“Dude, who are these guys?” It was unusual for the Big Boy these days. Once upon a time, the Big Boy and I would be on the phone for most of the weird moments in a Yankee season, living and dying with every pitch. Acc was one of the few guys in the world I knew I could pick up the phone and call at 2am when the bases were loaded on a West Coast trip in May. And he would be just as sick as I was. These days, with two kids, the Big Boy does most of his kvetching by text, and even then I give the guy a pass when he can’t make it past 10pm. But tonight, after furious texting for about a half-hour, the big boy dialed my number and dropped that line on me. I had no answer. We’re all saying the same thing. No one expects anything good to happen offensively. Wang pitched a gem tonight, and, for the second game in a row, was betrayed by an offense that should have gotten him a win. Again. Nothing else he could have done. Ken Singleton mentioned a few times during the broadcast tonight that the Yankees had scored just 1 run in 17 innings. Apparently Kenny was forgetting that the Yankees didn’t score after the fifth inning on Saturday. So it was actually 1 run in 21 innings.
Which brings me back to Acc’s question. What can we expect? Giambi and Cano have slowly crept -crept- back up, but Molina has steadily sunk down along with Ensberg, Shelley Duncan and Melky. There never seems to be a shortage of ice-cold bats on this team. So tonight, Acc and I were chatting on the phone when the Ferocious Lion made this game interesting, although his primary function was really bailing Wang out of a hard-luck loss. I made the comment to Acc that if they couldn’t find a way to score Giambi in the ninth, there was no way they could win. And then we looked at slow, fat, Giambi on first base and we both wondered who exactly we expected to knock his fat a*s in. Giambi would be lucky to score from first on a triple. And who was going to get the big base hit? Cano? Molina? Ensberg? Duncan? It was a shame. The Ferocious Lion just gave you a dramatic moment, and the general consensus was that that was absolutely the ceiling of what you were going to get. That was just it. Two runs in twenty-four innings. That was all anyone believed we could muster. Myself very much included. And we were all correct. Acc’s final text message was after Floyd’s single, and I think it summed things up neatly. “Turn it off now.”
What’s going to need to happen is that the bats are going to have to get some consistency. Giambi and Cano are going to need to continue to improve, and the guys around them are going to have to improve to the point where it’s not going to devastate the offense if they go into a slump. Allie and Posada need to get back so that there is somebody – anybody – to be afraid of. Allie coming back won’t be a panacea. It will have to come with a whole confluence of things. As it is this is a below-average offense all around.
Poor Mo. He didn’t stand a chance. First, a ground ball goes right past Giambi, who has, laughably, absolutely no range. So there’s Cliff Floyd standing on first when he didn’t belong there. Then Gomes pinch runs for him and gets thrown out stealing by five feet if Jeter doesn’t have to short-hop Molina’s throw. Molina should have made a better throw in the first place, although Jeter still should have made that play. So Mo gets hosed again. Then Gabe Gross hits a seeing-eye ball through the infield and Mo loses. He deserved better, Wang deserved better.
Like I said, it’s tough to get motivated for these games. Tony Sherry hasn’t watched a Yankee game since my mom was the president of the Newcomers Club. For the first time in years, the missus and my sister can’t name the Yankees starting lineup. Nor would I care to hear it, frankly. So as of now we’ve lost three walk-off games and won…ummmmm….zero.
So looking ahead I see we’ve got an Ian Kennedy/Scott Kazmir match-up on Thursday. Goody, goody gumdrops. So let me get this straight. We’re looking for Moose to get us our one win in a series? Again? Dude…..
