I read where A-Rod said he'd only shouted, "Hah!" when seemingly disrupting the concentration of the right side of the Blue Jays infield on the dropped pop up. Manager John Gibbons commented that the Yankees have always played the right way and that A-Rod's move was bush league, rather than an example of Yankee Pride. He's right.
A-Rod pulls these kind of unnecessary stunts on occasion. Think back to the now famous glove slap against Bronson Arroyo if you doubt it. It's bush league and it's not the right way to play the game.
That said, the Jays are getting all fired up about it without ever admitting their own shortcomings in botching the play. Even if A-Rod shouted, "INCOMING!!!" you should probably make the catch as a professional ballplayer. Dropping that ball is simply a lack of focus and concentration. It wasn't the right thing to do, but dropping the ball is as much on the Jays as it is on A-Rod. If he'd shouted, "I got it!" then you'd have a better case. Since it seems he did not shout anything of the sort, we can chalk it up as a bush play by A-Rod and a poor defensive showing by the Blue Jays. I'd recommend that the Bombers wear kevlar body armor when the two teams meet again. It will surely get ugly.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I read where A-Rod said he'd only shouted, "Hah!" when seemingly disrupting the concentration of the right side of the Blue Jays infield on the dropped pop up. Manager John Gibbons commented that the Yankees have always played the right way and that A-Rod's move was bush league, rather than an example of Yankee Pride. He's right.
In a way, it's strangely freeing to watch the Yankees fall apart this dramatically. For years we've watched this same core group of players win 90-100 games and fizzle out in the playoffs. They were in it every year, and they always had a chance at the whole enchilada. We, as fans, became a bit jaded by expecting the club to win the World Series every year and got angry when they failed over and over despite the excellent regular season position. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. All very good teams. All fell just a bit short. 2004 was the killer.
Now, it's painfully obvious that the run is over. I'm not giving up on the season, but this group has clearly found its last leg and is quickly losing the battle to age and perhaps complacency. No fire. No drive. No real sense of identity or spirit. I'll get into the fixes for the franchise later, but my initial thoughts are that these players should stay or go.
The stays are still well above average performers at their positions. The gos are either below average or in serious decline. The question marks are basically stays, who are on the bubble, Cano for tradability and Damon as a player in decline. Both are almost certain to return. Cano could end up being too good, so the trade would have to be something big. Now pitchers.
The problem you see immediately with this scenario is that the offense is still in pretty good shape. You are essentially trying to upgrade the bench and the 4th outfield position in particular. Melky has been a concrete boot on the team when we've struggled on offense, and he probably needs to be at AAA. The real changes on offense are DH and right field. Both Giambi and Abreu have almost no value when they aren't hitting. It's nice to get some walks in there and get on base, but you are paying both men too much money for their services unless they are 900+ on the OPS. They are probably in enough of a decline that a high 800 would be a reasonable expectation, but those players come cheaper than our boys.
The pitching is a mess. Clemens clearly picked the wrong horse in this race and I wonder how much he privately regrets choosing the Yankees now that things are so dire. If we can get the wild card, he will be overjoyed, but no playoffs would have been easily doable in Houston and a lot closer to the family. Igawa is bad. Pavano is toast. The guys in the pen haven't done anything for us and should be gone. Moose is the big question mark. He has another year, I believe, but do we really want him out there every 5th day now? I'm not sure. What he does in the remaining run for the wild card will determine whether we really want him back in 2008. As of today, I just don't know.
Highest on my wish list for 2008 are:
1. One more brilliant young(ish) arm
2. A top corner ourfielder in right
3. A cheaper DH
4. A good all around 1B
5. A younger BUC who can hit a little
6. Anyone who can hold a lead from the pen
Chances are, we can accomplish #s 2, 3, and 4 without too much difficulty. #s 5 and 6 are possible with a little creativity. #1 is the tricky part. There just aren't all that many brilliant young arms available.
Monday, May 28, 2007
There's the season in a nutshell. The Yankees start a COMPLETELY overmatched and unprepared Matt DeSalvo and then turn over a winnable 3-0 game to Ron Villone who proceeds to shit the bed. I don't care how good Ron Villone was in his first 4 appearances this year for the Bombers, he's a bad pitcher. Always has been. Always will be. Case closed. There is nothing in the history of Ron Villone that could possibly support him as an effective Major League reliever. Nothing. Go ahead. Prove to me that he is worthy of an MLB job, or at least prove to me that the job he gets should be on a good team.
Bad pitcher. Bad. Awful. Disgraceful. Putrid. Hideous. Terrible. Ugly. Dog shit.
When Matsui hit his 2-run shot in the 8th the game was 7-0 thanks to Villone's 4-run vomit. Had we a real relief pitcher, or a starter that could hold down 6 decent innings, that 3-0 lead would have been made 3-2 and it would be competitive. It was not. It was a little breath of life in an all but dead corpse that is the Yankees' season.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
12.5 games back might just be enough to have the most optimistic Yankees fans off the "we can still do it" bandwagon. The AL East is toast, and the wild card is slipping. 8 games back for the WC is doable, if only because the 7(!) teams in front of us aren't all that impressive, save Detroit. The team needs a fix, and I will start my season long look at how the Yankees can get better with this little suggestion.
