Get Me Houston On The Line

The Yankees need to swallow the harsh truth, AJ Burnett is a bust. They made a huge mistake when they gave him a fat contract, but that money is now a sunk cost. They are going to pay AJ $37 million or so over the next 2-1/4 seasons no matter what. And despite what Brian Cashman claims, that money is the only reason AJ is still a Yankee. If he was in the last season of his contract or didn’t make so much money, the Yankees would cut him at this point.

It’s not just the bad performance with AJ, it’s the attitude. Did he show up his manager last night? Certainly looked like it to me on TV. Is his manager sick of AJ? Check out this video of the postgame press conference. Jack Curry is asking the questions that set Girardi off. Curry used to write for the New York Times and now does analysis for YES. He is a very level-headed and respected member of the press and I for one am shocked that Girardi jumped on him, but I think it was a sign of his frustration with the AJ situation. Joe has to keep handing him the ball because of the contract. If you gave him truth serum, he would admit to wanting to do something different. And that’s what the Yankees have to do at this point. They need to get AJ to go away and the best fit in my mind is with Houston.

The Astros are trying to get rid of Wandy Rodriguez because Rodriguez is going to make at least $25.5 million over the next three seasons. (He has a $13 million option for 2014 that becomes a player option if he is traded) Add in that option and Rodriguez is going to make approximately $36 million or so. Wouldn’t it make sense from a Yankee standpoint to see if the Astros would be willing to take AJ Burnett and cash in exchange for Wandy Rodriguez? Rodriguez has a 3.31 ERA, albeit in the NL and is a lefty. It’s hard to imagine that he could be worse than AJ, even with the transition to the AL and there is a chance he is significantly better. If Houston is looking for salary relief, the Yankees can certainly provide it. Offer to pay half of AJ’s remaining salary and throw in a middle of the road prospect. Houston gets a pitcher who could be better in the NL and they remove $16 million in liabilities from their payroll going forward. The Yankees spend more money, but remember that $37 million is already spent. Even if they gave Houston $16 million they would be removing AJ from the team and only adding around $5 million to the payroll from 2012-2014.

If the Yankees don’t manage to trade him, they are going to have to demote him to the bullpen after next Saturday’s doubleheader. Nova and Hughes are clearly better than him right now and there is simply no way AJ deserves to start over either of them. But demoting him to the bullpen will make a bad situation worse. The Yankees have about a week to solve their AJ problem. Let’s see if Brian Cashman can fix it.

Hysterical Mash-Up of Baseball Personalities by the Batting Stance Guy

My favorites are Gammons and Kurkjian.

Night in the Ruts

Well the Red Sox have managed to lose more games in August than they did in all of July. The offense in August (thru 8/16) is offering a .745 OPS compared to the season %/ratio of .805. In the last week (again thru 8/16) the OPS is .687, or, stated differently, the same as Carl Crawford’s OPS in 2011 (actually slightly better than Crawford’s).

Loyal reader, blmeanie, got me started on the Red Sox offensive woes with his blog entry today. The Red Sox have been terrible and puncuated that point with a shutout loss today, collecting all of 3 hits.

The negatives have been injuries to Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and apparently Adrian Gonzalez, who Terry Francono suggested on WEEI.com,is battling a neck injury (I am too, it’s just that mine’s fat). Oh and the big whopper of a problem with the Red Sox line-up is Carl Crawford. He has been terrible in 2011. What’s that? Give him some time? O.K., you tell me how much time is enough.

Crawford went 0-9 with 5 k’s against the Rays this week. Michael Felger of 98.5 the Sportshub pointed out that his 0-9 included nary a walk. That’s lousy baseball Carl. Quick, who has the lowest OPS of Red Sox starters? Yup, Carl Crawford does, yet he makes the most of any Red Sox everyday players save…J.D. Drew. Wow. The 2 highest Red Sox everyday players are Crawford and Drew, whose OPS is somehow less than Crawfords at .622.

So Theo Epstein has to be A.) frustrated with Drew (what’s that Epstein, “I thought you guys were going to ask about J.D. Drew having the 2nd highest OPS of all AL outfielders – quote on 98.5 in 2009) and B.) VERY WORRIED about Crawford. My hope is that Crawford is experiencing first year Boston/New York jitters. Otherwise the Red Sox are screwed. A Night in the Ruts indeed (the first Aerosmith album I recall, courtesy of my cousin Doug, a darned good singer/guitarist himself, rock on Dougie).

The good news is that the Red Sox have a good offense despite Drew and Crawford. J.D. Reddick has been a godsend and the rest of the crew chew up and spit out pitchers. But, when injuries set and, and they always do, the Red Sox need to be able to fall back on their highest paid players, right?

So far Crawford has been given a free-pass, but if the Red Sox don’t go deep in the playoffs and Crawford keeps playing this poorly, we might be be in for an enourmously long and painful 6 more years with Crawford.

