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Yankee Panky: Off Base

Two comments from local sports talk radio that were uttered this week absolutely need to be addressed:

First, on Monday, Michael Kay, reveling in the Yankees’ sweep of the Red Sox, commented on his afternoon show that the Red Sox — and I paraphrase here — “finally misplayed their hand at the trade deadline by not getting Roy Halladay. They made the move for Victor Martinez, who doesn’t have a position. They tried to get Felix Hernandez from the Mariners. They should have given Toronto whatever it wanted to get Roy Halladay. They’re holding on to Clay Buchholz, who’s 25 years old. Getting Halladay would have put them in position to make a run this year and next year. The Red Sox finally misplayed their hand.”

To my former colleague, I say, “Huh? Did they really?” I don’t know about you but when I saw the news that the Sox got Victor Martinez and the Yankees’ big move was Jerry Hairston, Jr., the fan in me was sulking for a few hours. Then I got to thinking, “This puts Terry Francona in a bind as far as maneuvering Martinez, Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell. But that’s a decent problem to have.” Plus, who’s to say that the Red Sox didn’t offer everything the Blue Jays wanted? It’s entirely possible that Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi had no intention of trading Halladay to a division rival at this stage of the season.

(My guess, and this is just a hunch with no inside information at all: Halladay goes to some team flush with money like the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies or Dodgers, in a deal similar to the one struck between the Sox and Marlins that sent Hanley Ramirez to Florida and brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. Halladay would obviously be the centerpiece, and I imagine Vernon Wells and his bloated contract would be an add-on, much like Lowell was in the aforementioned deal, in exchange for a name major leaguer and some major-league ready prospects.)

Back to Theo Epstein and the Red Sox “misplaying their hand” … Kay went on to say that having Beckett, Lester and Halladay 1-2-3, with Matsuzaka and Wakefield bringing up the back of the rotation when they come off the DL was a risk the Red Sox had to take, and they didn’t. I still believe they’re a playoff team without Halladay, provided their bullpen can hold up and Francona pushes the right lineup buttons.

Moreover, and Kay of all people knows this from being around the Yankees and Red Sox for so long, it would have been inconsistent with Epstein’s pattern to make a deal for someone like Halladay at the deadline. He’s more apt to jump on it in the offseason, like he did with Curt Schilling, arrange the trade and sign Halladay to an extension right away.

Your thoughts on this are welcome.

The second bit that needs a look is Craig Carton’s Tuesday morning missive on WFAN that the AL East race is over. I know, I know, I know. “Consider the source,” you’ll tell me. “Why are you listening to Carton anyway,” you’ll ask. “Carton is a clown,” you’ll say. All are valid points. However, when something so outlandish gets uttered over public airwaves, it deserves a rebuttal.

I choose to give Carton the benefit of the doubt, because despite his schtick, he does drop in a salient point once in a while. There is some historical data to back up his point. The Yankees have never squandered a six-game lead in August to lose the American League or the Division. So history is on their side. “It’s not like the Yankees will suddenly start playing badly and forget how to win,” he said.

Carton is right on that point, and the resolve they’ve shown in their late-inning comebacks is proof of their commitment to winning. But in the big picture, he hooked a line drive way foul.

We all know that with a 5 1/2 game lead and 49 games remaining, there’s still plenty of room for the Yankees to stumble. We also know the following: 1) The Yankees have two West Coast trips over the last six weeks of the season. On the heels of the first one, they get to face the Red Sox, and in the last one, they get to face the Angels again in Anaheim, where they were swept in the last series prior to the All-Star break. 2) The Yankees have six games remaining with the Red Sox. If the Red Sox sweep those games, the gap is a half-game in the Red Sox’s favor. 3) The Tampa Bay Rays are lurking. The Yankees have seven games remaining with the defending American League champs, including a season-ending series at Tropicana Field that — who knows — may determine the Eastern Division and AL wild card titleists.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, have six games remaining with Tampa and the farthest west they have to travel is Kansas City. The Rays are completing their last West Coast swing of the season, a stretch that has seen them lose four of five, tonight. They also have a brutal 10-game road trip in mid-September through Boston, New York and Baltimore that could make or break their season.

What does all this mean? The current run that the Yankees are on has been great to watch and has inspired a level of confidence, watchability, and likeability of a team that’s been lacking those qualities for at least five years. But to get complacent and arrogant and discount the competition, even from a fan and media level, is foolish.


