Monday, August 31, 2009

Pettitte takes Perfecto into the 7th (Postgame Notes 31 August 2009)

Throughout his career, Andy Pettitte has been known as a second half pitcher.

That was never more apparent than it was tonight, where Pettitte pitched eight two-hit innings of baseball--he took a perfect game into two outs in the seventh and lost it only when Jerry Hairston Jr did his best Bill Buckner impression at third, filling in for Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees scored their own five runs--it's a road game, so of course Swisher had a home run and was a triple away from the cycle--but the story of the game is easily Pettitte.

Pettitte was so good that even when he did lose the perfect game and the no-hitter (lost on a clean single), and the game was only 2-0 at the time, Pettitte still got himself out of the inning without allowing a run. Pettitte would allow a lead-off home run to Melvin Mora, but by that time the Yankees were leading by five.

Pettitte's ERA since the all-star break is 2.56--and despite CC Sabathia having lost only one August game in the past two seasons, one could make the argument right now that Pettitte is pitching better than anyone else on the Yankees' staff.

In the end, tonight's game is exactly what should have happened when the team with the league's best record plays one of the cellar-dwellers: Good pitching, enough offense and the other team never really has a chance.

(For what it's worth, though, Brian Bruney has quite a bit of work to do to if he really really wants to be on that postseason roster...)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mitre and Gaudin combine to one-hit White Sox (Postgame Notes 29 August 2009)

You can be forgiven if, at the outset, you thought that today's Contreras-Mitre match up would be one long and non-fun game to sit through.

Jose Contreras certainly kept up his part of the bargain--unable to make it even through the fourth inning as the Yankees singled and doubled him to death.

Sergio Mitre, on the other hand, pitched well.

Not well-for-a-five-starter or well-for-someone-that-has-an-awfully-high-WHIP or passably good, but well.

Very, very well.

Through six and a third innings, Mitre gave up only one hit--a scorching double to Jim Thome (if you're going to give up a hit might as well be to a guy that's headed to Cooperstown)--and, just as importantly, walked only one.

Had he not been hit in the elbow with a come-back-line-drive-thingie, Mitre would have likely pitched the seventh, probably the eighth and possibly even the ninth--easily his best performance since 2006.

Coming on in relief, Chad Gaudin was also excellent--not allowing a single hit to the White Sox over the rest of the game.

On the flip side, the Yankees scored four runs in the second, four in the fourth, and then two more later on, and--unusual, perhaps for this team--the only home run was an Alex Rodriguez solo home run in the later innings.

Robinson Canó now has three hits with runners in scoring position since last night--a very rare feat for him this season.

Just as important, he made a stellar defensive play in the sixth inning--and he has played solid defense all season.

The Yankees have now assured themselves of their 14th straight season at .500 or better--even if they go winless the rest of the season (in which case they'd have some more serious problems).

Why the 2009 season kicks all sorts of you know what...

Been posting this as a comment and it's too good not to post here:

Here’s how it breaks down:
Homestand #1: Cleveland and Oakland: Melky Cabrera walk off HR in the 14th inning.

Homestand #2: LA, Boston, TB: Jorge Posada walk-off single to cap off a five run comeback in the 8th and 9th innings.

Homestand #3: Minnesota, Baltimore, Philadelphia: Three walkoffs in a row vs Minnesota and then one against Philadelphia. Melky single, A-Rod homer, Damon homer, A-rod to tie and Melky to win.

Homestand #4: Texas and Tampa Bay, only walkoff-less stand of the year.

Homestand #5: Mets and Nationals, Luis Castillo dropped pop up.

Homestand #6: Mariners and Blue Jays, Jorge Posada 12th inning HR on Independence Day.

Homestand #7: Detroit, Baltimore, Oakland: Hideki Matsui bottom 9th HR against Baltimore (2-1 game).

Homestand #8: Boston and Toronto: A-Rod HR in 15th against Sox and Robinson Canó game-winning hit against Jays.

Homestand #9: Tonight, Robinson Canó 3r HR.

That's just one homestand, all season, where the Yankees did not have a walk off win.

That's, uh, impressive.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Yankees Walk Off (Again) (Postgame Notes 28 August 2009)

If the Yankees have a "secret sauce" to winning in 2009, it's gotta be that they've figured out the recipe for the walk-off win.

When the game gets to the bottom of the ninth and it's tied, one almost expects, now, that the Yankees will win--and the only question is who will get the game winning hit (or walk, or hit by pitch, or pop up...)

It's quite a simple thing, really: decent starting pitching, good defense at key points in the game (like that seventh inning that could have been so much worse), a spotless bullpen and the offense getting the right hit at the right time.

Sabathia was great through six and kind of came apart in the seventh; Alex Rodriguez and Jose Molina sort of saved him on defense.

Phil Hughes struck out the side in the 8th, Mariano Rivera was Mariano Rivera and Brian Bruney had a delightfully decent appearance and Robinson Canó hit a bomb with a runner in scoring position (and a runner on first, too).

The Yanks had another rather bad night with runners in scoring position, but when you have the best record in the league such things seem minor concerns.

The Yankees were fairly desperate to get tonight's game in given the horrible weather forecast for Saturday; they did so without so much as a delay, which is impressive given that the heavens have now more or less completely opened.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yanks do that pitching thing, win (Postgame Notes 26 August 2009)

For the first time since, uh, before last weekend, the Yankees received a quality start from their starting pitcher, and, accordingly, they won.

Andy Pettitte has historically been good in the second half; this year is no different.

After a some-what rough first inning that took a double play to escape scoreless, Pettitte cruised through seven innings.

The Yankee offense scored four runs off of long balls from Jorge Posada and Jerry Hairston Jr (yes, you read that right), and then five more in the bottom of the seventh inning doing damage against the Texas bullpen.

The one blemish to the night was Jorge Posada leaving the game in the top of the eighth inning after a pitch hit his (gloved) hand; via the beat guys on Twitter (Sweeny Murti and Josh Thompson covering for Pete Abraham), Posada re-aggravated a ring finger injury, but x-rays were negative and he is day-to-day--Posada was unlikely to catch tomorrow's game anyway, being a night game after a day game.

AJ Burnett goes tomorrow in the rubber game of this series, and after his last start at Fenway (yet another Fenway disaster in 2009), he could use a decent outing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of an Unlikely Victory (Postgame Notes 25 August 2009)

The win was there for the taking.

Down by five runs in the ninth, the Yankees clawed back to within one run, and had men on second and first base with no one out and Swisher at the plate.

Nick Swisher doesn't much like hitting at Yankee Stadium, but he still draws quite a few walks, and against a pitcher that couldn't throw strikes, the call for him to bunt in that situation will likely haunt Joe Girardi and the Yankees until their next win.

The bunt may have been the conventional move and the by-the-book move, but there were two problems with it: Swisher's not a typical bunter, and Frank Francisco had been showing himself to be eminently hittable.

The only significant problem I have had with Joe Girardi all year is that he plays by the book just a little too often.

Sometimes--rarely, but still--momentum or a unique situation calls for the book to be thrown out the window.

That's exactly tonight. The Yankees had sent six men to the plate before Swisher in the ninth inning, and all six of them had reached via walk or hit.

When Swisher showed bunt, it became clear that Girardi was playing for the tie and not the win (which is normal when you're home), but one has to ask, had this been any other inning, would Swisher really have bunted there? If this game was on the road, would Swisher have bunted there?

Absolutley not.


That aside, this game wasn't lost in the ninth inning. It was lost when Joba Chamberlain blew a 4-0 lead.

Some stuff from Joe P. of River Ave Blues:

Nine of 10 runs scored after bases empty, two both innings Joba allowed runs, it came down to his inability to retire the No. 9 hitter...

Sure, it'd have been nice if Chad Gaudin had not given up those two bombs, but Gaudin didn't put the Yankees in a 7-4 hole to start.

Right now, the fact that Joba is the Yankees' #4 starter in the postseason is a little disconcerting. He's still young, but he's got some serious on-field growing up to do.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Predicting the AL and NL Wild Card Races

With just over a month left, the playoff races are beginning to take shape.

The division races are fairly clear: Yankees, Angels and one of Tigers/White Sox in the American League, and Phillies and Cardinals in the National League; surprisingly it's the Dodgers who may have the most tenuous hold on their division lead in the NL.

The Wild Card races, however, are a bit harder to predict.

When the Yankees are so likely to win the East, why does the Wild Card race matter?

For two reasons: a) if the AL Wild Card winner comes out of the Central or the West, that will likely be the team the Yankees play in the first round, and b) The Wild Card winner has played in--and won--a fair few of this decade's World Series.

So, let's go through the teams in most contention:

American League

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox have to be considered the favorite just because they've held the position for so long, but that doesn't mean they are a good choice to be favorite.

They made their biggest move early in the season with a 12-game win streak, but right now their starting rotation is mostly "Josh and Jon and then there are bombs". Getting Wakefield back should help, but not if Beckett keeps pitching like he did in his last two outings.

The good news is that the offense has stepped it up quite a bit--but there's only so much an offense can do.

Texas Rangers

The darlings of the AL this year, they're finally doing it with pitching. Derek Holland and Scott Feldman have been revelations. Head to head, they took two of the last three that they played with Boston, but the one loss came when the night's closer, Frank Francisco, blew the lead.

If they make the playoffs, Ron Washington is probably a shoo-in for manager of the year.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are still paying for the slow, 2007-Yankees-like start to the season and may now have too much to overcome. They are only three games back, but they are trailing two teams and their pitching hasn't been as good as it was last season. Trading Edwin Jackson away does not seem to have been a great decision, speaking mildly.

There's certainly hope, though, and unlike the Rangers, this group has postseason experience.

