"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: June 2009

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Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners

2009 Record: 39-36 (.520)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 36-39 (.480)

2008 Record: 61-101 (.377)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 67-95 (.414)

Manager: Don Wakamatsu
General Manager: Jack Zduriencik

Home Ballpark (Park Factors): Safeco Field (96/97)

Who’s Replacing Whom:

  • Russell Branyan replaces Raul Ibañez
  • Ken Griffey Jr. replaces Richie Sexson and Jose Vidro
  • Franklin Gutierrez replaces Jeremy Reed and Willie Bloomquist
  • Rob Johnson (minors) replaces Jeff Clement (minors)
  • Chris Woodward is filling in for Adrian Beltre (DL)
  • Ronny Cedeño is filling in for Yuniesky Betancourt (DL)
  • Mike Sweeney replaces Bryan LaHair (minors)
  • Josh Wilson replaces Miguel Cairo
  • Mike Carp replaces Willie Bloomquist
  • Ryan Langerhans replaces Brad Wilkerson and others
  • Garrett Olson is filling in for Erik Bedard (DL)
  • Jason Vargas is filling in for Carlos Silva (DL)
  • Brandon Morrow is taking over the starts of Ryan Feierabend (DL) and R.A. Dickey
  • David Aardsma replaces J.J. Putz
  • Sean White replaces Sean Green
  • Chris Jakubauskas replaces Rowland-Smith’s relief innings

25-man Roster:

1B – Russell Branyan (L)
2B – Jose Lopez (R)
SS – Ronny Cedeño (R)
3B – Chris Woodward (R)
C – Kenji Johjima (R)
RF – Ichiro Suzuki (L)
CF – Franklin Gutierrez (R)
LF – Wladimir Balentien (R)
DH – Ken Griffey Jr. (L)


R – Mike Sweeney (1B)
R – Josh Wilson (IF)
L – Mike Carp (1B/OF)
L – Ryan Langerhans (OF)
R – Rob Johnson (C)


R – Felix Hernandez
L – Garrett Olson
R – Brandon Morrow
L – Jarrod Washburn
L – Jason Vargas


R – David Aardsma
R – Mark Lowe
R – Miguel Batista
R – Sean White
R – Chris Jakubauskas
R – Roy Corcoran

15-day DL: 3B – Adrian Beltre (bone spurs in shoulder), SS – Yuniesky Betancourt (hamstring), LHP – Erik Bedard (shoulder inflammation), RHP – Shawn Kelley (oblique strain)

60-day DL: LF – Endy Chavez (ACL), RHP – Carlos Silva (labrum, rotator cuff), LHP Cesar Jimenez (shoulder and biceps tendonitis), LHP – Ryan Feierabend (TJ)

Typical Lineup:

L – Ichiro Suzuki (RF)
L – Russell Branyan (1B)
L – Ken Griffey Jr. (DH)
R – Jose Lopez (2B)
R – Franklin Gutierrez (CF)
R – Kenji Johjima (C)
R – Wladimir Balentein (LF)
R – Ronny Cedeño (SS)
R – Chris Woodward (3B)


Now Batting for the Yankees, Eric Hinske

Eric Hinske ROY 2003 ToppsThe Yankees acquired a left-handed bench bat today, picking up 2002 Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske from the Pirates for minor leaguers Casey Erickson and Eric Fryer. The move comes on the same day that Xavier Nady is visiting Dr. Lewis Yocum to determine if he does indeed need a second Tommy John surgery.

Hinske is a decent addition to the bench, but before we get to how he fits on the team, lets take a quick look at what the Yankees gave up to get him.

Eric Fryer was the catcher/outfielder obtained from the Brewers for lefty Chase Wright. A tenth-round pick out of Ohio State in 2007, the righty-hitting Fryer, now 23, was hitting .250/.333/.344 with 11 steals in 16 attempts for High-A Tampa, spending most of his time in left field. This is just his third professional season

Pitcher Casey Erickson is also right-handed, 23, and a former tenth-round pick (the Yankees’ in 2006). He’s bounced between starting and relieving in his brief professional career. Though he made a strong showing in short-season Staten Island’s rotation last year (2.76 ERA, 4.6 K/BB), he has pitched primarily in relief for Charleston of the Sally League this year. A groundballer in his first full-season in a full-season league at age 23, he’s nothing special, particularly in the Yankees’ pitching-rich organization.

That’s not much to lose, a pair of 23-year-old A-ballers with very little projection, one a mid-round draft pick and another the bounty for a player who had been designated for assignment. That’s certainly a price worth paying for an immediate upgrade to the major league team’s 25-man roster.

