"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Phil Coke

Yankee Panky: The Tao of Pooh-vano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

“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 …

Don’t Mess With Tex

It weren’t pretty, but the Yanks took a broom to the Twins last night, capping off their thrilling “Walkoff Weekend” (TM) with a 7-6 win to complete a four-game sweep of Minnesota and extend their winning streak to six games.

Unlike the previous three games, most of the action in last night’s contest took place in the first inning. The Twins pushed across a pair of first-inning runs against Andy Pettitte, with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each delivering an RBI single, the second enabled by Melky Cabrera missing the cutoff man on the first allowing Mauer to go to second.

Tex heating up with his three-run homer in the first inning (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)Unfazed, the Yanks scored four against lefty Glen Perkins before making their first out as Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon singled then Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez each homered to left field. After Nick Swisher flied out to the warning track, a shot that looked like a third-straight homer off the bat, Robinson Cano sliced a ground-rule double into the stands along-side left field and Melky Cabrera singled him home. After a passed ball and a Ramiro Peña fly out, Francisco Cervelli hit a chopper up the middle that somehow missed Perkins’ glove, then hit the side of second base, avoiding both diving middle infielder. On the YES broadcast, Ken Singleton remarked that, “if there ever was a seeing-eye base hit, that was it.” Cervelli’s hit plated Cabrera with the sixth Yankee run and drove Perkins from the game with just two outs in the first.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey held things down from there with 4 1/3 scoreless innings, while the Twins tried to chip away. Michael Cuddyer led off the fourth with a solo homer to make it 6-3. Carlos Gomez singled, stole second, and scored on a Denard Span single in the sixth to make it 6-4. Span later hit a solo homer off Edwar Ramirez in the eighth, but that came after Teixeira added a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the seventh, this one from the left side of the plate, the second time he’s switch-hit homers in a game this season.

That extra run proved to be the winning margin. With Mariano Rivera having thrown 44 pitches over three innings the previous two days, Joe Girardi gave his closer the night off. Lefty Phil Coke, who relieved Ramirez and struck out Morneau for the last out of the eighth, was given the ninth in Rivera’s place. It wasn’t pretty. Coke’s first two pitches to leadoff man Joe Crede, who entered the game with a .296 on-base percentage, were balls. He recovered to go 2-2, but Crede fouled off four full-count offerings and ultimately drew a ten-pitch walk. Matt Tolbert then ran for Crede and moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a groundout that required Teixeira to range far to his right, and home on another groundout. With two outs, Carlos Gomez, who entered the game with a .286 on-base percentage, nearly replicated Crede’s at-bat, getting ahead 2-0, then even at 2-2 and ultimately working a seven-pitch walk. Mike Redmond seemed to be doing the same thing (2-0, then 3-1, then a pair of full-count fouls), but mercifully grounded to Cano for the final out of the game. Coke’s performance made the news of Brian Bruney’s impending activation (expected tonight) all the more welcome, though to the always forthcoming Coke’s credit, he humorously confessed to having been unnerved by the situation.

As for Teixeira, he was hitting .182/.354/.338  with three home runs and 10 RBIs on May 3, but has hit .351/.397/.789 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in his last 14 games. Though his average will take a while to rebound (he’s still at just .239), he’s on pace for 45 homers and 127 RBIs, even with that slow start factored in. On-pace numbers can be very misleading, and Teixeira’s current single-season best for home runs is “just” 43, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Tex comes very close to those numbers come late September. Teixeira’s career month-by-month splits show steady improvement with each flip of the calendar, and his defense was an important part of the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins. He’s going to be a lot of fun to watch the rest of the way as, by extension, are the Yankees.


They say that the road ain’t no place to start a family . . .

