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Monthly Archives: April 2009

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Lost Weekend

A few scenes from the Yankees’ weekend in Boston:

Yeah, that coulda gone better.

With the obligatory disclaimer that it is only April, etc. etc., the Yanks had another tough loss to the Sox tonight, going down 4-1 to complete Boston’s sweep.

The game was tied at one when, in the fifth, things got a bit away from Andy Pettitte. It wasn’t a meltdown, as he was able to limit the damage, and the bullpen for a change didn’t give up a run — but the Sox’s three-run lead turned out to be plenty. New York’s only run came when Hideki Matsui scored on Bret Gardner’s sacrifice fly; the offense had several promising opportunities, but couldn’t get a big blow against the Sox pitchers, and ended up stranding eight runners. Twenty-four-year-old Justin Masterson was solid for Boston (though he did have some help from Angel “.167/.167/.167″ Berroa), and so was hot prospect Michael Bowden, who pitched two perfect innings. Takashi Saito closed it out.

It was in that fateful fifth inning that Jacoby Ellsbury stole home, which I have to admit was pretty freaking awesome. Some blame goes to Posada for apparently not paying close enough attention – with a left-hander in the batter’s box, he should have had a clear view of third base – but credit where credit’s due, that’s a gutsy move. I know some people aren’t going to like that Ellsbury took a curtain call, but I say you go for it there: the crowd was insistent and besides, while people hit big home runs all the time, how often do you get to steal home? It was the first time a Red Sox player has done it in 10 years.

Mark Melancon, who we’ve been hearing about for quite a while now, relieved Pettitte in his Yankees debut, and started off pretty well with a scoreless 7th. One inning later, he seemed to have utterly lost the strike zone– a single, a walk, a hit batter – but much to my surprise he wriggled out of the bases-loaded, nobody-out jam, with a strikeout sandwiched between two ground balls.

Momentum-shifter?… well, no. Still, at least this was a decently crisp and fairly close loss, and not another hot mess like yesterday. Yes, I am struggling to find positives here.

Other good things I noticed from last night’s game:

-Nobody was injured.
-It didn’t rain.
-Mark Melancon doesn’t seem to rattle easy.
-Unlike during Saturday’s game, my dog did not puke up an entire sock.
- Every season, Kevin Youkilis looks more and more like the kind of disreputable extra that late-career John Wayne would punch out in a frontier bar brawl.

The Yankees head to Motown tomorrow… which I guess is as good a place as any to do a little soul-searching.

Medic

The Yanks turn to Andy Pettitte to stop the bleeding tonight in Boston.

save-your-own-life-05-ss

Let’s see if the Bombers can sneak away with a “w” or if they’ll be swept away. Got to figure it’ll be a long night.

Big Momma’s Gunna Make Everything OK

Nothing has gone right for the Yankees this weekend but still, it’s gorgeous in New York. Why let the Yanks spoil the day? After all, the suffering won’t begin until after 8 tonight. In the meantime, it’s hot like the summer and it’s Sunday.

That counts for something.

And so does this:

Things Fall Apart

opera-singer

Today felt like having duct tape slowly peeled off your arm for more than four hours. A tough-luck loss on Friday night was just the start of what is turning out to be a long, ugly weekend for the Yankees in Boston. About the only way to be feel any pleasure is to admire the Yankees’ fortitude–they showed a lot of fight–and just laugh at the WWF-ridiculousness of these games against Boston.

Yanks-Sox turns baesball into something else, the back-and-forth suggests a heavyweight boxing match even more than it does wrestling. But even in defeat, there is something satisfying about watching your team give it a balls-out effort. Nevermind the horsesh** pitching.

The Bombers put an early beating on Josh Beckett jumping out to a 6-0 lead. But Jason Variteck’s grand slam in the fourth brought the Sox back and by the time Beckett and AJ Burnett were done the score was 8-8. So much for the hype, the two big starters were doo doo. In the end, the Red Sox bullpen was better than the Yankee bullpen and that was that.

lowell

Oh, it was typical Yankee-Sox, a regular opera: lead-changes by the handful, big homers by Mike Lowell and Johnny Damon, two long balls by Robbie Cano, a suprising error by Dustin Pedroia, a missed call by the second base ump, Damon crashing into the left field wall. Rock-em-sock-’em-robots stuff. Took forever.

“Did this start yesterday?” said Tim McCarver in the 8th inning.

You know, the usual. 16-11 was the final in favor of the Sox.

So not awesome, man. 

Ouchies

Never mind last night’s game. Painful as it was, it was just one loss. Far more damaging is the fact that three Yankees were placed on the disabled list after the game.

