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Monthly Archives: July 2009

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News of the Day – 7/28/09

Today’s news is powered by a couple of classic promos for Yankees telecasts on WPIX:

  • Tyler Kepner wonders who will fill out the back of the rotation down the stretch:

So here’s my question as the trade deadline approaches: who starts Game 4 of a playoff series? The Philadelphia Phillies used four starters in all three playoff rounds in winning the World Series last year. If the Yankees want to win it all, they have to know who starts Game 4. And right now, they have no idea.

It won’t be Chien-Ming Wang, who may need shoulder surgery. I doubt it will be Joba Chamberlain, because he will have reached his innings limit by then (making him a tremendous bullpen weapon). Phil Hughes is too valuable in short relief to switch him now. That leaves Mitre.

The wild card in this is Alfredo Aceves, who still has time to transition back to the rotation. But to remove Aceves from the bullpen, the Yankees probably need to trade for a reliever. That’s why I think there’s no chance they’ll stand pat before Friday’s 4 p.m. nonwaiver deadline.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that the feeling is that the club needs to carry a 13-man pitching staff — right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo was recalled on Sunday from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — because of a tired bullpen.

“Right now, we need the pitching,” Girardi said. “But it’d be nice to have another outfielder that could help out there.”

Even though Phil Hughes is considered unavailable after throwing 39 pitches in the Yanks’ 7-5 win over the A’s on Sunday, there will almost certainly be a move for an outfielder made soon. The Yankees are coming off of a 9-1 homestand at Yankee Stadium and begin their road swing to play the Rays, White Sox and Blue Jays.

Though Cabrera was productive on the homestand, batting .308 (8-for-26), with three runs scored, two doubles and one RBI, one major concern is that five of the nine road contests will be played on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field and Rogers Centre.

That is less of a threat to Cabrera than to Johnny Damon, whom Girardi acknowledged that the Yankees will need to find a way to rest. Should Cabrera need to be spelled in an emergency, Girardi said he would look to either Damon or Nick Swisher to take over in center field. It is a scenario they want to avoid.

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Funday

ka-pow-pop-art

I didn’t feel good about AJ Burnett going into tonight’s game. For no other reason than I figured it was time for him to have a bad outing, get the snot knocked out of him. I’m pleased to report that didn’t happen. Burnett was strong once again as he allowed just one run over seven innings. He didn’t John Blaze the Rays to death–just five strikeouts–but he was effective (only two walks) and a-mighty fun to watch.

The Yanks put three early runs on the board against James Shields. Robbie Cano and Nick Swisher hit back-to-back dingers in the sixth and Alex Rodriguez added a two-run double two innings later. Derek Jeter had three hits and a walk and is now battting .325. I wax poetic about Mariano Rivera on the reg, I love rooting for Alex Rodriguez, but man, has it ever been wonderful to watch Jeter play all these years. He’s truly one of the great Yankees.

Johnny Alphabetsoup allowed two runs in the bottom of the eighth, and left two runners on base when he was replaced by David Robertson. What looked like a laugher got tense for a minute–but Robertson struck out Carlos Pena on a breaking ball in the dirt to escape further trouble.

Then Swisher added a solo shot–this one righthanded–in the ninth, Johnny Damon wacked a three-run dinger (his 200th career homer) as the Yanks beat the Rays 11-4. The Bombers remain two-and-a-half ahead of the Sox who beat the A’s in Boston.

Nice way to start the week, wouldn’t ya say?

Tampa Bay Rays IV: The Gauntlet Begins

The Yankees made the most of their recent ten-game homestand, going 9-1 against the Tigers, Orioles, and A’s. That’s good, because now things get tough. The first seven games of this nine-game road trip are against the Rays and White Sox, both contending teams. Then, after a two-game stop in Toronto, they come home to play four against the Red Sox. That’s 11 of 13 games against contending teams.

