Opportunity Lost

It isn’t very often that the Yankees get a chance to peek at their future during the season, but Andy Pettitte’s groin strain is such an opportunity.  LoHud is reporting that Andy Pettitte is being placed on the DL and could be out 4-5 weeks.  That seems like a long time for a Grade 1 strain (Pettitte had the same injury in 2001 and missed two weeks) but the Yankees will be cautious and rightfully so. In need of a starter, the Yankees could have turned to Ivan Nova and have seen what he is capable of.  Nova has a 3.21 ERA in Scranton with a 3.07 BABIP (more on that later)  More significantly, if the Yankees have an opening in the 2011 rotation, Nova is one of the top candidates to fill it.  He looked good in his cup of coffee in the majors, so why not give him a few starts now and see what happens?

However, what they have apparently decided to do is bring Sergio Mtire off the DL and use him to start Saturday.  This is a mistake because the Yankees are setting themselves up for an unpleasant surprise.  They are being seduced by Mitre’s ERA of 2.88, a figure that won’t last.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the numbers, his strikeout rate is dow, while his walk rate is up from 2009.  He is also throwing fewer groundballs.  So why the 2.88 ERA?  He has an absolutely amazing BABIP of .191. 

There is an old expression, "I would rather be lucky than good" and Mitre is living up to that.  For whatever reason this year, hitters are not dunking them in there against him.  It won’t last, it never does.  And when it stops lasting, Mitre is going to get pounded.  Of all the pitchers to ever play in baseball, Mitre ironically most resembles Dave Eiland statistically.  Remember Dave Eiland on the mound? 

Maybe Mitre’s luck will hold up.  I wouldn’t bet on it and I don’t know why the Yankees are going to.   They could have chosen Nova.  Short of that, how about Gaudin?  They seem to believe in Moseley.  So many choices, why did they pick this one?

We Have A Problem

To me, that looked like a groin injury. Whatever it was, Andy Pettitte is out of the game in the third inning and that is only going to fuel the fire in regards to AJ. 

Of immediate concern, how do the Yankees piece together the next 6+ innings with  Chad Gaudin out and Moseley probably as well?  Robertson is coming in with runners on, which is a great move, stop the bleeding and see if Robertson can get you 1-2/3’s.  Then we probably get Chan Ho and Logan for two each? 

Ugh

Oh AJ

AJ Burnett has really opened the hornet’s nest tonight.  Burnett had to leave today’s game with cuts on his hand after punching something (thankfully not someone) in between innings.  The media smelled blood in Joe Girardi’s press conference and questions about trust, composure and intelligence blanketed the room.  Give Girardi a lot of credit for trying to stop the feeding frenzy, but it didn’t work.

AJ looked pretty taken aback when questioned by Kim Jones.  He apologized to his teammates and the fans and he stood and answered all the questions he received. He did say he was 100% sure he would make his next start and he did genuinely seem like he wanted to put this behind him.

The problem is, the press is going to jump all over him in the next couple of days.  Does AJ have the emotional fortitude to handle the New York press all over him?  That’s the real question.

Swish Saves Girardi

Fresh off the beating he took for his management of the AL in the ASG, Joe Girardi set himself up for a lot of second guessing with his ninth inning managing.  (Side note, if Beltre was really only available for two innings then Girardi had no options in the ASG.  And if that is true, it’s just another reason MLB needs to stop trying to make the game count by awarding homefield in the WS)

I should stop here and note what a gift Joe Maddon gave the Yankees as well.  Instead of bringing in his closer to start the ninth, he went with Randy Choate.  He made two more pitching changes in the ninth, with the game on the line, but left his best reliever on the sidelines. Bad move Joe.

