"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: We Want The Red Sox

Today’s column is written as a fan, not from a myopic, academic viewpoint of the media’s coverage of the team.

I’ve been traveling a bunch over the past couple of weeks, doing a lot of driving. Naturally, since radio stinks and I don’t feel like listening to the same CDs on a loop, I fall into the sports talk radio trap. All I wanted to do yesterday on my drive to Pennsylvania was get into some Yankees-Red Sox chatter and analysis, since Aug. 6 has been marked on the calendar since the two teams were tied atop the AL East at the All-Star break.

Instead, I got drivel from Craig Carton about how last night’s game was a “look-ahead” or trap game, that it was irrelevant in the grand scheme. This, we all know, is ridiculous, because the victory combined with the Sox’ loss gives a 2 1/2 game cushion heading into the weekend. On ESPN Radio, I got next to nothing on Yankees-Red Sox ALL DAY. It was so bad that for two hours during the afternoon drive, Don LaGreca and Ian O’Connor, who were pinch-hitting for Michael Kay, were discussing why Eli Manning is not a beloved quarterback in New York and comparing his numbers to Joe Namath. Yes, for two hours.

(I don’t know about you, but as a fan I can’t really get into football until the Yankees are done. Let the Met-Jet fans get excited about football season now. They’ve got nothing else to root for. At this point, I don’t care about Manning’s contract or where he ranks among other NFL quarterbacks or debating the merits of his contract. It’s all about Yankees-Red Sox, dammit. Where are the priorities?)

Thank you to WFAN’s Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno for getting me through a crawling jam on the Belt Parkway during afternoon rush hour. They didn’t spend a lot of time on Yankees-Sox, but Roberts made a point to mention that this weekend is all about CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. One caller asked to compare the Yankees’ record during their starts to the Red Sox’ record when Josh Beckett and John Lester have started. The Sox have a four-game edge — 30-13 to 26-18. In terms of the pitchers’ records, Beckett and Lester are a combined 22-11, while Sabathia and Burnett are a combined 21-12, an even one-game difference.

Roberts, who I covered many games with and for whom I have a great deal of respect, opined that neither Sabathia nor Burnett have performed to the “ace” level at which they’re being paid to perform. I will grant that based on the aforementioned records that may be true. All but Beckett are considered to be having off-years. Roberts went on to say that Sabathia and Burnett haven’t been “lockdown guys;” that if you polled Yankee fans if they have confidence the Yankees will win when Sabathia or Burnett are pitching, they’d say no.

I disagree on both counts.

First, let’s address the “ace” comment. I raised an eyebrow at this one because superficially, it seemed that the argument was solely based on wins and losses. We as an intelligent fan base know that straight W-L record is not the best way to deem a pitcher’s effectiveness. Is Sabathia’s ERA outstanding? At 3.95, I’d say no. The fact that he’s averaged 7 innings per start this season gives me reason to think he’s been the workhorse he was advertised to be. He’s been involved in many close games where the offense has faltered. In all but four games he’s been good enough to put the team in position to win. Last Sunday’s start at Chicago was particularly impressive, not for the stats, but that he gutted out a victory when he didn’t have his best stuff. Being an “ace” is based as much on mentality as it is physical prowess and talent.

With Burnett, it all depends on his control. The concern is can he hold a lead? He blew the 5-run lead at Fenway earlier this year, in one of the many games the Yankees should have won against Boston. Does that mean he can’t beat the Red Sox? Hardly. He’s 5-1 against them in his career. He’ll have a couple more chances to beat them this year.

To say that Sabathia hasn’t beaten the Sox this year is accurate, but he’s only had one chance. Not everyone is going to do what Randy Johnson did in 2005 — go 5-0 against Boston (and he did not pitch well in some of those games). Burnett’s debacle in Chicago last Saturday broke a string of eight consecutive quality starts. Combined, he and Sabathia have 24 quality starts. Even aces aren’t going to be great every time out.

