"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Brett Gardner
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Stick Around

GardnerComingIn

Gardner agrees to a contract extension. 

Speed Kills

Brett Gardner is set to return to the Yankees as a pinch-runner. Daniel Barbarisi has the story in the Wall Street Journal:

It has been eight weeks since the surgery, and Gardner says he feels normal. But he only swung a bat for the first time Tuesday, and is nowhere near being ready to hit, which the .265 career hitter said isn’t such a big deal.

“Obviously I have to be able to swing a bat,” Gardner said. “Somebody joked with me, I think it was one of my buddies down in Tampa. They said, ‘What can you not do?’ I said I can’t hit. They said ‘What’s changed?’”

So for now, he’ll try to salvage his season with his best tools: his legs, and his glove, filling a September role usually reserved for minor leaguers with great legs and weak bats. Instead, manager Joe Girardi will have a veteran to deploy.

“He can play defense if we needed him to play some defense,” Girardi said. “He’s not going to be able to hit, but you have enough guys on your bench that if his spot came up in a crazy game, you could do something.”

[Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images]

Grounded

Such a drag about Brett Gardner. Not a surprise but a bummer for sure.

Left Out?

Man, sure doesn’t feel like we’ll see Brett Gardner anytime soon.

Will the Yanks make a trade? Hmmm…

[Photo Credit: Newsday]

For Gardner, a Misbegotten Season (so far)

Chad Jennings reports that Brett Gardner will not need surgery but the Yanks don’t expect him back for about another month.

It’s been a lost first half for Gardner though the Yanks will be fortunate if he returns and is healthy come mid-July. In the meantime, do you suppose they’ll make do with what they’ve got or make a move to get more talent in left field? My hunch is that they are going to wait it out with what they’ve got.

[Photo Credit: Graycard via It’s a Long Season]

Chicago, Seven

Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova is the Yankees' third 10-game winner this year.

Twenty-six years ago, on August 4, the Yankees and White Sox played the third game of a four-game set at Yankee Stadium. It was Phil Rizzuto Day at the Stadium, and his number 10 was retired during a pregame ceremony that featured an appearance by a Holy Cow. A few hours later, Rizzuto’s future broadcast partner on WPIX, Tom Seaver, jumped into the arms of Carlton Fisk in celebration of his 300th career victory. Seaver handed the Yankees their fifth loss in six games. They proceeded to win 14 of their next 15 to gain on the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East standings.

No such historical significance defined the lead-up to Thursday’s Yankees-White Sox tilt at US Cellular Field. Derek Jeter passed Lou Brock on the all-time hits list last night. No member of past White Sox teams was enjoying a number retirement ceremony, although manager Ozzie Guillen was the White Sox’ starting shortstop in the Rizzuto-Seaver game.

The only questions were:

  • Would the Yankees extend their win streak to seven?
  • Where would the Yankees stand heading into the Boston series?
  • Regardless of the outcome, how would Ivan Nova pitch?
  • The answers were “Yes,” “Tied,” and, “Anything would have been better than Burnett, but in a word, awesome.”

    The offense didn’t need to give Nova a 12-run lead and hope he held onto it. He did just fine with a one-run advantage, save for the bizarre hiccup on the pitch-out in the third inning that led to the only run he allowed. He was even better when the game was tied in the middle innings. Nova faced the minimum number of batters in each of those innings, and benefited from great defense.

    The White Sox mounted a minor threat with one out in the sixth, shortly after the Yankees regained the lead. Juan Pierre reached base on arguably the cheapest hit ever, which brought Alexei Ramirez at the plate. Nova maintained his aggressiveness throughout the Ramirez at-bat, and also did a good job holding Pierre at first. With the count 2-and-2, Pierre took off for second base. Nova got Ramirez to swing at a high, inside fastball for strike three, and Russell Martin quickly threw to second. Robinson Cano fielded the ball on a short hop at the bag and tagged Pierre first on his left arm and then sweeping up to the brim of his helmet to complete the double play.

    That play was the turning point of the game. The Yankees tacked on two more runs in the seventh and three in the ninth. Nova made good on the insurance runs, as did the Yankees’ bullpen. Final score, 7-2.

    Martin called Nova’s stuff “electric” in his postgame interview with YES Network’s Kim Jones.

    “His fastball, he’s reaching up to 95, 96 when he needs it,” Martin said. “He’s working his slider off his fastball and he’s got a good curveball to go with that.

    “He’s got four pitches and they’re all working well for him right now. So when you throw 96 and you’ve got four good pitches, you’re going to be a stud, and he’s exactly that.”

    “Electric” has been the adjective of choice to describe AJ Burnett’s stuff through the years, almost as a defense mechanism to explain away his inconsistency. It is Nova, though, who a night after Burnett had an outage, lit up Chicago. His performance was not a statement but an exclamation that he should be in the majors to stay and perhaps be an integral part of the Yankees’ October plans. Nova’s victory means in one night, he has earned more wins in the month of August than Burnett has in two previous Augusts as a Yankee. In his last two starts, Nova has beaten more American League teams than Burnett has since June 1.