With Choate on the mound and Granderson on first, Girardi pinch hit with Pena.  I understand the thinking behind the move, sacrifice Granderson to second.  But why not try and steal the base?  First, Granderson is 7-7 in steals this year and the Tampa catcher throws out only 25% of the runners.  And if you don’t want to steal the base, why not bring Thames into the game with the lefty on the mound?  The sacrifice is the wrong move in my mind because you give up an out for a situation you could get with a steal or a better result- Thames hitting.  Plus, Pena is now your DH with a game potentially headed into extra innings.  Since he is your only infield reserve, you might be in trouble in extra innings. (BTW, expected runs scored drop when you go from a runner on first with no outs and a runner on second with 1) But it all worked out and the Yankees picked up a big win.  

*****

I have been to six different ballparks in the last six weeks and today I am going to a 7th, more familiar one, the ballpark in the Bronx.  Last time I set foot in there, the Yankees won the World Series.  Today is Old Timer’s Day, which should be a lot of fun.   I haven’t been to one since Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio used to be in uniform.  I’ll have a report later and I might send a tweet or two during the game (@yankeesredsox)

 

 

Let The Tryouts Begin!

Well, well, the Yankees made a move today recalling Juan Miranda and sending Kevin Russo down.  Miranda is going to start at DH tonight and bat 8th.

It makes a ton of sense to give Miranda a crack at the role of lefty DH.  As I have mentioned before, the Yankees can comfortably DH Posada when they face a lefty or use Thames, but their options against righties were really only Colin Curtis.  If Miranda can hit righties, the Yankees might not need to make a trade to bolster the bench.  I would suspect that this is the first move of two, the second being the recall of Nunez from Scranton as the Yankees look internally before looking externally.

 

This Captures George

If you are a fan of Seinfeld, this story is a pretty good one.  For those of you who haven’t clicked yet, it describes George’s reaction to the parody they did of him on Seinfeld and how he tried to get them to change the first name of George Costanza.  It’s a classic Steinbrenner tale.

It also contains my favorite Seinfeld quote mouthed by the "fake" Steinbrenner- (said in regards to Babe Ruth) "Here’s something I just found out recently. He wasn’t really a sultan!"

Some other personal favorites

"We can’t have Big Stein flopping and twitching"

"Nothing but empty calories and male curiosity- hey Georgie?"

From a hot tub  "How’re you enjoying it, George? Melts that tension away, doesn’t it? You gotta get that jet on the good spot. Oh. Oh. Uh. Uh. Yes, that feels good. Yes, that’s real good. Oh yeah, that’s where I keep all my tension. Right down to that chicken bone.Sometimes I get my wife to just stuck her thumb right in there like a screwdriver. Ya know, the Phillips head, not the flat one. Oh God, those flat ones frustrate me. You got it in, but it slips out. You put it in again, slips out again. You a single man, George?"

"The pita pocket prevents it from dripping!"

Anyone out there have a personal favorite I missed?

On To The Second Half

A word before I look at the team.  I understand that Hal Steinbrenner and his family own the Yankees and I understand that they wish to do something to remember their Dad.  But, that thing cannot be renaming Yankee Stadium "Steinbrenner Field" as I have read in some circles.  George was many things, but he was not bigger than the Yankees.  For 87 years the Yankees have played at Yankee Stadium.  It was originally built in 1923, refurbished in 1974-75 and a new one arose for the 2009 season.  It remains one of the four stadiums left that did not sell out their naming rights.  (Though ironically, Wrigley Field is in a way, the originator of naming rights) It remains to New Yorker’s "The Stadium" and it always should remain that way.  The city should get in front of this issue and rename 161st Street in the Bronx "George Steinbrenner Way" There are plenty of other streets named throughout NYC for much lesser figures, that would be the correct way to proceed.

*****

Now on to baseball.  As things stand the Yankees have a 2-game lead in the division with a 5-game lead in the wild card.  They have finished their trips to the West Coast, but they also have 13 games left against Tampa, which could go a long way to deciding things in the AL.  September 20th-September 26th looks to be the critical stretch with four games against Tampa followed by three games against Boston. 

The Yankees have 2 big issues they need to address.