We knew Chien-Ming Wang was unlikely to make his next schedule start in Detroit on Tuesday and had already been skipped this time through the rotation thanks in part to Monday’s rain-out and Thursday’s off-day. Still, it smarts to hear Brian Cashman say that Wang’s problem is in his hips, a cascade injury of sorts stemming from the broken foot he suffered last June, and that he will need roughly two weeks of physical therapy. It’s not the bit about his hips that hurts—that may be bogus, after all—it’s the bit about the two weeks of physical therapy. Yes, a minimum DL stay is roughly two weeks, but Wang hasn’t pitched in a week, and his DL appearance could have been made retroactive, giving him a week to fix his clearly flawed mechanics and bringing him back after missing just three starts. Instead he’ll miss at least five starts. Add those to the three awful starts he already made, and suddenly Wang’s season is in the 20- to 25-start range at best.

The good news is that the Yankees have Phil Hughes looking very read to take Wang’s place. Hughes is 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA and 19 Ks against three walks in 19 1/3 innings for Scranton.  If Hughes pitches well in Wang’s stead, the Yankees will have an interesting choice to make once Wang’s ready to return. (Note that the Yankees haven’t officially named Hughes Tuesday’s starter and are currently filling Wang’s roster spot with an extra reliever.)

In addition to Wang, Brian Bruney has landed on the DL with a strained flexor mass in his right elbow. You’ll be excused if you think you’re having deja vu. Last year, Bruney had a tremendous April (1.59 ERA, 11 1/3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 12 K, opponents hitting .175/.292/.350) but broke his foot covering first on April 22 and was out until August. This year he was again dominating in April (3.38 ERA, 8 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 12 K, opponents hitting .111/.172/.148), but woke up with elbow pain on the morning of April 22 and is now back on the DL. The good news is that this year’s injury is muscular and the Yankees hope that a couple weeks off will allow it to heal completely.

David Robertson has been recalled from Scranton to help replace Bruney. Robertson struck out three in a pair of scoreless innings against the Indians in the Yankee Stadium opener, but was optioned back to Scranton the next day as the Yankees though they might need an extra bad with Hideki Matsui’s knees and Mark Teixeira’s wrist acting up. The injury to Wang allows Robertson to return to the team just before his minimum ten days in Triple-A had elapsed. Robertson has not allowed an earned run in eight Triple-A innings, but has struck out 14 against just two walks in those frames.

Joining Robertson in the Yankee pen (as of 5:30 this evening, per Pete Abe) is Mark Melancon (pronounced mel-LAN-son), who hasn’t allowed a run, earned or otherwise, in 10 1/3 innings for Scranton this year while striking out 17 against just three walks. In a perfect world, both will be here to stay, and Steven Jackson, who has been on the 25-man roster since Sunday without seeing action despite the Yankees playing a total of 25 innings over their last two games, will be the man farmed out to make room for Hughes on Tuesday.

The perpetually rehabbing Humberto Sanchez was released to make room for Melancon. It was the obvious move, though a disappointing one as Sanchez went to high school in the Bronx and remained active in the community. He would have made a good story had he made an impact with the Yankees, but he just couldn’t get healthy and the Yankees have too many other quality arms to worry about retaining Sanchez, who turns 26 in about a month.

Finally, Cody Ransom tore his right quadricep on a steal of second base in the eighth inning of last night’s game. With Alex Rodriguez about two weeks from returning, Ransom has been sent straight to the 60-day DL to make roster space for Angel Berroa as the only other infielder on the Yankees 40-man roster had been first baseman Juan Miranda. The 31-year-old Berroa carried his hot spring over to the Triple-A season and was hitting .316/.365/.491 for Scranton. He will start at third base tonight, reigiting the spring-training battle between himself and Ramiro Peña, as one of them is likely to be farmed out when Alex Rodriguez returns in a couple of weeks. Worth noting: Berroa has played just one game at third base in the major leagues prior to today and played just 14 games there in the minors before this season.

Here’s the full Yankee lineup (the Red Sox’s remains the same as last night):

R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Johnny Damon (LF)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
R – Angel Berroa (3B)
L – Brett Gardner (CF)

This is the first time Posada will catch A.J. Burnett this season. Pitching behind Chien-Ming Wang in the rotation, Burnett started after a loss in each of his three previous starts and each time helped lead the Yankees to victory. In his last start, however, he got a no-decision after walking seven men against just two strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings (he compensated by allowing just three hits, but two of them were home runs).

Today he’ll be taking on his former Marlins teammate, Josh Beckett. Beckett should have started last night had he not been serving a five-game suspension for throwing at Bobby Abreu after Abreu had called time during Burnett’s windup. Beckett was dominant in his first start of the season, but has been less impressive in his last two starts, putting up this line: 12 IP, 14 H, 8 R (7 ER), 6 BB, 10 K, 5.25 ERA.

