Sunday, June 30, 2013

Yankees Fans Need to Make Up Their Minds and Stop Whining: A Semi-Rant

We know how you feel El Capitan

The year 2008 was very memorable in the history of the New York Yankees. The team was playing its last season on the site of the original and renovated versions of Yankee Stadium. There was a new manager, Joe Girardi, for the first time since 1996. Most of all, the team stunk by the Yankees and George Steinbrenner's standards - 89-73, 3rd place in the AL East, eight games behind the division winning Tampa Bay Rays. The Boston Red Sox took the AL wild card, six games ahead of the Yankees. The fans were livid.

The battle cry was shouted from the rooftops around the metropolitan area. Sign great players!!! Bring in All-Stars!!! We have to win now!!! The Yankees did just that giving deals to CC Sabathia (7 years, $161MM), Mark Teixeira (8 years, $180MM), and A.J. Burnett (5 years, $82.5MM). They traded for Nick Swisher (originally to play 1st base before Teixeira's signing), who became integral after Xavier Nady was lost early in the season. And of course there was still Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada.

The Yankees immediately won their first World Series in nine years and Yankees fans were figuratively fat and happy heading into the winter. Then something happened over the next four years. Players got older, some retired, some skills deteriorated, some didn't heal as quickly as they once did. The 2013 version of the Yankees is the fan base's nightmare. An old, injury riddled team that is currently filled with players who don't have the bat speed or the fastball they once did, and youngsters who aren't ready to be playing regularly in the Major Leagues.

So what's being shouted out now? Why can't we be more like the Pittsburgh Pirates? Say What? You know how the Pittsburgh Pirates got the way they did? By losing and losing some more and losing even more. It's not hard to build a good squad when you are perennially in the bottom of the division and have draft picks in the first five picks every year. Throw in a couple of key free agents (e.g. Russell Martin) and have a bona fide home grown star (Andrew McCutchen) and suddenly life is grand.

Then when the Pirates stars are ready for big money, they'll get dispatched to other teams around the league. Just the same way the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals do. Do you think for one nanosecond, any Yankees fan is going to put up with the seasons it would take to build a team of young talent like that? Not one, not a single one!

89 wins in 2008 and the first non-playoff team in 13 years proved that. Not a team that barely won 70 games, but a team that almost won 90 drove people crazy. It's hard to argue with the Yankees haters when they say the fans are spoiled, because, for the most part, it's true. The younger fans didn't go through the rotten years when there were no championships like the late 1960s and early 1970s, and most of the 1980's and the early 1990s.

You want to talk about bad teams? You did't have to watch guys like Jerry Kenny, Dooley Womack, and Horace Clarke. (Ever see a guy get over 680 at-bats with an OPS less than .600?) Please don't let me tell you about the 1982 "speed team".  The 1996-2000 squads gave many of today's fans a sense of entitlement. The championship is ours or the complete season is a waste. Really? And you claim to love baseball?

Many fans were ready to riot after the team lost in the 2012 playoffs...the American League Championship Series no less. Four wins from reaching the World Series, but the reaction sounded as though the Yankees finished in last place in the AL East.

Of course, the fans are right about some things, it just takes losing to set them straight. The Yankees front office did this to themselves. We all know that. They knew there were rumors about A-Rod's steroid use, but they went ahead and bid against themselves to re-sign him to a ridiculous 10-year, $275MM deal when he opted out of his current contract after the 2008 season. (Just like they knew Giambi in all likelihood was a user before they signed him to a large deal prior to the 2002 season.)

CC Sabathia's a much better person on and off the field than A-Rod could ever hope to be, but re-working his deal through 2017 wasn't a great idea. No, the Yankees didn't want to lose him when he opted out of his deal after the 2011 season, but perhaps they should have let the free agent market help decide the length and amount of the deal.  The big man has a lot of innings and pitches in his left arm and last year his elbow complained loudly about it. Sabathia has looked ordinary and has lost velocity this season. He's guaranteed $71MM over the next three seasons and can get $25MM in the final year of the deal if he stays healthy.

Teixeira has gotten beat up, pull happy, and still has three years and $67.5MM on his contract. Now, you can't count on bad things happening, but when players are on the other side of 30-years of age, things happen more often. Unfortunately, a lot of them occurred this year. But fans can't bash the same contracts they applauded before the last two seasons. (Many of these same fans wanted the Yankees to sign Josh Hamilton this past off-season - 28 RBI and a .665 OPS in 77 games so far for the Angels.)

The worst part about all those contracts combined with Hal Steinbrenner's quest to get the salary to $189MM? The Yankees are not going to be able to sign Robinson Cano. They might even be wise to deal him at this year's trade deadline. Rumor has it that Cano wants a 10 year deal. If the Yankees are dumb enough to give it to him (or for that matter if anyone is) you can expect more 2013's in the future. I love Cano, he's one of my favorite players to watch bat and field, but the insanity has to stop somewhere.

Fans are going to have to learn to live with whatever happens this year. There are no teams like the LA Dodgers to take all the bad contracts away like those idiots did last year with the Red Sox. (It's laughable that people give Boston credit for that move.) Not only aren't there teams like that, but somehow Bud Selig would find a way to not allow the Yankees to salary dump. (He shouldn't allow it either, just like he shouldn't have allowed Florida and Boston to do so last year.)

Most of all, all of us want a competitive, interesting team to watch. If the Yankees front office doesn't wise up, and I question if the current group can, attendance will continue to dwindle, ratings will continue to drop, and the Yankees will not make the playoffs, let alone win a championship, for a very long time.

Then you will really hear some whining.

