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Monthly Archives: June 2009

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News of the Day – 6/26/09

Today’s news is powered by the King of Pop:

Rest in peace, Michael . . .

Let’s lead off with a dandy trivia question from MLB Network (the Yankees are involved in it):

There are seven currently active MLers who have a chance of playing in four decades (80s,90s,00s,10s).  Can you name them?  Here’s a hint: three of them have played at one time or another for the Bombers.  Answer later.

  • Like Tyler Kepner, Buster Olney also wonders what has become of A-Rod:

The question is this: Is Rodriguez, a month from his 34th birthday, much less of a player because he presumably no longer takes performance-enhancing drugs?

It’s a question that can never be answered, but it’s a question that will continue to be asked, probably more within the Yankees organization than anywhere else. And really, if you want, just consider the question in terms of money.

The Yankees are still on the hook for about $250 million in the next eight-plus seasons. The player who will receive that money can never give them quite what they paid for, in a sense, because A-Rod, as a marketing tool, is damaged forever. They would settle for paying him just to hit well, field effectively and run the bases as well as he did for 15 years — doing all the things on the field they needed him to do when they signed him to the highest salary in the game.

But he is not providing any of that, either. Even after delivering a crucial two-run single in the Yankees’ win over Atlanta on Wednesday night, Rodriguez is batting .210 this season; since June 7, his batting average has dropped 45 points. His slugging percentage of .441 is by far the lowest in any season since 1994, when he had a handful of at-bats for the Mariners as a teenager.

“He looks like a record playing at a slower speed,” said one talent evaluator who saw Rodriguez over the past two weeks.

Said another, “He looks old. He’s a first baseman. How many years does he have left on the contract?”

[My take: He looked pretty solid at the plate Thursday night.  Let's see if he can keep that going, or will he need a rest again soon?]

“It’s our home city, and I think our guys enjoy the Subway Series,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Thursday before New York played the Atlanta Braves. “Alex feels good, feels like he’s got a lot of energy in his legs. He feels good, so we’ll let him keep going.”

[My take: Well, they DO have an off-day on Monday, but after that its 13 games in 13 days prior to the ASB.]

  • ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick thinks the Yanks might be looking for some bullpen help:

“The Yankees’ bullpen has logged 225 innings, fourth most in the American League, so I can see Brian Cashman trolling around for a veteran reliever. David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke and Brian Bruney all have solid numbers, but that’s a pretty inexperienced group.

. . . I can see the Yanks being interested if Jose Valverde, Huston Street or someone of that ilk becomes available.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

It’s funny how things work. A couple of years ago I had a brief correspondence with Sadat X, one of my favorite all-time emcees, who was serving a stint in Rikers on a gun possession charge. I sent him my Curt Flood book, The Courting of Marcus Dupree and dozens of magazine articles. We exchanged a half-dozen letters. Though we didn’t keep in touch when he got out it was a cool connection.

This week a writing assignment came up and I had a need to get in touch with Sadat. I asked a friend who owns a record shop who knows Lord Finesse (a regular customer) who is good friends with X. Finesse came in to buy records today, gave my man Sadat’s number which was then e-mailed to me.

I got home this evening and called X. “Yo man, of course I remember you,” he said. “You just caught me bugging out over here, it’s all over the news and the Internet: Michael Jackson is dead.”

And that’s how I heard the news, just hours after the sad report that Farrah Fawcett died. I wasn’t jolted but not shocked. Michael Jackson was the biggest pop idol of my youth; he did not live life like he wanted to grow old. It’s almost as if he committed a long, public suicide for years. It was painful and absurd. He was seminal, an icon, a wonderful entertainer who was so deeply disturbed that he became a freak show. I felt even worse for Fawcett who has been sick for a long time. Still, they are both out of pain, and that has to count for something.

michael

Sadat was great with me and pleased to help. When we finished talking, I called a bunch of people to talk about Michael and then went walked down to Broadway and 233, across the street from the I-HOP, to the Uptown Sports Complex, which is owned by a high school pal of one of Bronx Banter’s own–Dimelo. Small World, man. I hung out around the cages and took-in the place, the clanking sound of bats hitting balls echoing around me. The Yankee game was on the flat screen TV. I missed Alex Rodriguez’s first inning jack, but caught his RBI base hit in the third, and saw the Yanks jump out to a big lead. I also stayed long enough to see Andy Pettitte cough most of it away.