So, is Hinske an upgrade? An if so, how much of one? That partially depends on who he replaces on the roster, which we likely won’t know until just before game time tonight. Here’s my guess.

With Jose Molina set to return from his quad strain, the Yankees are likely on the verge of sending both Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Peña down to Triple-A to get regular playing time. Cervelli and Peña are both 23, and neither has played a game at Triple-A. Cervelli may yet prove to be a viable starting catcher in the major leagues, but will need more development time to achieve that potential. Peña still seems more like a reserve infielder to me, but the Yankees will never find out if he could be more without letting him play every day at Triple-A.

As much of a revelation as Cervelli has been, he’s still only hitting a Molina-like .269/.290/.343 and has made just eight starts in the last month. Peña’s line is a near match at .267/.308/.349, and he’s started just five games in the last month. In Peña’s case, that line is simultaneously impressively and alarmingly close to his career minor league line of .258/.316/.319.

Replacing Peña, Hinske will be a clear upgrade at the plate. He arrives in New York hitting .255/.373/.368 on the season and is coming off  a season in which he hit 20 home runs for the AL Champion Rays. Hinske’s worst major league season came for the Red Sox in 2007, and even that .204/.317/.398 would be an upgrade on Peña, as would Hinske’s career line of .254/.337/.436. The one catch is that the left-handed Hinske flat-out cannot hit left-handed pitching (.221/.298/.363 career), though even that line rivals what Peña has done at the plate in the major leagues. The flip side of that split, of course, is that Hinske’s career line against right-handed pitching  is a solidly league-average .264/.347/.456.

The acquisition of Hinske is above all else a smart solution to the Yankees’ need to have an extra infielder on hand to back up Alex Rodriguez. Hinske isn’t a great defender, but he can play the four corners (third, first, left and right) well enough to spot start against right-handed pitching. Though he’s played just 21 games at third base over the last four seasons, only 11 of which have been starts, he hasn’t made an error in any of them.

Playing for his fourth AL East team, Hinske is familiar with the pitchers in the league and the division and unlikely to suffer from a return to the harder league, where he spent his entire career prior to this year. The only real complaint I have about the move is that Hinske is left-handed. Yes, pairing the lefty-swinging Hinske with the right-handed Cody Ransom will allow Joe Girardi to play matchups at third base on Rodriguez’s weekly days off, but the only other exclusively right-handed hitters on the team are Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, leaving Hinske little value as a pinch-hitter when Ransom’s not in the game. A right-handed bench bat could be used to hit for Brett Gardner or Hideki Matsui against a tough lefty. I suppose Hinske could also hit for Molina after his return, but since such a move would require inserting Jorge Posada for defense, there’s no reason not to simply use Posada’s superior bat in those circumstances.

Nonetheless, Hinske is a valuable and versitile reserve. He’s also been on the last two American League pennant winners. Here’s hoping he extends that streak with the Yankees.

Card Corner: Dr. Strangeglove


Quick now, how many current Yankees have nicknames? “A-Rod” for Alex Rodriguez and “Tex” for Mark Teixeira don’t count; those simply involve the shortening of last names for the sake of convenience. In terms of legitimate nicknames, Hideki Matsui has been known as “Godzilla” going back to his days in Japan. Chien-Ming Wang used to be called “Tiger” in the minor leagues, but the moniker has never caught on in the big leagues. Then there’s Alfredo Aceves, who is known as “Ace,” and Melky Cabrera, sometimes called the “Melkman,” but they’re not exactly the most creative of nicknames. And that’s about it.

The Yankees are pretty typical in this regard these days. Nicknaming has become a lost art in the contemporary game, partly for reasons of political correctness and partly because we’ve just become damn lazy. At one time, nicknames were a huge part of the game’s subculture, largely because of the influence of headline and beat writers at newspapers and local team broadcasters. The 1960s represented one of the golden eras for nicknames. It is in that decade that we find one of the most creative and fitting nicknames of all time, even if it did have to belong to a Red Sox first baseman.

By the summer of 1964, Dick Stuart had firmly established a reputation as one of the worst defensive players in the major leagues. Although he was the starting first baseman for the Sox, Stuart couldn’t do anything well with the glove. (That’s probably why Topps showed him with a bat in his 1964 card.) With hands of gypsum, dime-like range, and generally poor instincts, Stuart achieved the Triple Crown of fielding ineptitude. By most accounts, he was also indifferent to the defensive game, so he never motivated himself to improve. Now I never actually saw Stuart play, but I’ve heard so many stories of his lack of defensive prowess that some of them have to be true.

