Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Smoltz Bounces Back, Gets Support

I write this as the Sox lead the Orioles 9-1 in the bottom of the fifth. The game has been delayed by rain. Hopefully it won't take too long. Apparently the same rain made its way through New York and the Yankees game in about 40 minutes.

The good news is that John Smoltz looked great today. The bad news is that he probably won't get his first win in the American League. I doubt that the Sox will let the 42-year-old head back out after sitting around during a rain delay. Answer me this, the starter can't get a win if he doesn't go at least five, but if he leaves with a 9-1 lead, as Smoltz has, who does?

Anyway, Smoltz had all three pitches working. His slider and his curve were biting hard and he was painting with the fast ball. He worked quickly and looked very comfortable. It's a complete 180 from his first start.

Meanwhile, the Boston bats have been relentless in this game making things even more comfortable for Smoltzy (as I'm sure Tito is already calling him). It was very satisfying to see the Sox break things open in the 4th when the Orioles intentionally walked Jason Bay to get to David Ortiz. He took a pitch the opposite way to left field and made them pay. He's smacking hits the other way more and more often, and if he keeps doing that he'll be in good shape the rest of the season.

Yankees Acquire Hinske

It seems the Yankees have done some research on the subject and have figured out that the missing link between them and a pennant is OF/1B Eric Hinske. The Yankees swung a deal for Hinske today giving up assorted crap and getting back Hinske and cash.

Hinske was part of the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox and the 2008 AL pennant winning Tampa Rays. He hasn't done much in limited playing time with the Pirates, slugging only .368 in 106 at bats, but he does strengthen the Yankee bench in the wake of the news that Xavier Nady will be out for the season.

The Yankees only gave up 23 year old right-hander Casey Erickson and 23 year old outfielder Eric Fryer. Erickson has pitched well for the Charleston Sea Dogs, but at 23 he hasn't moved above Low-A ball yet. Same goes for Fryer who was acquired from the Brewers in the off-season for Chase Wright.

It's a low cost, low reward move for the Yankees. Hinske gives them a decent pinch hitter and someone who can spell either Johnny Damon or Nick Swisher in the outfield. It's a move that can only help them and if Hinske flops then the Yanks have enough time before the deadline to try something else.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mariano gets 500 and 1

Only in baseball could an athlete reach a milestone like 500 career saves while simultaneously getting a first from the opposite side of the ball. What K-Rod was thinking when Mariano Rivera stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning I don't know, but you could tell he was afraid to give Mo something to hit. Maybe it was that mighty hack Rivera took on the 2-2 pitch that let Rodriguez know that Mo meant business.

Mariano is obviously a once in a lifetime talent. I doubt he will ever catch Trevor Hoffman for the all-time saves lead, but he is clearly the most dominant reliever in baseball history. Now I know the role has changed quite a bit from the days of Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage and even Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley, but Rivera's consistency coupled with his utter domination of the post season puts him above all others especially with his counter-parts from this generation like Hoffman or K-Rod.

Aside from Rivera's stand out performance last night and for his career, the Yankees played well against the Mets in the finale, but curiously only scored four runs while amassing 11 walks. The problem was one that has plagued the Yankees all season and that is getting hits with runners in scoring position. After Mark Teixeira's two-run double in the top of the first, the Yankees failed to deliever with a runner on for the rest of the game. It's something that the Yankees still need to work on.

The Yankees can also take away a win for Chien-Ming Wang, his first of the season. The numbers don't show it yet, but Wang is getting better with each outing. He pitched into the sixth inning for the first time this season and seems to be gaining more confidence each time out. He is again being efficient with his pitches and looks to be getting stronger with each outing. It will take longer than expected but it looks like Wang is starting to get back into his groove from last season and with him back at full strength the Yankees will finally have the opening day rotation they were expecting.

It will also mean Phil Hughes will be able to go back to the minors. It will be a big hit for the bullpen, but the reality is Hughes needs innings and he isn't getting them at the big league level. Hughes will be back at some other point in the season for a spot start or two and possibly more bullpen work when September rolls around.

After a dark and dreary two weeks it looks like the Yanks are turning this thing back around and can now enjoy an off day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Burnett One-Ups Sabathia

After watching Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox shut out the Braves, the Yankees and A.J. Burnett decided to show off their pitching prowess and one-hit the Mets in a 5-0 victory. Burnett has utterly dominated the Mets in his two starts, throwing 14 shut out innings while striking out 18 and only allowing five hits.