National League

Colorado Rockies

Once again, they've taken on a veneer as a team of destiny. The division isn't out of the question for this group, and if they did take it, it would be a come back even bigger than the 1978 Yankees--just to give an idea as to what the Rockies have done already.

We still aren't quite sure how Jason Marquis is doing it, but somehow he's found a way.

San Francisco Giants

When both Lincecum and Cain are on, they are probably the best 1-2 in baseball. The problem is, outside of Pablo Sandoval, they basically have zero offensive support. Yes, pitching wins championships, but you can't win every game 1-0, which is pretty much what the Giants have had to do all season.

Given how poorly the Giants have played in recent years, the fact that they are this good this year has been especially remarkable. If only they had that little more bit of offense...

Atlanta Braves

Four-and-a-half games out, it's not exceedingly likely the Braves make the postseason, but it's also far too soon to count them out entirely.

Like the Giants, they have the pitching but not necessarily the hitting--that is, until they decide to give Heyward a shot...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yanks Beat Beckett (Postgame Notes 23 August 2009)

The Yankees' just-finished 10 game road trip was their longest of the season--and they responded by going 7-3.

Think about that for a moment.

That's the type of road trip that separates the contenders from the pretenders.

The Yankees, going into the series against Boston had only one thing they needed to do, and that was to not get swept. They accomplished that the first night, but tonight they won the series as well.

It's not very often a baseball team will get five home runs off of Josh Beckett (Matsui had two--all four of his hits on the road trip were home runs), but that is what happened tonight.

Funny game, that baseball.

The Yankees couldn't buy a run off of Junichi Tazawa yesterday, but scored in each of the first five innings today.

Some observations:

  • Derek Jeter hit .500 on the road trip. Let me repeat. Derek Jeter hit .500 on the road trip. There's being good, there's going on a hot streak, and then there's that.
  • The Yankees --okay, Robinson Canó--was doing his best Luis Castillo impression in the field today. He mitigated it a bit with one of five Yankee home runs, and I wouldn't get too concerned--one poor defensive game does not a season make.
  • Sabathia wasn't unhittable, but he was what the Yankees needed, and the bullpen was (as it usually is in a win) excellent.
  • It's going to be an odd series with the Rangers--the Yankees want to win, of course, but us fans have been rooting for the Rangers to win the Wild Card. Guess we will see who are true Yankee fans and who are just Red Sox haters...
  • Nick Swisher had his consecutive-game-reached-based streak snapped, but this only underscores how great he's been this season--especially on the road.

ESPN to Shine Light on Hope Week

This from ESPN:

ESPN’s E:60 Reports on Special Day at Yankee Stadium for Young Fan

ESPN's award-winning primetime newsmagazine E:60 visits New York’s Yankee Stadium in the episode airing Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m. ET. Yankee players Andy Pettite, Joba Chamberlain and Alex Rodriguez befriended an 11-year-old boy and gave his little league baseball team a memorable experience.

ESPN’s E:60, which launched in October 2007, combines investigative reporting, in-depth profiles of intriguing sports personalities and features on emerging star athletes. These stories are presented in a fresh and innovative format that incorporates producer/correspondent meetings.

Yankee Boy

The story of 11-year-old Tom Ellenson is an extraordinary one. Growing up with cerebral palsy, Ellenson could not walk or speak. But his father created a device that allowed him to communicate as a kid his age would, and his “voice” inspired a little league baseball team in New York City to excel. Ellenson’s magic touch with the team got the attention of the New York Yankees, and Andy Pettite, Joba Chamberlain and Alex Rodriguez visited Ellenson and his teammates. Then, the Yankees gave Ellenson and his teammates a day at Yankee Stadium they will never forget. ESPN’s E:60 was given exclusive access to document Ellenson’s day spent with the Yankees, including a ceremonial first pitch different than any other first pitch in Major League Baseball history. Rachel Nichols reports.

If you're reading this, chances are you remember Hope Week, which the Yankees did just after the All Star Break.

Aside from the obvious good karma--the Yankees won eight straight right after the break, including every game that week--Hope Week has been hailed by many for the involvement of the entire Yankee team in the community.

The kids from Camp Sundown were featured in a Rick Riley ESPN the Magazine column; now E:60 will focus on another of the Hope Week participants.

It is enormously heartwarming to see Hope Week continue--even in the guise of an ESPN documentary series.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Brian Bruney is not, uh, very good right now

With thanks to @glenngiangrande for the idea.

In 2007, Brian Bruney was not very good. Among fans, he had acquired the nickname "BBrian BBruney", and was eventually sent down to make room on this roster for a miracle prospect by the name of Joba Chamberlain.

Life wasn't very good.

So, Bruney worked his ass off during the winter and came to Spring Training in shape and throwing gas.

When 2008 started, Bruney was hands down the best non-Joba, non-Rivera pitcher in the bullpen.

Then, as we might remember, not too long into the season, Bruney slipped on a wet mound and injured his lisfranc, a odd sort of forewarning as to what would happen to Chien Ming Wang.

Bruney should have been out for the rest of the season, but he worked his way back and although the Yankees had mostly fallen out of the race by the time he came back, he was again throwing gas.

Life was good.

At the outset, 2009 looked much like the way 2008 ended for Bruney--with him as the best option in the 8th inning and one that was pretty darned good at his job.

Then Bruney got hurt.

He went on the DL, came off it, pitched a game, and went back on the DL.

Life has not been very good since.

Since coming of the DL the second time in June, take a gander at Bruney's stats:

Twenty-two hits in 18 innings pitched, 11 earned runs, thirteen walks and fifteen strike outs--yep, that's a near identical number for strike outs and walks.

That's good for a WHIP of 1.94.

WHIPs of 1.94 are bad enough for starters. For relievers, that's like watching the Enola Gay.

Now, WHIP is of course not the perfect stat--doesn't take into account things like inherited runners and it counts walks and hits as the same which is not necessarily always the case--but it's a fairly decent general marker.

Opponents are hitting .301/.409/.534/.943 (!!!) against him--which means that in addition to the high WHIP brought on by the walks, the hits against him tend to, uh, be hit kind of hard, too.

Once again, for a starter, these numbers would already be downright scary.

For a reliever to whom you once entrusted the entirety of the eighth inning, these numbers are, well, get-down-on-your-knees-and-thank-your-god-for-the-advent-of-Phil-Hughes-in-2009.

You might sit there and say "oh, it's just one reliever, big whoop", but since it does behoove the Yankees to be the best team they can be, we are getting precariously close--if not already there--where the the mop-up innings and long relief work that Mark Melancon could give would far outweigh what Bruney is doing--err, not doing.

With Alfredo Aceves, in all likelihood, still probably nursing some sort of shoulder problem (I'm not sure how else you explain his numbers post-All Star break), having another long reliever or pitcher-who-could-throw-long-relief might be beneficial.

In a couple of weeks the rosters expand and the Yanks can call people up without worrying about a corresponding move, but once October rolls around, (not a given, but if the Yankees don't make it, it would be quite the collapse) the rosters shrink back to 25 and decisions have to be made.

Bruney, as has been said by Pete Abraham among others, is right now playing himself off of that roster.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Super Smash Party (Postgame Notes 21 August 2009)

Everyone on the Yankees tonight except for Johnny Damon and Robinson Canó had multi-hit games tonight--and Johnny Damon left in the first inning after getting hit by a pitch.

If, uh, you can remember that far back.

Every one on the Yankees who started except for Johnny Damon had an RBI--and even Damon's replacement, Eric Hinske got in on the act.

Hideki Matsui had seven of them himself.

So forget the fact that Andy Pettitte, Brian Bruney and Sergio Mitre more or less crapped the bed pitching wise--tonight was a night for the offense.

The Yankees came to Boston with only the requirement that they did not get swept.

They didn't.

Life, for Yankee fans, is pretty good.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"You Can't Predict Baseball"

A week ago, would you have believed me if I told you that on a trip to Seattle and Oakland, the Yankees would go 5-2, losing games started by Joba Chamberlain and AJ Burnett (to guys named Fister and, uh, Tomko) but winning games started by Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre?

Crazy, huh?

This is the beauty of baseball--more than perhaps any other sport, the unexpected can and does occur.

And, of course, this is exactly what happened.

The West Coast Swing has long been a dread of Yankee fans--and no eastern time zone fan enjoys that the Yankees will return yet again in late September--but this time the Yankees did quite all right out there.

Once again, the Yankees won their games in a variety of ways, blowouts and one-run games, and with the exception of Seattle's one clunker, the pitching kept pitching like it belonged on a playoff team.

That said, there are a couple of concerns:

Alfredo Aceves cannot possibly be healthy. I refuse to believe it. His number since his spot start in Minnesota have not been Ace-like.

Phil Hughes isn't pitching very often. I'm not sure why. I want to trust that the Yankees know what they are doing, but if the long term goal is for him to be a starter, it would be nice to have more than, say, 6.2 innings in the entire month of August.

Alex Rodriguez has kinda sorta stopped doing that home run thing. It's a good thing his average is on the rise, but I think we'd notice his relative power outage a bit more if it wasn't for the amazing seasons Jeter, Damon, Teixeira and Canó are having.

Jorge Posada looks like he could benefit from a week off at the plate. Of course, every time I say that he goes and rips an RBI double so what do I know...

These are all minor concerns; things to think about not necessarily as something wrong, but something to cause you to keep your eyes open.

At any rate, the Yankees are more than 30 games over .500. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Joe Mauer for MVP

A few weeks ago, some of you will no doubt be aware that I did a guest post on River Ave Blues arguing that Derek Jeter should walk away with the MVP.

No disrespect to Jeter, who is still having an amazing season and an even more amazing road trip, but I need to change my vote.

I have seen the light, and the light is Joe Mauer.

How have I seen the light?

