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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Yankees get their Rockies off on old timers day

The jokes really do write themselves, don’t they? "Yankees get their Rockies off" – classic!

So here we are; June is winding down and the Yankees are in first place. Obviously, the Red Sox were due for a slump after such a hot streak, but who would have guessed they’d lose a series to the Pittsburgh Pirates? Maybe Kevin Youkilis has a soft spot for the Bucs… he kinda looks like a Pirate, after all. That’s not to say the Yankees haven’t been playing great lately, because they have – I think it was Mike Francesca who said the Yankees were ‘playing superior ball right now,’ and it’s hard to argue with that. Sunday’s come from behind win was especially impressive as The Team That Hits Too Many Home Runs generated back to back jacks to tie the game after looking so sluggish the first time through the order. Before you knew it, things were going the Yankees way.

I didn’t catch much of Old Timers Day, but it was cool to see everybody again – and how about that hand for my man, Bernie Williams? Joe Torre might have gotten a longer ovation (and congratulations to him for making blowing kisses not look ridiculous), but I insist that Bernie’s round of applause had a lot more energy. And what was the deal with Joe Torre refusing to wear his sling on the field? The dude just had elbow surgery – what the hell was he thinking? I guess that’s pride for you.

So has everybody seen enough of Eduardo Nunez at short stop? I know I have. This guy just doesn’t look like an infielder to me – he can’t catch, he can’t throw, and his decision making is questionable at best… including his decisions about when to and when not to pay attention. Did you see that look Russell Martin gave to him when he was late on a throw down at second? I think everybody was thinking the same thing – "This guy sucks." That being said, since stepping into a full time player roll, the guy has hit extremely well, but that’s about all he’s done. But is he the short stop of the future? Given that he’s 24, I have a hard time believing he’s suddenly going to improve, but given that Derek Jeter is under contract for three more seasons and there really isn’t anywhere else to put him (Next year move A-Rod to full time DH and put Jeter at 3rd? Not sure I like that idea.), so I guess Nunez has some time to develop.

Tonight the Brew Crew heads to the Bronx for battle with the Bombers. (Say that three times fast.) I haven’t seen the Brewers play yet this year, but we all know about their big bats and impressive 2011 record, so this should be an interesting series. Let’s just hope they don’t have any replacement level left handers the Yankees have never seen before!

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Captain Cashflow

The New York Times had an interesting article in Tuesday’s edition by Richard Sandomir which detailed all of the various merchandising opportunities that surround Derek Jeter and his historic 3,000th hit. I touched on this around Thanksgiving of last year, during which the Jeter contract debate was still ongoing, notating that there was a ton of t-shirt money to be made on this event. I guess it’s a good thing I’m not in the merchandising industry, because I missed a few options – like naming the event "DJ 3K." That didn’t occur to me.

I was thinking that Jeter was worth more than his on the field value to the team has a business entity because there was money to be made by the Yankees off the 3000th hit – not just ticket sales, but merchandising, and wow. I’ll try to condense the enormity of this:

- five gallons of dirt from the batter’s box, to be parceled off…
– five gallons of dirt from the shortstop’s patch, to be parceled off…

According to the NY Times, the dirt will be sold as follows:

1. poured into capsules to dangle on key chains
2. ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage)
3. glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats

Wow. As for me, I really need a key chain filled with dirt from the park where Derek Jeter hit his 3000th hit. But, let’s see what else we can grab…

4. T-shirts
5. caps
6. jerseys
7. bobbleheads
8. decals
9. cellphone skins
10. wall murals
11. patches
12. bats
13. balls
14. license plates
15. necklaces
16. flags
17. lanyards
18. pennants
19. travel mugs
20. pins
21. magnets

The license plates caught my eye right away! When I drive my extremely sexy Ford Taurus (celebrating it’s 10th birthday fairly soon…) down the road, I need people to know that Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit via vanity license plate… Even I’m not that big of a Yankees fan. (Although if someone made a subtle decal featuring an interlocking Yankees NY with the number 51 on it… yeah, I would probably buy that.) The Modell’s in Times Square is going to stay open until at least midnight on the day Jeter gets the hit, because I know that as soon as he gets the hit, I gotta go to Mos and get merchandise. That’s what everyone is think… "Damn it, I wish Jeter would get his hit so I can go buy the t-shirt!" I’m not saying no one wants this stuff, but the idea that we’re all bursting, in fact almost begging to take part in Jeter’s accomplishment via merchandise and we need to do so the instant it happens is a bit crazy. Just a bit. So we’re up to 21 items so far… The Times says Jeter "has designated proceeds from the sale of a silicone bracelet to benefit his Turn 2 Foundation." Hmm, are bracelets even on the list? I see necklaces…