When A.J. Burnett got bounced by the Red Sox in the third inning of his June 9 start he spoke candidly about his performance and promised better days saying, according to Pete Abraham, “Glimpses of greatness but I’m not very consistent right now. I’m not a negative guy, so I’m not going to beat myself up over it. But when I do get on that run, it’s going to be impressive. I promise you that.”

Well I suppose this is the type of run Burnett was speaking of. Over his past three starts since his disastrous outing in Burnett is 2-1 with a 0.44 ERA and 26 strike outs. His one loss was to Josh Johnson in a pitchers duel in Florida when a Johnny Damon dropped fly ball cost him the deciding run. Now granted the two victories have come against a very depleted Mets team, but the fact of the matter is Burnett is dominating who he should dominate.

There will be other valleys for him during the season I'm sure, but this is what the Yankees sort of expected when they brought in the flame-thrower and now he is showing us the good side of A.J.

The Best Things in Life are Free

Much like the first game of Part I of the Subway Series, the Mets gift wrapped last night's game with three errors in the second inning that lead to four Yankee runs and a seemingly insurmountable lead with CC Sabathia on the mound.

Speaking of the big guy, CC was great last night, dispelling any notion that his $160 million arm was in trouble. If Brett Gardner and A-Rod hadn't padded the Yankee lead with homers in the top of the eighth Sabathia was probably going to come out for an eighth time. CC was touching 98 on the gun and consistently threw strikes with all of his pitches. Ever since Sabathia lost to the Angels on May 2nd he has been every bit the pitcher the Yankees were expecting to get, going 6-1 with a 2.83 ERA while holding opponents to a .195 batting average.

With Yankee fans minds finally at ease we turned our full attention back to A-Rod where it belongs. He continued his rejuvenation and, after taking three walks in his first four plate appearances, smacked an opposite field blast out of cavernous Citi Field. As long as he keeps hitting balls hard to center/right center all will be well with A-Rod.

In the shadow of those big stars was little Brett Gardner. Gardner seemed to toy with the Mets, first flaring hits to left and center field before ripping a homer and a triple to right. Gardner elevated his OBP to a very respectable .374. If he can keep getting on at that rate he will be a very dangerous weapon for the Yankees. Gardner may never be more than a fourth outfielder, but he can be very dangerous in that regard. He can steal bases and play a solid center, which is more than can be said about Melky Cabrera. For the time being Gardner has won his job back from the Melk Man and with Xavier Nady out for the rest of the season he will be on the field for the foreseeable future.

Tonight matches A.J. Burnett against Tim Redding. Like the other pitching match ups, this one heavily favors the Yankees. Burnett shut the Mets down back on June 14 against Johan Santana and then had a solid start against the Marlins, allowing one earned run over 6.1 against Josh Johnson. I've only seen Tim Redding pitch once aand it was four years ago in a Yankee uniform. It was only one inning but it obviously left an impression. He gave up six runs to the Red Sox in just one inning of work.

I would expect nothing less out of Redding this time around.

The Red Sox Road Ahead

Josh Beckett had another standout performance last night in a 4-1 against the Braves. He is grooving and looking comfortable in start after start. He threw his curve ball for strikes in 20 of 28 attempts for the game, and when he has control of that pitch, he's as good as anyone in baseball.

After this three game set at Atlanta, the Red Sox upcoming schedule appears to be as favorable as it gets. Three games in Baltimore are followed by a ten game home stand featuring the likes of the Mariners, A's, and Royals. This is a golden opportunity to do some damage and create some distance in the AL East. Of course this probably means that the Sox will go 7-6 over these 13 games.

Jonathan Papelbon continues to look shaky in closing situations. He gave up a solo home run last night in addition to allowing a couple of base runners. Statistically he's getting it done, but I'm wondering how long he can walk the razor's edge.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A-Rod Returns

It looks like the reports of A-Rod's demise were a tad premature. The beleaguered third base man managed to put together his first multi-hit game since May 25. That was his 5-5 performance against the Rangers that was suppose to signal his triumphant return to pre-surgery level. Things sorta went down hill after that.

Anyway it seems that the Mets are welcoming the Yankees to Citifield at the worst possible time. Carlos Beltran has joined the masses on the DL, Mike Pelfrey is the best pitcher throwing for the Mets all series and it seems the Yankees have finally found their swing again after it disappeared for two weeks.

Really the Yankees should sweep, but after watching the Yankees the past two weeks, the last two games haven't completely erasesd visions of unexpected shut outs against inferior pitching.

