Jan
28

Thinking about the starting five

By

The 1948 Boston Braves were a pretty good team. They finished the season with a 91-62 record, good for first in the National League, but they fell to the Indians in the World Series in six games. Despite a few no-name pitchers in their rotation — or perhaps because of them — that club birthed one of the most famous poems in baseball history.

On September 14, 1948, as the Braves held onto first place and tried to find someone not named Warren Spahn or Johnny Sain who could win games regularly, the now-defunct Boston Post ran a verse from Gerald V. Hern. The one-time paper’s sports editor’s words live on as part of baseball culture.

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

As we sit here on January 28, just a few weeks before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, the Yanks’ rotation resembles that poem. Substitute CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes — what, You think I’d say Mitre? — and we can have the 2011 edition of “Spahn and Sain.” Of course, Sabathia and Hughes won’t combine to throw 41 percent of all of the Yanks’ innings as Spahn and Sain did, but isn’t that why the club signed Rafael Soriano?

Lately, the Yankees have been trying to find someone, anyone willing to part with a pitcher, but the pickings are slim. So earlier this week, they turned to Bartolo Colon, and the world seemingly imploded. Blog commenters, Twitter conversations, talk radio spots all focused on Colon as though the Yanks were relying on him to make 33 starts and win 18 of them. They’re not. He’s a low-risk invitee to Spring Training who will take home a few thousand dollars if he doesn’t make the team. If he pitches well enough to merit a longer look, the Yanks will pay him a salary of $900,000. It won’t break the bank.

Yet, as Joel Sherman pointed out, every pitching move is being viewed through the prism of Cliff Lee. The Yankees didn’t sign Lee; ergo, Colon is the replacement. It doesn’t quite work that way. Rather, in a thin market, the Yanks have an opportunity to maybe catch lightning in a bottle for 15 starts — Aaron Small says hello — or push Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre to earn their rotation spots. Who would want to have Colon breathing down his neck anyway?

But maybe it won’t come to that. Sherman adds a tantalizing bit of some hopey-changey thing to the conversation:

For now, their only chance to change the perception of having a frail rotation would be if Andy Pettitte again reversed retirement plans. And optimism has risen within the Yankee family that Pettitte will indeed pitch in 2011. Two people briefed on the most recent conversations between the Yankees and Pettitte say the team is upbeat because Pettitte is working out regularly, has not firmly committed to retirement and because it is hard to dismiss the $12 million to $13 million Pettitte knows the Yankees would pay for his services.

What Yankee fan isn’t going to go to their windows, open it, stick their head and scream, “Come back, Andy Pettitte”? One simple signing will turn the Yanks’ off-season around. Although I’m not sold on Pettitte’s ability to withstand the physical rigors of a full season, 21 starts of Pettitte and 12 starts of someone else is far better than the alternative.

So we keep waiting, and if push comes to shove, as Sherman says, the Yanks just have to ride it out until early June. Cliff Lee was sent from the Mariners to Texas on July 9th, and if the Yanks can put together a Spahn-and-Sain-like rotation for half a season or less, the market will open up. Still, I’m holding out hope for Andy Pettitte. Does he really seem retired to you?

Categories : Pitching

21 Comments»

  1. PaulF says:

    CC and Hughes, and pray for good AJ.

  2. YankeesForEver says:

    First CC
    Then Hughes
    Pray to God we then won’t lose
    Bullpen strong to backup the fools
    Then to CC
    Then to Hughes

    • JGS says:

      First we use CC
      then we use Hughes
      then an off-day
      followed by booze
      Back will come CC
      followed by Hughes
      and followed
      we fear
      by two days of booze

  3. YankeesForEver says:

    Trade Laird and Chamberlain for Edwin Jackson!!!

  4. Del Prete says:

    Pettitte will come

  5. squishy jello person says:

    So what’s the Palin reference?

  6. Midland TX says:

    Excellent summarization. “Check back before the All-Star Break” doesn’t sell radio ad space, hence all the dumb bloviating.

    But Bartolo Colon breathing down anyone’s neck? Ew. Trying to eat dinner here, dude.

  7. Andy in NYC says:

    What was that noise? I think I just heard Bexy yelling out her window…

  8. Chops says:

    There is a fat pitcher named CC
    He made the Yankees win easy
    But after him
    the rest are slim
    but their pitching makes me a little queasy

    (I know about Hughes too, but I couldn’t make it fit the limerick)

  9. A.D. says:

    Given that Hughes wasn’t all that spectacular after an amazing start to the season don’t know how much he can really be banked on.

  10. Another Bronx Dynasty says:

    There once was a staff led by CC
    He was so big but won so E-Z

    After him came Phil Hughes
    Who would hardly ever lose

    But after him
    The rest was quite Dim

    The team needed three
    And went hard after Cliff Lee
    And got beat out by a team from Phillie

    .

  11. CS Yankee says:

    Pettitte is not retired, he is refocused.

  12. Mike Myers says:

    Pettitte needs to start sexting. His Favre immiatation isnt doing it for me.

  13. Mike says:

    The ’48 Braves also had the up-and-coming Vern Bickford, the relatively solid Bill Voiselle and the advantage of playing in the days of four-man rotations. Bickford went 11-5 with a 3.27 ERA that year (compared with Spahn’s 15-12, 3.71) and, if anything, improved over the following couple years before a broken finger on his pitching hand derailed his career. Voiselle’s record was 13-13, but his ERA was 3.63 in 1948-also lower than Spahn’s. At least based on old-fashioned stats like ERA, the back end of the ’48 Braves rotation wasn’t really so bad, poem or no.

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