Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pandemic Alert

The World Health Organization has announced that a widespread, relatively-unknown malady is spreading in an alarming way that is starting to pose a very serious global threat. Therefore, they have upgraded their pandemic alert phase to Phase 5, reflecting an elevated possibility of a pandemic event striking the world.

The previously-rare disease is known as Sore Glove Hand. Classic symptoms of this pandemic threat include soreness in your glove hand, general lethargy, apathy toward your job, missing many days for minor injuries, weak ground balls to the right side, and striking out looking. It has not caused any deaths yet, but it has caused a slowdown due to victims' inability to work or, when pinch hitting, fail to perform their job function.

Ways to prevent this disease are avoiding contact with Scott Boras, wearing a baseball glove and catching a baseball during any time between October and February, using painkillers like ibuprofen, and not being a baby.

Sore Glove Hand (Volume 4)

Lots of things to say today. First and foremost, the Red Sox won their first road series of the season! Awesome!

-I have to make a serious decision today. Obviously, the Red Sox won and have won 12 out of 13, so I don't want to say negative. On the other hand, I want to be proactive instead of reactive. The conclusion is that I want to stay on the cutting edge. So here we go.

-I feel like a good addition to the Red Sox' bullpen right about now would be Lt. Dan Taylor. Walking, though lately it hasn't been necessarily harmful, is a cause for conern. Lt. Dan is not going to do much walking.

-A few days we talked about Papelbon's health. He's only thrown three 1-2-3 innings in ten outings. Conversely, out of his first 27 outings in 2006 (by far his best season), he was perfect in 18 of them. As we said, he has become more reliant on the fastball than ever, and that's not good because at least earlier on in the season the velocity of the fastball was down. Predictably, he's missing fewer bats and throwing more pitches.

The Globe talked about Papelbon's adjustments a few days ago and what he said sounds like he's trying to cover something up. Definitely something to monitor as the season goes on. It's probably a good thing the Red Sox didn't listen to him whining about his contract.

-A good Sports Illustrated article about Zach Grienke, a guy who it seems like the entire world decided to start talk about yesterday. I like the story about how he threw a 50-mph curveball because he was bored. Although I bet it would be frustrating to be a fan of a bored pitcher. It's nice to know he cares again.

-Speaking of caring, when JD Drew wants a day off and you pinch hit him, hilarity does not usually ensue. Nice at-bats the last two days.

-I have 210 1/3 reasons to be worried about Lester.

-Now to the positive stuff. Another good 46 game last night--I'm not sure if it was nationally televised or not, but judging by his performance, I'm thinking it was.

-A questionable decision by Francona to stick with Jonathan Van Every in the eighth inning instead of pinch hitting. After all, Drew was on the bench. If it had gone poorly and JVE had ended the inning, he would have been ripped apart. However, JVE came through and singled. Later, he hit his first home run. It's nice to see five Crash Davises (JVE, Carter, Bailey, Nick Green, Gil Velasquez) get some playing time in Boston.

-The bullpen pulled a Matsuzaka last night. Sure, all you could think of is the walks. But guess what: They pitched another shutout.

-MEANWHILE, in New York, you guys are very, very lucky to have Nick Swisher. He's the anti-A-Rod. What a baller this guy is. And another strong start by Joba Chamberlain. Do people in New York think he should be in the bullpen, or is that just a national media thing?

-As you can tell by the time stamp, I'm coming in early again. Speaking of A-Rod, it looks like he wasn't just coming in early, but he was using the juice early, too. Using as early as high school, and using with Kevin Brown on the Yankees. He's such a great guy for coming clean and admitting how stupid and naive he was.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Expendible

Leave it to the Red Sox to end the winning streak spectacularly, and leave it to Javier Lopez to find new, clever ways to blow games. I'm sure Lopez is a fine, outstanding individual, but he's getting more second chances than Robert Downey Jr. This has to stop. Now. Because Lopez is now more expendible than ever.

At least Lopez didn't walk anyone this time, so I can no longer say he's walked seven guys in his last 2 2/3 innings. But he came pretty darn close. Lopez has a serious focusing problem, first and foremost with throwing strikes. But yesterday was inexcusable.

Maybe Lopez took his eye off the ball when he was looking to find first base. He still had a step or two to spare and the ball was thrown perfectly by Youkilis after a sure-fire webgem. But he just dropped it. That is inexcusable. And I am almost 100% positive (though I can't find it) this is not the first time the Red Sox have lost a game as a result of Lopez botching a routine defensive play. There's an image of a dribbler that Lopez failed to field, costing the Red Sox a game. And I can't be making it up. Also a result of poor focus.

I really hope Lopez is one of those 150 players who magically got diagnosed with ADD last year, because between his lack of focus in the field and his lack of focus on throwing the ball over the plate, he probably needs that medication.

Also, Hunter Jones is a lefty reliever. He's been effective. He's thrown the ball over the plate, and rarely walked people in the minors. His righty-lefty splits aren't too great, but then again, Lopez's aren't consistently good either. It's time to give Jones a chance, because the Javier Lopez experience is just not working. Bad relievers, though every team has a few, are expendible. Who knows--after leaving Boston, Lopez might enjoy a renaissance like Rudy Seanez, and I hope he does minus the chemically-enhanced part, of course. But it's just not working out. It's not you, Javier, it's me. Oh, wait, nevermind, it is you.

Not that Lopez is the only one on the hook tonight. I wonder if Brad Penny will ever reach the seventh inning. I see that Julio Lugo still can't catch, but Mike Lowell killed the Red Sox with a costly double-play botching error and grounding into a double play in a key spot. Same goes for Pedroia, who's got it together for sure generally, but had an extremely badly timed GIDP. 46 has realized not all games are nationally televised so it's time to start sucking again. Takashi Saito has to stop throwing meatballs.

And I've realized that hideous JD Drew strikeouts with runners on late in the game aren't that big of a deal anymore. And it's not because of Jason Bay, as I suggested yesterday. It's because they are so predictably inevitable. Struck out looking to strand Pedroia on second in the eighth inning and to drop his batting average to .246. Don't worry though, because when he plays, he plays at an "elite" level according to Theo Epstein.

Losses happen, and bad baseball in general happens. Both of those happened last night. It's always rough to snap a long winning streak spectacularly, though.

MEANWHILE, in New York, Phil Hughes pitched six shutout innings, allowing just two hits. How did he look? Are you excited? Is he going back to the minors? Is Chien-Ming Wang's job in jeopardy? Do people overreact too much to everything this guy does?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

DV: A HUGE Fan of Former Pirates

On April 15, 2009, a former Pirate stepped on the mound at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and took a no-hitter into the seventh. Before that game, the 2-6 Red Sox had lost a Javier Lopez "Let's Walk Nine Guys In A Row" twelve-inning game and were very possibly going to concede the 2009 season. Then Wakefield (and JD Drew--let's give credit) propelled the Red Sox to an 8-2 win.

They haven't lost since. Tim Wakefield's ERA is 1.86 and due to Jason Varitek's intangibles and extra flap on his glove (that is a Buck Martinez is an idiot reference), he's started the 2009 season unlike any other season except for maybe 1992.

There were four walks and a few nailbiter moments when the game was still tied at zero and Kottaras couldn't find the ball, but Wakefield has risen to the challenge when it has been necessary. When the Red Sox' offense wanted to take a post-Yankees vacation day like the Yankees did today, Wakefield took the team on his back. The knuckleball looks better than it ever has with the exception of maybe (maybe!) 1995, and the fact that Kottaras wasn't the catcher until about a week before the season has only backfied in a minor way so far

I know that there are a lot of people, namely Tommy Gunn and Tim McCarver, who don't think "Bill" Wakefield can be trusted, and I see where they're coming from. But Wakefield has been on this team for the majority of most of this blog's readers' lives, so you gotta at least have a bit of a soft spot for him. He started with a good half-season in Pittsburgh, then got sent back to AAA, then was released, had a career year his first year with the Red Sox (their first division title in five years), spent some time sucking in the rotation, led the league in homers one year, had some time as a reliever, had some time as a closer, got left off of two playoff rosters, gave up the Aaron Boone home run, and has been an integral part of all the playoff teams and the World Series teams. Unlike people heralded as the veteran and the glue of the team, Wakefield has never complained about his role being reduced in the playoffs, has never complained about his role being reduced ever, and has never been in a lengthy contract holdout. He just re-ups with the Red Sox every year for $4 million. I think I want to pick a fight with some of the "Wakefield Has To Go" people today. A Hall of Famer? F no. But if you want to rag on a converted infielder who developed a third pitch after age 35 and has never thrown 82 miles per hour, I will rag on you.

The Red Sox should sign Jason Bay today...no, a month ago. Like the Gunn, I would give him JD Drew money immediately. Because despite the strikeouts, which haven't even been that numerous this year so far, the guy can hit. It's like Bay and Youkilis are taking serious umbrage to David Ortiz's "we need a bat" whining all season. And that's a good thing. With five home runs, including today's game-winner that traveled about a quarter mile and seemed like a 12-run homer, at the end of April, it looks like Bay is on pace for...well...about 30-35 home runs. With 31, 32, and 35 in three out of the last four years, who would have thunk it?

Drew is heralded for his patience and his Fenway Park swing that has produced a single-digit number of balls off the Wall in 2.17 seasons. Bay leads the league in walks. Bay has played in 120 games in each of the eight full years he's spent in professional baseball; Drew has eclipsed that mark three times.

During the winning streak, Bay has OPSed over a thousand and has driven in nine runs. Before the winning streak, he was the only player on the team who could hit the ball. He wants to stay in Boston. The Red Sox can afford him. The fans want him to stay in Boston. What is stopping Theo Epstein? Oh yeah.

I was at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sunday and saw Aubrey Huff ground out softly to the right side three times. Sounds awfully familiar. Does Theo's definition of "Fenway Park Swing" assume that there's a black hole near the second baseman's position where a ground ball hit there disappears and becomes a home run? The Orioles fan sitting next to me liked Huff, but nothing the guy has ever done (except for his defense Sunday--at first base) has impressed me. And I know I'm not the only one.

