Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Yankee Notes: June 1st, 2006

Yankee notes, quick a hurry:

1. Aaron Small shall be known henceforth as "Cinderfella" at Canyon of Heroes. He has enough juice to get through a couple of innings, but the clock seems to strike twelve on him and he reverts to form. Plus, there's something very Jerry Lewis about the way he looks.

2. Melky Cabrera is great. Happy to see the kid get a fair shake this year. He's probably here to stay, given Damon's bad foot and Sheffield's likely return to the DL. I don't imagine the Yankees are going to stick with Melky and Long/Hidalgo/Crosby/Bernie if Sheff is out for any significant period of time, but I think he will be a fixture in the lineup with Damon and whoever else they bring in to thump.

3. Let's look at Bernie Williams' numbers pre-Matsui injury and post.

27 games "Pre-Matsui" (.261/.295/.318 with 2 2Bs, 13 runs, 12 RBIs, 5 BBs, and16 Ks)
17 games "Post-Matsui" (.295/.358/.443 with 6 2Bs, 10 runs, 10 RBIs, 6 BBs, and 5 Ks)

With an .801 OPS after Matsui went down, Bernie has actually transformed himself into a fair 8th or 9th hitter on this team. He's still a butcher in the outfield, but way to go Bernie.

4. I read an interesting article at ESPN's Page 2 about Alex Rodriguez. It's called "The Worst Player in Baseball", but it's not what you think. Read it.

5. Finally, the bridge to Mo has been shaky at best recently. Call it overuse. Call it mediocre talent. Call it bad luck. Whatever it is, we sure can give back a lead in a hurry. Mostly it has been Proctor and Farnsworth of late, but the problem may not go away soon. I was okay with letting Tom Gordon go, as much as I liked him. There were signs that he had outlasted his stay in Yankeeland, and it seems he is suited to the closer's role. Congrats Philly. None of the guys we have on the team right now, are the classic set up guy that you feel comfortable slamming the door closed in the 7th and 8th innings of an important game, but just wait. I think we're in for something special once Octavio Dotel comes back. He may need some time to get his rhythm, and to shake out the cobwebs of a long layoff, but sporting a career .213 BAA I think he should lock things down. Time will tell, but he sports the same "STUFF" rating as the elite closers in the game and is about even with the Pedro Martinez we've seen in his later years.

See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tiger Style

After putting the finishing touches on Omaha, we can now turn our attention back to Major League baseball and our intriguing encounter with the Detroit Tigers. Believe it or not, the previous series against Boston and the Mets did little for me, as I feel I've seen both of those teams more than I care to for a while. Both are old stories that are better saved for later in the year when the pressure of every game is more acutely felt. Now is the time for the unknown. The Tigers are certainly that.

After losing 90 or more games 8 of the last 11 seasons, the Tigers appear to have turned things around in 2006. They sport the best record in baseball as of today at 35-15 and seem to be clicking on all cylinders. The last time the boys from Motown finished a season over .500 was 1993, and the last time they won a division was (hold on to your hats) 1987. Ouch. Almost 20 years since they sniffed a pennant. To me that's a sad state of affairs. There are certain cornerstone franchises that should be good. The Yankees and Red Sox should be good. St. Louis should be good. Detroit should be good. The city of Detroit has seen hard times. It's a rough and tumble industrial town that owes its misfortune largely to the greed of corporate executives who move American jobs to overseas sweatshops where there is no such thing as Union Labor. There oughtta be a law.

The Pistons have done that city proud. The Red Wings have done that city proud. The Lions have.....well.....who's damn bright idea was it to install a run and shoot offense in a smashmouth city anyway? Bring back the tough in Detroit football willya? Anyway, the Tigers have a long and proud tradition. The old Tiger Stadium was a testament to poor planning, but was a cathedral of baseball's midwest religion. Guys like Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, and Al Kaline defined the franchise in its legendary early days, and the torch was carried brilliantly into the mid-1980's by Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, Jack Morris, and Sparky Anderson. What happened from there is a crime against baseball.

That brings us to modern day 2006. A team led by the greatest catcher of all time, Ivan Rodriguez, is standing on top of the baseball world. Believe me when I say the greatest catcher of all time. I mean it. I've never seen a better player at that position from both sides of the plate, and let's face it...Florida won the World Series against the Yankees with a pitching lineup of Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Carl Pavano, Mark Redman, and Brad Penny. That was I-Rod's only year with the Fish and they went 91-71. The year before they were 79-83, and the year after they finished 83-79. Texas never had a lick of pitching when Pudge was leading the show, but they managed to win 3 divisions with guys like Ken Hill, Bobby Witt, Rick Helling, Aaron Sele, and John Burkett heading the rotation. Kenny Rogers has had his most productive seasons throwing the ball to Rodriguez, and has led a young rotation of good pitchers for the Tigers this year. It seems that Bonderman, Robertson, and Verlander have more than 9 letter last names in common. They have found a groove pitching to Ivan Rodriguez.

The Yankees are playing well entering the series. They haven't been the awe-inspiring Bronx Bombers with all the injuries they are dealing with, but they have showed some fire and scrap in winning some hard fought games. Randy "Chet" Johnson will get the nod in the series opener, and what can you say? Good luck? Don't break a leg? Duck? Who knows what we're going to see out there. If past history is any indicator, perhaps we'll see the Tigers hit 3 or 4 homers but lose 9-8. The Yanks do score for The Big Obit. Let's hope the bats are working. Go get 'em stretch.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Yankee Notes: May 28th, 2006

Not much to say about the Yankee win on Saturday except, "What took you so long?" The loss on Friday was a bit of a hiccup for the team, but we saw the real deal as A-Rod went yard twice, and the bottom of the order got a little BP to keep their confidence up. Maybe those extra at bats, and hits, will keep them on top of their games for the Tigers.

