The great September tease

Pettitte, shoulder done for the year
Rebuilding Yankee Stadium with Legos

The Yankees find themselves in a rather odd position right now. They’ve won seven in a row and 10 out of their last 11 contests. They have the fourth best record in the AL and are tied with the Mets and Brewers for seventh best overall in baseball. Yet, they’re heading home in four days, and I find myself thinking that, maybe, perhaps this would have been easier had the team now gotten so hot in September.

Right now, the Yankees are the hottest team in baseball. Over their 10-1 stretch, they’re pitching to an ERA of 2.52, and opponents are hitting about as well as Melky Cabrera against them. While they’re scoring 5.4 runs per game, that is decidedly better than their season pace of 4.8 runs per game. Where has this team been all year?

What the Yanks have done over the last two weeks is tease their fans. They’ve turned it up a notch when it was too late in the season for them to control their own destiny. We’ve seen Mike Mussina reach 19 wins for the first time in 12 years; we saw Phil Hughes throw eight innings in a start for the first time in his Big League career; we’ve seen the bullpen throw lights out ball; and we’ve seen the Yanks pick up that big hit — as Bobby Abreu did last night — when they absolutely needed it.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, none of that had happened earlier in the year. Phil Hughes in April was 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA. No one was getting hits at the right time, and the Yanks couldn’t buy runs if they tried.

This run has certainly made for a fun September, but it’s made for a forlorn month as well. It’s made for a month of what if’s. What if the Yanks had played like this not just in September but in April, May and June? What if the Yanks had won just five or six more games earlier this year? Baseball has always been a game of what if’s, but for some reason, with the recent Yankee resurgence, this year seems to hurt more than the playoff losses from years gone by.

I guess we’ll just have to do what the old Brooklyn Dodger fans long did. We’ll wait ’til next year, and we’ll get ’em then.

Pettitte, shoulder done for the year
Rebuilding Yankee Stadium with Legos
  • A.D.

    This pretty much shows what many people joke about every night with the “clutch” argument. Yankees are being clutch right now, only it doesn’t matter cause they’re not in the position for a push to the playoffs.

    Nice that Hughes, Aceves, Coke, BG, and Miranda are getting some solid ML playing time/innings down the stretch and going into next year

    • Chris C.

      “Nice that Hughes, Aceves, Coke, BG, and Miranda are getting some solid ML playing time/innings down the stretch and going into next year”

      Which makes it all the more bewildering as to why the Yankees are even bothering to start Pavano and Ponson in ballgames where they can learn about some young starters heading into next year. How in the world does it benefit this organization to start two guys who won’t be here next year, instead of, say, Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke, or perhaps one of the other many Yankee minor league pitchers who’ve had great seasons??

      This organization is just filled with dummies.

      • steve (different one)

        it’s yet to be determined if Pavano will be here next year or not.

        i’d rather spend time evaluating if HE can help the team next year than who, Chase Wright?

        and why on earth would they start Phil Coke now?

        Kennedy, i don’t know what they are thinking on him.

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

          Also, Coke, Kennedy, and the like could be evaluated in any one of various winter or Latin American leagues. Pavano cannot.

          Ponson, you got me there. Maybe we’re fulfilling a promise to a Make-a-Wish kid or something.

          Like Paul O’Neill hitting two home runs.

          • steve (different one)

            Ponson was pulled from the rotation when Hughes came up. he’s only pitching on saturday b/c Pettitte has been shut down.

            they could call up Kennedy for that start, but if they Yankees have any possibility of including him in a trade this winter, exposing him to the Sox offense in Fenway is probably a bad idea.

  • JRVJ

    Two comments: 1. You say: “We’ve seen Mike Mussina reach 19 wins for the first time in 12 years”

    and then you mention

    “Just in case you’ve forgotten, none of that had happened earlier in the year.”

    Obviously we couldn’t see Mussina win 19 games earlier in the season, but I don’t think that’s what you mean :-)

    2. I think it’s a good thing that the Yankees are finishing strong, because there’s more than a few people out there (columnists, bloggers, TV talking heads, fans) who are espousing that the Yanks should throw out the baby with the bath water.

    The Yanks are not that far away from being an elite team again (arguably, they would have been a playoff team if injuries had not taken down Wang and Joba, plus Posada and to a lesser extent Matsui and A-Rod/Jeter).

  • steve (different one)

    What if the Yanks had played like this not just in September but in April, May and June? What if the Yanks had won just five or six more games earlier this year?

    obviously everything you say in this post is true, but the fact is that there are different PLAYERS making this happen right now, that for whatever reason just weren’t available earlier in the season.

