Thursday, December 13, 2007

Maybe It Isn't Jeff Nelson

The last great season for Yankee fans was 2000. It was the season that David Justice saved a slumping offense, capping it off with ALCS MVP honors. It was a season when Glenallen Hill went from being a fourth outfielder to having such a torrid hot streak, he made Shane Spencer look like Rey Ordonez. It was the Rocket's second season as a Yankee, and he made it a great one, capping it off with a masterpiece in Game 2 of the World Series, shutting down the Mets after throwing a bat at Mike Piazza.

What do these guys all have in common? They made it to the Mitchell Report.

When all is said and done, there was an astounding number of juicers on the 2000 Yankees. You thought the Bash Brothers A's were bad, but the Junkees, living up to their nickname more then ever, are easily the most-juiced World Series champs ever.

Here's the complete juiced-up roster from the 2000 season:

David Justice
Roger Clemens
Denny Neagle
Chuck Knoblauch
Andy Pettitte
Glenallen Hill
Jose Canseco
Jason Grimsley
Mike Stanton

Maybe this excerpt can explain Hill's hot streak:

Radomski recalled meeting Hill at a social function in 2000 when Hill was still
playing in Major League Baseball. Radomski said that Hill told him that he was getting human
growth hormone in San Francisco and was “not feeling anything.” Radomski thereafter sent Hill a “sample bottle” of human growth hormone without charge and told him to try it. Hill tried it and told Radomski that he “felt everything you told me I would feel.” Radomski told Hill the human growth hormone Hill had been taking likely had spoiled. Hill purchased two kits ofhuman growth hormone from Radomski.

Now, I know some of the Yankee fans will point out that, upon further review of the Mitchell report, many of these players didn't order PEDs until after the 2000 season. However, when there's smoke, there's fire. These guys were Grimsley's teammates, and had plenty of access There are many more transactions that Mitchell doesn't know about. But once someone's on the list, I think it's fair to speculate that they took PEDs even before the dates mentioned in the report.

But forget Jeff Nelson: this might be the real reason the Yankees haven't won since that year.

It's the Curse of the Juice.

Some fans think the records held by juice-users should be erased. Perhaps, on that basis, the 2000 World Series should be taken from the Yankees. But if they're cursed, hey, that's fine with me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

LaTroy Hawkins? Nice

I'm actually happy to see that Old York picked up Hawkins to be this year's Luis Vizcaino. Hawkins was pretty good as a Twin, but he's been spotty since then. He's bounced around a bunch of times, and looking at his stats over the past few years, I can see why. But the interesting thing is that his strikeouts are way, way down. This past year he stuck out 29 (walked 16) in 55.1 innings.

Essentially he had a couple of really good years, and those were in '02 and '03. You can throw '04 in there, too, but since then he's been nothing special.

What's also interesting is that he's never had the nerve to be a closer. They've tried him in that role in Minnesota and in Chicago (with the Cubbies) but his constant implosions always put him back into middle relief.

Like I said, I'm glad that Old York is getting a guy who'll be 35 and will probably be relegated to mop-up duty by mid-June. It's too bad he's signed for only one season.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sayonara Shemp?

The rumors linking Hideki Matsui to the Giants is hardly surprising. Surprising in the sense that the Yanks would be willing to give up on such a PR source, but not surprising that Sabean and the Giants would take someone past his prime.

But the Yanks’ plan appears to be as follows: move Damon to left, and go after Aaron Rowand for center field. I think the Yanks are a sleeper on this one, especially after Rowand had a monster series against them a few years ago. The Yanks are one of the few teams that can overpay for the guy, who had a career year at the perfect time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Turning into 2002 All Over Again

I remember listening to Chris "Mad Dog" Russo on those long, summer days five years ago. If you recall, the CBA was up, and there was a possibility of a strike. And for good reason - baseball was messed up. The large market teams had unfair the advantage of being able to spend as much money as they wanted, and the small market teams simply could not compete. Once in a while you'd get an Oakland A's team that got lucky in that all their prospects flourished at the same time, but once their star players reached free agency, they were gone. So Russo used to scream that it's unfair, and he was actually rooting for a strike just to fix things up.

Well, they didn't strike, because after 9/11, they couldn't afford the PR hit, but with luxury taxes, revenue sharing, and mutiple streams of income, things got a little fairer. Suddenly, the Angels and the Marlins won Series, the White Sox did so with a mid-range payroll, but most impotantly, teams had the dough to resign their players. So Ben Sheets remained a Brewer. CC Sebathia stayed with the Indians. Suddenly 24 out of 30 teams had a chance to make the playoffs entering a given season. Baseball was back to its glory days.

Alas, the times they are a changin'. Michael Kay made this point on his radio show, that Johan Santana will be available, and it's only the big three or four teams involved in the bidding. Twins? No chance. Phillies? No shot. Padres? Forget it. Same with Miguel Cabrera.

Granted, small-market teams have more money, but so do the big-market teams. So what will happen is that the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, and Angels will have payrolls in the $200 millions, and the rest of the teams will have less than half that. And once again, the big boys will gobble up the free agents, and it'll be back to the early 2000s, when 18-20 teams had no shot on April 1st.

Now Kay blamed teams like the Royals for overpaying Gil Meche, or the Angels for overpaying Torii Hunter (I guess his pro-Yankee bias had to come through sometime), but unless the system changes, it won't matter. You'll have teams like the Marlins constantly starting over with a rebuilding plan. The Blue Jays will be perennial losers.

I'll admit - as much of a baseball nut as I am, I was a much bigger fan these past four or five seasons than I was in the late '90s and early 2000s. But if Selig and company don't fix this, I'll have to move on to other hobbies and interests.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

But Can He Handle New York?

The Yanks are now involved in the Johan Santana sweepstakes, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ended up a Yankee. If it costs Hughes, Cano, and Melky, so be it. Plus, the Yanks are one of the few teams that can pay the guy the $20 million per year it will take to keep him. I think they’re the frontrunners to get him, especially because the Mets’ farm system is inferior.

The biggest thing separating the Yankees from the Red Sox is a postseason dominator. The Sox have a couple in Beckett and Schilling. Chien-Ming Wang showed that he certainly doesn’t fit the bill, and while Pettitte has been mostly good, if he retires, who’s the go-to guy in October? The Yanks want Santana like crazy, because right now, it’s all about matching up with Boston.

But the biggest question is, can Santana handle New York? Minnesota is a different world. And I know he’s pitched a couple of times in the ALDS, with pretty good results. But he’s never succeeded on a big stage.

Boston did an excellent job getting Beckett and Schilling, because those two had proven they can win in baseball’s biggest stage, the World Series. You knew they’d do just fine in Red Sox Nation. Matt Clement was a question mark in this area, and turned out to be a disaster.

Now, if the Yanks get Johan, I’m sure he’ll do great in the regular season, just like A-Rod has done. But in the Bronx, it’s all about October. Will Johan be more Wang or Beckett when it counts? There’s no way to know. One thing’s for sure: The Yanks are willing to bet the farm to find out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Definitely Not Dolan"

Interesting piece about Hank by Bob Klapisch. Most interesting development will be what happens with Cashman; and if the Yankees start off slowly next year, does Hank feel the heat and go for a win-now approach? As Klapisch correctly points out, the verdict is still out on Hank. It's too early to tell.

And for all we know, he might very well turn out to live up to his "Hank Dolan" moniker.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A-Schmuck May Not Be Official

So here I was, all depressed that A-Fraud is coming back because (a) the guy is the best player in baseball; and (b) one of these Octobers he's got to break out.

Didn't take much solace knowing that I was right. (Indeed, I had predicted that he would opt out, but would eventually re-sign with Old York.)

Yet Wallace Matthews in today's Newsday gives a glimmer of hope. He says that until the papers are signed, this could be simply a negotiating ploy that Boras and A-Rod concocted. Makes sense when you consider that the Yankees' involvement means that the other teams will have to up the ante to get him. So maybe the Angels come up with an eleventh hour offer of, say, $300 million.

Yeah, I know, sounds an awful like denial. But it does provide a glimmer of hope....

Don't Come Back!

Jim Caple has an excellent piece on A-Rod, one of the most rational and logical I've seen. In a sense, A-Rod is like Bonds. He's far from being a likeable guy, doesn't do a great job endearing himself to the fans, but he can flat-out hit. And that's all that matters.

And that's why I was hoping he'd leave the Bronx. I said a few weeks ago that the Yanks would have a huge hole to fill if A-Rod left. Forget the first-round disappointment. If A-Rod doesn't play for the Yanks this year, the Yanks don't sniff the playoffs. Especially if Seattle and Detroit wouldn't have folded down the stretch.

I know, the guy hasn't had his Jeter moment (though he was better than Derek this October), his Brosius moment, or any big October moment, and it's definitely a fair point. But overall, he's the best in the game right now. And that's why I'd love to see him in an Angels uniform.

But although it looks like A-Rod will be back, I take solace in the fact that his team hasn't won a World Series with him. And re-signing Posada, a guy with a .236 career postseason average, should help keep that streak alive.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Business As Usual

Wow. I thought only the Mets would be crazy enough to offer Posada a four-year deal. But sure enough, Jorge's gonna be here for a while. Hey, all you Yankee fans bragging about your team getting young: how does it feel to know you'll have a 40-year catcher on the payroll in a couple of years?

I know Posada's numbers were excellent this walk year, but come on, they were an aberration. He batted 40 points above his career mark. I don't buy that Tony Pena changed the guy's life. And I don't think the guy's gonna have his best years past age 37.

So let's say they move him to first base. Bad idea. Posada's never had enough power to be a first baseman. Let's say, based on his career numbers, Posada hits .277 with 25 homers (and that was in his prime). Not bad, but a $200 million payroll could do better.

And I don't think they're keeping Posada for his leadership abilities. The guy fought with Tino and didn't speak to him for months, and couldn't get along with David Cone and Randy Johnson. As a clubhouse and on-the-field leader, he's more Paul LoDuca than Jason Varitek.

In any case, expect plenty of double plays in the Bronx over the next four years.

And don't forget: Jorge hit .133 in the ALDS this year. And his lifetime postseason average? .236. Nice going, Cashman!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tejada - The Infield Version of Barry Zito

Another guy who might be in the mix at third? Miguel Tejada. Heck, I hope the Yankees get him. Check out these numbers:

.534 - .515 - .498 - .442

Those are Miguel Tejada’s slugging percentages from ’04 to ’07. Why do I compare Tejada to Zito? Because both players were a lot better in 2002 than they are today. And granted, the Yankees won’t overpay for Tejada the way the Giants did for Zito (between that contract and the infamous Pierzynski trade, Brian Sabean has fallen bigtime). And he’s an above-average hitter, too. But his numbers, both offensively and defensively, have slipped a lot the past few years. The guy has shown flashes of a bad attitude, but I give him a pass for that. It’s gotta be brutal playing for an idiot like Peter Angelos. However, hard to imagine that playing for Hank Dolan would be much better.