Mauer's average, .383, is higher than Mark Teixeira's on-base-percentage. That means that Joe Mauer is getting a greater percentage of hits than Mark Teixeira--one of the league leaders in OBP--is getting on base.

Mauer has 139 hits and 25 home runs to go along with it--and let's not forget, he missed the entire first month of the season.

As one might now expect, his walks and strike outs are almost exactly identical (46 and 47), and this is already mid-late August.

The only, and I mean only, knock on Mauer here is that the team he's playing for is, well, not very good, and the award is most valuable and not most outstanding player.

Still, it can't be much of a complaint. Alex Rodriguez, after all, won on the last place Texas Rangers, right?

Take heart, supporters of Jeter and Teixeira, however: those two could very well pick up some other hardware that might skip Mauer by (this season, at least)--and that hardware is plenty valuable on its own.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just a friendly reminder

Dear Yankees:

There is absolutely no reason to constantly swing at the first pitch after a walk. Seriously, now.

You've had the bases loaded thrice in the last two nights and haven't been able to bring a run home. Good baseball, that is not.

Just a friendly reminder.



Monday, August 17, 2009

Some Advice for Stephen Strasburg

I have not been offered legal advice very much in my life--though, perhaps, at this stage that's a good thing.

Still, there was one piece of advice a mock trial coach once gave me: Never, ever sign anything unless you've read it.

Since receiving this advice I have adhered to it faithfully, without question.

Until now.

Dude, Strasburg, kid, listen. If someone's offering you a record bonus to sign in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression, you sign without a second thought.

I know the Nationals aren't very good, but hey, a) you can make them better, and b) if you can't, free agency ain't too far off.

Seriously, sign the damn contract already and restore our faith in humanity.



In other news, according to various sources, both Yankees' top picks, Slade Heathcott and JR Murphy have signed, much better than last season when Gerrit Cole bolted for UCLA.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Share the Wealth

The Yankees have turned into a juggernaut.

They pitch. They hit. They field. They save. They win.

The team has lost back-to-back games only once since the All Star break, and only twice since the end of Interleague play--June 24th.

In one week they won games started by Roy Halladay, Mark Buerhle, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.

They have out-scored, out-hit and out-clutched their opponents.

They've done it all as a team.

This is not a team that has been carried by just one pitcher or just one hitter. Sure, sometimes it might seem like Teixeira and Sabathia are carrying the team, but that's really not the case.

Everyone is producing.

The old guard--Jeter, Posada, Pettutte, Rivera, the old guys--Damon, Matsui, the young guys--Canó, Cabrera, Gardner, Hughes, Chamberlain, the new guys--Sabathia, Burnett, Teixeira, Swisher....everyone.

Anyone not named Sergio Mitre (spot previously held by Chien Ming Wang in 09, Ponson/Rasner in 08, Igawa in 07, etc) can be on the mound, and any Yankee can be at the plate and you can be reasonably confident in this team's chances.

The Red Sox may have had their most important victory of the season last night, and they gained no ground on the Yankees.

No other team has a division lead this large, at a time when teams will traditionally begin to pull away.

Right now, the Yankees making the playoffs would not be news, but perhaps, maybe what Joe Girardi has done here should be.

Joe Torre had managed multiple seasons with NL teams before coming to the Yankees.

Joe Girardi is only in his third year managing, ever.

His team has the best record in the game and is on pace to win 100.

Pretty cool, no?

Yanks 30 over .500 (Postgame Notes 14 August 2009)

Doing this one in bullet form because it's late and I'm tired:

  • The Yankees have a .902 OPS in the 7th inning or later. The next closest is .787.
  • The Mets have 69 HR all year; the Yankees have 68 from the 7th inning on alone.
  • Andy Pettitte's 10 strikeouts are a season high for him and match the season highs of CC and AJ. Oh, and he did it in six innings. Ken Griffey, Jr. was the only Mariner not to strike out. Which would be why he's Ken Griffey, Jr.
  • Brian Bruney threw a greater percentage of strikes tonight than did Mariano Rivera, but Rivera still retired the side on nine pitches.
  • Mark Teixeira is making quite the case for an MVP award, no?

Blog at you in the morning.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Start Counting

The number 42 has auspicious significance for Yankee fans of this generation.

Thus, many have chosen tonight to utter, for the very first time since 2007 (well, 2006, really), the term "magic number".

It stands at 42 with 47 games to play.

For the unfamiliar, any combination now of Yankee wins and/or Red Sox losses equaling 42 will give the Yankees the American League East.

It's August 14th. A lot can happen between now and October 1st.

Yet, as we saw CC Sabathia dominate the Mariners and an A-Rod-less offense go beserk (thank you, Hideki Matsui, 2 HR 5 RBI night), it's hard not to think that good things are in store.

Just keep playing, Yankees. Use the clock. Take games off the schedule.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The John Sterling Drinking Game

Based on Andrew Fletcher's Michael Kay drinking game, and with his full permission.

With some help from the followers of @rebecca_glass.

PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY I am not liable if you die of alcohol poisoning or any other alcohol-related fatality.


The It Is High Cluster

Every time he says "It is high, it is far..." take a drink.

If it is "Gone," take two.

If it is "off the Wall," take three.

If it is "CAUGHT", finish the drink.

If it is "foul", you lose.

The A-Bomb Cluster

If it is "El Capitan", take a drink.

"Johnny Rocket", take a drink.

"A Tex Message" and "You're on the Mark Teixeira", take three.

"An A-Bomb from A-Rod", take a drink.

"An A-Bomb from Matsui," finish the drink.

"A Thrilla from Godzilla," take a drink.

"Jorge juiced one," take a drink.

"SWISHALICIOUS," finish the drink.

"Robbie Canó, doncha know?" take a drink. If there were men on base, finish the drink.

"The Melkman delivers", take a drink.

The I-don't-believe-what-I-just-saw cluster

"You know Suzyn, you can't predict baseball", or any variation there of, take a drink.

"Amazing", take two drinks.

Take a drink if he botches a non home-run play and then tries to make up for it by saying "from the booth" or any such that indicates that he needs glasses.

"Lined like a bullet! Base hit!" One drink for a single. "It goes into a corner", two. Any more, add a drink per base. Inside the park HR, finish the drink.

"How d'ya like that?" Two drinks.

The Win Warble Cluster

If the "theeeee" warble lasts longer than .... seconds, take .... drinks:

2 ---> 1
3 ---> 2
4 ---> 3
5+ --> Finish the darned drink already.

If it's ALCS over, finish the drink.

If it's World Series over, what the hell are you doing playing a drinking game? Go start a riot in Times Square!

The wasn't watching cluster

Take a drink if he disagrees with Suzyn.

Take a drink for every two minutes he talks without mentioning what happens during the game.

If Sterling sings, ever, finish two drinks.

Two drinks if he says "Let's build something togethaaaa" instead of "together." Three drinks if he sings at any time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

These Boots are Made for Walking-off All Over You (postgame notes 12 August 2009)

At this point, if a Yankee game is tied headed into the ninth inning at home, you might as well start an office pool for who will hit the walk off.

For the eleventh time this season, the Yankees walked off--a quarter of all of the team's wins.

The game, otherwise, was fairly non-descript.

AJ Burnett was at times filthy, but, being Burnett, struggled with his control at others, and it came back to bite him when the Blue Jays tied the game on a wild pitch in the sixth inning.

The offense was stagnant, for the most part, though it should be noted that Ricky Romero is Toronto's best starter not named Roy Halladay.

Both Jeter and Alex Rodriguez got hit by pitches--Jeter eventually left the game, but to the relief of Yankee fans everywhere, X-Rays on his foot were negative. Alex Rodriguez got hit in the eleventh inning, so while we don't know if he would have stayed to play in the field, it would have been awkward if he hadn't. Jose Molina was the only Yankee left on the bench, so if A-Rod came out the most likely scenario would have been Mark Teixeira at third, Posada at first and Molina catching. Not the defensive alignment you want.

Thankfully, Robinson Canó--who has been red hot--was there to end it.

What should, of course, not go unnoticed is the stellar bullpen (yet again)--Phil Coke, David Robertson, Phil Hughes and Chad Gaudin.

Gaudin, especially, was impressive in his Yankee debut, pitching two scoreless innings.

Mariano Rivera was apparently not available--but this might just be related to the fact that the Yankees have that long west coast swing of doom upcoming.

The Yankees finish the homestand at 6-1, and their 41-18 home record is the best in the league.

They've taken the bottom of the ninth and turned it into a true home field advantage

Yankees in First a Good Thing for the Economy

From an article sent to me this morning:

Yankees in First Shows Winning Plan Without Bonds: Chart of Day
2009-08-12 04:00:47.1 GMT

By Mason Levinson and Jeff Kearns

Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The New York Yankees' front-running
status might lead to some joyous months in the Bronx and
profitable ones on Wall Street.'

The CHART OF THE DAY compares the historical performance of
the S&P 500 Index, the benchmark index for American equities,
from Aug. 12 to year's end when the Yankees are in first place,
as they are today, to when they trail.

During the 33 years since 1928 that the Major League
Baseball team led its division on Aug. 12, the S&P 500 had
average gains of 3.3 percent for the remainder of the year.
That's five times higher than the 0.64 percent average gains the
index had during the 48 seasons the Yankees weren't in first

"As a Yankees fan I can tell you why that happens: because
the Yankees are always in the lead and the market goes up two-
thirds of the time," said Richard Bernstein, chief investment
officer of New York-based Richard Bernstein Capital Management
LLC and former chief investment strategist of Merrill Lynch &
Co. "You can put it up there with such other notable buy
signals as who wins the Super Bowl.

"One shouldn't underestimate the strength of spurious

The Yankees, following a four-game sweep of division rival
Boston last weekend, led the Red Sox by 5 1/2 games through
Aug. 10 in the American League East.

