Open Thread: Joba the All Star

When the All Stars take the field at Yankee Stadium three weeks from tomorrow night, we’ll be able to count more than a few Yankees among them. Deservedly or not, Derek Jeter finds himself the top AL vote-getter; A-Rod has a lock on his position; David Ortiz’s injury should push Hideki Matsui into the lineup.

While a few Yankees — Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi come to mind — are so far getting the shaft on the popular vote front, those two should find themselves selected by the players and coaches. Meanwhile, the Yanks will see some All Star representation on the mound as well. I can’t say enough about Mariano Rivera‘s incredible season. His numbers are just off the charts this year, and Mo deserves what will be the ninth All Star game appearance of his career. I believe Mike Mussina, 10-5 with a 3.93 ERA, will find himself aboard the All Star squad as well.

There’s one more Yankee pitcher who could get All Star consideration too. A loyal reader Nick tipped me off to this idea: Joba Chamberlain, All Star. Joba right now suffers because he doesn’t have the wins; his lone victory came in relief. But it’s hard to argue with his numbers otherwise.

As a reliever, he threw 23.2 innings to the tune of a 2.28 ERA. He struck out 30 while walking 11 and opponents hit .190/.284/.274 off Joba the reliever. As a starter, he’s thrown 18.1 innings while making his transition, and his ERA stands at 2.45. He’s struck out 19, and while the 12 walks are too many, opponents are batting just .239/.354/.328 off Joba the starter. Not too shabby, eh?

So here’s my question for us to debate while the Yankees enjoy their off day tonight: It’s hard to believe that there are too many hurlers in the AL who would be better choices than Joba considering the nature of the game, and it’s pretty easy to argue that he deserves to make it on his merits. The only knock — and it’s a weak one — is his win total, but if he has a few more stellar starts as he has the last few weeks, the case for Joba becomes even more compelling. So if you were in charge of the All Star Game, would pick Joba Chamberlain as one of your pitchers?

Open Thread: Fix the Mets, fix the Mets, step right up and fix the Mets

So let’s leave our Wang problems alone for a few hours. There are only so many times in one day we can discuss Wang anyway. Instead, let’s turn our attention a few miles south and east of Yankee Stadium, and let’s visit the Yanks’ bumbling co-inhabitants of the New York City baseball universe.

Heading in the 2008 season, the New York Mets and their fans had high expectations. While they were coming off an epic last-season collapse that saw them lose the NL East to the Phillies on the final day of the season, their off-season acquisition of Johan Santana as well as the return of Pedro Martinez had the Shea Faithful feeling pretty good about the team’s chances in the final season in the House that Robert Moses Built.

But things haven’t worked out as planned. Sixty-eight games into the season, the Mets find themselves at a disappointing 33-35, 6.5 games behind the Phillies and treading water in the playoff hunt. While Santana has made a difference — without Johan, this team would be dead and buried — these numbers don’t even begin to tell the full story.

From the get-go, this has been one of those epic bumbling Mets seasons for which this team is famous. They’ve lost countless players to injuries; Carlos Delgado has been terrible; the pitching has been inconsistent; and Billy Wagner has seemingly forgotten how to close out games, blowing four of his last nine save opportunities and three of his last four late-inning appearances. The team also did a marvelous job putting Ryan Church’s career and life at risk by rushing him back from a concussion.

Off the field, things have been no better. Since the Mets rolled into Yankee Stadium in May, Willie Randolph’s job has been hanging by a thread. The Mets’ Front Office has continually declined to give Willie any long-term vote of confidence, but they refuse to flat-out fire him, perhaps recognizing that this team’s poor performance rests more on the shoulders of Omar Minaya than anyone else. It was Minaya, after all, who opted to go with an old team; it was Minaya who didn’t shore up the pitching beyond Johan Santana and a whole bunch of question marks; it was Minaya who milked the farm system dry for the likes of Delgado, Ambiorix Burgos and countless other moves.

Meanwhile, another day has passed with the axe still hanging over Willie’s head but not quite ready to fall. His coaches may be dismissed; his ability to lead this team may be questioned; but no one in the Mets organization is willing to pull the trigger. The fans have noticed too with prominent Mets bloggers calling it a perplexing embarrassment.