It’s too bad that Miggy’s consecutive-games streak ended last year. You know if the streak was still intact, he’d be a Yankee already. It would be like Matsui before his injury. Tejada’s 0 for his last 25? Gotta keep him in the lineup! Gotta keep the streak alive!

- One thing that worries me: I can see Tejada turning out like Justice and Abreu – a veteran who comes to the Yankees and starts tearing it up. Maybe leaving Baltimore will motivate him to return to old form. But maybe he is actually on the decline. And maybe he’ll be a bad fit for a Yankee team trying to get younger.

One wild card in case the O's want too much for Tejada: Melvin Mora. He's an ex-Met, and another guy Hank thinks can still hit.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Am I Wrong? Not Yet

Sounds like Hank Steinbrenner has nixed any chance that the young pitchers will be traded for Cabrera. And you don't get the feeling that the Marlins will take Clippard and Chase Wright instead. So was I wrong? Are the Yankees not going to get Cabrera?

I think once A-Rod signs with another team, things will change. You get the feeling that the Yankees are holding out hope that he comes back. But once he signs elsewhere, and especially if and when Lowell re-signs, there will be a sense of desperation in the Bronx. There won't be another bat like A-Rod's to fill third base. Rolen, Chavez, and Crede aren't gonna cut it. The Yanks will have a void in their offense, and will be hard-pressed to fill it.

Another x-factor: if A-Rod goes to Queens or Boston (no!), that changes everything. Then Hank will feel the pressure to take headlines away from Minaya or Theo, and if that means Phil Hughes in a Marlins uniform, so be it.

We've already learned not to take Hank Dolan too seriously. I'm not going to believe him on this one until spring training.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why Girardi Is The Wrong Choice

I was rooting for the Yanks to hire Girardi, and I'm glad they did.

The best piece I’ve seen about Joe Girardi was written back in August, back when the Yanks were surging and the chances of Joe Torre wearing Dodger blue were about as great as the Royals’ chances of signing A-Rod. Joel Sherman discussed how Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Ricky Nolasco all were injured in 2007. Not to mention the surprising off-year of Dontrelle Willis, who pitched a ton in 2006. I know some have given Girardi a pass for all this, but to have four guys go down? Hard to believe it’s all coincidental.

Perhaps Torre’s worst flaw as Yankee manager was his mishandling of the bullpen. And Girardi doesn’t look like he’ll fare much better in handling pitchers.

The Yanks, more than ever in recent memory, need someone who can develop their young arms properly. They can have the best rotation in the game in a few years, or have their guys turn out like the Mets’ Generation K. I don’t see how Girardi will help.

Additionally, does Joe have what it takes to deal with Hank? Torre was great in his dealings with George, although he got lucky the past few years, with George out of it and nobody really in charge. Perhaps Torre saw the writing on the wall, with the way Randy, Hank, and Hal dealt with his contract, and saw it was time to go. Girardi had issues with the Florida personnel, as we all know. And while one can give him a pass since the payroll was heavily reduced after he was hired, I can’t imagine that Hank is going to be easy to deal with. Should make for great back page action, that’s for sure.

Third, having a hard-line manager doesn’t always work with a veteran team. Just ask Larry Bowa. Then there’s the issue of making the Bronx an appealing place for veterans, as I’ve discussed earlier.

Finally (and YD alluded to this in his last piece), the dumbest part of the decision for me is, why do they need to pick a manager with a PR connection? Why couldn’t they go outside the organization? Is playing for the Yankees a prerequisite for the job? Are more fans going to show up to the Stadium because Girardi is manager, not Trey Hillman? I find that very hard to believe.

In fact, the one guy I didn’t want the Yankees to hire was Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who’s widely touted as one of the brightest guys in the game. Thankfully, Farrell’s staying in Boston, having recently turned down an interview opportunity in Pittsburgh. I also think Hillman would’ve been a good choice, and I’m glad he got the job in KC.

Overall, Girardi should be a better tactical manager than Torre, which isn’t saying much. But the breakdown of Florida’s pitchers should be a concern. In terms of other managerial duties, like motivating players, dealing with the Yankee front office, and the New York media, he’s definitely a step down from Torre. I don’t think he’ll hurt the team considerably – they’ve still got lots of talent – but Cashman could’ve done a lot better.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hey Ca$hman, All Your PR Moves Have Been Busts!

Manny made a great point about Guidry a while back, and that is, when you get a guy for PR, it might put a few fannies in the seats, but it's usually a disaster for the team.

Come to think of it, almost all of Old York's PR moves have been horrid.

Johnny Damon: Got him because he was a star for the Red Sox who beat the Junkees with that huge Game 7 home run in the 2004 ALCS. Well, he slugged a robust .396 this year. He's got no arm, and the Junkees would love to dump him for 2008, but is any team dumb enough to pick him up? I think not.

Shemp: Okay, so you get some Japanese gelt, but the guy has not lived up to his reputation as Godzilla (except maybe to Harold Moskowitz, AKA John Sterling), save for 2004 when he smashed 31 homers. Another guy who can't field, creating a logjam at DH with he, Damon, and Giambi.

Miguel Cairo: Ca$hman loves bringing ex-Yankees back, and the fact that he played for the Mets added more to his PR value. Lucky for them Snorre gave him only 107 at bats, so that his .626 OPS didn't totally kill them. But again, he had one good year (2004 - .292 batting average in 122 games), so he's a beloved figure in the Bronx.

Doug Smith (Mientkiewicz): Ex-Met, played for Boston, funny last name - that is awesome PR. Only a September surge saved him from an otherwise abysmal season.

Roger Clemens: No comment necessary.

Well, let this be a lesson for the Junkees. Perhaps when the Mets give Ringo $15 million to hit .250 they'll learn their lesson, too.

Then again, the more PR Ca$hman does, the better it is for me.

Who's On Third?

With A-Rod likely out of New York, time to figure out who’s next? I’m gonna run down the possible candidates, and give my take on each one:

Mike Lowell – Can’t see him pulling off a Johnny Damon. Then again, who thought Damon would jump ship to the Bronx? I think the Yanks will definitely offer more money and years, and I could see the Phillies jumping into the mix, too. I think he’ll stay in Boston. But if he leaves, I would trust Theo’s judgment. He was right on with not re-signing Pedro and Damon, and Lowe’s been average in a great pitcher’s park.

A-Rod – sorry YD, I don’t think A-Rod’s coming back. Hard to see George bring the guy back after what Hank said. And the way things played out Sunday, where A-Rod barely responded to the Yankees’ offer, also tells me he’s not interested in coming back. Throw in the Joe Girardi factor, and unless the Yanks want to offer $45 million a year, he’s done in the Bronx.

Joe Crede – would be a classic Hank Dolan move. He probably still thinks Crede is good, and may have seen the guy done well against the Yanks a few times. Keith Law referred to Crede as “a terrible player” in a recent chat, but I could see Crede being the ’08 version of Tony Womack.

Scott Rolen – another move I can see Hank doing. Not clear if St. Louis wants to trade him.

Eric Chavez – would not be surprised if the A’s salary dump this guy to New York. Wow, has his star fallen. Beane signing him to a long-term deal? Mistake. Doesn’t really fit the Yanks’ style either, with a .347 lifetime OBP.

Aaron Boone – they’ll sign the guy as a backup. Would be one of the biggest PR moves ever. Let’s see if they dump him when he’s hitting .175 in June.

Wilson Betemit – has about as much of a chance as Mike Lamb did in the winter of 2004. And how about Cashman calling out Betemit for not being in shape? Never seen Cashman do anything like that. Must be hanging around Hank too much.

Miguel Cabrera – My prediction. He’s on the trading block, he’s young, knows Girardi from Florida, and has potential star power. As soon as Hank finds out he’s available, I bet he’ll be willing to give whatever it takes to get this guy. I would love to see this happen, because I think Cabrera would be a bad fit for New York. He’s got insubordination issues, weight and conditioning issues, and would be a great source for back-page fodder. Would Hank fine him for every pound he’s overweight, like his dad did with Lou Piniella? Maybe he and Betemit can eat chips in the Yankee clubhouse.

If the Yanks get Cabrera, count on them getting Willis, too. The guy would be like the Mike Lowell of the deal, as Florida wouldn’t mind getting rid of his $6.5 million salary. He’d be a great PR factor, too – the funky first name, the cool delivery, and would be a good lefty option if Pettitte doesn’t come back. Besides, he’s also a guy that Hank probably thinks is still a dominator.

And if Hank wants him, then he’ll give up some of the kids. I can see the Yanks building a package around Wang or Hughes as well as Kennedy and Melky, for starters.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hank and Hal Dolan Keep The Yankees Skidding

Two days without internet access, and the s**t hits the fan in Yankee-land, while they're parading up in Boston. Where do we begin?

- No surprise that A-Rod made his announcement during the World Series. But if he's done as a Yankee, then New York will have some very, very big shoes to fill. Since '02, the Yanks have had at least one big power bat in the lineup. Giambi was The Man for a couple of years, followed by A-Rod and Sheffield. But after A-Rod, the Yankee with the most homers in '07 was Matsui (with 25). And he's on the downside of his career. Giambi is going to be 37, and it's unclear how much he has left in the tank. If not for A-Rod, the '07 Yanks miss the playoffs. If his Yankee career is over, that team is in trouble.

Then again, the last Yankee team without a player with 30 homers? The '99 World Champions.

- I've got a lot to say about Dallas Green II, aka Joe Girardi. That gets its own post. But for now, one reason this is a bonehead move - if the Yanks want to attract a mix of veterans and youth, Joe's the wrong guy. In Boston, Francona isn't a great field manager, but he's a guy that veterans want to play for. For all of Torre's foibles, the same held true for him. Girardi's hiring might mean new teams for A-Rod, Posada, Rivera, and Pettitte. Joe was good for the $15 million Marlins, but he's not a great fit for New York.

- If Torre takes the job in LA, then I give the guy a ton of credit. Here's a guy who was pretty successful for the Yankees, a guy who can hang 'em up with a great run. But he wants to challenge himself, wants to show he can win without George's payroll. I respect that.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

YD's Predictions Bound to Go Wrong

(1) Mattingly will be the next manager. After taking a big PR hit with Torre's firing, the bosses will be looking to get back into the fans' good graces. Even Yankee-haters like Donnie Baseball, so he gets the nod. When the Yanks lose a few in a row in May, look for some uncomfortable moments during the press conferences.

(2) A-Rod will opt out, and George will resign him anyway. This will be George's last hurrah. Manny and I thought Clemens was it, but A-Rod's $300 million contract will be the one.

(3) The Junkees will be on the market for a good PR move in the form of an ex-Yankee. Manny thinks it'll be Kenny Lofton. My guess is Tony Clark. Feel free to make predictions in the comments section.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What a Baby

If you needed any more reasons to hate Randy Levine, Richard Sandomir of the Times provides a few more here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Go Boston!

