Bartolo Colon, you’re up. Who will be next?
[Picture by Bags]
Although it follows the practice of “an eye for an eye”, it does not allow for vigilante justice, but rather demands a trial by judges. It also glorifies acts of peace and justice done during Hammurabi’s rule.
What does this have to do with the Yankees? Alex Rodriguez got plunked in the sixth inning of today’s game after Curtis Granderson homered to make it 2-0. Much will be made of Alex Rodriguez getting plunked in the sixth inning after Curtis Granderson’s home run increased the Yankees’ lead to 2-0. There will be much ado because while Mitch Talbot was ejected immediately (wet mound conditions or not), yet again, the HBP went unanswered by a Yankees pitcher. The Yankees have had eight hit batsmen in the last five games. They’ve hit only one. The Boston Red Sox sent a message that teams can hit the Yankees’ batters without repercussion.
To date, despite Joe Girardi’s emphatic stance, the message has gained traction.
Columnists are clamoring for the Yankees to follow Girardi’s lead, to start showing some fight and “protect their own.” David Wells, who was patrolling the clubhouse on Saturday, told reporters the Yankees need to “grow some.”
Perhaps Talbot’s ejection led the Yankees to be more cautious in their retaliation strategy. But a passive-aggressive approach has been the Yankees’ stance for years. The recent beanball wars are reminiscent of 2003, when the Red Sox, more specifically Pedro Martinez, routinely hit Yankees batters, often without repercussion. On July 7 of that year, Pedro and Mike Mussina engaged in a classic pitchers’ duel. Martinez opened the game by hitting Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano on the hands, knocking them both out of the game. Mussina wouldn’t retaliate. Didn’t even buzz anyone. Fans were miffed. Writers were, too.
At the time, George Steinbrenner said of Martinez: “I don’t know what was going through his mind, but if it’s what it looked like, it’s not good. It’s not good for his team, not good for baseball.” Mussina’s response: “It was a situation that was pretty delicate. I think if I go inside to somebody, the umpire’s going to warn both benches. I didn’t want to lose half the plate. It’s a tough spot. You try to do what’s right. I’m not sure what anybody was thinking, but I felt I had to get guys out.” Not until Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, when Roger Clemens threw a fastball to the backstop with Manny Ramirez at the plate, igniting a bench-clearing brawl for the ages, did the Yankees exact revenge according to the common interpretation of Hammurabi’s Code.
If the code glorifies acts of peace and justice, then the Yankees are doing the right thing and should be applauded by being professional, acting above hitting Indians’ batters and winning the game. But do they have to hit someone to demonstrate protection? Pitch inside. Buzz someone. Make the batter uncomfortable. Move his feet. That could work.
Would the umpires allow the Yankees to pitch inside or buzz someone, or would they warn the benches immediately and put the pitchers in a bind, as Mussina feared? It’s a tough call. Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees in that 2003 game, now sits in the League Office and has jurisdiction over this exact issue. He also caught Bob Gibson, who you know full well would have given an opposing batter a shave by now if his teammates were getting hit at the rate the Yankees’ guys are. At what point will Torre get involved? Should he get involved?
It’s unlikely. The Yankees will do what they believe is right. But will they lose players as they consider the appropriate time to punch back?
OH YEAH, THE GAME …
Three solo home runs and a clutch RBI single by Jorge Posada in the seventh inning provided the scoring for the Yankees. The arms of Bartolo Colon, David Robertson and Boone Logan did the rest. The most important juncture of the game was the eighth inning. While it won’t go in the box score as a save, Robertson should get one for his yeoman effort. After allowing consecutive singles to start the inning, and then balking the runners over to second and third, respectively, his strikeouts of Asdrubal Cabrera and Grady Sizemore preserved the shutout and pretty much ensured the Yankees would emerge victorious.
Robertson and Logan combined to allow just two hits and struck out four. Contrast that to Friday night, where in a blowout, mop-up scenario, Kevin Whelan and Lance Pendleton yielded five runs on five hits, and walked five. Their performance led Girardi to pull an “I have no other recourse” move, bringing in Mariano Rivera to end the losing streak.
Big Bart pulled up lame covering first base in the seventh inning. He had thrown just 83 pitches and was working on a two-hit shutout at the time of his exit. Given his age, weight, and conditioning (or lack thereof), Colon could be looking at a long stint on the disabled list. The only good news from this: if and when Phil Hughes returns, there’s no doubt where he’ll be slotted in the rotation.
