Monday, October 29, 2007

Report: Torre to LA

Joe Torre will replace Grady Little and manage the LA Dodgers.

If Andy Pettitte brings Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada to Hollywood too, the Yankees may well enter the rebuilding era Hank Steinbrenner inaccurately described before Alex Rodriguez opted out. Fortunately LA already has a closer in Saito and a star young catcher in Russel Martin. Unfortunately for Scott Proctor, another deadarm season lies ahead.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A-Rod Opt Out

Alex Rodriguez will opt out of his remaining contract. The Yankees, if you believe their statements over the course of the season, will refrain from pursuing A-Rod as a free agent.

An interesting Winter just got a whole lot more interesting. If Rodriguez ends up with another address, Andruw Jones just got a lot happier.

The Choice is Girardi

Looks like Yankee fans will get their wish. Joe Girardi looks to become the next manager of the New York Yankees with a formal announcement coming tomorrow.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yankees To Meet With A-Rod?

The Yankees would like to meet with Alex Rodriguez, and Hank Steinbrenner the newly appointed Yankees mouthpiece, seems intent on making him an offer he can't refuse.

There have been no reports of demonagent Scott Boras deciding to do anything other than opt-out of A-Rod's remaining contract and engage in a full scale assault on free agency. However, it still seems Boras realizes his client's contract drops tens of millions of dollars without the Yankees involved in the bidding.

And with Brian Cashman's recent sentiments of 'opt-out means we're out' being seconded by ownership, Boras may have a few hundred million reasons to take him seriously.


The New York Yankees are trying to set up a meeting with Alex Rodriguez while they work on picking a manager.

Hank Steinbrenner, a son of owner George Steinbrenner, said Friday the club probably will meet soon with Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras.

"The fact of the matter is, obviously we want him to stay," Hank Steinbrenner said. "And I think he wants to stay."

In the mean time, things have changed with other potential Yankee free agents. No matter how hard the rest of baseball dreams about Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada turning their backs on the Yankees in an unprecedented display of loyalty toward Joe Torre, the money always talks - especially when the money is coming from an organization they've known their entire professional career.

On Monday, Rivera changed his tune entirely during an interview on satellite radio, saying he didn't need to know who the next manager would be before re-signing with the Yanks. How much money that deal adds up to may depend on the contract his decade-long battery mate receives first.

On Tuesday, The Daily News reported "The Yankees plan to do what they can to keep Posada from hitting the open market." Mark Feinsand stated that a source believes the Yankees will offer Jorge about $40 million.

In all likelihood, A-Rod's groundbreaking extension would follow suit, with an Andy Pettitte redux and Bobby Abreu return quickly coming thereafter.

Now if they could only knock over that first domino and give Joe Girardi the keys to the castle...


Jimmy Kimmel Gets It

Congrats to the Red Sox for showing the killer instinct the Bombers have lacked since 2004.

And now, a PSA from Kimmel:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Report: Girardi & Mattingly Dead Even

ESPN isn't just preaching style over substance in Bristol, now they're stressing unprofessionalism:
The Yankees have barred ESPN from news media conference calls with their managerial candidates this week. The move was in retaliation for the network violating rules covering last week’s call on which it was announced Joe Torre had turned down a contract offer.
Jon Heyman dissed Torre in his last piece, this one judges the Yankees managerial race as a dead heat, "50-50" draw.

One person familiar with the high-level Yankees’ discussions recently called the managerial decision at “50-50,’’ and while that shouldn’t be taken literally, there are signs that they have strong feelings about both Mattingly and Girardi.

Ten of the Yankees’ baseball operations people have been meeting and providing their personal input to general manager Brian Cashman, who will compile the votes and make a recommendation to the trio of Steinbrenners and other Yankees bosses, possibly as early as Thursday.

The word Wednesday was that Cashman’s recommendation will likely be accepted as the new manager, and if Cashman’s recommendation will indeed carry the day, Girardi’s chances to upset the favored Mattingly may be real. The “baseball ops’’ people, presumably including Cashman, were actually said to have favored Girardi if a change were made early in the season when the Yankees got off to a dreadful start.

And Buster Olney believes the next Yankee manager should and will be Joe Girardi.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Heyman: Torre Not That Innocent

In a trigger-happy column,'s Jon Heyman reports the Yankees offered Joe Torre a $4.5 million contract during Spring training.

Japanese FAs May Be Bullpen Options

Masahide Kobayashi is a 33 year-old closer in Japan. He has a plus fastball that can touch 96 mph, a good splitter and an average slider. He is no spring chicken, but every bullpen in baseball could use a helping hand, especially the one rotting in the Bronx this Winter. Here's a report from Fantasy Baseball Cafe:
Masahide Kobayashi, record-setting, 6' 0", 172 lb., 33-year-old, righty closer will be a free agent after the 2007 season. After Iwase, and with Ishii on the mend, Kobayashi is likely the best readily available relief pitcher. A converted starter, Kobayashi was the first Japanese closer to achieve 20 saves in 6 consecutive seasons. He also had 33 consecutive saves in 2002, and has 200 career saves in seven years as the closer of the Chiba Lotte Marines. The fact that he will not need to be posted makes him even more attractive. Kobayashi has stated in the past that he deos not really enjoy America but that could easily change with the right contract and team. He has good control and is armed with a prototypical closer's arsenal containing a 95 mph fastball and slider. Kobayashi also has a split-finger fastball which he uses to keep left-handers off balance.

If signed as a free agent, Kobayashi could earn around $5 - 7 million dollars a year.
Kobayashi's 2007 showed potential for decline, but his raw stuff may still translate. He is far from a sure thing, but certainly worth a second look considering the dearth of middle relief available this year and year's past.

As is the case with Kobayashi, Yomiuri Giants veteran Koji Uehara is a free agent this offseason. Uehara was the Japanese version of Greg Maddux. Cunning, talented, poised and exhibiting tremendous control. He does not throw hard, 89-92 mph, but may command a respectable deal from a major league club, especially considering he was converted to closer in 2007 due to a nagging hamstring injury. He responded well, to say the least. Uehara struck out 66 batters in 62 total innings and walked only four, earned 32 saves, a 1.74 ERA and BAA of .204 in 55 games. At 32 years old, he isn't very young either, but he's been on MLB's radar for years now as a reliable professional pitcher.

Because I do not believe Kosuke Fukudome to be anything other than a more athletic outfield version of Akinori Iwamura. He will not hit 50 homers in the States and may not notch 20 his rookie season. Another pitcher available (via posting) this offseason is Hiroki Kuroda, who throws a fastball between 91-93mph along with a slider, shuto, forkball and splitter. He doesn't strike out many per nine innings, but is a reliable arm in Japanese competition.


My #1 addition to the 2008 bullpen would be a healthy Mark Melancon, with JB Cox serving as a distant #2. Humberto Sanchez will not return from elbow surgery for some time, though there are several other potential bullpen powerarms in the minors. Guys like Kevin Whelan - when throwing strikes - would apply.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wedge, Shapiro Looking Alike

Usually lookalike collages are corny. Often times they're inaccurate with one looking nothing like the other. However, on occasion there is an uncanny resemblance. While changing channels between the Steelers-Broncos game and Indians-Red Sox game, a few of these doppelgangers came to mind. Below are Cleveland Indians GM Mark Shapiro with NFL twin Jeff Garcia; and Indians skipper Eric Wedge with NFL counterpart Jeff Fassel.

