Nice outing by Gaudin, even with the meltdown.

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With a win tonight, the Yankees would go 40 games over .500. It’s pretty crazy to think about. Even at the beginning of the season, when the threat was strong from both the Sox and the Rays, the thought of being at this point didn’t cross many of our minds. Even if one team fell behind, surely there’d be a September race for the AL East crown. Alas, we’re moving through September (it’s the freaking 8th already), and the Yanks have a comfortable lead in the AL East, and the Rays are all but out of it.

They’ll take the field today behind Chad Gaudin. Since he’s come over from San Diego, Gaudin has started two games and has run into trouble each time. The first time it was a bases loaded, one out situation in the fifth inning. He had walked five to that point, and Girardi had seen enough. The second time was last time out, where he lasted 3.2 innings against Toronto. Thankfully, the offense was there to back him up.

Walks have been the big problem for Gaudin since his move to the AL East. He’s issued 13 free passes in 17.2 innings, an unacceptable rate. He’s held opponents to just eight runs in that span, but if he keeps walking guys at that rate it’s going to catch up for him. Thankfully, he has his personal caddy, Al Aceves, ready for backup work.

David Price will stand on the rubber for the Rays. The 2007 first overall pick has had a rough go in his first season, allowing 59 runs, 51 earned, in 96.2 innings for a 4.75 ERA. In fact, it appears he’s having struggles similar to Joba Chamberlain. That consists of a high walk rate, resulting in a high WHIP. The strikeouts are there, but Price, like Joba, has to find a way to finish off more batters and avoid drawn-out at bats which result in walks.

Boston hit Price rather hard last time out, picking up four runs on six hits and two walks over 5.1 innings, forcing the tall lefty to toss 104 pitches in that span. that’s been one of Price’s problems this year (as it has been Joba’s). In the two starts preceding Boston, against Texas and Detroit, Price went 7 and 7.1 innings, allowing three and one runs. We know he has the ability, but like many young pitchers he’s still working to put it together.

Derek gets a day at DH. Maybe that will spark him to a couple of hits. And, of course by now you know the David Robertson news.

Lineup:

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Johnny Damon, LF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Nick Swisher, RF
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Robinson Cano, 2B
8. Melky Cabrera, CF
9. Jerry Hariston, SS

And on the mound, number forty-one, Chad Gaudin.

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I wrote this whole thing up before the David Robertson news broke, so I’m going to post these now. And you’ll damn well like ‘em.

Will Gehrig’s accomplishments fade with time?

Keith Olbermann chimed in over the weekend with some concern that with modern players putting up bigger numbers than their older counterparts, some players may fade into distant memory. As he says, it’s just “a reminder of the remarkable quality of Gehrig’s, and that as time guarantees that his name will become harder and harder to find in the record books, he should never be forgotten.”

He should not be forgotten, and I don’t have serious worries that he will be. Dave Pinto puts it well: “Keith is worried that Lou Gehrig will be forgotten. Fortunately for Lou, due to his tragedy, due to his unforgettable speech in the face of death, and due to the enormous hold of the Yankees on the world of baseball, that isn’t going to happen.”

Pettitte still undecided about next year

If that sounds like a ridiculous premise for news, well, you’re right. As Jon Heyman admits, Pettitte has said basically the same thing for the past two years. His decision of Yankees or bust came a bit later last year, and given how it played out last winter I doubt he says anything similar this time around. But if he wants another go-round, I think the Yanks could find a place for him in 2010.

Doc Gooden goes to work for the Bears

The Newark Bears aren’t doing so bad in the standings. They’re four games back of Somerset in the Freedom Division, though there are only 14 games left, so there’s not much time left to catch up. Unfortunately, the team is seventh out of the eight teams in attendance, which can be death for an independent league team. One measure they’re taking to help matters: hiring Doc Gooden as senior vice president. Gooden will “be an ambassador and assist in youth camps and with Little League development in Newark.” He’s not the only former Yank working with the Bears; Tim Rains managers the team.

ESPN Classic could be downgraded

ESPN Classic is included in most basic cable packages, but that might not last too much longer. The station wants to focus more on its younger viewers, and they are more easily captured with the programming on ESPNU, ESPN360, and ESPN Deportes. That might mean a downgrade for ESPN Classic, meaning you might not be able to watch black and white boxing matches for much longer. There’s no definitive word on what ESPN will do with it, but it looks like fewer people will receive the channel.

Tales from the first Japanese MLB pitcher

If asked who was the first Japanese MLB pitcher, many might answer Hideo Nomo. While Nomo did start the recent surge of Japanese talent in the the majors, he was not the first. That would be Masanori Murakami, whom the Nankai Hawks lent to the San Francisco Giants in 1964. He pitched 89.1 innings in 54 appearances over two years, and was eventually called back by his home club. Only 30 years later did Nomo come over.

