Saturday, September 30, 2006

Not in Our House

It's decided. The American League pennant comes through the Bronx. The Yankees clinched home field advantage through the entire playoffs, which I'm sure makes George Steinbrenner and the Yankee accountants very happy. The Twins and Tigers both lost while the Yankees won, setting up a potential 3-way tie for the best record in the AL under the right circumstances. The Yankees own the tie-breaker against both clubs and therefore have won the right to play host in October.

I've been touching on a couple of interesting things to watch for the remainder of the year. With two days remaining, I'll run down those things again as a kind of reset. (By the way, why is Jeter on a boat in that CNNSi photo I stole? Can those article/photo shoots get any cornier?)

1. The Batting Title

Cano is at .342, Jeter is at .341, Mauer is at .346. It's really anybody's race, but somehow I feel as though Mauer has it wrapped up. He took an 0-fer in his last game and still has a decent spread against his competitors. Unless he loses it by going 0-8 or 1-8 in the last two games, I think he's safe. It's just a hunch, but my gut feels that way. And, as Joe Torre has been heard to say, I have "a belly full of guts." Prove me wrong boys.

2. Second Place in the AL East

This is wacky. Toronto and Boston are currently tied for second. I think Toronto holds the tie-breaker, but they play the Yankees twice. The Red Sox play the Orioles. By beating the Blue Jays, we are actually doing the Red Stockings a favor. Funny how this sport works. I think they'll end up tied and Toronto will take it by bureaucracy.

3. The Wild Card

The Tigers and Twins are neck and neck for the division. Santana is slated to go Sunday in the season finale, but he won't. Gardenhire isn't stupid. He needs his ace to potentially go twice in the ALDS to win a short series. I hope they make it 7 games next year. The Yankees should be cheering for the Twins. The Tigers seem like easy prey right now, and we have beaten up on them. If they are the Wild Card and have to start in Yankee Stadium, I'd be thrilled to see Wang-Rogers in the first game. (Yes, I wrote it that way as an innuendo).

4. The Rocket

Roger Clemens is 7-6 this season after quite idiotically choosing to pitch for the punchless Astros instead of the Red Sox or Yankees. He has a 2.30 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. By the way, he's 44. It would be a horrible shame to see Clemens walk away from the game with this kind of ability left in his body and a bad team behind him. He's going to barely miss the playoffs because his team crapped themselves in his start after climbing to within a half game of the overrated Cardinals with 3 days remaining. Whittled to 2 games, and a 1.5 game deficit, it's over. I'm going to start the stupid speculation now, since it's bound to happen somewhere and why not here.

Roger Clemens will pitch again next season. He'll deny it and deny it and announce his official retirement, but the Red Sox and the Yankees will be at his front doorstep with a wad of cash in the offseason. The Yankees would be smart to lure him back for a farewell tour, if for no other reason than it would make up for the sh!t performance of 40+ year old Randy "ICU" Johnson. Clemens would finish as a Yankee and probably a champion. I think he'll pitch for the Red Sox next year though. Theo Epstein needs something to save himself from being run out of baseball, and a Rocket Reunion Tour at Fenway would do it. If Epstein can pull it off, people in Beantown would be worshipping at his altar again, and the headlines would all be about him tutoring Beckett and Papelbon and blah, blah, blah. Watch.

5. MVP and Cy Young

It's Jeter. Mauer will get press if they win the Division and he wins the batting title as a catcher. He would deserve the MVP. Jeter is the popular choice, and I think he'll win it as much for his body of work as a professional as his 2006 season, which is perhaps his best. Hafner is the numbers MVP, but stands no chance after his injury and playing on a bad team. Ortiz is the hard luck MVP, and he let us know about it too. Manny is still better. Jeter may never get the numbers to be in the conversation again, and I think there's a kind of subconscious feeling among sportswriters that he needs to go to the Hall with at least one. This is the year to do it.

Cy Young is Johan Santana. As good as Wang has been, and a host of other pitchers for that matter, there was never any doubt. The only reason I included it here is to have the opportunity to look at his numbers quickly before the playoffs.

The 27(!) year old is 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. He also sports ratios of:

9.44 K/9
5.21 K/BB
.216 BAA
.258 OBPA
.360 SLGA
.616 OPSA

Ouch. What has he done against the Yankees this year?

No decisions in 1 GS
6.1 IP
8 hits
4 runs (all earned)
2 BB, 4 K
.308 BAA

In his career against New York he is:

7 games, 4 starts
2-0 record
33.2 IP
33 hits
10 runs (all earned) - 2.67 ERA
1.34 WHIP
no home runs
12 BB, 30 K
.254 BAA

That doesn't include the playoffs, when he has been almost unhittable. The Yankees have beaten Minnesota because we club the rest of their pitching and they haven't hit us. If we face them, there's sufficient reason to worry. They have a decent rotation and Mauer/Morneau could be more than enough under the right circumstances.

Finally, I want to thank the Taiwanese fans that have been loyal readers at COH this season. Please continue!! I notice that many fans from Taiwan have started their own Yankee blogs, some in English and some in Chinese. It's really cool to me that the fan base from that country has fallen so deeply in love with our boys from the Bronx. In contrast, Japanese fans like the Yankees as a result of Babe Ruth's barnstorming tours in the 1930s. The Bombers are kind of royalty over here too. The thing is, the modern fans really only care about what Matsui's doing. I think people like the Yankees and want them to win as casual fans, but there isn't the sense of rabid fandom in Japan that I sense from Taiwan. I'll highlight a specific blog here that I found very interesting. It's dedicated to Everyday Scott Proctor. How cool is it that a Taiwanese fan has a blog solely dedicated to EDSP?

That's all for today. See you manana. Vamos Jankees!!

Friday, September 29, 2006

One of a Kind

A few things fit the category of "One of a Kind" today. Let's run down them, shall we? Join me over by Picture Picture and we'll enter the land of Yankee make-believe....

1. Daniel Cabrera one hits the Yankees Behemoth.

Sure, no Jeter and no A-Rod. Damon, Cano, Abreu, Giambi, Sheffield, Matsui, Posada, Cairo, Green. You gotta be kidding me. I know Daniel Cabrera is an electric pitcher and has loads of potential, but this guy can't hit the side of a barn half the time. He went the distance on just under 12 pitches an inning. Only two walks were on the board alongside Cano's 9th inning hit. This yeat Cabrera walks 6 batters a game on average. WTF?!! If the Yankees hold true to form, they'll go on a sick scoring streak from here on out. After an embarrassing game, this team has always turned on the afterjets to erase the bad taste. I have faith.

2. Tom Gordon says Rollins is "The One"

Tom Gordon has been famous for shooting off his mouth at various times throughout his career. I liked him as a Yankee and I thought he was a very valuable asset behind Mariano Rivera. What he said today was just silly. For those who missed it, Gordon said:

"I think J's better than Jete," Gordon was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Daily News. "Every time the team needed something done, Jete did it. I see the same thing from J-Roll. Like with Jeter, the game just comes to him naturally."

Hold the presses. Jimmy Rollins of the career .754 OPS is better than Derek Jeter of the career .851 OPS? Rollins, who has a career high OBP of .348 and a career high slugging of .478 (this season) is better than Derek Jeter who had already posted career bests of .438 and .552 by his 27th birthday. Derek Jeter, whose lowest single season OPS was .775 in his second full season as a pro? Maybe he meant this year? Maybe he meant that Jimmy Rollins is better on September 29th, 2006 than Derek Jeter.

Jeter's VORP is 1st among shortstops and 2nd among all AL players(Hafner). Rollins is 7th among shortstops and ranks behind Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, and Rafael Furcal among NL shortstops. Hmmmm.....that didn't do it. How about Runs Created per 27 outs? Uh....Jeter is 16th in the Majors at 7.80 RC27 and Rollins is 66th with 5.97. I guess Tom Gordon isn't called 'Flash' for his electrifying insights.

3. There Can Be Only One

I used that line earlier in the season when Chien Min Wang faced off with rookie Justin Verlander. The Verlander wields mighty power, but the Twins have tied for 1st in the Central. I've been praying for this for awhile. I want the Tigers in the ALDS. That short series is scary with Johan Santana facing down the opposition twice in 5 games. I'm not scared of the Kitty Cats at all. Bring on the Tigers. There can be only one!!

By the way, St. Louis is going to miss the playoffs and Clemens will pitch in the post-season once again. Watch.

That's it. I'm tired. The Yankees are going to drop a 10+ run jammy on Toronto tomorrow and we'll all soon forget about Daniel Cabrera. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sarah Connors?