    There’s no decision to make anymore. Nova should be in the rotation. Joe Girardi’s decision may just be which veteran gets bumped come October.

    HONORABLE MENTION PLAYER OF THE GAME
    J Martin. The Canadian catcher is proving to be one of Brian Cashman’s shrewdest acquisitions last winter. The catch and throw on the double play in the sixth inning preserved the lead in what was then a tight game. He also drove in the last four runs of the game, the capper being a mammoth three-run home run in the top of the ninth. His quiet competitive grit is the perfect balance to Francisco Cervelli’s ebullience. And he’s healthy again.

    QUICK RECAP
    The Yankees outscored the White Sox 34-11 in the four-game series. They have outscored the opposition 63-19 (average score of 9-3) during the seven-game win streak. … Adam Dunn’s home run in the bottom of the ninth off Hector Noesi was the only run allowed by Yankees’ relievers in the series.

    QUICK PREVIEW
    The Yankees meet their White Whale in New England starting tomorrow. They’ll send Bartolo Colon, CC Sabathia and Freddy Garcia to the mound against Jon Lester, John Lackey and Josh Beckett. We know the Yankees’ history against Boston this season: 1-8 and perhaps singularly responsible for the Red Sox’ rise. Since getting their first win of the season against the Yankees, the Red Sox have won nearly two thirds of their games.

    Two items of note:

    1) CC Sabathia continues to stake his claim for a second Cy Young Award, but if he does not pitch well Saturday, or if he loses, he has almost no chance. Sabathia is 0-3 with a 6.16 ERA against the Red Sox this season. He’s averaged slightly more than 6 IP per start, 8 H, 4 ER, has a 1.67 K/BB ratio, and the BoSox are batting .308 against him. In his 21 other starts, Sabathia is 16-2 with a 2.11 ERA, averaging more than 7 IP per start, has a 4.08 K/BB ratio, and holding opposing hitters to a .223 average.

    2) Josh Beckett. The Yankees have done next to nothing against him this season. Beckett dominated the Yankees like he did in the 2003 World Series, to the tune of 25 strikeouts in 21 IP, and just 10 hits allowed.

    It should be a fun weekend, and a worthy playoff preview.

    Phew!

    Russell Martin, Carlos Pena

    Russell Martin absorbed heavy contact and kept the Yankees ahead. (Photo Credit / Getty Images)

    Former Marlins teammates AJ Burnett and Ryan Dempster squared off in the middle game of the marquee interleague series of the weekend, at Wrigley Field. There was potential for a pitchers’ duel, if the “Good AJ” showed up, and if Dempster maintained the good control he’s shown at home thus far (almost a 4-to-1 K/BB ratio in 52 1/3 innings pitched at Wrigley this season).

    That wasn’t to be, though. The game was tight and low-scoring, but more because both teams missed opportunities, rather than Burnett and Dempster dominating. Both pitchers followed the “bend but don’t break” M.O. Burnett allowed two runs, struck out eight and walked three in 5 1/3 innings pitched, while Dempster allowed only three runs while walking a season-high six batters, and struck out six.

    The Yankees had their chances. They had base runners every inning, but were only able to push runners across in the third and sixth innings. In the third, Curtis Granderson led off with a single — doesn’t it seem like when the Yankees score, he’s in the middle of the rally? — and later scored on Robinson Canó’s double. Nick Swisher followed with a sacrifice fly to bring in Alex Rodriguez, who singled and advanced to third on the Canó double.

    The Cubs tied the game in the fourth, making Burnett pay for issuing a leadoff walk to Blake DeWitt. Two batters later, Carlos Peña hit a laser into the right-field seats.

    Sometimes, the most important moment in a game isn’t a timely hit, it’s a baserunning mistake. Following a one-out walk to Kosuke Fukudome, Starlin Castro lined a single to center. On that hit, Fukudome was running on the pitch but did not advance to third. On the FOX broadcast, Tim McCarver said there was “no excuse for Fukudome to not be on third base with one out, or at least get thrown out trying.” The next batter, DeWitt, who figured in the Cubs’ first rally, bounced into a 4-6-3, inning-ending double play.

    Eduardo Nuñez carried the positive vibes from the solid turn of the double play into the top of the sixth, lining a single up the middle on an 0-2 count and later scoring on a Granderson sac fly to give the Yankees the lead. (The Granderson RBI was off lefty James Russell. Granderson, versus lefties this season: .277/.341/.651, 20 RBI.) In the ninth, Nuñez drove in what would be the go-ahead run with a double.

    Mariano Rivera made things interesting, yielding a leadoff home run to Reed Johnson and a single to Alfonso Soriano. But he needed just four more pitches to record three outs, inducing Geovany Soto to ground into a double play and striking out Jeff Baker.

    That would be the high-level overview of the game. Two plays in particular preserved this victory for the Yankees: the first was the double play that ended the fifth. The second came in the sixth inning. Canó missed an easy catch on a force attempt that turned a potential first-and-third, two-out situation into a bases-loaded, one-out scenario. On a full count, Soto lined to left. Brett Gardner made up for his base running gaffe in the top of the sixth by making a nice catch on the liner and firing a one-hop strike to home. A huge collision ensued between Peña and catcher Russell Martin. Martin hung onto the ball, showed it to both Peña and home plate umpire Sam Holbrook.