The Rays are 6.5 games behind the first-place Yankees in the AL East, but the Pythagorean standings look like this:

BOS 56-41  -
NYY 56-42  .5
TBR 56-43  1

The Rays still aren’t getting much from B.J. Upton or Pat Burrell, and their catching duo of former Yankee farmhands Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez is almost single-handedly keeping them out of the Wild Card race. Jason Bartlett has cooled a bit since returning from the DL, but is still contributing a solid .296/.354/.417 from shorststop and fellow flukester Ben Zobrist is hot as ever, hitting .379/.463/.500 since July 7.

In the rotation, Scott Kazmir is back from the DL and with pitch Tuesday night, but he’s not been that much more effective since his return, going 0-2 with a 5.08 ERA and just one quality start in five tries. Wednesday night starter Matt Garza, however, has been his usual inconsistent, but often dominant self. Tonight the Rays throw James Shields, who is turning in a season that looks a lot like the one he had last year plus a few extra hits.

The Yankees counter with A.J. Burnett, who is looking for his eighth-straight quality start. A.J. already has two quality starts against the Rays in as many tries this season, including an eight-inning, three-hit, nine-strikeout effort a the Trop back on April 14.

One other thing about the Rays: they’ve made lefty reliever J.P Howell their closer. Since June 1, Howell has posted a 1.14 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 11.03 K/9. His only two blown saves during that stretch came in the eighth inning against the Yankees the last time they were in Tampa. In neither case did he allow a run, and in one he didn’t even allow a hit (though he did walk in a run).

The Yankees are sticking with the extra reliever for now rather than calling up a replacement for Brett Gardner. Everyone’s in his usual spot in tonight’s lineup.

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Arms Trading

Over at SI.com, I follow up my look at the five biggest offensive holes on contending teams with a look at the five contenders most in need of pitching help. When I started writing the piece, I had no idea that number five would be the New York Yankees. As a fan, I’m optimistic, encouraged by the team’s 9-1 start to the second half, Joba Chamberlain’s “rejobanation,” Andy Pettitte’s two strong home starts, CC Sabathia’s ability to battle, even A.J. Burnett’s string of quality starts and Sergio Mitre’s ability to keep his team in the game. As an analyst, however, I see this:

Joba Chamberlain is quickly approaching his innings limit for the season (assumed to be 150, he’s already over 100 and has been pitching deeper into games since the break). If the fragile A.J. Burnett or the 37-year-old Pettitte (currently sporting a career-worst 4.67 ERA) should break down, the Yankee rotation could fold like a cheap card table under the weight of CC Sabathia. Hughes lurks in the bullpen, but he’s been so good there (he has an active streak of 23 1/3 scoreless innings in which he’s struck out 28 batters), the Yankees seem reluctant to restore him to the rotation, particularly given the chance that they won’t get much more than the production listed above. For now, their fifth starter is Sergio Mitre, another Tommy John reclamation case who hadn’t started in the majors since 2007 (and in his case didn’t start much in the majors before 2007 either). Prospect Ian Kennedy is out for the year following surgery. Alfredo Aceves is an uninspiring alternative. Like the Angels, the Yankees are riding high (9-1 since the break), but their rotation may not make it all the way to the finish line as currently assembled.

Meanwhile, the top story on SI.com’s baseball page has John Heyman speculating about the Yankees chasing after Jarrod Washburn yet again. The only trouble with all of this is, what exactly would you be willing to give up to get another starter? I could have parted with Melky before Brett Gardner got hurt, but that’s out the window now. I wouldn’t trade any of the team’s top young’uns (Hughes, Chamberlain, Jackson, Montero, though I’d be most willing to part with Jackson). What else do the Yankees have to offer? Low-minors catchers? A struggling Andrew Brackman? The deadline is Friday. Stay tuned . . .

Funny Rummy

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time:

News of the Day – 7/27/09

Today’s abbreviated NOTD is brought to you by anagrams (“A DARN FEMINIST”, “I’M A DAFT SINNER”, “I’M SATAN, FRIEND”)  and Robitussin:

(Brett) Gardner fractured his left thumb during Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Athletics and was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday. He will be in a cast for approximately two weeks. . . .