“Brownie or cake Big Joe?” Big Joe was settled into my couch in the basement. He could barely hear me over the Celtics/Cavs game on TV. “Big Joe!” I called. “Brownie,” came the reply, muffled through the reclined part of the sofa he was on. We were hanging out downstairs tonight as the girls were upstairs babysitting the boy. After the ballgames we were on to the NBA playoffs, watching LeBron going over Kevin Garnett’s head. And all the while we were taking down the leftover brownies and cake; remnants of yesterday’s Mother’s Day festivities. Snacks and baseball. What else do you need? Fortunately, the snacks were delicious. I wish we could say the same for the baseball…
It’s getting bad. You know it’s getting bad when there are no texts, no phone calls, no buzz. And a distinct lack of comments on the BPS, I would add. Today was a damp, dark, cold day in New York City. We’re in the middle of a bit of a cold snap, it seems. Appropriate for 2008 baseball in this town thus far. The Yankees in past years have gone through their woes, but they were a bit streakier. A devastating period; a string of wins…. This stretch strikes as a bit more of a malaise. Not sure which concerns me more, actually. There is no life coming out of the Bronx these days. Or at Shea. There aren’t a lot of thrills, not a lot of fight. Not a lot of big comebacks. Not a lot of huge collapses. You win a few. You lose a few. Not too high. Not too low. It’s enough to really make people lose interest. Nobody is excited about anything this year. Sure, there are injuries on both sides of the house. Big names. Allie. Jorgie…. Pedro… It’s tough. Cano and Giambi are hitting in the .150′s. David Wright is hitting in the .260′s. Jose Reyes is hitting in the .240′s. The lack of excitement is striking. The good news is that the talent is there. Or will be there, eventually. Something’s got to give. So tonight we got another downward swing. And I bet you they win tomorrow behind Wang. You want good news? The Yankees still have the best road record in the AL East. But it would be nice to put together a nice winning streak. No two ways about it. This “just tread water” stuff has one major downside. It’s boring. No excitement. No long losing streak to infuriate people. No waiting to see them snap out of it. You win; you lose. You look good; you don’t look so good. You get shut out; you hit. People are bored to death around here.
I’m not so worried about Pettitte. He did this last year, too. He got rolling eventually. My concern is that the Moose won’t be able to keep up the pace when Pettitte gets right. I’m hoping Darrell Rasner will give us the Aaron Small formula. Throw strikes, let them hit it into play, go deep into games, and give the bats a chance to get you a win.
So Kei Igawa got clobbered. Shocking. Sorry. Kei Igawa is not a major league pitcher. Period. You want to put him in the bullpen? Fine. He’s not going to work there, either. Guys, here is how this works. There is an economic phenomenon called the sunk cost. It means money spent that isn’t coming back no matter what. Call it the cost of doing business. So you dropped 40 million on Kei Igawa. It’s gone. That’s that. Don’t compound the problem by throwing him in there regardless of the fact that he can’t pitch in the major leagues. It’s gone. Let it go. JD is right. They should have let the poor guy go pitch in the National League. Maybe that would have worked out. It’s not really the major leagues anyway. He’s not a good fit here in New York.
A few weeks ago I said the Tigers look like the class of the American League. Most say they look like a bunch of high-priced, overpaid parts that don’t fit together very well. Maybe I should reconsider…
Remember when the talk was of the Yankees getting Miguel Cabrera to replace Allie Rodriguez? Or when the Yankees signed Wilson Betemit as insurance if Allie left? Hey, it’s not going to matter, right? We’re going to have all this pitching to blow people away. We’re not going to need Allie. Well, we’re getting to see what life would have been like. Anybody still think that would have been a good idea?
Reid! Love to see you back. And JD and Mike F. Keep the comments coming guys. Gives us all something to look forward to.
Wang wins tomorrow…..
“Where are you, dude?” Acc could hear the cacophony of noise around me. It was a strange assortment of sounds, certainly. The chatter of tourists walking the cobblestones, the boom box set up outside of the Brookstone store, the jangling of the silverware from the outdoor cafes and restaurants. It must have sounded like I was in the middle of a carnival. “I’m standing outside of the Yankees store at South Street Seaport, peering in through the window, watching the game. I was inside, but they kicked me out because I was drinking a chai latte [I don't apologize for that - they're delicious].” It actually wasn’t a bad way to watch a game. I mean it wasn’t ideal, but it was a warm enough day in lower Manhattan, if a bit muggy, but with a cool enough breeze and an occasional drizzle to keep it comfortable. And frankly, it’s like anything else. If the Yankees are winning, everything works.