    Sometimes over the course of a season, winning teams win games despite an odd boxscore. Saturday, the Yankees walked 10 times and only scored four runs. They got 11 hits and went 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position yet left 13 men stranded. They committed two errors and ran themselves out of an inning.

    Yet in the end, the formula that usually leads to a victory — timely hitting, a few key defensive plays, above average starting pitching and a capable bullpen effort — put a W up for the Yankees. By all accounts, they should have beaten the Cubs about 11-3 in this game. But as the better team, being able to hang on and win the close game is encouraging and should serve them well as the season wears on.

    Up Up Up and Away

    Over at PB, Jay Jaffe looks at Brett Gardner’s turnaround:

    Gardner has reached base in 10 out of his last 11 starts. As hitting coach Kevin Long said last week, “He’s turned it around. He’s had several good games as of late, and he seems like the Brett Gardner we saw last year. Getting on base, causing havoc, playing great defense.” More specifically, Long noted that Gardner had shifted in the batter’s box: “Basically he moved up closer to the plate. In a nutshell they were pitching him away, and he was coming out of his swing and not able to stay tight and compact on the outside pitch. So he’s moved up on the plate, and that’s helped him a great deal.”

    Tellingly, Gardner’s strikeout-to-walk ratio in those two small samples has improved, from 14/4 in the first to 10/10 in the second, and so has his rate of pitches per plate appearance, from 4.13 during his cold spell to 4.46 in his hot one. Overall, he ranks eighth in the league in P/PA at 4.30, down from last year’s league-leading 4.61, though that figure had more than a little something to do with his midseason wrist injury. Interestingly enough, the remade Curtis Granderson currently ranks a surprising second in the AL at 4.48 P/PA.

    [Picture by Joseph Holmes]

    That's When Yer Lost

    Here’s Mark Feinsand on the slumping Brett Gardner:

    The Yankees may not be thinking about banishing Gardner to the bench, but his days in the leadoff spot are over for now.

    “The last thing you want to do when you’re not swinging the bat well is to get the most at-bats on the team,” [hitting coach, Kevin] Long said. “It’s a smart move. He’s a smart kid, so he gets it. He doesn’t have to be happy about it, but at this point in time, it’s the best thing to do.”

    …Long and Gardner watched video earlier this week and identified a flaw in his swing that the hitting coach believes will make a world of difference once it is corrected.

    “He started to falter a little bit and he quit using his lower half,” Long said. “He started waving at the ball, and when you do that, your strike zone gets bigger. He’s more tentative than explosive to the ball. It all starts from the ground up. If that’s not working, it’s very difficult to hit.”

    Hang in there, Slappy.

    Yankee Panky: Oblique Outlook

    Dictionary.com lists 13 definitions for the adjective form of the word oblique. As it pertains to anatomy, oblique muscles are those that run at an angle, as opposed to transversely (horizontally) or longitudinally (vertically). In the abdominal wall, the obliques are the muscles that form the side cut of a six-pack. They’re the love handles.

    Synonyms, as listed within the aforementioned link, include “indirect,” “covert,” or “veiled.” But oblique strains have directly, overtly and obviously affected the Yankees this Spring, with Greg Golson, Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain and now Curtis Granderson all falling victim to the injury. Granderson’s injury may put his Opening Day availability in question. This is no surprise, given that recovery time ranges from 10 days up to 3 weeks, depending on the severity of the strain.

    Chamberlain missed 10 days. He returned to action Tuesday and was throwing 95 miles per hour. Golson also returned Tuesday, after missing 15 days of action. Mitre, meanwhile, was making his first appearance since March 14. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, in a mid-afternoon post Tuesday, reported that Mitre thought he had a roster spot secured when he arrived in Tampa 6 weeks ago. Tuesday’s start, Mitre’s first since he suffered his oblique strain, may be giving the Yankees pause about adding him to the 25-man roster. The following quotes are priceless.

    First, Mitre is confidently unsure:

    “I don’t look at it as a setback. I’m hoping they don’t base everything off of one spring start. If that’s the case, then we’ll see what happens, but I don’t think that’s the case — at least toward me. They know I can get people out and they know they can rely on me, I hope.”

    Let’s examine this: two home runs yielded, a sinker that didn’t sink, Nova and Colon basically acting in full carpe diem mode. But this wasn’t a setback. Fans have little to no confidence that he can get anyone out. The numbers over the past two seasons prove as much. Plus, he wears the accursed No. 45. From Steve Balboni to Cecil Fielder to Chili Davis to (gulp) Carl Pavano, that number never helped anyone in a Yankee uniform over the last 25 years. And yet I digress …

    More from Mitre:

    “I don’t think there should be any reason why not. If I still have to worry about that, then I’m probably not doing something right.”

    (Insert laugh track here)

    (more…)

    But I'm Intercontinental When I Eat French Toast

    Leading off for the Yanks…Derek Jeter or Brett Gardner?

    Crawford, Werth, Fit for Pinstripes?

