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Opening Day shows some promise but little return for Yankees

It sure does suck to lose to the Houston Astros, huh? Well, that’s just what happened to the Yankees – a hell of a way to start the season.

The reasons the Yankees lost were obvious – CC Sabathia was awful in the first two innings and the infield didn’t play so well behind him. It seemed to me that he pitched pretty well in innings 3, 4, 5 and 6, but when he gives up 6 runs in the first two innings, it hardly matters. Meanwhile, the bullpen was lights out behind him, so that was nice, but too little, too late.  Sabathia is going to have to adjust his pregame so he starts the game with his A control.  Maybe Andy Pettitte can help with that while the Yankees are in Houston…

The offense was sputtering – there were a few hits and walks, but it’s easy to blame Alfonso Soriano for striking out and grounding into a double play to end potentially big innings.

Still, I like this team… at least, I like this team a hell of a lot better than the 2013 edition. Sabathia might end up being the worst starter in the rotation… who knows. If this team stays healthy, they might do great things. Might.

There are two games left with the Astros. I’m not a big believer in winning streaks (they sure do help, though), but if you’re a good team, you have to win series against bad teams, so the Yankees need to take these next two. If they start the season by losing a series to the Astros… whew. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

QUICK NOTE: THE END OF AN ERA
The Yankees have designated Edwardo Nunez for assignment. The grand experiment (which everyone should now readily admit was a huge, embarrassing failure) is finally over. Who knows where Nunez will head next, but I think it’s safe to say, his days in pinstripes are over. That’s probably a good thing. The fact that he couldn’t make this team even with the added help of the Brendan Ryan injury speaks volumes about what the Yankees think of Nunez.

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ESPN’s Wallace Matthews Defends his HoF Votes with Sound Logic

As you know by now, not a single player was elected into the Hall of Fame this year.  You may be wondering why, what with a star-studded list of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro no one earned honors, but ESPN’s Wallace Matthews has come down from on high to explain it to us.

First, we must understand just what it means to have a Hall of Fame vote and what it means to be inducted to a club that is so exclusive its chosen not to enshrine Roger Maris, who has held the American League single season home run record for forty years.

A Hall of Fame vote is a large responsibility, and induction an honor that should be reserved for only the best and brightest the game has to offer.

Wallace makes it sound like he’s negotiating peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, doesn’t he?  And to actually be inducted – it’s as if you’re a living God.  Got it.

So now we can begin to fathom why the aforementioned group is unworthy.  But he doesn’t stop the name dropping there.

…I will not be voting for Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez or Andy Pettitte.

Awesome.  A-Rod and Pettitte are both still active, and comparing Pettitte’s transgressions to A-Rod’s is kinda… you know… dumb.  Surely Wallace doesn’t equate acquiring bulk to recovering from injury, right?  But I think he does.  Exactly why what Pettitte did is not OK but the fat and bone marrow stem cell treatment used on Bartolo Colon is OK… is baffling.  Anyway, I’m sure Wallace will take us through his reasons, and I’m sure they’ll all be good ones.

My reasons for this are several, and not at all personal.

That sounds like the right thing to say, but don’t worry, he’ll contradict this later.

And no matter how I try to justify it, none of those gentlemen can get past rule No. 5, which reads as follows: “Voting shall be based on the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

I guess Wallace is referring to the “integrity, sportsmanship and character” part of the rule, and this particular point makes me wish Wallace was here now so I could ask him if he’d vote for Mickey Mantle, a notorious adulterer, fall down drunk and enemy of water coolers all across baseball.  I just imagine he’d stammer, “That’s… uh… different,” but we’ll never know.

Steroid or HGH use is cheating, plain and simple. And by definition, cheaters lack integrity, sportsmanship and character. Strike one, strike two, strike three.   There is compelling evidence that all five of those players were cheaters for a good portion of their careers and that their numbers were artificially inflated by it.