Mike Mussina, Seannie’s boy, continues to give the Yankees a chance to win. But today I was struck by what I perceived to be a distinct difference between Joe Girardi’s game management in the fifth inning and what Joe Torre would have done. Mike Mussina had given the Yankees four brilliant innings. One-hit ball through four is always a good way to get things started for your team. He sputtered in the fifth. We have seen this from Mussina over the last few years. He starts out well, rolling, even. He hits a bump in the fifth. Joe Torre, almost always, would yank him out. Joe Torre always had a notoriously quick hook, and the bigger the game, the quicker the hook. Many times Torre would pull a guy off the mound with one or two outs in the fifth and a lead, with little or no consideration for that pitcher losing an opportunity to record a win. Joe Girardi today left Mike Mussina in the game. Now, you can certainly argue that it backfired. He coughed up the lead and the inning ended with the game tied at three. But he let Moose finish the inning, even after giving up the base hit that tied the game. If Joe Torre hadn’t pulled Moose out at the first sign of trouble, he certainly would have after that last single. If he had done that, even if the Yankees won, the story would have been much different. Take a look at these few quotes from MLB.com: “Mike Mussina had to work hard, but managed to pitch five innings to win his fourth straight start and improve to 5-3 with the 255th victory of his career,” and ESPN.com: “Mike Mussina (5-3) won his fourth straight start and earned his 255th career victory, holding on for five innings.” If he had been pulled, it would have been something like, “Yanks win despite Mussina’s rocky outing.” It’s a tactic, as the BPS pointed out earlier this year, that Terry Francona employs frequently, and successfully, most notably with Dice K. Francona is extremely conscious of the way the story will be told. On the ESPN telecast last Monday night, the ESPN broadcasters repeatedly pointed out that Dice K drives Francona crazy with his early high pitch counts and inability to consistently throw strikes, wondering aloud whether he would take the chance of letting him finish the fifth inning just to get him a win, and even at one point wondered if he shouldn’t pull him with two outs in the fifth, just to send a message that he needed to stop fooling around nibbling and start throwing strikes if he wanted a win. Francona left him in to get him the win, as he usually does. No question about it, Francona gambles when he does that. As it turned out, Dice K’s last pitch was an at’em ball to center field. A foot to the right or left and he probably loses that lead. Just like Girardi gambled today. But the payoff is significant if it works. Even today, baseball analysts talking about Dice K’s 2007 season acknowledge that his ERA was very high, and he had far too many losses for a guy pitching for the eventual champs, but they usually close with, “But he did have 15 wins….” Funny how easy is to forget how he got those wins. But it doesn’t really matter. Francona kept the heat off of him, and there’s no telling what kind of negative publicity Dice K would have generated if he had been pulled off the mound three or four times last year when he probably should have been and ended up 11-11. Joe Torre simply never played that card. He yanked guys early and often, and there were plenty of bruised psyches to go around. It’s a sure confidence killer. So today, after letting Moose finish the fifth, the Yankees put a run across in the bottom half and Moose got the win. And as it stands now on May 8th, the Moose only needs six wins for the rest of the year to equal his 2007 total. I think Girardi made the right call.
So the Tigers just dropped three of four to the Red Sox, and needed a miracle to get even the one. And now they’ve got Kei Igawa coming in tomorrow. What I’m saying is, now might be a good time to pull out whatever high-octane good luck charms you might have. We’re going to need them.
Mike F, thanks for the comment, my friend. The only one… C’mon guys… One?
I really didn’t want to look. Sometimes you know when you’re staring at a case of going to the well once too often. The missus and I were walking past The Kettle Black, a bar on Third Avenue in Brooklyn in which you can clearly see the flat screen from the street. I could see that the game was on, and it was nearing 10pm, so I figured it was probably towards the end. We had just finished up a sneaky mid-week outing. My mother-in-law was baby-sitting, so we decided to hit Areo, the pride of the fleet of restaurants on Third Avenue in Bay Ridge. A weekend reservation is usually out of the question, so if you’re going to do it you’re better off in the middle of the week. I had gotten off the subway a stop early and met the missus on the corner of 86th St. And from there I couldn’t have been dumber. I went with the Spaghetti al Cartoccio – spaghetti with prosciutto, shrimp and cream, baked in foil. As an appetizer. Then I went with the sausage, steak, and chicken sautéed with potatoes in some sort of magic “savory sauce.” Talk about not man enough. Dude, I was not man enough. If that wasn’t bad enough, I finished it off with a raspberry tart filled with vanilla and raspberry custard. I was staggering the entire way home. I’m still feeling a bit weighed down. My fingers aren’t moving nearly as quickly on the keys.
