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Tag: Craig Carton

Yankee Panky: Off Base

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your thoughts on this are welcome.


Yankee Panky: The Wheels On The Bus Are Coming Off

From Banterer PJ: “What happened to our friend Will Weiss? I really wish he stop by so the Yankees can start winning again.

No Will Weiss at Banter is unacceptable…”

PJ, you’re absolutely right. It’s unacceptable. As Cliff will tell you, a new daughter and the associated parental duties, plus a new job with some travel thrown in will deregulate the writing schedule and stretch the boundaries of acceptability. At least our fearless proprietor Alex is one of the most understanding people in the business and is unyielding in his support for all of us who contribute. I will say this: my daughter likes watching the Yankees (although there hasn’t been much to watch lately), and she let out a shriek of delight when I told her Jose Veras was designated for assignment.

On to the column…

Since I don’t have to ride a train to work anymore and I don’t own an iPod (gasp!), I have been listening to a lot of sports talk radio. In the mornings, it’s a flip between Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on WFAN and Mike and Mike on ESPN, and in the afternoons it’s Mike Francesa and Michael Kay/New York Baseball Tonight. (I still haven’t decided if this is a good thing. Now that Matt Pinfield is back, I think I’m going back to music in the morning.)

In the last two weeks, we’ve been bombarded with stories about Jorge Posada’s management (or mismanagement, depending on your perspective), of the pitching staff; Joe Girardi’s management (or mismanagement, depending on your perspective), of well, everything; the defense that went a record 18 games without committing an error has committed at least one error in 14 of the last 19 games; and oh yes, there’s Derek Jeter’s inability to drive in runs in clutch situations. Of these stories, the Posada issue is not new and the Dead Horse Alert is strong in my ear; the defensive woes would not be a story if the team was winning, and Jeter’s malaise is not subject to just him. This is not to give Jeter a free pass, but when you score 15 runs in one game and then proceed to score 12 over the next seven, it doesn’t seem right to single out one player.

Jeter alone is not the reason the team has not won three in a row since May 27-30. A-Rod has one hit in his last 22 at-bats – a span of seven games – and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since going 5-for-5 at Texas on May 25. Mark Teixeira has driven in only four runs in the last 10 games. Plus, there’s the team’s Achilles’ heel: pitchers they’ve never faced before. Even in their championship heyday of the last 15 years, rookie/no-name pitchers look like All-Stars pitching against the Yankees (see Pete Caldera’s recap in the Bergen Record for more details). Most recently, it’s been Fernando Nieve, John Lannan, Craig Stammen, Josh Johnson and Tommy Hanson. Johnson and Hanson will be big-league studs, but to lose four of six to the Nationals and Marlins, teams the Yankees were supposed to beat up on to gain ground on the Red Sox, is a reflection of something deeper.

Which brings me to Girardi. If the manager sets the tone for the team, then his management of A-Rod and CC Sabathia could be leaving the team in a lurch. This from Bob Klapisch:

…There’s more to managing than simply bodysurfing a winning streak. Girardi looked crisp and in control when the Yankees were mauling the AL a month ago, launching all those crazy comebacks. But now they’re struggling — the Red Sox’ domination of the Bombers is nothing short of humiliating — and Girardi’s confidence has turned to a square-jawed form of desperation.

That’s why A-Rod played every day until he couldn’t bring his bat through the strike zone anymore — and, as he’s hinted, his hip is so stiff. It’s the reason why no one comes to Sabathia’s rescue in the seventh or eighth innings.

It’s because Girardi knows his managerial career will be over if he gets fired by the Yankees.

The decision to sit A-Rod due to fatigue came from above Girardi. Sabathia says he’ll pitch Friday, but Cashman is putting on the brakes. Girardi is in the background.

Esiason and Carton posit that Girardi is being made to be the fall guy for the team’s travails. If he is managing for his job, he should stand up for himself the same way he did in Florida. Esiason added that despite Girardi’s championship credentials, he doesn’t believe the players respect Girardi in the same way they did Joe Torre.

