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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.

What Happens Tuesday?

Kudos to Joe Torre for going for it this afternoon with his bullpen. The last three innings were Vizcaino and Rivera, his two best relievers. The question is, what happens if the Yankees are in a close game tomorrow night? I can’t see either Vizcaino or Rivera being used, so that leaves Farnsworth, Villone, Brower, Karstens and Bruney to pitch critical innings. Anyone else see a problem here?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad they got the win today and I can’t argue with how they did it, but this is where you need Scott Proctor. Since he is gone, the Yankees have just over 24 hours to find someone who Torre will trust in a similar role.

That will be next to impossible, but if they are truly going to remake the bullpen, now would be a good time to do it, They may need a different name for tomorrow and whether it is Ramirez or Chamberlain, the Yankees need to figure it out quickly, no one wants to see Kyle pitching with the game on the line and it would be best to just send him away soon.

The truly amazing thing is that the Yankees are now tied for the wild card. On July 1st they were 38-41 and 8 1/2 games back of Detroit. The Tigers have gone 14-16 since then while the Yankees have gone 24-9. Cleveland has also cratered at 13-17 since then. So, the two AL Central teams gave the Yankees the opportunity and the Yankees have made the most of it by feasting on weaker teams. Now the schedule gets much harder, but the playing field is level. 50 games to go and we have a horse race.

Who Is It?

Can anyone tell me exactly who the Yankees are bringing up to the bullpen?  The Journal News has either Ramirez or Chamberlain, Newsday has Jim Brower, while the Post definitively states it’s Joba time.

While the speculation is interesting, the important thing is that the Yankees have broken a pattern by designating Mike Myers for assignment.  Usually, they have coddled veterans and given them the benefit of the doubt at every turn.  And, since Myers has the lowest ERA on the staff (2.66) it stood to reason that he would be safe if the Yankees decided to make a change.  But, Myers was brought in with one job to do, get lefties out, and he isn’t doing it.  

The Yankees may finally be willing to take some chances with younger players and while I still am uncertain about the Joba experiment, the overall trend is great.  We will see if they stick with this when Jason Giambi is activated Tuesday. (the easy move is to demote Duncan, the right one is to DFA Cairo.)

We will know the identity of the "mystery pitcher" by 1pm when the Yankees play the Blue Jays.   

 

UPDATE: Peter Abraham is reporting that it is Jim Brower. You can forget the stuff I wrote above about a new approach. Brower hasn’t been good since 2004 and while he has been closing well at Scranton, it’s hard to see how this will help.

Must Read

Sorry for the not updating the Betemit for Basak move, but another thing that I missed from Wednesday was this.  Just read the first paragraph.  We all know this is true and I am very glad the Yankees’ front office has agreed. The question now is, how do they prevent it from happening again?  It seems unlikely that Torre is about to change after almost 30 years of managing, so how exactly are they going to get him to use and not overuse rookie pitchers?  Stay tuned….

Karstens Up

The Yankees have recalled Jeff Karstens to take Proctor’s place on the roster. My understanding is that Betemit hasn’t made it to the Stadium yet, so Basak is still active as of now (6:10pm) Interesting that Karstens got the call, I wonder how Joe will use him? I have a feeling this is only the beginning and we will see Ramirez and Chamberlain here soon.