Looking forward to the Sunday afternoon affair, Jaret Wright should be able to continue building his momentum against the Omaha Royals of the Pacific Coast League (ORPCL) and perhaps we can get 7 innings out of him to extend his success a bit more.

I'm predicting a Giambi home run in this final game against the Royals. When he hit the ball the other way against Affeldt, I just had a feeling that a home run surge is on the horizon. No better time to start than the present. Sheff is due too, but his hand keeps a question mark over his head. If anything, he actually looks like he's overswinging a bit since coming back....and for Sheff, that's saying something.

I'm still anxiously awaiting Erubiel Durazo's AAA debut. Not sure when that's going to happen, but he can get a quick call up if he busts out of the gate. Carlos Pena may have had the upper hand and first dibs on a Big League roster spot, but he's gone cold and we all know Durazo is the better talent. Hidalgo may have to wait for a call up as well. Long is on the Major League team and Melky is playing well. Bernie has actually been hitting of late, and it appears as though the once decimated outfield is steadying itself with Sheff back. Pitching is the main area of concern. Isn't it always? That brings me to my final item of the day. Roger Clemens.

News keeps flying around about Clemens and his return to action. He's coming back sooner than later and we keep hearing that it's narrowed to the Red Sox and Astros.....unless the Yankees swoop in with a big offer. I the hell is that any different that what we knew a month ago. The Rangers were always the underdogs in the whole thing, and had very little real chance to sign Rocket....despite my April prediction. Ahem. What we know now is that the Red Sox have been engaging in heavy petting since the winter, and that Houston has all the aces up its sleeve. The Yankees only have money and certain vague factors that keep them in the race. Tony Pena was his catcher. He may want to enter the Hall in a Yankee hat. Where does a guy go when he wants the best chance at a ring? Jeter is his buddy. None of it matters. If Houston can win 4 or 5 in a row and gain a couple of games back on St. Louis he's going back.

He can skip road trips. He can hang out with his son, who's in the Astros' system. He gets to partner with his buddy Pettitte again. The team already has a rotation of Oswalt, Pettitte, Wandy Rodriguez, and Fernando Nieve. They are currently at .500 and 7.5 games out. That's the only thing holding Clemens back from making his announcement now. In a week, if the Astros fall further back, Roger will start to entertain the Sox and the Yanks. The Yanks will throw mega bucks at him and the Sox will do the same. No one knows what he's going to do, so I choose to play it like Cashman. Yo....Rog....we're here. We're going to win it with you or without you. We'd love to have you, and I think you know we're the best chance for you to win it all again. Let us know.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Captains, Royals, and the King of Kings

As I write this, the Yankees are stuck in a middle of the 9th rain delay, down by two runs. Maybe by the time I finish writing (and you finish reading) I'll have something to say about the outcome of the ballgame. In the meantime, I'd like to hit the ground running on some impressions of this contest between the Mighty Yankees and the Omaha Royals of the Pacific Coast League.

1. Derek Jeter picks up his 2000th (and 2001st) career hits in this game and becomes the eighth Yankee to accomplish the feat. He does it in his 1,571st game and 6,350th at-bat which is the 5th fastest total in history. If he continues to excel, he will become the first Yankee to top the 3000 hit mark at the age of roughly 37 in the 2011 season. Congrats Captain.

His average is now at .353 and this season is looking a lot like his best, as he may approach number similar to his 1999 campaign when he produced 219 hits, 24 home runs, 19 steals, and his only 100+ RBI season (102). Let the good times roll Captain! At this pace, he will contribute 120 runs, 120 RBIs, 217 hits, 41 2Bs, 17 HRs, and 28 SBs. Can you say MVP?

2. The Royals have been affectionately referred to as the Omaha Royals of the Pacific Coast League at Canyon of Heroes. That's actually their AAA affiliate, but somehow I see little difference between the two clubs....except that the KC version of the organization seems to love making the Yankee bullpen look like the Charelston Riverdogs. Why Torre insists on turning good arms into sausage is beyond me. Scott Proctor and Kyle Farnsworth seem to appear everyday, and are showing the effects, while Ron Villone gets mop up duty and keeps the Yankees in the game. Why not bring him in following Mussina to save Proctor? Maybe he's so good that you can squeeze a couple of innings out of him and hand the ball directly to Mariano?

You'll know something is up if Joe retires in the next few years and "Torre's Famous Italian Sausage and Pepper Sandwich" grill opens at the new stadium.

3. Finally, a personal favorite of mine passed away today at the age of 64. Desmond Dekker, reggae legend, was part of the reggae invasion of the mid-1960's that introduced millions of young Brits and Americans to the great Jamaican sound. Dekker came up working next to Bob Marley in a Kingston welding shop as a teenager, and it was Marley that introduced him to legendary producer Leslie "Mr." Kong. Kong and Dekker went on to create some of the finest music ever produced on the face of this Earth. The New York Times reports that Dekker produced a string of 20 number 1 hits in his native Jamaica, including "Honour Thy Father and Mother," "It Pays," "Sinners Come Home," "Labour for Learning," "007 (Shanty Town)," and "The Israelites." The former 2 tracks were number one hits in the UK and the US, respectively. Desmond Dekker has joined his friend Robert Nesta Marley and his producer Leslie Kong in the bosom of His Imperial Majesty. May they eternally strum the harps of Heaven in divine harmony. One Love. Rest in Peace.