1 The Hawk   ~  Aug 13, 2009 11:22 am

A lot of sports pundits seem to think the division race is over. I don't get it. I think they're just reacting to the drama of the sweep. If the Yankees were 5 games back in the loss column would the same thing be said? It would be worrisome but I'm sure we'd give them a chance. It's great to be ahead but it's not like the Red Sox are 10 games out. There's very little wiggle room.

2 monkeypants   ~  Aug 13, 2009 11:33 am

[0] On the heels of the first one, they get to face the Red Sox, and in the last one, they get to face the Angels again in Anaheim, where they were swept in the last series prior to the All-Star break. 2) The Yankees have six games remaining with the Red Sox. If the Red Sox sweep those games, the gap is a half-game in the Red Sox’s favor. 3) The Tampa Bay Rays are lurking.

And let's not forget the Yankees have a terrible record against first place teams and the Big Boys.

See...it still works!

3 Rich   ~  Aug 13, 2009 11:35 am

No race is over when there are so many head to head games left.

4 monkeypants   ~  Aug 13, 2009 11:37 am

[1] Most of the comments I have seen are more along the lines of "if the Yankees play .500 ball the rest of the way they would still win 95 games, and the Sox would have to play at a .650 clip [or whatever] to overtake them..."

Obviously 5 or 6 games up with 50 to go is not insurmountable, but the Yankees are (as Steven Goldman put it) in a "very, very good place." Those types of leads simply don't tend to vanish very often.

Of course, I would feel somewhat more secure the Yankees didn't seem so intent on throwing every fifth game...but that is a dead horse for another day.

For now, I will bask and revel.

5 YankInEugene   ~  Aug 13, 2009 11:54 am

Long time lurker. First time poster and I gotta say the Banter has the most knowledgeable baseball fans I've ever encountered, I stop by everyday and learn something new. The wife and are are taking our annual train trip to Seattle this weekend and this year I've convinced her to go to two games. We will be watching Andy throw on Friday and I'm hoping he continues to be the Golden God that he has been lately. Unfortunately, I get to see Mitre on Saturday, so I hope all our bruised and battered heal by then and we score lots of runs. Except on the rare occasion that I get to visit family back east the Yanks road trips to Seattle are the only chances I get to see the team live. I'd hate to miss Jeter, ARod, Po and Mo.

6 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:00 pm

[2] I love it ... The fact that this is a better Yankee team now than the one that put together the terrible record against the first place teams and the big boys gives me greater confidence that they'll hold on; particularly the way they gut it out through close games.

Things that could potentially derail them:
* Bullpen mismanagement
* Joba mismanagement (being too careful)
* Severity of injuries to Mo, A-Rod, Jeter.

7 Shaun P.   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:11 pm

Oh, the AL East is definitely not 100% over.

Now, if this Carlston guy had said that its 87 percent, or 84 percent, over, then he'd be on to something. (And note, IIRC, the PECOTA version - the 84 percent link - does take strength of schedule into account).

If the Yanks win 4 of their last 7 games with the Sox, then I think we can safely say the AL East race is over.

[5] Welcome and enjoy the games! What I've read this morning sure sounds like the walking wounded will all be back by Saturday for sure. Give us the firsthand account when you get back from the games, if you like.

8 The Hawk   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:13 pm

[4] I can think of four that said it was sewn up, from Francesa to Jim Rome of all people; I'm sure there's a nice variety but there are plenty ready to crown the Yankees. I'm happy with where they are but some people get carried away. Count too many chickens before they hatch and you'll end up with egg on your face. I think I just made that up, what do you think?

[6] I feel the same way.

9 The Hawk   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:16 pm

[5] That's sad about Mitre but hey you never know. Maybe he'll pitch a no-hitter!

10 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:16 pm

[8] To his credit, Kay, yesterday afternoon, talked about how tenuous the situation is, despite the Yankees having a 5.5 game lead. They're in a great place and have played great at home. This will be an important road trip.

As I said in [6], if Girardi begins getting careful and becomes more focused on giving guys days off in preparation for October instead of worrying about shoring things up in September, things could get iffy real fast. You can't plan for later when you're looking to win now.

11 monkeypants   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:17 pm

[8]I think I just made that up, what do you think?