When I left, I popped up the block, across the Major Deegan and checked out a Kingsbridge Little League under the lights. Then, on my way home, I followed the game on my blackberry. I refreshed the gameday page every 15 seconds, and passed by a bar on 238th street when Rodriguez drove in two more runs with a bases loaded single. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough was playing on the stereo. It was hot and muggy but a shiver ran down my spine.

The Yanks held on and won a barn-burner, 11-7, taking the series and returning to New York on a high note. A nice win on a mournful summer night.

Afternoon Chuckle

This is how I react when my wife takes away the remote control while I’m watching a game:

It’s Money that Matters

Hey, another reason why the Internet rocks.

screenplay_yki5

Here is Steven Zaillian’s script for Moneyball.

Have at it.

Strike a Pose

Every day, we see familiar poses and gestures on a baseball field–a batter’s ticks (the way he leans on his bat in the on-deck circle), a pitcher’s wind-up, the way a runner leads off first base. I especially enjoy watching the loose physical comradery and affection players display on the bench, like when Derek Jeter absent-mindedly drapped his arm around Tony Pena last night.  

Recently, I’ve been paying attention to the gestures that are less obvious but still common. As a kid, for instance, I loved the way Graig Nettles extended his right leg and swept the dirt in front of him, almost like a dancer, before each pitch was delivered.

graig-nettles

The pose that has captured my imagination of late is when Francisco Cervelli stands up and fires the ball to third base after a strike out. He stands from his crouch and leans back on his right leg, left leg bent and raised in the air, arm cocked back. He pauses for a split second, exaggerating the move which looks almost like the Heisman pose.  But it is not defensive  in nature, just the opposite–it is a celebratory act of aggresion.  

It only lasts a brief moment and it is a non-play–the entire around-the-horn routine is a terrific non-play really. But Cervelli performs it with great relish. A few weeks ago, I caught Joe Girardi tell Michael Kay that Cervelli has actually burned Alex Rodriguez’s hand several times throwing the ball so hard down to third after a strike out.

What are some of your favorite routine poses or gestures?

News of the Day – 6/25/09

Today’s news is powered by Nat Bailey Stadium’s “Sushi Race”:

  • Jose Veras has been traded to the Indians for the ubiquitous “cash considerations”.

[My take: And you thought the Yankees had question marks in THEIR bullpen?]

Cody Ransom, who played 15 games for New York before he suffered a severe right quadriceps injury, was reinstated from a rehab assignment at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and rejoined the club at Turner Field.

In a corresponding move, Angel Berroa was designated for assignment.

“This was tough, just because I’d never been on the DL,” Ransom said. “I’d never been hurt. This was something new. Once I started playing games, it was better.”

Ransom struggled as he filled in for Rodriguez, who was coming back from right hip surgery performed on March 9 and would not return to the lineup until early May.

Ransom batted .180 (9-for-50) before he was injured running the bases in an April 24 game at Fenway Park, and later, he revealed that the quadriceps had bothered him since Spring Training.

[My take: DFAing Berroa is definitely "addition by subtraction", regardless of what Ransom can provide.]

What Cashman is in Atlanta to achieve is getting the Yankees — losers of nine out of their past 13 — back on track. Too early to seriously engage in the trade market, the GM believes that the answers to their offensive woes are all currently within the clubhouse.

“We’re struggling right now, mostly with the bats,” Cashman said. “It’s not going to last, I promise you that. We’re too good for it to last. The last three weeks of poor play is mostly to do with our offense. We’ve got to get our offense going. We’re pitching real well, but unfortunately, we’re letting that good pitching go to waste.”

(more…)

The Yankees Lo-… Wait, What?