Let me know what you think. Carbon-copy? or delusional comparison?

Pipe Down Lil' Stein

Congratulations to Hank and Hal Steinbrenner for being handed the keys to the one of the most successful sports franchises in history. Along with the clout comes a boost in ego, a leap in confidence, and an opportunity for excess beyond Jim Morrison's wildest dreams.

Unfortunately, tact and self-awareness do not come with the gig. As Hank Steinbrenner illustrates after a week on the job, it's never too early to exercise these new privileges. After Joe Torre's farewell press conference alluded to a sense of disrespect for the four-time World Series champion, Hank did his best Randy Levine impression, pretending he's earned any right to undermine personnel in place for the last decade plus.

"Where was Joe's career in '95 when my dad hired him?" said the new Boss. "My dad was crucified for hiring him.

"Let's not forget what my dad did in giving him that opportunity - and the great team he was handed," Steinbrenner told The Post by phone from Tampa, Fla.

Come on now. Where were you in '95 Hank? Oh that's right, heaving hay to horses down in Florida. Looks like the Yankees may not lose much ground once George fully relinquishes the Yankee kingdom. Hank already displays the type of blind entitlement his father became famous for as the Bronx burned.

Had Torre been an excellent manager before joining the Yankees in 1996? No, in all honesty, Torre was a horrific manager with the Mets, satisfactory with St. Louis and above average in Atlanta. However, his style fit in perfectly with the 1990's dynasty and consequently pronounced Torre untouchable from baseball foreigners like Hanky.

Like him or not, George established himself as "The Boss" and oversaw six world championships during the journey. Now he wants Donnie Baseball managing in 2008, but even Big Stein would remind Hank he'll have to do more than saddle Bellamy Road before trying to saddlebag a Hall of Famer like Joe Torre.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mattingly Southbound

From comes a statement from The Hitman's agent:
Don Mattingly will travel to New York next week to interview for the Yankees' managerial vacancy, his agent has confirmed.

"Don confirmed his interest and will travel to Tampa early next week to meet with Yankee ownership. No other details are available tonight." said Ray Schulte.

"I think there are some people that can step in and make the transition easier for some guys," Johnny Damon told the New York Daily News. "I know Don Mattingly is a guy that everybody on the team has great respect for, and I think if it's not going to be Joe, a lot of players are probably hoping it's Donnie. He's learned a lot from Joe, he works hard -- I think Donnie's ready."

Steinbrenner told the AP that the Yankees did not expect to make a final decision until after the World Series.
Further, Cashman announced he reached out to two other potential candidates for the job in Joe Girardi and Tony Pena. Pete Abraham believes Mattingly to be the most plausible choice. Regardless of how many years Donnie spent away from his Indiana horse farm and how much currency he has with Yankee fans, it still seems that Girardi is the best candidate for the job.

Going on the brief quotes Cashman offered the media, it appears he will waste zero time in finding Joe Torre's replacement. Torre's appearance on WFAN offered an even more succinct and revealing report from Joe, in which he alluded to Randy Levine's cowardly, weasel-like existence.

Yankees Managerial Candidate Lost

Trey Hillman, former Yankees minor league manager, Texas farm director and world champion Japanese baseball manager, will become the manager of the Kansas City Royals next season. Although a darkhorse, Hillman was a trendy pick to become the next Yankees manager.

The Kansas City Royals today announced they have reached an agreement on a multi-year contract with Trey Hillman as manager. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Hillman, 44, is currently managing the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan’s Pacific League and will be introduced to the Kansas City media in a 2:00 p.m. press conference on Monday afternoon in the interview room at Kauffman Stadium.
Hillman may become a plausible candidate down the line, but to me, it's still a two horse race between Girardi and the Hitman.

Torre 2PM Press Conference

Joe Torre's press conference announcing his farewell from the Yankees organization has several significant pieces of information. Here are a few tidbits I found to be interesting.
  • Like myself and most Yankee fans, Torre does not like Randy Levine. When asked about his relationship with Levine, Torre explained that he doesn't deal with him, he deals with the general manager.
  • Over these past couple weeks, Brian Cashman seemed to be of the few and maybe only voice which stood up in Torre's defense. That's something which shouldn't go unnoticed.
  • Torre felt George Steinbrenner was "nudged" into this consensus decision. He probably could have stated that The Boss is not in his best health, but as he always has, Torre took the high road on that topic.
  • Joe may be somewhat resentful toward the organization, but you would never know it considering how engaging and humorous he continued to be. Several times Torre got choked up, but refused to break down when talking about his players and family.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Holy $@!%, He Turned It Down

Joe Torre turned down the one-year offer made to him today. The contract included a club option for 2009, but included a paycut from $7 million to $5million in base salary. There were, however, incentives which would have paid Torre $1 million for making the playoffs, another million for getting into the ALCS and a final million for getting to the World Series. Meaning, the contract offer was potentially worth $8 million for next year.

It will be interesting to see what Torre says, if anything, about his decision. Though it's not out of the realm of possibility that New York modifies its offer to a guaranteed $7 million contract, it appears from what Brian Cashman and others said that the Yankees are already moving toward Torre's replacement.

Shocking development.

Manny Ramirez likes to physically celebrate homeruns that move his team within four runs of an opponent who's on the verge of a 3-1 lead in a playoff series. He likes to celebrate them as if he just had a Joe Carter World Series walk-off moment.

Manny Ramirez likes to discuss the postseason brink by expressing an ALCS failure is not the end of the world. Not sure this is what Red Sox fans would like to hear on the eve of an elimination game.

Manny Ramirez is not the sharpest tool in the shed. The guy carried a Poland Spring bottle in his back pocket... while patrolling leftfield... while a game was going on. You just can't take him seriously.

As Bronx Banter expertly relayed, the guy is an idiot savant when it comes to hitting. His god-given ability is off the charts. He will go down in history as one of the greatest RBI men. One who can hit for a .325 average, crank 40 homers or take an outside pitch to the opposite field. There is absolutely no denying his greatness at the plate. But, one of his greatest strengths is his dubious mentality. As Banter notes, pitchers have problems getting into Manny's head because, "You can't outsmart a dumb guy."

Similarly, he's attained the mindset of an prepubescent boy. And with this immaturity, Ramirez expects certain privileges. Like immunity from criticism. For example, if your 11 year-old son, brother or nephew jumped up and down after slugging a walk-off whiffle ball homer, would you scold him? Of course not. The same applies for Manny. If your 10 year-old second cousin decided Pizza Hut was more important than little league, you'd have to acknowledge his disinterest.

Unfortunately, the rest of his teammates have never and never will enjoy his antics as much as Manny does. The frustration of Boston beat-reporters who've grown accustomed to Ramirez avoiding critical media attention has boiled over into the player-personnel department. Mike Lowell is one of them:
“I’ve got to ask him about the hands up (watching at the plate) in a 7-2 (game). I don’t really understand that one, but that’s him.”
Lowell will probably ask Manny about it because he doesn't want to take a two-out fastball to the earhole of his batting helmet tonight.

In the meantime, the Indians passive-aggressively delivered a below-the-belt shot of their own. Before tonight's game, God Bless America will be sung by country music singer Danielle Peck, who previously dated Josh Beckett. The Indians claim Peck's appearance is a coincidence. Right, just like having an expert entymologist inform Cleveland's coaching staff that the swarming midges which derailed Joba Chamberlain are attracted to bugspray... is coincidental.