Great to see the Red Sox in the World Series. What an ALCS it was, definitely a classic. I loved seeing Big Papi in the dugout in the ninth, with the muscle tank and the goggles on, ready to go. He's played through all sorts of pain, and put up great numbers this year. I loved seeing Manny get interviewed after the game. The guy's the hardest-working player in the game, and it's good to see people finally begin to realize that.

And suddenly, the J.D. Drew deal doesn't look too bad. Good for him, that grand slam in game 6 was huge.

In terms of the team's character, the Sox haven't changed much since '04. Lowell reminds me of Bill Mueller - a guy who plays the game right, a guy that's impossible not to root for. Ellsbury reminds me of Dave Roberts - the fleet-footed outfielder you wish you'd see out there more often. And Youkilis is like Millar - so much fun to watch, but Youk is much better both as a hitter and as a defender.

Plus, I'll take Paps over Keith Foulke any day.

If any guy can put an end to the Rockies' magical run right now, it's probably Josh Beckett. Hopefully he can dominate once again, and get the tide turning Boston's way. And if Schill can do what he does best in Game 2, and Dice-K can pitch like he did in the World Baseball Classic...

- And while the Yanks worry about A-Rod, their next manager, and whether Hank, Hal, and Randy are gonna keep screwing things up, the Sox get another visit to the Fall Classic. Go Sox!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dynasty Over; New Era of Chaos Begins

To me, the Torre legacy is as follows: he had one good year as a field manager, many years as a bad field manager, and all of his years, was a great politician.

Torre was definitely below-average as a field manager. I liked him in '96 because he brought over an NL style of managing. There was a lot more running and bunting than there had been during the Showalter era. And he did a great job in the World Series; instead of doing like Francona and keeping slumping veterans in the lineup, he shook things up and it worked really well.

After that, I can't say he made any impact moves that helped the team win. '98-'00 was just a steamroll through the rest of the league. It was all about having the best players and the highest payroll.

And all those division titles? Same thing. When you have the highest payroll in the game, anything less is a big flop. If you can't beat the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays in over 55 games a year, you're awful.

In the postseason, Torre stunk. The Jeff Weaver incident in '03? Bad. Blowing out every reliever's arm, so they couldn't do a thing come October? Stupid. Torre did a terrible job there, capped off with the Joba rules this year. To me, that was the beginning of the end for Joe.

What did Torre do best? He kept a sense of calm around the team, no matter what happened. You can talk about the pressure in '96 after losing the first two games to Atlanta, October '98 after 114 wins and the Knoblauch incident, all the tragedies in '99, and even the way he handled the choke in '04. Even the way Torre has handled the muddled front office situation this year. Torre kept his cool almost all the time

Torre has been the anti-Ozzie Guillen, always saying the right thing. Always. In the age of 24/7 media and blogging, it's a great skill to have. No wonder some people think he'd make a great mayor or CEO. I don't know if you'd get results, but you'd get lots of banal soundbites.

But as I said last week, being a manager of the highest payroll means you have to win it all every year. Torre started his Yankee tenure with a bang, but ended it with seven years of big disappointment. And in terms of strategy, Torre is not even close to legends like Weaver, Herzog, and LaRussa. Or even possible successor Bobby Valentine.

- Now that he's left the team, the place is in chaos. The Yanks will have a hard time finding another manager who can be such a good politician; maybe Mattingly can. But the front office handled the whole incident terribly, you have Cashman, Levine, and two Steinbrenners all fighting for power, and a team with a very uncertain future.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bye Bye Snorre

Wow. I am surprised that he's gone. At first I thought that he'd be a goner and that George would make good on his ALDS threat. But after a few days I figured, okay, he's coming back.

Here's what happened. They didn't want him, but they didn't want to take the PR hit of firing the beloved Joe Torre. So they made him this insult of an offer knowing he'd turn them down, and now they can save face. If I were a Junkee fan who loves Torre I'd be more mad at this than if they had just let him go. But I suppose that's become the Junkee way. Like with Bernie Williams this past offseason. They didn't want him, but rather than say so, they offered him a spring training invite.

Well, we'll miss his blowing out his middle relievers' arms. And we'll miss his occasional boneheaded moves.

It's amazing how suddenly I don't hate him anymore.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Guidry and Rickey

The lesson from this year's season in New York? Don't hire coaches with PR being the primary motive. The fans don't really care, and it doesn't help the team at all. Looks like early-'90's hero Dave Eiland (who also had a cup of coffee with the '96 team) will take over, and if he's responsible for Chamberlain and Kennedy's early success, he's easily a better pitching coach than Guidry.

Which Yankees did better under Guidry than before he came along? Not one of Cashman's better decisions.

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Last couple of days have been difficult for me as a baseball fan. I'm glad I have other interests, because it's getting frustrating?

- I'm waiting to hear the verdict on Joe Torre. I'm not going to write an in-depth piece on the managerial candidates until we hear official word that he's fired. What are Hank and Hal waiting for? The suspense in killing me. I will say this - I would love to see Joe Girardi in the dugout. The guy is a young Dallas Green. I'll elaborate if/when Torre goes.

- I'm waiting for the Rockies to lose a game. Their run is simply unreal. Very hard to believe. But it's too storybook, too cliche for me to enjoy. It sounds like something from a kids fiction book. I liked the Cardinals story last year. Team almost pulls a Mets-like collapse in September, falls victim to one of the greatest catches ever, and ends up winning it all. Hard to script that one.

- I'm waiting for the Sox to face Sabathia and Carmona again. I hate to ruin your day, but in the back of my mind I hear a John Sterling classic monologue - "you know Suzyn, that's why baseball is such a great game. You can't predict it! You have to actually play the games! You have Wang against McClung, and the Rays winning 8-1, you can't predict that!" The Sox did a great job against Sabathia and Carmona, and did nothing against Westbrook and Byrd.

Problem is, let's say the Sox beat those two again, and force a game 7. Who do you send out there? Dice-K? Wakefield? Hard to be optimistic right now.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Kids In Town

The Post reports that Hal and Hank Steinbrenner are taking over. What does this mean for the future of the Yankees? I think it will bode very well for Yankee haters.

This fascinating piece in the Conde Nast Portfolio tells us a lot about Hank Steinbrenner. The guy hasn't made many decisions in the past, but the few times he's gotten involved, it's been a flop. In 1986, he tried convincing the Yanks to put Dave Righetti back in the starting rotation, suggesting that a no-name minor leaguer take over. Nobody listened, and Righetti laughed at Hank's ignorance.

Then, in '02, Hank pushed like crazy for the Yanks to get Raul Mondesi. And we all know how that one worked out.

The big x-factor is how much control Cashman will retain in the organization. After '05, when Cashman pushed for a bigger role in building the team, George was already fading from the limelight. So Cashman had the upper hand, and was able to take control.

But with two new faces eager to take control, will Hank listen to Cashman? In the Post piece, Hank says that he'll insist on Joba being a starter. Now, let's say Rivera signs elsewhere, or, come April, it's clear that Rivera's age has caught up with him. Does Hank let Cashman do what the Red Sox did with Papelbon this year? Or does he stand firm?

And will the Steinbrenners push to win now, and trade the farm for guys like Johan Santana? We don't know how much Hank will be like George, but it sure will be very interesting to find out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who's Staying, Who's Going

This is easily the most fascinating Yankee offseason in recent memory. Lots of big names are free agents, and this team might have a very different look next spring. Here are my picks and analysis for where some of the big names will end up:


Why he’ll go – you know Boras will opt out. He’s looking for a situation where he can get a bunch of bidders out there to drive A-Rod’s price as high as it can possibly get. Even if the Yanks offer $30 million a year, A-Rod’s going to test the waters. George would give the guy $50 million a year to stay in town, but if Cashman has his way, once A-Rod opts out, he’ll no longer be a Yankee. I also think Arte Moreno will be willing to pay whatever it takes to make A-Rod an Angel.

Prediction: Angels

Jorge Posada

Why he’ll go – I don’t see George pushing to keep the guy, and I can’t see Cashman being interested in spending over $10 million a year on a catcher in his upper 30’s. I know Posada had a career year this year, but he looked spent in October and is due for a big decline next year. Cashman wants to get younger, and I can see him using Molina or making a trade to fill the role. The PR factor will be too much to resist for Omar Minaya and Co.

Prediction: Mets

Mariano Rivera

He’s pissed about the Yankees waiting to re-sign him, and doesn’t seem very interested in returning. I think he’d definitely stay if Torre stuck around. Of course, Torre is likely out, so whoever the replacement is might be a big x-factor here. The Yanks will probably be willing to pay top dollar for him, and that will, of course, be the biggest factor in his decision.

Prediction: Yankees

Andy Pettitte

No Clemens and no Torre means he’ll probably want out of New York. Does he want to go back to Houston? Hard to imagine, because that team is not a contender. I think he’ll either go back to the Yanks or call it a career.

Prediction: Retirement

Bobby Abreu

Yanks will spend whatever they have to in order to bring the guy back. He scored points with that shot off Borowski in Game 4, and is a huge asset in wearing down opposing pitchers. Only other factor would be if the Yankees pursue Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones. Would they shift Melky to right? Put him back on the bench? The Yanks surprised everyone by getting Damon a couple of years ago, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one of those two (or Aaron Rowand) ends up in pinstripes.

Prediction: Yankees

Luis Vizcaino

Because Edwar Ramirez and Ross Ohlendorf stunk, they’ve gotta bring this guy back. He’ll get overpaid, but that’s hardly a surprise.

Prediction: Yankees

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Torre Deserves The Axe

There's been a mini-lovefest for Joe Torre going on, as many out there think the Boss is wrong for wanting to get rid of the guy. I've discussed Torre on this blog many, many times, so I'll be quick with this one.

The Yankees have the highest payroll in the game, and, understandably, the highest expectations in the game. This is not Tampa Bay or Washington, where Joe Maddon and Manny Acta get extensions just because they didn't lose 100 games. When you have the highest payroll in the game, you've got to capture the highest prize in the game - that world championship flag. Winning the division title? Meaningless. Even in a tough town like Philly, Charlie Manuel will come back next year, even though his team was awful in the NLDS.

For seven years, Torre has not gotten the job done. In most baseball towns, you don't get seven years as a manager if you can't get it done. True, Torre did win four world championships, so maybe you can't kill the Yankees for keeping the guy a few years after. But with a seven year drought under his watch, Torre has failed repeatedly. His time has come.

Monday, October 08, 2007


And don't blame A-Rod for this one; he ended up hitting a respectable .267.

I wanna see Yankee fans finally boo Jeter; he was terrible in this series - only a 2-5 job in Game 4 helped him raise his average to a glorious .176.

And Jorge Posada, who made the last out, was even worse. He went 1-5 to boost his average - to .133.

Shemp Matsui - terrible. .182. He hasn't done jack in the postseason since the 19-8 game.

A tip of the cap to Damon, who showed that even in pinstripes, he shows up for games like these. Cano did very well, too.

But overall, Captain Clutch showed up a little too late.