Granderson’s home run was his 20th. Mark Teixeira’s was his 19th. YES Network’s announcers got homer happy. Ken Singleton brought up 1961, and that the recent home run barrage reminded him of that seminal year in Yankees history. Michael Kay mentioned that Maris had 20 home runs and Mantle 18 on this date 50 years ago. Please stop. Granderson and Teixeira are not Mantle and Maris. Moreover, the 2004 Yankees hold the team record for home runs in a season (242). Granted, they didn’t have two guys going shot for shot the way Granderson and Teixeira seem to be right now, but it’s worth noting that the ’04 group, not the ’61 group, is the most prolific Yankees team in that category.
Welp, nobody could have predicted the performance Bartolo Colon has given the Yankees so far this season. But as much as the team’s success seems to ride on Alex Rodriguez, I’ve felt all along that this is Mark Teixeira’s time to shine. Robinson Cano had a great season last year but this should be Teixeira’s team. He started off with a bang in April, then cooled some, although his OBP remained high. Now, he’s hot again, and hit another long home run today as the Yanks jumped to a 3-0 first inning lead which proved to be more than enough against Oakland’s hapless offense.
Colon threw a shut out–dig it, a shut out–the game moved quickly, and Yankee fans were happy.
Final Score: Yanks 5, A’s 0.
And here’s the dinner I had on my cousin’s roof this evening:
The Score Truck’s lights … are shining bright … *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* … Deep in the Heart of Texas.
The Score Truck indeed bypassed Detroit and showed up in Texas. The good: In the first two games of the Yankees’ series in Arlington, they nearly doubled their output of the entire four-game set against the Tigers (9-5). The bad: On Saturday night, the Rangers’ Score Truck showed up too.
Rangers light up Bartolo Colón to take a 5-0 lead, Yankees rally to tie, Boone Logan doesn’t do the job against lefties Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis; Texas scores go-ahead run on a suicide squeeze and tacks on another, and the relief combination of Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver, who have the combined age of Yoda, kill any hope of another Yankee comeback.
That’s the quick and dirty. Diving into the game a bit more, some observations:
* Colón isn’t the power pitcher he once was. He can still throw 90-plus, but relies more now on movement and changing speeds — on his fastball. Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina were masters at fastball variation. But some nights are better than others. When Mussina had nights like this, Joe him as being “wild in the strike zone.” David Cone hinted as much with Colón, when after David Murphy’s solo home run, he noted that the home run pitch had “too much movement” and ended up too far out over the plate. This allowed Murphy to get his arms extended and pull it into the seats.
* Derek Jeter can hit the ball out of the infield, and hit the ball hard. Small sample size, yes, but nice to know it can still happen.
* The Yankees had another efficient night in terms of run / hit differential. Five runs on six hits, compared to seven runs on 13 hits for the Rangers. For the season, Yankees opponents have outscored their opponents 158-127, but have been out out-hit 265-249.
* If Boone Logan can’t serve the LOOGY function, and Lance Pendleton isn’t an option, then something has to give. His performance in the 10-inning loss to Minnesota at Yankee Stadium on April 6, led ESPN New York’s Rob Parker to include him among the “Bad Yankees.” Left-handed relief was also an issue two years ago, when the Yankees won the World Series, with Phil Coke was a combination LOOGY/Mike Stanton type. Coke yielded 10 home runs, six of them to lefties.
The Logan piece is significant because he couldn’t do what Colón did effectively in the third inning: put up a zero after the offense did him a solid. David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain cleaned up the mess Logan left, but the damage had already been done.
* Courtesy of Wally Matthews: Russell Martin made six outs in his four at-bats.
* Jorge Posada is now hitless in his last 13 at-bats, with 5 strikeouts. Overall, the 7-8-9 hitters were 0-for-9 Saturday with two walks and three strikeouts. The issue: there isn’t a better DH option. Andruw Jones is hitting .226, Jeter isn’t hitting for any power to merit his placement as a DH, even periodically. The Yankees will likely ride this out for as long as it takes and hope their big bats can come out of their funk.
As starting pitching goes, so goes the Yankees. Mr. Ace Man goes tomorrow. A 3-4 record on this road trip looks better than 2-5. It’d be nice to come back home still in first place. No better guy to have on the mound to give it a go.
