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Monthly Archives: August 2009

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Baltimore Orioles V: Marking Time

This just in: the Yankees are cruising to their first AL East title since 2006. There, I said it. The Yankees have a six-game lead with 32 left to play and nearly half of those remaining games, 15 of 32, will come against the Royals, Blue Jays, and Orioles, three teams with a combined .416 winning percentage.

The Yankees are 9-3 against the Orioles this season and 9-1 since dropping the first two games of the season in Baltimore due to poor starts by CC Sabathia (who has since turned back into CC Sabathia) and Chien-Ming Wang (who has since landed on the 60-day DL).

Since the Yankees last saw them, the Orioles have traded away first baseman Aubrey Huff, closer George Sherrill, and veteran backup catcher Gregg Zaun. Lone All-Star Adam Jones has been fighting back pain and hasn’t had a hit in over a week, and supposed rookie phenom Matt Weiters has been slower to adjust to major league pitching than was expected (.258/.307/.366 in August with 24 Ks against 6 walks in 25 games). The debuts of top pitching prospects Chris Tillman (yet another product of the Erik Bedard trade) and Brian Matusz have kept the O’s interesting, but the Yankees will miss both this week.

So, really, there’s nothing to see here. The Orioles are 10-19 (.345) on the month and have won just one series in August. The Yankees have lost just two series since the All-Star break, have scored 7.5 runs per game in their 11 contests since being shutout by the A’s and Brett Tomko, are coming off a sweep of the White Sox, and have their top three starters lined up for this series in Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. The O’s will be lucky to avoid a sweep.

Jeremy Guthrie takes the hill for Baltimore tonight coming off a pair of strong starts against the White Sox and Twins. In both outings, Guthrie allowed just one run on six hits in seven innings. In the latter he struck out five against no walks or homers. Of course, his season ERA is 5.26, and he’s 1-2 against the Yankees in three starts this season. Guthrie’s first two starts against the Yanks were similar quality starts (6 IP, 7 H, 3 R). He won the first thanks to Sabathia’s bad outing and lost the second when CC got his revenge with a four-hit shutout. He last faced the Yankees on May 20 and gave up five runs in seven innings to lose to Phil Hughes.

Despite a hiccup in Boston hidden by the offense’s 20-run outburst, Andy Pettitte’s second-half numbers are still fantastic: 2.79 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 3.6 K/BB, just 2 HR allowed in 8 starts averaging more than 6 1/3 innings per start. Andy started that run with 7 1/3 dominant innings against the O’s (1 R, 8 K). Surprisingly, that was his only start against Baltimore this season prior to tonight.

Alex Rodriguez gets the night off tonight. Jerry Hairston Jr., hitting a fluky .316/.413/.553 as a Yankee, plays third and bats eighth. Everyone else moves up a spot.



Fruit at a ball game?


That’s progress for you.

Card Corner: Goofy Gomez


In defeating the Texas Rangers last week at the Stadium, Andy Pettitte reached a significant Yankee milestone: tying Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez on the franchise’s all-time wins list. There’s something odd about Pettitte and Gomez having identical totals of 189 wins in pinstripes. These two left-handers couldn’t be any different in terms of personality and persona. Pettitte, outside of his dalliance with HGH, has led a pretty straight-laced life in New York. Gomez was anything but straight-laced. In fact, he may have been the most offbeat Yankee of all-time.

As the southpaw pitching ace for the Yankees of the 1930s, Vernon “Lefty” Gomez stood in contrast to several of his reserved and businesslike teammates. Unlike Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig, the native Californian had an outgoing nature, with a priceless comic touch. Gomez even did the unthinkable in needling Joe D., who was usually spared from the normal clubhouse ribbing. Somewhat surprisingly, DiMaggio allowed Gomez to include him in the razzing, in part because he considered the eccentric left-hander to be genuinely funny.

Outside of baseball, the entertainment world took notice of Gomez’ personality. After the 1931 World Series, he was invited to join vaudeville for a three-week run. Unfortunately, his act didn’t pass muster, but Gomez didn’t allow failure to dampen his sense of humor. “I lasted three weeks,” Gomez told a reporter, “but the audiences didn’t.”

Throughout his career, Gomez produced a litany of classical quotations for both his teammates and the media. Gomez once proclaimed that he had come up with a new invention. “It’s a revolving bowl for tired goldfish.” Much like Mark “the Bird” Fidrych of a later generation, Gomez claimed that he often conversed with the baseball. “I talked to the ball a lot of times in my career,” Gomez contended. “‘I yelled, ‘Go foul, Go foul!’” And then there was his philosophy with regard to relief pitching. “A lot of things run through your head when you’re going in to relieve in a tight spot. One of them was, ‘Should I spike myself?’”