As I conclude this piece, Terrence Long singled, Jeter walked, Sheffield produced an RBI single, and Giambi ended the game with a disastrous double play with a chance to tie it on a sac fly. That's the Yankees luck so far this season. I hope no one was injured carrying their glove to the dugout. See you tomorrow.

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 9

You can't stop him. But he can sure stop you. The Daisuke Matsuzaka Express is blazing through Japan on its way to New York. At least that's what I'm hoping for. There are a handful of Angels fans that read my posts that would tend to disagree, but I find it hard to imagine that anyone will outbid the Yankees when it comes to negotiating with Seibu. It may be obscene, but that's the world we live in these days.

Matsuzaka is coming off a poor outing against the lowly Yokohama Bay Stars, and it figured that he would come out guns blazing versus the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka. The Tigers, like the Yomiuri Giants, are a traditional franchise here in Japan and have a following not dissimilar to Red Sox Nation. They are usually good, but rarely good enough in the end. Their cheering section is legendary for its spirit and vibrant chants. There must have been little to cheer about as young Daisuke mowed down Tigers' hitters like blades of if that matters to the Hanshin Crazies.

Through 4 innings, the Seibu ace gave up 1 walk, no hits, and 6 strikeouts. He was truly dominant from the start. The 5th inning started as something of an adventure as Hanshin opened with a single and a double to put Matsuzaka in trouble. What do All-World pitchers do when the have runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out in a close game? They strike out the next 3 batters. That brought his strikeout total to 9. In this contest, Daisuke went 1-2-3 in every inning but the 5th and 7th, when he gave up his only other hit. His final line was a complete game shutout featuring 3 hits, one walk and a ridiculous 14 strikeouts. His teammates gave him just enough run support to earn his 7th victory in 9 tries, triumphing 3-0.

His ERA now stands at 2.01 with a WHIP of 1.040, which in my book means he's a bad ass. Here's the full stat line (click below):

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Melk Money

Before I go on to glow about Melky Cabrera, I want to give Randy Johnson a new nickname. I hope he turns back the clock and becomes dominant again....I really do....but I don't like him. I don't think he's enjoyable to watch, or cheer. In fact, since he's been such a cranky guy throughout his career, and since he also stinks so much now, I'd like to imagine that we can adjust his issues with a little "Weird Science" and put him in his place. Until we see "The Big Unit" again, Randy Johnson will be heretoafter referred to as "Chet" at Canyon of Heroes.

Now for Melky. See what happens when you give a guy a shot to show his stuff on an everyday basis? It doesn't always work out, but in the case of Robinson Cano we got a gem, and we're also seeing some fine hitting by young Cabrera. He had a huge 11 pitch at bat a couple of days ago, and 4 RBIs in the series clincher at Fenway. What he did in this series stands in stark contrast to the fumbling around he did in the outfield last season. 3-7, 1 run, 4 RBIs, 1 BB in 2 games. Nothing builds confidence like a strong 3 game set in enemy territory, especially when you hit lead off, drive in 4 runs, and grab the attention of the fans and media in a positive way in the deciding contest.

In New York you want to get off on the right foot or your struggles are compounded by the glare of the gigantic spotlight. In contrast, if you succeed you are rewarded with the euphoria that goes with Yankee glory. It's true other places, but my impression is that there's no place like New York for this kind of intensity. Maybe Philly.

Manny Ramirez was a force to behold. I like Manny when he's "being Manny", which is to say that I feel happy when he's bumbling around like a moron because it means that's more prominent than his hitting. When Manny is being "MVP Manny", I wish he'd go away. Such was the case in this series, in which he hit 8-12 with 4 home runs, 5 runs, and 10 RBIs. The Red Sox scored 20 runs in 3 games and Manny drove in half of them. The only saving grace for the Bombers is that David Ortiz managed to balance out those freakish numbers by going a combined 2-13 with 1 run, 3RBIs, 5 strikeouts, and only 1 walk. Rare, indeed.

Now we start a series with the Omaha Royals of the Pacific Coast League. Mike Mussina will take on Scott Elarton in what will hopefully be a walk through the park after back to back series with the Mets and Red Sox.

Wrighting the Ship

Jaret Wright has been very good lately….well, maybe not VERY good, but certainly good. I’ve posted after each of his last few starts and I believe my most frequent comment has been, “Jaret Wright was so-so today, but I’ll take it every time.” Something along those lines. Today he was good. The only thing left to get out of him is length. 5 innings is the bare minimum for praise. If he can go 6, I’ll send him a thank you card. If he can manage 7, I’ll bake him a cake.

It seems that he’s staying healthy (knock wood) and getting a little rhythm to his starts. That’s key for a pitcher. I won’t look for him to be this good each start, but as long as he keeps us in ballgames, I think we should be happy as Yankee fans. Fortunately, one of the two busts from last off season is starting to earn his paycheck. The other one may as well be buried in the endzone at Giants Stadium with Jimmy Hoffa. He’s been just as much a stiff.

I don’t know what to make of Scott Proctor. I want to say “bad outing”, but it’s hard to know if what we’ve seen so far is the emergence of a good pitcher, or a fluke. Maybe he’s reverting to form. Coming back to Earth. Only time will tell, but I’ll forgive him his poor performance as the Yankees had a huge lead and we still managed to win in Fenway. That buys a guy a lot of patience that he wouldn’t get otherwise. The bullpen in general gets the same assessment today. Mariano notwithstanding.

Poor Colter Bean. He gets so little respect. One fair outing, one poor outing, and he’s back to Columbus. If only the Yankees had that short a leash on Sturtze and Erickson. He wasn’t great, but for Pete’s sake give him a month to show what he can do. Anyway, it gives me something to write about next time Lee Majors takes the mound and craps himself.

Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez played “anything you can do, I can do better.” Thankfully, Manny was the only Red Stockings hitter to show up today, whereas Damon and Jeter contributed for the Yankees. Keeping Ortiz in check is always key, but his 0-4 probably saved the victory for us. The Yankees need to get Terrence Long out of the lineup as quickly as is humanly possible, before his “sucking” finally hurts us. Having Sheff back and putting Giambi in the lineup makes us whole again and almost necessitates eliminating Long from the equation. Hidalgo is a better option, and Durazo is the best option. Pena is a nice player, but I like Phillips at 1st and I don’t think he’s as good as Erubiel at the plate.

Let’s see Sheff do something tomorrow and announce his return to the AL East.

Note to Albert Pujols: Slow down. There’s plenty of season to go!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Yankee Notes: May 22nd, 2006

Let's get down to the nitty gritty. Yankee notes lightning style.

1. Alex Rodriguez doesn't deserve to get booed the way he has this season, but he has been stinking it up something awful. People like to condemn him for being "unclutch", but the numbers really don't support that....except this year. He failed miserably in the 8th when the team had a chance to steal another win, but the double play bit him, and that was that. It's not a chronic thing, but it certainly has found him so far at the plate, and in the field. A-Rod has produced the following numbers this year, last year, and for his career:

Bases Empty .308/.413/.513
Runners On .235/.351/.444
RISP .250/.385/.481
RISP/2 outs .217/.419/.348

Bases Empty .337/.436/.670
Runners On .305/.406/.551
RISP .290/.410/.484
RISP/2 outs .302/.429/.512

Bases Empty .302/.380/.569
Runners On .311/.390/.581
RISP .302/.393/.552
RISP/2 outs .263/.381/.453

If I've learned one thing in all my years watching baseball, it's that a player eventually finds his averages. If a guy hits .400 in April, but he's a career .250 hitter, he'll find his way back to .250 by the end of September. If a guy is a career 1.000 OPS guy, but throws up a .700 for the first few months of the season, he'll ignite like the Hindenburg and climb back to his career number. Be patient. We're not too far out of 1st, and there's a lot of baseball left.

2. Colter Bean did a good job. He was often behind hitters early, but he didn't panic and ended up going 1-2-3. You knew Joe was going to keep him on a short leash, and when he walked the first batter to start his second inning, he pulled him....probably wisely. Let's hope we get Colter into Joe's clubhouse so he gets a fair shake.

3. What a year so far for Jeter. .351/.438/.530 with 34 runs and 32 RBIs in 42 games.

4. Small is toast. The rest of the pen looked great yesterday, but Small can't even survive a couple of innings without blowing up anymore. I actually thought his strong start last night was a sign that he might stink coming out of the pen, but fare well as a starter. So much for that idea. We're stuck with Small and Erickson as our long men.....which one do you want to see in a ballgame? I'll take Ron Guidry.

5. The Mets are a good ballclub. Delgado is sick. Wright is for real. Kazuo Matsui must have a VORP of -1 billion. I'd bet that Hideki Matsui is a better player with a broken wrist than Kaz is on HGH and Gamma Rays.

6. The Yanks signed Erubiel Durazo to a minor league contract. NoMaas and COH both posted our hopes about Erubiel a few days ago, and I'm very happy to see this kid in the Yankee fold. Watch out. He should be on the Major League roster in a flash, and play DH the rest of the year.

The Yankees have signed enough low level major leaguers recently to start a mini-Yankees team that might be better than the Kansas City Royals. Durazo, Pena, Terrance Long, maybe Richard Hidalgo...not that they are all good players, but it speaks volumes about KC.

Better luck tomorrow.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Jumping Bean


The Yankees got smart and added Colter Bean to their Major League roster. The spat of injuries that has plagued the team thus far has FINALLY opened the door for Bean to show his stuff. Who knows? He may stink it up and embarrass himself. He may show us all why the Yankees left him at AAA Columbus. At least he gets a shot. I'm betting he does well.

As for the everyday Big Leaguers, they continue to fumble around in the field like a team of Edward Scissorhands. Especially, Alex Scissorhands over at 3rd. They are tops in the AL this year with 24 unearned runs. The team has 22 errors in 13 games, including 4 today against Pedro Martinez. You can't beat Pedro committing terrible errors. If you factor in Cairo and Damon's misplayed balls in the outfield, the Yankees looked like Little Leaguers out there. It doesn't work, and Mussina deserved better. He was every bit as good as Martinez, but got dumped in a hole that Joe Pesci would be proud of. "What you think I never dug a hole before" Dance Spider.

You hear that the team is auditoning Richard Hidalgo. Great. Whatever. If he doesn't cost anything, sign him up. I just don't want him to get in the way of Melky's playing time. As Tim McCarver noted oddly in the Fox broadcast, Melky had "the only hard hit ball against Pedro in the game" in the 7th inning. I think a few other balls were well hit, but....anyway. He doesn't look lost out there, and at 21 years old could provide another injection of youth into this broken down roster of senior citizens. Even when Sheffield is able to come back, I want Melky in left all year.

In the end, this game emerged as a great Yankee comeback. The Bombers rallied against Bill Wagner in the top of the 9th to tie the game at 4. In the top of the 11th, unlikely heroes Miguel Cairo and Andy Phillips got the lead. And a revived Mariano Rivera found strike three. I thought it would be in the back seat of his car, but it turned out to be in the bullpen at Shea. Go figure. Gotta love a win like that. I woke up at 2am Japan time, and sat through all the bungling, only to be rewarded with a sweet come from behind! Thanks Yankees.

