Saturday, June 02, 2007

Brawl Brewing in Beantown

Finally, the Yankees went after a Sox batter (Youk) with some intent after getting plunked 3 times last night, the last plunking (Cano's) was serious and intentional. Proctor, who seems to be the designated enforcer (until Rocket gets back), did the enforcing. Unfortunately, he went a little too high for any one's liking. Which means that the hit batsmen will continue into the weekend with both Schilling and Beckett going for the Sox. I fear for A-Rod, Jeter and Cano. I really do.

If you listen to sports radio in New York, specifically the Michael Kay Show, Mike & The Mad Dog, they both advocate pushing the Sox off the plate. For years, Manny, Ortiz, Nixon, Varitek and now Youk, are way to comfortable up there. I agree that the Yankees need to secure the inner part of the plate, but throwing above the shoulders is not the way to go about it.
Anytime you're up that high, nothing good can come of it. You don't want to mess with a chance of serious injury.

That being said, onto a little game analysis. The Yankees played inspired ball with Abreu showing signs of life and Cano carrying a little carryover from the 10-6 victory over the Blue Jays the other night. Wakefield again took a pounding from the Yankees.

What impressed me most, was after the Red Sox tied it up, the Yankees put up a 6-spot. They didn't roll over and play dead. Wang and the bullpen kept that score until the 9th when Mo (again) looked like he might be in some trouble, gave up a hit to Manny and let two inherited runners score.
Torre was thrown out last night. See, he is alive on the bench. It's about time too. Unfortunately, he was wrong to argue the call, seeing as how Abreu did come off the bag and was tagged. At least he showed signs of life and hopefully the Yankees have some carry-over into today and Sunday.
Let's hope the Yankees put up some fight in the remaining two games in Fenway, so they can trim the lead to 10 1/2 , which is slightly more manageable.
They need help from their AL Central foes in trimming the Tribe's lead and got no help from Todd Jones and the Tigers, who imploded in the 9th giving up 5 runs and losing to the Indians.

Now for the 800-pound stripper in the room. What to do with A-Rod's personal life? Personally, it his own. Some players and their wives have an "understanding" about the side stuff. Don't let it get in the papers and embarrass the family. Frankly, the Post went over the line publishing the pictures. We certainly don't need to know that. It doesn't affect the team. A brawl in the dugout (thank you Cubs) or in a bar at night, fine, report that. Not A-Rod's extra-curricular activities. The last thing you want to do is give Sox fans more help getting under Alex's skin (see photo on right...which is brilliant, I have to admit).

Let's hope this blows over for A-Rod and he can concentrate on baseball and help the Yankees climb over .500.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Fire Torre?

The Daily News christened this 12 game stretch as the "The Dirty Dozen". The Yanks play(ed) the Chicago White Sox (1-2), the Mets (0-1), the Angels and the Red Sox. All 4 teams are incredibly tough and two of the teams (Angels and Red Sox) give the Yankees fits.

As you can see from the numbers above, we are 1-3 during this crucial 12 game stretch and losing ground fast. As Yogi liked to say, "it gets late here early". At no point in the Torre era have the Yankees been 10 games out of first. Welcome to that point in the era. Not only have the Yankees been losing, but they have looked uninspired. Lethargic, lax. Very un-Yankee like (we'll get to that point soon).

Quite a few factors have led to this debacle of a season. At first, the pitching was dreadful. Our lone bright spot, Andy Pettitte. Mo has looked human, the bullpen overworked due to dreadful pitching performances and Pavano is again injured and contributing nothing and stealing from the Yankees.

Our hitting had carried us through a rough patch of pitching. Now, the hitting has disappeared. We now have a very lefty-laden line-up and are 3-8 against lefty starters. On any given day, 5-6 players in the lineup bat below .300 and worse, below .260.

Abreu and Cano have been awful. Damon is injured. Giambi is injured. After A-Rod's ludicrous start to the season, he has cooled. Our only stalwarts....Jeter and Posada (again, the last of the Yankee dynast doing their part).

