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Monthly Archives: April 2009

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

2008 Record: 100-62
2008 Pythagorean Record: 88-74

Manager: Mike Scioscia
General Manager: Tony Reagins

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Angel Stadium (103/102)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Kendry Morales replaces Casey Kotchman and Mark Teixeira
  • Bobby Abreu replaces Garret Anderson
  • Brian Fuentes replaces Francisco Rodriguez
  • Shane Loux, Anthony Ortega, and Matt Palmer are filling in for John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Dustin Mosely (all on DL)
  • Rafael Rodriguez and Fernando Rodriguez are filling in for Darren Oliver and Kevin Jepsen (both on DL)

25-man Roster:

1B – Kendry Morales (S)
2B – Howie Kendrick (R)
SS – Erick Aybar (S)
3B – Chone Figgins (S)
C – Mike Napoli (R)
RF – Gary Matthews Jr. (S)
CF – Torii Hunter (R)
LF – Bobby Abreu (L)
DH – Juan Rivera (R)

Bench:

R – Jeff Mathis (C)
S – Maicer Izturis (IF)
R – Robb Quinlan (3B/1B)
R – Brandon Wood (IF)

Rotation:

L – Joe Saunders
R – Shane Loux
R – Anthony Ortega
R – Jered Weaver
R – Matt Palmer

Bullpen:

L – Brian Fuentes
R – Jose Arredondo
R – Scot Shields
R – Justin Speier
R – Jason Bulger
R – Rafael Rodriguez
R – Fernando Rodriguez

15-day DL:

RF – Vladimir Guerrero (torn pectoral)
RHP – John Lackey (forearm tightness)
RHP – Ervin Santana (elbow strain)
RHP – Dustin Moseley (elbow tightness)
LHP – Darren Oliver (shoulder stiffness)
RHP – Kevin Jepsen (back spasms)

60-day DL:

RHP – Kelvim Escobar (shoulder inflammation)

Typical Lineup:

S – Chone Figgins (3B)
S – Gary Matthews Jr. (RF)
L – Bobby Abreu (LF)
R – Torii Hunter (CF)
S – Kendry Morales (1B)
R – Mike Napoli (C)
R – Juan Rivera (DH)
R – Howie Kendrick (2B)
S – Erick Aybar (SS)

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Nerve

While we’re on the subject, imagine the stones it took to perform a stunt like this:

Buster. Now, there was a tough guy.

Moe Becomes a Man

 

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It was inevitable. The day has finally arrived. The first day of the rest of Moe Green’s life. Just about everyone in my house–wife, the older cat, Tashi–is relieved because Moseph has been a terror of late. Me? I’m sympathizing with the poor kid.

It was fun while it lasted, papi. This one is for you.

True Grit

cramped

Last week, Steven Goldman was set to board a plane to St. Louis.  At the last minute, he could not bring himself to get on the flight.

I have boarded many planes, though it has never been something I enjoy doing. I used to be afraid of crashing, but except for a brief moment or two of involuntary alarm during takeoff, I no longer worry about that, and once the plane is in the air I always feel fine. My problem is that I have an anxiety disorder centered around claustrophobia. I get into any small space, like a small airplane, and my limbic system goes haywire. My heart rate shoots up. My chest tightens. The ironically named flight response is incredible.

The plane to St. Louis was quite small, not quite a puddle-jumper, but the next step up. The low ceiling scraped my head. My overly large frame barely fit in the seat. The way the aisle was blocked by incoming passengers made me feel as if there was no exit. I imagined what I would feel like when they closed the door. The thought was terrible. I did not panic… but realized I probably would if I stayed, and that even if I was able to tough out the three-hour ride to St. Louis, I might never be able to convince myself to board the plane back home. I had taken two Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, an hour before boarding, because I have been dealing with this stupid, frustrating, annoying thing for eight years now, and I knew it was possible that I might feel this way. The pills did not help. I felt helpless.

…The frustrating thing is that I still feel like myself. I don’t feel afraid inside. Even when I was in the grips of the worst of the attacks, the rational me was still in here, trying to manage the situation. On the plane to St. Louis I was, at least mentally, completely calm. The physiological reaction was like an overlay, a computer virus that was attacking the mainframe. I wasn’t thinking, “Aaagh! Let me out of here!” I was thinking, “Okay, how do I deal with this? How do I overcome this feeling?” It was a measured weighing of pros and cons that led me, in this instance, to get off of the plane. It was the right decision, but I still felt immensely disappointed that I had not been able to push it away, to rise above.

