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Tag: Joe Girardi
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Yankee Panky: Expert Texpert Choking Smoker …

The talk over the past four days of the World Series has been starting pitching, or rather, the managers’ decisions on who to take the hill. For Game 4, Charlie Manuel was excoriated for selecting Joe Blanton over Cliff Lee on short rest. When the Yankees took the 3-1 lead, the Philly media all but blamed Manuel, seemingly forgetting that Blanton pitched well enough to win, and save for a Brad Lidge meltdown, the series might have been tied at that point.

At the same time, the choice of Joe Girardi to start AJ Burnett was being put under the microscope, run through a centrifuge, and measured by any other number of scientific devices. “Why start Burnett on short rest?” The experts on MLB Network claimed. “With the lineup shaking out, Melky Cabrera being out, Jose Molina catching, this favors the Phillies,” to paraphrase Harold Reynolds. “Chad Gaudin can give five innings and then make it a bullpen game,” said Mitch Williams.

Tim McCarver, pleasantly old school, lauded Girardi’s choice to stick with three starters.

The most sane MLBN analysis came from Dan Plesac, who noted that the Yankees didn’t have a fourth starter as an option due to the way they (mis)handled Joba Chamberlain during the second half of the regular season. Thus, Girardi’s options were limited.

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Yankee Panky: Joba and the Playoffs

JOBA

This week, the Yankees secured a postseason spot, so they won’t be casual observers for a second consecutive October. It’s only right to want to project various playoff scenarios – who they will play, who will pitch, which division series they’ll choose, etc. – because with a week left in the regular season, there’s not much else to talk about.

That is … unless you follow the Yankees regularly and are tuned into the Joba Chamberlain situation. Despite the Nebraskan’s 6-inning, 86-pitch quality start last night, The Joba Situation is no longer at mission critical, but is still serious. Put it this way: there’s no reason to call “The Wolf.”

The commentary and range of quotes coming out of Seattle on Sunday were contradictory. On one hand, there was Joba, Clemens-like in denial that he had good stuff despite being shelled for seven runs int here innings. On another, there was the elephant in the room: the Rules that had the Yankees “building him up” to go six innings, so as not to exceed the limit of 165 innings set for him. Somewhere, Jim Kaat is railing this philosophy and not even icing his shoulder.

Looking at quotes from Joe Girardi and judging from the pundits’ assessment of the Yankees’ view, Joba was put to the coals. The “we want to see what you’re made of” rhetoric seemed to be coming a little late to have any kind of effectiveness. The tone, at least the way I perceived it, was a cover-your-butt for potentially mishandling him. The situation could have been avoided in two ways: 1) the Yankees could have kept him in the bullpen as the lead set-up man and eventual successor to Mariano Rivera, or 2) since making him a starter, unleash him the way Nolan Ryan is managing his young guns in Texas. In other words, let the opponent dictate when your starting pitcher should be removed from the game.

Prior to Friday night, the argument could have been made that Joba was put in a no-win situation, both literally and figuratively. He had either an inning limit or a strict pitch count, so there was no margin for error. Either way, if he was pitching well, he couldn’t lobby to stay in the game if he performed at an ace-caliber level. Jorge Posada’s quote following last Sunday’s debacle in Seattle, was telling, considering the source:

“It’s tough to pitch like that. It’s tough to pitch when you don’t know what’s going on … It’s just tough to pitch like that.”

Joe Girardi had a different take.

“I don’t think he can make that an excuse,” Girardi told the media. “You’re still getting the baseball and you still have a job to do.”

Could Joba have pitched better under those circumstances and restored confidence in the organization and the fan base? Absolutely. But he didn’t, and in so doing, put himself in a position where he was pitching for his future. Girardi made that clear in his pre-game press conference when he said – four times, per Daily News columnist John Harper – that he needed to “see Joba compete” and that there were “no guarantees” as far as Joba’s place on the playoff roster. Calling an athlete’s competitive fire into question is akin to emasculating him. That added more gas to a fire that was already smoldering.

What’s amazing about the Joba situation is that since the current rules were put into place (prior to the August 16th start at Seattle), the Yankees only went 3-4 . Save for the two forgettable outings in Seattle and the Toronto game where he pitched OK but Roy Halladay nearly no-hit the Yankees, they saved face.

So now what? We’re left with more questions, because we’ve seen this type of effort from Joba before. So much has been made about how the Yankees have managed Joba this season that after a while it all sounds like a test from the Emergency Alert System. That’s not to say every opinion offered has been bogus. ESPN Radio’s Don LaGreca made an interesting point Friday, when he noted that this type of procurement of pitchers is rampant among Major League teams, except it’s not seen at the top level. The only comparable example in the Majors, LaGreca said, was the Rays’ careful handling of David Price and the debate whether he should be a starter or a closer, based on his postseason success in 2008.

For now, Joba is a starting pitcher and regardless of what the organization is telling the media, he’s a better option than Chad “I can give you four innings of great stuff but then I’m going to implode” Gaudin. Banter colleague Cliff Corcoran nailed it in his game recap when he wrote:

“He … should be allowed to pitch without limits against the Royals in preparation for potential playoff work. His performance in that game could determine a lot, including which ALDS schedule the Yankees choose. If he’s similarly effective, the Yankees might prefer to let Joba start an ALDS game in order to keep him in the groove.”