Thanks to Jason Bay, my father and I got to share the experience of a giddy, no-pressure JD Drew pinch hit at-bat. Drew, if you didn't know, is nursing a sore quad and probably the Swine Flu, and was going to take the day off today. But he was called to pinch hit. At the beginning, I wanted 2-1 odds on Drew never swinging in the at-bat. After taking one ball and two right down the middle, I was looking for even money. When he struck out on a check swing on a ball in the dirt, epitomizing his time in Boston and leaving us wondering if that counts as a swing, it was more comical than enfuriating.

That's because the former Pirate iced the game. You know somebody's a franchise player if they can alleviate all pain involved with JD Drew taking two right down the middle...and striking out on a check swing at a breaking ball in the dirt...in the ninth inning of a game...that he was promised he wouldn't play and was likely pissed off that he had to pinch hit.

So thank you, Jason Bay, and thank you, Tim Wakefield. The former Pirates kept the winning streak intact, and have been the key to the Red Sox' success.


In this 2006 picture featuring my boy John D, a discerning eye will see that despite the A's hat, I was a fan of Wakefield and Bay's former team.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

How Hot Is That Seat?

I'm not sure, but it certaintly isn't cold. First, it's not entirely fair. Girardi is operating without his best offensive player, his best starter prior to this year, and his best reliever not named Mariano Rivera. Second, it's one series. Nobody likes to get swept, especially against Boston. But Joe Torre got swept almost two years ago to the weekend in Boston (in an eerily similar fashion, Rivera blows a save Friday, Beckett gets lit but Yankees get lit more Saturday, clean loss Sunday), and what's more, lost two of three the next weekend. The team then went 9-3 vs. Boston the rest of the season, and that was just one team in what was one of the greatest second half surges in recent memory. But, it's also not unfair. Girardi continues to make moves that everyone questions, and the team has questionable execution in spots that ultimately come back to him. What's most concerning is the fact that most of these things are simply a continuation from 2008.

Bus is out, let's get rolling.

As I said the comments section from last night, the decision to start Angel Berroa on back to back days is mind boggling. Utterly perplexing. First, Berroa had .1 (!) of an inning at third base prior to Saturday's game. Pena, even as a rookie, has more experience at the position. Second, Beckett and Masterson are both righties, just like Berroa. Pena, as a switch hitter, has the ability to bat lefty. Third, you aren't getting any offense from third base until Alex gets back anyway, so play the better fielder. Pena is the far superior fielder. Fourth, Berroa lost a battle for the utility infielder's role in Spring Training to...Ramiro Pena. How he suddenly jumps him and becomes the starter, I don't know. All of this added up to the Red Sox scoring a run in an inning where they got no hits, no walks, and no hit by pitches because Berroa made two errors. The sad part is that everyone knew this made no sense, and that something like this could happen. Beat writers, bloggers, and fans everywhere have been wondering why Girardi just won't play the best defender, especially after Ransom went down. Yet he does it anyway. It's not Berroa's fault, he's never played third freaking base! It's just scary how he seems to consistently do things that everyone doesn't understand, and they don't understand because it's impossible to understand things that don't make logical sense.

The fifth inning. Pettitte has to do a better job executing. You can't walk Jason Varitek to start an inning. With one out, you can't walk Jacoby Ellsbury. These are two people you just can't walk. With two outs and a 1-2 count, you have to do a better job with Big Pop Out. What he does in the future is incosequential. Until something changes, he's cooked. Can't drive anything to right field. So all you need to do is bring him to right field, because he can't beat you there. Hasn't hit a home run all year. If you are a power pitcher, fastball after fastball because he can't catch up to it even to foul it off. If you aren't, like Pettitte, you want to get him out in front of stuff, especially with two strikes. The only thing you can't do is throw him a 90 mph fastball in Fenway, because the only thing he can do right now is get his bat to average fastballs late and fist them to left field. That's what Pettitte did, and that's what Ortiz did. Awful.

The steal of home. Doesn't matter how fast or slow a player is, none of the credit ever goes to the player that steals. That is 100% preventable 100% of the time, and it's entirely the fault of the team that allows it. First, Berroa has to at least pretend he's in range to hold Ellsbury close. This is on - get ready - Girardi and Berroa (there was a theme in this game). Second, if Pettitte wants to work out of the windup with the bases loaded, that's fine. But he's a lefty and he needs to check on the runner before he starts his windup. Not difficult. This is on Pettitte. Third, Jorge Posada needs to be checking down as well, probably multiple times, and also remind Pettitte to check himself. Further, once the runner is going, Posada needs to stand up out of his crouch, raise his hands, yell, get in front of the plate, do anything he can to make Pettitte aware of the runner going, and block the plate at the same time. This is on Posada. When you add it all up, this is a lack of fundamental baseball, ultimately the mangers responsibility. These are basic, basic, basic things that every team should have tightened up. I don't care that two of these players are veterans. If the manger isn't responsible for his team playing sound baseball, what is he responsible for?

Brett Gardner is .220/.254/.271, 3 walks to 12 strikeouts, 45 OPS+ (!). Melky Cabrera is .303/.378/.667, 4 walks to 5 strikeouts, 165 OPS+. That it is still a relatively small sample size does not matter. Gardner has almost been bad enough to discredit any sample size, no matter how small. And this isn't that small, we are over 1/10th of the way through the season. To have come to the plate 59 times and not have one triple slash number above .300 is almost unimaginable for an everyday Major League player. Never mind that Gardner is playing a shockingly bad -21.2 UZR/150 in center, and Melky is playing a 17.3. You don't want to crush Gardner's confidence by completely phasing him out, as it is possible he can turn it around. But you also have to worry about (1) playing the best player now to help the team win games and (2) not sending a message to the team that those who produce will earn playing time. Both of these things are more important than Garnder's confidence. Time for Gardner to hit the bench and then get some hits if he wants to be the starting center fielder again. He's been almost as bad as you can possibly be on both sides of the baseball.

Justin Masterson was very good tonight. The Yankees need to get this lineup, in order, on the field: Jeter, Damon, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Swisher, Cano, Posada, Matsui, and Cabrera. I know scoring runs has not been the issue, but performances like tonight from Masterson remind you that this lineup probably can't keep it up at this pace forever. Between Gardner and whoever is at third base, there are too many black holes. At that's before you give anyone an off day, which is probably the biggest concern with the offense the way it is. At the very least, Rodriguez solves that problem. You can give someone an off day without the lineup instantly looking atrocious. That has been the primary difference between the Yankees scoring runs and not. They can't give a guy a day off, like they did with Damon tonight. You have to be able to give guys days off.

The one silver lining tonight is the Major League debut of Mark Melancon. First inning pitched, Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Big Pop Out 1-2-3, six pitches. If you saw the way Ellsbury's bat shattered in half, you know why the Yankees are excited about this kid. His fastball is heavy and has very late action, which combine to make it overpowering. Not everyone can just saw bats off like that. In the second inning he walked two and hit a batter to load them up with no outs. He then ate Lowell alive with a two-seamer (his biggest strength, eating righties up with his fastball), K'd Varitek swinging on a filthy hook, and got Nick Green to bounce to second. Ladies and gentleman, your new setup man. The Yankees need Bruney to get well soon so he and Melancon can tidy up what went on in the back of the bullpen this weekend.

Michael Bowden looked very good as well.

Friday night was really too bad. Teixeira would have had the game winning RBI. The guys from SWB held the Sox scoreless for 2.1 innings while the Sox bullpen gave the game away. I would have been all over DV. All over. Just wasn't meant to be.

It's possible that Rivera won't blow another two run lead all year, let alone with two outs. It's possilble Burnett won't blow another six run lead all year, let alone one in which he had the stuff he had through three yesterday. Having it happen in back to back games, against Boston no less, is tough. But it happens. They got beat clean tonight, which is bad timing as much as anything else. They could have easily gone 2-1, and should have at least secured one of Friday or Saturday to go 1-2. I always talk about not getting swept when going up to Fenway, because there is such a big difference between getting swept and going 1-2. That means winning games that you can. They had chances to win Friday and Saturday. But Boston is going to be tough at home all year, and the Yankees didn't play any better or worse than them Friday or Saturday. So you have to tip your cap to them, try to take the postives that you can away from the series, and move on.

As for Girardi, I will never root for anyone in any profession to lose their job unless they are doing something immoral, dangerous, seriously wrong, etc. Not my style at all, we are talking about someone's livelihood. So I'm not rooting for Joe Girardi to lose his job. At the same time, managing the Yankees is a big deal, a job in high demand. There are a lot of people that would love to have it. So you are held to a high standard in terms of performance. Right now, Girardi is not meeting that standard. And it's not just me spouting off after a frustrating loss that's saying this. Not at all, my weekened actually got progressively calmer as it went along (you can't get any worse than Friday night, that's one you don't sleep after, and I didn't do much of it). Further, a lot of people are starting to voice what could most accurately described as confusion about a lot of the things he does. It's too early to determine anything, not only because it's only been 18 games, but because of the injuries this team has endured early. They need to get healthy and see what they can do. Alex Rodriguez alone is going to make a big difference if some clown like me was managing. At the same time, Girardi needs to start doing a better job. I hope that he does, he seems like a great guy. Being a great guy, unfortunately, doesn't win baseball games, and that's the name of the game here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Launching Pad

Over under on how many people in the media will be talking about Fenway Park being a launching pad: 0. Mike Lowell hit two pop ups tonight - one that traveled 300 feet and would have been foul, one that traveled 290 feet and would have been a medium flyball in most left centers - that resulted in 6 RBI on a homer and a double respectively. Same thing with Ortiz and Bays doubles. The Yankees have had some too (Cano's double), but the Red Sox are built to play in this Little League field. They are going to be tough to beat at home. Too many guys that are one dimensional offensively, and there one dimension is hitting the ball to left field.

Dustin Pedroia should be required to return his MVP trophy for playing in this park. Robinson Cano would win it every year if he was on the Red Sox. But that's just sour grapes on my part. I'm back to being glad we have the one we have and not the other.

As I type this, McCarver and Buck just had a good laugh at a fan who yelled, "That would have been a homerun in your park," after Jeter hit a foul ball behind homeplate. Of course, they say nothing about the six homeruns hit in Fenway today. Nor the "doubles". Typical.

Both of these bullpens are terrible. The Yankees are worse right now. I look forward to seeing them on a real field.

