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June 29, 2005

NY Times: Quantrill and Stanton May Be Let Go Thursday
by SG

According to the linked NY Times Article,

BALTIMORE, June 29 - The veteran relievers Paul Quantrill and Mike Stanton appear to have pitched their last games for the Yankees. Hoping to make their bullpen younger, the Yankees could release or trade both on Thursday.

Quantrill and Stanton shook hands and exchanged hugs with teammates and club personnel after Wednesday night's rainout at Camden Yards. Quantrill would not comment after leaving the clubhouse, and Stanton said, "You can read between the lines."

Manager Joe Torre, who kept the clubhouse closed to reporters for about 15 minutes after the game was called, said he had spoken with General Manager Brian Cashman about reducing the Yankees' pitching staff to 11 from 12.

Obviously, these moves in and of themselves won't make the Yankees much better, but at the very least they may be pre-cursors to further roster shuffling. There are rumors of a Quantrill for Juan Encarnacion trade. Encarnacion is not a very good player, but he'd immediately become the Yankees best CF, and an offensive upgrade over Womack. Then again, who wouldn't? More on this developing story as it unfolds...

June 28, 2005

by SG

A tie game in the ninth inning or beyond is the highest leverage situation in baseball. In that position, a smart manager will bring in his best relievers in order since a single run will likely decide the game.

After 9 innings and having used Chien Ming Wang and Tom Gordon, the Yankees were tied at 4 with the Orioles.

The following options were avaiable to Torre to come in for relief:

Rivera 4- 2 0.91 .150 28 0 0 27 0 17 29.2 16 9 3 1 11 32
Sturtze 2- 1 3.43 .248 30 0 0 6 0 0 42.0 39 18 16 3 5 22
Groom 1- 0 4.29 .294 20 0 0 7 0 0 21.0 25 10 10 2 7 11
Proctor 0- 0 4.50 .278 3 0 0 1 0 0 4.0 5 4 2 0 3 4
Stanton 1- 1 6.43 .286 27 0 0 5 0 0 14.0 16 10 10 0 6 12
Quantrill 1- 0 6.75 .361 22 0 0 6 0 0 32.0 48 24 24 5 7 11

I'm not a major league manager. I haven't won four World Series. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have brought Mike Stanton in though.

Every time this team starts to play well, they have a game like tonight that hammers home the point that they're just not that great. The big news is the summit in Tampa with Steinbrenner and his front office. Until that all shakes out, it's difficult to see how this team is going to be improved.

One thing that's become clear to me is that Joe Torre can't manage a team that does not have a deep, talented roster. He is almost robotic in his style. If the team has a lead, it will always be Sturtze, Gordon, and Rivera, depending on the inning. Tanyon Sturtze has never been a full-time reliever, yet he has been warming up or pitching almost every game, and there's no doubt in my mind that he is being overworked.

I will grant that Torre has not been dealt much of a roster. There's little in the way of flexibilty, and several players that really have no useful skills. He still messed up tonight, and for a team desperate for wins, playing against a reeling divisional rival that is injury-riddled, it was a bad one.

Happy Birthday to Me
by SG

Back in April, Larry wrote about the Yankees and his birthday. I started thinking back to the Yankees record on my birthday, and I seemed to remember winning most of the time. So I went back to check, and since 1991 the Yankees are 14-1 on my birthday.

June 27, 1991
New York Yankees 8, Boston Red Sox 0

June 27, 1992
New York Yankees 8, Chicago White Sox 7

June 27, 1993
New York Yankees 9, Baltimore Orioles 5

June 27, 1994
New York Yankees 5, Boston Red Sox 1

June 27, 1995
New York Yankees 7, Detroit Tigers 1

June 27, 1996
New York Yankees 3, Baltimore Orioles 2

June 27, 1997
New York Yankees 3, Cleveland Indians 2

June 27, 1998
New York Yankees 7, New York Mets 2

June 27, 1999
New York Yankees 6, Baltimore Orioles 2

June 27, 2000
Detroit Tigers 7, New York Yankees 6

June 27, 2001
New York Yankees 15, Cleveland Indians 5

June 27, 2002
New York Yankees 3, Baltimore Orioles 2

June 27, 2003
New York Yankees 6, New York Mets 4

June 27, 2004 Game 1
New York Yankees 8, New York Mets 1

June 27, 2004 Game 2
New York Yankees 11, New York Mets 6

Anyway, the point is, yesterday was my birthday, and I just felt the Yankees were going to win. Even when the defense did what it does "best" by playing outs into hits, putting the Yankees in a 4-1 hole, I felt they were going to come back. Trailing 4-1, the Yankees did come back, making them 15-1 on my birthday since 1991. Nice.

Despite not striking out a batter, Carl Pavano pitched ok. He's been much better on the road this year, with an ERA 4 RUNS LOWER than at home. Which is bizarre, because Yankee Stadium has historically played as a slight pitcher's park. To me the key to the game was the solid work of the bullpen, who pitched 3 shutout innings to preserve the game.

The outfield that played yesterday was absolutely brutal, possibly one of the worst ever. Ruben Sierra did make a nice catch in the RF corner, but he really doesn't belong out there very much. Even if Tony Womack could play CF like Willie Mays, he hits like complete crap. And he doesn't play like Willie Mays. Hideki Matsui seems to be much better in CF than LF, but Joe Torre apparently can't see that, even though it's pretty obvious to everyone else. Matsui just seems to read the ball better off the bat in center, which makes up for his average foot speed. In LF, he seems to misread a lot of balls, and it makes sense since he spent the bulk of his career in Japan as a CF.

At this point, looking at the big picture is a little frustrating. What I've always liked about baseball was the fact that even if your team was historically bad, you could always hope to win on any given day. The Yankees are still only 3 games out of the wild card lead, but instead of scoreboard watching and taking each loss so harshly, I'm going to try and enjoy each day's game in a vacuum. Sure, I'll glance at the scoreboards and pay some attention to what's going on around the league, but I'll just hope the Yankees win that day. In a sense, this is the most intriguing season since 1995, when the Yankees barely made the playoffs. No one expects it now, so if they somehow pull it off it will be very satisfying. I don't see them overcoming all their problems, but hopefully they keep it interesting through September at least.

June 24, 2005

Do or Die
by Larry Mahnken

Wednesday afternoon's loss was not the disaster it may have felt like. The Yankees lost to Scott Kazmir, a young stud in the making, and sometimes you just lose to a good young pitcher, even a day after scoring 20 runs. Carl Pavano lost once again at home, but he didn't pitch as badly as he has in his previous struggles, he simply gave up two ill-timed home runs.

Not to excuse the loss, because a loss is never "okay", but it doesn't really mean more than one loss.

Even Monday's loss wasn't "that" bad, because they were starting a rookie, Sean Henn. Being dominated by Casey Fossum isn't something to be particularly proud of, but Fossum was changing speeds and throwing strikes, and any team would have had a tough time hitting him that day. But to not score a single run off of him, which cost them the game, that was tough.

But last night was inexcusable. Last night, they faced Mark Hendrickson, whose entered the game with an ERA of nearly 6.00. They scored four runs off of him in the first three innings, and then nothing. From Robinson Cano's 2-out single in the fourth until A-Rod's 2-out double in the eighth, the Yankees reached base not once, and in the seventh went down on only six pitches. The Devil Rays scored 3 in the ninth to put the game away, but the game was already over by then. The Yankees had their chance to win last night, with an inferior pitcher on the mound, and they failed miserably.

Still, the Yankees have won 7 of their last 10, they are only 5 games out of first and 4½ out of the playoffs. Struggles aside, they are still in the pennant race. With Baltimore dropping 3 of 4 to Toronto, they lost a golden opportunity, a sweep of Tampa Bay would have put them only 2 out of first, but that opportunity is lost. The Yankees now have to salvage the remainder of this homestand and at the very least beat the Mets 2 of 3, and ideally, sweep them. Winning the series is a tough enough task, but this is the situation the Yankees have put themselves in. For ten consecutive years the Yankees have made the playoffs, and only once -- the first time -- did they have to fight for it. But that was in September, this is in June. That time it was a race for glory, this time it's a struggle to prevent humiliation.

June 22, 2005

A Call To Duty
by Larry Mahnken

Consider the following:

- The Yankees are 31-33 in games Tony Womack plays, 6-1 in games he does not play.

- Tony Womack's 32 runs scored a in a six-way tie for 54th in the American League. The three players who most often bat behind him have a .955 OPS, .847 OPS and 1.025 OPS.

- Among qualified players, Tony Womack ranks 171st in the Major Leagues in OPS. There are 172 qualified players.

- Tony Womack ranks 165th in OBP in the Major Leauges among qualified players.

- 85 Major Leaguers have a higher Batting Average than Tony Womack's OBP.

- 108 Major Leaguers have a higher Batting Average than Tony Womack's SLG.

- Of the Top 25 base stealers in MLB, only Dave Roberts and Nook Logan, who play in extreme pitchers parks, have scored fewer runs than Tony Womack.

- Among Major League left fielders with 100 PAs in left, Tony Womack ranks 32nd out of 32 in OPS, .119 OPS points behind #31, Brian Jordan.

- No batter on the Yankees with more than 60 PAs has a lower OPS than Tony Womack. The second-lowest OPS on the Yankees is that of Bernie Williams -- it's .162 points higher.

- Tony Womack has the lowest Isolated Power in the majors, .025.

- Tony Womack has the fourth-lowest Secondary Average (a measure of all things a player does other than batting average) in the Majors .

- Tony Womack has the third-worst Runs Created per 27 outs in the Majors .

- Tony Womack has more sacrifice bunts than extra-base hits (6-5).

- The average AL Left Fielder is batting: .281/.338/.437.

- Tony Womack as a Left Fielder is batting: .224/.252/.237.

- The average AL #2 hitter is batting: .265/.322/.373.

- Tony Womack as a #2 hitter is batting: .237/.268/.252.

Tony Womack is not hitting. He's not scoring. The team isn't winning when he plays, and, while it's probably just a coincidence, they happen to have lost only once when he didn't play.

