Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Hurts Keep Coming (Postgame Notes 30 April 2008)

It's as if the injury bug is contagious.

Tonight's loss to the Tigers is further compounded by the knowledge that Phil Hughes has been placed on the 15 day DL with a strained oblique.

There was nothing pretty about tonight's game, especially after the fifth inning.

Andy Pettitte started the game given the Yankees exactly what they needed--good, solid, pitching, but in the middle of the fifth Pettitte made a mistake to Marcus Thames and did not recover.

The Yankee offense managed just five hits tonight, three in the first inning and two off of the bat of Melky Cabrera, who seems to be providing the near entirety of the Yankee offense this season. Unlike last night, where the Yankees brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, they went down easy tonight, looking lackluster at best.

OPTIMIST TAKE: Not a lot to be optimistic about tonight, but Melky Cabrera's bat remains strong. He was moved up to the sixth spot tonight and the way he hit, you wouldn't have realized it. April is at last over, and the Yankees can theoretically look for some warmer weather and a lighter schedule.

I'm off tomorrow to go see some more minor league baseball because I can; will have postgame notes up late.

Good, Bad, Ugly and Pregame Notes (30 April 2008)

One month into the season, and it is still hard to get a clear picture as to where this Yankee team is headed.

On one hand, they have just escaped a mammoth, 18-of-20 on the road, April and will, at worst, be one game under .500. It's certainly not where a team wants to be, but it is much better than it could be.

Chien Ming Wang seems to have matured overnight, rounding the corner from 'very good' to 'ace'--not sure? Consider the 2-0 win against Tampa Bay, the 2-1 two-hitter against Boston, and the 1-0 shutout against Cleveland. Also consider the performance against Chicago--far from stellar, but the type of battle, grind-it-out start that is the hallmark of a good pitcher. He's already 5-0, with just one poor start.

Mariano Rivera looks like he is on his way to a career year--eight saves already, an infinite K-to-BB ratio, and an ERA of 0.00.

Melky Cabrera, the supposed 'throw in' for the Santana deal, is doing his best to say "thank you for not trading me" and, by all accounts, doing a very good job of it as well.

In fact, all the M guys seem to be perfomring well--Chien Ming, Mariano, Melky, Matsui, Molina...even Mike Mussina is giving the Yankees what they need when he's not pitching to Manny Ramirez.

On the other hand, there is no getting around the fact that Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy have been struggling. They--especially Phil--are young, and the struggles are to be expected, but that neither of them have a win or an ERA under 5.00 is not a good sign if the Yankees expect to contend this year.

The offense has been stagnant, largely unable to get the "big hit" when needed; Jason Giambi and Robinson Canò have been the most notable of those struggling and Canò has the second lowest batting average of all American League qualifiers, despite his home run last night. The Yankees are confident he will heat up, but such an extended slump has got to play with his psyche.

The biggest blow of all, however, are the injuries. Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Molina, Jorge Posada, Wilson Betemit and Brian Bruney have all missed or are missing considerable time with injuries--Brian Bruney, Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez have all needed to go on the disabled list.

It's impossible to know how much of the injuries are due to the poor conditions the Yankees have played in, or to other reasons, but to say they will have an impact on the Yankees is an understatement. They will have an impact, when two guys who provided the center for the Yankee offense last year are out of the line up for an extened period and so many others are struggling.

That said, the situation could be a lot worse. The Yankees do have things going for them, and it would be foolish to ignore the positives, just as it would the challenges they face.


Andy Pettitte takes the mound tonight in a role that has become very familiar to him over the years--that of the "Yankee Stopper". He will go against Jeremy Bonderman, one of Detroits young pitchers.

If the Yankees win tonight, they have a chance at winning the series with the Tigers tomorrow. Ross Ohlendorf pitched three innings tonight, so if Pettitte gets in trouble, it's likely that Jonathan Albaladejo will be the long man.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hughes Lose (postgame notes 29 April 2008)

At what point do the growing pains end and the serious concerns begin?

This is the question that is going to creep up, sooner or later, on the minds of Yankee fans if Phil Hughes continues to have bad outings like he had tonight.

While the start in Chicago seemed to be encouraging, tonight's start was a regression back to the first couple of weeks of the season. No doubt, the cold weather probably affected it a little, but someone as hyped as Hughes has been, should have a win before the end of April. He was down almost immediately in the first inning, and after the Yankees tied it up at two, Hughes gave up two home runs in the next inning.

That said, it is far too soon to call Hughes a bust. For those that would, look at the rookie year stats of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Johan Santana and Fausto Carmona. It is much, much too soon to start thinking in those sort of drastic terms.

However, that doesn't mean there should not be a reason for concern. Hughes was if not magnificent, then service-ably good, in his first start, and the reason for the drop off in the performance is confusing. Is it a mechanical thing? A mental thing? One has to hope (well, a Yankee fan, at least) that between Dave Eiland, Joe Girardi and everyone else on staff that they can figure it out.

Another concern, one that's been building for a while now, is the lack of offense. There's no denying that the losses of Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada hurt, and that Jason Giambi and Robinson Canò are not having great seasons right now, but, as in the eighth inning, when the Yankees had the bases loaded, the lack of any discernible offense is frustrating to say the least.

As good as Chien Ming Wang has been, he won't pitch the Yankees to 1-0 or 2-0 wins every game (though it might seem like it) and with two young kids in the rotation, the offense has got to give the pitchers some better run support. I'm not sure if there's a voodoo ritual or perhaps some sort of Larry Boa-ish talking-to that the offense can get, but it needs a spark, badly.

OPTIMIST TAKE: The bullpen pitched 5.1 nearly flawless innings, and because Ross Ohlendorf went three, the workload for the rest of the bullpen was lessened. Robinson Canò had a two run home run. The Yankees got their first two men on base in the ninth and were able to pull from down 6-2 at the beginning of the eighth to within 6-4.

Pregame Notes 29 April 2008

So that's it, then.

I will never have another undergraduate class, or another undergraduate final, ever again. Well, I still have two papers and a thesis defense, but that's besides the point.

Anyway, the stuff you care about:

The Yankees finally return home (you mean we don't get to hit first any more?), where they will start the homestand by facing the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers, as you may have heard, got off to one of the worst starts that a baseball franchise can get off to, but they seem to be on their way to turning it around. They have Kenny Rogers on the mound tonight, who is getting up to Jaime Moyer territory in terms of age.

The Yankees are going with Phil Hughes at the opposite end of the spectrum; he is yet to have a win though he has pitched noticeably better in his last two starts.

Alex Rodriguez is sitting out the game with an aggravated quad injury; Morgan Ensberg will play third, Jason Giambi will DH, Shelley Duncan will play first, and both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui will play in the outfield as Melky Cabrera gets a very deserved night off. Chris Stewart will get his first start behind the plate after being called up from AAA Scranton; it's really weird to think that I just saw him play on Sunday...

More after the game.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Killing Them Softly (Postgame Notes 28 April 2008)

As far as wins go, tonight's may have been one of the oddest the Yankees will ever have this season.

In an inning where the Yankees only hit one ball out of the infield, they managed to score four runs, coming right back after a tough inning for Mike Mussina, taking the lead they would not relinquish.

Mike Mussina and Aaron Laffey matched each other well, taking a scoreless game into the fifth. While Mussina gave up his share of hits, until the bottom of the fifth, he was able to make the big pitches when he needed.

Even when Mussina struggled in the bottom of the fifth, giving up one run and loading the bases before recording his first out, he was able to escape the inning with only two runs.

Laffey was just as good--the Yankees did not get their first hit until the top of the sixth inning, and even when the Yankees knocked him out of the game, they did so with only one ball hit out of the infield, and two sacrifice outs.

The Yankees' bullpen--Jonathan Albaladejo, Kyle Farnsworth, Joba Chamberlain, Mariano Rivera--was excellent, retiring ten in a row to end the game. It was exactly what the Yankees needed--innings from Mussina and a good effort from the bullpen.

OPTIMIST TAKE: The Yankees won this game not with the home runs, but with the extreme small ball that everyone's been worried about them not being able to play. After losing the first two to Cleveland, they salvaged a split, both for the series and for the ten game road trip. They now get to return to Yankee Stadium for the first extended (as in, more than two games) homestand since the beginning of the season.

Pregame Notes 28 April 2008

With a win tonight in Cleveland, the Yankees can salvage a series split with Cleveland, and go 5-5 on the ROAD TRIP OF DOOM, as people like to say, and come out of the 18-of-20-on-the-road stretch with a +.500 record.

However, there are a few notable challenges to the Yankees being able to achieve that goal.

