The Fat Lady sings as Yanks split in Boston

Bleich wild in Hawaii debut
Picking up the pieces

So that’s it. Six months. 89 wins. Too many frustrating losses to count. Too many injuries to overcome.

When Jon Van Every, a 28-year-old non-prospect, lined a ball into right field to bring a merciful end to a meaningless game on a rainy Sunday night in September, the Yanks’ 2008 season came to an end. Off the field, the season was contentious. We’ve seen battles over the proper way to build a team and battles over the trades the team did and did not make. We’ve seen battles over the future of the team and battles over the past.

On the field, the season was a disappointment. While Phil Hughes left a sweet taste in our mouths this week in Toronto, between the two of them, Hughes and Ian Kennedy managed zero wins. A fluke injury to Chien-Ming Wang cost the Yankees a playoff berth, and a mid-August shelving of Joba Chamberlain pushed the Yanks towards irrelevancy. Jorge Posada went down on Opening Day and would never recovery. His replacements, as we’ll discover, weren’t up for the job — or any job really. Hideki Matsui‘s knee couldn’t withstand the pressure of a season, and while he’s heading for surgery, his health in 2009 is far from guaranteed.

Offensively, the team didn’t impress. Melky Cabrera had an All Star April and turned into a pumpkin on May 4. Between May 6 and August 13, the day he was finally sent back to AAA, Melky hit .225/.273/.279 over 322 plate appearances. Robinson Cano, picked to win the batting title by more than a few analysts this year, was nearly as bad. A late-season benching resulted in a final hot streak for Cano, and we were all left wondering what might have happened had the Yanks sat him down earlier in the season.

But for the downs, there were some ups. The Yanks’ bullpen solidified around a bunch of young power arms, and with more in the system, the days of running through relievers might be over. Joba Chamberlain outdueled Josh Beckett in Boston, and the future looks bright for that one.

The old man had his turn in the sun too. Mike Mussina, pitching in the twilight of his career, won 20 games for the first time ever and did so by winning his last three starts of the year. He pitched the last two with a sore right elbow, hurt when he took a line drive off of it early in the game in Toronto last week. It sounds like Mike may call it a career, and it’s been a great ride.

As 2008 draws to a close, the Yanks may be saying their good byes to a lot of long-term members of the team. We’ll know soon — perhaps today — if Brian Cashman is coming back. But we could be saying so long to Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte.

On a personal note, we’ve had over three million visitors since Spring Training, and we owe a huge thank you to everyone who comes here to read what we’re saying and just to chat about baseball every day. With the off-season upon us, we’re just getting started. The Yanks are bound to have an active off-season. They have holes to fill in their outfield; holes to fill in their infield; and holes to fill in their rotation. With money on hand and a new stadium rising in the Bronx, the team is going to be active on the free agent market, and we’ll be here reporting and analyzing everything that happens.

This has, for me, been quite a season. It’s been emotional as the Yanks closed out their stadium; it’s been fun as we’ve enjoyed baseball for baseball’s sake; and it’s been disappointing as the Yanks at the end of the year showed us what could have been had they played well. While the team will have to wait ’til next year, we just have to wait until Brian Cashman speaks. The fun of the season may be over, but who doesn’t love the Hot Stove League?

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Bleich wild in Hawaii debut
Picking up the pieces
  • pat

    casey didnt have the hit it was some rookie chump van every

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      So you’re right. I’ve fixed it.

      • pat

        Ive been so wrong about so many things lately i had to look it up to be sure. Although the season ended pretty badly we should have an offseason thats exciting as hell.

  • UWS

    Well written, as always, Ben. I have to disagree with you on one thing, however: the much-ballyhooed Cano Benching Incident. Do you really honestly think that it was the benching and not the change in his batting stance that’s responsible for his late resurgence? I won’t deny that a kick in the pants probably played a small role, but I’d be much more inclined to think that mechanical adjustments were far more important.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      It probably was the batting stance, but the benching served to make him focus on the fact that he needed to work on the batting stance. I think this one’s really a failure on the part of Kevin Long and Girardi. Perhaps they didn’t push Cano to work on his stance earlier. Hitters are always very protective of their batting stances.

      • UWS

        Hmm. I suppose you have a point. I guess we’ll see what happens next season. Is Cano playing winter ball?

      • http://www.new.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/profile.php?id=594331910&ref=name Jamal G.