And yet he's the Yankees' #2 hitter. Sometimes Joe Torre bats him ninth (where he happens to be hitting .314/.360/.357), but he never stays there. There, in between Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield, is The Out. When the Yankees need to put together a couple of runs in the late innings, and have the the top of the lineup coming around, they have some of the best hitters in all of baseball coming up - Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui... and The Out.

There's no reason for Tony Womack to be batting at the top of the lineup. Indeed, with Robinson Cano established as a legitimate secondbaseman, there's no reason for Tony Womack to be in the lineup at all. There's other guys who can play leftfield, they can play it better than Womack, and they'll hit better than Womack has.

Ricky Ledee, who struggled so badly in 2000 that the Yankees traded him with Jake Westbrook for David Justice, hit better that year than Tony Womack is this year. John Vander Wal and Shane Spencer, whose struggles inspired the Yankees to trade for Raul Mondesi, hit better in 2002 than Tony Womack is hitting now. In his worst month as a Yankee, July 2003, Raul Mondesi hit better than Tony Womack is hitting now. Todd Zeile, who's family was told by our own Sean McNally that he sucks, hit better than Tony Womack.

Aaron Boone hit .254/.302/.418 as a Yankee.


The Yankees have suffered through a lot of lousy players, far more than a team of their resources ever should. And yet it is likely that no single player has been more damaging to the Yankees than Tony Womack. Certainly in the past decade, perhaps ever. Perhaps no player has ever been more damaging to any team in history.

This has to stop. George Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, and Joe Torre need to know that we won't put up with this, and it isn't enough to boo, or call the sports talk shows and rant incoherently. It is for this reason that I ask each and every one of you to, for the sake of the team we love, and more importantly, America, that you affix your name to the Put Tony Womack Out Of Our Misery Petition. Will it help? It can't hurt.


How to build a loser
by SG

A) Sign Jaret Wright
B) Sign Carl Pavano
C) Trade three valuable players for one over-the-hill veteran
D) Sign a below average 2B for two years, then make him your LF

Then wonder "what is wrong?"

Fun Stat Of The Day
by Larry Mahnken

Yankees record when Shitmack starts: 29-30
Yankees record when Shitmack doesn't start: 8-3

He adds a whole new dimension to the team.

OMG! U GOT PWNED!!!!! LOL, NOOB!!!1!!!!!111!
by Larry Mahnken

Turning off a game when it seems hopeless, only to miss the dramatic comeback later on, is not that rare. It happened to my friend Jeff on October 31st, 2001. And then again on November 1st, 2001 (that time he turned it off after the second out was recorded in the ninth).

In my case, it was the opposite. I missed the shellacking that made the game so hopeless for the Yankees, and got to enjoy the comeback.

Okay, it wasn't that simple. I did know what was going on for the first four innings, but because I was busy I was only able to follow the score through my cellphone. Whether that was more or less exasperating I know not, but it was more than exasperating enough. By the time I was able to pick up the game live, it was 10-2, Devil Rays.

Obviously something had gone terribly wrong, Randy Johnson had been shellacked for a second time by the Rays, and put the Yankees in position to lose their second straight game, fifth straight to the D-Rays, and probably negate all the good vibes of the past week. Johnson said the problem was with location. What he didn't say was that the location was the left field seats.

By the time Johnson left it was 7-1, and reliver Scott Proctor quickly gave up 3 more runs in the top of the fourth to make it 10-2.

The comeback started in the bottom of the fifth, when Gary Sheffield slammed a 3-run homer into the leftfield seats to make it 10-5. A Bernie Williams double made it 10-6, and when Jorge Posada walked Robinson Cano came to the plate as the tying run.

It wasn't to be, as Cano lined out to second, but the Yankees were able to get another run back in the bottom of the sixth when Derek Jeter led off with a long homer into left-center, making it 10-7 with 4 innings left to go.

But the comeback stopped dead there. The Yankees went down in order after the Jeter homer, and were retired almost as quietly in the seventh, with only Giambi getting on base with a walk. In the interim, the Devil Rays had tacked on another run, though they loaded the bases with one out in the both the seventh and the eighth.

Then came the bottom of the eighth. It wasn't a record inning, it wasn't even the single best inning the Yankees have had this season. In April they unleashed a 13-run second against the Devil Rays, but that only served to put the game out of reach early, and make Lefty Wright Public Enemy #1 when he came very near to blowing that lead right away.

But this inning was special. It was special because, entering the inning down four runs with only six outs left, the chances of coming back seemed slim (though less slim than they would against any team other than the Rockies in Colorado). It was special because of how quickly it escalated, how it went from, "Oh, if only they hadn't given up that 11th run," to, "Wow, they might have a shot to tie this thing," to, "If Bernie can just stay out of the double play they can tie it!" to, "Wow, they're gonna win this thing!" to, "WOW! They're gonna win this thing by a lot!" to, "HOLY CRAP! ANOTHER ONE!"

The top of the ninth inning came as quite a shock to everyone, because it seemed like the bottom of the eighth would never end.

At first it seemed like an ordinary rally. Cano and Jeter singled, and Ruben Sierra grounded out to score a run. Gary Sheffield singled to bring the tying run to the plate, and A-Rod singled to put the tying run on. When Hideki Matsui doubled to put the tying run on third and Jason Giambi was intentionally walked, the ordinary portion of the rally ended.

With Bernie Williams at the plate, the Devil Rays played the outfield in. In the eighth inning. Leading.

A sacrifice fly could only have tied the game, and brought the Devil Rays within one out of ending the inning, and Bernie Williams is a batter quite capable of hitting a deep fly ball. In their desperation to keep the Yankees from tying the game, the Devil Rays gave the Yankees a golden opportunity to take the lead, and they took it.

Bernie hit a deep fly ball to center, way over the head of Damon Hollins, all the way to the wall. By the time the ball came back to the infield, Bernie was on third, three runs were in, and the game, it seemed, was over.

Well, over for the Devil Rays, because Jorge Posada kept it going for the Yankees with a homer to right, making the score 15-11. Two hits and one out later Gary Sheffield came up, and crushed his second 3-run homer of the game to left, making it 18-11. Then A-Rod homered to right, 19-11. Then Hideki Matsui hit his fifth homer in eight games, into the centerfield black seats, and it was 20-11. Mercifully, it ended there, and Tom Gordon ended it quickly in the ninth.

The Yankees didn't gain any games on the Orioles or Red Sox last night, though the comeback prevented them from losing any ground. It didn't turn their season around, though it possibly saved them from falling back into their losing ways. It turned Hideki Matsui, once batting .231, into a viable All-Star, now batting .300 (up 10 points in one day, and 31 OPS points). What made it great was that it was a lot of fun.

Well, for Yankees fans it was. I don't think Lou Piniella enjoyed it much.

Wow. Just Wow.
by SG

I don't know what to say about tonight's game. I started writing an entry ripping Randy Johnson's performance to shreds after the third inning. When Scott Proctor gave up another two runs to put the game 'out of reach', I added Joe Torre to my entry too. However, Proctor settled down after a shaky fourth, and the Yankee offense started chipping away.

Lou Piniella foolish stuck with Hideo Nomo for too long in the fifth in the misguided pursuit of a personal goal (his 200th win). A Gary Sheffield three run homer and a Bernie Williams RBI double made things interesting again. Chad Orvella came in and walked Jorge Posada, who was pinch hitting for John Flaherty in the fifth inning. I really appreciated this move by Joe Torre. Robinson Cano then hit a hard liner, but right to the second baseman, and the inning was over, with a score of 10-6. I figured the Yankees blew their best chance at this point.

In the top of the sixth, Mike Stanton got an out and then gave up a single. Tanyon Sturtze 2.0™ came in to get out of the inning helped by an amazing tag by Robinson Cano on a Travis Lee steal attempt.

In the bottom of the sixth, Derek Jeter crushed a homerun to deep center field, and the deficit was cut to 10-7. That was all the Yankees would get in that inning.

Sturtze 2.0™ pitched more like Sturtze 1.0 in the top of the seventh. A strikeout was followed by 3 straight singles. to load the bases with one out. At this point I was sure the Devil Rays were going to bust the game back open, as Sturtze was shaky and the other bullpen options were Paul Quantrill and Buddy Groom.

Then came what was to me the turning point of the game. Jorge Cantu smoke a ball down the 3rd base line. Alex Rodriguez made an amazing diving stop on the ball, was able to stand up, run and beat the runner to third base for one out and then amazingly throw over to first and almost turn what would have been one of the most incredible double plays I'd ever seen. The runner was safe and another run had scored, but that ball could have very easily been a bases clearing double that would have made it 13-7 and could have sucked the life out of the Yankees.

Rodriguez has been criticized by people at times for not being "clutch." That play was the definition of clutch. Torre pulled Sturtze at this point and Buddy Groom got the last out.

The Yankees went out very meekly in their half of the seventh. In the top of the eighth, the Devil Rays again threatened to tack onto their lead. A leadoff double was followed by a trap by Gary Sheffield who almost made a good (for him) play, setting up runners on first and third and no outs. Knowing that any more runs would be difficult to overcome, Torre played the infield in. Damon Hollins hit it right to Jeter, who held the runner and threw him out. Hollins is a 31 year old rookie having a very good offensive season, but he seemed to be a bit shaky on his reads in CF, almost Bernie-like. Kevin Cash walked, then Groom got Alex Gonzalez to hit a tailor-made double play ball. Rodriguez double-clutched and I thought he may have blown his chance, but Cano made a good pivot and they got it.

All this set up one of the most incredible offensive innings I've ever seen. Here's the play by play from CBS Sportsline.