As I said yesterday, asking Wang to pick up the pieces every single time he goes out there is not going to work. He’s largely gotten it done, but the problem is when he runs into the wrong matchup. A game like this is much more damaging to the Yankees than the win is beneficial to the Indians. A win is a win, and you need to close the deal with your stud on the mound. It would have been nice for the Yankees not to have wasted Wang against Cliff Lee, because we’re not going to see Wang again until Sunday. I would much rather have seen him face Carmona, who didn’t make it past the fifth yesterday, or Paul Byrd tomorrow. But this is what we were stuck with.
This loss, unfortunately, should come as no surprise. The Yankees can’t hit. They can’t hit anytime, anywhere. Allie Rodriguez is out and Posada is out, but that’s not even half the story. The story is that on a night like tonight, the Yankees trot four starters out there who have batting averages under .220. You just can’t do that. It’s not just that the Yankees are missing Allie and Posada. It’s that while those guys are out, Cano and Giambi are hitting in the .150 range, which is almost hard to do. The replacement guys have been almost as miserable at the plate. Allie’s replacement, Morgan Ensberg, is at .226, and Posada’s replacement, Molina, is at .219. And if you’re looking for another alternative, Shelley Duncan is at .192. How are all of these guys hitting in the one-hundreds? In May? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this before. This lineup is nothing but holes. It’s Mother Theresa. Holy. No end in sight, either. Allie and Posada are a long way off, and the Yankees can’t hit a lick.
In fairness, you can argue that all they need to do is stay afloat. Maybe. Last year, obviously, the lost the AL East in May, when Boston charged out to a double-digit lead as the Yankees tanked to 21-29 on May 30th. Not sure why, but the Yankees always collapse in May. Awful month for them the last few years. If they can stay afloat for a while, they can certainly make a run when everyone is healthy. But again. That’s a long way off.
I was following a bit of the Red Sox game on the MLB.com gamecast as I tapped the keys. Papelbon blew the save and the game in the bottom of the ninth as the Red Sox discovered what goes around comes around. They’ve been coming from behind, winning with walk-offs and circus-finishes. Tonight they were on the wrong end. It happens. Truthfully, though, this is why guys like Papelbon and Joba will never be Mariano Rivera. Those guys are conventional pitchers. They throw heat and benders. They are usually good at finding the plate. Great. But neither one of those guys has what Mo has. He throws a unique, one-of-a-kind, devastating pitch; one that you simply cannot hit no matter that you know it’s coming every single time. I don’t know that we will ever see another like him.
Brnxbomb 2, I don’t think Joba was testing out his starter-type stuff. I think he couldn’t get the fastball over. He had that problem with his other loss as well. He was throwing bender, bender, bender, because he couldn’t throw the fastball for strikes. One man’s opinion.
A 1pm start tomorrow. At least they get a break for getaway day. Then to Detroit, where the smart money all over the league is on the Tigers to knock Kei Igawa right back to Scranton. There hasn’t been a more frightening match-up since Toronto would send an entire lineup of lefties against the 40-year old version of El Duque.
Seannie! Your boy’s up!
This is why I’m a bad guy. As we were walking down River Ave under the elevated 4 train tonight after the game, Acc proclaimed a snappy tagline of sorts regarding the game. It was “Dellucci and Devastation,” or “Dellucci and Done,” or something like that… But it definitely wasn’t any of those. “And you can use that,” he says to me, finishing his thought. So now I really don’t remember what it was. Like I said. Bad guy.
