Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bottom of the Order Comes Through, Yanks finish April Above .500 First Time Since 2006 (postgame notes 30 April 2009)

Given the struggles of Chien Ming Wang, the injuries to A-Rod and Nady, the low RISP batting average and the sweep in Boston, it may be hard to believe that the Yankees have finished April above .500, but they indeed have.

At the worst, they would have finished the month at .500, and that itself would have been an improvement over the last two seasons, but they didn't just win tonight, they also beat the one team that's given them fits and starts for over a decade in the Anaheim Angels.

AJ Burnett did not have his best stuff, and occasionally looked like he was getting hit very hard, but somehow managed to make it through seven innings keeping the Yankees firmly in the game.

It was certainly not his best start of the season, but he gave the Yankees a chance to win and they took advantage.

Johnny Damon had a solo home run, furthering calls of "bandbox!", but the big offensive moment of the game came in the 8th inning.

In a tie game, Melky Cabrera's single put the Yankees ahead 5-4, and then Ramiro Peña's two-run double, his first two career RBI, put the Yankees ahead 7-4 and the team didn't look back.

Phil Coke pitched an excellent 8th inning with the game tied--it looks more and more like the early season troubles were flukes, though it's still early to tell--and Mariano Rivera bounced back and got through the ninth allowing one hit and nothing else.

I would like to caution that while it seems Rivera is getting hit more this year (and, well, he is) may seem worse than it is simply because of how dominant he was last year. He struggled in April '07 as well and managed to survive the year intact, no?

Ramiro Peña is looking more and more like should have been the placeholder at 3rd all along. He plays an excellent glove and is not an automatic out, and came through in a big place today. He should be sent back down when A-Rod comes back, because he really should play every day. He's not considered a top prospect for the Yankees, but he's taken advantage (or, at least, it seems that way) of the opportunity here.

Mark Teixeira continues to struggle; whether this is his normal early season struggles or if his wrist is hurting a bit more we don't know. He's still walking so his OBP is still up there, but the .200 average can't continue to hit in the three spot if he doesn't pick it up. It's still early and signs say he will recover, especially once A-Rod comes back.

Robbie Canó, thanks perhaps to Bobby Abreu's defense, now has a career-best 17 game hitting streak. He had an 0-fer the rest of the night, but his hit came in the 8th inning--the right time.

Yankees vs Angels, 30 April 2009: A Liveblog

5.08 PM: I have a ton of work to do (again), so the updates will be few and far between.

Bobby Abreu is making his return to the Bronx tonight, he should get a nice hand.

Some nasty looking rain clouds overhead; the forecast for the next week is basically every day, so I would not be surprised to see bunch of rain delays or a rain out or two. It would suck, but such is life when you don't build a stadium with a roof.

5.17 PM: Madagascar bothers me. Stop closing your ports, damnit!

(No, really, I'm doing my work, I promise!)

7.21 PM: Unless my ears deceive me, and it's been known to happen, Bobby Abreu got a 'roll call' from the bleacher creatures. Nice move.

7.27 PM: Some nice 2-out hitting there. Matsui's legs seem to be feeling better.

7.32 PM: Bandbox.

7.57 PM: Great bounceback inning for Burnett. Now we'll see if the top of the order can do something about that. Am a little surprised Jeter showed enough range to get to that baseball, of course...

Also, these smoking commercials? Can someone please stop them? If you don't know by now that smoking is bad for you, I don't think those ads are gonna help much.

8.02 PM: Bandbox.

8.31 PM: Some nice 2-out clutchin' from the cap'n. Yanks up, 4-3.

8.37 PM: AJ Burnett, apparently, does not want to win this game.

8.58 PM: That CS of Napoli was a thing of beauty. Never mind what Posada did last night, but catchers probably shouldn't steal bases.

9.33 PM: I kind of hate Jacoby Ellsbury right now.

9.43 PM: Melkman is being all sorts of awesome of late. And Robbie has a 17 game hit streak.

Oh, buy the way? Stadium sounds deafening right now, even with the empty seats. And it's raining.

HOLY RAMIRO PEÑA, his first career RBI(s)!

9.58 PM: Mo's getting hit a lot more this year, isn't he?

The Most Important Thing About the New A-Rod Book

Well, it has begun: the fallout from Selena Roberts' tell-all A-Rod book. Some of the stuff inside is stuff that many of us may have suspected, some not; but everything in Roberts' Sports Illustrated article was true, which makes it hard to doubt the veracity of this book.

So what now?

The most important thing that happens from here on out could very well be how the fans respond.

We saw the fans in the San Francisco Bay area not really give a crap about Bonds' steroids allegations (even if fans from 29 other franchises all did), and that Yankee fans have come out in support of Pettitte and Giambi who admitted to PED use.

A-Rod has admitted to 'roid use, but unlike Pettitte and Giambi, has yet to really fall into that 'likeable' category, for whatever reason.

So what happens now?

Do the fans embrace A-Rod, try to protect him and more or less pretend the Roberts book exist?

Do they boo A-Rod every time he comes up to the plate and make sure he knows that he's unwelcome in New York just the second year into his ten-year deal?

He's already one of the most polarizing players on the Yankees for his perceived aloofness, for his inability to get the clutch hit...

I am not his biggest fan, but this comes from the *head, meed desk*ing that goes on when he does another stupid off-field thing that only seems to distract him on it. I respect his immense baseball talent, and I mean, do you really want Cody Ransom playing third base for an entire season? Even Ramiro Peña, who is not quite such an automatic out, shortens the line up by a lot.

The Yankees seem to survive the Torre fiasco, although whether or not Torre himself would survive a return to the Bronx is another matter. He would have been welcomed as a hero had he returned before the book came out; now, I won't venture a guess.

Heh, remember when that was the big, bad story of the preseason?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yankees survive Bullpen Scare; Ride Swisher's Two HR to Win (Postgame Notes 29 April 2009)

The final score won't reflect it, being 8-6, but Joba Chamberlain had his best outing of the season, allowing only one run on two hits and three walks.

He had little-if any-command in the early innings and eventually worked himself into a bases loaded situation in the early goings with Miguel Cabrera, a .444 hitter with the bases loaded, due up before striking out.

That was a turning point, and Joba never looked back. He was dominant for the rest of his appearance and probably could have come back out for the 8th inning had he not been sitting so long since the Yankees worked the bases loaded via walks.

The Yankee offense fell back into a pattern they had often in 2007, where in they used one big offensive inning-tonight seven runs, including one of St. Nick Swisher's two home runs, instead of 10-to stake themselves out to a big lead they could ride all the way past a rough outing for Jonathan Albaladejo and a three-run home run off of Mariano Rivera that brought the Tigers to within two.

While Ken Singleton commented that Mo may not have had time to warm up, one had to worry a bit that it's the second time he's given up a home run in as many appearance, and that on the radar gun his velocity was way down.

He had not pitched since Friday, which might have something to do with it. At least, one hopes that's the case and there's not something more sinister at work here.

Yankees at Tigers, 29 April 2009: A liveblog

4.49 PM: Relatively few updates today because I have a lot of work to do and not a whole lot of time to do it.

The most important news of the day concerns Ian Kennedy, who had felt numbness in one of his fingers.

He saw a MD today and was diagnosed with a vasospasm, which, in layman's terms would seem to involve a spasmodic blood vessel.

This is potentially very bad if they cannot find an underlying cause. The vasospasm itself can be treated with medicine, but it's a condition that, IMO is more likely to be a symptom of a larger problem.

Here's wishing him the best.

4.51 PM: Jorge Posada is getting the start today, and please, for the love of all that's holy, stop this nonsense about Molina beint a better everyday player. No one denies Molina has a cannon for an arm, but without Posada's bat, you miss the playoffs. Exhibit A: 2008.

7.12 Pm: I admit it. It's kinda hard to root against Rick Porcello. Why, oh why, did the Tigers get to draft ahead of us that year?

7.47 PM: Did Ken Singleton seriously just ask if a golf course was "white only"? I'm not sure if I should be amused or horrified. Just imagine if Cone had asked that...

7.49 PM: I should either brush up on my golf or get my hearing checked. Possibly both.

7.56 PM: Ayayay Joba...bases loaded, one out. Now 1-0 Tigers on a sac fly. Joba's command seems to be off tonight.

8.13 PM: ...Jorge Posada just stole a base. If this doesn't portend the apocalypse...

8.17 PM: Swisher hit a bomb to left. 3-1 Yanks, and the hitters are working Porcello's pitch count real good.

8.23 PM: Hopefully Porcello will wipe this start from his memory and go on to bigger and better things. I have to root for the Jersey kids.

However, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I absolutely love it when the Yankee offense explodes.

8.27 PM: The Tigers screwed themselves there. They should have pitched to the slumping Teixeira, but instead Matsui, who has been on fire, made them pay. The intentional walks seldom work.

8.42 PM: So what did Swisher have for breakfast this morning? Where can I get some? His second home run of the night, and it's 8-1 Yankees.

9.01 PM: Aww, Zach Grienke gave up an earned run. He has an ERA now.

9.07 PM: Robbie's hit streak is alive and well. Missed first base and grimaced as though he was hurt, but it was just a scare. Phew.

9.39 PM: Is there anything Swisher can't do?

9.40 PM: A warning system has gone off. Don't know why. Now I am very curious.

9.42 PM: False alarm. Someone just ruined their life by tripping the alarm in a crowded ballpark.

10.07 PM: Uh, Mo? Is everything okay?

It's a Good Morning to be Alive

I met Mike Skinner through my friend Dan last April whilst Dan and I went to Boston for my birthday and a Sox-Yankees game.

A one-time Red Sox fan, Mike now ambitiously roots for the Pirates.

He's posting 365 song videos is 365 days, some originals and other covers. Today's is an original, and I loved it so much that I would be amiss if I didn't share it.

Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hughes Dominant as Yankee Offense Explodes in the Seventh (Postgame Notes 28 April 2009)

You may be forgiven if, in the ninth inning, you forgot that the first six innings had been a crazy good pitcher's duel.

Still, you should not forget how dominant 22-year-old Phil Hughes was-providing the Yankees with exactly what they needed.