        Well Kevin Long had a valid point, when Robbie Cano had the 2006-2007 seasons that he did, it is kind of hard to justify changing the kid’s batting stance.

    • Steve

      It might have taken the benching to get him to change his stance.

      Thats one thing I wonder about Cano. How well he takes to coaching. For all the talk about needing Bowa around, the fact is that if you need someone on top of you constantly tells me there’s bigger issues about him as a player.

      • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

        Oh you mean like with Manny? ;-)

        I’m definitely in the camp that says if you need to ride a player to get him to perform, you do it. Especially someone with the potential of a Cano.

  • mascot

    You know, if Mussina comes back, maybe it wouldn’t be about getting 30 more wins. (Why does everyone, including Moose himself, keep saying he’d probably have to stick around for 3 more seasons? Why couldn’t this be accomplished in 2? This season wasn’t a fluke.) Maybe he still wants a championship. Maybe he realizes his manager and his teammates are going to need him. Or is he, too, under the impression that they’re getting Sabathia and Burnett?

    • whozat

      “You know, if Mussina comes back, maybe it wouldn’t be about getting 30 more wins. ”

      Because that’s what Moose says it’d be about. At this point, he’s far enough away that he can talk himself out of shooting for 300. At 280 or 285, it’s going to be WAAAAY harder. And there are no guarantees that he’ll stay healthy and effective.

  • http://www.3KidsTix.com Scott from 3 Kids Tickets

    Is it just me, or is Cash already gone? I’d say he’s 85% decided it’s time to move on from everything I’ve read. He’s just figuring out how to break it to people.

    -Scott

    PS Bye Bobby Mechum…again
    Bye Giambino
    Bye Pavano
    Bye Briton
    Bye Ponson
    Bye Edwar, Bye Rasner (both via trade probably)
    Bye Pudge
    Bye Betamit (hopefully, but I doubt it)
    Bye Moose or Pettite (pick one of the two)
    Bye Marte (I hope to be wrong on that one)

    Hello _____________???

    • whozat

      Whenever you’re reading stuff on the internet, it’s best to take a moment and think about what the media wants the story to be. What sells more papers (ok, generates more website traffic), Cashman leaving or Cashman staying? If you’re reading speculation and/or quotes from unspecified inside sources, be suspicious. If it’s in line with the “juicier” possible outcome, be very suspicious.

      For example, George King reports “inside sources” that say Cash has already decided to stay. Unsubstantiated…but, it’s the more boring possible outcome. So…I lend it a bit of credence. Everywhere else is just supposing that Hank’s bluster about creating an “advisory council” is going to drive Cash away.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      I think we’ll see Marte back. No reason not to bring him back.

  • Steve

    Suzyn Waldman said on the Yankee pregame that Cashman is coming back, and he would announce something Monday or Tuesday.

  • Jersey

    And thanks to RAB for piloting us through a long, hard season. Cheers, fellas.

  • Steve
    • Ivan

      I won’t belive any source and anything period until it’s an official.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Am I missing something or is the headline of that story misleading/a lie? The article itself says Cashman hasn’t made an official decision yet and that nothing’s been announced.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

        Welcome to The New York Post’s brand of journalism.

        • jsbrendog

          please dont ever call that “journalism” again

  • Bo

    No franchise will give him this kind of $. And it always comes down to $.

  • JohnC

    I will also say that I hope Cano is not traded. I think it would be a major mistake unless they could get a good starting pitcher and a centerfielder for him and I don’t see that happening. Hopefully, he stays. He will bounce back and have a great year next year.

    • kgSturnz0r17

      i would only do something like this, and kc/sf prolly wouldn’t do it if it was for a recent .340 hitting cano

      cano+prospect pitcher for Greinke, dejesus, moustakas

      cano+(hot) prospect pitcher+matsui for Lincecum, Villalona, Rowand

      it is pretty fantasy with teh second trade specefically,

  • Steve S

    Great year here at RAB. Thanks.

    Who are the potential replacements for Cashman if he decides to leave? It doesnt sound like Depodesta would be interested. Who are the young and up and coming GM’s that could step in. I know people have floated Kim Ng for other jobs.

    I also wonder if the Steinbrenners decided to bring in someone new would that force them to surrender some of their influence to get the best candidate.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      We’re going to hold off on answering that question, Steve, until Cashman says he’s ot coming back. We have a list, but until we know what Brian’s doing, it’s just idle speculation really.