1- The bullpen.  Mariano is back to being Mariano, but he needs to be handled gently.  The problem is after him, where do you turn?  Damaso Marte is great against lefties, but wild against righties.  Joba has had bad luck, .370 BABIP, but something weird is also happening.  The percentage of balls outside the strikezone that hitters make contact with has jumped from 40% in 2007 to 61% in 2010.  When he came up in 2007 he threw sliders 34% of the time and curveballs only 2% with fastballs at 62%.  In 2010 he throws a fastball 65%, slider 27% and curve 7%. I wonder if he needs to go back to throwing more sliders and less curveballs.  (Though I will also readily admit that Lopez parked a 97-mph fastball last Saturday for a grand slam)

Beyond Joba there are plenty of questions as well.  Robertson is better, but still wild.  Chan Ho Park is still a mistake signing.  Aceves is probably gone for the year, which is a HUGE loss, and Mitre will be back soon.  One guy to keep an eye on is Albie.  He is dominating in Scranton pitching only one inning at a time.  That’s significant because in his career he has been much better in his first 25 pitches than his next 25.  Could he be part of a bridge to Rivera?  

If the Yankees feel Joba will come around and Albie can be trusted in big innings, then a trade is probably not necessary.  But if they don’t, Brian Cashman needs to work the phones.

2- The bench  The Yankees need to build a better bench.  They were on the right track with guys like Russo and Pena, but those guys can’t hit.  Both are sub .500 OPS.  Thames is a nice piece to have and Cervelli is a solid backup catcher, but beyond that the Yankees need some help.  An interesting move they are currently trying is Eduard Nunez at third and second.  Nunez is a shortstop hitting .305/.354/.405 at Scranton with 18 steals.  If he is ready to play multiple positions on the infield, he would allow the Yankees a chance to rest A-Rod and Jeter more or DH them more.  Ultimately though, it comes down to Nick Johnson and what his prognosis is.  If he is truly hurt for the year (and I would bet he is) a trade makes a ton of sense.

16 days to the deadline and counting.

 

A Huge Break

I was going to make this point yesterday, but put it under the "too soon" category.  By dying yesterday, George Steinbrenner saved his family hundreds of millions of dollars.  With the Estate Tax not in force in 2010, it’s conceivable George passed everything he owned on to his children.  I say conceivable because it’s also possible everything went to his wife. This is obviously a huge issue for Yankees fans because if George passed the team onto his children in his will, his kids can just go on running things as they are and not have to worry about an enormous tax liability. 

I’m sure we will learn more about this when Hal holds a press conference and addresses these types of questions. 

Hey Angels Fans

I get it, you guys don’t like the Red Sox and Yankees, but this is the ALL-STAR GAME!  Your team is in the AMERICAN LEAGUE, so you should root for the AL. Booing Red Sox and Yankees players in the intros is the job of NL fans tonight.  I understand that getting to a game before the third inning has disoriented you, but from this point forward, please root for the guys who might help your team get four World Series games at home this fall.  Then again, with the Rangers way ahead and their recent acquisition of Cliff Lee, maybe you have packed it in?

Oh one more thing, a moment of silence means silence.  Show some class.  

Farewell To The Boss

Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that George Steinbrenner mattered.  From the moment he bought the Yankees in 1973 until almost the end of his life, he was the one who called the shots.  He took a franchise that had fallen on lean times and built it back into the preeminent sports franchise in the world.  He was a visionary, being the first owner to really understand and utilize free agency and his creation of the YES Network has been copied by many franchises and college conferences.  He was incredibly generous, writing checks for countless causes from the Virginia Tech tragedy to thousands of nameless beneficiaries.

But there was also all the other "stuff" From the ridiculous elevator fight in 1981 to the hideous firing of Yogi Berra after only 16 games in 1985.  You have to be over 30 to remember what a bully he was in his prime.  I wrote about it a few years ago and now that the game is over, I’m still not sure what it all adds up to.  RIP George, you were a true legend.