Of course, the entire discussion was based on the Yankees’ 0-8 record against the Red Sox this season. The Red Sox supposedly “have their number.” Again, to that I call B.S. Three losses were by one run — including one in extra innings — and they held leads in at least half of those games. The failure was by the team as a whole.

Here’s the set-up: Chamberlain, Burnett, Sabathia, and Pettitte. Throwing the 0-8 aside, I like the Yankees’ chances. They have the rotation aligned perfectly to increase the gap between them and the Red Sox. Now, it’s a matter of executing.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.


1 Mattpat11   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:00 pm

MLB.com's preview of Yankees/Red Sox has a collage of Jeter, Teixeira, Chamberlain, Victor Martinez and Youkilis all either in action shots or celebrating something.

Right in the middle of this is John Smoltz, head hung, hands on his hips, in what appears to be a shot taken right after he gave up a home run.

2 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:05 pm


3 Paul   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:18 pm


The games in 2003 to 2004 mean little today based on what we found out last week. Now I'm supposed to get amped about a few games in some random August five years later?

Get back when MLB has cleaned up the rot that's already destroyed the integrity of the game.

Meanwhile, Mami Ortiz is still searching for the real killer of the PED Sox history. Good thing they only waited 86 years. Wake me when the main stream media gives a flying fuck.

4 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:23 pm

[3] Yawn on steroids...wake me up when MLB reconciles itself to the performance enhancing effects of greenies and not having to face Satchell Paige until he was 50.

5 Paul   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:33 pm

[4] Greenies may have been ubiquitous, but name me another championship club as impacted by two guys playing everyday on PEDs. PEDs weren't widely used - only 10% got caught in a "survey". Even if some cut back on their use (doubtful), it's hard to argue that even 50% did when the biggest names got caught. Of course, that argument is a straw man.

To say PEDs have no effect is to ignore David Ortiz and what he did pre-PEDs, during PEDs, and post-PEDs. He is player 0 in terms of how much the game and it's integrity were destroyed.

I know because I watched every game in which he beat the Yankees.

Now I'm supposed to care?


6 monkeypants   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:34 pm

And they're off...

7 Start Spreading the News   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:35 pm

[0] I would define an ace as someone whom I don't worry about. I accept the outcome of the game as an near-certain win. Think of Pedro when he was with the Sox or Santana with the Twins. When they pitched, the fans had a high confidence in a win -- assuming the team could score 3 or more runs. If Santana were pitching for the Yanks, he would be more of an "ace" than Sabathia has been. Or Greinke, King Felix, Halladay, Cliff Lee, etc...

After seeing Burnett blow a 6 run lead in Fenway, I keep waiting for his meltdown as well even in a game in which he is pitching well.

In the terms of my definition of ace, the last yankee that I would say was a true ace was Ron Guidry. I was hoping Randy Johnson would be that guy as well but that never happened. Mussina came close so did Pettitte. And strangely Wells.

8 Start Spreading the News   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:39 pm

[5] "I know because I watched every game in which he beat the Yankees."

Did you watch the games where he didn't beat the Yanks as well? Otherwise, I would say you have some serious sampling bias issues! :)

9 Paul   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:41 pm

[0] I'm with Roberts. Until Burnett and Sabathia prove themselves in October they're not aces. Burnett is especially scare to blow any game. That's not an ace to me. Sabathia is a bit better, but his October history is scary.

Quite honestly, the one guy that seems most likely to breakout as a true ace in the next two months is Joba. He's already on the highway there. The other two are barely approaching the on-ramp.

10 Paul   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:44 pm

[8] The ones they lost because of that cheater are much more memorable. And they were pretty painful.

Not any more. I get to re-visit the sorry state of my recent baseball memories for the rest of my life. Ain't this sport grand?

Great job media hacks! You only knew about the story in 1998. But at least you preserved your access.

11 monkeypants   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:51 pm

[10] I'm sympathetic to your position, but unfortunately the Yankees also had players on that list. And, if they lied about using, isn't likely that they lied about when they started. If so, then perhaps the Yankees Dynasty is also tainted because of cheaters like Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. They won some big games in those years.