      • Steve S

        You guys are so regimented. The existence of that list and not knowing who is on it will kill me. lol.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

          Heh, if he comes back I’ll let you know who’s on the list anyway. Right now I plan on writing a post in support of the top candidate if he does in fact leave, but I’m still deciding between two guys.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

            And those two guys are Bill Bavasi and Dan Duquette.

            • UWS

              Don’t forget Steve Phillips.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

        You have a list, but you’re going to hold off on going public with it? Really? Who are you, Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg, vetting VP candidates for Barack Obama?

        Do you also have a list of potential strike locations for Bin Laden that you’re keeping under wraps for national security purposes?

        • kgSturnz0r17

          i understand this is merely a blog, but it is still irresponsible journalism, especially if his allegiances still lie with cash

  • Cam

    Thanks for helping us get through the season! Very strange that it’s all over, but very excited about next season. But for now, it will be good to put baseball aside, and realize that making the postseason next year will be that much better because of what happened this season.

    Also a quick note, “sore left elbow” was mistakenly put in the article, as opposed to “right elbow”.

  • Old Ranger

    If Cash doesn’t come back I would be very suprised. He has a plethora of projects to finish. A lot of people doubt his ability to work within a budget (he has done ok) and conversely, criticize him because he has. The team underachieved this year (some exceptions) and people were hurt, I can’t see him going out with this years record hanging over his head.
    One speaks of players being hard competitors…business is much harder! Cash is a stellar competitor and it would be a disaster if he walked.
    Just my opinion, feel free (need I say) to criticize. Oh, yes 27/09!

    • jsbrendog

      agree on all counts and esp 27/09 lol

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

      27/09! OLD RANGER’S BACK, BABY!!!!!!!!!!!

  • MJ

    Why does everyone rip on Cano?

    Cano hit .285+ after his lame-duck April. If he didn’t bat a lousy .151 for the entire April, he would have easily batted .290+ for the overall season.

    Cano played good for us this season. We didn’t need him in April, because other people were hitting. He hit after April when we needed him most.

    Stop looking at the overall numbers and pay attention to the real stats. People disgust me, like we can really find a better 2B than this guy?

    April- .151
    May- .295
    June- .287
    July- .327
    August- .290
    Sept- .287

    I swear I hate the majority of Yankee fans who just want to jump on the “HaterWagon.”

    It wasn’t any dumb “benching” that made him hit better. Get the facts straight you slackers and look up stats if you’re such baseball fans.

  • MJ

    We also owe our winning streak to this guy, when we won 8 games after the all-star break. Mainly, because this kid ya’ll despise hit .500 for 2 weeks.

    We would have finished way behind the Blue Jays without this kid.

    Cano should be a career Yankee. But, I would respect his decision to leave in the future because this atmosphere in New York is poison.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      I get ya. Cano shouldn’t go anywhere.

      The benching this month was in response to a short term problem. Cano was hitting about .154 and had stopped taking pitches. The team just wanted to give him a break, and it worked. Hopefully, he won’t be leaving for a long, long time.

      • MJ

        Amen, kids a great second basemen.

        Hard to replace!

        • MJ

          My above “rude” comments. Were mainly towards the immature fans the fanbase has. Just blowing off some steam, ha.

          There are a lot of mature and realistic fans. Mainly at this site.

          Apologies, for the offensive nature.

          • jsbrendog

            what we can hope is that by losing these stupid fans decide to nto folow baseball next yr

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos

              I hear that curling is a blast. All the kids are into it now.

    • ceciguante

      cano drives a lot of fans nuts b/c he hasn’t learned *any* plate discipline in 4 full seasons. he regressed substantially this year in his age 25 season when many expected him to reach a new level. he’s actually gotten worse 2 years running now. very streaky, not just at the plate but also with his nonchalant approach in the field at times. he could explode and become a consistently great hitter, or he could never get past the limitations. i for one will say that he makes me insane at times. he has a lot of maturing to do as a player.

      • steve (different one)

        how did he “get worse” in 2007? his plate discipline improved greatly in 2007.

        in fact, that was the #1 reason many people thought he was going to explode in 2008.

