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Tag: Nick Swisher
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Make ‘Em Laff

When Nick Swisher took his high on-base-percentage and shit-eating grin to Cleveland he left the Yankees with a personality complex. That is, they are now without a goofball, whose enthusiasm, which in Swisher’s case I believe is sincere, people either find appealing or irritating. I tolerated Swisher’s schtick though didn’t think he was funny or interesting. I liked him as a player, though, and so while I thought he was an ass I didn’t think he was a phony and you’ve got to let people be who they are.

Juan Rivera and Kevin Youkilis, well, that is nobody’s idea of charm or good cheer, though Youkilis does have a droll sense of humor. What the Yanks are left with is their one-time mascot who was banished to the minor leagues last season: Francisco Cervelli. You may have heard, he’s the Yankees starting catcher. Now, it doesn’t matter how this adds up in making the Yanks a better team, because it gives them a cheerful pain in the ass,  a guy sure to make us smile on occasion because he enjoys his job and a guy certain to piss off the opposition.

And there’s some value in that.

Go West, You Dudes

Raul Ibanez to the Mariners and, as expected, Nick Swisher to the Indians.

That is all.

I Wouldn’t Woo Woo You

Hey Swish…Woo Woo.

Wait a Minim

According to George King, Russell Martin and Ichiro Suzuki are willing to wait on the Yankees. So? Bring ‘em both back, just one of them? Which one of these?

And how would you feel if Nick Swisher signed with the Red Sox?

[Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images]

In a New York Minute…

The Yankees had lost three straight going into last night’s game and frustration built by the inning as Chris Young was stingy and kept the Bombers off the board. Frustration turned into irritation when Young hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning to put the Mets up, 3-0.

And then, over the course of four pitches, the game changed.

Mark Teixeira led off the seventh against Young and worked the count full. He hit a foul tip that was dropped by the catcher, Josh Thole. The next pitch was over the plate but low for ball four. Close, and on a different night with a different umpire it could have easily been called a strike. Nick Swisher took a big swing at the first pitch he saw and it was likely his swing that caught right fielder Lucas Duda off-guard. Duda stepped back, hesitated, and then ran forward. Swisher hit the ball off the end of the bat and was so sure that he’d made an easy out that he ducked his head and loafed out of the box. But Duda’s hesitation was costly as he ran ahead and dove for the ball. He missed and the ball squirted behind him. Teixeira moved to third and even without hustling Swisher made it to second.

Before Yankee fans could say “runners in scoring position” Raul Ibanez hit a line drive on the first pitch he saw from Young. It was a seed, headed for the right field corner, and whoosh! it went over the fence, a three run homer. Four pitches and the game had changed.

Jon Rauch relieved Young, struck out Russell Martin and got ahead of pinch-hitter Eric Chavez 0-2 when he looked to waste a pitch up in the zone. It was at Chavez’s shoulders but the lefty fought it off and hit a fly ball to left. It appeared to be a long foul ball, but it stayed fair and went over the fence to put the Yankees ahead 4-3.

That’s how the score remained as the Bombers worked out of trouble in almost every inning–David Robertson pulled his usual Houdini act in the eighth, walking two and striking out the side–as it was the Mets’ turn to come up short with men on. Raphael Soriano got the save. The last out, a long fly ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy, looked scary coming off his bat. But it didn’t have that good sound and it fell into Swisher’s glove.

 

Money Earnin’

The Braves batted in the bottom of the first inning when the subway emerged from the ground at Dyckman Street. In the top of the inning, the Yanks had put two runners on base but Alex Rodriguez popped out and Robinson Cano grounded out. I was on my way home from the gym and tuned in to John Sterling on the radio. By the time the train reached 231st Street the Braves had loaded the bases and Sterling proved to be so inept–botching several calls–that I angrily switched to the Braves station. Just in time for a bases clearing double.

That was the major damage against C.C. Sabathia, who pitched well enough. The Braves added an insurance run in the seventh and the Yanks didn’t do much of anything against  Mike Minor, who was excellent.

A one-out single by Derek Jeter in the eighth chased Minor from the game and Curtis Granderson slapped a base hit to left field against Jonny Venters who then walked Teixeira. Bases loaded for Rodriguez, hitless on the night and hapless this season with the bases loaded. If there were any Yankee fans confident in Rodriguez to come through with a big hit I’d like to know who they were.