    CARL CRAWFORD JAYSON WERTH
    Age: 29 Age: 31
    Position: LF Position: RF
    Height: 6-2 Height: 6-5
    Weight: 215 Weight: 220
    Bats/Throws: L/L Bats/Throws: R/R
    MLB Service: 1,235 games MLB Service: 775 games
    BA/OBP/SLG: .296/.337/.444 BA/OBP/SLG: .272/.367/.481

    The Yankees were in  Arkansas yesterday visiting Cliff Lee, but that doesn’t mean they’re blind to other free agents who could help the ball club. As recently as a week ago, it was reported in numerous outlets that the Yankees were not planning to pursue corner outfielders Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.

    Enter the latest developments: we know that per Jon Heyman at SI.com, that the Yankees have called Crawford, who is reportedly the Angels’ top target. Torii Hunter has already begun stumping for the speedy left fielder. “We need Carl Crawford,” Hunter told the LA Times. “Put it like that.” In that same article, Hunter predicted the finalists in the Crawford Sweepstakes would be the Angels and Red Sox.

    To date, the Yankees have not contacted Scott Boras regarding Werth. That’s not to say they aren’t interested, however, according to Frank Russo at NYBD.

    “It would be foolish to count the Yankees out on a bat after their stealth singing of Mark Teixeira two years ago,” Russo writes.

    Discussions regarding all three players should heat up during the GM Meetings next Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando. If no progress is made by then, there is always the Winter Meetings, which start December 6.

    With all that in mind, if the Yankees end up demonstrating interest in both Crawford and Werth, and ultimately land one of them, which one should it be? Who is the better fit for the pinstripes? I e-mailed some members of our network of trusted bloggers and newspaper scribes to get their thoughts. With the exception of Jay Jaffe, whose commentary was excerpted from a recent post at Pinstriped Bible, their e-mail responses are listed below.

    Sincere thanks to the respondents for participating.

    Anthony McCarron — NY Daily News:

    Crawford might be a better player, but Werth would be a better fit only because the Yanks can probably get him on a shorter contract. If the speculation is right and Crawford will get $100 million, that’s just too much money and probably too long a contract for a guy whose best skill, speed, likely will be regressing in the twilight years of the deal. He’s not worth $100 million to a team that already has a dynamite speed guy in (Brett) Gardner.

    As for Werth, if the Yanks got him on Jason Bay’s deal or even a little more (4 years, $66 million, with a $14 million option for 2014), I think he’d be a good buy. But only if the Yanks are convinced he’d be happy in New York.

    Jonah Keri, uber-writer:

    Crawford is the better player – better D, better stealing/running, younger and more likely to age well over the next 5+ years.

    Fit isn’t all that important when one player is clearly better than another.

    Jay Jaffe, in the aforementioned post at the Pinstriped Bible, warns of luxury tax implications steeper than paying $200 or 10 percent of your assets:

    While it might seem natural to link the Yankees to just about any player with a big sticker price — it’s what those players’ agents lie awake every summer night dreaming of, not to mention an obvious talking point for any pundit — they’re simply not fits for the combination of the Yankees’ current needs and budget. And while the Yankees spend far more than any other team on payroll, they most certainly do have a budget. …

    … Hal Steinbrenner’s stated desire is to keep the Yankee payroll at “the same level” as recent years. Loosely translated, that means an opening day payroll somewhere just north of $200 million. The Yankees have been above that mark four times in the past six years. They’ve been above $205 million in three of those years, including 2010 ($206.3 million). But they’ve never been above $210 million, topping out at $209.1 million in 2008. Similarly, while they’ve shown a willingness to add payroll in-season via trades, their year-end payrolls — which tally the incentive bonuses, buyouts and other benefits they actually paid over the course of the season, as well as the base salaries — have never topped $225 million. We don’t have those figures for 2010 yet; the commissioner’s office generally releases those figures right around Christmas time, but from 2007 through 2009 they ranged from $218 to $222 million, again a very narrow band.

    Accounting for the salaries coming off the books and the raises due the remaining players via contract clauses and arbitration, my calculations quickly took the Yankees to $159 million committed to 19 roster spots, which would appear to leave not much more than $50 million available to re-sign Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and whomever they go after on the free agent market — not only Cliff Lee, their number one target, but also any significant bench players to fill the slots vacated by Marcus Thames and Austin Kearns, to say nothing of the sizable hole in the bullpen left by Kerry Wood’s departure. Considering that Jeter, Rivera and Pettitte made nearly $50 million alone in 2010, it’s apparent that the Yankees can’t simply pile another $20-25 million on without heading for a $230 million opening day payroll and a $250 million year-end tally. Remember too that for every extra $1 million the Yankees add to the pile above a certain threshold — $170 million in 2010, $178 million in 2011 — they pay a 40 percent luxury tax.

    Another vote for “neither,” from Ben Kabak of River Ave. Blues:

    Don’t see it from a money or marginal win upgrade perspective. Depends on returns, but I highly doubt either end up in pinstripes.