So as we Yankee fans leave our troubles behind for a few hours, let’s discuss the Mets. How would you fix the disaster in Queens? Would you fire Randolph? Fire Minaya? Hold a fire sale of usable parts? The Mets can’t really improve through trades this year; they have nothing left. So something must give. What do you do?

Open Thread: 2008 vs. 2007

So here we are again, a few hours away from another game in which the Yanks could sneak above that .500 mark. It’s been quite the battle really. Since April 23, the Yankees have been no more than one game above .500, and it seems as though the team has been running in place, waiting that big blow.

For the first few weeks of the season, fans were content enough to compare 2008 to 2007. The Yanks started very slow and made a race of it in the AL East last year before walking away with the Wild Card. So why couldn’t they do the same thing this year?

Right now, the Yanks are 33-33, seven games out of first. They’re also five games behind Tampa Bay for the Wild Card. Last year, at this point, the Yanks were 34-32, 8.5 games behind the Red Sox and 4.5 games behind the Wild Card-leading Tigers.

So my question for you tonight as we once again await a 10 p.m. start is this: Are the Yankees in a better spot in 2008 than in 2007 or a worse spot?

I’m leaning toward better. The team has a lot more potential than the 2007 version did, and the Yanks are primed to see contributions from some of their young guns soon. Ian Kennedy will return and hopefully throw better; Phil Hughes should be back around August. Derek Jeter won’t be so anemic at the plate for the duration of the year, and Cano should get back on track.

But perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you see an aging team with bad contracts and a piecemeal bullpen. Perhaps you see an offense relying too much on Jason Giambi‘s hot bat and Johnny Damon‘s fast start. Perhaps you are low on Kennedy and Hughes. But that’s why we debate. So have fun; play nice.

Open Thread: C.C. inching toward the market

The Cleveland Indians have been a hot topic of conversation these days. The team — expected to win the Central — is 30-35, three games worse than the mediocre Yankees. They’re 7.5 games out of first in the Central and facing the same deficit in the Wild Card race.

So of course talk will turn to C.C. Sabathia. The Indians are a long shot to sign Sabathia when the big lefty hits free agency this winter, and Mark Shapiro, the GM in Cleveland, will soon test the Sabathia market. The Yankees — long rumored to be the ultimate destination for Carsten Charles — are sure to be in on the talks, and the Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox will probably do more than kick the tires on this one.

Earlier today, PeteAbe pondered the Sabathia situation, and he offered up his take:

They have the inventory (as Brian Cashman likes to call it) to make a deal. At this point, who is untouchable in their system?

This would be my untouchable list: Austin Jackson, Jesus Montero, Phil Hughes, Andrew Brackman and Mark Melancon

Other than that, have at ‘em.

After his first four poor outings, Sabathia has been nothing short of dominant. In 73.1 innings, covering 10 starts, he has allowed 63 hits and 14 walks while striking out 73. His ERA over that span is a meager 2.09, and opponents are hitting .235/.278/.336.

So here’s my question as we await another 10 p.m. start tonight. What do you do with Sabathia? Who would you give up in a trade for this pitcher? If the Yanks acquire the lefty, they’ll probably attempt to hack out a contract extension at the trade deadline rather than in October, and Sabathia could be a difference-maker in the American League East.

Open Thread: Melky vs. Gardner

Melky Cabrera has a special place in the hearts of Yankees’ fans. We watched him (and his .322 OBP) jump from Double-A all the way to bigs as a 20 year old in 2005, then watched in horror as he looked overmatched at the plate and misplayed routine flyballs into inside-the-park homers in Fenway Park. He returned the following season because of injuries, and has since established himself as a passable everyday centerfielder. He’s one of our own; he’s paid his dues and earned a job.

This season though has been a tale of two Melky’s. His Opening Day homer gave us all hope that he was in line for the breakout season that many predicted was coming, and as recently as May 4th it looked like the breakout was legit. After hitting .291-.359-.505 with a team leading six longballs through his first 31 games, Melky has become an offensive blackhole. The numbers aren’t pretty: .257-.293-.284 with a whopping three extra base hits (all doubles) in his last 30 games. A few days ago he misplayed a potential double play ball, and if nothing else a routine line drive hit right at him, into a bunch of unearned runs. Today he weakly grounded out to first to kill the Yankees’ 9th inning rally against Royals’ closer Joakim Soria, sliding into the bag after being told for two full seasons now not to slide into first.