Tall and gangly, Gomez could be as clumsy as he was zany, especially when in the uncomfortable territory of the batter’s box. Always a poor hitter, Gomez at least tried to act the part of an accomplished slugger. During one at-bat, he adjusted his cap, tugged at his uniform, and then attempted to knock the mud from his spikes with his bat. Instead, he whacked his ankle with the bat, putting himself in the hospital for three days.

Gomez’ behavior could be as bizarre as his words. Pitching in the second game of the 1936 World Series, Gomez held up play because of his preoccupation in watching a plane fly overhead. Seething Yankee manager Joe McCarthy, who demanded professionalism from his players at all times, could only watch in stunned amazement from the dugout. When Gomez returned to the dugout after retiring the side, McCarthy berated his star pitcher. Gomez quickly defended himself. “Listen, Joe, I’ve never seen a pitcher lose a game by not throwing the ball.”

On at least one other occasion, Gomez felt that holding onto the ball was clearly the best strategy. Throughout his career, Gomez struggled in matchups against Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx. During one at-bat against Foxx, Gomez shook off every sign called by catcher Bill Dickey. Visiting the mound, Dickey asked Gomez what pitch he wanted to throw to Foxx. “Nothing,” Gomez said to his batterymate. “Let’s just stall around and maybe he’ll get mad and go away.” Gomez eventually did make a pitch to Foxx, who promptly swatted the Gomez offering over the outfield fence.

Unlike some star pitchers who act as prima donnas, Gomez displayed little ego. He liked to poke fun at himself, all part of his effort to pick up some laughs. He also understood his limitations—and when it was time to leave the game. Shortly after his retirement from pitching, Gomez applied for a job with the Wilson sporting goods company. The employment application included a space that asked why he had left his previous job. Gomez answered the question with brutal honesty. “I couldn’t get the side out.”

For most of his career, though, Gomez did well in getting the side out. His major league accomplishments, almost all of them coming with the Yankees, earned him election to the Hall of Fame in 1972. That honor will probably escape Andy Pettitte, but at the very least he’ll be able to say he matched Gomez in the win column.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.

News of the Day – 8/31/09

Today’s news is powered by . . . musical vegetables (no, not Michael Bolton!):

Fans are now allowed to bring in one bag that cannot be larger than 16” x 16” x 8”, subject to inspection.

  • John Perrotto has the lowdown on what the Yanks might do in the off-season:

The Yankees would prefer to re-sign Johnny Damon to a one-year contract for 2010 and allow outfield prospect Austin Jackson a second year to develop at Triple-A, meanwhile pursuing such big-name free-agent outfielders as Matt Holliday and Jason Bay in the offseason.

Kennedy has been throwing 35-pitch bullpen sessions that include all four pitches. When he first got back on the mound, Kennedy focused on throwing the ball over the plate, right down the middle. For the past two weeks, he’s been working side-to-side, hitting the corners. He’s scheduled to throw another bullpen on Monday, then he’ll face live hitters in batting practice sessions on Wednesday and Saturday. Beyond that, there is surely a plan, but Kennedy doesn’t know it.

. . . Kennedy is not pitching in Puerto Rico this season. The Arizona Fall League replaced winter ball. He’ll pitch during the instructional season beginning at the end of September — is it a season, it’s more like spring training — then he’ll go to the Arizona Fall League to pitch through October and most of November. He was planning to pitch in Puerto Rico, but the timing of the Fall League works better. His doctors told the Yankees that pitching in the fall would probably be better for his arm than pitching in the winter.

A former president of Madison Square Garden says that it was his idea to create what became the Yankees-run YES Network, and on Friday he sued George Steinbrenner, the team’s principal owner, in Manhattan federal court for fraud and breach of contract. He is seeking at least $23 million in damages.

Bob Gutkowski, who as president of the MSG Network negotiated a 12-year, $493.5 million deal in 1988 with the Yankees and is the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that he had several meetings with Steinbrenner, starting in 1996, to discuss the idea of a Yankees network. He said he also made a presentation in 1998 to Steinbrenner and other Yankees executives that laid out how to build a regional sports network controlled by the team.

At one meeting in 1997, according to the lawsuit, Steinbrenner said he wanted to use the threat of starting a network to get $1 billion for a 10-year extension from MSG.