Having lost four straight games, the Yankees really needed a win, perhaps more for the sanity of their fans than for the team itself, and with the way the offense had been performing over the past two games, it seemed like the Yankees would need an almost unhittable pitcher to have a chance.

Hughes gave them that chance.

Hughes had pretty much just one shaky inning, when the Tigers loaded the bases with two outs, but escaped that inning without allowing a run-and the ability to do that is a staunch difference from last year in which the flood gates would have (likely) opened.

Meanwhile, the Yankee offense didn't do much of anything while Edwin Jackson was in the game.

Take Jackson out in the 7th, however, and the Yankees fully exploited the weak underbelly of the Tigers' kittenpen (uh, it's certainly not a bullpen...)

The statement du jour came off of José Molina's bat. Probably the least likely in the line up to hit a home run (Gardner could give him a run for his money, although running isn't really fair to Molina), Molina cranked a grand slam out to left center and the Yankees went up 10-0.

Mark Melancon pitched just one inning today, but the usual caveat of his multiple inning minor league appearances held: he only threw 10 pitches.

Now, the Yankees have a chance to take two out of three in Detroit, and tomorrow's Joba-Porcello match up should be more than worth the wait.

Yankees at Tigers, 28 April 2009: A Liveblog

3.47 PM: Lots doing today. First, you got Phil Hughes making his season debut. He had solid numbers at Scranton, but he's struggled in the big leagues, though he spent much of last season hurt.

Second, check out this post on the Yankees reducing luxury seat prices for the 2009 season.

Of course, for the rest of us who don't work six figure jobs, prices will remain the same.

4.10 PM: Word on the street is that A-Rod's target date has been moved up by the team. We shall see.

As for arguments that A-Rod will only marginally improve the team, these are specious. He can't improve the pitching or the bullpen, but he can and probably will improve the offense just from his presence alone.

4.18 PM: Posada is not in the line up again tonight. Cue questions about being injured...

Honestly, I think it's probably just to have Molina work with the young pitcher, but hopefully it's not anything worse.

The Line up

Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Matsui DH
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Cabrera CF
Molina C
Pena 3B

5.08 PM: So of course there's this whole swine flu thing going around. A few thoughts:

1) I can't stop playing Pandemic 2. It's addicting.
2) People out in nice little suburbs are worried about catching it, and yet I'm living in the Big City and kinda 'eh' about it. I find it incredibly interesting and am washing my hands much more than I normally do, but other than that I'm not freaking. Yet.
3) So of course I wake up today with a scratchy throat...(however, I am fever/nasuea/other stomach upset/weak/dizzy free, so let's chalk it up to some pretend allergies that I don't really have).

5.45 PM: Took a walk outside down to the grocery store and my favorite bakery on Arthur Ave. There was a guy in the bakery wearing shorts and a Johnny Damon t-shirt. If you're him and reading this post, speak up! Hot damn, it's hot outside.

5.46 PM: Posada's out of the line up tonight with a sore hamstring. This likely explains his "dogging it" yesterday.

Let's hope 'sore' isn't a word for something more sinister.

7.13 PM: Yet another blink-and-you-miss-it inning. Damon was the only one to remotely work a count. It's only the first inning. I really shouldn't be this despondent.

7.21 PM: Great first inning for Hughes. Great play by Peña at third. Cody Ransom probably doesn't make that play. Berroa definitely does not.

7.27 PM: Yankee bats go quietly again. After being near the top in many offensive categories, Yankee bats have cooled significantly the last couple of days.

7.36 PM: Hughes works around a lead-off single. The second out of the inning, a strikeout, was nasty. Welcome back to the bigs, kid.

7.50 PM: Melky Cabrera leads off the inning with a single; but Jeter's single is sandwiched between three outs and once again the Yankees are held scoreless.

8.01 PM: Hughes works around a two-out walk and despite falling behind on Polanco 3-0 escapes with no damage done. He is getting squeezed on a few of his pitches, which can come back to haunt him if it ups his pitch count substantially.

8.18 PM: Do you think maybe the Yankees should hire a sports psychologist or something to figure out why these guys can't buy a hit with RISP? Yankees, by the way, have not hit a home run since Saturday.

8.30 PM: The good news is that there are two outs. The bad news is that the bases are chucked with Tigers.

8.31 PM: And Hughes works out of the jam. It's like he loaded the bases just to see what it feels like!

8.39 PM: You know that old poem that goes "don't go quietly into that good night?" Would it kill Girardi to plaster it everywhere in the locker room?

8.45 PM: Hughes has a perfect 1-2-3 bounceback inning, with a k, pop out and ground out. The 0-1 pitch to Polanco was beyond nasty-a knuckle curve that looked like it would hit the batter before diving back in for a strike.

8.53 PM: Hideki Matsui just hit a triple. No, I'm not making this up. Yes, you read that right-bum knees and all.

9.00 PM: I'm out of ideas here. The Yankees won't hit with RISP. Maybe they're trying to spite me because I got into an argument with someone earlier...

9.10 PM: This is by far the best I've ever seen Hughes. Granted I missed the starts when he first came up, but if he doesn't get that win tonight, there's gonna be at least one really, really unhappy girl in the Bronx.

9.19 PM: Jorge Posada in to pinch hit, which means the defense at third is gonna take a major hit the next few innings. And now the count is 0-2.

9.21 PM: Well, defensive hits are easier to take when you're up 2-0. What should have been a sac fly was just not caught and two runs score. Posada-now-Berroa is on second with one out.

9.35 PM: Apparently the Tiger bullpen is perfect medicine for anemic offenses.

9.43 PM: José Molina just hit a grand slam. I repeat. José Molina just hit a grand slam.

9.47 PM: Was that an amazing half inning, or what? 10-0 Yankees.

9.59 PM: Getting so distracted by the Devils forgot to mention Melancon got through the bottom half of the inning on ten pitches. And Matsui was just kind of robbed of a single if not a double.

10.11 PM: I really, really hate Carolina right now.

10.15 PM: It'd been a while for Swisher, hadn't it? 11-0 Yanks. Singleton's call was great, like 'oh, hey, yeah, that's a home run'.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just Say No to AJax (Before September)

I'll start this post with a story, whose moral should be readily apparent.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Rebecca.

Now, Rebecca was a decent student. She excelled in English and, surprisingly (when she thinks about it so many years later) art; she was decent in Social Studies and Science, and average in math. She had a career goal of being a meteorologist, or maybe even a doctor.

When Rebecca reached the tender age of 13, some people who loved her very much thought that it would be best for her to take Algebra in the next year, eve though she was only on pace to take Algebra two years from then, the year she turned 15.

Although Rebecca argued that missing an entire year of math was probably a bad idea, the people that loved her very much wouldn't here of it, and, the next year, she was in Algebra, dealing with concepts that sailed over her head.

What happened? As you might expect, the math grades plummeted. Math went from being something she, if she didn't like, didn't mind to something she couldn't stand. Her grades went from A- to struggling to make a B-, and by the time Precalc rolled around, she struggled to make Cs. Her career goals shifted from math/science oriented to writing and history. Okay, so that's not really important here.

It was only one year of math she missed, but the consequences were forever pronounced.

See where I'm going with this?


There was an ESPN Insider quote going around that a source told Andrew Marchand that Austin Jackson could make an appearance in New York sometime this season.

Now, that actually doesn't say a whole lot.

Many believe Jackson will be a September call-up, after he's haed most of a season at AAA and thus would be primed for a 2010 debut.

Thus, no need to panic.

However, there is a contingent-alas, a growing one-that would like to see Jackson up sooner. This may have less to do with Jackson's potential (though he is the Yankees top position prospect and the only one remotely close to major league ready) than it does growing frustration with Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner.

These people are, to put it politely, misguided.

So far, in 53 ABs, despite a high average, Jackson still has 15 strike outs. It might simply be the type of hitter Jackson is-he's always been streaky-but to bring him up now would be a disaster.

It won't take major league pitchers long to find his weakness and sit on it.

Jackson is a legitimate prospect, but it's likely that some fans automatically think he is destined for greatness without realizing that his ranking as a top prospect might have more to do with there being no one else major league ready than pure talent.

Let us not forget than in the past ten years our top prospects included CJ Henry, Drew Henson and Eric Duncan.

Now, Jackson will probably not go the way of Henry or Duncan, or abandon baseball for another sport like Henson, but there's no guarantee that he'll be great at the major league level.

With that in mind, it would make sense to give Jackson as much time to develop in AAA-where he can play every day-as possible.

People wonder why Hughes had trouble despite showing flashes of brilliance; he's never had a full year at AAA.

Jackson projects to be a major improvement over the Gardner/Cabrera platoon, even if he doesn't project to be DiMaggio or Mantle or even Bernie.

The Yankees really, really shouldn't mess with that at this point.

Yankees Outpitched in Mo-Town; Slip below .500

Over the weekend it could be argued that the Yankees got themselves beat, especially in the first two games of the series.

Tonight, however, it was much simpler: Justin Verlander pitched better than CC Sabathia.

It wasn't that Sabathia pitched poorly--in fact Sabathia pitched all eight innings for the Yanks in one of his best performances on the young season--but even the 1998 Yankees would have had a hard time beating Verlander's gas.

It's not that the Yankees didn't have their chances.

On more than one occasion, the Yankees had men on base with no one out, but they did not score a single run until the ninth inning, and by then it was simply too late. Jorge Posada came up as the tying run, and as if personally sticking a dagger in the hearts of Yankee fans, bounced into a double play.

The loss wouldn't really be so hard to take if the Yankees hadn't already lost their three previous games. As far as losses go, this one wasn't a bad loss-not in the way that Friday's or Saturday's was.

There were some bright spots.

Ramiro Peña had two hits along with some quality glove work; Robinson Canó is doing a very good job of atoning for last year, and no on in the "firestarter five" (thank you PeteAbe) had to come into pitch.

On the other hand, Damon just looks really sore and Teixeira is still not quite right. A couple of the deep fly balls he hit would have been home runs if he was locked in and healthy.

Although Toronto is, for the moment, losing, Boston looks as though they may never lose another baseball game ever again.

With the Angels coming up after this series, things look kinda bleak in Yankeeland in the early goings of the season.

