulgence!  I just got to stand there and take my hacks.  A moment to savor for sure.


Check out the mascot…


And speaking of dogs…

Darrell Rasner pitched well once again allowing just one run in six innings, but the bullpen (Hawkins, Veras) gave up five in the seventh as the Orioles cruised to a 6-1 win.  The victory ended a five-game losing streak for Baltimore and a five-game winning streak for New York.

Baltimore Orioles III: Passing Ships Edition

The Yankees took two of three from the O’s at the Stadium last week. Over the weekend, the Yanks swept the Mariners, while the O’s were swept by the Rays. As a result, the formerly struggling Yankees slipped past the formerly hot Orioles at the bottom of the AL East standings. Expect those trends to continue.

The Orioles roster is unchanged from Thursday, but the Yankees have activated Wilson Betemit, optioning Alberto Gonzalez down to Scranton to make room for him. Garrett Olson, whom the Yankees chased in the third inning last Wednesday, starts this Memorial Day afternoon contest against Darrell Rasner, who pitched seven scoreless frames in that game and has been the Yankees’ best pitcher the last few times through the rotation.

Despite his ugly performance yesterday, Shelley Duncan gets another start at first base against the lefty Olson while Jason Giambi takes his turn on the bench. I’m convinced that Jason Lane’s May 31 out in his contract is motivating the extended look Duncan is getting despite his poor play, meaning that it’s Duncan, who is essentially the exact same player as Lane only two years younger and without the ability to play center field in a pinch, who is in danger of losing his roster spot to the former Astros right fielder.

It’s worth noting that the Yankees only outscored the Orioles by one run in last week’s series. A more convincing series win in Baltimore would help the Bombers maintain the momentum they’ve built since Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup.

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