Interesting piece on stolen bases in the Wall Street Journal.
And, according to Jerry Crasnick, you won’t have ol’ Serge Mitre to kick around anymore.
[Painting by Roger Patrick]
Interesting piece on stolen bases in the Wall Street Journal.
And, according to Jerry Crasnick, you won’t have ol’ Serge Mitre to kick around anymore.
[Painting by Roger Patrick]
Dictionary.com lists 13 definitions for the adjective form of the word oblique. As it pertains to anatomy, oblique muscles are those that run at an angle, as opposed to transversely (horizontally) or longitudinally (vertically). In the abdominal wall, the obliques are the muscles that form the side cut of a six-pack. They’re the love handles.
Synonyms, as listed within the aforementioned link, include “indirect,” “covert,” or “veiled.” But oblique strains have directly, overtly and obviously affected the Yankees this Spring, with Greg Golson, Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain and now Curtis Granderson all falling victim to the injury. Granderson’s injury may put his Opening Day availability in question. This is no surprise, given that recovery time ranges from 10 days up to 3 weeks, depending on the severity of the strain.
Chamberlain missed 10 days. He returned to action Tuesday and was throwing 95 miles per hour. Golson also returned Tuesday, after missing 15 days of action. Mitre, meanwhile, was making his first appearance since March 14. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, in a mid-afternoon post Tuesday, reported that Mitre thought he had a roster spot secured when he arrived in Tampa 6 weeks ago. Tuesday’s start, Mitre’s first since he suffered his oblique strain, may be giving the Yankees pause about adding him to the 25-man roster. The following quotes are priceless.
First, Mitre is confidently unsure:
“I don’t look at it as a setback. I’m hoping they don’t base everything off of one spring start. If that’s the case, then we’ll see what happens, but I don’t think that’s the case — at least toward me. They know I can get people out and they know they can rely on me, I hope.”
Let’s examine this: two home runs yielded, a sinker that didn’t sink, Nova and Colon basically acting in full carpe diem mode. But this wasn’t a setback. Fans have little to no confidence that he can get anyone out. The numbers over the past two seasons prove as much. Plus, he wears the accursed No. 45. From Steve Balboni to Cecil Fielder to Chili Davis to (gulp) Carl Pavano, that number never helped anyone in a Yankee uniform over the last 25 years. And yet I digress …
More from Mitre:
“I don’t think there should be any reason why not. If I still have to worry about that, then I’m probably not doing something right.”
(Insert laugh track here)
A Christmas Carol has remained popular and continually adapted for several reasons. The first is that it is a timeless, joyful story with themes that still resonate today; the second is that it’s in the public domain. Dickens’ classic has been reimagined (and sometimes mangled) so many times over by now that I don’t feel too bad about jumping in, with assistance from fellow Banterers/muppets Alex, Diane, Will, Jon, and Matt, with yet another version and a new cast.
Our protagonist this time is no cheapskate Scrooge, but Brian Cashman, an elf/businessman in the middle of a difficult offseason. This Christmas Eve, he’ll undergo a life-altering experience…
STAVE 1: MARLEY’S GHOST
There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot — say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance — literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.
Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley.
Marley: George Steinbrenner, of course.
Bob Cratchit: Joe Girardi, who will have to break it to his family that thanks to his bosss, they won’t be able to have a Cliff Lee or even a Carl Crawford for dinner this year.
Tiny Tim: head Bleacher Creature Bald Vinny.
‘A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.
‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘Humbug!’
He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.
‘Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure?’
Scrooge’s nephew Fred: Nick Swisher.
STAVE 2: THE FIRST OF THE THREE SPIRITS
It was a strange figure-like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white; and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisher for a cap, which it now held under its arm….
…’Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked Scrooge.
The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
‘Who, and what are you?’ Scrooge demanded.
‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’
‘Long Past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.
‘No. Your past.’
The Ghost of Christmas Past: This ghost changes its shape as it moves through Ebenezer’s past; at one moment, it looks like Carl Pavano; at another, Mike Mussina; at times, it takes on the ghostly form of Sir Sidney Ponson.
Old Fezziwig (under whom Scrooge apprenticed): Gene Michael.
Belle, Scrooge’s former fiancee, who released him from their contract when he became too concerned with “gain,” and her joyful current family: Cliff Lee and the Phillies.