Goldman sat at the gate and watched the plane roll away, “excoriating myself, filled with self-disgust.”

The self-disgust is what jumped off the screen at me as I read this honest and uncompromising account of what is like to have a clinical anxiety disorder.  (On a slightly related note, Joe Pos has the SI cover story this week on Zack Greinke, who has managed to come to grips with his social anxiety disorder.)  Frustration, anger, which Goldman felt too, that’s understandable, but self-disgust? That’s crazy talk. That’s being in love with your own masochism.

I should know.  I do it all of the time.  And curse myself for doing it!  Most of us, even those who do not suffer from a crippling chemical imbalance, not knowing what to do with frustration, turn our anger inward.  Of course these things are easier to see in others than in ourselves necessarily.  It’s easier for me to say, Steve, why are you beating yourself up?, instead of changing my own behavior.

But self-disgust seems entirely inappropriate here. Goldman was actually taking care of himself, he protected himself and so, no matter how upset or disappointed he may have been (and legitimately so), he deserved to give himself some credit for his actions. Even if he still yearns to overcome his illness, which is admirable.

And if he isn’t willing to give himself that credit, I will.

News of the Day – 4/30/09

Let’s get to it:

  • If the Blue Jays’ hot start has you worried, consider this point from Joe Sheehan:

Finally, there’s the schedule. You can’t hold this against the Jays, who are playing the hand they’ve been dealt, but they have benefited from a schedule that has thus far included none of their three AL East rivals, teams that may be the three best in the league. The Jays have played every team in the AL Central, as well as the A’s and Rangers in the West. They have illustrated a point I think every analyst would agree with: if you put the Jays in any other division, they would be at worst a contender, and often a favorite. The pessimism about their chances this year stems in no small part from their having to play perhaps the toughest schedule in baseball. They haven’t gotten into that yet, and in fact, they won’t see the Red Sox, Yankees, or Rays for another two weeks. They play every AL team other than the Mariners before seeing any of those three, and in fact, the Jays don’t play the Rays at all until June 29. (In a whack-job of a schedule, the Jays play just nine of their first 78 games against the big three, then get them 42 times in their next 71 contests.)

  • PeteAbe does his usual wonderful job, this time playing out the “what ifs” of the starting rotation:

. . . let’s say that Wang comes back in early June and Hughes is 4-1, 2.85. What then?

You shake Phil’s hand, thank him for a job well done and send him back to Scranton until he is needed again.

Get this much straight: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte are pitching every five days if they are healthy. That’s a given. There is not going to be a six-man rotation. Those guys are conditioned to pitch every five days and they’re getting a pile of money to do so.

Joba Chamberlain also needs to pitch. One good start by Hughes in April should not start the “We need Joba in the bullpen” nonsense.  . . .

Here is what some people can’t seem to understand: Joba threw 100 innings last season. He needs to throw 150-plus this season so that in 2010 he can throw 180-plus. Then he can throw 200-plus in 2011 and so on. This is a young man with a great arm, four pitches and the makeup to be an ace. The Yankees would be foolish not to give him every chance to be a starter.

If you send him back to the bullpen, you’re starting the process all over again and increasing the risk of injury by suddenly changing his role. Joba has a 2.43 ERA in 15 starts over the last two seasons. That is really, really, very, very good.

Ian Kennedy was examined by a specialist in NYC today because of his numb middle finger.

He has a vasospasm that can be treated with medication. He will be evaluated again Monday and will not throw until after that follow-up.

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False Alarm

We say it numerous times every year–”I’ve never seen that before.”  It is one of the constant pleasures of following the game.  Well, last night offered one of those moments when, with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, fans at Comerica Park stood up and calmly started leaving the park.  The equally calm Yankee announcer, Ken Singleton, explained what was happening.  None of the players left the field and soon we learned that a fire alarm had been pulled.  The fans returned to their seats and almost had something to show for it as the Tigers scored five runs in the ninth inning, including Curtis Granderson’s three-run home run against Mariano Rivera.

But it wasn’t enough and the Yankees won, 8-6.

Joba Chamberlain pitched his best game of the young season, working out of trouble in the third inning when he walked three batters, gave up a single and a sac fly while allowing just a single run.  Miguel Cabrera, the best hitter in the league, came up with the bases loaded and two out and he took some good swings.  The count went full and Chamberlain struck Cabrera out on a sharp-breaking curve ball, the first curve of the sequence.