From Tom Verducci's piece:
You've probably heard too much already about those infamous sacrifice flies of Cleveland, the mighty midges that, unlike almost all AL hitters, knocked Yankees phenom Joba Chamberlain off his game. But this is too good not to pass on: When the bugs started swarming Chamberlain, a local insect expert in Cleveland telephoned the Indians with an urgent message -- those bugs are called midges, and whatever you do, do NOT use insect repellent; midges are attracted to the stuff. The Yankees practically bathed in bug spray; the more Chamberlain put on, the more the bugs swarmed him. So there you go. The Yankees can spend $190 million on payroll and still leave a blatant weakness: no, not their middle relief -- their lack of an entymology expert.
Tough pill to swallow. Not to say that New York would have won the series had Chamberlain made it through the 8th inning unscathed, but it would have been dead even going back to the Bronx. Have to like their chances within that scenario, but Cleveland deserves much credit as they simply outplayed the Bombers when it counted.

Torre Will Return

UPDATE 3:55 pm

Torre will receive a one-year contract with a club option for a second year. It is being reported that he will also take a pay cut from the $7 million annual salary of year's past.


Updating the last post, Joe Torre arrived in Tampa and entered Legends Field in what is expected to be a meeting discussing a contract extension. The conversation will likely revolve around the length of the deal, either one or two years.
Torre just landed here, in what could be the surest sign that a new deal with the Yankees brass is imminent.

Torre, wearing a dress shirt with sleeves rolled up, departed from Westchester this morning and landed here in a private jet at the Hawker Beechcraft Services airport at 1:26 p.m. He was accompanied by GM Brian Cashman and Yankees COO Lonn Trost.

As WFAN opined, another topic the Yankees could discuss pertains to the 2008 assistant coaching staff, particularly Ron Guidry as pitching coach.

In conjunction with a Torre return, George S. Steinbrenner III will officially recede into the shadows, abdicating his throne in Yankeeland and signaling the forward march of his sons.

Torre May Return

The Mike and The Mad Dog show on WFAN radio is insinuating that close sources to the Yankees believe Joe Torre may very well be locked in talks to return for his thirteenth season in pinstripes. Nothing specific was reported, but John Filippelli, the president of the YES Network, was mentioned several times. Nothing's been done yet, but it would appear Don Mattingly will remain the "manager in waiting" as Joe Girardi remains the odd man out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Forget Joe, It's Clueless John

On Sunday, Mike Francesa of WFAN radio fame, presented a panel discussion on his tv show Mike'd Up. The topic of course revolved around Joe Torre's future. The three guests comprising the panel included Mark Feinsand of The Daily News, Sweeny Murti of FAN and "the voice" of the New York Yankees, John Sterling.

I will preface my remarks by understanding Sterling is reported to be a kind individual whose forged a friendship with Torre. Supporting a friend during hard times is to be commended. However, some comprehension of the Yankees current situation is expected, especially when you've broadcast in the Bronx since 1989. One would think with such longevity comes an inside perspective which even the best beat writers cannot attain.

Unfortunately, Sterling's homerism seems to have given way to blissful ignorance. Some of his comments made in the Mike'd Up video clip are absurd, even reminiscent of Chip Caray's cluelessness. Here are some of Sterling's responses.

When asked if Torre had any Yankees upper-management figures capable of persuading decision makers into bringing the skipper back, Sterling had this to say:
"Well I think that George would be his ally."

To which, Francesa responded, "But George is the guy who said he's gone!"
Guess Sterling missed this whole mess.

Then, when asked if he felt Alex Rodriguez would be a Yankee in 2008, Sterling actually believed the Yankees could sign him to $25 million a season for five years. John, please, come back to us. Rodriguez would get $25million a year for fifthteen years before he signs a five-year deal. How can he be that lost?


That's what everybody called it when Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove during Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Guess when a 5-foot rookie making $25 million less does the exact same thing it's just gritty play.

Even Red Sox fans agree. Right Mikey?

What A Circus

In the photo above, Yankees beat reporters dubiously wait outside of Legends Field. Unbeknownst to the New York inkblotches, the (second) meeting took place at George Steinbrenner's Tampa residence, forcing sportswriters to join in on the Yankees rendition of the Keystone Cops.

Hal and Hank Steinbrenner were in attendence. As were son-in-law Felix Lopez, scout extroidinaire Stick Michael, GM Brian Cashman and obviously The Boss himself.

Once the afternoon worked its way near the early bird special, the meeting adjourned. Was the status of 12-year manager Joe Torre decided? Nope. Had a replacement skipper found his way to the forefront? Of course not. In fact, the conclusion to the meeting had Steinbrenner's mouthpiece, Howard Rubenstein, inform the media that they had no new information.

In the meantime, Torre can look forward to Day 9 of twisting in the wind. The Geneva Convention was brief compared to this trumped up version of baseball egomania. From denied comments stemming from Don Mattingly's "close friend" to the availability of Leo Mazzone. From the impending free agency of Posada, Rivera, Rodriguez and Pettitte, to what capacity Joba Chamberlain pitches, the 2008 offseason promises to be active.

From these actions, the next decade of New York Yankees successes or failures may well commence. Unfortunately for Randy Levine and his collection of nitwits, the first steps toward the future appear rickety, blind and in all honesty, clueless.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mazzone Could Replace Guidry

Leo Mazzone is the Mick Jagger of pitching coaches. Spit out the word "Mazzone," and the image of a figgety mustached Atlanta Braves uniform sitting in a dugout quickly comes to mind. Then names like Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Avery inevitably follow.

However, the real accomplishments involve names like Jaret Wright or Jorge Sosa, who had career years under Mazzone but returned to mediocrity after moving on to another team. Such pitching acumen would undoubtedly become a valuable resource for the growing stable of young, talented pitchers in the Yankees system.

Unfortunately for Ron Guidry, the current Yankees pitching coach, Mazzone reacted to his firing from the Baltimore Orioles by expressing an interest to join a winning organization's coaching staff. He explained that he still holds a burning competitive desire and revealed interest in the team he followed as a boy.
Mazzone, who turns 59 on Tuesday, will begin looking for a new job, said Brad Steele, Mazzone's business manager, who answered Mazzone's cell phone yesterday.

"His mind-set is that he wants another shot, and he wants to be part of an organization that is going to be committed to winning," Steele said. "He still has the fire in his belly." Unless Mazzone signs with another organization, the Orioles will have to pay his remaining salary - approximately $500,000.

One possibility is for him to stay in the American League East and join the New York Yankees, who would have an opening if Joe Torre's staff is fired. Mazzone rooted for the Yankees as a kid and considered going to New York in 2005 before signing with the Orioles.

"Yes, I think that is a team we are interested in," Steele said. "He grew up being a Yankees fan, and it is the type of organization he would be happy to be a part of."
Not that Gator didn't do the job, but Leo would be an enticing possibility for Yankees management. He would also serve as a safety valve should the organizational heads decide for a change and acquire Joe Girardi, who is already labeled as an abuser of starting pitchers.

Mattingly Turns Down Manager Job?