Beckett just didn't have anything today. Burnett cruised through the first three, then came undone when he didn't get a borderline call on a 3-2 curveball to JD Drew. This is something that Yankees fans haven't witnessed yet, but it is in the scouting report. He can let things like not getting calls/breaks affect him. We saw it today, and it's not pretty.

Is it too much to ask Major League umpires to get the calls that are not close correct? I understand that baseball is a game of inches and that there are a lot of bang bang plays and that it's not easy to get everything right. But when Jacoby Ellsbury is out by three feet tryig to steal second, and the play happens right in front of you where you have the perfect angle, you should get that call right every time. I could understand a miss here or there. But we have a few of these per week. I've been saying this for a while now, but the umpiring in Major League Baseball is terrible, and they need to do something to fix it. It did not used to be this awful.

Hopefully the Yankees don't get swept tomorrow. But my guess is since they pitched last night and didn't hit, and hit today but didn't pitch, they'll probably do a little bit of both tomorrow and lose anyway.

Girardi Loss Counter: 2

You bet I am.

That the Yankees never should have never been in a 4-2 in the bottom of the 9th, there is no question. The offense continues to struggle with RISP, 4-19 tonight. But that's not the point. The Red Sox had their chances too, albeit to a lesser extent. They didn't convert, either, but that didn't cause Tito to decide it would be a good idea to blow the game.

Have an ounce of consistency. An ounce. 12 days ago in Kansas City, the Royals had a runner on first and two outs in the 8th, and Joe didn't go to Rivera. It's a tough pill to swallow because you want him in that spot, but it was the right move. It's April. Mariano Rivera is an essential part of this team, and he only has so many bullets.

And that's not even the main issue (though it is an issue). The issue is, if you aren't going to bring him in for a 4 out save in Kansas City, then don't do it under two weeks later in Boston. I know what he's done, but he's still human. He has had zero (0) multi inning performances this season, including Spring Training. Boston, in that environment, in that hitters park, is not the spot to stretch him out, especially in April. It's just not.

It's unfair to just always ask Mo to do everything. It just is. And Girardi asking him to do this, for the first time this season, in Boston, is just another example of him not putting his players in the best position to succeed. Albaladejo has been throwing the ball not well, but outstanding. He had an 0-1 count on Jacoby Ellsbury, who happens to be left-handed. Damaso Marte, who happens to be left-handed, was also up in the bullpen. If you aren't going to use him there, when are you going to use him? And that's before you even talk about letting Albaladejo go after him with an 0-1 count! Absolutely and positively absurd. We are talking about Jacoby Ellsbury in April, no Albert Pujols in August. I'm the one saying more than anyone that every game matters, but you have to stay within reason and think about your players more than that one game sometimes. Let someone else finish the 8th, and then let Mo do what he's been doing, finishing off the 9th with a clean start.

I know that every team experiences injury, but I have never seen anything - in any sport - like what the Yankees have experienced these last few years. We are 16 games into the season, and Alex Rodriguez, Chien-Ming Wang, and Cody Ransom are all on the DL. On top of that, Brian Bruney is in New York getting his elbow checked out, Mark Teixeira has had to have a cortisone shot, and Hideki Matsui has had his knees drained. Just adds insult to injury tonight.

The Yankees need to play better baseball, especially offensively. No doubt. But Girardi needs to put his team in a better chance to succeed. This has been my major beef with him all along. He just does things that make no sense, and are often flat out wierd (bringing Mo in the 8th to face Jacoby Ellsbury with an 0-1 count in April). I have no confidence in him to manage this baseball team.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Scumbag Millionaire

First and foremost, check out the timestamp. All the other bloggers in the world are sleeping or taking their kids to school. Once I finish, I'm going to do stairs. I come in early.

With the Yankees rolling into town for the first time tonight, Mark Teixeira is arriving mouth first. A campy Boston.com poll once had an option of "I'm gonna love to hate this guy." That could be the case, as this phony keeps on saying stupid things. He's not on the same level as Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, or Ian Kennedy, but his mouth is earning a pretty strong fourth on the "throw at his head" list.

As I said in yesterday's comments section, everything that comes out of Teixeira's mouth is phony. It's strange that someone who seems to meticulously rehearse and rehearse everything he says also seems to contradict himself on such such a consistent basis. Before he says dumb things, he might want to look back on a database of previously-rehearsed boilerplate bullcrap he previously said. For Teixeira's convenience, here's a start.

This trend is continuing during his time in New York. The WFAN interview when Teixeira said that he was turned off by the Red Sox publicizing details in negotiations. Of course, this is a little weird, because if you haven't heard, he never really wanted to play for the Red Sox anyway because he loved Don Mattingly and New York and his wife always loved New York. The Red Sox just paid for a pair of plane rides. It's funny that nobody knew Teixeira loved Don Mattingly until about December 23, 2008. Whatever. Anyway. He was pissed off about the Red Sox' negotiations.

Then, on NJ.com yesterday, he seemed to change his tune: I enjoyed talking with the Red Sox all offseason," Teixeira said. "There's no question why the Red Sox are in the position they are. Because he's an incredible GM and they have a great organization. So he enjoyed the negotiations and hated the negotiations at the same time. Hammering home the point I've mentioned before, Rick James had more sense than to grind his feet up on somebody's couch. This guy is such a scumbag. Seriously, though, check out that NJ.com article. There's a picture of him holding up four fingers. It's probably an indication of "we're up by four runs, time to start hitting."

Part of the reason I'm up at 5:00 in the morning is because his WBC comments Tank told me about yesterday are keeping me up all night--"I'm not playing because I already played and I'd love to extend that opportunity to someone else. I'm really selfless and a great American by getting ready for the Yankees' season instead."

No. Wrong. You sat out the World Baseball Classic because Team USA is not paying you $185 million to be ready for the 2009 baseball season. The Yankees are and you are respecting your job. That's all you have to say. Trying to sound like Miss America makes you look like a douchebag. Which you are.

Teixeira is relishing the thought of being booed at Fenway Park tonight, which is inevitable. There's a growing movement of giving Teixeira the silent treatment. Just as an irrelevant player like Anthony Claggett won't get much of a reception if he were to be introduced in Boston, Teixeira should receive the same treatment. Well, unless the Yankees are already up half a dozen. Then he becomes the most dangerous hitter in baseball.

Seriously, the best reception Teixeira would get in Boston is the Shea Stadium/Veterans Stadium battery treatment. Throw some D's at that b****. He's the league leader so far this year in phony, patronizing comments. He wants to be booed and he hopefully won't get that. Back in December, Red Sox fans wanted to chant a compound word that ends with "whipped." Hopefully they remember that. But seeing that one year makes them forget everything that Mike Lowell did on this team, I won't hold my breath.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The More Important Streak

Seems that a lot of people are talking about the bogus-ness of the Red Sox' sellout streak, as people have bought tickets but haven't shown up to either of yesterday's games. Whatever. The important streak is seven. It's not surprising that a seven-game winning streak takes away all the pessimism surrounding a team that looked like absolute crap before they returned to Fenway Park. The Mendoza line has been eclipsed by everyone, some people we were panicking about have gotten it back together, and even I'm going to shell out some praise.

First, I want to answer some questions. Pat asked me last night whether this year is going to be like last year as far as this team's home-road splits. The short and logical answer is yes. If you've got guys like Pedroia (OPS was .084 higher in 2008) and Lowell (.216 higher in 2007) on the team, who have ridiculous disparities in home-road splits. Jason Bay likely could experience a similar effect, and the "New David Ortiz" who, since 2007, drives the ball the other way, can use the dimensions of the home part to his advantage. This team is engineered to rake at home.

They are also engineered to rake the starting rotations of the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins.

To answer Bandi's question about 46, his lack of walks are likely not a product of what he's doing. Pitchers just don't find it necessary to pitch carefully to someone who looked like 46 did in the first ten games. So they pitch the ball over the plate and look for a fly out. I hope the improvement (see next paragraph) is a result of 46 making adjustments instead of pitcher carelessness and complacency, but I'm not certainly confident of that.

Okay, Q&A session over. Let's shell out props where they're due--they're usually necessary during a long winning streak. Gotta start with 46, who had a 7-game hitting streak snapped last night. When you check Gameday and you see stuff like "singled sharply" more often than not, or you're listening to the radio and Castiglione is talking about rockets hit by the borderline major leaguer, it seems like he's starting to look less lost than he was in the first ten games. Which is good. Having a useless player in the leadoff role is not a good way to go. Same goes for Pedroia, who has also raised his average to .286.

It is good that Ortiz doesn't look like crap anymore. People are hung up on the lack of home runs, and while there are still quite a bit of popups, there are some extra-base hits mixed into there, too.

Brad Penny, though he is certainly not impressive, is doing everything that is asked of him as a fifth starter. He isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination.

Tim Wakefield, as Pat also noticed, really has the knuckleball going. Probably because of Varitek's intangibles, if you ask the guys who cover baseball on TBS. Wakefield is like Dr. Dre. He's an excellent helper on a pretty consistent basis, just as Dre is one of the best producers/"featuring" guys in history. Every now and then, though, he just decides to drop an album. Wakefield has 1995 and 2003. You can also count 1992. But 2009 might be Detox. I've been told a few times to watch out for Detox.

The Red Sox' bullpen ERA is 2.66, and they are holding opponents to a .211 batting average and a 76 OPS+. The Yankees' stats are 6.94, .281, and 106. Bring on the sentence fragments, Pat.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Just What The Doctor Ordered?

A lot of stuff has happened to the Yankees' rotation since the end of the 2008 season. They signed two new big name free agents and brought back another. The biggest of them, CC Sabathia, struggled on Opening Day, and that was a big story. The other newby, AJ Burnett, has been an absolute beast, starting three times after a loss and winning all three games, and that has been a big story. The reason he's started after three straight losses is that Chien-Ming Wang, one of the most reliable starters in baseball the last three years with a 46-15 record, has been getting absolutely lit, and that's the biggest story of all right now. In his own right, the free agent they brought back, Andy Pettitte, has been outstanding so far, giving 7 innings or more and 3 runs or less in all three of his starts, with the Yankees winning all three games.