A 25-year-old rookie, Gardner injured himself while breaking up a double play in the first inning on Saturday, sliding into second baseman Mark Ellis and reaching his left hand out to touch the base.

“I’ve done it hundreds of times,” Gardner said. “Usually, my hand slides over the base, but for some reason, my thumb didn’t get up high enough. It’s one of those freak things that happens.”

Gardner knew that something was not right after the play, but he figured that he might have strained a ligament and did not mention the pain. He stroked a run-scoring triple in the sixth inning and earned applause with a throw to third base in the seventh inning, preventing a runner from advancing.

“It’s part of what I love about him,” Girardi said. “He played at a pretty high level after he broke his thumb. Players are going to have things that happen all the time. During the heat of battle, you don’t feel them a lot of times as much.”

Back Tuesday . . .

He Meant To Do That

Heading into Sunday’s finale against the A’s, Yankee manager Joe Girardi figured he had a well-rested bullpen (Phil Hughes last pitched on Thursday night, Mariano Rivera hadn’t pitched since Wednesday) and his fifth starter on the mound making just his second major league start since 2007, so he devised a plan that required his starter to go no more than six innings.

As it turned out, Sergio Mitre only needed 72 pitches to get through the first five frames. Still, nursing a one-run lead heading into the sixth, Girardi had lefty Phil Coke warm and waiting. Kurt Suzuki led off with a single off Mitre, and with four of five hitters behind Suzuki being left-handed, Girardi put his plan into effect right there and then.

Since Girardi didn’t appraise me of his plan before the game, I had no idea what the hell he was doing. Mitre had given up three runs on nine hits, but he hadn’t walked anybody and was getting a ton of ground balls. After a rough first in which he allowed two runs on a double and three singles, two of the latter well-placed bouncers up the middle, Mitre had pitched effectively and economically. After pitching around a two-out single for a scoreless second, Mitre worked a four-pitch third, hitting Scott Hairston with a curveball with his first pitch, then getting a 1-6-3 double play from Jack Cust on his next offering and getting Suzuki to groundout on an 0-1 pitch. A pair of singles set up a Mark Ells sac fly in the fourth, but Mitre survived his own throwing error on a would-be double play by getting a successful 6-4-3 DP on the next pitch thanks to some great glovework by Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano (Jeter ranged into the hole, turned and fired a strike to Cano without making a leap; Cano caught the ball with his back to first then spun and made one of his signature all-wrist throws, hard and on the money to Mark Teixeira to beat Adam Kennedy at first). In the fifth, Mitre again induced a 6-4-3, then struck out Cust on four pitches.

Part of Joe Girardi's plan: Phil Coke vultures the win from Sergio Mitre in the sixth thanks to a two-run Mark Ellis home run. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)Mitre had thrown 91 pitches in his last start, so there was no good reason to take Mitre out. It smacked of overmanaging, particularly after Coke gave up a two-out, two-run homer to righty-swinging Mark Ellis that gave the A’s a 5-4 lead.

Fortunately, the Yankee offense was having none of that. After Mitre gave up two runs in the top of the first, the Yankees answered back with four in the bottom of the first, the key hit being a three-run bases-loaded double by Robinson Cano (who went to third on the throw home, but overslid the bag and was tagged out for the third out). After Ellis’s two-run jack gave the A’s their second lead of the game, the Yankees stormed right back with three in the bottom of the sixth when Melky Cabrera drew a one-out walk, Cody Ransom doubled him to third, Derek Jeter singled them both home, then Damon doubled and scored on a Mark Teixeira single. (Jeter didn’t score in that sequence because he was picked off first by A’s starter Dallas Braden, who has a sick move. Jeter was roughly two steps off the bag when Braden quickly stepped off the rubber and fired the ball right at Jeter’s bellybutton. The ball got there almost before Jeter could react and all first baseman Daric Barton had to do was put his glove on Jeter’s stomach and catch the ball.)