The first pitch, a 95 mph fastball, was low and in the dirt. The next pitch, a slider, had a sharp break but fell well short of the plate. Two-and-zero, bases loaded, and still no confidence, right? Double play, right? The next pitch, another fastball, another one in the dirt. Venters threw a fastball over the plate for a strike and then Rodriguez had a decent pitch to hit but was late and fouled it out of play. This is what we’ve been talking about for weeks, Rodriguez fouling off fat, juicy pitches. The next fastball was inside and Rodriguez fouled it off his left foot.

The crowd, a noisy combination of home town fans and invading Yankee fans, made itself known.

And then he got another fastball. Rodriguez was ready, turned on it and hit a line drive to left field. It was a pea and looked to be a sure double. But it was high enough to clear the fence, good for a grand slam. A kid in the front row made like he was going to catch the ball, then wisely turned to the side at the last moment when he recognized how fast the ball was moving. The boy caught the ball in his hat. Smart kid.

The game was tied as Rodriguez also tied the Iron Horse for the most grand slam’s in major league history. We knew it was going to happen sometime.

Go fuggin’ figure.

Robbie Cano looped a single to center field and after a pitching change and ball one, Nick Swisher pounded a home run over the 390 foot mark in right center field.

Clay Rapada, who the wife calls “Ramapo” worked around a one-out walk in the eighth and held the Braves down.

“Why do you call him ‘Ramapo’?” I asked.

“Because that’s what I called him that time the other week, remember? I don’t remember why I came up with it but I did and it’s sticking.”

The wife knows.

In the ninth, Rafael Soriano faced the two-three-four batters. Martin Prado hit an 0-2 pitch, with “plenty of overspin,” according to Kenny Singleton on the YES broadcast, between short and third. Rodriguez took a few steps to his left, fielded the ball on a high hop and threw Prado out at first. Prado returned to the dugout and banged his helmet. Brian McCann was next, fell behind, and whiffed on an 84 mph breaking ball. Sharp, over the plate, nasty.

Soriano bent over before he pitched, as if he was bowing to the hitter. It reminded me of the bit that Mike Mussina used to do but Soriano faced home plate.

Dan Uggla, 5-11 lifetime against Soriano, popped the first pitch foul then took two pitches for balls before ripping a fastball foul. The crowd stood and cheered–oh, those Yankee fans. Some of the crowd booed too I suppose but they could not be heard. The next pitch was another crisp breaking ball. Uggla swung over it and the Braves, who had runners on base in every inning but one, will have a long night as they try to figure out how this one got away.

Final Score: Yanks 6, Braves 4.

For the Bombers, that’s another series in the plus column. Some nice wins, this one, the second two games against the Mets, and guess who sits alone in first place?

Perfect Day for the Bomb Squad

This past Thursday the wife and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. We got married, just the two of us, in the Bahamas. After the ceremony and the pictures, we returned to our hotel room. It was a Thursday afternoon. The wife went into the bathroom to wash up and I clicked the TV on and saw on the ESPN ticker that the Yankees were losing to the Indians. I turned the TV off and after the wife and I consummated the marriage we later turned the TV back on and saw that the Yanks had won, and that Alex Rodriguez hit a game-ending grand slam.

This afternoon the wife and I went downtown to enjoy massages. I e-mailed a Red Sox pal of mine and predicted one thing–that Freddy Garcia would get his tits lit, which was precisely what happened. I saw that the Sox scored twice in the first on my phone just as we arrived at the spa. Bad enough there was troubling news about Michael Pineda before the game. Dammit. I turned the phone off and didn’t turn it back on until we left a good while later. Score was 9-5. Swisher had just hit a grand slam after the Yanks trailed 9-0. Predictable, I thought. Well, at least they are making it respectable.