Kyle Reese: Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. - The Terminator (1984)

Chien Min Wang has just closed out the 2006 regular season with his 19th win. That's the most ever by an Asian pitcher, whatever that means. I can't decide whether that's a sign of the tsunami wave of players on their way to reinvent the Major Leagues over the next 10 years, or a simple unrelated coincidence. Either way, the man is a killer. He actually didn't bring his A game with him to the Stadium as he labored through 6 innings. It hardly mattered with the Nightmare on Elm Street lineup that the Yankees can throw out there now. He had his typical 11-3 GO:AO ratio, but the balls he had in play were very hittable and found their holes.

It's a pleasure to watch him work, even when he didn't bring his top shelf stuff with him. He's efficient, and he's in control. I like the way he immediately turns to Jeter to give him instructions after a guy reaches base. It's like, "Okay. He got me. It stops here. The ball's on its way to you Derek." Hopefully that cool and maturity on the mound will serve him well in the playoffs. He may be facing Johan Santana in Game One. I hope Detroit tanks, so Wang can start the playoffs against Kenny Rogers in Yankee Stadium. That would be sweet.

The other point I want to touch on tonight, has been a recurring theme here at COH. I was alluding to my amazement at Robinson Cano's progress recently and evoked the name Derek Jeter. It's way ahead of things to say it, but the kid is so damn talented. There's no disputing it at this point. Over the last 49 games, no Major Leaguer has more RBIs than Robbie. He's hitting home runs at a ridiculous clip too. I feel like going even further than Jeter tonight. I may be stupid and crazy and immersed in the hype, but I will put my ass out there in the wind and wonder aloud....

Are we witnessing the birth of the next Don Mattingly? Look at their numbers, calculated for a full 162 games, side by side at the age of 23.

RC - .344/.368/.531
DM - .343/.381/.537

RC - 640 AB, 220 Hits, 55 doubles, 1 triple, 21 HRs
DM - 639 AB, 219 Hits, 47 doubles, 2 triples, 24 HRs

The big difference in their stat lines is the runs, RBIs, walks, and Ks. I think the 1st two can be explained away by the place they hit in the lineup, and the second two are a result of Mattingly's legendary eye. Here's a look at those stats:

RC - 82 runs, 107 RBIs, 25 BB, 71 K
DM - 96 runs, 117 RBIs, 43 BB, 35 K

Anyway, those numbers are eerily similar. The following year, Mattingly won the MVP with 48 doubles, 35 home runs, 145 RBIs and a line of .324/.371/.567 for a .938 OPS. The next season was even better by some measurements as he hit 53 doubles, 31 homers, 113 RBIs and a line of .352/.394/.573 for a .967 OPS. For laughs, here's Robbie Cano's post-All Star projection over 162 games.

.369/.385/.656 for a 1.042 OPS
645 AB
238 hits, 76 doubles, 0 triples, 36 home runs
86 runs and 169 RBIs

His numbers since the middle of July are by far the best on the team. Only Damon, Jeter, and A-Rod have more Total Bases, but each has a significant number of at bats on Cano. His OPS is also by far the highest, with all due respect to Hideki Matsui and Andy Cannizaro, who have a small sample size to go by. That's all for now. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cano Paddles

Another day, another extra base hit. Cano post All Star Break:

48 games
.370/.388/.646 for an OPS of 1.034
23 doubles, 10 home runs
25 runs, 48 RBIs

He's hitting at a 78 double, 34 home run, 162 RBI pace over 162 games.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What a Difference a Day Makes

I'm not going to lie and say that my post today is meatier because the Yanks 16-1 victory has any great significance. Actually, it means about as much as the recent series of duds that we've been subjected to since clinching the division. The one key factor here is that the Yankees are tied with Detroit for the best record in baseball, a game up on the Twins, and 4 games up on Oakland. Each of those teams has 6 games remaining before the post season begins, and each team has essentially clinched. The A's need only a combination of 1 win and an Angels loss to close things out on the AL playoffs spots. It appears as though each night will have a little intrigue to keep us interested until the real fun begins. So, with 6 games remaining we will be watching....

1. Who finishes with the best record in the AL and home field until next season.

The Tigers and the Twins are actually fighting for the division title and a chance to play the A's in the first round. The A's have been very good since the All-Star break and their offense has been top quality of late. That having been said, no one wants the Yankees right now. The potential lineup that we now have entering the playoffs is obscene. If Sheffield gets it going at all, and Giambi can play, our lineup will look like this:

Damon (cf)
Jeter (ss)
Abreu (rf)
Rodriguez (3b)
Giambi (dh)
Sheffield (1b)
Matsui (lf)
Posada (c)
Cano (2b)

With some variation on that lineup we will be very hard to beat. If Sheff or Giambi are not able to go, Melky gets to hit and play left with Matsui at the DH. I don't care what kind of pitcher you have on the mound, he's going to get worked over. Think about it. In my lineup the batting champion of the American League may be hitting 2nd or 9th.

2. The American League Batting Crown

I alluded to it just before. Cano is eligible for the crown now. He's 2nd at .342 to Mauer's .349, and Jeter is just behind both of them at .340 on the year. I can't remember the last time there was this kind of batting title race, where two of the 3 players were on the same club, in the same middle infield. There was nothing to predict this from Cano in the minor leagues really. He is a career .320-ish OBP guy and a .275-.280 hitter in the minors, but he really put it all together between Trenton in 2004 and Columbus in 2005. Over 159 games during that period, Cano put up some serious numbers.

159 minor league games between AA and AAA
.292/.353/.477 for a .830 OPS
37 doubles, 13 triples, 17 HRs
84 runs, 98 RBI
48 BB, 80 K

Compare those numbers to his first season in pinstripes and this season to date:

132 games in 2005
.297/.320/.458 for a .778 OPS
34 doubles, 4 triples, 14 home runs
78 runs, 62 RBI
16 BB, 68 K

116 games in 2006
.342/.366/.519 for a .885 OPS
40 doubles, 1 triple, 13 home runs
58 runs, 74 RBI
18 BB, 51 K

Is it possible that this kid is as good as Derek Jeter? The power is similarly mediocre in terms of homers, but the doubles are there and the rest of the stat line looks very close. He will never be the baserunner that Jeter is, but he swings a mean stick and should probably hitting near the top of the order if there was a place for him. He's actually having a better season than the Captain, although Jetes may win the MVP. Astounding how far this kid has come.

3. Matsui and Sheffield

Godzilla is back. Since his return to the field, he is hitting:

.410/.468/.667 for a 1.135 OPS!!!
3 homers and 9 RBI in 13 games

I said it when he went down with his injury in May. This guy has been abused between Japan and his early Major League career with all the consecutive games he played. In Japan it was a badge of national honor. In the US it was Torre's ball and chain with the pride of an entire people riding on the man. The injury probably restored some of the great power and strength that had been sapped by the grueling streak. People always said that "The Streak" was hurting Ripken and the Orioles, but it was something of historic proportion and had the name Gehrig attached to it. Now, Torre can sit Matsui whenever he wants. We may just get the best Godzilla we have ever had from now on....and none too soon.

Sheffield is in a tough position. He is getting his timing back against MLB pitchers, while learning a new position at the advanced age of 75. Since his return he is producing:

.167/.231/.167 for a .398 OPS
no homers and 1 RBI in 4 games

It's a small sample and he'll likely need the remainder of the season to get close to a positive contribution. The question is, "Can we afford to put him in the lineup in the postseason?" If the answer is no, it's hard to justify having him play in the ALCS if he didn't play in the ALDS. The problem now is game situational hitting and timing. If he takes batting practice or hits in a simulated game, it's not the same. He needs to play to get better. Tough decision for Torre. I put him on the roster.

4. Second Place

I am looking forward to the remaining 6 games as much to see if Toronto can hang on to 2nd as I am anything else. They overtook the Red Sox by percentage points today with a 2 hitter against the Beantowners. I think they are a better team at this point, but they are without Roy Halladay for the rest of the year. After he left the game against the Yankees, the Jays announced that they would be shutting him down. He would have only made one start anyway, but that might be the difference in the end. I hope Vernon Wells and Troy Glaus can carry the club to 2nd. It would be nice to see the Sox in 3rd again. It's been a long time.

5. 100 Wins

If the Yanks sweep all 6 games versus the Orioles and Jays at home they win 100 games. Who woulda thunk it?