With Phil Coke thus having successfully vultured the win, Girardi went to Phil Hughes, who worked a 1-2-3 seventh striking out Hairston and Cust and then Suzuki to start the eighth. Hughes then lost a eight-pitch battle with Ryan Sweeney, walking him, and gave up a double to Daric Barton to put runners on the corners and put his scoreless streak in jeopardy. Girardi promptly brought in Brian Bruney, who struck out Mark Ellis on four pitches, then brought in Mariano Rivera for the four-pitch save. A pair of groundouts and a pair of strikeouts later, the Yankees had taken the series with a 7-5 win, wrapping up their second-half-opening home stand with a 9-1 record.

I love it when a plan comes together.

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Rickey Heard The A’s Need A Left Fielder . . .

The Yanks are hoping to avoid a split with the lowly A’s today as they send Sergio Mitre back to the mound. Mitre lasted 5 2/3 innings in his first Yankee start, allowing four runs (one of them unearned) on eight hits and a walk while striking out four. The lone walk was encouraging, as was the fact that Mitre got nine groundouts against just four fly outs. Still, with Chien-Ming Wang’s prognosis looking bleak, Mitre will have to do still better tonight to continue to quell the calls for Phil Hughes to be converted back to starting. Alex Rodriguez gets the day off today. Cody Ransom’s at third. Jorge Posada is hitting cleanup. Despite Brett Gardner’s big RBI triple yesterday, Melky Cabrera’s back in center.

It’s fitting that the Yankees and A’s are playing today as Rickey Henderson, who spent four and a half of his prime years as a New York Yankee, enters the Hall of Fame wearing an A’s cap. Having come of age as a fan during Rickey’s Yankee heyday, Rickey holds a special place in my baseball heart, and seeing the green and gold flash against those midnight blue pinstripes will keep those memories flooding back.

henderson-rickey-1986The Yankees and A’s have a long history of sharing great players, dating back to Hall of Famer Frank “Home Run” Baker, who hit exactly half of his career homers with each team. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Kansas City Athletics often appeared to be little more than a farm team for the great Yankee teams of that era, with Roger Maris being the cream of the Kansas City crop to flower in the Bronx. Then, of course, there was Catfish and Reggie, two of the three Hall of Famers from the early ’70s Oakland dynasty, who were also key players on the back-to-back Yankee Championship teams in the latter half of the decade.

When Rickey set the all-time single season stolen base record in 1982, it was at the urging and ever-present green light of A’s manager Billy Martin, who himself had been banished to the old KC A’s following the infamous Copacabana incident in 1957 and would be back managing the Yankees in 1983. Billy managed Rickey on the Yankees to one of Rickey’s greatest seasons in 1985. More recently, Jason Giambi, who won an AL MVP with Oakland, placed his name among the Yankee franchise leaders in home runs (tenth), slugging* (seventh), and on-base percentage* (fifth).

With Giambi on the DL after having returned to the A’s this year, the top cross-team names in today’s game are Yankee right fielder Nick Swisher, who was part of Billy Beane’s famous Moneyball draft, Oakland manger Bob Geren, a former Yankee catcher from the dark days of the early ’90s, and A’s reliever Russ Springer, who made his major league debut as a Yankee the year after Geren was waived and is old enough to have been traded with J.T. Snow for Jim Abbott.

And since that stream of consciousness took us a considerable distance from the Hall of Fame, here’s a top-10 list of Hall of Fame classes that I assembled for SI.com. Yankees and A’s abound there as well.

*minimum 1,000 plate appearances

Can’t Win ‘Em All

The A’s stopped the Yanks 6-4 on Saturday ending New York’s eight-game winning streak. The Red Sox beat the O’s and now trail the Yanks by just a game-and-a-half.

ohwell

Alfredo Aceves couldn’t wriggle out of a 7th inning jam–a couple of soft base hits and a drive into the right center gap–did him in. The Yanks started the inning up 1-0, with Andy Pettitte throwing a gem, and it ended with them down 6-1. Still, a couple of homers (Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira) in the eighth made it exciting and when they put two men on to start the ninth it wasn’t hard to imagine them coming back and winning. But it wasn’t meant to be as Jorge Posada bounced into a 4-6-3 double play to squarsh the rally. Gio Gonzalez threw a nifty game for Oakland, allowing just a couple of hits. He had a good breaking pitch and fine control.