    The ever astute and cerebral Larry Koestler, of Yankeeist, throws a bone to the Werewolf:

    If the Yankees were to look into acquiring one of the two, they’d likely have to move one of their current outfielders first. Each of Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher — the latter two of whom put up career years, while the former didn’t quite meet some lofty pre-season expectations — have been mentioned in various circles as potential trade bait, but given that each is (relatively) affordable and produced at a 3.0-plus fWAR level in 2010, it’s difficult to make a serious case that any of them should be traded.

    On the surface Crawford might seem like the more appealing option, given that he’s two years younger than Werth, fast and a great fielder, but if it were up to me I think I’d probably pursue Werth, who theoretically should command a slightly lesser deal in both years and overall dollars and is going to provide more bang for your buck.

    Crawford had a career year in 2010, posting a .378 wOBA along with an eye-popping 6.9 fWAR for a season worth $27.4 million according to Fangraphs. However, Werth wasn’t exactly a slouch himself, with a .397 wOBA (good for 5th-best in the National League) and 5.0 fWAR, worth $20 million.

    For 2011 Bill James has Crawford projected for a fairly significant regression, with a triple slash of .300/.350/.453, and a .357 wOBA. Those are solid if unspectacular numbers, and probably not worth the $20M/year Crawford is likely looking for.

    Bill James has Werth projected to a .275/.375/.493 and .380 wOBA line in 2011. No Yankee outfielder put up a wOBA that high in 2010, and the highest wOBA the trio is projected to produce per James is Nick Swisher’s .362.

    Crawford’s clearly superior to Werth (and almost everyone in baseball) defensively, but given the various shortcomings of the assorted advanced defensive metrics we have at our disposal, I’m not sure how wide the gulf truly is. Anecdotally I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone say Werth was a particularly lousy defender, so I wouldn’t get too caught up on defense.

    So while I’m sure there’s a case to be made for locking Crawford up long-term, my preference for a hitter boasting patience and power — two of the rare baseball skills that can improve with age, unlike speed — makes Werth the easy choice.

    My former colleague, MLB.com’s Jon Lane:

    I love both players, but based on statistics, my “eye test” and overall feel, Carl Crawford is both the better player and fit for the Yankees.

    Werth obviously has the edge in power numbers, has blossomed into a star the past two years and would fit nicely in the middle of anyone’s batting order, but that’s where it ends. Crawford is two years younger and gives you a good bat with speed that bolsters his offensive numbers, and the better range in the outfield. Crawford is a four-time MLB leader in steals and triples. The Yankees aren’t getting younger and there still tends to be such an over-reliance on power, which could explain their frequent undoing with runners in scoring position. As much as I like Brett Gardner, Crawford’s gotten it done in all categories in a longer time frame and will continue to get it done.

    Another thing to factor in is if the Yankees will actually bite the bullet and move Derek Jeter down in the order. Crawford hitting in the No. 2 spot would go a long way in solving that problem.

    As far as Crawford’s defense, he’s been in the top three in putouts from left field every season since 2005. Ditto his range factor since 2003. In the same category he leads all active players and is sixth all-time (Source: Baseball-Reference.com).

    I’d take an outfield of Crawford, Granderson/Gardner and Gardner/Swisher/Crawford any day. Both players can play multiple positions, but like Joe Girardi I’m more comfortable moving Gardner around the outfield on given days.

    If you’re scoring at home, that’s 2 for Crawford, 1 for Werth, and two for “none of the above.”

    What’s your take?

    Homba and Burnsie Never Even Showed Up

    Whenever I hear the name Carl Crawford I think of this guy:

    Over at the Pinstriped Bible, the young perfessor, Steve Goldman examines the debate Carl Crawford/Brett Gardner debate:

    Earlier this season, at about the moment Gardner got hurt, I asked if his performance had rendered the Yankees’ presumed pursuit of soon-to-be free agent Carl Crawford unnecessary. At that time, Gardner had outperformed the veteran; Crawford was hitting .310/.373/.488 when Gardner got hurt. His superior extra-base abilities didn’t quite close the gap created by Gardner’s greater patience, while his four-steal advantage came at the cost of three additional caught stealing.

    Since Gardner’s wrist was damaged, Crawford has had the advantage on Gardner, though not quite as decisively as you might think. In 50 games from July 1 to present, he has hit .276/.310/.458 with 13 steals and one caught stealing. Crawford still hits with more authority than Gardner—almost everyone does—but his aggression has, at least in this phase of his career, made him below-average at getting on base. You might think that this urge to swing might be a consequence of his recent move to the third spot in the order, down from his traditional number two, but Crawford’s career OBP is only .336, which is about league-average for 2002-2010, the years of his career (the league OBP is .329 this season).

    By most measures, Crawford is having his best season this year, but only by a little bit. With the exception of his 2008 injury season, he’s been very consistent since coming into his full powers in 2005. His overall rates for that span are .301/.345/.459, and this year’s total performance is virtually indistinguishable from those other seasons. That is one huge advantage that he has over Gardner: a buyer knows what he’s going to get. All we know of Gardner is that he had a nice three months, a bad two months, and currently has a nice little five-game hitting streak going (7-for-16) that may or may not augur a return to his earlier form.