The big question for game one is, of course, CC Sabathia. Guess we'll find out how well that arm is feeling.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back On Track, At Least For A Day

Sometime you have to hit rock bottom before you can start your climb back to the top and the way last night's game started, you can be sure the Yankees hard hit bottom. The Yankees failed to score a single run in their first 14 innings against the Braves, including five perfect innings to start game two of the three game set.

But then Brett Gardner worked a walk and after he was picked off first, Francisco Cervelli picked the best time to hit his first career home run. From there the Yankees seemed to realize that they did in fact have bats in their hands and, if used properly, they could indeed score runs by using them.

Joba was again solid. He hasn't been spectacular and the reality is he doesn't have to be as a number five starter. All he has to do is continue to give the Yankees a chance to win. 6 1/3 innings, 3 runs, 2 earned... that's as good a chance as most teams will get from their fifth guy. If he keeps that up and starts to gain more command and learn to be more economical then he'll be fine.

This team is not as bad as the past twelve games would indicate, and with their bullpen and rotation starting to come to form (pending a healthy start from CC Sabathia on Friday) they can be so much better.

One game does not mean the world in baseball, and it would be nice for the Yankees to get a vintage start from Andy Pettitte on the road against Braves ace Derek Lowe, but this game could help the Yankees turn things around.

On a side note, how about the U.S. soccer team? That has to be the biggest win in American soccer history. I didn't have a chance to see it live, but I watched the replay and was impressed by the U.S. resilience against a formidable Spain. Spain clearly had a superior team, but the Americans scraped and clawed on defense to protect that fragile one goal lead until Clint Dempsey put the match away in the 74th minute. This was one of those games that can be infinitely frustrating if you have ever played soccer.

Your team is constantly keeping the ball deep in the opposition zone and you are seemingly dominating the game, but you get caught off guard by three or four counter-attacks and boom... you lose to an inferior team.

Hopefully this is a turning point for U.S. soccer, which was all but dead before Sunday's miracle win. The only thing that could top beating Spain would be beating Brazil in the finals... here's hoping for miracle #3.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vintage Pedro

The other day I caught one of those Red Sox classic game replays on NESN. It was a game from August of 2000 when Pedro Martinez one hit the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (as they were then known). It actually took me a long time to come around to baseball, so I don't have clear memories of Pedro in his prime. This performance sure did remind me. He struck out the side about three times. The Tampa batters couldn't even touch him. There weren't even any foul balls. Considering the offensive era in which he played, is there any doubt that Pedro is a hall of famer? Who cares that he doesn't have the 300 wins? The guy has a career ERA of under 3.00, 3000 K's and less than 100 losses over a 17 year career.

Pedro sits now waiting for a job. I'm sure he hopes a contender will pick him up for one last playoff run. But I think he should just ride off quietly and let the career as it stands speak for itself. Pedro may not have the totals that Maddox and Clemens have, but for about a five year stretch he was better than anybody.

June Swoon

The Yankees have continued to falter in June and have now fallen to 9-10 for the month. They have lost four of six to the dregs of the NL East and have continued to falter in interleague play.

While everyone has derided the Yankees bullpen for much of the season, the pitching staff and especially the bullpen, has been the team's strength over the past two weeks. The starters have a 4.40 ERA for the month, a respectable number, but the bullpen has been great, pitching to the tune of a 2.87 ERA for the month and as soon as the Yanks bounce Brett Tomko they will get that much better.

The bats have been the Yankees biggest deficiency. A-Rod has disappeared while Derek Jeter has been mired in a 3-17 slump. The team as a whole is only hitting .247 in June. After not losing a single game all season when allowing three runs or less, the Yankees have now lost three such games in their last five. What is worse about those particular losses is that two of them came against the Nationals, the worst pitching team in baseball.

The Yankees bats need to get off the snide and fast. Sure its only June and sure it's only four games, but the fact is that when the Yankees take the field on Tuesday, it will have been two weeks to the date when the walked into Boston with a one game lead in the division. They were 11 games over .500 at that point. That number is down to seven. Oh, how the time flies by. It isn't time to panic yet but the Yankees need to get themselves in order. The Sox will have a swoon of their own of course, but if the Yankees fail to leave themselves in a position to take advantage then it could be a long summer.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Beckett Continues to Deal

I spent my last post belly-aching about Daisuke Matsuzaka. Last night Josh Beckett made me feel a bit better. He pitched a five hit shut out against Atlanta in which he gave up five hits, all singles, and no Brave got as far as third base.

The game flew by. Former Sox pitcher Derek Lowe, a ground ball machine, pitched pretty well himself. He's the kind of guy who throws strikes and works quickly. Beckett only needed 94 pitches to get through nine innings. I'll take a game like this over a 11-10, four hour affair any time.