"Enter Sandman" matchup 1 game apiece.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Cash Refund

I'm actually not so up in arms about Randy Johnson's continued bedwetting. He can't get anyone out, and he looks completely washed up. Still, I feel he's going to be better. Not great, but better. Anytime the Yankees give him the lead, he gives it back. Anytime it looks like he's about to cruise to a 1-2-3 inning, he coughs it up. How long can that continue?

I notice that Brian Cashman bought The Big Unit at Wal Mart, which was probably a smart way to shop, looking for "Always Low Prices". At two cents, how can you argue? The thing is, a lot of the cheap prices at Wal Mart come from low wage manufacturing in Southeast Asia, and the only good thing that the Yankees have imported from there is Chien Ming Wang. It seems Cashman got burned on quality, looking for the bargain. It seems the Yankees got burned by Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. (If only he was that cheap.)

The offense continues to play well, even with regulars dropping like flies. I wondered during this ballgame if Posada left because Johnson was crap and complained about throwing to him. I hope he's not hurt. Even without our big guns in the second half of the lineup, I think we will score plenty. We need pitching. Chacon seems hurt. Johnson seems bad. Pavano is stealing money from us. Wright is okay, but I still don't trust him. That leaves Wang and Mussina. If anything else goes wrong, we may see Ramiro Mendoza get some spot starts, as he's been performing well in the starter's role at Columbus recently. That worries me, but seeing either Mendoza or Aaron Small for more than a spot start or two would worry me even more. I think Cashman's shopping again, but I hope he's on 5th Avenue this time. Let them pour you an espresso and assign you a personal shopper.

Scott Proctor continues to impress, when he's not being overused. His pitches have a lot of action and movement. The Mets looked overmatched with Proctor's movement, after seeing flat pitches from The Big Obit. The Yankees looked overmatched against virtually everyone the Mets threw out there after Gonzales. That includes Billy Wagner, who won the first battle of "Enter Sandman". Mariano Rivera can't find strike three this year, despite being ahead in the count on every hitter. He's in a funk, and it's costing the Yankees in important ball games. You can't trust him right now, but he's Mariano so you have to. Just keep giving him the ball. If he can't do the job, this team has absolutely no chance at anything. Get 'em Mo.

One final note. This is something that has bothered me since the first time I heard it, and burns me to this day. People at Shea are embarrassing themselves perhaps without even knowing it. Whenever Kazuo Matsui comes to the plate they play this tinny Chinese music complete with Bruce Lee vocalizations. They should serve wonton soup and fried rice at the concessions stands too, while they're at it. Kazuo Matsui is from Japan, and Japan is about as far from China culturally as Sweden is to Iran. Would the Yankees play an Irish jig when Giambi comes to the plate? How about a polka for Carlos Delgado? Please, for the love of God, stop.

Matsuzaka Watch: Episode 8

Back in the saddle again ladies and gentleman. Another installment of the world famous "Matsuzaka Watch". "Friday night with the Lions", as I like to call it. It's been a remarkable season for Seibu and Matsuzaka to this point, and the Lions currently sit at 24-19, a half game back of Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines, and the Nippon Ham Fighters of Shinjo fame. I expect Lotte to remain competitive the rest of the season, but Seibu should leave Nippon Ham in the rear view mirror eventually. All three teams won on Friday night, including a 10-7 slugfest featuring the victorious Lions againt the Yokohama Bay Stars.

Matsuzaka was staked to an early 2-0 lead as superstar Alex Cabrera mashed a 2 run bomb in the top of the opening frame. Young Daisuke has shown a tendency to be a little off in the 1st inning this season, and he ended up handing a run back on a two out double, walk, and single. Both teams scored big in the 4th, with Seibu putting up a 6 spot highlighted by an RBI double off the bat of Daisuke. The big Seibu inning was followed by Yokohama's 3 run rally. The Yokohama rally featured two infield hits, a clean single, and a loud double.

Matsuzaka would go on to give up 2 home runs in the game. The first to struggling WBC alumn Hitoshi Tamura, and the other a 7th inning solo shot to slugger Shuichi Murata, who has a Pujols-esque 14 dingers in the early going. All in all, not a sharp effort by our hero, but he got the win and still managed to post a few impressive numbers. For instance, try on 10 strikeouts for size. He tossed an alarming 127 pitched through 7 full, giving up 11 hits and 3 walks. Ouch. Here's his line for the year:

See you next Friday for the next edition of "Matsuzaka Watch"...

Bean Wonderin'

Yeah. I've "bean" wondering about why Colter Bean gets passed up time and time again, while MLB retreads get shots at sucking all over again. It's still a mystery, so I've decided to launch a new feature here at Canyon of Heroes which takes a closer look. Maybe we're missing something. A check under the microscope ought to reveal some flaw in Colter's makeup that will allow us to write him off once and for the Yankees have. Here we go. Feature #1 in a series.In any scientific investigation, it helps to compare two things. In this case pitchers. Since Tanyon Sturtze, the regular experiment's control, is now MIA for the remainder of the year, it's up to his replacement on the Major League roster to hold down the fort. Scott Erickson, welcome to Hell.

The first thing I'll note in this comparison is that Scott Erickson is one hunky guy. Before anyone accuses me of any unwholesome thoughts, I insist that I mean "hunky" in that late 70's, early 80's, hunky way. You know what I'm talking about. Erik Estrada, Lee Majors, Magnum, P.I., Ted Danson, Gil Gerard as Buck Rogers..... He's got Colter there. Bean is more like your college roommate who clipped his toenails in front of the really hot girl you were trying to chat up in your room. When you called him out, he said, "Dude. What?" I promise that never happened to me, but it was the first random thought that popped into my head when I looked at his face.

