"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice


It’s hard to imagine a vital September clash between the Yanks and Sox being overshadowed by a rookie’s debut, but Jesus Montero’s arrival has done just that. You all know the 21-year-old. Here are some other 21-year-olds (and a couple of 22-year-old geezers) you know from Yankee history. Bobby Murcer. Roy White. Thurman Munson. Don Mattingly. Bernie Williams. Derek Jeter. Robinson Cano. They came through the Yankee system and made their debuts around this age or younger (Murcer was 19).  And not one of them hit as well, as young in the high minors as Jesus Montero. You have to go back to Mickey Mantle to find better teenage minor league stats for the Yankees. (Nick Johnson would have been on this list, but he blew out his wrist at 21 prior to his first AAA season.)

When the trade deadline passed and Jesus was still a Yankee, I was relieved. It meant that the Yankees lost their last chance to trade him before they had to bring him up. There was no way to avoid a September call-up given the Scranton season is all but over and the Yanks are in a divisional title race. The questions raised by not calling him up would have further reduced his trade value which has taken consistent hits from poor defensive scouting reports and an cranky attitude which has surfaced more than once.

In the best case scenario, he hits a ton in September, and plays a few harmless innings behind the plate without costing the Yankees their right to operate a Major League franchise, the Yanks will be in position to do whatever they want with him in the off-season (hopefully that will be grooming him to be their future star attraction). In the worst case scenario, he doesn’t hit and he doesn’t look like a catcher when he gets back there, in which case the Yanks will pretty much be in the exact same position they are right now: sitting on a great hitting prospect who other teams profess to perceive as a non-catcher. He can’t hurt his trade value by playing poorly down the stretch – but he can enhance it by catching without killing an umpire.

Evidence indicates that the Yankees have not come to this call-up entirely voluntarily. They definitely tried to trade Montero for Cliff Lee and it’s possible he was dangled for Roy Halladay, though those rumors flowed both ways. It seems that Cashman’s first choice was to trade Montero at his highest value before displaying his catching skills on the Major League level, and taking the risk that he’d prove he couldn’t hack it. It’s not a knock on a prospect to be traded for the very best pitchers in baseball, and either trade would have been a smart move by Cashman.

But when those top-tier pitchers did not become Yankees, Jesus Montero stayed put. And that’s got to mean the Yanks will try him as a catcher. If the Yankees truly thought Montero couldn’t catch, surely they would have traded him for Dan Haren or Ubaldo Jimenez? Better to get a legit number two starter, and CC opt-out insurance, than to wet-nurse a 21-year-old DH? Russell Martin’s competence gives them the perfect scenario to break Jesus in over the rest of 2011 and 2012 as a secondary catcher and primary DH.

So enjoy this month of Jesus Montero Yankee fans. It’s a wonderful reminder that their are plenty of rewards for rooting for a Major League Ballclub apart from the attention-hogging quests for World Championships.

Oh yeah, the game

Jon Lester is one reason the Red Sox will likely to be favored to beat the Yankees in the Postseason. He’s Boston’s second excellent pitcher, and though the Yankees have handled him for the most part in 2011, he’s 8-2 lifetime against New York with an ERA close his career average. The Red Sox can throw up a Cy Young candidate where the Yanks are stuck with retreads, unreliable youngsters and a mega-bust. They’ll need someone to step up and keep stride with Lester.

Tonight, it was the mega-bust. The Yanks looked to A.J. Burnett for the rubber game of the series, and then figured to quickly look past him to his younger, more effective teammate in the bullpen. But Burnett was actually quite good. He made relatively short work of the exacting Boston lineup. A.J. Burnett, for all his faults, has an out pitch. And when he’s ahead on hitters, and when his curve ball is sharp – two caveats not to be taken for granted by any means – he can put hitters away with the bender.

He wasn’t ahead of Dustin Pedroia in the fourth however. Holding a fragile 1-0 lead, he was down 3-0 to Dusty with Adrian Gonzalez standing on second after a ground rule double. He threw a get-me-over fastball for strike one. Pedroia measured it and must have been happy to see the same thing coming on the next pitch. He jumped it like a bandit in a blind alley. The ball soared to center and fell just over the wall. Given what we have seen of the Red Sox this year, it was hardly an unforgivable sin, but nevertheless, it put Boston in their natural position, ahead of the Yankees.

Robinson Cano continued his career-long assault on Fenway Park with two ringing doubles. His second shot was a 415-foot screamer over Ellsbury’s head. He stood as the tying run on second base with Nick Swisher at the plate. There was one out. Nick Swisher bunted routinely to Lester for the second out. There can be no mistake, this was not a drag bunt or a good-idea, bad-execution surprise kind of play. He had already shown bunt on the first pitch of the at bat. This was a straight sacrifice.