        • ceciguante

          i believed the hype, too. problem was, his plate discipline was the *only* thing that improved in ’07. he regressed in every other major stat that year (excluding counting stats):

          2006: .342/.365/.525 482AB, 18BB, 54K
          2007: .306/.353/.488 617AB, 39BB, 85K

          and of course, the sad 2008 results:
          2008: .271/.305/.410 597AB, 26BB, 65K

          • steve (different one)

            but he didn’t really regress in anything except batting average.

            he had basically the same season, maybe better.

  • MJ

    Jeter and Cano both looked like this year they decreased the amount of pitches they took.

    Both looked a lot more aggressive.

  • Whitey14

    “A fluke injury to Chien-Ming Wang cost the Yankees a playoff berth”

    While admittedly the Yankees suffered through an injury plagued season, the Rays and Red Sox also suffered several injuries to key personnel. Even if Wang and Posada had been healthy for the entire season, Posada wasn’t going to come close to his career year of 2007 (nothing in his past perfromance can convince me otherwise) and Wang has proven himself to be a very good pitcher, albeit a very streaky one. He wasn’t setting the world on fire when he did pitch this season and with the exception of TB (who were a completely different team this year than in years past), all the other AL East teams have handled Wang pretty well in his career. With the bulk of the divisional schedule ahead when Wang went down I would agree he improved their chances over the Ponsons and Rasners of the world, but his health would certainly not have guaranteed the Yankees a playoff spot.
    If Longoria, Crawford, Kazmir, Percival, Lowell, Ortiz, Drew, Beckett and Matsuzaka had all been healthy for the entire season as well, there’s at least a decent chance you’re still looking back on the season today.

    I know I’m probably nitpicking, but that statement just seems a little bit too “matter of fact”.

    • Nady Nation

      “Wang has proven himself to be a very good pitcher, albeit a very streaky one.”

      Yea, Wang is so streaky. Consecutive 19 win seasons with a mid 3 ERA is just too up and down for me.

      “He wasn’t setting the world on fire when he did pitch this season”

      Apparently you’ve chosen to leave out the CG gem he threw against your beloved Sox where he absolutely dominated in their first series at Fenway. Or maybe the 8 wins he had in 2.5 months. You’re claim about Ben’s statement could’ve maybe taken seriously if you didn’t back it up with such crappy analysis.

    • steve (different one)

      you are likely right with much of this, but you are missing the point on Posada.

      no one said Posada had to match his 2007 season. just his career averages.

      the difference between an “average” Posada season and what the Yankees got at catcher is probably worth 4-5 wins alone.

      this is an average Posada season: .277/.380/.477
      this is what the 2008 Yankees got from the catching position: .230/.290/.335

      but i agree, other teams had injuries too. the difference for the Rays, is that outside of 9 starts, they used the same 5 starters the entire season. that is HUGE. they did have injuries to Longoria and Crawford, but having their rotation healthy all year is what pushed them over the top. kudos to them.

      • Whitey14

        Steve, you’re right on Posada, but many of the posters throughout the season seemed to miss the point you made as well. I couldn’t agree more with what you said with regard to his average season and it’s value in Wins. Boston would have killed to have those numbers from a catcher this year.

        Nady Nation, I recall saying Wang is a very good pitcher, guess you glossed over that while you were so busy being needlessly offended by my skepticism over Wang. Just because he had 8 wins in front of a good offense and pitched a gem against Boston doesn’t mean he isn’t streaky. Streaks cover short periods of time, not full seasons. We’re talking 3-4 week stretches where he couldn’t win a game. I understand he’s won 19 games twice. Great, he’s a very good pitcher, but I already stated that. I don’t disagree with the fact. Mix in his complete game Gem against Boston that apparently was your favorite game of the season and what must he have done in his other dozen or so starts to end up with that 4+ ERA. Take off your Yankee colored glasses and realize the truth: Wang is very good, but he’s streaky, and his health wouldn’t have gauranteed you a playoff spot. That’s all I was trying to say.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

          “Streaky” doesn’t matter if you’re giving quality starts all the time. Wang had a bad stretch in April this year, but can you point to another period in his career where he suffered like that? And if so, I can point to five other Hall of Fame pitchers who have had similar streaks. If the worst you can say about Chien-Ming Wang is that, sometimes, he has a few bad starts in a row, I’d take that any day.

          • Whitey14

            I’d take him too Ben, you’d be crazy not to. I’m not saying he’s not a very good quality pitcher, but you cannot ignore his deficiencies, one of which is that he’s streaky. All pitchers have deficiencies, it’s just the nature of the beast. I can’t point to every single game he’s pitched, but if you want to look up his game log I would love to see it because I think he’s had more of those streaks where he couldn’t buy a win then you’re remembering.

