Last Chance

Sorry I haven’t posted much recently. A vision issue kept me away, but I am on the mend and should be posting regularly the rest of the way. Tonight is the night that playoff rosters are sort of set. I say sort of, because there is a very important exemption. Basically, anyone on the 25-man roster or the DL is eligible for the postseason roster. But teams can also substitute for players on the DL with anyone in the organization, provided they play the same position. So the Yankees could make very good use of Nick Johnson’s DH tag and add any hitter in the organization if they wanted to. They will also probably have the ability to add a pitcher because it seems unlikely that Alfredo Aceves will make it back as a playoff-caliber pitcher. It is going to be a very interesting September for the Yankees. They have a comfortable hold on a playoff spot, but the division is going to be a dogfight. Can they outlast Tampa with a dysfunctional starting rotation? The roster expansion comes at a great time because if they can find another bullpen arm or two they can really lessen the burden on the rotation. Albe will be a part of that and I expect Romulo Sanchez is going to be appearing in the Bronx soon. 31 games to go, fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Back to the Future?

Word has trickled out that the Red Sox have claimed Johnny Damon off of waivers from the Detroit Tigers.  Damon can veto a deal the Red Sox, so nothing is certain.  While digesting that, consider the rumor that the LA Dodgers are poised to waive Manny Ramirez and suddenly the Red Sox could be fielding 2/3 of their outfield from both their 2004 WS team (Damon and Manny) and their 2007 WS team (Manny and Drew).

Now if we could only track down Mark Bellhorn.  Mark?  Mark!!!

There’s no doubt Manny Ramirez could help the Red Sox.  Could help the Red Sox.  Then again, he might come to Boston and promptly suffer from a bad haircut and wind up on the 15 day DL.

The question of value comes into these kinds of discussions.  Would Damon be an upgrade over McDonald, Nava and Kalish?  Probably, but enough to get them to playoffs?  Very hard to say.

Manny, with his .912 OPS yes, but would he actually try?  And more importantly, do the Red Sox really want either of these guys back?  Consider how and why they left.

Damon settled for a 4-year deal with the Yankees after complaining that the Red Sox didn’t offer him a 5th year and Manny, well, Manny is a stooge.  He faked his way out of Boston and has essentially admitted as much.  For all of the physical talent he was given, he was severely shortchanged on the common sense gene.

Damon and Ramirez have talent, but at this point, I’d prefer to see Kalish and Nava (and others) take over the day to day outfield duties.  I’m not sure they are better at this point in their respective careers than Damon and Manny, but at the same time, I’m thinking Damon and Manny are best suited for their current .500 situations.  Retirement is nearing for both and they might not have the energy for a Last Harrah.

Strange Thinking

It’s weird, but for all we hear about Joe Girardi and his heavy use of stats, last night’s lineup made no sense.  With Felix Hernandez on the mound, the Yankees had to maximize offense and with two lefties facing them later in the weekend, it made all the sense in the world to let Cervelli catch Saturday instead of Friday.  But, Girardi chose to start Cervelli against the righty and compunded the error by letting Pena start at third instead of Nunez.  It didn’t make a difference, thanks to another Burnett beauty, but why put two dead spots in your lineup?

The Yankees have 40 games left and they have some real problems in the rotation.  And it’s going to get worse with Phil Hughes and his innings limit.  Hughes is currently around 30 innings away from his reported limit.  With 40 games remaining, it doesn’t seem like there is any way the Yankees will be able to keep him under that limit and be able to use him as a starter in the playoffs. Short of shutting him down right now and then building him back up in a couple of weeks, how can they do it? 

And with this year’s playoff schedule, the Yankees absolutely have to have four starters.  Brian Cashman better start picking up the phone, because this group needs a lot of help. 

New Level of Absurdity

Dustin Pedroia is back on the DL after aggravating his foot, this a day after Jarrod Saltalamacchia was put on the DL for a leg infection.  Jacoby Ellsbury is back on the DL, most likely for the season, after re-breaking his rib.  Jed Lowrie is too drained fighting the lingering effects of mono to play everyday.

Mike Cameron is done for the year, Kevin Youkilis is too.  Jason Varitek is on the DL, Hideki Okajima is shelfed as is Kevin Cash and Eric Patterson.

I’m stunned at how many there are and the relatively frequency with which they occur.  I’ve never seen anything like this.

If there is a silver lining in all of this it’s that we get to see players like Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava, and Felix Doubront far earlier than we expected.

The new goal for this team should be just to avoid any more injuries and get the season over with already.  If they make the playoffs, great, if not, go home and get healthy.

This Isn’t Working

Dustin Moseley is rapidly becoming a problem.  It should not be an unexpected problem, but with Andy Pettitte on the shelf and Phil Hughes rapidly approaching his innings limit, it is a big problem.  Moseley is showing why he has been a fringe player his whole career.

