With 71 games left in the season, the Yankees are right in the thick of the hunt for October. They’re 6.5 games in back of the Rays in the AL East, and four and a half behind Boston in the Wild Card. Overall, just eight teams in baseball have better records than the Yankees.
But for all 49 of their wins, everyone thinks something is wrong with the Yankees. Hal Steinbrenner, while reluctant to make trades, is disappointed with the season. Hank Steinbrenner blamed the injuries. And over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto noticed a lineup with only two players sporting OBPs over .350 and blamed the lack of depth. That’s a whole lotta blame to spread.
What I want to know is what’s really going on with the Yankees. Hal fingers the kids; Hank fingers unlucky injuries; Pinto fingers depth. Where’s the truth in all of this?
As an astute observer might guess, the truth is in all three of them. We’ll start with Pinto’s observation. The Yankees these days have been sporting lineups with a bunch of guys sporting less-than-stellar OBPs. Melky Cabrera‘s is hovering around the .310 mark; Robinson Cano‘s is stuck around .290; Jose Molina and Wilson Betemit, both playing more frequently than either should be, are both at .269. With Johnny Damon out, Brett Gardner and his .194 are taking up a lineup spot too. Even Derek Jeter (.346) and Bobby Abreu (.345) are sporting on-base numbers well below their norm.
In that sense, David Pinto is right. If your every-day players aren’t getting on base, it’s that much harder to score runs. Fewer runs means fewer wins. It’s a baseball fact. In July, the Yankees are doing a great job of proving this fact; eight games into the month, the Yanks have a team OBP of around .340 and have plated 38 runners — but 18 of those were in one game. Somehow, they’ve gone 4-3 in seven games while scoring a whopping 20 runs.
The Yankees are stuck with a lineup this shallow not, as Pinto postulates, because of “a clear lack of depth.” For this, we turn to Hank Steinbrenner and his finger-pointing at the injuries. So far this season, the Yankees have seen Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon hit the DL. They’ve lost Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Brian Bruney and Chien-Ming Wang. In this context, the fact that the Yankees are only 6.5 games with a record seven games over .500 is actually pretty remarkable.
It’s easy to fall into the “what if” trap, but had the Yankees not suffered these injuries, it’s easy to see them hanging in there two games behind the Rays or — dare I suggest? — ahead of them. But that’s baseball. Injuries happen, and well-constructed teams find ways to win. The Yankees were built to withstand a few injuries but not all of them. So in the end, it’s not really a lack of depth, as Pinto notes it, but the fact that players who shouldn’t be starting so often — Molina comes to mind — have been pressed into duty so frequently.
In the end, it’s Hal who seems to get it the most though. He expressed his disappointed over Ian Kennedy’s and Phil Hughes’ combined 0-7 record and their struggles. But Hal also speaks like a man who understands that building a better baseball team for a long run a year later can trump instant gratification. Talking of CC Sabathia and Rich Harden, Hal said, “We just felt it wasn’t best for the organization to do anything with those two at this point.”
But the real kicker was his promise of good times to come. As the Yankees hold on to their promising young pieces, they’re ready to augment those pieces as well. “Where we want to end up is a tremendous mix of young talent and veterans,” Hal said. “And the veterans, the free agents, they cost money. And we realize that. We are going to have a lot of money come off the payroll, and that’s going to give us some options. But believe me, we’re going to use a good portion of it to get this city the team it deserves.”
Injuries, disappointments, underperformances. It’s all part of the same mix.
Haha, it’s only Mark Brackman of the Oneonta Tigers. Hey, it fooled me when I opened the Staten Island box score, why should you guys miss out on all the excitement?