Nick Swisher hit home runs from both sides of the plate, Hideki Matsui smacked a three-run double, Johnny Damon had a couple of hits, and Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 16. 

Until the ninth inning, when Jonathan Albaladejo struggled so badly that Rivera was called in, it was a breezy game.  Singleton and David Cone, teamed together for the entire series in the YES broadcast booth, were a pleasure–informative, jocular, funny and intelligent.  Cone’s improvement this year has been noticable, don’t you agree?

Back to Back?

The Yankees got a manly effort from Phil Hughes last night.  Let’s see what young Mr. Chamberlain has got this evening.

joba1

The future is now.

Feelin’ a bit Peckish?

Lookin’ for a thorough review of the food at Yankee Stadium?  Then dig this cool Boogie Down blog, How Fresh Eats.  Dude has the skinny–soup to nuts.

Part One and Part Two.

What about the beer at the two new parks?  Eric Asimov takes a look in today’s New York Times.

And just cause we’re talking about food, why not take a look at a Shake Shack burger?

shake

Hey, Ma

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I thought this would be an ideal time to remind anyone looking for a gift to consider my wife Emily’s photo note cards. 

Check out her site

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Spring is a good thing.

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“What’s your 20?”

Much has been written about the need for the Yanks to get off to a strong start in the highly-competitive AL East.

With last night’s win over the Tigers, the Bombers have a 10-10 record after their first 20 games.  Some would call that disappointing.  Some would call for Joe Girardi’s head on a platter.  Some would step back and say “given all they’ve been through, 10-10 is pretty decent.”  But perhaps a larger question is . . . do the first 20 games of a season make or break your chances for the playoffs?

To attempt to answer this, I’ve analyzed the performances of all 104 playoff teams in the wild card era from 1996-2008 (I excluded 1995 due to the shortened schedule).  I first looked at how those teams did in their first 20 games:

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News of the Day – 4/29/09

Today’s news is powered by …. Post-its!:


EepyBird’s Sticky Note experiment from Eepybird on Vimeo.

  • Christina Kahrl has some thoughts on the construction of the Yankees roster:

The Yankees are supposed to be a good team, but it might be a little hard to see that when, to replace the immortal Cody Ransom at third base, they’ve stopped to… Angel Berroa. Apparently innumerable other bipeds weren’t available, or had already sought other engagements to make themselves unavailable . . .

The alternative would be that this organization, the same proud organization that struggled to come up with a first baseman better than Miguel Cairo in 2007, learned nothing about the value of adequate replacements from that particular lineup atrocity, and was blowing another week of their season on some new A-Rod substitute at third base that almost no other team in the league might consider. Sure, when Alex Rodriguez returns next week, this might prove a minor matter, but blowing the last few roster spots—let alone lineup cards, not to mention forgoing a decision to simply try to stock their minor league affiliates with useful journeymen—has cost this team in the past, and costs them to this day. It’s as if Clay Bellinger wasn’t a happy accident, but a choice informed by what we hope must be an appallingly parochial and ideally uninfectious local sense of taste.

[My take: OUCH! (but she's right) . . . for a $200+ million team, the Yankee teams of the last few years have been increasingly "bipolar" in terms of their roster construction.  "Stars and Scrubs" might work in Roto . . . but it doesn't work in real life.]

Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees have moved up A-Rod’s target date and are now shooting for a return to the team sometime in the first week of May, sources say.

Rodriguez and the Yankees were originally calling May 15 the target date for his return, and that is still the publicly stated goal. However, Rodriguez’s progress has been so good, both he and the team are hopeful he can return more than a week earlier than first expected.

  • Ken Rosenthal allays any “Joba (back) to the ‘pen” fears.
  • The Bombers have sort of seen the error of their economic ways, and are reducing prices on some of their top tier seats.  Here are some of the reductions:

• Tickets in the first row of sections 15A, 15B, 24B and 25 will be reduced, from $2,500 to $1,250, per regular-season game.

• The first row of sections 11, 12, 13, 27B, 28 and 29 will drop, from $1,000 to $650, per regular-season game.

• All fans who purchased full-season, $2,500 Legends Suite seats in the first row of sections 16-24A will receive an equal number of complimentary Legends Suite seats in the first row of the same sections for each of the remaining regular-season games this season.

