Sunday, April 29, 2007

Igawa Saved Snorre's Ass

There is no doubt in my mind that if Boston had swept this series, Snorre would have been a goner. Instead of the 6.5 games they're behind now, they'd be eight and a half, and George would not be able to contain himself.

Instead, the Sox take two of three, which is not good for the Junkees, but not as horrible as two consecutive sweeps to the Red Sox. It also would have meant nine losses in a row, and I see no way Snorre would have gotten out alive.

The problem is that the Junkees treat every game with Boston as if it's Game 7 of the World Series. Francona didn't do that. In the first game of the series last week, he did not bring Papelbon into a save situation because the closer had pitched two nights in a row. Now what if the Sox would have blown that game? Francona would have heard about it, and I'm sure he knew darn well that that was the case, but too bad. It's just one game out of 162, and he's not going to blow out his closer's arm in mid-April. But Snorre had to bring in Charlie Brown in the eighth inning, and bring in twenty different pitchers every night.

Snorre knows how seriously George takes these games, so he manages accordingly.

That's why Snorre owes a ton to Igawa, who pitched the game of his life on Saturday and spared the Junkee skipper from hearing those famous words, YOU'RE FIRED!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Is A-Rod Back To Normal?

Quietly, A-Rod has gone the way of Don Imus in disappearing from the headlines. Lost in the discussion of the Yankees' slide, Torre being on the hot seat, and that Mets employee involved in dealing steroids, A-Rod has gone 1 for his last 14. For all I know, A-Rod will hit three dingers tomorrow. But his bat is back to normal. And if his slump continues, New York's A-Rod lovefest will be over.

On Rob Neyer's blog, he mentioned that A-Rod has had similar streaks at other points in his career. So any Yankee fan who though the guy was gonna hit 100 homers is as delusional as that idiot who wrote the book "Dow 36,000" in 1999.

- On the other hand, is Mo back? Hard to believe he finally got his first save a few days before May. In his case, he's pitched so infrequently that I can't say the guy is back. And I can't say he's finished. Friday night's appearance was ugly stuff, but only if and when the Yankees win consistently and give Rivera more save chances can we say whether he's still got it. The jury is still out.

- Igawa pitched surprisingly well today, but as putrid as the Yankees have been, you couldn't have expected the Sox to sweep them two series in a row. But with Julian Tavarez going tomorrow, the Yanks have a chance to take the series.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Which Pitcher Will Snorre NOT Abuse?

Recently, I had planned to write a piece entitled "who will Snorre abuse this year?" in trying to figure out who would be the '07 version of Villone, Sturtze, or Quantrill. Apparently, it seems like those three are the only ones who Snorre plans to give any rest at all.

In the AL leaderboard for games pitched, the Yankees have 3 of the top 5 players: Myers, Proctor, and Luis Vizcaino (who has allowed a Heredia-esque 10 walks in 12 innings). Bruney is right behind with 12 appearances, and Sean Henn has appeared in 10 games so far. Snorre must like Farnsworthless - he's only pitched in 9 games. And of course, Snorre's promise not to use Rivera in the 8th inning lasted about as long as George's pledge to have Bob Lemon manage the entire 1982 season.

It seems like every night, another reliever has a bad night. Whether it's Proctor, Myers, Bruney, or Henn. And it's only April.

I know the Yankee fans will say that things will change when Mussina comes back, but I doubt it. Mussina has been inconsistent, and at 38, he's not gonna throw as many pitches as he used to. Wang is okay, but he gives up a lot of hits. And Igawa and Karstens? You have no idea what they'll give you.

Besides, as the pressure builds for the Yanks to get on a hot streak, you'll see Snorre going to the pen to try to lock up a win. He did that in Boston, and I think we'll see it again.

-- Phil Hughes provided no rest for the weary Yankee bullpen. He threw 91 pitches in less than 5 innings, and I told you they wouldn't leave Hughes out to dry. The Yanks could use a guy like Livan Hernandez, someone who can throw 175 pitches without a problem.