We’ll see …

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Extra Credit

I left two grades out of my post from this morning. Here they are:

Joe Girardi, Manager

Girardi has impressed me in a number of ways this season. Starting with instantly rewarding Nick Swisher’s hot start with more playing time, Girardi has done an excellent job of rewarding performance with playing time throughout his roster. When Brett Gardner stumbled and Melky Cabrera got hot, Girardi didn’t hesitate to invert the roles of his two center fielders. Angel Berroa may have been on the roster for far too long, but Girardi barely used him, quickly recognizing Ramiro Peña’s superior skill set and rewarding the rookie with opportunities commensurate to his performance. Similarly, when catchers Kevin Cash and Francisco Cervelli were called up within three days of each other following injuries to Jorge Posada and Jose Molina, Girardi didn’t simply default to Cash as the starter because of his major league experience (which includes a .186/.248/.287 career batting line). Rather, he again favored talent over experience, making Cervelli the starter, and was rewarded for it. Girardi excelled at this in his bullpen usage last year, and has done it again this year, letting Phil Coke, Alfredo Aceves, and now Phil Hughes pitch their way to high-leverage duty while casting aside more experienced arms in Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez.

Of course, managers manage people and not just teams, so there have been a couple of cases in which Girardi has persisted with a player in a role beyond the point at which the media and fans thought was appropriate. Specifically, Girardi put Brian Bruney right back into his eighth-inning role after Bruney was activated from the DL for the second time and stuck with Robinson Cano batting fifth behind Alex Rodriguez through a considerable slump with runners in scoring position. In both cases, Girardi was showing some necessary faith in those players, but not so much that he didn’t eventually move Bruney into the middle innings and Cano down in the order.

Girardi also deserves credit for lightening up this season after receiving poor marks for his militaristic approach to last year’s team. Starting with a spring training team field trip to a pool hall conceived by the skipper, this year’s Yankees team has been one of the loosest and most colorful in recent memory, from Nick Swisher’s iPod, to A.J. Burnett’s cream pies, to the post-game championship belt (donated by Jerry Lawler), to the Mariano Rivera-judged kangaroo court.

Still, Girardi continues to have a blind spot when it comes to the fragility of his players. Though he seems to have discontinued his practice of lying to the media about his players’ health, he initially failed to follow the doctor’s orders to give Alex Rodriguez proper rest following the third baseman’s return from hip surgery, and has too often overextended CC Sabathia beyond the big man’s effectiveness. Fortunately, CC’s pitch counts haven’t been dangerous (he has reached 120 pitches just twice, tellingly both times in Yankee losses), and Rodriguez has responded incredibly to having some regular rest of late. Still, taking those kind of chances with the team’s top assets early in the season is more than just obstinate, it’s potentially disastrous for the organization. Given Girardi’s injury blind spot, I wonder to what degree his approach is to blame for the fact that both Cody Ransom and Brian Bruney tried to cover up injuries to the detriment of the team.

B+

Yankee Stadium 2.0

Prior to Opening Day, my objections to the new Yankee Stadium were sentimental, political, financial, historical, and aesthetic. Then the thing opened and turned out to be a giant Homermobile. Worse, it had a significant, detrimental effect on the game being played on the field. Though it feels cavernous to fans, it plays like a bandbox and has been host to many game-changing pop-fly home runs. Just look at the pitching staff’s splits:

Home: 4.80 ERA, 1.45 HR/9, 3.86 BB/9
Road: 4.32 ERA, 1.11 HR/9, 3.57 BB/9

Compare that to last year’s splits:

Home: 4.11 ERA, 0.83 HR/9, 3.10 BB/9
Road: 4.46 ERA, 0.96 HR/9, 3.01 BB/9

That is by far the most significant aspect of the new park, but beyond the way it plays, all of my preseason objections still hold. The best seats in the house have been half empty or worse because of their exorbitant price. The massive new scoreboards are poorly organized, making it unnecessarily difficult to catch any pertinent information with a quick glance away from the action. It’s gaudy, cacophonous, somehow looks cheap despite its billion-dollar price tag, caters primarily to luxury clients, has compromised the quality of the games being played on its field, and was utterly unnecessary in the first place.

D-

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: The Wang Stuff

Wednesday afternoon, Yankees GM Brian Cashman held a press conference in which he discussed Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the starting rotation.

“He’s a starter and he’s got a huge history of nothing but success,” he said. “It’s time to find time to slot him in.”

Now is, and was, that time. Wang made Cashman and manager Joe Girardi look smart for two innings, until he reverted to the pitcher whose ERA resembled the national debt ticker in midtown Manhattan. Was that what the Yankees were waiting for?

Speaking of waiting, the way the Yankees have treated Wang, admittedly rushing him back before accurately gauging his progress, one wonders if he was accelerated and placed in the starting rotation in order to be showcased to potential trade suitors. Cashman would never say that and no local scribes have gotten that provocative yet, but the possibility cannot be ruled out.

