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A New World

The Yankees just gave a guy with less than 100 innings of college ball and an arm in need of surgery $4.5 million and a major league contract. Have they gone insane?

It is certainly easy to say they have, after all, that is a lot of money, but on second glance, this is all part of the plan that Brian Cashman has been developing with good results so far. Basically, the Yankees are going to use their considerable financial advantages to get high-ceiling players in the draft. Player who some of the other teams will avoid because of the costs involved with signing them. So, the Yankees drafted Brackman, a 6’10” flamethrower that scouts loved because they could afford him. In fact, they spent somewhere around 10$ million when all is said and done on their first fifteen picks in the draft.

That’s a lot of money, but it is still just one season of Carl Pavano (Actually, when you factor luxury tax in, it is less than a season of Carl) and that is how we have to look at these things now. Developing young pitchers has become the mantra of the organization and by aiming for the high-risk/high reward type of player you sometimes hit the lottery. (Remember, last season Joba Chamberlain scared away a lot of teams because of cost and arm problems.)

I am not sure what will happen with Brackman. If he indeed has surgery, which seems likely, we won’t see him in the Bronx until 2010 at the earliest in my mind. But, besides Brackman there are a lot of interesting names out there, a couple of catchers, Ryan Pope who has thrown 19 innings at Staten Island already and Damon Sublett who has five home runs there in 175 AB’s. What seems fair to say is that some of the 2007 draft picks will work out and because the Yankees went for talent regardless of cost, some of those picks should work out quite well.

I think it will take another year or two, but a Yankees’ minor league system teeming with prospects seems to be attainable. If the team is indeed ready to look inside first before signing the big free agent, the rest of baseball better watch out.

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Tonight’s lineup
Damon- LF
Jeter- SS
Abreu-RF
A-Rod-3B
Matsui-DH
Posada-C
Giambi-1B
Cano-2B
Cabrera-CF

I love Torre putting Giambi at first against the very tought Verlander and I imagine it is also a way of playing him before facing the lefty tomorrow night.

That’s Baseball

That game certainly took you from the lows to the highs to the lows. The utter futility of the Yankees’ offense for eight innings, punctuated by a great home run and then Mo looking lost. As Mitchell said in a comment on a previous post “ugh”.

But, there were some very positive signs. Duncan has to be considered in the first base mix anytime a lefty is pitching and Ramirez showed that wicked changeup very well in 2+ innings. I know it is hard to lose a series to Baltimore, but since the All-Star break they are 18-13, definitely a team on the rise.

Now comes a huge test, four against the Tigers. Detroit has a great offense and we will learn a lot about the Yankees’ pitching staff the next four days.

Reinforcements On The Way

Sean Henn and Edwar Ramirez have been recalled from Columbus with Karstens sent down and Brower DFA’ed.

After last night’s debacle, it was clear that Karstens wasn’t ready to pitch in the bigs again and Brower was still lousy. Getting rid of them is a plus. Henn probably becomes the longman in the pen right now and that leaves the question of what role does Ramriez fill?

Based on his 40 innings of work in Scranton where he struck out 69 with a 0.90 ERA, he should be in the mix for the late innings. But, in his first stint with the Yankees he pitched twice in three days and then was left to rot for two weeks. When he finally got into a game, he was destroyed by Tampa. Why Joe didn’t use him more is hard to understand, but that is going to have to change now.

With the “Joba Rules” stating that Chamberlain never pitches on consecutive days (Joe said yesterday that is “set in stone”) there are a lot of bullpen innings that need to be filled. On days when the Yankees need someone to pitch in the seventh and Chamberlain isn’t available, it will have to be Ramirez unless the team suddenly decides to trust Farnsworth (not recommending that) Vizcaino can pitch the 8th and Rivera the 9th in that scenario.