12 Paul   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:57 pm

[11] Of course. Even more reason why I can't get amped about some random games in August.

Still, that 2003 list is the canary in the coal mine....five years later. Whoever is on that list will tell us a lot about how rotten specific teams were surround 2003 and 2004. Then when the same players get caught in 2009? It would be hard to argue that some players stopped while others didn't bother to hide. They knew it was a test and they knew it wasn't punitive.

Guess what cheaters? You got pwned.

13 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 6, 2009 12:59 pm

[7] Fair points. I wouldn't put Greinke or King Felix in that class. Tim Lincecum? Definitely.

[9] Roberts said nothing about October. Mussina was not a lock-down guy in October, either. His best performance was in his three innings of relief in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. El Duque was a lock-down pitcher in big games. I didn't get into the Joba thing. I think he only emerges if they loosen the reins a little bit and let him develop.

14 Paul   ~  Aug 6, 2009 1:01 pm

[13] He may not have said anything about October. But statements about "acehood" get exclamation points in October. Neither CC nor Burnett have those statements.

15 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 6, 2009 1:15 pm

[14] True. I want to see them build some momentum first and get the Yankees to the playoffs, and then build the analysis. Randy Johnson was great in October before he became a Yankee. Clemens was spotty.

Baby steps.

16 BuckFoston   ~  Aug 6, 2009 1:30 pm

[12] I believe Moose's best performance in the PS was 2001 ALDS game 3 against Oak. with the Yanks down 0-2. Otherwise known as the Jeter game.

17 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 6, 2009 1:35 pm

[16] I stand corrected. You are right. His most memorable performance was the '03 ALCS ... I should have made that distinction.

18 Andyroo   ~  Aug 6, 2009 1:37 pm

[0] Try finding anything relevant on Yankee baseball, or really just baseball period, here in Michigan (I'm a native of syracuse, NY) on the radio. It's all Michigan/Michigan State/Lions (snicker)) football talk, pre-freaking-pre-season, all day long. I can get a little Mike and Mike on am radio in the morning and hope to catch Buster when he's on. Even worse is the fact that the Tigers are in a pretty good race this year and they NEVER talk about them with the exception of Bill Simondson bashing Leyland's bullpen management and of course, PED's. UGH.

I miss having XM in the car, Dibble and Kennedy were great on the ride home.

19 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 6, 2009 1:47 pm

[18] Like Huey Lewis once sang ... "Sometimes bad is bad."

20 Yankster   ~  Aug 6, 2009 1:52 pm

It's probably nice to have an ace, but in resource allocation terms, I'd prefer having a few above average pitchers. You probably win more games per dollar spent, it gives you more stability (since if you lose any one, you still have a couple more), and it probably gives your bullpen a break.

I'd also like to say that though Burnett is getting big money, no one around here had any ace expectations for him. In fact expectations were for not finishing the season and hope was for a #3 type, if I remember correctly. He's definitely outperformed expectations by a good number of Banterers (so far, knock on wood) including Alex B. But now that he's going alright, it seems like we are raising our expectations and that's only going to end sadly. In my opinion, if we get a #2 for three of the four years, we'll be dancing in the streets (given expectations at the time).

Finally, Joba might show Ace stuff, but he's very young and will almost certainly have some erratic starts before he gets into that stable zone we seem to call ace-hood.

21 PJ   ~  Aug 6, 2009 2:15 pm

Red Sox - Yankees at The Stadium

Life is good!

Thanks Will!

: )

22 Start Spreading the News   ~  Aug 6, 2009 2:19 pm

I was dancing in the streets when we got Randy Johnson. The year before, he won every game where his team scored 2 or more runs for him. I was dreaming of him pitching for a team that scored almost 900 runs and winning every game he pitched. Oh well...

23 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 6, 2009 2:30 pm

Our man Alex on the big stage!

Very nicely done!