• Fans who purchased full-season, $1,250 Legends Suite seats will receive an equal number of complimentary Legends Suite seats in the same price category for 24 games during the season, as selected by the Yankees. . . .

In addition, the Yankees are adopting a program affecting a few hundred seats in Field Level sections 115-125.

From now on, fans purchasing on a full-season basis three full regular-season ticket plans priced at $325 in those sections will receive a fourth ticket free.

[My take: Wonder if the Mets will follow suit . . .]

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Scrantonicity!

“Maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight. I haven’t been doing that much lately.” —Dave Eiland

Welcome back, Phil Hughes.

You wouldn’t know it by the 11-0 final, but last night’s game between the Yankees and Tigers was a pitchers’ duel. Phil Hughes and Edwin Jackson locked horns for six scoreless innings before the Yankees dropped a ten-spot on the Detroit bullpen in the seventh.

Credit the Yankee offense, particularly Robinson Cano, for running deep counts on Jackson all game. Jackson finished the sixth inning having thrown 117 pitches despite having allowed just five men to reach base. With Jackson spent and the game still scoreless entering the seventh, Jim Leyland called on rookie Ryan Perry, a second-year professional who topped out in High-A last year. Perry faced five batters and retired just one, that being Jose Molina, who bunted Nick Swisher (single) and Melky Cabrera (walk) up to set up another key pinch-hitting appearance for Jorge Posada. Posada, who didn’t start for the second straight day due to a sore hamstring, lifted a low fly to left field that Josh Anderson appeared to lose in the Comerica Park lights. The ball skipped past Anderson allowing the gimpy Posada to reach second and both runners to score. After another walk by Perry, Nate Robertson and Brandon Lyon combined to allow seven more Yankees to score. The final blow was a grand slam by Molina that made him the rare player to have a sac bunt and a grand slam in the same inning (it was last done by Sal Bando in 1975, coincidentally also in the seventh inning). The inning went on so long that Angel Berroa, who pinch-ran for Posada, came to bat and singled off Lyon after Molina’s salami. Nick Swisher, who scored twice in that inning and broke out of his slump with two hits and two walks, added the eleventh run with a solo homer off Juan Rincon in the top of the ninth.

Hughes delivers (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)The real story of the night, however, was Hughes, who worked six scoreless innings allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out six. Spotting his fastball, which was coming in around 93 miles per hour, and mixing in a deadly, low-70s curve, and his new high-80s cutter, Hughes picked up right where he left off from the eight strong innings he threw against A.J. Burnett and the Blue Jays late last September. With his hair a bit bushier, faint sideburns, and what appeared to be a generally fuller build, Hughes looked and pitched like a more mature pitcher than the one we saw last year despite his still-tender age of 22.

Hughes received no favors from home plate umpire Derryl Cousins, who called several curves that dropped into the strike zone and a couple of fastballs right on the lower right-hand corner balls (included in the latter was ball four of one of Hughes’ two walks), yet he didn’t lose his cool or his confidence. He got into one jam, that coming in the fourth inning. With one out, he hit Miguel Cabrera in the hand. Carlos Guillen then singled and both runners moved up on a groundout. Hughes pitched around the hot-hitting Brandon Inge and got the light-hitting Josh Anderson to ground out to end the threat. He then set the side down in order in the fifth and sixth before his 99-pitch count (inflated by Cousins’ strike zone) and the Yankees’ long top of the seventh ended his night.

Hughes best pitch of the night came on a 0-1 count to Placido Polanco with two out in the bottom of the fifth. It was a curveball that Polanco was convinced was coming right at his head. A look of total fear came over Polanco’s face as he began to bail. The pitch then dropped over the plate for a called strike on the inside corner, knee-high. Sick.

Hughes was followed by Mark Melancon, whom Joe Girardi had warming up before the game became a laugher. Melancon worked a 1-2-3 seventh, striking out Inge in the process. I can’t wait to see Hughes and Melancon team up again.

Step Right Up

phughes

The talented Mr. Hughes is back and will take the hill for the Yanks tonight against the Tigers.

Rah Rah Ree, Kick ‘Em in the Kneee/
Rah Rah Ras, Kick ‘Em in the Other Knee

Maybe this will satisfy Allen Barra. And maybe you can snap your fingers to this:

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Card Corner: Paul Schaal and the No. 9

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This week’s “Card Corner” has no connection to the Yankees. In fact, this man may be the most obscure player ever profiled in this feature. But he was important to us as kids in 1974, if only because he had such a weird name. And he has become a record-breaker among major league players.