    Hurts So Good

    The Future Hall of Famer, Frank Thomas, aka The Big Hurt, had his number retired before the game today in Chicago. Then Ivan Nova, who is a pretty big kid himself, pitched into the sixth inning and left the game with a 2-1 lead. Boy, was he impressive, throwing hard and throwing strikes. He also had a good curve ball. Seven K’s and just one walk.

    Marcus Thames–whose hacktastic swing sometimes looks straight out of a beer softball league–hit another home run and Brett Gardner singled home Francisco “4 for 4″ Cervelli, putting a couple of runs on the board for the Yanks over the first three innings. After that, it was too much Nova and the Bombers’ bullpen. Kerry Wood slipped out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth and Joba Chamberlain hit 100 mph on the radar gun on his way to 1.1 scoreless innings.

    The Great Mariano worked around a one-out walk in the ninth and got Omar Vizquel to pop out in foul territory to Cervelli to end the game.

    Final Score: Yanks 2, White Sox 1. That’s win number one for Mr. Nova.

    A terrific win for the Bombers on a day when the pitching was good and the fielding was slick–the White Sox turned a lovely 6-4-3 double play in the second inning that is bound for the highlight reels.

    Sox and Rays go tonight on Sunday Night Baseball.

    Sit back, relax, grab some eats, have a beverage and enjoy. See ya in the a.m.

    [Picture by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images and Gourmet Magazine]

    Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

    There were some hard feelings and ugliness in last night’s game. Pitchers throwing at hitters, umpires issuing warnings and then sitting on their hands.

    According to John Lowe in the Detroit Free Press:

    As usual, Leyland refused afterward to take reporters’ questions about an umpiring controversy. However, the Internet buzzed with something he told Cooper after the Cabrera plunking that was picked up on the FSD telecast: “They’re going to the playoffs. We’re not going anywhere. Somebody is going to get hurt.”

    Johnny Damon was not happy about Brett Gardner’s hard (and late) takeout slide on Monday night. Brian Costello reports:

    “If anyone over there thought it was a clean slide, then we have a different opinion on that,” said Damon, who spent four years as a Yankee. “It’s part of baseball. But I thought the slide was dirty, and I’m sure a lot of those guys would agree.”

    Gardner would not say if he thought Bonderman intentionally hit him, and he was surprised to hear Damon criticized him.

    “That’s his opinion,” Gardner told The Post. “He knows how I play. I think if he was over here in this clubhouse he probably would have given me a high-five for trying to break up the double play.”

    Things could get hot today. Let’s hope nobody gets hoit.

    True Grit

    Joe Posnanski talks about Heart and Derek Jeter. He also talks about hustle (grit and guttiness!) and all sorts of words full of integrity signifiying…? You tell me.

    Fresh Direct

    Special Delivery…

    When Andy Pettitte gave up a two-run homer to Jose Bautista in the first inning it was hard to fight off the “here we go again” feeling. But the Score Truck arrived in a rather royal way in the third inning. Brett Gardner led off with a single against Rickey Romero and chased Toronto’s starter later in the inning when he launched his fist big league grand slam into the right field bleachers. That made the score 8-2. Four batters later, Alex Rodriguez popped a high fly ball to left. His old “ha!” buddy John McDonald lost it in the sun and three more runs crossed the plate.

    That was the only scoring the Yanks did today but it was more than enough as Andy Pettitte cruised to his 10th win.

    Final Score: Yanks 11, Jays 3.

    [Photo Credit: Bags and Hive]

    Yankee Panky: Can’t Winn For Losing

    Last week’s signing of Randy Winn was met with a thud the likes we haven’t heard since the Road Runner was leading Wile E. Coyote off of cliff after cliff. The reaction appeared to have little to do with the clusterf— that proved to be the back-and-forth hearsay between Brian Cashman and Scott Boras regarding Johnny Damon. No, it was more that the Yankees actually committed a seven-figure dollar amount to, well, Randy Winn, and didn’t loosen the waistband for the once Unfrozen Caveman Outfielder.

    Some of us are still trying to wrap our brains around the pretzel logic that led to the release of a soon-to-be 36-year-old who, despite his defensive foibles, has a stroke tailor made for the New Yankee Stadium and is a perfect fit for the Yankee lineup, only to sign a soon-to-be 36-year-old who is, um, Randy Winn.

    There was a great deal of rancor in the Yankeeland Blogosphere in the days following the Winn deal. Over at the Yankeeist, Larry Koestler, a friend to the Banter (well, this Banterer, anyway) likens the Winn acquisition to that of Tony Womack:

    Randy Winn…may have at one time been a reasonable ballplayer, but that was back when Honus Wagner was suiting up for the Buccos. I know he’s coming aboard as the fourth outfielder/platoonmate, but sweet Jesus we’d have been better off flushing the money directly down the toilet. It would’ve taken what — an extra $3-$4 million to get Damon back into the fold? We couldn’t do that, but we could spend a third of the presumed cost of Damon on an absolute and utter complete waste of space like Winn? Better to have let Gardner at least try to hold the position down — I’m not even much of a Gardner fan but I’d still rather Grit in there every day than waste any at-bats on the second coming of Wilson Betemit.