Tonight is Daisuke Matsuzaka's regular season finale. A Seibu win combined with a Nippon Ham loss clinches the division for the Lions and a first round playoff bye. Stop by Matsuzaka Watch later in the day for an update and a season recap.

See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!

Monday, September 25, 2006

At a Loss

I've been struggling all day trying to find something to talk about in the wake of another meaningless and uninspired performance by the Yankees. I'm giving up, but I'll leave you with this moment of zen to contemplate....

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Randy Jumped the Shark

As soon as he signed his Yankee contract, Randy Johnson jumped the shark. I'm not even waiting for this game to finish before I post this. I don't know if the Bombers will catch fire and come back, but at 5-0 I've seen enough. I've seen enough of Randy Johnson and his creaky back for a lifetime. If there was any way to void his contract for 2007, I'd do it without thinking twice. We're stuck with him though, and it's painful to contemplate him in an important playoff game giving up the season.

For the record, I'd be more comfortable with Darrell Rasner starting a playoff game than I am the Intensive Care Unit. I'm not joking. If I were the Yankee manager, I'd go Wang, Mussina, Rasner before I trotted Johnson out as the sacrificial 6'10" lamb.

In better news, the Red Sox were officially eliminated from the playoffs today, so I guess we've got that going for us. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

Peter McEntegart is a Baby

I love to head over to to read my man Alex Belth's column when it's fresh off the presses. I find myself reading their baseball section in between Belth pieces as a way to keep tabs on what's happening over there. Today I came upon a sour grapes piece by professional whiner Peter McEntegart about the 10 reasons he hates the Yankees.

Please read this yourself, but I want to respond to his 10 points here.

1. Arrogant Yankee Fans

One of his points in this argument was, "Consider that this fan base has just in the last decade turned on both the greatest hitter (A-Rod) and pitcher (Roger Clemens) of their generation because they didn't instantly deliver a World Series title."

Lest we forget that Peter is a Mets fan, maybe he should explain why Mets fans roundly booed Carlos Beltran at every opportunity for his slow 1st year in Queens, and now look pretty foolish for doing so. Guess arrogance is kind of a selective perception thing, isn't it Petey.

2. Bandwagon Yankees Fans

P-Mac's main thesis is that the Yankees have bandwagon fans and he hates that. I understand. No one likes the guy who throws on a Kobe Bryant jersey because he's the latest hot player, even though the guy is a Rockets fan from Podunk, Texas. It's hardly the Yankees fault that they have bandwagon fans, and if you'd like to try on arrogance check out his wrap up on point #2:

"Listen, chumps: I know more about "your" team's history than you ever will, so pipe down. And yes, there was a time not that long ago (1986, anyone?) when New York was a Mets town, and just because your fresh-from-Omaha mind can't fathom that doesn't make it untrue."

3. Unintentionally patronizing Yankees fans

He hates that Yankee fans also like other teams....presumably the Mets. There are two kinds of Yankees fans in my experience. Those who also like the Mets a little (like me) and those who hate the Mets, second only to the Red Sox. Peter likes the people who would see his team burn in Hell before cheering for them. To Peter that's authentic or something. Nice attitude, man. Way to keep sports in perspective.

4. When national media assume that all of New York roots for the Yankees

This point is one of the most idiotic in the piece. He gets on Joe Buck for mentioning that a Yankees victory might soothe New York in the 2001 World Series after the tragedy of 9/11. Talk about losing perspective on sports. I guess Buck should have said, "A World Series victory by the Yankees will soothe many New Yorkers after the pain of September 11th, but for others the shortcomings of their hometown Mets will surely add to the anguish of people actually dying in a terrible tragedy that should never be quoted in a Top 10 reasons I hate the Yankees piece at"

5. The cult that has grown around average players that were part of the recent Yankees dynasty

He has a point here, but I hardly think it's exclusive to Yankees fans. The idea that Scott Brosius is the reason we won anything is silly, and I think many of my fellow bloggers find it a part of our mission to analyze the successes and failures of the club using more sound means at our disposal than "grit" and "heart". He mentions that we, as Yankees fans, lionize Luis Sojo, but it would seem to me that his rationale has more to do with his big hit against the Mets in the 2000 Subway Series than anything else. I love Sojo because he's a character, but he sucked, like Miguel Cairo sucks now...big hit or no.

6. When Yankee defenders downplay their team's financial advantages

I don't know that Yankees fans simply walk around downplaying the financial advantages that the club has. It's only when squeaky, bitter columnists write their columns attacking the Yankees spending that we come to the teams defense. We actually lose 50 million a year on the club, because Steinbrenner and company are committed to winning. We waste a lot of money because we haven't done a good job developing players, but it's turning around now with Melky, Cano, Wang, Tabata, Hughes and others. The Yanks have drafted well, and used the financial resources that they have to sign international players that are available to everyone if they want to spend. A Mets fan has little room to whine about this as they have a huge payroll, play in the same market, but haven't won since 1986. Oh, by the way, the Yankees just passed your Mets for the best record in baseball. Thought I'd help you make your arrogant point, so something you say will stand up against scrutiny.

7. The myth of Yankees' scouting and player development

Petey gets to my last point here. The Yankees outbid other clubs for international talent, not subject to the MLB draft. Okay. Pay more then. Don't waste your money on signing mediocre free agents, and do a better job laying down roots in the Latin and Asian countries. The Mets can do it if they want. They do have "Mr. Latin", Omar Minaya, after all. Sounds like sour grapes.

8. Joe Torre as genius

I don't know where he gets this. There was an element of this point when the team was winning every year. Since we got into paying $200 million for the roster and haven't won, people have turned their backs on Joe for his poor bullpen management, small ball ideas, and other things that may or may not be his fault. I see just the opposite sentiment these days. Thanks for paying attention P-Mac.

9. The griping we're about to hear about tearing down Yankee Stadium

Do you really care that much about this? Is this really one of the Top Ten reasons you hate the Yankees, or were you so intent on writing a Yankee-bashing piece that you scrounged up whatever fit in your pea brain to finish?

10. The constant talk about how the Yankees are all about winning

When a team wins 9 consecutive division titles, financial advantage or no, it's going to come up in the media. When the Braves won the NL East for 14 straight years, you heard it about them too. Peter, if you're tired about hearing this maybe your $100 million+ payroll team should have broken the string in the middle somewhere. Congrats on not failing this season....or is that just me patronizing you. Maybe I should be pissed off that the Mets actually got something for their money for once and didn't trade Scott Kazmir in the process. Keep up the fine work at CNNSI buddy.

Yankee Notes: September 23, 2006

Chien Min Wang is at it again. His GO:AO ratio was only 9:8 today and he gave up a leadoff homer to Rocco "Not the Next Coming of Joe DiMaggio" Baldelli, but he settled down nicely to finish 7 strong innings of 6-hit, no walk, 1-run baseball on only 82 pitches. Comfortable with the King of New York as our Game 1 starter? Yeah. So am I.

Wang's AL leading 18th win (tied with Johan Santana) also saw his ERA lowered to 3.57, which is good to tie him for 5th in the league with teammate Mike Mussina. He's only 26 years old and entering his pitching prime. It's easy to feel good about the future when you consider that Wang has been our ace, and....

1. Robinson Cano is hitting .340 and will soon qualify for the batting title. If he had a plate appearance or two more, he'd be 2nd between Mauer and Jeter, only .004 from the lead. Cano doesn't turn 24 until October 22nd. He has an .880 OPS with 40 doubles and 12 home runs in 113 games. To put those numbers in perspective, we are talking about another Yankees middle infielder who is hitting .338 with an OPS of .894, 36 doubles and 14 home runs in 146 games for the MVP. Cano is on a 162 game pace for 57 doubles and 17 home runs. Jeter is on a 162 game pace for 40 doubles and 15 home runs.

2. Melky Cabrera just turned 22 a month ago. He is hitting .285/.367/.400 for an OPS of .767, but the key numbers are since the All-Star Break. Melky is .294/.374/.420 after the mid-season break and if you eliminate his shaky June when he hit .214 he has hit .306/.382/.429 the rest of the year with remarkably consistent monthly splits. That's an .811 OPS by the way. The only thing missing from Melky's game at this point is power. He's got 125 hits in 121 games, but only 25 doubles, 2 triples, and 7 home runs. If he can find a little pop to go with all the other things he brings to the table, we have a very nice player on our hands.