Hey, the Yankees stopped sucking for a few innings! It was probably because I wasn’t watching. I caught up thanks to the miracle of Tivo, though, and much to my pleasant surprise, saw the Yankees beat the Braves 8-4, behind a solid Joba Chamberlain start and some timely (well, a week or two late, but you know what I mean) second-half hitting.

Despite some hard-hit balls, the Yankees had settled into their comfortable routine of doing nothing against National League pitching – in fact, two Braves pitchers were teaming up for a perfect game through five. Then suddenly, in the sixth inning, the Yanks got some of those run thingies we’ve been hearing so much about. The first one came when… wait, this can’t be right. Francisco Cervelli hit a home run?

Cervelli’s solo shot, his first in the bigs, tied the game at 1-1. Rookies usually try to act all cool and nonchalant in this scenario, but Cervelli was obviously pumped. His homer came immediately after Brett Gardner got picked off first base on a truly lousy call, and Joe Girardi got thrown out for arguing. I don’t necessarily buy that this move “fired up the team,” but hey, can’t hurt to try, right?  Jeter and Damon followed with singles, Teixeira was sorta-intentionally walked, and A-Rod struck… whoops, sorry, force of habit. A-Rod hit a two-run single: 3-1 Yanks.

The game stayed close for a few innings, but New York clung to the lead. After Joba lost it a bit in the 7th, Phil Coke, a shaky Brian Bruney, and one Mariano Rivera kept things under control (with Mo striking out all four batters he faced, and lining out to center field, awesomely, amid much fanfare). And the Yankee hitters pursued an exciting new strategy which involved tacking on additional runs in order to give their team a cushion. Yeah, it’s different, but I think they may be on to something.

“Everybody is happy,” said Cervelli after the game, “everybody wants to play baseball. So things happen.”

As a side note, one of my favorite things about interleague play (though not so much this year, thus far) is watching the facial expressions of NL batters who haven’t previously faced Mariano Rivera. Ah. Believe the hype, fellas, even now.

Despite the sarcastic tone of this post, I should say that I don’t think the Yankees are in such a dire position just yet. After all they’re still tied for the Wild Card, it’s still only June, they’re due for a few wins against the Red Sox, and we’ve already seen this year that they’re capable of going on a big run.

They probably shouldn’t wait any longer to do it, though.

Worrisome

Yanks get another crack at a “w” tonight. We will be watching and fretting until they turn this around…

paintings-040

…Which they will. Let’s hope they start tonight.

Never mind the wailing, Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Yankee Panky: The Wheels On The Bus Are Coming Off

From Banterer PJ: “What happened to our friend Will Weiss? I really wish he stop by so the Yankees can start winning again.

No Will Weiss at Banter is unacceptable…”

PJ, you’re absolutely right. It’s unacceptable. As Cliff will tell you, a new daughter and the associated parental duties, plus a new job with some travel thrown in will deregulate the writing schedule and stretch the boundaries of acceptability. At least our fearless proprietor Alex is one of the most understanding people in the business and is unyielding in his support for all of us who contribute. I will say this: my daughter likes watching the Yankees (although there hasn’t been much to watch lately), and she let out a shriek of delight when I told her Jose Veras was designated for assignment.

On to the column…

Since I don’t have to ride a train to work anymore and I don’t own an iPod (gasp!), I have been listening to a lot of sports talk radio. In the mornings, it’s a flip between Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on WFAN and Mike and Mike on ESPN, and in the afternoons it’s Mike Francesa and Michael Kay/New York Baseball Tonight. (I still haven’t decided if this is a good thing. Now that Matt Pinfield is back, I think I’m going back to music in the morning.)

In the last two weeks, we’ve been bombarded with stories about Jorge Posada’s management (or mismanagement, depending on your perspective), of the pitching staff; Joe Girardi’s management (or mismanagement, depending on your perspective), of well, everything; the defense that went a record 18 games without committing an error has committed at least one error in 14 of the last 19 games; and oh yes, there’s Derek Jeter’s inability to drive in runs in clutch situations. Of these stories, the Posada issue is not new and the Dead Horse Alert is strong in my ear; the defensive woes would not be a story if the team was winning, and Jeter’s malaise is not subject to just him. This is not to give Jeter a free pass, but when you score 15 runs in one game and then proceed to score 12 over the next seven, it doesn’t seem right to single out one player.