It would have been an idiotic bunt if there had been no outs. What’s the point of playing for the tie in the fifth in Fenway Park against on of the elite lineups in the game? How did he know Boston was done scoring? Has he not been paying attention for the last 14 games? But there was already an out in the inning, which means that Swisher did not know how many outs there were (a horrible mistake) and thought the no out bunt was the smart move (a just slightly less horrible mistake). Trying to catch this Boston team is hard enough, with plays like that, they might as well run up the white flag and save us all the trouble.

The rest of the Yankees gave better efforts. They pushed Lester beyond the limit in only five innings. Jesus Montero batted with two outs and runners on three times and stranded all six, but at least he didn’t bunt. Robinson Cano was sublime. He had a chance with bases loaded and two outs in the sixth and came through with a bullet – but it was right at the third baseman.

Burnett pitched well into the sixth and battled with David Ortiz with one out and Pedroia on second. A.J. threw one of his best pitches of the night with a full count to Papi, but the ump couldn’t see it as a strike. Perhaps A.J. Burnett doesn’t deserve the call when a gorgeous curve ball hovers over the edge of the outside edge and drops right to the top of the knee, but he certainly needed it. Burnett left the game after five and third with 96 pitches. Be prepared to puke: Along with five decent innings by Freddy Garcia earlier in August and six credible innings by Bartolo Colon in May (both Yankee losses), it was arguably the best performance a Yankee starting pitcher has had against Boston this season.

Boone Logan was good on Tuesday, bad on Wednesday and good again on Thursday. In true Loogy fashion, he whiffed Carl Crawford and left for Cory Wade. Jed Lowrie served a soft sinking liner into center. Curtis Granderson came charging low and hard and dove head first with glove extended. It was at least two runs if it dropped and more if bounced past him. He snagged it and sprawled to the ground. It looked like his right wrist or shoulder might be smarting as he rolled over, but he was OK.

No matter who the Red Sox put on the hill, the Yankees continued to mount pressure. Jesus Montero reached base for the first time in his career when Al Aceves grazed his jersey with a brush-back pitch.

(Forgive a slight digression on the many, many times the Red Sox have beaned the Yankees. Most will say that it was not an intentional HBP, and by all logic of the scoreboard, it would seem it wasn’t. But it sure looked like Aceves was trying to move Montero off the plate to set him up for a slider kill pitch. If the pitcher cannot control his pitches precisely when they throw towards the hitter, a resulting HBP is on the pitcher same as if he wanted to hit him. Roger Clemens did not intend to hit Mike Piazza in the head, but he certainly wanted to bother Piazza up and in. He had complete disregard for Piazza’s safety and knocked him cold. This is what the Red Sox do as an organizational philosophy. They throw inside all the time and don’t worry if they hit anybody in any given situation. It’s why they lead the league in hit batsmen every year and why nearly every single time they drill somebody some witless announcer will prattle on about how it was clearly unintentional given the scoreboard, the time of day, and the unwritten blah blahs. It’s a crock. They’ve beaten the system with their bullshit and the Yankees have every right to treat every single beaning as an act of aggression.)

Terry Francona summoned Daniel Bard to get the last two outs of the seventh, which he did, but not exactly in the order Francona envisioned. Two nasty sliders had Martin in the hole but he battled back full. Girardi decided to put the runners – a pair of rookies – in motion on the full count and Russell made the strategy pay off with a blue dart off a high hard one into right center. The ball found the wall and Jesus Montero chugged all the way from first to score. The young man be many things in his career, but fast is not going to be one of them. Still what a thrill it must have been to work up that head of steam and drive it towards home plate with the go-ahead run. Eric Chavez pinch hit for Eduardo Nunez and singled in an insurance run.

The Yankees needed nine outs from there and had their top three relievers rested and ready. Rafael Soriano got through the seventh on the strength of two strikeouts. David Robertson walked Adrian Gonzalez to lead off the eighth, but appeared to erase the mistake when Dustin Pedroia sent a double play grounder to second.  Jeter’s turn was just a touch slow and though he was out at first, Pedroia got the hometown call on a very close play. Robertson rebounded to strike out Ortiz on filth. Should have been the end of the inning, but thanks to the missed call, Crawford had another chance. David Roberstson has a hammer though. And the hammer doesn’t care what inning it is, who’s on base, how many blown calls the umps make or how many foul balls Carl Crawford hits. The hammer just pounds. Crawford flew out to left.