With such anecdotal and statistical evidence (he reached double figures in errors eight times), it’s safe to say that Stuart was historically bad when it came to the business of guarding first base. So it was quite appropriate that in 1964 one of his teammates fitted him with the nickname of “Dr. Strangeglove.” The creation of such a name relied heavily on Hollywood; the Peter Sellers black comedy, Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, had just been released in theaters on January 29. By placing the letter “g” between the “e” and the “l” in Strangelove, the unknown Red Sox teammate had devised a pithy play on words while tapping the popular culture of the day. The timing could not have been better, considering that Stuart had made 29 errors the previous season, a simply remarkable achievement for someone playing first base.

Stuart’s haphazard fielding had nothing to do with the movie’s plot, in which an insane general tries to initiate nuclear holocaust while politicians do their best—ineptly, I might add—to save the world. The supremely talented Sellers played three roles in the film, including the title role of “Dr. Strangelove,” an important scientist in Nazi Germany. Stuart was similarly schizophrenic to the versatile Sellers; as poor a fielder as Stuart was, he was often a feared slugger, once hitting a career-high 42 bombs for the Red Sox.

Not surprisingly, the creative moniker of Dr. Strangeglove took hold quickly and never let up, becoming almost mandatory whenever Stuart’s real name was uttered. When another 1964 film, Goldfinger, achieved a level of mass popularity, a few folks tried to attach the nickname “Stonefingers” to Stuart, but that label never really caught on.

All in all, Stonefingers is pretty good, but Dr. Strangeglove is just great. Is it the best nickname of all time? I’ll leave that up to you, the reader, to decide.

Nouyrican Nourishment

Got Flava?

rice and beans

There was a terrific little piece by Sam Sifton in the Times magazine last weekend on rice and beans, Boricua style:

A restaurant kitchen can be a kind of mother, too. This is particularly true in New York, where so many eat out so often. Indeed, for many of those born in New York — and there are more than 2.4 million of these natives in the state, according to census data run through the computers of Andrew A. Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College — Puerto Rican rice and beans have little to do with blood relationships. Rice and beans are instead a shared and familiar experience, offered to all alongside dishes of roast pork or baked chicken (sweet beneath its crispy skin), dense and hearty mofongo, buttered toast, fried plantains and yuca.

Of course, rice and beans are served across Latin America, in different variations, with different beans, for different reasons. You will find superior platters of them in Brazil, in the Dominican Republic, across Mexico. The best of New York’s are literally Nuyorican, a word that arose to describe the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York, the almost 10 percent of the city that has its familial roots in the commonwealth but sees its children bloom on the concrete of the South Bronx, East Harlem, along Columbia Street in Brooklyn.

Nuyorican restaurant rice and beans are food for flame-haired detectives coming off the day shift and chalk-hued art kids jittery and lost amid the salsa beats, for tired high-school teachers, for back-office fellows off the clock. They are the taste of comic-opera hangovers, honest hunger, game-day excess, hard work. They are an authentic taste of a New York that real-estate developers and change can never diminish.

Here is the recipe. I’m all over this. Once again, I don’t know the scientific explanation but bacon makes it better.

Yankee Panky: Channeling Todd Drew

In his short time here at the Banter, Todd Drew made an indelible impact on all of us. Amid Alex’s range, Cliff’s statistical acumen, Bruce’s historical perspective, Emma’s sense of humor and the combination of media coverage from Diane and me, Todd, through his storytelling, demonstrated his love for baseball and this community by portraying the human side of Yankee fans.

From the tee shirts and hats and other assorted team paraphernalia worn by the transients, I noticed a number of Yankee fans on the 1, 2 and 3 trains when I was in New York City Monday. I haven’t been in the city much since changing jobs, so I was actually looking forward to the long subway ride to Columbia and then up to Manhattan College for a couple of workshops I was doing with clients at both institutions. As the train bounded out from underground between the Columbia campus at 116th Street and 125th Street and back down again quickly, and then into the light once more as the route exited Washington Heights and entered Inwood, I found myself thinking about Todd and his daily posts, many of which featured an interview with a Yankee fan on a subway and thought, “Todd was pretty brave to write from this perspective every day.”

The people he met every day on his way to work, or en route to the Stadium shaped his writing. Todd subscribed to a basic tenet of feature writing: everyone has a story to tell. He understood that we were all connected, sometimes in a similar way to how the subway lines connect people in the Big City. These strangers’ stories were his stories, and he was kind enough to share them.

Me? I’m not inclined to strike up a conversation with a stranger on a train and glean stories from there. I’m more of a situational observer. I view the panoramic and drill down based on the information I process.