I found this article mainly because I thought it was about this guy, an author I admire. (Seriously, read The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. It’s a winner.) It turned out to be an interesting read, a bit about the Japanese talent filtering to America, partly about Murakami’s career, and partly about the death threats Giants manager Herman Franks received for using Murakami. The FBI had him under protection for a week. If nothing else, it’s an interesting take on how times have changed over the past 45 years.

Sean Henn to the Orioles

Former Yank Sean Henn is headed to his fifth destination. After stints with the Yanks, Padres, and Twins, he’ll now be part of the Orioles system. The southpaw had 45 strikeouts to 16 walks in 38.2 AAA innings this season.

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  • David Robertson shut down, to see James Andrews
    By

    Dun dun dunnnnnnn. Word came down this afternoon that David Robertson has been shut down with tightness in his elbow, and will be off to see Dr. James Andrews at a to be determined date. Girardi did not rule out a Robertson return this season, but any time you hear Dr. Andrews the potential for danger is high. · (57) ·

Heading into a Monday match-up against the Rays on June 8th, the Yankees were 33-23, clinging to a 0.5-game lead in AL East. That night, Phil Hughes made his first bullpen appearance for the Yankees in a win, and since then, the Yankees have been nearly unstoppable. The Yankees are 56-27 since Phil’s bullpen debut, and Hughes has been, by most accounts, the Yanks’ third best pitcher over the last three months.

We know the dominance; we see it as often as the Yanks use Phil. The numbers though are impressive. In 33 relief appearances, Hughes has thrown 41.2 innings with an ERA of 1.08. He has walked just 11 and has struck out 54. His numbers rival those of Mariano Rivera‘s, and arguably, only CC Sabathia and Mo have been as valuable on the mound as Phil since mid-June.

While Hughes has helped solidified games at the back end of the bullpen, he’s hardly making a huge impact overall. He has thrown 41.2 innings while the Yankees as a whole have pitched 741.2. Hughes’ contributions, then, have come in just over five percent of all of the Yankee innings over the last three months. They are, in a sense, wasting a weapon in the pen.

At this point in the year, the Yankees do not seem inclined to stretch Hughes out into a starter. As they’re doing with Joba Chamberlain, they could be doing with Hughes. They could have him throw 35 pitches and then 50 an then 65 in an effort to build him up to a playoff starter. The Yankees, though, don’t want to mess with a good thing. In a piece making the rounds today, Rob Neyer, though, urges them to do just that. By switching Joba and Phil Hughes, says Neyer, the Yankees would be perfect for the playoffs.

Chamberlain is the Yankees’ No. 4 starter. Sergio Mitre is the Yankees’ No. 5 starter. Which means the Yankees, as things stand now, have only three reliable starters. And again, you need four of them when the leaves are turning in New England.

I know, I know … Phil Hughes has been so good in the bullpen: 1.11 ERA with an overpowering strikeout-to-walk ratio. Make him a starter again and he’s not going to post numbers anything like those. But to help the Yankees, he doesn’t have to be anywhere near that good; he just has to be measurably better than Chamberlain and Mitre. Particularly if — and I know this is highly speculative — Chamberlain regains his dominant stuff upon returning to a relief role.

Perhaps I’m overreacting to Chamberlain’s recent struggles, and the Yankees are good enough to win the World Series even without a decent fourth starter. But the other day somebody asked me what could keep the Yankees from winning. I didn’t have a good answer, because this is essentially a team without a weakness.

Except one. And with a little creativity, they could probably make it zero.

The problem, as Neyer admits, is Joba. There is no guarantee that he’s going to find the missing five miles-per-hour on his fastball in the pen. There is no guarantee that he’s going to rediscover the ability to attack the strike zone and get hitters out while pitching efficiently out of the pen. In fact, Joba’s recent first-inning struggles would suggest just the opposite.

I’d love to see Hughes in the rotation, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that it just isn’t going to happen. Joba’s struggles are, hopefully, an isolated incident that comes and goes with the season. A.J. Burnett to attest to the ups and downs of pitching.

There is but one rub to this tale of pitching. Jon Heyman tweeted today: “Those of us who think Joba’s a reliever may get our wish in the AL playoffs, when he may join Mo, Hughes in pen.” There are no sources here and no analysis. Rather, Heyman just reports something seemingly for the sake of creating news.

