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News of the Day – 2/24/09

Today’s news is powered by a baseball-themed clip from Conan O’Brien’s final show:

Reporting to camp well ahead of pitchers and catchers, Posada has had plenty of time to work out the kinks. He is incrementally moving closer to getting behind the plate in a big league game, and he is still eyeing Opening Day on April 6 at Baltimore as the moment he will stick a few fingers down for CC Sabathia.

The 37-year-old made 15 throws from distances as far as 220 feet Sunday, drawing praise from Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who called it “substantially different than what I saw just four or five days ago.”

  • Ken Davidoff writes about Joe Girardi philosophy when it comes to making out line-ups:

Torre’s early Yankees teams, particularly those from 1996-99, carried amazing depth on the 25-man roster.

Joe Girardi, part of that depth on those clubs, knows he won’t be able to match that. But in crafting the lineup cards this season, an admittedly crucial one for him, he hopes to strike that magical balance among stability, variety and versatility.

“I prefer to have a set lineup. I think it works best,” Girardi said yesterday after a second straight relatively tranquil practice that was light on the A-Rod. “But sometimes, similar to some of the teams that I was on, you’re better if there’s some platoon situations, or your bench is extremely strong, or everyone’s in the mix, or everyone’s healthy. We just have to see how it shakes out.” …

… Girardi struggled to get a feel for when to start his players and when to rest them, a failing that came to life Aug. 11 in Minnesota, when he benched Johnny Damon (10-for-24 in the previous five games) against Twins starter Glen Perkins. Justin Christian led off and went 0-for-4, and the Yankees fell meekly, 4-0.

The Yankees used 130 lineups last year, and they used their Opening Day lineup – Damon in leftfield, Derek Jeter at shortstop, Bobby Abreu in rightfield, Alex Rodriguez at third base, Jason Giambi at first base, Robinson Cano at second base, Posada at catcher, Hideki Matsui at designated hitter and Melky Cabrera in centerfield – only on April 1.

  • Joe Girardi decided to cancel workouts Monday and instead organize a team “field trip” to a local pool hall.  Mariano Rivera turned out to be the best pool player of the bunch:

The idea hit Girardi in the early days of Spring Training, realizing that camp runs longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic and a day of respite might be welcome before exhibition games begin.

It would also be a good way for Girardi to better familiarize himself with the team.

“I think every year you’re here as a manager, you want to have more knowledge about your players and their personalities,” Girardi said. “You want to feel closer to your players. You want to bring a group together. It’s important that a group is united when they leave Spring Training.”

Looking for an event that could not be impacted by weather, Girardi originally considered renting out a bowling alley, but the idea of having his pitchers whipping 12-pound balls down the lanes dissuaded him.

The Yankees found a billiard hall that could accommodate a large group, and Girardi told the Yankees to book it for a few hours. The tournament was expected to last about 2 1/2 hours — until lunch — but Girardi acknowledged it might take longer, with no real pool sharks known to be on the roster.

[My take: The mental image I have of Sabathia leaning over the table to make a tough shot scares me a bit.]

  • Over at LoHud, PeteAbe has some nice photos from the pool event.
  • Girardi has proclaimed that Coke will provide the Yankees with relief.
  • Nick Swisher’s general attitude about life seems to be helping him deal with no longer being the starting 1B, and the rumors of a possible trade:

“I don’t pay attention to that stuff — you can’t,” Swisher said. “If somebody is interested in Swish or interested in X, that stuff has been going on for like three months now. All I can really worry about is just going out there and play every day. I love what I do and I have been blessed to be put in an unbelievable situation. I want to go out and make the best of it.”

[My take: Swisher refers to himself in the third person?  Who does he think he is ... Rickey?]