Jeter alone is not the reason the team has not won three in a row since May 27-30. A-Rod has one hit in his last 22 at-bats – a span of seven games – and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since going 5-for-5 at Texas on May 25. Mark Teixeira has driven in only four runs in the last 10 games. Plus, there’s the team’s Achilles’ heel: pitchers they’ve never faced before. Even in their championship heyday of the last 15 years, rookie/no-name pitchers look like All-Stars pitching against the Yankees (see Pete Caldera’s recap in the Bergen Record for more details). Most recently, it’s been Fernando Nieve, John Lannan, Craig Stammen, Josh Johnson and Tommy Hanson. Johnson and Hanson will be big-league studs, but to lose four of six to the Nationals and Marlins, teams the Yankees were supposed to beat up on to gain ground on the Red Sox, is a reflection of something deeper.

Which brings me to Girardi. If the manager sets the tone for the team, then his management of A-Rod and CC Sabathia could be leaving the team in a lurch. This from Bob Klapisch:

…There’s more to managing than simply bodysurfing a winning streak. Girardi looked crisp and in control when the Yankees were mauling the AL a month ago, launching all those crazy comebacks. But now they’re struggling — the Red Sox’ domination of the Bombers is nothing short of humiliating — and Girardi’s confidence has turned to a square-jawed form of desperation.

That’s why A-Rod played every day until he couldn’t bring his bat through the strike zone anymore — and, as he’s hinted, his hip is so stiff. It’s the reason why no one comes to Sabathia’s rescue in the seventh or eighth innings.

It’s because Girardi knows his managerial career will be over if he gets fired by the Yankees.

The decision to sit A-Rod due to fatigue came from above Girardi. Sabathia says he’ll pitch Friday, but Cashman is putting on the brakes. Girardi is in the background.

Esiason and Carton posit that Girardi is being made to be the fall guy for the team’s travails. If he is managing for his job, he should stand up for himself the same way he did in Florida. Esiason added that despite Girardi’s championship credentials, he doesn’t believe the players respect Girardi in the same way they did Joe Torre.

Maybe that’s true. Some veterans are describing Girardi as “tight,” as Klapisch also notes in his column. We don’t know what is said in the clubhouse – and it should stay there – but the rash of flat efforts leave much to be desired. I don’t get the sense he’s inspiring confidence in his players. I’d love to hear him say something like, “We’re not overlooking any teams on the schedule. Sure, we’re at a slight disadvantage playing in National League parks, but our lineup should be able to hold up against any pitcher in any park.” Instead, we get the same monotone and the tired lines about how interleague play is a necessary evil and that it’s unfortunate the games count in the standings. Does that get you fired up as a fan? Me neither.

What’s left? Could the Yankees pull the trigger on Girardi mid-season? They haven’t made such a managerial change since Bucky Dent replaced Dallas Green after 121 games in 1989. Granted, this Yankee team isn’t nearly as lost in Mark Knopflerville (aka Dire Straits) as the ’89 squad, but if the team falls further south of Boston in the standings, it may seem that way to the powers that be.

The wheels on the Yankees bus … need air.

News of the Day – 6/24/09

To power today’s news, I’m going to visit the “Conjuction Junction”:

  • The (decision on Cody) Ransom is due Wednesday:

While he gathered his belongings in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse earlier this month, Ransom revisited his decision to hide the severity of a leg injury that he suffered not that night in Boston, but in the final week of spring training, much earlier than he had previously admitted publicly.As it turned out, the leg ailment would ultimately land him on the 60-day disabled list and throw his future with the Yankees in doubt. Still, Ransom isn’t sure he would have done anything differently. It’s easy to understand why.

“I don’t know that I would have because of the situation that we were in, Alex being out and it was an opportunity for me,” said Ransom, a 33-year-old minor league journeyman. “I was really hoping that could help the team and play well. But obviously I didn’t do that. I don’t regret anything, I don’t regret the way I handled it I don’t think.”

