What Else Can Happen?

In a way it seems fitting, considering how the year has gone, but the news that Mariano Rivera has returned to New York for a MRI on his shoulder is troubling to say the least.  Short term, it is obvious that the Yankees will shut him down for the remaining three games.  But, the problem is what if this is a long term injury?  I suppose it is pointless to speculate at this moment, we just have to hope.

Can anyone else figure out the reason FOX moved Satuday’s game onto national tv?  I guess the Red Sox might still be in contention for the division title, but short of that the game will mean absolutely nothing.  They just made the decision this week, so they had to know the game was almost certainly going to be meaningless.  I just don’t get it.

Tonight is the final night of Carl Pavano’s Yankees’ career. I guess that is something we can all celebrate.   

The Rental Car

Well now that the Yankees are officially planning for 2009 we can talk about their supposed #1 target in the offseason CC Sabathia.  Sabathia is only 27, lefthanded and one of the best pitchers in baseball.  Unlike Santana last year, the Yankees can have him this offseason if they open their wallets wide enough.  (I am not paying much attention to the stories that he wants to play in California right now because I think that is just round 1 of the negotiations.)

The problem with Sabathia is he was traded to the Brewers this season and Millwaukee has used him the same way most folks use a rental car.  Translation, they are beating the heck out of him.  Today they will trot him out on three-days rest and they will presumeably do so again Sunday if the game matters.  Since coming to the Brewers he has made 15 starts and thrown less than 100 pitches three times (96, 97 and 99).

You can’t blame the Brewers, they traded for him with no intention of signing him to a long term deal so they are maximizing their use of him.  And, you have to give some props to Sabathia who seems to care about nothing more than pitching his current team into the playoffs- an admirable position in a "me first" world.  But, for teams thinking of signing him to a deal this offseason the warning lights should be flashing.  Sabathia may turn out to be fine, but that is a big risk to take when you are investing over $100 million into a player.  Sabathia could be a savior, but there is also a chance he could come into town with a tired arm and the Yankees need to move cautiously here.     

Clincha!!!

Yes, I know, I dusted off an old chestnut.

The Red Sox clinched a playoff birth and are still defending the 2007 title.

I’m thrilled the Red Sox secured a post-season spot now as it will allow them to give the wounded time off.  Mike Lowell, Coco Crisp, Josh Beckett and others will get a chance to take a week off.

As the playoffs approach, I’ll provide some analysis, but for now, time to partay.

Why Does Anyone Listen?

I am sure you have read some of Hank’s latest quotes today, I am not going to bother linking to them.  My question is, why does anyone pay attention to him anymore?  Like Curt Schilling, Hank likes to talk and talk and talk.  If he doesn’t get attention, he figures out a way to get it, but have you noticed something?  He doesn’t seem to be in charge. 

When the All-Star Game was conducted at Yankee Stadium, Hank wasn’t there.  When the Steinbrenner’s gave Derek Jeter an award on the field Sunday, Hank wasn’t there.  Hank has been to a couple of games in New York this year and that’s it.  But, you know who has been around?  Hal and Hal’s sister Jennifer.  

Now, we know that Hal doesn’t like the limelight and we also know that he controls the Yankees’ checkbook.  So, isn’t it reasonable to assume that Hal is in fact in charge right now and just doesn’t feel the need to broadcast it?  (BTW- I think the illusion that George is ok was smashed forever Sunday.  If he was remotely healthy, you know he would have been there.)  I don’t know the answer, but with the evidence continuing to pile up that Hank isn’t in charge, why do people listen to him?  (And yes, I know it’s the same reason Schilling still draws notice- papers need to be sold) 

Anyway, on the field Jeter is out of tonight’s lineup.  One question for Joe Girardi, why are you batting Gardner leadoff?  Damon is in the game, and Gardner’s OBP is barely above the Mendoza Line.  He shouldn’t hit first at all.  

We also know how the final starts will be doled out.  Mussina tonight, Hughes, Pavano, Aceves, Pettitte, Mussina.  I don’t know what the point of Pavano’s start on Thursday is other than trying to wring out some more value from signing him.  Ah well, 5+ games to go.   

An Almost Perfect Weekend

The Yankees said good-bye to the Stadium in an almost perfect fashion.  From the ceremony last night which was great except for a few things* to the whole atmosphere throughout the weekend, it was a memorable and fitting celebration. 

