The Ruminant Blog

You won’t lose the beat if you just keep clapping your hands

-          From The Ruminant Band by the Fruit Bats        

 

I know.  It’s been a while.  No excuses.  But I did feel like if there was one post I didn’t mind hanging out there for a while, it was that last one.  The Yankees won the World Series.  Maybe you’ve heard…

            So being that I’ve been away for a while, I figured I would come back with a gimmick.  I don’t plan on doing this on a regular basis, but for today, this is how we’re kicking things off.  Any post I write after a long layoff is notoriously choppy and uneven, so maybe the gimmick will distract a few of you from that.  I tried something new last weekend, somewhat unwittingly.  I was taking the missus out to dinner for her birthday (Eleven Madison Park, which I highly recommend), and I figured if I kept checking the Yankee score on the MLB at-bat app on my iphone, I was just a bad guy.  So I refrained.  From the carrot flavored marshmallow tapas, right through to the peanut butter and jelly macaroon, I left the phone in its holster (I mean proverbial holster, of course, I’m not one of those dorks who has a phone clip on their belt).  So on the ride home, I figured I would try an experiment.  Since the Friday night game was over anyway, I figured I would wait until well after the start of the Saturday game (a 1pm start last week), and save myself the stress of hanging on every pitch of both games.  Odds were, and always are, I suppose, that the teams will split the first two games, and play a rubber game to decide the series.  So, I figured, why not just sit out the first two games, and assume a split and that they’ll be playing the rubber game on Sunday.  That way I eliminate the stress of watching two games, and just have the somewhat elevated stress of watching the rubber game, which I would have had anyway.  There was a 75% chance that the Yankees would split the first two games or be up 2-0 going into Sunday.  And it was probably a little more than 75%, since the Yankees were playing at home against an opponent that isn’t light, but also isn’t generally considered to be among the top five teams in the league.  So figure there was a78-80% chance the Yanks would be up 2-0 or tied 1-1.  Long story short, it worked.  I turned on Sterling and Waldman at the gym around the seventh inning on Saturday.  The Yanks were ahead comfortably.  And they mentioned that they would likely be going for the sweep on Sunday, so, bang, I rolled a lucky seven.  They won both.   And of course they completed the sweep on Sunday.  So since it worked so well last weekend, I figured I would try it again this weekend. 

So here’s the gimmick:  I haven’t looked yet.  It’s Saturday night at 10:44 pm, the missus is out at a night-time wedding shower, and I have yet to check the past two days’ scores.  The lad and I hit the Bridgeview Diner for dinner.  I went with the chicken fingers and French fries off the kids menu for him, while I went with the cup of Manhattan Clam Chowder (not sure why I did that in CAPS), followed by the Chicken Panini.  The kids’ menu also gives you a choice of dessert, and we went with the big cookie.  The lad wanted nothing to do with it (he was too busy with the Thomas the Tank Engine app on my iphone), so I just minutes ago finished the last of it with some tea.  All the while, I didn’t check the scores.  Not last night’s, not today.  So here’s how I’m going to do this.  I’m going to throw out a few of my thoughts on things so far, check the scores, let them sink in for a minute, and then finish the post.  Here goes…

            The Yankees are good.  There’s a real deep one for you.  My thoughts coming in to the season:

The Yankees offense is not going to be as good as last year’s team.  They’ll be good, and maybe good enough to win it all, but if you’re telling me for just this one year I can either have Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui or Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson, I’m going with Damon and Matsui.  If we’re talking about the next three years, maybe my answer is different.  But Damon, Johnson, and Matsui all signed one year deals.  And I was never a huge fan of Melky, but he did beat out Gardner for the starting job in the beginning of the season last year, and would probably have done so again this year.  And he proved to be a pretty good clutch hitter who didn’t wilt in the lights last year.  So throw in the fact that you’ve got Gardner instead of Melky, and I think you’re taking a step back offensively.  I’m not pulling my hair out over Damon, because he’s probably getting close to the end of his advanced usefulness.  But essentially swapping Nick Johnson for Matsui makes me sick to my stomach.  I always liked Nick Johnson, and I hated that we dealt him for Javy Vazquez the first time.  But Johnson for Matsui is not a good trade-off.  All of the talking heads calling for Matsui’s exit last year (I specifically remember Brandon Tierney on ESPN radio in NY going on and on about it) were citing “roster flexibility.”  It’s not the money,” they said, “It’s roster flexibility.”  He was a DH, and the Yankees had too many DH’s.  Right.  So they went and got Nick Johnson, who aside from occasionally spelling Tex (will be exceedingly rare), can play no other position but DH.  Got it…  Great, guys.  So Matsui signs a one year deal for $6 million, and Nick signs a one year deal for $5.5 million.  And Matsui crushes lefties, hits for power, is extremely clutch, and brings with him an entire continent’s worth of fans and their entertainment Yen, at the peak of his popularity.  Dumb.  Dumb, and no one will ever convince me otherwise.  And while we’re at it, I think the Damon situation got silly as well.  Even after the Granderson and Johnson deal, the Yanks still had a hole in left field.  But instead of signing Damon for what eventually became the reasonable price of $8 million for a one year deal (and he would probably have given the Yankees a slight home-town discount to continue playing in a park that was hand-tailored for him), they insisted on throwing an eff-you at Scott Boras and wouldn’t sign Damon on principle.  No matter how low the price went.  Instead they signed Randy Winn and Marcus Thames for a total of $2 million.  Watch them way overpay for somebody worse than Damon come June/July to try and bury that mistake.

Javy Vazquez.  Oy.  We’re already deep enough into the season to see that he’s not a new and improved Javy, but simply the same Javy that beats and pitches deep into games against bums and melts against anybody good when it counts, so I won’t rehash that.  What do I expect of him this season?  I expect that he will beat and go deep into games against bums and melt against anyone good when it counts.  Note to self – get home field in the playoffs so you can negotiate the proceedings with a three-man rotation again.        

Phil Hughes vs. Joba.  I liked Hughes as the guy in the rotation.  Still do.  Not sure where is the best spot for Joba long term.  For right now, I’m cool with him in the bullpen.  And I’m tired of thinking about it…   

Back to the Granderson deal for a second.  I love Curtis Granderson.  All-in I think he’s going to be a productive Yankee.  And you have to love his slapping Jonathan Papelbon in the face to win a series in Boston on the opening weekend.  But I didn’t like the deal.  Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy (to Arizona) and Phil Coke to get back Granderson.  The Tigers gave up Edwin Jackson (to Arizona) and Granderson to get back Jackson, Coke, and two pitching prospects.  But I don’t think that’s how clever Dave Dombrowsi mapped it out.  Dombrowski saw the writing on the wall with the Yankees getting Granderson, probably through the clear vision of the notorious Jim Leyland-Scott Boras partnership, and figured he was getting Austin Jackson, the untouchable crown jewel of the Yankees farm system, Phil Coke, a young and very serviceable lefty reliever with a live arm and plenty of big game experience, and one more valuable piece.  Johnny Damon, who the Yankees were dismissing in conversations with Boras on a daily basis as no longer needed.  Perfect for a team like Detroit, which fizzled in a heart-breaking, extra-inning, bogus hit-batter call, play-in loss to the Twins last year.  Now look at the deal for the Tigers:  lose Edwin Jackson (a well-traveled guy for somebody who we keep hearing is the second-coming) and Curtis Granderson, get back two highly touted pitching prospects from Arizona, Daniel Schlereth and Max Scherzer, plus Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Johnny Damon.  Wow.  This is what happens when you do something just to spite Scott Boras, Yankees.  He dips into his network and cleans up.  This deal will start to tilt further and further towards Dombrowski’s favor if the Grandy-man proves as ineffective against lefties as he’s been the rest of his career.  I worry about a playoff game in which Granderson is fodder for any lefty specialist in a bullpen.  Time will tell.    