The Yankees are only team in the majors not to have played a home game this season and enter their home opener this afternoon coming off the longest season-opening road trip in team history. Here are some quick impressions from that just-complete trip:

Record: 5-4
Record in Series: 2-1
Runs scored per game: 5.67 (7th best in MLB)
Runs allowed per game: 5.22 (8th worst in MLB)
Runs allowed per game minus Monday’s blowout: 4.00

AL East Standings:

BAL .5
NYY 1.5
TBR 2.5
BOS 3.5

  • The Yankees were without Alex Rodriguez. Mark Teixeira missed three games due to a wrist injury. Hideki Matsui and Cody Ransom went a combined 6-for-49 (.122) with five walks. Yet the Yankees scored four or more runs in every game and averaged 5 2/3 runs per game on the trip.
  • A great deal of the credit for that goes to Nick Swisher, who drove in or scored 18 of the Yankees’ 51 runs (35 percent) on the trip.
  • The trip ended with the news that Xavier Nady will likely miss most or all of the season with a tear in his right elbow, but Nady was hitting a very Nady-like .286/.310/.429 and will be replaced in right field by Swisher. That’s an upgrade. Swisher will surely cool off, but he should have been the starting right fielder over Nady anyway. Where the Yankees will miss Nady is on the bench, as Matsui and Johnny Damon will need days off. Nady might be a very ordinary hitter, he’s still more productive than Melky Cabrera.
  • In the comeback department, Matsui and Chien-Ming Wang have been awful, but Robinson Cano has been terrific, hitting .382/.447/.618 with four unintentional walks, and Jorge Posada has looked good both at the plate, driving in nine runs (second on the team to Swisher’s 11) with five of his seven hits going for extra bases, and behind the plate.
  • Despite the solid offensive attack, the Yankees come home just a game over .500 at 5-4. Three of those losses were directly attributable to poor staring pitching performances (by CC Sabathia on Opening Day and by Chien-Ming Wang in both of his starts).
  • Sabathia was not only better, but dominant in his second start. A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte both pitched well twice, and Joba Chamberlain turned in a solid outing in his only start thus far. That leaves only Wang as an issue in the rotation. Dave Eiland is on the case and working hard to get Wang back on track.
  • Since the duds by Sabathia and Wang to open the season, the Yankees have gone 5-2. After dropping the opening series in Baltimore, they won their next two series, most significantly taking two of three from the Rays at the Trop.
  • In their five wins, the Yankees have allowed just nine runs, or 1.8 per victory.


Alex Rodriguez’s Historic Home Run

Untitled The Yankees jumped out to an early lead on Edwin Jackson and the Rays last night. After four innings, the score stood at 6-3 Yankees, but the next four frames went by without another tally. With two outs in the top of the ninth, Bobby Abreu worked Troy Percival for a 12-pitch walk, fouling of six full-count offerings before taking ball four. Abreu then stole second on Percival’s 0-2 pitch to Alex Rodriguez, which was a ball. Rodriguez fouled off the 1-2 pitch, took ball two, then crushed a pitch down the left-field line that sailed over the foul pole.

The ball was ruled a home run, but Rays catcher Dioner Navarro animatedly disagreed, and his manager, Joe Maddon, convinced the umpires to use instant replay for the first time in major league history. Three of the four umpires, including crew chief Charlie Reliford retreated through the visitor’s dugout to the replay area and emerged two minutes and 15 seconds later to uphold their call. Reliford emerged first from the dugout and twirled his left index finger over his head to affirm third-base umpire Brian Runge’s original call on the field.

Watching the replays shown on YES, the ball appeared to sail over the left-field foul pole, then hook foul behind hit, clanging off a catwalk near the back wall of the stadium. Still, there remained some confusion due to the fact that there was a yellow foul pole extension attached to that catwalk, despite the fact that it was set significantly back beyond the outfield wall. The ball clearly hit the catwalk to the left (foul) of that yellow indicator, but only after sailing over the actual foul pole when leaving the field of play, which is exactly how all four umpires saw it both live and in the replays.

Said Reliford after the game, “We all believed it was a home run, but since the technology is in place we made the decision to use the technology and go look at the replays. . . . If there had been no argument, obviously we wouldn’t have because all four of us believed the call was correct on the field. Because [Maddon] disputed it, and it was very close, and now the technology is in place, we used it.”

Rodriguez’s double-checked homer gave the Yankees an 8-3 lead, bounced Percival from the game, and pushed Rodriguez past Mike Schmidt on the career home runs list. The Rays picked up run in the bottom of the inning off Jose Veras to set the final score at 8-4 Yanks.


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