Jeter can also decide if he wants to sell his:

22. cleats
23. wristbands
24. bats
25. batting gloves

Since those are his property, he can do what he wants with these items. However, items belonging to the Yankees that are under their control that will be for sale include:

26. uniform
27. warm-up jackets
28. caps
29. the bases
30. the pitching rubber

Imagine it’s 10 years in the future in you’re in the house of wealthy local Wall Street trader… Let’s call him Louis Winthorpe III. He takes you into his study and shows you a base encased in glass. Louis explains, "This was the third base that was on the field when Derek Jeter got his 3000th hit… it was a single to right, very Jeterian. There were already two outs, and the next guy up struck out, so he never got over there… but hey, it was on the field while he was waving to the crowd. He probably looked at it!"

Best quote ever:

Jeter will probably ask to keep things — perhaps the most valuable items like the 3,000th hit ball — for himself.

“When the time comes,” said the Yankees’ president, Randy Levine, “we’ll sit down with Derek and his representatives and reach a mutual accommodation that’s good for everybody.”

Really? They have to sit down and talk about who can keep the ball? Heading back to Withorpe’s house in the future, he shows you that he purchased, "jersey, batting gloves and cleats Jeter wore when he got his 2,994th hit." You stare at him blankly. You remember… hit 2,996! That’s was the one when… you know… hit the ball… with the bat… ran out of the batter’s box… and so on…"

One more quote from the article:

Smith, the M.L.B. executive, said Jeter approached the marketing with some trepidation, fearing that it might seem all too much. Smith said that during a recent meeting with Jeter and his agent, Casey Close, “I explained how appropriate it was for us to market these products. And Derek is like, ’I don’t want to take the limelight’; he felt weird about it. I said, ’It’s appropriate to be recognized; you’re a generational athlete.’ “

I’m not saying its wrong to market DJ 3K (wow, that iscatchy), and I’m not saying Jeter isn’t a generational athlete – but I can’t image saying that to anyone’s face. Can you imagine what it must be like to have someone say something like that to you? What the hell are you supposed to say. "Uh, thank; I appreciate that." That is a weird thing to say to somebody in a marketing meeting. Of course, "Look, we need to make as much money as we can while we can," doesn’t sound nearly as good.

I guess this whole piece comes off as a bit anti-Jeter, and I’m not. He’s the Yankees hit leader, the first Yankee to ever get 3000 hits. Considering the Yankees history, that’s pretty unbelievable – and it’s not like Jeter didn’t earn it. Sure, maybe the pitcher’s mound is 6 inches lower than it used to be, and maybe ballpark outfield walls keep moving in a little closer, the ball seems to be wound a little tighter, and the DH helps wear out AL pitchers in a way that would probably make even Mickey Mantle blush – but nobody but Jeter has been able to do it so far. Even Bernie Williams never did it, and he was with the club forever.

So give Jeter his due – and if you want a wall mural, that’s available, too.

Winning and Injuries

The Yankees are 8-2 over their last ten games and 13 games over .500, a 2011 season high, and I’m excited about that – but this team needs help. Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees deserve kudos for the winnings they’ve been doing, but this team has some glaring holes – some I understand, like the bullpen, but then, when they only score 1 run in Chicago against one of the worst pitchers in the game and let him hang around for 8 innings… it’s hard to know what to think. This and other Yankees issues are probably due to age, injury, regression or all three issues.

So who’s hurt these days? Its so numerous that it’s getting tough to keep track of. Fortunately, it looks like we’re going to get Jeter, Colon and Hughes back – 2009 Jeter is probably never going to show up again, but, he’s probably the lesser of alternative evils. Colon is a must and Brian Cashman is practically married to Phil Hughes, so if you don’t like Hughes… you’re out of luck.

Derek Jeter
El Calfstrain is just short of his 3000th hit, and while it’s kinda crazy that we get to watch the active hit leader and in the future can say, "I saw that guy play," you have to admit that he’s kinda dragging the team down with his bat and lack of range at short. On the other hand, Eduardo Nunez’s fielding can only be described as frightening, but more on that later.