The Yanks scored three runs against Justin Verlander in the first two innings tonight and made him work plenty. But they also ran into two outs on the bases and so although they made Verlander throw 50 pitches he regrouped and went six innings without allowing another run. Bartolo Colon was solid again but gave up two solo home runs to Alex Avila and the score was tied at three after 7 full.
Let’s cut to the chase. Curtis Granderson led off the ninth with a walk against Jose Valverde and then looked to have second base stolen. But he wiped out, over-slid the bag and was tagged out, a strange, ugly play that went against the Yanks. Valverde gestured wildly as is his wont and then walked Mark Teixeira. Alex Rodriguez, who is slumping, fouled off the first pitch he saw, a good pitch to hit and a good swing. Fouled off another pitch, took a ball and then topped a little grounder to third. Brandon Inge charged, the ball stayed down, and Rodriguez reached with an infield hit.
Nick Swisher worked the count even at 2-2 and then lined a single up the middle. Teixeira came home, narrowly beating the throw and the Yanks had the lead again. Jorge Posada, who singled home two runs in the first, whiffed on a full count fastball out of the zone. Russell Martin was next and got ahead 2-0 before Valverde air-mailed a ball that went off Avila’s glove. Rodriguez scored standing up, and although Martin popped out to center to end the frame, Valverde was dancing no more.
Enter Mo. Vintage like so: Broken bat ground out to second; ground ball to third, Rodriguez with a strong, true throw; strikeout. Nine pitches, eleventh save of the season.
Swisher slapping fives with vigor, seventh-straight loss for the Tigers.
Final Score: Yanks 5, Tigers 3.
Happiness in the Boogie Down.
Here is Banter reader and Yankees fan @KRADec at the other night’s Bartolo Colon start, with his homemade colon sign:
Awesomeness. My work here is done.
The story of the past week has been pitching, in a number of facets. But which pitcher was THE story? Let’s take a look at the items up for bid …
* Mariano Rivera blew two consecutive saves after converting his first seven save opportunities and looking as superhuman as ever. And he wasn’t booed, because these saves were a) blown on the road; and b) didn’t come against the Red Sox at home.
* Rafael Soriano, however, was booed, and deservedly so, during and after Tuesday’s 8th inning meltdown. Strong pieces at ESPN New York by Johnette Howard and the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Barbarisi on Soriano’s fragility.
* Phil Hughes went to the DL, tried to throw, his arm was a noodle, and now a mysterious shoulder ailment that may or may not be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is being discussed as a possible diagnosis. Compression of either the nerves, artery or vein in the clavicle area signify TOS. One of the possible causes of the “repetitive trauma”. The pitching motion classifies as repetitive trauma. In more severe TOS cases, surgery is required. Former Yankee Kenny Rogers had surgery to repair TOS in 2001. He came back and pitched seven more seasons.
* Pedro Feliciano, it was great to meet you. Who is Lance Pendleton?
* Bartolo Colon, who many believed should have been in the rotation anyway based on his performance in Spring Training, replaced Hughes and tossed an 8-inning gem. Even more impressive was the consistency of his velocity: 95 in the early going, and 96 in the later innings. Is he the Yankees best pitcher right now, as Wally Matthews suggests? Maybe.
* Freddy Garcia, who pitches tonight, has a matching WHIP and ERA (0.69), and has allowed just 5 hits in 13 IP thus far.
* AJ Burnett may be the best story of all. He suffered a hard luck loss on Monday because the Yankees’ offense is ineffective against pitchers that a) they’ve never seen before; b) pitch like Mike Mussina in the 86-89 mph range, but change speeds and have movement on their pitches. Despite the team result, he may have pitched his best game of the season. The question, as it always is with Mr. Allan James Burnett, is consistency. Will he breathe out of the correct eyelids in May?
* Ivan Nova proved he may be able to get past five innings. Small sample size, yes. But still …
* And of course, there’s CC Sabathia. He’s the ace, the grinder, and the guy who more often than not, somehow makes the right pitch to wriggle out of jams. An ace isn’t always a dominant strikeout pitcher. The main job, keep the opposition off the scoreboard and give your offense a chance to support you. He did it Thursday, just as he did so many times the previous two seasons.
Of those guys, which story had the greatest impact? My vote is for Hughes, because of the trickle-down effect it’s caused in the rotation. If Colon and Garcia keep this up, they get the Aaron Small / Shawn Chacon Memorial “Surprise MVPs” Award.
