Battle for the East

Who’d have thunk a post entitled "Battle for the East" would actually be about the Tampa Bay Rays?  With more than half the season completed, the Rays are atop the AL East.  Tonight they host the Red Sox who are a half game back.

The story lines are obvious:  Battle for first as well as (and possibly the main reason people will tune in) the bad blood between the two teams.  James Shields, the man who hit Coco Crisp a few weeks back, is on the mound tonight.  The one missing ingredient tonight is the absence of Crisp, who started servings his 5-game suspension on Sunday.

But taking Crisp’s place in the list of most wanted by Tampa Bay is possibly Jonathan Papelbon who declared that things weren’t settled between the 2 teams yet.  Sounds like fun.

I think the Rays are built for the long haul and are not a fluke.  They sure have the talent.  The biggest question they have is experience.  Other than Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske, do they have enough veteran presence to keep focused.  That’s a nebulous argument/concern as perhaps each of the younger guys plays beyond his years experience-wise and therefore a difficult thing to measure, but it is still a valid question.

Regardless, good fun starting tonight.  The Red Sox need to focus on winning and not retaliation.  Or if they think retaliation is needed, for the love of all things holy, please don’t have a Red Sox starter do it in the 3rd inning!!!  Prove to everyone Red Sox players that you are smarter than the Rays in that capacity.

Also, it’s probably a good idea to tell Manny Ramirez that any reliever he faces tonight is really Red Sox Traveling Secretary, Jack McCormick, in disguise.

Manny Being a Jerk

Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal reports today that Manny Ramirez and Red Sox traveling Secretary got into a physical confrontation Saturday.

According to McAdam, Manny asked McCormick for 16 tickets (normal allotment is 2) for Saturday’s game, "an unusually high number for day-of-game."  When McCormick told him it might be tough to get that many, Manny yelled at him to "just do your job."  This escalated into an argument at which time Manny pushed the 60+ year (need to confirm age) old McCormick to the ground.

A completely logical move.  When I don’t get what I want, I tee someone up.

I don’t anticipate getting more details on the incident itself as the Red Sox, Manny and McCormick are all treating it as old news.  So I’m going to comment based on what has been reported.

What McAdams is reporting is stunning.  In what other career (perhaps save a boxer/MMA type) could you get away with shoving a co-worker to the ground?  If I stood up right now and shoved someone I work with down, I’d be gone so fast, not to mention with a police escort.

This is another example if a high paid player getting away with something just because the pain of losing his talent is apparently greater than holding him accountable and doing the right thing.

Manny has now assaulted 2 co-workers in 2008 the first being Kevin Youkilis.  I don’t care what Youkilis said, Manny took it to another level by becoming physical.  This item is now almost 2 days old, but really hasn’t made the rounds yet.  I think when more media outlets start reporting on it, we might learn of new/additional sanctions on Manny because as of right now, there weren’t any except for an apology.

Manny, quit being a jerk.

The Time Has Come Today!

Look who is coming up.  With Matsui on the DL are they going to start him and DH Damon?  We will find out.

Finally!

The Yankees are finally going to try someone new in the pen, David Robertson.  Just heard it on WFAN, though they don’t know who is getting sent down.  33 innings, 48 K’s and 16 walks at AAA this year with 0 HR’s allowed.  The guy has frequently been mentioned as a possible 8th inning solution and while I don’t think the Yankees will try him out there right away, it’s nice to see the Yankees trying something new.

Ian Kennedy is starting for Tampa today and you have to think he will get back to New York quickly if he is healthy and remotely effective.   

UPDATE: Thankfully, it is Kei Igawa back to Scranton.  Seeing him last night was enough for awhile.  

Yikes!

Too say the Yankees stunk this afternoon is an understatement.  Now they head to Shea to play another game with Sidney Ponson getting the call?  Ugh, I feel somewhat sick right now.

One question, if Girardi doesn’t trust Dan Giese to pitch out of a jam with the lead in the fifth, why is he in the rotation?  I am not saying it was the wrong call by Joe, but I hope it means the Yankees look for a different answer next time around.  

And, Ohlendorf really has to go back to Scranton and work some things out.   

Since We Are Into Recycling….

Sir Sidney is starting tomorrow, back in a Yankee uniform after racking up an ERA over 10 in 16 innings in 2006.  On the way back, he got in some sort of altercation in a bar the night before he was starting. But, the Yankees aren’t worried about that or the fact he stunk the last time he was here.
 
So, when I read this story, I realized what move we can expect next from the Yankees.  Russ Ohlendorf, look out because Shawn’s coming back and he will want his #39 back.  I don’t know where Kris Wilson is, but he should give Cashman a call. 

Hall Bound?

With the announcement that Curt Schilling is done for the year and possibly his career (although his recent surgery went well and it is being said he can start throwing in October), the question of whether he is or is not Hall worth has come up.  While it’s not certain he is done and it is probably disrespectful to assume he is, let’s do just that and assume he’s pitched his last pitch for sake of this argument.