Yankees Closer to Cellar Than Penthouse

Indeed, the decision to watch a movie last night was the correct one. The Yankees who looked foolish at times Friday night, looked foolish for the entire 11-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday's nationally televised game. Starter David Phelps was hammered and didn't make it past the 33r
d inning. It's probably time to try out Ivan Nova again tin that spot.

Suddenly the Bronx Bombers-less are 5 1/2 games out of first and just 2 games out of the AL East basement. Things have take quite a turn in the division over the last two weeks. Like the Yankees, the Boston Rex Sox and Orioles have gone through up and down periods. So much so that despite losing 7 of 10, the Yankees have dropped just two games in the standings.

Meanwhile, everybody's pre-season bandwagon pick, the Toronto Blue Jays, finally came to life. They reeled off 11 straight wins and got back into contention. They did despite the fact that the lowest ERA by a starter (R.A. Dickey) is 4.72. The team is not short on power, though, with Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, J.P. Arencibia, and Colby Rasmus contributing to the damage.

The Blue Jays are also getting healthy. Jose Reyes is back after being out since April 12 with a badly injured ankle. Though the results have been mixed, Josh Johnson is throwing the ball better after a stint on the DL. The team has also gotten an unexpected boost from Adam Lind (.938 OPS), who has bounced back and forth between the Majors and the minors  when he struggled at the plate.

The Tampa Bay Rays have stayed the course. The team has produced good to great pitching for years, though they end up dealing away the talent when the big money is due. Matt Moore started out the season like a house afire, winning his first eight decisions. Alex Cobb was having a marvelous season until he took a line drive to the head in mid-June. Last year's AL CY Young winner, David Price, will be back from the DL shortly with the hope that he'll throw better than he has all year. (1-4, 5.24 in 9 starts)

The team has called up Wil Myers to help the offense, which still doesn't produce nearly enough. Yet they are still in contention, 6 games back of Boston for the division lead, and 3 1/2 out of the wild card.

The Yankees need to get better fast or Brian Cashman best get some better fill-ins, or this team's season will done by end of July trade deadline.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bad Pitches, Bad Players, Bad Judgment Makes Bad Games

gif courtesy of

It's a Netflix (Saturday) night in the household- a wise decision to avoid a night of Yankees baseball. Since the game is being broadcast on FOX, it made the decision somewhat easy.

After the once proud pinstripes looked like laughing stocks in Baltimore last night, it was time to for a baseball breather. The game pretty much summarized what the Yankees season has been all about. Poorly timed pitching, guys playing out of position, crucial errors, and a complete lack of hitting. That last one is not so shocking considering the lineup the Yankees are trotting out on a daily basis.

CC Sabathia got the start last night and was handed a 3-0 lead early. He made the most of it through five innings without a hit allowed to the Orioles. Then came the 6th inning and there went the ball game. After Nate McLouth broke up the no-no with a single, the decision to play David Adams out of position badly backfired on Joe Girardi.

Alexi Casilla hit a weak tapper to the first base side of Sabathia. It was his ball all the way, but Adams, a natural second baseman that has been learning third base, charged the ball from his position at first base. It was Adams second career appearance at first and the inexperienced showed.

With Robinson Cano unable to get over to cover the bag, Casilla easily reached with an infield single. Then things went from bad to worse. Manny Machado laced a one-out double to the gap and right-center and scored an out later from third on an Adam Jones single to tie the game at 3-3.

The Yankees picked up a quick run in the 1st inning on a Robinson Cano RBI single off of rookie T.J. McFarland, who was made his first career start. Two innings later Vernon Wells and Chris Stewart produced RBI singles for a 3-0 Yankees lead. It appeared for once the Yankees might have a fairly easy night.

Yes, I know, laughing material. The team had 11 hits, but only four after the 3rd inning. They struck out 11 times, including a hat trick by Alberto Gonzalez, just another in a long line of hit-less wonders that filled out the 25-man roster this season.

As for Sabathia, his velocity was pretty good for a change- 93 mph most of the night and 95 at one point - but he made some bad pitches, one in particular, just as he did against the Rays in his last start. The Yankees got Sabathia off the hook after he allowed Wil Myers' grand slam in the Rays game, but there was no rescue job after Sabathia surrendered a game winning home run to the left-handed hitting McLouth in the 7th.

Sabathia expressed the frustration felt by himself, the team, the front office, and all of the fans when he threw his glove and hat in a fit of rage in the dugout. I felt like throwing the remote (Which I hadn't done since Game 5 of the 1994 NHL playoff series between the Rangers and Devils, but that's a story for another time.)

Girardi and GM Brian Cashman get mixed reviews from the Yankees fan base and from me as well. I think they have their strong points and some glaring weaknesses. I'm not happy with Girardi's in-game decisions (The binder reliance) and his need to mix and match/counter the opponents every late inning move.

I'm sure Lyle Overbay needed a rest, but was there not a better option at first base than Adams? The answer is actually not really, which gets thrown back to Cashman for not mixing and matching his players. Girardi could have gone with Gonzalez, who has only seven games of experience at first base, but has 419 games of Major League experience and probably would have handled it better. Adams would have then just been back at third base.

The bottom line is the decision time is nearing.  With the trade deadline looming on the horizon, the Yankees entered Saturday's night play 5 1/2 games behind Boston. Eduardo Nunez should be back next week, meaning Adams or Gonzalez will be gone. Francisco Cervelli should be back shortly thereafter, with Austin Romine ticketed for a return to Scranton. But then what?

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez aren't close to returning. Curtis Granderson? Who knows. Cashman needs to bring in reinforcements (People please stop bring up Justin Morneau, have you bothered to look at his numbers this year and his injury track record?) or this season will be done when the calendar turns to August.

Buy or sell Yankees, either way make a decision.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Time For a Shake Up Part II: Yankees Need to Cut Hughes and Joba Loose

(I began this about 2 weeks ago and nothing has changed for the better. Chamberlain's performance in Wednesday's game pushed me to finish it.)