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 loss to Toledo, walk-off style)
Matt Carson & Cody Ransom: both 2 for 4 – Carson tripled, scored a run & K’ed … Ransom doubled & K’ed twice
Alberto Gonzalez: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 1 E (throwing)
Juan Miranda: 3 for 4, 1 K - 5 for his last 7 after a 5 for 25 stretch
Ben Broussard & Jason Lane: both 0 for 4, 1 K
JD Closser & Nick Green: both 0 for 3 – Green K’ed
Al Aceves: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2-4 GB/FB – 32 of 49 pitches were strikes for The Mexican Ganster, who’s coming back from a minor groin injury
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 7-5 GB/FB
Chris Britton: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K – allowed Igawa’s inherited runner to score for the walk-off loss
I was really hoping to hear Bob Sheppard announce the All Star Game next week at Yankee Stadium, but alas, it was not meant to be. The Voice of the Yankees spoke to The Star-Ledger’s Steve Politi recently and told the reporter that he will not be at the All Star Game. Jim Hall will fill in behind the PA mic instead. · (7) ·
As Bobby Abreu — the league’s least effective right fielder — blasted a ball into the right-center field gap and Derek Jeter rounded third to score the game’s winning run in the 10th, all was right in the Yankee Universe. Four games removed from a second straight loss at the hands of the Red Sox, the Yanks have won four in a row, two against the hated Red Sox and two against the division-leading Rays, to move right back into the thick of the AL Playoff race.
Today’s game had “blow out” written all over it. Coming into the festivities, Sidney Ponson had allowed nearly two baserunners per inning as a Yankee, and the Rays are a good offensive team. But Sir Sidney was effective over his 87 pitches today. He threw 6 innings, allowing five hits and two walks — 1.17 WHIP, baby. The only blemish was a Carlos Pena home run in the sixth, and Jose Veras, Kyle Farnsworth and Mariano Rivera did their thing.
The Yanks were facing an equally effective Edwin Jackson, and after plating a run in the first, the offense mustered nothing until the 10th. Melky Cabrera struck out in the 9th with one out and the winning run on third. Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada were held hitless as, one day after five Yanks each had two hits apiece, no one managed more than one. The Power of the ‘Stache — looking mighty fine on Mike Mussina — drove in the first run; Abreu drove in the last. And all was good.
As is his wont these days, my player of the game was Mariano Rivera. He threw 2 scoreless innings and struck out four. Again. Can’t say enough about Mo.
Meanwhile, for the Yankees, they needed this mini-sweep. They held the Rays to one run over two games and halted the Tampa Bay juggernaut’s roll through the AL. They’ve crawled back to within 6.5 of the division lead and face the Pittsburgh Pirates and last-place Blue Jays prior to the All Star Break. With Moose, Joba and Pettitte all lined up to start before the break, they could win three of four this week and end the first half on a very strong note become playoff buyers at the deadline indeed.
Ah, Gameday and its passive interface. You can just minimize the window and go about your regular work, and come back to see what’s happened while you were gone. Hey, it’s not like you’re leaving your cubicle anytime soon, right? Surely it’s better than watching on TV, or, God forbid, stuck in the Stadium for today’s start by Sidney Ponson.
You know, I’m not even exaggerating. In no way does Ponson deserve to be pitching this game. They hired him for exactly one reason, and that was to pitch one game of the doubleheader against the Mets. He succeeded, and should have been shown the door immediately afterwards, so we could get a relief pitcher in his place. “Thanks, Sid, you did great. Now get out of here before you go and lose us a game.”
Unfortunately, the Chien-Ming Wang injury looms large here, and has the Yankees searching for a capable arm to keep the team in games this summer. Ponson that is not. From what Girardi is saying, even if he blows the game we might see him again. Which is wholly discouraging. It’s just another decision that has me questioning whether Girardi is really the right guy for the job. To date, he’s done little to impress, and a whole lot to prove that he’s no different from any other manager in the game.
Some people apparently think something’s up with Molina catching again today and Posada DHing. To me, it’s actually a smart move on Girardi’s part (one paragraph after I bemoan him). Why let Jorge and his hurt shoulder sit behind the plate and let the Rays set the record for most steals in a game? At least Molina keeps ‘em honest on the basepaths. Plus, and I know this is a subjective statement, I feel that he calls a far better game than Jorge. This isn’t just a recent thing; I’ve long disliked Jorge’s gameplans.
Happy commenting today. And now, onto your lineup:
Ed Price reports that the Yankees — and Red Sox — are scouting the Rockies’ lefty Brian Fuentes. The soon-to-be 33-year-old Colorado closer has put together a good season and has long drawn the Yanks’ eye. But Price speculates that the price for Fuentes could be the up-and-coming Mark Melancon. Melancon is 4-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 61.2 innings. He has struck out 57 and better than one per inning since moving up to Trenton. Double A opponents are hitting just .167 off of him, and to this rumored trade, I say unequivocally no. N-O. · (45) ·
Tier Reserve Section 8, Row O, Seats 9-11 (Photo on flickr by Ben K.)