Still, the team's still missing their best offensive player and one of their starters. It's not really time to be calling for Girardi's head just yet.

Yankees at Tigers, 27 April 2009: A Liveblog

4.13 PM: Lots of discussion today about Molina's catcher's ERA versus Posada's. You can find a good discussion here. There are a few caveats:

1) Posada has caught all of Wang's starts
2) Molina has started less than Posada
3) It's still a really small sample size.

Still, Molina is getting the nod at catcher tonight and it will be interesting to see if it alters CC's performance in any way.

5.00 PM: They're kidding, right?

5.37 PM: Weather forecast for Detroit doesn't look that'd be awesome if they bumped the start time up an hour, but of course I'm sure it's not worth the lost revenue.

5.39 PM: You can view a weather map here.

6.12 PM: My brother just showed me this and you have to see it to believe it.

Go to and Press these buttons and then keep on pressing enter Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Enter.

6.43 PM: Johnny Damon doesn't want to get his shoulder looked at. Everyone with me here: "uh-frackin'-oh".

7.11 PM: This could be a looong night. Yankees go down in order in the first and it's not even close.

7.17 PM: Miguel Cabrera hits a single past a diving Jeter (where have we heard this before?) and it's 1-0 Tigers as Magglio Ordoñez scores from second. Like I said, this could be a long night.

7.23 PM: Jim Joyce must have the most remarkable vocal chords known to mankind.

7.27 PM: Robbie Canó hits a one out single and is stranded as Swisher and Melky Cabrera strike out. I wonder, if I build a temple in Jerusalem and start sacrificing red bulls, if that will do anything...

7.38 PM: CC works around a one out hit and gets a GIDP.

7.38 PM: José Molina hit pretty well the last game he played, too. He is just toying with us.

7.43 PM: Why do I feel like Jeter read the post I wrote last night?

7.51 PM: Quick 1-2-3 inning for Sabathia. Meanwhile, these stop smoking PSAs are really grating on me. I don't smoke. I have no plans to start. So why do I have to sit through this?

7.55 PM: Hey! Look! Nick Swisher with a hit! I'm an idiot. It was Matsui.

7.58 PM: Ayayay Robbie...Okay, here is Nick Swisher.

8.00 PM: And just like Swisher, there's the strikeout. The Yankees right now are making my head hurt. A lot.

8.03 PM: Head, meet desk. Seriously, what does the team have to do to get a run-scoring hit with RISP? Sacrifice virgins or something?

8.11 PM: O Hai Thar CC that we paid craploads of money for in the offseason! That was a beautiful half inning to watch.

8.18 PM: Through 4.5 innings, Verlander has struck out eight. The Yankees may have gotten themselves beat this weekend, but tonight I'm not sure anyone could beat Verlander. Then you add in the Yankees' chronic inability to hit with RISP...

8.22 PM: Swisher may have forgotten how to hit, but he can still play some decent D.

8.25 PM: Good, ole' fashioned pitchers duel right here. If you're a baseball purist (and, uh, not a Yankee fan) it doesn't get better than this.

8.31 PM: Right now looks like Verlander could pitch a complete nine and not even feel it. Great for him and fantasy teams everywhere, bad for the Yankees.

8.39 PM: I think I counted five seconds before someone in a Yankee uniform got to that baseball. Damon looks like he's really hurting.

8.56 PM: Molina took a hard one there. Hope Molina's okay, head injuries are no laughing matter. Dude's tough as nails.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have six outs to score four runs.

Yeah, I'm tempted to turn the channel, too.

9.11 PM: The Yankees may never score a run again.

9.22 PM: Whoa. A run? Where did it come from?!

MLB Power Rankings Week Three

So of course I hope you all understand why I didn't get to these last week, but hopefully, now, they are back on track!

We didn't learn a whole lot this week, except that the Florida Marlins early success was probably more of a reflection on the pitiful Nationals, and the Toronto Blue Jays are starting to turn heads.

30. Washington Nationals: Yesterday was their first road win since last season. I don't know if any of you caught Saturday's game, but watching Elijah Dukes play CF in the bright sun with the glasses on his cap, instead of on his face, kind of says it all.

29. Arizona Diamondbacks: What happens when you're second to last in the league in the 'runs scored' category and dead last in run differential? You have a 7-11 record, and are really, really lucky it's not any worse.

28. Colorado Rockies: Right now the only other team besides Washington without at least seven wins. Having just played the Dodgers probably didn't help matters, but their run differential is only -6, so the record is perhaps worse than the team is playing.

27. San Francisco Giants: Raise your hand if you're surprised that, at having scored 60 runs, this team is dead last in runs scored. Yeah, me neither. However, some sort of pitching thing (I'm a Yankee fan, I don't understand what this pitching is all about) means that they've only allowed 67 run. If the offense can figure out even a mild hot streak, this team could shoot up the rankings. It's a huge if.

26. Houston Astros: This team just isn't very good. They are third to last in runs scored and have a can't-ignore-it run differential of -19. They're better than they were last week, but this far down the rankings such things are moral victories, only.

25. Cleveland Indians: The offense woke up against the Yankees, and I'm not sure anyone really doubted this team's ability to hit (although, face it, even the Giants would have been teeing off of Chien Ming Wang). However, the pitching is still shallow-and as long as Carl Pavano has a job it'll be hard to get me to say otherwise.

24. Anaheim Angels: Angels fans must be so amused at the cute little Yankee fans talking about being bitten by the injury bug. The Angels haven't just been bitten; they've been mauled by a white tiger, torn to shreds and spit back out again. If I didn't have a deep, ingrained hatred for a team that always beats the Yankees and never beats the Sox when it matters, I'd feel bad for these guys.

23. Oakland Athletics: Chicks dig the long ball. Oakland ain't hitting any long balls. Thus, I do not dig Oakland. Jason Giambi got a very nice reception when he returned to Yankee Stadium, however.

22. Tampa Bay Rays: It's not so much that Tampa Bay is necessarily playing poorly as it is that everything went right last year. Even when things didn't go right-like Crawford getting hurt-they went right, and Tampa didn't suffer at all. Thus far, the bullpen has come back to earth, and trading Edwin Jackson looks like it may have been a mistake.

21. Milwaukee Brewers: It's tempting to say that this is a better team than their record indicates, but with no Ben Sheets and no CC Sabathia, and Jeff Suppan still pitching, I'm not quite so sure that's the case. They're still a ton of fun to watch, however.

20. New York Mets: There's Johan Santana, now with bullpen-proof guarantee (tm), and then there's everyone else. If the team could have Santana pitching every three days instead of every five, this team would do it and I can't really blame them. David Wright is a defensive stud at third. Then again, compared to Angel Berroa...

19. Texas Rangers: Nothing new here-all hitting, no pitching. The Yankees could probably take a real good lesson from the people deep in the heart of Texas. You don't pitch, you won't win.

18. Baltimore Orioles: When the O's decide they want to figure out where it all went wrong, they only have to look to blowing a 7-0 lead at Fenway. Even Matt Wieters can't pitch.

17. Atlanta Braves: Are here because while Minnesota is about to get their superstar back and the Yankees not too far away either, the Braves just lost theirs, and I just lost the starting catcher on two of my fantasy teams. I swear I'm cursed when it comes to fantasy baseball. Really.

16. Minnesota Twins: Here's an analogy for you: Joe Mauer : Minnesota :: Martin Brodeur : New Jersey Devils. They really can't wait to get Mauer back, but they shouldn't have to wait much longer.

15. New York Yankees: The offense is mostly fine--they've scored less than four runs only twice--but the pitching...

It's not so much as that they're pitching as that they're trying to toss the ball somewhere in the basic vicinity of home plate and praying the umpire is kind. Nick Swisher's leading the team in ERA (okay, okay...), but on a more serious note, the best pitching effort this weekend came from Mark Melancon, who, stud or not, was making his MLB Fenway Park.

14. Chicago White Sox: Are here because they are the last team left on my list. Talk about being (relatively) non-descript, huh?

13. Kansas City Royals: Zach Grienke is a stud, and now 29 other teams all wish they had traded for him in the off season, when the price was still low. He allowed a run on Friday, but it was unearned, so his 0.00 ERA remains in tact. Even Cliff Lee wasn't this good last season.

12. Chicago Cubs: Don't really belong this far down, but they didn't show up in St. Louis until the last game of that series. They're a better team than that, however, so I imagine the double-digit stay is only a temporary thing.

11. Philadelphia Phillies: They've finally seemed to find the stroke they had last season, although Jaime Moyer is still not being Jaime Moyer. Still, while the Mets are struggling, the Braves hobbled by injuries and the Marlins reeling, it's not quite the end of the world if the Phils struggle for a game or two.

10. San Diego Padres: No, I don't know how they're 10-8 either, but they're the only other team with double-digit wins. It still counts. I still wouldn't expect it to last, however.

9. Cincinnati Reds: Hey, well, they are 10-8, and getting great pitching from Johnny Cueto, while Aaron Harang is back to his old self. It still remains to be seen, however, if they'll be able to compete with the Cubs and Cardinals once August rolls around.

8. Florida Marlins: They've come back to earth, gotten swept by the Pirates and lost big to the Phillies yesterday. It's too early to tell which version of the Marlins is more representative, but given how bad the Nationals are, it's more likely the post 8-1 start Marlins that we'll see for the rest of the season.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates: Yeah, you read that right. This team is getting beyond stellar pitching. Everyone's waiting for them to come crashing back to earth, like Toronto, but it hasn't happened yet. How much longer do we wait?

6. Detroit Tigers: Looks like the offense that was supposed to score 1,000 runs last year finally showed up. Armando Gallaraga seems to have been quite the find, that move that's supposed to yield nothing and instead means everything. He must be having the time of his life.

5. Seattle Mariners: Seattle is playing now like everyone thought they would last year, like they do have a $100 million+ payroll. It probably helps that the rest of the division is struggling, leaving room wide open for the Mariners to sneak through, and they are taking all sorts of advantage.