It seems like injuries bothered Beckett more than he let on last season. This year he has returned to form and he looks like the horse he was in 2007.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Another five days goes by and we have another putrid performance by Daisuke Matsuzaka. He just hit the showers after a 5 inning, 6 run outing against the Braves. What a colossal waste of money he is turning out to be. There, I said it. $100 million (including the posting fee) and what has it really gotten the Red Sox? No one has really talked about this.

His career record of 34-19 is deceiving. He's got a career ERA of 4.02 and a WHIP of almost 1.400. His 18-3 record last season was largely fool's gold (I can't believe I just quoted the nasally know-it-all himself, Jason Page). He was propped up a ton by the bullpen last season and got out of a lot of seemingly inescapable jams. Living on the edge like he has is catching up with him in a major way.

I wonder how long it's going to take for Matsuzaka's contract to be on that list of worst free agent signings ever. I can see it up there along side Kevin Brown, Barry Zito, and Mike Hampton.


The Yankees play over the past two weeks has been down right terrible, especially for a team that thinks itself a World Series contender. After dominating in May the team as been in a swoon that has dropped them out of first and put them on the precipice of third place with the Jays charging through the Phillies this week.

It is unacceptable and embarrassing that the Yankees didn't sweep the lowly Nats. So you can imagine how bad it is for them to lose the series to them nevermind get shut out in one of the games.

Joba Chamberlain wasn't great over his six innings of work allowing 11 baserunners, but allowing three runs should have put him in line for a victory against the worst pitching team in baseball. The same goes for Chien-Ming Wang who wasn't that good. He wasn't helped by an awful call by the first base umpire or an awful play by Melky Cabrera in center. But all of the blame for these defeats has to fall on the bats. John Lannan pitched a good game on Wednesday as the Yankees failed to put together any at bats that lasted more than four pitches.

The same goes for Thursday as Craig Stammen shut down the Yankees for six innings before they finally started to take some pitches and work the count. If not for a great play by Willie Harris then the Yankees probably would have gotten back in the game.

The Yankees need to do something. Losing two out of three to the Nationals is unacceptable and if not for a rain shortened game for the Red Sox they would likely be four games back than three. I can imagine things getting much better for the Yanks though. The Marlins seem to be one of those teams that gets under their skin. They have good young pitching the Yankees haven't seen before and that seems to be the their kryptonite.

The Yanks were undefeated when allowing three runs or less. Who would have thought their first two losses would come against the Nats. Disgraceful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trivia Answer

Dennis is the only one who ventured a guess on this one but here's the answer anyway.

Q: Who are the only three pitchers who have 100+ wins and an ERA under 3.25 for the decade of '00's. Hint: Two are active; one is not.
A: Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, and Roy Oswalt. Santana was the one Dennis got right.

Marlins Continue to Assist Sox

After helping out the Sox by sweeping the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Marlins returned to their normal pathetic selves last night as Boston hammered them 8-2. Big Papi hit a solo HR and a two run single for the cause, and Tim Wakefield baffled a Florida line up, which was only 3-16 coming into the game against Wake. This inexperience proved to be their undoing.

David Ortiz continues to improve. He's hitting .375 over the past week with 3 HR. He's now been moved to up to fifth in the line up. That's fine. The five or six spot in Boston's line up is still an opportunity for 100 RBI.

Now that John Smoltz and Clay Buchholz appear to be ready to join the roster. Boston finds itself with an enviable problem, seven capable starting pitchers. There's been a lot of talk of trading Brad Penny, but how can you do that when even he's coming around now? If they trade him and the pitching staff stays healthy and effective for the rest of the year, they look like geniuses. If they trade him, and John Smoltz gets hurt again or some other disaster befalls the Sox, they will look like shortsighted nincompoops. Buchholz is 23. He will get his shot soon enough. I think they have to see how Smoltz looks before they make any moves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Rise of Ibanez

Yes, this is the second post based on something Jayson Stark said today, and yes, I do read people besides hacks from ESPN, but this article Stark wrote about Raul Ibanez had me a little upset.

I try to avoid steroid talk here, but I just couldn't this time. Ok I'm sure most of you have heard about Raul Ibanez being accused of using steroids by a blogger last week. Ibanez was quite upset that the notion could be put forth simply because he was having the best season of life at age 37. Many in baseball have come to his defense in this regard, pointing out that he has moved from a pitcher's park to a hitter's park in Philly and that he now has a much better lineup surrounding him.