In fact, you could argue that Moseley is sort of a knock-off version of Chien-Ming Wang.  He doesn’t strike many guys out and he needs the ball to sink in order to stay effective.  Last night, the ball didn’t sink and the results were bad.  We’ve seen 40 innings from the guy and to pretend he has reinvented himself this year in the minors is no longer realistic. He is striking out fewer batters and walking more.  He is also giving up more home runs. If the Yankees didn’t have any alternatives, you would just bite your lip and grimace at this point.  But, they have two big alternatives.  Ivan Nova, who pitched last night and Alfred Aceves, who is rehabbing right now.

Nova has been brilliant in AAA posting a 2.86ERA and since the All-Star Break he has posted a 1.96 in 41 innings.  This is the #1 in-house candidate for the 2011 rotation and leaving him in the minors right now is a colossal waste.  I’m not sure what the Yankees are doing with him, but I wish somebody in the press would ask Girardi if he is a consideration at this point. 

The Yankees could also stretch out Alfredo Aceves and hand the job to him.  Aceves threw 35 pitches the other night, so it would take some work, but the Yankees considered him a starter candidate in camp and they might do so again.  Either way, the Yankees can’t keep running Moseley out there as a starter.

*****

Is there anyone out there who thinks that Gaudin wasn’t trying to hit Cabrera?  I would bet almost anything that with the game where it was, Joe Girardi told Gaudin to go in and hit Cabrera and then once he was ejected, they would bring Robertson in.  I’m not sure why Gaudin didn’t get ejected (both benches had been warned already) and I am also not sure why Enrique Gonzalez didn’t get tossed for his pitch behind Jeter.  

As for Damon’s comments that Gardner’s slide was dirty.  Do you expect Damon to have a lot of good things to say about the current Yankee leftfielder?  

 

The “Staten Island Scot” Passes Away

Bobby Thomson passed away last night at age 86.  If you are a baseball fan, you probably have probably heard that famous call of his "Shot Heard Round the World" made by Russ Hodges

"There’s a long drive…it’s going to be I believe…THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! (I think he ends up screaming it 11 times) 

It has to be one of the most famous moments in baseball history and it capped off a remarkable comeback from 13 games down with 44 to play.  

RIP Bobby

Looking Back

Isn’t it ironic that Johnny Damon returned to Yankee Stadium on the same night the Yankees announced that Nick Johnson suffered another setback in his rehab?  It got me thinking about the moves the Yankees did and didn’t make this offseason, so let’s review.

We can start with the decision to pass on Damon and Matsui, which looks like a pretty good one.  Matsui has been bad this year, hitting .251/.331/.416.  And while he has played 17 games in the outfield, he has recorded a total of 16 putouts in those appearances- yikes!  Damon has been a better player .272/.362/.422, but he simply wasn’t coming back to the Yankees for $6 million.  

Another good "pass" was the decision to non-tender Chien-Ming Wang.  Wang still hasn’t pitched for Washington and it sounds like he might only make it back in a relief role in September if at all.  The Yankees would have had to commit at least $4 million to Wang, so this was a very good decision.

Next let’s look at the Granderson trade.  On the surface, this has been a disaster.  Austin Jackson has better numbers than Granderson and Kennedy and Coke have put together solid seasons.  But looking a bit deeper makes this less lopsided.  Start with Jackson, his BABIP is an amazing .419.  That won’t last and when it drops down Jackson is going to have a tough time being productive because he does not seem to be very powerful (1 HR).  Granderson hasn’t been very good, but this is a guy who has shown the ability to hit in the majors in the past.   For now, I am going to say that this is a season we have seen from many other players when they first came to New York and hold off evaluating this trade until we see the 2011 Granderson. 

The infamous Nick Johnson signing has to go down as a huge blunder.  Not because he was hurt, but because of what he was.  Let me explain a little here.  Johnson at his best is a slow-footed OBP machine who can play first base.  The Yankees needed and still need players who can cover multiple positions and hit a bit.  They needed to enter 2010 realizing that the DH slot would be needed to rest guys like Posada, Jeter and A-Rod on a regular basis.  Putting Johnson on this team ignored those realities and you could make a strangely compelling argument that his injury was a blessing because it allowed the Yankees to use the DH slot the way they should have in the first place.  (And the way they will inevitably have to in 2011)

One thing the Yankees nailed was the trade for Javy Vazquez.  We know all the things Vazquez isn’t, but consider what he is, a guy who is going to throw 200 innings this year and while his ERA is ugly- 4.89- it has been below 4 since mid-May.  He has been a solid #4 starter, exactly what this team needed because remember the alternative was Joba in the rotation and considering his 2010, that seems like it would have been a disaster.  