News of the Day – 4/25/09

Today’s news is powered by “how a baseball bat is made”:

For instance, in the decision to acquire Nick Swisher despite a .219 average for the White Sox last year, stats like line-drive percentage and pitches taken were used. “The only stat that was different was batting average when he put the ball in play,” Cashman said, “so we concluded it must have been an unlucky year.”

[My take: Pass the smelling salts . . . a GM quoting BABIP, and interpreting it correctly!  Don’t let Joe Morgan know about this!]

The Yankees placed Chien-Ming Wang on the 15-day disabled list on Friday after the struggling right-hander was diagnosed with weakness in the adductor muscles of both hips. . . .

The weakness is a kinetic effect of Wang’s right foot injury — a Lisfranc fracture suffered last June 15 — and may be directly responsible for the 34.50 ERA Wang posted in three big league starts this year.

Cashman said that Wang will remain in Tampa to undergo a week to 10 days of physical therapy on his hips to help build the lacking power. Asked when the Yankees might see Wang at the big league level again, Cashman responded, “I don’t know.”

“I know it’s a minimum of 10 days to two weeks of physical therapy on the hips, and the fact that he’s a pitcher, after that, who knows?” Cashman said. “He’ll be able to throw to some degree, I believe, while that’s going on. The main issue is to get those hips taken care of and get him back on line, because they’ve gotten off line.”

And then came the 24 hours that shocked the baseball world: Epstein secretly slipping away from the winter meetings in New Orleans for a hush-hush meeting at the Four Seasons in New York with Rodriguez, who at 1:30 a.m. answered the door of his suite impeccably dressed in a suit, his hair freshly moussed. Before dawn Rodriguez agreed, in exchange for a couple of player options inserted in his contract, to give up millions to escape the purgatory of the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez even pledged to send some under-the-table money back to Rangers owner Tom Hicks to make the deal work.

That morning, after some hard bargaining, players’ union lawyer Gene Orza signed off on the deal, and a day later at a hastily called press conference in the .406 club at Fenway Park, Epstein announced that the club had acquired Rodriguez for outfielder Manny Ramirez, who had worn out the club with his trade demands, and a left-handed pitching prospect named Jon Lester.

Then Epstein leaned into the microphone to announce the second part of his bombshell: Nomar Garciaparra, the incumbent shortstop who had interrupted his honeymoon to call a Boston sports-talk show and complain about the A-Rod rumors, had been traded to the White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez and a pitching prospect Brandon McCarthy.

A-Rod was fretting about how Nomar would handle him being on the same team until Epstein told him about the trade for Ordonez. A-Rod’s eyes got as big as silver dollars. Ordonez was one of his best friends. “You don’t understand,” he’d told Epstein. “Magglio and I are tight. We work out all winter together. I taught him how to hit.”

(more…)

All Gone Wrong

“It’s my fault. That’s all it is.” —Mariano Rivera

Jason Bay rounds third after his game-tying home run off Mariano Rivera (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)The Yankees lost more than a ballgame last night. They also lost their replacement starting third baseman to a quad injury and may have lost their primary set-up man to an ailing elbow. It wasn’t a good night.

Until the bottom of the ninth, it looked as though the Yankees were going to steal a win. Joba Chamberlain wasn’t sharp. Jon Lester was. Nonetheless, Joba managed to keep his team in the game.

The Red Sox got the leadoff man on in each of the first five innings and got a man to third in all but one inning against Chamberlain, yet they scored just two runs off the Yankee starter. Chamberlain worked out of trouble with the help of double plays, most of them coming off two-seam fastballs, in the first, second, fourth, and fifth innings. In the third he had runners on the corners and one out, but struck out David Ortiz, pitched around Kevin Youkilis (ultimately throwing him an intentional ball four to load the bases), and got J.D. Drew to fly out to the warning track in left to end the threat.

The Red Sox scored in the first when Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single, moved to second on a balk when Chamberlain failed to come to a discernible stop in his delivery, and scored when Jose Molina came out of his crouch too fast on Ellsbury’s attempted steal of third and let Chamberlain’s pitch sail between his legs.

Surprisingly it was the bottom third of the Yankee order that did the damage against Lester. Melky Cabrera delivered a one-out single in the fourth, Jose Molina followed with a walk, and Cody Ransom shot a game-tying double down the third base line scoring Melky and pushing Molina to third. Molina then scored on a groundout by Derek Jeter to put the Yankees up 2-1.

The Red Sox tied it up against Chamberlain in the sixth, ironically the only inning in which Joba didn’t allow the leadoff man to reach base. With one out, Mike Lowell doubled off the Green Monster, Jason Varitek singled him to third, and Nick Green singled him home, driving Chamberlain from the game.