Stark goes into great detail in his defense of Ibanez, using various methods of statistical analysis to prove that this all makes sense and that steroids would be an absurd reason to explain his meteoric rise to the tops of the home run charts. He laments that fans would jump to such a conclusion simply because of the time we live in.

I just have this to say to Stark: Shut your mouth.

Now I will say that during the off season I though Ibanez was a perfect pick up for the Phillies. He was a better hitter than Pat Burrell and could actually play defense. I figured his numbers would go up with the move to a better lineup and park, but like everyone else I never expected to see such a huge jump.

The reality I would like to impart to Mr. Stark is this: It is because of the time we live in and the players have no one to blame but themselves. Maybe if players don't like being accused of using steroids then they should stop using them and if clean players don't like falling under suspicion then they should do something about the situation and culture rather than hiding behind locker room privilege and a greedy union.

The players are the ones who can change the atmosphere of the game not the fans. Many fans chose to show blind faith when players told them they were clean and accusations to the contrary were ridiculous. Now, I think the fans have earned the right to be skeptical and players need to reap what the sow, same with the writers. So while Raul Ibanez is probably and innocent casualty at this point ask yourself this; Is anybody who played during that time or wrote about baseball during that time really innocent? Isn't the greatest evil not standing up to those who do bad things?

If Raul has a problem with that kind of thought process then talk to the union rep.

Trivia Courtesy of Jason Stark

Who are the three pitchers during the decade of '00's, that have 100+ wins and an era under 3.25? Here's a hint. Two are active; one is inactive. Again, no looking at baseball reference. I should shut that link down for today. The answer will come tomorrow.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yankees Crush Mets in Series Clincher

After an embarrassing three game swing in Boston the Yankees travelled back home to take on their cross-town rivals. Friday night looked like it was going to end in yet another Yankee pitching failure as the Yanks blew three separate leads and A-Rod popped up to second on a 3-1 count. Luis Castillo, though, forgot that he actually has to catch the ball for game to end and Mark Teixeira must have forgot to get his work in on the treadmill as he chugged all the way from first to score on the three-base error.

As the Yankees entered Saturday they were looking to capitalize on the crushing defeat for the Mets, but Pettitte continued in his recent slide only making it through five innings while allowing five runs. The bats also went dormant, perhaps expecting the Mets to commit more blunders in the same vein as Friday night. The Mets did not and the Yankees watched Fernando Nieve cut them up with 95 mph heaters and a tight breaking ball.

As the Yankees walked into Sunday most fans were probably thinking worst was coming with Johan Santana on the mound against A.J. Burnett. What most fans might have forgotten is that Johan is one of those pitchers the Yankees always had a beat on.

The real question was whether or not Burnett would show up. Perhaps motivated by his second beat down at the hands of the Red Sox, Burnett was dominating. He looked like he would break in the third inning after a long layoff while the Yankees put up four on Santana. These last two starts are exactly what the Yankees got when the signed Burnett this off-season. He can be painful with his inability to throw strikes but he can always wow you with his natural ability to throw 95 with ease and a wicked breaking ball.

The Yanks will have an off day today before preping to take on the major leagues worst team, the Washington Nationals. Really it is a series the Yankees have to sweep and with Sabathia taking the hill first they have the best chance to get off on the right foot. Plus we will see if Chien-Ming Wang will regain his proper form and if Brian Bruney will carry the fire he had for K-Rod back out onto the mound when he is activated on Tuesday.

If you haven't seen the video of K-Rod vs. Bruney from yesterday's pregame warm ups its kinda funny. K-Rod definitely has the middle school "hold me back man" attitude while standing in front of the larger Bruney. Good thing for the Mets that K-Rod didn't actually touch Bruney or he would have burned the Mets with a stupid suspension.

I can relate to Bruney's argument and I feel the same about Jonathan Papelbon's celebrations too. I can understand when it is a big game or if they are called into duty with runners on in a tight game, but when it's a standard three-run lead save, chill out. Same goes for Joba, though we haven't seen as many of those fist pumps since he joined the rotation.

I'm gong to rest up on this off day and get ready for another week of baseball.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Subway Series Part I

So I guess the Yankees had a rough stretch in Fenway during the week, but now theyhead home to the friendly neighborhood launching pad. I'll tell you this, one thing that would make me panic is if the Yankees fail to destroy Livan Hernandez. He has absolutely no business pitching against this team and the Yankees proved that back in 2007 when they faced him as a D-Back.

Tonight would also be a good night for dominant Joba to show up and shut down the Mets. The Yankees could really use a no doubt-win to boost team morale and that of the entire Evil Empire.