4. St. Louis Cardinals: Two words: Albert Pujols. Last night I suggested that watching Melky Cabrera hit was like watching a rat-infested ship head to Sicily in 1347 (extra points if you get the reference). Watching Pujols is like watching Michaelangelo on his back painting the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

3. LA Dodgers: The most impressive thing about the Dodgers is that they are more or less doing this without much help from Manny. Joe Torre, for once, is trusting his young players, and the payoff is an early season division lead.

2. Boston Red Sox: Boston makes quite the jump this week, but that's what happens when you win ten straight games. They should probably not have won Saturday and definitely should not have won Friday, but when a team is on a roll, it's on a roll. Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay are Yankee Killers, apparently. Jacoby Ellsbury's steal of home yesterday says it all, really.

1. Toronto Blue Jays: This team won't stop winning. April's still too early to ask if a team's 'for real' -look at what happened to Arizona last season-but the fact is they're doing all this while their starting pitching has been devastated by injuries. Which begs the question, of course, if these guys are this good now, what happens when their starting pitching comes back?

The Big, Bad Yankee Problem No One's Talking about...yet

This weekend's sweep in Boston left many of the Yankees' immediate weaknesses exposed:

A beat up bullpen
A phantom in center field
A big bad black hole of doom at the bottom of the line up
Starting pitching that didn't so much pitch as throw the ball somewhere in the vicinity of home plate, and prayed.

Yet, these problems are, when you think about it, not necessarily all that bad.

When Alex Rodriguez returns from the line up, it should take care of the big bad black hole of doom at the bottom of the line up.

If Cashman wanted, he could probably sign Mike Cameron for a reasonable amount and receive an upgrade over Melky and Gardner in center field.

The bullpen's a mess because Bruney's hurt, though this should be a relatively minor injury, and Mark Melancon certainly impressed tonight. When the starters start giving more innings, the bullpen will be in much better shape.

There's no reason the starting pitching can't get its act together, either. Power pitchers-and the Yanks have three in their rotation-can take a while to heat up. We all know how CC struggled last April.

These problems exist, and frustrate, but they are not the end of the world.

However, the Yankees do have a much bigger issue to contend with, and it only takes a little digging to see what it is.

Derek Jeter's contract is up in 2010--the end of next season.

This, itself, is a big enough problem already.

Jeter's power declined enough last season that many fans considered him a GIDP machine, and they weren't the only one. This season, except when Girardi has opted to play both Gardner and Cabrera, Jeter has hit lead-off, to avoid the DPs.

He is showing more power this season, early though it is, than he did last season, but there is no guarantee that it will last.

What's more, no team has ever won a World Series with a starting shortstop aged 35 or older.

Then, of course, there's Jeter's defense, which, Andrew Fletcher of Scott Proctor's Arm has generously described as "past a diving Jeter"...

Now, imagine for a moment that the Yankees are not playing sentimental, that they are thinking long term and elect not to resign Jeter, or not to resign him for any longer than one year.

Guess what wonderful task the Yankees are then faced with?

Replacing Derek Jeter.

So, if you're Yankee management, which of these kids would you want replacing Jeter?

Straight from the Baseball America 2009 Prospect Handbook

Carmen Angelini? He's #1 on the depth chart. Good, right? Well, he's playing for low-A Charleston right now and has made an error in all but three games this season. It's gone from amusing, to worrying, to worrying and vaguely amusing. Angelini's still young-born in 1988-but even Jesus Montero was not this much of a defensive ornamental fountain last year.

Garrison Lassiter? He's #2, and also at Low A. He's putting together a nice average...but I repeat: he's at Low A.

Eduardo Nuñez is at AA, and is hitting .258. The season's still young and anything can happen-kid is still young-but someone hitting .258 at AA does not a Derek Jeter replacement portend.

Fourth on the depth chart is the guy currently wasting away on the Yankee bench: Ramiro Peña. Peña's certainly got the glove for the position, but unless he starts playing every day, his bat won't get the chance to develop like it should. For the moment, he's the most likable of all the guys listed here.

Now, I should be very clear about this: there is no replacing Derek Jeter.

Jeter's the guy whose name you utter when you are talking Yankee greats: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Mattingly, Jeter.

They may-I repeat MAY-one day replace his production, and they can certainly replace his defense, but in terms of other intangibles, it's not possible.

So in that regard, the Yankees would be foolish if they were trying to find someone that can replace Jeter as Captain.

They still, however, need to replace Jeter as shortstop and right now the options aren't too appealing.

Granted, it's still early and the young guys have a lot of developing left to do.

The Yankees could decide to use some of their overstocked pitching talent to pursue a trade, but any other GM worth his (or her) salt will probably up the price considerably.

The Yankees could sign a free agent. The list is here. It's not a very promising list. Most teams will do anything to keep their SS worth their salt since it's such a thin position. José Reyes is probably the best on the list and he's a franchise player for the Mets.

The Yankees could-and probably will-resign Jeter, though that might be their worst option. If his glove won't play at shortstop, the only other realistic option is DH-which his bat can't really carry in the American League, especially if the other option is (and it probably will be) Jorge Posada.

For 2009 at least, Jeter remains the Yankee shortstop and the Yankee captain, but while possible heirs to Mariano Rivera (Mark Melancon), Jorge Posada (Jesus Montero/Austin Romine) and Andy Pettitte (Joba Chamberlain/Phil Hughes/Take your pick) are at least beginning to emerge from the shadows, Jeter's situation is much murkier.

If the Yankees do not already have a plan in place for November 2010, they need to figure one oout.

The sooner, the better.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sox Sweep; Yankees Reel but Melancon Stellar (Postgame Notes 26 April 2009)

This is not the first time the Yankees have ever been swept.

Nor, I would gather, is it the first time that they have been swept at Fenway.

Still, this weekend was especially painful.

Today's heartbreaking moment came in the fifth inning, when Jacoby Ellsbury created a straight steal of home. Alas, as much as us Yankee fans would like to forget about the steal, it will probably be replayed on ESPN five billion times, so we'd best get used to it.

The irony, of course, is that had the Yankees gotten this pitching effort yesterday, they would have at least won yesterday's game. Four runs isn't anything to write home about, in terms of pitching performances, but it's certainly enough to give your team a chance to win.

Except, this time, only the second game this season, the Yankees could not muster anything offensively.

Was it a product of having Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera and Angel Berroa in the same line up? Probably, though I kow there are some that will starkly disagree.

The Yankees had hit Masterson well in the past, but tonight, they simply couldn't get any hits when they needed them.

There was, however, one bright spot:

Mark Melancon.

The reliever made his major league debut tonight, and gave Yankee fans quite a taste. In the bottom of the seventh he set the side down in order, 1-2-3, and in the eighth, after loading the bases with no one out, Melancon got out of the inning without allowing a single run.

It certainly caught my attention.

Anyway, the Yankees now head to Detroit, which will be no walk in the park as the team is much better than it was last year. The good news, however, is that Armando Gallaraga pitched today so the Yankees won't have to face him. And the Rick Porcello-Joba Chamberlain pitching matchup on Wednesday will either be really, really good, or really, really bad. You know it.

Yankees at Red Sox, 26 Aprill 2009: A Liveblog

5.04 PM: Tonight's Yankees line up from LoHud begs two questions:

1) Is Girardi trying to get swept?

2) Is Damon hurt from last night's date with the Green Monster in the latter innings?

The line up:

Gardner CF
Jeter SS
Teixeira 1B
Swisher LF
Cano 2B
Posada C
Matsui DH
Cabrera RF
Berroa 3B

5.35 PM: The answer to question one seems to be question two. The problem isn't so much giving Damon a day off as it is having both Gardner and Cabrera in the line up.

6.26 PM: Here's some irony for you: Down on the farm, Carmen Angeline, he of the error-in-every-game-but-three variety, scored today...on an error.

6.34 PM: From LoHud (link above): Johnny Damon is out of the lineup with a sore right shoulder, a sore knee and a sore back. Ouch!

7.30 PM: Every time I read something about Swine Flu I get a scratchy throat. Yay for being a hypochondriac!

8.09 PM: Finally ready to get underway. Meanwhile in the other game I'm watching, Rolston should shoot the f'ing puck once in a while.

8.16 PM: Yankees go down 1-2-3 in the first, without getting a single ball past the infield. I hope this is not a sign to things to come. With my luck, however...

8.24 PM: You mean these two teams actually put together a scoreless inning? A lead off single for Ellsbury goes for naught as Pedroia flies out to deep center and Ortiz lines into a double play.

8.31 PM: A base hit would have been nice. Swisher put together a decent AB but struck out; Canó dribbled a ball that should have gone foul but didn't, and Jorge Posada flew out to left.

8.40 PM: Back to back two out singles for the Red Sox. Meanwhile it looks like the Devils-Canes series will be heading for a game 7. Maybe I'll try to get a ticket.

8.46 PM: Andy Pettitte works around the two singles and the score is still (!!) 0-0 after two.

8.49 PM: Matsui with the Yankees first hit of the evening, a lead off single. Let's see if they can do anything with it.

8.54 PM: Gardner with a sac fly after Berroa's sac bunt after Melky's single (got that?) plates Matsui. Yankees lead 1-0.

Meanwhile, Joe Morgan says the Yankees are not and offensive juggernaut and yet the rank in the top five in many offensive categories...

8.57 PM: After Jeter reaches on an error Teixeira flies out on the first pitch he sees. 1-0 Yankees after two and a half. I don't expect the score to last very long.

9.04 PM: Fenway park loves their sausages? Dude, there are kids watching...

9.07 PM: Yeah, this lead is not going to last very long. Angel Berroa has two errors in one inning. And we thought Cody Ransom was a black hole...

9.10 PM: Never a Pettitte start without a pick off.

9.24 PM: Ayayay, is that a BLACK HOLE OF DOOM at the bottom of the Yanks' line up or what? With Canó at third and two out, Melky swings at the first pitch and hits a lazy ground ball. Meanwhile, Matsui is 2-2.

9.34 PM: Andy Pettitte works around a two out walk and strikes out Lowell to end the inning. Still tied 1-1.

9.44 PM: Teixeira gives one a ride but it falls short on the warning track. We go bottom five still tied 1-1.

9.48 PM: Andy Pettitte has thrown five straight out of the strike zone. Ah, there's a strike.

9.57 PM: Pettitte walks two and gets burned with a two out double by David Ortiz. 2-1 Sox. Pettitte's pitch count is getting precariously high.