On my way back downtown, I sat silently reading the Tom Verducci / Joe Torre tome, “The Yankee Years,” occasionally looking up to people-watch, mostly keeping to myself. As is usually the case when I travel by train, I get very tense and hope that either of the following situations does not occur: 1) a person sitting 5-10 feet from me is playing their iPod so that I can hear it through their headphones (after all, it’s not called an “everybodyPod), or 2) someone or a group of people in my car behaves obnoxiously, compelling me to get up and move to another car.

Today was different, though. Maybe it was because I’m not in the city every day anymore. I hadn’t taken the time to really notice the people, the surroundings, or wonder what was going on in their little insular planets before. Maybe it was because I was venturing to places that I hadn’t been on the 1 line and I wanted to learn something that I could eventually use in a conversation.

Before switching trains at 96th Street, a little girl was telling her father that she had fun and that she didn’t want to sit down because she was sweaty but “her bum wasn’t wet.” That killed me. One stop later, a family wasn’t prepared to get off the train, got to the doors about a second too late and the subway doors nearly scissored a mother’s baby carriage. A cursing match between the mother and the conductor ensued. While that was going on, another family entered the car and sat across from me: a mother, her son–who was probably about 7–and her daughter, probably age 4 or 5. Looking at the girl, it was like I was viewing my own daughter in five years. Similar shaped face, long, light brown hair, pink dress and sandals. And this girl was named Maddie, like mine. I immediately imagined riding a subway with my daughter, maybe on our way to the Museum of Natural History or some place like that, with her looking at the signs and asking questions as this other Maddie was doing with her mom.

The mother and her two children got off at 34th Street like I did, and from there we went our separate ways: them to the street, where a bus would take them one stop to the steps of their apartment building and me to the Long Island Rail Road concourse of Penn Station. A couple of glances were exchanged, but no words. I didn’t get to tell the mother about the similarities between her Maddie and mine. I don’t regret not saying anything, but it would have been nice to make conversation and see where it went. If he was in a similar position, Todd would have probably taken that leap and turned it into a 400-word piece.

The best feature writers immerse themselves in the environment and absorb the energy. Todd was able to do that and put you right there on the train with him. This one time, I wanted him on the train with me. I think he’d appreciate the ride.

News of the Day – 6/30/09

Today’s news is powered by the trailer to the Scrabble documentary “Word Wars” (Yes, I know everyone in the trailer quite well. No, I don’t get any face time in the movie.):

Here’s a little Yankee trivia question to start the date: Paul Zuvella (mentioned later on in the column) is the last name alphabetically in the Yankees’ all-time player register.  Who is the first? (answer at bottom of column)

  • The Post’s Joel Sherman is quite certain of the best player he’s ever seen:

. . . (Mariano) Rivera has played just barely more than 1,000 innings in his whole career. And I know he has played mainly one inning at a time. And I also know I am biased because I have seen pretty much every pitch of that career. I was, for example, in the park on May 17, 1996 when he recorded his first major league save and again Sunday night when he reached 500 as I write about in this column.

But I actually don’t consider seeing so much of Rivera’s work a bias as much as a privilege. I have loved watching someone so great at what he does so often. Rivera has everything you would want in the best player you have seen checklist: He is a genius as a player. He has been incredibly consistent at that genius. That genius extends into the postseason. He has been incredibly durable. He elevates the play of those around him.

[My take: In this era of steroids, videotape and maple bats, Rivera is a wonder.]

All indications are that the Yankees will not carry three catchers because of the way their roster is constructed right now, so it will probably mean that Cervelli will have to go down to Triple-A when Molina is ready to return.

There’s no shame in that. He’s 23 and, while he’s enjoyed some success in the big leagues, there is more development that can take place. He should head down and feel good about what he accomplished, but it wasn’t like he was going to steal the job. Molina is a legitimate big league backup catcher and the Yankees are paying him well to do that.

[My take: Much as many of us have baseball crushes on Frankie, its probably best for him to get regular ABs at the Triple-A level rather than ride the pine in NY.]


Base Balls

Stealing home seems to be the hot throwback play this year. It happened twice yesterday, and Ted Keith has an article on the phenomenon over at SI.com, pegged to Jacoby Ellsbury’s swipe against Andy Pettitte earlier this season.

I have a complimentary piece up that lists the top-10 steals of home of all time, including one by Mr. October in October, and one by the Yankees against Boston 105 years before Ellsbury finally turned the tables.

Dig it.

You Must be Dreamin’

Okay, let’s indulge in some fantasy. It’s an off-day, good time to play Walter Mitty.


If you could perform one single feat on a baseball field, what would it be? Would you hit a home run, steal home, leg out a triple, break-up a double-play, strike a hitter out (swinging or looking), nail a runner trying to score, or would you leap over the outfield fence to rob a hitter of a home run?