Sox Spank Yanks... Again

It's a shame for the Yankees that they lost this one. I know that Sabathia was responsible for all four Sox runs, but it didn't feel that way. He pitched a gem into the seventh. The Yankees just left him in too long. On the other side, Brad Penny was equal to the task. Penny's stuff isn't that great so he has to paint to consistantly get people out, and last night he was Mark Rothko.

Quietly, David Ortiz is coming around. Last night's homer was his third in five games. Had a mini seven game hit streak going along. Too bad he'll have to be on the bench or play first in this stupid interleague series with Philly that starts tonight. Francona will probably do what he usually does and rotate Ortiz, Mike Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis around.

Anyway, I wouldn't get too excited, Sox fans. Sure, it's nice to beat up on the Yankees, but a lot is going to happen between now and the end of the year. By August, this will all be a distant memory.

Annoying note of the day: Did Yankee catcher, Francisco Cervelli, have to appeal every single check swing by the Red Sox? Most of them weren't even close. Besides, no third base umpire is going to call strike three on a check swing from his vantage point.

Can We Go Home Now?

Well that's enough of that I guess. The Yankees can't get out of their own way when they play the Red Sox. It's pretty inexplicable and inexcusable for a team as talented as the Yankees to score a combined three runs off of Brad Penny and Tim Wakefield.

I'll be honest I only watched the first two innings of the game. I could have watched more, but refused to subject myself to the Yankees stranding two runners every inning against Penny and Sabathia giving up a home run to a guy hitting on the interstate. This was the sixth of the eight loss that the Yankees could have easily won.

The reality of the situation, like a cut on your forehead, is this looks much worse than it is. These losses hurt because it's the Red Sox and it's a division rival, but if the Yankees can bounce back against the rest of baseball then when they meet the Sox again in August the will be in good shape.

I would expect to see the real Yankees until Monday though. They always seem to let the Mets off the hook too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wang Slides Back

There was little to know doubt that game two of this series would go the Sox. Even when Wang has been at the top of his game he has had little to no effect against the Red Sox, especially in Fenway. I think even the Yankees knew that coming into the game, but what I'm sure they didn't expect was to perform so poorly against Tim Wakefield.

The most disappointing part of the Yankees batting against Wakefield was their hacking. They lacked any real discipline against the knuckleball and it cost them. Seven of their 28 plate appearances against Wakefield ended after one pitch with only one of those swings resulting in a hit.

Sure they scored a few runs, but this is Tim Wakefield we are talking about. With the offense the Yankees have they have absolutely no business hacking at the first pitch of that many at bats. That's pathetic.

But still Wang deserves some blame. You have to believe that this is now something that's in his head. If he isn't walking people then he is serving up meatballs. If you're Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi, it's really hard to send him out there again in five days. Phil Hughes wasn't lights out during his 3.2 innings, but he was sure as hell better than Wang.

The Yankees want to get Wang right, and really that would be the best thing for the team. But they also need to win games, and right now Hughes gives them a better chance to win every five days than does Wang.

Tonight it is CC Sabathia vs. Brad Penny. The pressure will be on CC in a game the Yankees absolutely need, simply so they don't have to carry 0-8 around until August. On paper it is the best match up they have had all series, and though Penny is no slouch right now, the bats need to wake up and get the job done. They were 2-15 with RISP. That won't win games against anybody.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Photos From the New Digs

Here are some shots from my first trip to the new Yankee Stadium. I'll have up my thought about how the new stadium feels in comparison to the old stadium.

The Great Hall as it is called, is immense to say the least. It is nice to have some elbow room as you traverse the inner workings of the stadium, that is something the old Yankee Stadium lacked.

Here is a shot of Evan Longoria as he heads to take some BP. Everyone knows it, but I'll say it again anyway; this guy is a beast. He struck out three times against Pettitte and Phil Hughes, but he puts on a show during batting practice.

Now I could never afford the best seats in the house at the old Yankee Stadium not to mention this new one, but my seats for Monday's game were close to the furthest you could be from the action yet each section was guarded by an employee. I get why they are there, but it definitely gives off that caste system vibe.
These spikes are meant for the birds or more accurately, to keep the birds away. Even they needs tickets to see the Yanks.

Hughes came in for his first regular season relief appearance and set down the top of the Rays order 1-2-3. Hughes could succeed in a relief role, but really he doesn't belong there. It's the same argument with Joba. The guy can be a successful starter in the near future and to have him wasting away in the bullpen not getting his innings limit up or getting work and experience is a travesty. All bets are off during the playoff run but for now the Yankees still need starters in case Pettitte's back needs a break, Wang doesn't return to form or A.J. Burnett decides he needs a 15 day vacation in August.