24 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 6, 2009 2:34 pm

23) Thanks. Kind of fun getting ripped by guys with the handle "Porn Starz". LOL. I've got one that is due to go up later on Yanks-Sox. That'll bring me a world full of hate. LOL

25 OldYanksFan   ~  Aug 6, 2009 2:40 pm

Maybe someday we can have a definition of what an Ace is. Is it relative? If a pitcher has an ERA of 6 and a WHIP of 2, but those numbers are the 3rd best is MLB, is he an Ace?

There are 30 teams in MLB, so to me, an Ace, for that year, is one of the top 10-15 pitchers in MLB, or one of the top 5-8 in each league.

In the AL, the current top 8 in ERA are Zack Greinke, Edwin Jackson, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett and Justin Verlander. Or course, ERA+ would be better, and other stats would need to be in the mix to make a better judgement.

Joba is 12th, so he's getting close. Lester is 18, AJ is 22, CC is 25, Wakefield is 28 and Andy is 29. #20 thru #25 are all pretty close to one another.

So certainly (by my definition) CC is nowhere near 'Acehood'. CC has been good to very good, but less then I had hoped for. AJ has been very good and hasn't hit the DL yet, so who can complain.

26 Paul   ~  Aug 6, 2009 2:48 pm

[24] They got your link back wrong.

27 Just Fair   ~  Aug 6, 2009 2:52 pm

[24] Mo help you if you ever post something on Youtube. Maybe it was Matsui ripping 'ya. : D

28 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 6, 2009 3:04 pm

[21] Always nice to have unfettered support. Thanks PJ.

29 Andyroo   ~  Aug 6, 2009 3:07 pm

Nicely done Alex. I was surprised no one mentioned *61, which I thought was pretty decent.

30 Start Spreading the News   ~  Aug 6, 2009 3:11 pm

[25] Of course determining who is an "ace" has to be relative. The year Gibson pitched a 1.123 ERA, the MLB ERA was 2.98. Last year the MLB ERA was 4.32. The leading ERA was by Santana at 2.54 which would have made him an above average pitcher only in 1968. Yet for 2008, most (if not all) would consider Santana to be an "ace."

So context matters. But ERA is only a part of it for me. In order for me as a fan to expect a starter to win (given average run support), I need him to give me innings and not give up runs. So if a guy has a low ERA (hi there, Joba) but doesn't give you innings, he is no "ace".

See Lester's performance a few days ago, he was utterly dominant: 10 Ks in 6 innings. He left with the lead and the sox lost. An ace doesn't do that, in my book. An ace either pitches a whole game or hands off to a closer (ala Pedro in 2003).

I don't need Ks to define an ace (see Greg Maddux), just innings and ERA*.

*Yes, I know ERA is defense dependent.

31 ms october   ~  Aug 6, 2009 3:19 pm

[21] yes pj, we got an early will sighting and no flash in the booth - this red sox series is already off to a better start :}

[27] haha

an "ace" is usually a qualitative construction

32 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 6, 2009 3:21 pm

Paul, yeah, I know they botched the link. Go figure that. The world wide leader and all. LOL

33 PJ   ~  Aug 6, 2009 3:40 pm

[31] Here here! Check out the "fruits" of your help with your "Christmas Ornament" line Ms October, in the "Francis Thread" (Post #11)!

And all this time I thought an Ace is what gave you "31 for two" in Cribbage when the count reached 30!

: )

34 gary from chevy chase   ~  Aug 6, 2009 3:53 pm

Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax - aces. One way to think about them: their managers might move the rotation depending upon whether they needed a big win. Look how Casey used Whitey - and why he had so few 20 game seasons at a time when they were fairly plentiful.

Ron Guidrey was an ace fora year, m aybe more. Cleamons, juiced or not, was an ace: the kind of guy who the othe team would say, "do we have to bat against him?"

35 ms october   ~  Aug 6, 2009 4:10 pm

[33] haha perfect pj - the big head, the scowl,the ugly facial hair, the weird stance - just perfect!!

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