Of the Bronx, New York , team's 26 World Series titles, 22
came after holding a first-place lead on Aug. 12.

--With assistance from Rodney Yap in Los Angeles .
Editors: Michael Sillup, Jay Beberman

Kind of cool, eh? Support the Yankees, support the economy and all is right in the world!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Moment in the 2009 Season (postgame notes 11 August 2009)

If the 2009 Yankee season were a book and you opened to a random page, tonight's game is what you'd find.

Joba Chamberlain cruising through some innings and nibbling in others.

A stellar bullpen taking over in the middle innings and not letting Toronto add to a 5-4 lead.

A rally in the late innings to secure a come-from-behind win, with some help from the short porch in right field and back to back jacks from Matsui and Posada.

A win.

That's the entirety of the game in a nutshell. Sure, there are concerns: Joba's nibbling and the fact that it took the Yankee offense from the second to the eighth to be able to score one more run off of a not-very-good Toronto ball club, for instances.

Still, as is more often than not the case this season, the ultimate result was a win.

Oh, and while there's still some time left--today is Melky Cabrera's 25th birthday. Cabrera has blossomed this year as a hitter, taking more pitches and hitting for more power. He had two RBI on the night.

What should be done about Mitre?

The line on Mitre as a Yankee is pretty ugly: in five starts with the Yankees, he has an ERA over seven and, perhaps more importantly, a WHIP near two. Sure, he's not walking anyone, but when you have 38 hits in 23 innings, all you can say is "thank G-d he wasn't walking anyone".

The Yankees don't need someone to be a Hall of Fame Ace Stopper in their fifth spot.

They do need someone better than Mitre.

Now, to be fair, at this point of the season if your fifth starter is your only (significant) problem, your team is probably be in a good place. So don't get me wrong--the Yankees need someone better than Mitre in the fifth spot, but the team is still riding pretty high.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.

At this point, Mitre is more or less giving the Yankees what Sidney Ponson gave them. While playoff fortunes rarely rest on the fifth starter, that's still no decent reason that the fifth starter shouldn't be a little more adequate than that.

There was speculation last night that Alfredo Aceves, who pitched four innings in relief, was being stretched out to start again.

I'm not so sure this is the case. The last time it happened, Aceves came out with a sore shoulder and the bullpen seemed to collapse in Anaheim (though the crap starting pitching the Yankees got could not have helped, either).

What seems more likely is that Girardi wanted to avoid using other relievers--especially since Joba Chamberlain is starting tonight and has had efficiency problems throughout the season.

Would Aceves be a better option than Mitre?

At this point, if Aceves was healthy (and it's a very, very big if), the answer is probably yes.

Unlike last time, the Yankees now have Chad Gaudin in the bullpen--and although Gaudin is (probably) not as good of a pitcher as Aceves, he, a starter with the Padres, could certainly fill the long relief role and thus no one has to worry about the bullpen collapsing because the short relievers are being overused.

That said, I don't see the Yankees going that route.

Aceves has been so valuable out of the bullpen, and the Yankees have struggled enough (relative speaking here) without him there that I don't think the Yankees touch him.

On the other hand, they could give a start to Chad Gaudin. Gaudin had not-very-inspiring numbers at San Diego--the most notable pitcher's park in the league--so that doesn't imply a ton of confidence, but at this point the devil the Yankees don't know might be better than the one they do.

Whatever the Yankees do, there's one thing they shouldn't--and that's to let Mitre keep starting every fifth day. Against the Athletics and Orioles is one thing; against the White Sox or the Rangers is something probably guaranteed to fail.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Hangover (Postgame Notes 10 August 2009)

It's common that when a team comes off a playoff-clinching performance to play flat the next day. A hangover, if you will.

The Yankees didn't clinch anything in their four game sweep of Boston, but you would have never known it from the atmosphere at the Stadium and the intensity in which those games were played.

Although the Yankees weren't exactly flat--they were done in more by bad pitching from Sergio Mitre than anything else--there was just something different about tonight.

It wasn't until the ninth inning that the crowd at the Stadium was anything close to alive, and by then it was pretty much too late--the Yankees best opportunities to tie the game had come earlier.

To be fair, had Sergio Mitre pitched to a modicum of a decent effort, the Yankees four runs could have been enough. One gets the feeling that any of the other Yankee starters and the 1-0 and 2-1 leads would not have been blown (almost) as soon as they were obtained.

At any rate, because of a heroic effort from Alfredo Aceves, no one else in the bullpen was used tonight, and Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui got (most) of a much-needed day off, while Posada had a day off from catching.

No, no one likes to lose, but when you're 31 of your last 42 it's hard to find decent reasons to complain.

The Yankees will be back at it tomorrow. Joba Chamberlain needs a decent outing to prove that his struggles against the Red Sox were an aberration and not him slipping back into his pre-All Star break whatchamacallits. However, the difference here is that while giving up 4 or 5 runs from Mitre constitutes an average and almost expected performance, the same from Chamberlain is considered failure. That's the difference between the first four in the Yankees' rotation and the guy that's pitching only because Wang's hurt and Hughes is otherwise occupied.

The important thing, as always, is to make sure that one loss doesn't become two.

How Joe Girardi outmanaged Terry Francona

Managers, believe it or not, have less influence on a game's outcome than you'd think. Even so, it's still possible for managers to lose jobs based on one bad decision--Grady Little in 2003 may be the most notorious modern example.

This weekend, the Yankees sweeping the Red Sox had, for the most part, less to do with the managers than it does the Yankee offense in game one and starting pitching the rest of the time.

However, there were two clear instances in which Girardi managed (in my mind, anyway) better than Francona--and it may have cost Terry Francona both games.

1) Friday

Scoreless ties are both easy and hard to manage.

The easy part is that you can just let your starter pitch, at least into the seventh inning.

The hard part comes when the scoreless tie goes into extra innings. Which relievers do you use? Do you go by conventional baseball wisdom, in which you pitch your closer at home but not on the road? How much faith do you have in your offense?

Once the game reached the bottom of the ninth inning, Francona and Girardi employed two distinct strategies:

Joe Girardi used his relievers as long as it was reasonable to do so. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth--conventional wisdom at work here--, but Girardi didn't push him for the 10th. Instead, Girardi called on long man Alfredo Aceves who was spectacular for three innings. Given that Aceves has been sore of late, even three innings may have been pushing it a tad, and there was no question of a fourth, so Girardi went next to Brian Bruney. Bruney has struggled of late, but on Friday night he was stellar in the first inning so Girardi brought him out for a nail-biting second. Coke was used in the top of the fifteenth, and all told the Yankees managed to stay away from David Robertson, Mark Melancon and did not overuse Phil Hughes.

Terry Francona decided, instead of using his relievers for multiple innings, used more for shorter stints. For the relievers like Hideki Okajima and Daniel Bard, this might not have been a bad thing--they are, after all, short relievers, but it did mean that more relievers had to be used--and the Red Sox, apparently, don't have a true long man in their bullpen. It meant that in the fifteenth inning Junichi Tazawa was making his Major League debut in a spot where he was probably destined to fail. A starter, in the fifteenth inning, at Yankee Stadium...ycch.

Does this have more to do with bullpen construction--Girardi had Aceves, Francona didn't--or how the two managed? In this case, the most likely explanation is that the former led to the latter. The game was, after all, important enough for Francona to use Papelbon while the game was still tied, which goes against the grain of conventional wisdom.

Still, one has to wonder if it would have been possible for any of Boston's other relievers to pitch even just an extra out or two--and thus not have to resort to the last man in the bullpen.

2) The second instance came in last night's game. Twofold.

A: Joe Girardi used Phil Coke for two reasons:

1) Phil Hughes had pitched four games out of five. This has less to do with total innings pitched or pitches thrown than it does the process of getting into a game--getting hot, as it's called--is exertion itself. Even the great Mariano doesn't pitch five games out of six, except in the postseason.

2) If the game--a one run game at the time went into extra innings, the Yankees needed to save the pitchers, like Chad Gaudin, that could pitch multiple innings, and as long as the game was close, Mariano Rivera was probably going to pitch the ninth.

The two-run home run to Victor Martinez stung for a number of reasons, but Coke, the lefty, would be who you want pitching to Martinez, who has far better numbers against righties.

After the home run, it should be remembered, Coke did induce a double play to end the inning.

B: In the bottom of the inning, Daniel Bard got two quick outs for Boston, and then gave up the solo home run to Johnny Damon. After Damon's home run, then, one has to consider why Francona did not bring in Okajima to pitch to Mark Teixeira. Okajima--along with Papelbon--had been warming in the bullpen, and it may have made some sense to have Teixeira batting from the other side.

It could, of course, simply be that the events unfolded too fast for Francona to think about it much, but then Francona still left Bard in to face Rodriguez and Posada--who both reached base. At that point Francona went to Okajima, but it could be argued that by then the damage had done.

Of course, some of the blame here should be on the relievers themselves. Bard and Okajima didn't get the job done and spotted the Yankees four runs and a bat-around inning all after two outs.

This is not to say that Girardi has not made bad decisions, or that it's not a heck of a lot easier to manage when your team is winning, but these moments stand out.

There's a much different feeling in NY this morning if it's a 2-2 split and not a 4-0 sweep.

Thanks, Brian Cashman

AJ Burnett takes a one-hitter into the eighth on Friday--and the only hit was the very first batter of the game, a ball that possibly should have been caught.

CC Sabathia takes a no-hitter into the sixth on Saturday.

Mark Teixeira breaks a 2-2 tie with a moonshot on Sunday.

Eric Hinske would have won Friday's game had it not been for a spectacular catch by JD Drew.