Which one of these?  Or perhaps you’ve got something else in mind.  Do tell.

The Heart of Baseball

Saturday in the Park.


Inwood, that is.


Farmer’s Market.


Cherries, n everything.


And baseball.


There’s always baseball in Inwood.


And everybody loves baseball, right?


News of the Day – 6/29/09

  • Today’s news is powered by baseball bloopers . . . :

[My take: But what would the Yanks be able to get from the Phils, even if they wanted to deal Wang?]

  • Jon Heyman lists CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira as the 5th and 7th-best free agent signings respectively so far this season.
  • Doubts about Austin Jackson?:

At 22 years old, Jackson is among the International League leaders in hits, batting average and on-base percentage, but his season seems to have created as many doubters as believers.

His detractors say Jackson hasn’t hit for enough power, has struck out too often and has a batting average on balls in play that is too high, a statistic that suggests he’s been lucky as much as good. . . .


I’m Gonna Be (500 Saves)

Man, I wish I’d been there in person for this one.

“I just wanna do my job and let someone else talk about myself,” said Mariano Rivera after his 500th career save and first-ever RBI. Happy to oblige.

The Yankees won 4-2 tonight, and though they probably should have scored more – given that the Mets handed them nine walks and an error in the last four innings alone – it ended on a high note, so I won’t be complaining, or even bothering to question the questionable moves from Joe Girardi tonight (I’m sure a few  commenters will be happy to pick up my slack).

The Mets were patching things together pretty well for a while there, considering three of their four best hitters are out of the picture, and that the roles of John Maine and Ollie Perez are being played by Tim Redding and tonight’s starter, Livan Hernandez, the oldest 34-year-old in the game. Hernandez was not half bad tonight, in fact, and I enjoy watching his smoke and mirrors, but it wasn’t enough – at the moment the Mets’ lineup is too depleted, and their defense too sloppy. Meanwhile the Yankees seem to be getting their act together, though only time will tell. The end result was a three-game sweep, and to add insult to injury, tonight’s insurance run came courtesy of the fearsome plate discipline of Mariano Rivera, in his third career at-bad.

The Yankees scored three in the first inning, thanks in large part to yet more defensive blundering from the Mets. Derek Jeter doubled, and Nick Swisher hit into a fielder’s choice, but the fielder chose poorly. Mark Teixeira doubled, and eventually Jorge Posada got him home with a sacrifice fly. That was all the Yankees could muster, dispite numerous opportunities, until Mo’s appearance in the ninth.

Chien-Ming Wang, abetted by some nifty fielding, gave up two runs in the second but kept his cool and held on into the sixth. Phils Coke and Hughes were excellent again in relief, but Brian Bruney was not, prompting Rivera to make another 8th inning appearance. You know, every year since 2006 or so, Torre and Girardi have claimed they aren’t going to do that, and they always do anyway – not that I blame them for changing their minds. How could you resist? If I were a manager (god forbid) and I had Mariano Rivera at my disposal, I imagine my hand would start twitching towards the bullpen phone sometime around the third inning most nights.

In the top of the ninth, the Yankees tried to use Francisco Cervelli as a pinch-hitting decoy, but it was clear that Rivera was never coming out of a 3-2 game in the ninth inning. Mo limbered up and rolled his shoulders as he walked to the plate with – of course – the bases loaded, facing Francisco Rodriguez with two outs. If you have to have a pitcher up in that spot, I guess at least you want to have a guy who doesn’t rattle.

I think Mariano Rivera’s at-bats may be the most thoroughly entertained I have ever seen a Yankee dugout. Anyway, thecoaches presumably told Mo not to swing again, but he had no intention of following that advice this time, either. He took one very healthy hack on a 2-2 count and fouled the pitch back – but other than that he laid off, working the count full and then, remarkably, walking.

Be nice to your Mets fan friends tomorrow, gang. They’ve been through enough already.

Rivera closed out the game afterwards with a minimum of fuss for his 500th save, and while I think most everyone reading the Banter would agree that the save is a deeply flawed statistic, this is really just another opportunity to reflect on how freakishly awesome Mariano has been, is now, and hopefully will continue to be – for at least a  while longer. You can’t really overhype Mo, and that’s saying something.

It Starts with One


Chien-Ming Wang is 0-6. He’s improving but hasn’t pitched well enough to earn a win yet. With the Mets on their heels, it would be nice to end the weekend on a high. Though you never know what that wily-old Livan Hernandez has in store. Saw dude throw a 3-2 curveball, a 65 mph curveball, to Prince Albert Pujols last week and strike the great man out swinging. He doesn’t lack for courage.