Phil Coke and Jonathan Albaladejo locked things down from there while the Yankees scored a pair of runs off Hideki Okajima and Manny Delcarmen in the seventh. Okajima entered the seventh with a 5.40 career ERA against the Yankees and failed to get an out. Derek Jeter led off with a double just past the Pesky Pole and off the tip of J.D. Drew’s glove near the right-field wall. Johnny Damon then moved Jeter to third on a drag bunt base hit, and Mark Teixeira scored the captain with a single. After Jorge Posada singled to load the bases, Terry Francona called on Delcarmen, who got Nick Swisher to fly out to shallow left, holding the runners, but then gave up a sac fly to Robinson Cano that pushed the Yankee lead to 4-2.

(more…)

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

2008 Record: 95-67 (.586)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 95-67 (.586)

Manager: Terry Francona
General Manager: Theo Epstein

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Fenway Park (108/106)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Jason Bay replaces Manny Ramirez
  • Jonathan Van Every is filling in for Rocco Baldelli (DL), who replaces Coco Crisp
  • Jeff Bailey is filling in for Mark Kotsay (DL), who replaces Sean Casey
  • George Kottaras replaces Kevin Cash
  • Nick Green is filling in for Jed Lowrie (DL) and Julio Lugo (DL), thus Gil Velazquez is replacing Alex Cora
  • Brad Penny replaces Clay Buchholz (minors), Paul Byrd, and Bartolo Colon
  • Ramon Ramirez replaces Mike Timlin
  • Takashi Saito replaces David Aardsma
  • Justin Masterson is filling in for Daisuke Matsuzaka (DL)
  • Hunter Jones is filling in for Masterson in the bullpen

25-man Roster:

1B – Kevin Youkilis (R)
2B – Dustin Pedroia (R)
SS – Nick Green (R)
3B – Mike Lowell (R)
C – Jason Varitek (C)
RF – J.D. Drew (L)
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury (L)
LF – Jason Bay (R)
DH – David Ortiz (L)

Bench:

R – Jeff Bailey (OF/1B)
L – Jonathan Van Every (OF)
R – Gil Velazquez (IF)
L – George Kottaras (C)

Rotation:

L – Jon Lester
R – Josh Beckett
R – Justin Masterson
R – Tim Wakefield
R – Brad Penny

Bullpen:

R – Jonathan Papelbon
L – Hideki Okajima
R – Manny Delcarmen
L – Javier Lopez
R – Ramon Ramirez
R – Takashi Saito
L – Hunter Jones

15-day DL:

RHP – Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder strain)
SS – Jed Lowrie (wrist surgery)
SS – Julio Lugo (meniscus surgery)
OF – Rocco Baldelli (hamstring)
RHP – John Smoltz (shoulder surgery)
OF/1B – Mark Kotsay (back)

60-day DL:

RHP – Miguel Gonzalez (TJ)

Typical Lineup:

L – Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
R – Dustin Pedroia (2B)
L – David Ortiz (DH)
R – Kevin Youkilis (1B)
L – J.D. Drew (RF)
R – Jason Bay (LF)
R – Mike Lowell (3B)
S – Jason Varitek (C)
R – Nick Green (SS)

(more…)

Boogie Down (Toot, Toot, Ahhh Beep Beep)

Well, so long as its gunna be loud, why not put a beat behind it that we can dance to?

The late great Joe Cuba.

Bring the Noise

jobaatfenway

It’s that time again as this weekend gives the first meeting of the young season between the Yanks and Sox. Saturday afternoon on Fox, Sunday Night on ESPN.  There will be lots of noise on-line, in the papers, and on TV. The usual hype n hyperbole.*

You know the drill.  Right, Chuck?

* Though Beckett vs. Burnett has the potential to worth the hype.

News of the Day – 4/24/09

Today’s news is powered by a video tribute to Bob Sheppard:

  • Tyler Kepner previews this weekend’s match-up with the BoSox:

They will meet on Friday at Fenway Park the way they always seem to be: dead even in the standings. The Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, never far from each other’s consciousness, have identical 9-6 records. The Yankees have won six of their last eight. The Red Sox are on a seven-game winning streak.

It is almost immaterial that the Toronto Blue Jays, of all teams, are atop the American League East, and that the Tampa Bay Rays are the reigning division champions. In the insular world of 4 Yawkey Way, nobody else will matter.

  • What does Bud Selig think about the pricing of those premium seats?:

Bud Selig has noticed those empty seats at the new ballparks in New York, too. Should the Yankees and Mets lower their tickets prices? The commissioner said that’s up to them. . . .

Speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors, Selig said it was not an issue for Major League Baseball to decide, and added he wouldn’t make any recommendation.

“They’re going to discuss it, and whatever adjustments they want to make, they should make,” Selig said. “I wouldn’t be presumptuous talking about what they should or shouldn’t do.”. . .

Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion wouldn’t discuss Selig’s remarks, saying: “We’re still not talking about ticket prices.”