- Yankees-Red Sox again this weekend. Last weekend's series was a thriller, but I am not looking forward to Julian Tavarez on Sunday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Who Will Save the Yankees?

Yeah, they'll win a bunch of 10-9 games and hang around the AL East race for a while. But when it comes crunch time, who will rescue them?

Mike Mussina is done. He hasn't aged well, and he's been inconsistent these past few years. Occasionally he'll throw a gem and we'll think that he's back and the Moose we saw as an Oriole many moons ago, but then he'll give you a stinker, making you realize that they Junkees would be better off with their AA guys, considering that they do the same job at a fraction of the price.

And let's not even talk about Pavano.

Which leads me to believe that the Junkees will make a play for Roger Clemens. They'll need him not just for PR, but to actually make the postseason. But even with Clemens, who knows if he'll regain his form pitching in the AL East.

So the Junkees, as far as pitching goes, are screwed. Their only hope is that a team falls out of contention and are willing to trade a veteran. Otherwise, Derek Jeter will be playing golf in early October.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Give It a Few Months

A-Rod claims he wants to stay in New York. So much for my post about his last hurrah, right?

A-Rod's probably gonna put his foot in mouth. When he starts slumping and hears the inevitable boo birds, I think we'll hear a different take. And if A-Rod fails in October and gets slammed in the papers, there's no way he stays.

It's too early to take this seriously. A-Rod might have the year of his life. Or he might hit a few bumps in the road, and bring out the boos once again. In which case, New York will hardly seem like "the greatest place to play."

Cellar Dwelling

Yeah, it's only April, but there's never a bad time to see the Yankees in last place. Even the return of Wang couldn't save them tonight. Kazmir pitched well for Tampa Bay. Did a good job keeping A-Rod's bat quiet.

And the Yankees pen was bad again, with Myers giving up the big hit to Crawford.

If the Yanks are worried about preserving the arms of the bullpen, then bringing up Phil Hughes is a dumb move. The guy will be on a serious pitch count, and as soon as he hits 80 pitches, they'll be warming guys up. For all I know, Hughes might turn out to be one of those guys who's very efficient and can throw a 75-pitch complete game. As a raw rookie, I highly doubt that will happen. Instead, Hughes will likely contribute to the bullpen woes.

The Rays Can Hit

Even after Sunday night's debacle, Igawa managed to pitch worse than Dice-K. At least Igawa gave up fewer dingers than Chase Wright. Devil Rays beating the Yanks? Never gets old.

Tampa Bay is currently tied for 4th in the majors, with a team .272 clip. They're second in homers with 25 (the Yanks and Braves have 26 each). The Yanks can only beat the Rays if their pitching is decent. Otherwise, they've gotta try to outscore them and win 11-10.

In '05, the Rays batted .274, third-best in the game. Their record against the Yankees? 11-8. Even with a 6.04 ERA against New York.

Last season, they hit .255, tied with Houston for worst in the game. Against the Yanks, they went 5-13.

If the Yankee pitching doesn't improve, and if Young, Dukes, Baldelli, etc. can keep progressing, the Rays will not be a doormat this year. Should be fun.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Panic in the Bronx, 2007 Edition

It's official: Phil Hughes will make his debut on Thursday.

In case you thought George was no longer in charge, this was a reminder. This is a panic move. Why did they wait till now to bring up Hughes? Why were they content with Wright and Rasner? Why did Cashman keep blowing off all the inquiries about Hughes?

The Yankees have just gotten swept by the Red Sox, and are 8-9. The Mets, even after losing 2 of 3 to Atlanta, are still 11-6.

It's never too early to panic, so congratulations, Yankees; you've got tomorrow's back page.

- I'd be very surprised if Hughes pitches well enough to stay in the rotation; this reminds me of last year, when the Mets brought up Pelfrey, and it was all too clear that he needed more time in AAA.

Seventeen Years in the Waiting

You know how long it's been since the Sox last swept the Yanks at Fenway? In that series, they started Chuck Cary, Andy Hawkins, and Mike Witt. Who would probably match up pretty well against Pettitte, Karstens, and Chase Wright, but anyway. The Sox hit .363 in the series.