3. Aaron Guiel has quietly done a very nice job for the Yankees. After being cast off by the Royals of all people, he has played the outfield and first base for us and he basically won yesterday's game by himself. His 7 home runs in 39 games would translate to about 18 home runs over 100 games. You have to figure that a 4th outfielder would get about 100 games under his belt on an average team. 18 home runs would be very nice from that kind of guy. For the Yankees, he's kind of like a 5th or 6th outfielder considering Matsui and Sheffield's presence on the team and Melky's emergence. If Guiel was a full time pinch hitter against right-handed pitchers and got the occasional spot start, he'd probably get about 175-200 at bats and hit 12 or 13 home runs. His OPS of .804 is about exactly what he'd done for the Royals in 2005 and 2006 and it's hard to figure how that dismal cast of characters couldn't find a spot on their roster for Guiel.

4. Gary Sheffield's back. He looked very nervous at 1st when the game started. I was really nervous too. The way his stuck his glove out while holding Delmon Young on in the first inning, gently poking at the air in front of him as if to feel the distance between him and the pitcher, worried me. He made all the plays, save perhaps the throw to second early in the game that he gave up in favor of taking the sure thing at the bag. He looked good on a couple of scoops in the dirt. Not bad. The hitting looks awful though. He was out in front of everything and didn't really hit a single ball hard at anyone. Everything off his bat was a little tapper. It'll come, but it's going to be interesting for a few days as he gets his timing back against Major League pitching. is the Devil Rays.....

5. I saved the best for last. Mariano Rivera is in the house!!! Life without Mo was not fun. It was very very scary. Fortunatley, we don't have to sweat it at this point. There's time to get the future in order, while we try to pin down another title in the present. Rivera was a little wild, but his stuff was still better than 90% of the pitchers in the league and he did strike out all 3 outs. Crawford got one of those sawed off hits that sent Jorgie careening into the Yankee clubhouse straight from the catcher's box. I was very worried, but it was shock rather than a real injury. A hit batsman was the only other blemish on the inning, but Mo was veru high in the strikezone on his out pitches and needs to get a little feel back. Great to see him out there though.

The last point is really a non-game related issue that has been driving me crazy recently. I used to like Michael Kay when he was in the radio booth with Sterling. I thought he was the voice of reason to Sterling's "Mad Hatter" character. As a YES announcer though, he's gotten increasingly out of control. The "Nazi" rant he made on the radio a while back was only the most extreme moment in a season of very disturbing commentary. I think Kay has fallen into a pattern of behavior on the air where he gets himself worked up on various pet peeves, or talking points, and gets very whiny. Case in point, in the 7th inning of yesterday's ballgame he actually asked himself a question and got pissed off at it. He said something like, "People wonder why Sheffield isn't rehabbing in the minor leagues rather than with the Yankees. (voice becomes shrill and slightly angry) The minor league season is over...there are no games left....he HAS to play up here. What is he supposed to do?"

I'm paraphrasing based on my recollection of the moment, but it's a perfect example of his current broadcasting persona. Make a point by yourself. Get annoyed with said point. Rant. During these moments, no one else in the booth is involved. They wait until he has engaged himself in cranky debate before chiming in with a low key answer to the diatribe. Listen for it. He does it every game.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: I was reading over at Was Watching and saw mention of Jeter's suicide squeeze. I completely forgot that was on my agenda today. To follow Steve's point, if Jeter had been hurt on that play Joe Torre would have been tied to a stake and burned. I would have poured the gasoline myself. Why in God's name would you do something stupid like that? Was it necessary? Is that a smart play? Do the Yankees plan on doing that in the post-season? The answer to the first question is, "you don't do that". The answer to the other questions is, "no". Grrrrrrrrrr.....

That's all for now. Let's see if Randy Johnson can match Wang and head into the playoffs with some momentum. We could sure use the Big Unit of old as we get closer to the real season. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks. ROB-BEE CA-NO....ROB-BEE CA-NO....MVP....MVP....

Friday, September 22, 2006


I've been bouncing around with various things, pleasure and work, recently and haven't been able to devote as much time to COH as I may have wanted. I'll probably make this post a short to medium effort, and start gearing up for some more in depth writing as we get closer to the real season. I've been watching the lockerroom celebration on You Tube thanks to Bronx Banter regular pistolpete, and have a couple of comments to make.

1. Giambi and Damon are like a pair of jokers. It was good to see them together soaked in champagne. I think Damon is going to be a real killer for us in the post-season and it has become so apparent that the +/- effect of his acquisition on the AL East may have been the difference in the division race. I think Boston's pitching woes was factor A#1, but the Coco vs. Caveman situation was a close 2nd. Giambi has issues with his wrist now, and I'm going to play "I Told You So" with Joe Torre right now. A few weeks ago I said that Joe should bite down hard and sit Giambi until the end of the year. By continuing to play him, there has been no healing and it looks increasingly like he may be a non-factor the rest of the way. I hope I'm wrong.

2. As for Sheffield, Torre mentioned that the post-season roster may or may not have Sheff right away. It seems as though he's going to see what kind of swings he can put on the ball before promising anything. He alluded to the idea that Gary would be a question mark, but hedged by saying that it was always open to add him in the 2nd round. That is, if the Yankees make the 2nd round. Sheff seemed quite happy and confident, and it looks like he genuinely believes he's about to step into the lineup and start to mash right away. I don't doubt it. Sheffield has an OPS of around .900 with the Bombers and he hardly ever strikes out. About the only way he isn't ready for October is if his K-rate is much higher than his career average. I would suggest that it's unlikely he'll be 100%, but that something 85% or above is better than the alternative. He should probably be on the ALDS roster in that case.

3. The last thing is Derek Jeter. I was watching him get soaked by his younger teammates. It's hard to believe that he's the veteran hero figure now. He was always the young gun that gleamed in the sun, even next to his older teammates. Now, he's approaching the territory in his career when he's start to be revered like Mantle and Dimaggio and other Yankee greats. I'm not saying that he ranks in that league in terms of his production, although he's one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game, but I think his presence and aura as a Yankee is about to be felt truly for the first time. The rookies in MLB coming in probably idolized Jeter growing up. They will probably meet him on the field before games and stare in sheer awe. In about 4-5 years time, we should be looking at a guy about to enter the 3000 hit club, and the 23 year olds taking pictures with him next to the batting cage. The only thing missing from the following You Tube clip is his fellow Yankees taking the opportunity to chant "MVP" in front of the YES cameras to show how much he's meant to the club.

See you tomorrow. Go Yanks. DEREK JETER...DEREK JETER...DEREK JETER...MVP...MVP...MVP

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gone Fishin'

Sorry for the lack of posts today. I was busy at Matsuzaka Watch with a piece on frontline Japanese starters in the Pacific League and their MLB conversions.

One more to officially clinch. Henn versus Halladay. We got this one in the bag.

Yankees 9
Blue Jays 6

Jeter 3-5 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI
A-Rod 2-5 with a home run
Matsui 3-3 with 2 doubles
Sheffield 1-4 with an RBI

See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bronx Banterrific

I had quite an enjoyable time with the gang over at Bronx Banter during yesterday's game with the Jays. There was a real comraderie as the Yankees fumbled around against A.J.Burnett, cracking things open late, before hanging on by a Ron Villone's arm.

I suggest you go back and read the game thread yourself for a sense of the fun. I think everyone who was there will agree that it was a great atmosphere, and I always feel thankful to Alex and Cliff for hosting such an intelligent, witty, and passionate forum for Yankee fans.

Speaking of Ron Villone, I had a chance to catch up with the man just after the game and asked him a few pointed questions about his current lack of effectiveness. It went a little something like this:

COH: Ron! Ron! Canyon of you have a minute?

RV: Uh....yeah. What's it about?

COH: I'd like to talk to you about the condition of your pitching arm, if you don't mind.

RV: Sure, but I'm in kind of a hurry. You can talk until I'm finished changing, and then I gotta hit the road.

COH: Cool. Thanks for the time. It seems you're kind of going through a dead arm period now. Would you characterize that as accurate?

RV: Not at all. I have always felt that I'm able to go everyday if needed.

COH: Well, in August you posted a 6.04 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, and allowed hitters a .282 clip against you. So far in September, you have appeared in 6 games and have a 31.50 ERA, 4.25 WHIP, and hitters are smacking you around at .476. If you don't have a dead arm, what's the problem?

RV: I don't believe in the whole "dead arm" thing. I think it's a simple mechanical issue that will straighten itself out.

COH: WHOA!!! What is up with the underwear Ron?

(Villone is sporting a red leotard set under his pinstripes, complete with a yellow plastic belt.)

RV: What? This? I wear this every game. It's kind of a good luck charm.