Paul O’Neill was in good form in the broadcast booth with his comedy partner Michael Kay and color man Al Leiter. At one point, they discussed their Saturday night plans. Leiter said that he was going out on a date with his wife. “Who is going to babysit the kids?” said Kay.

“You are,” said O’Neill. “That’s going to be our text pole in the seventh inning: ‘Who is going to watch Al’s kids tonight?’ And the answer is Michael, Michael and Mr. Kay.”

Ahh, wocka, wocka, wocka.

Thank You, Sir, May We Have Anuthah?

It’s a hot n hazy summer day in the Bronx as Andy Pettitte and the Yanks look to keep rollin’.

nine

Rejobanated

Joba delivers (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)The first-half meme on Joba Chamberlain was “he’s hiding an injury.” Though he wasn’t getting rocked, his velocity was down, as was his energy, and he was pitching tentatively, bearing little resemblance to the cocksure fireballer with the wicked slider we’d all come to know and love since his arrival in late 2007. Now, after his second dominant start in as many turns since the All-Star break, the new meme is “he went home to Nebraska and got his head on straight.”

I like the image; Joba in his Smallville version of the Fortress of Solitude using the green crystal to rediscover his purpose. I like the results too. Friday night, that meant seven-innings of two-hit ball on just 100 pitches with mid-90s velocity throughout.

The A’s got a run off Joba in the first on a one-out double by Orlando Cabrera, a stolen base, and a sac fly, but that was it. He retired nine in a row in the middle of the game before suddenly losing the strike zone and walking two with one out in the fifth and moving the runners up on a wild pitch. Uh oh? Oh no. Joba got both Mark Ellis and Eric Patterson swinging on vintage Chamberlain sliders and delivered a raucus fist pump in celebration of stranding the runners with what was then a slim 2-1 lead. He then came back out and retired the next six men he faced.

Despite the 8-1 final, the game was actually a pitchers duel for most of its length. The A’s rookie lefty Brett Anderson struck out the side in the first and retired the first six men he faced before Robinson Cano reached on an infield single in the third. A Melky Cabrera double, Derek Jeter single, and an RBI fielders choice by Johnny Damon gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in that inning. That last came when Damon hit a dribbler that A’s first baseman Daric Barton nearly turned into a 3-6-1 double play, but Anderson is astonishingly slow when it comes to covering first. Because Barton had to come so far in to field the ball, no one was at first base to recieve Orlando Cabrera’s pivot throw, which wound up hitting Damon in the wallet as he crossed the bag, preventing an error.

The Yanks added another run in the fifth on a leadoff walk to Nick Swisher, an infield single by Cabrera and a pair of productive fielders  choices, and another in the sixth on a leadoff double by Alex Rodriguez and a pair of productive groundouts.

Mariano Rivera was warming up with the Yankees leading 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth, but the Yankees dropped a four-spot on Yalie lefty Craig Breslow and Dominican righty Santiago Casilla, giving David Robertson a rare chance to both pitch (his last appearance came on July 11 in Anaheim) and pitch with a lead (just six of his previous 24 relief appearances saw him enter a game with a lead). Unfortunately for Robertson, he coughed up a couple of runs on a Scott Hairston single, a Kurt Suzuki double, a throwing error by Melky that allowed Suzuki to reach third, and a wild pitch.

No matter, Yanks win 8-3 and are 8-0 since the break.

Meanwhile, here’s Joba’s line in his two second-half starts:

13 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 14 K; 2-0, 1.32 ERA, 0.80 WHIP

After the game, Joba said he was “just going back to having fun and just doing what got you here.” Amen, brother.

Encore Une Fois

Yanks shootin’ for their eighth straight tonight against the A’s.

clasic nyc2

Get down with the Git down.