10.02 PM: A straight steal of home for Jacoby Ellsbury and now a ground-ruled double and it's 4-1 Boston.

Did someone on the Yankees murder a baby or something? I don't understand the karma.

10.23 PM: Wow, the Yankees look kinda helpless right now, don't they? Maybe we'll get to see Melancon...

10.30 PM: Pettitte manages to get through six innings. Alas, unless the Yankee offense can put something together, it will go for naught. I wonder how many times we'll be forced to watch replays of Ellsbury's steal of home...

10.40 PM: Right now it looks like this will be only the second time all season the Yankees have failed to plate more than four runs.

10.44 PM: Welcome to the bigs, Mark Melancon.

10.45 PM: Wow, I'm kinda shocked Melancon was able to handle that with the bat flying everywhere.

10.47 PM: Is Melancon single? Will he marry a Jew?

10.57 PM: I hope someone starts throwing crap in the locker room or something after this game. At least get SOMETHING out of these guys.

11.04 PM: The Sox have the bases loaded and no one one out. I am sorely tempted to throw something through a window, but I don't have enough money to pay for a replacement. However, if you'd like to donate to the cause I can totally give you my paypal information.

11.08 PM: Mark Melancon gets out of the jam without allowing a run. You know, it is entirely possible I might forget about how much this loss sucks just to fawn over Melancon...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baseball as I Grieve, Part Two

Baseball as I Grieve, the original

I still look to baseball to comfort me.

It's a comfort, an escape, whatever you want to call it, but whatever it is, it's something I can grasp, something I can hold onto, something that I can at least pretend to understand.

There is something about the every day, something about the regularity of the sport, that draws me in, that tells me, "hey, get on with your life."

So what if I've been told that I should not pursue a PhD because my mode of work is incompatible with graduate school and that I have not progressed enough?

So what if I hear these words the very first day I've returned to campus after my aunt's funeral?

So what if I am physically and emotionally exhausted?

There's still baseball...right?

On Thursday, there is no Yankee baseball. It's one of the few days of the year that's a scheduled off day, and the timing of it rankles: I need baseball today almost now more than ever.

There was plenty of Yankee baseball on Wednesday-fourteen innings of it-and I know the off day is sorely needed for the bullpen, but I need baseball today.

I want to do nothing the rest of the day but curl up in a ball and cry.

There's plenty of crying in baseball, right? Why does real life have to be any different?

I find myself reading the Tanakh again, and this time getting a bit turned off. This is the word of G-d? It's full of gratuitous violence, and killing for the sake of killing, which, while normally not something that bothers me, here is not what I want to read.

I am a history student and for once I'd like to stop thinking about death.

Friday is the first day I smile, really smile, since my mother's phone call last week.

I have one class Friday, instead of the usual two.

It's a philosophy class and nine times out of ten the material sails over my head, and I struggle just to keep up with my notes.

Today, however, it's different.

For whatever reason, maybe simply that I'm amped up because it's Sox and Yankees this weekend and the adrenaline is already flowing, I follow the entire lecture and contribute to the discussion. My questions aren't ignored, but, instead, I am told they are good ones, and perhaps the first time all semester I actually feel as though I belong in the class.

After what I had been told on Thursday, Friday, today, is the perfect remedy.

Even baseball seems to play along for much of Friday night.

Sure, Joba's a bit wild and walking on egg shells, but four double plays in five innings means there's no way we can lose this game...right?

Then I remember: 4-2 games with Mariano Rivera on the mound at Fenway have not always ended well in the past. 2004 still lingers like an old concussion that never quite went away.

Blown saves happen, as they do on this night, and tonight it hurts. It's the first day I've smiled, really smiled, in over a week, and all that earlier contentment disappears with one bad pitch.

Perhaps I'm too attached to this game.

Saturday summer comes to the Bronx.

By noon it's 75 degrees outside, with a bright sun, and all I want to do is stop time so I can bottle this weather forever. I want nothing more than to sit outside and enjoy it, but my building has no porches, and I, with skin as sensitive as a (natural) redhead's, am out of sunblock.

The weather's fitting.

Down in Maryland, today, there's a memorial service, for my aunt's friends and family that couldn't make it up to New Jersey for the funeral.

Aunt Paula was so vibrant and full of life than any other weather besides that which must have been crafted by the Greek g-ds themselves, would have just not worked.

I wish I was there, but it simply wasn't doable, in terms of time and transportation.

I send Facebook well wishes to my cousin, though it's not quite the same as actually being there.

The game Saturday induces a barrage of emotions.

There's contentment and happiness as the Yankees stake out to a 6-0 lead, then despair at a 6-6 tie, anger at 8-6, cooling off at 8-8...on and on it goes, until, at last it reaches a stage where I am simply blank.

The game itself is a catharsis.

I should be angry, furious, horribly upset at the loss, but I am not.

I am blank.



Every inch of my body hurts, as though I have just been standing out on the baseball diamond for nine innings.

Baseball is supposed to be my comfort, right? So why do I feel like this? Not comfortable at all?

Then I realize something that I think I've already known: The comfort of baseball is that they play on. Tomorrow is as though today never happened. They start again, and no one here can say for certainty that they know how it will end.

It's the same with life. You live on. No one knows what will happen next, but still, you live.

You live, you play.

You play, you live.

And that is comfort.

Yanks Blow Big Lead; Boston set for Possible Sweep (Postgame Notes 25 April 2009)

The hits keep coming.

Literally and figuratively.

AJ Burnett started today's game, way back when, and through the first three innings was magnificent as Robinson Canó almost single-handedly staked the Yankees out to a 6-0 lead.

Alas, someone in the Bronx must have burned a stack of 20 bibles or something because there's nothing else that could describe what happened afterwards except pure, unadulterated bad karma.

A 6-0 game was then 6-6, 6-8, 8-8, 8-9, 10-9, 10-12, 11-12, and finally 11-16.

Burnett fell apart in the fourth and was done by the fifth; and the Yankee bullpen, beat up after two consecutive extra innings games and without Brian Bruney, could not support the offense, which did it's best. Most of the time. Except when they had second and third in the eighth with one out and couldn't bring home the tying run.

There really isn't much else to be said. After last night's heartbreaker the Yankees really needed a win today, and for the most part, the offense, at least, certainly tried. It just wasn't enough.

I don't know if it's that the Yankees are momentarily cursed or that the Red Sox just can't lose a game (they've won nine straight now), but the result is the same: another in the loss column.

Not much you can do about that except to etch-a-sketch it away, and try again tomorrow.

Yankees at Red Sox, 25 April 2009: A Liveblog

1.12 PM: I wish I could suspend time so that I could capture today's weather and never let it go. Most of the time I love city living, but today the no porch, no yard haunts me.

1.13 PM: Lots of injury news. The biggest is perhaps that Brian Bruney is now on the DL (coutesy of LoHud, and that Mark Melancon has been called up. he's supposed to be the heir to Rivera, and has pitched in AAA like it, but this isn't quite how the Yankees planned it.

1.21 PM: From LoHud (link above): "No word yet on the severity of Bruney’s injury. … Meanwhile A.J. is readying for his start by watching the movie 300. He has a Spartan warrior tat on his left arm."

I like this Burnett guy more and more.

1.39 PM: I could say that the Nationals are a bad team, but that wouldn't quite cover it.

2.20 PM: Cody Ransom is on the 60 Day DL. Those of you who wanted him gone, you got your wish. Now we get to see what Angel Berroa and Ramiro Peña can do. For another week. A-Rod, O A-Rod, where art thou A-Rod?

2.21 PM: You know, I would probably fit in perfectly with the Nats: no hit, no field...

2.30 PM: Humberto Sanchez has been DFA'd. That Sheffield trade's worked so well for both teams, hasn't it?

2.52 PM: Via LoHud: Bruney's injury is muscular, not ligament-related. That is, believe it or not, good news.

3.36 PM: Check out New Stadium Insider for a plea to save part of the old stadium.

3.53 PM: Melancon--that's Meh-lan-son for the uninitiated--has taken number 39. I called it, but alas left no record of it so I can claim no prize.

4.10 PM: Wonder if FOX will have Swisher reading the line up again...I have the NFL Draftcast up on my computer, since I only have one TV...

4.15 PM: One out single for Johnny Damon. Teixeira boos much more noticeable today.

4.22 PM: Nick Swisher is the MAN, with a one-out RBI single to bring home Johnny Damon and the Yankees now lead 1-0.

4.28 PM: Jorge Posada has a two-out RBI single, and the Yankees now lead 2-0.

4.37 PM: I would pay really good money for Tim McCarver to stop fawning over the Red Sox.

4.38 PM: It's too early in the season to call anyone done, but David Ortiz continues to look awful. Meanwhile the GIDP means at the end of one the Yankees are still up 1-0.

4.45 PM: Jets traded up and got Mark Sanchez. Even if the Yankees did nothing that inning I have this gigantic smile on my face. I knew there was a reason I wore green today!

4.57 PM: Still getting distracted by the draft, but AJ works around a walk and the Yankees are up 2-0 at the end of two.

5.03 PM: Robinson Canó hits a one out two run jack that hits the Pesky Pole. 4-0 Yankees.

5.10 PM: Gardner is simply over matched by Beckett. Still, 4-0 Yankees.

5.20 PM: Burnett has a blink-and-you-miss it bottom of the inning.

5.28 PM: Robbie Canó is an RBI machine, with runs batted in three and four on the day off of the Monster. 6-0 Yanks.

5.43 PM: AJ in some serious trouble. Bases loaded, one run in, only one out.

5.47 PM: And just like that, we're back to a one run game. Hard to believe it's only the fourth inning. Robbie Canó is probably standing there, shaking his head, saying, how many more RBI do I have to give you?

5.49 PM: We go to the fifth, 6-5 Yankees and the Yankees have the bottom of the order due up...

5.59 PM: And now the game is tied. Burnett seems to have just run out of gas. unfortunately, the Yankees don't have a whole lot of options in the pen. This has turned into a disaster in a hurry.

