"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Justin Morneau


In the classic Soundgarden tune “Outshined”, Chris Cornell writes:

I just looked in the mirror
And things aren’t lookin’ so good.
I’m looking California
And feelin’ Minnesota.

That brief stanza may be an apt way to describe Hiroki Kuroda’s start Wednesday night. He was both looking and feeling California in the home opener last Friday against the Los Angeles Angels. In the song, “feeling Minnesota” is a euphemism for feeling terrible. On the field, Kuroda wasn’t feeling Minnesota, Minnesota was feeling Kuroda. Four of the first five Twins to come to the plate in the first inning got hits and scored. By the time Kuroda had thrown 13 pitches, the Yankees were in a 4-0 hole.

Hiroki Kuroda's second Yankee Stadium start was much rougher than his first. (Photo Credit / Getty Images)

Kuroda’s downfall was Justin Morneau. His two-run home run in the first inning put the Twins up 4-0, he singled and scored in the third, and he belted another home run in the fifth — a solo shot — to end Kuroda’s night. (Not to question X’s and O’s, but Morneau’s fifth-inning home run came on a 2-0 count. Was anyone else thinking, “Hey, the bases are empty, walk him and take your chances with someone named Chris Parmelee?”).

The Yankees’ lineup, which was without Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner but had Mark Teixeira back, did their best to bail out Kuroda, responding with three runs of their own in the bottom of the first. Trailing 4-3, they loaded the bases with one out and a realistic chance to post a crooked number until Eric Chavez ended the threat by grounding into a double play.

Three different times the Yankees would get to within one run of the Twins, but not once could they tie the game. Three straight innings — the fifth, sixth and seventh — the Yankees put the leadoff man on base and mounted threats, but couldn’t score. After the first inning, the only runs they were able to manage came off solo home runs from Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter.

6-5 final, series finale with Phil Hughes on the mound Thursday. Are you confident?


  • Alex Belth’s profile of Kuroda, posted here in February, made us want to root for him for reasons beyond his simply wearing the Yankee uniform. Wednesday was one of those nights sinkerballers tend to have. If the sinker doesn’t sink, it stinks.

    “He was just up all night,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He didn’t seem to have it from the get-go.”

    Despite the poor result, which raised Kuroda’s ERA to an even 5.00 and his WHIP to 1.61, Kuroda remains an integral component to the Yankees’ starting rotation, based on his skill set, veteran presence, and experience. We’ll have about 30 more chances to root for him.

  • Opposing Kuroda was native Long Islander Jason Marquis. Marquis, who grew up in Staten Island and still lives there, was making his American League and 2012 season debut. Marquis had pitched in New York before, but at Shea Stadium and Citi Field, but had never pitched a major league game in the Bronx.

    Marquis’ debut was delayed; this story has been well document. He left the Twins with two weeks to go in Spring Training to attend to his daughter, who lacerated her liver in a bicycle accident. Ken Rosenthal does a tremendous job of portraying the details of the story here. As a father of one little girl and another on the way, I applaud what Marquis did. There’s no decision to make.

    His daughter had four surgeries and is recovering well. According to reports, a full recovery is expected within three months. How fortunate Jason Marquis was to be home with his family, and STAY home when he joined his new team. As a bonus, his family got to be on the field with him yesterday (nice work by YES taking video and showing that B-roll during the bottom of the first inning).

    And he got the win.

  • All American Man

    Cliff checks in on the MVP races over at SI.com. Leading the AL? That man Morneau:

    Last year, Joe Mauer led the American League in all three slash-stat categories (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging), led the majors in the first two and was a nearly unanimous selection for AL MVP. On Sunday morning, Mauer’s teammate Morneau was leading the AL in all three slash stats and the majors in the first two (Miguel Cabrera passed Morneau in slugging on Sunday). Morneau plays a position with a much higher average level of production and isn’t as highly regarded defensively as Mauer even there, but the slash-stat triple crown should be enough to guarantee a hitter the MVP award. To put the accomplishment in context: Mauer was the first American Leaguer to accomplish the feat since George Brett in 1980; only four NL hitters have pulled it off since Stan Musial did it in 1948, the most recent being Barry Bonds in 2004. I’d be surprised to see Morneau regain and maintain the lead in all three categories, but given how close he is to that accomplishment at this point in the season, he has to be the favorite for AL MVP.

    Yankee Panky: VORP for MVP

    The word “value” has numerous definitions and interpretations. The noun form, per dictionary.com, has 15 listed meanings. The first several apply to some kind of monetary distinction.

    But if we’re looking at value in terms of a baseball player and a certain annual regular season award that’s handed out in November, we need to looking at the adjective, or maybe even the verb. The best definition of the three verb lines that apply here: “to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance.”