            I’ll disagree with you about quality starts, just because the term frosts my nuts in general. Whomever came up with 6IP, 3 ER being quality, doesn’t have very high expectations. A 4.50 ERA is crap and I don’t care in what era it occurred. Yes, once you get up to 7 or 8 IP with 3 ER or less, it’s better quality, but the rules for quality starts are almost as poor as those for Saves.

            • ceciguante

              “the term frosts my nuts in general”
              LOL
              excellent

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      I wouldn’t call it nitpicking, but to put it bluntly, I think your basic premise is wrong. We’re not talking about what would have happened had everyone in the AL East had been healthy the entire year; rather, we’re talking about what would have happened if Jorge Posada had been healthy and had Chien-Ming Wang — 8-2 at the time of his injury — had not missed 3.5 months. It’s safe to say the Yanks would have won enough games to be in the thick of the playoff race come September.

      • Whitey14

        I don’t doubt they would have been contenders, they were even with all the injuries. It was very impressive. But you can’t say “if the Yanks were healthy”, without also considering if the other teams were. That’s only having half the conversation. That would be like me saying “if the Red Sox had been healthy all year they would have finished 14 games ahead of NY” I’m guessing the first defense I would have heard was “yeah, but NY had a ton of injuries too” I just feel they go hand in hand.

        Also, you know as well as I do that wins are not the best measure for a pitcher’s success. Pitching in front of offenses like NY’s and Boston’s should allow pitchers to get more wins. Wang’s peripherals were not great this season. His WHIP was comparable to 06 and 07, but his ERA was up and his ERA+ was down. I simply stated that his health didn’t gaurantee a playoff spot because that’s how I read your comment. I guess I got off on a tangent with the rest of my blathering.

  • Barry

    I’d bring Giambi back for a incentive laden 2 year deal. Abreu said he wants to play for the Yankees as well so he might be had for less than other teams would offer.

    • http://www.3KidsTix.com Scott from 3 Kids Tickets

      Let’s not get stuck with the Giambino for 2 more years. The guy can’t throw a ball, and has no range. Unless your going to get rid of our GLUT of DH’s, PLEASE don’t bring back Mr. 1 dimensional, the Giambino. I like him personally, but I’d rather have a guy who can play defense and save some runs.

      -Scott

      • ceciguante

        agreed. it’s time to re-work this team by fixing the weaknesses, among them defense. a no-field, no-bunt, no-run, no-throw, injury prone age 38 giambi has no place on this team, incentives or not.

        unfortunately, the yanks frequently fall for the all too common “affection trap” and re-sign veterans when their day has passed. cashman needs to say ‘thanks for all you’ve done, jason, but it’s time we go separate ways.’

        • http://www.3KidsTix.com Scott from 3 Kids Tickets

          Perfectly said…

          -Scott

          PS If “the bailout” is getting you down, listen to the Met fans cry on the radio/TV. It’s doing wonders for me, in a sad sort of way.

        • Barry

          you still have to replace his numbers at the plate.

  • nick blasioli

    i dont know what i would do without river ave blues web site..very informative…i can always count on this web site for up to date info…but i hope you all didnt forget how i blogged last winter on getting santana and how the yankees didnt improve their team from a year ago…lets just hope things will get better this off season…yankee fan for life….

  • Batty

    While Molina wasn’t the offensive replacement for Posada he was absolutely a defensive replacement; wouldn’t say he was all that useless. He also had some pretty meaningful hits along the way.

  • MM

    If Wang was not hurt, he would get more than 19 wins this year,
    enabling Yankee to enter post season again as in 2006, 2007.
    Say Wang is back by a good offense is so ridiculus, anyone saw the games pitched by Wang would know he got very little run support this year yet still manage to obtain a 8-2 record.

    He is a true ace that should be appreciated.

  • MJ

    Exactly, respect is the main thing that is missing in society.

    I just don’t show respect to those who ‘Hate’ in this nation for no reason or the world for that matter. Not that it is “you” who hates. It is the non-realistic people.

    Was just stating a fact that he hit way better than anyone thought. You can’t look at overall season statistics, which are very misleading.

    I am a realist and just blew off some steam. Can’t stand how people can state they are Yankees fans and then attack our good ball players.