The first and most obvious is the injury to Jorge Posada. While the true extent of the injury has yet to be revealed, the fact that he is visiting the famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrews does not bode well for anyone except Red Sox fans and those dependent on Dr. Andrews' salary for their living expenses.

The second potential challenge is that the hit-or-miss Mike Mussina is on the mound for the Yankees. When not facing the Boston Red Sox, his stats are actually good, but when not facing the Red Sox he's faced Toronto, Tampa Bay and the White Sox.

The third, and most frustrating issue, are the horrible numbers the Yankees have with Runners in Scoring Position. CC Sabathia was great yesterday, and the Yankee pitching better, but the Yankees had a few innings they could have opened up a 2-0 or 3-0 lead and did not capitalize.

That the Yankees are 13-13 right now despite everything that's gone wrong this month alone is somewhat of a miracle; hopefully they will ride the momentum from last night's win and return home above .500.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Let's Play Two!

As you may or may not know, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre -- Syracuse Sky Chiefs game yesterday was rained out, which was a disappointment, seeing as I had tickets.

However, Dan, the one with whom I went to Boston, and I are of the opinion that you can never have too much baseball, so we decided to make good on the rain check and head back out to the ballpark, given that it's only a ten minute drive from the University.

What we didn't realize, was that in the minor leagues, the way double-headers work (or at least in Syracuse), is that you have to exchange your tickets, and the new tickets are good for both games.

Now, originally, our seats were fourth row behind the SWB dugout, which is awesome in its own right.

However, when we went to exchange our tickets, that section had already been exchanged/sold out (there was another game originally scheduled for today, hence the doubleheader), so we went with the best available--which just happened to be row two in between home plate and the dugout--literally RIGHT behind the on deck circle.

The nice person behind the ticket counter told us that the seats were behind the netting as if telling us that we were sitting right behind the foul pole like in the old cartoons, but netting is a very small price to pay.

Anyway. So as you probably know, I like to take pictures.

Bernie Castro. I am amused that his name is Bernie and he wears #51. He does not, however, play center field--he plays second base. The man sitting in front of Dan and myself had a conversation with him through the netting in Spanish, but alas, my Spanish skills were not quite good enough to understand the entire conversation. However, the guy did make Bernie Castro laugh, so I guess that's a good sign.

During the anthem.

Brett Gardner. Offensively, he had a day he'd probably like to forget. However, defensively, he made a couple of good plays, especially in the first game, which was needed as Scranton won the first game 2-1.

Getting ready for game action.

Cody Ransom. He had a great Spring Training, if you remember.

Juan Miranda. Another guy in front of us tried to ask Miranda if he was related to someone, but I'm not sure Miranda speaks English.

Rasner pitching. He went into the sixth (of seven), three hits, one run. He looked good--seemed to be throwing mostly strikes.

Rasner wasn't actually looking at me when I took this picture, but I can pretend he was.

Jason Lane talking to hitting coach Alvaro Espinoza.

Bullpen getting loose.

Getting ready for the next inning.

A peek into the dugout.

Right after Rasner left the game. Rasner got a very nice hand--there are a lot of Yankee fans in Syracuse! In fact, there were audible Let's-Go-Yankees chants throughout the doubleheader, but no such for Syracuse.

Yes, that is Kei Igawa, and yes, he is in the stands, signing autographs. Igawa was actually sitting in the stands for the entire game. I was tempted to go over and say hi, but I don't speak Japanese. That, and according to one of the boys sitting behind us, his translator is scary.

Bern, baby, Bern? This was right before he started talking to the man in front of us.

Kei Igawa sat there through both games.

Igawa was charting pitches--when I took this it was the second game, so Marquez was pitching. Dan and I didn't stay for the entire second game; Marquez and the SWB Yankees were down 2-0 or 3-0 when we left. By this point I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to the score.

We had a great time--in fact, we went and bought tickets for Syracuse--Pawtucket on Thursday.

Because, after all, you can never have too much baseball.


I did follow the ML Yankees game on my cell phone--excellent performance by Wang, great home run from Melky, not so great with RISP. However, the Yankees needed the win, and they got it. At 5-0, Wang is setting himself up for a great season.


The news about Jorge Posada, however, is not fun. The New York Times, as you likely know by now, is reporting a muscle tear, which means that for the first time in his career, Posada will be headed for the DL.

Since Chad Moeller has been DFA'd, Jose Molina is more or less our only catcher--and even he is not at 100% with his hamstring. Rumor has it that Chris Stewart will be called up for SWB, but, of course, one has to wonder, if Cervelli had not gotten hurt in Spring Training...

Pregame Notes 27 April 2008

The Yankees will try to stop the bleeding tonight and put an end to their three game losing streak, as Chien Ming Wang takes the mound against reigning Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia.

The last time these two pitchers met--last October--the result wasn't pretty. Cleveland's hitters killed the Yankees with two-out hits, and while Sabathia's pitching was far from Cy Young caliber, the Yankee hitters were never able to get the one big hit.

The inability to get the big hit has carried over with the Yankees, and, if you saw yesterday's game, you know just how frustrating it can be for the Yankees, and their fans.

With a bullpen as depleted as the Yankees' is, the offense will have to come around in a big way if the Yankees are going to salvage a +.500 record for the month. They have never lost more than 14 games in April (last year they were 9-14), but then again, they don't play 29 games in April very often, so the statistic might be a little skewed.

The Decline of Derek Jeter

This is not a topic that will appease many. Some will consider it downright blasphemy.

Heroes, after all, are supposed to be immortal. They are supposed to be more than human, faultless, blameless, and incapable of aging past their prime.

For over a decade now, Derek Jeter has been more than a hero to legions of Yankees fans. Ask anyone on the street, pink hat or not, to name the quintessential Yankee of the last ten years, and you would be shocked and appalled if "Derek Jeter" did not cross his or her lips.

It is hard to quantify how much Derek Jeter has meant to the Yankees. Four World Series rings, six World Series, seven League Championship Series, twelve Octobers...and still, this does not seem to do him justice.

His name is uttered in the same breath as the other Yankee icons--Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, for example--and right now, it seems an impossibility to imagine an Opening Day roster without Derek Jeter present.

Yet, sooner or later, he will retire. There will be a plaque in Monument Park to start (and, perhaps a half-century or so down the line, a monument as well), a ballot to Cooperstown, an appearance (or two or three or ten...) at Old Timer's Day, and a spike in sales of "vintage" Jeter jerseys.

While the day that this happens might still be a few years off--Jeter is 34 this year, so it's not unreasonable to expect another five--the decline that precipitates it is not.

Derek Jeter is not Lou Gehrig; it is highly unlikely his decline will be as sudden and complete as Gehrig, who was, of course, victim of ALS. Instead, it will likely be more subtle--a play here or there that he would have made in his youth that he can no longer make. Perhaps one of those spin-jump-throws he does so well is the first place you see it, because the jump isn't quite as high as you would have expected from the Captain.

However, the decline will happen, the production at the plate will begin to drop off a bit and the fielding will cease to be as crisp and a day might eventually come where Alberto Gonzalez (or whoever is on the team at the time) replaces Jeter in the field in later innings in a close game for better defense.

When it does happen, it will become the elephant in the room--the one topic that must be addressed, though no one will want to address it.

No one is going to want to replace Derek Jeter--if the Yankees can find anyone remotely similar to the way Tino Martinez was for Don Mattingly, it will be an accomplishment.

No one wants to talk about the decline of Derek Jeter, but eventually, the Yankees--and thus their fans--will have to. They'll have to talk about the decline, find a replacement (Despite how long Jason Giambi has been with the team, he still doesn't seem to be the proper replacement for Mattingly and Martinez, and while Melky is coming into his own, it will, rightly or wrongly, be a while before people mention him in the same breath as Bernie Williams) and move on, and somehow, somewhere, someone will have to admit that Derek Jeter is human.

In terms of what he has meant for the Yankees, Jeter is as immortal as they come. No true Yankee fan would question that, but the sooner Yankee fans realize that he won't play forever, the sooner he is no longer made untouchable, the easier it will be when Jeter's decline reaches the point that it can no longer be ignored.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

No Ken Do (Postgame Notes 26 April 2008)

Note: I had tickets to the Syracuse-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game tonight (which was rained out), so I only saw the first four innings of the Yankee game today.

Ian Kennedy struggled once again in his start today; though he managed to pitch through five innings, he struggled in the first and second.

The Yankees' offense came on Jorge Posada's three-run triple, and yes, you read that sentence right.