That left three outs and Mariano Rivera. Most days he has it. Some days he doesn’t. Some days he has to face Marco Scutaro. And on some of those days, he even gets beat and we weep until dawn. This day he had to work for it. Three different left handed batters looked at possible third strikes close to the outer edge and the umpire sent two of them to first base. Marco Scutaro got his obligatory cheap hit. But Mariano saved his best pitches for Adrian Gonzalez and after wearing him out on cutters in, he finally got a call on the outside corner to end it and delivered one of the sweetest victories of the year 4-2. A.J. Burnett was reborn, even if it was just for a night. Jesus Montero arrived. But even with Jesus on the team, it’s Mariano who saves.

Categories:  1: Featured  Bronx Banter  Game Recap  Yankees

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1 jjmerlock   ~  Sep 1, 2011 11:57 pm

So much screaming. Out on Long Island where there are no neighbors all that close.

These games are brutal.

Many unprintable things said. At least in respectable print.

Full haka dance following the last pitch.

2 briang   ~  Sep 2, 2011 12:35 am

"The hammer just pounds."

oh, this is a beautiful line. i could not watch the man pitch tonight, as i am a working man, but reading this i could see perfectly his curve ball. filth indeed.

AJ over phil?...anyone, anyone?......AJ every time for me.
somehow hughes is just way worse right now.

when i think of hughes i think 7 runs, five innings. when i think of AJ i think 5 runs, 7 innings.....hahahahahaha.

i even wanna see him pitch well with everything on the line just to redeem himself!

CC, garcia, nova, colon. (the final three are interchangeable for me...we got good chances when all of them take the mound.)

go yankees.


that's my postseason rotation.

3 Lurker   ~  Sep 2, 2011 12:55 am

Could have sworn the Yankees led the league in hit batters just two years ago... But yeah, the Sox are bad. Not as bad as Tampa used to be, but that may have been sheer incompetence.

4 Just Fair   ~  Sep 2, 2011 12:57 am

My new crazy dog woke up out of 4 hour nap while Mo was pitching to Agon. I knew he had to go outside but I had to watch that ab. I watched that beautiful k while the hound snuck upstairs to take a leak. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..... It was worth it, I guess.
nice write up, JD. : )

5 cult of basebaal   ~  Sep 2, 2011 1:11 am

Just remember, when you're the HAMMA, EVERYONE looks like a nail ...

6 Boatzilla   ~  Sep 2, 2011 1:23 am

One of the most satisfying games of the year, no doubt.

I tol' you all that AJ was gonna have a great game! ;>)

7 jjmerlock   ~  Sep 2, 2011 2:07 am

Let us be very, very clear: that last pitch was a STRIKE.

And Bard focusing, in typical Red Sox fashion, on a pitch he'd like to think was a strike to Martin? The pitch in question was a BALL and it wasn't even that close.

Mo didn't get squeezed either, btw - the balls he threw were called balls, and the strikes were called strikes.

Pitchfx says the above, but you could see it with your own eyes. I was positive the last pitch to AG was a strike.

Watching the replay, playing "spot the non-white person," my favorite Fenway game. Admittedly, I've missed a shot or two, but I swear, I haven't even seen an Asian person tonight. Ah, Boston.

8 Boatzilla   ~  Sep 2, 2011 5:12 am

[6] At least they let "them" on the field and into the clubhouse now. Well, occasionally.

9 ms october   ~  Sep 2, 2011 7:16 am

very nice win. i wanted to throw things several time last night, but i din't and the yankees won a tough game.

i agree with you on the hit batsmen jon. the red sox have no qualms with hitting batters and it is a dangerous mindset.

although i am enjoying the win, i do have to bitch about the following:
- why do pitchers keeping throwing pony high heat? he loves that pitch, he is able to drive that pitch, and fenway is especially handy for him when it comes to that pitch. they yanks have to stay away from throwing pony high fastballs, make him hit something else!!
- also, although loogan did well last night, i hope joe's binder is telling him that most of the red sox lefties do not have bad splits against a lefty. i would hope if the yanks play the sox in the alcs that girardi will go with the best pitcher in a given inning rather than a lefty just because a lefty is at-bat.

10 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 2, 2011 7:31 am

[6] That's what I thought too, though I didn't have pFX going. Sometimes Mo gets those calls off the edge, but couldn't expect them in Boston on a night like that. And the strike to Agon looked like a no-doubter too.

11 The Hawk   ~  Sep 2, 2011 8:11 am

I was reading the comments at boston.com, and was surprised at how little vitriol there was toward the Yankees (and toward the ump for that final strike).

Red Sox fans, despite the very good state of the team (and really, Boston sports in general) seem to engage in some serious glass half-full thinking.