“At no point did Steinbrenner, regarded for his business acumen, conceive of creating a Yankees television network,” Gutkowski said in his papers. “The idea and plan was solely Mr. Gutkowski’s.” He added that Steinbrenner “knowingly and continuously misrepresented” an oral agreement that Gutkowski would run or be part of the network.

[My take: He’s suing NOW?  12 years later?]


Feels So Good

The Yankees scored five runs in the seventh inning and beat the White Sox 8-3, completing the weekend sweep. Mark Teixeira had the big three-run shot. He flied out to the warning track in his first two at-bats, whiffed his next time up and then crushed a breaking ball in his fourth at bat. Jeter had two more hits. Jorge Posada was back and he had a couple of hits too. Johnny Damon hit his 24th homer of the year, tying his single season mark set in 2006.

Joba Chamberlain started, threw thirty-five pitches over three innings and was done. Part of the new and revised Joba Rules, which are nothing if not elastic. Alfredo Aceves threw three scoreless for the win. Well, Joba is a luxury-problem now cause the Yanks keep winning. He’s not over-worked and we’ve all got something to squawk about.

Hey, so long as they’re winning…


Joba Chamberlain doesn’t have to be Serge Mitre but the Yanks hope that he’ll have a strong outing. As frustrating as he can be at times, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching Joba start this year.

Yanks playing with house money. Sun is peaking out from the haze.


Let’s Go Yan-Kees!

Locked and Loaded


The rain isn’t enough to stop the Yanks, never mind the White Sox. It was drizzled all afternoon at YS III in the Bronx as the Yanks bombed Jose Contreras and the White Sox, 10-0.  The castaway duo of Serge Mitre and Chaud Gaudin combined for the one-hit shutout as the Yanks provided tension-free entertainment.

The only glitch came when Mitre left the game after being hit by a line drive. According to Anthony McCarron in the Daily News:

X-rays taken at the Stadium were negative, but Mitre has a painful bruise that could jeopardize his next start.

“Geno (trainer Gene Monahan) knew it was going to be pretty sore pretty quickly,” Joe Girardi said in explaining the decision to yank Mitre. “The last thing we want him to do is hurt himself.

“There is some concern,” Girardi added. “He got hit pretty hard. We’ll see how he is and keep our fingers crossed.”

Derek Jeter had three more hits and has been hot for weeks. (If he finishes strong I can see him winning the MVP over Mauer whether he deserves it or not. Look at it like a lifetime achievement award, like Paul Newman winning best actor for Color of Money.) Robbie Cano, fresh off his badass walk-off homer on Friday, had three hits too. Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher each had a couple.

The White Sox made three errors and The Bomb Squad Bombeth.

After the game, Chicago’s manager Jose Guillen was characterisitcally frank (Cowley, Chicago-Sun Times):

“I’m embarrassed,” Guillen said. “And everybody in that room should be embarrassed. If they’re not embarrassed, they got the wrong job or they’re stealing money from baseball. I feel like I’m stealing the money from [board chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf]. And that’s a shame. When you got more errors than hits, you better look yourself in the mirror and start second-guessing yourself.

“But I’m second-guessing myself right now, making the wrong lineup every day. I second-guess myself bringing in the wrong guys to pitch. Second-guess myself like we work so hard to put this team together, all the way from spring training and when I look on the field.

“I was looking at the Little League game this morning, 11 to 13 [years old], and they were playing better than we did. It was more fun … this is not major-league baseball. Sorry.”

In the seventh inning, Johnny Damon fouled off a pitch and catcher A.J. Pierzynski scooped up a handful of dirt and tossed it at Damon. It was playful, a funny moment. Damon scooped up a handful and threw it back at Pierzynski. That was even funnier. Okay, it’s not Ray Knight decking Eric Davis but point taken. Don’t you playfully throw dirt at me, mister.

Yanks are awful tough right now. Especially against teams that play like ass.

Yup, Still Raining


This is England weather. Cool, grey and rainy. It isn’t pouring but the water has been coming down steadily all morning. Wonder if they’ll get this one in.

Let’s hope they do. If they don’t, good day to curl up with a good book or watch a couple of movies.

Regardless, let’s go Yan-Kees!

Is It Still Raining? I Hadn’t Noticed.