As the Yankees universe impatiently awaits the snail-like developments regarding Joe Torre and his future with the New York Yankees, Ed Price of the Newark Star Ledger breaks a big story. Contrary to a widespread belief that Don Mattingly would replace Torre next season, Price reports that Donnie Baseball feels he is not yet ready to take the helm.
Yankees bench coach Don Mattingly has told a member of the Steinbrenner family he does not feel ready for the manager's job and is uncomfortable with replacing Joe Torre, according to a friend of Mattingly.

The friend, who requested anonymity because the situation is unresolved, said he spoke directly with the former Yankees great in recent days. Mattingly's stance could open the door for the Yankees to bring back Torre for a 13th season because he was the leading candidate for the job.

Should the unnamed source's statements hold water, this would inject a fascinating twist into an already juicy subplot. Though Mattingly is renowned as an extremely sharp baseball mind and meticulously prepared, it is not unreasonable that he's simply unready for the leap. Mattingly spent one year as bench coach after three years as New York's hitting coach.

Perhaps another season under Torre's tutelage would best serve the franchise. Regardless of what decision the Yankee summit arrives at, Mattingly's reluctance and reported refusal to step over the body of Torre's Bomber legacy speaks volumes about the type of human-being he is. Such honor, respect and selflessness is rare in the world today, and nearly extinct in the sports arena.

Mattingly deciding to put the managerial job on the back-burner must also stem from the undeniable fact that following Joe Torre as Yankee skipper is an unenviable task. As Mattingly put it last week, "It's like following John Wooden."

There is also the possibility that a Yankees source leaked such a notion to protect the integrity of George Steinbrenner, who responded to an 0-2 ALDS hole by putting Joe Torre under fire. Should the Yankees essentially retract Big Stein's proclamation that an ALDS loss meant an end to the Torre era, it would also signal a drastic change in the Yankees power structure.

The NY Post story which painted Hank and Hal Steinbrenner as the successors to their father's throne is significant. However, the article never implied George was incapacitated or no longer an intricate part of the Yankees decision-making.

Having Torre come back as manager after Steinbrenner declared his body would lead outsiders to believe he no longer wields the power baseball fans have grown accustomed to. This, of course, would give credence to my conspiracy theory, with Mattingly's sensitivity being the scapegoat. Then again, Steinbrenner could reestablish himself as the turtleneck-toting, collusion-conspiring owner we all know and love by uttering two words: Call Girardi.

Hat tip to Ben K.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Why the Yankees Lost

The Hardball Times explains Why the Yankees Lost in the ALDS. I don't know if everything HBT decrees to be indisputable is accurate, but it's hard not to agree with this specific criticism of Joe Torre's management:
In game one, he was too slow with the hook on Wang—it wasn’t a case of a guy getting unlucky that night, Wang was throwing bad pitches and getting properly punished for it. Torre should have lifted him after it was 4-1, brought in Hughes instead of Ohlendorf, and maybe given the team a chance. Instead, Ohlendorf turned a decent lead into a huge lead, and the game was over halfway through. Then Torre inexplicably brought Hughes in for mopup duty.
The article then goes on to criticize Torre for not pulling Joba Chamberlain during the 8th inning of game two. The author believes Mariano Rivera should have been inserted, and although a winning result was not guaranteed, it was the smart move. I think this is more hindsight is 20/20 than an obvious first-guess scenario.

Chamberlain dominated the first two batters he faced in the seventh, and although wild in the eighth, history would imply Joba capable of eventually recovering. The inexplicable presence of 1,000 swarming mosquitoes defecting from Lake Eerie's windy conditions also pokes a noticeable hole within the heart of the author's argument.

The perspective on Jorge Posada's future seems skewed as well:
Posada’s strikeout to end the season was possibly his [last] at-bat as a Yankee. After his spectacular regular season, Posada will be an attractive free agent to most teams, and the Yankees—despite not having any apparent replacement for him arriving any time soon—might be willing to let him leave. Posada might not be keen on returning anyway, with Joe Torre likely out the door.
After spending the entire regular season with a batting average hovering around the .335 mark, there's no doubt that Posada's postseason line of .133/.235/.200 is wretched. However, "not having any apparent replacement" provides all the reasoning New York needs in refusing to allow a Jorge adieu.

The idea that "Posada might not be keen on returning" is an exercise in futility when you consider that the birth, maturation and ultimate success of his career all came within the Yankees organization. His family grew accustomed to life in the Big Apple, and in turn, the city grew accustomed to chants of "Hip Hip Jorge!" As much as Posada admires Torre, when words like 35 million are preceded by a nice fat dollar sign, blind loyalty takes a back seat.

: Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada will all be playing baseball in pinstripes come 2008. However, the man deciding on where they hit in the lineup or pitch in the rotation will be Don Mattingly.


Linkage: Roids & Results

Looks like this Mitchell report is not just a publicity stunt drowned by inconclusiveness after all. Unnamed sources have already begun prophesizing the report as "enormous," and "salacious." Don't take my word for it, check out Buster Olney's piece. Nice lead as well:
Some officials came away from a 30-team Major League Baseball conference call held mid-day Friday with the understanding that the forthcoming Mitchell report would include many names; names which have so far not been disclosed publicly; and the names of well-known players.
If this report is as credible and groundbreaking as Olney implies, it appears Major League Baseball will again be on the hook as the foremost culprits for doping in American athletics. Fair or unfair, the National Football League and international sports like track or cycling are either too important or too obscure to warrant equal time.

If Olney's sources prove reliable, the elusive report could make it's debut as early as the conclusion of the World Series and as late as January of 2008.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Farm System Piles Up Hardware

With their postseason brought to an abrupt and disappointing end, the rising juggernaut of Yankees young arms were recently rewarded for a dominant 2007. The Pitcher of the Year award for all of Minor League Baseball went to Ian Patrick Kennedy. Also worthy of recognition, Edwar Ramirez was named the Minor League Baseball Reliever of the Year after an absurd compilation of dominating statistics. Not to be outdone, Alan Horne was named the Pitcher of the Year in the Eastern League. An excerpt depicting each pitchers' domination appears below.

Ian Kennedy:
The California native was named's Pitcher of the Year, leaving Kevin Slowey in the unenviable position of bridesmaid for a second consecutive season. Kennedy finished the Minor League season with a 12-3 mark... [He] dominated at three different levels by posting a 1.91 ERA, a .182 opponents batting average and striking out 163 while walking only 50 over 146.1 innings pitched.
Alan Horne:
The 24-year old has been the ace of the Northern Division leading Trenton pitching staff, compiling a record of 12-4 with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP while striking out 158 batters and walking 51 in 142.1 innings of work this season. The 6’4”, 195 lb. hurler has been dominant for the Thunder all season, giving up one earned run or less in 13 of his 25 appearances and striking out at least seven batters in a game 13 different times.
Edwar Ramirez:
The 26-year-old's stats were indeed eye-popping. Between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Ramirez pitched 56 2/3 innings, allowing 26 hits and 22 walks while striking out 102. Five runs were charged to him all season in the Minors, resulting in a ridiculous 0.79 ERA. Hitters managed a .135 batting average against the reliever at both levels.

People tend to forget that Horne was a first-round draft pick back in 2001, but decided to attend Florida University instead of turning pro. Since that time, Horne was injured, required Tommy John surgery and has recovered. His 2006 season may seem a disappointment regarding numbers, but several mechanical and delivery tweaks certainly had something to do with it. This year's seen a more comfortable Horne take the mound, and the result was domination of AA hitters. Next year, he will likely join AAA-Scranton's rotation and compete for the first major league promotion of 2008.