Anyway, advantage Fall Guy.

As for pitching, it should help to look at what the two men have been up to over the last say 3 years. That ought to reveal a trend that makes sense. Let's look at Colter first.

Colter Bean has played at all levels in the Yankees system since the start of the 2003 season. Rookie ball, Single A, AA, AAA, and a pit stop in the Majors that's hardly worth mentioning. Here's his stat line in all those games combined.

Bean has posted 30 wins against 25 losses with a 3.35 ERA. His WHIP over that span is 1.32 and falling with each successful outing at Columbus.

238 Games Played
48 Games Started
525 Inning Pitched
454 Hits
253 Runs
195 Earned Runs
31 Home Runs
238 BBs
583 Ks

Not too shabby, Mr. Bean. But Scott Erickson is a former All Star. He must have been a valuable cog in someone's Major League designs over the last 3+ seasons, right? Well, after missing the complete 2003 season on the disabled list it seems that Erickson managed to appear in 27 Major League games over the last 2+ seasons. Those games were split between the 2004 Mets and Rangers (6), the 2005 Dodgers (19), and this year's Yankees (2). I guess he hasn't been in such great demand after all. What kind of numbers did he put up in his time between Big League clubs and various teams in the minors?

It seems that Mr. Erickson has contributed a 5.97 ERA and a WHIP of 1.63 on his way to an 8-16 record. Tough to see why the Yankees wouldn't want that on their Major League roster. What other numbers can we look at? I'll put Bean's in parenthesis next to Lee Majors' so you can compare for yourself.

46 Games Played (238)
35 Games Started (48)
196 Innings Pitched (525)
227 Hits (454)
140 Runs (253)
130 Earned Runs (195)
28 Home Runs Allowed (31)
93 BBs (238)
106 Ks (583)

So the Yankees called up a guy who has only managed to participate in 46 live baseball contests over 3+ seasons, and who has an ERA nearly double that of Colter Bean. Colter Bean has struck out 9.9 batters per 9 innings. Scott Erickson has struck out 4.9/9 innings. They chose the guy with 28 Home Runs Allowed in 196 innings (1.3 homers allowed/9 innings) instead of the player who has allowed 31 in 525 innings (.5 homers allowed/9). Hmmmmm.....

Ah, well. There something to be said for good looks.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Can You Fear Me Now?

According to the new feature at Sports Illustrated, Jason Giambi ranks behind only Albert Pujols among the game's most feared sluggers. In what I'd like to make a regular feature, let's look at what he's done since July 4th, 2005:

117 Games
337 At Bats
77 Runs
95 Hits
13 2B
39 HR
99 RBI
106 BB
81 SO

Those numbers equate to .282/.454/.668 and a 1.122 OPS. Let's see what that translates to over 162 games:

162 Games
468 At Bats
107 Runs
132 Hits
18 2B
54 HR
138 RBI
147 BB
113 SO

Outstanding. He's slowed his pace a bit in the last couple of weeks, but the day off against the Rangers seemed to do him a bit of good as his bat looked sharp yesterday. It seems that no one is going to topple Albert Pujols for the Most Feared Slugger in baseball mantle, but settling for 2nd overall and the top spot in the American League is all Jason Giambi needs to earn that first Yankee MVP.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Yankee Notes: May 18th, 2006

A few blitz comments from action in Wednesday's game:

1. Chien Ming Wang was lights out. He seems to have found his stride, and the double plays he's getting are beautiful to watch.

2. Good to see Giambi back in the lineup. He probably benefitted from the day off.

3. Kameron Loe has looked good in both his outings against the Yankees this year. The problem for him, like many young pitchers, is that he becomes very hittable the 2nd and 3rd time through the order. He needs to work on mixing things up a bit more to keep batters on their toes.

4. Posada's on one of his hot streaks. It couldn't come at a better time with Sheffield presumably weeks away. Go get 'em Jorgie.

5. Johnny Damon needs a couple of days off. I know we're short handed now, but we've gotta play this thing for the long haul. Jeter can hit leadoff, and Bubba will do a nice job in center. I propose the following lineup to make this happen:

Jeter (SS)
Cano (2B)
A-Rod (3B)
Giambi (DH)
Posada (C)
Crosby (CF)
Phillips (1B)
Cabrera (LF)
Reese (RF)

It's not the most imposing lineup in the world, but the defense should be solid, and it accomplishes the goal of preserving the battered Damon for a later date. Just a thought.

6. Finally, Erabiel Durazo was let go by the Texas Rangers. He had been playing at AAA Oklahoma but has been suffering from a hamstring strain. We have Carlos Pena playing at Columbus and he would figure to get the first call up for bench help, but Durazo seems like the superior player to me. I've always been a fan, and never understood why he didn't get a regular job somewhere. Between Arizona and Oakland I thought there'd be an everyday position for that bat. He's a career .381 On Base guy with good power. I think of him as a kind of Giambi-Lite. Why not grab him off waivers if he falls to us? I'm guessing he'll never make it to the Yankees, but I can dream.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Holy Comeback Batman!!