As young fans growing up in Westchester County, we found it both foolishly fun and humorously cruel to repeat the quirky names of certain ballplayers over and over. One of those players was Paul Schaal (pronounced PAWL SHAWL), one of the few big leaguers whose last name rhymed with his first. Along with Lu Blue, Mark Clark, Don Hahn and Greg Legg, Schaal must have taken his share of verbal abuse about that as a child.

A couple of other intriguing facts come to mind when thinking about Paul Schaal. He was the Kansas City Royals’ last regular third baseman before a fellow named George Brett burst onto the major league scene. A certified Hall of Famer and the owner of the most attractive batting swing of the late 20th century—I’ll put him just ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr. in that regard—Brett made most Royals fans forget all about Schaal. Still, Schaal was not a bad ballplayer. Schaal was certainly a better player than most of the third sackers the Yankees were trotting out at the time, an illustrious group that included Bobby Cox and Jerry Kenney. While with the LA and California Angels in the mid-1960s, Schaal established a reputation as one of the game’s finest fielding third baseman. One member of the Angels even called Schaal the equal of Brooks Robinson, generally regarded as baseball’s most divine defensive third baseman of all-time.

Offensively, Schaal showed promise as a youngster, until he was hit in the head by a pitched ball during the 1968 season. The injury left the Angels understandably worried about his future, so they left him exposed in the expansion draft that winter. As one of four new teams entering the major leagues, the Royals snapped up Schaal, hoping that he would recover fully from the beanball incident.

After initially clashing with Royals skipper Charlie Metro, Schaal settled in nicely as KC’s cornerman. In 1971, he used remarkable patience at the plate, walking 103 times to formulate a .387 on-base percentage, while playing in every Royals game that season. He slumped to a .228 average in 1972 before rebounding to hit .288 with eight home runs the following season. Unfortunately, Schaal’s game fall off badly in 1974, prompting a trade back to California, where he finished out his career with the Halos. In the meantime, Mr. Brett staked permanent claim to Kansas City’s “hot corner.”

While Schaal never achieved much more than temporary stardom with the Royals, he has managed to become one of the most successful of ex-ballplayers in his post-playing days. After owning a chain of pizza shops, Schaal went into the unrelated field of chiropractics. (From pizza to ‘practics.) Schaal became Dr. Schaal, which sounds an awful lot like Dr. Scholl, the foot doctor. But it’s Dr. Schaal, practicing back specialist. The good doctor now runs the Schaal Health & Wellness Center in Overland Park, Kansas, and is considered an expert in network spinal analysis. As the doctor’s website points out, “At Schaal Health Center, we use Young Living Essential Oils daily to diffuse the air with their therapeutic aromas.” As a child of the seventies, that sounds pretty good to me.

Here’s something else that you might find interesting about Paul Schaal. He has been married nine times. (That’s got to be a record for a major leaguer. Nine times!) It would be most appropriate for Paul Schaal to be interviewed on CNN by Larry King. How great would that be?

News of the Day – 4/28/09

Today’s news is powered by some REALLY bad cartoon featuring the Tampa Bay Rays:

  • Here are the rehab updates on Alex Rodriguez and Chien-Ming Wang:

Rodriguez, who had surgery on his right hip March 9, could take live batting practice for the first time Tuesday. He might start playing in minor league games later this week and the Yankees expect him to rejoin the team by May 15. . . .

The three-time AL MVP ran the bases for the third time in five days, and added situational drills when taking grounders at third. He hit 13 homers on 89 swings in regular batting practice. . . .

“We need to see him slide,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t done that yet unless he went out on a Slip And Slide in his yard.”

Wang threw in the outfield for 10 minutes and did sprints as part of a rehab program. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with weakness in his hips. . . .

“He’s doing great,” Yankees vice president Billy Connors said. “There is no discomfort. We did some drills that will help bring his velocity back to where it’s got to be.”

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Close Don’t Count

CC Sabathia threw a strong game against the Tigers on Monday night. He allowed four runs–one in the first, and three in the sixth–but pitched better than that. In fact, he only made a couple of mistakes all game long, including a hanging change-up that Magglio Ordonez barely punched over the right field wall. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. Problem was, Justin Verlander was even better and the ninth inning rolled around by 9:15, a virutally unheard occurance for the Yankees.