Kennedy's and Edwar's rise was much more publicized, and for good reason. Though Kennedy's season was cut short by supposed back issues, the 165 aggregate innings thrown between the minors and majors probably forced Yankees management to shut him down due to an innings cap. While Edwar burst upon the major league scene by striking out a side o' Twinkies, he fell back to Earth once hitters adjusted to his changeup. Next year will determine if he can adjust back, hinging on an improved command of his fastball as well as the development of his slider.

Mark Newman and Damon Oppenheimer hope that next season will bare the same fruit, with potentially dominant relievers Mark Melancon and JB Cox each returning from arm surgeries.


During a golf tournament he co-hosted along side Johnny Bench, Roger Clemens told reporters that he hasn't ruled out another comeback for 2008. The Yankees will not want or require his services on the field, but Clemens intimated that he would enjoy working with the numerous young pitchers off the field. And, like every other member of the team, the Rocket said he thinks Joe Torre should return next season.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Free Agent Frenzy

Joel Sherman opines in his column today, that Alex Rodriguez may instruct his agent, the satanic Scott Boras, to avoid an using opt-out clause:

I believe Boras has begun the public bluff about just how many teams can allocate astronomical dollars as a way to lure the Yankees to bid against themselves. Because I think Alex Rodriguez wants to stay a Yankee. He has played in Seattle and Texas, so he knows this stage fits his legendary self-perception. For a man who obsesses on routine and preparation, Rodriguez has formed a comfort level with people, places and patterns that allow him to flourish as a Yankee.

My gut says, right now, Rodriguez wants Boras to make it happen at the highest possible price with the Yanks. That is why Boras has opened the imagination to what the Red Sox or Mets or Angels might pay, even if it is just his hypothesis or fantasy. The idea is to get the Yanks to bid, bid, bid when only they can bid.
More than citing unnamed sources or unsubstantiated rumor, Sherman is relying on a reporter's most important, fickle weapon. His gut.

Meanwhile in Texas, Rangers management is hoping and praying that Rodriguez decides to opt out, thereby suspending the multi-million dollar subsidy remaining on his contract.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Postmortem: Part 2

Time to play who stays and who goes.

After three postseasons ending prematurely, it's time to discuss which players belong on a playoff roster and which do not.

Johnny Damon - proved against the Indians that he is still one of the few true leadoff hitters in the game today. Hits in the clutch, can slap balls past shortstops or plant one in the rightfield upper deck. Bright lights don't bother the Demon.

Andy Pettitte - Lefty quieted every critic during the regular season and then inspired every Yankees fan in the postseason. The perfect veteran to anchor a young rotation. Put his player option on the table and then employ Luca Brasi to make an offer Andy can't refuse...

Derek Jeter - the Captain GIDP'd at inopportune times, but that's lightning which won't strike twice.

Bobby Abreu - some discussion has emerged about rejecting his option in order to acquire a player like Aaron Rowand. His fence-fobia may be tough to watch at times, but his one year commitment and tendency to hit against Boston or in the playoffs makes him a marginal risk.

Alex Rodriguez - if he wants to be a Yankee, sign him up. If he wallows let him go.

Jorge Posada - absolutely indispensable piece of a New York championship puzzle. As far as replacements, the Yanks have no internal options even close to sniffing the bigs and there are even less on the 2008 free agent landscape. Cashman will overpay to secure the resurging backstop, but he'll have no other play here.

Chien-Ming Wang - impossible not to be disappointed and slightly worried by the horrendous effort he put forward in Game 1 and then Game 4, but the kid wins 19 games a season and is still making the transition from "thrower" to "pitcher."

Robinson Cano - after shining this past week, Robbie is emerging as a lethal weapon at the bottom of the order. So much so, that he will be rewarded with the #3 spot in the lineup, forcing Abreu into a #5 hitter.

Mariano Rivera - see Posada, Jorge

Luis Vizcaino - with the dearth of relief pitching becoming more and more problematic, the Viz is a necessary return, regardless of the horrid lone appearance he made in October.

Kyle Farnsworth - dispose of at all costs. His value is restricted to losing clubs like Pittsburgh or Kansas City.

Hideki Matsui - ensure that Godzilla isn't attempting to terrorize foreign cities on a bum wheel. If his physical decline continues, attempt to trade for less powerful but potent righthanded contact hitter.

Jason Giambi - see Farnsworth, Kyle

Doug Mientkiewicz - showed heart in coming back from multiple injuries and contributing in September. An annual logjam at firstbase is not something Cashman desires, however, and Andy Phillips deserves it more.

Shelley Duncan - on the field and off, he earned himself a spot on next year's 25 man roster. Proving himself to be more than just a freeswinging ogre, Duncan put together some outstanding postseason atbats and didn't dwarf under the pressure.

Wilson Betemit - at just 25 years old, he offers the Yankees flexibility for years to come. Now if he could only cut down on those whiffs...

Jose Molina - the backup catcher we've all been waiting for. The middle-child of the Molina trio, Jose's proven to be more than just a defensive upgrade and held his own with the bat.

Mike Mussina - at the time, the Moose had earned a two year extension. Since a 2006 season in which he tossed 200 innings, struck out 172 and posted an impressive 3.51 ERA, he has suddenly regressed into an aging replacement-level starter. If a national league team will bite, make a value for value deal. If not, allow the Moose to be a solid safety net for a rotation which would potentially house three starters under 23 years old.

Melky Cabrera - unless a Johan Santana deal becomes plausible and Aaron Rowand whets George's appetite, Leche will patrol centerfield in 2008 and beyond.

Joe Torre - The man has done nothing but win ballgames since donning the pinstripes. Unfortunately, the last seven years have seemed an eternity, highlighted by a monumental collapse and a string of early playoff exits. Sometimes a change is a necessary evil. But it only becomes possible if a viable replacement awaits in the wings.

Don Mattingly has been groomed for the position, working his way up the assistant coach depth chart, but he's still never managed a game. Joe Girardi's excellent in-game managing is reminiscent of Billy Martin, but like Martin, Girardi's flashed an ability to burn out his pitchers. Sending, then ace, Josh Johnson back into a game which had been halted by an 82 minute rain delay certainly contributed to the Cy Young hopeful's eventual Tommy John surgery. Nevermind that Johnson supposedly complained of forearm tightness earlier in the year. Applying that level of carelessness to franchise jewels like Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes would be cause for capital punishment in Yankeeland.

The baton goes to Mattingly, with Girardi a tight second. Somewhere on the periphery will remain Tony La Russa and sidekick Dave Duncan.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Announcer Waldman Gets Emotional

Suzyn Waldman, Yankees radio co-host and reliable advertisement reader, was brought to tears while relaying Joe Torre's postgame comments.

In all seriousness, Waldman and John Sterling are an atrocious duo in terms of their on-air abilities. They are extremely biased at times, and Sterling goofs at least two homerun calls per week. However, Waldman's reaction was a genuine display of respect for someone she'd cover closely for a decade.

I'm unsure whether her actions were unprofessional, but I am much more offended by Sterling's tendency to sulk and become embittered when the Yankees aren't playing well.