Nevermind the announcers, Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Good Things Happen when the Wife Goes to the Ladies Room


Sitting close to the action on Saturday night at Citifield (“I’m Still Calling it Shea,” read a t-shit), Emily and I were surrounded by Mets fans. We didn’t wear any colors. “We’re undercover,” my wife said to me. And so we were. I kept score (a scorecard costs five bucks; they go for twice as much in the Bronx) but had a mitt on my left hand in case a line drive came our way. No such luck.

The Yanks held a 1-0 lead into the sixth. The wife excused herself and went to the ladies’ room. (She was in the bathroom when Aaron Boone hit that dinger in ’03 and ever since I send her in when absolutely necessary.) Mark Teixeira doubled on Tim Redding’s 99th pitch of the night, and his next three pitches were hit as well: single (Alex Rodriguez), double (Robinson Cano), and home run (Jorge Posada).

AJ Burnett, meanwhile, allowed just one hit and three walks while striking out ten in seven innings of work. He mowed ’em down, as you’d expected against the Mets’ depleted line-up.

There was no blood orange sky but it was cool, pleasant night. Most of the Mets fans in our section had cleared out by the eighth inning. Em and I could have danced all night as the song goes. So we soaked it all in and went home heppy kets.


Final Score: Yanks 5, Mets 0.

Red Skies (Again?)


I’m taking Emily to her first ball game of the season. Maybe we’ll get wet. Maybe not. Either way, we’re going to have a good time. AJ’s been better lately. Still waiting to see him put a string of good starts together before I get too excited. He should be commanding tonight. Let’s see if he’s up to it.

So…Let’s Go Yan-Kees already. Keep it movin’ boys!

Something Wicked This Way Comes

It’s been raining in New York for at least a month. Weeks and weeks of rain. Last night we had a sunset to show for it. It was gnarled and fantastic, dramatic and beautiful. It was also a hex on the Mets as they made three errors in one inning. 

Here’s a great shot from the New York Times.


It was sunny this morning but the clouds are moving fast and the weatherman says 30% chance of rain. 

Hopefully we’ll get another purtee sunset.

New York Mets Known To Let The Ball . . . Drop

The Yankees beat the Mets handily by a 9-1 tally last night. CC Sabathia was perfect through four before giving up a solo homer to Gary Sheffield leading off the fifth for the Mets’ only run of the game. After two more singles that inning, one of which didn’t leave the infield, he was perfect in the sixth and seventh as well. Sabathia showed no lingering effects of the sore bicep that bounced him from his last start, striking out eight against no walks.

While Sabathia was in the game, the Yanks sat tight with the four runs they picked up against Mike Pelfrey in the top of the second. That inning got started when Melky hit a tapper toward third base that David Wright charged and threw past Nick Evans at first base, allowing Melky to go to second on the error. After Francisco Cervelli struck out, Ramiro Peña shot a double over Wright toward the left-field line that plated Melky. CC Sabathia then singled up the middle, plating Peña. Brett Gardner, who led off the game with a single, hit a blooper to shallow left to move the lumbering Sabathia to second. Johnny Damon then hit a would-be double play ball to short, but Alex Cora side-armed his throw and flinged the ball into shallow right sending CC home, Gardner to third, and Damon to second. Mark Teixeira then grounded to Evans at first, but Evans flat-out dropped the ball as he went to step on the bag allowing the hustling Teixeira to reach and Gardner to score.

For those not keeping track, that was four runs on three errors and just three balls hit out of the infield, none which got past the outfielders. Wright’s error was on a tough play, but Cora’s was inexcusable, and Evans’ was something out of The Bad News Bears, as was the entire inning by that point.

Later, in the top of the eighth, reliever Rob Parnell balked Robinson Cano to second by dropping the ball as he brought his hands together before his windup, then sent him to third on a wild pitch. Cano didn’t score, but he didn’t have to. Elmer Dessens had already inflated the score to 7-1 by giving up Brett Gardner’s third major league homer, walking Teixeira, then giving up an opposite-field bomb to the rejuvinated Alex Rodriguez (who also walked three times in the game). It was that kind of game for the Mets, but then what else could they expect from running out the 38-year-old Dessens.

Gardner triples for his fifth hit of the night (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)In the ninth, Gardner, who was moved to leadoff spot at the last minute when Derek Jeter was scratched due to the flu, capped off a five-hit night with an RBI triple, then scored on Johnny Damon’s subsequent double. Gardner’s now hitting .303/.374/.441 on the season.