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It was a tidy, efficient, and brisk pitcher’s duel. Verlander allowed back-to-back hits to start the eighth but the Yankees could not score against Bobby Seay. Robinson Cano led off the ninth against Fernando Rodney, lacing the first the pitch to the left center field gap for a double. He scored on a single by Nick Swisher, who advanced to third on a base hit by Melky Cabrera.

With runners on the corners, Jorge Posada came up as the pinch-hitter. He got tied up with an inside pitch and hit a weak grounder to the left side. Brandon Inge fielded it, tossed it to second, and the relay throw miraculously got Posada in time for the double play. That’s an exaggeration on my part, a slow-footed catcher pushing forty shouldn’t be expected to have the legs to beat out even a slow ground ball, but good gosh, Jorge!–it looksed as if he had seventy pounds of cement in his drawers.

A run scored but the rally was squarshed. Ramiro Pena flew out and the game was over before 9:30.

Final Score: Tigers 4, Yankees 2.

No two ways about it, right now, the Yankees are…lacking.  Still, it was an encouraging start for Sabathia.  No cause for panic, but if you are so inclined, why not do it right?

Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers

2008 Record: 74-88 (.457)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 78-84 (.481)

Manager: Jim Leyland
General Manager: Dave Dombrowski

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Comerica Park (102/102)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Gerald Laird replaces Ivan Rodriguez
  • Adam Everett replaces Edgar Renteria
  • Josh Anderson replaces Gary Sheffield
  • Jeff Larish inherits Matthew Joyce’s playing time
  • Edwin Jackson replaces Kenny Rogers
  • Rick Porcello replaces Nate Robertson in the rotation
  • Nate Robertson replaces Freddy Dolsi in the bullpen
  • Fernando Rodney inherits Todd Jones’ innings
  • Brandon Lyon replaces Aquilino Lopez
  • Joel Zumaya inherits Eddie Bonine’s innings
  • Ryan Perry replaces Casey Fossum
  • Juan Rincon replaces Clay Rapada, Gary Glover, Denny Bautista, and Kyle Farnsworth

25-man Roster:

1B – Miguel Cabrera (R)
2B – Placido Polanco (R)
SS – Adam Everett (R)
3B – Brandon Inge (R)
C – Gerald Laird (R)
RF – Magglio Ordoñez (R)
CF – Curtis Granderson (L)
LF – Josh Anderson (L)
DH – Carlos Guillen (S)

Bench:

R – Ramon Santiago (IF)
R – Ryan Raburn (OF)
L – Jeff Larish (3B/1B)
R – Dane Sardinha (C)

Rotation:

R – Justin Verlander
R – Edwin Jackson
R – Rick Porcello
R – Armando Galarraga
R – Zach Miner

Bullpen:

R – Fernando Rodney
R – Joel Zumaya
R – Brandon Lyon
L – Bobby Seay
R – Ryan Perry
R – Juan Rincon
L – Nate Robertson

15-day DL: RHP – Jeremy Bonderman (sore shoulder), LHP – Dontrelle Willis (anxiety disorder), OF/1B – Marcus Thames (strained oblique), C – Matt Treanor (torn hip labrum)

Typical Lineup:

L – Curtis Granderson (CF)
R – Placido Polanco (2B)
R – Magglio Ordoñez (RF)
R – Miguel Cabrera (1B)
S – Carlos Guillen (DH)
R – Gerald Laird (C)
R – Brandon Inge (3B)
L – Josh Anderson (LF)
R – Adam Everett (SS)

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The New New Places to Play (and Pay)

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Over at SI.com, I’ve got a write-up of the two new New York ballparks.

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Citi Field is state-of-the-art nostalgia (which brings to mind George Carlin’s old routine about “jumbo shrimp”), an amalgam of similar urban ballparks like Camden Yards, the Ballpark at Arlington and Progressive Field, though its spiritual predecessor is Ebbets Field. The results are appealing but also generic. The creative decisions seem arbitrary, like the nooks and crannies in the outfield wall, which don’t serve any other purpose than to add an eccentricity to the playing field. The older ballparks, like Fenway, had such features because they were conforming to a limited urban footprint, not because they deemed them a source of amusement. It is designed like an urban ballpark even though it is sitting in the middle of a wide-open parking lot (talk to the people in Arlington about that incongruity).