Some more awesomeness from the weekend:

The Yankees trailed in three half-innings all weekend. They went on to at least tie the game in the next half-inning each time.

Between Friday and Sunday, the Red Sox scored two runs. Two runs on one swing. Say what you want about Boston's offense, but Yankee pitching has to be at least somewhat responsible for this.

Yankee relief pitching allowed four runs in two games--two on one swing, and the other two in the ninth inning of a blowout game, using a pitcher with an ERA so high that it actually went down when the runs scored.

Yankee starting pitching allowed four runs over the sweep of the four game series. All four were in the first game.

The Yankees right now have their fourth seven-game winning streak of the season.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Boston Sweep Party

If there was any question, any doubt, any uncertainty about the character of the 2009 New York Yankees, this weekend it was answered.

Oh, was it answered.

All the talk, all the rumors that the Yankees could not beat decent teams, that they were a bully team that could only beat up on teams like the Mets and the Orioles, all the insinuations that Alex Rodriguez couldn't hit in the clutch, all of it has gone for naught.

The Yankees came into the weekend set with the Red Sox needing to win one--just one--to ensure they woke up on Monday morning still in first place, and to get the 0-fer off their backs.

So they won the first game.

It wasn't pretty, a 13-6 slugfest in which the Yankees walked twelve of the Red Sox, but it counts.

After winning the first game, the rhetoric turned to winning the second. Win the second game and ensure a split, ensure that no matter what there is no net loss in the standings. Win and get AJ Burnett's own Boston monkey off his back.

So they won the second game.

It was pretty--a thing of baseball beauty--until it went too long, well into the early morning hours. Eventually, Joe Girardi out-managed Terry Francona's bullpen strategy; while Girardi maximized the relievers he did use in extra innings, Francona opted for one-inning stints and eventually Junichi Tazawa made his Major League debut, and Alex Rodriguez was waiting.

After winning the second game, the rhetoric turned to winning the third. Win the third game and ensure a net gain in the standings. Win the third game and ensure a series victory in a series in which most would have been satisfied with a split.

So they won the third game.

It was pretty, too. The pitching was pretty--more, actually, like domination than pretty--and with a starter like CC Sabathia on the mound, domination seems a better term to describe it. The offense scored early enough and the team never looked back. It wasn't a 15-0 thrashing, but the way the Red Sox had been hitting, it might as well have been.

After winning the third game, then, the rhetoric turned to winning the fourth game.

To a sweep.

No one wanted to utter that word before--too much attached to it, it might too quickly act as a jinx--but now, three wins already down, the fans (and, one senses, the Yankees) smelled blood in the water.

The match up, on paper, favored Boston. Jon Lester, in his career, is (still) undefeated against the Yankees, although he has not always won.

Tonight, Lester wasn't much different. He made only one mistake--a solo home run to Alex Rodriguez--in seven innings of work. That the Red Sox were held scoreless, too, had less to do with Andy Pettitte (though it must be said that Pettitte got much stronger in his last two innings of work) than it did the Red Sox offense, which has simply disappeared.

Between the ninth inning of Thursday's game and the eighth inning of tonight's, the Red Sox did not score a single run. Thirty-one-and-a-third scoreless innings. Blame Boston's offense or laud Yankee pitching, it's your choice, but the fact remains that in four games against their rivals the Red Sox scored eight runs and four of those came before the fifth inning on Friday.

If there was one blemish tonight, it was Phil Coke giving up a two-run home run to Victor Martinez, but Girardi's reasoning for using Coke in that spot was sound: Phil Hughes was unavailable after pitching four games out of five, and if the game got to extra innings, the Yankees needed pitchers available who could give length.

During the postgame interview on YES, Coke explained that the pitch to Martinez was supposed to be up near his hands, and not down by his thighs. He was angry about it, and then was not angry anymore once the Yankees won. "So much for 8-0," he said.

Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira were there to bail Coke out, though, with back-to-back home runs in the next half inning. In fact, while with two outs, the Yankees would proceed to bat around in the inning.

So the Yankees won the fourth game.

They won the fourth game and swept the Boston Red Sox.

Had they swept this series against any other team it would be noted for the stellar pitching, clutch hitting, brilliant defense and everything else that went right. Since the series was against the Red Sox, though, it'll be remembered, rightly or wrongly, mostly for being a sweep of the Red Sox.

The Yankees are now 6.5 games in first place--the first time since 2006. It's still early, and there's still a long way to go, but there it is.

This is a team that is not just playing like it could, but playing like it will go on to do special things.

They can't get complacent now. They have to keep going. This has the feeling right now that the Yankees have just clinched the division. They have not, and with a month and a half to go it's not really that close, either.

Look for some of the regulars to get a day of rest while playing Seattle--after that it's back to the West Coast and then Boston again the weekend after.

For the moment, enjoy what you've seen.

And so much for Boston being 8-0, huh?

August 1994--Fifteen Years Later

Fifteen years ago Thursday, the players walked out.

No doubt, for some of you reading this, August 1994 stirs up memories you'd rather not revisit.

For others--like myself--there is no overriding memory of the 1994 strike; as an eight-year-old I knew a) baseball existed and b) the Yankees were the good guys. I didn't know any of the players (except Babe Ruth), and it would be another year or two before I thought the bad guys were the Braves.

Fifteen years later, however, we all know a lot more.

We know, for instance, that the Montreal Expos would never again be a first place team. If it happened today--if the Nationals were a first place team (they have won seven straight, which is weird enough in its own right), and the players went on strike, someone, somewhere would joke that the players were striking because such an anomaly could never be allowed to occur.

We know now that the Yankees would have to wait an extra year just to return to the postseason, and that Don Mattingly, like Dan Marino and Mike Mussina, would never get that ring as a player.

We know now that Frank Thomas is still a Hall-of-Famer-to-be, but his slash stats of .353/.487/.729/1.217 at the start of the strike meant he was on pace to do something historic. He did win the 1994 MVP award; it wasn't exactly a close race.

1994 was not the first time professional athletes, or even baseball players, struck, and it certainly won't be the last. The NBA had its famous lockout in 1998; the NHL lost the entirety of the 2004-2005 season (and may never fully recover) and if the NFL isn't careful, things might get interesting in just a couple of years.

As always, any time such a thing happens, it is the fans who end up suffering.

If you're reading this blog you probably feel the way I do--that baseball isn't just a game, it's a way of life. Sure, it's a different life for a player as opposed to a writer or a fan, but it's still a way of life.

The fan doesn't get paid millions of dollars to watch the game; in fact, the fan spends, sometimes thousands, just for the privilege of watching the game.

Fans do come back, but it takes a while. What if 1995 had the same attendance numbers as 2008?

Fifteen years since the ballparks went dark on a summer night, there is only one lesson to be learned, basic, simple and true, and the same one that consoled me in November 2001:

It doesn't matter if you win or lose.

All that matters is that you play.

Feel the Thunder (or some such)

Along with Brent (@bnycz), Gayle (@gcf123) and Stefanie (@stefmara), I went tonight to the Trenton Thunder game.

I am much, much too exhausted to do a detailed report, so I'll leave it at: it was awesome, and provide you with some pictures.

How close were we to the field? There's no zoom on this picture. NONE.

Lining up for the National Anthem.

McAllister warming. His first start after coming off the DL; rumored to be limited to around 50 pitches or so.

So I used the zoom on this one, I know...

PJ Pilitterre (I know I didn't spell that right. It's late and I'm too tired to look).

Yes, the dog is carrying the bat back to the dugout.

We didn't actually talk to any of the players, but one came right up to the fence, leaned against it, nearly invaded Brent's personal space and...said nothing.

Another kept giving us weird looks when Stefanie and I started talking about our favorite at bat music.

Reliever and spot-starter Kanekoa Texeira. He came over in the Nick Swisher deal, and has probably the coolest name of anyone not named Jesus.

Bromance, dude, bromance

Trenton had a walk-off win in game one. Chris Malec. He does it fairly often; it's like he caught the disease from the big boys' club.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

When's the last time you felt like this?

When's the last time, the morning after, you still felt so good about the previous night's game?

We're talking baseball here, so it's been a while for you Yankee fan, hasn't it?

It's not just that the Yankees won last night's fifteen inning marathon, it's everything else that went into it, that surrounds it and that otherwise effects it:

  • The Yankees are now 4.5 games in first place. They haven't been such since the 2006 season, and I'll be honest--this team is a lot better than the 2006 team. (For that matter, their Boston opponent is, too).
  • AJ Burnett pitched like the big game pitcher the Yankees need him to be. He didn't have the best control he's ever had, but that's typical Burnett. He only allowed one hit and made every pitch when he had to. With the possible exception of his second start against the Mets, it's hands down the best he's looked this season. Furthermore, he gets the 2009 Boston demon off his back, nor do there appear to be any lingering affects from the disastrous Chicago start. As in Chicago, Burnett pitched to Posada tonight.
  • If Alex Rodriguez is going to go 72 ABs without a home run, he might as well make the one that breaks the streak count, right?
  • I can't get over how phenomenal the bullpen was for the Yankees. Sure, Hughes and Rivera were just doing their jobs, but everyone else stepped it up. Aceves pitched like he never actually had a sore shoulder, Brian Bruney got the job done, which, given his recent appearances is no sure thing, and Phil Coke pitched like it was the eighth inning of any other game. Since Aceves and Bruney pitched multiple innings, it means at the very least Melancon and Robertson are available today--and Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera probably are as well.
  • If you're going to go 0-8 against a team and then win the next two, you might as well make those wins worth remembering, right?

Last season, the Yankees played in accordance with Murphy's Law: anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

This season, the Yankees haven't just played up to expectations, they're beginning to exceed them. That Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon are all having the seasons that they are is probably something no one expected. The old guys were gonna be the Yankees' undoing, it was said.