By compelling evidence, I presume he’s referring to failed drug tests and the two times Roger Clemens was convicted in court by a jury of his peers…  oh wait, that’s not how it happened…  Look, I think anyone with eyes could see that Barry Bonds blew up like a balloon, but I’m not sure if Hair Club for Men styled before and after pictures count as compelling evidence in the world of multimillion dollar athletes that can easily employ an entire staff of trainers, not to mention a personal chief, a nutritionist, and who the hell knows what else.  (Probably someone who buys steroids for them… again, not saying these guys didn’t do steroids and HGH, because we all believe they did, but I’m not sure there is a ton of compelling evidence lying around.)

And the fact that McGwire and Sosa needed chemical help to topple, after 37 years, the 61-home run barrier only reminds you how great Maris was that season.

But, again, Maris is not in the hall of fame and those guys are.  What’s Matthews’ point, exactly?

I’ve heard all the justifications and all the apologies: Everyone was doing it. It wasn’t against the rules. They were all Hall of Fame players anyway. Steroids don’t help you hit a baseball or throw strikes. And if you’re going to punish juicers, what about guys who used greenies or scuffed the ball or threw a spitter?

Greenies, huh?  What’s that, something you spray on your lawn to improve the quality of the grass?  Calling them ‘greenies’ kinda takes the emphasis off the fact that everyone was taking speed up until a few years ago.  I certainly remember Johnny Damon saying that we were all in for some boring games come August when everyone was exhausted from the rigorous schedule and didn’t have any amphetamines to take. Anyway, I guess “greenies” don’t count as performance enhancing, but I certainly don’t want to play a friendly pickup game against someone who is currently feeling the need – the need for speed, that is.

Then he brought up the scuffed ball and the spitter, which shifts the argument beyond logic, because now he’s talking about the countless way the game has changed over time.  Let’s list a few, shall we?

  1.     Babe Ruth didn’t have to play in night games
  2.     Or against anyone who wasn’t white
  3.     Or face specialized relievers or closers (Mike Myers vs Babe Ruth would have been hilarious)
  4.     Or fly from Tampa to Seattle – after you get off the plane, you feel great, ready to play baseball!  Or, what I actually mean is you feel like you’re about to DIE.
  5.     The stadiums are only getting smaller – bad for pitchers, good for hitters
  6.     The mound is six inches lower than it used to be
  7.     The DH could have added several years to Ruth’s career

I think the point is that the game is different, and it seems like it’s always changing in some way – exactly why Wallace thought to make this point, I can’t say, but there it is.  But, the most damning thing in that statement is that he said they were all Hall of Famers anyway – so if that’s true, then why not vote for them?!?

This, to me, makes their decision to juice up sadder and all the more incriminating. Yeah, they probably would have been. But now, they never will be.

Unless one of them gets in next year.  It’s not like all of these guys got no votes.  The rule is that you’re removed from the ballot if you get less than 5% of the vote.  Since Wallace specifically mentioned Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and Palmerio in his piece, let’s see how they did in the voting.

Roger Clemens – 214 votes (37.6%)
Barry Bonds – 206 votes (36.2%)
Mark McGwire – 96 votes (16.9%)
Sammy Sosa –  71 votes (12.5%)
Rafael Palmeiro – 50 votes (8.8%)

Yep, that’s what I thought – all eligible for the ballot next year.

Oh, look!  He (sort of) answers my Mantle question!

What about other cheaters?: This one is problematic. I have an easy out on Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry and whoever was greenied to the gills in a previous generation. I wasn’t around to vote for them and can’t right previous wrongs. And there is something different about cheating with steroids, because it is the only form of cheating I know of that requires other players to jeopardize their own health to keep up.

Wait, “greenied to the gills in a previous generation” – didn’t that ban just happen a few years ago?  But I see what Wallace is saying about not being able to right others wrongs, yet this brings to mind a very important word:  precedence.  There is already a precedent for voting in cheaters because there are clearly cheaters already in the Hall of Fame.  And what the hell does jeopardizing their health have to do with anything?  I can’t imagine that it was a good idea for Randy Johnson to pitch with no cartilage in his knees, which was the case when he pitched his perfect game.  Should Johnson not be elected because he jeopardized his health?  I just don’t see where he’s going with that point.

In an extra effort to make sure I think he’s a total buffoon, Wallace voted for Mike Piazza.