Wang Not The Man

After this October, Yankee fans have to wonder if they can count on Wang when it matters. As I write this, it's still only the bottom of the fifth. But Wang had nothing again, putting his team in a big hole early.

I'm not going to say that Wang is overrated. He's been one of the AL's best pitchers over the past two years. But he's not dominant. Sure, he's had a few starts where he's been lights-out, including the one against Boston this past August. But overall, he's not dominant. Opposing batters hit .265 against him in '07, and .277 in '06. His lifetime ERA is 3.74. Pretty good, not great. Jorge Sosa, Jason Marquis, and Anthony Reyes had better BAA than Wang this year.

When you're not dominant, you have to rely on getting out of jams. Maybe that's a good approach against the Orioles, but the Indians have been excellent in getting 2-out hits this series. And that's one of the reasons you wonder if Wang is a big-game pitcher.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Torre Gets Another Day

When Clemens left and the Indians finished the inning up 3-0, I got optimistic. Would've been sweet to see the Yanks get swept out of the first round. Instead, the Yankee bats came alive against Westbrook, as expected. Phil Hughes was impressive, keeping the Indians at bay and bailing out the $28 million (old) man.

- After Wang's outing last time, it's clear that the Yanks have a problem similar to the Mets: they have no guy you can absolutely count on in October. The Yanks need a guy they can count on in October. Pedro was like that before the injury, El Duque was like that at one point, David Cone and David Wells were that way in their prime, and Beckett and Schilling are like that.

You have to wonder which Chien-Ming Wang will show up tomorrow night; the one who had nothing on Thursday night, or the one that has driven me crazy over the last couple of years.

- Joba got touched up again tonight, and you wonder if he's finally coming back down to earth.

- Paul Byrd has been horrendous against the Yankees, and this is an important game for Cleveland. Even if they bring the series back to Cleveland for Game 5, who knows if C.C. Sabathia will have control issues again. The Indians better wrap this thing up tomorrow night.

The Latest Steinbrenner Interview

A few thoughts on the latest rant by George:

- George must be at the stage where he has his lucid days and his not-so-lucid days. He sounds like he knows what he's talking about in this interview, as he did in May when he ripped Cashman. But overall, he's been suspiciously quiet.

- George says Torre's job is on the line, but doesn't say a word about Cashman. I think George is realizing what most of the front office is realizing - Torre is not a great manager. Once the front office had to institute the Joba rules to keep Torre from turning the kid into the next Scott Proctor, you knew Torre's stock had fallen. Besides, Cashman redeemed himself in the second half, as the development of Duncan, Joba, Kennedy, etc. showed that the Yankee farm system is richer than it was during the Dioner Navarro era.

You get the feeling that George is waiting for the right time to oust Torre, for the point when the PR fallout will not be too bad. It would be ironic that Randolph gets to keep his job despite missing the playoffs, while Torre would get fired even though he made it till October. But it makes sense, too: the Mets failures were more about the front office and Minaya, while the Yanks' biggest management problem may be Joe Torre.

- You knew George would have what to say about the bugs incident in Game 2. It affected both teams, but George doesn't have to be rational.

- George says the Yanks will re-sign A-Rod no matter what. For the first time in months, you see a rift between Cashman and Tampa, as Cashman has said that if A-Rod opts out, he's done as a Yankee. My money is on George getting his way here, even if A-Rod strikes out three times tonight and the Yanks lose. And as long as A-Rod keeps failing in October, I have no problem with him staying a Yankee.

- In the long run, you wonder what the Joe Torre legacy will be. True, he won four championships. But if he ends his Yankee career with seven failures in October and a growing record of poor management, he may not be up there with the likes of Stengel, McCarthy, and even Billy Martin.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Yankee Fans Praying For Jeremy Giambi

The Yanks have been here before. In 2001, the Yanks were down 2-0 to the A's in the ALDS. Then came a Derek Jeter play for the ages, with a little help from Jeremy Giambi. Thanks to a Posada homer, the Yanks eked out a 1-0 win. After that, the Yanks won two more en route to shocking the A's.

But most fans forget that the difference-maker that game was Mike Mussina. Moose's postseason record is mostly disappointing (5-7 as a Yankee), but he pitched the game of his life that night, shutting down an A's offense featuring Tejada, Chavez, and the well-juiced duo of Jason and Jeremy Giambi.

Tomorrow night, the Yanks do not have Moose in his prime going for them. They have Roger Clemens, a Clemens way past his prime. The Yanks have no idea what they're gonna get from the guy. His career ERA in ALDS games is 4.36. The last time he pitched a must-win game in pinstripes, he did not get the job done. It was Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, and he did a lousy job (3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER), only to be redeemed by Grady Little and Aaron Boone.

But the biggest thing going for the Yankees is that ex-Yankee Jake Westbrook is a far cry from the 2001 version of Barry Zito. He got pounded by the Yanks this year (12.46 ERA in two starts), and the Indians will have to keep hitting if they want to wrap this thing up. They've batted .329 in the first two games, and if they keep that going, they should have no problem sending Joe Torre and Co. to the golf course.

- To the commenters: The 22-0 Indians win took place in 2004.

- A telltale sign that Joba still hasn't fully grasped the Yankee way:

"They bugged me, but you have to deal with it," Chamberlain said. "I will never make an excuse. I let my guys down."

I'm sure he got a good talking-to from Mike Mussina and Torre after that one. Real Yankees make excuses.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why The Indians Can Beat The Yankees

So, the Yankees are making the playoffs. Am I upset about them not playing the Angels? Not really.

Of course, conventional wisdom favored them playing the Angels. Cleveland went 0-6 vs. New York this year, while LA has given the Yanks trouble in the regular season as well as '02 and '05.

But I wouldn't have been too excited about LA this year. One big difference between this year's Angels team and those of years past? The bullpen. In 2002, their bullpen ERA was 2.98. In '05, it was 3.52. This year? 4.07, 19th in baseball. Cleveland's pen? 3.76.

In terms of pitching, the Indians have the best 1-2 punch in the AL, in Sabathia and Carmona. After that, it's shaky. Do you trust Paul Byrd in a big game? Carmona is similar to Wang, a sinkerball pitcher who's successful inducing grounders. But Carmona is better (for starters: .248 BAA vs. Wang's .265). The Yanks, after Wang, have very questionable starting pitching. Pettitte has had mixed results in the postseason. Clemens has been hurt, and you don't know what you'll get from him. Mussina's had a good September, but can he bring it against a good offense in October? The rookies? Unclear.

But whoever's starting, the Yankees will take a lot of pitches. They'll wear out the starter, and feast on a team's crappy middle relief. We've seen it time and time again.

The Angels pen is not what it used to be. Scot Shields has had a bad second half (9.00 ERA in August; 6.17 in September), and Justin Speier has injury issues. They won '05 on the strength of the bullpen, and while it didn't hurt them in the regular season, it's a concern in October.

The guy who worries me most on the Indians is Joe Borowski. No question. Yanks have a huge edge in the closer department.

But their middle relief is much better, in Betancourt and Rafael Perez. I think those are two guys that can match up very well against Joba.

Overall, good pitching beats good hitting. And the Indians had the second-best ERA in the second half this year, at 3.58. Toronto beat them with a 3.55 mark (and if McGowan and Marcum can continue to progress, Halladay bounces back, and Burnett stays healthy, the Jays might have the best pitching in the East and possibly the entire AL come 2008).

As for the hitting: Pronk had an off year this year, but a .970 OPS in September is encouraging. They've got a balanced lineup, and guys like Garko, Blake, and Asdurbal Cabrera make it hard to find an easy out in the lineup.

Clearly, the Yanks have the better lineup, but the Indians can hold their own. And I think Sabathia and Carmona have a better chance at quieting the Yankee bats than Wang and Pettitte quieting Cleveland's.

Prediction: Indians in 5.

Monday, September 24, 2007

1978? Not This Year

With the Sox having clinched a playoff berth, we can finally put the 1978 talk to rest. Now, we've just gotta worry about the Sox pitching, but I think they'll be fine come October. As will Manny.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Last Year's Lessons

Can it get any worse? Who knows. Talk about the Yankees picking up games like candy. Unbelievable.

I didn't think they could play .650 ball for the second half. I was wrong. But how many of you thought they were gonna be in this position when they looked dead in June?

The only thing that gives me hope right now (and this goes for Mets fans too) is that last year's World Series teams, the Tigers and Cardinals, had rotten Septembers. So did the 2000 Yankees. If the Red Sox get into the playoffs, it doesn't matter how. Yes, it would be embarrassing if they lost the lead, but does any Red Sox fan feel like '04 is less legit because they were only the wild card winner? No.

Unless the Sox totally fall apart over the next two weeks, they're making the playoffs. October's a brand new season. This month has been brutal, and I give a lot of credit to Cashman and the Yankees - but there's still a lot of baseball to be played.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Manny Factor

After a brutal series against the Yankees, Dan Shaughnessy says, "if you like the Red Sox you do not like the idea of facing these Yankees again in October."

I know the Yanks just won 5 of 6 from Boston, but most of those wins were close games. It's not like the Yanks blew away Boston.

And one factor I haven't heard anyone discuss: Manny did not play any of those six games. I'm not making excuses for the Sox, but his absence was definitely felt. Especially in a one-run game.

And granted, Manny hasn't been vintage Manny this year, but if you slot him in there with Ellsbury, and maybe use Drew for matchups, the lineup gets a lot better.

So I'm not thrilled with how this series turned out. But is it a sign of things to come? Not if Manny's in the lineup.

- And with the Yanks 2.5 up in the wild card with series coming up against Baltimore, Toronto, and the Rays, forget about a Yankee-free October. But if they get knocked out in the first round again, then hey, I'll take it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Hate Is Back

With the Red Sox safely in first for much of the summer, I wasn't feeling the Yankee hate as much I have in the past. In fact, there were certain points early in the year when I almost felt sorry for the team. And as they got better over the summer, it was frustrating to see them vault into the wild card lead, but again - the Red Sox were in first, so I couldn't go too crazy.

But after Friday night's gut-wrencher, the hate is back. I'm taking the gloves off.

That instant "YES classic" was easily the most brutal game of the year for me. Especially seeing them tee off against Okajima and Papelbon. In the big scheme of things, I didn't think it was a big deal - if Mariano can have his off days, so can anyone else. I'll still take Okajima and Paps in a playoff game against the Yanks over almost anyone else out there. But to see them blow it against the Yankees in Fenway, to see the glee on the Yankee fans' faces - it was too much for me.

- One saving grace: the Red Sox can beat Yankee starting pitching. They hit well against Pettitte and Wang, the Yanks' two best arms.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Not Looking Good

Yanks pulled off an impressive series against Seattle, and now stand 3 up in the wild card. Seattle looks done, and their lack of pitching caught up to them.