COH: Uh....whatever floats your boat, but your arm looks pretty messed up now that the Yankees duds have come off. Have you been hiding that from Joe?

RV: Hiding what? This is how my arm has looked since I signed on as a rookie. It's kind of an advantage that keeps the ball hidden until late in my delivery.

COH: No offense, bro, but there's something F-ed up with that arm, and I've seen pictures of you in the minors. You never had that kind of bend in your bicep. It looks like somebody took a crowbar to your pitching arm.

RV: Alright. Interview over. Somebody get this guy outta my face.

That's all I was able to get out of Villone. He seemed quite reluctant to get into the whole arm thing, and the question of it's peculiar shape will have to go unanswered. I tried to ask Joe Torre about the problem, but a couple of Steinbrenner's muscleheads in YES Network t-shirts tossed me out on my head. I swear one of them looked just like Suzyn Waldman.....

On an unrelated note, except that it involves excessive arm abuse, Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a complete game on 145 pitches for his 17th victory of the year. His ERA stands at 1.89, his WHIP 0.904, his K-rate is a healthy 9.78, and his K/BB is currently 6.16. On top of that add a .195 BAA and a .232 OBPA and you have a monster. He may not even win the Sawamura Award (Japanese Cy Young) as SoftBank Hawks pitcher Kazumi Saito is one step ahead of him in every stat so far. Check it out at Matsuzaka Watch.

Magic number at 3. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!! Derek Jeter!!! MVP...MVP...MVP....

Monday, September 18, 2006

It Never Happened

Since I was in Osaka, enjoying myself, and gorging myself on "takoyaki", I saw about one inning of the 4 games against Boston. In the book of logic being written by Canyon of Heroes those games, therefore, do not exist. Supposing in some alternate reality that the Yankees and Boston played back-to-back double headers, and supposing the Red Sox managed to win 3 of 4, alarm bells would be ringing somewhere in the Steinbrenner Zone.

If Mariano Rivera failed to appear in any games in which the bullpen blew the lead, there would be concern. If Derek Jeter's hitting streak were to end in those fictional games, there would be disappointment. If David Ortiz went 3-9 with 6 walks, 2 doubles, and a home run while Jeter managed 2-14 with no walks at the same time, the imaginary MVP chants would ring fairly hollow.

But, since these 4 fictional games, in fact, do not exist there's little to concern yourself with. Go about your business. I hear the Yankees will be playing the Blue Jays next. I also hear that Daisuke Matsuzaka will be pitching in a couple of days, and that Baseball Japan will be updated with a new feature about my Osaka trip and the baseball threads that ran through it. Bronx Banter's Alex Belth was kind enough to link to Matsuzaka Watch in his latest piece for Check it out. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Osaka or Bust

On September 2nd, just after completing the middle game of the Twins series, I posted the following comment:

No looking ahead. Twins/Royals/Orioles/Rays come first. Anything less than 8-3 is a failure.

That 11 game stretch began with the final game against Minnesota and the last game with the D-Rays. We've completed 10 games in that stretch now and sit a very pretty 8-2. Chien Min Wang takes the mound for the Yankees to close things out with a gravy game in the Canyon of Heroes book. Of course, we should win without fail in this situation, but I'm very proud of how the Bombers have taken care of the dredges of the American League going into the relatively meaningless series against Boston. Tampa Bay III is house money.

As I will be out of town over the long weekend here in Japan, I probably will be unable to promptly post anything about the Boston games. I will be enjoying the city life of Osaka and taking in such local favorites as "tako yaki", which is basically octopus in balls of batter. They put a little brown sauce on top, sprinkle some seaweed and poke a toothpick in it. You get about 6-8 a pop. Good stuff. I'll save some for all of you.

I'll leave the Buddha Babe Ruth at the doorstep, as I always do when I'm away, and give you a quick preview of the Boston storyline as I see it. Here we go:

1. Papi's Bronx Welcome

After his comments about Derek Jeter, Papi is going to get the Pedro treatment something awful. He deserves it. It was one of the most stupid lapses of composure for an athlete in his position because it was classless, and worse, it came just before the Sox headed into the Bronx. I'm sure his teammates appreciated it. I encourage anyone going to the game to chant, "MVP" for Jeter as lustily as is humanly possible, while serenading Ortiz with chants of, "Paaaapi!"

2. Nobody Gets Hurt

These games are meaningless. Sure, we reduce our maginc number with every win, and with every Red Sox loss. We can hurry the pace of our 9th consecutive division title, but there is an element of caution involved in this series. The Sox are bound to be pissed after we swept their season away over 5 games in Fenway. They are bound to be looking to find a little gold coin in the bottom of the piss pot of their season. Their fans would be a bit less testy if the team could come into the Stadium and take 3 games, or blow the Yanks out a couple of times. The Yankees on the other hand always expect the worst in these highly charged series and a few hit batters here, and a few choice words there, and then fireworks. The last thing we need now is to find a pitcher under a pile of angry ballplayers, or A-Rod with a broken leg. Just keep it cool guys.

3. Johnny Damon

He's been a lightning rod all year when it comes to the fortunes of the big rivals and each new series provides an opportunity to focus on the +/- effect he's had on the AL East race. This is the last meeting between these clubs in 2006. One is off to the post-season and the other is headed to the golf course. Damon is leading off and playing center field for the team with a future. That's bound to be a bitter pill to swallow for the Red Sox faithful. It's been talked about more than a few times this season, but this very deflated Sox team will be looking across the field into the Yankees dugout knowing that their wacky, idiot of a guru is spearheading a team from the Bronx looking for its 27th championship. They will be spiritless and fading to black.

4. Sheff Salad

Will Gary Sheffield take the field in this set of games? If he does, it will be one of those moments when you have to stop and rub your eyes. If you can imagine a lineup like this:


I know there's no Melky there, as we would all like to see. I know Sheff will have to play left and Giambi will have to man first. Just from a hitting standpoint, that lineup seems unfair. Doesn't that look like the AL All-Star lineup? There isn't an easy out in that entire group of players if Matsui and Sheffield can harness their talent to get hot over a 3-4 week period. Even if they only have 10 hot games, that should be enough with the other guys around them. One clutch homer from either of those players in a big playoff game could prove the difference between going home and spraying champagne on each other. We'll have to see how it shakes out.

If I can post from Osaka, I will. Otherwise, look for me at the start of next week. See you on the flip. Go Yanks!!! DEREK JETER....DEREK JETER....DEREK JETER....MVP.....MVP.....MVP....

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ghost Dog

The Way of the Samurai

I have no parents; I make the Heavens and the Earth my parents.
I have no home; I make the Tan T'ien my home.
I have no divine power; I make honesty my Divine Power.
I have no means; I make Docility my means.
I have no magic power; I make personality my Magic Power.
I have neither life nor death; I make A Um my Life and Death.

I have no body; I make Stoicism my Body.
I have no eyes; I make The Flash of Lightning my eyes.
I have no ears; I make Sensibility my Ears.
I have no limbs; I make Promptitude my Limbs.
I have no laws; I make Self-Protection my Laws.

I have no strategy; I make the Right to Kill and the Right to Restore Life my Strategy.
I have no designs; I make Seizing the Opportunity by the Forelock my Designs.
I have no miracles; I make Righteous Laws my Miracle.
I have no principles; I make Adaptability to all circumstances my Principle.
I have no tactics; I make Emptiness and Fullness my Tactics.

I have no talent; I make Ready Wit my Talent.
I have no friends; I make my Mind my Friend.
I have no enemy; I make Incautiousness my Enemy.
I have no armour; I make Benevolence my Armour.
I have no castle; I make Immovable Mind my Castle.
I have no sword; I make No Mind my Sword.

I have no rust; I go 4-4 after missing 4 months of baseball.
I have no peers; I get a standing ovation everytime I come to the plate.
I have no seat in the back; I own the spotlight and generate drama with the swing of my bat.
I have no weakness; I prove the critics wrong by playing again in 2006.
I have no borders; I have all of my home country buzzing about the Yankees.
I have no path to failure; I will lead my team to the championship at all costs.

For this is the way of the samurai.

(Actually, I cut and pasted the first 4 stanzas from another website and now as I read it, I find it a dubious source for samurai wisdom as there are a number of Chinese references in the passage. It still works for me as a COH post, so it stays.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Big Babi

I know I should be writing about Randy Johnson, and Derek Jeter, and A-Rod, and Robinson Cano, and Jorge Posada's good swings, and Scott Proctor's grueling season...but it's getting harder to feel up for the games at this point, 10.5 ahead of the Sox and with the best record in the AL. Proof of this is the relative quiet over at Bronx Banter during the games. It's been more like Bronx Murmur recently, compared to the lively and rapid-fire pace of the pre-Red Sox plummet.