The main entrance takes fans through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, a grand civic gesture to one of the game’s true pioneers. It is an airy room, with staircases and escalators on each side. The tribute to Robinson is earnest, handsome and impressive. “It feels like social studies homework,” one fan, an intelligent, liberal New Yorker told me. A giant blue number 42 sits in the middle of the room, the ideal photo op. The blue — which the Mets appropriated from the Brooklyn Dodgers, just as they took their orange from the New York Giants — is the only Mets-related aspect of the room.

And there’s the rub. As tremendous as the Robinson Rotunda is, it seems out of place, even indulgent, because of the lack of corresponding Mets tributes. This is not to suggest that the Mets build a similar monument for Tom Seaver. Yet the lack of balance has left many Mets fans grumbling. The Mets have a history worth celebrating, but its invisibility at Citi Field underscores the organization’s inferiority complex. Perhaps it is a great Freudian slip, Fred Wilpon saying that his team is just a poor stand-in for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team he’d really want to own.

Yankee Panky: Q&A with Kat O’Brien

One of the hottest stories this year has been the continuing decline of the newspaper industry. I’ve written about it in this space, and with the shuttering of the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle P-I going to a completely online format, and more papers reducing coverage of their hometown teams, the current trend is not likely to change any time soon.

What does this mean for baseball coverage? Russell Adams and Tim Marchman presented a telling look at the industry in an April 7 Wall Street Journal article. Being a baseball reporter for a newspaper used to be a job people would kill for. Now it’s likely a job that will be killed.

With that in mind, I’ve begun asking numerous questions of veteran baseball writers and columnists to get their respective takes on the industry. This series of Q&As will run periodically throughout the season and beyond, as trends develop. The first is with Newsday’s Kat O’Brien, a Yankees beat writer since 2007. Prior to moving to New York, O’Brien covered the Texas Rangers for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from 2003-06.

In her short time on the beat, O’Brien has witnessed the sweeping changes and cutbacks in the industry firsthand, and has decided to leave the beat to go to graduate school. The following exchange was conducted over a series of e-mails last week.

Will Weiss: What made you want to be a sportswriter? Even more specifically, what made you want to be on a beat?

Kat O’Brien: I never really set out to be a sportswriter. I was interested in writing and journalism, and sort of wound up in sports. I went to Notre Dame, and initially worked on both sports and news on the daily (Mon-Fri) student newspaper. That was too time-consuming, so I focused on sports, as it was a lot more fun and more-read among the students. For a long time, I thought I would switch back to newswriting, but I kept having great opportunities on the sports side and I enjoyed it. Doing a beat was kind of the natural progression. Baseball made sense as it was one of my favorite sports, and I also speak Spanish, which is useful in covering baseball.

WW: When and how did you use your Spanish? I’m curious, because I speak the language also and have written several anecdotes through the years about my adventures in the Dominican Republic, and with various Latino players in the Yankee clubhouse.

KOB: I double majored in Spanish in college after studying abroad. I’ve gone to the Dominican Republic a few times to do some baseball stories. I use it more on a day-to-day basis, both in interviewing players whose English skills are minimal (i.e. Melky Cabrera) and in talking to players who are comfortable in both languages (i.e. Mariano Rivera and Bobby Abreu). Even with the latter, I often find it helps build a rapport with players when they know you speak their language. It was huge with Alfonso Soriano when he got traded over to the Rangers, who I was covering at the time.

WW: Did anything specific happen to make you thinking about changing your career path?

KOB: It wasn’t any one thing but a combination of things. The writing jobs I had aspired to long-term, like writing takeout features and so on, barely exist anymore. I feel that there are other jobs I would enjoy doing and would be good at, and that this would be a good time to move in that direction. I’ll miss a lot about writing and covering baseball, particularly the relationships you form on the job. But this is the best move for me long-term.

WW: What changes in the industry have you witnessed in your time on the beat?

KOB: Wow, so many, and that is in just a few years. The Internet was not even a shadow of what it is now when I began. Now the Internet is priority No. 1, and it should be. The blogs have become extremely important, and most of those did not even exist when I started.

I also think there is a tendency towards more negativity and sensationalism, not necessarily on the beat, but in the media in general. This may be at least in part due to trying to compete with Internet sites, some of which are more gossip than news, but it’s not a good change in my opinion.

WW: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said recently that newspapers should give up trying to compete (with Internet sites). In your opinion, are newspapers dead? If not, what would you do to try to revive them?