6.11 PM: Jason Bay: Yankee killer.

6.21 PM: As much as I hate Jason Bay, that's how much I love Johnny Damon.

6.32 PM: So, in the middle of the sixth inning, the pitcher's duel of doom is tied at 8-8. Just another Saturday baseball game at Fenway.

6.50 PM: 9-8 Sox on a sac fly by David Ortiz. It sucks, sure, but it could have been a hell of a lot worse. Unfortunately, the Boston bullpen has been stellar and one run for the Sox may be enough.

7.07 PM: Huge spot with 2nd and 3rd and one out and Jeter does the one thing he can't do and strikes out. I am looking everywhere for something to throw through a wall but I can't find anything.

7.11 PM: With a two strike count, Johnny Damon sneaks one under the glove of Dustin Pedroia (it's an E) and the Yankees take a 10-9 lead.

7.22 PM: I am tempted to find something else to watch for another half hour and then come back to this game. At this point, I'm not even angry any more.

7.53 PM: That may be the most horrendously botched call I've seen this season. Pedroia was out by a mile. I think I'm cursed.

Injury Bug Bites Again

A glut of injuries hit the Yankees last night. Some-such as Wang-were expected, others, such as Bruney were blindsides, though results of Bruney's MRI have not yet been announced (probably because it's not even 11 AM and he probably hasn't had it yet) and he might be okay.

The thing to focus here is on Wang.

Through the first couple of weeks there have been numerous suggestions as to why he was having so much trouble; now the obvious answer seems to be that he never completely recovered from his lis franc injury last year.

Last year, when Wang went down, someone I was talking to mentioned that the injury could be career-altering because it was Wang's push off foot. I ignored him, mostly because he always seemed to see the pessimistic side of things, but now I can see that he may be right.

For a pitcher to be effective, every little thing has to be just right. We saw it a bit with Joba last night-his velocity was down and his command way off. Whether it's early season rust or something more sinister, only time will tell.

If Wang did, in fact, alter his delivery because he wasn't putting the same pressure on his foot or using his foot in a different way, even if only slightly, that is already a big problem.

It becomes further compounded when one takes into consideration that Wang seems to have lost all confidence on the mound.

One can fix a mechanical flaw. A confidence flaw can be a career-ender if one can't find a way around it.

It's hard to say that Wang was rushed too soon. He was hurt in June and didn't pitch in a game again until March. If anything-and understand, I'm not a doctor and may be totally off the mark here-I would argue that the offseason probably did more to hurt Wang than to help him.

What strikes me is how Bruney was able to come back in-season, ostensibly with the same injury, and remain just as effective. Maybe it's as simple as Bruney didn't injure his push off foot-I'm not sure.

At any rate, the important thing here is that the Yankees are down a starter.

While Phil Hughes is the most likely candidate to replace him, and perhaps inspires more confidence than Sidney Ponson or Darrell Rasner, it seems like every time the Yankees are serious about keeping him in AAA the plan is thwarted. There really isn't a better option, however-Ian Kennedy and Kei Igawa would have to be considered next on the list.

There's more depth than there was last year, for sure, but depth is always at its best when you don't need it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lack of Bullpen Burns Yankees (Postgame Notes 24 April 2009)

Losses against the Red Sox always hurt.

Losses when you're one out away from a win and Mariano Rivera's on the mound? They can make you want to crawl under the covers and never, ever come out.

The Yankees played with fire all game, and, as is usually the case, they got burned.

In hindsight, the game should have never been as close as it was. Joba did not pitch that well, but lucked out with double play after double play. There were four in five innings at one point. Without the help of the pitcher's best friend, the game would have been over long before the ninth inning.

Rail all you want on Joe Girardi, but this loss is not his fault.

Girardi was not out there when the Yankees failed to break the game open, as they had the chance to do many times.

Girardi did not serve up the two run home run to Jason Bay, nor did he serve up the home run to Kevin Youkilis.

The biggest question that looms right now is: what's going on with Brian Bruney?

Had he been available to pitch the 8th, Mo would have likely only pitched the ninth, yadda yadda.

Word is, from Brian Hoch and Suzyn Waldman, that Bruney is in NY for an MRI on his elbow, but there has been no public announcement about this which has to start turning heads.

In the end though, what matters is not that the Yankees blew the save tonight--stuff happens--but how they rebound tomorrow. An afternoon game and short turnaround may be exactly what they need.

Yankees at Red Sox, 24 April 2009: A Liveblog

5.32 PM: The weather outside is magnifique! Just perfect! Oh, how I wish I was going to a baseball game tonight! So lovely after all that rain earlier in the week!

5.35 PM: Okay, on a more serious note. Molina's in at catcher tonight (with Posada DHing). Having him and Ransom at the bottom line up may not be the most intimidating thing in the history of the universe, but chances are if Jorge caught tonight he wouldn't catch tomorrow. The Yankees have Gardner and Peña as pinch-hit options. Again, not the greatest options, but hopefully the game won't come to that.

6.04 PM: One of my friends in Boston was aghast when I told him that Yankee fans readily acknowledge being part of the Evil Emprire. You would think a professed sci-fi geek would understand where I come from...

6.53 PM: It seems the Yankees are making all the moves that would see CMW landing on the DL. While Phil Hughes really, really could use the year at AAA, I guess some things just aren't meant to be. Well, we're not at that point yet but don't be surprised if you see Hughes Sunday against Detroit.

7.12 PM: Lead off single for Derek Jeter. At the very least, Lester won't pitch another no-hitter.

7.19 PM: Jeter's single goes for naught as Damon and Teixeira fly out while Posada K's. Lester is a career 17-3 at Fenway Park. That would not put the odds in the Yankees' favor.

7.25 PM: ...And Joba is called for a balk. OH NOES!!!1!! JOBA TO THE BULLPEN!!!111!!

7.26 PM: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why speed kills. A balk and a wild pitch leads to a Red Sox run.

7.39 PM: Joba had some trouble with command that inning but after a chat with Molina, a double play took care of any further trouble. Hopefully he'll calm down a bit next inning--for now, it's a one run game.

7.49 PM: How's this for unlikely: Swisher and Canó strike out before Melky and Molina draw walks. Alas, reality set in and Ransom struck out. 1-0 Boston after one and a half.

7.54 PM: Nice recovery inning for Joba: Single, GIDP and pop up. Not dominant, but perfectly respectable. Oh, this is kinda cool: The Mets and Nats have played two innings and Santana's struck out six.

8.08 PM: Mike Lowell keeps Swisher from at least one, maybe two RBI. 1-0 Sox still.

8.22 PM: Joba works into and out of trouble, with a single, pop-out, double, strike out, walk that ended up being intentional and deep fly out. David Ortiz, right now, simply looks done.

8.33 PM: There's a reason you don't walk José Molina twice, because Cody Ransom will burn you! Yeah, uh, well, I guess if you're going to hit .166 you might as well make them count. 1-1.

8.36 PM: Jeter with the ground out sac RBI. Yanks up 2-1. Again, this is why, if you are Boston, you don't walk José "Hava" Molina.

8.47 PM: Holy Joba DP! After an error that ends up with the bases chucked with Sox and one out, Joba gets Ellsbury, of all Sox, to GIDP.

9.01 PM: Two Sox on, no one out. This may get ugly in a hurry.

9.04 PM: If Kevin Youkilis is the Greek G-d of walks, Joba Chamberlain is the Winnebago G-d of Double Plays. That's four in five innings.

9.13 PM: Guess Cody Ransom wanted to get in on the DP fun. 2-1 Yanks and Joba Chamberlain walking one hell of a tightrope.

9.20 PM: Joba can't get a GIDP every inning. Nick Green singles home Mike Lowell and the game is now 2-2 tied. Coke coming in.

9.44 PM: Jeter doubles, Damon bunt singles, Teixeira has an RBI hit and Posada follows, loading the bases with no one out in the seventh. Meanwhile, I am on the phone with a Sox fan who is away from the TV. I am reassuring him that having the bases loaded does not necessarily mean the Yankees will score a run.

9.50 PM: If you thought the Yankees were gonna score more than one run there, with the bases loaded and no one out, you have not been watching TRUE YANKEE baseball these past few years. Actually, Robbie Canó's sac fly should have scored two, but Jason Bay came out of nowhere to make a great catch. 4-2 Yanks midway through the seventh.

10.01 PM: Coke gets two quick outs, should have gotten the third, but no harm no foul as Albaladejo comes on to get the final out. 4-2 Yanks after seven.

10.11 PM: How much must it suck to be Cody Ransom? You *finally* have a good game, and have to leave in the eighth due to an injury after stealing your first base since 2004.

10.16 PM: Where is Brian Bruney? I like Albaladejo and all, but he's not even warming? Is he hurt?

10.19 PM: Bruney is not even on the bullpen bench...

10.29 PM: Must be a full moon or something...strange 8th inning. Bruney doesn't show at all, Albaladejo gets the first two outs, throws one pitch to Ellsbury and then Joe G goes and grabs Mo. One of the more astute readers on River Ave Blues suggested that the pitch to Ellsbury was supposed to be a throw over to first and Molina put down the wrong sign.

Weird, and especially curious to know what's what with Bruney.

10.42 PM: Bases loaded and no one out, and no one scores. Only in the world of the New York Yankees. You could see the grimace on Joe G's face.

10.50 PM: And finally, the inability to score with RISP comes back and bites the Yankees in the ass. Tie game.

10.57 PM: It would greatly behoove the Yankees to score here. They've got Marte and Edwar in the bullpen, and Veras but I highly doubt Girardi goes to him. Rivera has had his troubles against the Red Sox. Blown saves happens. All that matters is how you pick yourself up afterwards.

11.09 PM: Teixeira swings at ball four and now the Yankees rest their hopes on Dámaso Marte. Keep the alcohol handy, you might need it sooner rather than later.

11.18 PM: What do I know? Marte has a 1-2-3 inning-I think the first of this game-and we go to eleven.

11.23 PM: According to Waldman of WCBS Radio, Bruney is in NYC getting his elbow checked.

11.27 PM: Once again the Yankees can't get a hit when they need it.

So You're Going to Boston...

Today, the Yankees and the Red Sox renew their not-so-ancient (at least in my world) rivalry. Since, however, not all of us have the luxury of attending the game, I thought I'd put together a little guide on the city of Boston.