Goldilocks

AJ Burnett has turned himself into the perfect parody. With his new hairstyle, he has become Goldilocks. For those of you who don’t have young children, Goldilocks was the girl who broke into a house and kept trying things in threes after finding the first two unacceptable.

That’s AJ, unless things are “just right” he is going to be a mess. You watch him pitch and his raw stuff is some of the best you will ever see. A great fastball and a knee-bending curve. When he first signed with the Yankees, I was critical of the deal because I assumed his injury problems would follow him to New York. You could make the case that he is actually too healthy- 542 innings as a Yankee so far. And in those 542 innings he has compiled an ERA of 4.60 and a record of 31-33.

The old baseball saying is that “flags fly forever”. AJ Burnett earned every dollar the Yankees paid him with his start in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series. In Game 1 Cliff Lee handcuffed the Yankees’ bats and CC Sabathia wasn’t good. AJ had a lot of pressure on him in Game 2 and he delivered with a great start. Without that, the Yankees probably head to Philly down 2-0 and it is hard to imagine that they would have prevailed. But, that start and the $40-plus million left on his contract do not change the fact that Goldilocks is the Yankees worst starter right now. To use a tennis expression, Ivan Nova “held serve” tonight. Phil Hughes gets another crack at starting Saturday. Assuming Hughes pitches well and the Yankees follow through on their plan to go back to a five-man rotation, AJ is the one who has to go to the bullpen. The Yankees can pretend otherwise, but waiting for Goldilocks to find a game that is “just right” is a losing proposition.

Bummer

You may not believe me, but this post was going to have that title no matter what happened in the Yankees-Sox game tonight. Sure, Boston won and did it by coming back against Mo, but to me that was the smaller story. To me, the bigger story was the fact that the Yankees showed us the end of Jorge Posada’s career in pinstripes.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing them for what they did. 300+ AB’s is more than enough time to show what you can do and Posada’s .230 average and .681 OPS simply doesn’t cut it. Three months ago, I raged against Posada being demoted to 9th in the lineup against Boston. Tonight, I cannot repeat that stance. In fact, I think the Yankees made a very smart decision starting his eventual ouster now.

The fact is, A-Rod is on his way back and will probably be ready to suit up as a Yankee again next week in Kansas City. Alex’s return is a good thing, but if his return pushed Posada to the bench it would be an unnecessary distraction for the club and a weight on Alex’s mind. But, that was the most likely outcome if the Yankees maintained the status quo this week because Eric Chavez is producing and Posada is not. When A-Rod returns, it is Chavez who should keep getting AB’s and not Posada.

But, as much as I wanted to see Posada moved out of the lineup, I cannot begin to celebrate the realization of that desire. Age gets all of us in someway and this is the way it will get Jorge. Posada may linger on the bench until September, but barring injury, that will be the extent of it. The Yankees will keep him on the roster until the season ends out of deference to the past. It is now almost a certainty that he will not be playing for them in October and any baseball he plays in 2012 will occur in a different uniform. If the Yankees feel secure in their standing with the fans we may even see him released and Montero promoted.

These are moves that my head agrees with and understands the need for. But my heart aches. I don’t want to let Jorge go, even though I know it is time. Win or lose, tonight was all about that for me.

Sometimes You Eat The Bear….

Not much you can say about tonight’s game from a Yankee standpoint. CC didn’t have it and the Yankees couldn’t overcome that. Sure, they had their chances against the Red Sox, but their failure to covert with the bats wasn’t the problem- CC was.

Now they have a tough slog ahead of them. Beckett usually kills them and while Garcia has been good, he has a 10.13 ERA vs. Boston this year. But, today showed again why you have to actually play the games on the field. First place on the line, let’s hope the rain holds off.

Back tomorrow.

“WW”

Longtime Yankees’ fans will recognize the title of this post as a tribute to Phil Rizzuto. It was the scorecard entry used by Rizzuto when he missed something that happened in a game and it stands for “wasn’t watching”. You can put a big “WW” next to my entire scorecard last night. Due to a family commitment, I saw almost none of the game live, but watched the MLB Condensed Game this morning. I’m sorry I missed the real thing because it looked like it was a very good and very tense baseball game.

I give Girardi tremendous credit for going to Boone Logan in the fifth. That was a gutsy call and he would have been killed if it hadn’t worked. I say killed because Logan has been anything but a lefty specialist this year. Lefties are hitting him at a clip of .250/.313/.458 while he has dominated righties .222/.300..244. He has given up 9 extra-base hits and 8 of them have been hit by lefties. But, the batter at the time, Adrian Gonzalez shrinks from Ruthian-like numbers vs righties (.377/.436/.652) to a more mortal .301/.366/.377 vs lefties. It was the right call considering the circumstances and it worked.