Take a Holliday From The Neighborhood

The remaining three games in the Yankees series against the A’s just got easier as the A’s have traded their best hitter, Matt Holliday, to the Cardinals for a trio of prospects including third baseman Brett “The Walrus” Wallace. This just hours before SI.com posted my Trade Talk post about the biggest offensive holes on contending teams heading into the trading deadline. The Cardinals’ left-field situation was originally fifth on my list:

5) Cardinals, LF
Production to date: .211/.293/.333 (64 sOPS+)
League average LF: .262/.338/.427
The Guilty (VORP): Chris Duncan (-1.5), Rick Ankiel (-7.3), Nelson Stavinoha (-3.2)
The Targets: Matt Holliday (25.9), Magglio Ordoñez (-0.3)

The Cardinals have already traded for sometime left fielder Mark DeRosa, but he was supposed to fill their hole at third base (.219/.291/.355, 72) and is currently on the DL. They also just acquired Julio Lugo from the Red Sox, for Duncan no less. If the plan is for Lugo to play shortstop with Joe Thurston and Brendan Ryan platooning at second, thereby allowing Skip Schumaker, whom I listed as the worst defensive second baseman in baseball earlier this week, to return to the outfield, then they might be done. If not, they could pull the same trick with even better results by acquiring a second baseman from the Twins’ target list above. Putting Schumaker back in the outfield is likely a better solution than overpaying for Holliday or hoping that Ordoñez or Austin Kearns (-4.6) would benefit from a change of scenery and a return to full-time play.

The pressure is now on the Cards not only to win the NL Central, but to resign Holliday this winter given that they traded a potential long-term solution to their hole at third base.

Taking the Cardinals’ place on the list are the Rays, whose current catcher situation, staffed by former Yankee farmhands Dioner Navarro and Michel Hernandez, is what’s keeping them out of the AL East race.

Fielding First (Base) Man

Let Me Go

I’m getting more sensitive. Oh, I’m not as touchy as I used to be. I don’t take offense so easily, I don’t take things as personally as I once did. On the other hand, I can’t stomach violence. I don’t play Grand Theft Auto, or watch boxing, forget about UFC. I recoil when I see parents berate their kids in public.

Last month I was between 8th and 9th avenue when I looked up and saw a father walking down the block, his son, maybe 7 or 8, walking closley next to him. As I looked at them I heard the father say, “You are so f***-ing stupid, how can you be so goddman dumb?” It felt like a punch in the gut.

Last night, I read an article in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books about the Congo by the historian Adam Hochschild. I should have known that it would be a tough read but there was a story on the first page (fourth paragraph) of such unspeakable horror that I couldn’t finish the article. I skimmed the rest of it, not wanting to read anything so terrible again.

I was on the subway coming home. And I was rattled. I put the article down and tried to distract myself. I couldn’t. So I put on my headphones and scanned the i-pod for something soothing. Couldn’t find a thing. Then I happened on Some Girls, one of my favorite albums by the Rolling Stones. Listening to “Beast of Burden,” I was able to forget the savage imagery of the article for a few minutes.

I grew up on Some Girls–still one of my favorite Stones records–Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You. They may not be the Stones’ best work–Let it Bleed, Beggar’s Banquet, and Sticky Fingers are the Stones at their peak, though there have always been hardcore Stones fans who swear by Exile on Main Street (with Black and Blue as the sleeper pick of cherce)–but in some ways they are the ones that I hold most dear. The Stones were my first favorite band. As a kid, I thought Mick Jagger was a bad ass and a clown.

I remember a British friend of my mother’s laughing in those years when she heard “Emotional Rescue.”

“The Stones are making disco records now.”

Maybe the Stones were already a parody of themselves by the late Seventies, but they lived in New York City, and their records sounded good. Even if they were corny at times. “She’s so Cold,” that was my joint. I never especially loved “Beast of Burden,” but listening to it last night–and thinking about “Waiting on a Friend” at the same time–I felt reassured and calm.

Nice to know we’ve got distractions–a way to escape–from the incredible terrors, large and small, that exist in the world.