The city, believe it or not, is quite lovely and more or less the university capital of the world. If you can make your way past the obnoxious Sox fans (who still don't bother me as much as obnoxious Mets fans), you can have quite a pleasant trip. It's even more pleasant after the Yankees win, having been there during both Yankee wins and Yankee losses.

The last time I was in the city my friend and I walked the Freedom Trail, in reverse. The trail hits all of Boston's revolutionary historic landmarks, nearly all of which are free, and if you do it in reverse you start on the outskirts and end up in the center of the city. The entire thing is walkable and doable in a day, though you should, of course, go at whatever pace suits you.

We start at the Bunker Hill monument. Everyone in New England knows that the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought at Breed's Hill, but since we Yankee fans are (usually) not New Englanders, we can be excused for not knowing.

You can climb to the top of the monument and get some great views of Boston.

The next stop on the tour is the USS Constitution or "Old Ironsides", but when I went it was closed so I just got this one rather lame picture.

After you cross the Charles River, you end up in

From there, there's the old cemetary at Cobb's Hill Burying Ground.

After that it's a short walk to the Old North Church, where Paul Revere sounded the alarm way back when.

After stopping at the Paul Revere house, you more or less wind your way directly into downtown Boston.

It doesn't take a Yankee fan to realize that Boston's City Hall, at least the current one, is possibly the ugliest building known to mankind.

It's the one that looks like a jail.

However, Boston does (kinda) make up for it with this, which would be an awesome place to catch a game:

After that you wander over to Fanueil Hall, whose bottom floor is stocked with one massive souvenir store.

Then there's the Old South meeting house

And Old City Hall.

The last thing you see is the state house on Boston Common:

Now, before you go and accuse me of being a traitor, understand this:

The Boston-New York rivalry survives because it's more than just the sports. Both cities are landmarks in American culture and American history.

The Sox-Yankees rivalry survives because, unlike other rivalries when one team of the two may fall off in terms of winning ability (whatever happened to Royals-Yankees or Orioles-Yankees, for example), the Sox and Yankees never have. Both teams have always been good (with the exception of a few years here and there) and whether we'd like to admit it or not, there's a sense of mutual respect. There has to be, or the losses, when they occur, would not be so heartbreaking.

The series this weekend should be a good one, whether you're into Joba and Youkilis, watching AJ pitch or simply just watching good baseball.

Enjoy it, and if you get a chance to explore the city, you might as well. And hey, I've been to Boston a few times. I'm still a Yankees fan.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How I Could (and Do) Like the Yankees

Over the weekend, while seeing relatives I see on average once every ten years, there were some questions that kept getting asked:

"So what are you doing?"

"Do you enjoy grad school?"

"Sports? Really?"

"Ugh, the Yankees? How could you like the Yankees?"

Both sides of my family, if you go back far enough, have Brooklyn--and thus Dodgers--connections. When the Dodgers were replaced by the Mets, the transition was (or, seems to have been) seamless: Dodgers fans, who by the very definition could never become Yankees fans, switched to the Mets instead of trying to keep track of a team all the way out in California.

So the question becomes: how does someone in this family become a Yankee fan?

The answer-the long and true answer-is a complicated thing, with direct and indirect causes.

For example, consider this: the very first Yankee game I ever watched on TV was the 1996 Jeffrey Maier game, and I remember it only because at the time it was unheard of for our family to watch baseball at the dinner table. My brother must have said something, the game went on the TV and I was momentarily transfixed without understanding its real significance.

I hadn't much cared for the Yankees except for that my fourth-grade teacher, the one we all said was a witch and hid a dead cat in the cupboard hated the Yankees and would make those wearing Yankee shirts turn them inside out, so on the last day of school we all wore Yankee shirts, just to spite her. It was so worth it, even as it is fourteen years later.

Still, when the Yankees made the World Series that year, somewhere along the line I had to realize what was happening.

I knew nothing about the Yankees except that they had some rookie shortstop named Derek Jeter, and a young pitcher named Andy Pettitte, and I knew nothing about the Braves except that they were supposed to be unbeatable. Still, my mind was a little too rational at the time: I knew it was a best-of-seven series.

When my dad drove me to school the morning after game two, I asked if the Yankees had won the game the night before-I wasn't allowed to stay up and had yet to learn as I would in not-so-much later years that games are, in fact, also broadcast on radio, and since my clock was also a radio...

My dad's response was simple: "Of course not." Of course the Yankees didn't win. There was no way they could win.

I was confused. "Isn't it a best of seven?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"So doesn't that mean that they [Atlanta] have to win four games?"

"Yes," he said, "but the Yankees aren't going to win."

Chances are, if you're reading this post, you know how that turned out.

I didn't follow baseball much after that until 1998, when I came home from summer camp and asked my brother how the Yankees were doing.

"If they don't win the World Series," he said, "it would be a major shock."

So that October, I watched.

I watched them sweep Texas, I watched them fall behind to Cleveland (thank you Chuck Knoblauch) and then overtake them, I watched as my brother decreed the new Cuban import El Duque as his favorite because of the leg kick (I picked Paul O'Neil. It was the hair.).

I watched as my math teacher's mood was solely based on how the Yankees performed the night before--and I must admit, I picked up the habit.

I watched the Yankees fall behind in game one of the World Series to San Diego, with my parents in the family room. I watched as Tino Martinez stepped up to the plate and my dad said that his .125 postseason batting average was really good. I told him it was not, and one full count later, I watched as Tino launched one into the right-field upper deck. I wanted to scream for joy, but my other brother was fast asleep, so I screamed silently, trying not to jump up and down too much so the dog-we had one then-wouldn't bark.

I watched as El Duque shut the door early in game two, and I watched as the Yankees took two on the West Coast to nab crown number twenty-four.

You could say that the rest is history.

You don't not become a Yankees fan after watching that, even if you don't entirely understand what is going on or why Scott Brosius is the most unlikely of all playoff heroes or what's so special about Trevor Hoffman or what going 125-50 really means.

I didn't understand why the Yankees traded David Wells, who had pitched a perfect game, to Toronto for Roger Clemens in the offseason, but I remember the look my brother gave me when I dared to express my opinion.

I had a lot to learn, but I was hooked.

We all know what happened since then: a threepeat of championships at the cost of an impoverished farm system that led to the current "drought" (something other teams might consider a minor dry spell).

I cried in 2001, not just because the Yankees lost but because of the circumstances surrounding it-by then Mariano Rivera had filled the role as favorite player. The best memory from that year was Game Five in the world series, thinking there was no way the Yankees could hit another bottom-of-the-ninth two out two run home run...and then they did. There was still some baseball magic in New York.

In 2003, Aaron Boone provided such jubilation-and such a catharsis-that the only thing I remember about that World Series is Jorge Posada making the final out. Even six years later, the World Series seems almost trivial when compared to Aaron Boone.

In 2004, I didn't cry. I couldn't cry. I was angry and at the same time, once the Yankees lost game four, some part of me knew it was going to happen, and once it did, there was a release. The Red Sox had won and the world hadn't ended, and once the curse was broken, it was broken. No longer could Sox fans retain righteous indignation and the downtrodden loser identity that had been theirs for so long.

As a Yankee fan I've never known bad years, not in the ways I have as a Nets and a Jets fan, or in the ways that Cubs fans have for so long.

Last year was a disappointing year, but all things considered, in the end not nearly the collapse some would have you believe.

The thing is, however, even if the Yankees went and lost 100 games in a season, I would still be a Yankees fan.

Becoming a fan of a sports team is more or less, in my mind, like becoming right-handed or left-handed. There's a brief period of time at the very beginning where you can choose, but if you're serious about it, once the choice is made, it's final.

So I've developed an affection for Brooklyn, and Jackie and Pee Wee and Branch, and even for the Cubs, and Ernie Banks and the Ivy and Harry Carey, but I will never be a Dodgers fan or a Cubs fan.

Being a Yankee fan has become as much a part of my identity as there is Brooklyn in my grandmother.

It doesn't take a whole lot to become a fan of a certain team-just the right thing happening at the right time-but once it happens, there it is, good and finalized. You may as well have been genetically altered.

I suspect when I die, should they do an autopsy, you'll find navy blue pinstripes coursing through my veins...

Off Day Observations

With today as an off day, I thought it'd make sense to go through and address the Yankees, and issues surrounding the Yankees, thus far. We're only in Week Three of the season, so many issues now may not actually be issues over the long run while other larger issues have yet to reveal themselves.

First, the Lineup

As a whole, the Yankee offense has been largely dependable. They have scored four or more runs in all but one game, and that includes the 22-4 and 15-5 losses. Whatever the faults of the pitching in those games, the offense, by and large, did its job.

There are some concerns about the ability to score with RISP, but I still think it's a little too early to be overly concerned. Perhaps a little concern, but I think it was a much bigger issue last year when the offense struggled to score runs at all. It's also worth remembering that the Yankees have not had A-Rod in the line up yet this season, and they have been performing without Xavier Nady's bat for a week, and they've still won more games than they've lost.