    Pavano, even though he isn’t pitching *THAT* well, has still come in and solidified a spot in the rotation that Rasner or Ponson were taking.

    Aceves, who was NOT really an option earlier because of a groin injury and his initial struggles in AAA, has done the same.

    add in Phil Hughes, and you have a completely different rotation than the one we had just 6 weeks ago.

    Joba is less valuable in the bullpen, but it’s still better than not having him at all. and he missed most of August. now he is back. Coke has also emerged over the last 3 weeks.

    the difference is that the Yankees are now trotting out a starter every night that gives them a chance to win, 6 weeks ago, this was only really happening 2-3 times a week.

    huge difference.

    not much you can do about it except use it to build upon for next year.

    just need to keep a little perspective when the temptation is to tear down everything, fire everyone, and go crazy this offseason. of course, change is needed. but there should be organic improvements as well, just from getting some of the current guys on the roster healthy.

    • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

      Pre ASG Hughes and Kennedy really killed us.

      • mustang

        Thank you

        • steve (different one)

          right.

          but that was because Hughes wasn’t healthy, not because he wasn’t ready for the majors.

          even without those two guys, if Posada and Wang stay healthy, i think they are still in it. or really, really close.

          no team can afford to have EVERYTHING go wrong.

          • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

            >> not because he wasn’t ready for the majors. >>

            I notice you didn’t include IPK in that statement. ;-)

            • steve (different one)

              nope. it seems like IPK wasn’t ready. they were wrong there.

              but i think they would have easily overcome that mistake with a healthy Wang, Hughes, Posada, and Joba. or 2 or 3 of those.

              also, when A-Rod went down, the Yankees went 6-11.

              it was a lot of things.

              • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

                Exactly. Although I’m not sure why when Hank says the exact same thing, it comes off sounding silly.

  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca Optimist Prime

    When it comes down to it, the Yankees would have not missed the playoffs by much.

    One more win against Boston. One more tied game not blown in the ninth inning. One more win against the likes of the Pirates and the Reds. One more game not lost in Anaheim or Texas.

    Considering how close we are when for most of the year our rotation has been Mussina, Pettitte, Rasner, Ponson and fill-in-the-blank, as well as a line up without Posada or Matsui, and for all intents and purposes without Canò, that’s quite an accomplishment.

    They’re not that far off from the postseason.

    • jsbrendog

      i agree. for where we came from and what we went thoruhg im happy with where we are. (but still un happy we are going home)

      its like delgado, with what he went through prior to that 9 rbi game at yankee stadium to be where he is numbers wise, holy crap man.

      • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca–Optimist Prime

        Christ, I was AT that game.

        And then I got to go home to watch Sidney Ponson. I don’t know how there was any liquour left in the cabinet!

    • Slugger27

      every team could say that… bottom line is those are the games teams NEED to win, and the yanks didnt… theyre not the only team that lost heartbreakers, they just lost more than they should have

      • RCK

        Here’s the thing. Everyone keeps saying that every team has injuries, and this is true. But it seems to me that no other team had injuries to their two best starting pitchers combined with having their best bats out of the lineup for significant periods of time and managed to hang in there. The Rays did lose several of their best players to injury, but they’ve had the same five starters pretty much all season.

        • Slugger27

          red sox dealt with dl trips to the following players:

          beckett – multiple 15 day trips
          dice k – 15 day
          jd drew – long time
          papi – huge portion of season
          julio luge – 60 day ((whatever thats worth to u))
          mike lowell – multiple 15 day trips
          curt schilling – entire season
          mike timlin – multiple 15 day trips
          tim wakefield – recently 15 day trip
          after all that… they traded away their best hitter

          thats just off the top of my head… thats their opening day no. 1, 2, 3, and 5 starters all spending time on the DL and in schillings case the whole year…… on top of that, it includes their 3 hole, 5 hole, 6 hole, starting shortstop of their opening day lineup, not even including trading manny

          while i agree losing wang, joba for a month, and posada has hurt this team badly… u could argue red sox injuries are just as bad and probably worse…

          the difference being… THEY HAVE A GOOD FARM SYSTEM with several backup plans (lowrie, masterson, etc) … when faced with their injuries they used good internal options, the yanks when faced with their injuries signed ponson, traded for pudge, and prayed to god when pavano and rasner started 2 of every 5 games

          yes they had injuries, but how they could overcome them in comparison to hwo the red sox did shows a lot about the 2 organizations….

          • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

            And yet Beckett & Dice-K won 30 games between them. Wow, what a hardship…

        • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca–Optimist Prime

          Agreed.

          The Sox lost Ortiz and Lowell for considerable periods, sure, but they weren’t also losing Lester and whoever else has been an effective starter for them.