Yankees 8th
Franklin Nunez pitching:
Robinson Cano: Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul, Cano singled to center.
Derek Jeter: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Jeter singled to right, Cano to third
Ruben Sierra hit for Tony Womack.
Ruben Sierra: Ball, Sierra grounded out to second, Cano scored, Jeter to second.
Gary Sheffield: Strike looking, Strike swinging, Sheffield singled to left center, Jeter to third.
Alex Rodriguez: Strike looking, Ball, Rodriguez singled to left, Jeter scored, Sheffield to second.
Travis Harper relieved Franklin Nunez.
Hideki Matsui: Ball, Foul, Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Matsui doubled to deep right, Sheffield scored, Rodriguez to third.
Jason Giambi: Intentional ball, Intentional ball, Intentional ball, Giambi intentionally walked
Russ Johnson ran for Jason Giambi.
Bernie Williams: Williams tripled to center, Rodriguez, Matsui and Johnson scored.
Jorge Posada: Ball, Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, Posada homered to right, Williams scored.
Robinson Cano: Ball, Ball, Cano flied out to center.
Derek Jeter: Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Ball, Jeter singled to right.
Ruben Sierra: Strike looking, Sierra singled to right, Jeter to third.
Gary Sheffield: Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Ball, Foul, Sheffield homered to left center, Jeter and Sierra scored.
Alex Rodriguez: Ball, Strike swinging, Rodriguez homered to right.
Hideki Matsui: Ball, Ball, Strike looking, Matsui homered to center.
Russ Johnson: Strike looking, Ball, Strike swinging, Foul, Ball, Johnson flied out to right.
End of Inning (13 Runs, 12 Hits, 0 Errors)

Showing shocking common sense, when the Yankees got Cano and Jeter on, Torre pinch-hit for Tony Womack. Other than that, it was all the Yankee offense, who unloaded on Franklin Nunez, and then Travis Harper. I must admit that I started to feel bad for Harper, who I felt Lou Piniella embarrassed by leaving him out there.

After that inning, a 11-7 deficit had turned into a 20-11 lead. Flash Gordon threw a few 96 mph fastballs and a couple of curves to close it out, and the Yankees had one of their most incredible comebacks ever.

It was a great win, but again there are causes for concerns. When your ace, whom you traded good value for and are paying $16 million a year gives up 7 runs in 3 innings to a team that had won 5 of its previous 21 games, you should be concerned. When your defense is allowing catchable balls to fall in all over the field, that is a concern. When your starting left fielder is defended by the manager for "having good at bats" when he's hit .178/.191/.178 in the month of June, you should be concerned.

It's not worth dwelling on that tonight though. This was a team effort. Everyone on the team with the exception of Johnson contributed. The bullpen was not stellar, but pitched well enough to keep the game in reach (4 runs over 6 innings). The offense exploded, and that was enough for the win.

I'll close with one random note. After bottoming out at .235/.310/375 on May 14, Hideki Matsui is now at .300/.363/.491.

Pitch 1 - In play, run scoring play
by Sean McNally

Tonight's Tampa-New York game is pretty much a microcosm of the 2005 season to date: Crappy start, flashes of good play, more crappy play then a stretch of unbelievably amazing baseball.

Randy Johnson started out seeming fine, getting through the first without surrendering any runs, then the wheels came off the wagon.

A walk, a homer, a homer, a single, a triple and a single and the Yanks are down 5-0 before the sun went down in the Bronx.

The Yanks got one back in the bottom of the second on a Bernie Williams sac fly, but Johnson promptly gave that back and more courtesy of a Jonny Gomes two run wall-scraper to right.

Johnson did not return for the fourth with the score 7-2 bad guys.

Scott Proctor, fresh off the Columbus Shuttle came in and gave Tampa three runs pushing the lead to 10-2 and most of the viewing audience started waiting for Rescue Me to start on F/X.

The Yanks showed a spark of a comeback in the fifth. Back-to-back singles by Derek Jeter and Tony Womack brought Gary Sheffield to the plate and Sheff promptly turned a Hideo Nomo pitch around for a three-run homer: 10-5 Tampa. After ARod grounded out, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi both singled and Bernie smoked a double, scoring Godzilla and making the score 10-6 Devil Rays.

Mike Stanton, Tanyon Sturtze and Buddy Groom held Tampa to just one run, while Derek Jeter homered to keep the deficit at four and the score at 11-7 when the Yanks came up in the eighth. Now, I can't improve upon what the play-by-play reads:

F Nunez relieved C Orvella.
R Cano singled to center.
D Jeter singled to right, R Cano to third.
R Sierra hit for T Womack.
R Sierra grounded out to second, R Cano scored, D Jeter to second.
G Sheffield singled to left center, D Jeter to third.
A Rodriguez singled to left, D Jeter scored, G Sheffield to second.
T Harper relieved F Nunez.
H Matsui doubled to deep right, G Sheffield scored, A Rodriguez to third.
J Giambi intentionally walked.
R Johnson ran for J Giambi.
B Williams tripled to deep center, A Rodriguez, H Matsui and R Johnson scored.
J Posada homered to right, B Williams scored.
R Cano flied out to center.
D Jeter reached on infield single to second.
R Sierra singled to right, D Jeter to third.
G Sheffield homered to left, D Jeter and R Sierra scored.
A Rodriguez homered to right.
H Matsui homered to center.
R Johnson flied out to right.

Final tally, 12 hits, 13 runs, one walk, no errors, no one left on.

The 35-minute inning saved the game and kept the Yanks hot after last night's little hiccup.

Some quick hits:
Jeter had his second five-hit game of his career, and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

Bernie tied Yogi for sixth all-time in Yankee history in hits (2,148) AND tied Tony Lazzeri for seventh all-time in the Yankee record books for RBIs (1,154).

This start probably puts a stop to any of the John Flaherty/Randy Johnson personal catcher talk.

Oh, this is old hat for the Yankees, who hung 13 runs on the Devil Rays in the second inning of their game on April 18.

Some of the box score lines for the Yankees are obscene.

Jeter 5/6 5R RBI HR 2B
Sheffield 4/6 3R 7RBI 2HR
Matsui 4/5 4R 2RBI HR 2B
Bernie 2/4 R 5RBI 2B 3B

For the second time in a week the Yanks played a potential season-changing game and wound up on the winning side. The Yanks are now 7-1 through eight games on the 13-game homestand.

The problem, however, is that while the Yanks have been playing like a house afire, they've not gained any ground on the division leading Orioles, who’ve kept up the pace despite several injuries to key personnel.

It's still early, but it looks like we’ve got a pennant race on our hands, kids.

June 20, 2005

Long Distance Request and Dedication
by Sean McNally

Ten days ago, if someone told me the Yanks would be the hottest team in the division, I'd have laughed at you. Hell, you would have laughed at you.

But here we are seven days, six games, two come from behind wins and a dominating Randy Johnson performance later the Yanks have closed the gap to three games behind Boston, five games behind Baltimore and just two-and-a-half games behind the wild card-leading Minnesota Twins.

Going into the homestand, I said the Yanks would need to go 10-3 to get back into things in the division and they are well on their way to doing that, and realistically much better.

Projecting out, the Yanks have a decent shot to go 11-2 or better. It stands to reason the next four games should go like this:

Henn v. Fossum
Johnson v. Nomo
Pavano v. Kazmir
Wang v. Hendrickson

To me that looks like three wins, discounting a loss in either the Henn or Pavano start. Then the Mets come to town for this set up.

Martinez v. Mussina
Henn v. Glavine
Johnson v. Benson

That looks like a two-game split one way or the other . . . I'd say at this point toward the Yanks.

Now, that's five and two through the start of a trip to the first meaningful series against Baltimore in a long time.

A six-game winning streak is a good start, but the job is not over yet.

by Larry Mahnken

A week ago I was ready to give up. I didn't want to give up, but I was pretty much reconciled to the inevitability of the Yankees' season being lost. Most teams would see being two games below .500 -- and "only" 6½ games out of first -- as an opportunity to contend. But the Yankees are in a tough position, because they simply don't have the same flexibility that those other teams have. The Blue Jays may not be able to take on a lot of payroll, but they have pieces that can be moved to make a deal. The Yankees' most valuable parts are expensive, and it would be difficult for the Yankees to move them and get anything of value in return.

So if the Yankees were going to get back in the race, they'd have to do it with the team they have, and the only way that was going to happen was for the players who weren't performing to their previous levels to pick it up.

Randy Johnson, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams were the primary failures, and in the past week all four have stepped up their game. Bernie Williams had six hits over the weekend, Hideki Matsui slammed 3 HRs (including a game-winner Friday night) and hit .455 with a 1.538 OPS for the week. Randy Johnson has been as good as ever in his past two starts, completely dominating the Cardinals and Pirates, while Jason Giambi's bat has awoken for a year-long slumber. He clubbed only the one homer, the walk-off against the Pirates Wednesday, but he hit .333 for the week with a 1.140 OPS, hitting the ball hard with regularity, looking confident and controlled at the plate, giving more than a glimmer of hope that he can not only be a good hitter again, but a great hitter.

The Yankees have won six straight going into tonight's game against the Devil Rays and have gained four games on the Wild Card leading Twins to move within 2½ games of the playoffs, and a very doable 5 games of the division.

(As an aside, it was mentioned last week by a person in my comments that the Yankees would have to play .600 ball just to win 90 games, which probably wouldn't be enough to make the playoffs. Well, now they just have to play 3 games better than the Twins to make the playoffs. They're 100% in the race now.)

Now the Yanks have four games against the Devil Rays while the Sox play the red-hot Indians and the Orioles the Blue Jays, who just lost a series to the Brewers but had won 2 of 3 from the Cardinals before that. It's a chance for the Yankees to make up some more ground on the division leaders before their big series' against them just before and after the All-Star break. Sweeping a good team like the Cubs feels good, but it's these games against the bad teams that the Yankees really need to win.

June 19, 2005

Will the real Yankees please stand up?
by SG

So far, 2005 has been a dizzying mix of highs and lows. After starting off 11-19, the Yankees reeled off 16 wins in 18 games to move to 27-21. This was followed by another slump, where the Yankees went 3-11 to fall to 30-32. Now, a 6 game winning streak has moved the Yankees back up to a 36-32 record, and has many Yankee fans excited again.