Losing games in the bottom of the ninth sting, but given that the Yankees have such a depleted bullpen, it can't be that entirely surprising. However, the Yankees need to get past the excuse making, now that it's about a month into the season, and start adjusting. It's certainly not time to panic, but the Yankees need to seriously think about looking for ways to restock their bullpen, even if it means going outside their system.

OPTIMIST TAKE: Posada had a triple. Shelley Duncan is back with the big boys.


The Scranton-Syracuse game, as I said above, was a washout; there's a doubleheader tomorrow and apparently our tickets are good for the 2 PM game though I'm not exactly sure how it works.

That said, I'll have pictures tomorrow when there's actually a game.

While we were waiting during the rain, there was a booth where you could attempt to throw a pitch and if you hit the catcher's mitt, you could win a prize or some such. I tried it out--in my platformish flip flops--for the fun of it, just to see how I did. Of four throws, two didn't register on the radar gun, and the fastest one that did?

26 MPH.

Yeah, there's a reason I don't play baseball.

Pregame Notes 26 April 2008

Ian Kennedy is on the mound for the Yankees this afternoon as they look to halt their two-game losing streak, which has been made all the worse with the loss of Brian Bruney for the season.

Some good news for Yankees fans, however: fan favorite Shelley Duncan has been recalled to the bigs, and is in today's starting line up.

The Yankee line-up today is Damon/Cabrera/Jeter/Rodriguez/Giambi/Duncan/Ensberg/Molina/Gonzalez, which means that the Yankees have a bench that includes Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Bobby Abreu and Robinson Canò.

The line up is likely the way it is today to get as many righties in there against Cleveland's left-handed starter Jeremy Sowers.

If that's not depth on a roster...

Anyway, I am going to see the Scranton Yankees tonight as they're in Syracuse, so when I return later this evening I shall have pictures from last night's game in Rochester, tonight's game, and, of course, a recap of the hour or so of the Yankees' game today I will be able to see.

As I said before if you're in the area and going to the game, stop by and say hi--section 105, row 4, seats 11 and 12.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Postgame Notes: April 25, 2008 (Guest Post)

Hey guys, Brent again here. Another guest post? This is what happens when the author of this great blog has more of a life than you (as in, me) do. Becca, yes, I'm kidding.


After the depressing news about Brian Bruney, the Yankees were to set out with their main stopper, Andy Pettitte, to get the first win of the three game series against the Cleveland Indians. What the Yankees did were exactly the opposite of their plan.

Pettitte looked ok up to... the dreaded fifth inning. I will be honest, I underestimate Jhonny Peralta. I even mumbled to myself, "Pettitte, just throw a strike" before his 3-1 offering to Peralta. Yes, I bite my tongue hard after the pitch. One more solo shot (Franklin Gutierrez's solo HR) later, and I was left shaking my head and questioning whether jinxes still exist.

Though watching Jonathan Albaladejo's curveball and A-Rod playing great defense at third base almost washed the taste of a loss out of my mouth, the Yankees had the lead and squandered it.

Tomorrow, the Yankees bring out Ian Kennedy to pitch against left-hander Jeremy Sowers. The question: who (if any) is Girardi taking out of the line-up tomorrow? Giambi? Abreu?


1) Jason Giambi: In the battle of HGH vs. steroids, steroids proved to be the winner tonight. Giambi took Byrd deep twice, having himself a 3 RBI game. I have to say, as much as Giambi may give you negative results at first, his ability to get on base and his power will always be an asset. As long as he can stay relatively consistent, the Yankees have an advantage.

2) Jonathan Albaladejo: He looked great, pitching in relief and giving the Yankees two needed innings of no-hit ball. He helped keep the game close and, even better, we didn't have to see anyone else pitch, giving the Yankees mostly a full bullpen to use, in case Kennedy bombs.

And yes, tomorrow's another day. Good thing baseball isn't played on a football schedule. That would been a heart-attack and a half.

Bad Times For Brian Bruney (with Pregame Notes for 25 April 2008)

So if you asked me last September, what's the last thing I thought I'd be writing here in an April post, "I feel bad for Brian Bruney" would probably be somewhere on the list, but it is very true.

From Tyler Kepner's blog:

Here is what happened to Yankees reliever Brian Bruney on Thursday:

* He had a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his injured right foot, which the Yankees fear has two torn ligaments and which will probably put him on the disabled list.

* He learned that the 18-wheeler transporting his truck to New York had an accident, and his truck fell off and sustained significant damage.

* His aunt in Oregon found his uncle not breathing, and his uncle is now in a coma.

Even though Bruney has not been entirely successful this season, his attempt is worthy of note--at one point only Joba and Mo had a lower WHIP.

You never wish for a player to get hurt, and even more than that, you never wish for a player's family to get hurt.

Here's hoping Bruney's uncle pulls through and his foot heals soon.


After a long night last night, the Yankees are in Cleveland to begin a four game set--three of which are scheduled to be started by lefthanders for the Indians.

As tired as the Yankees are, however, they may have caught a break--Cleveland had to play a double-header yesterday, and the second game did not get started until 10.25 PM Cleveland time.

That said, the Yankees are without the services of Brian Bruney, likely Alex Rodriguez, likely Kyle Farnsworth and likely Ross Ohlendorf.

Andy Pettitte, however, will start (his spot in the rotation was switched with Ian Kennedy's), and hopefully, weather-permitting, go long enough into the game to avoid having to dig deep into the bullpen.

Given the lack of immediate bullpen help, expect the Yankees to make a few moves before game time.

As I stated last night, I'm off to see Rochester and Lehigh Valley tonight; you may or may not get a guest postgame post.

Postgame Notes 24 April 2008

Phil Hughes can't seem to buy a win.

When tonight's game got under way, 45 minutes after the scheduled start time, Phil Hughes looked great. His pitches were working and his pitch count was kept down, and then the Yankees went to get him a three run lead.

Had the rain held off then, the Yankees may have well been on their way to a sweep of the White Sox.

Alas, the weather and baseball deities had another fate in store.

It is becoming exceedingly clear that Ross Ohlendorf really can't go more than one inning. The more he is used, the more that analogies to Scott Proctor are going to start to come up, and that's not really fair--Ohlendorf has good stuff, much better than say, Farnsworth or Bruney, but overuse will kill any arm.

To the Yankees' credit, they did not say 'die', and despite falling behind 6-3, they managed to tie the game on a Melky Cabrera home run and Morgan Ensberg single, though they could not get the break through hit to give them a lead.

While no loss is fun, losing in nine innings may have been a blessing in disguise--the Yankees were playing with a short bullpen, without the use of Brian Bruney (sprained foot), and, given Mariano Rivera's five out save yesterday, one has to think that Girardi ould have done all he could to avoid using him.

That said, the Yankees may need to keep Joba Chamberlain from pitching a second inning of work in close games in the midwest.

OPTIMIST TAKE: Phil Hughes looked great in the two innings he was allowed to pitch. Bobby Abreu had his 1000th RBI. Melky Cabrera crushed another home run, and is quickly turning into one of the best players on the Yankees' offense this year. Kyle Farnsworth had a good outing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pregame Notes 24 April 2008

The Yankees will go for the you-know-what of the Chicago White Sox tonight, but to do it, Phil Hughes will have to pitch much better than his stat line--though that would be very welcome, not just for the Yankees, but for the sake of my fantasy team as well.

Jorge Posada is out of the lineup for a day off, with Jose Molina getting the nod. Johnny Damon will DH so Hideki Matsui can play in left, while Morgan Ensberg will still play at third. Alex Rodriguez is back with the team, but not playing tonight.

The Yankees offense has had a decent showing the past three games, though the bullpen has left a lot to be desired. Given that Hughes likely won't go more than six full innings (maybe into the seventh), one has to hope that the bullpen can do what is asked of it today.

On a more personal welcome-to-my-life note, My law professor today made a remark about the Yankees getting off to a bad start.

He is clearly not a very big baseball fan, or, at least, greatly unfamiliar with the way the team started last year and is structured this year.

On a blog note note, I do feel I should make a brief mention of upcoming days when I will be unable to update this, so you will likely either get a guest post from Brent Nycz or someone else I annoy enough to do it, or no update at all. They are:

This Friday, I'll be at the Rochester Red Wings/Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game in Rochester.

This Saturday, I'll be watching the Scranton Yankees up here in Syracuse; I should get back early enough to do some sort of post, but then again, last time I got lost and ended up where you don't want to be after dark.

May 9th and 10th is Graduation Weekend, so, for obvious reasons, I will not be around, and then, 21-29 May I will be "across the pond", doing it Italian style.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Moose Call (Postgame Notes 23 April 2008)

Performances from Mike Mussina like the one the Yankees got tonight reminds you why the Yankees signed him in the first place.