KOB: I really hope that newspapers are not dead or on life support. That said, things don’t look good for most papers at the moment. One thing that is crucial is finding a way to get revenue from the internet. One idea I like is that of getting as many papers as possible to join a consortium. Then a person could pay a subscription fee — say $10-20 per month — and get access to all those papers. Because it’s not realistic to think people are going to pay to read every paper they ever look at online, but papers need revenue.

But papers have to stop cutting costs so much that their best and brightest are either forced out or leave because they don’t think the quality of the product is worth sticking around and being a part of.

WW: You told me offline that given the current state of affairs, leaving the beat is the best decision for you and your future. Why?

KOB: Unfortunately, I am not at all confident about the future of newspapers. I’m sure there will always be some sort of journalism by which people get their news and information. But it’s been devastating to watch newspapers get torn apart in the last couple years, due partly to the failure of the industry to get on-board with the internet early and adapt, and partly to economic conditions.

I see so many colleagues who have been forced from their jobs, or who want to try something else but are constricted due to family considerations, children and mortgages. I am young enough that I can go back to school, so I am doing that while I can.

WW: While it may not be the case with the major New York papers, numerous papers around the country have cut costs by not sending writers to road games, etc., and in some cases local teams receive no hometown coverage at all. Is this a disservice?

KOB: It is a disservice, but unfortunately an unavoidable one right now. Many papers are barely surviving — slashing jobs and costs wherever they can. Local team coverage is one of those costs being cut.

WW: Is the philosophical divide between print and online generational?

KOB: I think there is somewhat of a generational divide between print and online. I see a bigger generational divide over blogging, though. That seems by and large to be more accepted among younger people.

WW: I remember that some of the beat writers who are staunch traditionalists resisted to the blog movement; not only that they were being required to post to blogs, but to the group of writers that has made a name through the blogosphere. What was your reaction to this, and what’s your opinion of baseball writing on the web? Who do you read now and how do you see baseball reporting growing?

KOB: I think there is a place for all sorts of baseball coverage, both traditional and of the blog variety. I think the web permits a much broader amount of coverage. There’s a long list of blogs that I follow. But an example of the different types of writing would be in three of the Yankees blogs I read most often: RiverAveBlues, BronxBanter and WasWatching. All three do a great job of keeping up with Yankees stuff, but each has a different slant/angle. Each site has its favorites and its least favorites on the team, and each provides a different writing style.

Still, there can be a danger in losing sight of the fact that the blogs don’t necessarily provide the same information as the traditional newspapers/sites since many are giving opinion or compiling information instead of doing reporting themselves. I am not saying this in any “anti-blog” fashion, just that I think both are necessary.

WW: Thanks for the compliments and for following us here at BB. What, if anything, could both the blog sites and the newspapers do better to coexist?

KOB: Probably give each other a little more credit where credit is due. Not in all cases, but there are definitely some snarky comments from one side to the other, and vice versa.

WW: What will you miss most about the beat? The least?

KOB: Most: A number of things. Being there to get the story firsthand, the story that people are talking about and reading about and you are giving it to them. Writing for a large and passionate audience. And I’ll especially miss the people — the other writers and the people I am writing about such as players, coaches, managers, GMs, and behind-the-scenes folks.

Least: Witnessing and worrying about the constant decline in the newspaper industry. And it might be nice to have a somewhat more normal schedule, with less travel and more nights and weekends off.

WW: What’s next for you? Do you see yourself eventually getting back into sport media, or editorial?

KOB: I’m going back to school. I start a dual degree program at the University of Pennsylvania next month, getting a Wharton MBA and a Masters of Arts in International Studies from the Lauder Institute. I don’t envision myself getting back into sports media or editorial on a full-time basis. I would love to keep my hand in by doing free-lance writing. After I graduate I might get involved in the business side of sports, but that’s yet to be determined. I’ll miss sportswriting and all my friends in the biz, though.

News of the Day – 4/27/09

Today’s new is powered by a cute baseball-related bit from “Whose Line (Drive?) is it Anyway?”

Brian Bruney blamed himself for straining the flexor muscle in his right elbow, an injury that forced him into a stint on the disabled list.

“I have thrown quite a bit,” Bruney said in reference to tossing on his own. “It’s my fault and I have to make corrections.”

[My take: Pitchers determine their own throwing schedule?  Besides starters, don't relievers have specific schedules for throwing (assuming they haven't been used in a few days?)  Also, how much throwing on his own would he have to do? Undoubtedly, he's been warmed up in the pen on days he hasn't actually appeared in a game.]

(more…)

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