- What scares me most is, the Yanks have the easiest schedule of the three wild-card contenders. Let's have a look:

-3 at KC
3 at Toronto
3 at. Boston
3 vs. Baltimore
3 vs. Toronto
3 at TB
3 at Baltimore

In the second half, the Yanks have gone 6-1 vs. KC and 5-2 vs. Toronto. Baltimore has beaten them in two series, but the O's look dead right now. Aside from Boston, Yanks have it easy the rest of the way.

3 at Detroit
3 vs. A's
4 at TB
3 at A's
4 at LA
4 vs. Cleveland
3 vs. Texas
The Mariners have three tough series, and the rest isn't too bad. (They're 10-3 vs. Beane's team this year.) Although the way Seattle has been playing lately, even the A's might be a challenge.

3 vs. Seattle
1 vs. Toronto
3 vs. Texas
3 at Minnesota
3 at Cleveland
3 vs. KC
3 vs. Minnesota
3 at White Sox

The series vs. Seattle can go either way, and the rest isn't too bad, although Minny might be tough. Detroit has been 7-5 vs. the Twins so far, but they'll have to do better for the wild card.

Right now, I think Detroit has a much better shot of catching New York than Seattle. But with the Yankees having a soft schedule coming up, the Tigers will have to be red-hot. Otherwise, we'll have to hope for another 1st-round embarrassment by the Yankees.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The YD Reverse Jinx - Yankees 12, Mariners 3

Sometimes I feel like we've got a variation of the SI cover jinx going on here. Whenever I talk about a guy who's slumping, he gets a few hits the next night. Yesterday, I had what to say about Abreu and Cano's struggles. And last night, they exploded for 4 hits each. And if I talk about how great the Yanks are doing, do they slow down? No. It only works one way.

Anyway, the Yanks have Phil Hughes taking the hill tonight. I like the Mariners' chances.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Bats Slowing Down? - Mariners 7, Yankees 1

Clemens is gonna miss a start? What were the odds of that happening? After dominating the Red Sox last week, the 45-year old version of Roger Clemens came back. And Mussina didn't look much younger following him up. King Felix kept the Yankee bats at bay, and Seattle broke a losing streak with a big win.

Key here is, Seattle now can't lose much ground in the series. Even if the Yanks win the next two, they'll still be only 3 games out. Yanks now face a couple of must-win games, or else their October slot will once again be in jeopardy.

- In the past seven days, only one team has had a worse average than the Yanks (.235) - the Giants at .215. Key guys are struggling, such as Damon (4-last 24, .167), Abreu (4-25, .160), and Matsui (4-25). Cano had 2 homers in the Yanks win last Thursday, but aside from that, he's 2 for his last 21.

The Yankee bats were hot all summer, but it was inevitable that they'd slow down. And that just might doom their playoff hopes.

The Manager Without The Mystique

One guy who doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves? Terry Francona. He's arguably a better manager than Torre, certainly when it comes to managing a bullpen. And Dan Shaughnessy has an excellent piece on Francona in today's Globe. Read it; it really makes you appreciate the guy and the job he's done.

Meanwhile, Wally Matthews says the next month will determine whether Joe Torre will be brought back next year.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

If You Thought ... - Devil Rays 8, Yankees 2

... that the Yankees would sweep Boston then lose two of three to Tampa Bay, please stand up. And if you thought Ian Kennedy would be the Yanks' best starter over the weekend, stand up too.

Weekends like these are why I love Tampa Bay. Even though they got thoroughly trounced last time they played the Yanks, this time they showed up, taking two of three.

They beat up on Phil Hughes, whose ERA is up to 5.65. At this rate, he's not looking much better than Jeff Johnson, who had a 5.95 mark as a rookie in '91. I can give the guy a bit of a pass for being young, but if he turns out to be the next Bobby Munoz, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

- Kennedy pitched well in his debut, but so did Tyler Clippard and Chase Wright, both of whom have become afterthoughts. When Mussina was taken out of the rotation, I was surprised that their names weren't mentioned. After all, they weren't great, but they weren't horrible, either. They weren't nearly as awful as Kei Igawa. And for all the talk you hear about Joba and Kennedy, you hear nothing about Wright or Clippard. Those four homers in a row against Boston probably doomed Wright, and both guys will probably get traded sooner or later.

- Highlight of the weekend was Buchholz's no-hitter. For all I know, the guy might fade into mediocrity like Wilson Alvarez, the last guy to pull off the feat in his second ML start. But it's always great to see baseball history be made at Fenway, and steal some thunder from the Yanks. More importantly, it got Boston back on track after four straight losses.

- And speaking of teams that need to get back on track, I have no idea what to expect from the Yanks vs. Seattle this week. The Yanks who played Boston so well might show up, and put the wild card race to rest. Or the Yanks who played the Rays might show up, and Seattle might be able to turn things around. Gonna be one of the best series of the year.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pitching Wins - Yankees 5, Red Sox 0

The Yanks swept through the Red Sox this week, and the pitching was tremendous. I don't expect the pitching to do so well consistently, so I'm not too worried. You're almost never gonna see two near no-nos in a row.

And Joba Chamberlain has become the best 8th inning reliever for the Yanks since Mariano in 1996.

Manny not in the lineup? Not an excuse. The Sox have a high payroll. And they can do better than Hinske out there.

A tough series to swallow, but at least the Sox have a 5-game cushion. But the Yanks are now one step closer to October. Their starting pitching showed up this week. Did it ever.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Minaya and Cashman, Revisited

Back in June, I compared the performances of Omar Minaya and Brian Cashman. And Minaya won; it wasn't even close. But a few months later, at least in terms of 2007, it's become a tough call.

Let's face it: Minaya did a bad job this winter. Burgos for Brian Bannister was a flop, as Bannister has quietly become a very good pitcher for KC. When they signed Alou, I knew the guy was gonna get injured; it was inevitable. And you knew Shawn Green was on the decline. The Mets have smartened up and given Milledge more playing time, but Green might've cost them a few wins.

The biggest issue I have with Minaya is the bullpen. Terrible job there. Re-signing Mota after he was off the juice? Stupid, stupid, stupid. And I know Bradford would've cost a lot to re-sign, but these are the big-market Mets - money is not an excuse. And giving Schoenweis three years was straight out of the David Littlefield school of management. What the heck were they thinking? Heilman has turned into the second coming of David Weathers, and Feliciano has been iffy. Meanwhile, Heath Bell and Dan Wheeler are doing well for other teams.

Minaya deserves credit for cutting PR project Julio Franco, but why did it take so long?

Sure, there have been many unexpected injuries, especially in the outfield and at second base. But the pen has been a big problem for the Mets, and that's why you can't expect much from them in October.

And Cashman's performance will hinge upon whether the Yanks make it to the playoffs. He's redeemed himself over the past few months, totally revamping the bench (Duncan, Molina, Betemit, Phillips) and the bullpen (Chamberlain, Edwar Ramirez). But if the Yanks are playing golf in October, it'll be too little, too late to make up for mistakes like Nieves and Mintkiewicz.

UPDATE: Cashman also has to answer about the starting pitching mess. Giving Moose a new two-year deal was stupid, Kei Igawa was a horrendous signing, and Clemens has been somewhat better than Matt DeSalvo, but not worth $18 million. Pettitte was a great pickup, but there's a lack of depth there. And right now, starting pitching is the biggest question-mark for New York.

Yanks Bounce Back- Yankees 5, Red Sox 3

Today's one of those days where I've gotta tip my cap to Andy Pettitte. Truth is, I've always liked Pettitte more than most other Yankees. The guy seems like a genuine nice guy, and I still feel bad that George gave it to him for his kid wearing a Mets cap in the dugout years ago. And I like the way he got the heck out of the Bronx after '03. And last night, he got the job done.

Joba Chamberlain nearly lost it last night, allowing a couple of baserunners. J.D. Drew bailed him out, but let's face it - it wasn't pretty.

Anyway, I think Boston just needs one win in the series. Like this, they come out 7 ahead, a comfortable lead. And barring an utter collapse, seven games should be enough for Boston to grab their first division title since '95. So the Yanks' win last night is disappointing, but not painful.

But with another Mariners loss, the Yankee-free October is in jeopardy once again. I am not looking forward to next week's series.

- And Ian Kennedy will replace you, Moose.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Best Of The Year? - Tigers 16, Yankees 0

After each season, I like to make a list of the top 10 Yankee despiser moments of the year. And tonight just might be #1 for 2007.

Tonight had everything. Another dud by Mussina, no pop in the lineup (Verlander was excellent), and the Yankee bullpen giving out walks like hot cakes. Plus, it was a game the Yankees needed. True, the Yankees had a lot of sweet losses early in the year, but everything gets magnified this time of year. Even though an April loss counts as much as an August loss, an August loss is bigger - time is running out. And make no mistake; this was a huge loss. If George was in better shape, oh would he have what to say.

And after this series, I give the Tigers a lot of credit. I was worried about them playing without Sheffield this weekend. But they were excellent. They're now only a game behind the Yanks in the wild card standings, and if they can stay hot, they'll turn it into a three-team race.

I don't know what will happen the rest of the way, but tonight was one of the highlights of the year.

- Yanks now face Boston, entering the series 8 games behind the Sox. This series is almost as irrelevant as the Yanks-Sox was last September. If the Yanks sweep, they'll only be 5 out. Like I've said before, I only worry when the lead is cut to four.

The only question, of course, is the wild card. The Angels and M's will play each other this week, and Seattle did not look good against Texas over the weekend. Detroit better stay hot.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quick Update

I didn't catch this piece in doing the roundup, but it looks like Torre is already trying to get his way with Joba Chamberlain. As a Yankee-hater, I'm rooting for Joe.

And the Tigers eke out a win against the Yanks. Another bad outing for Hughes. I have no idea what the future holds for Hughes, but the Yanks cannot rely on this guy in a big game this year. All you can say about him is that he's better than alternatives like Igawa and Clippard. The Despiser was right the other day; the Yanks have big starting pitching issues, and that might be the difference-maker over the last 5 weeks of the season.

Sunday Roundup 8/26/07

Been a while since the last roundup, but we're back.

Many Yankee fans relish the idea of having Joe Girardi take over as skipper when Torre hangs 'em up. And the PR factor, the positive vibes from the dynasty years, and the Marlins' surprisingly good performance in '06 will help Girardi's cause. But Joel Sherman's piece will make them think twice. If you thought Joe Torre was lousy when handling pitchers, just ask Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Ricky Nolasco about Girardi. Good for Sherman for not falling for the Yankee mystique.

There's a lot out there about the "Joba Rules." It's nice to see Nardi Contreras' name back in the papers. My take on the rules? I'm surprised they've lasted this long, and I'd be very surprised if they last much longer. You get the feeling Torre's been somewhat marginalized in the organization. I'm sure if he had his way, Chamberlain would be used like his name was Tanyon Sturtze. And if the Yankees play in October, they're gonna have Joba out there every night.

Mike Lupica reminds us that for the Yankees, it's still all about October. Really now!

And after another Yankee win, John Harper gives Joe Torre the genius treatment, because Torrre had a meeting with the players before the game. Yeah, and if Igawa is out there instead of Wang and gets his butt kicked, then what, Torre's an idiot? This crap has got to stop already.