Mark Buehlre and CC Sabathia entered last night’s game having had very different Augusts. Buehrle had posted a 6.21 ERA in six starts since his perfect game, while Sabathia had a 1.78 ERA over his previous four starts. In ten previous head-to-head meetings, Buehrle had never beaten Sabathia, who was 6-0 in those matchups. Early on it seemed those trends would continue. After CC worked a 1-2-3 first, Derek Jeter connected for a leadoff home run off Buehlre, who then gave up a pair of singles before getting Nick Swisher to ground out to strand both runners. CC then stranded a leadoff double in the second by striking out the side.

Johnny Damon doubled the Yankee lead by leading off the third with a solo shot, but for the second straight night, the Yankees couldn’t get the job done with runners on base, stranding two in the first, one in the second, two in scoring position in the third, erasing a lead-off single with a double play in a three-batter fourth. Robinson Cano ground out with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth, then Buehrle worked his first legitimate 1-2-3 inning in the sixth.

CC Sabathia had struck out ten and still thrown just 88 pitches heading into the seventh, but was greeted by a Jermaine Dye double. He then issued his first walk of the game, a five-pitch pass to Carlos Quentin that drew Dave Eiland to the mound. Two pitches later, Alex Rios doubled home Dye to cut the Yankee lead in half and push the tying run to third. Alexei Ramirez got a hold of an 0-1 pitch, but put just enough of a hump in it to allow Cano to hop backwards and make the catch for the first out. Ramon Castro then hit a chopper toward third that Alex Rodriguez gloved and fired to Jose Molina, who tagged Quentin out at home. Jason Nix followed by hitting a hard hopper that stayed just fair over the bag and seemed headed for the left-field corner, but Rodriguez made a full-out stretch and gloved it, holding Nix to an infield single and lead-runner Rios at third. That loaded the bases for rookie Gordon Beckham. CC fell behind 3-1 before getting strike two with Beckham taking all the way. On the full count, Beckham laced a game-tying single to right, but with Castro running from second, Nick Swisher fired a strike to home in time for Molina to tag out his opposite number, ending the inning and keeping the score tied. (Tyler Kepner tweeted after the game that Swisher said he had been getting throwing tips from Dave Eiland and Phil Coke.)

That inning pushed CC to 113 pitches and ended his night. Buehrle was at 99, but Ozzie Guillen quit while he was ahead and went to the majors best set-up man in Matt Thornton in the seventh. Thornton set the top six men in the Yankee lineup down in order in the seventh and eighth, while Phil Hughes struck out Dye, Paul Konerko, and Jim Thome in between. Mariano Rivera then pitched in a perfect ninth, and Scott Linebrink worked around a one-out Jose Molina single in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings.

Though I would have preferred to have seen Hughes work an extra frame and Mo pitch the tenth, Joe Girardi kept the line moving, getting a 1-2-3 inning from Brian Bruney in the top of the tenth, after which, with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez due up, Guillen turned to . . . minor league journeyman lefty Randy Williams?

To Williams’ credit, he struck out Tex, but Alex Rodriguez crushed the first pitch he saw to left center for . . . the first out.

Robinson Cano and Jose Molina celebrate the Yankees' 11th walkoff win of the year (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)It rained throughout the game, and the swirling winds stopped several would-be home runs short of the left field wall. Rodriguez absolutely crushed Williams’ pitch, but he hit it into the wind in death valley and it fell a step shy of the warning track to Alex’s obvious disbelief. Given a reprieve, Williams walked the next two hitters on eight pitches, bringing lefty Robinson Cano to the plate with two out and two on in the bottom of the tenth with the game tied 2-2. Fittingly, Cano ran the count to 2-2, then launched a no-doubter into the Yankee bullpen to win the game. Cano styled on the homer like fellow number-24 Manny Ramirez, watching it from home while Alfredo Aceves ran out into the rain to gather the ball like a kid in the empty wings of the old Stadium in the ’80s.

Helmet toss. Pie. Yankees win 5-2.

Chicago White Sox II: Same As It Ever Was

Prior to the Rangers’ just-complete series win in the Bronx, the only series the Yankees had lost in the second half came against the White Sox in Chicago. The Sox took three-of-four in that weekend series as July turned to August. The first win came via an unearned run off Andy Pettitte in a 3-2 game. The next two came by a combined score of 24-9 as the Sox tore into Sergio Mitre, Alfredo Aceves, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Coke, who combined to allow 22 of those 24 runs.