That screen in center is ridiculous.
These photos are from the upper deck behind home plate. Enough said.

Yanks and Sox Fatigue

I know this blog is dedicated to this rivalry, but I'm just not up for it this go around. The game tonight will probably be rained out anyway. It's just too exhausting, and I can't stand the 4 hour games. Beckett and Burnett will probably be out of the game by the 4th inning. Final score: Sox 13, Yanks 12. Total game time- 5:43.

Anyway, here's an interesting article about the evolution of the walk in baseball from my favorite sports writer. More specifically, it's about how attitudes about walking have changed through out the history of baseball.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rays vs. Yanks: First Trip to the New Stadium

This weekend was a little all over the place for the Yankees. After a rainout of Friday they easily could have taken the first two games against the Rays and the easily could have lost both, but instead the have so far settled for the split. Tonight is the rubber match between the two and I will be on hand in person to get my first look at the new stadium.

I was hoping for a better match up than Andy Pettitte vs. Andy Sonnanstine, but that's better than almost every game I went to last year when I had to endure the likes of Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner. Pettitte needs to get back on track and prove that his back is fine after he tweeked it in Cleveland. Phil Hughes should be waiting in the wings if the Yankees need him, and the reality is he needs to get some work in since he has thrown exactly zero innings since Wang took his spot in the rotation.

So its off to the city and I'll report back later with some photos and my thoughts on the new Yankee Stadium.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Will 300 Every be Seen Again?

With Randy Johnson on the doorstep of 300 career victories, it brings to light the discussion about whether or not we will every see a 300 game winner in the major leagues again. Many will probably claim that we will never see a 300 game winner again, that pitchers are too soft now and don't get enough starts or decisions.

The fact of the matter is that this was probably being said by all the writers on the same day the Nolan Ryan went for his 300th career victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on July 31, 1990. It would be another 13 years before we saw another 300 game winner. Oh and before the five winners we saw in the 1980s, there had not been a pitcher to crack the three century mark in almost 20 years when the gap was between Earl Wynn in 1963 and Gaylord Perry in 1982.

There is a reason 300 game winners are so special and it's because they are so rare. It's a formidable achievement, like 3,000 hits or what 500 home runs was, and it is usually only accomplished two or three times a generation.

Someday there will be another and it will be just as impressive then as it is now.

Trying to predict who will somehow stay healthy for the next 15 years and win 200 games is a feeble practice that should be avoided. It is less likely that the established great pitchers of this generation reach that plateau than it is for the unestablished youth.

Hell Dwight Gooden had over 150 wins when he was 28 and he failed to win even 50 more games over the remainder of his career.

300 wins will happen again. Pitchers today make up for their lack of starts a season by pitching more seasons in their careers and using newer forms of surgery, training and medical technology to stay healthy and effective. Is it beyond the realm of possibility that Felix Hernandez somehow pitches another 20 years and average 13 wins a season? It is unlikely, but it isn't something you can rule out and you can't rule out ever seeing a 300 game winner again.

Pettitte Falters Again

Andy Pettitte claims his back is not an issue, but if you watched any bit of his start last night you would beg to differ. Pettitte was all over the place, allowing 13 base runners in just five innings of work, including six walks.

It might be the reason the Yankees decided to keep Phil Hughes in the bullpen as an insurance policy. I would also expect Hughes to get some innings tonight in Chien-Ming Wang's return to the rotation, considering Wang has yet to get really stretched out in the big league level.

Aside from Pettitte's poor effort on the mound the Yankees looked inept with the bat. A-Rod comes to the forefront of the discussion because his at bats were during the Yankees best chances to score and he did not look particularly good in any of them. His failure with the bases loaded and one out in the third inning is what stands out the most in game.

Today the Yankees will match up against the Rangers in the rubber match of the three game set. The two teams wont match up again until August. It will be Wang in his much anticipated return to the Yankee rotation against Brandon McCarthy. I would expect to at least see a competitive start out of Wang considering he has something to prove to the Yankees and Phil Hughes is sitting there waiting for a job.

Of note as well is that MLB has suspended A.J. Burnett for six games. As has been discussed on this blog before, suspending a player for something they weren't punished for during the game is ludicrous. Teixeira handled the situation himself and perhaps A.J.'s pitch near the head of Nelson Cruz was overkill but I would not expect for a second that the suspension would hold up for the full six games on appeal.