Fun night in section 24. Fun stuff. Acc, Vino, me, and Tony Sherry. When we got back to my house, Tony came in to help select where we would put the “Be Alert Foul Balls” sign that accidentally came off of the inside part of the left field wall during the game. Big Joe (father-in-law) and my mother-in-law were assisting the missus in babysitting. Big Joe was in the basement watching the Mets. “Did you watch that game Big Joe,” I asked. “Yeah, I saw it. Unbelievable….,” he replied. Tony and I immediately looked for clarification on one question, as we certainly didn’t feel like listening to the post-game. “In the eighth inning, Joba had two strikes on Grady Sizemore, and he threw a pitch that looked dead on from where we were, and the crowd went nuts looking for the call.” He knew what I was asking. “It was a little outside,” he said. “Close, but a little outside.” Believe it or not, it made me feel a little better. If we had gone down because of a failed “ball” call, I would have been even more frustrated. Unfortunately, I did not need to see a replay or hear a recap from Big Joe to know that third base umpire Sam Holbrook blew a major call in the bottom of the fifth with Bobby Abreu taking third on the Ferocious Lion’s single to right. Even from section 24, without my glasses, I could clearly see that Abreu was safe. What a huge break for Cleveland. The Yankees had first and third with one out turn to two outs and threat over. Wow. Close plays are close plays, and it’s tough to fault an ump for making split-second decisions, but when I can see from about 175 feet away that a guy was clearly safe, that’s a bad job by the ump. Side note on that – I always journey to the fringes when I say that everyone loves to believe that the games are won and lost on the field. It’s distasteful to admit that hundreds of games a year throughout the major leagues are decided by ball/strike calls and close plays going one way or another. And there is no institution that has done as much trafficking in that on-the-field myth than Major League Baseball. I couldn’t help but notice that none of the highlight packages from the game on mlb.com, or the official sites of the Indians and Yankees, included a highlight of that play at third. Interesting. Do you mean to tell me that Franklin Gutierrez guns down Bobby Abreu going from first to third on a base hit, cutting down a huge scoring threat, and MLB doesn’t deem it worthy of a highlight? Hmmm….. There is a highlight from that inning on mlb.com’s gameday, however. The highlight is titled “Melky Cabrera strikes out.” Ah yes, MLB. The game is not so pure as your manipulative, we’ll-tell-you-what-to-think-the-story-of-this-game-was site and recap would have us believe. But, as Hemingway once said, isn’t it pretty to think so?
So what was the story? It was painful. No doubt about it. But it was what it was. What can you say? Joba had trouble getting the fastball over, and David Dellucci hit a pop-fly, Yankee Stadium Right Field cheapie. The Yankees have certainly hit them, and certainly won some games with them, so you can’t be totally freaked out or betrayed by it. It’s going to happen every so often. And it’s going to feel like getting punched in the stomach. No two ways about it. Shame to waste a great performance by Pettitte. Shame that it had to come with two outs from a guy who isn’t really a home run threat. Shame that the ump made a terrible call and shame that the Yankee bats again couldn’t overcome it. Even so, it hurts to lose when you outhit the other team in your own house. Bad game, bad night.
Is it fair to ask Wang, again, to pick this team up off the mat? Fair or not, that’s the way it’s going down.
“What is it,” I asked the missus. “Spiedino,” she said, as if I had simply misheard her. “Right. What is it…,” I was forced to repeat. We were at Chianti on Third Avenue last Friday night. My sister, once again, had taken the opportunity to put in some quality time with her nephew back at the house. I was about to enjoy some layers of bread and fresh mozzarella; fried and served with a lemon, caper, anchovy, and fresh tomato sauce. Also known as Spiedino Romano. My phone beeps with a text. Uh oh. If this was the Big Boy it means that the Yankees were in trouble against Bedard and the Mariners about 21 miles north of Brooklyn, up at the Stadium in the Bronx. The Big Boy didn’t text with good news. Only bad. We were only sitting down for about five minutes, and I had studiously avoided the score, figuring that losing a fourth game in a row was sure to ruin my appetite. But it was early enough that even if it was bad news I could try and block it out of my mind by convincing myself that anything could happen. So I glanced at my phone. “Get ready for the pain,” it says. Now, I’ve known Acc a long time. “the pain” didn’t refer to the Yankees getting ready to put a stomp on the Mariners. It referred to the pain that was about to befall him (and me), at the hands of the Mariners. Believe it or not, I knew this was god news. I know it sounds crazy, but again, I’ve known Acc for a long time. This was his anxiety talking. If the Yankees were already getting skull-marked, the pain would already have come. So my guess was that the Yankees were either tied or holding on to some precarious lead. I wrote him a note back – “Out at Chianti. What’s the situation?” He writes back, “3-1 T6th, but you know it is going to get weird.” So after we had exchanged another round of texts because he had neglected to clarify that the good guys were winning, I sent him my final thought. “Joba + Mo = we’ll win this one.” It’s a nice feeling.