So, the question is, which are the real Yankees? Steven Goldman discussed this in a recent entry in his Pinstriped Blog, called 'Still Reserving Judgement'.

The Yankees have played exciting, invigorating baseball for the first time this year on the current homestand, sweeping the Pirates in dramatic fashion and then securing an equally exciting victory over the Cubs. Even so, I'm not yet convinced. This is what teams that are .500 quality do — they tease. A .500 team doesn't conduct its season in binary fashion, alternating wins and losses every other day. Rather, they have good patches and bad patches distributed unevenly throughout the schedule. It's still not certain that this is what the Yankees are doing.

I think Goldman makes an interesting point. As well as the Yankees are playing right now, if they were this good would they have had two long bad stretches like they've had? That's not to say that I think the Yankees are a .500 team, because I don't. I just think there are some problems on this team that won't go away. They should be in the mix all year, but I just want to be careful about thinking that this is the real Yankee team. Bear in mind that Pittsburgh is not a very good team, and the Cubs are injury-depleted right now and probably not that much better.

There are still many good signs coming out of the last six games. The Yankees have shown life when trailing, Hideki Matsui has come out of a long slump, the pitching has been very solid. Also, I don't think the impact that Tiger Wang and Robinson Cano have had can be understated. They bring an enthusiasm and excitement to the team that was sorely lacking early in the year. Jason Giambi has shown some contributions besides walking, with some hits and playing passable defense at times (he still can't throw, but he's made some good picks at first).

Joe Torre continues to frustrate the hell out of me with his Tony Womack fascination. Not only can Womack not hit, he's becoming a liability on defense. With Matsui injured, I guess Torre is somewhat limited, but there's no rational explanation for Womack continuing to bat in the second slot.

Tomorrow's game will be a big one for Sean Henn. He got blasted by the Devil Rays in his first start, but was hurt by his defense. With Kevin Brown's shocking injury, Henn will likely get at least 2 starts to show whether that was a fluke. Since his demotion, here are Henn's pitching lines for AAA Columbus:


5/9 4.1 10 5 5 3 4 1
5/14 7.0 4 0 0 3 4 0
5/20 6.0 5 2 0 1 4 0
5/26 7.0 3 0 0 2 6 0
5/31 9.0 2 0 0 0 3 0
6/5 5.0 9 6 6 3 4 0
6/10 6.2 8 5 5 0 5 0
6/16 3.0 3 1 1 0 4 1

Totals: 48.0 44 19 17 12 34 2

There's a couple of clunkers in there, but for the most part he's been very good. The low K rate is a little concerning, but the low HR rate and good BB rate are positive indicators. If Henn can pitch a couple of quality starts, it helps the Yankees immeasurably. It gives them further pitching depth, or perhaps someone to trade. I'd rather they hang onto Henn, but if he's able to be packaged for an ugrade in CF then it'd probably worth it.

Tampa is reeling now, 4-16 in their last 20, and the Yankees should have payback on their mind entering this series. We'll see how it plays out.

Stand up, stand up and shout...
by Sean McNally

The Yankees needed to get this homestand off to a good start, but this has probably exceeded most people's expectations.

Five games is a short period in the course of a baseball season, but the Yanks and their fans certainly have enjoyed this past week, particularly off of the miserable Flyover Tour.

Just a quick post to keep the hoodoo going, and because I only watched bits and pieces of the game (Saturday afternoons are great for going to games, not necessarily for watching them on TV).

Captain Fantastic finally got the grand slam monkey off his back, which means no more looking at that stupid graphic about number of at-bats without one ever again.

Tiger Wang was impressive, giving the Bombers eight innings and the chance to recharge their bullpen, which Average Carl helped to gas the night before. Unless the Fox gun is as suspect as the YES gun, Wang was consistently between 92-95 with his fastball, something that all previous reports had said he could no longer do in his post-surgery phase of his career.

Wang’s emergence is a good thing, since "Three-Inning" Brown is now "15-Day-DL" Brown. Someone in the Yankee front office must read this blog (*dreamer*) because they’ve recalled Sean Henn from Columbus to take another shot at starting. If Henn is good, that might put the Yanks in the enviable position of having two chits to trade in the next six weeks.

Today, Mussina comes up against Sergio Mitre and his mediocre K-rate. If Good Moose shows up, it could be another sunny and pleasant day in the Bronx.

June 18, 2005

by Larry Mahnken

Just a brief post about last night's game, as my time is brief.

Last night the Yankees had their second late-inning comeback in three days, after blowing a 4-0 lead and, for a few innings, appearing to have reverted to their old, frustrating ways.

But Hideki Matsui made it clear that this team wasn't back to those old ways, crushing what proved to be the eventual game winner, his third homer in four games, all after hurting his ankle on Sunday. What at first appeared to be yet another devastating blow has turned into the biggest break the Yankees have gotten this year, forcing Matsui to keep his weight back when he swings, helping him return to the hard-hitting ways the Yankees depended on so heavily last season.

With the win the Yankees gained a game on the Orioles, who lost to the Rockies. "Just" five games out, their poised to make a move in the second half. The rumors of a potential deal for Mike Cameron, assuming they don't have to give up anything too important, are positive. Cameron is a good hitter and a great centerfielder, and the addition of him to the lineup would not only eliminate any important role for Shitmack, but would fill a huge hole in the lineup and the field. It would make the Yankees a much stronger contender for everything they're in the race for this year.

I'm inclined to believe they won't be able to get him, but then I was skeptical of their chances to get Randy Johnson (though I suppose for a couple of months this season it appeared that they didn't actually get him). It's a trade worth rooting for.

And the Yankees are once again a team worth rooting for. They're in the race again, they're fun to watch again. They're very close to redemption.

A Good Wind's A-Blowin'
by Sean McNally

When this homestand opened, I compared it to the Alamo. I really didn't think that the Yankees would be playing the part of Santa Ana's Mexicans.

Last night's 9-6 win was the second comeback win in three days for the Bombers, though it didn’t start out that way

After swapping scoreless first innings, New York touched Carlos Zambrano for a run in the second, then three in the third, highlighted (to Yankee fans at least) by a run scoring error by former bane of our existence Enrique Wilson.

Carl Pavano, however, did his best to make sure that the four-run lead he was staked to didn't stand up - giving two back on three consecutive singles and a horrible throw to second by Jason Giambi that cost the Yanks a double play.

The Cubbies got a run in the fifth, closing the gap to 4-3 and then overtook the Yanks in the sixth, scoring three runs to take a 6-4 win and chasing Carl Pavano in favor of Paul Quantrill.

Quantrill stopped the bleeding in the sixth, and got the seventh off to a good start, retiring the first two he faced in the frame before yielding a double to Jeromy Burnitz and a walk to Aramis Ramierz and giving way to Mike Stanton, who retired Todd Walker to end the inning.

Zambrano came out for the seventh, with a pitch count nearing, then eventually surpassing 115. Carlos retired Robinson Cano on one of his four flyouts to left, then the wheels came off.

A screaming liner to the leftfield wall put Gary Sheffield on second with a double, then with the Cubs announcers on WGN discussing ARod’s unclutchness ("only seven of his RBIs have come in the seventh inning or later") the True Yankee blasted a Carlos Zambrano 1-2 pitch into center for an RBI-single, making Bob Brenly look pretty silly.

That chased Carlos from the game and lefty Will Ohman came on to face Matsui. After looking at two balls, Godzilla turned on a fastball and hit a freakin’ rocket over the rightfield wall to put the Yanks in front 7-6.

Godzilla came up in the eighth and the bases drunk with Yankees and put double into the rightfield corner scoring two more and giving the Yanks a little breathing room before the Sandman came in to slam the door.

Few game notes:

Derrek Lee is really good. He almost balances out the Cubs bad roster construction and Dusty Baker's lousy managing all by himself.

Carlos Zambrano is fun to watch. He throws hard, he's animated and just intriguing.

It was great to see Enrique Wilson screw another team, huh?

Someone in the clubhouse should volunteer to smack Godzilla in the ankle before every game so he can keep this up. Since savaging his ankle in St. Louis, the beast is back, hitting: .533/.588/1.267 with three homers, two doubles, nine RBIs and five runs scored.

Speaking of comebacks, Jason Giambi is looking Giambi-like lately. On the homestand so far, Jason's hitting .333/.467/.750 with a pair of doubles, a dramatic homer, 5 RBIs, 4 runs scored and perhaps most encouraging, just three strikeouts.

With some modifications, for the first time in a while we saw the return of QuanGorMo. Quantrill was as effective as he's been this season, Stanton earned his money and retired some lefties in between and Tom Gordon revived his curveball in setting up for Rivera. A rejuvenated bullpen would give the Yanks a nice boost going into the dog days of summer.

Today, New York sends Tiger Wang to the hill against Glendon Rusch and look to put themselves in position to at work win their second straight series and at best sweep on Sunday.

June 17, 2005

Fee Fie Foe Fum
by Larry Mahnken

Did Giambi's homer wake a sleeping giant? Well, we'll have to wait and see on that, but the Yanks came out looking like the team they're supposed to be last night.

There was no fooling around this time, Randy Johnson struck out the side in the top of the first, and in the bottom of the inning, the Yanks crushed two of Oliver Perez's first three pitches, Jeter doubling to center, Matsui homering to right.

That was all the Yankees would need last night, as Randy Johnson finally showed up in Yankee Stadium as RANDY FREAKING JOHNSON, pitching a complete game, five-hitter with no walks, 11 strikeouts, and only one run on a Yankee Stadium homer, just barely hit into the short porch in right. In two starts with John Flaherty catching, Johnson is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in 16 innings, 18 Ks, 0 BBs and only 9 hits allowed.

Flaherty says he's worked in the bullpen with Johnson on his mechanics, trying to keep him on top of the ball, and works with him in the game to keep him focused on the mechanics. The effort is showing up in the results, and is giving Flaherty a new value to the Yankees.