  • Derek Jeter: He was mired in a mini-slump of sorts to start the season, but whereas last year it took him until May to notch his first home run, this year he has four already. You can't even argue it's the new Yankee Stadium's fault as the Yankees have played more games on the road than at home. Jeter's always had a knack for being clutch, but it seems, perhaps this year more than others, he is providing the right hits at exactly the right moments.
  • Johnny Damon: Seems to be doing fine as a two-hitter. At the very least, he's not GIDP'ing, which was the worry with Jeter in the spot. He still has the eye of a lead off man, and between him, Teixeira and Swisher, some of the younger guys may never know what it means to swing at a first pitch.
  • Mark Teixeira has admitted to being a slow starter, and his .222 average points to him being a man of his word. Even with the low average, however, he still has 9 RBI and if you haven't noticed his awesome defense, dude, you must have never watched the Yankees with Jason Giambi.
  • Jorge Posada: Shoulder? What shoulder? He is playing as though 2008 was just an illusion, picking up right where he left off in 2007. Despite his .286 average, he is tied for the team lead in RBI with Nick Swisher (yes, you read that right), which suggests that he's making the hits he does get count. What's more, and I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed this, his throwing arm seems to be stronger than it was back in 2007, when it was supposedly healthy. I know 37-year-old arms aren't supposed to magically get better, but in the world of baseball, that is hardly the strangest thing to have ever happened.
  • Robinson Canó: What a difference a fast start makes! Last season he got into a hole he could not get out of; this season he is playing like the all star everyone expected him to be. Whatever the wake up call, whether it was the benching or not, it worked. He's still not hitting a ton of home runs, and he probably never will, but getting on base is still getting on base, and right now, leading the Yankees in hits and BA, and second (again, to Swisher) in OBP, he seems to be doing that just fine.
  • Nick Swisher: Most people guessed that Swisher's year last year was simply a fluke, except, apparently, the White Sox. You probably can't call Swisher-for-Betemit one of the most lopsided trades ever, since it's not, but through the first couple of weeks it certainly seemed like it. Even while Swisher's BA comes back to earth, he still leads the team with a .433 OBP because, hey, a walk's as good as a hit in this game. He is perhaps not the greatest right fielder in the history of the game, but given everything else he's given the team this year, from his rock star personality to his 0.00 ERA, it seems not to matter so much. Anyway, since every ball that's been hit to right field at the new Stadium seems to be a home run, you could probably put an ornamental fountain in right and not even notice.
  • Hideki Matsui: Mired in an awful slump at the beginning of the year and looked awkward and uncomfortable at bat, but of late seems to be coming out of it. An effective Matsui, even if just as DH, is an invaluable resource and depth-stretcher for the Yankees. Right now he looks best not playing every day and that may simply be what the Yankees need to do to keep him effective.
  • Brett Gardner: All you usually ask of your nine hitter is to not be an automatic out. Gardner, for the most part, is complying. If he had just that little bit more power it would be all things awesome, but as it is, he provides speed on the bases and gets on base just often enough to matter.
  • Cody Ransom: The anti-Brett Gardner, or so it would seem. It'd be one thing if he was a pitcher and then a team could carry his non-existant bat, but as it is right now the answer to the question "why do you miss Alex Rodriguez" can be summed up in two words: "Cody Ransom." Dude's got a mean vertical, but he hasn't even played the type of defense you need for a 3B and that probably explains why he is a career minor leaguer.
  • José Molina: Just as he was last year, all catch and no hit. Once Alex Rodriguez comes back the no-hit bit may not be such a big problem, but right now the Yankees can't really afford to keep both him and Ransom in the same line up. However, with A-Rod due back in a week, I am fairly certain the Yankees will survive.
  • Melky Cabrera: All you need to know is that despite hitting two HRs yesterday, he still struck out twice including once with the bases loaded and nobody out, where he swung at a pitch way, way out of the strike zone. He has pockets of brilliance but hasn't (yet) shown enough to be the everyday starting CF, especially after last season. Still, it's far too soon to give up on him. If Canó can turn it around, than maybe so can Melky. His ceiling isn't nearly as high, but it really won't take much for him to be better than he was last year.
  • Xavier Nady: Nady is the guy whose bat you never notice when it's in the line up, but made all the more noticeable by its absence. Losing his bat may not have the same repercussions as losing Teixeira's bat or Posada's bat, but it would be folly to think that there are none. Lucky for the Yankees, he supposedly doesn't need surgery and with luck will be back before the fourth of July.
  • Ramiro Peña: Billed as all-glove and no-hit, and so far, in his limited appearances, has lived up to exactly that. I wouldn't mind seeing him kept on the roster for late inning defense once A-Rod returns, but he would benefit more by being sent down and getting a chance to play every day.

Next, the Starting Pitching

Thus far the starting pitching has varied from being so-horrible-it-would-be-comical-if-it-wasn't-so-horrible to pure clinics that all high school players should be told to watch.

The horrible starts are almost all the responsibility of one Chien Ming Wang, while right now Andy Pettitte, who has been as solid as he's ever been, and AJ Burnett, who varies from spectacular to spectacularly wild, are carrying the rotation. For their parts, CC Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain are both doing enough to give the team a chance to win every time they are out there, even though the bullpen has, on more than one occasion, rendered them decisionless, and not in a good way.

In other words, with the exception of CMW, there is no need to worry too much about the starting pitching. CC and Joba should only get better, and if Andy and AJ keep doing as they are doing, there is no reason this team shouldn't win four of every five games.

  • CC Sabathia: As his 13.50 ERA last April would attest, this simply isn't his month. His start yesterday was actually worse than his Opening Day gig in terms of runs allowed, but the Yankee offense bailed him out every step of the way so one might be forgiven if he or she doesn't notice. Still, the Yankees have won two of his four starts and in all likelihood should have won a third, and that's what a true ace does: give you a chance to win, even on his bad days.
  • Chien Ming Wang: Ayayay. IMO, it's probably still the foot--MLB TV had a great piece on how his delivery's altered because he won't put the same pressure on his injured foot--but now one has to ask if there's a confidence issue as well. Guys that win 19 games two years in a row don't suddenly forget how to pitch; there is an underlying cause somewhere. He will get back to normal eventually, but for the moment the Yankees have to play as if he won't.
  • AJ Burnett: Is just really fun to watch, even if he's walking seven in a game. He's been the Yankees' stopper every step of the way, and while that's not necessarily fair to him, he is excelling in that role. He will lose a game eventually--even Cliff Lee did last year--but until he does, one can just sit back, relax and enjoy it. His start against Boston on Saturday should be great baseball.
  • Andy Pettitte: Over the offseason I kept saying that it would be foolish to expect Pettitte to pull a Mike Mussina in 2009. I was right, except I was wrong. Pettitte hasn't exactly pulled a Mussina--he was never as bad in '08 as Mussina was in '07--but he was pitching on a sore shoulder (apparently) and at the end of '08 it showed. Now that he's healthy again, he's pitching like vintage Pettitte, getting the outs when he needs them, never trying to do too much, and backing up AJ's starts with poise and awesome Pettitte-ness.
  • Joba Chamberlain: What does the poor kid have to do to get a decision? Okay, so we're only three weeks into the season...but hey, you know what? He's doing exactly what your fifth starter should do: giving the team a chance to win, and he will (or should, anyway) only get better from here on out. The argument now isn't whether or not he has the 'stuff' to be a starter but whether or not his arm can hold up, thus the innings limit. So far, so good.

Next, the Bullpen

Bullpens are finicky things. One year they're fine, the next they're not and you, dear GM, may have not even lifted a finger.

In 2008 Girardi was almost universally praised for his handling of the bullpen; in 2009 he's getting chided for micro-managing and thus invariably running into the one 'pen guy of the day that simply doesn't have it.

Still, for every 15-5 or 22-4 loss, there's the 14-inning win without a bona fide long man.

What this means is that right now, it is utterly impossible to make any sense out of the bullpen. They're either being really really good or really really bad, and not really much in between. Go figure.

  • Jonathan Albaladejo: Has mostly been great. The one bad outing is, alas, the one you tend to remember, but he seems to be turning into a very dependable arm from out of the bullpen. He started the season fairly low on the bullpen ladder, but is working his way upwards.
  • Edwar Ramirez: I haven't seen a whole lot of him this season. Maybe it's just that I'm missing the games where he comes into pitch, I don't know, but the old rules with him seem to be in force: when someone guesses right on the change up, it's usually a home run, and he's pretty much okay as long as he's not facing the Angels.
  • Phil Coke: Had a rough, and I mean rough, start to the year, but he has seemed to calm down in his more recent appearance. Could it be nerves? I still think he needs some more time before we can pass judgement on him. At any rate, he's another lefty out of the pen, and one seemingly much less fragile than Dámaso Marte.
  • Dámaso Marte: May yet be okay, but his struggles right now are a little worrying given that he is supposed to be the lefty specialist. It's a little to reminiscent of Mike Myers in 2007. However, he's signed for three years (and probably really glad he signed when he did), so whatever's going on, the Yankees will try to fix.
  • José Veras: Yesterday's three inning stint could be billed as the redemption of José Veras. He has filthy, nasty stuff when his command is there, but as we all know, that's not always the case. With luck, yesterday's affair got him back on track. If he's pitching well, and Bruney and Mo do their thing, the Yankees are back to six inning games, and we know how well that turned out the last time they could do that...
  • Brian Bruney: Has become the go-to eighth inning guy. Something happened between 2007 and 2008 where he made himself over, and one could very easily see 2009 as a progression of what he was doing in 2008 at the very beginning and end of the year when his foot was healthy. He's probably bound to give up a lead sometime, as every reliever is, but what will be more telling is how he bounces back. For the moment, he has made the set-up decision much easier for Girardi and co. to make.
  • Mariano Rivera: So I want to say he seems to be getting hit a little more this year than last year but last year was so unbelievable that he'd have to be utterly perfect not to be getting hit more. What matters is that he hasn't walked anyone or given up a run, and given that he always seems to struggle a bit in April, before it really gets warm out, there's no sense worrying. He pitched a scoreless inning in a tie game yesterday, which might even suggest that he may yet be better this year than last year.

Finally, we have Other Yankees Issues

  • Empty seats at Yankee Stadium: If the Yankees haven't taken notice that no one can afford the $2500 seats behind home plate, they probably should, and soon. However, before one freaks out about empty seats in the rest of the Stadium, please remember it's April. The weather's still more crap than nice in New York and school is still in session. If the seats are still this empty in June, then the Yankees have a major issue. Another question: why haven't they sold the SRO tickets yet? Granted, it's only recently that the Yankees were selling out each and every game. They probably would still be doing so this year if not for that nasty little thing called the Recession.
  • The Bandbox: There are all sorts of reasons for the home runs flying out of Yankee Stadium. The answer is probably a little bit of everything-sloped angle of the seats, a wind tunnel created by the old Stadium in the background, running into a very good Cleveland line up (even if their record indicates otherwise) and, until the last couple of days, exceptionally dry air. Again, it's early. If the home runs are still flying out like this in June, then eyebrows should be raised. I don't mind the home runs, but in the long run it could be harmful towards building a pitching staff-just look at the Rockies.

So that's it for now. Enjoy the off day.