Mussina pitched a gem--seven innings, two runs (each on a solo HR) and four hits. That's the kind of start the Yankees expect from Wang and Pettitte; to get that from Mussina has to be very reassuring.

He's not quite the burnt toast that everyone seems to think he is.

The bullpen, however, is another story. A 6-2 lead in the eighth should not necessitate a five-out save from Mariano Rivera, but with the Yankees, it invariably does.

This is going to become the elephant in the room, if the bullpen can't hide behind a poor effort from a starter, and they will be able to do that less and less as the season goes on and the starters (hopefully) get stronger. The frustration is that one day the bullpen will be lights out, unhittable, but then, in a game like today's, the set up men can not get the job done.

That said, had Jason Giambi slightly more range, he would have likely gotten to the grounder off of Traber, and Rivera may have not had to come in in the eighth.

The offense had a good game tonight--scratching out their first run and getting the next five on solid hitting without any home runs. It finally seems like the offense is beginning to come around--Damon had another good game, and Posada, with three doubles, may have had his best game of the season.

OPTIMIST TAKE: The Yankees have won three straight and are now two games over .500. After losing the series to Baltimore, they can go for the sweep against Chicago tomorrow. They are now above .500 on the second half of the ROAD TRIP OF DOOM. As said above, the Yankee bats are beginning to pick it up.

Joba Like It's Hot (and some 23 April pregame notes)

So I've just come back from my lone class of the day, Transnational Politics. At the beginning of class, I tend to talk to a couple of students in the class that happen to be big baseball fans--one a Yankees fan, one a Red Sox fan.

Let's call the Red Sox fan "T".

T and I stand on opposing lines, of course, but we usually manage to have reasonable conversations, like talking about how Jacoby Ellsbury is insanely fast and Jason Giambi is leaving a little something to be desired.

Today, however, our conversation was sparked by my shirt--my Joba t-shirt. On the front of the shirt, it says "JOBA THE HUT", while on the back it says "IN A BULLPEN FAR, FAR AWAY", to which T remarked, "where he belongs."

Now, of course, being the Yankee fan that I am, I felt somewhat violated by that comment.

"He's a starter," I said.

"If you take him out of the bullpen, you lose the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball," T remarked, "and you have no one to pitch the 8th inning."

This is so not right, I thought, it makes no sense.

"What good is the 8th inning," I said, "if you're already down 7-0 because you had no starting pitching?"

We preceded to argue in a fairly friendly manner for such divided loyalties as we have. He remarked that it would end up like Papelbon, who failed as a starter and now excels as the Red Sox closer. I said it wouldn't be, because unlike Papelbon, Joba has four pitches he can use.

The argument continue until T's friend and Yankees fan, we'll call him W, walked into the classroom and I posed the question, should Joba start or relieve? W responded,

"Are you kidding me? He has to start!"


There is some truth to the notion that Joba will likely get lit up as a starter--it's happened to Phil and it's happened to Ian, and it's happened to every great pitcher, every average pitcher and every failed pitcher.

Joba will not have a 0.38 ERA as a starter, and he will, in all likelihood, have a much lower K/BB ratio.

That does not mean he should not start.

When you have a talent such as Joba--someone with two amazing pitches, a plus curve and a serviceable change--it'd be high crime not to have him start at least a few games.

If it doesn't work, it doesn't work--but the far greater crime is not to try.


The question of when to make the move is a much harder one to answer. Ideally, the Yankees will find someone (at this point, anyone) capable of getting three outs in the eighth without surrendering the lead. However, despite an overall okay performance from the bullpen thus far, there is no one name that inspires enough confidence.

While it is impossible unlikely that the Yankees will find another Joba, they don't need a Joba--a Jeff Nelson or Mike Stanton would be exceptional, but right now, the Yankees just need someone to do the job.

Then, of course, there's the issue of how to stretch Joba out--you can't just give him the ball five days after his last appearance and say "Okay, now give us seven innings."

One idea might be to gradually increase the length of his relief appearances, if the Yankees wanted to resist sending him to the minors, but this would mean he would also need increased time off between appearances.

It's far more likely, however, that the Yankees would send Joba back to the minors, which, by virtue of a (temporarily) free roster spot have interesting consequences for the team.


It will be interesting to see how the Joba saga plays out, not just from the Yankees point of view, but from points of view around the league as well.

I have to wonder if what T thinks is peculiar to him, or if his is the prevailing opinion of Red Sox nation, and I have to wonder what fans of, say, National League teams like the Padres, who don't have longstanding rivalries with the Yankees, think.


Yankees will play the second of three in Chicago tonight, with Mike Mussina on the mound. Mussina has got to feel the pressure--the longer he struggles, the more likely Joba is brought up sooner. The Yankees need him to give them innings to spare the bullpen, something he was not able to do in his last start.

And Moose, for the love of everything holy, don't pitch to Jim Thome...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Just Another Day at the Office (Postgame Notes 22 April 2008)

If Sunday's game from Andy Pettitte was a clinic on how to pitch, tonight's game from Chien Ming Wang as a clinic on how to grind it out and battle when you don't have your best "stuff".

Though he gave up ten hits in six innings, Wang was able to keep the White Sox to three runs, hich shows true grit among the starter.

As for the offense, tonight was the type of night you hope you see more often--hitting from Johnny Damon and even Jason Giambi, and Bobby Abreu with a clutch grand slam in the seventh.

It looks like the Yankees may be coming out of their offensive funk; Johnny Damon especially had a great day including a double in the top of the first, an infield hit in the seventh to set up the Abreu grand slam, and, as if for good measure, a three run home run in the eighth.

The bullpen was shaky--Billy Traber walked the only man he faced, Brian Bruney walked a man and gave up an infield hit, Joba walked in a run, and Kyle Farnsworth gave up a solo HR in the ninth--but, in the end, the Yankees did not have to go to Mariano.

OPTIMIST TAKE: The way Wang battled through the game shows a mature pitcher--young pitchers might give in and fold, but Wang pulled a Pettitte with his ability to get out of jams with men on base with only minor damage. Jason Giambi had a home run, though for those thinking Giambi should be benched, I guess it wouldn't be a good thing. Johnny Damon had an excellent night, and, of course, Bobby Abreu's four run home run was kind of cool, too.

Pregame Notes 22 April 2008

Yankees are in Chicago tonight; Jose Contreras will pitch for the White Sox while Chien Ming Wang will go for his fourth win. He is coming off of his worst start of the season.

The biggest party of the year is on my street, so I'm out.

Catch you all later.

Oh Thesis, My Thesis

For those of you that are busy keeping track of my personal life (STALKER!), I have the following announcement to make:

As of 1.04 AM, Tuesday, 22 April 2008, I have finished writing the final draft of my thesis.

I met with my adviser on Monday to go over the "rough" draft, thus the product in his email inbox is the final copy.

All that's left now is to defend it.

(You are now returned to your regularly scheduled baseball programming).

My friend and I just purchased tickets to the Syracuse Sky Chiefs-Scranton Yankees game this Saturday. If you're in the area, lower-level seating can be had for $9.00; we paid that price for fourth row behind the SWB dugout. If you decide to go, stop by and say hi, you know what I look like!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Off Day Notes

What's this, a day without baseball? Whatever are we to do with ourselves?

Well, don't worry--the Yankees might not be playing, but there's plenty of baseball elsewhere, not to mention hockey and basketball playoffs if that's your thing, or, if it's as gorgeous outside as it is in Syracuse right now, go on outside and throw a Frisbee around. Days like this don't come around often enough.

That said, this is the only off day the Yankees have for another thirteen or so, so it might be a good time to take stock of what the season has shown so far. There are a couple of things that everyone should have noticed by now:

1) The starting pitching has been healthy and...uh, outside of Chien Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte, not very good. Granted, I'm not sure anyone expected that every start from Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy would have gone six innings, and I'm not sure anyone expected anything significant from Mussina, but there's only so long the inability to get to the sixth inning really hurts the bullpen and the team. Phil Hughes looks like he's getting on the right track, his most recent start better than the first two, but he still has to mind the pitch count. It looks like Ian Kennedy will need to make some mental adjustments, and Moose...well, he's Moose.

1a) Outside of his most recent start, Chien Ming Wang has been excellent. Maybe he's not an Ace, but without him, we'd be 7-13 at best right now.

1b) Andy Pettitte has improved with each start to the point that yesterday he was perfect through 4.2 innings. He is showing why he's been worth every penny of the $16 million.

2) The offense has had a couple of good games, but needs to step it up, especially with runners in scoring position. Right now we're getting more production out of the eight and nine spot (Melky and Molina/Moeller) than we are out of six and seven (Giambi and Canò).