Enter Brett Gardner. The Yanks’ third round pick in 2005 has spend the first two-and-a-half years of his professional career terrorizing the opposition, whether it be by working counts (.387 career OBP), spraying hits to all fields (.290 BA), or running wild on the basepaths (141 SB). He’s added another much needed element to this game this year: power. Through 60 games he’s already tripled his homer total of the previous two season combined, and is slugging at a .454 clip, almost 80 points better than his career output coming into the year.

Having seen time in both left and centerfield this year, as well as a handful of pinch hit & run opportunities, Gardner is poised to take over as an extra outfielder in the big leagues this year. He’s every bit as capable as Melky when it comes to running down balls in the outfield, and while his arm isn’t as strong, his speed and on-base skills make him a much deadlier offensive player. It is worth nothing that Gardner is just about a full year older than Melky. 

While it’s hard to believe that Gardner couldn’t be a viable extra outfielder right now, we’re not here to discuss a bench job. Is it time to take Melky Cabrera and his limp noodle bat out of the lineup and replace it with Gardner’s speed demon game on a full-time basis? Could he perform any worse?

Discuss it here, and play nice.

Off-Day Open Thread: Predicting the rest of the season

In one corner: The Yankees are done. The Yankees have a terrible defense, an old lineup and no spark-plug. They have young pitchers that need some seasoning, and a new manager who hasn’t yet mastered managing a team in New York. They’re overpaid, underperforming and aren’t likely to get any better this year. Middle of the division, here we come.

In the other corner: The Yankees are once again starting slow. That they are 20-24 despite little in the way of offense is a promising sign. Once they’re hitting the ball, they’ll win games in droves. Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina have been great; Andy Pettitte will get back and track; and Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes will right their ships in due time. Plus, we’ve got Joba Chamberlain the starter hopefully on the horizon. With A-Rod on the mend and Jorge a few weeks behind him, with Robbie Cano‘s and Jason Giambi‘s bats showing signs of waking up, it’s only a matter of time before they turn it up a notch.

And so that’s your premise for your off-day open thread: Are the Yankees really this bad or is it just an early-season slump? Play nice; have fun.

Open Thread: An offensive solution to the offense

The refrains are becoming part of the daily routine. “We need another bat.” “Add a bat.” “When will this team hit?”

Somewhere out there, in between a rock and a hard place, is a free agent with the offensive skills to boost the Yanks. This free agent hit .276 last year with a whopping .480 OBP and a .565 slugging percentage. Of course, that free agent is also facing a federal indictment and has featured prominently in the steroids scandals that have rocked baseball over the better part of the last five years.

I’m talking about none other than Barry Bonds.

Now, these days, it sure is easy to consider Bonds. From what we know, he’s basically waiting for some team to pick up the phone and call him. He can probably be in playing shape in quick order, and installing him in the middle of any Major League lineup makes the lineup better.

For the Yankees — a team not afraid to court controversy and attention — Bonds would be a bit anathema to the supposed youth movement in place. But — and this is a fairly significant but — Bonds would have a role on the team. He’s the splashy sort of signing that Hank Steinbrenner would love, and he would be a valuable insurance piece.

For all of those who say the Yanks have too many first basemen and too many DHs, as we’ve seen with Jorge and A-Rod, when one of those seemingly spare parts goes down, then what? If Jason Giambi gets hurt, the Yanks lose his awakening bat. If Johnny Damon goes down and Hideki Matsui has to slide into left, the Yanks have a gaping hole in their lineup. There is, in other words, always a place in the lineup for a bat that can still hit .276/.480/.565, and Damon and Giambi have been far from paragons of health over the last few years.

I’m not suggesting or advocating for the Yanks to sign Bonds. I’m simply saying that he’s out there, lurking and waiting. He could fix the offensive woes and create all sorts of headaches for the Yanks and for their opposing pitchers. What would you do?