Little did I know that the White Sox pitcher Phillip–Don’t Call Me Humbert–Humber was on his way to completing a perfect game against the Mariners in Seattle. The Yanks were down 9-1 in the 7th, with one out and Russell Martin on first when Fox cut away to the White Sox game. By the time Humber had his perfecto and was interviewed for TV and Fox returned to Boston, Swisher’s grand slam got the Yanks back in the game. Runners were on the corners and Mark Teixeira was at the plate. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were excited. Tex already had a solo homer and now, batting left-handed, he popped a three-run dinger over the Green Monster. Most of the damage was not televised.

image.jpg

The score stood at 9-8 when the wife and I got to the restaurant for dinner. The game was on the TV at the bar and so I stayed at the bar, with the wife’s blessing–she sat in our booth following on the phone–as we waited for our food. That’s where I saw the Yanks take the lead. And then some. The Bombers scored 7 in the 7th and 7 more in the 8th on their way to a ball-busting win that will not soon be forgotten. Games like this, even in April, are memorable. It was a rousing win for the Yanks and a punch-in-the-face loss for the Sox, “rock bottom,” according to Bobby Valentine.

Final Score: Yanks 15, Sox 9.

I couldn’t think of a sweeter anniversary gift from the so-called Baseball Gods.

Thank you. And the wife thanks you, too.

 

 [Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/N.Y. Daily News]

Three the Hard Way


Nothing like April baseball in the northeast. Cold. Stadium half-empty, and tonight Camden Yards was mostly quiet. Which was a change from the first two nights when the locals made considerable noise rooting for the home team. It was a welcome sound, actually, seeing as how Camden Yards is usually full of Yankee fans during the summer. The game was delayed for close to a half-an-hour so maybe the faithful decided it was best to stay home.

It feels as if the Yanks have been playing an extended version of the same game for six days now. Nothing has come easily, a string of hits or a bunch of runs. They did make some nice plays in the field tonight–Brett Gardner snagged a line drive, Curtis Granderson made a nice running catch, Robinson Cano robbed Matt Wieters of a base hit in eighth inning. And Boone Logan pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.

Granderson hit a two-run home run in the first inning but C.C. Sabathia quickly gave up two and he struggled through six innings. He didn’t have much of a rhythm and while he wasn’t terrible he threw a lot of pitches (especially in the second and third) and gave up four runs. Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta was impressive for the Orioles–hard fastball, nice breaking ball, good control. He had Alex Rodriguez’s head spinning and feet shuffling back to the dugout just as soon as he dug in at the plate.

Granderson tied the game with a base hit in the seventh. The Yanks left runners at second and third in the eighth. Eduardo Nunez later got picked off first. Almost everyone not named Jeter has endured frustrating at-bats in Baltimore.

When the O’s put runners of first and second with two out on in the ninth against Rafael Soriano, the fans chanted “Let’s Go O’s, Let’s Go O’s, Let’s Go O’s.” They booed when Soriano intentionally walked Nick Markakis to face Adam Jones (hitless in six career at-bats against Sori). The first pitch was on the outside corner but was called a ball and Joe Girardi leaned back, closed his eyes. Didn’t look like he was breathing. Soriano poured three more fastballs, right down the pike, and Jones swung through each one of them.

For the second night in a row, extra innings. Mark Teixeira hit a bloop double to left with two outs and then Nick Swisher worked the count full, got a meatball over the plate and deposited that weak sauce over the wall in right field.

Smiles.

Comfort.

Sweep.

Yanks 6, O’s 2.

Where the Heat Is

Andy Pettitte is back. Peter Kerastis has the report in the Times.  Here’s more from Mark Feinsand in the News.

Meanwhile, Chad Jennings has the recap of last night’s game (Swisher hurt; Pineda improves).

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.

Krush Groove

 

The Yanks scored early again today. In the first, Alex Rodriguez doubled home Derek Jeter, and in the fourth, Nick Swisher hit a three-run home run into the left field bleachers. That after he attempted to bunt on the first two pitches.

After the game, Swisher told reporters, “I thought I was told to lay one down. So finally after it got to 2-0 and the pitching coach came out I went over to (Pena) and said, ‘Hey man, what do you want me to do right here?’ He said, ‘I want you to let it loose.’ So I did.”

It proved to be enough as the Bombers leave Oakland with a three-game-sweep of the A’s. A.J. Burnett allowed a first inning home run, a two-run shot to Josh Willingham, but didn’t have any trouble with the A’s after that. Joba Chamberlain put two men on in the eighth, but then speared a line drive off the bat of Conor Jackson and turned a double play to end the inning.

Final Score: Yanks 4, A’s 2.

No complaints here as the Red Sox lost again to the White Sox in Boston.