It appears as though the Angels have shown some interest in Jason Giambi. At least there were rumors a week or so ago that they would like to acquire him to add some power. Whether his current outage has nixed that interest is a big question, but I think we need to part company. If they'll take on his salary, we should make a deal. I propose that we ask for Mike Napoli in return. Napoli would be a very nice backup to Jorge, and is only 25/26 years old. He looks good enough to step in should Jorge get hurt or retire in the not too distant future. As insurance he's platinum, as a replacement he's at least silver.
Removing Giambino would make room for Mark Teixeira. If the Rangers are going to shop him, the Yankees should be first in line with a pitching prospect or two. I'd withhold Hughes, Chamberlain, and Betances, but anyone else is fair game. Send 2-3 pitchers of various quality for the young man and get it over with. The Yankees could plug in Tex for years to come and focus their attention on other things. Having BUC and 1B set up for the forseeable future would allow the team to concentrate on other things. It would also help us shake things up for 2007 and see what happens with the wild card. The sooner we make these moves the better. More fixes in the days, weeks, and long ugly months to come.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I'm back. Italy was a refreshing break from all the hoopla around the Yankees, but I find upon my return that the team hasn't accomplished much. The loss today has the team teetering on 11.5 back, pending the results of the Red Sox game. The wild card is also a longshot as things stand with the team 7.5 back. Steinbrenner is chirping and Brian Cashman is going to get fired.
I don't believe that this team will make the playoffs this year. I really don't. What was once fueled a bit by passion and frustration is now a bit more of a cool and rational analysis of the hole we're in. This group has not shown any life and it's becoming more unreasonable to think that the Bombers will be able to make up 11-12-13-15-20 game deficits against a very good Red Sox club. The wild card is something to shoot for, but the Detroit/Cleveland duo has been more dynamic and sports a far more tension-filled and bubbling back and forth that should keep both clubs motivated through the stretch.
I won't give up just yet, but my mind is half on next year. What has to happen?
Whether or not we make the playoffs there have to be changes. The same bunch of players cannot keep coming back with the lack of performance we've seen. The first move may come this year with Giambi being looked at by the Angels. He's had his moments with the Yankees, but Cashman should unload him while he can. Giambi is a DH-only player who sucks a giant chunk of our payroll. He's deteriorating physically and doesn't really hit. Get rid of him now if you can. Yes, I mean today. No bad feelings, but it's time.
That brings the 1B/DH spot into question. Minky is a stop gap. He is playing well now, but he doesn't have much time left. We may be able to get away with another season out of him, if we fill the DH slot with someone less expensive. We can actually make the bench stronger by making a DH platoon of some kind.
Goodbye to Abreu. He may put up his numbers at the end of the year, and he may have several more seasons of .300/.400/.500 left in him, but at what cost are we willing to find out? There are better outfield options out there for the Yankees. Ichiro is just one of those options. I know that Ichiro is overrated in some respects. His OBP is virtually a mirror of his batting average. The thing is, the Yankees have been able to get on base, but far too often runners are left out there for a lack of the RBI hit. I know our offense is a 900 run powerhouse, but there are times when we've seen the club fail in stretches. Score 20 one game, but go a week without reaching 4 runs in a game. Ichiro would bring some consistent hitting the top of the order.
The pitching is less a problem than it has looked so far. The talent is there, but the age is a factor. Mussina is on board for next season, and we can probably get Pettitte back. Wang is not a question. Hughes will be up to stay. That leaves us with a 5th slot to fill. Pavano is toast. Igawa is a possibility, although far from the most attractive one. Joba Chamberlain, Kennedy, and the rest are still a season or two away. It may be time to make a giant splash of some kind. Zambrano, if we can get him. A trade for Johan Santana? Cash's tenure in the Bronx may depend on some kind of bold move like that.
Anyway, there's more time to go over all this, and we're not dead yet. It's time to start thinking though because things are broke. Trade Giambi now, and shake things up. The rest will follow.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I'm resetting the focus here at COH, because it's too frustrating to continue basing hopes and dreams on winning the AL East. I'm going to pretend that the division race is over. I know that it's way too soon to concede anything with a talented bunch of ballplayers and 4.5 months of baseball in front of us. The Red Sox are simply far superior to us now, and show no signs of collapsing anytime soon. Beckett's blisters aside, that club is hot and we are blowing every available opportunity to close in on their 8 game advantage. I'm done hoping for that. If we eventually overtake them and sit atop the division, I'll crack some champagne and shake my head at the amazing run that put us there. At this point, hoping for it ends up leaving too many fresh scars after each dismal defeat.