If ever there was a borderline candidate, Schilling is it.  His main negative is that he has only 216 wins.  Aside from that, Schilling compares nicely to other Hall of Famers.  He is 14th all time in strikeouts and 9th all time in K/9.  Baseball Reference has his HOF monitoring tools looking like he is at least an average HOF member.

At the end of the day though, what drives his candidacy more than anything is his post-season record.

19 Games, 19 GS, 11-2, 2.23 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 133.1 IP, 104 H, 24 BB, 120 K

When it mattered most, Schilling dominated, but just what does 133.1 IP mean to a player’s over contribution to the game?  Well those 133.1 IP were far more important than any of the innings he pitched in regular season games.  I don’t know of any way to rate him against his peers in post-season performance, but I’d be willing to guess he fairs nicely.

To look at only wins is crazy, especially since much of what drives a pitcher’s win/loss record is the offense behind him.  The same goes for a batter.  Tony Gwynn’s teams made the playoffs only 3 times in his 20 year career.  Was that all his fault?  No, at least not entirely.

My vote, if I had one, would be yes.  What’s your vote?

Of more immediate concern is the condition of the Red Sox rotation with Schilling done for the year.  Bartolo is down with, presumably, a pulled love handle.  Daisuke is back.  What is most amazing about this rotation now is that Jon Lester and Justin Masterson are pitching like the 1-2 with Josh Beckett just behind them.  Even Tim Wakefield is keeping them in games for the most part (although his walk rate is crazy high…as is Daisuke’s).

So despite not having Schilling and missing Colon, the Red Sox seem to be in good shape.  But once again, the axiom that you can never have enough starting pitching is proving true and more and more pitching is being made available on the trade market with C.C. Sabathia and now Erik Bedard on the block.

As for the Red Sox offense, it is actually scoring more runs per game since David Ortiz’s injury than prior (courtesy of ESPN) and that can mostly be attributed to J.D. Drew.  Yes, I said J.D. Drew.  ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has a good look at Drew and perhaps why he is hitting the cover off the ball.

Of course if Ortiz doesn’t bounce back, there are rumors about an offensive replacement as well.  Mark Teixeira and Josh Willingham have been mentioned.

Follow-up to my May 17th post on Micah Owings.  Basically, Owings has pooped the bed offensively.  He’s gone 2-19 (.105/.190/.105) .  Sorry to jinx you Micah and let’s put this to rest, you are not the next Babe Ruth.

Three Conclusions From Tonight

I draw three conclusions from this debacle

1- The Yankees have two very injured outfielders in Matsui and Damon.  How else do you explain pinch hitting Molina?  I mean stop and think about this for a sec, I know Rasner needed to be pulled, but what makes you think he has less of a chance of getting on base than Molina?  I guess we know why Christian was called up and you can only hope that these injuries won’t linger. 

2- Edwar Ramirez is still a one-trick pitcher and that trick isn’t going to cut it on the ML-level.  

3- Rasner now has an ERA of 4.5 which is closer to where his ERA should be.  He obviously overachieved when he first came up and now the law of averages is catching up with him.  The Yankees can hope for better, but I think they would settle for something around a 4.75.   If the bullpen does its job, the Yankees would probably win more of Rasner’s starts than they would lose which is about all you can ask from a fifth starter.  (Paging Ian Kennedy, your career can get back on track now, paging Ian Kennedy)

Other than that, turn the page, turn the page. 

Interesting….

George King is reporting that the Yankees are recalling Justin Christian from Scranton for tonight’s game.  Christian had an .815 OPS in Scranton and 18 steals in 21 attempts.  Christian started out at second base before moving to the outfield where he has played all three spots. He is a righty, though at 28, too old to be considered a true prospect.

What he can do is absolutely fly, 191 steals since he started in the minors and he has been rated as the fastest guy in the system a couple of times.  With three lefties scheduled for Pittsburgh, I wonder if the Yankees have noticed that Melky can’t hit lefties and are thinking about a platoon in center?  It would certainly make sense and at the very least, Christian gives them a real speed threat off the bench.

I wonder who is getting sent down to make room?  Could this be the end of the three catchers?  Stay tuned and we will see what happens.   

A Little More On Gardner

Check out this story from tonight’s Scranton game via Chad Jenning’s blog.

Brett Gardner just scored from second on a routine ground out. Seriously.

One out. Gardner at second, Basak at first. Both runners were running on the pitch and Duncan grounded weakly to short. Gardner trotted into third easily and when the shortstop threw to first, he turned on the speed and scored without a play. Earlier in the inning, JD Closser scored on a Basak single, and later in the inning, Basak scored on a single from Juan Miranda.

I really have to see this guy in action.  Too bad I am too cheap to shell out $30 for the MILB package, hopefully YES will show one of the Scranton games soon.