Smiles all round, especially from Swisher, who had this to say to Kim Jones:

“I feel great. I feel like myself again. My personality is back. You know, I’m out of that dark place. So, either way my teammates have been amazing for me, my family and everybody. It’s been a wonderful trip so far. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re in those times. So for myself, I just wanna keep going out there, keep battling, and keep picking up those wins because everyone loves winning.”

Amen to that.

[Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP and roly]

RISP Averse

The Mets hospital ward team came into Yankee Stadium Friday night missing starting third baseman David Wright, center fielder Angel Pagan, first baseman Ike Davis and staff ace Johan Santana. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, the anticipated heart of the lineup (Beltran, Wright and Jason Bay) have been active at the same time for a total of 27 games. Their starting infield tonight: Daniel Murphy (1B), Ruben Tejada (2B), Jose Reyes (SS) and Justin Turner (3B). Not quite the ’77 Dodgers. Despite this, and a 5-13 start to the season, new manager Terry Collins had them at 21-22, five games behind the first place Phillies.

R.A. Dickey, the Mets knuckleballing starter, had been cuffed around for most of the early season (1-5, 5.08 ERA).  The Yanks countered with Freddy Garcia, who was probably salivating over the depleted opposition, given the way the Red Sox treated him in his last start (5 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 HR, 5 ER).

Unfortunately for Garcia, Dickey had an ally on this night, namely the Yankees continued inability to get a clutch hit.  Going into the evening, the Bombers were 9th in the AL in batting average with 2 out and runners in scoring position (.219).  The worst offender, Nick Swisher, finally got his first hit in 20 tries Thursday night in Baltimore.  He couldn’t offer a repeat performance.

Alex Rodriguez doubled to right-center to start the bottom of the 2nd.  Robbie Cano struck out and Russell Martin grounded out.  Jorge Posada worked a walk and Swisher was plunked on the knee by a 68-mph flutterball to load the bases.  Alas, Brett Gardner hit a two hopper to Turner for a force at third to end the threat.

Mark Teixeira cracked his 11th homer of 2011 with two out in the third for the game’s first run . . . a wall-scraper that landed in the first row of the right field seats just over Beltran’s outstretched glove.  The Mets got the run back in the fourth on a two-out double by DH Fernando Martinez and a double down the right field line by Turner (one of his three hits on the night).

The Yanks had chances to retake the lead over the next two innings.  Swisher came up with two outs and Martin on second in the fourth and struck out.   Gardner and Derek Jeter reached safely to start the fifth, but Curtis Granderson flew to right, Teixeira was caught looking and Rodriguez grounded to short.

The Mets reclaimed the lead in their half of the sixth on a leadoff homer by Daniel Murphy inside the right field foul pole.  Garcia subsequently walked Beltran and two outs later Turner dunked a ground rule double in front of a diving Swisher (fortunate for the Yanks as Beltran would have scored had the ball stayed in play).  Garcia wiggled out of trouble by getting Josh Thole to bounce out to Teixeira.   Dickey survived another runner in scoring position jam in the bottom of the inning, as Russell Martin’s one-out double went for naught with strikeouts of Posada and Swisher.  And that was the last threat (and baserunner) the Yanks would muster, as three Met relievers combined to strike out five of the last nine Yankee batters.

In all, the Yanks went 1-10 with runners in scoring position, and wasted a good bounceback effort by Garcia (with solid relief from David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain, each of whom allowed one single and struck out two in their respective inning of work).

Final: Mets 2, Yanks 1.

Thunder Storms in Balti'mo

The Yankees lineup slumps as a team and hits as a team. The slump: Wednesday night. Fourteen innings, fourteen singles, and a 1-for-14 effort with runners in scoring position was the epitome of the Yankees’ recent bout of anemia. The hits: Robinson Canó’s 2-RBI double in the 15th inning not only broke the singles brigade and the RISP issues, it was the beginning of an avalanche of offense.

Derek Jeter led off the game with a double, and Curtis Granderson followed with an RBI triple off the top of the right field wall. A productive out by Mark Teixeira had the game at 2-0 before some people realized the game had even started. Later in the inning, Brad Bergesen drilled Cano, walked Russell Martin on four pitches, threw a wild pitch and was forced to walk Jorge Posada to load the bases. Nick Swisher unloaded the bases with a double. 5-0 after a half inning. Score truck idling on Eutaw Street.