So I guess it makes sense to put things in perspective. The Yankees are not as bad as they were against the Tigers. The Tigers pitched well enough, and Pettitte ran out of gas in the second game. Other than that, you had two kids getting bombasticlated, one of whom was pitching with a cracked rib, apparently. On the flip side, the Yankees also aren’t currently on some sort of a tear, or hot streak, or any such madness. They played a sputtering, not-particularly-good team in the Mariners. So I draw two things from the sweep of the Mariners. First, they did what they had to do. You need to feed on the weak in the American League, because there aren’t too many weak to go around. The second thing, even more encouraging, is that they beat three pretty good pitchers. Bedard has given them fits the last few years, and at times has just outright dominated them. “King Felix” Hernandez pitched a few top-notch games against them last year as well, and came into Saturday’s game with killer numbers. And Carlos Silva came into the game undefeated with an ERA in the two’s. And the Yankees got to all three of them. That was pretty encouraging. Also pretty encouraging to see Jeter hitting, Abreu hitting, and the Ferocious Lion hitting. And apparently the Melk Man is not only leading the team in home runs, he’s leading New York in home runs, along with David Wright. But that said, the Yankees, in my opinion, have learned nothing about themselves over the past week.
While we’re tempering things, let’s be fair. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy were being trotted out on the field against Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, in forty-degree weather, with most of the team swinging splinters behind them. If I’m Ian Kennedy, I’m thinking, ‘Hey – let me go out there against a team like the Mariners with eight runs of support. I can do what Darrel Rasner did.’ And he would have a point. But what then? The Yanks are back in front of Cleveland and Detroit this week. It’s not going to get easier. Darrel Rasner threw strikes. You can’t walk people around. You just can’t. You need to give your team a chance to win. Let them put the ball in play. Rasner did that, and was able to accomplish in one start what Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy couldn’t accomplish in eight. Kennedy, in particular, just doesn’t look ready for the major leagues.
As I was watching the end of the Mets game with Big Joe (father-in-law) last night, I told him that it truly is too early to see how things are going to shake out with the AL East this year. As I opined last week, once the Rays went on the road, the bloom was off of their rose rather quickly. The Orioles aren’t strong enough either. Unless they make a few clever additions. And the more I look at the Red Sox, the more clear it is to me that they are not nearly as good as they think they are. First of all, they just finished that stretch of 19 of 26 at home, so whatever lead they have must be looked at accordingly. They do belong in first right now, however, because their bats are the most consistent. Interestingly, the Yankees are still the only AL East team that does not have a losing record on the road this year thus far.
Speaking of the Sox, I caught a little of the game on ESPN tonight, and you have to laugh at Dice K. What a disaster this guy is. Yup, he’s 5-0. Like last year, with his ERA over 5 and his wild pitch count, he has managed to get some wins courtesy of one of the best offenses in the game. I hope one of these days he bends over and kisses Terry Francona’s butt. Again, with Dice K at 105 pitches (with 8 walks!) and on the brink in the fifth inning, he let Dice K try and squirm out of it just to get him a win. I only know what I know, and I know I’ve seen Francona do that for him at least three times. Not sure if he’s ever been burned by it, but he got lucky tonight when Matt Joyce unleashed a bullet that happened to be directly at JD Drew to end the fifth inning with two on. One of these days Francona’s going to get burned cleaning up after that guy.
We’ve got a monster crew in section 24 tomorrow night (Tuesday). Me, Vino, Seannie, Tony Sherry and the Big Boy are looking to take our record up over .500. Look for us hanging over the wall down the left field line. I’ll be wearing my white sweatshirt.
Going into a three game series, you expect that it will come in one of a few flavors. At least the ones that aren’t fluky. There are the hard-fought series between two equally matched teams. The Yankees and Red Sox have been doing that for years. And they don’t even have to be good. Just equally matched. Each team will win one of the games, and the rubber game will be decided on maybe a bounce or a fluke or a break, something like that. Then there are the series in which you know which team is going to win two out of three. In those, two games will decisively go to one team and the other will go to the weaker team. The one that goes to the weaker team will often be a closer game, and this series could be a sweep if the better team gets a break or a lucky bounce in that third game. The last kind is the sweep. This is the one in which one team is just going to get outclassed for three games and will need a break or two just to pull off a win in one of them. I was expecting scenario two, with Detroit being the better team. And I can’t really say that I’ve felt that way too often about an opponent in Yankee Stadium over the last few years. But I didn’t get door number two. I got number three.