Bartolo Colon
If you pray, please pray for Colon every night. We need this guy back at 100% – hopefully, right after the All Star break. Without him… I don’t know how realistic our chances are of actually going anywhere in the playoffs. He’s that important!

Phil Hughes

If you haven’t seen the reports, it sounds like his first rehab start went well, the velocity is there and he’s feeling good, so maybe we’re getting the good Phil Hughes back, but this guy is as unpredictable as they get – I know he won a zillion games last year, but I have trouble trusting this guy – he’s either going good, going bad or hurt. Consistency isn’t his strong point.

All Left Handed Relievers Except He Who Shall Hence Be Known As "The Crappy One"

Let’s see… I read somewhere that both Pedro Feliciano and Damaso Marte are starting to throw off flat ground, but who knows what that means in terms of a return time table. If neither of them can get David Ortiz out, then it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Joba Chamberlain

See you next year, Joba. Anybody got a spare setup man lying around that they’re not using?

Rafael Soriano

Oh right, you were supposed to be the setup man. I forgot. Joba was going to the 7th inning guy… anyway, Soriano is still supposed to be resting and maybe will come back in the middle of July, but I’m not holding my breath.

So we definitely need more pitching, but that’s not a surprise – although I thought it was going to be starting pitching, not bullpen help. So let’s take a look at who stinks.

Eduardo Nunez (fielding)
So, now that you’ve seen Eduardo Nunez for a while at short, what do you think? Obviously, he can’t field worth a damn – every time he picks up the ball, I say a silent prayer and everybody sitting behind 1st base braces for impact. Nunez can hit, but I’m starting to wonder whether or not this guy belongs in the infield.

Boone Logan aka "The Crappy One"
If Boone Logan was a Sioux, his name would be "Only On Team Because He’s Left Handed," or something more clever than that. Since he can’t get anybody out, he decided to try a different strategy against the Reds – just hit the guy, it’s faster. He’s given up 16 hits in 16 innings while walking 8 and striking out 11. That is NOT getting it done.

The Bullpen
We’ve got David Robertson, Mariano Rivera and a collection of stiffs. Seriously… the Yankees are, as of this writing, carrying 12 pitchers on there roster – and I’m sure it would be 13 if they could find another lefty. It’s that bad. I know Hector Noesi has looked good and Corey Wade has looked good so far, but we need more help, and we can’t count on any of the DL relief corps to come back. It’s time to go to the scrap pile (again) or make a trade.

Francisco Cervelli

I don’t expect backup catchers to hit, but this guy has got to field better. In fact, he’s got to field great – because if a backup catcher can’t catch, then what’s the damn point? It’s not like he’s a regular position player who you expect to contribute with the bat – Cervelli is a catcher and the guy just isn’t getting it done behind the plate. Cervelli and Nunez need to do serious work this winter.

Other Stuff

I guess Nick Swisher is finding his swing, but splits are still frightening. Jorge Posada is also looking better at the plate, but… who knows. The Brett Gardner Crisis of April has been officially over as he’s gotten his average almost up to .300 now – too bad he completely forgot how to run or steal bases. Kudos are due to Ivan Nova, who has really done well in his last several starts, especially last night. A-Rod is apparently playing hurt, but it doesn’t seem to be effecting him much; but, if he is truly hurt, the Yankees would be wise to DL him now rather than waiting – Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira can supply the power in the interim.

Now what?
The bench needs help and the Yankees desperately need relief pitching, and they need the two hardest things to get: a lefty and a setup guy. Can these holes be filled? I’m sure we can find guys to fix the bench, but the bullpen is going to be tricky. I hate to tie my hopes to Rafael Soriano coming back to the team healthy and effective, but I’m betting there aren’t many other choices.

Can I Get A Quality Start

I believe it was Al Leiter who said he was not impressed with the notion of a quality start. At some point, some wahoo made the term ‘quality start’ popular, which was meant to say that if a starting pitcher was able to stay in the game long enough to complete six (6) innings and allow only three (3) earned runs, then this was a starting pitching performance of quality. Mr. Leiter was quick to point out at the advent of his broadcasting career that if a pitcher produced a quality start, he’d have a 4.50 ERA, which is not so good – not to mention the fact that getting three innings out of your bullpen in the modern era of baseball is no simple accomplishment and is going to tax the arms down there as well. I tend to agree, and I do want to quickly mention that Mr. Leiter has quickly become one of my favorite broadcasters of all time.