And in this piece, Jim Leyland complains that the long rain delay Friday night threw his team off their game and contributed to their loss on Saturday. Actually he doesn't. Other teams don't do that.

Pick of the week: It wasn't in Sunday's paper, but a chat with Peter Gammons? I'll take it any day of the week.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Clueless Moose

Typical Mussina comment in this piece in the Times. When told that his rotation spot is in jeopardy, he asked, "who are they going to replace me with?" Coming from one of the most aloof and arrogant Yankees, is a statement like that any surprise? Doesn't the guy realize how lousy he's been this year? Reminds me of Cone in 2000. And believe me, they will not miss Mussina if they make the playoffs. Better off putting Phil Hughes out there behind Wang, Pettitte, and Clemens.

I think if Mussina gets thumped on Monday, he should get the Sterling Hitchcock treatment for the rest of the year. And the way Cashman and Torre have behaved lately, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case. Giambi and Damon are now part-time players. Giambi has started once in the past five games, and Melky is the full-time center fielder. Only in Yankee-land do you keep $36 million on the bench almost every day.

But that's why I tip my cap to Torre on this one. He doesn't care. Melky's better, so he gets more playing time. And if they have any brains, Mussina will help the Yanks bench get even more expensive.

- Gotta root for the Mariners the rest of the way, though I don't like their chances that much. But if Sheffield doesn't get better, then we can't expect much from the Tigers, either.

- Clemens ERA: 4.34.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

May All Over Again: Angels 18, Yankees 9

Every time the Junkees do well, I'm too mad to blog. But then you have games like the last two against Anaheim, and you realize that life ain't so bad after all, and my dream of a Yankee-free October may come true after all.

When they were playing .750 ball, I thought, that's it. These guys are going to win the World Series. But a closer look at that run reveals that a lot of the games were blowouts where Old York scored a ridiculous number of runs, which, as we know, is not the way to win pennants.

In other words, the starting pitching is still spotty, and Mike Mussina is pitching exactly the way I thought he would. Giving up 7 earned runs in less than two innings gives him a hefty 5.22 ERA. His signing this past offseason may have been the worst in baseball.

Then the Yanks pull within two, scoring four in the third to make it 7-5. But Ron Villone and company gave it right back, and now we can see what the pitching situation is;

Mike Mussina: Done.

Chien Ming Wang: Been struggling lately. Is prone to giving up a lot of hits, gtes out of them with double plays, but has been lousy starting with the Toronto bombing. His ERA has gone from 3.49 to its current 4.10.

Clemens has looked old at times.

Phil Hughes has shown that his six no-hit innings against the Rangers was a fluke. He has gotten shelled in three of his last four starts.

And that leaves us with Andy Pettitte, who has been pretty good for the most part, despite a WHIP of 1.40.

So come playoff time, the Yanks have Pettitte, and no one else they can count on. So maybe all those blowouts weren't so bad after all.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Three In A Row - Yankees 9, Tigers 3

Respect for the Yankees right here. After game one, they did a good job over the rest of the series. The only thing you can say is that Detroit had a bunch of guys suffering from the flu, but still - the Yanks played well. They got a good game out of the $13 million pinch hitter Johnny Damon, and so far Cashman is looking smart for getting Betemit and bringing up Chamberlain and Edwar Ramirez. Still a month-plus to go for the season, but let's be frank- the Yanks are dangerous right now.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Three In A Row - Tigers 8, Yankees 5

A few weeks ago, I was dreading this series. The Yanks were red-hot, and the Tigers looked like they were primed to repeat last season's August collapse (which has been forgotten thanks to the ALDS). But after tonight, I'm feeling a little bit better.

Hey, the Yanks have lost three in a row. True, they've faced two of the best pitchers in the league in Verlander and Bedard, but the offense has finally slowed down. Also, Rivera and Mussina have looked lousy the last few days.

The Yanks are mortal again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rivera Back In Trouble

The Yankee fans will say it's just been a bad week for Mariano, but I'm not so sure. Mariano had that rough stretch early in the year, then returned to vintage form for a while. But right now, the April Mariano is back.

And it's possible that he never really left. Opposing batters are now hitting .260 off Rivera. That would be his highest BAA since his rookie year of '95, when it was .266. I know his control has been phenomenal this year, and he has an un-Yankee-like 10.60 K/BB ratio, but those are a lot of hits allowed.

The guy is 37 years old. The Yanks have to start worrying about Rivera, because the guy's lost a step. He's still one of the better closers in the game, but he's giving up a lot more hits than usual, and it's starting to catch up to him.

- I think the Yanks should start grooming Chamberlain to take over for Rivera. I know Chamberlain is supposed to be a starter in the long run, but so was Jonathan Papelbon.
Then again, let's see just how long the guy stays hot.

"The Scooter On The Air Means Fun For The Fans"

Yesterday was one of those days when it's really hard to be a Yankee despiser. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed every minute of the 12-0 thrashing they received from Baltimore.

But hearing the news about Rizzuto was tough. It was sad to see the Scooter go.

I grew up hearing Rizzuto do the games with Seaver and Murcer. I was too young to appreciate the guy for all he had to offer, but I could tell that the guy created action. He was the most exciting guy in the booth. Unfortunately, as the '90's progressed, Rizzuto got more and more erratic, and became harder to watch.

There are two kinds of play-by-play guys - the fun guys and the professionals. The pros try to stay as neutral as possible, and generally stick to discussing the action in the game, with the occasional anecdote or joke. The best "professional" announcers today? Easily Vin Scully, Jon Miller, and Dan Shulman.

Then you have the fun guys, guys who don't take themselves too seriously. They'll clown around in the booth, and shamelessly root for the home team. Ken Harrelson of the White Sox is a classic example of a fun guy.

And Rizzuto was the same way. Whether you liked the Yankees or not, you couldn't help but like the guy. He had his shtick and was clearly a homer, but didn't think of himself as a professional type of broadcaster. The guy made watching Yankee games fun, and clearly lived up to the title of this post (which I ripped off on an old Yankee yearbook). RIP.

- Rizzuto's approach reminds me of why I can't stand Harold Moskowitz (who later changed his name to John Sterling). Moskowitz wants to have it both ways. He's got his cringe-worthy home run calls for every Yankee, the "Yankees win!" shtick, and will start singing during a 10-0 game. But the guy insists that he's a professional, and not a homer. He sounds pompous and aloof, as if he knows everything about the game. Moskowitz's pompousness will prevent him from ever being as universally loved as the Scooter was.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Four Out

What can I say? The Yanks ripped right through the Indians this weekend, picked up two games on the Sox, are tied for the wild card, and are now 15 games over .500. This team is for real. These are not the Yankees we saw in April and May.

Time for some NFL preseason action.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

An Aberration - Blue Jays 15, Yankees 4

I'm not getting excited over one blowout loss. This is an aberration, compared to the way the Yanks have played lately. With this series win, they've won every series since the all-star break except the one vs. Baltimore. And at 20-8, they still have baseball's best record since the break.

Wang got rocked yesterday, and when you look at his numbers, he will have a start like this every now and then. Plus, his BAA for the season is .273 and for his career is .271. Let's face it - Wang's weakness is giving up a lot of hits. And usually, a double-play ball will cover up for it. But once in a while, it catches up to him. The .273 number isn't terrible, especially compared to some others out there (Pettitte - .287, Mussina - .295). But you expect more from your ace, and almost every team in the game has a starter with better numbers.

I'm looking forward to the Cleveland series, even though the Indians have not been great lately. But they're one of those teams that can send the Yanks back into a funk, and let's hope they do just that.

- If Hughes struggles again, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Yanks bring Wells back for round 3. And even if Hughes does well, maybe they use Wells in the pen to get lefties out.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Here We Go Again: Yankees 5, Blue Jays 4

Doesn't matter that Andy Pettitte was mediocre. Doesn't matter that Snorre's new boyfriend, Luis Vizcaino, almost blew the game. Doesn't matter which hitters went hitless, and which guys are in a slump. What matters is that my hopes and dreams of a Yankee-free October are flying away in the wind.

Yanks won a heartbreaker, 5-4 on Monday. The Jays had a lead, couldn't hold it, nearly came back, but didn't. And Old York continues to roll.

When they beat up on the bad teams, it was upsetting, but as Manny pointed out, whadaya expect? And give credit where credit is due - the Yanks haven't merely "gotten lucky," they've played really well.

Yes, the slugging has to take a break at some point, but when? Will it be too late? The Blue Jays were supposed to be better than the bad teams. But one game into the series and they are not.

Oh the pain. Oh ... the pain.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

For Real? - Yankees 8, Royals 5

Positives coming out of the weekend: Hughes was lousy, and the Sox took two of three from Seattle. That's all.

Give the Yanks credit. Coming out of the all-star break, they had a month of easy baseball to play. And with this sweep of the Royals and the Tigers' collapse, they find themselves just a half-game out of the wild card.

In the past week, the Yanks have had a team OBP of .447. Since the all-star break, the Yanks have had a team average of .330 and a team OBP of .400. This is a team, that, offensively, is firing on all cylinders right now. Robby Cano is batting .434 in the last month. I though age and the wear of catching would slow Jorge Posada in the second half, and he's batting .400 over the last month. Abreu is at .350 over the last month, Matsui at .345 with 11 dingers. All of those guys who looked old and done in the first half, have suddenly come alive. And how.

Of course, the other side of the story is that the Yanks have accomplished all this in playing most of their games against KC, Tampa Bay, and the White Sox, three teams that are at the bottom (along with Texas) in the AL ranking in team ERA. Against teams with decent ERAs like Toronto and Baltimore, the Yanks went 4-3.

Yanks now go up against Toronto, Cleveland, and Baltimore. Gonna be a lot more difficult than what they've faced. However - I've said it a million times, and I'll say it again - the mark of a good team is the ability to dominate against bad teams. And the Yanks have done that very well over the last month. But the bats have to cool off sometime, and that better happen now.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Clemens Gets Hammered - White Sox 13, Yankees 9

I was watching the Red Sox game today, and Jerry Remy said, "word from New York is that Roger Clemens didn't get the same reception from the fans that he got when he announced he was coming back."

It was great to see Clem get hammered. Not sure which pitcher I most enjoy seeing get knocked out early, but this year, it's probably Clemens, especially with all the money he's making.

The Yankee offense almost bailed him out, but Karstens and Farnsworth made sure that wouldn't happen. And both the Red Sox and Indians win, pushing the Yanks back a game in each category.

Another joke series this weekend coming up against KC, followed by a quasi-joke in Toronto, and then Cleveland, Detroit, and the Angels will tell us whether the Yanks have a shot.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"I Just Won You The Pennant, I Got You Wilson Betemit"

Last year, the Yanks shocked everyone by getting Bobby Abreu in a salary dump from the Phils. This year, the big winner at the trading deadline is Scott Proctor, whose arm will get a lot less abuse from Grady Little than it did from Torre.