Shortly before the 8th inning tonight, a small piece of metal went flying past me and landed on the back of the Cubs’ fan sitting in front of me. “Can you pass that back here?” a voice behind me shouted.
When we examined the projectile, we saw it was a silver seat plaque with a black 13 on it from one of the Yankee Stadium seatbacks. As the people around me handed this erstwhile souvenir of a doomed stadium back to the person who worked to pry it off, my thoughts jumped back to Opening Day when the Yankees announced the arrests of two people attempting to steal parts of Yankee Stadium. For the sake of the people sitting behind me, I wondered if the security guards had noticed.
Approximately five minutes later, I wondered no longer. Three Yankee Stadium security guards and a cadre of New York City police officers converged on Row O in Section 8 of the Tier Reserve. The perps tried to flee. One of them darted across the aisle until either an undercover office or a Good Samaritan stopped the kid and handed him over to the cops. The accomplices were carted off, and as everyone left in handcuffs, I realized that these vandals would be in a lot of trouble over what amounted to a flimsy piece of metal.
New York Magazine this week has printed a piece about the selling of Yankee Stadium and the price people will pay to acquire a piece of the House that Ruth Built. These kids — souvenir-hunters who announced their collecting attentions to anyone in earshot — are going to pay with marks on their records and public service or even jail time. They were caught prying seat numbers off their seats with a knife, and the glare of the lights and camera flashbulbs hit that tool. They could face weapons charges and probably won’t be allowed back in Yankee Stadium. The lesson is, of course, that Yankee Stadium vandalism is stupid, and it just isn’t worth it. Undercover cops and eagle-eyed security guards have the place covered.
Meanwhile, on the field, the Yanks sent something of a message to
Victor Zambrano Scott Kazmir and the first-place Rays. The Yanks, of course, won’t back down, and behind eight four-hit innings from Andy Pettitte, the Bombers beat Tampa 5-0. Andy Pettitte is now 7-1 with a 3.55 ERA over his last 10 starts, and Robinson Cano continued his hot hitting with a 2-for-4 evening.
Four other Yankees had two hits apiece, including a huge two-out, two-run double from Derek (who did manage to fulfill his GIDP quota for the night). Melky Cabrera homered after a three strike-out evening, and A-Rod went 0-for-4 in the first game after news of his divorce hit. Good game. Good win. We’ll do it again at 1:05 p.m. today.
The Top 10 Jason Giambi Mustache Facts. I laughed so hard after reading number four that I couldn’t breathe.
Triple-A Scranton (10-2 loss to Toledo)
Matt Carson, Ben Broussard & Jason Lane: all 1 for 4 – Carson K’ed … Broussard hit a 2-R jack & K’ed twice … Labe doubled & K’ed
Alberto Gonzalez, Cody Ransom & Eric Duncan: all 0 for – Ransom K’ed thrice, E-Dunc twice
Juan Miranda: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB
IPK: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 3-5 GB/FB – 50 of 84 pitches were strikes (59.5%)
Steven Jackson: 0.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K – eek
Heath Phillips: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K – allowed both inherited runners to score
Steven White: 3 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Pardon my frustration with Girardi’s lineup tonight, but it looks like he’s going with the notion that all righties are better against left-handed pitchers than lefties. Seriously, that’s the only justification for hitting Melky leadoff and batting Betemit ahead of Cano.
The Yanks enter the game nine games behind the Rays in the loss column, and can cut that to seven over the next two days. Unfortunately, the ball is in the hands of Sidney Ponson tomorrow, so they’ll have to capitalize on Andy Pettitte‘s start tonight.
Just a quick hit from PeteAbe tonight: “Girardi said just now that he expects Hughes to pitch in the majors in September, which is different than what Brian Cashman has been saying. Of course in general Cashman is always more a pessimist and Girardi an optimist.” I’m not sure how this differs from what Cashman has been saying. In September, there are no minor leagues, so since Phil is on the 40-man, yeah, he’s going to be in the majors in September. That is, if he’s healthy.
Good news on Matsui, as he hit off a tee today. We’ll continue hoping for a healthy comeback for Godzilla.
And on the mount, number forty six, Andy Pettitte