I have nothing to say about the breaks, the umpires, the law of averages, the lineup, or any of that stuff. Dude, this lineup and these pitchers the Yankees are trotting out there are just not going to be able to compete with teams like the Tigers. In fairness, I watched with baited breath as the Tigers went 0-7 to start the season, and dropped to 2-10. I loved it. Because as I looked at that lineup, I couldn’t help but be impressed. That team was the team to beat, in my mind. And when they turned it around, I just sat back and nodded my head. The Yankees have played Cleveland and they’ve played the White Sox. And the Red Sox, for that matter. We haven’t seen the Angels, yet, but the Tigers look like the class of the American League. Now, it’s not a great gauge to measure them against this all-but-unrecognizable Yankee team. Just one month and change ago, as the Yankees were breaking camp, I don’t think anyone expected that we would see a lineup against a marquee team like the Tigers that featured Morgan Ensberg, Chad Moeller, and Shelley Duncan hitting cleanup. And, of course, Cano hitting .146. And don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be more psyched they got Chad Moeller back. What a difference. Veteran guy. Morgan Ensberg is hitting .234. That’s purely, positively awful. That’s the type of thing that frustrates you, because a major leaguer like that shouldn’t be in that territory. But then you keep going and see that he is hitting 67 points higher than Shelley Duncan, 70 points higher than Giambi, and 80 points better than Cano.
The fourth inning made me want to kick a hole in the wall. The Yanks were down a run, and the rain was coming down pretty hard. The Ferocious Lion on first, Morgan Ensberg singles, and the Lion holds at second. Somebody explain that to me. The single was to right field, where Magglio Ordonez had to field it running towards the foul line. The grass was soaking wet, as was the baseball, obviously. Michael Kay noted that the Lion went into second gingerly, like he was afraid of slipping. There was one out. What an awful, awful, play. First of all, any play in which a guy gets thrown out at third base from right field is worthy of a highlight film. And with a soaking wet ball and a slippery outfield, there was no way Magglio Ordonez would have even attempted a throw to third. Think of a Gaylord Perry spitball; with a wet ball there is no way Ordonez throws a laser-beam strike to third base. Not happening. Besides, it would have been an awful play. You can’t risk Ensberg moving into scoring position on the throw. Even if the Lion did slip, it would have happened around second, where he would have had plenty of time to get back to the base. Awful. He needed to be on third. So who’s up next? Cano. He swung at the first pitch, popped it up, and was dropping his shoulders in a “Poor me, I can’t believe it happened again” pose before he was even out of the batter’s box. But it would have been deep enough to score the Lion and tie the game. Dude, Cano needs to sit down. As I said yesterday, he needs a game with the pressure completely off; like his base hit in the ninth inning tonight. Down four, nobody on, nobody left in the stands on a miserable night. Once things are moving, he crushes us.
This is annoying. I’ve been doing BPS for four years now, and in three of those years we’ve tanked in the early part of the season; 11-19, 21-29, and let’s see where this one ends up. We’re now into another one of these “they’ve lost six out of eight” modes. That’s a lot. The problem is that the other years I would pour out a bunch of facts and figured that pointed to an eventual turnaround. They’ve got a few this year, but frankly, this year the facts and figures tell me their record should be a lot worse than it is. The Yankees have nothing right now.
Jason from the Heartland – dead on analysis. Maybe the best I’ve read regarding this season. Mike Sherry, as always, love to see the comment. Nicely done. Speaking of which, is Kelly Leek available?
“There seems to be resignation in the crowd,” said Michael Kay on the YES broadcast tonight. “This is odd,” he continued. “They’re four runs down. That’s nothing. It’s the eighth inning and yet the crowd seems resigned.“ Al Leiter chimed in. “The thing they have to look out for Michael is the ‘woe is me’ factor. I know it’s tough. I know they’ve had some bad breaks here, but you can’t start getting down on yourself.” Michael Kay jumped back in. “You know, every year in baseball it’s like a crapshoot. It seemed last year like the Yankees just drew the short straw, with all of the injuries they had. Well, this year it seems to be more of the same.”