Since then, the White Sox have acquired two high-profile players, but have yet to see any benefit from either addition. The first actually occurred on the eve of that last series, when the Sox traded for injured Padres ace Jake Peavy. I analyzed that deal for SI.com:

The White Sox’s trade for Jake Peavy appears on its surface to be a trump card designed to keep them in the division race. It is not that. . . . Peavy is hurt. He tore a tendon in his right ankle in early June, hasn’t pitched since, and isn’t expected back for several of weeks — if at all this season. Certainly the White Sox could benefit from activating Peavy down the stretch if they’re still within striking distance (they’re 2½ games out entering the weekend), and would benefit from his presence in the postseason should they get there. But more likely, the Tigers, with Washburn, are going to win the division.

Indeed, the Sox have since fallen to four games behind the Tigers as Peavy remains on the DL while the Sox have scrambled to fill Clayton Richard’s spot in the rotation. Richards’ spot has come up four times since he was dealt to San Diego in the Peavy deal. The Sox won the first two with spot starters, but have lost the last two behind Freddy Garcia, who will start again on Sunday after Peavy took a liner off his elbow in what was supposed to be his last rehab start.

The other big acquisition was their waiver claim of the Blue Jays’ Alex Rios. The White Sox seemed like one team that could actually benefit from taking on Rios and his contract given their proximity to first place and the .224/.280/.311 line their center fielders had put up prior to Rios’s arrival. However, Rios has started just eight of 13 games in center since joining the Sox, including just three of the last eight and is hitting a mere .200/.213/.333 in that limited time. Rios isn’t helping the White Sox at all, but he’s still going to cost them $59.7 million over the next five years. There’s still a month to go in the season, but Kenny Williams’ claim of the 28-year-old Rios is already looking like a worse move than the contract J.P. Ricciardi signed the 27-year-old Rios too last April.

It will be a great story if Peavy and Rios suddenly emerge to carry the White Sox to the Central title in September, but it ain’t gonna happen. In the meantime, the team the Yankees face this weekend is much the same one they faced at the beginning of the month, minus speedy second baseman Chris Getz, who is out with an oblique strain, and with better work from their bullpen (led by the major’s top set-up man), but weaker work from their rotation.

Tonight’s game pits lefty aces Mark Buehrle and CC Sabathia against each other. The two have had wildly disparate Augusts:

Sabathia: 5-0, 2.65 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 9.40 K/9, 7.8 K/BB, 1.2 HR/9
Buehrle: 0-3, 6.03 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, 2.59 K/9, 1.5 K/BB, 1.7 HR/9

On top of that, Sabathia and Buehrle have met up ten previous times without Buehrle ever picking up a win. CC is 6-0 in those match-ups.

Jose Molina starts again today as Jorge Posada continues to rest his bruised ring finger. Same lineup as yesterday.

In other news, the Yankees have decided to put Joba Chamberlain back in regular rotation, but to honor his innings limit by taking him out early. Sounds like a move to long relief minus the baggage of the word “bullpen.” This is a viable option because of the team’s lead in the division and rosters expanding on Tuesday, thus deepening the bullpen in support of Joba’s short starts. Given how poorly Joba’s pitched on irregular rest and how well he’s pitched in short stints in the past, this does seem like a better plan, even if it will drive some fans nuts to see Joba repeatedly pulled after five or fewer dominant innings.


First Time Caller


Big Fan, the new movie staring Patton Oswalt, hits theaters today.

Cliff hipped me to this interview with Oswalt. Dig it.

News of the Day – 8/28/09

I didn’t want the Mets walking wounded to feel lonely, so this past Monday, I apparently broke a bone in the little toe of my left foot (confirmed by x-ray Thursday).  So, powered by Advil, ice packs and one of my favorite all-time cartoons, here’s the news:

  • Those sneaky Yankees muck up the BoSox plans:

When the New York Mets and Red Sox worked out a trade for left-handed reliever Billy Wagner earlier this week, Chris Carter, an outfielder-first baseman currently playing for Triple-A Pawtucket, became part of the deal as a player to be named headed to Boston, sources said. In preparation for the deal, the Red Sox placed Carter on waivers, with the intention of moving him on to the Mets.

But the Yankees, sources said, placed a claim on Carter — perhaps to create some 40-man roster discomfort for the Red Sox. In order to complete the Wagner trade, the Red Sox are now pulling Carter back from waivers, and for the rest of the year they must carry him on their 40-man roster.

  • Yankees in(terested) for a Penny, in for a pound(ing)?:

The Yankees have an interest in veteran right-hander Brad Penny, who was released by the Red Sox late Wednesday night.

According to a person with knowledge of the Yankees’ plans, the club doesn’t know of an agreement between Penny and the Red Sox that he wouldn’t sign with an AL team if they released him.