Keeping Flaherty as Johnson's personal catcher makes sense in a couple of ways. The first is that he's obviously having a positive effect on The Unit, who has only had one other start this season that was as close to as dominant as his last two starts, against Texas on April 24th, and in that start his control wasn't nearly as good as it is now. Not to knock Posada, but Flaherty is doing things for Johnson that Jorge hasn't done so far -- possibly because as a backup Flash can devote more time to Randy than Jorge can. The other way it makes sense is that it gets Flaherty a start every five games, giving Posada plenty of time off (and hopefully preventing yet another late-season slide), and gives Flaherty starts when they can afford the loss in offensive prowess the most -- when they have their best pitcher on the mound.

A move to make Flaherty Johnson's personal catcher may be one of the most subtle big moves of the year. If Johnson is dominant the rest of the year, the Yankees may even have to consider giving Flaherty starts with him in the playoffs (assuming, of course, they make it).

The dominance of Johnson wasn't the only positive thing yesterday. Right off the bat there was Matsui's homer, his second of the series, and making him 8 for his last 18 ABs, with 2 doubles and 2 homers. After hurting his ankle Sunday, Matsui is now 5-11 with two homers and a double. In the second, Giambi continued to hit the ball hard, driving a double to right-center to score a run, and he finished the game 1-2, the out being a long fly-out. At almost the exact same time, two of the Yankees' weakest links are turning back into sluggers. There could not be a bigger possible boost to the team than these two returning to form, or anything close to it.

Much more quietly, but also importantly, Robinson Cano was 2-3 against lefty Oliver Perez, making him 4-5 against lefties in the series. Why was this important? Because Cano entered the series with a .100 batting average against lefties, compared to his .306 average against righties. If he can maintain that average against righties and learn to hit lefties... we may have a future All-Star.

Still, it was the Pirates, and while it was a sweep, it was immediately following a 3-11 stretch that included some awful losses to teams they should have easily beaten.

But while we shouldn't get carried away, the Yankees are now very much alive. They didn't gain a single game on Boston or Baltimore this week, but they didn't lose any ground and started to show signs of life. Hosting the Cubs this weekend they face another important test. The Cubs aren't a great team, but they're definitely a tough opponent, and will present the Yanks more of a challenge than Pittsburgh did. Sweeping the Pirates doesn't give the Yankees any breathing room, because they pretty much needed to sweep. Now they need to win at least two of three before Tampa Bay comes in, and then they really need to kick it into gear.

June 16, 2005

by Sean McNally

So this is what Randy Johnson looks like?

Save for a Michael Restovich wall scraper, the Big Unit was dominant tonight against the Pirates, twirling a complete game five-hitter while striking out 11 and walking not a soul as the Yankees pretty much sewed up the game by the second inning.

The game started with Johnson striking out the side save for a Jason Bay single, as just a harbinger of how dominant he would be tonight.

Jeter led off with a one-hopper over the centerfield wall, then Ankle-Zilla decided to keep the stress off his banged up wheel and put one into the seats in right for a 2-0 lead.

The Yanks added two more when they cashed a Bernie Williams walk, a Jason Giambi smash double and a Robinson Cano single into a pair of runs in the second, which essentially ended the game.

Restovich took a two-out, one-strike slider the other way off the very tip-top of the right field wall (or the very bottom of the right field stands, depending on your point of view) for the one Bucco run.

Some other good notes from the game:

Cano went a respectable 2 for 3 against Oliver Perez, who seemed to be a little oversold coming into the Bronx and might be going through a little sophomore slump.

Giambi might be coming back, for real . . . A big double in the second, a pair of walks, a hit-by-pitch and two runs scored.

For the last couple weeks, Jason's been hitting the ball hard and making me eat my words after "losing my religion" with him earlier.

One note, however, homeboy just can't run. He should have scored on Flaherty's single in the fifth, then he should have stayed put on Cano's grounder to second in the next at bat, not because he should have run faster, but because he should have blown up Humberto Cota at the plate.

Johnson's good start was the second Bad Flash behind the plate, so let the "personal catcher" speculation begin.

I'm ambivalent about the idea, though I hate the notion of personal catchers (yes, I'm looking at you Mr. Maddux and Mr. Perez), but this might work.

Jorge Posada's notorious for fading down the stretch and resting or DHing him every fifth game probably wouldn’t kill him and might help him come October.

So after sweeping the Pirates, the Yanks welcome the Cubs to town. Fresh off a blasting at the hands of Marlins Wednesday, the Northsiders send Carlos Zambrano to the hill versus Dr Jekyl and Mr. Pavano tomorrow.

Saturday brings up Tiger Wang versus a resurgent Glendon Rusch and Sunday features Mike Mussina and Sergio Mitre.

The Yanks are 3-0 through the start of their home stand with 10 games to go and six or seven wins against the Cubs, Devil Rays and Mets seems possible, if not probable.

However, perhaps the best thing about this win is it helped them pick up a half game on Baltimore and Boston, and honestly, every little bit helps.

A Win That Matters
by Larry Mahnken

There's time yet this season for the Yankees to make something good happen, there's plenty of time to make the playoffs, to win the division, even, maybe, to bring home the best record in the league. It's mid-June, larger deficits have been erased in fewer games, and the Yankees have, at least, the talent to pull it off. There's time yet, but the Yankees have to make something happen now.

It's hard to make something happen against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not because it's tough to win, they're not a very good team, but rather, precisely because victory is expected. Tuesday's 9-0 win was nice, it was fun, but it doesn't have any carryover, because it was the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not to crap on them, because while they're not a good team they're not really a bad team, either, but when you beat the Pirates 9-0, it doesn't feel special, it doesn't make you think everything is going to be okay. Beating the Red Sox 9-0, that's something. The Pirates? It just makes you think you had a good night, which is pretty much what the Yankees had Tuesday.

Even coming back against the Pirates down 5-2 in the eighth inning last night, as the Yankees did, is a relatively hollow victory on its own. Comebacks happen, and coming back to win a game that you not only shouldn't have had come back to win, but more than that deperately needed to win, is in and of itself not so much a lift as it is a relief. For last night's win to matter, and it does matter, required something more.

For one, it required the defeat to be setup not just as a letdown, but an agonizingly frustrating loss. The Yankees only trailed 5-2 in the eighth because they had, once again, left runners on base, and even more frustratingly, given up leadoff homers in the 7th and 8th. Even in scoring 2 in the eighth to get back within a run, they left the tying run on second base with only one out. They didn't deserve to win this game.

It's only from that kind of low that what would otherwise be just another "nice" win could inspire a renewed sense of confidence in the team. In the ninth, after a Jeter groundout, Bernie walked and Gary Sheffield hit into a double play to end the game. Only it didn't end the game, because the umpire, as umpires sometimes do, missed the call, and called Sheffield safe.

A-Rod came up with no chance to tie the game without winning it, because the outfield was so deep, but he kept hope alive with a base hit to center that allowed Sheffield to go to third precisely because the outfield was playing so deep. That brought up Jorge Posada, who entered the game 3-24 with RISP and 2 outs, with 3 singles. Andy Phillips was on deck, and as much as we love Andy and want him to get a chance, Jorge was the guy who needed to come through.

And he did, ripping a double off the rightfield wall, scoring the tying run, moving the winning run to third. But the winning run was quickly eliminated when A-Rod tried to score as the ball rolled away from second, getting tossed out by a mile.

Somehow that seemed slightly deflating. The Yankees were still in great position to win in extra innings, but the win seemed like it would mean less now, not have the same carryover effect. There was probably only one way for that carryover to be completely salvaged...
The pitch is swung on and... hit in the air to deep right! It is high! It is far! It is... GONE!!! A walk-off, two-run, bottom of the tenth home run by Jason Giambi! The Giam-bino! Ballgame over, Yankees win! Thuhuhuh Yankees win!!!
- Really Annoying Announcer

There is no player in baseball who needed a home run at this point more than Jason Giambi. There is no player in baseball who needed a long home run at this point more than Jason Giambi, nobody who needed a clutch, game-winning home run more, nobody who needed to be the hero of the city more. No other player could have hit that home run and given the team and the fans the lift that they got from that home run.

Jason Giambi has been awful this season. Not Shitmack awful, but almost completely useless. Coming into Tuesday's game he had but 3 extra-base hits since April 19th. His high OBP was entirely the result of his walks and HBP's, which may have been symptomatic of his problems -- he was trying to either walk or homer, even more than the rest of his teammates, and as a result was either walking, striking out, or hitting the ball poorly.

Is this because of steroids? Of course it's because of steroids, but not directly. Jason Giambi has struggled in part because of the bat speed and reaction time he lost when he stopped juicing, but it's also because of the confidence he lost when he stopped juicing, the expectations of failure because he stopped juicing and the pressure to prove the critics wrong, to prove that he could still play this game. And it's because of -- and this is something that a lot of people who display an unhealthy hatred towards anyone who ever used steroids either forget or ignore when they talk about Jason Giambi's struggles -- HE'S RECOVERING FROM CANCER!!!

Yeah, he probably got cancer from the steroids, but the aftereffects of the tumor are an indirect result of the steroids, and not something that tells us how much steroids help a player. The tumor would indicate that this probably isn't Jason Giambi's natural talent level, that he actually was a good player without the drugs, but wasn't great until he started using. Jason Giambi isn't Exhibit A of how steroids make a bad player into a superstar, he's just another example of the effects of cancer on an athlete. That doesn't absolve him of the blame in getting cancer, but he should be an example of why you shouldn't use steroids, not how steroids can help your career.

I do believe that Jason Giambi can be a productive player, I do believe that he can hit 20-30 homers a year and get on base over 40% of the time. I believe he can help this team, but that belief has not shown itself on the field this year, except for a very brief period in early April. Giambi's belief in himself may have been wavering going into last night, though he said after the game that despite his struggles he's not going to quit trying.

That home run may do a lot to help him. It did a lot to help the Yankees last night. Maybe it can do a lot to help them the rest of the year.

June 15, 2005

The breaks, they're turning...
by Sean McNally

Also read SG's Finally, a comeback below

For most of the past three months, every break that could go the Yankees' way - didn't.