  • Speaking of possible trades, Ken Rosenthal reports that Cashman hasn’t found any possible Swisher or Nady offers to his liking.
  • BP.com’s Nate Silver has crunched some projections, and finds that A-Rod probably will NOT set the all-time HR record:

PECOTA’s best guess is that Rodriguez will run out of steam after the next three or four seasons and finish with 730 lifetime home runs, leaving him just shy of the marks established by Aaron and Bonds. Of course, there is a great deal of uncertainty in this estimate: if Rodriguez follows the path charted by Aaron or Frank Robinson, he could finish with well in excess of 800 home runs (and possibly as many as 900). On the other hand, if he draws Albert Belle’s ping-pong ball, he might not even top 600. Overall, the system puts Rodriguez’ chances of surpassing Aaron at only about 40 percent, and of passing Bonds closer to 30 percent.

One needs to remember that the way that Aaron and Bonds finished out their careers was far from typical. At least as common are folks like Jimmie Foxx (before Rodriguez, the fastest player to 500 home runs), who hit just 34 home runs after turning 33. Only about a dozen players have hit 200 or more home runs from their age-33 seasons onward; Bonds and Aaron are the only two to have hit at least 300.

In other words, Rodriguez still has his work cut out for him if he intends to catch them. Say what you will about his past performance, but for him to make it across this finish line would still represent a remarkable accomplishment.

[My take: One thing that is a wild card not mentioned in Nate's article is the impact of how the new Stadium will play.  Will A-Rod's homer rate change with the new venue? Will he turn into Bobby Murcer at Shea Stadium? (doubtful, but still possible).   Even with similar dimensions, who knows if the wind currents will carry fly balls differently than in the old stadium.]

  • Also at BP.com, Jorge Posada gets rated as the 13th-best catcher roto-wise this coming season.
  • Want a one-of-a-kind Mantle autographed ball?  One is up for auction (image not safe for work).
  • Over at Baseball Crank, Dan McLaughlin does a yeoman’s analysis of Yankee veteran starting pitchers from 1975-2008.
  • Randy Keisler turns 33 today.  Keisler’s short-lived Yankee career ended after a 2001 season which featured 12 homers surrendered in only 50.7 innings.
  • Happy 35th birthday to Mike Lowell.  The current third sacker of the Red Sox was a 1995 draftee of the Yanks, and was dealt after 15 ABs in 1998, for the Marlins’ Mark J. Johnson, Ed Yarnall, and Todd Noel.
  • On this date in 1948, the White Sox trade Ed Lopat to the Yankees for Aaron Robinson, Bill Wight and Fred Bradley. Lopat will star for seven seasons in pinstripes, winning 21 in 1951 and going 16 – 4 in 1953.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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20 comments

1 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 24, 2009 9:06 am

I love the "field trip" idea, if nothing else but for the fact that you know it never would have even crossed Girardi's mind a year ago. Of course that won't count for much if the team starts off 5-15 or something.

2 ms october   ~  Feb 24, 2009 9:38 am

[1] yeah - it has some good symbolic value to show that he can help the team grind through 162 games.

the reports on posada, though way to early to tell much, are nevertheless encouraging.

i didn't realize the yanks only used their opening day lineup once last year - wow.
though girardi says he wants to go with a set lineup, if both swisher and nady stay on the roster, girardi is going to have to do some juggling, though it seems he knows that.

3 JL25and3   ~  Feb 24, 2009 10:15 am

Two other things about the new Stadium that might or might not make a difference:

1. The batter's eye isn't the same as it used to be, and
2. The configuration of foul territory is different. There's less behind home plate but more along the lines.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 24, 2009 11:09 am

I'm so curious about how left field will play. The sun was often problematic at the old park. Just one block north, I wonder if it'll be the same? Or maybe just a different time of day.

Hmmm.

5 rbj   ~  Feb 24, 2009 11:24 am

[4] Is the orientation of the field, North-South, East-West different?

And just how did a devout Christian such as Mo get to be such a good pool player. I smell scandal! /jk

6 a.O   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:03 pm

[4] Following that line of thinking, if the Yankees have yet to play at the new stadium -- like all the other clubs -- aren't they effectively losing some element of the home field advantage? Not as big as knowing how to play the Green Monster, but still... They have a couple of exhibition games there before the regular season, right? Against Sweet Lou and his little buddy Alfonso? Maybe they should get in a few more...