Feel free to agree / disagree below, in Comments.
[Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP]
Well, well, well. Bartolo Colon, huh?
Coming into the season, Colon was the subject of many of my jokes about the Yankees, not just because I’m spiritually twelve years old and enjoy making colon puns, but because as As Diane noted in her recap of last night’s game, the Yankees biggest reclamation project kicked some ass last night. He had already been surprisingly solid, almost dominant, in relief, but this was his first major league start since 2009. I wasn’t surprised to see him being smart with his off-speed stuff, but a 93-94 mph fastball? I wasn’t predicting that. Neither was Colon, apparently.
When I think of pleasantly surprising Yankees, the first to come to mind are probably the Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon duo of late 2005. Small, especially, was a journeyman struggling to hang on in the majors when he inexplicably (well – explicably, but still surprisingly) went 10-0 for the Yanks down the stretch and, along with some solid work from Chacon, helped them make the playoffs despite numerous injuries. Small only ever started three games in the majors after that, but as witnessed by how clearly I remember it six years later, he made an impression.
Colon, having been a great pitcher in the past, is a horse of a different color – it’s surprising that he still has something, but he’s no journeyman. I remember disliking him intensely when he was on the Angels (at a time when I generally disliked anybody on the Angels) and I have particularly fond memories of Alex Rodriguez taking him deep three times in one game – also in 2005, as it happens. Still, given the expectations I had coming into the season, even if he flames out next month he’s given them more than I’d hoped.
Anyway, like most people I can’t help loving an underdog, and the Yankees have fewer of those than most teams, so while my expectations are still not what you’d call sky-high, I’ll be rooting for Colon. Although I make no promises about cutting down on the colon jokes. For a nickname, might I suggest “The Yankees’ Large Intestine”?And can some fans start showing up on days he starts with signs that just say “:”?
Who do you remember as the most pleasantly surprising Yankees?
The last time Bartolo Colon started a major league game was 635 days ago . . . July 24, 2009. On that date, Phil Hughes still had a 94 mph fastball, Derek Jeter was hitting .320/.396/.451 and Joba Chamberlain started that night’s game, throwing 7+ innings of two-hit ball.
Much has transpired within the Yanks starting pitching ranks since then, and retirement/injury/inefficiency thrust the well-traveled (and fed) Colon into the starting rotation for tonight’s matchup against the Blue Jays, and their own “Hefty B.C.”, 6’1″ 235-pound Brett Cecil. Cecil started five games against the Bombers in 2010 and went 4-0. But he had been dealing with his own Hughesque decline in velocity and it continued in this game.
The Yanks eschewed their usual smashmouth offense for much of the game, jumping out to a 5-1 lead after six innings, with four of the runs scoring on either sacrifice flies or groundouts. Meanwhile, Colon turned the clock back to his Cy Young form of 2005, flashing a fastball at 93 or 94 and mixing in lots of late-breaking off-speed stuff. His only mistake was a hanging slider that J.P. Arencibia parked in the left field stands leading off the second. Through the first six innings, Colon allowed only two flyballs and two other hits (both singles).
Colon started to tire in the seventh, and the Jays were poised for a huge inning. With one out, Juan Encanarcion doubled to right and Arencibia followed with a walk. Travis Snider then singled sharply to right, and Nick Swisher charged the ball and threw a strike to cutoff man Mark Teixeira, holding Encanarcion at third. The only problem for the Jays was that Arencibia never stopped running, rounding second too far with his head down, and he also ended up on third. Teixeira ran over and tagged anyone with a Blue Jay uni on, and suddenly it was two outs and men on the corners rather than one out and bases loaded.
That was Colon’s 89th and final pitch (56 of them for strikes). David Robertson came in and Jayson Nix battled him for eight pitches before driving an RBI single to center to cut it to 5-2. Robertson held the fort there as he got John McDonald swinging.
In the 9th, Curtis Granderson greeted Frank Francisco, making his 2011 (and Blue Jay) debut, by slamming the first pitch over the RF wall for a 6-2 margin. With Mariano Rivera needing a day off, and a four-run lead, Joe Girardi summoned Lance Pendleton to close it out. Pendleton walked two of the three batters to face him, and Rafael Soriano had to put out the mess. He managed to do that despite walking the bases loaded.