Maybe that’s true. Some veterans are describing Girardi as “tight,” as Klapisch also notes in his column. We don’t know what is said in the clubhouse – and it should stay there – but the rash of flat efforts leave much to be desired. I don’t get the sense he’s inspiring confidence in his players. I’d love to hear him say something like, “We’re not overlooking any teams on the schedule. Sure, we’re at a slight disadvantage playing in National League parks, but our lineup should be able to hold up against any pitcher in any park.” Instead, we get the same monotone and the tired lines about how interleague play is a necessary evil and that it’s unfortunate the games count in the standings. Does that get you fired up as a fan? Me neither.

What’s left? Could the Yankees pull the trigger on Girardi mid-season? They haven’t made such a managerial change since Bucky Dent replaced Dallas Green after 121 games in 1989. Granted, this Yankee team isn’t nearly as lost in Mark Knopflerville (aka Dire Straits) as the ’89 squad, but if the team falls further south of Boston in the standings, it may seem that way to the powers that be.

The wheels on the Yankees bus … need air.

Yankee Panky: Paralysis By Analysis?

The past 10 days have seen an immense range of stories leapfrog to the forefront of New York sports fans’ collective consciousness. In no particular order, with some analysis and commentary mixed in…

• The Yankees slashed prices for the primo seats, an altruistic move that still leaves many of us thinking, “You know, you have your own network, and it’s on my cable system. I’ll contribute to your bottom line that way and I won’t feel like I got stabbed in the wallet.”

• Alex Rodriguez did everything necessary in extended spring training and returned to the lineup Friday. He punctuated the return with a home run on the first pitch he saw, thus fulfilling his job as the media-anointed savior of the team’s season. He proceeded to go 1-for-10 with two strikeouts in the remainder of the series, and perhaps fearing aggravating the hip injury, didn’t hustle down the line to run out a ground ball, thus reclaiming his role as the team’s most prominent punching bag.

• The Yankees lost two straight to the Red Sox at home and have lost the first five meetings of the season. (Sound the alarms! Head for the hills! There’s no way the Yankees can win the division without beating the Red Sox! Except that they can, and they have. In 2004, the Yankees went 1-6 in their first seven games against the BoSox, ended up losing the season series 8-11 and still finished 101-61 to win the American League East by three games.)

• Joba Chamberlain 1: His mother was arrested for allegedly selling crystal meth to an undercover officer. Following Chamberlain’s own brushes with the law during the offseason, it stood to reason that the tabloids attacked this story like starving coyotes. It’s remarkable that he was able to pitch at all given the negative attention he received.

• Joba Chamberlain 2: Flash back to Aug. 13, 2007. Chamberlain struck out Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff in a crucial late-inning at-bat to end the inning and in the heat of the moment pumped his fist in exultation. Yesterday, following a three-run home run in the first inning that gave the O’s a 3-1 lead, Huff mocked Chamberlain’s emotional outburst with his own fist pump, first while rounding first base, and again when crossing home plate. Apparently, Mr. Huff holds grudges. Thanks to the New York Daily News’s headline, “MOCKING BIRD” with a photo of the home-plate celebration, this story will have wings when Baltimore comes to the Bronx next week. Even better, as it currently stands, Chamberlain is due to start in the series finale on Thursday the 21st. Get ready for a rash of redux stories leading up to that game.

• Mariano Rivera surrendered back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career last Wednesday night, a clear signal that something is wrong. Maybe.

• The team as a whole. The Yankees are 15-16 through 31 games, and some rabid fans (the “Spoiled Set,” as Michael Kay likes to call them; the group of fans between ages 18-30 that only knows first-place finishes for the Yankees) are calling for Joe Girardi’s head. As in the above note on the Red Sox, some context is required. The Yankees’ records through 31 games this decade:

2000: 22-9 (finished 87-74, won AL East)
2001: 18-13 (finished 95-65, won AL East)
2002: 18-13 (finished 103-58, won AL East)
2003: 23-8 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2004: 18-13 (finished 101-61, won AL East)
2005: 12-19 (finished 95-67, won AL East)
2006: 19-12 (finished 97-65, won AL East)
2007: 15-16 (finished 94-68, won AL Wild Card)
2008: 15-16 (finished 89-73, missed playoffs)
2009: 15-16 (finish TBD)

No one is going to make excuses for the team with the billion dollar stadium and the highest payroll, least of all your trusted scribes here at the Banter. Looking at the last three years — including 2009 — it should be noted that similar issues of injury, age, and woes throughout the pitching staff have befallen the Yankees.


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