STAVE 3: THE SECOND OF THE THREE SPIRITS
It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.
‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in! and know me better, man.’
Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.
‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’
The Ghost of Christmas Present: C.C. Sabathia.
Mankind’s children, Ignorance and Want: Kyle Farnsworth and Kei Igawa.
STAVE 4: THE LAST OF THE SPIRITS
The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.
It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.
He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.
‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge.
The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.
The Ghost of Christmas Future: Sergio Mitre.
STAVE 5: THE END OF IT
‘A merry Christmas, Bob!’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he claped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’
Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!
The Yanks have re-signed Serge Mitre. We haven’t got a worry in the world! Also, I was struck with a second-guess last night. Cliff Lee has made such a good nemesis for the Yanks the past few years, what if he signs for less and spurns the Bombers? Then, we’ll have something to get all sweaty about.
It started ugly for Serge Mitre today, deep counts, base hits, boiling-hot afternoon, and by the time he left the game, seven runs were on the board for the Royals, which proved to be enough to hold-off the Yanks, 7-4. Jose Guillen crushed a home run into the second deck in left field. Can’t recall seeing one hit up there in the new park yet, man, it was a shot.
Mark Teixeira continued his hot hitting–even the balls he hits foul are ripped these days–with two dingers but made the final out of the game. It was a tough play, two men on base, Teixeira the tying run, Alex Rodriguez, sitting on career homer #599 on deck. Replays showed that Teixeira just beat out an infield hit, but it was a close play and he was called out. Tough way to end the game, but Teixeira didn’t argue.
The Yanks can still win the series tomorrow.
Hose off, people. Grab something cool, get a nice beverage, and we’ll see youse in the morning.
[Photo By Nick Laham/Getty Images]
There wasn’t much variation in their performances to this point in spring training. That Chad Gaudin had pitched his way to the bottom of the list of the five “starters” competing for the last four spots on the Yankee pitching staff was clear, as was the fact that Sergio Mitre had simultaneously pitched his way out of that elimination spot. Exactly what the Yankees were going to do about that was less clear until the Yankees placed Gaudin on waivers on Tuesday, effectively removing him from the 40-man roster.
Gaudin, who pitched relatively well down the stretch last year (3.43 ERA, 7.3 K/9 in 6 starts and 5 relief appearances), was actually the Yankees’ (unused) fourth starter in the 2009 postseason, earning that distinction over Joba Chamberlain, who instead made ten appearances out of the bullpen. In January, Gaudin avoided arbitration with the Yankees by signing a one-year deal worth $2.95 million, but the contract was not guaranteed, meaning that the Yankees will owe him just $737,500 if he clears waivers and they release him (if they send him to Triple-A, they’ll still owe him the entire amount, but if he’s claimed, they’ll be off the hook entirely). Given that all they sent the Padres for Gaudin last August was cash, there will have been little waste involved in Gaudin’s brief time with the team.
With Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves, Jason Hirsh, and Zach McAllister all on hand and to different degrees ready to step into either the rotation or the bullpen, Gaudin is no great loss. Rather, Gaudin’s removal from the roster places increased emphasis on what Sergio Mitre has to offer.
With Gaudin out of the picture, it now seems likely that Mitre will be the twelfth man on the Yankees’ Opening Day pitching staff. His primary rivals are potential second lefties Boone Logan and Royce Ring, but Ring is a non-roster player and Logan has an option remaining, whereas Mitre is, like Gaudin was, a member of the 40-man roster on a non-guaranteed contract who would have to be passed through waivers to be sent to Triple-A. Mitre’s contract is small enough at $850,000 for the Yankees to eat the $212,500 they’d owe Mitre if they released him, but the club seems legitimately enthusiastic about how Mitre has been pitching this spring, and not without good reason.
