Monday, July 23, 2007

Joba and Kennedy Up

Clippard and White down. The big boys of the Yankees farm system are on their way to AAA. This is significant if only that it sends a message that the drafting of high profile college talent allows the team to be aggressive in promoting talent to the higher levels on the fast track to the Bronx. That's always good.

Both Joba and Kennedy dominated A and AA from the start and are ready for the challenge of AAA. My understanding of AAA promotions, however, is that they are really a final tune up for a spot with the Major League club. Only veteran free agents with little MLB hope play at AAA alongside talented prospects with a bead on the Majors in the near future. Erubiel Durazo is a typical AAA player, as are a lot of guys in their late-20s that just can't find a place to stick. Aaron Guiel comes to mind.

I suspect that the September call-ups will feature both of those guys, either in the pen or as spot starters. The rotation of Wang, Pettitte, Mussina, Clemens, and Hughes is currently backed up by Kei Igawa and a host of guys that haven't really panned out. The two stars moving up are surely the best options available, especially if we need some lights out stoppers out of the pen. Think about Hughes pitching into the 6th and then being relieved by Joba throwing 96-97 for a couple of innings. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hectic Times

Hello COH readers (that means you mom)....

I'm in the midst of some big changes these days. I'm setting up life between the US and Japan right now and it's a major undertaking. Those who keep living space on both the East and West Coasts of the United States are generally referred to as "bi-coastal" although I'm not sure what nomenclature would be chosen for my situation.

At any rate, I will be headed back to the friendly confines of New York City in early August, keeping a place in Akita City. During the next 2-3 weeks I'm afraid my blogging will be inconsistent, although I should be able to find enough access to both baseball and the internet to update here often. If I end up AWOL for several days without an update, rest assured that I will be back into the full swing of things by the 2nd week of August as a full time blogging maniac again.

Thanks for your patience and for always supporting what I do here. Keep checking back!!

Mike Plugh

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Great Eight

Another little run has helped the Bombers pull within 8 of the Red Sox and 6.5 of the Wild Card. Before we get our hopes up, it's important to remember that we've been here before and then some. The last time we went on a tear, we undid everything with a series of flops, including a rough go of it in Colorado. Still, making up ground following the All Star Break is a very encouraging sign, and it could get interesting before all is said and done. I'm looking forward to seeing the Red Sox again, and I hope we get Wang, Pettitte, Clemens, and/or Hughes in upcoming series.

Tying the game on a balk is a wacky way to go about your business, but the Yanks are due this season for a few of those. We've seen too many plays go against us, that there has to be some serious karma built up about now. Kyle Farnsworth continues to stink up the joint, and continues to have the confidence of his manager, far beyond the understanding or patience of any Yankee fan in the country. Speaking of relief, I found an interesting article about Edwar Ramirez in the NJ Star-Ledger citing the Yankees use of a computer in locating the skinny hurler. Imagine that. Murray Chass must be stewing in his own juices. The article has this series of interesting points about Ramirez:

"What the Yankees never found out until they got Ramirez is that he had taught himself a wicked changeup while he was out of baseball in 2004. He pitched in 19 games for Tampa, going 4-1 with a 1.17 ERA, 47 strikeouts and six walks in 30 2/3 innings.

That was good enough to allow him to open this year with Double-A Trenton. After nine games there, he was 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Ramirez had a 0.67 ERA over 15 appearances, striking out 47 batters and walking nine in 26 2/3 innings.

With the Yankees needing to call up a starter for Saturday's day-night doubleheader against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, manager Joe Torre needs to see more of Ramirez, 26, before deciding if he should stick around."

Torre's comment at the end there makes me want to smack him. Riddle me this Captain Green Tea, how do we get to see more of Ramirez when you keep his ass planted on the bench in favor of Villone, Myers, and Farnsworth? Maybe you should look at what he's done in the past and trust that Yankee computer just a little bit more. The sticking point that virtually every Yankee fan has with our manager is his idiotic reliance on awful relievers. It's a widely known fact around baseball that Torre is a lousy bullpen manager. How is something this widely known never remedied in some way? I just don't get it.

Last note, Hideki Matsui is turning it on finally and Melky Cabrera has quietly raised his average from .190 on May 1st, to .234 on June 1st, to .259 on July 1st, and now he's sitting at .277 in mid-July. Leche is hitting around .320 since the start of June with a slugging around .450, which is definitely a step in the right direction for him as a young player. The trick will be to take this success and run with it. If he can put together this kind of string to run out the season, he will have won a starting job with the Yankees, which is a tremendous accomplishment for him and a very nice sign of things from the Yankee brass, having stuck with him as a young player who has struggled at the plate and occasionally in the field. Keep watching.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Helluva Job(a)

First, the best thing that happened in Yankeeland today was Joba Chamberlain's outing at Trenton. The big fella went 7 innings for the Thunder striking out 9 while allowing only 3 hits and a walk. He was unscored on, lowering his ERA to 2.08 on the season. I watched the game via the magic of Comcast's CN8 coverage online. Nice to get a glimpse of our prospects up close and personal. Joba's fastball has nutty velocity, but what makes it effective is his ability to spot it on the outside part of the plate, low. His curveball is low and tight and looks just like the fastball until the last second. Very deceptive and tricky. His pace on the mound is also very good. He gets the ball and throws it. No messing around. One of the sure signs of impending doom, even for a gifted arm, is the kind of mental makeup that makes a young pitcher fidgety on the hill. If the guy twitches, messes with his jersey, paces around, takes a long time to deliver, or makes a lot of faces when things don't go perfectly, I don't want him. Joba is the antithesis of that. He's a rock.