Instead, I'm going to watch the wild card race. We're behind the following clubs as of today (games back in parentheses):
Cleveland Indians (4.5)
Oakland Athletics (2.0)
Chicago White Sox (2.0)
Seattle Mariners (1.5)
Minnesota Twins (0.5)
Baltimore Orioles (0.0)
As you can see, the Yankees are in the mix of the early wild card race. Unlike the nuclear hot Red Sox, these teams are plagued with problems that rival our own. The Orioles are just bad, and are without Kris Benson and Jaret Wright for the year. The Twins have serious concerns about Joe Mauer's health, and are without him indefinitely. The Mariners are fielding a fairly awful pitching staff that only seems to make the Yankees look bad. King Felix aside. The White Sox are former champs, but they have mediocre pitching and an offense at the bottom of the league OBP leaders. The A's seem to hang around every year. They have good pitching, and a few surprise performers on offense, but lack the punch necessary to go on prolonged winning streaks. The Indians are the toughest team to critique. They have the biggest lead on this group, because they're actually a good ballclub. In order to make up 4.5 games on Cleveland, the Yankees will quite simply have to continue pitching as well as they have and hope Abreu and Cano will wake up.
We don't see Cleveland again until August, so we have to make up the games against other teams. I expect we'll be able to leapfrog the O's, Twins, and Mariners within a week's time. We get the White Sox next and can help ourselves with a big sweep against them. If we can manage that, we will probably also put together enough of a hot streak to pass Oakland in the process. Realistically, a good stretch of games over the next two weeks would help us to close in on a better record, a tighter WC race, and just maybe a few games in the AL East if we're lucky.
Nothing more to say than that. Sox score 6 in the bottom of the 9th to upset Baltimore, and we can't buy a hit in the 8th or 9th innings with runners in scoring position and a one run deficit. Our lineup of high priced All Stars is now 8 games in back of the Red Sox and 5.5 in back of Cleveland for the wild card.
Whatever happens from now on, this should never have happened until now. $200 million of horseshit.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
When you face pitching like the Mariners throw out there every night, you are supposed to paste it. Batista is one of those guys that has bounced between the pen and the rotation everywhere he's been, and he showed why against the Yankees today. He threw the ball in the general direction of the plate, and the Yankees promptly hit it back the other way. That's the way it is supposed to happen.
A-Rod is struggling right now, with a 1-13 stretch, but we had to expect that kind of correction at some point. He still looks confident up there, so there's nothing to worry about in the short term. I'm guessing he'll have a multi-home run game sometime in the near future. In the meantime, no one can get out the Captain or Jorge Posada. The two top hitters in the American League have their averages well over the .370 mark early in the year. In stark contrast, Abreu, Cano, and even Johnny Damon look awful at the plate. Abreu keeps swinging at that pitch away that dies around foot level. He can't lay off of it and looks like a minor leaguer with each swing. Cano swings at any pitch not behind his head. It's uncanny how little plate discipline he has shown this year. Bounce the ball to him, he swings. Throw the ball a foot over his head, he swings. Inside under the hands, swing. Note to Robbie Cano: stop swinging so much. Damon just looks like a shadow of himself. The swings look "slappy" and each plate appearance looks like a struggle not to lose, instead of an attack on the pitcher. Could his back and calves be that bad? To his credit, he knows he has to play, but he may be DL-worthy if not for the urgency of the current situation.
I'm also a little worried about Giambi. To his credit, he can take a walk any day. If he was standing up there on a peg leg, with one arm in a sling, and a bandage wrapped around half of his head, he'd find ball four. The back foot looks bad though, and his hot hitting start may start to slowly fade into the past unless the new orthodic can work a little miracle when it arrives. Regardless of the outcome of this season, you have to worry a little about how this lineup will look in 2008. Do you resign Abreu, or go after Andruw Jones, Ichiro, Fukudome, or someone else? Any of those players would actually get to a ball in the outfield and make a diving grab. Do you resign Giambi after 2008? His skill level is high, but his body is falling apart. I wouldn't resign him. Damon...you invested in him for 2008 and 2009, so maybe you need to shut him down later this year if the situation is right to do so. In order to get two more decent years out of him, you may need to bite the bullet in 2007 and either play Melky or make a trade to let the former caveman get his broken down body together.
The pitching looks to be getting itself together. DeSalvo turned in another great effort against the Mariners, but I would NOT start him against a patient club. He has exactly two strikeouts in his Major League career now, and doesn't have pinpoint control of any of his pitches. His fastball is fair, and his offspeed stuff is mixed in effectively, but he's a poor man's Mussina without the big curve or the power fastball. Where Moose has "heavy" pitches that seem to overpower hitters, DeSalvo's pitches look a bit light and hittable. The Mariners have a .315 On Base Percentage as a team so far, which is only better than Texas (.308) and Chicago (.301) in the AL. It's not hard to see why, when you watch Mariner after Mariner swinging at the first pitch. DeSalvo gets helped out by the Seattle boys, when he gets behind many of the leadoff batters 2-1, only to find himself wriggling out from behind the count by taking advantage of the lack of plate discipline. If he had to face any of the better teams in the league the results may end up different. Keep your fingers crossed for a fast Rocket warmup, and a fast Hughes rehab.
Keep it rollin' boys. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.
