"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: Alex Belth

Home Sweet Homeski

Yanks back home to face the Jays.

Cliff’s got the preview.

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Robinson Cano DH
Nick Swisher 1B
Eric Chavez 3B
Andruw Jones RF
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez 2B

We root:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

On Target

The Yanks are in Minnie for four games. Cliff’s got the preview:

A popular pre-season pick to repeat as AL Central champions, the Twins have had nothing short of a disastrous season. On June 1, the Tigers completed a sweep of the Twins at home, dropping Minnesota to 17-37 (.315) and 16.5 games back in last place. The Twins perked up a bit from there, going 33-22 (.600) in June and July and cutting their deficit in the division to five games on July 20, but they were playing over their heads during those two months as they allowed as many runs as they scored during that span and never got above fourth place. They have since returned to their early-season level, playing .286 ball in August and falling 10.5 games back in the Central, which seems closer to their actual level. According to third-order wins, only the Astros have been worse this season, and a quick look at the Twins roster shows little reason to expect them to pull out of their current slump.

To begin with, the Twins had Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the lineup at the same time in just eight of their first 117 games. They went 2-6 in those games, two of them coming against the Yankees in early April, both losses. With Morneau being activated from the disabled list on Friday, the Twins have now had Mauer and Morneau in the lineup in each of the last five games, but have won just two of them, scoring a total of four runs in the other three. It’s too early to know what to expect from Morneau, who hit .226/.281/.338 through early June before hitting the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck that required surgery later that month. Mauer, who missed two months early in the season with bilateral weakness in his legs, a neurological condition effecting the strength of his leg muscles, has hit just .289/.356/.353 since his return in mid-June and has started behind the plate on four consecutive days just once since then and three consecutive days on just two other occasions.

Tonight, Ol’ Reliable, C.C. Sabathia aims to regain his form.

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher DH
Andruw Jones RF
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Francisco Cervelli C
Brett Gardner LF

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Burnt Ends (Freakin’ Lickum)


Yup, it’s our boy A.J. on the hill tonight. You feelin’ it?

I’m feelin’ it.

First of three for the Yanks in Kansas City.

Cliff’s got the preview:

The Royals entered this season with by far the best farm system in baseball and have since stocked their major league roster with prospects, including first baseman Eric Hosmer, second baseman Johnny Giavotella, third baseman Mike Moustakas, lefty starter Danny Duffy (who will pitch on Tuesday), and relievers Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Louis Coleman, Greg Holland, Everett Teaford, and Rule 5 pick Nathan Adcock. Those players haven’t accomplished much more than getting their feet wet, however.

Moustakas has been awful. Hosmer has hit just .254/.317/.384 since June 8. Giavotella has been solid but has only been up for ten games. Duffy has just six quality starts in 15 turns. Crow, a curious choice for the team’s lone All-Star selection, has a 4.08 ERA and three blown saves in his last 16 outings. Tiny Tim Collins has walked 6.7 men per nine innings. Teaford has just one more strikeout than walk. Coleman and Holland have been excellent, but neither was considered among the cream of the farm system, and Adcock, who is in this discussion only by virtue of being a rookie, has a 5.23 ERA.

That said, the Royals do have a roughly league-average offense thanks to the unexpected performances of their outfielders, two of whom were roundly mocked when the Royals acquired them this offseason. Alex Gordon, who is finally fulfilling his potential at age 27 is actually one of the most valuable players in the league according to Baseball Prospectus’s WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player). Melky Cabrera is, at 26, having by far the best season of his career, hitting for unprecedented average and power. Jeff Francoeur is having his best season since his rookie year of 2005, thanks in part to a career-high walk rate and his best power performance since 2006. Add in Billy Butler’s typical not-great-but-good showing at DH, and the Royals have half of a solid major league offense.

Of course, that has been undermined by Joakim Soria going rotten, posting the worst save percentage among the 24 men with 20 or more saves this season, most recently collaborating with Crow to blow a 7-3 lead against the Rays last Wednesday. Put it all together, and the Royals have the third-worst record in baseball, which is an unfortunately familiar place despite all those new faces, and are 2-8 over their last ten games coming into this series

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Eric Chavez 3B
Jorge Posada DH
Russell Martin C

Grab yer napkins and let us dream of K.C. bbq as we cheer:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photo Credit: Kevin’sbbqjoints.com]

Gainin’ On Ya

Tonight gives C.C. Sabathia and David Price. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Alex Rodriguez begins a rehab assignment today and the Yanks look, once again, to gain ground on the Sox, and put some space between themselves and the Rays.

Cliff has the preview:

The Rays enter this weekend’s three-game series in the Bronx 8 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card race and a half-game behind the Angels, who just left the Bronx having dropped two of three to the Bombers. I don’t really see either of those two seems as a significant threat to the Yankees’ chances of making the postseason. However, the Yankees and Rays do have nine games remaining against each other, so, at the moment, it is possible for the Rays to sweep their way into the Wild Card spot. A single win in this series, however, puts the Yankees in charge of the Rays’ destiny as the Yankees’ lead over the Rays would then exceed the number of games they have remaining against each other.