So, today I'm going to get on David Ortiz. I assure you that this might be the first time I've ever directly attacked Big Papi. Despite his Yankee Killer reputation and his status as a Red Sox icon, I kind of smile when I see the jolly ball of jelly. He seems to be the ever-cheerful kind of teammate that makes the long season go by more pleasantly. All that got flushed down the toilet for me forever after his recent temper tantrum about the MVP.

You can read the link yourself, but I want to highlight the things he said and punt them into next year. Let's start:

"I'll tell you one thing," Ortiz said. "If I get 50 home runs and 10 more RBI [which would give him 137], that's going to be a round number that no one else in the American League will have."

1.097 OPS is a nice round number that only one guy in the AL has. That guy is Travis Hafner and he's been a better DH than Ortiz all year. He's hurt though. Maybe the guy with a 1.048 OPS, in 2nd place, should get the award. Oh, wait. That's not Papi either. It's his teammate, Manny Ramirez. Hmmmmm.....Maybe "Runs Created per 27 outs" will help his case. He is a self-proclaimed home run and RBI machine after all. Well, he's good but he's in 4th place behind Hafner, Ramirez, and Jim Thome. Two of those guys are DHs and one is your teammate Shrecker. What else you got?

"But they'll vote for a position player, use that as an excuse. They're talking about [Derek] Jeter a lot, right? He's done a great job, he's having a great season, but Jeter is not a 40-homer hitter or an RBI guy. It doesn't matter how much you've done for your ball club, the bottom line is, the guy who hits 40 home runs and knocks in 100, that's the guy you know helped your team win games."

It seems to me that a guy who deserves to be the MVP doesn't need to crap on other players to build himself up. To his credit, Jeter said he doesn't care about individual awards because he only cares about winning the division at this point. Ouch. Sounds like an MVP to me. Whaddaya know? Jeter leads all AL players not named Hafner in VORP, and will clearly finish the year in 1st. In fact, considering Ortiz' argument that they'll vote for a position player (talk about post-traumatic stress disorder from last season's loss), even if they went DH you're not the best. Plus, there is an actual metric that tells us who helped his team win the most games. It's called Win Shares. Right now Jeter and Manny (your superior teammate who hits behind you) have 27 win shares to your 23.
"Don't get me wrong -- he's a great player, having a great season, but he's got a lot of guys in that lineup," Ortiz continued. "Top to bottom, you've got a guy who can hurt you. Come hit in this lineup, see how good you can be."

Yeah. Look at my collection of shitbags. The Red Sox players are practically on the junk heap. Word to the wise Papi, MVPs don't crap on their teammates to make themselves look better. Also, it does occur to me now that Manny Ramirez (who is better than you) hits behind you for protection. If Derek Jeter hit in front of Manny Ramirez, he might score 150 runs and hit .350, so stop your complaining.

Ortiz said if he had a vote, he might cast it for Jermaine Dye or Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox, or Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins.

Okay, eliminate Konerko because both Dye and Thome are having better years. Morneau might be the MVP in 2007 but his teammate Joe Mauer is the man on that club and he plays the toughest position on the field. He also will be the first player at that position to win a batting title in the AL if he can hold off the other MVP candidate more deserving than you, Derek Jeter.

"All depends on who makes the playoffs," he said. "Dye is having an unbelievable season, an incredible year. Konerko, too."

Yup, all depends on the playoffs. Of course A-Rod won it playing shortstop and hitting 47 dingers for Texas in 2003. Maybe if you had a glove....
"Morneau, he's having a great season, but in Minnesota, there's no publicity. I bet you nobody knows who he is."

Yeah, but everyone knows who Joe Mauer is and he might win it. He plays catcher...also a position with a glove. He also has more win shares than you (26).

Ortiz also noted that Alex Rodriguez won the MVP in 2003, despite the fact his Texas Rangers finished last in the AL West. That season, A-Rod hit .298 with 47 home runs and 118 RBI.

So, I guess your whole thing about the playoffs was just a joke then....or did you just forget while you were feeling sorry for yourself.

"I'm right there," he said, "but I'm not going to win it. They give it to [Rodriguez] one year, even though his team was in last place, so now they can't play that BS anymore, just because your team didn't make it. They gave it to Alex that year because of his numbers. But they always have a reason to vote for whatever, so that's why I don't worry about it."

Yes, David. They always have a reason to vote for whatever. In 2001, they handed the hardware to rookie Ichiro Suzuki for his 242 hits, 56 stolen bases, .350 average, and CANNON ARM in RIGHT FIELD, while playing for the Major League record holding 116-win Mariners. In 2002, Miguel Tejada won the award for piling up 204 hits and 34 homers for the 103-win A's, while playing SHORTSTOP. In 2003, it was the 47 home run hitting SHORTSTOP, Alex Rodriguez. In 2004, Vlad Guerrero won it because he hit .337 and accumulated 206 hits, while actually THROWING A BASEBALL part of the time for the division winner. In 2005, well you know all about 2005 don't you?

Being the best player at your position is a start. Actually wearing a glove helps. Being on a winning team is something important too. You can't claim any of these things Papi, plus you just made yourself look like a grade-A jackass in front of the world and your teammates. Good luck with the voting.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Japan in Brief

I spent a good deal of time today chatting on the YES Network bulletin boards about Daisuke Matsuzaka. It was an unusually intellectual debate about the possibilities that lie ahead for the Japanese pitcher and his projections in the Majors. Anyone who reads my work, knows how I feel about the player. I used my blogging time today to write up a comparison of his Japanese ratios with the Major Leaguer leaders. You can catch it over at Matsuzaka Watch.

Likewise, on the evening news tonight in Japan, I saw a story about the young Waseda Jitsugyo high school ace, Yuki Saito. After winning the Koshien championship, Saito joined an all-star team of Japanese players and travelled to the US to take on their American counterparts. They ended the series 3-1-1 and Saito teamed with fellow high school superstar Masahiro Tanaka in striking out over 15 batters per 9 innings each. Tanaka hasn't announced his future plans yet, although I'm guessing he'll turn pro right away. Saito had a press conference to announce that he would forgo the pros to attend one of Japan's outstanding universities, Waseda. It has been widely speculated that the young ace would either go to college or try to jump directly to the Majors.

I never saw the Majors as a possible destination for Saito. He's still too small and inexperienced. He needs to grow an inch or two and put on about 15-20 pounds of muscle mass. He's barely 18 now, so he has time. The Japanese teams were circling him like vultures, and would have Matsuzaka-ized him by throwing him to the wolves at 18 and subjecting him to 130 pitch counts day in and day out. I think I have a sense of what he wants to do though. He wants to pitch for the Yankees.

In his elementary school graduation message, Saito listed as his dream "To pitch for the New York Yankees." The Japanese press picked up on this right away, as it became clear he would be the most sought after pitcher of the next generation. Saito didn't comment at all on the possibility of moving to the Majors after Koshien, preferring to concentrate on the goal of winning the championship. On his tour to the United States, he found himself in the Yankees dugout during the rained out game versus the Tigers a few weeks ago. Matsui was on hand and came into the dugout to greet all the players. The Japanese media were watching them closely, and Saito was in complete awe. They picked up on it, and the photos of the current and future prince were plastered everywhere, Saito's eyes big as saucers. (left to right: Tanaka, Saito, Matsui)

Saito asked Matsui a question in the dugout that made it on the air as well. It went something like, "What's life playing in the Major Leagues like?" Matsui obliged him by describing the language and cultural barriers that need to be overcome. He talked about the differences in food and travel. Saito took it all in. He also took in a couple of Angels games out West as the team was in LA for the games against the American kids. He commented to the media for the first time about his plans for the Majors. Basically, it had become clear to him that he needed more American-style pitches to make his dream come true. He pledged to add a two seam fastball to his wicked slider and plus four seam fastball.

