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.