Ahead to the fourth inning, where Brett Gardner and Jeter hit back-to-back triples, and then Big Teix went yard. 9-0 and pray the rain held out. It did. The game was official. Tack-on runs in the fifth and sixth. Even Eduardo Nuñez belted a home run to cap the scoring.

The early barrage was more than enough for CC Sabathia, who was on auto-pilot from the get-go. About as economical as he gets: average of 14 pitches per inning through his 8 IP, and struck out nine. No walks. Seventy-seven percent of his pitches went for strikes.

As good as CC was, make no mistake, this game was about the offense. Up and down the lineup, it was like a huge exhalation. A channeling of several days of frustration. The Yankees did what they’re supposed to do: destroy bad pitching. And the timely hitting was there. Eight of 13 runs were scored with two outs. They went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

This was the type of victory the Yankees needed. Now if they could only have this kind of effort against teams other than the Orioles…Wait, how about the Mets?

NOTES:
* Jorge Posada was in the field, at first base, and went 1-for-3 with an RBI, a run scored, and two walks. His long flyball out to center field in the eighth inning has him 0-for-25 vs. LHP this season. A great note on Posada, though, from YES Network’s Jack Curry, via Twitter: Since he asked out of the lineup Saturday, Posada has reached base in 7 of 9 plate appearances.

* Another beauty from Mr. Curry: Swisher had 4 RBI tonight. He had just 3 in his previous 17 games.

* When Sabathia was removed in favor of Amauri Sanit for the ninth inning, the Yankees extended their MLB record streak of consecutive games without a complete game to 337.

* Courtesy of Larry Koestler at YankeeAnalysts, the Yankees have never had their starting pitchers go 8 innings on consecutive nights. Sabathia and Bartolo Colon just did it.

The Best for Last

Phil Hughes is lost right now. He’s lost velocity on his pitches and is now lost in space. He threw more BP fastballs tonight and the O’s feasted on that weak sauce to the tune of five runs in four-and-a-third innings. It’s clear that something ain’t right, but what that something is, well, that’ll keep the angst-meter on blast for the foreseeable future, won’t it?

The Bombers inched their way back into the game behind a strong relief outing from Bad Bart Colon and trailed 5-4 going into the eighth. Colon put runners on the corners with one out and was replaced by Joba Chamberlain who uncorked a slider past Russell Martin. Felix Pie charged home from third but Joba beat him to the plate and blocked Pie’s leg, took the throw from Martin and made the tag for the second out.

Went something like this:

Joba struck Mark Reynolds out looking with some easy cheese on the outside corner, end of inning.

That  looked to be the last thing to get excited about as Alex Rodriguez, still hot, and Robinson Cano had two out hits in the bottom of the inning but Nick Swisher, ice cold, rolled over a grounder to end the inning. Joba pitched a scoreless ninth and then Jorge Posada hit Kevin Gregg’s first pitch into the right center field bullpen to tie the game.

And Yankee Stadium was happy.

Even more so when Curtis Granderson lined a ball off Nick Markakis’ glove in right field for a double. But Martin could not get a bunt down and whiffed. Brett Gardner, who has looked overmatched, did the same and Derek Jeter tapped out to short and the inning was over.

Yet all praise the Great Mariano, who worked around a lead-off single, and got the Yanks back up in short order. The lefty Mike Gonzalez walked Mark Teixeira on a full-count pitch to start the inning and then Rodriguez, who has been hitting just about everything on the screws, ripped a double to left. Second and third, no out. Robbie. Worked the count even at two, smacked a line drive right at the shortstop, one out.

The O’s chose not to walk Swisher, batting from the right side. Swish hit a hump back liner to Markakis in right, deep enough to score the winning run.

A.J., pie, game.

Yanks 6, O’s 5. Applause.

[First picture by Michel Gravel]

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?

Yeeeouch

What’s with Nick Swisher? The Yankee outfielder with have an MRI–his second in ten days–today. According to the Times:

“Short term, I’m worried about it because I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” Manager Joe Girardi said of Swisher. “But I don’t perceive it to be two weeks or anything like that.”

It has been almost two weeks since Swisher fouled a ball off his knee on Aug. 24 in Toronto, and after a period of slight improvement, he said Sunday in Texas that the pain had started affecting other parts of his body. It grew noticeably worse Wednesday, when he fell after taking a swing, and he ran with a limp his first two games against the Rangers. Swisher, receiving treatment before Monday’s game, was not available to comment.