Potential and promise are two of the worst words in the human language when paired together. Much worse than any word that George Carlin could produce in his "7 dirty words" routine. Potential and promise may be the worst words of all time when they are associated with athletes.

Phil Hughes has been linked to the twin "P"s since the Yankees drafted him out of Foothill High School with the 23rd overall pick in the 2004 Major League Baseball amateur draft. Of course, Hughes was probably labeled with every positive long before he left Santa Ana, CA for the Gulf Cost League in Florida.

Joba Chamberlain had a big arm and a big arsenal of pitches when he strode the mound for the University of Nebraska. The Yankees snatched him up with the 41st overall pick of the 2006 MLB draft. Another first round selection with plenty of potential and promise. Even more so after Chamberlain was unexpectedly called up to the Majors on August 7, 2007. He was just 21-years old, but his 19 game stint brought excitement from a rookie that had not been seen since Shane Spencer grand slammed his way through the end of the 1998 season.

Things have changed drastically for both players since those early days. Injuries, loss of velocity, inconsistency, and inefficiency have all trumped the words that start with the letter "p". Hughes appeared to get on track in 2010 when he started the season 11-2, 3.65 and averaged better than eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched. His ERA in the second half was nearly 5.00 and he walked the same amount of batters (29) that he did in the first half, but in 26 less innings. The number of home runs allowed also increased, a major problem that has persisted since then.

A year later back issues and dropped velocity limited Hughes to 17 games. 2012 epitomized Hughes inability to produce a solid start on a consistent basis. His overall numbers - 16-13, 4.23 - weren't bad, and were bolstered by a stronger second half. His penchant for serving up gopher balls (35) continued to hurt his game. The positives gave the team something to look forward to in 2013, but a bulging disc slowed Hughes in Spring Training and he was the same inconsistent, home run served on a silver platter pitcher once the season started. He enters Thursday's start 3-6, 5.09 with 1.5 home runs and 10.2 hits allowed per nine innings.

Chamberlain has never recaptured the amazing dominance he showed in 2007. And it was not all his fault- the Yankees messed him up with their ridiculous "Joba Rules", they jerked him back and forth from the rotation and pen, and limitied his innings. And it all backfired because he ended up with Tommy John surgery anyway.

Wednesday night's game with Texas was typical of Joba's performances these days. Either allow the other team to increase their lead in the game as the Rangers did, or have the Yankees lead quickly become less. Chamberlain may have a big repertoire of pitches, but they're just about all flat and hittable. He's also as immature as his first day in the Major Leagues.

What it all means is that it is time to get rid of both- Joba through a trade by the deadline (Don't expect much in return.) and Hughes by letting him walk when he becomes a free agent after the end of the 2013 season. (Chamberlain is also set to become a free agent, but why hold on to him that long.)

There would be an opening in the bullpen with Chamberlain jettisoned out of town, an opening that would be filled by Hughes for the remainder of the season. (It's likely the Yankees wouldn't get much through a trade so why not get draft pick(s) instead when he signs somewhere else?) It's a shame to give up on Hughes, I held out as long as I could, but his trouble with locating his fastball, his drop in velocity, and his propensity for getting hurt and serving up gopher balls has pushed me past the point of no return.

For now Hughes could be quite serviceable in the pen though where he appeared in 44 of 51 games in 2009.
Given one or two innings of work, I believe Hughes could be an asset to the club. He won't like it, but too bad.

What about Hughes' spot in the rotation you ask? One Michael Pineda, hopefully, coming right up. The righty pitched well for the Trenton Thunder Tuesday night as he continues his comeback from shoulder surgery. If not Pineda, then turns the reins over to Ivan Nova to see if he can get his career back on track. (In another scenario Pineda and Nova could replace Hughes and David Phelps.)

With CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte both showing some chinks in their armor, the team can't afford to carry dead weight. It doesn't get much deader than Phil Hughes starting and Joba Chamberlain coming in from the pen.

Teixeira and His Wrist Are Finished

Mark Teixeira will join Kevin Youkilis on the sideline.

The bad news everyone has been expecting for the last few days has come down from the front offices of the New York Yankees. First baseman Mark Teixeira will undergo season ending surgery to fix the injured sheath tendon in his right wrist.

Teixeira missed the first 53 games of the regular season after he injured his wrist working out with Team USA in preparation for the World Baseball Classic.

After he had just one hit in nine at-bats, Teixeira homered in three of four games, but was in a 3-31 tailspin when he was pulled from a contest with the Los Angeles Angels on June 15. He was sent back to New York ahead of the team to have the hand evaluated. An MRI showed inflammation, but no additional damage and Teixeira was administered a cortisone shot.

A week passed and Teixeira's wrist showed no improvement since he received the shot. A contrast MRI also showed that the wrist had not healed adequately.

The surgery will take place as soon as possible with a six month recovery expected. (Toronto's Jose Bautista went through the same procedure last season.) Teixeira has three years and $67.5MM left on his contract.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pineda To Take the Ball For Trenton

Michael Pineda takes another step towards his first regular season appearance for the Yankees when he starts for the Double-A Trenton Thunder.

This will be Pineda's third official minor league start of the season, with prior two coming as a member of the Florida St. League's ('A+') Tampa Yankees. Pineda has also thrown simulated and extended Spring Training.

Pineda, acquired from Seattle with Jose Campos in a controversial deal for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi prior to last season, was shut down during Spring Training of 2012 and underwent shoulder surgery that threatened his career.

Reports have been good during Pineda's comeback with his fastball reportedly topping out at 95 mph. He could eventually take the place of Phil Hughes or David Phelps in the Yankees rotation.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A-Rod's Clearance Not So Clear

Alex Rodriguez has been cleared to start rehab games next week. No, no he hasn't. That was the day in the life of Alex Rodriguez Monday. Or a day in the life of following the course of A-Rod's rehab.