Not bad...almost as good as "you just can't predict baseball"!

; )

12 monkeypants   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:17 pm

[9] You just can't predict baseball.

13 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:20 pm

The thing that annoys me most about that Kay quote is its Michael Kay-ness, specifically the way he structures his comments around a metaphor that doesn't entirely work to make them sound more significant. The Red Sox couldn't simply have blown their opportunity to acquire Roy Halladay for the stretch drive, they have to have "misplayed their hand." Still, the metaphor works until you put "finally" in front of it.

Meanwhile, Kay mocks O'Neill for repeatedly saying "Schmoltz," going as far to play a sample of O'Neill on his radio show, yet he continues to call the third baseman "Roj-ree-giss" and can't seem to manage the "th" sound in "sixth."

14 Yankee Mama   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:27 pm

When Theo acquired Victor Martinez and Casey Kotchman, the pundits on Baseball Tonight were saying that Theo outplayed Brian Cashman.

And, not unlike Alex, I was looking at the Red Sox list of acquisitions and then the Yankee list of Hairston Jr. and was dismayed.

[13] Michael Kaye's pronunication of Rodriguez is one of my pet peeves. Does he do that unpurpose? I mean, he gets all those complicated Czech names right.

15 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:28 pm

In other news, NFL commish Goodell suspends Donte Stallworth for the entire 2009 season:

16 Will Weiss   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:35 pm

[13] Yes ... Alex Rod-DREE-giss is terrible. And Diane, you'll appreciate this: I've almost stopped using the word "aforementioned" in these columns because I'm turned off to the word through his reading of the MLB Rights Disclaimer during the telecasts.

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:40 pm


Its no worse than Jon Miller's rolling Rs when pronouncing Spanish names.

And for my money, Joe Morgan butchers A-Rod's name worse than anyone.

18 a.O   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:42 pm

[5] Hey, do we have another Oregonian on the Banter?

[15] If the criminal justice system is going to be so uselessly biased toward the rich, at least the NFL disciplinary system still has some integrity. Maybe?

19 sonyahennystutu   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:45 pm

Unfortunately the afternoon radio drive has gone way down hill IMO since Max K went away.

I can't stand Francesa, and Kay is one of those guys who constantly uses words incorrectly - either horribly so or somewhat so. Sounds like a buffoon far too often.

"You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya.

20 YankInEugene   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:49 pm

Hi a.O. (I don't know how to reference the number in the post), yes I'm an adopted Oregonian. I've lived in Eugene for about 20 years. Born and raised in Providence in the heart of Red Sox country (I refuse to use the term Nation) and have been a Yanks fan since 1962 I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, with my only beef being the dominance of football, at the expense of baseball coverage.

21 a.O   ~  Aug 13, 2009 12:55 pm

[20] Cool. I'm in Portland. Adopted Oregonian also, since 99. Moved around quite a bit before that, but I became a life-long Yankee fan at age 6 when my dad took me to the WS game where Reggie hit 3 homers. You're right, the Banter is great. Welcome.

22 bp1   ~  Aug 13, 2009 1:00 pm

[19] Agree re: Max K. He was fun to listen to.

Francesa is stale as a week old baguette w/o the Doggie around. Listening to him harp on Joba is almost enough to make me wanna drive into a tree.

I'm not as hard on Kay as you guys are. I think Paulie deserved some ribbing over the "Schmoltz" thing. I mean - you faced the guy in the World Series and you can't pronounce his name? It's not like it was Rzepczynski or something. And as far as Kay's take on the Sox trace deadline moves - whatever. I'm sure he - and Francesa and the rest - just say things to fill air time. It's not like the trade for Victor Martinez is going to fill the 3-4 time slot.

I think he (Kay) is as sick as everyone else of hearing about the genius of Theo Epstein and looks for opportunities to poke a hole in the legend. As if the Gorilla costume didn't already take care of that.

I like Kay and Sterling. Heck - even Suzyn. I am *way* in the minority around here, lol.

23 bp1   ~  Aug 13, 2009 1:08 pm

[22] One final follow-up on the Schmoltz thing. If Paul is going to take broadcasting seriously, he should be embarrassed by the Schmoltz thing. You'd think after the first or second time he heard Kay and Leiter (?) say it correctly, he'd figure it out and do a bit of self correction.