Friday, May 11, 2007
This team is not only bad, but completely and utterly not enjoyable. I can't even stand watching the games. If it's not one annoying or frustrating thing, it's another. I keep watching because that's what fans do, but this season is torture. 3-0 Seattle in the 4th with chance after chance for the Yankees wasted by Cano and Cabrera. Melky is a scrub right now. He is a negative VORP, useless waste of a roster space and he HAS to go down. We can do better and we HAVE to do better. The Red Sox lost and we can't cash in.
It's still early in the game, but it's painful. What happened to "Matsui's Best Year"? What happened to Cano's coming out? What happened to the ultra-patient and On Base nutso lineup that Abreu would contribute to? It doesn't exist and it's burying us along with the hamstrings of our starting pitchers. I hate this team.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
I'm not really a pessimist, as one might guess from my recent posts about the strength of our healthy and improved rotation. I don't think the Yankees are as bad as they played during that disastrous stretch that included 5 out of 6 losses to Boston. The recent successes have proved that much.
The problem is, today's loss coupled with Boston's win put us 7 games back in the AL East. The Central figures to produce the Wild Card with both Cleveland and Detroit ahead of the Yankees by 4.5 and 5 games, respectively. Certainly 4.5 games is not tough to imagine given the lineup and healthy pitchers we have now. Right now the other teams chasing Cleveland in the WC are either at .500 or only one game over. We're right there with the rest of the pack.
Is the division over? 7 games with 12 remaining head to head with the Red Sox. Doable, but how likely is it that we can win the required 10 out of 12 to take the lead? 9 out of 12 puts us one back. The Sox rotation looks dominant right now, so it's hard to imagine that anything but an injury or injuries will derail them. It's early, so this may look a little silly, but here's what each team would have to do under several head to head situations for the Yankees to come out as division winners, assuming the Red Sox play :
Yankees win 9-3 against the Red Sox the in their remaining 12 matchups
Red Sox (84-44)
Yankees (83-46)- .643 win%
Yankees split 6-6
Red Sox (87-41)
Yankees (95-34)- .736 win%
Yankees lose 3-9
Red Sox (90-38)
Yankees (104-25)- .806 win%
This all depends on the Red Sox continuing their scorching pace against the rest of the league, which may or may not happen. If they do, they will come close to the all time record for wins in a regular season. At any rate, even a slight slow down would make it difficult for the Yankees if we lose the remaining season series with the Beantown Boys. Looking at the win% numbers that the Yankees would have to post over the remaining 129 games, it becomes apparent that the 12 Red Sox games are our playoffs this year. They carry that much significance. A split with the Sox would almost certainly mean the Red Sox would have to slow to 90 win pace (a .558 win% over the remaining 129) while we win at 100 win pace (.617) the rest of the year. Possible, yes. Difficult? Most certainly.
Losing the remaining 12 game "series" with the Sox means a wild card hunt for the Yankees in all likelihood. That's something much easier to accomplish, but hardly guaranteed with the Tigers and Indians fielding very good ballclubs this season. We've dug a healthy hole for ourselves, and it's time to start sweating a bit. All I can say is, "Beat the Red Sox". If we do, we have a great chance. If we don't, we may match the fate that we dealt Boston in that late season 4 game sweep last year. Turnabout is fair play, and revenge is a dish best served cold. Let's go fellas. It's winning time, or it's dying time. It's getting late, early. And all the rest of the appropriate cliches.....
NOTE: I did all this math very quickly and haphazardly. It may be off in a few places, but it's close. The point is still the same....
UPDATE: Steve at Was Watching built on my post to make a more comprehensive look at this situation. Give it a read. I posted the following comment over there, and I think it's worth re-posting as an addendum to this COH tidbit.
"Let's assume we can make up 2 games in the standings on the Sox before we play them next. 5 games back entering the matchup at Fenway.
If we throw Clemens, Pettitte, and Moose at the Red Sox and earn a sweep (somehow), we'd be 2 games back with June, July, August, and September to play. What a difference that would make. Everything would be back in order.
If we lose more ground, let's say the same 2 games, and then lose that series, we'd be looking at a 10-11 game deficit and probably the end of the AL East hopes. In the first week of June.
You could argue that the next 3 weeks are the AL East stretch run, and the next meeting is the opening round of the AL playoffs. It got late early."
I thought I should do some kind of tribute to Roger Clemens for his return to pinstripes, but how to fete such an icon of the modern era. How to pay the proper respect......Wait. I got it. Classic YouTube.....
By far the best moment of this clip takes place at 3:51 (or at 1:05 remaining). Watch at least until that point, or you will be very sorry. Welcome back Rocket Man. It's been a long, long time....
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Back to .500 is Mission Accomplished: Part One. If anyone ever doubted that pitching wins championships, there is no room for disbelief after seeing our gigantic offense fail time after time to make up for the awful deficits that our patchwork rotation was creating game after game. A healthy rotation has recently produced an 8-3 stretch that deserves an asterisk thanks to a blown call on a stolen base in the 8th inning of that Mariners debacle. The record says 8-3, and that's all that really matters, but we can take some comfort in knowing that the quality of those 11 games was 9-2.