Okay. So a few observations on that dialogue in the booth. First of all, Al Leiter came off a lot more annoying than that reads. I don’t necessarily disagree with him as I reflect on his comments, but I think the thing that bugged me was his reference point. He was talking about the team, which is appropriate. But when broadcasters, particularly broadcasters who are former players, talk about the mindset of the team and staying positive, they sometimes have a tendency to project that onto the fans, analysts, and casual observers as well. It’s as if he’s saying “Let’s all not talk about that Michael, because we don’t want to get in a losing mindset.” Dude, we’re not playing the games. We’re sitting our fat *sses on the couch watching. Our mindset isn’t going to affect the game. The fact is they are losing, so you have to look at why from a practical standpoint. And the significant time that Jeter, Posada, and Allie have missed is a key reason. It just is.
So why else? Well, you’ve got the reigning MVP on the DL, and when he wasn’t on the DL he was hurting for about two weeks. You’ve got the all-star starting catcher on the DL, and he’s been hurting all year. You’ve got Jeter hitting 40 points below his career average and in the middle of the second-longest homerless streak to open the season in his career. And then, probably most striking, you’ve got two of the six lowest batting averages (with enough qualifying at-bats) in the entire major leagues in the starting lineup and playing every day. That would be, of course, Messrs. Giambi and Cano. Yeah, of the 195 major leaguers who qualify, Giambi is 190th and Cano is 194th (second to last). Thankfully, as of today at some point, Troy Tulowitzki had two more at-bats against his 16 hits. The Yankee futility with runners in scoring position has been so well documented that I won’t even go into it. So what’s real and what’s imagined? Jeter will bring his average up. Cano and Giambi won’t stay below .200 for long. Especially Cano. He’ll rip off 4 hits one night and will be on his way. The problem is that he’ll probably need a garbage game against a bad team to do it. These guys aren’t going to take enough pressure off of themselves to bust out of it in a close game against a tough team. And that’s what we’ve got for a while. Giambi won’t stay below .200 just because it’s hard to do. But he’s got one major roadblock that isn’t going to go away. In my mind, the biggest innovation in baseball of the last ten years, besides HGH, is the shift. It’s effective, it’s deadly, and it just flat-out works. Not that it was invented in the last ten years, but the proliferation of it is relatively recent. Does anybody think that it’s a coincidence that Jason Giambi, David Ortiz, Carlos Delgado, and Ryan Howard are all in the bottom ten in baseball in batting average? The shift works. And it doesn’t just work. It crushes a guy. Take a look at any one of those guys’ faces after they hit what would have been a clean base hit directly into the shift in short right field. It’s devastating. All you need to do is watch the games to figure that out. How many times does Giambi hit into that shift? Constantly. Dude, he needs to start bunting a bit. Something to make the defense think. They may get him out, but so what? They’ll get him out anyway if he hits into the shift, so what’s the difference? The guy has been hitting between .050 and .175 all year long. What does he have to lose? Will a defense continue to shift if he literally bunts four times in a row? I don’t know. Let’s find out. Go practice, dude. If teams don’t start playing you more straight up, you are dead out there. Dead.
So essentially, you’ve got two of your best out, and then you’ve got two other guys who might as well be out. Hence, the lineup doesn’t score any runs, and there is no confidence in the stands. In fairness to the fans, four runs is a lot. And when you haven’t had anything to cheer for offensively in a long time, you can’t blame the fans for taking a defensive, I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it stance.
This is a unique position. The Yankees, amazingly, have a better record that the Tigers. But the Tigers, right now, are a vastly superior team. The Yankees have lost the first two and will desperately try to avoid the sweep tomorrow. And it will be desperate, because you-know-who is pitching. And you know what? Honestly, when I look at the two teams, I have to admit, that scenario looks about right to me. The Tigers are simply the better team out there. For now.
Time2goJoe – great point. I hadn’t thought of that. Hughes also said today that he can’t see at night? I really don’t know which way is up anymore. Jason from the Heartland, I saw you and J-Boogie moved. I’ll update my links shortly. Good luck with the new sights.
So…..one of these two kids has to win a game sometime…..don’t they?