Penny, who is expected to clear waivers Monday because he has about $1.5 million left in salary and attainable bonuses, might be considered an upgrade over Sergio Mitre in the fifth starter’s spot. After he clears waivers, Penny would cost the club signing him $100,000.

. . . “He’s got good stuff,” Johnny Damon said of Penny, whose fastball touched 97 mph and averaged 91 to 93. “His secondary stuff might need a little tweak but his fastball was electric, it cut and he hit his spots with it. Bring him here, why not? I love the way the guy competes.”


Looks Good On You, Though

Chris Davis scores following his three-run homer off Phil Coke (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)My good friend Steven Goldman called Tuesday night’s loss to the Rangers the most annoying game of the year due to Joba Chamberlain’s struggles with two outs and the botched Nick Swisher bunt that appeared to kill the ninth-inning rally. Having held off on assigning that title, I’ll slap it on Wednesday afternoon’s contest.

What do you imagine the final score would be of a game in which A.J. Burnett struck out a season-high 12 Rangers and allowed just two hits, and the Yankees put 14 men on base? Would you believe 7-2 Rangers?

The Yankees staked Burnett to an early 1-0 lead when Johnny Damon walked, stole second, and scored on a Mark Teixeira single in the bottom of the first. Burnett responded by retiring the first 11 men he faced. Then, suddenly, with two outs in the fourth, he walked Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz and gave up a three-run home run to Ian Kinsler on a first-pitch fastball.

That was the game. After Damon scored, Rangers starter Dustin Nippert walked six more men, but the Yankees stranded three in the first, one in the second, two in the third, two in the fourth, two in the seventh, and two in the ninth, scoring just one more run along the way.

All together, the Yankees went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, both hits coming off the bat of Mark Teixeira, who singled Jeter home in the fourth. The Yankees drew eight walks, but didn’t manage a single extra-base hit, and two of their six singles didn’t leave the infield. They also struck out ten times, three each against Nippert (in 3 2/3 innings), Jason Grilli (in 2 1/3), and lefty C.J. Wilson (in 2), and once against closer Frank Francisco in the ninth.

Burnett left after six innings and 105 pitches, yeilding a 3-2 deficit to Phil Coke. Coke’s first three batters doubled, bunted for a hit, and homered, boosting the Texas lead to 6-2. The home run, by lefty Chris Davis, was the sixth Coke has surrendered to a lefty this year. Coke has otherwise dominated southpaw batters (.196 average, .224 OBP), but the nine home runs he’s allowed this year to batters of all types have given him a Farnsworthy rate of 1.57 HR/9, moving him ahead of the broken Chien-Ming Wang as the most homer-prone pitcher to throw more than 40 innings for the Yankees this year.

The Rangers scored all seven of their runs on homers in this game, with Kinsler rubbing it in with a two-out, 1-2 solo homer off David Robertson in the eighth to set the final score. Meanwhile, over the final five innings, the Yankees managed just a walk and two singles, only one of which left the infield.

With that, the Yankees dropped a series at home for the first time since the Nationals were in town in mid-June. It was just the second series loss for the Yankees since the All-Star break. The other was to the White Sox, who come into town on Thursday having salvaged the final game of a four-game set against Boston on Wednesday to protect the Yankees six-game lead.

Keep The Line Moving

The Yankees have scored 47 runs over their last five games. That works out to 9.4 runs per game. They’ve scored a minimum of eight runs in four of those five contests, all of which have come against the top two teams in the Wild Card race. That’s what 28-year-old righty Dustin Nippert has to contend with this afternoon.

Nippert has made just seven previous starts this year. Just one of them was a quality start. This is just his fifth start in regular rotation. In the previous four the Rangers have gone 1-3 despite Nippert’s average 4.50 ERA and strong strikeout rate.

Nippert goes up against A.J. Burnett, who is coming off his miserable outing in Boston. In August, Burnett has sandwiched three quality starts between two total stinkers in which he’s given up 16 runs in 9 2/3 innings.

Jose Molina catches Burnett this afternoon, but not because of the head-butting A.J. and Jorge Posada were doing in Boston. Molina was scheduled to catch today’s day-game-after-night-game regardless of the pitcher, and the foul ball Posada took off his left ring finger last night cinched it. The rest of the lineup is the usual suspects, with Johnny Damon returning to left field.

If You Can’t Walk the Walk Don’t Talk the Talk


Interesting piece on “walk-off” stats by Larry Granillo over at the Baseball Analysts.

Walk on by, keep it movin’.