The Yankees pulled out a win against the Devil Rays, weathering Chien Min Wang's shaky first inning. Damon looked good and Abreu continues his latest hot streak. The only real troubling sign today was Torre's use of Farnsworth in the 8th inning. Why Lord? Why? I could bang my head against the wall for a million years trying to figure out why Joe thinks Farnsworth will ever be a solid setup man for Mo.

Just keep winning fellas. That's it. See you tomorrow. Go Yankees.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Post All Star ReLaunch

Okay. I'm back in the game. There's gonna be a lot to talk about in the second half, including my move back to New York after 3.5 year in Japan. Please keep coming back for more at COH and check in often. I plan to be writing here a lot more going forward.

Some lighting notes to start off today:

Alex Rodriguez' Contract
I think the Yankees are right to play things this way. A-Rod cares a lot about his image. If he stiffs the Yankees now after we offered him in-season negotiations and leaves the most storied franchise in pro sports for big money, he'll forever be seen as a guy who only cares about the dough. The perception, which already saturates many of baseball's markets, will prove ubiquitous and there won't be any way for him to hide that the history of the sport means zilch to him. Personally, I don't care one way or the other what happens in the end. If he walks, it hurts for sure. We'll never replace him at 3B. Period. The thing is, if Oakland can let Giambi and Tejada walk and find their numbers in other combinations of guys for less money, we can do so to. If the Billy Beane way has taught us anything, it's that mega stars aren't a prerequisite to success. The difference here is that we have infinitely more resources to use in replacing A-Rod than the A's and therefore should be able to do so effectively. Smart baseball.

The Trade Deadline
Sell. I don't think the Yankees are going to find a miracle guy like Abreu to propel us to victory this season. We have the horses. They need to play or we die. If anything, I'd just as soon take a hard look at the record come the final week of this month and decide whether we can improve our team for the next 5-10 years by cashing in on this one. It's already been a lost season to this point. That's my thinking anyway. I wish my hometown Knicks had done this when Ewing was on his way out. We just kept inflating our budget with ill-fitting players until we found the mess we're in now. The Yankees can shed some salary, continue to fortify the minors, and come back swinging next year. I'm just crazy enough to send Abreu to the Mets for Lastings Milledge or something. Send along Moose. Whatever.

Melky Cabrera/Robinson Cano
Our two young everyday guys aren't very good this year. Both have picked it up in June and July, with Melky generally outplaying Cano so far. Both guys play tough defensive positions fairly well for the most part. If you had to trade away one of these guys today, which would it be? Cano has showed the ability to be a Major League star. He looked like Donny Baseball and Rod Carew last season. Melky has shown something in flashes, but has never had a tear like Robby.

The Record
If we play .600 ball the rest of the way we get 88 wins. That won't be enough for the wild card or the division. .700 ball would get us 96 wins and I think we'd be in business. That kind of pace seems silly though. Somewhere in between will make it awfully close. In 2003 and 2004, the Yankees went .623 on the year. That was a 101 win pace and the best any Yankees team managed since the 1980 Yankees (not including the 1998 boys, of course). If we match that the rest of the way, we win 90 games. Hmmmmm......

Saturday, July 07, 2007

It's Been a Long Time

I haven't been writing much at COH lately. It's been difficult to figure out what to talk about. The season is in a quagmire and my attention is generally focused on the players in our system more than the players on the field. That must be a sign that things aren't going well. What have I been doing while I've been holed up, incognito? Well, I've been following Yuki Saito and the Japanese Collegiate All Stars as they take on the US National Team in Durham.

I've been readying myself for a one year (or longer) stint back in New York to get my masters. Back in August! I also went to a recent ballgame at the local stadium here in Akita Prefecture.

Every year a couple of teams come up here to the hinterlands for a weekend series. This year was a "home and home" set for the Chunichi Dragons and Kosuke Fukudome and the Yakult Swallows and Norichika Aoki. The Sunday game I attended was a tremendously entertaining see-saw battle that saw a number of lead changes and a pair of mammoth home runs by Tyrone Woods of Chunichi and Alex Ramirez of Yakult. Both Fukudome and Aoki were on base a few times, with Aoki performing best, going 3 for 4.

In the end Yakult prevailed 7-6, but Chunichi had its chance in the top of the 9th inning. I was called down to the railing above the Chunichi dugout by the leaders of the Chunichi cheering section. They handed me a pair of cheering sticks and had me join them in firing up the troops. Tyrone Woods went down looking with runners on base and headed back my way. I shouted to him, "That's alright Woodsie! You put on a helluva show for these people today. Thanks!" He looked up, surprised to hear native English, and gave me a smile and a point before looking forlorn at having struck out once again. Fun stuff.

The game was also my 6-month old boy's first ballgame. When Chunichi scored in the top of the first the crowd roared and applauded and little Hiroto cried. He didn't like all the sudden noise and cried every time something drew a reaction from the stands. Gradually, he adjusted and slept during the waning part of the game.

I've been reading the good fellas over at River Avenue Blues mostly these days. They say just about everything I've wanted to say, so it seemed pointless to write duplicate material. That said, I'll be on top of things as much as possible in the post-All Star Break run. Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Joba Well Done

July 3rd vs. Harrisburg

6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 12 K, 5-1 GB/FB