2a) As Damon goes, so goes the offense, and Damon has been struggling. He's shown a few signs of life so one hopes that he'll be able to pick it up, but we can't wait forever.

2b) Jason Giambi has been so bad that he makes albatrosses look like swans. Check out this post from Replacement Level to see just how bad it's gotten.

2c) Guys whose first or last name begins with "M" have been hot. I'm looking at Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, Jose Molina, Chad Moeller, and to some extent, Morgan Ensberg. They have been carrying the offense this far.

2c1) It's not likely that Moeller will continue to produce at the level he's been producing at, but one hopes the Yankees ride it all the way through.

2d) Derek Jeter has been on fire since coming off of the DL, and A-Rod has regressed to "superhuman" as opposed to the "immortal G-d" he was last year.

3) The bullpen has, for the most part, done an excellent job. They've been over used, especially Ross Ohlendorf, but with the exception of the one game in Tampa where Canò had to pinch-hit homer for the Yankees to win, they have done what's been asked of them.

3a) It might be too much to hope that Brian Bruney has changed, but it's a strange feeling of not panicking that comes over me when he comes into the game.

3b) Same with Kyle.

4) It's much too soon to come to a decision on Joe Girardi as manager. Given the awful weather the first two weeks, the spate of injuries and the lack of sufficient pitching and offense, Girardi should be given some credit for the fact that the Yankees are 10-10 right now. He's had some questionable in-game calls, but so has every other manager.

The All-Holy Team

Over on Pete Abraham's blog, the most recent post has commenters talking about the possibility that Yankees' prospect Alexander Pope may one day pitch to Jesus Montero.

That, of course, got me thinking, could we create an All-Holy Team? Well, if we stretch our imagination, not too much, it might look something like this:

SP: Alexander Pope, or Fautino De Los Santos

Catcher: Ryan Church
1B: Jesus Montero
Centerfield: David DeJesus
Leftfield: Matt Holliday
Rightfield: Nelson Cruz (For the non-Spanish speakers, Cruz = Cross)

Now, 2B-SS-3B would involve some imaginative stretching, but we could theoretically have:

2b: Angel Sanchez
Shortstop: Ramon Santiago
3b: Stephen King (I'm not sure King cuts it, but it's the best I can do).

Keep in mind, the All-Holy Team would have a plethora of pitchers, such as John Parrish, for example...

As for the opponents, one would think that Matt Cain might start, and Angel Pagan play in one of the outfield positions...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

And Win for the Road (Postgame Notes 20 April 2008)

The Yankees needed a solid win today--good starting pitching, offensive effort--and they got it, but the question is at what price.

Andy Pettitte was exactly what the Yankees needed on the mound, perfect through four and two thirds, and going seven strong with no runs and only four hits. Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes should take note; Pettitte threw a clinic out there on the mound.

Johnny Damon, who has been blasted for poor play, blasted a two-run home run, and Derek Jeter had a three RBI double in the ninth.

However, the much bigger concern is Alex Rodriguez who left the game with a strained quad, just as Jeter did a few weeks ago While there is no knowing just yet as to how bad the strain is, losing a bat such as Rodriguez's in the line up is not what the Yankees need.

Jason Giambi continues to struggle, as he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and went 0-3 on the day over all. It has gotten to the point where he is doing more harm on the Yankee line up than good, especially when the Yankees have other options in Morgan Ensberg (who will play third while Rodriguez is down) and Shelley Duncan.

OPTIMIST TAKE: The performance from Andy Pettitte was stellar. He's certainly not a young pitcher, but he is proving why he was worth the $16 million. The Yankees get a much, much needed off day tomorrow. Not only will the regulars get some rest, but Girardi and Co. might take the opportunity to realign the rotation so Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are not pitching back-to-back. Yankees are back to .500 on the season.

Pregame Notes 20 April 2008

The Yankees need a win today, but, more than that, they need Andy Pettitte to go more than six innings and they need their offense to actually show up at the ballpark today.

The lack of production from certain batters is hurting almost (but not quite) as much as the lack of starting pitching over the recent few games.

It's frustrating, because the rotation certainly has the talent to win every game, and while that won't happen, one would hope that they could at least make it out of the third inning before getting yanked.

Ross Ohlendorf played hero last night and has saved most of the bullpen so they are available today.

One gets the feeling that the off-day tomorrow will help, a lot. The team will finally get a chance to rest, and perhaps all this recent losing is is everyone being just a little bit overtired...

But that's being delusional optimistic.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

An Open Letter to the 2008 New York Yankees Bullpen (PG Notes)

Dear Bullpen--

I realize it's only April 19 (or 20th, depending on your time zone), but even so, you've been on quite a ride this year. For the most part, you've done what's been asked of you, something that wasn't done a whole lot last year, so, minus that one game in Tampa, thank you.

I realize the starting pitching has not been there. I would like to believe that, like the offense, it will eventually come around. I mean, it has to, right?

So I can't directly apologize for the poor starts from the staff, though growing pains might explain a little of it. However, I can say, that as a fan, I really do appreciate the job you're trying to do--the new and improved Brian Bruney, the 1-2-3's from Kyle Farnsworth (there's been at least one), Ross Ohlendorf and Billy Traber getting it done, LaTroy Hawkins giving it his all...and, of course, Joba and Mo--Really, the effort is not going ignored.

Trust me, I wish there was some magic spell I could do to get the Yankees to score with RISP or to get the staters to go more than five innings in a start. However, I got deferred from Hogwarts, so I'm afraid I can't be of much help other than to offer this encouragement.

Hold fast.


That Thesis Thing

This is where I say length requirements be damned. The thing already owns my soul.

Just so you know.

Don't Panic

I should not be the one making this post. I actually have a lot to panic about--like, for instance, the fact that I'm graduating on 11 May, and even if I do get into graduate school, I'm not entirely sure I want to go. Or I could panic about certain assignments that make me really want to do some serious damage to my rented property.

One thing, however, I am not panicking about is the Yankees. I can't believe I have to write this on 19 April, but already there are people calling Hughes a bust and calling for Brian Cashman's head.

Slow down. Take a breath. It's going to be a rocky month. Even if the Yankees were completely healthy and everyone playing to their full potential, a stretch with 18 of 20 on the road and the only two at home against your biggest rival would be rough. That, so far, the Yankees are 9-9, is somewhat of a miracle given the injuries to Jeter, Posada, Molina, and the taxing that the bullpen is undergoing while certain starters (I'm looking at you, Mike Mussina) are underperforming and other starters are in their first full year of major league pitching.

For those of you up in arms, check out the rookie stats for John Smoltz on

He's not the only one like might also be interested in Johan Santana.

I'm not saying Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy will be the next Smoltz or Santana; hopefully they'll be the next Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, but what I am saying is that if you'e going to call them busts on 19 April, you are seriously misguided.

Same with calling for Joe Girardi's head.

He's made some boneheaded moves, sure, name me a manager who hasn't, but he's also done the one thing Joe Torre didn't do--he's spread the workload over the 'pen, and hasn't ridden one guy a là Scott Proctor/Luis Vizcaino/Paul Quantrill/etc.

If the Yankees are still struggling on Memorial Day, then I understand concern, but being at a .500 pace when you play eighteen of twenty on the road, when you lose considerable time from Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter, when you go your first thirteen games not playing in weather above 65 F (including a few monsoons), 9-9 is something of a miracle.

Yes, it's a possibility that the Yankees might not make the playoffs this year, but you know what? I would sacrifice that if it meant laying the foundation for a dynasty to come.

The Yankees are in a better shape now than they've been any year since 2001.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Birdfeed (Postgame Notes 18 April 2008)

There aren't many Yankees-Devils fans out there, but, for the few of us, tonight is an exceptionally bitter pill to swallow.

Phil Hughes was not awful tonight. He had a better start than either of his past two starts, and with some better defense and offense with runners in scoring position (which seems to be our downfall this month), he may have well come out of the game at least down only 2-1, if not on top.

Instead, he only lasted into the sixth, and LaTroy Hawkins, nice guy though he may be, did resolutely not come through tonight.

It says something about the state of the offense when the best performance of the night comes from the third-string catcher Chad Moeller, who drove in both Yankee runs.

While Yankee fans can (likely) take comfort in that the slumping Robinson Canò will come around, and while Johnny Damon in left field gives the Yankees their best defensive alignment, the struggles of Jason Giambi are beginning to get old, especially when substitutes who have (so far) been performing, in Morgan Ensberg and Shelley Duncan, could possibly jump start the offense.