And I have, of course, heard all the rumors, and even have some suspicions myself.

So he’d voted for Piazza anyway because he’s never failed a drug test and wasn’t on the Mitchell Report list.  Wow.  Just… wow.  Does anyone remember Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens failing a drug test?  I certainly don’t.  (Again, I believe they both did it, but I’m just trying – and failing – to follow the logic.)  Anyway, he says if someone comes forward and says they saw Piazza smoking a cigarette in the boys bathroom his freshmen year of high school, he’ll change his vote.

You can argue that I should have voted for Jack Morris (I have in the past but wasn’t feeling it this year) or Tim Raines or Edgar Martinez, and if your argument is persuasive enough, I might listen.

So he’s voted for Morris before but didn’t this year because he “wasn’t feeling it this year?”  What happened to Walter’s reasons not being personal?  That’s worse than his reasons for not voting in Clemens and Bonds.  And he might listen to a persuasive argument?  OK, fine.  How about this:  You are a complete and total hack of a writer.  Everything you post on ESPN’s website is only to justify your position and generate traffic to the website so you can keep your job.

Convinced?

Does the Yankees slide even matter?

After watching the Yankees for five months, I’m not sure I believe they have what it takes to win a World Series, so even if they don’t make the playoffs, they’re probably just putting us out of our misery early rather than later.  Here are just a few players I’m looking at that would need to drastically improve for the Yankees to make the playoffs and potentially win a world series title.

C.C. Sabathia
Sabathis has been on the DL twice this year – both were precautionary moves, but he just hasn’t looked especially dominate this season, and I think the Yankees need him to be to go all the way.

Robinson Cano
Cano has a lot of talent, but I feel he has regressed this year and I just don’t think he’s every going to become a true super star.  It doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I sure wish he’d run out those ground balls to first like Derek Jeter does… I don’t buy into the theory that “Cano is a loafer” that many have proposed, but… yeah.  It’d be nice if he’d dive for the ball every once and while.

Alex Rodriguez
It wasn’t his fault he got hit with the ball, but then, he’ wasn’t exactly killing it before he got hurt.  The Yankees need A-Rod to be A-Rod, and before the hand injury, he was a shell of his former self, and I’m not sure that is enough.

Andy Pettitte
Pettitte hasn’t gotten back into a game situation yet, so I don’t think the Yankees can count on him – Hideki Kuroda has been AMAZING in Pettitte’s absence, but it sure would be nice to see Pettitte come back and be who he was pre injry.  What a boost that would be!

Middle Relief
Let’s face it – everyone who is not Rafael Soriano, David Robertson or Boone Logan is just not reliable.  As scary as it sounds, I hope Ivan Nova comes back so the Yankees can put David Phelps back in the pen.

Phil Hughes
Too.  Many.  Homers.  I don’t look forward to this guy starting a playoff game – I prefer he’d be in the bullpen and the Yankees go with a three man rotation… or, if the stars align:  Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte and Freddy Garcia.

Mark Teixeira
He’s supposed to play again later this week, but like A-Rod, he wasn’t exactly killing the ball pre injury, so I don’t know if the Yankees can expect anything from this guy at this point.

It’s too late now for the Yankees to go get someone – this team is what it is.  If everyone can get healthy and perform like they’re capably of, the Yankees should be in good shape, but at this point, I don’t have much faith in that happening.

On Petitte and Teixeira

Andy Pettite is BACK. The starting rotation is set.

If you didn’t love Pettitte’s first start in his comeback from reitrement, I can’t blame you. Two home runs is a tough day, but besides those mistakes, you have to like what you’ve seen his first MLB start since 2010. His fastball was right where it needed to be (89ish) and his cutter, curveball and slider were all working. If he can stay healthy, I think we can look forward to some fun Pettitte starts throughout this season.

Finally – the rotation is set! No more waiting! And I have to say, I’m comfortable going to war with these guys: Sabathia, Kudora, Hughes, Pettitte and Nova is probably the best rotation the Yankees have had in some years, and backed by a quality bullpen (even without Mariano Rivera), this could take the Yankees far. I’m very optimistic about the upside!