Final: 6-2 Yanks
Notes: Teixeira had three doubles, to three different parts of the park. Derek Jeter went 0-5 with one of the RBI groundouts, but four ABs ended with the ball in the infield.
One week til opening day, kids.
First of all: My dream last night involved Luis Castillo as a malevolent Warwick-Davis style Leprechaun. Should I be concerned? I think probably so.
The big news today is actually not quite news yet, but it does seem likely: reading the tea leaves, it looks as though the Yankees are going to go with Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia as their fourth and fifth starters, with Colon possibly in the bullpen as a long reliever. While I’m annoyed because all those Colon jokes I had ready are less relevant now, if this is the way the team goes, I think it makes sense. Colon had a much better spring, but we’ve all seen over the years that spring training stats mean very little – and if you look back over the much-larger sample size of a few years, Garcia is clearly the safer, more reliable bet. From Girardi’s comments in that NY Post article, it sounds like he was the strong favorite before spring training even started. Keep in mind that nothing is official yet. But it’s almost like Colon didn’t have a clear… oh, never mind.
Meanwhile, via Hardball Talk, Buck Showalter got a bit catty towards the Yankees and Red Sox in an interview with Men’s Journal, which I presume is one of those “let’s fire up the team” efforts (although: Men’s Journal? Is that really the place?). I have to say, however, that his criticism of Derek Jeter, while uncalled for, was not inaccurate:
“The first time we went to Yankee Stadium, I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout. Our guys are thinking, ‘Wow, he’s screaming at Jeter.’ Well, he’s always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets – and yes, he [ticks] me off.”
Well, yeah… Jeter TOTALLY does do that. It doesn’t bother me at all – he’s trying to get the call and get on base and more power to him. But, yes, I think we’ve all seen a ball cross over the inner corner of the plate as Jeter leaps back as though it were about to nail him in the hip. I can see where if you were an opposing pitcher or manager, this particular move from Captain Intangibles might drive you a little nuts. Personally I appreciate the effort.
Finally, Don Zimmer is extremely old. You knew that. I however did not know that now, in his 63rd consecutive year in professional baseball, Zim is likely just a year away from tying Connie Mack for what is – so far as anyone can figure - the longer straight baseball career ever. Like so many other managers and coaches, Zimmer left the Yankees on bad terms thanks to clashes with George Steinbrenner, but I’ll always have fond memories of him perched next to Torre during all those World Series wins. What’s particularly nifty is that fans from seven different decades have their own fond memories of him.
Remember the helmet? That’s the first thing I always think of when I think of Don Zimmer.
Big Bad Bartolo Colon is making a strong bid to jern the Yankees starting five.
Anyway, certain players on certain teams are destined to be the butt of jokes, the target of fans’ unhappiness. I bring this up because the Yankees are primed to have a few of those this year. Though there is obviously a major difference in that none of these new players have especially large or unreasonable contracts –and so shouldn’t garner the level of contempt that Perez of Castillo did — don’t wait too long to get your Colon jokes ready. When you have three real major league starters and are just hoping to get by in the last two rotations spots, you’re going to have some clunkers. Clunkers are an enjoyable part of the game too, though, if you can bring the right expectations and attitude to it. I know as someone writing about the games, I am grateful to Tony Womack and Sir Sidney Ponson for the material.
This has been coming since that fateful week Cliff Lee decided to head to Phillie and Andy Pettitte decided to saty in Texas. The Yankees haven’t named their 4 or 5 starters yet, less than two weeks before the season starts, but if I had to guess I’d say we’re looking at Ivan Nova and Bartolo Colon, who seem to have the edge over Sergio Mitre and Freddy Garcia. And there’s no way those two will stay in those spots all season, so there’s more to come. Once in a while you get an Aaron Small or Gustavo Chacin – sometimes you even get both at once! – but mostly you don’t. And that’s okay. Even the Yankees have to make due with baseball’s scrap heap sometimes.
I’m reminded of a tale from some baseball book or other that I was reading, years ago, about minor league life. A coach was described who would always console struggling players with comforting words along the lines of, “Relax, kid, don’t blame yourself – blame the dopey scout who signed you”. Yes, it’s important not to make things unduly personal. The Yanks are going to deal with some clunkers this year, no way arund it. But if we approach this in the right spirit I think we can have some fun.
So, what do you think – who will we be making agonized jokes about come June?