Furthermore, the Yankees sent Melky Cabrera to Atlanta in the deal which cleared a spot for Brett Gardner to play every day.  Melky has done almost exactly what he did last year, which is enough for a fourth outfielder, but not enough to play every day.  Gardner has been a revelation and don’t forget the trade also netted the Yankees Boone Logan, who is making a case to be a big part of the bullpen.  Throw in the fact that the big prospect the Yankees sent to Atlanta in the trade is currently out with a tear in his pitching elbow and I think we can call this trade a big win.

The Yankees made two miserable signings with the additions of Winn and Park.  Winn didn’t do anything in his brief stay in New York and while he has hit better in St. Louis, he still can’t hit lefty pitching- the exact thing the Yankees brought him in for.  Hopefully, the Yankees will learn from the Park signing that a couple of appearances in the playoffs do not eradicate a career’s worth of stats.  

The Brian Bruney trade didn’t work out for either team, but you have to ding the Yankees more than the Nationals.  The Yankees could have used the Rule 5 pick to protect one of the players they lost (Kroenke and Texeira) but they used it on a guy who washed out of camp and lulled them into a false sense of security about their outfield depth.

Overall, it was a down offseason for the Yankees, a big departure from their 2008-09 successes.  And while they have eradicated some of their mistakes with recent additions, they still lack a guy who can step in and replace A-Rod or Jeter while providing even average production at the plate.  That’s a mistake they cannot repeat when planning for next year. 

Tough Loss

The Red Sox have managed to stick around despite today’s brutal loss courtesy of Jonathan Papelbon and despite Kevin Youkilis being done for the year.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve allowed myself to think about the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Jed Lowrie could play an important role on this club.  He has been putting up good at bats and driving the ball (including 2 walks and a HR today).  Of course, the reality is that Lowrie has always been considered a decent prospect and now post-prospect, but he cannot be relied on because of his health.  Let’s talk again in a year if he remains DL-free.

But should the Red Sox let Adrian Beltre walk, perhaps Lowrie could be the fill in, or better yet, maybe he could be the super-utility infielder.

Speaking of utility guys, Bill Hall has also been hot at the plate posting a .914 OPS since the all-star break.

As for the season itself, John Lackey, Josh Beckett have to get better.  These 2 guys make the most on the team and they have both been disappointments, especially Beckett.  Knowing that Beckett is being paid (or will be next year) $17mm a year, does it bother you that since he has been an AL pitcher, he has a 4.22 ERA?  It should bother you.

Plain and simple, I just don’t think Beckett is that good anymore, or at least he hasn’t been since coming to Boston on the whole.  It is his up and down season tendency that is most frustrating as his 2007 was great and his 2009 good to great, but what about 2006, 2008 and so far 2010?  You can’t dismiss those.  I suppose I am being sucked into letting his most recent play weigh most heavily on my opinion making and that perhaps he is an above average pitcher, but to be considered a good to great pitcher, getting paid $17mm a year, you have to be consistent, and he isn’t.

Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and to a lesser extend, Daisuke Matsuzaka (6-2 with a 3.09 ERA since May 22), have been the ones to carry this team.  While Lacky has provided innings, then aren’t filled with much quality.

Fact is, this team has a big challenge ahead and everything has to work out perfectly, including the Yankees and/or Rays stumbling big time but life would be much easier if Lackey and Beckett can turn their seasons around.

Today Would Be A Good Day To Win

Last night wasn’t good, but the Yankees need to make sure that today isn’t a repeat performance.  CC takes the mound and if the Yankees lose, AJ and Moseley follow Sunday and Monday.   If the Yankees lose today’s game, they are suddenly in very dangerous waters, best to avoid them and win today.

*****

The news that the Knicks have actually brought Isiah Thomas back into the organization reminds me of the bad Steinbrenner days with the Yankees.  For George Billy Martin was a guy he just seemed obsessed with.  For Dolan it is exactly the same as with Isiah.  Unfortunately for the Knicks, Martin was much better at his job than Isiah is at his.  Most people forget that Yankees’ fans would have taken anyone else as the team’s owner in the late 80′s and early 90′s.  If they need a reminder of that feeling, talk to a Knicks’ fan this morning. 

Once More Unto The Breach Dear Friends

It’s somewhat amazing, but since the last time the Yankees and Red Sox met on May 18th they have both won 42 games.  Go back to the standings on the morning of May 19th and you will find Boston at 20-20 and New York at 25-14.  Fast forward 2-1/2 months and the Yankees and Red Sox are almost exactly where we last left them.  Despite all the trials and tribulations, the teams are six-games apart, only 1/2 game more than where they were on May 19th.

For the Yankees, this series presents an opportunity to really deliver a blow to the Red Sox.  If New York takes 3-of-4 or sweeps, then Boston will have to overcome a 8 or 10-game lead to catch New York.  With under 50 games remaining, that would be a significant lead to overcome.  But two wins is certainly acceptable and really any result short of a sweep will work.

It should be a fun weekend, expect posts and the occasional tweet (@yankeesredsox)