I actually think Betemit wasn't a bad deal for New York. It makes their bench go from pathetic to simply weak. Truth is, I give Cashman credit. Between Jose Molina, Shelley Duncan, Andy Phillips and Betemit, the guy has improved what was a horrendous bench in the first half.

And with Giambi on the way back, the Yanks will have too many everyday players. Do they put Melky back on the bench? You get the impression that Damon makes the most sense on the bench, as Cabrera is a much better outfielder and Giambi is a better DH. I, for one, would love to see Damon turn into a bench player.

I think the Yanks are gambling by thinking Joba Chaimberlain will be to them what K-Rod was to the Angels in 2002 - a young lights-out guy who helps carry his team to the World Series. I know Chaimberlain has been excellent in the minors, but there's no guarantee his results will hold up in the big leagues. And if he doesn't pan out, who are the Yankees' other options? Especially after Luis Vizcaino's arm gets tired.

- Great job by Theo getting Gagne. The Red Sox were gonna make the playoffs this year, unless something crazy happened. By getting Gagne, Theo gives the Sox a chance to go all the way and win the World Series again. Bullpens play a huge role in the postseason, and the Red Sox now have one of the best in the game.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Torre's New Boyfriend

Which pitcher has appeared in the most games in July? Answer: Luis Vizcaino, with 16. The guy has been lights-out this month, with 17 K and a 1.62 ERA. Vizcaino is also tied for second for the most appearances all season, with 54.

But the question is, how long will Vizcaino stay hot? The guy looked like the second coming of Gabe White earlier in the year. He reportedly had Rivera help him out with some mechanical issues, but how long will Vizcaino stay hot?

More importantly, will his arm hold up to Torre's abuse? He's projected to pitch 80 innings (probably more, now that he's been so effective), and has only done that once in his career.

- I'm hoping the Yanks don't get Gagne, but even if they do, I'm not worried. I don't see Gagne having the same impact as Abreu had last summer.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Very interesting news piece about Jose Canseco, claiming he has "stuff" about A-Rod in his new book. I know when Canseco came out with "Juiced," nobody took him seriously, and, in the words of Fred Hickman, people just thought he had an ax to grind with the guys he ripped.

But after McGwire's infamous "I'm not here to talk about the past" line and Palmeiro getting busted, I think we've realized Canseco isn't totally off. Plus, I haven't seen "bit characters" in the book like Pudge and Juan Gonzalez running to sue Canseco for defamation.

So I look forward to hearing what Canseco has to say. And this time, he's got more credibility than when his first book came out.

- Whether you wanna call it a split or 2 out of 3, I liked what I saw this weekend. After ripping through Tampa Bay and KC, the Yanks looked poised to put the O's hot streak to rest. Instead, the Yanks have lost that momentum, and Farnsworth's antics certainly didn't help the cause. I wouldn't be surprised if, after the trading deadline, the Yanks designate him for assignment and
eat the rest of his large contract. Cashman, what the hell were you thinking?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

OK, So I Was Wrong

I guess I was a little off about the results of the Yankees-Royals series, with the Yankees cruising through games 1-3 before stinking it up tonight, behind Kei Igawa.

But hey, you can only give me a hard time for being off if you picked the Tigers to win the AL pennant last March.

I know the Royals are bad, but the Yanks have played solid ball in the last week. The offense has been on fire, but you know that won't last. And the pitching was pretty good, but not great, this past week.

Let's see how long the offense stays hot. They clearly weren't on tonight, but maybe they'll bring it tomorrow. Who knows.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Royals Won't Be Easy

After demolishing the Rays, it looks like the Yanks are in good shape. And with four games against the Royals while the Sox play the Indians, maybe the Yanks can gain some ground.

It won't be easy. Kansas City just took two of three from Detroit, arguably the best team in baseball, and as Buster Olney discusses in today's blog post, the Royals are slowly improving and recovering from a decade of futility. They've got a very good bullpen behind Grienke, Soria, and Dotel, Gil Meche has made Dayton Moore look very smart so far, and the Royals' collective .292 team average for the month of July trails only the Yanks and Boston in the AL.

So I don't expect the Yanks to get past the Royals as easily as they blew by the Rays. I wouldn't be surprised if the Yanks take three of four this week, but there's a pretty good chance KC can do the same.

- Even though he lost last time out, Wang is still the best bet for a win this series. Clemens has had a few good starts, but the low Ks aren't a good sign. And you don't know what to expect from Moose (ERA now at 4.97) and Igawa.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Twinbill Sweep For Yankees

Gotta admit I was impressed by the Yankees sweep yesterday. After Friday night's 10 BB disaster, the Yanks regrouped in a big way. Sweeping the twinbill behind Igawa and DeSalvo reminded me a little of the doubleheader in 1996, when the Yankees started Brian Boehringer and Ramiro Mendoza. They easily swept the Indians, and that was one of the early indications that the '96 Yankees were a special team. But believe me, '07 is a far cry from '96.

The biggest difference between the two sweeps? The '96 one was against one of the great Indians teams of the '90s, one which had come very close to winning the Series the year before, the Indians of Manny, Thome, and Albert Belle.

This sweep was against the Devil Rays, one of the worst teams in professional sports history. Can't get too excited.

But the Yanks proved something yesterday - sometimes, they can still beat up on horrible pitching. And they'll need to do that consistently over the next couple of weeks, before August brings them the Tigers, Angels, and Red Sox.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Sox Will Be Fine

Great post today on one of my favorite baseball sites, The Hardball Times. The piece is entitled, "Are the Red Sox Collapsing?" and as you can tell from my title, the answer is no. Gassko does a good job going through the numbers (Hey Johnny Damon fans, did you know Coco Crisp has an OPS of over 1.000 in the past month?), and concludes that we don't have much to worry about.

Between that and a sweet win by the Jays, not a bad day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Can't Panic Yet - Yankees 6, Blue Jays 1

At the break, I was worried about the Yankees and their soft schedule. Well so far, they're 6-1 since the all-star break, and they're 7 out of the division and 6 from the wild card.

And tonight was a solid win. Clemens gave up nine hits and had only three Ks, but 1 run in 6 innings is very good. And he's gotten his ERA down from 5.32 to 3.88. A-Rod put the Yanks up front, and they didn't look back.

One positive from this game: 4 walks from the bullpen. Let's face it - nobody is reliable in the pen this year. Even Mariano is no longer Mr. Automatic - batters are hitting .247 off Rivera - not bad, but it's his highest since '95. (His career BAA is .215.) Sometimes I think I'd rather see the Yanks get a first baseman than a guy like Otsuka or Gagne - their pen is very shaky.

As I said in a comment, I'm not worrying until the Red Sox lead is cut to 4. Obviously, the past few days have stunk - the Yanks have won three against the Jays, and the Sox lost two of three to KC. But the Yanks still have their fair share of question-marks, especially the bullpen, the bench, and whether Abreu and Matsui will stay hot. And I'm hoping this streak fades as quickly as the one in May did.

Oh, the Pain! Yankees 3, Blue Jays 2

It's bad enough that the Red Sox lost, but for the Yankees to win back to back games in which (a) Kei Igawa started and (b) Roy Halliday opposed them, that is torurous.

The Jays left a ton of guys on base, but then again so did Old York. It came down to a blown save, which is the thing that kills Yankee despisers most. You think you have it in the bag, and the guy BALKS in a run! Oh, the pain!

This had all the makings of a good Yankee loss. Jeter and Abreu both 0-5. Damon 0-3 (albeit with two walks) to drop his average to .238. Pettitte pitches well enough to win (for a change) but comes away emptyhanded. Farnworthless, who Snorre assures us is still his eighth inning guy, allows the go-ahead run.

But of course, the tables are turned, and Old York is on a roll in which once again, they are picking up games on Boston like candy. Oh, the pain!

BTW - Damon's July average? .188.

Please, please lose a game!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Another Close One - Yankees 6, Toronto 4

This was one of those games that the Despiser described so well the other day - Yankees against a bad team, Yankees with three times the payroll, and it ends up being a very close one. The Sox showed the Yankees how to play bad teams last night, shutting out KC behind Kason Gabbard.

Igawa had another awful outing, and is starting to give Pavano a run for his money as worst Yankee pitcher signing of the decade.

And I wonder how long Andy Phillips will stay hot. I wouldn't bet on it lasting too long. But as long as he fades in September, when it counts the most, I've got no complaints.

If you're rooting for a Yankee-free October, you've gotta hope Phillips plays well through the trading deadline, so the Yanks don't get a guy like Teixera to boost their chances. Then again, to get Teixera, they'll have to part with some great young arms. It's unclear what the better outcome is here. But I'd be shocked if Phillips keeps hitting like this the rest of the year.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another Hole In The Torre Mystique

A lot has been said about Gary Sheffield's comments on Joe Torre, and most people, knowing Sheffield has a tendency to rant, aren't taking him seriously. But I think there are a couple of reasons to believe the guy:

1) Kenny Lofton agreed with the guy. True, Darryl Strawberry disagreed, but I'd be curious to hear the take of other black players from the Torre era (Raines, Hayes, Chili Davis, Charles Gipson, etc.). Anyway, it isn't just Sheff.

2) Why would Sheffield pick on Torre? The guy's played for many managers in his career, from Tom Trebelhorn to Jim Leyland. I know he had issues with Davey Johnson in LA, but he never called the guy a racist. If Sheffield has a beef with a manager, he's not shy about it. So why would he make allegations about Torre, and not about any other manager he's had over his long career?

It's very difficult to know whether Sheffield is correct; who knows what goes on behind closed doors. But for the reasons mentioned above, I wouldn't dismiss his statements too quickly, either.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lousy Pitching, Yankees Win Anyway, Beat D-Rays 7-6.

I know it's sour grapes, but the Yankees were able to fiest on lousy Tampa Bay pitching for most of this series. Sure, they couldn't pull out a win when Clemens pitched a stinker on Friday, but on Sunday they did just enough to win. But come on, Edwin Jackson was not beating the Yankees.

It's never good when the Yankees win, but Mussina was spotty as usual, and the bullpen nearly gave the D-Rays a win with Villone stinking up the joint, and Farnsworthless reverting to form.

On Saturday you had Wang do the same as Mussina, 3 earned runs in 6 innings. I don't care that people call that a quality start. A 4.50 ERA doesn't cut it.

Clemens, of course, got rocked on Friday, with 5 earned runs in 5.1 innings. Another start or two like this and he ought to go the way of Julio Franco. Ah, all those fans who got pumped about two decent outings in a row....

So out of four games, they got only one good start, and that was from Andy Pettitte. What you have to take out of this is that a team that has even mediocre pitching will eat up these type of performances. Old York was lucky that as bad as their arms were, Tampa Bay's were worse. To put things in perpective, the D-Rays are dead last in ERA in the majors with a (gulp!) 5.80 mark. The second worst? The Texas Rangers at 5.05. Wow.