Then the ninth inning came tonight ...

Jeter led off with hard ground out to third, bringing up Bernie, who promptly drew a walk, bringing up Gary Sheffield.

Here’s where the train has jumped the tracks this season - until tonight.

Sheffield hit a screaming worm burner back up the middle off Pirate closer Jose Mesa, but right to Jack Wilson, who flipped to Jose Castillo who fired to first baseman Daryl Ward. Double play. Game over.

But, the breaks, they're turning ...

Tony Randazzo missed the call, ruling Sheffield safe. So with two outs, ARod singled Sheffield to third, bringing up Jorge Posada.

Fresh off a solo homer in the second, Posada blasted a double to right. Sheffield scores, ARod gets pathetically thrown out after trying to score from first after Wilson bobbled the ball.

Mo Rivera, who was dominant for two innings, set the Bucs down in the 10th, setting the stage.

Tino Martinez worked a four-pitch, pinch-hit walk from Mesa, who was not nearly as sharp as Mo in his second inning of work. Tinostalgia was pinch run for by Russ Johnson.

Tony Womack strode to the plate after pinch running for starting left fielder Ruben Sierra in the eighth. After looking at a ball and a strike, Womack apparently got the hit-and-run sign, but the Pirates pitched out.

Russ Johnson was dead to rights out, but stopped, started back to first and the Jack Wilson throw from second to first hit him square in the numbers. Break number two ...

Womack finally got to hit, and did one of the few things he does well - bunted Johnson to second, bringing the much maligned Jason Giambi to the plate.

In 2002, Giambi would have been walked in favor of pitching to number nine hitter Robinson Cano. But not tonight.

Giambi looked at a ball and a strike, then fouled one off down the right field line.

So Mesa ran a 1-2, 94 mph fastball in on Giambi's hands and Jason did what sluggers do - turned on it and deposited it 10 rows up in the upper deck.

Game over.

Yankees win! Thhhheeeeeee Yankeeeeeees win! The Giambino!

Now the Yanks did what they needed to do: won the series and started this homestand with two straight wins.

A few thoughts briefly.

  • Jack Wilson and Jose Castillo can flat out pick it up the middle for the Pirates.
  • I love Yankee Stadium, but the idea of in essence making the Pirates, Devil Rays and Royals of the world pay for it makes me smile.
  • If Brown's injury is serious, there's not much at Columbus to fill in. Alex Graman is having a solid season (3.31 ERA, 65K/25BB in 73.1 IP) but why not give Sean Henn another shot?

    Since getting betrayed and blasted in Tampa and then getting promoted from Double-A to Triple-A, Henn's done well - 4-2, 3.20 ERA 30K/12BB in 45 IP.

    The other options are big league retreads Brad Voyles and Pete Munro, so why not take another shot with the kid?

Finally, a comeback
by SG

Entering tonight, the Yankees had not won a game which they trailed after six innings. This was even more frustrating when recalling last year's team and their propensity for late inning comebacks. I was concerned about the Yankees being able to follow up a strong game yesterday, which is not something they have done very well this year.

Kevin Brown started and looked dominant, throwing 93-94 mph with nasty movement. However, after 3 innings he started giving up hits, and was eventually pulled in the 5th with back spasms. Buddy Groom was able to come in and induce an inning ending double play on his way to 1 and 2/3 shutout innings.

The Yankees trailed 3-1 heading into the 7th, as Mark Redman kept them off-balance with breaking pitches and good control. Tanyon Sturtze struggled again, giving up a leadoff HR in the 7th. The Yankees got that run back in the bottom of the inning.

However, Sturtze gave up another HR leading off the 8th. I may have sounded down on Sturtze in my last entry, but I still think he is an asset. He's not as good as he has been so far this year, but I think a lot of his improvement is legitimate. As long as his control is good, he should be fine.

Heading into the bottom of the 8th down 5-2, it looked pretty bleak for the Yankees. The Yankees did manage to string a two run rally together. However, with the tying run on second base, Jason Giambi struck out and Robinson Cano grounded out, and the inning ended with the Yankees still down by 1.

Mariano Rivera came in and thoroughly dominated the Pirates for an inning. Derek Jeter grounded out and I thought the game was over at this point. Bernie Williams managed to draw a walk which brought up Gary Sheffield. Sheffield hit into a double play, but the Yankees were fortunate and got a gift call. Sheffield was pretty clearly out on the replay but the umpire called him safe.

Alex Rodriguez took advantage of this by singling Sheffield to third, then Jorge Posada, who was 1 for 10 in his career against Jose Mesa, lined a double that brought home Sheffield. Rodriguez ran through Luis Sojo's stop sign to try and score, and was out by about 30 feet. However, the Yankees finally showed some life in a game that I had given up on.

Rivera pitched another scoreless inning, setting the stage in the bottom of the 10th.

Tino Martinez pinch-hit for Andy Phillips and drew a walk. Russ Johnson pinch-ran for Martinez and almost got picked off on a pitch out. However, he alertly returned to first as soon as he saw the throw to second. Tony Womack laid down a perfect bunt in the optimal time to lay down a bunt (sudden death for the home team), and up stepped Jason Giambi.

I've been pretty staunch about defending Giambi in this space, and so far he hasn't really deserved it. With a runner on second and first base open, it was very clear how much his stock has fallen. Instead of walking the 2000 AL MVP and setting up the double play, they pitched to him. Giambi worked the count to 2-2, then lofted a towering fly ball into the upper deck in RF, and won the game for the Yankees.

The people who booed Giambi all game were suddenly cheering him.

I don't know how much Giambi has left. But, it's a moment that like this that makes me feel that he deserves the time to show what that may be. The potential upside is too great to not merit a chance, especially when there's no better option on hand.

It was a big HR for Giambi, and a big win for a team that needed it desperately. If Randy Johnson can follow up his strong outing last time out with another one tomorrow, this team could be poised to go on a much-needed run.

Incidentally, Giambi's OPS in June? .923

One Win
by Larry Mahnken

For a team that's had pretty much everything going wrong lately, last night was a night where everything pretty much went right.

Hideki Matsui started things off with a long home run in the second, and ended up with two hits before leaving the game in the sixth, and the team collected 12 hits in total. Jason Giambi hit a two-run double off the centerfield wall that was nearly a home run, and Mike Mussina was the star of the night, taking a perfect game into the fifth and finishing with a 5-hit shutout.

In a normal season, last night's game would have been a fun romp, the kind of game you expect against a team like Pittsburgh at home. This season, it was a welcome relief, an easy win for a team in desperate need of wins of any kind, against a team that, going into last night's game, had a better record than them.

It doesn't really change much, the Yankees are still below .500, still 6½ games back (although at least they're tied for third), and one good hit doesn't mean Giambi's a slugger again, a long homer doesn't mean Matsui's out of his slump, and one win doesn't mean that everything's all right, or even close to all right in Yankeeland.

Even after the win, there's talk of trades coming soon. The immediate question that comes to mind is, even if everyone on the major league roster but A-Rod, Randy Johnson and Jeter is available, what can the Yankees really get that will help them compete in 2005? What is there in the farm system to deal that they can get something useful for, and will they be better off with Wang and Cano or the unexceptional talent they'd get in return for them?

Of course, should this homestand turn out poorly, it might be fair to ask what kind of prospects the Yankees would be able to get for these guys. I doubt that Steinbrenner would be willing to accept defeat in that manner, but it may be the best thing for the future of the organization.

Unfortunately, I don't see Steinbrenner ever making a backwards step in order to put the team on good footing in the future. I don't see the team learning from the mistakes of this past offseason, I see them continuing to overvalue a player's most recent season, their won-lost record, their batting average, their steals. I see them signing other Tony Womacks and Jaret Wrights, I see them choosing veterans over talent, I see them wasting millions of dollars on teams worth a fraction of that money.

The Yankees are, have always been, and will continue to be, in win-now mode. The chances of getting better through trades if the losing continues is slim, the chances of them giving up on this season and building for the future are almost nil. There is only one way that anything good can come from this season. They have to win. Now.

June 14, 2005

One down…
by Sean McNally

Moose answered the bell. Ankle-zilla acted like it was 2004. Jeter, Womack and even Bernie made good defensive plays. Giambi hit the ball hard and the Yanks took their first step toward coming back.

For the second time in his Yankee career, Mike Mussina carried a perfect game past the halfway point in the game before giving up a worm-burning single down the first baseline with two down in the fifth ending a streak of 14 consecutive outs.

Judging by the “accurate” YES gun, Moose sat between 89 and 92 with his fastball, his curve and knuckle curve had bite and even after he lost the perfecto, he looked dominant and never seemed challenged by the Pirate batters.

Matsui got the party started with a homer on the first pitch he saw while DH-ing post-ankle injury. All-in-all, Godzilla went 2-3 and scored twice – including one after blatantly running through a rare Luis Sojo stop sign before being replaced in the sixth by Ruben Sierra who would eventually add a garbage-time two-run single in the eighth.

Giambi also hit the ball hard, stroking a two-run double off the top of the centerfield wall in the sixth to make it 7-0 and essentially end the game.

Jeter made a couple nice picks at short, including a nifty backhand of a one-hop liner off the bat of Humberto Cota, but Womack and Bernie (Yes, Bernie) get the defensive gold stars for their work in the sixth.

With the score still 7-0, and Matt Lawton on first with one down Freddy Sanchez hit a humpback liner into left that Womack snagged with a dive to his right, stranding Lawton at first.

Jason Bay then came up and smashed a ball off the wall in right center, which Bernie retrieved, fired into the cutoff man Cano who gunned Lawton down at the plate to end the inning.

Mussina however was the hero of the game – allowing just five hits and fanning six – Moose worked inside and outside, up and down and just baffled the Pirates in twirling his second complete game shutout of the season and drop his ERA by 0.44 run to get it back below 4.00 at 3.89 for the season.