I'm hoping to see Moose get that 7th inning in his next outing. Using 5 relief pitchers to get 9 outs is just hideous. I leave it at that. Wil Nieves getting his first hit was like winning the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. You send in your application never expecting to win, and then they show up at your door with balloons and that giant check. Seeing him get thrown out at 2nd trying to stretch was a bit like the good people at Publisher's Clearinghouse apologizing for the mistake and heading to your neighbor's house with the goods.
I must say that I prefer to see Abreu hitting two and Jeter 3. Abreu's OBP is so good that Jeter should see some great RBI chances. He is hitting around .420 this season with RISP. I hope Joe sticks with it, though I doubt he will.
One interesting note is the rather caustic and lengthy hate mail I received yesterday about my piece. I think my article was pretty clear. I tried to explain that the Yankees back end rotation looks much better now that Clemens and Hughes are replacing Pavano, Igawa, and the other assorted AAA guys we had running out there. I think we can make a little run at the Sox. I also said that the Sox are a great team and that they could just as easily continue to run away. Some people out there are just so psychologically and emotionally disturbed that they seize upon things as trivial as sports, or even more trivial things like small time sports blogging, to vent their excruciating frustrations with life. It's not the first hate mail I've received, but I find it interesting nonetheless. At first, it always gets my back up. I'm the type to fly off the handle when confronted. I'm a fighter at heart. The thing is, I end up feeling very sorry for the people who take so much time and energy to basically shout themselves raw to release whatever tortured demons are inside of them. You have my pity.
Here's to another win and a step closer to 5 over. That's next on the list of things to do for the Bombers. See you tomorrow. Go Yankees.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Red Sox fans have been reveling in the idea that their team is 6 games up on the Yankees and that Clemens is a desperation move that the Bombers made to salvage a lost season. They act as though they never wanted him, and that they wouldn't have been snuggled up in the latest #21 "feetsy" pajamas with "Rocket" bobbleheads at the head of the bed. It's such a farce.
What escapes the attention of those fans is that the Yankees have righted the ship. If not for a blown call by an umpire to be named only by drunken sailors in wharf barrooms, the Yankees would be staring at an 8 out of 10 game stretch in which they outscored opponents by 60-33. Still, over that 10 game stretch we've won 7 of 10 and outscored teams by 60-35. Over that time, not coincidentally, we've seen great performances by Wang, Mussina, and Pettitte. We've also seen a glimpse of our minor league depth with strong showings by Hughes, Rasner, and DeSalvo. By the time we meet the Red Sox again we should be able to counter their pitching with our own frontline guys. By the we will have completed 9 of the 19 games between the teams at the end of May, with some important showdowns in the stretch run. The scary part of the final 10 games is that we will have Clemens and Hughes to add to the rotation. Matching up the pitchers from June forward, the rotations look like this:
Wang - Schilling
Mussina - Beckett
Pettitte - Matsuzaka
Clemens - Wakefield
Hughes - Tavarez (flavor of the month)
Certainly, in a head to head series you'd only see 3 or 4 pitchers at once. The thing is, we should be able to make up ground on the Sox with wins in the 4th and 5th spots of the rotation alone. June, July, August, and September give us something in the neighborhood of 30 games started by Clemens and Hughes that will be countered on the Sox' side by Wakefield and Tavarez. There's always the possibility of a big trade, or an injury of some kind, but we'll be making the Red Sox margin of error very thin by fielding this kind of team. It would be stupid to get too excited about the Yankees with a 6 game deficit in the standings and a very good Red Sox club capable of pulling away as much as falling back. We could just as easily find ourselves 10 games back in two months time, wondering what happened.
My point here is only that we are healthy now, and fielding one of the best rotations in baseball in a very short time. Anything is possible. Even if we had to settle for a wild card, we'd be the scariest wild card team ever.
As for Andy Pettitte's start, I think it's important to note that he has been beyond brilliant this season. He had a rough last outing against the Red Sox, but let's put that aside for a moment. In the 41.1 innings he's pitched (leaving out that game) he has posted a 1.74 ERA for the Yankees. The K:BB isn't pretty, and the K-rate is below 5 per 9 innings, but he's dominated every team he's faced. As long as he stays healthy, he should give the Yankees every penny of that contract he got from Brian Cashman. Add in the incentive that his signing gave Clemens to join us, and you have to forgive a handful of other boneheaded moved that Cash Money has also thrown at us from the offices of Yankeeland.
We're coming. See you tomorrow. Go Yankees!!
Monday, May 07, 2007
Sunday, May 06, 2007
I love when something big happens and there's a bunch of fallout in the media. You knew that there'd be words about Clemens from Yankee fans, Red Sox fans, media pundits and more. You could almost hear Red Sox Nation simultaneously shouting, "&^%& you Roger!" after his appearance at the Stadium. Yankee fans would have done the same. If Clemens had picked Boston, we'd all be cursing him from now until October.