Usually, when the Yankees open a game with a 9 run deficit, and the starter gets knocked out after 1.1 innings, I'm up in arms. Usually, when the Yanks trot out this lineup, I feel desperate and pessimistic:

Damon (CF)
Jeter (SS)
Rodriguez (3B)
Posada (C)
Cano (2B)
Williams (RF)
Phillips (DH)
Cairo (1B)
Cabrera (LF)

There are a number of problems with this scenario, both real and artificial. The injuries to Sheffield and Matsui are real. The neck strain that kept Giambi out against the lefty today is also real enough. The idea that you put Miguel Cairo in the field over Andy Phillips is artificial and is another mystifying creation of the "Mind of Torre". I think that's catchy, so I plan to continue using it like the headline act of a carnival show. Didn't we see how Cairo plays first base recently when he botched Jeter's off-the-mark throw in an important situation. Cairo is a useful middle infielder that can ably spell Jeter or Cano, but Phillips has showed a pretty good glove at 1st and is the superior corner infielder. With the weak lineup we have at the plate, what difference does it make to have the weaker bat in the DH hole in order to get better defense behind the pitcher? Chacon's worst outing of the yeay made the point moot, but I don't think I'm off the mark here....

Chacon was destined to have this kind of outing sooner or later. It's just so predictable with the number of base runners he allows and the reputation he's built for getting "out of jams". To "get out of jams", you have to "get into jams" a lot. I'm not worried about his long term prospects. Pitching is an overall concern for the Yankees, as it seems we have one pitcher that we can consistently rely on for good outings, and a cast of other arms that leave multiple question marks hanging over each game. Welcome to the rest of Major League team's problems. We're a bit spoiled with the top pitching we've had in recent times, and I have faith that some of our current guys will settle down a bit, while Cash Money is on the phone looking for one more solid arm. I'm guessing that he's hunting for a real pitcher, and not another patchwork Chacon, Wright, Erickson, Nomo type. Don't give up Phil Hughes, Bri.

One point of extreme annoyance is that Aaron Small seems to be slated for Tanyon Sturtze's old spot at Torre's mascot. Thanks for all you did last year Aaron, now beat it. Small's career numbers tell the story in the same way that Sturtze's did before him. I'm happy he got a chance to contribute to a Major League team last year, but there are good AAA pitchers waiting for their shot that have produced far more effectively than Small or Erickson. Need I name Colter Bean again?!

HOLD IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (You should imagine the sound of a record scratch here).

What a comeback. You might imagine that I wrote all of the above when the score was 10-1 Texas. You probably will agree with me that all of the above remains true regardless of the outcome. Let's marvel at that comeback in light of all the things that have transpired in this post to this point. That lineup made a monumental comeback, the likes of which our full lineup would be fortunate to ever produce. Chacon's dismal performance was erased by Small settling down a bit after a poor start but featured an ineffective Scott Proctor, and Mariano's continued mediocrity.

Jeter busted out of the May slump that I wrote about yesterday and keyed an improbable win. He hit, stole bases, and played with fire even when the game seemed out of reach. Damon set the table, Phillips and Cabrera contributed, and Posada made the most of his night in the cleanup spot. That was an instant "Yankee Classic". The Yankees against the ropes, bleeding heavily. The Rangers stalking a victory like Mike Tyson at an ear convention. Derek Jeter, showing the heart of Evander Holyfield and the hitting power of the aforementioned Roberto Duran. I'm going to glow in this one for a while. A nice reward for keeping the Mussina game in perspective yesterday.

A Farns ain't Worth What it Used Tah

Sorry for the bizarre pun in the subject line. I don't want to get on any of the Yankees too much, because those games happen. There was no mystery madness, or botched plays that cost the team the game. There wasn't a particularly poor move by the manager that precipitated our loss. It was just one of those games. The Yankees are going to lose a few 4-2 ballgames without their big bats, but there were a few encouraging things in the game as well.

1. Mike Mussina posted his 9th quality start of the season. His ERA is a cool 2.56 and he's sporting a nifty 1.01 WHIP. Now that's a "speecy" meatball!

2. Robinson Cano found himself in the 5th spot, where he belongs, and continues to rake the ball. He's at .321 on the season, and while the power is not there yet, he shows every night that he can make contact and drive the ball to the gaps. Higher up in the order, you should see his runs and RBIs climb as well. (Did you hear that Fantasy Baseball fans).

3. Scott Proctor continues to impress. Not bad so far this season for a guy that sports a career 4.64 ERA in 72 games. That's about a full season's worth of pitching by which to judge a guy, but it seems that he's figured something out. In his 3rd season with the Yankees, Proctor has lowered his batting average against each year. In 2004 he pitched to a .284 BAA, and in 2005 it dropped to an almost respectable .257, falling to a stellar .187 in this young campaign. Let's hope he keeps it up.

Now for the bad stuff:

1. I wrote in my post for the last Yankee game that Kyle Farnsworth's "Gameday" pitching chart looks like a drunk at a shooting range. Everyone's entitled to a shaky outing, but I worry that he has far too little control to be trusted long term in late inning situations. Last night he gave up 3 hits, a walk, and a wild pitch in 1 inning of work. Granted, it was pouring at one point and pitchers are affected the most under those conditions, but my previous observations about his control lead me to believe the poor showing had more to do with his ability than the weather. He walks between 4 and 4.5 batters per 9 innings for his career, which is worrisome.

2. Derek Jeter is struggling mightily. After a red hot April, in which he hit .398, the Captain is putting up a dreadful May at .226/.293/.283. That's horrendous. He's too good to keep that up much longer, but it sure would be nice to see him get hot again and carry the ballclub until Sheff gets back. He's also bringing his trouble with the bat into the field with him. He's had 3 errors in the last 5 games (one every other game). The same can be said for A-Rod, who seems to be suffering from Roberto Duran disease as well lately.....manos de piedras. Someone please tell Derek that your supposed to hit like Duran, not field like him.