. . . On Wednesday, the Yankees will have to return him to the majors or designate him for assignment.

  • Sabathia not planning on a pitching “Sabathical“:

“I feel like I’m going to feel fine tomorrow,” Sabathia said. “So that’s why I keep saying that I’m pitching on Friday.”

Sabathia usually throws 45 pitches in a bullpen session, but he said he would throw no more than 25 on Wednesday. He reiterated that he was not concerned.

“It doesn’t scare me at all,” Sabathia said. “It’s one of those things through the course of the season you do feel on side days. You feel a little achiness in the biceps, and it usually gets out of there. With the rest and two days off of not playing catch or anything, it feels fine. I feel good enough to pitch.”

Working in favor of the Marlins was Rule 3.05, which states:

“If an improper substitution is made for the pitcher, the umpire shall direct the proper pitcher to return to the game until the provisions of this rule are fulfilled. If the improper pitcher is permitted to pitch, any play that results is legal. The improper pitcher becomes the proper pitcher as soon as he makes his first pitch to the batter, or as soon as any runner is put out.”

Additionally, Rule 3.05(c) Comment reads: “If a manager attempts to remove a pitcher in violation of Rule 3.05 (c) the umpire shall notify the manager of the offending club that it cannot be done. If, by chance, the umpire-in-chief has, through oversight, announced the incoming improper pitcher, he should still correct the situation before the improper pitcher pitches. Once the improper pitcher delivers a pitch he becomes the proper pitcher.”

Girardi felt Sunday’s situation was similar to one earlier in the year, when Rays manager Joe Maddon had a mixup with his designated hitter, resulting in Evan Longoria not starting.

(more…)

It’s 10:00 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Team Is?

chump

My wife has no heart, she doesn’t care. I roll my eyes and make guttural sounds of disappointment, slap my arm against the couch. I curse and curse some more.  They’re killin’ me, I say.

“I’m sorry, honey.”

The Nationals!?!

Straight, with no emotion, like Alice Kramden, she says, “Every year the Yankees lose a series to the worst team, every year it’s the same. It happens. They have hot streaks and slumps.”

But you don’t understand. The Nationals! Two games they should have won against Marlins. Shut out by the damn Braves.

“Well, it’s better than losing to the Red Sox.”

“No it isn’t! At least the Red Sox are good. And they’ve done nothing but lose to them either.”

She shrugs, looks at me, knowing I’m hopeless, and refuses to join in. She has no pity for me or the Yankees. She doesn’t care.

stress1

The Yankees played another lifeless game tonight. They had just four hits yet had their chances, leaving the bases loaded twice and stranding eleven in all. In other words, they didn’t do jack-boil-scratch as they lost 4-0 to the Braves in Atlanta. Rookie starter? On cue, the Yankees’ achilles’ heel. I know Tommy Hanson is a stud, but c’mon already.

Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t bad–he gave up three runs on three hits in the third (all three runs scored with two out), and Phil Hughes was terrific again in relief. But that didn’t matter much. Alex Rodriguez went 0-4, Jorge Posada struck out four times and Derek Jeter hit into his third double play in two games as Yankee fans were left with nothing but hard, angry feelings.

kick

Yanks hit skid row, now five behind the Sox. My how it am ugly.

Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves

2009 Record: 33-36 (.478)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 33-36 (.478)

2008 Record: 72-90 (.444)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 79-83 (.488)

Manager: Bobby Cox
General Manager: Frank Wren

Home Ballpark (Park Factors): Turner Field (99/99)

Who’s Replacing Whom:

  • Casey Kotchman replaces Mark Teixeira
  • Nate McLouth replaces Mark Kotsay
  • Garret Anderson replaces most of Gregor Blanco (bench)
  • Matt Diaz reclaims playing time from Josh Anderson
  • Diory Hernandez is filling in for Omar Infante (DL)
  • David Ross replaces Corky Miller, Clint Sammons (minors), and Brayan Peña
  • Derek Lowe replaces Tom Glavine and Mike Hampton
  • Javier Vazquez replaces Tim Hudson (DL) and Chuck James
  • Kenshin Kawakami replaces Jorge Campillo (DL) and James Parr (minors)
  • Tommy Hanson replaces Jo-Jo Reyes (DL) and John Smoltz
  • Eric O’Flaherty replaces Will Ohman
  • Mike Gonzalez reclaims his innings from Vladimir Nuñez
  • Rafael Soriano reclaims his innings from Julian Tavarez and Jorge Julio
  • Peter Moylan reclaims his innings from Blaine Boyer
  • Kris Medlen is filling in for Buddy Carlyle (DL)

25-man Roster:

1B – Casey Kotchman (L)
2B – Kelly Johnson (L)
SS – Yunel Escobar (R)
3B – Chipper Jones (S)
C – Brian McCann (L)
RF – Jeff Francoeur (R)
CF – Nate McLouth (L)
LF – Garret Anderson (L)

Bench:

R – Matt Diaz (LF)
R – Martin Prado (UT)
L – Gregor Blanco (CF)
R -Diory Hernandez (IF)
R – David Ross (C)

Rotation:

R – Derek Lowe
R – Jair Jurrjens
R – Javier Vazquez
R – Tommy Hanson
R – Kenshin Kawakami

Bullpen:

L – Mike Gonzalez
R – Rafael Soriano
R – Jeff Bennett
L – Eric O’Flaherty
R – Peter Moylan
R – Manny Acosta
R – Kris Medlen

15-day DL: PH – Greg Norton (hamstring), UT – Omar Infante (broken hand), LHP – Jo-Jo Reyes (hamstring), RHP – Buddy Carlyle (upper back strain/Type-1 diabetes)

60-day DL: RHP – Tim Hudson (TJ), RHP – Jorge Campillo (shoulder tendonitis)

Typical Lineup:

L – Nate McLouth (CF)
R – Yunel Escobar (SS)
S – Chipper Jones (3B)
L – Brian McCann (C)
L – Garret Anderson (LF)
L – Casey Kotchman (1B)
R – Jeff Francoeur (RF)
L – Kelly Johnson (2B)

(more…)

Ted Berg n Bobby O

A good combination.

Observations From Cooperstown: A Conversation With Jim Kaat

The first Hall of Fame Classic, played Sunday at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field, gave me the opportunity to talk to former Yankee pitcher and broadcaster Jim Kaat. During our on-field conversation, I asked Kitty about his decision to return to the broadcast booth, his thoughts on the ’09 Yankees, his new marriage, and his continuing connection to the village of Cooperstown.

Markusen: Jim, first off, I know that I speak for a lot of Yankee fans who are glad that you’re back broadcasting, not on the YES Network [as before], but on the MLB Network. What went into your decision to come back after essentially retiring for three years?

Kaat: Well, my wife, who had been battling cancer for a couple of years, passed away last year. I retired because we wanted to get a little more time together. She was doing pretty well, but her cancer came back. She couldn’t survive that, so a lot of my friends and family said to me, maybe you ought to go back to work. So that’s what I did, starting this year just on a part-time basis. I just reached out to some people, and if they wanted me to do it, I said fine. So MLB hired me to do ten games, I did the World Baseball Classic, and I’ll do a little stuff for XM Radio. So that sort of motivated me to do it.

Markusen: Did it take a lot of convincing?

Kaat: Not a lot. There was a period of time there where I didn’t know if I wanted to do that [come back], but toward the end of the year in December, I thought, yeah, it might be a good idea for me to do that.

Markusen: Jim, do you still keep close tabs on the Yankees, a team that you followed so closely for so long? Do you still follow them on a regular basis?

Kaat: Oh, very much so. Two of the three games I’ve done so far have been the Yankees. I did the home opener, and I did the Yankee-Red Sox game on June 11. I keep up with all of the teams, and I’ll have another Yankee game—the Yankees and White Sox—at the end of July, so that gives me good reason to keep up with them. I have a Mets-Dodgers game coming up, too. I still follow the Yankees through the newspapers, the box scores, and of course, nowadays on television you can get about all the highlights you want.