The old guys are all playing like they've entered a time machine and flown back to 2003.

Is it any coincidence, then, that this is by far the best Yankees team since that year?

Is it any coincidence, then, that with young guys like Melky Cabrera and Robinson Canó and Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, also performing like they're on a team and not a collection of 25 individuals, that this is the first time in a long time that you're beginning to get that feeling?

If the past two games are any indication of what the Yankees can expect if they make it to October, if this is what September is going to feel like, sign me up.

It's a good time to be a baseball fan.

It might be an even better time to be a Yankee one.

October in August (Postgame Notes 7-8 August 2009)

So this is what October feels like, eh?

For a baseball purist, or any fan of pitching, tonight was manna sent from heaven.

If anyone told you that today's game wasn't a big game, they'd be lying--while it may not have been as big (at least for the Yankees) as last night's was, it was still big. Win, and the Yankees assure themselves of at least a series split and now Boston cannot, no matter what, come out of this having gained any ground on the Yankees.

Furthermore, tonight was a chance for AJ Burnett to prove that the Yankees didn't make a mistake in signing him to pitch a big game, though his two previous starts in Boston would have seemed to indicate otherwise. He had a real chance to deliver tonight.

And deliver, Allan James Burnett, did.

Holding Boston to just one hit--the first batter of the game on a play that probably should have been made--Burnett went 7.2 innings, which has a further benefit in that since Phil Hughes only pitched to one batter, he can probably pitch tomorrow.

The problem was, as well as Burnett pitched, Josh Beckett matched him step-for-step.

And so they dueled.

That the game became a battle of the bullpens should be no surprise to fans of either team, but the caliber of the relief pitching on both sides was mostly extrodnary.

The Red Sox used their entire bullpen; the Yankees five men, and it came down to a rookie making his major league debut only since Terry Francona had no other options, to break the scoreless tie.

Otherwise, tonight's game may have gone on forever.

There's thus nothing really to say about the offense--both teams had chances and couldn't capitalize, but it has more to do with the quality of the pitching than anything else.

So, you there Yankee fan, take it and enjoy it.

This is what October feels like--the atmosphere, the quality of play, the unfathomable-ness of a loss.

It's been a while, now, since there was October baseball in the Bronx, but the way these Yankees are playing, they may well be unstoppable.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sign of the Times

Jason Giambi was released today and John Smoltz DFA'd.

Giambi was batting .193 and had an OBP in the .330s. Smoltz, well, we know what he did last night.

At one point in time both were among the elite; Smoltz is widely still considered a first-ballot Hall of Fame candidate while Giambi has had some not-so-great moments with PEDs and golden thongs, but he did spend seven seasons in pinstripes, attempting to fill the shoes of the now-legendary clutch Tino Martinez.

More and more of the stars from the late 90s and 00s are nearing the end.

Sad, sure, but in their wake we get to see guys like Mark Teixeira and Jair Jurrjens.

So, as Dr. Seuss would say, don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Why Do We Worry About Innings More than Pitch Counts?

As some of you know, I'm in the middle of reading Baseball Between the Numbers. It's a very interesting read, even though some of the statistics themselves go over my head. Still, I understand the theory, and some of the authors' findings interest me.

One such was their very simple conclusion that throwing a lot of innings doesn't necessarily increase injury risk, but doing so while fatigued does.

The chapter in which that is such discussed argues that there's really no decent reason not to go to a four man rotation, and that the last team to really try it--the 1995 Royals--failed not because the pitchers threw too many innings but because they threw too many pitches in the games they did throw.

Pitching outings, they say, can be divided into four categories based on how many pitches that the starter has thrown, with more pitches meaning more fatigue and an increased injury risk.

Now, as you know, many young pitchers are tracked by the innings--not the total pitches--that the pitcher has thrown. The Verducci Effect, which has been discussed here before, uses innings as the theory's measure.

However, using innings as a measure here is misleading. There is, for example, a huge difference between pitching nine or ten-pitch innings and thirty-pitch innings. Roy Halladay typically throws so many complete games because he keeps his pitch count so low.

Even more, even just using pitches themselves as a measure is misleading.

A pitch thrown with two out and the bases empty is highly different than a pitch thrown with, say, second and third and no one out in a tie game. It's different in terms of stress, in terms of positioning, and in terms of mental fatigue.

Imagine Joba Chamberlain's performance last night, constantly pitching out of jams, and contrast that to CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett pitching against the New York Mets.

Sabathia and Burnett are throwing more innings, and certainly in Sabathia's case more pitches, but because Chamberlain is throwing higher-stress innings, he is fatigued and rendered ineffective much earlier.

Concepts like the Verducci Effect certainly have proved themselves to have enough merit to be taken seriously, but one has to wonder if perhaps there are ways to improve on the theory.

What's more dangerous for, say, Joba Chamberlain? Is it him throwing 160 innings alone? Once again, a Roy Halladay 160 innings is not the same as a Joba Chamberlain 160 innings.

Just some food for thought.

The Most Important Hits in The Yankees 2009 Season So Far

Timely hitting can do so much.

That said, the hits that end up really mattering are often the ones that are important only in hindsight--they aren't, necessarily, the walk-off hits, but ones that allowed the rally to keep going, ones that grabbed the lead or even tied the game, etc.

In no particular order I would include:

Alex Rodriguez's first swing home run against the Orioles in his first game back
Francisco Cervelli legging out a two-out infield hit that allowed Johnny Damon to hit a 3-run HR on Mother's Day
Brett Gardner's inside-the-park Home Run against the Twins
Francisco Cervelli's game-tying Home Run in Atlanta

And now:

Melky Cabrera's three run Home Run against the Red Sox.

What about you?

Which hits, walk-off hits or not, do you consider to be seminal moments in the season?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"An Offensive Orgy" to win an ugly game (Postgame Notes 06 August 2009)

I should explain here that the term "offensive orgy" comes not from me but from Michael Kay.

Aha!, you say, as you make your way through this post.

Basically, it's like this:

If you're going to walk twelve (yes, twelve) batters for the other team, you'd better show up to hit yourselves, and that's exactly what happened.

Every Yankee starter had a hit and only three (Jeter, A-Rod and Matsui, and yes, you read that right, too) did not have multiple hit games. Four Yankees--Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Mark Teixeira--hit home runs.

The funny thing here is that going into the bottom of the fourth innning, this game looked much like its 09 Yankees-Sox predecessors: poor pitching, bad baserunning, and timely hits by the opposition.

In fact, everyone--and I mean everyone was killing Jorge Posada for refusing to slide when attempting to score. to be fair, the criticism was warranted, but as so often the case, Posada would more than make up for his blunder, ending up falling "just" a triple shy of the cycle.

In the bottom of the fourth, Posada doubled, Canó reached, and then with one out, Melky Cabrera hit an absolute bomb to right field--out in any ballpark.

That one home run may have been the defining moment that changes the Yankees fortunes against Boston this season.

The Yankees took the 5-3 lead on that home run, and that proved to be the start of an eight-run onslaught in the fourth inning. The Yankees, as you might expect, never looked back. Okay, so that's not entirely true--while the score never got to within four runs from that point, the Yankees did end up walking twelve. Boston had runners reach ever single inning.

To be fair, only Chamberlain and Anthony Claggett gave up runs, and despite the number of pitchers used today, Aceves, Hughes, Bruney, Rivera and probably Coke should all be available tomorrow.

When all said and done, the Yankees win tonight might be the most important win of the season thus far:

1) They get the 0-8 monkey off their back.
2) There's less pressure on AJ Burnett to outpitch Josh Beckett. Of course, that's not saying a whole lot, but it counts.
3) It assures the Yankees, now 3.5 in first, that whatever happens the rest of this series they will still wake up on Monday morning in first place.
4) If the Yankees can, however, they now have an opportunity to go 4.5 up tomorrow. Which could then know...

So sit back, and for all of tonight's ugliness, enjoy it.

This win means just that little bit more.

PBP Live Chat #2: This One's Got Heat

The Comeback Kids

Over the past decade, home teams facing this situation went on to win the game less than one percent of the time. However, home teams down by just one run with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth didn't fare much better, winning the game just 2.3 percent of the time."

Baseball Between the Numbers, p 16.

The Yankees this season already have nine walk off wins.

Though none of them--as far as I can remember, at any rate--involve being down by one run with two outs and the bases empty, at least two of them--Melky Cabrera's hit against Minnesota and Luis Castillo's dropped pop up--came with the Yankees trailing and two outs in the inning.

That doesn't take into account the number of otherwise come-from-behind wins that the Yankees have had in 2009--because there have been so many. Last night was another one.

I know I've talked about it time and again, and it can be hard to quantify what, exactly all this come-from-behind winning means.

The simplest answer is simply that the Yankees like to score late and have a bullpen efficient enough to hold the score as it is until the Yankees do.

Anyone that remembers the late nineties knows that while a bullpen cannot itself make a team go to the World Series, it can put a team so far over the top that no other team has a realistic shot.

The ability to score late also hints towards an ability hit when needed. Few would argue that the Yankees this season, with a low average with runners in scoring position (thanks, Robbie Canó), are the best situational hitters to ever walk the planet, but a team that leads the league in multiple offensive categories is finding ways to get on base. Get on base enough, and the runs will come.

The Yankees this season have been giving fans a great team to watch in 2009. It's not just that the team is winning, but that it is doing so in perhaps the most entertaining fashion for us as baseball fans.

Enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bring on the Sox (Postgame Notes 5 August 2009)

Admit it, because I will: at the start of this game, it would have taken a coin flip to decide which mix was more volatile: ammonia mixed with bleach or Sergio Mitre on turf.

While Mitre didn't exactly pitch well--and that's a generous assessment as he could not make it out of the fourth--he did, however, limit the damage to three Toronto runs.