However, as much as I reject the notion of a quality start as the standard to strive toward, the Yankees sure could use one right about now.

If you flip through your memory (which is hopefully more reliable than mine) and the Yankees 2011 calendar (without delving into the box scores), it looks like the Yankees have produced maybe one (that’s 1) quality start against the Red Sox this year in eight (8) tries. That, my friends, is a damn shame – or perhaps it would be better to say it’s shameful.

We all know the Yankees are short on pitching this year – that’s why it was easy to consider jumping into the Harlem River when the Yankees were not able to sign Cliff Lee. Since the Yankees were able to get Bartolo Colon and he’s pitched so beautifully, it seems as though we can count on both BC and staff ace CC Sabathia to deliver better than quality starts and get out backs in any pie eating contests. After that…

Whoooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

The drop off in predictability is like going over that first big hill on a roller coaster. If Freddy Garcia doesn’t locate, he’s going to get hit hard by anybody, never mind a team with great hitting like the Red Sox, so nobody was really counting on him anyway – but, that being said, the Yankees would be wise to keep him from facing the Red Sox again this year if possible. AJ Burnett, who I didn’t want the Yankees to sign because of my concerns with his inability to stay healthy, has been healthy through his entire contract but as widely unpredictable as just about any other pitcher I can think of this side of Jose Contreras. Phil Hughes also sorta falls into that category, but is seemingly always hurt and Ivan Nova just doesn’t have enough experience to be thoroughly relied upon for anything. The trade market for starters is thin at best, so I don’t think there is any real help coming that will be a serious upgrade.

Looks like we’re stuck with these guys, but is that any different than 2009? Two good starters and AJ Burnett. It could be worse. (See Yankees 2008 season!)

An RBI would be nice

First, a quick note: sorry the blog has been spotty of late – in about two weeks (June 22), update frequency should shoot way up.

When things are going well, its easy to ignore your team’s short comings. When your team loses a game, their weaknesses stick out, as the expression goes, like a sore thumb. (Shouldn’t that be swollen thumb? Why would a sore thumb stick out- because it’s swollen?)

When you take a look at the Yankees recent west coast swing through Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles, it’s easy to look at the Seattle series and say, “I can’t believe the Yankees lost that series. Losing a series to the Mariners is inexcusable, especially since they had leads in both games they lost. How can you not hold a lead against an offense as bad as Seattle?” That’s a pretty valid argument; it’s not like they lost those games 1 to 0. Of course, then the Yankees go down to Oakland and face the inept, Hideki Matsui equipped Athletics and suddenly everything is all wine and roses as the Yankees sweep – as their two best pitchers (yes, I mean CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon) slaughter a terrible excuse for guys who are supposed to score runs. Then, the Yankees go to Anaheim (to face the Angels, who I love to poke fun at for their constant name changes), which has generally been a house of horrors for them in the last decade and take two out of three, so it’s easy to be happy with that outcome, even if over the last few years, the Angels have been in serious decline and haven’t given the Yankees series trouble in a long while, even in the 2009 ALCS. All and all, a successful road trip, and the Yankees have a pretty sweet road record.

Then they come home and leave a village on the base paths and lose anther game to the Red Sox.

Obviously, it’s not a good thing, but certainly not the end of the world. You don’t want to lose games to your division rival, especially at home, but if it happens, you move on – but it gets to be a bit stigmatic when you start a third series with a team and a second series at home and have yet to notch a home win. That’s embarrassing, if not catastrophic.

So why’d they lose to the Red Sox at home? Again?

Well, in the case of last night’s contest, there are two simple reasons: Freddy Garcia was terrible and the Yankees left a small village on the base paths. (If you’re wondering how many constitutes a village, it’s 9.) Oh, and my favorite line from the box score:

Runners left in scoring position, 2 out – C Granderson 1, A Rodriguez 1, N Swisher 2, A Jones 1.

Damn it!

My favorite moment was when Derek Jeter flied out to right field in the 9th inning on ball four on a pitch that was nowhere near the strike zone. Nice one, el Capitan! Still, Jonathon Papelbon was throwing gas, and I guess it’s hard to gauge where the ball is going, but when a pitcher is a bit wild and it’s a 3-1 count, take a pitch! This goes for you, too, A-Rod. Nice 0 for 5, by the way!

If you care about Jeter’s march to 3000, he only needs 12 more hits after 2 last night – even if one would probably have been an error if they weren’t in New York.