If these were all 5-0 games, I'd be way more paranoid. But the way they played this weekend gives me hope.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lousy Start to Second Half: Junkees 7, D-Rays 3

What a game. What a crappy game. Andy Pettitte didn't have his best stuff, got out of some jams, but it didn't matter, as Tampa Bay was as flat as a pancake, losing to Old York 7-3 in a 1998 kind of game - you were never confident that the Devil Rays were going to start a rally.

Worth pointing out that Pettitte's been horrible in June and July. With 3 earned runs in 5.2 innings, his ERA creeps up to 4.27. Nice.)

On one hand, you can say that Tampa Bay stinks, so what do you expect. On the other hand, however, I don't like to think that way. I know Yankee fans are horny about their schedule, facing sub-.500 teams for the next few series, but any of those teams could get hot and give the Yanks a run for their money. In the beginning of the season Old York was getting beat by Tampa, Toronto, Chicago, so to me it's not hopeless.

Only two things to highlight. First, two caught stealings for Old York, one for Damon, and the other Melky. Second, Cano went 0-4, but who cares. This better not be the start of a roll.

- Red Sox won, so the lead remains at 10, and the tragic number for elimination in the AL East dips to 67.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Lousy Ending To A Great First Half

I was away for the weekend, and no time for a Sunday roundup yesterday. My apologies.

But the way things turned out, it was a rotten weekend. 2005 hero Ervin Santana got spanked by New York, and Wang pitched well again. Meanwhile, the Red Sox got swept by Detroit, a team they'll probably face in the playoffs. And the Yanks have an easy couple of weeks ahead of them, playing Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and KC. The Rays better show up against the Yankees, even though they've been dead the past two weeks.

In any case, if you would've told me in March that the Red Sox would have a 10 game lead on the Yankees at the break, I would've given you a wave, thinking, "don't be ridiculous," and walked away. If you would've told me that the Yankees were gonna be under .500 come the All-Star break, I would've looked at you like you had seven heads. And don't forget, the Yanks still have 8.5 games to cover in the wild card standings.

So while seeing the Yankees go 5-2 against the Twins and Angels is frustrating, they still need a Red Sox collapse to win the division, and need to pass a whole bunch of teams to catch Cleveland for the wild card.

And that's why even after a rough weekend, I will still spend the All-Star break celebrating the Yankees' worst half-season in the post-dynasty era.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Igawa Stinks Up Joint (What Else Is New?), Junkees Win Anyway 7-6

Wow, hard to believe Igawa's ERA is ONLY 7.14, after giving up 5 earned runs in 5 innings. Wait a minute, I thought he got straightened out in AAA.... Hard to believe it's only 7.14 because that means he gives up 7 earned runs every 9 innings. I don't remember any scoreless innings. Where did those go?

So the Yankees jump out to a 5-2 lead, and of course, Igawa can't hold it. Shemp's homer in the eighth puts them ahead, and Mariano comes in for a SHAKY ninth, allows a run but nails his eleventh save after a pretty questionable strike three call, but the calls have gone both ways this year, so I can't complain too much. Nevertheless, he got a little lucky. If Cuddyer walks you have Morneau up with a couple runners on, and I don't think Mariano holds on. He was far from dominating today, and we haven't seen the dominant Mariano in quite some time. So that's a good sign.

Offensively Old York did well against lousy pitching, getting 13 hits. The only highlight was Ringo's 0-5. Ringo's July average is .176, so we'll keep an eye on that.

So that's it. Otherwise, Detroit won, so Old York gains nothing in the wild card race, and Anaheim comes into town, and they always give the Yankees fits. Should be a fun weekend.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Moose Pitches Like Old Self: Twins 6, Yankees 2, Tragic Number in AL East 70

For all you Yankee fans who got horny when the Moose shut down the A's last time - ha! Actually, he wasn't horrible (even though I don't consider 3 ER in 6 innings a "quality start"), but he couldn't hold the lead either, and after giving up the 2-run homer to Kubel, you knew he was out of gas. So his record is now 4-6.

Has anyone noticed that A-Schmuck is 0 for his last 18? His last hit came on June 29th. Yes, he still has great numbers, and he may still be the AL MVP this year, but he's been hot and cold. Great April, lousy May, great June, lousy July (so far).

Speaking of cold, that was the Yankee lineup today. They came up with four hits, and I know some of the regulars weren't playing, and it was Johan Santana, but they way the Old York broadcasters were going crazy about the offense in the previous few games, you expected something better.

And Brian Bruney came on in the ninth, trying to keep the lead to a managable two runs, and he gives up a home run to a guy hitting .182. If he gives one up to Morneau or Mauer, fine. But Luis Rodriguez? Gotta love it!

And the Red Sox won, so the lead goes back to 12. To be honest, I got paranoid after Tuesday's Yankee win. I thought it was the start of another hot streak. But Minny wins at Yankee stadium for only the third time in their last 18 games, and all is well in Yankee Despiser land.

- BTW, didn't go crazy about A-Rod's hammy injury because until I see him on the DL, it's much ado about nothing. Although Snorre may use it as an excuse for Alex's cold streak.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Easy Win For Yanks - Yankees 8, Twins 0

Even in a down year, the Yanks are managing to beat the Twins. Tonight's game was a joke, with a mismatch of pitchers between Silva and Wang. Wang was sharp, and every Yankee starter except A-Rod got at least a hit.

Yankee fans can't get excited yet, however, not after another great outing by Dice-K and another Red Sox win. Still an 11-game gap. And I don't think the Yanks will get 14 hits every night. They'll probably take 3 of 4 from Minnesota, but hey, their last hot streak feels like a million years ago.

I predict the Yanks will end up with 87 wins this year. It wouldn't be too bad; 12 games over .500, but not nearly good enough to make the playoffs.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Listless Twins Lose: Junkees 5, Twins 1

Well, the Red Sox won, so the lead stays 11.

That said, the Twins were listless. They were swinging early in the count, not hitting the ball hard ... either Clemens was incredible or Minny just didn't have it.

But I'm not here to make excuses for the Twins. Yes, they played a night game in Detroit and came in late, but they could have done better.

Only thing good was Shemp going 0-4. He's been in a tremendous slump, 3 for his last 26. But they won, so today's not the day to give them a hard time about re-signing him a year ago. It's like Julio Lugo in Boston. Major bust, but with the team up 11 games, no one's going to go too crazy.

Charlie Brown gave up a pair of hits in his one inning of work. Thirty hits in 31 innings is pretty human.

But the big story is Clemens. If he pitches this well each time out, that'll be pretty scary. This could have been a fluke, and perhaps his previous two starts are more indicative of how he'll do from here on out. We'll wait and see.

So not much to get excited about. The tragic number for the AL East is 72, so we'll keep an eye on that.

Top Ten Reasons The Yankees Missed the Playoffs in 2007

I know, I know, premature. But it's not looking too good right now, and I guess I should preface the title with "If they miss the playoffs, here's why." But I'm in an optimistic mood right now, so let's go with the flow.

(10) Relying on Pavano: Carl Pavano has had a total of one good year in his career, and that came in 2004 as a member of the Marlins. Since joining the Yankees in '05, he's been perhaps the worst signing for Old York this century. As a Yankee, he's won a grand total of five games. Yet Ca$hman was talking about Pavano coming back and having a big year in '07, probably to get some of the $39 million worth. They could have traded him and gotten a better pitcher but kept Carl, and relied on him to be an ace. Ha. He's on the shelf, and may never throw another pitch as a Yankee.

(9) Dropoffs for Melky and Cano: In 2006, Melky Cabrera batted .280, with a .360 OBP. In 2007, he's hitting .259 with a .320 OBP. In 2006, Robinson Cano batted .342, nearly won the AL batting title, and had an OPS of .890. In 2007, Cano is hitting .265 and has an OPS of .701. Had these guys maintained their '06 form, who knows. But all those extra outs add up.

(8) As Manny wrote a few weeks ago, once you get past the regulars, who do you have? Miguel Cairo, Kevin Thompson, Wil Nieves ... a joke. Granted, in the AL the bench is not as important as in the NL, but you figure that there will be injuries, there will be doubleheaders where you want to rest a regular, and Ca$hman was terrible in not acquiring any bench help. And that's killed them.

(7) Ringo's Arm: The guy can't throw anyone out anymore, it's psyching out the pitchers and giving the opponents a lot of extra bases.

(6) Johnny Damon's Injuries: The guy's been a bust in 2007, mostly because he's been playing injured, and refuses to go on the DL! So he wastes a roster spot, has terrible power for a DH, and is slow in the outfield. Had the guy taken a couple of weeks off in early May, perhaps he'd come back and do better.

(5) Charlie Brown and the Yankee Bullpen: This was finally the year we'd all been waiting for - the year he became just another pitcher. Horrible in April, decent in May, mediocre in June... and the team gave him very few save opportunities, but that's because the rest of the pen couldn't hold leads! Lefties are hitting over .300 against Mike Myers, Vizcaino was a bust, Farnsworthless is just that, and even guys like Brian Bruney are walking a ton of guys. As Manny pointed out, the K/BB ratio for the Yankee pen may be the worst in recent history. Snorre's boyfriend Scott Proctor hasn't gotten the job done, and it'll only get worse in August when their arms fall off.

(4) Outfield defense: In a word, pathetic. Shemp, Damon, and Abreu have terrible arms, and smart teams have been taking advantage of that all season long. Cabrera has a decent arm, but he misplays so many balls that he's worthless as well. Matsui is good at getting a read on fly balls and tracking them down, but he's still lost a step or two from his first couple of years here. Extra hits and extra bases taken lead to extra runs and extra losses. It's that simple.

(3) Moose: Re-signing Mike Mussina was a disaster. Every once in a while he pitches a brilliant game, so Old York figures that as long as they can straighten him out, he'll be a Cy Young winner. In 2007, however, his brilliant games have been few and far between. Nearly halfway through the season, he's got a grand total of 4 wins and an ERA of 4.63. And get this - he's on pace to strike out about 90 batters. Ca$hman, I know the market for starting pitching was thin, but what the hell were you thinking?

(2) First base mess: Relying on Doug Mienkiewicz was silly, considering the guy hasn't hit a lick in years, but at least he was great defensively. After Doug came Josh Phelps, Andy Phillips, and Miguel Cairo. Nada. Junkee first basemen rank 10th in the AL in OPS, and in the bottom half of just about every category. Had they gotten someone decent, we might not be dreaming of a Yankee-free October.

(1) Abreu over Sheffield: We've gone through this many times, but to me, this is the move that killed them more than anything else. Other than A-Schmuck, they don't have a legit home run hitter. A-Rod's hit 28 home runs. The next best is Ringo at 9. Abreu is at 4. Sheffield, meanwhile, over in Detroit has hit 18 dingers, and has an OPS of .931. Abreu's OPS? Only 200+ points lower at .689. Ca$hman may have had enough of Sheff's antics and thus let him go, but Abreu was yet another bust, and this was the bust that broke the camel's back. So bye bye Yankees.

- Feel free to add your own in the comments section.