Ah, but then there’s the offense. They only mustered two runs yesterday, and the Mariners walked in both of them. Friggin horrible! And will someone get the paddles and try to resuscitate Mark Teixeira? I know the dude is/was sick, but this is getting ridiculous.

Mark’s triple slash:
.223 / .275 /.369

4 homers, 17 RBI

This is not cutting it, dogg.

If Joe Girardi bats him higher than 5th at this point, I’m going to have to steal the match-up binder, light it on fire and hurl at Teixeira during BP. Maybe he can hit that out of the infield.

I know it’s not Teixeira’s fault that offense laid down to Kevin Millwood (well, not all his fault), but Teixeira is the sort of bat that’s supposed to pick the team up, not drag it down.

Another Hughes Start, Another Loss

Phil Hughes has pitched better in 2012 than Freddy Garcia, but that’s not saying much. Watching Hughes pitch is an exercise in frustration.

While Hughes has decent strike out numbers, he let’s up way too many home runs (I think he’s averaging something like over two homers per nine innings), and when you couple that with 28 hits in 21.2 innings… whew. The 23 strike outs are encouraging, but that just makes me think maybe Hughes really does belong in the bullpen. 7 walks in 5 games isn’t terrible, but it sure would be nice if he could limit those if he’s going to give up billion hits. He gave up 3 runs to Baltimore in less than 6 innings… and a fourth runner was allowed to score by the bullpen… that’s pretty crappy. But, I guess Hughes pitched well enough to get another start, even if he can’t handle an offense as lackluster as the Orioles, featuring the hitless Nick Johnson. Oh right, Nick Johnson! We’ll get back to that..

OTHER PROBLEMS:
The middle of the order

Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are like the nightly version of Phil Hughes. We’re into the second month of the season and these guys just aren’t hitting. Maybe they should start following Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson around – both of those guys are absolutely destroying the baseball. Joe Girardi has already tried the jiggle the lineup trick, and that didn’t do diddly, so at this point… I don’t know, I guess we wait around another week or two and if nothing happens, he’ll have to do it again. I guess they could bat Granderson fourth… yeah, maybe Jeter, Cano, A-Rod, Granderson, Teixeira, Swisher… but that still leaves us with Cano and A-Rod and their 2012 woes right in a row. I usually say things like "These guys are too good to struggle for too long," but Mark Teixeira, despite the homers last year, has changed my thinking a bit on that stance. A-Rod is older and Cano can be extremely streaky. Still, I can cling to the idea that they’ll warm up with the weather.

The outfield
While Phil Hughes didn’t let up any hits to Nick Johnson, Eduardo "Scissorhands" Nunez did. Yeah, when a position player misjudges a routine fly ball but doesn’t get called for an error (he didn’t, right?), I can’t fault the pitcher, which was Rafael Soriano in this case. I guess I can’t blame him too much, because he’s not an outfielder, but I’ve watched him play the infield a bunch, and he doesn’t look like an infielder, either. If you can’t play left field… well, I don’t know what to tell you.

Coming up…
When Andy Pettitte’s busy schedule of training to pitch and testifying in Roger Clemen’s case reaches it’s conclusion, we’ll get the lefty back. Maybe that’ll take another 2 or 3 turns through the Yankees rotation, and if Hughes continues to do those 5+ IP, 3 run starts, I bet he keeps his job – unless David Phelps is lighting the world on fire, which seems unlikely. The Yankees schedule is pretty lean from now until about the All Star break, so it shouldn’t be too tall an order for Hughes. If he’s bad… that will really tell you something.

Hughes or Garcia

The fate of the Yankees starting rotation has been in flux since… I don’t know, since last season. Who will stay in and who will get pushed aside for better talent has become the question of the day. Now that both guys that are on the hot seat (Freddy Garica and Phil Hughes) have gone through the rotation twice, we can take a look at this tiny sample size and guess what the Yankees will do when the time comes about a month from now.