The hilarious part of the whole thing is the reaction of those people who say he's going to stink and that he's in decline and that he can't pitch in the AL East. I read a comment somewhere that said Clemens was facing Russ Ortiz in Houston and will now have to face David Ortiz. That's just funny on so many levels. The boys over at Firebrand of the American League analyze the signing, and I think do a fairly good job of it. I think the point that people are missing is the fact that Clemens has a relationship with Joe Torre and Derek Jeter, not to mention the Boss, that he simply just doesn't have with anyone on the current Red Sox roster. Terry Francona, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Mr. Henry and Theo Epstein....they're probably all nice people, but not Clemens brothers in arms. The respect that Torre's players have for him is something that we can't overlook. Jeter too.
I know Clemens came back for money, but there is more to it. I also know that anyone who is now saying that they didn't want him, or don't need him is just fooling themself. I find the Red Sox (Ortiz, Schilling, Tavarez, etc...) disingenuous because we all know where things stood breaking camp. Look at this from the April 9th Boston Globe:
"You can never have enough pitching. Just ask Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. Appearing yesterday with manager Terry Francona at a promotional event for Dunkin' Donuts, the Sox infielders were asked who they'd most like to see in a Sox uniform. "Roger Clemens," they replied without hesitation."
Bob Ryan wrote as recently as May 3rd that Theo Epstein should throw Henry's wallet at Clemens because you can never have enough pitching. He was right. If Boston added Rocket to Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Wakefield they'd be the odds on favorite to win the whole thing. They'd probably have the entire New England region doing the conga line thing, kicking dirt on the Yankees grave and worshiping at the altar of their returned hero. All the talk of raising #21 to the rafters and Roger wearing his "B" cap on his Hall of Fame bust. Forget all that today because Clemens is a washed up 44-year old pitcher who can't hack it in the AL East and will only give the Yankees 5 or 6 innings of fair pitching.
Denial is more than a river in Egypt.
Nothing is guaranteed. Clemens may have some struggles ahead. You just don't know until he steps on the mound and throws. Until he does that, the pessimism is just sour grapes based on emotion and not precedent. The precedent says that Clemens will be very good and that the Yankees just got a whole lot better. For fun, I went to check the seasons that Nolan Ryan pitched past 40-years old. I wanted to see how Roger Clemens stacks up against his hero, and how much precedent there is for a 40-something Hall of Fame strikeout king from Texas to continue dominating this late in his career. I'll list the ERA+ numbers of Ryan on the left and Clemens on the right:
40 years old: 142/112
41 years old: 94/145
42 years old: 124/221
43 years old: 114/197
44 years old: 138/???
45 years old: 102/???
Ryan wasn't nearly the physical specimen that Clemens is today. Clemens' workout routine is grueling and he still holds much of his power. He may not give you the length that he once did, but if he helps to the tune of a 138 ERA+ as Ryan did at the same age, he'll help the Yankees fight for the playoffs and likely start Game One. That's what the Yankees paid for. Again, nothing is guaranteed, but to write him off out of spite is ignoring some important things on the side of precedent.
Jerry Crasnik of ESPN writes that the Yankees have reverted to their old ways. He writes:
"The irony is, Cashman's new master plan for the Yankees was heading away from the time-honored practice of throwing money at every problem. The Yankees traded Gary Sheffield to Detroit for three young pitchers in November, and they rebuilt their farm system by refusing to deal away Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Hughes and their other top prospects for immediate, high-priced help. New York's minor league talent, ranked 27th in the game by Baseball America in 2004, currently checks in at No. 7.
But there's nothing like a crisis to make a club revert to old habits. Think about it: The Yankees are about to spend $4.5 million a month on a guy who's 3 months older than Jamie Moyer."
That analysis, too, is a little off base. Crasnick is operating under the assumption that Cashman is on a cut payroll, develop the minors, shy away from spending system. What Cashman is in fact doing is slightly different. Cashman is not spending on things that he can address in more cost-efficient ways. He is running the Yankees in a Moneyball-esque mannerm, where he will find gaps in the market to fill his needs. He won't go sign Carl Pavano anymore when he can develop Phil Hughes, Humberto Sanchez, Tyler Clippars, Ross Ohlendorf, Dellin Betances, Joba Chamberlain, Adam Kennedy, and so on. He WILL drop a truckload of money on Roger Clemens' doorstep, or Johan Santana's. The power of the $1.2 billion New York Yankees is the power to buy the luxury item. The intelligence of Cashman is to know which item is truly of luxury value. The rest of the roster can be filled in with internally developed players. Clemens, Pettitte, and Mussina are all stop gap pitchers in the present, while the minor leagues are beefing up. You'll see him go out and buy another player or two over the next couple of years while he concentrates on position players. It doesn't happen overnight, so you spend on short term, high upside deals.
So, nothing special happening in Yankeeland these days. I thought I'd write up what's on my i-Pod now and a brief description of why each song has impacted my life in my quest for enlightenment.
1. Memories (Cats - Elaine Paige as Grizabella)
This song is a tear-jerker with the powerful, yet delicate, tones of Paige......