          And Pedroia didn’t pull a Canò.

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

            Exactly. We had a bunch of players get hurt. People scream, “WHERE’S THE BACKUP PLAN!??!?!”

            Guess what… a bunch of our backup plans got hurt too.

          • Slugger27

            look im not saying the injuries didnt cost us huge, cuz they did, all im saying is that bad drafts for the past decade with a SEVERE lack of positional talent in the organization and all around below average depth in this organization made tough injuries become insurmountable season-ending fists of doom

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

              Agreed.

              At whom would you like to direct your boiling rage for the failures in drafting from 1996-2005?

              Steve Swindal? Mark Newman? Billy Connors? Gordon Blakeley? Big George himself? Most of the people whose decision making casue us to draft poorly or not have draft picks in the first place are either gone from the organization or have had their influence reduced by Cashman and Oppenheimer, but the effects of their past incompetence linger on…

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

                *caused*

  • jk

    As soon as they benched Matsui, the Yankees started winning a few games. It was a big mistake bringing him back when he needed knee surgery.

    • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

      Matsui wanted to play in the Stadium finale, but they could have left him on the bench for every game until then…

    • steve (different one)

      yeah, that was the big difference.

    • Slugger27

      u cant possibly be saying that with a straight face… hes a career .300 hitter with great OBP numbers… u think THAT move is what hurt the yanks???

  • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

    I don’t necessarily think this is all bad. Maybe a fun week of meaningless baseball will help loosen up ol’ General Joe a bit.

    I’m actiually wishing we could have been eliminated earlier so we could see more of Hughes, Aceves et al. Ransom seems like a really solid utility guy, if only he weren’t 32 years old …

    The offseason’s going to be WAY too long, especially if the Angels or the friggi’ Red Sox win it all again.

    Go Cubs!

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

    If only CMW hadn’t gotten that hit to be on base in the first place…
    If only Sidney Ponson had been drunker (he pitches better that way)…
    If only Johnny Damon would have caught those weak centerfield flyouts…
    If only Cashman would have had 10 backup plans instead of only 3…
    If only Ian Kennedy could throw faster than 90MPH, since he can’t possibly be a good pitcher without doing so…
    If only we’d retained Aaron Guiel to fill our CF hole…
    IF ONLY PHIL HUGHES HAD BEEN CHINESE!!!

    • Slugger27

      lmao

    • mustang

      People gloat when things succeed and were so sure of them at the beginning of the season. Is it so wrong now to question a plan that had so many “WHAT IF” from the start?

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

        No, it’s not wrong to question it, as long as you do so fairly and equitably.

        I.E., it’s okay to question Cashman’s plan to start the season with Hughes and Kennedy in the rotation, as long as you also note the fact that he had no way to anticipate that that potential small problem would snowball into a bigger problem when you factor in the unpredictable injuries to Wang, Joba, Pettitte, Aceves, Marquez, Horne, Karstens (don’t forget those three), as well as Hughes and Kennedy themselves.

        Had Hughes and Kennedy struggled without us having the volume of injuries we had, it would have been isolated to a few starts here and there and not massive amounts of Ponson and Rasner. And, had they not been injured themselves, they might have been able to get back on the horse sooner and start contributing again, like Hughes did last night.

        It’s okay to question. Just remember, we’re been unlucky on a lot of levels. Cut some slack.

        • mustang

          They had two aging pitchers in the rotation in Pettitte and Mussina everyone expected at least one of them to go down. So knowing that they started the season with two rookies I’m sorry it was a stupid plan then and it looks even dumber now.

  • Tripp

    This is what happens when some many contracts are up at the end of the season. People trying to get those good numbers in so they can sign somewhere next year.

    • steve (different one)

      right, except that’s not really what’s happening.

      what’s happening is that for the last 10 games, the Yankee pitching has been lights out. and there aren’t really any Yankee pitchers who really fall into that category, since both Moose and Pettitte are basically going to play in NY next year on short contracts or they are going to retire.

    • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

      Well then, I wish Abreu and Giambi well with their new insane contracts with the Giants/Phillies/Mariners …

    • mustang

      Very insightful I totally agree.

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

      I don’t necessarily agree with that. Yes, Pavano is obviously pitching to show he’s healthy and still effective, but Abreu, Giambi and Moose? I think ML GM’s know what those guys are at this point. An extra 15 RBI or 3 wins in Sept. shouldn’t change anyone’s mind.

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

        Well, maybe Ned Colletti or Dave Dombrowski.

      • Brad K

        I have to agree. I can’t think that there is any GM out there who doesn’t know exactly what they are getting with Abreu and Giambi. These guy’s have been playing on the big stage now for awhile, especially Giambi.