In the seventh inning, Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez both had good line-drive swings that could have kept a rally going for the Yankees, if only they hadn't been hit at Orioles' fielders.

OPTIMIST TAKE: Hughes had his best outing since his first one. Moeller has exemplified the "low risk-high reward" signing and almost makes you wish they didn't have to send him down to Scranton. I enjoyed the weather and played Frisbee on the quad.

Pregame Notes 18 April 2008

The Yankees begin another mammoth road trip tonight as they make the short journey to Baltimore.

Thanks to His Holiness, the Yankees will not return home until the very end of the month.

Phil Hughes is taking the mound against Daniel Cabrera, who has fared well against the Yankees in the past--once pitching a two-hitter. The Yankees need a big night from Hughes to spare their depleted bullpen--word is Edwar Ramirez is in Baltimore to help out--though Mariano Rivera has not pitched in two nights and would thus likely be available if needed.

Yankee hitting has been hot of late, but not everyone's caught on--Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Robinson Canò are the most notable of the strugglers, though Robinson is making a slow start into an art form.

Melky Cabrera and Hideki Matsui, on the other hand, have been hitting well, and Derek Jeter has been on fire since coming off of the DL.

Joba Chamberlain released a statement earlier; his father is off of the ventilator though still in "critical" condition. Best wishes, of course, to the Chamberlain family.

Check back later.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Man-Handled (Postgame Notes 17 April 2008)

There aren't many, but there are some certainties in life.

Death. Taxes.

Manny Ramirez against the New York Yankees.

One would have thought that, given Saturday's game, Mike Mussina may have opted to pitch around Ramirez, perhaps giving up the walk to save the home run.

Alas, this was not the case.

On some occasions, stubbornness can be a virtue. If, say, for example, you are general manager of a team in 1995-1996 and you refuse to trade Mariano Rivera.

When it comes to refusing to pitch around Manny Ramirez, who has long been known as a Yankee-killer, this is a bad thing. When this occurs on an evening where you, the starting pitcher, can't even make it to the fourth inning, it's not just a bad thing, it's a stupid thing.

All you have to do is listen to Michael Kay, Al Leiter and John Flaherty's call of Manny Ramirez's second home run, and you hear that they are not just resigned to it,l but that they expected it.

The worst thing about the situation is not that Ramirez had two home runs, but that the bullpen has been so depleted that Billy Traber, the lefty specialist, pitched two innings tonight. Hawkins, Bruney and Albaladejo have all pitched for multiple innings within the past two nights. The good news is that they did, for the most part, an admirable job, but the Yankees need to get more innings out of the starters.

Joe Girardi isn't afraid to spread the workload and not riding one pitcher into the ground, but there is only so much the bullpen as a whole can take.

The Yankees were not likely to muster a whole lot against Josh Beckett offensively, so while any loss is a disappointment, it's hard to blame the offense for this one, especially when the offense is down 7-0 at one point. That the Yankees climbed to within 7-5 is a testament to their fight.

OPTIMIST TAKE: The Yankees scored two runs in the ninth, refusing to go quietly against Papelbon. Traber did not give up a run in his two innings of work and Kyle Farnsworth, the only Yankee pitcher to retire Manny Ramirez, had a 1-2-3 eighth. Melky Cabrera continues to swing a hot bat.

Pregame Notes 17 April 2008

So first things first, I apologize for not being around last night--writing two papers in one day will do that to you.


The Yankees are going for the (short) two-game sweep of the Red Sox and their home stand, but, to do so, Mike Mussina will have to beat Josh Beckett (this matchup seems strangely familiar...)

Last time out, Mussina didn't pitch too poorly; Beckett simply pitched better. Tonight will bring undoubtedly better weather conditions, and the Yankees' bats are riding a hot streak.

Giambi had his first non-HR, non-off-of-Mike-Timlin hits last night, and every Yankee reached base and scored a run. Ohlendorf, Hawnkins and Bruney all pitched last night, which theoretically means that in a close eighth inning, Kyle Farnsworth is probably your man.

Check back later.

Guest Post: Exhausting but worth it...

Hi guys, it's me, Brent, again from The Bronx Block composing another quick game recap.

Rebecca is on the DL for tonight for excessive amount of work.

What can be said about the game? I got tickets to tonight's game on a whim from a good blogger friend and enjoyed myself along with losing a few vocal chords.

I'll summarize the game (and the game experience) in three simple points:

1) Boston/New York games are always crazy. The sprinkling of Red Sox fans seem a little disheartening but it doesn't matter once the game gets going. Of course, it's extra sweet to hear even the loudest Red Sox supporters go silent towards the end of the game.

2) LaTroy Hawkins came into a big spot after making a big swap with his number and showed why it was absolutely ridiculous to boo him for wearing "21" in the first place. I also started the Chad Moeller bandwagon campaign tonight, any takers?

3) If I'm not mistaken, this was the first time the Yankees were able to score double-digits in runs this year. Combined that with the up-and-down nature of tonight's game, and boy, you had yourself a crazy, 4 hour affair. Hope Mussina shows up tomorrow.

Now, three pictures:

Attention, all Giants fans. A woman in Section 37 kept trying to convince me that the two men in the baseball caps were Giants players: one of them being Domenik Hixon. If anyone can confirm or deny these claims, that would be amazing.

Here's another crowd picture to add the discovery:

Beautiful, isn't it? The start of the game.

Rebecca will be back tomorrow, I promise!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pregame Notes 16 April 2008

The Yankees will be in an unfamiliar place tonight: home, though they will only be there for two nights against the Red Sox before heading back out on the road.

Even so, it is better than not coming home at all.

Chien Ming Wang is on the mound, and two of his last three starts against the Sox going back to last year have been gems. His last start, on Friday, was a complete-game, two-hit shut-out that should have arguably been a no-no or one hitter.

Johnny Damon has the night off; Matsui will play left, Melky Cabrera center and Posada will DH.

Jason Giambi only has two hits this year--two home runs off of Mike Timlin, and while his OBP is acceptable, one has to wonder how long he can not hit before he loses serious playing time to Morgan Ensberg or Shelley Duncan is brought up again.

Mariano Rivera has made two straight appearances, so the Yankees have some runs to score if they want to give their closer--five saves and an ERA of 0.00--a night of rest.

An Open Letter to LaTroy Hawkins


I would like to clear something up with you, if that's all right.

Now, I haven't had the chance to go to Yankees Stadium yet this year, but rumor has it that you've not been accorded the reception from Yankees fans that you deserve, on account of a number.

I would like to make it clear that the minority of fans who probably don't know the difference between Roberto Clemente and Roger Clemens don't speak for the Yankees or their fan base as a whole. They are a gross embarrassment to a great city and a great franchise, and one hopes, in time, they'll learn.

Now don't get me wrong; most of us love Paul O'Neill and the heart he gave to the Dynasty Teams of the 1990s, but that pales in comparison to everything Roberto Clemente did off the field, and the intention to honor him is more than admirable.

I don't know you personally, but--everything you seem to have done thus far--from comforting Scott Patterson in the clubhouse, to walking around in a "JOBA RULES" t-shirt, to being the only member of the Colorado Rockies to wear 42 on Jackie Robinson Day last year shows that you are a man of true character, and if there were more guys like you, the world would be a much better place.

Now, if we can do something about that Yankee Stadium ERA...


The Invisible Barrier

We celebrated Jackie Robinson yesterday, and the breaking of the color barrier.

The importance of Robinson cannot be overstated.

There was one barrier, however, Robinson could not break. No one speaks about it, because half of the time we forget it exists. You wouldn’t know it exists, anyway—not if you looked at the mix of fans in the stands, or the press box, or the front office personnel for baseball as a whole and multiple major league franchises.

Still, on the field, the barrier exists.

There’s no rule written that puts it in place; it just seems to be one of those things that comes across as understood.

Genders don’t mix in professional sports.

On the surface, the reason seems understandable enough—physically, differences between men and women would seem to dictate that they should play on separate teams—but when you think about it, that argument doesn’t carry much weight.

All you have to do is consider Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs .

For some reason, we keep forgetting that the arguments to keep men and women’s sports separate are based straight out of the Victorian ethic—women are physically inferior and thus more fragile…never mind the strength it takes to go through childbirth.

More importantly, we seem to forget that separate-but-equal is not equal, and that was decided a half-century ago.

Women’s sports have made considerable progress in the past century; this is undeniable. Where women were once forbidden from playing many sports for fear of being physically unable to handle the pressure, there are now women’s teams for, more-or-less, every sport known to humankind. In certain sports, such as figure skating and gymnastics, women’s events garner higher ratings than men’s.