We signed Rocket. The biggest upside...his tenacity and his ability to show his emotions. No one on this current Yankee team is even remotely associated with fire and brimstone. Long gone are the days of Tino, O'Neill and Brosius. Rocket at least brings back some semblance of someone with the balls to call out his teammates for continually not showing any enthusiasm or caring.

That leads us to Torre. Torre has always had the right touch. His managerial ability has not changed. Just his team. It is no longer made up of grinders, self-starters and to borrow a phrase from the hated Sox, a dirt-dog. During the Dynasty years, Torre had players to police the clubhouse and set the attitude (Clemens, Stanley, O'Neill, Brosius, Tino, Raines, Strawberry, Chili Davis, Justice). Now, Torre is saddled with a Captain who leads by example and not by words. Damon is still "new", Moose is too quiet, Giambi might be the guy, but won't out of respect to Jeter and A-Rod won't say boo. Honestly, Posada is the only one who ever shows any emotion.

Besides having had players to police themselves, Torre always had coaches who were capable in their job description...Zim, Chambliss, Mel. Donnie did fine as hitting coach, so he gets a pass. But Gator as pitching coach? Too new. Donnie as bench coach? Too new. Where is the master strategist like Zim (2004 never happens with Zim there to challenge a gimpy Schilling on the mound in Game 6...cold, rainy...BUNT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. TEST THE FREAKIN ANKLE!).

Now, Joe not only has to coddle superstars but teach future managers (Willie, Donnie).

The names have changed and Joe remains. Maybe the face of the manager needs to change as well.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Return of the Rocket

What more can be said about the dramatic introduction of Roger Clemens back into Pinstripes? It was a true Yankee Stadium moment. The people who went to the game, will never forget it.

How it was kept so quite is really amazing. Only a handful of people knew and from the reaction in the dug-out, not even Andy (BFF of Roger) knew. That's secrecy.

The bigger question becomes....will Roger push the Bombers over the top? We have gotten some very impressive outings recently from our rookies, namely DeSalvo and Rasner. Hughes pitched amazing in his second outing before popping a hammy. Our pitching is starting to come around.

The biggest concern is that the starters eat up some innings. Is that what Clemens can do at his age? I doubt it. 44 going on 45 is different from 34 going on 35. Not only that, but there will definitely be an adjustment period coming back to the power heavy AL East.

That being said, I would rather Clemens give us his version of 5-6 innings than Igawa or Pavano (who is clearly just robbing us).

I like the Clemens signing. It's not my money. He adds some leadership, toughness (which we sorely lack in the rotation and retribution department), mentoring ability and overall a kick in the ass.

That being said, is he the savior? I don't think so. Not if our bullpen continues to be used in the fashion it has been and especially if Mo doesn't return to form.

Last night was the third game this year where he has been tagged with the loss/blown save. His velocity is getting better, but his location is lacking. If he doesn't have his location or his cutter isn't cutting, the Yankees aren't the Yankees.

What has caused Mo's problems? In Spring Training, he looked unhittable. Is it the lack of work? If so, blame Torre. Use him even in blowouts. Get him work. Let him loosen up. Without Mo, the season is lost.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Boston Massacre - Part 4!

Another game against our hated rivals, another loss. Andy took the mound for the 2nd time in a week against the Sox and instead of the pen blowing a lead, Andy did it to himself.

The Sox spotted the Yankees 2 runs and the Yankees answered back with 4 in the 4th. 3 walks from Dice-K, a timely 2-out hit from Damon and all seemed to be right with our Pinstriped world.

Not for long. Andy, having spent 25 minutes in the dugout, got the 1st batter and than promptly lost the plate. The result, 5 pitchers from the dugout and an 11-4 beating.

Joe, trying to learn from his mistakes, allowed Mo to get some work in the 9th. Entering the game with a 7-4 deficit, Mo got the 1st batter out. He gave up an opposite field single to Lowell, a single to Varitek, a single to Crisp (again with this light-weight!) and a walk to Pedroia.