News of the Day – 7/24/09

Today’s news is powered by a very old and very rare baseball board game:

Chien-Ming Wang is concerned that his 2009 season may be over, having sought a second opinion as he continues to feel discomfort in his right shoulder, and now Dr. James Andrews will get his chance to take a look.

Wang visited on Wednesday with Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York after suffering a setback earlier in the week while playing catch, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman met with team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad on Thursday to discuss Wang’s situation.

After reviewing Altchek’s findings, the Yankees are set to next confer with Andrews before discussing Wang’s status further. But at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, the 29-year-old Wang said that he is worried that surgery may be necessary.

  • If Yanks make a trade, will it be for a starting pitcher?:

The Yankees made a calculated gamble in poaching starting pitchers Alfredo Aceves and Phil Hughes for their bullpen, one that has helped them become a first-place club while also leaving a lack of depth.

It is a situation that general manager Brian Cashman is acutely aware of as the Yankees approach the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. While there are no moves that can be classified as imminent, he acknowledges that there is room for improvement.

“When we made the decisions that we’ve made so far, they were tough decisions with consequences,” Cashman said on Thursday. “We’re better because of those moves, but we’re thinner.” . . .

But the switch made it difficult to fill in earlier this month, when the Yankees lost Chien-Ming Wang from their starting rotation, with no definitive return date for the right-hander.

New York is also watching the innings tick off rapidly for Joba Chamberlain, who will take the mound on Friday having already thrown 95 2/3 frames.

“I still think there is some concern with our depth,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m not saying that you necessarily trade for a Major League pitcher, but there is some concern if someone else goes down. There are some innings limitations on Joba, so that is something that is a concern.

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Living After Midnight

Aside from the obvious reasons, long rain delays bug me because they put too much pressure on the game when it finally comes. If it’s an ugly one it’s hard to not think, “I waited around that whole time for this?” For a few innings it looked like tonight was going to be One of Those Games, but instead it turned into a more or less textbook win: seven innings from CC Sabathia, a few big hits from Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada, and a save(!) from Phil Hughes led to a 6-3 Yankees win.

Sabathia wasn’t looking sharp in the first few innings — after hours of Nintendo during the rain delay — and Oakland A’s starter Vin Mazzaro was, leading to a 3-zip Oakland lead. But Sabathia recovered after relatively little carnage, and once the Yankee hitters had gotten a decent look at Mazzaro, they started to do some damage.

In the fourth, Mark Teixeira took a rare swing on a 3-0 count and hit a no-nonsense home run into the second deck. A few batters later Posada doubled home Alex Rodriguez, who’s looking downright spry on the basepaths these days, and then scored himself on an Eric Hinske single. The next inning was a variation on the theme, as Teixeira got himself a double and another RBI, and Johnny Damon scored on a Posada single to make it 6-3.

Craig Breslow relieved Mazzaro and, with apologies to my fellow Yankee fans, I was very psyched to see him pitch 1.2 scoreless innings (he was a year ahead of me at college). I didn’t have to feel conflicted about rooting for him, either, as the Yankees already had all the runs they’d need: Sabathia had found his rhythm by then, and he turned the lead straight over to Phil Hughes, who continues to pitch first and ask questions later.

A couple of stray thoughts:

-Could Mark Teixeira’s transition to New York have gone any smoother? He did have an awful first month, but he got going before people really lost patience; even in New York there’s a bit of a grace period. Ever since then he’s been somewhere between solid and excellent, and wowed the Giambi-battered crowd with his defense. And there hasn’t been so much as a whiff of a mini-controversy, not even something small and silly that, taken out of context, makes for a good misleading headline. I complain about the guy being a dull interview, and he usually is – by design, I’m sure, like Jeter – but he’s really handled everything remarkably well. It already feels like he’s been here forever.

-Finally, I kind of love that Nomar Garciaparra got booed. Sure, it’s silly – he hasn’t played for the Sox in five years, and has been too injury-riddled for most of that time to make a big impact anyway. But this wasn’t vicious, angry booing, it was more ritualistic. Of course you boo Nomar Garciaparra. It’s tradition! Heck, his feelings would probably be hurt if no one bothered.