Markusen: It’s been a very uneven year for the Yankees. A very poor April, a lot of injuries early, then they had that nine-game winning streak, and now they seem to be struggling a little bit. As you look at the team, what do you think has been the problem?

Kaat: Well, I still think, and I think that with any team, you really need to have quality guys in the seventh and eighth innings to set up whoever your closer is, in this case Mariano. And I always think that’s a determining factor. I mean, hitting comes and goes, guys will go into slumps. The Yankees have played well in the field, in the infield—I don’t know about their range—but they aren’t making any errors. But I’ve always liked teams, as Tampa Bay did last year and the Red Sox this year, that have good guys down in the pen at the end of the game. You know, when Bruney’s been healthy, Aceves has been in and out of the [late-inning] role, Coke, the lefty, has done pretty well, but they haven’t been able to find that solid seventh and eighth-inning guy.

Of course, Brian Cashman knows, and I always chide him about it, I think Chamberlain should be in the bullpen. I think he’d be a perfect eighth-inning guy, but that’s not my decision. But I think that [the bullpen] will determine how well they do.

Markusen: When you look at the intangibles and more subtle areas with this team, you sometimes hear criticism that they play a little too tense, maybe they don’t have a killer instinct, and they continue to struggle with runners in scoring position. Do you give a lot of merit to any of that?

Kaat: Well, the runners in scoring position I do, because the more years go by, the more we’re aware of how great the 1998 team was and the teams in that era, the team that had Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill, Knoblauch, Jeter was a younger player, Bernie Williams, Girardi was still playing, guys that made contact, advanced runners, manufactured runs. And they had a great bullpen. I think their offense this year is the kind of explosive offense—they’re like a team of really DHs—they can crush mediocre pitching, but until they do those kinds of things against good pitching like the teams in the late nineties, that’s probably where they’re lacking.

(more…)

Pretzel Logic

chop

Every so often, when the mood strikes, my wife Emily likes me to feed her baseball trivia questions. We had a session on Sunday after the Yanks lost to the Marlins. My first question was, “What is ERA?” She got it right but did not agree with the number being divided by nine innings.

“What if it is the first game of the year and a pitcher only goes six innings, how can it go into nine?”

I calmly explained.

“What-ever.”

We moved on. And she got a good many of them right–or at least partially right. Her thinking made sense.  Who is known as Junior?  “Cal Ripken.”

What is a fielder’s choice? “That’s when the fielder gets to make the choice. See? I told you I was right.”

The infield fly-rule? “That’s when the infielder’s call off the outfielders and make the catch.”

And my favorite. What is a Baltimore Chop?

“That’s a kind of meat cut special in Baltimore.”

No, dear.

“That’s when they have everyone at Camden Yards come on the field during the seventh inning stretch and practice karate.”

I love my baseball wife.

News of the Day – 6/23/09

Today’s news is powered by some cute stop-motion animation from “Sesame Street”:

Alex Rodriguez, who did not start on Friday and Saturday due to fatigue six weeks after returning from surgery on his right hip, will get one day of rest each week through next month’s All-Star break.

The Yankees will follow a plan created by Dr. Marc Philippon, the surgeon who operated on A-Rod’s hip in March.

“That sounds like a good plan,” Rodriguez said on Sunday. “From what I understand, that comes from Vail (Colo.) and Dr. Philippon. We’ll follow his instructions and regroup in a month. The idea is that I’ll get stronger each month.”

Rodriguez started 38 consecutive games after returning to action on May 8. He is batting .153 (9-for-59) with two homers and 11 RBIs in June. He singled in the third inning of Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Marlins to end a 0-for-16 slide. Overall, he is batting .213 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 40 games.

Manager Joe Girardi said he plans to schedule A-Rod’s off days. He’ll get two days off in weeks when the Yankees have an off day.

[My take: Ummm . . . wasn't the plan coming out of surgery to only play him five or six days a week anyway?  Where did THAT plan go in the last five weeks?]