[5] Perhaps it's because Mo is always sober when he plays pool that he got so good. I know that's frequently my problem...

7 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:08 pm

[6]

Pool is actually the one thing I do BETTER when under the influence ...

8 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:08 pm

I just received notice that my Friday game plan was relocated to the new Stadium and am happy to report that the seats are comparable and CHEAPER than last year. There have been so many stories to the contrary, but in my case, it seems like the Yankees handled it well.

9 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:13 pm

[8]

That's some good news!
(don't forget us when you find yourself with an extra ticket or two) :-)

10 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:16 pm

[9] I usually wind up with a few extras...maybe I can get Alex to post a trivia contest when I do.

I was away for a week...without rehashing the issue, what was the general Banter reaction to the Arod press conference?

11 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:18 pm

[4]

I wonder if Neil DeMause (Field of Schemes) might have that info .... maybe I'll shoot him an e-mail.

12 JL25and3   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:27 pm

[8] I'm glad that you did well.

We used to have the flex plan, asked for a 41-game plan. We didn't get it, got offered a 20-game plan. Okay.

We asked for $65 seats in the upper deck. We've been offered $85 seats in the lower deck. The back of the lower deck, way out in right field. Really bad seats, IMHO, for a whole lot of money.

To top it off: instead of seeing the pitching mound, we've got a great view of the foul pole and screen. 35 years after they rebuilt the old Stadium, and for $85 a seat, we get to sit behind a post again. That's with ten years of seniority.

We're going to decline that particular privilege.

13 Bum Rush   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:30 pm

I remember seeing an animation that showed mid-day hitting left field most forcefully and the shadows hitting right field. I'll see if I can find it...

14 Bum Rush   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:41 pm

The seat selector shows how the shadows will affect the stadium.

15 Bum Rush   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:43 pm

Be sure to click the daylight views tab and then you'll get an option to click 1, 4, or 7pm.

16 Bum Rush   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:45 pm

Actually, it looks like they've designed it so there really aren't shadows on the field. The last time I looked at I was looking for shadows on the stands since my father has a skin condition and can't deal with direct sunlight. We previously had Loge seats but are still waiting on our new assignment.

17 rbj   ~  Feb 24, 2009 12:47 pm

[6] "always sober when he plays pool "

I don't understand that. Sober and playing pool don't belong in the same sentence without at least a "not"

18 OldYanksFan   ~  Feb 24, 2009 2:45 pm

----------- Xman/ Swish
URZ RF: -1.4 9.4 -----> Swish 10.8 better then Nady
URZ CF: -46 -10.4 ---> SSS, but you get the idea
URZ LF: 2.1 4.6 ------> Edge to Swish
OPS---: .793 .805 ---> Swish by 0.12 (.060 against RHP)
wOBA--:.342 .347 ---> Edge to Swisher
HR/500 19.5 24.5 --> Swish is 24% better
SB/500 3.6 2 ---------> Nady actually runs bases better then Swish
CS%--: 0.67 0.46

And these Offensive stats come after Nady's best year, and Swisher's worst. Seems to me, aside from running, Swisher is the superior player in all aspects, and is a serious upgrade over Nady against RHP.

19 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 24, 2009 2:59 pm

[4]

I got this e-mailed response from Neil, which he gave me permission to post here:

I believe it will be rotated maybe 5-10% counterclockwise relative to the old place, so CF might get a bit more of the bad sun. Also keep in mind that the upper deck will be less vertical behind the plate, though, and that there will be the new frieze attached to the rim, which could affect how low the sun gets - there are a lot of variables.

Speaking of which, wind patterns are almost impossible to predict until
you see the place in action. The new place is a broader bowl, and the
scoreboards are taller so present more of an obstacle to airflow, so you might get more swirling winds, but that's complete speculation.

20 yankeesrumors   ~  Feb 24, 2009 5:01 pm

It's great to see that Jorge is doing better

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