Cheers for Hector Noesi and 6 IP of 2 run ball. During this stint with the Yankees, he’s been very impressive – I wonder if he’ll get a chance in the rotation? He could be a 5th starter candidate next year… too bad he didn’t start last night!

Tonight, the Yankees welcome their old friend Tim Wakefield back to the mound. Will his knuckle ball dance? Who knows. Which AJ Burnett will take the mound? The one who struggles and adjusts or the one who struggles and implodes? The answers are in the Bronx tonight in a totally meaningless June battle for 1st place.

Yankees May 2011 Wrap Up

 

May was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Yankees.

The month of May, 2011 began promisingly enough as the Yankees finished off a series win against the Toronto Blue Jays, which finished up the home-stand on a positive note. Then the Yankees went to Detroit and the wheels came off – or maybe I should say the arms came off as they dropped 3 of 4 while we watched Eduardo Nunez through the ball all over the place. But, when the Yankees got to Texas, the bats came out, and we got Derek Jeter‘s mythical 2 home run game, which seems to have quieted the “Derek Jeter is finished,” media machine – at least for now… for some reason, hitting .264 in May is much better than hitting .256 in April – although I must admit, hit at-bats do look a lot better of late.

Then the Yankees came back home and experienced The Home Stand of Tears, dropping 2 of 3 to the Kansas City Royals (current record 24-30) and getting swept by the Boston Red Sox. Wow. Swept by the Boston Red Sox at home. That was a tough one. Yet, despite the rough patch, the Yankees are in first today by one game over the Monsters from Fenway.

Then the Yankees split two games at Tampa Bay (and they really should have won that first game), swept two games from the Baltimore Orioles (two game series are a waste of my time!) and then took two of three from the lowly Mets at home (current record 25-29). The Blue Jays came to Yankees Stadium and this featured another Yankees series win, including a come from behind extra innings win (pie style) that I feel this team desperately needed.

The Yankees flew out to Seattle to face the Mariners and gave up leads to lose the first two games and salvaged the final one before flying to Oakland to take on Hideki Matsui and the A’s, taking the first two games, including a gem by Bartolo Colon, and here we are, at June 1st, waiting for Game 3 to start later today.

So what did we learn this month?

The Yankees can’t bunt. Seriously, enough with the bunting. Nobody on this team is any good at it. The Yankees need to either start working on this in BP or just stop doing it. Last night’s failed suicide squeeze that resulted in Nick Swisher being tagged out in a run down was embarrassing – almost as sad as the fact that Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter can’t bunt; considering they have no power, they both need to add this trait to their game ASAP, or at least stop doing it, but this in between crap needs to stop.

Curtis Granderson is a golden god. Obviously. I was soooooo happy when they traded for him, and although last year was a tough start, my girlfriend very kindly ran out and bought me a Grandy-Man t-shirt in May of 2010, which makes us both look like geniuses now. Unlike Russell Martin, I don’t expect Granderson to slow down.

In praise of Bartolo Colon. Where would we be without this guy and his fastballs? His low pitch counts keep him in games late, giving a bullpen that is teetering on over use a bit of a breather. The Yankees need to protect this guy and give him an extra day’s rest any time they get a chance.

Losing streaks are inevitable. If you saw a lot of the New York papers (cough Post, cough Daily News) insisting that the Yankees blew their chance to bury the Red Sox, I tend to disagree. The Red Sox (not to mention the Rays) struggled early, and the Yankees hadn’t struggled yet. It was bound to happen. It could happen again. It’s a long season and there are many ups and downs.

Derek Jeter isn’t Derek Jeter anymore, but he’s hardly terrible. I don’t have any plans to build a statue to the guy on my front lawn, but I refuse to kill him in print the way so many have done. But then, this is another good example of what happens when you let Randy Levine meddle in negotiations.

Phil Hughes… ugh. Can this guy get through two consecutive seasons without spending major time on the DL? I know he’s still young, but he’s not that young anymore. Is it time to stash Hughes in the bullpen for good? I’m not sure, but given the Yankees appeared shortage of starting pitching, it’s a tough call. If you don’t believe in Freddy Garcia, I can’t blame you, but is Hughes really a better option? I guess we’ll have to wait and see what he has when he comes off the DL.

GOING FORWARD:
Take a look at the Yankees June schedule; it’s a tough one. Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, Rockies, Indians… if they’re still in first on July 1st, it’ll be a miracle.

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