The real key to this bullpen remains the same, getting rid of Farnsworth. The New York Post reported that he went got through waivers (no surprise there) so he can be traded at any point. Yes, the Yankees might have to eat some money, but unlike the Igawa situation (BTW- the Yankees pulled him back yesterday) Farnsworth is hurting the team while Igawa is stashed in the minors. Cashman needs to hold his nose, admit his mistake and make the best deal he can. Then, get Chris Britton or Russ Ohlendorf up to the Bronx to fill his spot. Then you have Henn and Villone as your long guys, Vizcanio and Joba for the 8th and Ramirez and Britton or Ohlendorf for the 7th and 8th as needed. The Yankees need more flexibility in the bullpen and getting rid of Farnsworth would provide them with that.

Of course, Ramirez has to prove he can pitch here as well. That is still an unknown, but we will never find out unless Joe starts using him.

Back after the game.

UPDATE: Brower has been optioned back to Scranton because he agreed to an option when he signed with the Yankees. I guess he is insurance in Scranton, but I hope Britton is the next guy called up if they need someone.

Goodbye Scooter

Phil Rizzuto died today at 89. While I was much too young to ever have seen him play, Scooter was the voice of the Yankees when I was growing up. Whether it was talking about cannolis, or complaining about traffic on the GW, Rizzuto always was entertaining. From Seinfeld to Meat Loaf, his famous “Holy Cow” became know to millions outside of New York. I only hope they got a chance to hear the real thing, it was a treat.

Quite The Weekend

Six games into the critical stretch of the season and the Yankees are 5-1. They are now 15 games above .500 and tied for the wild card. Oh yes, they are only four games in back of the Red Sox, but it is still silly to talk about that because the math while better is still ugly. (Red Sox play at current clip of .600 Yankees have to go 31-14 to tie. My advice, focus on the wild card).

As positive as things look right now, in some ways a stricter test is coming up Monday. Cleveland ran out two bad pitchers against the New York lineup, Baltimore won’t do that. Jermey Guthrie and Erik Bedard have ERA’s of 3.22 and 3.11. Daniel Cabrera, while sporting a 5.14 ERA for the year, still has managed 122 K’s and has electric, if erratic stuff.

This will be very interesting to watch and while many would look at the schedule and expect an easy series, I wouldn’t do that. Things are good right now and it will be interesting to see if the incredible offense continues against two very good pitchers.

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The news that Kei Igawa has been claimed by San Diego and could be traded to them has prompted a lot of cheers in the Bronx. After all, with all the young pitching, why do we need Igawa?

Count me in among the crowd that doesn’t want to see Igawa pitching in a Yankees’ uniform anytime soon, but you simply can’t give him away. The Yankees spent $46 million on him and $26 of that is a sunk cost. No team is going to eat that big a chunk of money without something to show for it. Whatever team gets Igawa will have the next 4+ years to try and fix him and only have to pay $4-million in the process. As much as I want him gone, I would rather let him try and get things back together in AAA instead of giving him away for a song.

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One thing that the Yankees have to do is resolve the Farnsworth situation. Yesterday, Joe Torre had the following options for the 8th inning: Vizcaino, Rivera, Farnsworth and Villone. Chamberlain was out because he had pitched two innings Friday. (The Joba rules state that he gets the same number of days off as innings pitched, so two innings of use=two days off) Brower was with his wife who just gave birth. Karstens is being saved to start tomorrow, which means four guys were left and Joe trusts two of them. Protecting Chamberlain is vital, but it would be easier to do if the Yankees had someone else to pitch the seventh or eighth. Obviously, Kyle is never going to be that guy again in Joe’s eyes, so get someone who could possibly fill that role.

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Last but no least, as good as the offense has been, Andy Phillips is not pulling his weight in the lineup, if they won’t let Giambi or Damon play first, how about unchaining Shelley Duncan from the bench? The guy has five home runs in 35 AB’s, shouldn’t we see some more of him?

No Blood

Would a sweep have been nice? Absolutely, it would have, but let’s not get too upset by the drubbing the Yankees took last night. Yes, losing that badly is never fun and when Kyle Farnsworth is the night’s most effective pitcher, you have really stunk it up, but the fact remains the Yankees won the series. That’s really all you can ask for.