Reports circuled that the lightning rod would start getting into rehab games after he was cleared by doctors. Only one little problem. Brian Cashman said the team doctors have not cleared him.

Maybe it was just A-Rod's dentist.

Meanwhile fans keep calling into radio stations with ridiculous trade ideas. Justin Morneau - 3 home runs this year. Chase Headley, who had a career, breakout year last season - .681 OPS this year.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nova Ready to Go, Neal Back to Scranton

Yankees have made it official that Ivan Nova has been activated to start today's game. His roster spot opened up with the Yankees optioning Thomas Neal back to the minors.

Neal was just 2-11 with one walk. Meanwhile, the Yankees are still hoping Nova can recapture the stuff that helped him go 16-4 in 2011.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Kid is Hot Tonight

..Whoa so hot tonight, but where will he be tomorrow? - Loverboy

Comings and going in the Yankees clubhouse is nothing out of the ordinary these days. Given the chance to play, some have played well for short or long stretches, some have been up and down from the minors like a yo-yo, and some are just getting their chance to make their mark. Such is the case with Zoilo Almonte.

Making his first Major League start after two pinch-hit appearances, Almonte had three hits, including his first Major League home run to spark the Yankees to a 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. He also got a big cheer from the crowd when his throw from left field to home plate smacked into the catcher Austin Romine's mitt like a 95-mph fastball and froze a  Rays base runner at third base in the process.

Almonte is just the latest player given a shot to contribute to a struggling lineup. The recently turned 24-year old had impressed Joe Girardi in the last two Spring Trainings, so it was no surprise that he was recalled earlier in the week and given a chance to contribute.

The native of the Dominican Republic hit 21 HR, drove in 70 runs, stole 15 bases, and had an .808 OPS at Double-A Trenton last year. This season, his first at the Triple-A, his batting average is up (.297) from last year, but his power numbers have dipped. However, his 30 walks and 47 strikeouts in 293 plate appearances are respectable.

Almonte wasn't alone in snapping the Yankees two game losing streak. David Phelps fought his way through five-plus innings to improve to 5-4 and Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera shut the Rays down the rest of the way.  Jayson Nix was the only player in the starting lineup without ast least one hit.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lillibridge and Nova Among the Latest Comings and Goings

Lillibridge robbing the Yankees
The Yankees designated Reid Brignac for assignment earlier today and recalled utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez from Scranton. But Gonzalez may not be up for long- the Yankees have acquired the versatile Brent Lillibridge, who can play both the infield and outfield.

Lillibridge was playing for the Cubs Triple-A team in Iowa City and came at the cost of a player to be named later or cash considerations. The move is a little puzzling since Lillibridge's offensive numbers (career split of .207/.271/.339) are comparable to Brignac's, thought the 29-year old's ability to play the outfield is a plus.(You might recall a Yankees game against the White Sox in which Lillibridge made back to back diving catches to win the game for Chicago.)

His best year came with the White Sox in 2007 when he posted career highs in average (.258), OPS (.845), HR (13) and RBI (29). The Yankees are his seventh organization after he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005, dealt to the Braves, dealt to the White Sox, dealt to the Red Sox, dealt to the Indians, and finally signed as a free agent with the Cubs. He was 1-24 for the Cubs before his demotion to Triple-A.

Ivan Nova will be recalled to start Sunday's series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays. It remains to be seen who will be removed from the roster to make room for Nova. The righty was 2-0, 2.04 in three starts for Scranton with 17 strikeouts and four walks in 17.2 innings. He's 2-1, 5.16 in four starts and two relief appearances for the big club.

The Yankees also added outfield depth to the Scranton squad by inking veteran Corey Patterson to a minor league deal. The Mariners had released him earlier this month after he posted less than a .500 OPS at Triple-A. The Yankees are Patterson's 12th organization, though he has not played in the Majors for all of them.

Not done yet - the Yankees acquired Texas Rangers right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama earlier Friday afternoon. Tateyama has spent the entire season at Triple-A Round Rock and is a right-handed specialist.

Mike Zagurski, probably unknown to most, was picked up by the Yankees after the Pittsburgh Pirates let him go. The left-hander has 88 games of Major League experience, 45 of them spent with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. A career 6.84 ERA and 1.733 WHIP won't be get him called up any time soon (if ever).

Throw it against the wall and see what sticks.

Bye Bye to Brignac

Reid Brignac can pick it with his glove as good as anyone. Unfortunately, he can't hit the broad side of a barn with his bat.

The Yankees designated Brignac for assignment after the utility infielder had just five hits in 44 at-bats and a .270 OPS. Brignac is this era's Mario Mendoza. Brignac was purchased by the Yankees from the Colorado Rockies on May 18.

Once a highly (over) touted prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays,  the 27-year old has never able to match his minor league hitting - in 2006 Brignac had 24 HR, 99 RBI, and .916 OPS between high 'A' ball and Double-A.

Alberto Gonzalez was recalled from Scranton to take Brignac's spot on the roster.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Joe Torre's Daughter's Catch Bigger Than Charlie Hayes'

On the night of October 26, 1996, Yankees third baseman Charlie Hayes closed his glove around Mark Lemke's foul pop for the final out of both Game 6 and the World Series itself. It sealed the Yankees first championship in 18 years and gave Joe Torre redemption for past managerial failures and a playing career that never included the post-season.

But if you ask Torre today, I'd bet that he'd be a whole lot prouder of the catch his daughter Cristina made on Wednesday. Her Dad used a mitt or glove to catch a baseball in his 18 year career, but 44-year old Cristina used her bare hands to catch 1-year old Dillin Miller after he fell out of an apartment window.