Beckett Schools Tigers

Josh Beckett went the first 7 2/3 last night without a hit before Curtis Granderson broke up the no-no bid. It's very encouraging to see this return to form for Beckett over his past few starts, especially with the Sox starters floundering a bit so far this season. In the eighth, Beckett looked gassed, but after the no-hitter was broken up and a 25 minute wait as the Sox put up a crooked number in the top half of the inning, it was understandable. Boston held on to win 10-5.

When Beckett can calm down a little and get in a zone, he's as nasty as they come. The thing that prevents him from being in the upper echelon with the likes of Halladay and Santana is his inconsistency. Last night, he didn't over throw and was painting the corners time and time again.

The Sox and Tigers had comparable records entering the series, but Boston has asserted themselves in these past two games. Detroit doesn't look to be on the same level as Boston right now.

It was good to see David Ortiz contribute last night with a two run double. Over the past two games he's had a number of drives get swallowed up by the shift or die at the warning track in that colossal park. A couple of those balls would've been out at Fenway. At least he's been hitting the ball hard.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Matsuzaka Gets His First Win

Although he still allowed too many base runners and only went five innings, Daisuke pitched relatively well in the Sox 5-1 win over Detroit. He walked six, yet I didn't feel the angst I usually do when he pitches. His stuff looked good, and when he went after hitters he made a few look silly.

Of course the bullpen had to pick him up. They did a good job until Papelbon loaded the bases in the ninth with no outs before battling to strike out the next three batters. He got some bad luck when Magglio Ordonez hit a broken bat bloop single to lead off the inning. However, I'm growing a little weary of these 45 minute long ninth innings from Paps lately.

The Sox have been doing some interesting things with their lineup recently. They have Pedroia leading off with Ellsbury batting eighth. It helps to turn the line up over quicker. This way when you get to the eighth spot, it's like you have to start over again. Ellsbury serves a lead off role, followed by Nick Green, then your at Pedroia again, and J.D. Drew is effectively a clean up hitter. It makes the lineup very tough to pitch through. I hope Francona sticks with it for a while. I'd like to see where it goes.

Finally, congrats to Terry Francona on his 500th win as Red Sox manager.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bats Back Burnett

With the support of a season-high 12 runs from his bats, A.J. Burnett battled through seven innings to put the Yankees 10 games over .500 for the first time this season. Burnett actually pitched fairly well in every inning except the third inning.

Burnett was having trouble commanding his breaking pitches for most of the night and with two outs in the third he walked Michael Young. It seemed innocent enough at the time, but two batters later a two-run lead became a one-run deficit. If not for the fact that the opposing pitcher was Vincente Padilla, then the Yankees might of been in for a long night. But Padilla was on the mound making his first start since May 16.

Padilla's control was worse than Burnett's and the Yankees let him off the hook in the first and second innings. The Yankees seemed to wake up though, after Padilla plunked Teixeira for the second time and Tex took out Elvis Andrus at second on a hard, but clean, take out slide to break up a potential double play grounder from A-Rod.

A Robinson Cano single knocked Padilla from the game and two batters later Hideki Matsui jacked a Derek Holland offering into the right-center field seats to put the game away.

Burnett settled down the rest of the way and a Posada three-run homer gave the Yankees a lead even Jose Veras couldn't throw away. For all the inconsistency that Burnett has shown with the Yankees, he has given them depth in almost every start. In nine of his 11 starts he has gone six innings or more. The Yankees rotation has done a good job at hiding the bullpen from the opposition and Burnett is definitely been part of that.

Tomorrow Andy Pettitte will take the ball and try to give the Yankees a mini win streak with three in a row. The Yanks will also get a good view of his back and whether or not it's a serious issue. I would also expect to see Wang at some point tomorrow and if they jump on Scott Feldman early then Pettitte may not go deep into the game.

Figure they have to give Wang innings somehow.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Teixeira's Monster Month of May

Mark Teixeira's monster May has been chronicled ad nauseum and it should be. His return to form, along with the return of Alex Rodriguez, led to a significant turnaround for this Yankee team. Since A-Rod's return in Baltimore, Teixeira has hit at a .371 clip with 11 dingers and 29 RBI in just 22 games. Not coincidentally the Yankees are 16-6 in those games and are currently sitting atop the AL East.

Teixeira's return didn't necessarily lead to the Yankees scoring more runs, but it led to the Yankees playing with more confidence offensively. This could be in part why they were able to rally late in numerous May victories.

Teixeira deserves to win a Player of the Month award for May, but will likely fall short to Joe Mauer's absurd month that saw him hit .414 and get on base half the times he came to the plate, not to mention the 11 homers he hit. But this is the Mark Teixeira every Yankee fan was dreaming of when they stole him from the Sox.