Okay, I've never seen Cats. I have seen two stellar pitching performances from the Yankees though. Wang's near perfect game was just what the doctor ordered, and Rasner stepped up to the plate for consecutive wins. Torre has been able to rest the overworked pen a bit (with the exception of Brian Bruney) and we have something positive to build on moving forward. The first goal has to be .500, then 5 games over, then 10, and so on. That's the way the Yankees (and I'm assuming every other team) go about digging out of a hole in the standings. The Yankees seem to have become professionals at this particular craft over the last few years, so there's hope that it can happen again.
The hope for a magical run now includes Roger Clemens. In a big surprise, the Hall of Famer in waiting stepped up to the mic with Bob Sheppard and greeted the fans. Talk about dramatic entrances. That one was made for the fans to boost spirits and turn around the disgruntled and frustrated tone of the season. It worked. There hasn't been much to celebrate this season. We've had some wonderful moments thanks to A-Rod, but the pitching has made it a very sour start. Now that our top 3 are finally healthy and making their turns, it looks like we will start to win games in bunches. We can set things up to win series, which is the key to going on long winning streaks. Adding Clemens to the mix gives us the fearsome foursome that we all looked forward to at the start of the year. With all the speculation about "will he" or "won't he", and about whether it would be for the Yankees or Red Sox, there was always a sense that the AL East would be Clemens' 2007 home. Thankfully, Torre, Jeter, Pettitte, and Giambi were constantly in his ear and it seems rather likely that this decision was made a very long time ago. I suspect that Clemens knew he was coming to the Yankees well before Spring Training.
The signs all point to it now that it has been confirmed. He wore his Yankees' Championship ring to the SJU appearance he made. The Pettitte signing. The appearance in Tampa. The Yankees probably sensed that keeping Torre would help to lure the Rocket back, and that having Pettitte in the fold as well would lock it up. Clemens played slightly hard to get by involving the Red Sox in the potential destinations, but when all is said and done it was just a way to raise the dollar figure. If the Sox had been in 2nd or 3rd at this point in the season, Clemens would have waited to see if they'd make a run before agreeing to the Yankees deal. It would have been for less money. Thanks to the Sox fast start, and our poor health and place in the standings, he was able to get the timing right for a big money deal. The Yankees have won 5 of 6 now, so waiting may have cost him some of his leverage. Let's face it. If the Yankees won 11 of 13 or something, with a healthier rotation, and if we'd made up most of the ground on the Red Sox over the next couple of weeks, Clemens would have made less money. The time was right for the Hendricks brothers to cash in their chips and bring the big guy back to the fold...while things still look tough.
I'm happy to have him back. I hated the idea of trading Wells for Clemens back in the beginning. I thought Wells had done enough for the Yankees to stay and pitch the way we knew he could pitch. Clemens was a Red Sox and he had his chance to choose the Yankees when he went to Toronto. At that time I just saw the Yankees buying another big name toy instead of sticking with what worked. Over time I came to appreciate Clemens for the hard work he put in. I know he cares most about his image and his money and his personal accomplishments in the game. I also think he's as tough a competitor as there is anywhere, and I think he's about winning. The fact that he can still pitch at Cy Young level in his mid-40s shows how much he cares about working and practicing and perfecting his craft. It keeps the money coming in, but at this point there's nothing much left to prove to anyone, except that he can lead a team to a title. He may or may not duplicate the success he's had in Houston the last 3 years, but he'll be better than most of the pitcher in the AL. He'll see some kind of spike in his numbers, but even with an increase he should dominate. Adding Clemens is as much for October as it is for June, July, August, and September. We need him now to get the team kick started, but we need him to start big games in the playoffs.
I'm guessing that Clemens will win 11-12 games for the Yanks down the stretch and post an ERA in the mid-3's. He should strikeout a billion guys and get a few standing ovations. In the end, signing him will be judged by our post-season success or failure. We've been there every year without him, but we haven't gone very deep, and we haven't won. If we fail again, people will write it off as an entertaining bust. If we win, Clemens' bust at Cooperstown may sport a Yankees cap and it may be made of gold instead of bronze.
If there was ever a huge start this early in the season, Wang Chien-min gave it to us today. His performance was brilliant. He rules New York like the Kingpin (to continue my Marvel theme from yesterday), and since Wang means "king", I think we've found our Wangpin. Wilson Fisk move over, the Yankees ace is the baddest big man in New York.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
I'm going superstitious. I'm going voodoo. Anything to get this pitching staff kick started. I abducted Mariano Rivera last night and subjected him to a series of laboratory experiments designed to transform our pitching staff. Fortunately, gamma radiation is not among the list of banned substances in the collective bargaining agreement. Hopefully, this will fire up the rotation and give the rookies the push they need to get us a couple of wins against Seattle.
If this works, I'll be abducting Carl Pavano and reclaiming $6 million of his wasted salary on bionic upgrades. Stay tuned.
Friday, May 04, 2007
At this point, all you want to do is throw a hammer through the TV screen. Kei Igawa must go to AAA. Colter Bean must never show his dough-ish frame in Yankee Stadium again, unless it's for someone else....at which point I welcome him. This is a full blown crisis. The sweep in Texas was a product of good pitching. When we get our real Major League starters on the mound we win. Otherwise we are simply humiliated.
Here the plan, phase 1:
Igawa to the pen.