From Awful Announcing:
“No I was okay actually until I went into the clubhouse and the coaches are sitting in Torre’s office and they are watching this. And the tears you hear in my voice are coming down the faces of the coaches in that coach's room.”- Suzyn Waldman

"Well Suzyn, in life all good things come to an end.”- John Sterling

Captain Culprit

To my surprise, some of the New York backpages overlooked the easy target of A-Rod and actually recognized Derek Jeter as one of the biggest culprits of this playoff elimination. From the NY Post:

Though the Yankees were an offensive mess in last season’s ALDS loss to the Tigers, Jeter hit .500 with a homer. A year earlier he hit .333 in the Yankees’ ALDS defeat to the Angels. The last time he had failed to hit at least .200 in a postseason series was the 2001 World Series, when he batted .148 against the Diamondbacks. But even then, he made his presence felt with a home run that gave the Yankees a Game 4 victory.

There was no such heroic moment for Jeter in this series. He was an October mess, as were the Yankees.

“Last year was frustrating, the year before that was frustrating,” Jeter said. “Every year when you lose is frustrating.”
Newsday didn't run and hide either, noting Jeter's .176 batting average during the 2007 ALDS.
A career .370 hitter in 11 previous Division Series, the Yankees' captain had three hits in 17 at-bats (.176) with one RBI and no runs scored. He went 2-for-5 with an RBI single last night but hit into a crucial double play in the sixth inning with the Yankees trying desperately to claw back from a 6-2 deficit. It was a punch to the solar plexis that the Yankees never fully recovered from
Being realistic, Jeter's compiled an amazing postseason resume and deserves all the kudos for such play. However, it's only fair that DJ's underwhelming performances slide under the microscope with the same objectivity as anyone else's. Insert "but Alex Rodriguez is not a true Yankee" sentiment here.

Fallout Begins

I'll believe it when I see it, but Mariano Rivera implied he would seriously test the free-agent market:
“They had the opportunities and they didn’t do nothing with me,” Rivera said, according to the Star-Ledger of Newark. “So we’ll see what happens. ... This is a business."
Then there's Jorge Posada who could draw a ton of interest from the Mets should he decide to play elsewhere:
"I'll talk about that later," Posada said, according to The New York Daily News. "We just lost a series. There's nothing to talk about, nothing to talk about Joe Torre, nothing to talk about right now."
Andy Pettitte has a player option for 2008, but barring an offseason injury, appears a probable member of next year's rotation:
"The biggest thing for me is just my family," he said, according to the Star-Ledger. "I have to get somewhere where I can talk to them about it and figure out what I'm going to do."
Last but not least, Alex Rodriguez:
"One of the reasons I came here was to help this team win a world championship," Rodriguez said Monday night. "I have failed at that."
Let the vigil begin. To be fair, Rivera tempered his comments by concluding "I would never hold anything against [the Yankees]."

Monday, October 8, 2007

Postmortem: Part 1

Tonight's "upset" is one of the reasons journalists, talk-radio hosts and analysts need to stop pontificating series finale pitching matchups before game four's even been played. Baseball is far too unpredictable to overlook anyone, even Paul Byrd, whose last start against the Yankees lasted two innings and yielded seven runs.

Instead, the early exit came on the part of Chien-Ming Wang and the Yankees. Though Wang is a very good starting pitcher and seems a good guy, he was the absolute goat of this ALDS. Running a close second was New York's complete lack of clutch hitting. Hopefully, fans will remain somewhat reasonable, leaving the Wang + Melky for Santana trade rumors in the trash where they belong.

Regardless of your stance, Pro-Torre or Anti-Torre, the only way to describe the skipper's post-game press conference is: heartbreaking. Joe Torre's won 4 championships and appeared in the playoffs all 13 years he managed the Bombers. In any other business, and maybe any other town, Torre would live to fight another day. (Think Bobby Cox, who has three less rings in his dresser drawer)

Hell, most teams would give Torre the privilege of stepping down when he desires. Like every baseball fan, I've frequently been puzzled by some of Torre's managerial decisions, but if you don't respect his enormous accomplishments and understand how spoiled he's enabled Yankee fans to become, then you just don't get it.

What baring this has on pending free agents like Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez should not be overlooked either. One thing is for sure. He's proven himself to be much more than "Clueless Joe" and, should he move on, will be sorely missed.

A few notes from tonight's elimination game:
  • Eric Wedge does not look like a baseball manager. The shots of him sitting in the dugout more resemble a bored husband unhappy that he is sitting in a multiplex suffering through a chick flick.
  • Derek Jeter continued to hit double-play balls in enormous spots, but the focus of the TBS telecast remained on A-Rod's lack of playoff RBIs, or lack of two-out hits, or lack of fill-in-the-blank. (And this was written before Rodriguez went deep in the seventh)
  • It's been obvious for years now, but painfully so this go-round. The Yankees continue to lack the reliable shutdown starter that every top team needs. Aside from Andy Pettitte's fearless performance during Game 2, Roger Clemens lasted just over two innings and Chien-Ming Wang's two starts meant 5.2 innings with 12 earned runs. Putrid. Maybe Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes grow into that type of role, but there's no telling if or when that will happen.
  • The TBS crew, particularly Chip Caray and Bob Brenly, like to completely make up things and spew them as fact. Just for Monday night's telecast, Caray welcomed back viewers by explaining that Mike Mussina was making his first career postseason relief appearance. Really? I guess he wasn't following baseball during the 2003 ALCS, when Moose pitched three shutout innings in Game 7. Little things, like referencing a frozen rope to rightfield as "a single up the middle" just wreaks of cluelessness.
  • Brenly stated in the seventh inning that Rafael Perez should pitch Robinson Cano "away, away, away" because New York's second baseman doesn't have enough pop to left-centerfield. Guess Bob missed this August's regular season game in which Robinson hit not one, but two bombs over the wall in left-center. Over the course of the series there were countless other mistakes made, but none of us have the time or desire to sift through them all.
  • Farnsworth worked a scoreless seventh?!? Wait, the Yankees were down four runs at that point. Now it makes sense.
  • Shelley Duncan hugging the dugout fence, tears welling up may be a heartbreaking image for Yankee followers, but it's also a refreshing reminder that some professional athletes still care as much as their fans.
  • 15-2 Cleveland outscored New York in two-out RBIs.
2008 begins now. Ideally, it starts with a Boston beatdown and Troy Tulowitzki World Series MVP award before being punctuated by a Johan Santana deal involving Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi. Unrealistic?

Clemens Out, Villone In

When Roger Clemens left the mound Sunday night due to an aggravated hamstring injury, baseball fans probably witnessed Rocket's final moments on a big league mound. Because of an amendment to the playoff roster rules, the Yankees are able to replace an injured Clemens with another player. The replacement must be a pitcher, though, and Joe Torre decided on Ron Villone.
Because Clemens has been replaced on the roster for the final game or two of the series against Cleveland, he is ineligible to be included on the League Championship Series roster, if the Yankees advance that far. So, even if the Yankees make it as far as the World Series, it is possible that Clemens pitched the final game of his career on Sunday.
No speculation on whether Ian Kennedy was a possibility, or even available, but a vague injury concern and maxing out his innings-cap for the year surely made that decision simpler.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Two More or Die

With his manager's job on the line, Roger Clemens went 2.1 innings, looked completely shot and left the game after re-aggravating his hamstring. Yankee-killer Trot Nixon homered off of Clemens in the second, but made a ghastly fielding error in the sixth, assisting Robinson Cano's 3-run base-clearing double. Yankees came from 3-0 down to win their first game of the series.