The baby hit his mouth, but was otherwise fine. His parents could be in a load of trouble though. The baby's parents, 23-year old Sam Miller (Is he not the oldest looking 23-year old you have ever seen?) and 24-year old Tiffany Demitro were asleep at the time of the incident. They were arrested after police arrived and found the pair and their four children (ages 1, 2, 3, 5) living in squalor. (The police actually stopped the 3-year old from falling out the same window.)

Their day would have been a whole lot worse if not for the awareness and good hands of Cristina Torre.

For more on the story check out the NY Daily News.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ichiro Does It All

It wasn’t that long ago that I speculated that Ichiro Suzuki’s days in a Yankees uniform could be numbered. That’s not going to happen if the 40-year old has more days like he had in the first game of a day-night doubleheader with the LA Dodgers Wednesday.

Ichiro stood out at the plate and in the field in the Yankees 6-4 win in the first regular season contest played between the two storied franchises in Yankee Stadium. Already up 2-0, Ichiro hit a solo home run off Dodgers left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu in the 6th inning.

After the Dodgers scored a pair of runs off starter and winner Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro helped out his countrymen again with a 2-run single to cap a 3-run 7th inning.  The 10 time Gold Glove winner then flashed the leather in the 8th inning when he made a running, leaping catch to take an extra base hit and an RBI away from Adrian Gonzalez. The play proved crucial when the next batter, Hanley Ramirez, belted a 2-run home run to cut the Yankees advantage to 6-4.

Kuroda helped himself out in the early part of the ballgame with some quick reflexes. Gonzalez and Ramirez started the top of the 4th off with a single and double to put two men in scoring position with no one out. Andre Ethier lined a ball back up the middle, but Kuroda snared it and threw to David Adams to double Gonzalez off of third. Kuroda then retired veteran Juan Uribe to keep the Dodgers off the board.

Mariano Rivera bounced back from his struggles Sunday in Anaheim to pitch a 1-2-3 9th inning for his 25th save of the season.  Rivera welcomed rookie Yasiel Puig to the bigs with a game ending strikeout.


Despite a shortage of infielders, the Yankees brought up outfielder Zoilo Almonte, who will play in the evening contest.  Almonte impressed Joe Girardi in the past two Spring Trainings and was having a good year for Triple-A Scranton. In 68 games, the recently turned 24-year old had splits of .297/.368/.421 with 6 HR and 36 RBI. The right-handed hitter also had 12 doubles, a triple and was 4-5 in stolen base attempts.

The main reason the Yankees brought up an outfielder, as Mark Feinsand pointed out on the radio broadcast, was due to injuries to infielders Corban Joseph and Ronnier Mustelier, both of whom are on the DL.

The Bleacher Creatures chanted “Donnie Baseball” in tribute to former Yankees standout and current Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. The former #23 now dons #8 (See what I did there) in Dodger blue and gracisously tipped his cap to the Creatures. He and Joe Girardi hugged each other when they brought out the lineup cards prior to the game.

Back in the lineup as a regular, Lyle Overbay came through in the clutch again. He drove a ball over Ethier's head in center field for a 2-run double to start the day's scoring.

Phil Hughes and Chris Capuano will face off in the nightcap.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One Time Mets Prospect Joins Yankees

The thing about highly hyped baseball products is that they don't pan out more often than not. Sometimes it's due to injuries (Brien Taylor), the realization that the jump from high school to professional baseball is a big leap (Eric Duncan), or sometimes it's just all smoke and mirrors.  Perhaps that was the case when it came to Mets prospect Fernando Martinez.

Martinez was hands off in Mets trade talks, but just 24 hits in 103 at-bats over three Major League seasons and a number of injuries changed the minds of the Mets' front office. The Houston Astros snatched him up off waivers in January, 2011 and earlier today the Yankees acquired the former star-in-the-making for pitcher Charles Basford.

Martinez was ranked as baseball's 20th best prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2008 season. He had put up .662 OPS through 28 games this season for the Astros Triple-A club in Oklahoma City.

Basford was a 37th round pick by the Yankees in last season's amateur draft. He was pitching for Staten Island in the New York-Penn League.

Yuke, We Hardly Knew Ye; Tex Returns to DL

The saying goes that things will get worse before they get better. According to the YES Network's Meredith Marakovits the cliche applies to Kevin Youkilis. The first year Yankee and former Red and White Sox third baseman was recently placed on the DL a second time this season due to a bad back. Now word is that Youkilis has a bulging disc that requires surgery and will be out 10-12 weeks.

In other words, you aren't seeing Kevin Youkilis in a Yankees uniform again. In the revolving Yankees soap opera, Youkilis was brought in to replace the injured Alex Rodriguez, who will probably replace the injured Youkilis. Unless Bud Selig intervenes. Either way, Youkilis is done.

The chrome domed Youkilis got off to a good start for the Yankees and had a .977 OPS after a dozen games. A 1-15 skid followed as did a week off due to his balky back. He thought he was well enough to return on April 27, but after an 0-3 afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays, Youkilis was placed on the 15-day DL. He wouldn't return to the Majors until a month later.

Youkilis lasted just 11 games and was 6-41 at the plate before his back landed him back on the DL. He should be on the 60-Day DL in short order to open some room on the 40-man roster.

If this is it for Youkilis' Yankees career, it lasted 28 games with a .219/.305/.343 split and $12MM in earnings. His surgery is scheduled for this Thursday. Brian Cashman stated that David Adams, Reid Brignac, and Jayson Nix will continue to split playing time at the hot corner for the time being. (Again I say, Ronnier Mustelier!)