When I look at a sample size this small, I go right to WHIP, which doesn’t help us here because they’re both tied there. They’ve both given up 13 hits and their walks are only separated by 1 in favor of Garcia. When we look at hits vs innings pitched, Garcia is again the better pitcher, but he got to face the basement dwelling Orioles and Twins while Hughes got the Rays (who aren’t exactly barn stormers with the bat) and the Angels (who have the talent to hit a lot), so that’s tough. When it comes to numbers, the best thing I can say about Hughes is he’s got more strike outs per innings, which makes sense when you think about how great his bullpen results are. The best thing I can say about Garcia is he only walked 3 guys in the game against Baltimore and his splitter was bouncing 2 feet in front of the plate. They’re both giving up way too many homers in the early going.

Now we go to the eye test. Although Hughes is striking guys out, I feel as though he gets in too many deep counts and still struggles to finish batters off. His fastball and curve ball look much better than last year, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. He hasn’t made much in the way of progress when it comes to developing his change up, so maybe he needs to concentrate on his cutter… or something… or a slider. I don’t know… maybe a sinker? He needs something else. Garcia had much better command of his splitter against the Twins, but the Twins are so awful, it’s hard to accept when your starter can’t give you 6 IP and 3 ER.

At this point, I think the Yankees are still committed to Hughes and when Andy Pettitte is ready to come up to the big leagues, they’ll demote David Phelps (who’s been great, by the way) and send Garcia to the bullpen as the mop up/long man. As long as Hughes is healthy, I think they’ll keep him in the rotation, unless he’s unbearable for too long. They’ll give Hughes, who is still young, every opportunity to regain his 2010 form, which I still don’t think was that great, but good enough for the back of the rotation and sacrifice Garcia to do it. Garcia is fine for organizational depth, but at his age, he could decline rapidly or just decide to retire at any time.

I think Garcia is probably the better ‘win now’ solution, but Hughes is probably the better ‘long term’ pick, and I think that’s the way the Yankees are going – staying with younger, cheaper players so they don’t have to go out on the open market to flesh out the back end of their rotation.

Andy Pettitte Comes Out of Retirement, Red Sox Fans Put Gun In Collective Mouth

The 5th Starter competition in Yankee land just got a lot more complicated with today’s announcement of Andy Pettitte’s return to pinstripes.

I would guess that Freddy Garcia is now trapped in the bullpen until injury or someone’s performance dictates he leaves it, or unless the Yankees outright trade him. Who in the hell knows what this means for Phil Hughes, but I can’t see him being traded – the Yankees have invested too much in him to give up now. If things keep going the way they are now, maybe Ivan Nova and his erratic fastball command start the season in triple A and Garcia moves to the bullpen whenever Pettitte is ready.

But yeah, suck it, Red Sox fans – the Yankees deep rotation just got even deeper. I don’t mean to kick you guys while you’re down, but the string of profanity that must be spewing forth from Red Sox Nation at this moment will hang out in the air over Fenway for some weeks to come.

Speculating on the Yankees 25 Man Roster for the 2011 Season

andy pettitteIt’s only January, so there is still time for the Yankees and Brian Cashman to make some improvements here, but the Yankees 25 Man Roster is looking a bit short as of now.  Maybe we’ll find Andy Pettitte under the Christian Orthodox Christmas Tree…  one can only hope!

For now, here’s my projected Yankees 25 Man Roster for the 2011 Season.

Day to Day Lineup:
1) Mark Teixeira – 1B
2) Robinson Cano – 2B
3) Alex Rodriguez – 3B
4) Derek Jeter – SS
5) Russell Martin – C
6) Brett Gardner – LF
7) Curtis Granderson – CF
8 ) Nick Swisher – RF
9) Jorge Posada – DH

Starting Rotation:

10) CC Sabathia – LHP
11) Phil Hughes – RHP
12) A.J. Burnett – RHP
13) Sergio Mitre – RHP
14) Ivan Nova – RHP

Bench
15) Ramiro Pena – IF
16) Francisco Cervelli – C
17) Eduardo Nunez – IF
18) Greg Golson – OF
19) Kevin Russo Andruw Jones – OF

Bullpen

20) Boone Logan – LHP
21) Pedro Feliciano – LHP
22) Mariano Rivera – RHP
23) Joba Chamberlain – RHP
24) Dave Robertson – RHP
25) Romulo Sanchez Rafael Soriano – RHP

I’m assuming Damaso Marte will not be available due to injury at the opening of 2011 because… well, the guy is always hurt.  I threw Kevin Russo and Greg Golson on the bench because…  well, you might as well put somebody in those two empty roster spots, right?  the same goes for Romulo Sanchez (and he’s out of options, so if he’s not with the big league club, the Yankees will probably loose him to waivers), who I guess I’m envisioning as the long man out of the pen.