Now, again on tonight's news program, fans reaction was clear. They hope he goes to the Majors. More than one group of salarymen sitting around the bar drinking beer and sake were interviewed, and to a man they said he'd be playing for the Yankees in a few years. I was stunned and thrilled at the same time. I don't know if he'll ever develop the talent to pitch for the Bombers, but he is the pitcher defining his generation the way Matsuzaka did some years ago. He is a Yankee fan, and by the time he graduates at 22 years old he will be able to sign with whatever team he wants, provided they'll take him. No Matsuzaka posting madness and no 9 year mandatory contract with a Japanese pro team to navigate. What you're seeing here people is the possible future of the Japanese talent pool unfolding before your eyes. If Saito forgoes Japan to play in the Majors, and does so by spending his developmental years in a Japanese university environment, like several of his superstar idols (Igawa, Uehara), he will open the door for the top talent in Japan to bypass the posting system and forge a new era for star quality players in their prime on US soil. Keep watching and I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

King Midas and Tears of a Clown

Jay's like King Midas as I was told
Everything that he touched turned to gold
He's the greatest of the greater get it straight
He's great
Playing fame cause his name is known in every state
- Run DMC, "Peter Piper" (1986)

The King of New York. King Midas. Chien Min Wang. This is a bad man, folks. He is tied with Johan Santana and John Garland for the AL lead in wins at 17. Is there a Yankees pitcher you trust more in a big spot. It's hard to believe that he was in AAA at the start of last season. At his young age, you have to think the Yankees are going to have something good on their hands for many years to come. If he's this good now, think about how good he'll be in 2 or 3 years.

Today, Wang's GO:AO ratio was 16:5 and he managed to get 22 outs on 85 pitches. He's earning the monicker "Worm Killer" Wang as some have dubbed him. The interesting thing, if you look at his minor league numbers over 5 seasons, is that he used to strike out about 7 batters per 9 innings. When he reached the Majors last season, he stopped. Everything is a ground ball out, which is okay in my book. It's interesting though.

Before the final game of the Twins series I remarked that the Yankees needed to go 8-3 in the 11 games leading up to the Red Sox series. To update the progress on that mission, the Yankees have gone 4-2 in the first six games, meaning they need to go 4-1 against the Orioles and Tampa Bay. I'm not sure I like the odds on that. I will hold the Bombers to their assigned mission, as I believed both then and now that they need to beat up on the weak sisters of the American League leading into the playoffs. If I was a betting man, I'd predict a 3-2 record.

In the meantime, Boston has dropped further out of contention for both the AL East and the Wild Card. While I wasn't quite ready to officially pronounce the Red Stockings dead a couple of days ago, they have dropped their first two games to the Royals, allowing 20 runs in the process. The most recent loss came with their full lineup on the field and Josh Beckett starting. If they can't win that game, there isn't a snowball's chance in Hell that they will sniff the postseason. In fact, I would be monstrously shocked to see them finish ahead of the Blue Jays in the AL East when all is said and done. Only a game separates them, and it's a very tentative game at that. Some Red Sox media outlets have begun talking about their offseason overhaul, but it seems rather difficult to imagine a much better team than they put on the field this season. We'll have to wait and see. For now, it's quite a New England tragedy....I like to call the opera "I Papiacci".

Saturday, September 09, 2006

No Comment

I don't really have anything to say about the Yankees loss to the Orioles. It's a non-event as far as I'm concerned, and I spent a lot of time writing up a piece for my new-ish blog Baseball Japan. If you head over there, I should have something up soon.....In the meantime, I leave you with this picture of Paul O'Neill getting angry. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Off Day Scott Proctor

We caught up with the man Yankees fans call "Everyday" Scott Proctor, as the team enjoyed a day off between series. Canyon of Heroes wanted to get to know the man better, and see what makes him tick. His endurance as a regular part of Joe Torre's relief core makes him something of a lightning rod for fans' ire whenever he gets up to warm, and we wanted to get the scoop directly from the horse's mouth about what it's like to carry such a heavy load. Scott graciously allowed us to follow him around as he made the most of his day away from the ballpark.

5:01 am
COH: Good morning Scott. Thanks for allowing us to catch up with you so early. Why 5am? Don't you deserve a day to sleep in once in a while?

EDSP: No problem. Yeah, it's early, but I'm so busy all the time I hardly get a chance to do the things I really enjoy, so.....early it is.

COH: What's first on the agenda? Massage? Dip in the pool? Waffle breakfast?

EDSP: (laughs) Nah. Nothing like that. I'm a big fan of exercise and I need to get the blood flowing right away. I don't like coffee so some cardio is on the menu. Basically, I run three miles and then do 500 one armed push-ups to get things off to a good start.

COH: 500 one armed push-ups? What on Earth would possess you to do something like that, man? Isn't that a little extreme? How about 25 or 30?

EDSP: Pssshhh....25-30 wouldn't get the blood flowing in this arm, bro. I barely start to feel the burn at 350. It's 500 or nothing as far as I'm concerned.

5:13 am
COH: That was damn impressive. Do you do that everyday?

EDSP: Don't be ridiculous. On throw days I only do about 250. The other 250 come after the bullpen session.

COH: Gotcha. What's next?

EDSP: Well, there's a morning track and field meet this morning at the University of Maryland and my alma mater Florida State University is involved. I always like to support the FSU boys, so let's take a drive over there.

(7 am - EDSP's car)
COH: So, do you like to drive? This is a pretty sweet ride.

EDSP: Yeah, I like fast cars. No automatic for me. I like to get out on the open road and switch gears. Open 'er up. I keep the stick really tight so I have to fight to change gears. It's a workout, but it makes driving much more exciting.

COH: What are you doing with your arm there?

EDSP: Using blinkers is for Sunday drivers. I always use the traditional arm signals. HEY!!! Watch where you're going jackass!!! Can't you see I'm turning right?!!

(8 am - University of Maryland Track)
EDSP: The meet starts at 9 this morning, so I like to go give the athletes a little pep talk. Let's go over and meet them. I know a couple of the guys in the decathalon.

Scott joins a group of young men on the track and laughs it up about the frat scene and the way things were when he was a young man at FSU. The athletes seem genuinely in awe at being around a Major League ballplayer and spend a few minutes asking about pitching and what it's like to play under the pressure of Yankee Stadium. Proctor obliges and in turn asks about how to train to be a top decathlete. The top ranked member of the team takes Everyday Scottie onto the track and schools him in some of the basic skills, including the javelin. He seems to be a natural and takes about 10 throws before coming back to meet me.

EDSP: Phew! Those guys really work hard. Let's hit the stands. The event is about to begin.

I had never been to a track meet before, and I have to say the crowd was extremely energetic. It seems as though FSU students drown out the home crowd wherever their athletes compete. The famous tomahawk was out in force and Scott was out in front of the cheering section leading the chants for what seemed like 3 hours. He love the tomahawk and didn't look at all winded when it was all said and done.

(Noon - Jake's Clam Shack, Baltimore)
COH: So, you like clams? Is this your favorite spot in Baltimore?

EDSP: Yeah, pretty much. The thing I really like about this place is it's kind of action-packed. You really get to enjoy a complete dining experience at Jake's.

COH: How so? What's so action-packed about seafood?

EDSP: Well, you know those places that let you eat for free if you can eat a 10 pound steak? This place let's you eat for free if you can shuck 1000 clams in under 10 minutes.

COH: That's insane. Who the hell would try something like that?

EDSP: See that picture over on the wall?

COH: Yeah.

EDSP: That's me setting the world record with 5,012 clams shucked in 10 minutes flat. I've never paid at Jake's. They hate me.

(2 pm - Baltimore Convention Center)
COH: What's happening here? Card show? Autograph signing?

EDSP: Nah. I try to stay away from signing autographs. Makes my hand cramp up. This is one of my favorite spectator events. The "Over the To
p" arm wrestling championship. It just so happened that we're in Baltimore while this is going on and I called Ticketmaster from the plane. Let's go.

(2:45 pm)
EDSP: Oh YEAH!! Check out how pumped up these guys are! They are totally sick!!! Think you can take them, man?

COH: Me? Please. I could whip their asses. There just juiced up truck drivers with too much time on their hands.

10 time champion Jim "Tree Trunk" Whitman: Yo! Put your money where your mouth is bitch!

COH: Uh.....I was just poppin' off, man. I'm not cut out for arm wrestling. Forget I said anything, okay.

Tree Trunk: Nah, man. I can't let that slide. You're getting hurt. Square up and die!!!

EDSP: Jim, it's my fault. I put him up to it. Let me stand in for him.

Tree Trunk: Scottie. You gotta be kiddin' me, man. This little girl is with you? Okay, it's been a while since I had any real competition. Let's go.

I thought I was going to die. Thankfully, I learned today that Scott Proctor is a real stand up guy. He saved me from my own wise-ass mouth and while he lost the 35 minute bout with Tree Trunk Whitman, he gave it all he had. I saw veins in his arms that I didn't know existed. He didn't seem to hold it against me either. He kind of had a good time.