With all of this happening, Joba Chamberlain, one of the best young arms in the game, he of the 2.40 ERA in his young career, has almost been the forgotten man. Outside of the asinine debate over where he belongs, you don't hear much about him. I don't know if this is strictly because of all the hype/stories surrounding the other guys, the fact that he's now the "#5" starter, or some combination. But for a guy with his talent, with many scouts calling his the best pure stuff in the game, this just seems strange to me. No matter what is going on, someone this good should have attention and expectations. He's not getting much of either.

I think this may be affecting Joba. This is a totally unfair assessment after only two starts, one of which was excellent, one of which was very poor. And maybe it is the fact that the poor one was most recent that has me overthinking this. But in this ever small sample size, especially his last start, Joba just doesn't seem as hungry as he was last year. Again, it's very possible that this was just a one game thing. Maybe he just didn't have it, and wer're not used to seeing that from him, even though we know it's going to happen. But he walked a career high five batters, gave up more than three runs for only the second time in his young career as a starter, gave back two leads, and, most imnportant, was not being aggressive enough with his fastball. The first two are going to happen sometimes, no question. But there is little reason for someone with his power not to be establishing No. 1, establishing it early, establishing it often, and establishing it consistently. Not doing this is something I have rarely, if ever, seen from Joba in the past. He seemed like he couldn't wait to get after hitters with his fastball, and that's exactly what you want to see.

Whether this actually has anything to do with the lack of attention and expectations for the first time in his career, I have absolutely no idea. Like I said, there may not even be anything going on. But what I do know is that Joba has always thrived when the lights are on. And this Friday, thanks to the Yankees (correct) decision to skip Wang's turn in the rotation, for the first time since the middle of last summer, he will be on center stage. The first Yankees/Red Sox series of the season, facing one of the best young pitchers in the game, and under the same Friday Night Lights where he went into Boston last July, in the middle of a playoff race, and shut the Red Sox down for seven innigs, allowing no runs, 3 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 9.

He won't have the spotlight he had that night, but it will be close. It's always electric on a Friday night in Fenway. I'm not saying Joba needs to be jumpstarted, but if he does, this might be just what the doctor ordered, because you know he loves this kind of spot. He's loved the big spot since the second he initially came up 20 short months ago.

Joba may not have gotten much attention compared to his fellow rotation members recently, but the Yankees need him. If nothing else, they need him because of the top of the rotation starter he can be, and what it would mean to the pursuit of Championship 27 adding him to CC, AJ, and Pettitte. Of course, right now there is something else, and his name is Chien-Ming Wang. With his struggles and the uncertainty about his 2009 performance moving forward, there is more pressure on everybody in the rotation to produce. I would say this is especially true of Joba, whose expectations are probably lowest because of his youth, innings limit, and status as the "#5" starter (I keep putting that in quotes because a pitcher of his caliber is not a #5 starter in anything but title). There is no reason for a talent like him to be on the backburner. Quite the opposite. Hopefully a big night in Fenway, with all eyes on him, squaring off against the Red Sox own youth phenom, will put him right back where he belongs: in the forefront.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

REPORT: No Surgery For Nady

(Please read GM's post below).

Multiple outlets are reporting that Nady will not need surgery and can return with rest and rehab. There should be more information on when that might happen tonight. This may not seem like something worthy of a quick post, but since New York hasn't played Boston yet, most of you likely have not seen what Hideki Matsui looks like swinging a baseball bat. If Nady can merely get in the batters box vs. left-handed pitchers, the way he hits lefties, then this is big news for the Yankees.

Lesson Learned

We learned some things about the Red Sox during this four-game weekend wraparound series. Most of those things we learned are good. I guess the biggest thing we learned is that the Baltimore Orioles, despite some decent bats and two starters (Roberts, Zaun) who love needles, kind of suck. Someone on television compared them to the Texas Rangers, having some offense but suffering from a deplorable pitching staff. Pretty much. But after losing three straight series against decent-to-good baseball teams, there's nothing like a four-game series against a bad team to make you feel a little better about your baseball team.

Of course, that's a good thing. If you can clean up against the crappy teams, you're usually in good shape, as evidenced by the 29-game stretch in 2007 that won the Yankees a playoff spot.

Other observations:
-Rusty Masterson delivered the most promising news of all this weekend. Not only did he deliver a five-inning start without nine walks, but from what I saw, he looked very impressive. I believe I saw that he induced nine ground-ball outs, and I saw a lot of his pitches missed lefties' bats. He also got through the order more than twice and remained effective. Of course, the last two things presented doubts about Rusty's effectiveness as a starter during his short-lived rotation career in 2008. But very good news.

-Perhaps it was just Baltimore's really, really bad pitching, but it looks like Pedroia, Lowell, and even 46 are starting to come around. And Youkilis is an absolute beast.

-There is no disclaimer necessary about the Orioles' crappy offense, because it's not that bad. The Red Sox' bullpen is getting it done, though. Four scoreless yesterday. Fifteen innings over the course of this series, with the only blemishes being one run on Saturday's game and the fact that Javier Lopez can't get the ball over the plate. Pat is right with his sentence fragments, though. The Yankees' "guys from SWB" are just as good. I forget the irrational sentence fragments he blurted out during the Red Sox' bullpen's rough start. Can you refresh me? Also notable, despite some velocity problems during the Angels series, Papelbon was up throwing 95 again this weekend.

-Talked to Jack Sox for a while this weekend, and he thinks David Ortiz is "cooked." He had two good games and two really, really bad games this weekend, but it was somewhat promising that he belted that triple to left-center yesterday. Although...that probably would have been a home run two years ago. His average is up to .196, but his games on Friday and Sunday looked really, really bad. He still has five times as many strikeouts as he has extra-base hits. Is he cooked? I'm curious to know what you think.

-I would be remiss to omit some words about Jon Lester's start. He was overpowering on Sunday, as evidenced by the nine strikeouts and the radar gun readings. I guess the timing for his first two losses of the year (his first two starts) was really worse than anything else, especially after an offseason fretting about his innings jump.

Monday, April 20, 2009

First Impressions Of The New Stadium

I'm glad the Yankees won today, and I'm able to write this post. If they had lost a game that Carl Pavano started against them, I wouldn't be writing about the new stadium. I don't know what I'd be writing about, if at all, but it wouldn't be this. As I told DV last night, whether or not Pavano pitched well was almost inconsequential to me. It was nearly 100% about not losing a game he started for the other team. And since the Yankees avoided that, I'm good, and away we go.

There are two things that hit me immediatly when I walked into the New Yankee Stadium on Opening Day. First, the place is very impressive. From the outside design, to the first concourse with so much tasteful tradition (my favorite part of the stadium so far), to the food options, to the spaciousness, to the comfortability of the seats, to the food, to the $6 beer, to the moderness of it all, it's just an incredible place. It has everything you'd want from a ballpark and then some. Second, and this really strikes you when you sit in your seat, it's unmistakably Yankee Stadium. It doesn't feel like a totally new stadium, like when you see CitiField on TV and it looks nothing at all like Shea. Intead, it just feels like a modern version of the Old Yankee Stadium. A really, really suped up version to be exact. This, I think, is probably the best thing they could have done, and they did a good job with it. You're in a new place, but not that new, as it still feels like Yankee Stadium.

Before the game started, I had no concerns. My uncle and I got there early (he had already been multiple times as he is an attorney who handled all of the Stadium's disability compliance for the Yankees), and really had a chance to look around. We walked the whole concourse on the first level, and I could not have been more impressed as I said above.

Then the game started, and everything wasn't so awesome. First, the Stadium is much more spread out. There is A LOT more room between the rows, and the seats are a lot bigger. We have similar seats to the ones we had in the Old Stadium on field level, but you feel a lot further away. You can actually see everything better because the seats are elevated more, but you feel far less on top of the field. All of the seats on field level are further off the field, or at least it feels that way, and that, combined with the spaciousness, makes it tough to make noise.

Second, and related, you REALLY notice how far removed from the field the upper deck now is. This is perhaps the most unfortunate thing about the Stadium. One of the things that made the Old Yankee Stadium what it was, especially in terms of a home field advantage, was the way the steep upper deck hung right over the field. Visiting players always said they felt like it was about to come down on top of them when the place got going. Now the upper deck starts further away from the field, and extends back and up and a far less exaggerated incline. I understand that they did this for space and comfort, but it is going to make Yankee Stadium a much less intimidating place to play. Not only will it not be hanging over the field, but it is very tough to generate noise anywhere in the Stadium, and this seemed particularly true of the upper deck, usually the loudest spot. It wasn't just Opening Day, it was THIS Opening Day, so I certainly want to observe this aspect a few more times. But i'm not overly hopeful that I'm wrong in what I observed. It will still get loud, but it will be loud just like any other stadium I think. Not loud like the Old Yankee Stadium, which is the loudest place I've ever been during times like the playoffs.

Third, the Legends Seats. I guess they are better off like they were on Opening Day when people are sitting in them, because that means the team is making money. But beyond this, they may as well be as empty as they've looked on TV the last few days. At those prices, there just aren't going to be people there that are going to be reaching over and banging on the walls to make noise. Not even close. It's also wierd how they have the whole section gated off. With all the free stuff they hand out down there just for buying the ticket (cotton candy, M&Ms, ice cream, the list goes on), the only heckling going on is the people in the section behind the Legends Seats at those in the seats, while nobody heckles anyone on the field. I'm not pretending that heckling makes some sort of difference in a baseball game, but one, it's a part of the game and certainly the Old Yankee Stadium that you don't want to see go away, and two, people on the field are people you want making noise. Not happening this season.

Fourth, the seats in general are TOO comfortable. This may sound ridiculous, but I'm at a baseball game and I want to feel like it. I don't want to be so comfortable I feel like I could fall asleep if I wanted. Seriously, the only place you can go from these seats is one of those American Airlines First Class beds you see in commercials.

Fifth, all the cool stuff was great pre-game...until the game started and I realized how many people were not going to be in their seats because they are doing all the cool stuff. Again, Opening Day, it's a novelty, I'm sure a lot of people just wanted to experience as much as they could. But when I tell you there are SO MANY places besides your seat that you can watch the game (either live or on a flat screen) and do something else at the same time, I'm not kidding. This could really be a problem. Not for the organization, because now they have people spending money on tickets and then a lot more things than before. But for the team and fans that are concerned with any sort of homefield advantage, this is not good.