Rasner to the pen.
Bean back down.
You have to get Igawa out of the mix for now. We just can't afford to watch him pitch up in the zone to Major Leaguers anymore. He and Rasner need to eat innings to keep the regular bullpen members from blowing out their arms. The formula should be, quality starts are rewarded by quality bullpen relief. Less that 6 innings and more than 3 runs gets Igawa or Rasner. The regular guys rest on those days. Bean is finished, but you can bring up Clippard and use him in tandem with DeSalvo as #4 and #5 for a week or two. That brings me to phase 2.
Bring in Clemens.
Make a trade.
It's on Cashman now. He made this f-ed up mess. The fans are upset, the Boss is upset, the pen is overworked. Either Cashman fixes this or he must be held accountable. He made move #1 by firing Miller. He needs to fix the back end of the rotation now. The first thing he needs to do is fly to Houston and offer Roger Clemens $25 million to pitch for the rest of the season. If Clemens doesn't take it, then tell him to piss off. The next move is a trade. Get Jon Lieber. Get Carlos Zambrano. Get Charlie Hough, Carl Hubbel. Get Cy Young himself. It's getting late early with the slop we're forced to field.
The hammer is poised.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
There's a little something for both sides of the "Phil Hughes Too Soon" debate today as our young warrior made his second Major League start, looking to impress his bosses. The 20-year old phenom did just that by tossing 6.1 innings of no hit baseball against a very nice Rangers lineup. Everything we'd been hearing from the Yankees regulars about what they'd seen from Hughes was in evidence as he baffled the Texas lineup with electric stuff. Fuel to the fire for the "he's ready" crowd.
Pop goes the weasel.
On an 0-2 pitch to Mark Teixeira, Hughes overextended his front leg trying to drop a tough curve on the big first baseman and popped his hamstring. MRIs pending, he will be out a month to 6 weeks. Tough break for the man of the hour. Fuel to the fire for the "too soon" crowd.
Check out Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus today for his take on the situation. I had a short e-mail exchange with him earlier and I tend to agree with his point of view, that Hughes showed he was ready. He was throwing a no hitter against a good team and demonstrated to everyone in the administration of the club and everyone in the Evil Empire that the kid is for real and he's for real in a now kind of way. The injury was unforeseeable, unless you believe that we should have known that the training staff in the Bronx has been borderline to outright incompetent with the hamstring injuries to Mussina, Wang, and Matsui already this year, at which point you need to wonder if a mass firing of that team is in the making. He popped a hammy in his landing leg. He didn't blow out an elbow, strain a shoulder or a back, or otherwise compromise his future. The fears of a structural injury which would forever alter his pitching mechanics were not realized. While the injury is unfortunate, it's something that has happened to 3 other veterans on the team. It's not a direct result of his age or his lack of conditioning.
A final point on this situation. The training routines are almost completely different, but we can learn something about young pitchers and their ability to dominate from a young age by looking at the Japanese. Daisuke Matsuzaka started his pro career at 18 and famously struck out Ichiro 3 consecutive times in their first matchup. He went on to win the Sawamura Award at the tender age of 21. Currently, Yu Darvish has 2 and a half pro seasons under his belt in Japan and is still only 20. He has 5 straight complete games to begin the season this year after a ran shortened opening day. Darvish has all the physical tools and he throws 122 pitches a game. He's as strong and mechanically sound in the 9th as he is in the 1st. He is the best pitcher in Japan now, and would likely still be competing for that honor even if Matsuzaka was still playing for Seibu.
It's not a directly related point, but it does go to show that we baby pitchers a lot. They can handle it if we train them properly. In the end, there's probably a happier medium between the routines in the two countries, but the fact remains that age and lack of experience against tough competition is a myth. Hughes injury may or may not have been prevented by either a longer stay at AAA or a more aggressive training routine, but I'm on the side that says he was ready a week ago, he was ready today, and he'll be ready when he comes off the DL in a month or two. We have our loaded weapon and we'll be able to use it in the stretch run.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Since the Yankees had an off day, I had a chance to catch up on some writing for my other blogs. Here's what you are in store for around the way:
Yankees and Red Sox merchandise rules the roost in retail. My "Golden Week" shopping turns up a few surprises....
In his 6th start of the season, Darvish pitched his 5th complete game. A 2 hit, 2 walk, 8 strikeout shut out.
Yuki Saito Watch
Waseda University's freshman ace took the mound for the 2nd time as a college man. The 1st time was 6 one hit innings. The 2nd was....almost as spectacular.
After a delayed start to the 2007 campaign, free agent to be Koji Uehara has gone to the mound in back-to-back days to pitch the 9th inning. So far, so good.
Nothing new, but some links to my pieces at Baseball Prospectus. A few new BP articles are due from me in the next several days. Keep checking back there for more.
Hopefully, a change of scenery will do the Yankees some good. I'm looking forward to Phil Hughes 2nd trip to the mound, and I have my fingers crossed for a lights out performance. I'd like him to stick around despite what many others feel about his readiness. He's ready enough. See you tomorrow. Go Yanks.