Hot Dog

The Yanks were this close to being swept by Buck’s birds. Then Nick Swisher hit a game-ending, two-run home run to the opposite field to give the Yanks a 3-2 win. I missed the game on the count of, you know, I gotta job and all, but I was pleased to hear that Ivan Nova pitched well, and of course, I was pumped about how the game ended.

When Tino Martinez played for the Yankees, women loved him. Girls swooned for Jeter, women went for Tino. He was reliable, solid, plus he had a nice ass. Nowadays, a lot of women love Swisher. Not like they liked Tino, but they find Swisher’s goofy enthusiasm charming. Here’s a shot I took of him at Old Timer’s Day with some of the old Yankee wives:

You might think he’s cool or you might think he’s a clown. So long as he keeps hitting, I’ll take him.

On a more somber note, Brian Heyman reports:

The postgame talk had more to do with Jorge Posada’s concussion symptoms than Nick Swisher’s two-run walk-off homer, which came one year to the day of his last walk-off homer. Joe Girardi was asked about life potentially without Posada, and he didn’t like the thought.

“You’re talking about a guy that’s playoff-tested, World Series-tested, September-down-the-stretch-tested, a switch-hitter in the middle part of our lineup,” Girardi said. “It’s an impact.”

But everything turned out OK with the test results. Posada is day to day and cleared to play.

Forget about Posada not being in the lineup, here’s hoping the man is okay.
[Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP]

Now That’s Progressive

The Cleveland Indians, stuck in last place in the AL Central, one game behind the Kansas City Royals, inspire such excitement that the following exchange took place during the YES telecast in the top of the fifth inning:

KEN SINGLETON (To John Flaherty): “Take a look a the light towers here. … Look at ‘em! Don’t they look like toothbrushes?”

FLAHERTY (after a long pause): “You know, I see it more looking at the shot on TV. I was looking out there and I didn’t get that feel.”

Oh yeah, exciting stuff. Never mind the fact Singleton had a point: the light towers at Progressive Field do resemble the shape of a flat-headed toothbrush.

Amid the stimulating intellectual chatter, a baseball game did occur, albeit a largely nondescript one save for the eighth inning. In the top half, with the Yankees trailing 2-1 and making Jake Westbrook look like he should be pitching for a contending team before the end of the week, Jorge Posada led off, battling back from an 0-2 count and singled to left. It was only the Yankees’ third hit of the night. Curtis Granderson followed by drilling a sinker that didn’t sink deep into the right-field seats to put the Yankees on top. The 8, 9 and 1 hitters — Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter — went quietly to hand the lead to Javier Vazquez.

Vazquez had pitched reasonably well through seven innings. Yes, Vazquez benefited from an impatient Indians lineup that swung at anything near the strike zone, which kept his pitch count low, but he threw strikes and when he put runners on base, he did a fine job pitching out of jams and minimizing damage. It was one of those outings that had “hard luck loser” written all over it until the Granderson bomb. Vazquez faltered when handed the lead, though, walking leadoff man Michael Brantley. The hiccup prompted Joe Girardi to bring in David Robertson, who succeeded in his audition for “the 8th inning guy.” Robertson threw a first-pitch ball to Asdrubal Cabrera, but overpowered him with fastballs thereafter. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Cabrera bounced one to short that seemed to handcuff Jeter, who uncomfortably backhanded the ball but quickly fired to Robinson Canó at second. Canó’s quick turn and rocket toss to Mark Teixeira completed the double play and eased tensions. That was until Joe Girardi emerged from the dugout to take the ball from Robertson and hand it to Boone LOOGY. LOOGY did his job, though, striking out Shin Soo Choo to set up the inevitable with Mariano Rivera.

As Yankee fans, we truly are spoiled. Even when Rivera allows a leadoff hit and that runner advances to scoring position, rarely is there a doubt that he’ll pitch out of the jam. Three broken-bat groundouts later, game over.

The Yankees needed this one because Rays won’t go away. They blanked the Detroit Tigers 5-0 paced by Matt Garza finally putting Tampa on the correct side of a no-hitter. The lead is still three games and hasn’t wavered from that number since July 18, when the Yankees took two of three in the Bronx. The Yankees and Rays are the only two teams in MLB with 60 wins and run differentials of more than 100 (the Yanks are at +129, the Rays are +120). Clearly, they’re the two best teams in the game and they’re both treating games at the end of July as if they were being played in mid-September with a playoff spot and seeding on the line.