    Because of the way the MVP vote is constructed, the discussion surrounding the debate comes down to a subjective analysis of who should be considered the most worthy, excellent, useful, and/or important player in the league. The miracle of modern technology has made taken the level of debate to new heights. Please to enjoy, for example, Tyler Kepner’s tweet on August 14, moments after Mark Teixeira’s tiebreaking home run at Safeco Field:

    “By the way, this is probably obvious by now, but Teixeira’s the AL MVP. ‘No question,’ as Joe Torre would say.”

    The statements themselves seemed innocuous. They were an impulse reaction to a great moment among many that Tex, ye of the 8-year, $180 million contract, has provided in Year 1 of the megadeal. That was until you followed the thread to catch the jibes about Tex’s negative Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and the running joke it’s become, and scoured the Net to read criticisms from Rob Neyer, Joe Posnanski, and my esteemed former colleague Steven Goldman – although Goldman’s retort wasn’t immediately directed at Kepner.

    The criticisms of Kepner, save for broader strokes from Goldman and JoePos in SI, read like they traded in the horses that were driving the Joe Mauer Bandwagon for rocket fuel.

    Put bluntly, it was an all-out Internet war with Neyer wielding a sabermetric sword (yes, pun intended), Pos casting spells with his wizarding words, and Kepner responding with a gun that instead of bullets, fired the stick with the flag that reads, “BANG!”

    From Neyer:

    What inspired this particular post? An essentially meaningless home run, hit well after midnight (back in New York). I mean, I’m sorry, but the Yankees aren’t exactly in the middle of a pennant race anymore. They’ve got a huge lead over the second-place Red Sox. And if the Red Sox should somehow mount a late charge, the Yankees have a huger lead over the Rangers for that other postseason berth. … Joe Mauer currently leads the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. I don’t suppose anyone’s forgotten this yet, but he’s a catcher. Teixeira’s a first baseman. Are we really supposed to go for a power-hitting first baseman again, even when there’s a better-hitting catcher playing for a competitive team?” Neyer went on to say that he’s worried the writers are conspiring to rob Mauer of what should be a third MVP award for him.

    He continued his fact-based rant 48 hours later, saying, “You know what? Let’s just be honest. The argument for Teixeira is an argument for doing it the way it’s always been done. Teixeira is just another big RBI guy on a team with a great record. If he were a Twin and Mauer were a Yankee, Teixeira would hardly be an afterthought. Some of you are OK with that. I’m not.”

    Six days later, Neyer felt compelled to write about convincing Pete Abe on Super Joe. The goal, apparently, is to not only campaign for Mauer for MVP, but to have him win unanimously.

    OK … now to Mr. Pos:

    Look, could you make a case for Mark Teixeira over Joe Mauer? Well, you could make a case for anything. You could say that Mauer missed the first month of the season — so Teixeira has about 120 more plate appearances. You could say that the Yankees are going to the playoffs and the Twins are not unless they make a late season rush that looks more and more unlikely. But it sure seems to me that we need to start jabbing holes in this Teixeira MVP thing before it becomes a fait accompli.

    Joe Mauer is having a much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much better season than Mark Teixeira. I’m not sure I put enough muches in there. Mauer is on pace to win his THIRD batting title as a catcher — and no other American League catcher has ever won even one. He leads the league in on-base percentage AND slugging percentage, the two most important stats going, and the only catcher to ever do that in baseball history was … oh, wait, nobody. He throws out base runners and hits .395 with runners in scoring position (hits .457 with runners in scoring position and two outs) and even runs the bases well.

    And three days later, JoePos had this to offer: “Not to slam this MVP thing again, but we do realize that even forgetting all those kooky ‘advanced stats’ that seem to annoy people, even with Mauer missing a month of the season with injury — Mauer has now scored as many runs at Teixeira and he’s only 13 RBIs behind, and his batting average is 95 points higher. We do realize that the last seven days, while the Twins have been in desperate need of victories (and not getting many), Mauer is hitting .552 with three home runs and a .931 slugging percentage. And he’s probably the Gold Glove catcher.”

    And finally, Goldman:

    Unless Teixeira leads the league in home runs by a significant margin, or Mauer cools dramatically, it’s hard to see him emerging from the pack when his season is unremarkable by the standards of his position. Of the last 60 awards (both leagues), first basemen won only 11 times. No first baseman won without hitting .300 (I am treating the 1979 Keith Hernandez/Willie Stargell split like an honorary Academy Award for Pops). All but one, Mo Vaughn in 1995, were well over the .300 mark. An average of those 11 seasons comes to roughly .333/.428/.624, and many of them, like Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez, both included in the 11, were fine defenders as well. Teixeira’s not having that kind of season.

    Some harsh words in there. Kepner, following Posnanski’s initial commentary, issued a rebuttal at Bats, noting that “obvious” was a poor choice of words in his Tweet. In a way, he invited the storm and I thought he handled himself admirably among some respected, admired and talented industry heavyweights. I thought the degree to which he was made to be the piñata for “traditional baseball opinions” was a bit extreme. He’s entitled to his opinion, and opinions are subjective, just like the MVP vote.


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