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June 5, 2006

Catching up
by SG

While I was away, I caught bits and pieces of the Yankee games and news, mainly through newspapers and glimpses of the unwatchable ESPN. After falling to the Royals on May 26 when Jason Giambi hit into a ninth inning double play with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on first, the Yankees went on a roll, winning the next two games against KC, taking 3 of 4 against the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers on the road in what could have very well been a sweep, then taking 2 from Baltimore before losing yesterday.

Particularly impressive is that they did all this despite a list of unavailable players that just continues to get longer and longer. Gary Sheffield's torn wrist tendon sounds really, really bad. I don't know how he can come back from something like that without surgery, and having surgery would seem to put him at risk to miss the rest of the season. According to this article:

Doctors say Sheffield, who already has missed about a month, has a torn ligament and a dislocated tendon in his wrist, which they will try to fix conservatively but may have to operate on if it does not begin to heal on its own.

The good news is that the injury situations have forced Joe Torre to make use of players he otherwise would never play. After rotting on the bench for most of the season, Andy Phillips has been inserted into the starting lineup and has performed, just like his minor league numbers indicated he might if he was given a fair chance. After starting in 16 of the first 49 games and never more than two in a row, Phillips has started the last six games, and has hit .480/.464/.760 and hit two HRs and driven in eight runs. His overall season line of .291/.318/.456, while not great, has made him about one run below average so far offensively. However, I have his glove as about 3 runs above average so far this season, as he's made 38 plays out of 41, where the average 1B would have made 34 plays. This makes him a slightly above average player so far. With the present roster, I can see no rationale that he is not starting every day, particularly since Jason Giambi appears to be hitting reasonably well as a DH this year.

Giambi as a 1B: .282/.472/.672 in 171 PA
Giambi as a DH: .276/.419/.583 in 73 PA

A loss like yesterdays can end up being useful, if it helps the team make the appropriate decisions about the chief "contributors" to it. Kevin Thompson got a hit and drew a walk in his major league debut on Saturday while playing decent defense in RF. His reward? A benching on Sunday for the decrepit Terrence Long, who's been Womackian this season so far. Long is what he is, a bad hitter who can't play defense. While the Yankees need OF depth and Long is fine as a 4th or 5th OF, he should NOT be starting, especially over someone like Thompson, who projected better coming into the season, and who is younger, and who could be useful to the Yankees, not just this season, but over the next five or six.

Thompson doesn't project to be a star. A 26 year old who was hitting .288/.380/.453 in AAA is not going to be a great player. However, he's versatile defensively, has very good speed, and seems like he could be a very handy fourth OF at the very least, and perhaps an okay starter if he's a late bloomer. As long as he's up, he should be starting, particularly over someone like Long or Bernie Williams.

Continuing in that vein, Scott Erickson needs to go, pronto. The last time Scott Erickson was even league average, Napster was just invented, Lance Armstrong was winning his first of seven Tour De France titles, Windows '98 was the operating system of choice, Wayne Gretzky was still playing in the NHL, and the Sega Dreamcast was released to rave reviews.

In other words, Erickson has sucked, not just this season, but for SEVEN FREAKING YEARS. I'd rather see what Ramiro Mendoza, Jose Veras, or Kris Wilson could do than continue trotting Erickson out there.

I think it's also time to cut the cord on Aaron Small, or at least send him back to Columbus, because it's pretty clear that whatever was working last year isn't working this year. It's pretty ugly all around.

HR/9: 0.5
BB/9: 2.8
K/9: 4.4
FIP: 3.86

HR/9: 3.7
BB/9: 4.1
K/9: 3.7
FIP: 9.04

That HR rate is horrendous. He's also walking more people and striking out fewer. None of this takes away from what he did last year, and I'm glad he got a nice payday for that, but the fact is that he is hurting the team in 2006 and should not be on it right now. Hopefully, the pending return of Shawn Chacon will fix this problem.

The Yankees limp home now to face Boston, with what looks to be a day-to-day Jeter, stomach flu-ridden Giambi and Alex Rodriguez, and with Mariano Rivera recovering from a back injury. Thankfully, it appears that Randy Johnson has figured something out as he's been better his last two starts. The practical side of me says we should be happy with a split of the four game series, but that doesn't feel good enough to me. I want to see the Yankees win 3 of 4. I know it's not probable given the injuries, but winning taking 3 of 4 in Detroit wasn't probable either.

And make sure you scroll down a bit more and read Fabian's draft preview.