If there’s a modicum of truth in this Tweet though it’s not impossible to see what the Yankees would do. Tonight, Chad Gaudin pitches with Alfredo Aceves ready at the first sign of trouble. Aceves has essentially become Gaudin’s caddy. He has thrown 32 pitches and then 42 pitches in relief of the Yanks’ recently-acquired right-hander. With a long outing tonight, Aceves could easily take a spot in the rotation in five days and work toward a start in the playoffs. Crazier roster machinations have happened.

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  • Complete interview with Pags, and a look at Dunn
    By

    Last week we ran the highlights of Fack Youk’s interview with Mike Pagliarulo. Matt, who does some damn fine work over there, asked Pags a ton more questions, and has the full interview up at FY. For some lunchtime reading, you can check out Part One, which mostly focuses on Pags’s days playing with the Yanks, and Part Two, which is more about Pags post-Yankees and post-playing days. Aside from his weak acquittal from the Igawa incident, I’d say it’s a good read.

    If you, as I, enjoy the fine work at Fack Youk, you can also take a look at Matt’s recent look at Mike Dunn. The kid has promise for sure, though we’ve seen his weakness exposed from the get go. With two option years remaining, he’ll have time to work it out.
    · (31) ·

  • Pair of bleacher tickets available tonight
    By

    A friend just let me know that she has two tickets available tonight, bleachers, section 202, row 17. They’re going for face, $12. First person to email me with a definitive yes gets them. We can work a meetup for ‘em if you happen to be in Queens, but otherwise email transfer works. · (0) ·

Posts like this always open with an admission of our collective position on Melky Cabrera, as if it needed restating. It is plainly clear that we don’t like Melky as the everyday center fielder. He has had his high points, but the lows are abominable. It is best to have someone else sharing time with him out there, which is why Brett Gardner is an important component to this team. When Melky’s going badly, Gardner can step in and at least lend his speed.

The latest Melky complaint came on August 18. On August 2 he had hit for the cycle, and in the subsequent 56 plate appearances took a nosedive, hitting .115/.161/.173. Small sample or not, it was a terrible stretch in which the Yankees essentially had a pitcher in the ninth slot. Worst of all, Gardner was still on the disabled list, so there were few options to spell Melky. Jerry Hairston got some games out there, but not with any frequency. It was clear the Yankees were going to ride out Melky’s slump.

That appears to have been the right move. Melky has surged since the 19th, hitting .348/.392/.464 in 75 plate appearances. The greatest part of his onslaught has come in September, where he boasts a .419/.471/.581 line in 34 plate appearances. His slump is over, and with the return of Brett Gardner, perhaps the Yankees can stave off another one before the end of the season.

It would be foolish to think that Melky will avoid another slump like the one he experienced in August (.223/.364/.350). He’s had the up-and-down syndrome from month to month since 2007. It makes for an incredibly deep lineup some months, when he can hit (but not run) like Curtis Granderson. It also makes for a short lineup other months, where he hits like Willie Bloomquist. That’s what makes the Melky experience so frustrating at times. We’ve seen him do so much better.

There’s certainly hope for Melky’s future. He’s only 24 years old and has had to learn on the fly at the major league level. When he’s bad he’s really bad, but when he’s good he can be an above average center fielder. Just look at his numbers in July. Over 86 plate appearances he was .289/.372/.447, and his BABIP was only .290. In April it was .324, and in May, when he had a totally acceptable .777 OPS, it was .356. It obviously dropped in his down months, but he did have a good month with an average BABIP. I don’t think anyone would complain if Melky started hitting .289/.372/.447 every season.

Every player streaks and slumps. It’s part of the game. But not every player has a hot month followed by a month-long drought. Not every player puts. up a .819 OPS one month and then follows it up with .613 the next. Over the years we’ve seen Melky develop his game a bit, mostly his power. The next step in his development will be to even out some of this streakiness. If he can avoid the sub-.700 OPS months, he’ll have a place on this team for quite some time. But if he continues to streak and slump in the manner he has over the past three years, it’s going to make for a rough ride in the future.

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At some point soon — hopefully today because I’ll be there — Derek Jeter will become the Yanks’ all-time leader on the hit list. In a few weeks, we’ll hear rumblings of a potential MVP award. In a few years, he’ll reach that 3000-hit plateau and possibly even that 3500-hit mark. Along the way, he’ll hit his 250th home run and score his 2000th run.

There is, of course, one monumental event that is going to arrive before a few of those milestones: Derek Jeter’s ten-year contract will expire. Make no mistake about it; this is a big deal.

Over the last few weeks, Joe and I have spent some time exploring Jeter’s contract status. While Jeter hasn’t been saying much about his new deal, I speculated that the Yanks might break with tradition and sign Derek to an extension this year. Such a move would cut off the media circus surrounding Derek the Free Agent before it could begin. Late on Friday, though, Joe noted that multiple reports indicate the Yankees will wait until after 2010 to re-up with Jeter.