    Honestly, Brian Cashman knows better than this. Signing Randy Winn and his sub-.700 OPS in 2009 for any amount is craziness. It doesn’t make any sense nor fit with the Yankees’ work-the-pitcher, high-OBP MO.

    Oh, but it gets better. The New Stadium Insider notes that Winn was the last straw in pushing a certain 2009 season ticket holder to the point of canceling his plans to upgrade in 2k10.

    Backtracking a bit to Koestler’s item, it’s important to note that earlier in the piece, he shows startling similarities between Winn’s weighted on-base average over the past four seasons, and Womack’s during the last four years of his career. Combining Winn and Brett Gardner, you basically have the same skill set (.325 OBP, .700 OPS, etc.). In other words, two people providing replacement-level numbers. Not good if you’re banking on Curtis Granderson summoning his 2007 self and Nick Swisher repeating his regular-season production of last year.

    Maybe left-field should be considered an afterthought. Consider that when the Yankees went on their dynastic tear in the late 1990s and early part of the oughts, left field featured the All-Star cast of Gerald Williams, Tim Raines, Darryl Strawberry, Chad Curtis, Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer, Ryan Thompson, Chuck Knoblauch, Rondell White, and Juan Rivera. The Yankees made six World Series trips in eight years with that motley crew because the other eight members of the lineup were able to make up for whatever deficiencies existed by the 399 sign. This Yankee team is good, but is it good enough to overcome left field, the unknowns of Granderson and Swisher, and despite their productivity, the ever-increasing age of Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter?

    Perhaps a more apt comparison to this year’s left field situation is the right field situation of 2002, when a noncommittal Joe Torre rolled out a combination of Spencer and the inimitable John Vander Wal on a platoon basis. Spencer, despite his desire to be an everyday player, never recaptured the bottled lightning of September 1998. At least, he never came close enough to putting up numbers worthy enough to merit his everyday presence in the lineup. Vander Wal eventually regressed into what he always was: a pinch hitter. The two of them gave way to Enrique Wilson playing right field against the Mets. Wilson misplayed a couple of balls so badly that within days, the Yankees traded for the ball player formerly known as Raul Mondesi.

    If history repeats itself this year, Ramiro Peña will have to make an emergency start in left and bungle it so badly that in a fit of panic, Cash will trade for Milton Bradley by the Fourth of July.

    This is all figuring, of course, that Granderson is playing center field and not left. Certain pundits on certain afternoon drive radio shows have already put Granderson in left, and have said that Winn was not a terrible signing, Nick Johnson was an upgrade and a solid No. 2 hitter, and Gardner is not a terrible player, either.

    We’ll find out soon enough, right?

    Observations From Cooperstown: Robertson, Pena, Fast Yankees, and Munson

    When the Yankee bullpen struggled so badly during the first two months of the season, too many members of the mainstream media called for either Joba Chamberlain to be relieved of his starting duties or for Brian Cashman to pull off a trade that would reel in a veteran reliever. Well, those media members have grown silent over the last two months as the bullpen has achieved lofty status in the American League. Those writers and broadcasters turned out to be dead wrong in their assessments, largely for two reasons. First off, they forgot that the Yankees boasted one of the league’s most efficient bullpens just last year. And second, they didn’t stop to consider the depth of pitching in the organization, specifically the wealth of talent waiting at Triple-A in the form of Phil Hughes, Alfredo “Ace” Aceves, and David Robertson.

    I had already counted myself as a believer in the talents of Hughes and Aceves, but I have to confess to knowing little about Robertson prior to 2009. Kudos should go to the Banter’s own Cliff Corcoran, who was one of the first analysts to sing the praises of Robertson. Cliff turned out to be absolutely right about the 24-year-old right-hander. With a consistent 93 to 94 mile-per-hour fastball and a terrific overhand curveball (reminiscent of Neil Allen in his hey day), Robertson has the stuff to be a reliable reliever for the foreseeable future. If he can improve his control sufficiently, he could be the much-celebrated eighth-inning bridge by 2010. For now, the Yankees have four different relievers (Robertson, Hughes, Aceves, and lefty Phil Coke) that they can feel good about in the seventh and eighth innings…

    The Yankees have assembled one of their best benches in years, and it figures to get better whenever Brett “The Jet” Gardner returns from the broken hand that landed him on the disabled list. Gardner will not only give Melky Cabrera the competition that he seems to thrive on, but also one of the most explosive pinch-runners in the game. So here’s the question: whose roster spot will Gardner take? I’d vote for sinkerballing Sergio Mitre, who is still building arm strength after major surgery, but the Yankees have become as married to the 12-man pitching staff as they once were to left-handed hitting DHs. So that means that Ramiro Pena will become the odd man out once Brett the Jet returns. Pena has done well in spot duty this year, but he lacks the experience and versatility of Jerry Hairston, Jr., the power of Eric Hinske, and the ability to catch (the role filled by Jose Molina). When and if the Yankees send Pena down, they should give him as many at-bats as possible during the Triple-A postseason, with the idea of letting him compete for the utility role in 2010. Pena might not hit enough to play everyday at shortstop, but his glove, speed, and ability to work the count should merit consideration for a backup job…