I know that the prospect of Sergio Mitre on the Opening Day roster is anathema to a large part of the Yankee fanbase and the Bronx Banter readership in particular, but I still can’t completely hate on the Yankees interest in Mitre. I shrugged off the Mitre signing entering camp a year ago, remarking in my 2009 campers post that, “Mitre was never a high-ceiling starter, but rather a moderately successful sinkerballer, who had yet to put it all together in the majors prior to his [July 2008 Tommy John] surgery. He’ll be 29 next February and hardly seems worth even the minimal commitment.” Five months later, after Chien-Ming Wang had blow up twice and Phil Hughes had begun to establish himself as a dominant set-up man, I took a different view:
Mitre’s career line in the majors is certainly unimpressive (5.36 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 5.4 K/9), but he was rushed to the majors in just his third professional season at age 22, jerked between the majors, minors, rotation, and bullpen in each of his three seasons with the Cubs, and came down with shoulder problems in May of his first season with the Marlins in 2006. Given all of that, I’m tempted to just toss out those first four partial major league seasons in which Mitre went 5-15 with a 6.01 ERA in 25 starts and 26 relief appearances.Instead, I look at what Mitre did with a healthy arm and a rotation spot in the first half of the 2007 season under manager Joe Girardi. In 16 starts (not counting one aborted start in which he tore a blister during the first inning), Mitre posted a 2.82 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and a 3.1 K/9. Ten of those outings were quality starts and two others were scoreless but cut short by a tight hamstring. Mitre’s season fell apart in late July due to the elbow problems that led to his Tommy John surgery and wiped out his 2008 season.
As you can see, Mitre’s problems have had far more to do with health than effectiveness. That’s a red flag when a team throws $80-million, five-year contracts at a pitcher, but when the pitcher in question comes in on a make-good minor league deal, health concerns don’t concern me as there’s nothing there but upside.
Mitre posted a 6.79 ERA in nine starts and three relief appearances for the Yankees after I wrote the above, but his solid 2.46 K/BB, swollen .333 opponent’s batting average on balls in play, and absurd 22.2 percent home-runs-per-fly-ball rate (the major league average is around 8 percent) all suggested that bad luck played some role in that poor performance. Clearly Mitre was getting hit hard, but he was also unlucky and, theoretically, still building his arm back up after rehabbing from his TJ surgery.
In my campers post this year, I repeated much of the above about Mitre, but described Mitre’s 2009 K/BB ratio, which was a single-season career best for the right-hander, as “mildly encouraging,” later adding, “there’s some small hope that being two years removed from surgery could allow him to recapture some of his form from 2007, when over his first 17 starts he posted a 2.82 ERA with just five home runs allowed and a 3.10 K/BB.”
I don’t want him to be the fifth starter, and I don’t think there’s any real risk of that unless another starter suffers a significant injury, but I just can’t completely trash the Yankees continued interest in Mitre. I realize that spring training statistics are about as predictive as campaign promises, but Mitre really has been throwing the ball better this spring. Ignore his ERA, or even his slim hits total, and look at his 14 strikeouts in 14 innings against just three walks and one homer. Better yet, read the comments from Mitre, his manager, and catcher collected by Chad Jennings:
. . . what might have tipped the scales in Mitre’s favor?
He’s further removed from surgery: “Last year I felt good early when I was coming back from Tommy John and toward the later months of the year, I just kind of fatigued,” Mitre said. “The offseason really helped. Nothing hurts right now.”
His sinker is moving more: “I think the pitches are the same,” Mitre said. “I think the only thing that’s different is there might be more life to it as opposed to being flatter.”
He’s throwing harder: “His velocity is better,” Joe Girardi said. “He doesn’t seem to fatigue as easily. There is a difference.”
His command is better: “He’s a different guy,” Jorge Posada said. “You can tell that he’s healthy and the ball is just coming out of his hand a lot better. He’s throwing strikes. Location, that tells you that he’s back on track… He’s putting it wherever he wants.”
Mitre is a year younger than Chien-Ming Wang, further removed from injury, walked just 2.3 men per nine innings in his awful 2009 season, and now reportedly has more velocity and movement on his top pitch and is proving it with impressive spring training peripherals. There’s only one thing that upsets me about the Yankees taking another chance on this guy as the last man on the pitching staff, and it has nothing to do with how Mitre might pitch.
Going back to my campers post, I concluded Mitre’s entry by saying, “there are better, younger arms who deserve a shot at that last bullpen spot should it open up.” Gaudin’s struggles have opened that spot up, and 25-year-old fellow Tommy John survivor Mark Melancon, who has struck out eight in 6 1/3 spring innings against one walk and no homers, is more deserving than Mitre of that last spot, though I’m pretty well convinced at this point that Mitre will claim it.
I’m also convinced that Melancon will find his way into high-leverage work out of the the major league pen during the upcoming season the way David Robertson did last year, but there’s not as clear a path for Melancon as there was for Robertson last year when Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez seemed ready to cough up their spots. Maybe Mitre is that guy this year, but right now the Yankees seem to think he could be the new Ramiro Mendoza, and I’m not particularly motivated to argue with them.