His .250 Isolated Power (or ISO, slugging percentage minus batting average) is 22 points below his career mark, but about the same distance above two of his five full seasons in pinstripes. It surpasses all but 24 batting-title qualifiers, not that A-Rod himself has enough plate appearances to qualify.

He’s homered in 5.4 percent of his PA, which would rank ninth among qualifiers, though it would be the fifth-lowest mark of his career. The 33-year-old superstar’s real problem is that the hits aren’t falling in for him.

Prior to his benching, Rodriguez’s batting average on balls in play was .192, 128 points below his career mark, and 10 points below the next-lowest qualifier, Jay Bruce. Upon closer inspection, he’s hit line drives—which result in hits far more frequently than any other type—on just 14.8 percent of his balls in play, well below last year’s 18.1 percent. Meanwhile, his ground-ball rate has risen significantly.

A-Rod is one of several star players to recently have a procedure known as femoral-acetabular impingement labroplasty. . . . The problem is that while many skiers have recovered successfully from this operation, there’s almost nothing beyond these very few names to go on as to how this will affect a baseball player.

While the Yankees were ultra-conservative with Rodriguez during rehab, they suddenly forgot the schedule of offdays that Rodriguez’s doctors had set up. Sources tell me that Rodriguez’s hip still shows a small strength and range deficit, one that’s become worse with fatigue. A more regular schedule of rest would appear to be necessary, and it should help get Rodriguez back on track physically.

(more…)

Peerless Price

George Price…one of my heroes and one of the best The New Yorker ever had.

georgeprice

Fehr Strikes Out

 fehr

According to ESPN, Don Fehr will step down as the head of the MLBPA. Fehr’s long, productive, and largely successful run has been marred by the union’s handling of the recent performance-enhancing drugs scandals. 

A fabulously bright man, Fehr was in charge during the union’s fattest days. He played a large roll in the baseball player’s union becoming the strongest in all of professional sports. The man has a lot of wins under his belt. In the end, however, the steroids issue must have swallowed him up. Fehr and company failed their consituency in not destroying those pesky tests from ’03, proving once again that arrogance trumps smarts every time. I don’t mean to be flip. Fehr deserves, and will surely receive, a more thorough evaluation in the coming days. He was a pivotal figure.

Bud Selig should jern Fehr out the front door, don’t you think?

Money For Nothing

Variety reports that Sony Pictures has pulled the plug on Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Moneyball (thanks to Rob Neyer for the link).

Even in the climate of heightened studio caution, the turnaround news on “Moneyball” is surprising given that the project had reached the equivalent of third base. It was just 96 hours before the participants were ready to take the field, following three months of prep and with camera tests completed and cast and budget in place.

…Aside from actors like Pitt and Demetri Martin, Soderbergh is using real ballplayers — such as former A’s Scott Hatteberg and David Justice — as actors, and he also has shot interviews with such ballplayers as Beane’s former Mets teammates Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson and Darryl Strawberry. Those vignettes would be interspersed in the film.While Soderbergh is confident his take will work visually, Columbia brass had doubts on a film that costs north of $50 million. That is reasonable for a studio-funded pic that includes the discounted salary of a global star like Pitt, but baseball films traditionally don’t fare well on the global playing field.

This is a shame but not a surprise. Back in the summer of 2003, I interviewed Michael Lewis and we talked about how difficult it would be to make Moneyball into a movie:

Bronx Banter: Have you sold the movie rights to “Moneyball” yet?

Michael Lewis: I didn’t have much hope that anyone would buy them. Because I can’t really see how you could make it into a movie—a good movie, anyway. What happens is, if somebody bought it for the movies, you’d have to create some sort of female role. They would just have to. You just have to twist so much. Having seen “Liar’s Poker” get bought for a lot of money, and then completely mangled in the creation of the script, and eventually never getting made. If they can’t make that, I can’t imagine how they can make this. There have been, oddly enough, some feelers from people who say they want to buy the rights. A lot of things sell, that shouldn’t sell, accidentally. That might happen, but I’d be really surprised if it ever became a movie.

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