Newsday’s former Yankee beat man Jim Baumbach went there, sort of, giving some insight into the tenuous relationship the organization has had with Wang, going back five years.

The Yankees gladly would have traded Chien-Ming Wang in a package for Randy Johnson during the 2004 season if only the Diamondbacks had any interest in him. After the trade deadline passed with no moves, the Yankees even let Wang pitch in the Olympics, something they never would have done if they thought Wang was a legitimate prospect.

Is he right? Think about it. The Yankees could have signed Wang to a long-term deal last year, but opted not to. They instead signed Robinson Cano to a long-term deal and took Wang to salary arbitration, where the pitcher was awarded a $4 million contract. This year, the Yankees and Wang went to arbitration again, with the righty getting a $1 million raise.

Baumbach wasn’t done, though. In a column recapping Thursday’s victory, in which the Yankees got Wang off the hook, Baumbach wrote:

Seemingly every time the Yankees talk about Chien-Ming Wang, they reference how he won 46 games for them in the previous 2 1/2 seasons, as if that should count toward something here in 2009.

But we’re more than a third of the way through this season, and pretty soon the Yankees will have to come to grips with the fact that the pitcher who used to be their ace hasn’t been heard from since he hurt his right foot last June in Houston. And there’s no guarantees that pitcher is going to make it back this season.

It should be noted that the pitcher who won 46 games from 2006-08 only won one playoff game in that time frame. In 2007, his second straight 19-win season, he lost both of his ALDS starts, pitching just 5 2/3 innings over those two appearances and logging a 19.06 ERA. Why is this relevant? The Yankees told Wang what they thought of his ace status by shelling out $242 million in long-term contracts to pitchers they believed had a better upside. That the 2009 version of Wang looks more like the pitcher who faced Cleveland in ’07 as opposed to the one who helped lead that team to a wild-card berth hasn’t helped his case.

As far as Phil Hughes is concerned, he is in the bullpen now, and as Baumbach and others have written, the Yankees view his future in the rotation. The same is true with Wang. He’s viewed as a starter. But what happens if and when Brian Bruney or Damaso Marte return to their respective relief spots? Whose future is in the Yankees’ rotation then? Will the Yankees wait that long to make their move?

We’ll know the answers soon enough.

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.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“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 …

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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Finish What Ya Started

The Blue Jays beat the Yankees 8-2 last night as Roy Halladay picked up his 20th win with his ninth complete game of the season. By doing so, Halladay tied CC Sabathia for the major league lead in complete games, though Sabathia could break the tie in his final start. Only one team other than the Blue Jays and Brewers has more than nine complete games.

Halladay needed just 96 pitches to finish off the Yankees’ B-squad. Of the six hits he allowed, three were by Brett Gardner (one of them a double, one of them in infield hit on which Gardner beat out a nice play by Jays second baseman Joe Inglett on a hard grounder in the hole). Melky Cabrera (1 for 3) got one of the others, and Cody Ransom drew the only Yankee walk of the night.

It might have been a bit unfair for Joe Girardi to give catching prospect Francisco Cervelli (0-for-3) his first major league start against Halladay, but then Girardi didn’t make Cervelli swing at the first pitch he saw in his first two at bats (both groundouts, the second a double play). Cervelli took two pitches in his final at-bat, but still struck out swinging on just four tosses. That said, Cervelli showed great form on the one stolen base attempt against him, firing a strike that would have nailed Alex Rios in the third had Rios not gotten a huge jump on Carl Pavano.

Speaking of Pavano, in his final act as a Yankee, he gave up five runs in just 3 2/3 innings. Don’t let the door bruise your buttocks on the way out, Chuckles.

At least Pavano’s short outing allowed Girardi to audition some relievers. Dan Giese stranded the two runners he inherited from Pavano in the fourth, but couldn’t get the second out of the fifth inning, allowing two runs on three consecutive hits before David Robertson tidied up his mess. Edwar Ramirez struck out Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay in a scoreless sixth. Humberto Sanchez gave up a run in the seventh after walking two men on nine pitches, but got a double play to get out of his own mess. Finally, in the eighth Darrell Rasner retired the Jay’s 4-5-6 hitters 1-2-3, getting ahead of each hitter before inducing each into a groundout.

Speaking of the bullpen, Mariano Rivera had an MRI on his shoulder yesterday and could need some minor arthroscopic surgery this winter. Meanwhile, Joe Girardi continues to display either a dangerous ignorance or an inexplicable need to snowball the media regarding his players’ physical health. After listening to his post-game press conference, I think it’s the former, which means he needs to work on his communication with his players and his training staff. A manager’s primary job is distributing playing time to his players. If the manager is ill informed about his players’ health for whatever reason, his ability to perform that essential task in the manner most beneficial to the team is compromised. That may not be an issue in Rivera’s case, but may have been with regard to Jorge Posada’s shoulder, Alex Rodriguez’s quad, or any of a number of other early-season aches and pains that got worse before they got better.

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