Selig said too much is being made in the media of the top-priced seats. “They’re off to a very good attendance start. One team is averaging 44,000 — the Yankees are at 44 — and the Metsies are averaging 37,000,” he said. “So it would be hard if I went to Pittsburgh or somewhere today and tell them, gee, you know, those two New York clubs are really struggling.”

“He doesn’t have the arm strength he had last year,” (minor league pitching instructor Nardi) Contreras said. “But he hasn’t pitched in eight months prior to this spring training. What I saw today, he had the best slider I’ve seen since I’ve known Chien-Ming. The slider has improved and the changeup is very good. His offspeed pitches are coming in really well.”

(more…)

Fear Strikes Out

This looks like it might be worth checking out. 

From the wildman who brought us Fingers, one of the grubbiest New York City movies of the late Seventies.

tyson

Here’s A.O. Scott’s review of James Toback’s new documentary:

A lot of people, even passionate boxing fans, might prefer to forget about Mr. Tyson rather than spend 90 minutes in his company. But “Tyson” is worth seeing even if you have no particular interest in the sport or the man.

It may lack the detachment and the balance that Barbara Kopple brought to “Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson,” the 1993 documentary she made for NBC, but Mr. Toback’s film, partly because it restricts itself to Mr. Tyson’s point of view, offers a rare and vivid study in the complexity of a single suffering, raging soul. It is not an entirely trustworthy movie, but it does feel profoundly honest.

Baby, Baby Bust it

“Son, in this life, you don’t ever walk by a red dress.”
–Buck O’Neil

red-dress1

I think Buck would have approved of the gal dancing to Rufus (Pretty in Pink) Thomas at Wattstax. My goodness.

Good lookin’ to our man in Tokyo for the link.

Card Corner: Horace Clarke

clarke

For too long now, we in the media have referred to the Yankees of 1965 to 1974 as representatives of the “Horace Clarke Era.” The team’s starting second baseman for much of that period, Clarke has come to symbolize the mediocrity of those Yankee clubs. Seen here in his final Topps card (vintage 1974), Clarke was viewed as an inadequate player, symptomatic of a team that was inadequately built to win any pennants or division titles during that ten-year span.

The criticism of Clarke has run on several different levels. Too much of a free swinger, he didn’t draw enough walks. He didn’t have great range at second base, especially toward his backhand side. He also didn’t turn the double play well.

To some extent, the criticisms are all true. He never coaxed more than 64 walks in a season and usually finished below the 50-mark. Defensively, he paled in comparison to two other Yankees, predecessor Bobby Richardson and successor Willie Randolph. On double plays, Clarke bailed out early and often. Instead of pivoting at the bag, he sometimes jumped out of the way of runners while holding onto the baseball.

Those critiques provide only a partial view. The switch-hitting Clarke stole bases, bunted adeptly, and usually hit for a respectable average (at least for that era), which would have played acceptably as the eight-hole or ninth-place hitter. The Yankees made the mistake of using Clarke as a leadoff man because he looked and ran like a tablesetter. That was their mistake, not his. In the field, Clarke had his shortcomings, but for a guy who supposedly lacked range, he did lead the American League in assists six times. Part of that might have been attributable to having a sinkerballer like Mel Stottlemyre on the staff, but it’s also an indication that Clarke had pretty good range to his left.

Was Clarke a top-notch player? Of course not. But I would say that he was better than mediocre. (The Yankees of that era, like Clarke, were also better than advertised. Just look at the records of the 1970 and 1974 teams.) I think the Yankees could have won a division with a second baseman like Clarke, if only they had been better at other positions, like third base (prior to Graig Nettles’ arrival) or right field. If you want to find the real reasons why the Yankees so often struggled during those years, you need to look no further than the revolving doors at those slots. The Yankees had substantially weaker players at third base (Cox, Kenney, Sanchez) and right field (Kosco, Swoboda, Callison). It’s just that none of the third basemen or right fielders lasted long enough to become targets of the critics.

Putting aside the issue of talent evaluation for a moment, Clarke was an intriguing player to follow, especially for a young fan like me. Clarke came attached with a cool nickname. He was called “Hoss,” raising memories of Dan Blocker’s iconic character from Bonanza. (Bill White, in particular, loved that nickname. “Hosssss Clarke,” he liked to say with flourish.) Clarke also had an intriguing background. He was one of the few players I can remember who hailed from the Virgin Islands. So that made him a little bit different from your run-of-the-mill player. Then there was Clarke’s appearance. He wore very large glasses, the kind that became so horribly fashionable in the early 1970s, really round and overly noticeable. On the field, Clarke not only wore a helmet at the plate; he sported one while patrolling second base. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why he did that. It may have had something to do with his fear of being upended on double-play takeout slides. Several years ago, Darren “Repoz” Viola of Baseball Think Factory asked former Yankee broadcaster Bob Gamere why Clarke wore the helmet at second base; Gamere explained that it may have stemmed from a 1969 incident in which Clarke was hit in the head with a ball, but he wasn’t completely certain. Whatever the reason, the helmet made Clarke a distinctive landmark on the middle infield.