Today, Bob Klapisch introduces a few new elements to the mix as he asks one very big question: While the Yankees, in the words of Jayson Stark, will probably “take care of” Jeter, what will happen when and if Derek asks for a four-year, $100-million extension? In a piece high on superlatives, Klapisch writes that Jeter has “a larger footprint than anyone in the organization.” Since 1995, Derek Jeter has been a Yankee, and since shortly thereafter, the two — Yankee baseball and Derek Jeter — have been synonymous. Jeter, says Klapisch, knows this and knows what it can mean for him:

Jeter has made it clear he’d like to finish his career in pinstripes. The Yankees certainly want him back when his current deal expires after 2010. Everyone agrees on that much. But after earning $41 million in 2009-10, Jeter will be in no mood for a pay cut, not after seeing A-Rod awarded a 10-year, $275 million deal after the 2007 season.

How much will Jeter be worth at age 37 is a question the Yankee hierarchy doesn’t dare discuss publicly. No team in the last 50 years has won a championship with a shortstop that old, although that won’t deter either side from finding middle ground. That is, unless Jeter wants to stay at the position into his 40s and is thinking of earning $25 million a year.

The Yankees are bracing for the possibility that Jeter could indeed ask for, say, $100 million over four years, knowing the captain would have enormous leverage in the talks. That’s why management won’t even begin to discuss a new contract this winter; in the wake of an MVP-caliber season, the cost would be prohibitive.

Instead, the Yankees will run the table on Jeter’s existing deal and hope common sense prevails in 2011. One industry analyst says, “let’s see if (Jeter) realizes the market has come down” since A-Rod’s record-setting contract.

Giving Jeter a contract extension after his 2009 campaign would be, simply put, a bad business decision. The Yankees would be paying Jeter going forward for what he has accomplished this year, and while Jeter appears ageless now, he is more likely to decline over the next five years than he is to duplicate this season’s numbers. So the Yankees will wait.

Derek, too, will wait. He’ll wait for the money that he thinks should be his. He’ll wait for the offer that should head his way. In the end, Derek Jeter will resign with the Yankees. He can’t really go play anywhere else, and the Yankees can’t afford to see him leave. How much it will cost though to keep him is anyone’s guess. I fear that $100 million contract, but it won’t be too much less than that.

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With both Hughes and Mo pitching in the day half of yesterday’s doubleheader, the Yankees had limited options in the back end of their bullpen for the night half. The best solution was to put up a crooked number, and that’s just what the Yankees did. They put up an eight spot in the third inning, and that was more than enough for A.J. Burnett and the recently recalled members of the bullpen. They took down the Rays with relative ease.

Things didn’t start out so smoothly for Burnett, and his recent struggles amplified the effect. Two doubles, one just out of Nick Swisher‘s reach, led to a run, and then Burnett infuriatingly walked the next hitter, Pat Burrell. Further frustration mounted when Burnett walked B.J. Upton, always a threat to steal a bag, to lead off the second. But from there, Burnett cruised.

Burnett had only one 1-2-3 inning, but after Longoria’s double only one Ray reached second base, and that was the result of a walk and a fielder’s choice. The Rays managed just four hits in A.J.’s six innings. They did draw three walks, but none of those runners came around to score. Most encouragingly from Burnett, he struck out eight, a sign that he had his stuff. He’ll need it as the Yankees march down the stretch into the playoffs.

In the third the Yanks would pick up all the runs they’d need for the game, and maybe tomorrow’s game, too. They plated eight runs on eight hits and two walks. Two of the hits came from Jose Molina, who had a three for three night with two walks. Mark Teixeira put the Yanks up 5-1 with a rally killing three-run shot. The Yanks were able to mount another rally, though, bringing home three more. Strangely, Derek Jeter caused two outs in the inning.

Not that it means much in the context of the game itself, but Derek Jeter failed to pick up a hit in either end of the doubleheader, and still trails Lou Gehrig by three hits. He’ll get them soon enough. It just wasn’t in the cards today — the only doubleheader in his career in which Jeter has played both ends and failed to pick up a hit in either.

Apparently Jeter lent his hitting skill to Jose Molina, who reached base five times for the first time in his career. Even stranger: Jeter was the only starter to not pickup a hit. This is even stranger still because many of the starters, Jeter included, took an early seat because of the enormous lead.

Mike Dunn combated some control issues in the ninth, issuing two walks, but he overcame it without allowing a run, closing the game and bringing the Yanks’ magic number down to a Fordian 16. The series picks up again tomorrow with Chad Gaudin taking on David Price.

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