In case you're scoring at home, that's another run (8-4) and bases loaded.

Joe brings in Myers, who is truly taking one for the team. He proceeds to give up another 3 runs. If you saw the game, I won't bore you with the gory details.

So much for this game being a push (Andy v. Dice-K). Tomorrow does not look promising, Karstens against our personal tormentor, Wakefield.

After that, we get a reprieve with Tavarez vs. Wang. We need a win. Bad.

7 in a row. Awful.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pocket Rocket Debut

It's not good folks. The Phenom has been called up way too early in the season. The kid wasn't supposed to be here until July of this year and if everything went according to Cashman's schedule, next April.

Instead, we are looking at April 26th, and picturing Phil Hughes as savior and the new version of Roger Clemens.

Let's look in on the Pocket Rocket's progress:

1st Inning:
2 runs, 3 hits, 1 wild pitch and 1K.
Not exactly an overwhelming beginning to the new Era in Yankee baseball. See you in the 2nd inning.
2nd Inning:
2Ks and 1 ground ball. Throw 2 innings - 40 pitches. Gonna have to be more ecnomical or we'll be seeing the bullpen in the 5th again.
3rd Inning:
2 Fly-outs, 1 K and 1 single. Not bad. Seems like the kid is getting into a groove.
4th Inning:
2 ground outs, a walk and a fly-out. Where the hell is the Yankee offense?
5th Inning:
The last inning for Hughes. He threw 91 pitches, had great poiste. Overall looked good out there. He is responsible for the men on 1st and 3rd. He gave up 7 hits and 3 runs. 5Ks.
Not bad. To me, he warrants another start. Let's see what the powers that be have to say.
Now, if we can just get some offense, we can get off this losing streak and perhaps inflict some payback on Boston this weekend.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Road Kill!

I had a hard time deciding how I wanted to dissect the recently concluded road trip from hell.

We hit Schilling, Beckett and Dice-K. They had their rotation lined-up and couldn't put us away. No overly dominant outings by their starters. Their bullpen proved to be exceptional and Papelbon is ridiculous.

That said, we started 2 rookies, used a reliever who was working for the 1st time in 5 days, using a bullpen that is decimated by overuse, due to the inability of the starters to go more than 5 innings. Still, we were in every game and that is a morale booster. Lord knows you don't want to be swept by the Sox at any time of the year for psychological reasons, but still, it wasn't so bad. If our bullpen does its job, we win 2 maybe even sweep them.

Than comes our trip to our own version of Dante's Inferno and our own personal hell....Tampa. They have got our number. If they had any pitching they would absolutely kill people in the AL East. They have a ton of athletes. Baldelli, Upton, Young, Dukes, Crawford, Kazmir. They are going to be good....SOON.

The AL East is like beer league softball. Mashers up and down the lineups. Makes you wonder how we're supposed to win 95-98 games.

Unless the pitching gets healthy in a hurry, this is going to get a lot worse.

If it wasn't for A-Rod's history making April, we could be 4-15.

Joe is making some awful decisions and some panicky ones as well. He uses Myers against Crawford, when Myers has been overused. Where is Henn? Henn got Papi twice, let him get Crawford and rest Myers for a day.

Vizcaino, Bruney and Proctor are having some arm issues since they have been used in 13 or 14 games out of 19. Farnsworth is killing us by not being able to go two days in a row.

Mo is not himself due to lack of use. See Scutaro and the 8th inning of the Sox (bloop single, 40 bounce triple, dunked in single over a drawn in infield, reminiscent of Arizona 2001).

He takes out Wang after 74 pitches (I know, 1st game back, but he didn't labor out there), instead of walking Baldelli. He goes to Myers, instead of Henn. Awful by Joe, just awful. How soon before the Boss calls for his head? On top of that, Jeter gets hurt, by being hit by a pitch. Again, no retaliation. When will that stop? Someone has to pay. The pain should be reciprocated. How about Crawford? He goes 4 for 4 with his 1st career Grand Slam to beat us. Knock him down!