Thus far this season, these two teams have been pretty closely matched. The Yankees hold a slight 5-4 game advantage in the season series and have outscored the Rays by just four runs, but the Rays took four of their seven head-to-head contests in July and have since upgraded their roster by finally calling up top prospect Desmond Jennings and installing him in left field in place of the overextended Sam Fuld.

Fuld caused a sensation in April with a hot bat and circus catches, but has hit just .202/.267/.310 dating back to April 28. Jennings, long tabbed as Carl Crawford’s replacement, has hit .333/.422/.597 with eight stolen bases in 19 games since being called up in late July, a promotion that was delayed slightly by a broken finger. That’s a significant and overdue upgrade, though one that might prove to have come too late to salvage the Rays’ postseason hopes.

1. Jeter SS
2. Granderson CF
3. Teixeira 1B
4. Cano 2B
5. Swisher DH
6. Jones RF
7. Martin C
8. Nunez 3B
9. Gardner LF

Never mind the analysis:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Hello, Goodbye

Mariano Rivera reported to camp yesterday and spoke to the press. Chad Jennings has a thorough recap:

Mariano Rivera left home yesterday, doing what Andy Pettitte couldn’t bring himself to do this winter.

“It’s hard,” Rivera said. “One of my kids was, the little one was attached to my hip, crying. It’s hard. A lot of people don’t see that, that part of the game. You have to leave your family. Even though you’re going to see them, being detached from your family is hard.”

It seems Rivera never seriously considered retirement this offseason, but he admitted that leaving home “gets harder and harder,” and now that his oldest son is 17, Rivera realizes he’s “missed a lot of things.”

“Baseball is not everything,” Rivera said. “That’s what we do, yeah, but there’s still life after baseball. There will come a time when you have to make a decision, even though you still have the abilities to play. That comes within yourself. If you don’t feel it in your heart, you don’t feel it in yourself no more, it’s time to say goodbye because, why are you going to do it if you don’t have the desire to do it? That’s why I thank God for Andy, and I respect him because he just didn’t have the desire to do it no more.”

As always, it will be a pleasure to watch the man work.

Dusty Fingers

From an old Forbes magazine post by our man Michael Popek:

And if you’ve never popped by Forgotten Bookmarks, get-to-steppin’.

Ohhh Chubbsy Ubbsy

C.C. Sabathia reported to camp lighter; Joba Chamberlain is heavier. My favorite headline today comes from the Times of all places: Heftier Chamberlain Arrives with Thud at Yankees Camp:

Asked Wednesday morning for his impression of Chamberlain, General Manager Brian Cashman said: “He’s heavier. Let’s just leave it at that.”

Told that Chamberlain has said he packed on muscle, Cashman said: “He’s obviously heavier. That’s as much as I’ll say.”

…“You think about it as a manager, you think about what it says,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “As I said, Joba is going to be pretty much evaluated on how he pitches. That’s the bottom line. We’ve been very pleased in what we’ve seen so far.”

The Wall Street Journal asks: Is This the Fattest Yankee Team Ever?

Million Dollar Movie

Over at Esquire, Tom Chiarella profiles the hard luck and beautiful life of Liam Neeson.

[Photo Credit: WVS]

Afternoon Art

Constantine Manos

American Color

Taster's Cherce

Bill Plaschke on the best spot to do lunch in Los Angeles

What I really wanted to hear, of course, was what the Dodgers thought about folks just walking into their house and hanging out in the middle of the day, so I phoned club spokesman Josh Rawitch with the news.

“I want to tell you about my favorite place to have lunch,” I said.

“Top of the park at Dodger Stadium, right?” he said.

“How did you know?” I said.

“You’re not the only one,” he said.

It turns out, other folks are aware of this place, and the Dodgers tolerate it for the good of the town.

“There are a lot of fans who refer to the top of the park as the best-kept secret lunch spot in Los Angeles, and it’s hard to argue with them,” Rawitch said. “While we don’t openly encourage it, the fact that it has become known this way is a reminder of just how special Dodger Stadium is to our fans, even when it’s empty.”

[Photo Credit: The Itinerant Fan]

Beat of the Day

And I could look like Chevalier:

Crazy Lucci

The overweight lover’s in the house…

Goofin' Around

Seriously, now…got to love spring training.

[Photo Credit: The Best Way to Spend Time On Line]

Taster's Cherce

I like hot chocolate as much as the next person but don’t ever go out of my way for it. Yesterday, a friend brought me to a snooty chocolatier called Jacques Torres and got me a hot coco.