For all of those reasons, and for being a quiet guy who rarely complained, Hoss Clarke was a likeable guy. He was also a decent ballplayer. So let’s stop vilifying the man who was once booed during pre-game introductions on Opening Day at the old Yankee Stadium. Let’s stop raking the man that one New York writer repeatedly referred to as “Horrible Horace.” I’d prefer to call him “Helpful Horace.” Let’s go with that instead.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for MLBlogs at MLB.com.

The Real Deal

U85232181

Roy White is famous for being an underappreciated Yankee.   Why he doesn’t have his own Yankeeography is beyond me.  But I’m preaching to the choir.  Here at Bronx Banter, we have much love for the quiet Yankee.  White had a fine career and has just written a new book, Then Roy Said to Mickey…The Best Yankee Stories Ever Told

White will be at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Montclair New Jersey tonight at 6:00 p.m.  If you are in the vicinity, be sure to check it out.

* photograph courtesy of Corbis.

News of the Day – 4/23/09

Today’s news is powered by “Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine” (jump to the 1:30 mark):

Richard Cheese on Fox News Channel

There are certain requirements that come with this job, and one is this: Whenever you’re interviewing a big-name, impending free agent, you must ask him whether he would consider playing in New York.

“Yeah, I would play here,” Matt Holliday told Midweek Insider Tuesday night, before his A’s 5-3 loss to the Yankees. “I’d have no problem playing here.” . . .

When this winter arrives, Holliday will have at least one good adviser, in addition to Boras. Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is also a Boras client, and the two men became friendly while they were teammates on Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

“I consider (Teixeira) a good enough friend to talk about decisions,” Holliday said. “His situation obviously is similar to mine. He’s a year ahead of me in all of the things that have kind of happened. He’s definitely a good resource.”

  • If you are “flush” with cash, you can “flush” in private at the Stadium, reports PeteAbe:

How far does the class warfare extend in Yankee Stadium? All the way to the men’s room.

According to the charmingly titled Fack Youk blog, there are dividers between the urinals in the field level bathrooms but not in the bathrooms elsewhere in the stadium.

Nick Swisher will ring the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange (Friday) at 9:30 a.m. according to the Yankees.

The market has to go up, right? Either that or Swish will try to talk to every trader, they’ll forget their jobs and the we’ll all be lining up for government cheese in a week.

  • The A.P. (as reported in the Boston Herald) has some pretty depressing seating figures from the first homestand:

A count by The Associated Press totaled 1,895 seats in the Legends Suite, of which 146 were in the front row from dugout to dugout, costing $2,500 as season tickets and $2,625 individually.

— On Tuesday night, only 64 of the 146 seats at the top price level were occupied in the bottom of the second inning. The outermost Legends Suite sections, which each contain 90 seats, were entirely empty until two fans finally emerged to sit in them during the late innings.

— On Wednesday, in the third inning, just 37 of the highest-priced, front-row seats were occupied, although it was impossible to know if some fans had taken shelter in stadium restaurants.

Yet another sign of how the best seats have been overpriced is their resale level.

Legends Suite seats in section 27B, row 2, down the left-field line that originally sold for $500 were available for $225 early Wednesday on the online ticket broker StubHub.com. Tickets in section 23, row 7, behind the visitors’ dugout could be had for $263, down from their $850 original price.

(more…)

Only Time Will Tell

Spoiler Alert! (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)For all the sturm und drang over Chien-Ming Wang’s mechanics and the dimensions and dynamics of the new Yankee Stadium, the Yankees just went 4-2 on their first home stand in their new ballpark. Like the rest of the series, yesterday’s game wasn’t pretty, but it ultimately worked out in the Yankees’ favor.

It was cool and rainy in the Bronx yesterday afternoon, and CC Sabathia wasn’t sharp. He opened the second inning by putting the first two men on base via a walk and a single, then giving up just the fourth Oakland home run of the season to Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki’s shot would have been a wall-scraper had a fan in left field not reached over the wall to snare it. Johnny Damon was there to attempt a catch, but the ball was too high for his reach and would have reached the seats had the fan not been there, as the umpires correctly ruled after reviewing the replay.