Things have to change in a hurry. Hughes is coming up, Moose is coming back soon. Matsui is back. Will it be enough?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Error of Their Ways

If the first 11 games of the season is any future indication of Yankee defense, than this is going to be a long, frustrating summer.

Granted, 11 games is a small sample, but the regularity with which errors are occurring is frightening. I don't say this to pile on Jeter, who if you see the back page of today's Daily News and John Harper, would have you believe that he's over the hill, has less range than normal and should be ready to pack it in.
This is a direct shot at the entire Yankee team. The errors are made (or not) on the most routine of chances and they are costing us big time.
Abreu cost us Friday night's game with a god-awful error on Piazza's drive to the wall. Abreu makes that catch, Piazza doesn't score and the Yankees win by a run (ain't hindsight wonderful).
Jeter's error on Jackie Robinson Day on Sunday cost Pettitte an unearned run and eventually bit them in the ass when Mo gave up a bomb to Scu, Scu, Scutaro (my Berman imitation...thank you, thank you...I'm here all week. Try the veal).
In the beginning of the Torre Era, GMs, scouts, fans always commented on the tight defense, clutch hitting and fantastic pitching that helped the Yankees win 4 out of 5 World Series. Recently, you can say that the defense has been porous at best.
Is that really the case? I did some number crunching, with the help of the stats compiled by the guys at Baseball Reference. The following numbers are error totals for the Yankees from 1996-2006 and the World Series winners from 2001-2006.
1996: 91
1997: 104 Marlins: 106
1998: 98
1999: 111
2000: 109
2001: 108 Arizona: 84
2002: 127 Angels: 82
2003: 118 Marlins: 78
2004: 108 Red Sox: 118 (always an exception)
2005: 95 White Sox: 97
2006: 104 Cardinals: 98
From 1996 - 2001, the Yankees, judging by their numbers, would lead you to believe, played tight. In 1996, Jeter had 25 errors (leading the team), in 1997 it was Jeter again and a combination of 2nd basemen. In 1998, Brosius, who we all remember as a glove man, had 23. In 1999, Knoblauch led the team with 27 errors, and the beginning to the end of his career. in 2000, Jeter had 26 and Knoblauch had 21.
2001, Brosius again led the team with 28 (a rookie named Alfonso Soriano had 23) and if you remember Game 7 of the World Series and if you've ever read Buster Olney's Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, you know that Mo thought Brosius should have gone for the double play in the 9th inning, instead of just going to 1st after Mo fielded the bunt. Is that an indictment of Brosius and our memories of our beloved Third basemen?
After O'Neill, Knoblauch, Tino and Brosius left, it starts to get ugly.
2002, the leaders are Soriano with 23 and Ventura with 33! 2003, Jeter and a combo of fill-ins, had 27. 2004, A-Rod's first with the Yankees, he has 25 to lead the team. In 2005, a return to the glove days, with a very respectable 95. 2006, saw A-Rod again lead the team with 26.
As you can see from the numbers above, the defense began slipping in 2002, with all of the roster changes and Soriano's lack of improvement at 2nd. Than, we import A-Rod, who volunteers to play out of position (and he has cost us).
We all know that the best shortstop on the team is playing 3rd base, even if we don't say it out loud. (If it were up to me, I would have Cano at 3rd, Jeter at 2nd and A-Rod at SS).
My point? You can't win championships without Defense. It goes for all sports. The question is, what is Torre doing about it? What is Cashman doing about it? We continue to employ defensive liabilities on the field. See Damon in CF, Matsui in LF and A-Rod at 3rd.
Jeter will work through the errors and will even out as the year goes on. I have faith in that. I have no faith in Torre being able to get these guys to play better D. It's 6 years and counting. Defense and Pitching. That's all I'm saying.