Your mission tonight: comment on the following picture. We can do captions, comments, what have you. Tommiesmithjohncarlos, I’m expecting a lot from you.
Mike and I will be enjoying the Derby tonight from Section 31 of the Tier Reserve (fair territory!). So let’s roll with an open thread. Ostensibly this is about the derby, but use this to discuss trade rumors, the terrible state of the Yankee offense, Brian Cashman’s head on a silver platter and anything else that tickles your fancy. If you’re over 21 (of course) want to get drunk during the Derby, play the Home Run Derby drinking game.
Anyway, I’ll start the open thread fun.
This morning, Jayson Stark penned a typical A-Rod-bashing column about Alex’s decision to eschew the Home Run Derby. Stark claims that A-Rod first opted out of the “Call Your Shot” promotion that would have featured David Ortiz had he not been injured and then opted out of the Derby all together. Why? Stark posits it is because of Alex Rodriguez’s fragile psyche.
Well, I’m fairly certain that with his face plastered all over the tabloids these days, A-Rod’s fragile psyche could have handled losing the Home Run Derby. While Stark claims A-Rod may be afriad of ending up on the tabloids after the Derby, I have to wonder how that end result would be any different from, oh, the last two weeks.
Stark slams the Yankees’ hitter — and indirectly Jason Giambi as well — for opting out of the game in their home town. Giambi would have participated had he been selected to the All Star team, but heaven forbid he enjoy a four-day vacation at home for the first time since early February. Writes Stark, “It’s not important enough, apparently, for Alex Rodriguez to risk not living up to his own ego. How sad is that?”
No sadder than an ESPN columnist using the meaningless Home Run Derby as just another platform to tear down A-Rod. It’s an old trope, but would we expect anything else from Stark and ESPN?
As baseball analysts raced to judge the CC Sabathia trade, an interesting tidbit emerged about the Yankees: They don’t, as I noted earlier, know their 2008 chances, and as the season rushes into the All Star break, the Yanks could go one of two ways.
If they finish strong in their last six games before the break and start the second half of the season with a few wins, they could close the gap in the AL or at least in the Wild Card race and emerge as serious contenders. If they stumble their way to the All Star break and lose a few games against some of their stronger opponents after the break, they could slip further behind in the playoff hunt. Or they could keep on treading water as they’re doing now, holding back too far in the division but not quite far enough in the Wild Card to figure out what’s happening.
So submitted for discussion, two scenarios:
The Yankees Should Be Sellers
The New York Yankees are old and underachieving. They’re a collection of overpaid, under-performing players past their prime spending too much time on the DL. The Yankees should sell.
Maybe they could move Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui for a few younger players. Maybe they could ship off Kyle Farnsworth while he’s in the middle of a solid stretch. Maybe they could foist Mike Mussina, in the middle of a latter-day career resurgence, onto the Phillies. Maybe they should look at some of their more expendable and younger players like Wilson Betemit, who doesn’t have a clear-cut role but could command a decent return, or Melky Cabrera, who has seemingly outlived his usefulness in the Bronx.
They should sell now because when 2009 rolls around, this team will have a whole new look. They could land CC Sabathia; they could sign Mark Teixeira. They’ll have a full year’s worth of Joba Chamberlain in the rotation, a repaired Chien-Ming Wang and a hopefully healthy Phil Hughes. Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero will be one year closer to the Bigs, and the 2009 team will look far different from the current iteration of the 2008 team. Sell. Sell. Sell.
The Yankees Should Be Buyers
Sell? Since when do the New York Yankees give up on a season? They’re just four games out of the Wild Card and only three in the loss column. Even the nine games between them and Tampa Bay — Tampa Freakin’ Bay! — isn’t that daunting. They’ve done it before; they could do it again.
No, my friend, the Yankees should buy. Brian Cashman has built up a stocked farm system, and one of the advantages of such a farm system is knowing who to keep and who should be traded for what when the time is right. They could use some of those pieces to acquire what they need — a right-handed bat, a top-line starter — to push them over the edge.
If they let Abreu, Mussina, Farnsworth and Giambi walk next year, they’ll land the draft picks to replenish the system. So why not buy and win this year? Anything short of the playoffs is simply unacceptable, and with $200 million and his potential job on the line, Cashman may need to let go of some of his vaunted prospects if he wants to see October or a new contract.
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So there you go. What would you do with the 2008 New York Yankees? Sell the ones you can sell or hold to your Major League chips, jettison some kids and stock up for a stretch run?
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?
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?
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.