As an added bonus, Cleveland and Detroit lost. Yes, Seattle won, but the Mariners are playing over the head (expected winning percentage right now is 56-55) and I don’t see them in the mix at the end of the year. No, I think this race boils down to the Yankees, Tigers and Cleveland fighting it out for two playoff spots. (Note, despite any worries in Boston, I just don’t see the Red Sox losing seven more games than the Yankees over the final 48. Not to say it can’t happen, but I wouldn’t put any money on it)

If you want to handicap the race, I think you have to give a slight edge to Detroit. Of the three squads, they have the most home games, (28 out of 49) and play the easiest schedule (opponenets have a .503 winning percentage). The Indians will be on the road a lot (27 of their remaining 48 games) and also have opponents with a .503 winning percentage. As for the Yankees, they have 25 of their last 48 on the road and face a .511 winning percentage. The big thing in the Yankees’ favor is that Detroit and Cleveland faceoff eight more times. Ideally, you want one of the teams to take six of those eight.

But, as Tim pointed out in the comments section, this is the key stretch for New York. From now until the end of August the Yankees play @Cleveland three times, Baltimore three, Detroit four, @Anaheim three, @Detroit four and then host Boston for three. 20 games over 21 days that will most likely determine the fate of the season. If the Yankees can get through this stretch at .500 or above, they should be in great position to feast on a September schedule that is much easier.

Phil Hughes starts it off tomorrow night in Cleveland.

No A-Rod Tonight

Tonight’s lineup is as follows:

Cabrera CF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Posada C
Matsui LF
Giambi DH
Cano 2B
Betemit 3B
Phillips 1B

Should be interesting to see the pitching duel between Wang and Halliday.

756

While it has nothing to do with the Yankees or Red Sox, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on Barry Bonds hitting his 756th home run.

It seems fitting that in a summer of scandal for sports that we are confronted with the notion of Barry Bonds as the greatest home run hitter in history. I doubt there are many fans who believe Bonds attained this record naturally, but if you are skeptical, just pick up “Game Of Shadows”. For those of you like me who believe he cheated, this has been a joyless spectacle.

756 was the most-hallowed number in sports and today it is nothing more than a sad reminder of a decade of cheating and scandal. We can take comfort in the knowledge that someday someone, maybe A-Rod, maybe not, will supplant Bonds.

Roster Moves

WFAN is reporting the Yankees have brought Giambi back and activated Chamberlain for tonight’s game. Miguel Cairo has been DFA and Bruney sent to Scranton.

It is encouraging to see Cairo sent away because as much as people loved him, he just wasn’t good enough with the bat to stay on the roster. .252./.308/.318 is just not major-league level numbers. Yes, he could play defense and steal a base, but that was not enough to keep his job.

The thing that will be interesting to see is how Torre mixes in all his weapons now. Duncan has shown great power and should get shots when a lefty pitches. Betemit has looked good so far and can help some of the infielders get a day off now and then. The big problem will be the DH spot. Torre said yesterday that Cabrera is “our centerfielder” which means Damon and Giambi are going to share a position. Giambi got hurt playing first, so I don’t see him in the field anytime soon and Damon hasn’t been put back at first in a couple of months. Andy Phillips has been solid, but .291/.333./.396 isn’t enough production at first, so trying Damon there again seems to make sense. (Then again, Damon’s numbers this year are worse than Phillips’)

Keeping Giambi and Damon happy is going to be a struggle, but it is a much better situation than the lack of a bench the Yankees had at the start of the year.

As for Bruney, the Yankees should see if Nardi Contreras can work some magic on him. Maybe he truly can’t throw strikes consistently, but the Yankees have to do everything they can to help him. He certainly has the arm to be a big part of the bullpen.

That Didn’t Take Long

Multiple sources are reporting Joba is on his way to Toronto and the only question is who is he replacing? (Please be Farnsworth) I can’t imagine the Yankees will make him pitch the ninth tomorrow, but it will be fascinating to see what they do with him. Let’s just hope that Torre doesn’t burn his arm out in 50 games.