However, on the baseball field, the gender barrier still holds fast. In many high schools, there are no girls’ baseball teams; just softball. This isn’t to impugn on any softball players out there—the traditional argument is that softball is a harder sport to play than baseball, and I haven’t found anything to contradict that—but what do you tell a little girl who wants nothing more than to play for the Yankees or the Red Sox?

What does Alex Rodriguez tell his young daughter, should she develop an interest in her father’s game? Does he tell her to dream big, encourage her to play and perhaps she’ll break barriers? Or does he tell her to dream on, that if she wants to make big money playing professional sports, she should take up tennis or figure skating or gymnastics or golf?

Off the field, baseball has made progress—there have been female owners, female front office personnel, female beat writers and there is a significant female fan base to sell products marketed directly to women—but there are no female players, no female coaches, no female umpires (at least at the major league level).

People talk about the color barrier all the time. They mention Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby and they are right to do so—those men were, if not saints, then heroes, but no one talks about gender.

Maybe it’s because in nearly every other aspect of the game, aside from what happens on the field, women have a semblance of an equal footing with men; when Jackie and Larry integrated baseball, that started on the field before moving off of it.

It’s true that women’s sports today don’t draw like men’s do, but it’s not for lack of trying. The WNBA might be the most successful of women’s professional leagues; it’s certainly the most visible. Still, you have to go back to the separate-is-not-equal concept. If women were to play in the same league as men, would the crowds really diminish that much? As far as I know, women can be just as—if not more—fanatical about sports than men.

Why is it that we automatically assume that women don’t have the physical capabilities to perform at the same levels as men? I grant you that women and men may have different strengths, but in a sport like baseball, the tools you need—hand-eye coordination, decent speed and a knack for a good mental game—are familiar to both genders. I’m not sure you’ll have a hard time finding a woman that’s faster than Jose Molina (no knock on Molina) or a woman that understands baseball better than Steve Phillips (okay, I don’t think you’ll have a hard time finding a child that understands baseball better than him, but that’s not the point).

Title IX is crucial in providing an opportunity for women to play at all, but more needs to be done to overcome the bias that women can't because they are physically inferior to men.

Baseball is America’s great national pastime. It will be greater when anyone—regardless of that sort of equipment—can step on to a major league field and play.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Winning With Runners in Stranded Position

First, the good: The Yankees won, which is, in the end, the most important thing. Everyone one through five in the lineup scored a run, and Andy Pettitte battled on a night when he didn't have his best stuff to keep Tampa to three runs.

That said, there is one pressing concern.

In the seventh inning, the Yankees loaded the bases and they did not score.

In the eighth inning, the Yankees loaded the bases and they did not score.

In the ninth inning, the Yankees had runners on first and second with no one out and didn't even move the runners over to second and third.

While it's true that good pitching will always beat good hitting, Tampa Bay did not exactly have Cy Young caliber pitching on the mound in those innings--in fact, Tampa's best pitcher so far this year, Edwin Jackson, was the only one the Yankees could get to.

The lack of clutch hitting becomes a much bigger concern as the season goes on, and tonight poor weather conditions can't be used as an excuse.

The Yankees get to go back home for a grand total of two games against the Red Sox; hopefully the return home will remind the bats that hits are really cool when you string three or four or five together in a row.

OPTIMIST TAKE: Kyle Farnsworth pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Mariano Rivera notched his fifth save of the year. On a night that was far from the best start of his career, Pettitte battled and came out with the win, with some good defense from Robinson Canò to help. Derek Jeter, in his second game back from a quad injury, had three hits. The Yankees went 4-4 on the road trip and are back on the right side of .500.

Boston looks like they'll win, Toronto won and for the first time this year, Detroit won two in a row.

Pregame Notes 15 April 2008

Writer's block is horrible.

That aside, the Yankees can pull back above .500 and finish the road trip at 4-4 with a win tonight. While 4-4 is certainly not ideal, given the poor conditions in Kansas City and Boston, as well as the injuries to Posada and Jeter, it is understandable.

Joe Girardi, Derek Jeter and Robinson Canò will all wear 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Mariano Rivera will also wear 42; he is the last active player to be able to wear 42 on a day-to-day basis.

Check back later.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I know Jackie only from grainy black and white footage. That picture of him stealing home. The smile that grabs you and makes you wonder how people can hate. This is how I know him.

Before Martin, before Malcolm, there was Jackie.

Jackie didn’t need to make any great speeches or stage any great rallies—he said more with his silence. He spoke with his glove, with his bat, with his talent.

You don’t need to be a baseball fan to appreciate Jackie Robinson.

You just need to be human.

January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972

Offensive Explosion, Bullpen Implosion (Postgame Notes 14 April 2008)

Ken Singleton summed up the offense back in the first few innings of the game:

"These are some real swings the Yankees are taking tonight."

Indeed, over the first four innings, there were three Yankee home runs and seven runs in total. The Yankees were overdue for an offensive breakthrough, and tonight it happened. Only Hideki Matsui missed being part of the hit parade, and even then, his last out was a long fly out that looked like it might clear the fence as well.

It's the first game of the year the Yankees have won on offense, but that should not take away from Ian Kennedy's start.

By all rights, Ian Kennedy should have gotten the win, going six innings and surrendering three runs (though Billy Traber was on the mound when the last one scored), and had he not been hit by Bartlett's infield single in the seventh, the complexion of the game may have remained a laugher.

However, as the baseball deities are fickle beings, it was not to be.

Going to Billy Traber in the seventh was the right choice. That needs to be clear. With three lefties in a row, you are supposed to go to your lefty specialist, and before today, Traber had been excellent. Every reliever will have a poor game, and today, Traber was the unfortunate one.

Brian Bruney had been good so far this season, despite faltering Saturday (probably just because I was there), so there was no reason be outraged at his appearing in the game; though if Joba was around he would have been in as soon as the game became a one run affair. The outrage, however, should come from Upton's home run on an 0-2 count.

Robinson Canò had been due to break out of his offensive sputtering; as far as moments to do it go, he picked a very good one. With luck, that will be the spark he needs to get back to the Robbie Canò we all know.

OPTIMIST TAKE: Best offensive showing so far, and a great bounce-back start for Kennedy. Four home runs, but more importantly, two hits with less than two outs and RISP from Johnny Damon and (a healthy) Derek Jeter. Mariano Rivera was himself in a four-out save. Theoretically, sometime before midnight tomorrow, I'll be done with the thesis. Theoretically.

Pregame Notes 14 April 2008

There's no easy way about it.

The Yankees knew April was tough, with 18 of 20 games on the road, and the two home games coming against the Sox.

However, the injuries just keep coming. First it was Jeter and Posada; now Molina is down as well, and, while not an injury, Joba's personal situation will have a similar effect in rendering him unavailable for at least three games (thoughts and prayers are with Joba and family).

Without a long reliever, the bullpen can only go so long. Wang's complete game on Friday was a godsend, but last night's poor outing from Phil Hughes relegates it a moot point. The Yankees don't have a long reliever because neither of the top candidates--Rasner or Karstens--had a particularly encouraging Spring Training, but the bullpen can only go so long before they're scorched.

The Yankees face Tampa Bay tonight, in Tampa, so, to extricate good news from the situation, the Yankees will not be playing in winter weather.

Wilson Betemit has been sent to the DL with conjunctivitis (pink eye) so that Chad Moeller can be brought up to catch and Albaledejo has been brought up to replace Joba who is on the bereavement list.

Also of note, Alex Rodriguez's wife is expecting this week, though given that Morgan Ensberg is on the bench already, it should not be the Yankees number one concern.

Injury Bug Bites Again

Jose Molina is out with a strained hamstring

Which is not exactly the news you wanted to hear.

I apologize.

Think happy thoughts.

Chien Ming Wang is 3-0. Jeter's taking BP and doing drills so he should be back soon enough. We get to play two games in Tampa, where it won't be in the thirties or forties with inconvenient rain delays.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Oh Clutch, Where Art Thou? (Postgame Notes 13 April 2008)

In a game where Yankee starting pitching was so bad that the bullpen was up in the first inning, their undoing tonight proved not to be the men on the mound, but the hitters at the plate.

It wasn't that the Yankees didn't get on base.

They did, many, many times--enough that midnight rolled around before the ninth inning was done--but when it mattered, when one hit could have tied the game or brought the deficit to within one run, they faltered.

Again and again, it seemed, every inning, a new chance, and every inning, someone else failing to come through in the clutch.

It's frustrating, especially when you know the team is too good to stay mired in a slump, and even though it's not even the tax deadline, the cold weather excuse is beginning to get old.