There were no outlandish post-game celebrations, no overzealous expressions, just spirited relief before the poker faces took hold.

Though Johnny Damon's 3-run homer may turn this series on it's head, Phil Hughes gets the game ball for entering the biggest situation of his young career and pitching 3.2 innings of dazzling ball, striking out four and walking zero. Joba and Mo pitched the final three innings, and shut the door on an 8-4 victory.

Tomorrow night, Chien-Ming Wang is offered something which rarely comes along during a particular postseason: a second chance. After making the mistake during last year's ALDS against Detroit, Joe Torre's learned his lesson and will pitch the Wanger on three days rest Monday night.

In 2006, Torre decided to leave Wang in New York, hoping to extend the series to the deciding fifth game. Instead, the Yankees witnessed Jaret Wright pitch garbage ball for a 2+ innings, and Wang waited for a start that never came. This go-round, Torre wisely passed over an overmatched Mike Mussina.

For Wang, it's redemption time. It will be exciting to see how he responds. Another poor performance would label him "The Goat." A strong outing culminating in a win may leave all forgiven and forgotten.

George Speaks

Bergen Record columnist Ian O'Connor broke the big story this morning, after speaking to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner last night.

Apparently, The Boss was in good spirits and as sharp as ever, stating that 1)a loss today would mean the firing of Joe Torre, and 2)Alex Rodriguez will be a top priority regardless of his performance the remainder of this series.
"His job is on the line," the Yankees' owner said in a phone interview. "I think we're paying him a lot of money. He's the highest-paid manager in baseball, so I don't think we'd take him back if we don't win this series."

"I think we'll re-sign him," Steinbrenner said of Rodriguez. "I think he's going to have a good run the rest of the [postseason]. I think he realizes New York is the place to be, the place to play. A lot of this [postseason] is laying on his shoulders, you know, but I think he's up to it."

"I have full control," Steinbrenner said. The owner maintained that rumors of his declining health were false.
The story which painted Steinbrenner as a man deep in the throes of dementia may be as inaccurate as Yankees management stated it was. Should Torre fail to move his team into the ALCS, he will most likely face retirement. Whether A-Rod goes 11-for-15 during a three game winning streak, or goes 0-for-5 tonight amidst a LDS sweep, the Yankees want him back for a long, long time.

Big Stein put his cards on the table. If the core of the most recent Yankees dynasty want to secure their beloved manager's future, they'll have to be playing Boston next week.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Not much more needs to be said. The Yankees season may have been ended prematurely by a swarm of punctual mosquitoes. That... and an absolute lack of offense. Together, one of the most courageous pitching performances of Andy Pettitte's career was overshadowed by a gut-wrenching defeat.

Say whatever you want about the Yankees lineup. That they get fat on bad pitching and cringe against good pitching. They sure seem capable of hitting tough starters during the regular season, but for whatever reason, the past three postseasons have seen them completely collapse.

And the A-Rod detractors should take a look at the entire lineup before ridiculously mounting an entire series of playoff failures on him. Whether it be an 0-for on Posada's part, or a Matsui who obviously does not belong in the lineup, something has to change.

Joe Torre's loyalty to his players is an honorable trait, but it should remain in regular season scenarios. Once the calendar turns to Octobor, veteran allegiances become moot. Or at least they should.

With that, the series is not yet complete. The Yankees could win three games in a row, though it would be an amazing feat considering how flat this group's performed during the first two games.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Beatdown in C-Town

Ugly. Very, very ugly.

Going into the game, I thought CC Sabathia would dominate the Yankees lineup. Instead he begged them to knock him out of the game, and the Bombers refused to comply.

On the other hand, Chien-Ming Wang looked like a middle schooler whose sinker wouldn't sink, two-seamer stayed up and slider was unreliable. Everytime Wang needed to bare down to get the last out of an inning, he coughed up a two-out RBI.

By the way, TBS needs to think seriously about pulling Brenly and the other yokel out of that broadcast booth. Absolutely horrible announcing, biases at times, and clueless during others.

All-around atrocious performance gives way to another enormous pressurized start for Andy Pettitte.

This can't be good.

Maybe it's nothing serious, but seeing Jason Giambi at first would be an ugly harbinger for the Yankees.


Mike & The Mad Dog
report that Doug Mientkiewicz has his ankle wrapped after a camera-man rolled over it. Apparently the Yankees believe he will be ok, but they will watch him closely during pre-game warmups.

This potential injury situation has heightened importance because of who is starting the game for New York. A power-sinker pitcher like Chien-Ming Wang needs as good a defensive supporting cast as is possible. Giambino or Shelley Duncan are not their best options in that regard.

Maybe this clumsy camera jockey 1)works for a Cleveland network, 2)is a disgruntled Indians fan, or 3)bet his Christmas bonus on an Indian sweep.

Playoff Lights Shine Brightest

The playoffs have arrived.

A 27 year-old hefty southpaw may well decide the Yankees fate. The weight of the world leans over his husky frame, wondering if the hometown team will continue its reputation as The Mistake By The Lake.

His team flashes a lineup filled with power potential, though they inconsistently slug. (Sound familiar?)

The back of their bullpen is strong with two talented Rafael's, though this makes for an inexperienced setup man. (Sound familiar?)

Their closer is a bulldog, but often times becomes a goat. (Where the similarities end.)

But the 6-foot-7 horse will be the focus of everyone's attention. Along side Josh Beckett, CC Sabathia is one half of a two man race for the American League Cy Young award. Last night saw Beckett dominate, compiling an impressive complete game shutout.

Tonight, Sabathia will attempt to put a bad history against the Yankees behind him, hoping to prove that the '07 version is a pitcher which New York's never laid eyes on; with exception to clips looped on Baseball Tonight or Sportscenter.

As discussed yesterday, Sabathia's biggest weakness may be his ability to consistently throw strikes, particularly in early counts. Will the Yankees hitters march up to the plate hacking away? This would be a bold move, but not necessarily the wrong one. If CC tends to be most hittable in 0-0 and 0-1 counts, then Joe Torre would be wise to have his hitters institute an aggressive approach.

Implementing an impatient lineup goes against an entire methodology which got New York into the playoffs, but it could lead to success and a Game 1 win. The greatest gift of the Yankees offense relies on them grinding atbats, taking pitch after pitch, and tiring the man on the mound. When they face the ace of a staff, like Sabathia, their strategy forces the starter to throw an inordinate amount, until he ultimately finds himself in the dugout wondering how he threw 110 pitches in 5+ innings.

Sabathia, however, does not tend to tire easily and consistently works deep into games by economizing his pitches and showing extraordinary stamina.

It will be extremely intriguing to see how the Yankees adjust to Sabathia after his first time through their lineup. The first turn through, Yankee hitters will refer to their experiences three years ago, when they last faced the Indians star. The entire lineup will hug the the fence atop the dugout steps, peering for some previously unforeseen flaw in Sabathia's delivery.

Eventually, the plan Torre and his staff decide on will reveal itself. Spectators will recognize if the Yankees become unusually aggressive in the early innings, or instead exercise stoic patience in the hopes of tiring Sabathia and delving into the Cleveland bullpen. In all likelihood, attempting to "wait out" the starter may result in eight scoreless innings. By the time he's been removed from the game, the game might already be in hand.