We parted ways at about 3:30 that afternoon, so he could go to Camden Yards for the team meeting and the first of his 3 bullpen sessions. I gained a friend today, and more than that, I got to experience the flashy lifestyle of a real Yankee. I hope he gets to pitch in every game the rest of the year. He's more than a pitcher, he's an American hero and I hope my kids grow up just like him. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Today was a Good Day

"Drove to the pad and hit the showers
Didn't even get no static from the cowards
Cause just yesterday them fools tried to blast me
Saw the police and they rolled right past me"
-Ice Cube, The Predator (1993)

The Yankees had an all around day of celebration on Wednesday, as there was something for everyone to enjoy. Let's recap the happy moments from various angles, shall we...

1. Wins and Losses

The Yanks put the finishing touches on an annoying Royals club that should immediately commence it's self-flagellating "woe is me" routine in the papers now that the Yankees have left town with a series win. Randy Johnson was brilliant giving up a lone hit and two walks to the Royals while striking out 8. Posada was also fantastic, clubbing a pair of homers and driving in 6 while erasing Randy Johnson's only hit by picking off the runner on third. Jeter and Mauer played back and forth today with the Captain edging percentage points closer to the Minnesota catcher for the batting title. It could be a matter of a game or two before they permanently change positions in the rankings. They'll both have to hold off Robinson Cano though. He's at .340 and is blazing hot with the bat.

2. Getting Healthy

Hideki Matsui faced live pitching in his first ballgame since going out with a broken wrist in May. He went 1-3 with a strikeout, lineout, and an RBI single in Trenton's 3-1 victory over Portland in the playoff matchup between those clubs. If he can hit the ball hard a few times, it will be time for him to join the big boys in New York next week, just in time to DH his way back into the hearts of Bombers fans everywhere.

3. Thunder Claps

I mentioned the Trenton playoff victory, but the most important part of that game was not Hideki Matsui, but rather phenom Phil Hughes. Hughes went 6 strong innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 walk, while striking out 13! He left the game with the score tied at 1, but what a performance. He is very clearly the best player in the Minors, anywhere.

4. The Red Sox lost

This is always good news, but it was especially good to get the game back we lost when we dropped the middle game to the Royals. It was also super satisfying because they have their full lineup back. Ortiz is now 0-7 with 3 Ks in his return to play. It's good to know he's back and healthy, but it's also good to watch the MVP slip from his fingers.

5. Fish Chowdah

I know it's clam chowdah that's big in Beantown, but former Bostonians Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez continue to show out in their new South Florida digs, while overrated power arm Josh Beckett has completely fizzled in the second half. Sanchez pitched a no-hitter for the Fish, while Ramirez recorded the final assist of the ballgame. He has more than 40 steals on the year, and has scored runs in bunches. Bet that would have looked nice in Red, White, and Blue, but I'm happy to see their success come in teal. Congrats Anibal.

6. Japan's Ace

Daisuke Matsuzaka put on a hell of a show, recording 7 innings of shutout ball on 70 pitches, while striking out 9 in front of Yankees scout Shoichi Kida, who was sitting in the VIP seats. He had 6 consecutive swinging Ks in the 5th and 6th innings, when he recorded back to back 1-2-3s. People are getting turned onto this young stud all over the baseball world, with various bulletin boards and blogs linking to Matsuzaka Watch. The frustrating thing for me is that people who know nothing about Japanese players, baseball, or the level of competition speak out their backsides in doubting Daisuke.

It's cool if people want to hate on him by using metrics and first person accounts of his performance, but most people have never seen him and support their doubts by saying things like, "I don't want a Japanese pitcher. Remember Irabu?" Meanwhile, Irabu was only called "The Japanese Nolan Ryan" by people who scouted him using strikeouts as their most advanced tool for measuring his performance. If you look at his K/BB ratio, or his WHIP, he looks like a bloated toad. You get what you pay for when you trust Ks as your best stat. Matsuzaka has Pedro-like numbers on top of what you see with your eyes. If you think your eyes are lying, go to the metrics. They almost never lie (apologies to Kazuo Matsui). I probably won't ever succeed in completely eliminating the knee-jerk chatter about Matsuzaka, but it is what I do after all.

I was having a conversation with my wife about how people viewed players from the Dominican Republic a generation ago, before they'd ever seen any of them play. Now the best Dominicans play in the Bigs and are the best players anywhere. Getting on Matsuzaka before you've ever seen him, or researched his numbers is a lot like saying, "I don't want a Dominican player. They don't even have gloves. Isn't that a milk carton he's using?" That quote is from the Mrs..

The best Japanese pitchers have never come to the Majors. Matsuzaka would be the first. Nomo was toast by the time he pitched for the Dodgers. Kaz Ishii? Please. Irabu? Not even close. When you see what he can do day in and day out, your jaw will drop. Hopefully the braintrust with the Yankees is using good metrics, modern scouting techniques, and aggressive free agent spending. To watch Pedro-san pitch in an Orioles uniform, or something, would be beyond painful for me.

Today was a good day. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Royal(e) with Cheese

Vincent: And you know what they call a... a... a five to nothing shutout in Kansas City?

Jules: They don't call it a five to nothing shutout?

Vincent: No man, they got a AAA rotation. They wouldn't know what the f&^% a shutout is.

Jules: Then what do they call it?

Vincent: They call it a Royale with cheese.

Jules: A Royale with cheese. What do they call a win?

Vincent: Well, a win's a win, but they call it a "once a week occurence".

Jules: "Once a week occurence". Ha ha ha ha. What do they call a division title?

Vincent: I dunno, I didn't follow baseball in 1985.

Note: I added an e-mail contact in the right hand margin, under the scoreboard. If anyone wants to contact me, fire away. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Royal Treatment

I sincerely dislike the Royals. I haven't always felt this way. As a kid the Royals were the Yankees big rivals and we regularly clashed with Willie Wilson, George Brett, Dan Quisenberry, Frank White, U.L. Washington, and Hal McRae, just to name a few. The Topps 1980 George Brett card was the hottest card out there and every kid was scrambling to get their hands on it. I liked the Royals then. They weren't laughing stocks and they knew how to build a team.

Sure, the economics of the sport are very different 30 years later, but there's much more to the Kansas City collapse than dollars and cents. A few years ago, Royals fans staged a walk-out when the Yankees were in town to play. The theme of the most recent game was "Star Wars", a not-so-veiled attempt at jumping on the Evil Empire bandwagon. Just like the Bush administration, the Royals would like to deflect attention from their own failures and shortcomings by blaming them on a giant boogeyman. With the Bushies it's 9/11, Hussein, Bin Laden, and liberal bloggers. With the Royals, and teams like them, it's the free spending Yankees.

George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees in 1973 for $10 million. 33 years later Forbes values the Yankees at slightly over $ 1 billion, the 1st sports franchise to achieve that lofty height. It has a lot to do with the size of the New York market, but it also has to do with re-investing money in the team to make it powerful and iconic. The Yankees operate at a net $50 million loss. The money is more than made up for in outside interests like marketing, tv, and so on. The thing is, the Yankees pay mega-bucks in luxury tax every year as a penalty for their enormous payroll. That money is divided between the small market clubs, presumably to be spent on remaining competitive. That's rarely the case though. The Royals, among others, prefer to pocket that money as profit. They reinvest very little of that tax revenue into their players. They are business people first, and sports people second. Their religion is profit, not baseball.

So be it. Everyone has a right to do whatever they want with the money that comes their way. The problem is, they turn around and cry "woe is me" when the Yankees are in the playoffs with a $200 million payroll and point the finger towards the Bronx, when their own fans start to get edgy. People buy that crap, like they buy the notion that Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11. 38% of American polled believe that there was a connection. Something purely concocted by Rumsfeld and Cheney. They also forget to point their fingers back at management and demand that they pay some good players to come to Missouri. They forget the fact that the Yankees come to town and sell out the stadium. They forget that boatloads of money are available to go get that free agent slugger. It's easier on the collective psyche to believe that your team is a victim.

So, we have Chewbacca (or a bear, as Suzyn Waldman announced on the air) throwing out the first pitch. I can live with that. It also makes it a lot easier to live with when we use the Royals as a punching bag, to the tune of a 10 run 7th. Oh how I love to live up to the Evil Empire image. If they want to use that as their rallying cry, then we should be happy to oblige with a Death Star like destruction of their bullpen. Let's hope for a sweep to keep them fuming in their seats at our wealthy coffers and high falootin' pinstripes. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.