The Yankees then got some help from Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke, Phil Hughes and David Robertson--all of whom were excellent, and, once they grabbed the lead in the seventh, seemed to cruise to an 8-4 victory.

The Yankees struggled to score runs early, but, as they have done so often this season, did their damage in the latter innings--scoring six of their runs tonight in the seventh inning or later.

What does it all mean?

The past three games, the Yankees have played some great baseball after playing some rather bad baseball in the first three games of the White Sox set.

The offense seems to tailor its performance to exactly what's needed, scoring runs at the right time, and not all in the same way, either.

Make no mistake, the upcoming four-game set with Boston is huge, and the biggest game of the series is tomorrow. Win the first game of that set and they will automatically excise the Boston demons. Win tomorrow and the Yankees are assured that no matter what else happens they'll still be in first place on Monday morning.

Win tomorrow and Joba Chamberlain can continue to prove all us naysayers wrong.

Win tomorrow and much will be well.

One game in a baseball season rarely changes everything, but sometimes it can mean just that little bit more.

That's tomorrow's game.

It's too late in the season for excuses.

PBP Live Chat Reminder

I'll be doing another live chat on Thursday, since the first was so successful.

Start at 5.30 and take you up to first pitch, we'll talk Red Sox and anything else that needs doing.

Hope to see you there!

Yankees Coming Up Aces

Lots has been made this season of the Yankees' perceived inability to beat top teams in the league. Never mind the winning records against the Rays, Rangers and Tigers; what people notice is the 2-4 against Anaheim and 0-8 against Boston.

Sure, given the Yankees' recent playoff history, concerns about the Yankees' ability to beat those teams have some merit, but it's not everything.

Consider this:

This season alone, the Yankees have victories against Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, and Mark Buerhle. Those four pitchers are widely considered among the best talent in the league.

Clearly, then, if the Yankees have trouble beating decent teams it's not because they can't beat decent pitching.

It's certainly true that the Yankees beat up on bad teams--they are 40-13 against sub-.500 teams--but leaving it at that would be painting an incomplete picture. Although they are a few games under .500 against winning teams, much of the damage has been done by their record against the Red Sox.

It would be folly to suggest who you win against doesn't matter, since division games count for so much more, but ultimately what matters on September 30th is how many wins your team has.

Ninety-five wins, and you might see October. Even a number as high as 92, however, is probably not enough in the American League, even for Wild Card consideration.

Still, if the Yankees are out there beating the best that other teams have to offer, perhaps it's okay to worry just a little bit less about that Boston record...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Andy is Dandy; outduels Halladay in Toronto (postgame notes 04 August 2009)

Among his many phrases, one of the most obvious--and yet ignored, except in a mocking tone--quotes of John Sterling is simply that "you can't predict baseball."

On paper, this should have been a rough game for the Yankees. They have, historically, struggled against Roy Halladay, and, of late had not been getting Andy Pettitte much in the way of run support.

Thankfully, the games aren't played on paper.

The Yankees never trailed, as they scored two runs in the first before Toronto had an at bat. Although the game did get close at times, the Yankees maintained their lead throughout, making the most important pitches at the most important spots.

Andy Pettitte, the starter, was brilliant.

In his career, Pettitte has solid enough numbers against Toronto, but tonight he needed to match Roy Halladay--and that he did.

He had some of his best stuff all season, and used it in a game where the Yankees sorely needed it.

The Yankee offense was excellent given the opposing starter; like the game on July 4th, the Yankees hit three long balls off of Halladay, this time Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui being the culprits.

The home runs, all solo shots, came late in the game and gave the Yankees insurance runs that they ended up needing, on a night when Mariano Rivera was not at his best.

I wouldn't get too concerned about Rivera; before pitching on Sunday he had not pitched in a while and thus, rust is rust. What matters is that he held onto the lead--if he's still getting hit like this come September, then there's an issue, but he's still 39 years old...

At any rate, the Yankees have won a game that didn't favor them on paper, and all of a sudden there's just a little less pressure on Sergio Mitre tomorrow.

How I discovered that I could throw a knuckleball for a strike

Two nights ago, my friend Brent suggested getting tickets to tonight's Brooklyn Cyclones game because of a Darryl Strawberry bobblehead giveaway.

Being me, I said yes, because, hey, it's baseball and an excuse not to do more important things.

We took the long D train ride all the way down to Coney Island, headed over to Keyspan Park and sat through the first couple of innings of Short Season A ball.

Let me tell you, in that first inning, the Cyclones played both like an affiliate of the New York Mets and like a class A team.

After a while, we got a little tired, not so much of the game itself, but the summer camp sitting next to us. Lots of kids. Lots of very, very LOUD kids. So we decided to get up and walk around.

The cool thing about Keyspan Park is that part of the park--or at least part of it accessible via the same ramp that leads to the bleachers--is a separate turf field. It's got two soccer goals and a home plate and mound area, still outlined in chalk.

So Brent, who came prepared with a glove and a baseball, and I did the only thing one could possibly do in those circumstances: We took turns pitching and catching.

I tried every grip I knew: two-seamer, curveball and knuckleball. The only one that was a strike on a consistent basis was the knuckleball, but don't let me fool you. The fastest I've ever thrown a pitch is 30 MPH, and even pitching from a flat mound that was probably closer to 50 feet from home plate than 60 feet 6 inches, there were quite a few pitches that came, well, uh, short.

My pitching form is only slightly less embarrassing than my batting stance, which really doesn't say much...

In other words, please, please, please don't ask me to throw out the first pitch any time soon...

At any rate, we stayed there, switching on and off for about an hour.

My one, real shining moment came when Brent was attempting a side-arm delivery. After quite a few pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone, I was sort of joking, sort of not when I blurted, "you're throwing across your body too much. More arm, less body."

Strangely, the advice worked--the next three throws were all strikes.

Still, on that field I realized something: this is something every minor league park should have. While it would be unfeasible for a major league park to do so, the idea that one can go immediately from watching a game, to playing it, to watching again tugs at the very heartstrings of what this game is about.

After darkness fell and it became impractical to continue, Brent and I ended up exiting the ballpark to take in some delights of the Coney Island pier at night.

Oh, and for what it's worth, some dude on the Hudson Valley Renegades hit a home run that took out the video board in left field.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Melky Cabrera Appreciation Post

I've written posts before where I've pointed out that Melky Cabrera, in 2009 has found an unusual success in hitting in "clutch" situations.

Now, after yesterday's Cycle, it seems timely to take a look at his entire season.

Last year, Melky Cabrera's season was so poor that about this time, he was sent down to the minor leagues.

This season, his .292 average is second only to Robinson Canó and Derek Jeter. Although his .356 on base percentage is at the low end among Yankee starters, is actually higher than that of Jorge Posada.

Cabrera's numbers thus far appeared skewed by a poor June, but here it's probably worth consideration that when he crashed into the wall and banged his shoulder, it probably messed with his swing just that little bit.

Now, this is not to say that Cabrera's having an All Star caliber season--he's not--but what he is having is a season in which he's done a complete 180 from last year.

Maybe we should have expected it.

After all, Cabrera is only 24 years old. Like the young Yankee pitchers, maybe he was simply doing the 'struggling-young-player' bit.

Time will tell.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cabrera Hits for Cycle and Yanks Avoid Sweep (Postgame Notes 2 August 2009)

After sliding into third and being called safe, Melky Cabrera leaped up, punched his fist in the air and shouted a Spanish phrase I won't repeat here.

He had just completed the cycle, saving the hardest hit to get--the triple--for the last.

It was the first cycle for a member of the Yankees since Tony Fernandez in 1995.

So if you got caught up in the remarkable-baseball-feat-hoopla, you can perhaps be forgiven if you forget the largest context in which the cycle was hit.

The 8-5 final score is not really indicative of a well pitched game, but it's a bit misleading--while the Chicago White Sox scored four of their five runs in one inning, the Yankees scored in four different innings.

Aside from the bottom of the third, CC Sabathia was just fine, but blowing the original 3-0 lead is a little, as Michael Kay says, disconcerting. While it's great to see a pitcher get it together after struggling early, Sabathia isn't being paid to just give the Yankees a chance to win; he's being paid to pitch quality starts.

Still, the Yankees get to leave Chicago with a win heading into a very much needed off day. They come back to face Halladay, have Mitre pitch on turf in Toronto, and then have four with the Red Sox.

Good thing the Yanks are in first, eh?

Oh, and for what it's worth, Jerry Hairston Jr. has been great so far. Not great as in Albert Pujols, but great as in, Brian Cashman still knows what he's doing and he's a major upgrade over Cody Ransom.

Jesus Montero Out for Season

Via Pete Abraham, and others,

Jesús Montero, the Yankees top prospect, is out for the remainder of the minor league season after sustaining a broken middle finger.

Mike Ashmore is reporting that Montero may play in the AFL.

He had previously been named the third rated prospect in all of baseball--not bad for a 19 year-old and the youngest active player in the league.

I plan on catching a Trenton game next weekend; I'd hoped to see Montero, but alas fate has other things in store.

Still, the silver lining here is that it is a broken finger for a catcher; not something more disturbing or career-altering like a shoulder injury for a pitcher.

Remembering Munson

How do you remember Thurman Munson when you are too young to have seen him play?

Munson, the Yankee catcher of those late seventies championship teams, was killed in 1979. I was born in 1986.

Unlike Don Mattingly, whom I never saw play since my interest in baseball did not develop until after he retired, I literally never had a chance to see Munson play, in the same way mos of you, dear readers, are too young to have ever seen Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.

Still, the stories always seem to find a way to trickle down.

Little by little, you can start to piece together a picture, like a jigsaw puzzle, and you come up with a man that was every bit a Yankee as those he played with, and one whose death, thirty years later, can still tug at one's soul.

