Would You Press “Rewind”?

Interesting article in the Daily News today about the Yankees failed trade for Cliff Lee in July of 2010. It talks about how Seattle would probably want to take that trade in hindsight because Montero, Nova and Nunez have continued to develop while Justin Smoak, the centerpiece of the deal, hasn’t. My question is, would the Yankees do the trade over again?

It’s a very tough argument to make either way. Put Cliff Lee on the Yankees in 2010 instead of the Rangers as they probably win the AL East and I would think they win the ALCS. But, Lee blew up in the World Series, getting shelled in Game 1 before rebounding with a better start in Game 5. Then again, Lee probably doesn’t start Game 1, CC does. Over all, I still think the Yankees probably lose that World Series.

But, maybe three months in New York might convince Lee to take their money in the offseason and he is currently a Yankee right now.

But, would he be that much better than Garcia or Colon have been in 2011?

And, who fills in for Jeter and A-Rod since Nunez is in Seattle?

And, what about the loss of Ivan Nova to Seattle?

My guess is, all things considered, the Yankees are very glad Seattle passed on that trade. I didn’t think so at the time, but I do now.

And hey, it’s raining two hours before game time!

The Missing Game

Some may ask, why the long rain delay tonight in the Yankees-Orioles game? After all, those of us in the NYC area have been enjoying a monsoon for most of the day and the forecast is pretty lousy for the rest of the night. With the Yankees and Orioles facing off again tomorrow at 1pm (or scheduled to) a day-night doubleheader certainly seems doable.

Let’s digress a moment. Count up the Yankees remaining games. 3 (including tonight) against Baltimore. 3 against Seattle, 3 against Anaheim, 3 against Toronto. 1 against Minnesota, 6 against Tampa and 3 against Boston. Add it all up and you get (3+3+3+3+1+6+3) 22. But, the Yankees have currently played 139 games (86-33) so they have 23 games to play. Where’s the missing game? It’s the 8/14 rainout against Tampa. I would assume it will be added to the schedule as a day-night doubleheader on September 21st, but nothing official has been announced.

That means the Yankees face three makeup games in the last three weeks of the season before you even get to tonight’s game. They have the game in Baltimore Thursday. A scheduled game against Tampa 9/22 (actually a makeup of a rainout from 7/8.) And the mystery game. Tonight’s game would make it four and I suspect that’s the reason why we are three hours past the starting time and haven’t heard about the game being called. Not exactly fan-friendly, but sadly the reality of baseball in the 21st century.

The Revival

I’ll admit it, I thought Derek Jeter was pretty much washed up. After his dismal 2010, his numbers at the start of 2011 convinced me it was over. When he went on the DL in June hitting .260/.324/.324, I wondered if Eduardo Nunez would actually be an improvement. Well we know what has happened since. He hit .292/.347/.449 when he came off the DL in July. In August he increased that to .387/.435/.472 and in September he has hit .333/.368/.556. What’s his secret? I think the answer has a lot to do with Derek Jeter the person.

We know that Jeter is an intensely private guy. He doesn’t like to talk about any personal details about his life. When he is hurt, there is really no point in asking him if he is going to play because the answer will always be yes. In an era of over-sharing, Jeter is a refreshing change in some ways. But, his manner also leads to some stubborn behavior on his part. Consider his recent contract negotiations when he wanted a six-year deal coming off his worst season in the bigs. Things got a big ugly, as we all know.

And consider his response to his recent poor season. For the first time I can ever remember, Jeter went to someone, in this case Kevin Long, and tried to change his approach. Long made some suggestions and they changed his approach, but as we know, it didn’t work and Jeter abandoned it after a few weeks. Now, I think Kevin Long’s resume speaks for itself. Look at the numbers put up by guys like Granderson and Swisher since Long started working for them. But, as we have seen with Derek before, his trust doesn’t come easily. Long haasn’t earned it (no knock on Kevin intended) and so Jeter felt ok abandoning his swing and going back to what he always did. As I noted before, this approach wasn’t working.

And here is where fortune favored the Yankees and Derek in an odd way- he got hurt. Sure it was a minor injury, but the Yankees took the smart road and forced Derek to go on the DL to rest and to recover. (Remember, Derek didn’t want to go on the DL.) So Derek and his bad numbers intersected with an old friend in Tampa, Gary Denbo. Denbo was Jeter’s first minor league manager and a guy Jeter has worked with almost every offseason. Denbo got Jeter to stay back on the ball and the results have been impressive to say the least. (By the way, you can see some interesting snippets of their work together in the recent HBO documentary on Jeter’s 3,000th hit.)

You see it wasn’t the groundballs that were killing Jeter, it was the lack of line drives. In his career, Jeter has hit 20% of the balls he made contact with as line drives. Last year, that number fell to 16.1%. In 2011 He hit 9.6% as liners in April, 14.5% in May and 9.5% in June. In July that reversed to 19.7%, in August 31.6% and so far in September 38.5%. Groundballs almost always find a glove to die in, liners are far more elusive.

The league will of course adjust to this new Derek Jeter and Jeter will have to adjust back. The line drive rate is unsustainable, but here we do have a case of an old dog learning some new tricks. I just hope he keeps Gary Denbo on speed dial.

Pop The Champagne!

As I watched the Yankees charge onto the field after their victory, hoisting AJ Burnett, a clear hero on their shoulders, I felt a tremendous sense of peace. The season was won and AJ had proved to be the pitcher Brian Cashman thought he was. Ok, none of that happened, but the coverage of this particular game made it seem like it had.

Hey, it was a big win, but it hardly settles much. The Yankees finally won a series against Boston, but they are still trailing them. AJ Burnett didn’t implode, but I can’t be that impressed with 5-1/3 innings of two-run ball.

What does make me happy is that Joe Girardi managed like he wanted this series, which makes me hopeful for the future. I don’t get hung up on the potential playoff opponents, but I do think winning the AL East and having home field would be important. Girardi managed like he felt that as well last night and I hope he does so again.

The Arrival

I think the best parallel to the excitement over Jesus Montero’s debut tonight is 2007 when Joba got his first call to the majors. Talk to any Yankees’ fan, even one like me expecting them to be blown out tonight, and you will hear the excitement in their voice. This kid has a bat that is supposedly special and it will be fun to see it in real action even if AJ Burnett gives up seventeen runs in the first inning (entirely possible in my mind).

What we won’t probably learn about is his catching skills. The Yankees are sticking to the party line of “it’s tough to a pitching staff to break someone in during a pennant race”. This sounds like an organizational excuse that can be translated to “we don’t want big league scouts to see that he can’t catch at this level and damage his trade value.” I may be wrong, but that is my guess.

I was very happy to see Scott Proctor’s name on the list of additions to the active roster. The Yankees certainly owe Proctor for destroying his arm and it is nice to see them give him a chance to reestablish himself in the bigs. I hope he does.

No surprises with Laird, Dickerson and Pendleton being added to to the Roster. Raul Valdes gets promoted because he can throw with his left hand. It’s just me, but I would have take a flier on Banuelos in the relief role since a 40-man move was needed for Valdes, but oh well.

Yankees would really show me something with a win tonight. I don’t see it happening, but miracles can occur. Then again, I wonder which team will score more tonight, the Patriots or the Red Sox?