The news comes on the heels of the announcement that Mark Teixeira is also back on the DL due to his painful right wrist. Pitcher Adam Warren was recalled to take his place on the roster. Hitting coach Kevin Long didn't think Teixeira's wrist "has been right" from the moment he returned from the DL on May 31, the same day Youkilis came back. Cashman was not happy that Long mentioned it to reporters, but had not told anyone before that. I'm sure there will be a heartfelt talk (aka yellfest, at the very least, between Cashman and Long.

Lyle Overbay will resume his duties as the every day first baseman.

Donnie Baseball's Coming to Town

Don Mattingly had three misfortunes when he wore the Yankees pinstripes during his playing career. He was called up from the minors one year after the Yankees had been in the World Series for the third time in five seasons and in the playoffs in four of those five seasons.

Second, his work ethic took a toll on his back and shortened the productivity and possibly the length of his career. It definitely impacted his chances at being elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Finally, he retired right before the Yankees won four World Series in five years. Don Mattingly left his imprint on the New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium, and Yankees fans around the globe. To this day he is one of the most beloved players to both fans and his former teammates.

Mattingly returns to New York and the new Yankee Stadium for just the second time tonight (His other appearance was for the unveiling of George Steinbrenner's plaque) as the team he manages, the Los Angeles Dodgers, gets ready to play its first ever regular season game at the Stadium.

While he wasn't the babe magnet that Derek Jeter is, Mattingly was every bit the rock star his fellow captain is. He didn't need to go clubbing or appear in his own series of car commercials to be the most popular athlete in the Tri-State area.

From 1984 through 1987, there was arguably no better baseball player on the planet. During the four year stretch, Mattingly averaged 29 home runs, 120 RBI, 102 runs scored, 210 hits, 45 doubles, a .336 batting average, and 350 total bases.

He drove in 145 runs in 1984 and won the AL MVP Award by 93 pts over Kansas City's George Brett. Controversy ensued a year later when Mattingly finished second to pitcher Roger Clemens despite having led the AL in seven offensive categories and won his second of nine Gold Gloves.  He had 238 hits in 1985, 53 of them doubles, and finished with a .967 OPS.

Mattingly's 1987 season included a then record six grand slams. Remarkably, they were the only ones he hit in his career. That same season he tied Dale Long's Major League record by homering in eight straight contests.

However, too many swings off the batting tee and his perseverance to continually improve at the plate took its toll on Mattingly's back. (There has also been a story that Mattingly injured his back messing around with pitcher Bob Shirley in the clubhouse, but both players denied it.) He would only top 20 home runs and 100 RBI one more time in his career.

He went from being extra-ordinary to ordinary at the plate. It's the reason the six time All-Star has fallen short of election to the Hall of Fame. 2,153 career hits, 222 home runs, and 1099 RBI don't cut it in a sport driven by numbers, playoff appearances and championship rings.

Unfortunately, timing was everything when it came to Mattingly's baseball career. There was no wild card playoff entrant for all but one season of Mattingly's career and the Yankees did not win any division titles in his tenure in New York. (They finished in 2nd place three times prior to the 1995 season). That may have changed in 1994 had the players' strike not wiped out the last two months of the regular season and all of the post-season.

Mattingly finally made the playoffs in his final year thanks to baseball's implementation of the wild card in 1995. The playoffs started out like a dream come true in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees beat the Seattle Mariners in the first two games of the best of five series and Mattingly's home run in Game 2 sent the crowd into delirium. (The Game 2 victor was a rookie by the name of Mariano Rivera)

The baseball Gods were not kind though when the series moved out to Seattle. The Mariners won three straight games, the finale in their last at-bat in the 11th inning. The team flight home was extremely emotional as Mattingly said good-bye to his teammates, many of whom felt they had let their leader down. In his only playoff appearance Mattingly hit .417 and had a gaudy 1.148 OPS. It was the captain's 2-run double that snapped a 2-2 tie and given the Yankees the lead in the 6th inning of Game 5, but it was not meant to be. A 14-year career came to an abrupt end.

The team retired Mattingly's number 23 on August 31, 1997, but he still wore it for several seasons as a Spring Training instructor with the team. He was then named the team's hitting coach prior to the 2004 season. After three seasons he became manager Joe Torre's bench coach until Torre's 12 year run ended after the 2007 season.

Mattingly was a finalist with Joe Girardi for the Yankees job and then joined Torre as hitting coach with the Dodgers. He lost out to Manny Acta for the Cleveland Indians job for the 2010 season, but then replaced Torre when he retired after the 2010 season.

The 2013 season came with a lot of expectations after new ownership threw money around like it was going out of style. Injuries and under achievement beset the team early on though and the Dodgers enter tonight's game in last place in the NL West, seven games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.

There has been talk that Mattingly's job is in jeopardy. No matter what happens, he will always have a home in the Bronx.  The fans will prove that tonight.

Welcome Back Donnie Baseball!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A-Rod Ready to Hit Live Pitching

In the next step towards his return to the Yankees, suspensions not withstanding, Alex Rodriguez will face live pitching on Tuesday. That according to Brian Cashman on a conference call with reporters.

A-Rod ran the bases on Saturday at about a 75% effort as he inched closer to a return. The controversial third baseman will still need a rehab assignment of undetermined length before he dons the big league pinstripes. It all may not mean anything if Bud Selig and crew slam the hammer down on A-Rod for his alleged involvement with Biogenesis.

Derek Jeter recently increased his baseball activities and hopefully will return sometime sooner rather than later. Francisco Cervelli's broken hand is coming along nicely and he should return sooner than all of the DL'ed players. Eduardo Nunez is on the 60-day DL and has no timetable attached to him.  Meanwhile, Curtis Granderson's finger gently weeps. (Apologies to George Harrison.)