That's pretty much it. Awesome stadium, did a great job essentially making a modern stadium that still felt like Yankee Stadium. But I don't think it's going to be as tough of a place to play, I think there is going to be an issue getting real fans involved, close to the action, making noise at these prices under this set-up, and there are concerns regarding the baseball game becoming a secondary attraction for many, which affects the first two things mentioned in this sentence.

As far as the home runs go, this is a big overreaction, but that is the mainstream media for you, whatever makes a story. Everyone talking about jet streams and the Yankees having built themselves a launching pad. First, it's four games. Four. Let's let the stadium play for a month or two or - gasp - half a season before we start coming to conclusions. Second, this stadium is built, quite literally, across the street from the old one. I'd be shocked if the old home plate and the new home plate are more than 300 yards apart, maybe less. We are still in the middle of a city. The chances that "jet streams" have just appeared and are the primary reasons for these home runs is minimal. It sounds great, and it fits the "Yankees built themselves a launching pad and therefore a bad stadium" argument, but it's probably not the only factor at play.

There are a few things that appear to be contributing, according to an expert who was interviewed at WasWatching.com. First, there have been just shy of 300 home runs hit in MLB this year. On average, they are travelling six feet further than last year. That is a HUGE jump over a sample size that is not small. This may have something to do with the new balls that MLB issued this year simply carrying further. Second, Yankee Stadium is as much as nine feet closer to home plate than the Old Yankee Stadium in different parts of right field. Third, the walls are a few feet shorter in height. So when you have balls flying six feet further on average, walls that are nine feet closer to home plate and also a few feet shorter in height, you are talking about at least 17 feet in some places that used to be outs that are now home runs in right field. This doesn't sound as cool as "jet stream", but it makes just as much, if not more sense. I don't even know what a jet stream is.

Now, I'm not saying that something along the lines of a jet stream isn't also a contributing factor. The frieze atop the stadium used to be closed, and now it has open holes in it where air surely runs in and out. This could be helping the ball jump out to right. In fact, I'd say it's likely that it is. All I'm saying is that there is no way balls that carry further, closer fences, and shorter fences aren't also a big deal here. The problem with them, of course, is that they all sound much more tangible and easily fixable. So they don't fit "the Yankees built themselves a launching pad and therefore a bad stadium" argument.

To that end, all of this stuff can get fixed. MLB can use balls that aren't carrying as much. The Yankees can move the walls back slightly. They can also make them taller again. And finally, they can cover up the holes in the frieze and get engineers in there to figure out what is going on with the wind/jet streams. All of this could probably be done in a few weeks in the offseason. It's not like it's a problem around the whole stadium (as it often is in true launching pads like Texas). Of the 20 homers hit this weekend, all but six went to right field. Six home runs to right center, center, left center, and left over a four game series is not abnormal. You don't build a big stadium and get everything perfect to the point where it never needs any fine tuning every single time. I'm sure this will all get figured out. Buck, McCarver, and Eric Wedge made it seem like they should build a new park. Goodness gracious, chill out.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Saturday Drubbing

Very few people read this site on the weekend, and even less comment. While that stinks for stuff we ever want to write over the weekends, we're very glad that we have the type of readership that has better things to do most of the time. In saying this, I hope I'm not discouraging reading/commenting on stuff that we can't wait to post, like what I'm about to write.

- Chien-Ming Wang should not even be a consideration for a Major League baseball mound until he has 3-4 good to great starts at AAA. This has nothing to do with him being figured out. You don't go 46-15 from 06-08 across, and then all of a sudden have three different teams, who are competing with each other and don't share information, figure out something that causes you to be this ineffective. It just doesn't work that way. This has little to do with that, and most, if not everthing to do with Wang's sinker. It's running laterally, has little vertical action at all (big problem, sinkers need to sink), and it's too far up in the zone to begin with. Something is wrong, and the place for it to be fixed is not for the Yankees. Not just the loss, but the bullpen beatdown, is a lot for the team to handle. The Yankees are 0-3 in Wang starts, 6-3 in all others. They have three immediate options at AAA (Aceves, Hughes, and Kennedy) that will give the Yankees more than what Wang has recently. Even at Hughes and Kennedy's worst moments last year, they were better than this. By saying all of the above - mostly that Wang is not being figured out - I am not suggesting that this is something that can definitely be fixed. There is certainly a chance that, for whatever reason, Wang doesn't have what he once had. But if he does get it back, he'll start getting hitters out again. That is the issue here.

-The safe play is Aceves or Kennedy. But the way Hughes looked during the spring, and the lines he's put up thus far in Scranton, it's tempting.

- Would it be too much to ask Joe Girardi, in a 5 run game (not insurmoutable by any stretch of the imagination), to bring in someone besides a kid making his Major League debut to extinguish the mess Wang left? That's a spot where you want to use one of your better relievers, hold it right there, and then deal with everything else later. If that means Anthony Claggett pitching in a spot you wouldn't want him to in a close game in the 6th or 7th, so be it. Sure beats having the game blown wide open. And this is to say nothing of putting this poor kid into that spot. THERE ARE MEN ON BASE, and your team needs you to hold it right there or else your first outing is a failure. I felt horribly for him. I know the bullpen has been working hard lately, and Girardi doesn't have a lot of places to turn, but he can do better than this, both for the sake of winning the game and the kid.

- Related, would it be too much to ask Brian Cashman/Joe Girardi to carry a long reliever? Goodness. If Brett Tomko isn't going to get called up now, what is the point of having him at all? And he had a great spring. Aceves would seem like a prime candidate as well, especially because he could have been Wang insurance today as well as stayed up to make Wang's next start. Instead we are just burning through 1-2 inning relievers and probably making them work too hard in the process. And what was the point of calling up David Robertson for ONE DAY, sending him down for Miranda who didn't get in the game yesterday, and then ship Miranda out the next day for a guy who has far less experience than Robertson and isn't nearly as good at this stage as Robertson because Robertson now has to wait 10 days to come back unless someone goes on the DL? This is baffling roster management. Robertson looks better than half the guys in the pen. If Miranda was going to only be up for a day, the way our pen has been worked, Robertson should have been here to stay as he is better than all other options save perhaps Melancon, who I'm sure they are taking their time with. Makes absolutely zero sense unless they can give me a great reason as to why they wanted Miranda on the bench yesterday (which I would be willing to listen to).

- A very frustrating development early (and it is early in this regard) this season is Brett Gardner's poor defensive play. He's sporting a -67.4 UZR/150 (not a mispring) defensively. I fully expect this to turn around as he played a 69.5 UZR/150 center last year, and a 36.8 in a tough left field. Those are insane numbers. But that doesn't make the awful play out there early this season any more fun to watch. He's taking wild routes, is getting no extenstion on balls he has to reach for, and when he does to a great job getting to a ball, he's often just not catching them. Today was the worst yet as the ball was all the way in his glove on a slightly above average lunging play and he just dropped it. He doesn't hit enough (or at least hasn't yet) to not make 90% of these plays and just play much better defense generally.

- A very positive development early is the play of Melky Cabrera. He's homered in back to back games and looks good overall. With Nady likely out for the year, and Matsui's health seemingly a daily question mark, the Yankees need Melky to be a contributor. Good start in this department.

- Brian Bruney is now on a streak of 5.2 perfect innings. Of the 17 cosecutive batters he's retired, 12 have been via the strikeout. He and Mariano should sit the rest of the pen down and talk about how to get outs. As up and down as certain guys have been (Edwar/Coke) and awful as others have looked (Marte/Veras), this version of Brian Bruney is a major development. Our record might not be 6-6 without him locking down three close 8th innings that went for wins. Hopefully this type of pitching from him is here to stay, even though this pace obviously won't keep up.

- Jose Veras came in to a 20-2 game today and walked the first batter he faced. I've often talked about the things I would suspend players for if I was a GM/manager. The first two, with nothing else even close, is a one game suspension for not getting a runner in from third with less than two outs and a one game suspension for not putting up a zero the half inning after your team scores a run(s). Walking the first batter you face in a 18 run game might have to be added to this list.

- I'm going to write more about Opening Day at Yankee Stadium for Monday, but let me throw this in here briefly. One of my favorite parts of the day, that I inexplicably hadn't thought of before it happened, was getting to boo Carl Pavano during the introductions. One of the most thunderous boos I have ever been a part of. It was awesome, great group therapy. What I did know is that he is pitching tomorrow for Cleveland tomorrow. Outside of making the playoffs and winning the World Series, there may not be anything I want more from this baseball season than to beat him tomorrow. I'm sure a lot of people feel it important that he gets knocked around, and while I'll be rooting for that, that isn't what's important to me. What's important to me is him losing. Having his team win a game that he starts against the Yankees would bring out emotions in me I don't want brought out.

- I also don't want to lose a 4 game series, something I loathe. In general, I don't like 4 game series. Hard to win, big blow when you lose. I would sign up for 2-2 under almost any scenario, and I prefer to get 2 of the first 3 so you don't have to have the pressure the Yankees have on them tomorrow. Third consecutive start AJ has a loss before him, and again he needs to get a stop. It's asking a lot to have him continue pitching the way he has in his first two starts, but that's what the Yankees need tomorrow to avoid a 4 game series loss at the hands of Carl Pavano.

Everyone enjoy the rest of their weekend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sore Glove Hand (Volume 3)

Off day. Not much new to report, but a good time to look back and reflect on the first eight Red Sox games. As it's Friday, I'd love to have you guys post something you think I missed.

-The first time I heard it, Dustin Pedroia ripping his hometown kind of rubbed me the wrong way. While I understand that he didn't like the media coverage of his brother's arrest, your hometown is usually not a good place to rag on you. The local paper, fine. But not the hometown. And I believe the reporter that says he's not kidding more than I believe Pedroia, who said his words were taken out of context. "You can print that, I don't give a s***" is usually a good indicator that he meant what he said.

-But forget about pissing off Woodland, California. Let's talk about pissing out Boston. I don't know if opposing pitchers are listening to the Director of Game Accuracy, but Pedroia's not hitting. This has happened before, and Pedroia has always made the necessary adjustments. He should stop talking about Woodland and start making adjustments again. When everybody else can't hit, Pedroia has to be the guy you can count on. And he's popping the ball up every single at-bat. Not good.