News of the Day – 8/27/09

Today’s news is powered by . . . a baseball-themed Tex Avery cartoon:

The chances of Jake Peavy making his first start for the White Sox on Saturday are remote, team sources said on Wednesday.

Pitching coach Don Cooper said that Peavy was unable to throw his side session on Wednesday due to lingering effects of being hit by a line drive in his last rehab start on Monday. The right-handers is still getting treatment on on his pitching arm, which had some swelling and soreness.



I’m a bit out of the loop, since I just got back from a week in England – I apologize in advance. No cell phone or laptop, away from the internet, I completely missed all the baseball news… well, okay, I borrowed my friend’s computer a time or two during the Red Sox series, but just for a minute. So I’m still catching up on everything that happened while I was gone (did someone mention a timely bunt Tuesday night?). Ask me anything about England’s recent cricket victory over Australia, though!

The Yankees, as is their wont these days, bounced back from last night’s loss with a 9-2 win over the Texas Rangers. New York scored three in the second, then blew the game open with five more in the seventh, and every starter had at least one hit except Melky Cabrera (even he had a lovely bunt). The Yanks also got some reassuringly solid pitching after their recent rough-ish patch; Andy Pettitte went seven innings and allowed just two earned runs, with seven strikeouts and three walks.

Rangers starter Derek Holland actually pitched pretty well for someone who was charged with six earned runs, but he paid for just about all of his mistakes. The Yanks’ big blows were Jorge Posada’s three-run homer in the second, Jerry Hairston Jr.’s solo shot in the fourth, and the seventh-inning onslaught that began with a poor defensive play and a Robinson Cano double, and ended some time later with a Mark Teixeira single off of Jason Jennings. Brian Bruney’s eighth inning outing was good enough under the circumstances, and Phil Coke tied the bow around the night.

I found myself thinking today, reading about Oliver Perez’s season-ending trip to the DL, that I need to start writing more about the Mets, because their season has been so fascinating (in a horrific way, but still), while the Yankees right now are extremely pleasant to watch but just don’t give you a ton of juicy material. Don’t worry – as soon as the thought flickered across my brain I spat three times and knocked on all the wood in my apartment.

Side Note: I had always previously assumed that cricket was at least somewhat related to baseball – since, after all, it involves a pitcher and a batter and fielders – and that I would therefore be able to follow it a little bit, even just vaguely. This turns out not to be the case at all. For example, this is what the scoreboard looked like at last Thursday’s club game at Lords:


The six in “308 for 6” refers to six wickets, in case you were wondering – I sure was. It took three or four different British friends and acquaintances explaining the rules to me before I began to get the idea, and I’m still fuzzy on a number of details. Also, the big England vs Australia game was a “test match”, which usually last five days, although this one only went four; can you imagine watching five straight days, nearly eight hours per day, of one Red Sox-Yankees game? Some of my favorite Banter commenters would have to be hospitalized.



The Hard Way

The last two times the Yankees lost the first game of a series, they bounced back to win the next two and the series, doing so in Oakland and at home against the Blue Jays. The Rangers pose more of a challenge, but the Yanks hope to repeat the feat starting tonight as veteran lefty Andy Pettitte takes on 22-year-old lefty prospect Derek Holland.

Andy got smacked around a bit in his last start, but the Yankees scored 20 runs, so not many people noticed or cared. Prior to that he’d been awesome in the second half with five quality starts in six tries, a 2.04 ERA, and a 4.3 K/BB. Against the Rangers on June 3, he gave up four runs on seven hits and six walks in just five innings.

Holland started against the Yankees on May 27 and gave up six runs (five earned) on ten hits and two walks. He then gave up two more runs to them in relief the following week. Along the way, the rookie gave up homers to Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, and Kevin Cash (!). He’s come a long way since then, however, and has posted a 2.95 ERA in seven starts since returning to the rotation in mid-July. He’s been particularly sharp in his last four starts: 1.85 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 3.5 K/9. The best of those outings was a three-hit, eight-strikeout shutout of the Angels, with his 8 2/3 innings of one-run, two-hit, ten-K ball against the Mariners finishing second.

Johnny Damon sits today. Nick Swisher bats second. Jerry Hairston Jr. bats ninth and plays left. Everyone else is in their usual places.

Looking Back

Bronx Banter Book Excerpt


The Greatest Pitcher of All-Time? Satchel Paige is in the discussion, and is also the subject a new biography by Larry Tye:  Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend. Dig the prologue below and then check out the entire book.