It was a great series, and not just because the Sox swept. Friday and Sunday were classic Yankee-Red Sox games, and after a rocky beginning, Josh Beckett looked like guy we saw in '03.

Matsuzaka and Schilling struggled, and I wasn't expecting that. I certainly wasn't expecting the Yankee bullpen to perform as badly as they did. Rivera's performance reminded me of 2001, with Coco Crisp's triple bringing echoes of Tony Womack. On this blog last year, I predicted that Crisp would be better than Damon, so you know damn well I'm rooting for that to be a turning point. And Proctor did not make a good case for being Rivera's successor, giving up a 3-run homer to Mike Lowell. I love how Lowell was a salary-dump throw-in in the Beckett deal last year, but has come a long way since his abysmal '05 campaign.

And I don't wanna hear the Yankees bellyache about injuries. You still have the highest payroll in the game. Get a little depth. Josh Phelps is your big bat off the bench? The Yanks have fallen mightily since their bench had Glenallen Hill, Jose Canseco, and a bunch of needles on the floor.

- So I'll enjoy this sweep. At least till this coming weekend.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

After Mariano

No, no, no. I'm not saying he's done yet. I'd be a fool to say that. Yes, his location was horrendous Friday night, but it's only April. The same way I'm downplaying A-Rod's heroics by saying it's only April, I'm downplaying Rivera's struggles. I'm being consistent. So this is a speculative piece.

What I'm wondering is, who will step into the closer role after Rivera? At 37, it's hard to imagine him pitching for much longer. I'd give him until '09, maybe. Then again, Trevor Hoffman (not to be confused with Travis Hoffman) looks ageless out there. But who will attempt to fill Rivera's shoes?

My pick? Scott Proctor will be the next Yankee closer. Joe Snorre loves hard throwers, and Proctor has proven he can handle New York. He's nowhere nearly as good as Rivera, but he's gotten out of a few big spots over the last year or two.

I don't see the Yankees attempting to get an established lights-out guy like Joe Nathan or K-Rod from the free agent market. First off, with more parity in the game, and in Nathan's case, a new ballpark coming soon for the Twins, more young guns are getting locked up long-term early in their careers.

Also, the closer position is probably the highest-pressure position in the game. Not just in New York, but in any market. Look at what's happened to the once-dominant Byung-Hyun Kim and Brad Lidge. Seeing the way those guys have been traumatized from giving up big hits makes me respect Rivera for surviving Sandy Alomar, Gonzo, and '04. Additionally, the fact that Rivera has stayed cool in the pressure-cooker of New York makes his legacy all the more impressive. So I think the Yanks will have a very hard time finding something they can be sure will be an effective closer in New York, a guy who can face the media and the boos after blowing a 6-3 lead.

But the day will come when Rivera and his abilities will go the way of Bernie Williams. Maybe that day has come. And it'll be very, very interesting to see who Ca$hman and Snorre decide to use instead. And I'd be surprised if that new closer will be a big-name free agent.

- I've got a lot to say about the Yankees-Red Sox series, but I'm going to hold off until after tonight's game. Let's see if Chase Wright can prove John Sterling isn't totally nuts.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Walk Year to Remember

A-Rod is looking like Babe Ruth right about now. More home runs than 8 teams? Unbelievable.

Maybe in years past, A-Rod's home run binge would've driven me crazy. But not this year.

First off, it's only April. For Yankee fans, baseball season might as well be one month long - October. After all, the Yankees' track record in April-September from 2001-2006 has been excellent -they're the only team to win a division title annually in that span. But the month following has been a failure. And the month following is why Yankee fans are hungry.

A-Rod will never get the love he wants from Yankee fans until he hits in October. Jeter has the Jeffrey Maier homer, the Jeremy Giambi play, and other big moments going for him. A-Rod, on the other hand, has a record of futility in the big spots. Even after this torrid stretch, I'm sure 9 of 10 Yankee fans want Jeter, not A-Rod, at the plate in a World Series with the game on the line.