-Buster Olney, listening to scouts, is concerned about David Ortiz. Yeah, his numbers are bad. Really bad. I don't think he's looked quite as bad as Olney and scouts think he is, but that's probably because I'm rooting especially hard for Ortiz's comeback. But what are the Red Sox going to do if this guy does indeed turn into Mo Vaughn in Anaheim? Move him down in the order? It could be a pretty significant problem to have yet another hole in the middle of the lineup.

-Let's not start talking about how the bullpen's wonderful after just one game, okay? Yes, minus Javier Lopez, Tuesday's game was an excellent performance by that entire bullpen. But before that they were absolutely deplorable. I would say that they're doing better than the Guys from SWB, as they have not given up nine runs in one inning yet. As far as the Yankees' pen goes, I can't wait to root against a guy named Pendejo and a guy named Maricon in the same bullpen. I have been saying that for a long time, and this might be the time.

-It was a good time for Wakefield to have his annual flirting-with-a-no-hitter thing. It is dumb for Orsillo and Remy to follow the whole "we can't talk about the no-hitter" superstition. People on television and radio have traditionally talked about it because they recognize the fact that it's their job to report what's going on in the baseball game. At least Remy wasn't selling himself all game. But wow, Wakefield looked excellent, and I take back most of what I said about Kottaras not being ready to catch him. Kottaras is also okay at the plate.

-It is hard to have that much faith in Nick Green. But the guy has gotten the job done. Also can't complain too hard about Varitek. Yeah, he's hitting .200, but .200 is not lower than .200, so he's exceeded my expectations. And a lot of those outs are pretty hard outs. He's also doing the Mirabelli thing, refusing to be a "p***y singles hitter." And he's only struck out three times in 25 at-bats. J.D. Drew struck out three times in three at-bats recently.

-It's really too bad that Drew doesn't care too much about baseball. After an extremely uninspired 0-3 with 3K effort during the first three at-bats of Tuesday's game, Drew got knocked down and momentarily gave a crap. He got back up and hit a home run, actually inspired to swing the bat like he's capable of doing. You're right, though, Shaughnessy. He does care. But his performance so far is just another example of why Drew is the most enfuriating player to watch on this team. There's about one at-bat every other game that make him look like Mickey Mantle. All the rest make him look like Mickey Mouse. He has that talent in him, but it doesn't show up too often, instead striking out looking, walking, or grounding to the right side. A friggin 14-million-dollar platoon player.

-A third-hand question, as Sean McAdam asked it on Comcast SportsNet last night and my dad then asked me: What if 46 doesn't get it together and continues to prove that he's a very questionable major leaguer. He's looked absolutely deplorable, as we've discussed here. He's 25 going on 26, so we can't wait for this guy to "develop" anymore. Even the Boston Dirt Dog, who called him a "star" last year, called him "overhyped" this week. But the question still stands:

What are the Red Sox going to do if 46 can't hit? You can't steal first base, so it's yet another lineup hole. I have a somewhat-difficult solution that doesn't involve rushing Josh Reddick to the major leagues. Here's a hint: It involves a panicked trade involving probably Josh Bard, the first flight from Kansas City, and a police escort to the ballpark right around 7:00 PM.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good Road Trip, Good Start

When you consider how slow the Yankees have started in four of the last five seasons, the fact that they played in three consecutive road Opening Days, Wang throwing batting practice and rendering two games almost unwinnable, Sabathia laying an egg, Girardi throwing one game completely out the window (three times over), and this being the longest road trip to open a season in Yankees' history, 5-4 is a start you have to be happy with. A lot of good, some bad, let's take a look.

- The biggest thing you like out of this team so far is that they are taking punches, absorbing them, and then throwing punches back. More simply, they are coming back in games. They came back from a 6 run deficit Opening Day to get within a run. They came back from another 6 run deficit in Game 2 and got the tying run to the plate in the 9th. When Baltimore took a 1-0 lead in Game 3, the Yankees hung a 3 spot the next inning and never looked back. They came back from a 3-1 deficit in Game 6 and took a 4-3 lead into the 8th. Finally, today, they came back from a 3-2 deficit in the 8th, and scored single runs in the 8th and 9th to win the game. I'm not kidding, that might be more comebacks than they had all of last season. They never came back. If they were down early, they mailed it in a lot. I love what I'm seeing in this department so far this year, and hope it continues.

- A.J. Burnett. How youz doin. This guy is just fun to watch. I've watched a lot of baseball in my life, and rarely have I seen a team look as baffled as the Rays, a very good if not great hitting team, looked yesterday. And he does it all with two plus pitches, mixing up his fastball between 4-seam and 2-seam of course. Twice he's taken the ball with the Yanks on a two game losing steak, and twice he's come up big. Awful signing (had to say it, if he was pitching poorly, you know DV would be writing a senior thesis despite it only being two starts). If he stays healthy, he can be as big as anyone on this team.

- Brian Bruney. After Marte allowed two Bruney runs to score on Opening Day, Bruney has appeared in 5 games, facing 14 batters, and has retired all 14, striking out 10. In the Tampa series he faced 5 batters, BUpton and Crawford twice, Longoria once, and it was 5 up 5 down 5 strikeouts. BuT whAt abOuT JoBa in teh 8th, and teh lack of experience in teh bullpennnn without him?!?!!!!!!1!!?11111!!!!

- Chien-Ming Wang. Yeesh. As I said in a comments section yesterday, you just have to watch him. He has a track record that says you don't yank him after two laughers. But if he throws up another one Saturday, you really have to start thinking about making a move. Something will need to change, the division is too tough to just give games away in the first few innings. Of people you were really expecting things from, he's been the only dissapointment in Week 1.

- Andy Pettitte. On the flip side of things, what a pleasant surprise. He does not look like a 4th starter, that's for sure.

- Derek Jeter getting big hits. Started the trip hot, got ice cold in the middle, and finished strong. Back to back nights getting monster hits. My sent me a Yankees-centric BBM this morning, and his only real concern was the fact that Jeter hasn't been pulling the ball (something he started to lament last year). Then he pulls a Percival fastball in the whole for the game winner. Go figure.

- Robinson Cano appears to be back.

- Mark Teixeira has not yet arrived. I didn't see one live pitch of today's game as I was at the library/class, and am only now watching the Encore on YES. But I Gamecasted plenty enough to see Teixeira K three times, all looking. One with the winning run on second and no outs. My buddy said he just looks lost. He got going right before the wrist injury, and hopefully this is just reacclimation, nothing wrong with the wrist. As long as he's healthy, I'm not concerned. He got the game winning RBI on a sac-fly last night (excellent piece of hitting), but today was really bad. Hopefully it's just one game.

- Some players played way below what you'd expect (Wang) and some above (Burnett). This resulted in 5-4. But in terms of player performance, it really should have been, or at the very least easily could have been, 6-3. Today's outstanding win (the kind the Yankees really rarely seemed to get last year) almost washed it out. But not entirely. Kansas City is not that good, and the game was right there. Girardi played the C team, didn't pinch hit for Melky, and got way too pitching-change happy. Too much bad stuff. He cost them that game, a game that would have made a good trip and a good start great on both counts.

- No official news on Nady, but it does not seem good. If he is in fact out for the season, it's really too bad, both for Nady and the Yankees. Nady is in his first contract year. The Yankees, for the first time in a long time, had real depth, and Nady was a big part of that. They also looked like they were going to be able to put out a serious lineup vs. lefties for the first time in a long time. All of that is now probably down the drain. This puts substantially more pressure on Matsui to hit, and he has looked lost early. Without X, that needs to change.

- Nick Swisher. Had to save the best for last. He can't keep up this pace, but who cares. It's just the production, it's the whole package. Guy loves to play baseball, and seems like he wants to win everyday. As a fan, I want to win everyday, so it's easy to connect to a guy who you feel outwardly cares as much as you do. The Yankees have other guys like this (Jeter, Rivera, Posada), but Swish does it a little differently. Looks like he's having a ball at all times. Also seems to work every count which I love. I hope he has a huge year. I have somewhat of a player T-shirt collection, and I hope to add Swisher to the collection tomorrow. Getting his is a no-brainer.

I'm at the New Yankee Stadium tomorrow for it's regular season opener. DV will probably bring us home for the rest of the week, which is good as the Sox have a lot going on, and need a good showiong at home this weekend. I'll probably get a review up of the new stadium over the weekend or early next week. Everyone have a great weekend.

Another Dais-aster

It’s been a day and I still don’t feel better. Two things have been eating at me about Tuesday night’s Red Sox game, because it’s a pretty tough one to swallow. More of the same as far as timely hitting goes. It’s not happening. And while the Red Sox put together a valiant effort not lying down and dying after Oakland responded to their early lead with five in the bottom of the first, the way the game ended was not what we’re looking for.

Rusty Masterson—excellent, and he’s starting to prove that he might indeed be at least a serviceable starter when he inevitably gets the call in five days. The rest of the bullpen crew—equally excellent for once, until the twelfth inning.

Look, I understand that in the twelfth inning you’re starting to run out of options and you’re inevitably going to have to put in your worst guy. But what does Javier Lopez think about all day? You think he’d probably wake up at 11AM after the last night’s game, have breakfast/lunch, go to the ballpark, work out, and sit in the bullpen from 7:00 (10:00 Eastern) until 11:00 when he's brought in to pitch. During that time, does it ever cross his mind that “shoot, it’s really important that I don’t walk the bases loaded tonight?” Judging by the first three pitches he threw on Sunday, and also judging by his performance last night, this guy really, really needs to concentrate.

Goodness gracious.

Speaking of concentration, the prevailing opinion of Daisuke Matsuzaka is really starting to shift in this city, and I don’t blame the fans for this. As discussed on the radio this morning, Matsuzaka threw 249 pitches in the World Baseball Classic, pulling down his second MVP honor for the tournament. Good to know where he's concentrating his energy.

Guess what: He had a terrible season in Japan in 2006, too, after the last World Baseball Classic. I’m all for national pride and all that stuff, but you gotta remember who’s cutting the checks. The country of Japan didn’t pay $51 million just to talk to you. Time to show the team who’s paying you some respect. The body language was bad, as if every single game Matsuzaka’s throwing in a Red Sox uniform is a “sandwich game.” I wrote last night that it looked like he was pitching in the middle of August, when guys are getting tired and Andy Pettitte is trying HGH before deciding he doesn’t like it.