Yes, the Yankees have had to play baseball in horrible weather--but then, so did whoever it was that they were playing, and somehow, unless Wang was pitching, they found a way to hit as well.

That said, there are some encouraging signs. The walks the Yankees took show that they aren't wholly lost at the plate, and that the famed Yankee patience isn't just a thing of the past. They managed to take a 7-1 deficit and climb to within 7-5 at the closest, again showing that never-say-die is as much a part of the game as cracker jacks and rain delays.

The bats will come out of their slumber, and on a hot night in August, when Mike Mussina or Ian Kennedy has a similar evening like Phil Hughes's tonight, they will complete the comeback. They are too good not to.

OPTIMIST TAKE: LaTroy Hawkins had possibly his best pinstripe performance yet. Every Yankee except for Canò and Rodriguez reached base at least once. The Yankees may have had one of their best games defensively so far this year. Jose Molina continues to hit as if he was a regular and Alberto Gonzalez is turning out to be a better offensive player than many of us thought he'd be.

It's late and I'm tired--driving five and a half hours twice in three days will do that to you--so check ESPN for scores if you need them.

Behind Enemy Lines

Well, hello there!

I am just back from a weekend spent deep in the heart of enemy territory in the great city of Boston.

While the game on Saturday was the major attraction of the trip, just being in the city, was an experience in itself.

On Friday night, I wasn't planning on being able to catch the game; dinner with friends certainly took priority, but as luck would have it, we ate at a restaurant in Chinatown called Shabu Zen, and managed to nab seats at the bar, where the game was being broadcast on a very big, very fancy TV.

I was a little worried when Wang got a lot of fly-outs that one inning (I know, I know, I can't remember which), but through the wonder of the internet on my cell phone, my fears abated when I saw the final score.

Alas, my tickets were not for Friday night, so the majority of this post is about Saturday.

Saturday began with a great start. My friend Dan, who is the one responsible for the tickets, had a job interview at Boston University at noon, so after that was over, we walked the ten minutes (not even) to Fenway.

The weather, then, was gorgeous. Normally weather is just for background description and a way to fluff writing, but yesterday, the weather was an important factor. So, let me state, that around 1.30 PM, there were sunny, clear skies and it was warm enough that I was seriously worried because I didn't have sunscreen and I burn easily.

Given that there were a few hours before the start of the game, and that we were a little hungry, we stopped in at Cask N' Flagon, because, well, if you're going to have the Fenway Park experience, you might as well make it the Fenway Park experience. Citgo Sign included.

I was a little nervous about wandering inside with my Yankees shirt on, but as it turns out, there are quite a few Yankees fans in Boston. So I unzipped my sweater and let fly.

Myself, and Dan. I know I look horrible, but that's not the point. I know Dan's allegiance is misguided, but you can't blame him; he's from the area. If people from New Jersey are allowed to like the Yankees, people from eastern Massachusetts can like the Red Sox.

The park is gorgeous, even on the outside, even near its centennial.

We got there in time for batting practice; the Green Monster actually doesn't look that huge in person, but then again, I'm not sure Jacoby Ellsbury/Coca Crisp/whoever's in left field there would agree with me.

The John Hancock board is the only one in the park with a monitor/digital date and time. It really did feel like I was stepping back in time.

Someday, I will have to come back just to sit in the Monster Seats:

When I took this next shot, the clouds were already beginning to roll in a little--in the ten minutes it took for me to take this shot and walkover to where the Yankees were taking BP, the temperature dropped from about 75 F to game-time 61 F. I had previously thought that temperature drops like that only occurred in front of massive storms. I was right.

I wasn't able to get a whole lot of good shots from where I was standing--I made it to the first row behind home plate, near the dugout, but there were so many people on the field that I was just really thankful my camera has an amazing 12x zoom.


Jorge. Jorge, I think, more than any other of the Yankees, looks a lot bigger (as in more muscular) in person than he does on TV. He wasn't smiling at me, but I can pretend.

Looks like Cash, smells like Cash....

Johnny Damon taking BP. Robinson Canò is on deck; either he or Johnny hit some massive BP home runs, but I forget who it was--could have easily been neither of them. In the corner you can see Peter Gammons talking to Derek Jeter.

Bobby Abreu throwing catch. You can see the Yankees fan behind him. I was very much not alone.

You can see how much darker it was at Fenway by the time I reached my actual seat. I've seen day turn to night plenty of times, but the way it did yesterday was scary.

When I say Fenway Park is old, I mean that it looks like the seats haven't been cared for at all since 1912. It's kind of cool, actually--they say people were smaller back then, and the size of the seats makes you actually believe it.

I spy...people in the scoreboard. I was telling Dan that as far as summer jobs go, scoreboard operator at Fenway Park would have to be on the top of the list of any baseball fan. At least, it should be.

The sun came out again. It was like some weather deity spent a little too much time at Cask n' Flagon, which, if he's a Sox fan, makes sense, given Friday's two-hitter.

A-Rod and Giambino talking...about something.

The Umpires, deciding how, exactly, they were going to annoy fans who were probably a 5:1 ratio of Sox-Yankees faithful.

Some dugout action. A couple comments: 1) the road jackets are awesome and I want one. 2) the dugout is tiny for grown men.

The Sox take the field. As you likely know, Beckett was on the mound for the Sox.

Johnny Damon

Melky Cabrera.

I don't know if it was just me, but it seemed that in the Yankees' starting line-up yesterday there were only two righties--A-Rod and Alberto Gonzalez.

The Yankees take the field.

Mike Mussina did not pitch (that) poorly; it was just that Beckett was better, as generally is supposed to happen when a two matches up with a five. Mussina got some very nice double plays to help him in the early innings, but Manny Ramirez must hate me, or something. He homered for Cleveland at the very first Yankee game I ever went to, and he homered again yesterday.

The hawk that attacked Alexa Rodriguez.

Moose in action.

Robinson Canò. He had one of the better offensive performances for the Yankees yesterday.

Yankees with men on first and second. You'll notice that now the lights are on, a portent of things to come.

The (former) Attorney General on the basepath.

Clutch situation.

Yankees with lead. It didn't last very long, but it was nice when it did.

The other side of Fenway, just because I don't have a picture of it.

The bullpen.

Bruney comes on and attempts to save the day. He doesn't, but it's not for lack of effort.

The press box. I wonder how many are actively writing about the game, and how many are messing around with Spider Solitaire during the delay...

Okay, so this is where it gets interesting. Right now, you see the tarp is on the field. This should not be a problem, except for the fact that A-Rod is at bat, there are two Yankees on base, the Yanks are down by one, there are two out and it's the top of the eighth. You would think they would let A-Rod have his at bat.

You thought wrong.

In the umpires' defense, it was raining a monsoon, and even if they let A-Rod bat, they would have probably put the tarp on the field anyway, especially after the lightning. For those of you not into weather-related phenomena, just remember that baseball players wear metal spikes in their cleats, and thus lightning makes for a potentially dangerous situation--it's why after the sight of lightning you have to wait at least a half hour before pulling the tarp off.

Eventually, as is normal, the rain stopped.

The skies cleared.

The temperature rose.

The tarp stayed on the field.

No amount of yelling "TAKE IT OFF" or "PLAY THE D*** GAME" or "WHAT THE F-ING HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU THE SKY IS CLEAR" could rouse the grounds crew out to take the tarp off.

Had the sky stayed clear for only about ten minutes before becoming ominous again, it would not have been a big deal, but the skies stayed clear for a long time. I didn't time it, but it was at least three-quarters of an hour. More than enough time to take the tarp off and start playing again.

Eventually, the grounds crew came out and began to remove the tarp. They got most of the way done.

However, as you can see, the sky has again gotten that dark-and-stormy look. So the grounds crew stood around for a while, doing nothing, until some of the scariest lightning I've ever had the fortune of seeing live, lit up the sky. Thus, the tarp went back on the field.

At this point in time, Dan's friend had been waiting outside Fenway for us to meet him at the end of the game, and Dan and I felt bad for him having to wait, and also really angry at the umpires, for not taking the tarp off while the sky was clear, so we left.

By the time we got to Cambridge, where we ate dinner, the game was in the bottom of the eighth. It was on a large TV in the front display window of a wine and cheese shop, so a crowd gathered around on the sidewalk to watch.

We stayed--and attempted to stay through the ninth, and saw Papelbon get the Yankees to within their last strike, before FOX decided that the Heidi Game would make a great broadcast journalism role model.

So even though the Yankees didn't win, and the weather deities don't like me very much, I had a wonderful time.

They say if you're a baseball fan, there are three ballparks you have to visit before you die--Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, Fenway Park.

So far, they're right.