Cashman Thinks Teixeira is Headed Back to the DL

Though an MRI revealed no new tears in Mark Teixeira's right wrist, GM Brian Cashman told the media he is "leaning" towards putting Teixeira on the DL. Teixeira missed the first 53 games of the season after he injured a tendon in his right wrist while with Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.

Though he hit three home runs and had 12 RBI in 15 games, Teixeira had just a .609 OPS when he was forced to leave Saturday's game with the Los Angeles Angels early. He flew back to New York before the Yankees series finale on Sunday and was given a cortisone shot after an MRI showed inflammation.

Cashman would not rule out eventual surgery for the Yankees first baseman.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yankees Looking For a Lifeline From Quicksand

"Is the airport that way?"
I don't want to hear any nonsense about a west coast jinx to explain the Yankees current five game out of control skid in the loss column. The 10 game western swing that ends today in Anaheim (You may want to be called LA, but we know where you are.) started with the Yankees taking 3 of 4 in Seattle. It's been all downhill since then. It doesn't matter that it's on the west coast; if the past five games were home games or east coast road games the results would be the same.

The team has stopped hitting and the injury bug is coming around again. Mark Teixeira left Saturday's 6-2 loss to the Angels early and was sent back to New York to have his wrist examined. An MRI showed inflammation and Tex was given a cortisone shot. The Yankees have not opted to reunite Tex with Kevin Youkilis on the DL just yet, and since they have Monday off so there is no rush to make a decision.

Two. That seems to be the number of runs the Yankees will allow themselves to get these days. With CC Sabathia in a year long struggle, the match up against Jered Weaver doesn't look so good for the finale in Cali.

Squeeze play. You remember what they look like don't you? I don't know if Joe Girardi does. Ichiro Suzuki singled and stole two bases (Poor umpiring screwed him out of a third) to put himself on third with no one out in the 7th inning and the Yankees down a run. Due up were the trio of Thomas Neal, Reid Brignac, and Chris Stewart. Not exactly an intimidating triumvirate in pinstripes. I know I wasn't the only one who thought, "This would be a great time for a squeeze."  Apparently, Girardi was not one of those on the same brain wave pattern. Instead it was one, two, three strikeouts, you're all out and Ichiro got stranded 90 feet from home plate. (You need to find ways to score Joe, think!)

Then the starter David Phelps, the defense, and the bullpen (You can already guess that Joba gave up a run) let the game get out of hand.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Youkilis Sidelined Again

Brian Cashman knew it was a gamble, albeit a low risk one, when he signed Kevin Youkilis to a one-year, $12MM contract. Youkilis has been injury prone the last few years with his back in particular a cause for concern.

That concern has manifested itself into a second stint on the 15-day DL. Youkilis missed all but one game in May the first time his back acted up. 

Outfielder Thomas Neal had already been called up with the demotion of David Adams. Unless another move is made Jayson Nix will get the bulk of the time at third base with Reid Brignac starting at shortstop. Perhaps Ronnier Mustelier join the Yankees as well.

Pitcher Chris Bootcheck has also been recalled with Adam Warren sent to the minors after he threw six innings in Thursday's 18 inning marathon. The right-hander was a first round pick by the Los Angeles Angels in 2000 and hasn't been in the Major Leagues since a 13 game stretch with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009.

The Yankees are Bootcheck's fifth organization, not counting the year he spent Yokohama in the Japanese League. Still just 24-years old, Bootcheck was 5-2, 3.32, 1.283 in 11 starts for the Scranton RailRiders prior to his call up. He'll take over Warren's long man role for the time being.

UPDATE: 11 pm 6/14 - With the injury to Youkilis, the Yankees held on to Adams rather than send him to Scranton. The rookie was in Friday night's lineup, but at his natural second base position with Robinson Cano in the DH slot.

Youkilis didn't feel his pain in his back after Thursday's 18 inning marathon, but felt a combination of tingling and numbness in his right foot. When the sensation didn't go away, Youkilis knew something was wrong.

Talk about knowing some thing is did Joe Girardi not realize playing Youkilis and his bad back for 18 innings was the wrong thing to do?  Bad job by the Yankees skipper.

Yankees Play Two to Lose One and the Pattern Continues: Time For a Shake Up Part I

It took 18 innings and overs 5 1/2 hrs, but the Yankees completed an embarrassing three game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A's Thursday, 3-2. Now, don't get me wrong, losing to the A's is not embarrassing. in itself. They're a good ball club and are red hot, winners of 9 of 12 and 41-27 overall.

The inconsistency of the Yankees performance is what is troubling. We all knew that eventually the talent level on the roster would catch up to the standings.  It's been a topsy turvy season due to all the injuries, the reliance on players that aren't used to playing every day, are past their prime, or are injury prone or any combination of the aforementioned.

The starting pitching, once a strength, has struggled outside of Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda was on the hill in Thursday's finale with the A's and completely dominated the Oakland lineup over eight innings. He allowed two hits and two earned runs and had nothing to show for it in the box score.  The Yankees offense  sputtered as it did the entire three game series in Oakland.

Two runs in 18 innings Thursday and eight total runs in the series' 36 innings; that was the entire Yankees output in the series. Robinson Cano's 16th home run of the season accounted for all of the Yankees runs in the finale and that occurred in the 1st inning. The rest of the day was one wasted opportunity after another or no opportunities at all.

The Yankees finished with 10 hits on the day with 80% of the production from Cano (3), Ichiro Suzuki (3), and Brett Gardner (2).  The pen did a fantastic job to keep the game even, particularly Adam Warren, who tossed six scoreless innings. The A's finally pulled things out with a run off of Preston Claiborne and an ineffective Mariano Rivera. Remarkably the team remained just three games behind first place Boston in the AL East and just two games back in the loss column.