The Red Sox should hold their players out of the WBC. Or Bud Selig should realize that the World Series really is the World Series.

And Javier Lopez needs to focus.

I’ve just finished this post and it’s 2:53 on Wednesday. I'm looking for another day of carnage in Oakland.

Overboard

Changing gears a little bit tonight, here is something I've been a little more cognizant of since starting to listen to the Yankees on the radio. Sterling and Waldman love to talk about pitch counts and especially planned pitch counts. On both Sunday's game and tonight's game, they were talking about, for example, how Joba was scheduled to throw about ninety pitches.

I understand that in today's age of trying to keep pitchers healthy (speaking of which, great game by A.J. Burnett tonight), managers are going to baby starting pitchers a lot. Especially in April. And while I don't agree with that, I think the fact that a pitch count is pre-determined is silly. I think the fact that the pre-determined pitch count is something that JOHN STERLING KNOWS ABOUT is absurd.

If John Sterling knows that Joba's only going to be throwing ninety, the Kansas City Royals are going to know that, too. So what should the Royals do? Work the count big time! By announcing how many pitches are being thrown, that's like having a countdown to the part of the game where the Guys From SWB are going to be pitching.

Teams can do that anyway, yes, and most teams know that most pitchers are going to be done around the 100 mark except for Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. But there's never a public finite limit like it seems like there is for the Yankees this year. Could you imagine the 1998 Yankees working the count against today's pitchers? They wouldn't lose a game.

Other stuff, Buster Olney style: I will agree with the commenters about the Josh Beckett suspension being extremely harsh. There were no previous warnings. It was a purpose pitch, NOT a beanball. Let's not pretend that Beckett couldn't hit Abreu if he wanted to. Plus, he was already in his windup when timeout was called. Though it's probably not true, the ball "getting away from" Beckett is not nearly as far-fetched. Like Colby Security, we're talking about some trigger-happy authority figures who want to be heroes.

Looks like Matsuzaka is going through the dog days of summer right now. That's weird, because it's only April. He hasn't played that much full-intensity baseball. Oh yeah. Thanks, Bud Selig. What a friggin mess. Matsuzaka might want to realize that Team Japan isn't cutting the checks.

Big redemption ups to the Red Sox bullpen tonight. Rusty was pretty good. Pat, your boy MDC looked great tonight, all sarcasm aside. This is a game that the Red Sox of the last week would have rolled over for. And though they very well might still lose because they suck, at least they didn't punt this one.

Word on the street is that Xavier Nady is injured. Possibly another case of Troy Percivalitis, but Pat made sure to let me know that this is just another reason that "you don't trade depth." What if Swisher were traded, as some people wanted? More Melky and Matsui at-bats!

Chien-Ming Wang has a higher ERA than Nick Swisher. Is it time for him to come down with some Percivalitis and for Phil Hughes to get a shot? Because he has been bad. Really, really bad. Never mind the stupid argument a few weeks ago if he was the second starter or not. Now there's an argument of whether he should be in this rotation. I'll let Pat handle that controversy and the David Robertson controversy later on--I'm not going to pretend I know what I'm talking about there.

After the departure of Coco Crisp, I've been looking for a new favorite player. And Ramon Ramirez has done nothing but impress. Between that, the fact that he's been overlooked and doesn't ever talk, and the fact that his effectiveness means that Coco was traded for something worthwhile, Ram-Ram is in the lead for that dubious distinction.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Watching Frustrating Baseball

First, the least frustrating news: Congrats to long-time reader, recently-added commenter JFlu12, who broke the 16:00 barrier in the 5,000 meter for the first time this weekend. Other than breaking the school record in the 10K, breaking 16:00 was the biggest milestone I broke in college. Now JFlu has done the same thing. And even though he's a pro-JD Drew guy, gotta give him big ups for that.

Now, it's time for the bus to roll. Lowell can't hit. 46 can't hit. Lowrie can't hit. Drew can't hit. Jason Bay may have just gotten hurt (the Oakland game's getting uglier and uglier). Lowrie can't hit and just came down with some Troy Percivalitis in his wrist. Of course, that is the malady that has hit Percival, Joe Borowski, Mike Timlin, Curt Schilling, and Julio Lugo lately, and it usually results in a trip to the DL after a prolonged period of ineffectiveness. So Nick Green is now the starting shortstop. Super. But with all of these guys sucking in tandem, in addition to the fact that not even Pedroia's getting hits, no friggin wonder this team sucks so friggin bad with runners on base. The Globe noted that they were 3-30 so far this year with two men on. It could be a very long year.

For once, I feel slightly bad for Theo Epstein. I really thought he had gotten the bullpen thing right this time around, and on the way I have paved the way for Pat to rag on me all season long for it. But you'd think with such a small sample size, you'd have more than one guy in the bullpen without really bad numbers. Wrong. Other than Ramon Ramirez, they all either have an ERA of nine or higher or they're whippin it whippin it real hard, and by "real hard" I mean a buck and a half or over. Big ups to Rusty Masterson and Hideki Okajima for achieving both. But what a disaster. It seems like the names change every year but the Red Sox bullpen just can't get it together. That's the case with any bullpen, maybe. But Okajima was an eighth inning guy two years ago. Now I trust him more than anyone other than Delcarmen. Lopez, for a guy who only faces one guy a game, does a pretty good job getting behind in the count or just flat-out drilling guys like he just drilled Giambi. Tonight proved that Nick Swisher could be a better pitcher.

Rex Hudler was absolutely terrible on the mic on Friday night.

Josh Beckett was 100% justified for throwing at Abreu on Sunday. The only thing I'm fretting over is the fact that it took him until his third year to start throwing at people during the regular season. It's about time.

Papelbon won a great battle to seal the game on Saturday.

Sunday was yet another microcosm of JD Drew's career. Seriously, if the rules permitted him to sit out 3 1/2 innings before coming back, it would have been a perfect model. His first at bat was a beautiful--BEAUTIFUL--home run. Typical example of why people like this guy and why he occasionally makes me look stupid. Needless to say, that was only his second hit of the season.

The title of this post comes from Drew's last at-bat. Watching his last at-bat, I was watching some frustrating baseball. Unfortunately for everyone in this region, Drew was watching frustrating baseball, too. There are two men on and two men out. You are down one run in your last at-bat. And the bat doesn't even leave your shoulder. Drew took four pitches in a row, including three right down the friggin middle. All the pro-Drew guys talk about how patient he is at the plate. Well, if at-bats like the one he had in the ninth yesterday enable him to get all of those walks, I'd prefer to have Nomar Garciaparra play right field and swing at the first pitch every time.

Drew should be ashamed of this at-bat, because it looked just like Manny Ramirez giving up against Mariano last year. Except Dan Shaughnessy tells you that "you'd like J.D. Drew. He's really not a bad guy." Like 46, Drew sometimes has a problem protecting the plate, something you learn when you read Matt Christopher books. But it's a microcosm of the five years preceding October 2, 2011.

Today was another day of the same stuff, compounded by another bad-to-quite-bad start by Lester. It could be a long season. It could be a very long season.

Colby Security, Waterville PD To Get Theirs?

The last post was delayed because there's some news developing pretty quickly out of Pat's and my alma mater. Apparently early Sunday morning Colby security beat the piss out a couple of students with BACs of .09 and .10 after a dance (including at least one Eustis mailroom co-worker of mine and Tim's). They also called Waterville PD in, who proceeded to pepper spray people.

The breaking point is--it was all captured on video. The video was shown at Colby last night and it sounded a lot like Rodney King.

Yesterday, the Waterville Sentinel had a much different story. For those who are unfamiliar with the paper, it prefers to paint Colby students as drunk rich kids from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Which, for the most part, is true.

I'd really prefer to talk about baseball, but I know there are a lot of members of the Colby community who read this blog and will want to say something. So let's keep two comments sections open today.

If the injuries of these kids at the hands of Colby Security and local police (who refused to give their badge numbers) somehow result in the resignation of Waterville PD Deputy Chief Joseph Massey, Colby Director of Security Pete Chenevert, Assistant Director of Security Jeff Coombs, who apparently led the charge, or even Colby President William Adams who let this and many similar incidents against students of all colors happen under his watch, the injuries will not be in vain. I doubt my co-author has heard about this yet, but I don't anticipate any disagreement.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

2009 Girardi Loss Counter: 1

First things first, great job by Burnett, Pettitte, and Sabathia Thursday through Saturday (and Joba today for that matter). Burnett was good, as I mentioned, and then Pettitte and Sabathia were flat out dominant. Facing a poor offense, but nice to see them get it going early. If their rotation is healthy, the Yankees are going to be tough when they win Game 1 of a series. This is true of any team, but the Yankees are different in that they offer no breaks. Lose to Pettitte, then deal with CC and Joba. Going to be tough to win series when you lose Game 1.

On to today, this loss is the first of the season that is squarely on Joe Girardi's shoulders. I do my fair share of complaining about Girardi "not putting his team in the best position to win." There is a difference between that and what happened today, where he actually cost them the game. I will try to be brief as we havne't had a lot of Red Sox analysis lately, and they have some interesting things going on as well. DV is going to take care of business there Tuesday. I'm going in chronoligical order, not order of importance (which I will note). Three points:

1. Girardi had a bad habit last year of playing the B (or C) team, meaning resting too many guys the same day. DV thinks it's his biggest weakness as a manager, and if you expand it to lineup making in general, I might just agree. He's in a tough spot right now without Rodriguez and Teixeira. But I find it tough to accept that Posada, who had an off day Thursday and CRUSHES Gil Meche (.375 career), can't DH instead of Matsui, who not only seems incapable of taking big boy swings at the moment (.111 entering today), but struggles mightily against Meche (.217 career). I'm sure Girardi has his reasons here, and I don't think he's compltely incompetent. The least egregious of his mistakes, and probably not a big deal if he didn't have the aformentioned history of resting guys at the same time. Without Rodriguez and Teixeira, there is no reason to have Posada and Damon's bat out of the lineup the same day. DHing is not taxing. At all.