I had no idea hot chocolate could be so good. It was like drinking from Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, off-the-chain sinful, and a treat that is worth the trip.

[Photo Credit: The Gothamist]

Chit Chit Chatter

Dig this interview with me over at Gelf. I’ll be part of the next Varsity Letters Reading Series, this Thursday at 7:30 in Brooklyn.

Yankee Panky: Less Is Mo?

This week’s briefing begins with a note from WFAN’s Richard Neer. As I drove home from the golf course Sunday, Neer was entertaining a call from a Mets fan, who in typical Mets fan form – actually, he was calm – ranted about Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran and how the Mets’ core players don’t play smart, and they don’t play hard.

Neer poo-pooed the call, saying – and I paraphrase – that Mets fans are looking for things to get upset about while the team is in first place. Mets fans can’t exist unless there’s something to kvetch about. Well, those calls are even more heated now, since the team from Queens changed its logo from “METS” to “BEARS,” and replaced their names with the “Chico’s Bail Bonds” sponsorship patch.

It got me thinking, though, about the legitimacy of the recent Mariano Rivera arguments that have pervaded local and national Yankee telecasts. Are fans and media alike looking for a negative amidst the best positive streak the Yankees have had this season? Or is it valid that due to his age, Rivera 1) should not pitch more than one inning when called upon, and 2) should not pitch on consecutive days?

My answer to both questions is no. I’m actually surprised the Rivera argument is the focus, when he remains the most consistent pitcher on the Yankees’ staff. From a relief pitching standpoint, who is more reliable? Who has been able to consistently throw Strike One? Phil Coke has, sometimes. So has Alfredo Aceves. Jose Veras? Edwar “Leave off the ‘d’ for ‘Don’t you know I’m throwing a changeup with two strikes’ Ramirez? Brett “I gave up Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run in ’98 and now I’m a Yankee” Tomko? Not so much.

Yes, Joe Girardi has to be mindful of Rivera’s age and use him wisely. Take Monday night, for example. Rivera had logged three innings and thrown 44 pitches over the previous two games. He had not pitched three consecutive days all season and was given the night off. A wise move by Girardi, and with a big lead, his decision seemed validated. That was, of course, until the ninth inning, when the ESPN team of Chris Berman and Orel Hershiser strained as Coke struggled to a “save” to complete the series sweep of the Twins. Intermittently, ESPN cameras cut away to Rivera sitting in the bullpen with his jacket on, looking like he wanted to warm up and get in there if necessary. Poor Phil Coke. At least he didn’t have to endure Berman’s incessant references to “Coke Classic,” “New Coke,” and anything other beverage jokes he could come up with. And he did secure the victory, much to the chagrin of the headline writers of the Post and Daily News, who were probably salivating at the chance of plastering “PHIL CHOKE” on the back page.

Wednesday night, Michael Kay lamented Rivera’s eighth-inning entrance both during the game and in the post-game analysis. Kay’s main beef was that someone else should have pitched the ninth inning, especially after the Yankees blew the game open with six runs in the bottom of the eighth. Rivera threw four pitches in the eighth and needed 10 to get three outs in the ninth. He also yielded his fifth home run of the season.

Kay used those last two points to validate his argument, which upon reading over again, still seems weak, and here’s why: Recent history has shown that the guys who were available – Veras, Ramirez, Tomko, and Jonathan Albaladejo – could not be counted on to get three outs and hold an eight-run lead. Kim Jones didn’t ask why Rivera pitched the ninth on Wednesday, and if it was asked later on, Girardi’s answers will be column fodder for Thursday’s rags.

My opinion: Girardi made the right move. As I’ve written in this space before, and reviewed many times when Steven Goldman’s columns passed my edits, sometimes a save occurs in the eighth inning. This game against the Orioles was one of those times. Leaving him in to pitch the ninth: why not? Isn’t that partly why he’s getting paid upwards of $15 million? What about the possibility that Rivera asked to pitch the ninth? Having been his former catcher, isn’t it possible that Girardi believes that Rivera knows his body better than anyone and that maybe he left the decision to the future Hall of Famer?

Looking at Rivera’s profile, his 2009 workload is being carefully planned, primarily based on pitch count. Wednesday was only the third time all season River was asked to get more than three outs in an appearance – it just so happened that it was the second time in his last three games. And he was pitching on two days’ rest, so he was fresh. Rivera averaged 30 pitches in the two four-out or more appearances. He threw just 14 on Wednesday.

If you were the Yankees manager, how would you handle Rivera? I would likely do the same thing Girardi’s doing. Oh, and under no circumstances, ever, would I have Tomko warming when I need to get one batter out in the ninth inning.

“When the misses are in the same spots (up and in to lefties and up and away to righties) and no adjustments are made, you have to wonder if anything’s going on between the ears.”
— Orel Hershiser, during Phil Coke’s ninth-inning struggles Monday

Until next week …

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