To lose a player at all is devastating. To lose one in the heat of August, in the heat of a division race, not from any disease but from an accident, is an awful thing.

Yet perhaps it is of some comfort that now Munson keeps company with the likes of all those other Yankees who have left us, some before our time and some during, and who watch over the team, granting it that little extra bit of help now and then.

That dropped pop up, that stolen base because the ball went into to center field, that ball four...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Word to the Wise

Say you're down in a game 7-3 in the later innings.

You've got runners on first and second and two outs.

You have Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and Eric Hinske on your bench.

You decide, instead, to let Cody Ransom hit.

You, my friend, deserve to lose the game, and, pending the importance of the game, possibly more.

So the Yankees have a budget, after all (?) (!)

Or, Another way of considering the Trade Deadline

I have been told that I look for causation in everything.

I don't deny the charge. My background, as a student in history, is such that I do so by habit. If there is a Y, there must be an X.

Sometimes, there is multiple causation. Take, for instance, any great war. There is, at face value, multiple causes.

Even so, for the general rule of things, one simple rule applies: the simplest explanation is often the best.

Such, I have argued, is the case with Joba Chamberlain--pitching innings in the major leagues now that should have been pitched in the minor leagues, Chamberlain faces the normal developmental struggles a young pitcher should expect without the aid of a safety net. Fortunately for the Yankees and their fans, Chamberlain seems to have figured something out in his last few starts, but this is digression.

I would like to consider both these stipulations: that I always look for causation, which hinders my argument, and that the simplest explanation (Occam's Razor) is the best, which helps it.

I would like to consider both of these and apply them to the Yankees' recent behavior this trade deadline, a comment made by Joe Girardi after tonight's game, and what we may be hearing bandied about.

I am going to start, however, by asking you to think back to Christmas 2008, or, a couple of days before.

The Yankees had already shocked no one by signing CC Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million contract. They had already shocked some by signing AJ Burnett to a five-year, $83 million contract.

Then, the bombshell announcement: the Yankees had signed Mark Teixeira to an eight-year, $180 million contract.

For the fans, this seemed like Christmas, indeed. The top three free agents in that off-season all ended up in pinstripes, and all locked up for what may very well amount to the defining portion of their careers. All three capable of all-star caliber play. All three clear upgrades over what the Yankees had in those positions in 2007 and 2008.

All three more expensive than most teams could afford, even had the American (and global) economy not collapsed in the preceding autumn.

While my younger brother and I were celebrating the Teixeira signing, my older brother issued a stern warning: "I don't like what the Yankees are doing. It's going to drain them. They're going to go bankrupt if they continue like this."

Now, the comment might be taking things to an extreme, but it appears that it is not wholly without merit.

Consider the activity and non-activity surrounding the trade deadline:

  • The Yankees, in first place and with one of the top three records in baseball in the weeks preceding, did not need to move mountains. They had--and still have--a need at the fifth starter, a need made all the more urgent when it became abundantly clear that Chien Ming Wang would not return this season. The Yankees already had a need at the position, since from the start of the season it was known that Joba Chamberlain would have an innings limit. Though the panic move that ultimately sent Phil Hughes to the bullpen eliminated one option, others should have remained had there been some more depth at AAA. No one expected Ian Kennedy to have an anuerysm, for example.
  • Even so, in the past week, the Yankees have learned, 1) Chien Ming Wang is gone for the year, 2) Alfredo Aceves--the emergency starter candidate du jour--had a tired shoulder, and certainly doesn't look recovered, 3) Sergio Mitre works as a fifth starter against last place teams and little else, 4) the depth at AAA was so bad that the team had to trade for Jason Hirsch, who was pitching to a 6.00+ ERA at that level for Colorado.
  • The Yankees' only real other need was another back-up outfielder, but in this case there were in-house options available. The Yankees didn't need another power-hitting corner fielder, they just needed someone that could play halfway decent defense in center and run the bases, at least until Brett Gardner returns. Another reliever would have been nice, too, but not nearly as necessary as another starter.
  • The two biggest pitchers rumored to be available at the deadline, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, were mostly discussed by fans (and writers) in the context of "don't-let-Boston-get-them". I, of course, don't know about the Yankees' plans, but it seems that JP Ricciardi overplayed his hand with Halladay and the Yankees never seemed to seriously consider Cliff Lee--at the very least, he didn't seem to be much discussed.
  • There wasn't much of a "second-tier" of available pitchers. Jarrod Washburn and Ian Snell were probably the only ones that fit into this catergory, and even Snell here is a stretch. Still, Snell, along with his compatriot Jack Wilson were sent to Seattle earlier this week. That left many Yankee fans clamouring for Washburn, and though it was later revealed that it would have cost Austin Jackson, Washburn did end up in Detroit for the price of Luke French.
  • Of more interest is this: it was rumored, partly by Joel Sherman, that the Yankees turned down a potential deal for Brian Bannister of Kansas City because they couldn't get Kansas City to continue to pay the remainder of Bannister's $650k salary--which would be closer to $910k when accounting luxury revenue. These are Bannister's stats, if you're interested. They're nothing spectacular--he's doing it in the weak AL Central--but they'd probably translate better than what Sergio Mitre has been doing.
  • In acquiring Eric Hinske, the Yankees got Pittsburgh to pay the rest of his salary. It seemed insignificant enough at the time, right now...not so much.
  • Now consider the following posts from Matthew Cerrone at and from Mike Silva's NYBD:
  1. "…Mets fans will find particularly interesting:

    in talking to people around the game today, there is a lot of chatter about how the Yankees are being pressured from investors to cut spending and start delivering a dividend for once… in other words, the Yankees are unable to spend like they used to, and the gravy train may be coming to end, not surprising in this economy… in other words, nothing can last forever, and there is no such thing as an unlimited budget… "(found here)

  2. "Our main source down in Tampa just called to tell me that it appears that, sadly, the Yanks are sitting this one out. There appears to be less than a 10% chance that Cashman will make a move of any kind, let alone a major deal. Financial constraints, and not wanting to move any of the prospects, are the two main reasons." (found here)
  • Now consider a comment made by Joe Girardi during tonight's postgame report after a 10-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox: “I’m not sure that we have a lot of options at this point, [Mitre] has got to get it done for us.” That's a little concerning. It's one thing not to have a lot of options and quite another to admit that it's the case, especially on a day such as the trade deadline, when every team wants to come off for their fans and for the public as though it is they who are the big winners. To admit that the Yankees don't have a lot of options on a day like today is, could be in a sense, insinuating that Cashman hasn't done his job. I don't see it as that--I see it more as a comment to the effect that Cashman's hands may have been tied--maybe, for whatever reason, he couldn't do much.
  • Mets, Cardinals and Cubs fans and bloggers I have talked to have all told me they've heard or read whispers about the Yankees having financial constraints this year. From Yankee fans, I hear mostly that it's hogwash to think so, because, hey, they're the Yankees. Here, however, it's probably important to remember that as Yankee fans we are inherently biased. We don't want to believe that the Yankees can be mortal just as any other organization.

What I'm left with is the notion that taking on the Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira contracts, in edition to those of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and, yes, Kei Igawa, has left the Yankees financially inflexible.

It's true that the Yankees have drawn remarkably well in a bad economy and in one of the coldest and wettest summers in recent memory, but I feel this may only be a mask.

The bigger piece here to consider is the YES network--by far the most successful of any of the regional sports networks. If the Yankees are drawing the revenue from the network that everyone thinks they are drawing, then it should be more of a question of the Yankees choosing not to spend more as opposed to being unable to do so.

Still, the added payroll is no small thing. Just because the Yankees could go out and spend another $30 million doesn't mean that they should. I point to Matthew Cerrone's quote above, where he states that investors are looking for a return on the investment. Investors is a vague term, but it's hard to believe that those responsible for supporting the YES network, such as sponsors or Goldman Sachs, aren't included here.

One must remember that the Yankees don't just have to deal with these massive contracts this year; Posada and Sabathia will take them to 2011; Burnett to 2013; Teixeira to 2015 and Alex Rodriguez to 2017.

There's no doubt that the Yankees right now are helped in that guys such as Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and others are still cost controlled, but the honest truth is that no other team even comes close to what the Yankees have spent.

I don't know if there was more to the Yankees not getting Brian Bannister--such as Kansas City asking for Austin Jackson or Jesus Montero--but if one considers that the Royals traded for Yuniesky Betancourt, it seems odd, indeed.

It's one thing if a Halladay-like $15 million salary is a sticking point--most teams cannot afford that--though the Yankees are theoretically one of the few that can.

It is an entirely different thing when a $650k salary, or when the Pittsburgh Pirates are asked to continue to pay the salary for your utility bench guy with a l'il pop. That is Tampa Bay Rays-ish territory.

Maybe the Yankees have some grand plan for the 2009-2010 offseason, in which they acquire Jason Bay trade with the Nationals for Stephen Strasburg (assuming he ever signs), but the word on the street is that the 2010 free agent class is notable for being thin. Maybe the Yankees hope to pick someone up off of the waiver deadline, but other teams can block waiver deals. That seems a risk, indeed, when Ian Snell, Jarrod Washburn, Brian Bannister et. al. were available this time.

Of course, I don't have access to the Yankees' financial records. This post here is nothing more than speculation at 2.30 AM while the notions are fresh in my mind.

Still, I would urge you to keep your eyes and ears opened.

That the Yankees would have any sort of budget should surprise no one but what may be surprising, however, is to see how tightly the Yankees have stretched it.; history is rife with kings and queens that plunge their country into bankruptcy because they overspend from theoretically limitless coffers. Such are among the causes of the French and Russian revolutions.

It would seem a much less daunting task for financial insolubility to cause trouble for even the exalted Yankees.