A New Fan

Today was a very special day for me because today was the day I took my five-year old daughter to her first Yankee game. The memories flooded back as she strained to see the Stadium out the window of the subway, just as I remember doing as a kid. 

But, I could see that there would be some differences from the way my first game went immediately. On the way to the Bronx I had promised her a hat.  So, when we went to the store she picked out a shiny Yankee hat, totally pink. 

As she ate her hotdog she asked me who my favorite player was. I told her Mariano Rivera and she thought a minute.  Then she pointed at the field and said, "that’s my favorite".  Unclear on who she meant, I started saying names.  "A-Rod" I asked, hoping the answer would be no.  "Not him came the reply" "Ramiro Pena," I asked trying to figure out how I would explain that her favorite player wasn’t going to play very often.  "No, him" came the insistent shout which could be translated as "Dad, smarten up and look where I am pointing."  It then became clear to me that she was pointing towards first and so I said, "Mark Teixeira?" and a smile came to my face as she said yes and I reflected on the symmetry of the moment.  Her favorite player wears #25 and plays a great firstbase, mine wore #23 and did the same. 

There were some questions that made me laugh like "Why did they paint those yellow poles yellow?  Why didn’t they paint them pink?"  

There was the joy in seeing a young fan take in the whole experience and walk away from it wanting more.

Thanks Ellie for giving your Dad a day he will never forget and I can’t wait until we go again.   

 

Hughes To The Pen

In a fascinating move, the Yankees have pulled Phil Hughes from the rotation and reinserted Chien-Ming Wang. 

Now it doesn’t shock me that Wang is back, what shocks me is that Hughes is being moved to the pen and not sent to AAA to keep starting.  Hughes has thrown 53 innings this year and only threw about 70 last season.  If he is going to be a starter in his career, he needs to build up those innings.  Plus, is there any indication that Hughes can do this?  

I know he pitched brilliantly in relief in the 2007 playoffs, but that was one game.  It seems to me the Yankees are asking a lot of a kid who is still getting comfortable in the majors.  Even Joba got to relieve in the minors before getting thrust into the bullpen in New York.  Will we have a set of "Hughes Rules" to look forward to now?  

I know the counter argument is that you put your best pitchers on the team and use them in the roles you need.  The Yankees are certainly doing that.  I just hope they don’t screw up the long term future of Hughes by doing so.   

UPDATE: I just watched Brian Cashman give a press conference about the move and this may just be me, but reading between the lines made me think this is a temporary role for Hughes.  It sounded like the Yankees think Wang can only go 75 pitches tomorrow and they want Hughes around to provide some protection if they have to go to the bullpen early.  I imagine they might keep him around for that role during Wang’s second start, but it would not surprise me at all to see him back in the minors by June 15th. 

Coming Home

I see from the comments that many of you shared my frustration with the pitching choices made Sunday, I totally agree but in the big picture, a 5-2 trip is nothing to complain about. 

Monday’s win felt especially good as I feel like I am rolling a big rock up an endless hill with the Joba should be a starter argument.  I agree that the bullpen needs fixing, but think about how Hughes started this road trip and Joba ended it.  Imagine that every five days, wow.

And while we discuss the bullpen, how about Mariano’s play to end the game?  That guy is an amazing athlete.

In other team news, the Yankees had bad news from Tampa.  Both Molina and Nady suffered setbacks in their rehab.  Molina’s setback doesn’t bother me that much.  From what I have seen of Cervelli, I think he is almost as good defensively as Molina and better with the bat.  Nady does concern me.  

I know Swisher played hitting star tonight, but in May he hit .150/.311/.275.  He’s obviously not that bad, but it would be nice to have an alternative for when he is slumping.  And, Melky had a solid May, but it was nowhere near as good as his April and while I would take a season of .777 OPS from him, I don’t trust him to keep piling up the numbers.  And speaking of center, did you happen to notice that Brett Gardner put up a .955 OPS in May?  

So, first day of June, first place by a game.  Doesn’t mean much, but as Joe Girardi rightly said, "it’s better than not being in first". 

 

Slipping Away

The more I watch, the more I am starting to wonder if the David Ortiz of yesterday is gone.  Gone is the feeling of excitement, confidence.  Instead I worry, dreading each at bat.  "At least make a hard out" I tell myself.

The man who hit 232 home runs in 7 seasons has been reduced to a warning-track power, bottom of the order hitter.  Some of the local sports personalities say they can sense him coming around, it’s just a matter of time.  Well, I’m starting to doubt he can turn it around.

It is such a disappointing feeling too as Ortiz was so often the source of late-inning heroics and helped fuel the Red Sox offense in this decade.  He was as important if not more so than Manny Ramirez (save the jokes).

Now the Red Sox find themselves with an aging/declining slugger hitting 6th, and soon to be on the bench.  Sad to be sure, but a major impact on the line-up.  Theo Epstein needs to figure out his options and pull the trigger on a power bat.  The current regime has yet to draft a power hitter that has contributed in the major leagues (Hanley Ramirez was a Duquette pick…just ask Dan Duquette) and they are paying for it now.

The Boston.com ran a feature today on the "10 players the Red Sox should consider" and boy were some Red Sox fans way off base.  Just how could 29.8% (as of 9:40pm, 6/1/09) think Victor Martinez is a better option than Adrian Gonzalez (27.9%)?  Please, come on now.

Victor is a fine hitter, but he is/was a catcher and has logged many miles at age 30.  Gonzalez on the other hand is just 27 and entering his prime.  He already has 20 home runs this season (Victor has 5) and won this thing called the "gold glove" at 1st base in 2008.  No offense to Mike Lowell, but imagine Gonzalez hitting 3rd playing 1st base with Kevin Youkilis playing 3b and Lowell at DH.  Youkilis could spell Gonzalez and take an occasional day off in the field to play DH.  A wonderful solution.  Wonderful because I thought of it.  Me alone.

Here’s the problem:  While it is easy to say Gonzalez is the best player of Boston.com’s top 10 list, he is likely to be one of the most difficult to pry away from San Diego.  Can you say Clay Buchholz and Lars Anderson?

My preference, based on impact and ease of acquisition, would be Adam Dunn.  Yes he strikes out more than I did at high school dances, but he can hit the bomb and wouldn’t have to touch anything resembling a glove while in Boston.  And at 2 years and $20mm, he isn’t cheap, he sure isn’t a longterm commitment.  His current team, the Washington Nationals are not contending this year and could use an ETF of handy Red Sox minor leaguers for the years ahead.

The fact I’ve written this much on David Ortiz’s replacement is an indication of where my thoughts are on the subject.  Big Papi, please turn it around so we (read: me) can put this discussion to bed and go back to the way things were.  I like things much more when you were hitting.