I went to Saturday’s game and it was almost surreal.  As I sat in my seat and looked around me I thought back to all the games I had seen there.  I thought of all the players and all the history and I kept wondering why they had to take this step.  Yes, a new ballpark will be great, but we won’t be able to look at the field and imagine all the players who played there.  In many ways the Yankees have thrown out one of the greatest homefield advantages in sports.  Curt Schilling may dismiss them, but mystique and aura dripped form the Stadium.  That won’t happen at the new place, at least not right away.

Now that the homestand is done, the Yankees need to focus fully on 2009.  That means Gardner in center, Miranda at first and as many starts from young pitchers as you can manage.  We know Mussina will get two starts, but the Yankees should give the other ones to the young guys.  Call up Kennedy and Chase Wright and let them take a shot.  Pettitte’s elbow seems tired, Pavano and Ponson are not coming back next year, so use the kids.  Six games left in the season, soak them in because winter is coming.

(*My complaints with the ceremony before the game are as follows.  First, the actors who played Babe Ruth, etc., were cheesy additions and should have been left out of the event.  Next, how can you honor all the great Yankees and not mention Joe Torre?  That’s absolutely ridiculous.  Next, in the video tributes the Yankees showed pictures of a number of players who never set foot in Yankee Stadium.  [Hal Chase barely made it to the Polo Grounds.]  Finally, having Joe Girardi stand at home plate as one of the greatest catchers in Yankee history is a joke.  Was Butch Wynegar unavailable? Anyway, it was a great ceremony nonetheless)

Red Sox Fed Up with J.D.?

Of course the Red Sox are fed up with J.D. Drew.  But it is what the Red Sox are doing about it that is interesting.

Even the casual Red Sox fan has noticed the Red Sox stepped-up rhetoric with regards to playing with injuries.  In light of J.D. Drew being essentially unavailable for 3 weeks now, the Red Sox and Drew’s teammates have made a point of telling that world that playing through pain is what playoff caliber teams do.

Examples:

1.)  David Ortiz being very specific about his wrist injury and how it is still "clicking" and causing him concern.

2.)  Mike Lowell telling the press that he has a torn labrum in his right hip.  Normally Lowell or Ortiz would have kept quiet and just played baseball.

3.)  Tuesday night’s pre-game on NESN, Assistant GM (not sure what his title is anymore after the Theo fiasco a few years back) Jed Hoyer went on and on praising Lowell saying things like (paraphrase time) "that is the kind of player we want in Boston, one who plays through pain" and "Mike is a gamer, the kind of tough player Boston fans deserve."  Hoyer went on and on to the point where I was thinking, alright, we get the point.

Normally the Red Sox take a path on the discussion of injuries somewhere in the middle of the Patriots ("I know nothing!") and a reality show.  Right down the middle.  But in this case, they opened up in an effort to shame Drew into playing.

So far?  Nothing.  J.D. is just…unavailable.  Too bad too because when you look at the line-up the Red Sox threw out there Wednesday night, it just lacked pop.  Missing were Jason Bay (baby on the way), Drew (pulled heart) and Mike Lowell (hip).  Or 66 home runs.

Obviously I’d like the Red Sox to win the division, but they just don’t have the horses to win a slug-fest every night.  On Wednesday Tim Wakefield was horrendous and Javier Lopez’s error really turned the game upside down turning a 4 run lead to a 6 run lead.  Painful.  Lopez has been good things year, just an unfortunately event.  They just don’t have the bats now to do what they did in game 1 time and again.

A day off today and then to Toronto.  I hope Terry Francona figures out what his goal is immediately.  In other words, accept the Wild Card or press on for the division title.  If they accept Wild Card (no lock, but looking good), then he can let off the gas a bit and rest Lowell and company.  But if Terry waivers, he could unnecessarily risk further injury to guys that need rest.

Ricky Vaughn Comes Back

He could have done a lot better with the glasses and he certainly could have done better in the first inning, but it was good to see Phil Hughes on the mound at Yankee Stadium again tonight.  I was thinking before the game about everything that had happened this year and I was wondering how you would have answered this question in March….

How many wins will Hughes, Kennedy and Wang combine for this season?

I probably would have said 35 and figured I was guessing on the low end.

Amazingly, they probably won’t make it to 10, think about that when you look back at 2008.

The bigger question on Hughes is where we go from here.  He would be scheduled to pitch Monday, but the Yankees are off and that is where it gets interesting.  The Yankees want to get Mike Mussina 20 wins and the only way that happens is if he wins his last three starts.  Those would be tomorrow, next Tuesday and Sunday.  But, if he loses tomorrow, he won’t get 20.  So, the Yankees could then bump him to Wednesday and let Hughes start two more times.