There’s been a lot of eye rolling and hand wringing about the fact that Sergio Mitre has been chosen to take the injured Chien-Ming Wang’s start against the Orioles tonight. I’ve seen Sidney Ponson’s name tossed about as a comparison, a short-cut for the sort of proven major league failure the Yankees should no longer need to resort to given the depth of pitching in their system and the presence of two quality starting pitchers in their bullpen in Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves. I would, of course, much prefer to see the Yankees stretch Hughes back out should Wang’s current DL stay project to be a long one, but with regards to Ponson, I’m here to say that Mitre is not that.
Sidney Ponson had posted a below average ERA in 235 major league starts before joining the Yankees for the first time in 2006 and arrived in the Bronx in July 2006 having just posted a 5.24 ERA in 13 starts for the Cardinals during the first half of the season. Mitre, by comparison, has made just 52 major league starts and just once made more than nine in a single season. He has not thrown a major league pitch since 2007 due to Tommy John surgery and was just 26 in that, his only full season as a major league starter. Mitre’s career line in the majors is certainly unimpressive (5.36 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 5.4 K/9), but he was rushed to the majors in just his third professional season at age 22, jerked between the majors, minors, rotation, and bullpen in each of his three seasons with the Cubs, and came down with shoulder problems in May of his first season with the Marlins in 2006. Given all of that, I’m tempted to just toss out those first four partial major league seasons in which Mitre went 5-15 with a 6.01 ERA in 25 starts and 26 relief appearances.
Instead, I look at what Mitre did with a healthy arm and a rotation spot in the first half of the 2007 season under manager Joe Girardi. In 16 starts (not counting one aborted start in which he tore a blister during the first inning), Mitre posted a 2.82 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and a 3.1 K/9. Ten of those outings were quality starts and two others were scoreless but cut short by a tight hamstring. Mitre’s season fell apart in late July due to the elbow problems that led to his Tommy John surgery and wiped out his 2008 season.
As you can see, Mitre’s problems have had far more to do with health than effectiveness. That’s a red flag when a team throws $80-million, five-year contracts at a pitcher, but when the pitcher in question comes in on a make-good minor league deal, health concerns don’t concern me as there’s nothing there but upside. Mitre will make a pro-rated portion of a $1.25 million salary while in the majors this year, well worth the gamble that he can recapture the effectiveness he had in the first half of 2007.
Like the pitcher he replaces, Mitre is a groundballer, which makes him well-suited to the Yankees’ homer-happy new ballpark. In his minor league rehab work this year, Mitre has induced roughly three groundouts for every fly out, a rate comparable to Wang’s at his peak. Mitre has also shown tremendous control, walking just seven men in nine starts or 1.16 per nine innings, a rate that recalls another ex-Cub Tommy John rehab project that worked out well for the Yankees, Jon Lieber. In those first 16 starts in 2007, Mitre’s walk rate was 1.76, compared to 3.7 in his first four partial major league seasons, another indication that the Mitre we see tonight is more likely to be the early 2007 model. Six of Mitre’s seven starts for Triple-A Scranton have been quality starts, and his work for Scranton has yielded a 2.40 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 7.00 K/BB.
It’s entirely possible that Mitre will pull a Kei Igawa upon returning to the major leagues, but given that Triple-A performance and his decided lack of a meaningfully poor major league history, I think he deserves at least this one chance to prove he won’t. Unlike with Ponson, the Yankees won’t know what they have in Mitre unless they give him a chance to show them.
That said, if the pain Wang felt in his shoulder during his throwing session yesterday does indeed indicate a longer-than-anticipated DL stay and Mitre is anything less than excellent tonight, the Yankees should immediately begin stretching Hughes back out as a long-term solution to the hole in their rotation.
Mitre’s opposition tonight will be another ex-Cub, lefty Rich Hill. Hill had an excellent season in the Cubs’ rotation in 2007, but lost the strikezone last year, pitching his way off the team and out of the organization. Picked up by the Orioles in February, Hill has been wildly erratic for Baltimore this season, swinging from seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts against the Mariners on June 1 to three runs on a hit, four walks, and a hit batter and a first-inning hook his next time out. Anything within that range is possible tonight.