The better A-Rod plays, the more money he can command next year. In a way, I'm rooting for A-Rod to have a sizzling regular season. And his usual lousy postseason. Like this, he'll want out of New York, but will command such a high price that the Yankees won't re-sign him (especially with Ca$hman cracking down on the budget). Now, some may argue that his postseason record of futility will drive down his price. I don't think so. I can see the Angels, Cubs, and other say that out of the New York spotlight, A-Rod will be able to come up huge in a big spot.

So let the Yankee fans enjoy A-Rod's run. Because it might be his last hurrah in Yankee pinstripes.

- Before the season began, I thought the Indians would be this year's version of the '06 Tigers and '05 White Sox: a team with talent coming off a mediocre year, and then putting it all together. But they looked as awful as the Phillies this past series.

- This is the first year in a while where I'm much more interested in Yankees-Mets than Yankees-Red Sox. Maybe I still have negative associations from last August's disaster. But I'm looking forward to Josh Beckett's outing (.159 BAA in three starts this year). Saturday's start will be his biggest test so far in '07. If he can regain his '03 form, then the Red Sox have to be the favorite in the AL.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Slow Down, Sterling

I was listening to the game for a short while last night, and Sterling and Waldman couldn't shut up about how good Chase Wright was. The kicker was when Sterling said "it looks like he will factor into the Yankees plans for years to come."

I've long since learned not to take Sterling seriously, but this is ridculous. Anyone remember Sam Militello? In 1992, he made his debut for the Yankees, and gave up one hit in 7 innings against Boston. They were raving about him. He ended up winning just 4 games in the big leagues.

Besides, I didn't think Wright's start was anything special. Granted, he got the win, but he gave up 3 runs, 5 hits, 3 walks, and had a Leiter-esque 104 pitches after 5 innings. A good debut, but nothing to go crazy about.

For all I know, Chase Wright might turn out to be a solid pitcher, and have a great career. But let's wait until we have a larger sample size before making that determination.

- Kei Igawa goes tonight, facing Jeremy Sowers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Still Sweet

Why have I not posted in months? I'll 'fess up. I liked the direction the Yankees were going in, and didn't like where Boston was headed. I thought Cashman was smart in trading Sheffield, Jaret Wright (on the DL again), and Randy Johnson for young pitchers. And I hated the J.D. Drew deal, and wasn't so sure about Dice-K. I also didn't like the fact that the payroll gap between the Yanks and the Sox shrunk from $80 million to about $20 million. It's hard to argue that the Yankees are ruining baseball; aside from the Nationals, Royals, Orioles, Devil Rays, and Pirates, it looks like every team has a shot at the playoffs. And even if you argue that they're still messing up the game, the Red Sox aren't much better anymore.

But when Mariano gave up that walk-off homer to ex-Met Marco Scutaro, I felt that feeling again. That pleasure in seeing the Yankees lose, especially in such dramatic fashion. Once you're a Yankee-hater, you're always a Yankee-hater. I used to think Mariano was a rare classy Yankee, but he acted like a jerk this spring. Hey Mo, keep giving up homers to .050 hitters and maybe the Devil Rays will come calling next winter.

- The Yanks are in trouble, and they're lucky that Toronto just got hammered by injuries. I'm not surprised by the injuries to the Yankees' pitching staff. With Pavano, you knew it was only a matter of time. And Mussina, too. The guy is 38 and has had a few DL stints over the past couple of years. The Wang injury was arguably more unexpected, but remember that the guy missed a few months in '05 and a year-plus in the minors to injury.

- And one stupid move by Ca$hman was signing Igawa. Everyone knows that was just a dumb reactionary move to counter the Dice-K acquisition. At least Dice-K probably has the stuff to be an ace. Igawa has the ability to be the Yankees' version of Gil Meche.

- Even though many of the names have changed, these are still the Yankees of A-Shmuck, J-E-ter, Johnny "Traitor" Damon, Juice-on Giambi, Joe Snorre, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Still pretty hateable, I must say.