3. Jason Giambi strained his neck playing the field. At this point, I think we've seen enough of Andy Phillips to know he's a pretty good fielder. His bat is icy cold, but I think we can weather a cold bat to keep Giambi in the DH hole for a while. Without Matsui and Sheffield, we need to rely on a bit better defense to support our pitchers and I think it makes sense to play Phillips in the field every night. I'd go with Giambi at DH, Melky in left, Damon in center, and Bubba in right. Bernie can ride the pines for a while. The only time he should play right now, is as the DH when Giambi gets the occasional start at 1st.

One final note. It seems that our boy Tanyon Sturtze may be done for the year. The Daily News reports that Sturtze may have a small tear in his rotator cuff, which could cost him the rest of the season. I've taken my fair share of shots at the guy recently, so I want to balance things a bit by wishing him the best with any physical problems he may have. Playing professional baseball is a dream and you never want it to end....or have it jeopardized. I will say, however, that it's a bit of window dressing to suggest that a guy with a career ERA of 5.21 was bad because he was injured. Otherwise, he'd have come out like Bob Gibson, right?

I also like this part of the story:

"Sturtze hadn't pitched well all season and admitted on Saturday, after another bad outing, that he had been hiding his condition from the team. The Yankees don't think he hurt himself further by pitching in pain.

'He felt bad. He apologized to me,' Joe Torre said. 'I care for this guy dearly because he has a big heart.'"

That speaks for itself. Tragically comedic. See you after the next game. Go Yanks!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Feeding the Monster

I didn't see the series finale against the A's, as I was fast asleep on my futon. I didn't catch the results until I woke up for work and saw that Randy Johnson was very hittable again, and Danny Haren was not. A 6-1 loss isn't a nice thing to wake up to, but we've been playing very well lately so I can't complain. Since, I don't know much more about the play by play, I thought I'd bring you an update on Hideki Matsui, as provided by the morning news programs here in Japan.

The angle that the Japanese news media has taken on Matsui's injury is somewhat predictable, but I think something interesting has also emerged. The predictable part of the coverage has been the focus on his broken streak and the marvel that it was. The focus on his broken wrist, and the various close ups and replays of the hideous accident, have also been popular. Stories about the outpouring of sympathy for Matsui from the general public have been endearing, and multiple replays of the Yankee player interviews from the lockerroom on the day of the injury are memorable. They love to show Torre saying, "It's a big blow to the team. He's so important to what we're trying to do." They also love to show Jeter remarking, "You can't replace him. He's the best at what he terms of contributing to a win." I still don't understand Jeter's "talk a lot, but say nothing" quote, but apparently it sounds good in Japanese.

A poll was also taken about what impressed the public about Matsui's reaction to the injury. The media wanted to know whether it would have been okay for him to have collapsed, cried, or generally succumbed to the pain and trauma of the event. More than 75% of respondents indicated that they admired Matsui for having "taken it like a man". "Otoko-rashii" (Oh-TOH-koh rah-SHEE), roughly means "manly" and that's how the Japanese people see their fallen hero after calmly leaving Yankee Stadium on foot, his arm in a sling. "Otoko-rashii".

The interesting part of the coverage has been the focus on fan reaction. Sales of Matsui jerseys has gone way up as people show support for the fallen warrior, and as a result his name and number are far more visible on the backs of Americans entering the Stadium and watching the game. The Japanese media are impressed by that show of solidarity, and it appears that U.S.-Japanese relations are stronger, on some level, for the great fan reaction to the injury.

Two notes: The most loved and legendary player in Japanese history, Shigeo Nagashima, is Matsui's mentor and first pro manager. He was the first player to homer in front of the emperor generations ago, and is kind of a samurai figure for his contemporaries. He's like a walking slice of history to younger generations and everything he does is revered. As Matsui's mentor, he's called and supported Godzilla throughout his career, including his move to the Majors. He is reported to have called Matsui in his hospital room to encourage him.

Matsui's father is also said to be flying to New York to be with his son, and he's not coming alone. Godzilla comes from a fishing community, and the local fisherman have sent loads of fresh fish with Matsui, Sr. to cheer his son and bring him better fortune. I guess it's better than flowers.....on some level.....

We also wish Matsui a swift and complete recovery, and hope he's back in time to lead the charge in the post-season. We'll be waiting for you Godzilla. Get well soon. Save some fish for us.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Yankee Notes: May 14th, 2006

Game two between the Yankees and A's was another close affair, the Yanks winning 4-3. Canyon of Heroes presents random thoughts in lightning fashion:

1. Jaret Wright was once again just good enough. I'll take it.
2. A-Rod with another "clutch" home run. Booooo.....I hate winning.
3. This A's team isn't very good. I overestimated them in the pre-season.
4. Look at the A's batting averages.....ugly.
5. The Yankees left side sure is booting the ball around the infield lately....
6. Scott Proctor is lights out so far. How can Joe use anyone else at this point?
7. Farnsworth's "Gameday" pitching chart looked like a drunk at a shooting range.
8. Yankees in 1st place all by their lonesome today!!

My last note is a brief continuation on my Sturtze ranting. Everytime he comes in I wonder, "Is this it? Is this the meltdown that seals his fate?" It never works out, but it's comical. Tragically comical. Todays line: 1 out recorded, 2 hits. His ERA on the year stands at 7.59, and his WHIP is now a robust 2.156. aged cheese.

Me: Hey Joe. Let's play word association. "Stinks."

Torre: Hmmm....garbage, feces, Limburger...uh...

Me: Okay, good. How about this one. "Sturtze."

Torre: That's easy. Hubba hubba.....

UPDATE: Tanyon Sturtze sent to the DL; Scott Erickson called up instead of Colter Bean. Someone should buy Colter dinner....he likes to have a nice night out on the town before he know the rest.