So much for the team-wide hitting slump. Since averaging three runs per game against the Nationals and Marlins and being shutout in their first game in Atlanta, the Yankees have scored 28 runs in three games. Alex Rodriguez is 5-for-10 with two homers, eight RBIs, five walks, and just one strikeout since getting his overdue days off. With Gardner and Peña going a combined 8-for-11, the Yankees scored nine runs last night without Jeter, Jorge Posada (who got the night off after Thursday night’s marathon in Hotlanta), or a DH.

Special bonus factoid: in their three wins against the Mets this season, the Yankees have scored 33 runs, four of which have been unearned.

New York Mets II: Drop It While It’s Hot

The Yankees were lucky to take two of three from the Mets two weekends ago. Literally. Only Luis Castillo dropping a pop up in the first game—one of the flukiest plays I’ve ever seen giving the fact that it turned the last out of a Mets win into the last play of a Yankee win in the course of the ball falling six feet to the ground—prevented the Mets from winning that series.

Since then, the Mets have gone 5-5 and added Carlos Beltran to their list of key players on the DL (along with Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, John Maine, Oliver Perez and J.J. Putz). That means more major league exposure for 20-year-old top prospect Fernando Martinez, who enters the series on an 0-for-14 bender and is hitting .167 on the season. It ain’t pretty, but it should make Mets fans appreciate the .336/.425/.527 line Beltran put up before hitting the DL.

Tonight the Mets send 25-year-old sophomore groundballer Mike Pelfrey to the hill tonight. Pelfrey had a great run of seven starts from late April through the end of May in which he posted a 2.96 ERA while the Mets went 6-1, but he’s been unimpressive since, even tossing out his stinker against the Pirates on June 4.

The Yankees counter with CC Sabathai, who left his last start in the second inning with discomfort in his left bicep, but has reported no further problems since. The injury interrupted a streak of eight-straight games in which he completed seven innings. Sabathia was 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA over that stretch. The Yankees noticed Sabathia was hurting his last time out because he wasn’t finishing his pitches and was leaving everything up. Look out for that in the early going today.

Melky Cabrera, who missed yesterday’s game with the flu, is in right field tonight as Nick Swisher takes a seat. Brett Gardner, who has hit .342/.432/.513 since May 13, seems to be winning the center field job back. Francisco Cervelli, who hit his first major league homer on Wednesday night, will catch Sabathia for the seventh time this season.


Observations From Cooperstown: A Short Conversation With Pags

Defying the odds and emerging as the epitome of the most workmanlike Yankee of the 1980s, Mike Pagliarulo played in pinstripes from 1984 to 1989. In 1987, he led the team in home runs, an impressive achievement considering the presence of more highly touted teammates like Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield.

Pagliarulo’s Yankee career ended in 1989, when he was traded to the San Diego Padres for right-hander Walt Terrell. During his days in San Diego, Pags clashed with Padre icon Tony Gwynn, but he revitalized his career as a Minnesota Twin, playing a complementary role in the team’s 1991 world championship. During that classic World Series win over the Braves, Pagliarulo slugged .545 and earned his first and only championship ring.

On Sunday, I had the chance to talk with Pagliarulo during his visit to Cooperstown to participate in the first Hall of Fame Classic. Before the popular Pags took the field and banged out two hits, including a game-winning double at Doubleday Field, he discussed his current career path, his most memorable highlight as a Yankee, and his pride in watching his son succeed in college.

Markusen: Mike, let’s talk to you about what you are doing now. I know you’re involved with scouting and player evaluation and doing a lot of analysis, which is kind of an interesting transition for a former major league player. How did all that come about?

Pagliarulo: Well, what we’re doing now is that we have a consulting company. We use a lot of former players and former front office executives who can help analyze and evaluate talent, so that we can help the industry determine the value of actual skill and performance on the field. It’s hard for them to do that now. Whereas the market determines the [financial] value, we try to determine the value of the performance, which is something we’ve been doing successfully for many years.

It basically is the stuff that we did when we were on the bench playing. So we each work with some different sciences to try to put that into data. We’re trying to create some scientific methods so that people can understand a little bit more clearly. I think it would help development [of players] and help reduce injuries and help in understanding the value of skill.

Markusen: You were known as an overachieving ballplayer who got the most of your ability. A lot of people didn’t even think you would make the major leagues and you proved them wrong. Do you think you have a special eye for that kind of young talent, the overachiever?

Pagliarulo: Young talent is extremely difficult to evaluate. And no, I have a lot to learn about that. But I do have a good eye for talent at the major league level. And that’s where it all starts. If you can evaluate there, then you can help the younger generation, you can help the foundation of the industry, you can talk to them. You can talk to [young talent evaluators] about that, by using the language—it helps if everybody speaks the same language in determining value of players. I think that’s the best way to do it. It helps everybody when you’re all on the same page.