Today’s game would appear to be a mismatch on paper. CC Sabathia has been rolling, he has a 1.01 ERA over his last eight starts while Lackey, to be charitable, has been bad. But, Boston has smacked CC around this year (3 starts and a 6.16 ERA) so this will be a very interesting test of CC’s streak. The Yankees will face a pretty hot pitcher in Josh Beckett tomorrow night, so they would be wise to take advantage of their opportunity this afternoon.

Back after the game.

This Should Be Fun

This weekend we have a Yankees-Sox series with the two teams tied for first. It doesn’t get much better than this in the regular season. It was just about two months ago that Boston came into New York and swept the Yankees out of first place. Since that series, the Yankees have had the best record in the AL and Boston has had the second best.

In some ways, this series is very similar to an August 2009 series between the Yankees and Red Sox. New York entered that series in first, but they were 0-8 versus Boston. This year’s club doesn’t have the lead the 2009 edition did coming into this series, but they are 1-8 versus Boston. The criticism that they can’t beat Boston has to be ringing in their ears.

We all know what the 2009 club did. Can this club do the same? Assuming Colon and Garcia remain what they have been all year, I like their chances. Both of these teams should easily make the playoffs. Neither one will admit that the AL East crown matters, but it does. Three big games coming up. I can’t wait.

UPDATE I find this video hysterical.

Right Church Wrong Pew

The Yankees are smart to deploy a six-man rotation right now, but they are wrong to carry 13 pitchers in order to accomplish it.

As good as Phil Hughes looked last night, it’s hard to really say he is “cured” until you see him do it a few more times. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see him rise to the challenge and show command and velocity with his fastball, but let’s remember that his ERA is still 6.93. Hughes should keep getting the ball, but his rotation spot should not be guaranteed until he repeats the results from last night a few more times.

Ivan Nova has certainly done more than enough to warrant inclusion in the rotation. His overall ERA of 4.01 is not impressive, but consider his monthly numbers. April- 5.82, May-3.90, June-3.58, July (2 starts) 2.25. That’s a pretty clear trend of improvement and he clearly deserves to take the ball and start for them. And contrast it with AJ Burnett’s numbers this year. April-3.93, May-4.06, June-4.15, July-4.83. Personally, I am more concerned with AJ (what’s new?) than Nova, but AJ will get the longer leash thanks to the 2+ years and $40+ million left on his contract. (I don’t agree with that, but it is a financial reality and the Yankees are smart enough to know AJ could never emotionally handle a demotion to the bullpen.)

So, keeping Hughes and Nova in the rotation makes a lot of sense to me. It gives the Yankees more time to figure out which one of them can help in the playoffs (Excuse my looking ahead, but the Yanks have a 98.9% chance of making the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus) and it allows them to use their other pitchers less. That’s a big deal for someone like Bartolo who I have continuously pointed out hasn’t thrown 100 innings since 2005. (He’s at 109 right now) But, Garcia threw only 157 innings last year and less than that in the three previous seasons combined.

And CC Sabathia could use a bit of a breather too. He has 176 innings and has only thrown less than 100 pitches in 1 of his 24 starts this year. If you figure he gets about 10 more starts under a usual rotation and averages his current 7.3 innings per start, he will throw 250 innings- 13 more than last year and 20 more than 2009. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence, but his playoff numbers are bad- 4.66 career ERA- and his one good postseason was 2009 when he “only” threw 230 innings in the regular season. (You could also say his 2001 postseason was good, but it was also one start.) In every other year he has thrown more than 230 and in every other year his postseasons have been mediocre at best. (2010 ERA of 4.5 in ALDS and 6.3 in ALCS) John Flaherty said on YES last night that the Yankees couldn’t use a six-man rotation because it would cost CC Sabathia the chance to win games, but isn’t the point to win the World Series?

So for all of those reasons, I think a six-man rotation isn’t a bad move for the foreseeable future, but the Yankees need to get back down to 12 pitchers. The Yankees have been comfortable in the past using starters in games on their throwing days and they should embrace that concept again. If they need a long reliever, they can just use the starter who would have been pitching that day in relief and figure things out the following day. They have really botched Hector Noesi’s development this year, getting him only 55 innings so far between the majors and minors. Sending him back to AAA and letting him stretch out as a starter again would be a good idea. And remember, rosters expand four weeks from tomorrow, so there will be plenty of available arms in the near future.

UPDATE 10:45PM I take back anything remotely nice I said about AJ. What a joke that he couldn’t last five in this game.

32 Years

August 2nd is a day indelibly marked on my brain because of two events in 1979. The first was my great friend, Chris, breaking his finger playing soccer. The second was the plane crash that killed Thurman Munson. I remember calling Chris to see how his finger was and sharing the news of Munson’s death. He didn’t believe me.

Munson was only 32 when he died, meaning he would be 64 today. Chris was taken from us a few days short of his 28th birthday and would be 41 today. They were both blessed with many gifts, but cursed by a lack of longevity. One I knew well, one I didn’t, but I miss them both terribly.