Last thing.  And I say it every year.  I’m almost reluctant to say it again, just because I am tired of saying it.  But I’ll do it until people start to acknowledge it.  The schedule.  This is the single biggest determining factor in the April/May standings.  You can’t get around it.  You’ve heard my points before.  The real reason MLB adopted the unbalanced schedule and went away from the balanced schedule is that the unbalanced version allows them to manipulate the schedule.  And manipulating the schedule, by definition, allows them to manipulate the standings, at least temporarily.  MLB’s reason for the unbalanced schedule?  To “create and enhance rivalries by increased intra-divisional play.”  Really?  Here’s the reason MLB (and every professional sports league) does everything it does.  Money.  Most people agree that 19 games a year between divisional rivals is overkill.  And frankly, from a monetary standpoint, it doesn’t make any sense.  The Yankees and Red Sox sell out, or close to it, every game they play.  Regardless of opponent.  Most other teams only sell out when teams like the Yankees and Sox come to town.  So by pitting the Yankees and Sox against each other 18-19 times, you’re losing out on 6-7 games that would have sold out someplace else that will otherwise get 11,000 fans.  But here’s what it does.  The unbalanced schedule creates an uneven slate of games with non-division teams.  You can play a team as few as six times a year (rare) or as many as ten (also rare, but the Yankees and Angels play each other ten times almost every single year – hmmm).  Most are between seven and nine.  But even then, look how many teams have won their division by two games or less the last few years – Colorado ’07, Philly ’07 and ’08, the Twins last year, etc.  The difference between the Tigers playing the Yankees nine times and Baltimore seven times and the Twins playing the Yankees seven times and Baltimore nine times is cataclysmic for both of those two teams.  The schedule is the single most underappreciated decider of outcomes in baseball.

Along these lines, I’ve always maintained that Major League Baseball shimmies and shakes the early part of the schedule in order to keep races close, and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.  Through the late nineties and early 2000’s, the Yankees always had a brutally front-loaded schedule, as they do this year.  The last two or three years they had flipped it to give the Red Sox a brutal front-end.  What this does is simple.  It keeps the pennant race, or the illusion of one, close for as long as possible.  If the Yankees have the best team, and everyone figures they have enough to win it in the end, why not make the front end of their schedule brutal, make Boston’s softer, and voila!  You have a race until June.  It’s no coincidence that for about five years in a row in the late nineties/early 200’s, the Red Sox were in first place every year early on, and then the Yankees eventually caught and passed them at some point in June.  Scheduling magic at work.   Either way, I’m not saying this is entirely a bad thing that MLB does.  They have to do this.  If they allow the chips to fall where they may for the Yankees, and they just happen to play just six against the Angels but ten against Cleveland before the All-Star break, the race will be academic by Mother’s Day.  And then people lose interest and stop going to games, watching games, etc…  It’s a necessary evil.  This year, the Yankees start in Boston, go to Tampa, back home for the Angels and Rangers, then off to the West Coast for an 11 day, 9 game trip.  Fifteen of the first twenty-one games on the road, with twelve games against the teams generally considered to be three of the best four teams in baseball (other than the Yankees).  So far (at least through Thursday night, as I still haven’t checked), the Yankees and Red Sox have not cooperated with the MLB plan.  The Yankees have marched steadily through their storm, while the Red Sox, who play a preposterously high number of games at home in April/May, have dropped games to every good team they have played (again – through Thursday night).  But the point is that the Yankees have an absolute goggleslog the first month of the season.  I feel like they can only keep this up for so long.

So that brings us to this weekend.  Two out of three games in the books in Anaheim, with one to play.  And I’m still clueless as to how it went down.  Burnett yesterday, Pettitte today, and Javy tomorrow.  Ugh.  Javy against the Angels in Anaheim has heartburn written all over it….  Excuse me while I check this out…

Well, about what I expected.  A split.  This is how I drew it up, right?  Split the first two and play the rubber game on Sunday?  My stomach would have been doing somersaults somewhere close to 1am last night when Kendry Morales took Joba deep.  Definitely would have lost sleep.  Maybe I made the right move….  Nick Johnson’s hurt already.  Which is tough, because I’m not sure we can afford to lose his .135 batting average.  Yeah, I know.  He gets on base.  Not when he’s hurt he doesn’t.  Matsui with a clutch hit yesterday.  I’m trying not to hate Nick Johnson.  Tex went one-for-five today, and his batting average went up.  Is that bad?  Boston fattening up on Baltimore at Fenway.  Shocker. 

All-in, I’m feeling pretty good about things.  A chance to win their sixth series in a row tomorrow and go 4-2 on the coast…  What’s that?  Javy’s pitching tomorrow?  Ugh…  Maybe I should check back out until Tuesday in Baltimore…  Save myself the alka-seltzer…

Either way, when I wake up tomorrow morning, the Yanks will still be reigning World Champs…  Life is good.  Glad to be back… 

1 Comment

and we’re glad you’re back too. Don’t make us wait too long between posts. Couldn’t agree more on Matsui. Dumb.

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