Thinking about 2009, that is the best thing that can happen to this team.  We can debate about bringing Moose back later, I think the Yankees need to figure out what they have in Hughes much more than anything else on their list.  3 starts in September won’t do that (remember Ian Kennedy in 2007?) but it will help. Plus, Hughes is currently sitting at 75 innings total for 2008, He is going to the AFL where he might get 25 innings in the best case, so two more starts would bring him somehwere around 110 for the season.  That would probably put him on an innings cap of 150 tops next season, something to think about when planning for 2009- which the Yankees should be doing a lot of already.   

We Are The Champions!

Does it matter that Scranton won the International League by beating the Red Sox and Tampa AAA teams in the playoffs?  Probably not, but Phil Hughes had a great game.  Let’s see, Hughes pitched tonight which means he could go Wednesday in the Bronx, when the Yankees will need a starter thanks to the rain out.  Makes sense, right?

UPDATE: Hughes is on his way to the Yankees. 

The Not Sweet Sixteen

Sorry for not posting, but it wasn’t really my fault.  I don’t want to blame the Yankees, but last Wednesday my retina decided to detach which required an operation to repair and some recovery time.  Maybe my right eye gave out because it couldn’t stand watching the Yankees anymore?  Thankfully, I am doing a lot better and I can start to do things like sit upright again.

So, here we are, 16 games to go and everyone excpet for the manager seems to realize it is over.  While I don’t expect Girardi to announce that his team is dead until they are mathematically, he could and should start making decisions with an eye to 2009.  First and foremost, instead of running the same lineup out there night after night, how about trying Gardner in center for a stretch?  Or, since you can say with 99.99% certainty that Ponson and Pavano won’t be back in ’09, how about starting someone else?  At least we got to see a start from Aceves, but every game that the Yankees stay in ’08 mode now hurts their preparation for 2009.  Now, if you want to give the team the benefit of the doubt, you could suggest that they will promote Hughes and Kennedy as soon as Scranton finishes their playoffs (this weekend) I certainly hope so and it will be intersting to watch. 

As for these final sixteen games this will be a strange couple of weeks for some of the younger set.  My nephew, Nic, was born in 1995 and doesn’t know what October without Yankees’ baseball is like.  Since it has been 14 years (15 if you count the strike) I have to admit I have forgotten that feeling a bit too.  But, as I sat here this past week and took myself back to the 1980’s, I just remember that awful feeling of looking at the schedule and seeing that there were no more games on it.  I don’t relish the thought of doing that again.

And, as an added bonus, we get to say goodbye to the Stadium over the next ten days as well.  I have to say I am still very conflicted over this.  Part of me doesn’t want to see it go.  But, the other part of me that has gone to places like Camden Yards feels that I won’t miss it so much next year when I am sitting in a much more comfortable seat and don’t have to wait 30 minutes to use a bathroom.  Either way, I have my ticket for the final day game, next Saturday and I imagine it will be a weird experience.

We will have a lot to discuss about 2009 soon.  For now, I hope the Yankees give up the ghost and start planning for 2009.  Put the guys in who we know will be here next year and let the others sit.  The biggest problem with 2008 isn’t that the team missed the playoffs, it is that they missed the playoffs while failing to develop any young players outside of Joba.  In fact, most of their prospects took a step back.  2008 will go down as a failure, but the key will be making sure that it represents a pause and not the start of a steep declne and that will require some careful work this offseason.   

Driving Me Mad

Unload time.

 – Daisuke Matsuzaka is unbearable to watch.  He is slow, doesn’t throw strikes and un-enjoyable to watch.  He takes what seems to be a nap between pitches (I had the game on Tivo and let it run a good 90 seconds between his 1st and 2nd pitch of an at bat with nothing worth noting slowing events down, so very slow).

 – What was Terry Francona thinking asking Varitek to bunt in the 9th?  Seriously.  Ellsbury is on the bench, sure he is dealing with a quad injury, but he was healthy enough to eventually pinch run for Mark Kotsay.  Varitek should not be bunting.  With the expanded roster, leave the bunting to someone who does it on occasion.

 – Jonathan Papelbon’s unwillingness to throw the splitter is the reason he has been more hittable this year.  Why not throw it?  Unless there is some injury concern, Papelbon has made a bad tactical decision in shelving the splitter in favor of his slider, a much more hittable pitch.

Breath, out with the bad, in with the good.  And repeat.

The Red Sox have a 6 game lead on the Wild Card and don’t need to win the A.L. East, but this win for the Rays gives them renewed energy.  If the two meet in the playoffs, I hope the Rays don’t remember this one.  But seriously, I need to relax.

Josh Beckett goes Wednesday in an effort to get the Red Sox back to within a half game of the Rays.