Markusen: Looking back at your career, you’re best remembered as a Yankee, but also as a Padre and as a member of a World Series team with the Twin. What was the No. 1 highlight for you? Was it playing in the Series, or was it something else?

Pagliarulo: My No. 1 highlight was my first old-timers day [as an active player] at Yankee Stadium, when Mickey Mantle put me in a headlock and wrestled me to the ground. I couldn’t believe that he would even talk to me, let alone make me feel like I was part of the family. That’s probably the day that I most remember in baseball.

And Mr. Steinbrenner has always given me great opportunities. More recently, the thing I’m most proud of, why I played baseball, is that my son is able to graduate college. That opportunity was given to me by the Yankees. I’m sincerely thankful and appreciate every bit of opportunity that I’ve had. That’s making the most of it when you put your kids through college.

Markusen: Looking back at those Yankee years, they were very tumultuous; there was a lot of turnover, a lot of close finishes in the AL East. As you look back, was there one guy in particular, a teammate of yours, that was especially colorful or offbeat, somebody that you still think a lot about today?

Pagliarulo: Oh, I think about a lot of them. There isn’t just one. If there was just one, we didn’t have much of a team. It was a group of guys, the scouts, the minor league coaches, the managers, the ownership; it was many, many things. A difficult question, but a very good question.

Markusen: The best years of your life?

Pagliarulo: The best years of my life? Realizing all the benefits that the opportunity in the major leagues has brought me, the best [moment] is my kid graduating college.

Markusen: Mike, I appreciate it very much.

Bruce Markusen, who writes Cooperstown Confidential for The Hardball Times, considers Mike Pagliarulo his favorite Yankee from the 1980s.

The King Is Dead

The man was complicated and disturbed, but the talent was a clear and bright and breathtaking. Here are a few of the highlights via youtube:

And since those are all lip-synced, here’s a live clip of a great song. Sadly, you can see him descended into self-parody as the performance progresses.

The destruction of the vibrant performer in the first four clips was complete soon after.

The last two decades of his life are best forgotten, but the music and the moves from his first 15 years at the top of the pops remain unassailable and a fundamental part of my musical and physical vocabulary. I know there are at least two entire generations that feel the same way.

Yankee Panky: Battle of Wills – Q&A on CC

The Yankees announced that CC Sabathia came through his bullpen session OK and that he will in fact pitch Friday night, as scheduled, against the Mets at Citi Field. Is this a good thing? Putting your Fantasy Baseball emotions aside for a moment, are the Yankees sacrificing their long-term investment by pushing Sabathia to the mound in the short term?

These questions all fall into the recent debates of management (and yes, this includes Joe Girardi) and its handling of the high-priced stars. With that in mind, I went to the injury expert, Baseball Prospectus’s Will Carroll, to get the skinny on biceps strains and to pick his brain on how he would deal with the big lefty.

NOTE: This interview took place Wednesday morning, hours before the bullpen session.

Will Weiss: I’m seeing conflicting info between what Sabathia and (GM Brian) Cashman are telling the New York press corps (what else is new?). What do you see as the potential short- and long-term ramifications of this injury? … If you were on the Yankees’ training staff, what would you recommend? Me, I’m protecting the 8-year, $161 million investment and shutting him down until after the All-Star break.

Will Carroll: What’s Cashman saying? I’d shadow him and be ultra-cautious, but shutting him down for three starts? I’d have to know there’s some kind of serious injury before doing that in as tight a race as this is.

WW: Cashman’s not saying anything except, “Let’s see how he feels and evaluate him after his bullpen session.” He’s taking the cautious approach.

WC: Smart. I always feel good when I agree with Cash.

The thing about Sabathia is he’s very confident, but that can be shaken. When he injured his arm back in ‘04, he freaked. It was good for him, but took him a long time to get that swagger back. I think you have to listen to him.

WW: How does a biceps injury, even stiffness, affect his success, given he’s a big powerful guy who’s thrown a lot of pitches? His mechanics are good. What causes this type of strain?

WC: Could be any number of things. Could be a cramp, electrolyte imbalance, might have tightened up or not loosened up due to a million factors. The key is it wasn’t sore after his last start and from what I understand, he wasn’t complaining about it in pre-game, so it’s most likely the start of a strain or cramp.

WW: How cautious should you typically be in this situation?

WC: Reasonably, but again, you have to deal with him as a person. Do you trust he’s telling you how it feels truthfully? Is he consistent in strength tests? Is there inflammation?

Will’s questions, as well as any questions the rest of us have, will be answered soon enough.

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