That's why the Yankees need to shake things up before things get worse, especially when it comes to the replacement players that were brought in.

The culprits: Let's start with Vernon Wells. The Yankees primary left fielder started out like a house afire - a .911 OPS in the month of April with six home runs and 13 RBI. Since then Wells is 27-146 (.185) and just 4-42 in the month of June. Wells' main accomplishment has been to stay healthy, which is no small feat for him.

Kevin Youkilis seemed like a good stop gap measure with no Alex Rodriguez around, but after an adequate .769 OPS in 17 games, he missed all but one game in May due to a bad back and is 5-37 (.135) in June.

Travis Hafner appeared to be completely rejuvenated in April - a 1.104 OPS with six home runs and 17 RBI in 22 games. MVP type numbers, but "Pronk" is 16-102 (.157) since then with four home runs and 12 RBI.

Lyle Overbay's playing time has been cut down considerably since the return of Mark Teixeira, but up until then Overbay played well over his head and produced a number of clutch moments for the team. Less play means less effectiveness and on top of that Overbay is trying to learn a new position (RF). He's had just six hits in his last 31 at-bats. (.194)

The Yankees hoped that the return of Teixeira would infuse more offense, but so far he is still looking to get his groove back. Tex is 8-49 since he returned from the DL, and thought he has managed seven walks, three home runs, and 12 RBI in 13 games, a .367 slugging percentage is nothing to brag about.

I have already speculated that Ichiro Suzuki's days in the Bronx could be numbered. A .644 OPS in April was followed by a .631 OPS in May. About halfway through June and there's no sign of things getting better, evidenced by Ichiro's .634 OPS. A .293 average for the month is an improvement, but all 12 of his hits are singles and he's attempted to steal a base just (successfully) once.

The Yankees announced on Friday that David Adams was sent down to Triple-A to play regularly. Adams did a nice job at first as one of the fill-ins for Youkilis, but owned a .587 OPS when he departed. The Yankees called up outfielder Thomas Neal, a 25-year old with 23 Major League at-bats (With Cleveland). Neal signed prior to the season as a minor league free agent and had a robust .339 average for the Scranton RailRiders. Add on a .426 on-base percentage and a .446 slugging pct. (12 doubles, 2 HR) and you can see why the Yankees feel his right-handed bat might help against left-handed pitching.

Catcher Francisco Cervelli will likely be back before the All-Star break, though no one knows if he'll hit like before he was hurt. Curtis Granderson has an outside chance of being back before the break, but is likely to be back afterwards. Derek Jeter just got the clearance to resume baseball activities and Alex Rodriguez, well, there's no real idea when and if "Mr. Makes His Own Trouble" will suit up in a Major League uniform again.

In the meantime, the Yankees may have to dip back into Scranton for players like Ronnier Mustelier or Zoilo Almonte to jump start the offense.

Stay tuned for Part II: Time for the Yankees to Cut Hughes and Joba Loose

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You Can't Spell Immaturity Without the I in Ian Kennedy

Most likely by now you either saw the Arizona Diamondbacks-Los Angeles Dodgers game live Tuesday night, watched the "lowlights" or read about everything that is not what baseball is supposed to be about. When all is said and done Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy should be hit, no pun intended, with a lengthy suspension and a hefty fine.

Things started out when Zack Greine hit the Dbacks' Cody Ross, which probably looked innocent enough to most observers. However, Greinke has a reputation for well placed pitches that connect with body tissue and broke his collarbone earlier this year when San Diego's Carlos Quentin bull rushed the mound. Hitting Ross also backfired when the next hitter, Jason Kubel, hit a 2-run home run.

Arizona's Kennedy must have been one of those who though Greinke's pitch had a purpose, since he took thingst one step further and went head hunting at rookie standout Yasiel Puig. The ball hit Puig's shoulder and ricocheted off his nose. Luckily the Cuban native was only shaken up, but the benches emptied due to the location of the pitch. Things could have been let go there, but you can't blame Greinke when he retaliated.

His teammate didn't get hit below the waist, his career and life was put in jeopardy in a matter of seconds by Kennedy's irresponsibility. Greinke responded with a fastball in the back of catcher Miguel Montero. That is where it should have stayed, but Kennedy, who was immensely immature when he was in the Yankees organization, nailed Greinke up high when the Dodgers pitcher came to bat in the 7th inning.

In doing so, Kennedy set off an even nastier bench clearer that had managers and coaches pushing and shoving, and squaring off.  (Dodgers manager Don Mattingly shoved down Diamondbacks coach Alan Trammell; perhaps that was really retaliation for all the times Trammell's late innings hits helped the Tigers beat the Yankees back in the day.) Mattingly and fellow manager Kirk Gibson all had to be separated.  Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire was ejected after a shouting match with Gibson.

Jimmy Dugan aka Tom Hanks said, "There's no crying in baseball.", but a better saying is there is no room for stupidity in baseball. What Kennedy did Tuesday night was the ultimate in stupidity. There is no place in baseball for pitches thrown from the shoulders up.

Those of you who are Yankees fans remember when Kennedy pitched for the Bronx Bombers organization from the time he was drafted in 2006 into 2009 when he made his final Major League start for the pinstripes.  No loss was ever his fault. His pitchers were good ones, somehow the other team just hit them. His fielders let him down, the team didn't score, etc. Kennedy needed a change of scenery and attitude. It appears he only got one.

Two years later he was a 21-game winner and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting for the Diamondbacks. However, his numbers weren't as good in 2012 and have been much worse this season. (5.49 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, -0.8 WAR) You can bet Kennedy must be frustrated by the season he is having, but his behavior in LA Tuesday night is no excuse. Forget the somewhat standard eight game suspension and double least.

And the worst may still be to come if Kennedy faces the Dodgers again this season.