Seems to me he's just an ex-jock doing the booth thing to keep from getting bored. It's not like he needs the money. I can't ever imagine Jim Kaat or Ken Singleton making a mistake like that, or showing up unprepared and not knowing how to pronounce the starting pitchers name (a shoe-in hall of famer to boot). For my cable money - gimme more Flash Flaherty and less Paul O'Neill. I get pretty much the same ex-player insights, but a more professional approach.

So that - and with my Kay and Sterling confession - I expect my banter login to disappear, rofl.

24 tomfodw   ~  Aug 13, 2009 1:10 pm

[14] As has been pointed out by others elsewhere, the Yankees got their "midyear acquisition" early when they added Mark Teixeira to their other off-season signings. I'd rather have a whole season of Tex than a half-season of Victor Martinez.

26 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 13, 2009 1:30 pm

[22] I'm with you. Kay, Sterling, Waldman, they're all part of the family. I just roll my eyes or laugh when they say something predictably annoying or innocuously stupid. Kay's comments dissected above just seem half-baked to me.

Sure I sometimes have to change the channel, or turn down the volume on them -- but I know I say plenty of annoying and stupid things, and would do so even more if I had to talk as much as they think they have to. Of course when the blather's coming from someone outside "the family" I'm far less tolerant.

27 ms october   ~  Aug 13, 2009 1:33 pm

[22] yeah paulie should have taken crap for shmotlz - though it was so ridiculous i found it funny - plues it opened the door for just fair to bring in the begiining of the laverne and shirley song

mk loves bloated statements like "finally misplayed their hand."

and i want my coney for the sea series!!

28 Yankee Mama   ~  Aug 13, 2009 1:48 pm

[24] I agree with you wholeheartedly about Tex. I think that the Theo/Brian comparison was the same as Kay opining that the Red Sox misplayed their hand. Sportscasters blowing wind. It's the neverending comparisons that we have to endure because they need to "create" a news story out of no-so much.

I might add that the Theo/Brian comparison was on tv during the games against the White Sox.

I confess I found Paulie amusing. He was almost ditzy. Then again, anything is better than Morgan/Miller or Buck/McGarver.

29 PJ   ~  Aug 13, 2009 2:00 pm


Hey Will!

As far as Kay's opinion on the Red Sox go, I would argue that Jim Leyland's Tigers may have done just about enough to keep the Red Sox in the hunt. I certainly remember "The Brawl Game" in 2004 that more than lit a fire under all asses in The Hub! How did that work out again?

Clearly they have enough bats to produce enough runs down the stretch and getting thrown at by the idiots from Detroit really isn't a good thing for we Yankees fans to see.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Red Sox finished this season just like that after such a similar situation five years ago. Pfft @ Leyland! He's not even in the AL East, nor has he ever been, for Christ's sakes!

Here's hoping your appearance yields more Winning Non Stop!

: )

30 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Aug 13, 2009 2:10 pm

[16] Will, you missed what annoys me most about it. He calls him rojreegis, not rodreegis. Fercryinoutloud, the guy's nickname is A-Rod. You'd think Kay would realize that his last name starts with a "rod" not a "roj."

And I half forgive O'Neill because a) it was only one game, and b) I've been making the same mistake myself for years. But really it was the hypocrisy and general smug/schmuckishness of Kay on the matter that raised my ire.

Sorry, pet peeves, pet peeves . . .

31 monkeypants   ~  Aug 13, 2009 2:18 pm

[23] Seems to me he’s just an ex-jock doing the booth thing
[28] I confess I found Paulie amusing. He was almost ditzy.

Paul O'Neil ≈ Tank McNamara?

32 Just Fair   ~  Aug 13, 2009 2:27 pm

[22] I don't mind Suzyn or Sterling either (ducking). After spending 5 years in Annapolis sans computer, trying to listen to games on the radio through static and long lapses of nothing. I was dying to hear them even though they weren't giving the best play by play.
As of Paulie, I like him. Over July 4th weekend my sister asked her kids if they wanted to make "schmores." I got all over her b.c I had never heard that one before. They had always been s'mores, NOT schmores. lol.

33 Sliced Bread   ~  Aug 13, 2009 3:18 pm

top of my list of baseball pet peeves: these 10 pm starts.

EST-centric as I am, I expect all games the Yanks play on the west coast to start promptly at 7pm here.