THE UMPIRES STRIKE BACK
On June 2, Jim Joyce gave Jason Donald a gift call in Detroit and in the process, took a perfect game away from Armando Galarraga. Tonight, second-base umpire Dale Scott gifted two calls to the Indians in consecutive innings. In the top of the fourth, with one out and Mark Teixeira on first base, Alex Rodriguez hit a sinking liner to left field that Trevor Crowe appeared to have trapped. It was ruled a catch, he quickly threw the ball to the infield, where Donald promptly tagged Teixeira to complete the double play. Teixeira, A-Rod, and Joe Girardi protested the call. In real speed, it looked like a trap, and the slow-motion replay confirmed it. The biggest clue was that Crowe slowed up as the ball continued to sink, and then squared up to field the ball like an infielder. If Crowe intended to catch that ball on the fly, he’d have charged it.

In the top of the fifth, with one out and Posada on first, Granderson hit a long line drive to right that caromed off the top of the wall. Choo played the ricochet perfectly, barehanding the ball off the wall and hurling a seed to second base. The throw beat Granderson by about a step, but Granderson’s slide looked to have beaten the tag from the shortstop, Cabrera. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t believe the thought that if the throw beats the runner, the runner will automatically be out.

At least neither blown call changed the complexion of the game.

Smiling Jack

John Harper reports on the Nick Swisher Show at the All Star Game:

So none other than Derek Jeter organized an attempted prank by trying to convince Swisher he was supposed to wear his Yankee uniform to the interview session at the hotel ballroom Monday at which everyone wears street clothes.

“Jeet made it his mission to get him,” was the way Alex Rodriguez put it.

Jeter tried to hold back a grin when asked about his plan.

“We had him until this morning,” he said. “They blew it.”

Jeter wasn’t giving up the culprit, but other players said Swisher was spared only because clubhouse manager Robbie Cucuzza didn’t answer his phone Monday morning when the Yankee outfielder called looking for his uniform, and he began to get suspicious.

“If Robbie had answered his phone,” said CC Sabathia, “we had him. Swish asked me like four times, ‘You wearing your uniform?’ Jeet had everyone in on it. We had him going pretty good.”

Swisher didn’t make it out of the first round of the Home Run Derby last night but he wasn’t the worst in the competition either. Either way, the man is soaking it up like we knew he would.

[Photo Credit: Times Square Gossip]

Old Man Pettitte Pitches like Young Man Pettitte

Saturday…in the Park.

Nick Swisher is the kind of player who shouldn’t be left to his own devices. After driving home Robinson Cano in the second inning with a double, Swisher came to bat in the fourth after Alex Rodriguez (dhing for the day) and Cano started the inning with base hits. So Swisher laid down a sacrifice bunt, taking the bat out of his and Curtis Granderson’s hands. The sacrifice worked, then the Angels walked Granderson to load the bases for Ramiro Pena and Frankie Cervelli. Pena, who played third and made a terrific diving catch, whiffed but Cervelli bailed Swisher out of a trip to the doghouse with a little single to left, scoring two runs.

Derek Jeter followed with a well-struck RBI single to center and the Yanks had a 4-0 lead, more than enough for Andy Pettitte as the Yanks cruised to a 7-1 win.

There was no hangover from Friday night’s contentious game. Pettitte was in control. His line: 8 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 8 strikeouts and 0 walks. Leave it to Torii Hunter to have the line of the day when he told reporters:

“I’ve never seen Pettitte pitch this well,” Hunter said. “He looked poised. He looked like the Andy Pettitte of old, when he was young.”

…”The last two times Pettitte pitched against us, that’s about as good as we’ve seen him,” [Manager, Mike] Scioscia said. “He’s taken a sip from the Fountain of Youth or something. He really pitched well.”
(L.A. Times)

Damaso Marte pitched a scoreless ninth. Brett Gardner stayed hot with three more hits and Cano had four hits and scored three runs. The slumping Mark Teixeira had one hit and Nick Johnson had the day off due to a cranky back.

The Yanks have a chance to win the series later this afternoon when Javy Vazquez takes the mound.

[Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]

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