Back in my Off the Facade days, I would routinely answer Mark Feinsand’s mail. Well, Feinsand has moved on to the Daily News, and I’ve moved on to River Ave. Blues, but I still love answering the Yankees.com beat writer’s mail.
The series against the Mets showed the Yankees’ vulnerability to speed and aggression. It seemed like guys like Jose Reyes and Carlos Gomez had no chance of being thrown out against Jorge Posada. Do you think the Mets have exposed the Yankees’ weaknesses in the series?
— Mitch G., Middletown, N.Y.
Let’s start things off with a softball. Watching the Yankees play on Friday and Saturday, it was clear that the fault lay not in Jorge’s right arm but in Clemens’ and Clippards’ deliveries. Reyes stole four bases off of two pitchers who take their time getting the ball to the plate.
In fact, none of the Yankee pitchers outside of Pettitte are especially adept at holding runners. Wang and Mussina, both righties, are deliberate in their motion with runners on. Thus, Jorge has thrown out only 12 out of 65 runners attempting stolen bases. (Nieves has thrown out 5 of 13.) If the Yankees pitching staff of aces does its job, these stolen bases won’t matter in the long run, and even better, Jose Reyes, who stole 7 of 8 against the Yanks, won’t be on the basepaths during anymore regular season Yankee games this year.
Is Miguel Cairo for real? I can’t imagine that the Yankees would go into the postseason playing Cairo every day at first base, but for right now, he’s looked better than Josh Phelps. Are the Yankees serious about staying with Cairo or can they upgrade?
— Jerry B., San Diego, Calif.
Short answer: No. Miguel Cairo is not for real. He’s a career .267/.315/.360 hitter, and it’s simply unacceptable to get that kind of production out of first base. The Yanks will look to acquire a first baseman. Adam Dunn and Mark Teixeira figure to be on the market this year, and Todd Helton has noted that he would be open to a trade to the Yanks. While I absolutely hate Helton’s back-loaded deal, I wouldn’t expect or want Cairo to play first for much longer.
What’s the deal with Johnny Damon? Is this guy ever going to be healthy again? It seems like every day there’s something new going wrong. Do you think the Yankees regret signing him?
— Phillip J., Pensacola, Fla.
Why should Mike Mussina get a personal catcher? What’s the logic behind this? If anything, I would think that Mussina should have the benefit of Jorge Posada in the lineup every time he pitches. Mussina needs all the help he can get and Wil Nieves isn’t much with the stick.
— Jose R., New York, N.Y.
This is, of course, my personal favorite. Mike Mussina gets a personal catcher because he’s a huge baby. But if it makes him a better pitcher, I guess I can live with it. So far, he’s been throwing better with Wil Nieves behind the plate. Plus, Jorge needs a day off now and then. He’s currently on pace to play 158 games this year, and that’s just brutal for a catcher.
I think this backup catcher situation has exposed one of the flaws of the current Yankee team. They are a $200 million team who can’t find a backup catcher that will hit. It’s gotten to the point where Joe Torre won’t even use Wil Nieves on a regular basis to spell Posada. Even worse, the farm system won’t produce a catcher for a least another two seasons, leaving the Yanks to overpay a free agent at some point soon (such as Jorge Posada after this year) or scuffle through a series of subpar backups.
When the Yankees see some of their large contracts disappear, I hope they put some more effort into building a good bench. While not the key to a successful team, the Yankees bench in the 1990s was stellar.
When is Phil Hughes expected to be back? It’s my opinion that the Yankees could really use him now. They seemed to get a huge lift from him and I would love to see him and Roger playing off each other in the same clubhouse.
— Maureen M., Trenton, N.J.
The word on the street is August. He will soon throw off a mound and then work to build up arm strength. Considering that Hughes arrived in the Majors really early this year, these injuries to his legs aren’t the worst things that could have happened. If anything, they have forced the Yanks to limit his innings this year. Still, I would expect to see Hughes throw anywhere from 40-60 innings in winter ball this year just to keep his development on track.