    Speaking of Gardner, I’m trying to figure out if he’s the fastest Yankee I’ve ever seen. Prior to Gardner’s arrival last year, I would have voted for Mickey Rivers, followed by Rickey Henderson and Alfonso Soriano. (Rickey was obviously the best basestealer of the three, but at his peak “Mick the Quick” was slightly faster.) Perhaps I’m missing someone else from the last 40 years, but I believe Gardner has to at least move into the top three of this list, bumping Soriano to honorable mention…

    The staying power of the late Thurman Munson is eye-opening. Thirty years after his death, the story of the tragic Yankee captain remains a compelling and popular read. Marty Appel’s new book, Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, has been the nation’s best-selling sports book for the last four weeks. That’s quite an achievement, considering that Munson is not a Hall of Famer and is generally not considered an all-time great. Furthermore, most Yankee fans 35 and under don’t remember seeing him play, except for the occasional replay of the Bucky Dent Game and the 1978 World Series. In an era when the Yankee dynasty of the 1996 to 2001 has overshadowed the accomplishments of the Bronx Zoo years, Thurman Munson’s story still manages to capture the sincere interest of so many lifelong Yankee fans.

    Bruce Markusen, a resident of Cooperstown, writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.

    Yankee Panky: The Tao of Pooh-vano

    There was so much hype about Carl Pavano facing the Yankees. The tabloids ate it up, and Suzyn Waldman, as far back as the Texas series, said, “If there’s any justice, C.C. Sabathia will pitch against Carl Pavano in Cleveland.”

    Sabathia and Pavano both pitched, but not against each other. Sabathia faced his No. 2 two years ago, Fausto Carmona, on Saturday, while Pavano squared off against Phil Hughes, which may have been a more intriguing matchup considering Pavano’s history with the Yankees and his five victories in May, and Hughes’ stellar outing in Texas and continued effort to stay in the rotation.

    As I was listening to the game on the radio (another Sunday spent driving), I got to thinking about the myriad options the local editors and writers had for the game. Would Pavano be the lead? Would I make Phil Hughes’ mediocre start coupled by Chien-Ming Wang’s three scoreless innings of relief the lead, playing up the intrigue of Wang’s possible return to the rotation? Poor umpiring was a theme of the day. Where would that fit in? Are all these topics combined into one or do you do take one story as your base and go with the others as supplemental pieces?

    I probably would have made Pavano the focus of the game story and made Hughes/Wang a featured supplement, tying in the early note that Andy Pettitte expects to be ready to start on Wednesday. How would you have presented Sunday’s game? Thinking of the broadest audience possible, how would you have set up your Yankees section as an editor? How would you have attacked the game if you were on-site? It’s two different thought processes. I’m curious to get your thoughts.

    An examination of the eight local papers covering the Yankees revealed the following:

    NY TIMES: Jack Curry had Pavano leading but alluded to the Hughes/Wang situation, melding everything into a tidy recap with analysis and historical context. Typical goods from Mr. Curry.

    NEWSDAY: Three individual stories from Erik Boland, who’s now off the Jets beat and has replaced Kat O’Brien: Hughes/Wang leading, a Pavano piece tied with notes, and a short piece on Gardner’s failure to steal.

    NY POST: As of this writing, only George King’s recap had been posted. Interesting to see that he focused on the bullpen, specifically Coke and David Robertson. (Had I been reporting, that would have been the angle I took with the game recap.)

    NY DAILY NEWS: Mark Feinsand tied everything together, but it looked and read strangely like an AP wire story.

    JOURNAL NEWS: No full game recap posted, but Pete Abe gives more in about 200 words on a blog than most other scribes do in 800.

    STAR LEDGER: Marc Carig copied off Erik Boland’s paper in that he had individual stories on Gardner and Wang/Hughes, But he had a couple of other tidbits: 1) His recap was short and had additional bulletpointed notes. I thought this was an interesting format. It reminded me of an anchor calling highlights and then reading key notes off the scoreboard graphic. 2) He had a full feature on Phil Coke and his blaming the umpire’s call on the 3-2 pitch to Trevor Crowe. Check out the last paragraph. Looks like he copied off Pete Abe’s paper, too.

    BERGEN RECORD: Only one story on the game from Pete Caldera, but boy does he know how to write a lead paragraph.

    HARTFORD COURANT: Associated Press recap. Not much to say except this paper is an example of what’s happening in the industry. Dom Amore’s words are missed.

    And this just in … on the “Inside Pitch” segment of the midnight ET edition of Baseball Tonight, Karl Ravech and Peter Gammons said the Yankees were the best team in baseball. This revelation comes hours after the ESPN ticker read “Pavano dominates Yankees” in the first half of its description of the game. I’m not sure what to make of this. I know Ravech, my fellow Ithaca College alum, is as good as it gets, but when Gammons agrees, I get concerned.

    I’d say the best team is the team with the best record, and the team that’s playing most consistently on a daily basis. That team is being managed by Joe Torre.

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