The Yankees got two of those runs back against A’s rookie left-hander Brett Anderson in the bottom of the second on solo homers by Hideki Matsui (a no-doubter into the right-field bleachers), and Melky Cabrera (a right-handed poke into the visiting bullpen), but the Yankee defense gave one back in the top of the third. With one out, Damon dropped an easy pop up behind third base allowing Jason Giambi to reach second base. Holliday then singled Giambi to third. Cust followed with a chopper back to Sabathia. CC checked Giambi at third, then threw to second to get Holliday. Because Sabathia checked Giambi, Derek Jeter didn’t have time to relay to first for the double play, but Giambi broke for home after Sabathia threw to second, so Jeter fired home only to realize after he made the throw that Giambi was running because no one was covering the plate. Jorge Posada was backing up first base, Cody Ransom had been holding Giambi at third, and Sabathia had to field the ball off the bat. The ball sailed to the backstop, but Cust held at first and Suzuki flied out to end the inning. Nonetheless, the Yankees were down 4-2.

But not for long. Mark Teixeira and Posada led off the bottom of the third with a single and a double to put runners on the corners. Robinson Cano got Teixeira home on a groundout to second and Swisher singled home Posada to tie the game at four. Sabathia then worked a 1-2-3 top of the fourth and Derek Jeter came through with a two-out solo homer into Monument Park that gave the Yankees their first lead of the game at 5-4.

At that point the Yankees appeared to have taken control of the ballgame. Sabathia retired eight straight from the last out of the third to the first out of the sixth, but then things began to fall apart again. Jack Cust walked, moved to second on a ground out, then scored on a Mark Ellis single up the middle that nearly undressed Sabathia. That tied the game at 5-5, but once again the Yankees answered back.

Melky Cabrera drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth to drive Anderson from the game at 97 pitches, but was then thrown out trying to steal second. Undeterred, the Yankees put together two-out rally ignited by a Cody Ransom double. Jeter again came through with a key two-out hit, doubling home Ransom to again put the Yankees ahead 6-5. Damon and Teixeira then added singles, the latter of which plated Jeter to give the Yankees an insurance run and a 7-5 lead.

Again Sabathia couldn’t hold it. The top of the seventh started with a Bobby Crosby single, a Ryan Sweeney walk, and an Orlando Cabrera sac bunt to move both runners into scoring position for the heart of the order. With Sabathia at 110 pitches, Giambi scored Crosby with a groundout to second, that brought righty Matt Holliday, who had singled and walked in three trips to that point, to the plate with the tying run on third base and two outs. Joe Girardi had Jonathan Albaladejo warming in the bullpen, but after visiting the mound, decided to leave Sabathia in the game. It was one batter too many as Holliday singled Sweeney home to tie the game at 7-7.

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Get Away Day

It’s overcast and with the odd drop of drizzle here at Yankee Stadium, but the teams are taking batting practice and baseball is a go.

I’m in the press box today, so I’ll be liveblogging the action. Here are the lineups. Back with more in a bit:

A’s

L – Ryan Sweeney (CF)
R – Orlando Cabrera (SS)
L – Jason Giambi (DH)
R – Matt Holliday (LF)
L – Jack Cust (RF)
R – Kurt Suzuki (C)
R – Mark Ellis (2B)
S – Landon Powell (1B)
R – Bobby Crosby (3B)

LHP – Brett Anderson

Yankees:

R – Derek Jeter (SS)
L – Johnny Damon (LF)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
R – Cody Ransom (3B)

LHP – CC Sabathia

Melky is making just his second start in center of the season. Robinson Cano stays in the fifth spot despite the opposing lefty on the mound. He’s hit .301/.347/.431 against lefties on the season thus far. With the rainout on Monday and the off-day tomorrow, Posada is starting the day game after the night game. Save for Melky, this is the same lineup Joe Girardi posted last night.

The A’s are sitting lefties Eric Chavez and Travis Buck against Sabathia.

Big Texan Brett Anderson is emerging as the key player the A’s received from the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade. The 21-year-old rookie lefty got hit around a bit by the Mariners in his major league debut, but turned in a great outing against the Red Sox his last time out (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K), only to have his bullpen blow the game in the eighth.

Update: There’s a steady drizzle now, but the groundskeepers are tending the field as if it was 70 degrees and sunny. Look below the jump for further updates.

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News of the Day – 4/22/09

Off we go . . .

  • Xavier Nady has been formally diagnosed with a partially torn elbow ligament:

The Yankees feared originally Nady could be lost for the season with a completely torn ligament, but a review of multiple X-rays revealed that the ligament is only partially torn. He will likely need to rehab the injury for a period of weeks, perhaps a month.

Chien-Ming Wang will pitch an extended spring training game Thursday in Tampa, a move the Yankees hope will finally give them some answers as to what is troubling their former ace.

Wang, who will remain on the Yankees active roster, is scheduled to throw 100 pitches in front of Yankees Tampa-based officials Mark Newman and Nardi Contreras.