2. Huge error allows two unearned runs to score in the fourth, and 1-1 goes to 3-1 with the rain coming down hard. Then in the seventh, who else but Nick Swisher gets a rally started with a hit, Matsui walks, Nady doubles, and Cano reaches on an error, and suddenly it's 3-3 with runners on first and third with NO OUTS. Big opportunity for the Yankees to not only take the lead but maybe blow the game open a bit. With Melky Cabrera (.000) at the dish, who had already GIDP'd, and Damon and Posada on the bench, it seemed like an auto pinch-hit spot. I was watching the game with my father, uncles, and cousins at a family Easter party, and we all thought it was a lock. And it should have been, but not with Girardi. Melky GIDP's, Yankees get the lead, but the rally is crushed. THIS IS INEXPLICABLE. Melky has barely had an at bat all year, and hasn't look good when he has. You pinch hit there. Just awful. Worst mistake of the year, going to be difficult to top this.

3. Just because you like the way your bullpen is made up doesn't mean you think you have seven closers and/or set-up men. This certainly describes me. After a strong 6 from Joba, he was only at 88 pitches. In that weather, and with the Yankees' bullpen doing almost no work behind Pettitte and CC, I have no problem with him going to Bruney in the 7th, who went 1-2-3. Marte comes out to get the two lefties DeJesus and Teahan to start the 8th, perfect. It looked like he'd get to face the lefty Jacobs too, but the Royals pinch hit Billy Butler, he of the .059 average this year and no power for his career. Damaso Marte is getting paid $4 million per year. He can get Billy Butler out a lot of times, he isn't just a lefty specialist. I'm not a huge Marte fan, but he definitely should be pitching later in the game than Jose Veras or Phil Coke. Veras and Coke are great in their role. But their role is not getting the last out of the 8th in a one run game. It just isn't. If those were the only options the Yankees had in the 8th, I'd be petrified. But Girardi goes to Veras, who promptly walks a guy with a career .413 SLG. Veras pitched 1.1 innings in a 6-0 game last night, and is then coming back to get the last out of the 8th in a 1 rung ame the next day? While Edwar Ramirez, who is more rested, pitches in neither situation? Then Girardi goes to Coke, who is nasty against lefties but questionable against righties at this point, and lets him face three straight righties! This effectively ended the game. None of this makes any sense. Billy Butler is not a very good hitter. The bases were empty. You're one out away from Mo. Just let Marte finish it, don't start getting cute. Not as bad as not pinch hitting for Melky, but bad.

Tough one to lose. The Yakees, as I said, were one out away from Mariano in a game they battled back in with their C lineup on the field. Going to face a tough Tampa team for their home opener tomorrow, this is a tough one to lose. If Girardi would just make the simple moves (pinch hit for Melky), and not overthink things (worrying about matching up same side for every single batter with two outs in the 8th and the bases empty), the Yankees win this game almost every time. Awful managing. Thankfully, I know it isn't just me being ridiculous, because almost everyone is saying the same things, both who I watched with today, and as I looked around afterwards. Girardi misses so many obvious things, you really wonder how fit he is for this position. He literally gave this game away by putting his team in a progressively worse position to win the game. Disgusting.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Worse Than Terrible" - Update 1

You learn in third grade, or whatever grade in Little League where you have kids pitching instead of parents and therefore you have pitchers who are trying to strike you out, that you have to protect the plate when there are two strikes on you. Your third-grade Little League coach tells you not to let a good one go by.


Well, some people let good ones go by on an alarming rate. Somehow, due to their one tool (speed), they make it to the major leagues, where they continue to NOT protect the plate. It's okay though, because Steve Silva of Boston Dirt Dogs still considers 46 a "star."

As some of us have addressed in the latest comments section, this guy looks absolutely lost at the plate. Say what you want about Jed Lowrie, who has all but given Julio Lugo his job back, but in this young season, nobody has looked worse than 46. Unfortunately, this is not new.

So far this season, 46 has continued the bad habits he developed last year, flailing at the ball, not keeping his feet planted, and (what might be the most inexcusable) taking called strike threes over--and over--and over again. How many times this year am I going to have to watch 46 take a curveball on the outside corner for strike three?

It might be smart to try to foul those pitches off. The guy you're always equated to, Johnny Damon, made a career out of that. Foul off the bad pitches and wait for one that you can drive.

Oh, wait. 46 has failed to drive anything this year. He drives baseballs even less frequently than Joba Chamberlain drives sober. People might say "BUT HE GOT HIST IN TWO OF THE THREE GAMES!!1" Right. He has yet to collect a hit outside the infield.

I am not saying 46 is a zero-tool player. He is a one-tool player, enabling the fact that he can throw the bat at the ball weakly and beat out a weak ground ball. It seems like he is having trouble concentrating on swinging and driving the ball. He looks weak out there, and the results aren't coming.

Want to talk about a slow start? Well, that should have been solved. He was third on the team in spring training at-bats--oh, and he sucked there, too, hitting .266 against a bunch of minor leaguers. This guy looks like an absolute disaster.

Let me guess--he's still young and has a lot of upside. Oh, wait. He's only one year younger than Coco Crisp was when he arrived in Boston. He's entering what should be the prime of his career, and this future Hall of Famer (in Steve Buckley's eyes, as well as his own) looks absolutely lost. What a disaster. As we discussed in a previous post, 46 has quite a bit of audacity by thinking he can hit .353 for a whole season, like he did in a partial 2007 season.

Hitting .253 might be a good first step.

MEANWHILE, the guy who was made expendible by 46's maturation as a baseball player, Coco Crisp, hit the game-winning home run for the Kansas City Royals yesterday, in addition to his second double in two games. It's pretty safe to say that Coco Crisp has singlehandedly powered the Royals' offense. An article was written in the Kansas City Star in late February that for the first time since the hand injury in 2006, Coco was able to crack his fingers again, signifying that things finally felt right again.

By the way, that's why the Jason Bartlett putting his knee down incident (the one that ultimately sparked the shouting match and brawl last June) pissed Coco off so much. It was a career-altering injury, and only now is he fully recovered from it. Maybe the Red Sox can trade 46 and a reliever to get Coco back. It's time to bring him back with a police escort a la Doug Mirabelli in 2006.

Go ahead and say that Coco's problem was playing in a big city. Say that Edgar Renteria was "terrible" and that Coco was worse. If Coco was worse than terrible, what does that make 46? I'm starting to doubt whether 46 can play in a big city. There's another one closeby that is a much more comfortable, smaller city. There's an ice cream/hot dog stand next door to the stadium, a vibrant downtown, and can get you ready for the big time. 46 might be better suited to play in this city.

It's called Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What Are The Chances...

...That Nick Swisher isn't in the lineup tomorrow? I'd say high, to quite high. This is probably overly pessemistic for a mere hour after an 11-2 win, and it's tough to criticize Girardi's lineup management when they have averaged 7 runs per game across the first three games. There is also a big possibility Nady is getting a day off tomorrow with a fourth straight righty on the hill and Swisher's hot start and ridiculous game today, but I just have a feeling Girardi won't play him, and that will drive me insane. He should be playing everyday, definitely not sitting the day after about as big a day as a player can have. I wonder how long it will take Girardi to figure this out.

And when we talk about hot start, we are talking about 4-6 with a walk, a homer, two doubles, 5 rbi, and 2 runs scored. And when we talk ridiculous game today, we are talking about 3-5 with a homer, a double, 5 rbi, and 2 runs scored. He also sees about a thousand pitches per plate appearance, even in the 9th inning of a blowout today working the count full before doubling. This is an incredbily small sample size, but that doesn't mean Swisher hasn't shown something important: he'll let his performance do the talking. Brett Gardner did the same thing this spring, and it's what you like to see out of a competitor. A guy like Swisher, who has been an everyday player for his entire career, could have sulked when he didn't win the RF job. Instead he goes out and does what he's done the first three games. Awesome. I also love that he and Cano seem to be hanging. Swisher's endless enthusiasm could be very good for the sometimes lackadasical Cano, who at times seems like he doesn't get the most out of his talent.

Speaking of that talent, whoa baby. 6 for 11 with a homer, a double, and three walks. The three walks in three games is probably the most telling. It took him 19 games to walk three times last year. It's really difficult to have sustained success with that kind of approach. And that is what is so exciting looking at Cano the first three games this year. While that no-doubter to right center is exactly what you want to see Cano doing and easy to get pumped up about, the way he is producing these results is the real story. With that open stance, Cano had to do a lot of moving to get to the baseball, and as a result ended up being slow and rolling a lot of stuff over to second. Now he's more closed, his bat is much quicker to the baseball, and it lets him cover the plate more completely. He used to be able to do this with his old stance when he saw a lot of fastballs batting 9th. Now that he's a more proven player, he gets pitched to with much more variation in pitch selection, and his new approach makes him more prepared to succeed. If these walks are for real, watch out.

Good job by Burnett. Not a dominant performance, but with the way Sabathia and Wang flopped, 5.1 innings, 2 runs, and 6 K's will play just fine. Outstanding job getting Huff swinging at a 3-2, two out curveball to get out of that bases loaded jam in the third. That very well could have been the game if the Orioles get runs there, with the Yankees being completely deflated that their starter is not doing the job again. But Burnett did it. Takes serious guts to throw that pitch out of the strikezone, but when your curveball bites as late as his does, it's something you can and should do.

Looks like Matsuzaka got roughed up a little bit today, seven extra base hits and three walks usually isn't a recipe for success, even with his tightrope act. Two of the first three games did not produce good pitching performances, and thus poor results, for both the Yankees and Red Sox. It's early, but you don't like losing either of these series. For the Yankees you lose to a bad team, but at least it's on the road. For the Red Sox, at least it's a good team, but it's at home. You don't want to lose series to bad teams, and you don't want to lose series at home. We'll see how both teams bounce back this weekend. The Yankees need to play well and get wins in Kansas City because, as I've said previsouly, there schedule after this series is not fun. The Red Sox have the unenviable task of going to the West Coast without an off day. It will be an early test for both teams.

UPDATE, 7:11 PM: The boys from SWB have now pitched 8 no-hit innings across the last two games. The title of this post should have been about the chances DV writes a Sore Glove Hand about this. Good money is on not happening. Experience. History of success. Name recognition. That's the only way to build a good bullpen.