Peep don’t sleep.

By Larry Tye

It was a fastball wrapped in a riddle that first drew me to Satchel Paige. I was an adolescent baseball fanatic and had grown up hearing that Satchel was the most overpowering and artful pitcher who ever lived. The stories were enchanting but they were not backed up by the won-lost records, earned-run averages, and other vital statistics that students of the game like me needed to decide for ourselves. I wanted to know more.

It was that same blend of icon and enigma that drew me back to Satchel thirty-five years later. I was writing a book on the Pullman porters called Rising from the Rails, and the venerable African-American railroad men I interviewed reignited my memories and my interest. They had watched Satchel play in his heyday in the 1930s, had talked to him when he rode the train, and told riveting tales of his feats on the diamond and off. Yet the more I probed, the clearer it became how thin their knowledge was of this towering talent. Everyone knew about him but no one really knew him.

That is understandable. Satchel Paige was a black man playing in an obscure universe. Few records were kept or stories written of his games in the strictly-segregated Negro Leagues, fewer still of his barnstorming through America’s sandlots and small towns. Did he really win three games in a single day and 2,000 over a career? Was he confident enough in his strikeout pitch to actually order his outfielders to abandon their posts? Could he really have been better than Walter Johnson, Cy Young, and the other all-time marvels of the mound? In a game where box scores and play-by-play accounts encourage such comparisons, the hard data on him was elusive. That helps explain why, while fourteen full-fledged biographies have been published of Babe Ruth and eleven of Mickey Mantle, there is only one on Satchel, who was at least as important to baseball and America.

To fill in that picture I tracked down more than two hundred veteran Negro Leaguers and Major Leaguers who played with and against Satchel. His teammate and friend Buck O’Neil told me about the Satchel he knew – a pitcher who threw so hard that catchers tried to soften the sting by cushioning their gloves with beefsteaks, with control so precise that he used a hardball to knock lit cigarettes out of the mouths of obliging teammates. Hank Aaron had his own Satchel stories, as did Bob Feller, Orlando Cepeda, Whitey Herzog, and Silas Simmons, a patriarch of black baseball whom I spoke with the day he turned 111. I talked to Leon Paige and other aging relatives in Mobile. In Kansas City, I heard Robert Paige and his siblings publicly share for the first time their recollections of their father. I retraced Satchel’s footsteps from the South to the Midwest to the Caribbean, visiting stadiums where he had pitched, rooming houses where he stayed, and restaurants where he ate in an era when a black man was lucky to find any that would serve him. I watched him in the movies and read everything written about him in books, magazines, and newspapers, thousands of articles in all. Researchers helped me recheck statistics and refute or confirm his claims on everything from how many games he won (probably as many as he said) to how many times he struck out the mighty Josh Gibson (not quite as many as he boasted).

Along the way I untangled riddles like the one about how old Satchel was. It was the most-argued statistic in sports. The answer depended on who was asking and when. In 1934 the Colored Baseball & Sports Monthly reported that Satchel was born in 1907. In 1948 he was born in 1901 (Associated Press), 1903 (Time), 1908 (Washington Post, New York Times, and Sporting News), and 1904 (his mother). The Cleveland Indians hedged their bets after signing him in 1948, writing in their yearbook that Satchel was born “on either July 17, Sept. 11, Sept. 18 or Sept. 22, somewhere between 1900 and 1908.” Newsweek columnist John Lardner took him back further, saying that Satchel “saved the day at Waterloo, when the dangerous pull-hitter, Bonaparte, came to bat with the bases full.”

The mystery over Satchel’s age mattered because age matters in baseball. It is a way to compare players, and to measure a player’s current season against his past performance. No ballplayer gave fans as much to debate about, for as long, as Satchel Paige. At first he was Peter Pan – forever young, confoundingly fast, treacherously wild. Over time his durability proved even more alluring. After a full career in the Negro Leagues he broke through to the Majors in 1948, helping propel the Cleveland Indians to the World Series at the over-the-hill age of forty-two. He still holds the record as the game’s oldest player, an honor earned during one last go-round at an inconceivable fifty-nine. He started pitching professionally when Babe Ruth was on the eve of his sixty-home-run season in 1926; he still was playing when Yankee Stadium, the “House that Ruth Built,” was entering its fifth decade in 1965. Over that span Satchel Paige pitched more baseballs, for more fans, in more ballparks, for more teams, than any player in history.


All in the Family


There is an interesting piece about Torii Hunter by Lee Hawkins in today’s Wall Street Journal.

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