Not that the Yankees lineup ever backs down from a talented pitcher and not to imply that their unyielding offense is stoppable. But, with the last two postseasons witnessing early, unlikely exits for the boys from the Bronx, the pressure to deliver is that much more magnified.

Regardless of which team separates themself in the first of the five-game series, one thing's for sure. It's playoff time. When words like "intangibles," "heart" and "glory" ring a little longer. When lifetime dreams are realized, and the stories of championship teams are written.

When the bright lights shine brightest.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Postseason Roster is Here

The Yankees announced their postseason roster for the American League Divisional Series. My preferred roster included 12 pitchers and 13 positional players. Joe Torre decided to take Bronson Sardinha as a fifth bench player who will serve as the pinch-running option, and consequently decided on 11 pitchers.

The roster:

So the Yankees bullpen will lack a LOOGY, and quite frankly, Villone is not a lefthanded specialist in the first place. The Bull Dog from Bergen was a good middle reliever for Seattle, and has been a serviceable long-reliever for New York. The Yankees coaching staff were smart in recognizing that you do not have to take a southpaw if a righty can do an equal or better job.

I am probably among the minority, but I think that the inclusion of Jose Veras is the right move. His plus stuff, a 93-96 mph heater along with a solid power-curve, pushed him past other options, and rightly so. Veras has a lot to prove, but if he can avoid walks I have some unjustified belief that he can be a valuable piece out of the pen.

Wisely, Torre also chose Ross Ohlendorf over Edwar Ramirez, Ron Villone and Chris Britton. Ramirez showed too many weaknesses down the stretch, though an improved command of his fastball could result in an extended career with New York. It seems probable that Britton will become a fixture in the 2008 bullpen, but the Big Boy from Baltimore needs to work on his armstrength.

While with Baltimore, I vividly remember Britton flashing a plus fastball 91-94 mph with a tough low 80s mph slidepiece. His fastball in 2007 was league average, hovering between 88-91 and the slider was 77-79 mph. That power aspect to his pitching didn't just get up and walk away, so his mechanics could be to blame. Whatever the case, next season might see a new and improved version of Britt.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Swing Like the Rays has some sound advice for Yankee hitters once they dig in against C.C. Sabathia. Mainly, New York's lineup should swing early. However, should the hitter find himself mired in an 0-2 hole, they might as well say a prayer.

In 2007, on the whole, batters had 975 Plate Appearances (PA) against (the Indians') C.C. Sabathia and had the following BA/OBA/SLG results: .259/.292/.392.

However, in the 123 PA where batter puts first pitch in play (meaning on a 0-0 count) the numbers against Sabathia are: .407/.402/.695.

Further, in the 86 PA where batter hit the pitch on a 0-1 count against Sabathia, they went: .305/.298/.488.

...Looking at the stats some more tells you that you're dead once Sabathia gets two strikes on you. The batting average allowed in those counts is less than .200.
Kevin Long will have to hope Joe Torre listens when he instructs the skipper to jump on CC early. Long, however, probably won't pay too much attention to Sabathia's career numbers against New York. Having a 1-7 record and 7.13 ERA against the Yankees isn't pretty, but he hasn't faced them in over three years.

Things have changed since then.

Contrasting 2007 with 2004, CC's posted an ERA a whole run better, he's struck out 70 more batters, walked 35 less, and thrown 50 more innings than the pitcher New York last saw. That's a drastic disparity.

Yankee fans will have to hope Sabathia's Yankee woes remain the status quo.

Clemens Ready For Game 3

After throwing 49 pitches on Monday, Roger Clemens again tested his tweaked hamstring in Tampa today. From the LoHud Blog:
Roger Clemens threw 69 pitches in a simulated game in Tampa today, facing minor leaguers.

Assuming his left hamstring feels fine today when he gets to Cleveland, Clemens will start Game 3 in New York on Sunday.

There will be no word on the roster today. The Yankees are carrying a few extra pitchers and the final decisions will be made tomorrow.

Joe Torre appeared on WFAN radio, confirming Clemens came through his bullpen well. Torre continued to play with the idea of Johnny Damon starting in leftfield and Hideki Matsui falling into the DH spot. Matsui has been bothered by a bum knee which needed to be drained of fluid over the weekend.

Ian Kennedy may well become available should the Yankees move on to the ALCS, but he is currently working out and making preparations for his October 6th wedding. Though Torre again insinuated Mike Mussina would start Game 4, the manager did not proclaim Phil Hughes a part of the postseason bullpen just yet.

Wake is Out, Lester is In

The Providence Journal reports that Tim Wakefield will be unavailable for the ALDS against the Angels with Jon Lester filling in. Boston will utilize a three man rotation of Beckett, Matsuzaka, Schilling for the division series, but any playoff advance would conjure question marks for game four.

Wake may be joked about as a niche-pitcher, but confining him to such a one-dimensional summary doesn't do the knuckleballer justice. His career numbers in the postseason are not dazzling, 4-5 record with a 6.12 ERA over 64.1 innings-pitched, but Wakefield is a leader in that clubhouse. And, at any point in a season, his knuckleball can dance for eight scoreless innings, leaving batters baffled in its wake.

Lester, on the other hand, has never appeared in a postseason game.

Why Hoffman Will Never Be Rivera

After Saturday saw him blow his last save opportunity, forcing his team into a Wildcard tie and subsequent one-game playoff, Trevor Hoffman then blew a two-run lead in that play-in game. The devastating loss results in the San Diego Padres sitting at home during October as the Rockies dance around Coors Field.

If the playoffs were on the line, and Mariano Rivera were the on the mound with a two-run lead, you better believe the G.O.A.T. closes that ballgame. Bringing up Hoffman in the same conversation as Rivera has always been an aberration and now it's just a joke. The saves statistic has always been overrated as a true barometer of a closer's worth and Hoffman is the prime example.

Though he is consistently good, he never converts the "life or death" save opportunity. Scott Brosius in the '98 World Series comes to mind. Blowing a 2006 all-star game where NL home field advantage in the Series was at stake is another. Then there is Saturday and Monday's successive choke jobs, each of which would have meant San Diego playing postseason baseball.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Knowing Your Enemy

Travis Hafner turned it on in September, but Grady Sizemore slumped. Ryan Garko's defense worried the Indians, but his bat (.289/.359/.483) and walk-off heroics kept him in the lineup.

Franklin Gutierrez
took Trot Nixon's job in June and refused to return it. Jhonny Peralta continues to decline, collecting half the homers and RBI post-all star break as he did pre-all star break: 14 HR, 50 RBI versus 7 HR, 22 RBI.

As is common with catchers, Victor Martinez did his best hitting during the first half of the season. However, he is still extremely dangerous, hitting .301 with 25 homers and 114 RBI on the season. Martinez leads Cleveland regulars in all three categories.

Probable Lineup

The starting rotation, as everybody understands, is a two-horse race with Sabathia and Carmona leaving Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd in the rear-view. However, the bullpen is an interesting topic as Cleveland's two young setup men (Betancourt and Perez) totally outclass their closer.

Joe Borowski
may have 45 saves on the season, but he also compiled an ERA over 5.00 and a 1.43 WHIP. He has a losing 4-5 record, blew eight saves, served up nine homers and allowed 11 more hits than innings-pitched.