Oakland A’s II: Padding The Lead

The O’s could hit a little, but not pitch. The Yankees swept them. The A’s, who have a nearly identical record, can pitch a little, but not hit. The Yankees welcome them to the Bronx tonight for a four-game set that has the Bomber faithful salivating at the thought of their team extending their perfect 6-0 second-half record and building on their two-game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East and game-and-a-half lead over the red-hot Angles for the best record in the league.

The A’s arrive with the third weakest offense in the American League, and one which just lost ex-Yank Jason Giambi to the disabled list via a strained hamstring. Not that Giambi was hitting (.193/.332/.364 on the season), but he was tied for second on the team in homers with 11 and would have had fun trying to lift balls into that jet stream to right field (you just know J-Bombs is miserable over missing these games). Matt Holliday is doing what everyone expected he’d do, hit like his career road split, which is still good enough to make him the A’s best bat. His closest rival is replacement third baseman Adam Kennedy, who was released by the Cardinals in February, dumped on the A’s by the Rays after spring training, and spent April in the minors.

As for the A’s pitching, it’s typically park influenced. The A’s staff has a 3.83 ERA at home, but a 4.75 mark on the road. Accordingly, the A’s are a .391 team outside of Oakland. The A’s rotation currently consists of three lefties and four rookies, but the most effective left-handed rookie starter they’ve had this season, stirrup socked fashion plate Josh Outman, has been lost to Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees will face Brett Anderson, the most heralded of the rookie lefties, tomorrow. Anderson gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings in the Yankees 16-inning win over the A’s in April, but has turned it on of late and enters tomorrow’s contest with an active streak of 21 scoreless innings and a 0.34 ERA and 0.68 WHIP over his last four starts. Saturday brings rookie lefty Gio Gonzalez, part of Oakland’s return for Nick Swisher. Gonzalez is Outman’s replacment and his four major league starts this season have been evenly split between decent and disaster, his last seeing him cough up 11 runs on on ten hits, including four homers, in just 2 2/3 innings against the Twins. Sunday brings non-rookie lefty Dallas Braden, who is the ripe-old age of 25. Braden has been the A’s most consistent pitcher having delivered quality starts in 14 of his 20 starts and maintaining his 3.40 ERA both at home and on the road. He’ll face Sergio Mitre.

Tonight, the Yankees will face one of the A’s two rookie right-handers in 22-year-old Vin Mazzaro, a Hackensack, New Jersey native and graduate of Rutherford High School who relies on a hard, heavy, mid-90s sinker. Mazzaro joined the rotation in June and got off to a fine start with four quality starts, but things have gone downhill from there, bottoming out with the eight runs he allowed in three innnings against the Angels his last time out. The A’s have lost Mazzaro’s last seven starts, with Vinnie taking the loss in six of them. In fact, the A’s haven’t won a game in which Mazzaro has given up a run all year (Mazzaro’s first two starts, both wins, saw him pitch 13 2/3 scoreless innings).

Maz has his work cut out for him tonight as he’s facing not just the major league’s best offense in a hitting-friendly environment, but CC Sabathia coming off seven shutout innings against the AL Central-leading Tigers his last time out. CC wasn’t as good as his numbers in that last start, however, as he walked three, hit a batter, threw 51 pitches in the first two innings, and had just two 1-2-3 innings. CC who started against Anderson in that 16-inning monster back in April and had one of his worst starts of the year, allowing seven runs in 6 2/3 innings while walking five. He’s come a long way since those early struggles, however, and will be looking to build some second-half momentum tonight.

Tonight’s lineup includes Hinske in right, Gardner in center, and Matsui at DH.

(more…)

Why Baseball Matters

Because on any given day something great can happen.

Like this.

And Say Children…

What does it all mean?

fio 

Fiorello LaGuardia reads Dick Tracy:

Many years later, Double D and Steinski sample LaGuardia on their Lesson records:

Then, Prince Paul nabbed the bit on the first De La Soul record (dig the weird video mix):

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