Also, at least in these comments, they police those who DO become a bit unreasonable:

"exbo wrote:
'That last pitch that Gonzalez took was a ball. The Red Sox and Yankees play in a league of their own. MLB wants a good pennant race, so the Yankees got the call all night long.'

There it is.

Right up there with 'The Tuck Rule game and the Patriots' upset of the Rams in the Super Bowl happened because after 9/11 they wanted to instill a feeling of patriotism!'

One still hears that one today, especially from bitter Raider fans.

Living in an often random and senseless universe, where the unpredictable can happen at any moment, must be a scary thing to some people. Conspiracy theories are the convenient fillers-in of mysterious gaps, if not the comforting delusions for dashed expectations.

No, the real truth of last night is that the Red Sox were ordered by the Illuminati to take it easy on the heretofore hapless AJ Burnett, who's really George Herbert Walker Bush's illegitimate son. That makes him Dubya's kid half-brother, a 33rd Degree Freemason and future Grand Goblin of the Knights Templar.

Back helicopters were see circling Fenway last evening, just in case the Red Sox got any funny ideas."



[2] "when i think of hughes i think 7 runs, five innings. when i think of AJ i think 5 runs, 7 innings.....hahahahahaha."

Hahaha indeed!

12 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 2, 2011 8:34 am

great write up, Jon.

The Granderson catch was sick.

Hope Tex isn't hurt too badly. That pitch hit him in a bad spot.
Nice to finally take a series from those fuggers.

Praise Jesus. Good looking kid. Looks strong in the batters box. Looks like a Major League hitter. Just a matter of time before he hits like one.

[9] good call, and I feel your frustration with the midge. but think about it, ms. october. any strike thrown to the midge is high on him. For the Yanks to make him swing at a low pitch, they'd have to roll it.

13 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 2, 2011 9:09 am

[3] You may be right, I didn't check it. I just remembered when the Sox and Rays were going at it, there were charts showing those two teams leading the league in hit batters by a wide margin for several years. If I get a chance I'll look at the HBP league leaders since Pedro came to Boston, cuz my theory is that he taught the rest of the team :)

14 Yankee Mama   ~  Sep 2, 2011 9:24 am

[7] I saw one Asian couple! Funny, how noticeable they are in a sea of white folk.

I think finally winning a series against the Sox was just the psychological sustenance needed. We can contain them. Yes, we can, as Bob the Builder says.

I enjoyed watching Jete chastise Swish. That's how I perceived it watching Jete's annoyed expression. Maybe they were talking about chateaubriand.

15 rbj   ~  Sep 2, 2011 9:35 am

4 and a half hours? These games are brutal. Which is why I tend to clock out early. Not as young as I used to be.

16 Start Spreading the News   ~  Sep 2, 2011 10:18 am

And major props to Andruw Jones who saw 36 pitches last night in 4 chances. 14 pitches in one at bat against Aceves. Talking about wearing down the pitcher! Yanks made Lester throw 43 pitches in the first inning alone.

As usual, Yanks offense was great. The pitching is much less of a sure thing. I am convinced that AJ pulled out this decent (not great) performance only to guarantee that he can throw a clunker in Game 2 of the playoffs against the Sox.

17 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 2, 2011 11:03 am

[3] You are correct, the Yanks led the league in HBP a few years ago. And though the Sox do lead this year, it's only the 4th time since 2001 they're in the top spot.

However, since 2001, they lead the AL in HBP by a massive margin. They hit 825, the next are the rays, with 728. The avg of the other 13 teams is 622, so Boston hits 33% more hitters than your avg non-boston AL team. But boston has no problem w/ control. They have the 5th best walk rate and third fewest wild pitches over that same span. So they hit more batters than everyone else, but don't have any other control issues. hm... what possible explanation could there be for that....?

18 Crazy8Rick   ~  Sep 2, 2011 1:14 pm

Wow! What a game! You gotta give props to Granderson. That catch saved the durn game. But I gotta go with Start Spreading the news [16] about AJ. We are just waitin' for he "drop the other shoe" clunker from AJ in a post season game.

19 Hank Waddles   ~  Sep 2, 2011 2:16 pm

Well done, Jon. I watched only the first inning last night before I had to push record and leave the house. I was prepared to pick up where I left off when I returned four hours later, but when I put on the TV the first thing I heard was Michael Kay saying, "...and now it's down to Rivera." It was like I was in some kind of time warp. That has to be the longest six-run nine-inning game in history. Not that I'm complaining, just saying.

20 jjmerlock   ~  Sep 2, 2011 11:13 pm

[14] Better eyes than mine, I'll tell you that!

21 jfd001   ~  Sep 6, 2011 12:32 pm

Praise Jesus but save us, Mariano!

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