The good game didn’t fix a horrible road trip, but it gets the homestand off on the right foot. With just one run coming on a homer, the Yanks seemed to move away from the all walk and blast but no bloop offense Larry bemoaned in this space yesterday, if they can add the non-homer base hit to the offense again, things should be looking up in the Bronx.

The Yanks send Thursday Randy Johnson to the hill, hopefully with the un-Mel-ified delivery he showed in St. Louis, against Pittsburgh’s lefty ace, Oliver Perez, which should be a dandy matchup. Editor's note: But first we have to sit through Kevin Brown versus Mark Redman, which should be the opposite of dandy.

If Torre’s smart, he’ll get the newly called up Andy Phillips in the lineup at first, sit Womack and run a LF-Zilla-Bernie-Sheffield outfield out there with Sierra DHing in the eight-hole, but I’m not that confident of any sort of good lineup construction.

Oh, and Michael Kay got the night off, which made it the perfect Yankee game!

Tramp the Dirt Down
by Larry Mahnken

Well I hope I don't die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Yes I'll be a good boy
I'm trying so hard to behave
Because there's one thing I know
I'd like to live long enough to savor

That's when they finally
put you in the ground
I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

- Elvis Costello

If there was a point in this season where it would be reasonable to lose hope in the Yankees making something of this season, it would have been Sunday afternoon, as Scott Seabol's home run flew over the left-field wall in Busch Stadium. With a losing record in mid-June, the end of the great Yankees run seems more in danger of ending than it ever has, and the "haters" are already releasing a torrent of schadenfraude only to be surpassed by what's to come on the day the Yankees are eliminated from contention.

Now, the Cards have the second-best record in baseball, they had the best in all of baseball last season and won the National League pennant. It's not shameful to lose a series to a team like that, it's the context that matters, and it's the context that makes things look bleak in New York.

The Yankees have played 21 series so far this season, winning 8 and losing 13. But of those 8 series wins, 6 have come against teams currently with losing records, leaving them 2-8 in series against team with winning records (10-17 overall). The two wins were the opening series against Boston, where they nearly blew the second win after Rivera gave up a homer to Jason Varitek in the ninth, and the series against the Mets, who are 1 game over .500 and in last place in the NL East.

Again, not a disaster in and of itself, you don't expect to beat up on the good teams, you try to play them even and beat up on the bad teams. Unfortunatley, against teams below .500, the Yankees are only 5-4 in series, and 17-13 overall. That's not "beating up" on anyone.

The Yankees are in trouble. Big trouble. Big, big, big trouble. Not only are they not winning against good teams, they're not winning against bad teams, and they're sometimes getting humiliated by really bad teams. They're just 6½ games back (for both the division and Wild Card), so they're not even remotely close to being out of it right now, but there are not positive signs.

Alex Rodriguez is playing like the MVP, Gary Sheffield is having a good year (though he's currently in a bad slump), Mike Mussina appears to have returned to effectiveness and rookies Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang have been reasonably impressive, but the good news ends there. Randy Johnson has been good, not great, and hardly dominant. Carl Pavano has been excellent on the road and miserable at home. Kevin Brown seemed to be back on track in May, but has been mediocre in his past couple of starts, and hurt his shoulder. The bullpen, once again, is down to three effective relievers, but at least this season they're not getting overworked, since there's generally few opportunities for the bullpen to finish off a win.

Jason Giambi has 3 extra-base hits in his last 102 ABs, and only 22 hits. Hideki Matsui's lineup spot has him on a pace for 100+ RBI again, but he's having his worst season as a pro, and it's not even a "Groundzilla" effect, he's just not hitting. Tino Martinez was the team MVP for a couple of weeks, but he's had a .302 OPS in June. Jorge Posada's having a decent year, but has done nothing with runners on any base other than first. Bernie Williams has lost every ounce of value, yet still finds himself in center on an all-too regular basis. Tony Womack is unhappy to find himself in left field, and it seems that the only people who don't realize that he's not helping out there are the Yankees, and perhaps some of their most myopic fans.

Things could turn around. There are guys who should hit better, guys who should pitch better, and guys who simply can do better. But it's not just the who, it's the when. The team seems to be in too much of a "homer or walk" mode -- they're 5th in the Majors in homers and 3rd in walks, while only 20th in doubles and 13th in total hits.

Am I saying walks and homers are bad? No, but walks and homers shouldn't be the entirety of an offense. The Yanks are 3rd in MLB in OBP, but without getting singles and doubles to drive those runners home, the Yankees are only 12th in SLG, and constantly waiting for the big inning. The problem is, while a big inning is always nice, and it always helps you win, sometimes you don't need a big inning. Sometimes you need one run, or two. By waiting for the big inning, the Yankees have averaged 7.56 runs in their 30 wins, and just 2.78 runs in their 32 losses.

Of course the solution to this is not to bunt and try make productive outs. The solution is to try and get hits, rather than hit homers or draw walks. The Yankees let too many good pitches go by trying to get a walk, and swing too hard at too many pitches trying to get a homer. Instead, they should take bad pitches and try to hit good pitches for singles or doubles, and the homers and walks will come when they get enough bad pitches and make good contact on good pitches.

That's how you hit. That's what sabermetrics preaches. That's not what the Yankees are doing, and if you watch them, you'll see that.

Of course, even if the Yankees were evening out their run production, they'd still be a .500 team, they need to score runs and prevent them more effectively than they have, and it's questionable whether they'll be able to do that.

They'd better start soon.

Thirteen Games
by Sean McNally

The Yankees open up a thirteen game home stand tonight and more and more Yankee Stadium feels like The Alamo.

Starting with three games against the Pirates (30-31), the Yanks play the Cubs (33-29) three times, Tampa (22-42) four times and cross-town "rival" Mets (32-31) before packing up and heading out of town.

Most people, myself included, are loathe to call any game in June a must win, but this home stand is full of them. The teams before them sport a combined .468 winning percentage - owing mostly to Tampa's wretchedness, so having a good stand isn't out of the realm of possibility, but the pressure will certainly be on the team and particularly management to try and make some hay over the next two weeks.

Moose opens up the series versus Kip Wells, who looks like he might be putting it together a little bit – though he’s still a little homer happy and he walks too many guys (10 HR and 41 BB in 82.1 IP), but he sports a 6.89 K/9 rate and an ERA of 3.39. After a fairly dominant May (4-1, with a 3.08 ERA and a 28/7 K/BB ratio), Bad Moose has been loose in June (1-1, 9/3 K/BB and a horrific 6.75 ERA).

With Ankle-Zilla’s streak in question, the Yankee outfield defense could be even more cover your eyes atrocious: picture Womack, Bernie and Sheffield picking balls up off the base of the wall with regularity if Matsui can’t go for the Yanks.

The Yankees need to win tonight to call off the dogs in the media and the owner's box and get the series off to a good start. If they do not get off to a good start, and indeed, if they don't have a good stand, it maybe time to use the "R" word with this team for the first time in a decade.

What's a good stand? Well, in my mind, the Yankees need to need to go 10-3 at least over this stretch - which is taking two of three from the Bucs, the Cubs and the Mets and sweeping the Devil Rays - a lofty goal to be sure, but one that is at least conceivable.

It’s also conceivable that the Yanks could put together that kind of home stand and not gain any ground. Baltimore gets Houston, Colorado, Toronto and Atlanta – which even after their stretch of uneven play should prove pretty easy for a team that even the most cynical among us must now consider "for real." Boston gets the Reds, Pirates, Indians and Phillies, which pretty easily the toughest row to hoe among the three "contenders" in the AL East.

So what happens if the Yanks either put together a lousy home stand or put together a decent one that's not good enough?

Well, then its time to look hard at the future of this team. There's little in the way tradable commodities, but the team's going to have to look long and hard and be creative in getting younger, faster if the next two weeks don’t go well.

June 12, 2005

Flyover Country
by SG

The Yankees' nightmare road trip continued over the weekend with a 3 game set at St. Louis.

In the first game, the Cardinals beat the Yankees pretty handily. Tiger Wang struggled, but he was not helped by his defense. If Wang doesn't start missing more bats that will happen to him from time to time.

In the second game, the Randy Johnson the Yankees thought they were trading for finally showed up. In his best game of the season, Johnson dominated the Cards, with his best fastball of the season. He regularly hit 97 mph and was clocked as high as 98. For good measure, his slider was sharper too, and he had added velocity on that as well, getting it up to 88 mph at times. Flash Gordon and Mariano Rivera were able to seal the deal, and the Yankees had a pretty impressive 5-0 win.

In the today's game, the Yankees edged ahead with 2 runs in the 7th, but Tanyon Sturtze and Mike Stanton were unable to hold the lead, and they fell 5-3. I blame myself for touting Sturtze in an earlier blog entry, and apologize for that. Carl Pavano pitched pretty well, but ended up with nothing to show for it.

So how bad was this 12 game road trip? The Yankees entered with a 27-24 record, and were 5 games out of first. They exited with a 30-32 record, and are now 6 games out of first. Considering how poorly they played, that's slightly good news. They scored 43 runs and allowed 53, which in theory meant they should have won 4 games instead of 3. However, those totals are skewed by a 12-3 victory over Milwaukee. If you remove that game from the equation they averaged a pathetic 2.4 runs a game.

One interesting comparison for you Giambi bashers. Giambi now has a .723 OPS. Hideki Matsui has a .731. Granted, it's not a fair comparison when you consider the position each plays and their contracts, but can you really make a case that Ruben Sierra should be getting Giambi's AB?

Looking ahead, the Yankees now get an off day, which I think we all deserve after watching their terrible play over the last 2 weeks, then they come back home to host Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is actually playing pretty well of late, creeping to .500 before losing earlier today against Tampa Bay. Their pitching staff has been pretty solid, which is not good news for a Yankee team that has been in a bad offensive slide. Let's just be happy that Boston and Baltimore also have not played particularly well, although this would've been a good time to pick up ground on both.

June 10, 2005

Macon - Jackson chooses Yankees over Jackets
by SG

According to the article linked above:

Austin Jackson has made his choice - professional baseball.

