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June 5, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Perhaps we shall remember this day, the day that Hideki Matsui turned it around, and became a productive hitter. Perhaps today was the start of something great. For the first time, Matsui has consistently hit the ball in the air, and hit the ball well. This is the guy we thought we were getting, now the question is which guy are we going to get the rest of the season. We need Godzilla, not Hideki. We've already had a Hideki, and he sucked.

And so the Yankees are back in first place, as the Red Sox lost to the Pirates. Kay, Kaat and O'Neill talked on YES about a team viewing the starts of their ace pitcher as "Win Day". Well, the Red Sox probably look at the games Burkett starts as "Loss Day". And what the hell happened to Ramiro Mendoza? The Yankees bullpen has sucked, but it's strange to think that if they had kept Stanton and Mendoza, they wouldn't be better off. Here's how bad Mendoza has been:

Juan Acevedo has a better RRA than Ramiro Mendoza. You read that right.

(Stanton hasn't been bad this year, but he hasn't been great, either. His RRA is slightly better than the Yankees')

Now it's off to Chicago for Corkgate, Clemens vs. Kerry in #300 take 3, and insanely expensive seats. Will the Yankees leave town in first place? Probably not. They're not going to sweep the Cubs, and Boston gets Milwaukee. Considering how they've played lately, they might be lucky to win 1 game this weekend.

The x-factor, of course, is Sosa. MLB might suspend him before the series begins, and then the question is if he will appeal, as players usually do automatically. But in this case, Sosa has been taking a beating in the media, and appealing the suspension will undoubtedly bring even more criticism down on him. Would he dare do it? Well, Jay Jaffe pointed out in Game Chatter that MLB might just make the decision easy for him, delaying a decision until Monday so he can play this weekend, and miss the Baltimore and Blue Jays series. Sounds plausible to me. I think they'll suspend him tomorrow, and he'll appeal it immediately. Which means all weekend you'll hear the Yankees announcers complaining about the appeals process, and you'll probably hear Buck and McCarver talk about it, too.

But whether Sosa plays or not, it might not make much of a difference this weekend. For one, Sosa's been awful since getting hit in the head, and for another, starting pitching hasn't really been the problem, it's been the offense, which has been hot and cold. If Matsui's about to go on a tear, that'll help, especially now that Giambi is swinging the bat well again, but then Torre just moved them apart in the lineup, which could mitigate the benefits.

While he was at it, he stuck Soriano back in the leadoff spot, which is a great place for a guy who hits home runs and never walks to bat--right behind the pitcher. Genius. I bring Soriano up because he's kicking my ass. If you recall, I have three wagers out on Soriano's performance this season: he won't bat .300, he won't hit 40 HRs, and his RC will drop 10% unless his walk rate doubles. Well, he's on a pace to hit .307, 50 HRs, with 153.63 Runs Created. His walk rate has doubled, but it's plummeted in the past month, and right now it's barely double. So, it looks right now like I'm going to be buying some lunches. Well, it's worth it. A Soriano who generates 150 Runs Created this season, no matter what his walk rate, is vital to the Yankees' pennant hopes, and 50/50 would be pretty cool. I'm pretty sure that he's going to drop below .300 by the All-Star break, though.