34 The Hawk   ~  Aug 13, 2009 3:23 pm

Wait - are we complaining that Kay is pronouncing Rodriguez correctly or incorrectly?

35 The Hawk   ~  Aug 13, 2009 3:23 pm

[30] I heard O'Neill do it again after that one game. No-one in the booth said anything though.

36 ms october   ~  Aug 13, 2009 3:24 pm

[33] no doubt sliced and we got 6, yes 6 of the next 7 games with that biased start time

37 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 13, 2009 3:27 pm

First off, I wouldn't take anything Carton says seriously.

Secondly, I think Kay is dead on. VMart's value as a player has been widely exaggerated since the acquisition. While a good hitter and upgrade for the Sox, he is still a bad defensive player with a career OPS+ of 116. He will also be 31 next season, so it's not like he should be expected to get better. My reaction at the deadline was: (1) the Sox didn't get Halladay and (2) they gave away Masterson. Win-win.

Unlike the Yankees whose best pitching prospects are already big league contributors, Boston has 3 or 4 minor league arms that could have been used to get Halladay. That's why it made alot more sense for them to go for the kill and get Doc. I too think they dropped the ball by going for VMart instead.

38 williamnyy23   ~  Aug 13, 2009 3:35 pm

[30] I was listening to the show where they had fun with O'Neill and didn't detect any smugness. Rather, it seems like O'Neill and Kay have a good time get on each other, and this was just an extension of that.

39 sonyahennystutu   ~  Aug 13, 2009 4:22 pm

Waldman (sp?) ??!?!?!??!?!? Just...ugh.

40 Yankster   ~  Aug 13, 2009 4:41 pm

[0] I don't know why, but I think it makes me furious when someone says the season is over. Past performance is not an indicator of future returns. Nassim, in the Black Swann, goes over a lot of the psychology of projecting trends forward and how ineffective it is at predicting the future. I don't want to jinx the team by naming the two hundred bad luck scenarios that all have a significant possibility of happening.

I'll just say that even if it wasn't an old team, a couple key injuries would shift the trajectory enough to make this a very close race. I cannot remember a season in which a starting player did not get hurt in the last 50 days of the season - but I will have to go back to the stats to confirm that. Seeing Jeter and Arod hit yesterday was scary enough. I still suspect that Jeter getting hit on the hand after the break last year was enough to basically make him league league while still playing everyday. A couple incidents like that would be real trouble.

There's a lot of season left, a tough schedule, and strong opponents.

41 Yankster   ~  Aug 13, 2009 4:42 pm

"league league" was supposed to be "league average".

42 a.O   ~  Aug 13, 2009 4:57 pm

[33] Yankee games on the west coast do start at 7pm here.

43 The Mick536   ~  Aug 13, 2009 5:11 pm

As far as the first point, getting Martinez was brilliant. Poopi on the downhill and cannot play the field. Tec on downhill and cannot throw anyone out or hit. Lowell has hip problems, despite recent power surge and he is aging. Theo will look for a first baseman or a third baseman and get rid of Tec. Martinez gives him a catcher who hits, who, when he needs rest, plays first.

Yankee staff still suspect. Lots of games to go. Didn't think they would be this close this late in the season.

44 sonyahennystutu   ~  Aug 13, 2009 7:09 pm

[43] I don't know if I'd characterize getting VMart as "brilliant" but I agree it was a good move for the RS for all the reasons you cite *unless* they could have had Doc H for a somewhat improved package, in which case I would say that Theo chose poorly.

45 OldYanksFan   ~  Aug 13, 2009 7:44 pm

Getting VMart greatly improved the Sox, but getting Halliday makes them the PS favorite. With these crazy (I hate them!) days off during the PS, rotations are 3 man more then not.

As we all know, (wikipedia) "Schmaltz or schmalz is rendered pig, chicken, or goose fat used for frying or as a spread on bread, especially in German and Polish cuisine." (Thelarmis... you of nutty diet, you know this, yes?). Of course, it's primarily in our American dialect from it's Yiddish use for chicken fat. So Paulie may have heard this word and accidentally used it as Johns name. But it's not a mispronounciation as much as swapping a name for another word. However, Hall of Fame Pitcher, John Rendered Chicken Fat is not real flattering.

46 The Hawk   ~  Aug 13, 2009 7:53 pm

[45] Except he said Shmoltz, not Shmaltz.

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