This way, Joe Girardi explained, Wang can attempt to figure out what’s wrong pitching in game conditions as opposed to more bullpen sessions. Part of the problem has been that Wang has looked good in the bullpen between starts and before games, but has struggled in games.

  • Ken Belson of the Times has an article on the troubles the metro NY teams are having selling their premium seats:

. . . the Mets and the Yankees face a public relations nightmare and possibly millions of dollars in lost revenue after failing to sell about 5,000 tickets — including some of the priciest seats — to each of their first few games after last week’s openers.

The empty seats are a fresh sign that the teams might have miscalculated how much fans and corporations were willing to spend, particularly during a deep recession. Whatever the reason, the teams are scrambling to comb over their $295- to $2,625-a-seat bald spots.

“I’m sure they’re thinking, ‘It’s just April,’ ” Jon Greenberg, executive editor of the Team Marketing Report, said of the lack of sellouts. “But it’s lost revenue they anticipated getting. This is the worst possible time to debut a stadium.”

But the slow start in New York is striking considering how much the teams here spent to build and promote their parks. Like airlines that break even on economy tickets and rely on first-class travelers to turn a profit, the teams need to sell their most exclusive seats to help repay the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-free bonds they issued to finance their new parks.

The unfilled seats in New York are even more glaring compared with how robust sales have been for previous stadium openings. The Baltimore Orioles sold out 67 of their 80 home dates in 1992, when Camden Yards opened. The Cleveland Indians sold out 36 games in the strike-shortened season in 1994, and were filled to capacity 455 consecutive games from 1995 to 2001.

[My take: Actually, this is just the right time to open a new stadium, as those who might not spend disposable income on a ballgame will want to see the new facility . . . unless your average ticket price is $72 . . . and you have a huge restaurant in center field that blocks the view of more than 1,000 fans . . . and your Stadium rules and regulations feel like they were written by the Gestapo.]

After a rough start against Rome on Opening Day—which included six runs on five hits in five innings—Brackman’s peripherals have all been trending in the right direction. His walks have dipped from three to two to zero, while his strikeouts have climbed from five on April 9 to eight last night in a strong start at Savannah.

“Last night he had big-time command of the breaking ball,” (Brackman’s manager Torre) Tyson said. “When you have that 60 breaking ball (on the 20-80 scouting scale) to go along with 95 (mph velocity), it’s almost unhittable because you have to cheat to get to the fastball.

Brackman has made strides in repeating his delivery, Tyson said, but it will continue to be an issue because of his immense size. “He’s always trying to tinker a little bit with his delivery, week in and week out.”

Tyson reported that the righthander’s stuff was crisp, with his velocities ranging form 92-95 on the fastball, 74-78 on the curve and 84-88 on the changeup—much as they did last fall in the HWB. The skipper noted something else, too. Brackman found success in cutting the ball, giving him a quality hard pitch with running action that complements his tailing two-seamer.

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This is called the Show

jd

The massive center field scoreboard area that dominates the visual attention at the new Yankee Stadium comes to life at night. While it can never be truly ignored, even during the afternoon, it is a living, breathing presence at night.

Showtime.

As Yankee fans gather at their new cathedral and take in the experience, walking along the wide concourses, cramming into the Stadium store–which has been packed each time I’ve gone through–there is some sense of carry-over from the old place. Roll call from the bleacher creatures. They are more a part of show than ever because the creatures’ roll call was originally a spontaneous act of their own imagination and collective spirit.  It was not drawn up in a board room. 

The tradition is alive and well in the new place. And the players seem to love it. When Johnny Damon was called he made an elaborate gesture, a comic, rock star pose, pointing to the bleachers. Nick Swisher, spun around and did a nifty move, designed to work the fans up, as well.

The creatures had gone through the outfielders when the A’s lead-off hitter reached first. They chanted Mark Teixeria’s name, and the first baseman, holding the runner on, interrupted his concentration to wave. All part of the show.

* * * *

Earlier, when I walked into the stadium, I saw a group of kids in their early twenties, decked in Yankee gear. “Who’s pitchin?” said one of them. “Yo, we’ve got to cheer for Giambi tonight, man,” said another, smoking a Newport. They nodded their heads.  “Yeah, let’s root for Giambi.”

Giambi was accorded a gracious, though not overly effusive hand when he came to bat in the first inning (those are reserved for players who’ve won titles).  He cracked a line drive to straight away center field. The sound of the ball hitting the bat rang out, that lovely sound that never grows old. Brett Gardner sprinted after the ball–and perhaps because it was right over him he took a funny-looking route–and after eleven steps, he jumped up and snagged it. I thought he had a bead on it, at the last moment I expected him to make the play. Still, it was an impressive catch, and soup to nuts, from Giambi to Gardner, it was one of those moments that bring you to the game, and reminds you that no matter how many bells and whistles, no matter how many distractions, the game is the real show.

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