On a whole, the roster is very similar to that which the Yankees opened the 2010 season with – the biggest glaring omission is the absence of Andy Pettitte.  I’m still hoping against hope that he comes back – I see him as the fifth starter in name only – or at least that they just shouldn’t use him in April as the team will rarely need five starters in the first month of the season – I think this could keep Pettitte healthy and fresh for the stretch, but what do I know.

Well, that’s the way I see the Yankees 25 man roster if we had to go to war today – thankfully, we don’t – and hopefully, Cashman will come up with something to solidify the bench and the rotation.

Also, check out a great post from An A-Blog For A-Rod.

Losing Cliff Lee to the Phillies turns the Yankees 2011 into a Season in Vain

Joe Girardi Brian Cashman discuss Cliff Lee

"Brian, what are you doing here, talking to me? You should be in Texas, begging Andy Pettitte not to retire..."

In all honesty, it doesn’t matter now whether or not Andy Pettitte retires or not.  Now that Cliff Lee has become the number two starter in Philadelphia with the Phillies, joining Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, does it really matter what anybody else does this winter?  Can you imagine facing this foursome in the World Series?  It boggles the mind!  The Phillies are now the immediate favorite (by a lot) to win the 2011 World Series behind their formidable pitching staff that makes the 2010 San Francisco Giants staff look pale by comparison.  OK, I admit that I’m panicking a little, but we’re two starters short and December is almost over!

The Yankees Hot Stove has been cooled significantly, and exactly where they go from here is anybody’s guess.  Well, we can guess that the Yankees are going to make a trade; they just signed catcher Russell Martin, so maybe they are planning to package a catching prospect (Jesus Montero, Austin Romain) and some pitching prospects together for a starting pitcher… but who knows?

I assume we’ll get the official word on Pettitte any day now.  You would assume the Yankees will make their move shortly after that.  We can only hope…

Giants clobber another inferior opponent
Another day, another dollar.  Good teams have to beat the bad teams, and that’s what the Giants have been doing the last two weeks.  The bad news is Steve Smith is hurt again, and he’s done for the season.  We’ll have to hope someone will step up in his place, but as we looked toward the playoffs, I don’t really know what to expect… if the team can get hot at the right time and Eli can stop throwing picks, anything is possible.

Yankees head for the golf course

Today, I received the ‘Vote Yankees for the 2010 This Year in Baseball Awards’ email from MLB.com. Are they kidding? Sorry if I’m not in the mood to vote for anything for the Yankees right now.

Not after Friday night. I’m still a bit confused why Joe Girardi elected to flip flop Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte in the starting rotation. Sure, Hughes had better road numbers than home numbers in 2010, but I’d think you’d want the better pitcher – this case, Pettitte – to pitch before Hughes. At least that’s how I’d do it.

The Yankees tied the game at 1 in the top of the fourth and Texas immediately answered: Hughes pitched OK through the first four inngs, but when the tough got going (and by tough, I mean the Rangers), Hughes got shipped to the clubhouse for David Robertson, who promptly stunk up the place as bad as Hughes had or worse. After putting up a 4 spot, the game was over, and so was the Yankees season. Everybody knew it. You could smell it, feel it in the air - the air had gone out of the balloon. The Rangers didn’t pop champagne in the top of the sixth, but they may as well have. The Yankees only had 3 damn hits and scored their only run on a wild pitch. Like the rest of the series, the Yankees sucked in game 6. They lost to Cloby Lewis twice, for cryin’ out loud!

But don’t fret: this isn’t the end of BomberBanter.com until next spring, it’s just the last post of the 2010 Season. I still have a ton to do around here:

Not to mention blog the off season – after the World Series ends, the hunt for Cliff Lee begins!

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