The Georgia Tech basketball signee has elected to sign with the New York Yankees and forego a college basketball career, Jackson said late Thursday night.

Great news if true, the Yankees got a first or second round talent in the eighth round. He's more athlete than baseball player right now, but he's got a ton of potential and this is nothing but good news.

June 9, 2005

by SG

After dropping 9 of their last 10 games, the Yankees needed a game like last night in the worst way possible. Joe Torre shuffled the lineup in an attempt to wakeup his bats. It seemed to work, as a team that's been scuffling to score put up 12 runs and 16 hits, but let's hope it doesn't mean more playing time for Ruben Sierra in LF.

Mike Mussina was pretty good, with 8 Ks and 3 runs allowed in 6 innings, but watching him bat was painful. The sooner the farce that is interleague play is over, the happier I'll be. Watching pitchers "hit" is just excruciating.

Tanyon Sturtze 2.0™ continues to defy his past performance. Sturtze entered his season with the following numbers for his career.

HR/BF: 0.03
BB/BF: 0.10
K/BF: 0.14

This season, his rates are:

HR/BF: 0.00
BB/BF: 0.03
K/BF: 0.15

BF = Total Batters faced

Very impressive so far, but the prior numbers were against a sample size of 3134 batters faced, and this season's numbers come against a grand total of 117 batters faced. However, Sturtze 2.0™ is pretty clearly a different pitcher than the old one, with the new cutter and the far better control. He may not be quite this good, the HR rate and the BB rate are both freakishly low, but he looks to be a guy the Yankees can count on this year.

Tino Martinez got ejected in the bottom of the fifth inning arguing a checked-swing while playing defense, which was something I'd never seen before. Joe Torre followed Tino out of the game, and Joe Girardi. took over. I do like seeing how Girardi handles things because I get the sense that either he or Don Mattingly will end up being the next manager of the Yankees. I was kind of hoping that Girardi would end Matsui's consecutive game streak last night, just because I think some rest would benefit him from time to time, but if the streak is that important to him then the way it was handled yesterday was fine with me.

The biggest story out of last night's game were the two home runs that Alex Rodriguez hit. The second one made him the youngest player ever to hit 400 HRs. It's still way too soon to predict how many he may end his career with. He may not want to play past his current contract, he may get injured or decline, or he may just not continue to hit them like he has in the past. However, Yankee fans should take a chance to marvel at this accomplishment and recognize just how good a player they have playing third base right now. Has he had a few disappointing and embarrassing moments as a Yankee? Yes. Is he playing out of position? Yes, although that's not his fault. He's very likely the best player we'll ever see playing for our team, so let's try to appreciate that every once in a while, even when he fans with runners on sometimes.

I won't make the mistake of thinking that this win will put this team back on track, but as long as I'm watching them, I'll take wins over losses.

June 7, 2005

The Draft
by SG

There's not much left to say about the Yankees, 2-1 losers last night. Carl Pavano made one bad pitch, and Ben Sheets managed to shut the Yankees down. A late rally fell a run short when Captain Clutch ended the game again. With things looking bleak on the major league front for now, I figured I'd throw up something about the big news from yesterday, which was the June entry draft. I don't know where Fabian is, and I'm not really a huge prospect maven like him, so I'll just throw up the list of draftees and the scouting reports from available). Hopefully Fabian will come by with a more detailed look at some of these players later.

Round 1
C.J. Henry ss Putnam City HS, Oklahoma City OK

COMMENT: Built similar to Alex Rodriguez. Similar kinds of ability. Puts some strength into a slightly uppercut swing. Home run power from alley to alley. Quick and agile in the infield w/ sure hands. Likes to run. Good instincts on the base paths. Makes everything look easy.

Round 2
J. Brent Cox rhp U. of Texas TX

COMMENT: Large frame. Strong, lean mature, proportioned build. Mostly FB 87-88 from side-arm slot, hard run & heavy sink when down. Short, tight slurve-slider. Feel for change-up.

Round 3
Brett Gardner OF College of Charleston SC

COMMENT: Medium-large frame, compact body. Well-built. Solid, muscular, well-defined. Works to stay on top of ball. Gap power. Gift of raw speed. Accurate arm. Patrols CF, jumps w/ direct routes. Plus athlete.

Round 4
Lance Pendleton rhp Rice U. TX

COMMENT: Physically similar to Orel Hersheiser. Loose, quick arm brings low-90s heat that tails into RHH. CB has 12-6 break, tight, quick at the end. Adding circle change to his repetoire. Pitches w/ aggressive demeanor.

Round 5
Zach Kroenke lhp U. of Nebraska NE

COMMENT: Tall, ML pitchers frame. Sloping shoulders. Strong thighs and legs. FB runs from 88-90 mph. Commands both sides of the plate. Strikes out hitters. Slider w/ tight, sharp rotation is his out pitch.

Round 6
Doug Fister rhp Fresno State U. CA

COMMENT: Extra-large frame. Tall & thin. Long, lean muscles. Loose, clean arm action. Fluid w/ good extention. 87-89 w/ downplane, late run & sink. Circle change w/ FB arm speed, fade & sink. Keeps hitters off balance w/ four-pitch mix.

Round 7
Garrett Patterson LHP U. of Oklahoma OK

COMMENT: Large frame. Broad shoulders. Thick body, legs. Similar to Denny Neagle. Power southpaw. Loose arm. FB velocity consistently above avg., occasional better w/ riding life. CB rotation tight at times, 3/4 downer break. Physically mature.

Round 8
Austin Jackson OF Ryan HS, Denton, Texas TX

COMMENT: Tall frame. Well proportioned, lean body. Athletic ability in CF like Tori Hunter. Long, arcing power swing w/ full extension. Adequate arm strength. Makes accurate throws. Loose, flexible actions. Quickness. Athletic ability.

Round 9
James Cooper of Loyola Marymount U. CA

Round 10
Kyle Anson LF Texas St. U TX

Round 11
William Horne rhp U Florida FL

COMMENT: Tall, lean, wiry build, like Kris Benson. FB mostly 88-89 mph w/ slight sink down in zone. Loose out front, w/ whip-like arm action. Uses cut FB as a slider, quick, late, sharp break, best pitch. Around the strike zone, keeps ball down.

Round 12
Joseph Muich C Wichita St. U KS

Round 13
Karl Amonite 1B Auburn U. AL

COMMENT: Built like John Olerud w/ nice approach at plate. Chance to hit for some power. Ball jumps off bat. Fifth year senior looking for chance in pro ball.

Round 14

Round 15
Joshua Schmidt rhp U Pacific CA

Round 16
Christopher Malec 2B UC Santa Barbara CA

COMMENT: Compact frame. Short batting stroke who hits to all fields. Potential to hit for power. Works both ends of the double play well. Hard-nosed player. Good, confident attitude.

Round 17
Keaton Everitt rhp U Washington WA

Round 18
Joseph Burke C St. Johns U NY

COMMENT: Solid build. Evenly proportioned. Similar build to Jeff Kent. Bat speed, turns on good FB. Mostly level cut. Drives ball into gaps. Good foot speed for catcher. Solid baseball instincts. Handles staff well. Leader by example. Good athlete w/ INF & OF experience.

Kind of an odd draft so far. Aside from high-ceiling guys like Henry and Jackson, they seemed to focus on college players without much upside. Maybe the Yankees read Moneyball a few years too late or something. Jackson is likely going to be a tough sign, but if they can lure him away from college he can probably turn this draft from mediocre to decent. It's also possible that the Yankees realized that using college kids to fill roles on the team will allow them to avoid buying bench players and subs and middle relievers for millions of dollars, which would then allow them to spend their money more astutely on premium players. Then again, this is the Yankees, and it's possible that they just wanted guys as close to the majors as possible that they can use for trade chits down the line.

June 5, 2005

by SG

If you want to know one of the reasons the Yankees have floundered despite a $200 million payroll this year, the three decimals above give some insight into it.

Aside from first base, left field is the biggest offensive position in baseball. The three numbers above are the batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage of the starting left fielder of the team with highest payroll in baseball. In addition, this is the player who has batted second or first in the lineup for a good part of the season, ensuring that this player will get more plate appearances than Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez, among others.

I know that some people get annoyed when we gripe about Tony Womack, so you can go ahead and skip this. Again, my issue is not with Womack himself, who seems like a hard-working guy and a good guy. My issue is with the front office that thought he would be a solution to a hole at second base, expecting a repeat of a career year that was far out of line from his past history, and occurred at age 34, making the odds of a repeat that much more unlikely.

Womack is not the biggest problem on this team, far from it. However, he is emblematic of a flawed plan when this team was put together. That it took the Yankees a month to realize that Bernie Williams was not capable of playing CF any more, when it was painfully obvious to almost everyone else over the last two years that this was the case, makes me wonder what the decision makers on this team were thinking when they went into the offseason.

I certainly don't think I am smarter than most front office personnel in baseball, and I realize that there is a ton of information that is used when making decisions that we as outsiders are not privvy to, but when what looked like a series of ridiculously stupid events at the time ends up turning out the way many people predicted, what conclusion are we supposed to reach?

The beauty of this clusterf*** of a team is that George Steinbrenner is holding Brian Cashman and Joe Torre responsible for it, and they are not the ones who put a lot of this team together. Torre has not made good use of some of his personnel, but with the bench and roster he's been dealt it's not clear to me what he could be doing that much differently. Sure, the lineup order is not optimal, but when a .580 OPS is your best option in LF, you've been dealt a shitty hand.

I don't know where this team goes from here. I honestly don't see how they finish this road trip above .500. And when Jaret Wright makes his return, the Yankees will reward Tiger Wang with a trip back to minors, even though he's probably been their most consistent starter over the last 6 weeks. Is this how a team with a plan operates?

With the player acquisition model in place, it was likely only a matter of time before the Yankees began declining. What's aggravating to me is that with a few more astute moves over the last few years, a lot of this could've been avoided. I'll still watch all the games, I'll hope like hell that they start playing better, but I don't expect this team to make the postseason at this point. Their holes are just too big.