For only the second time in our 20 episodes, we’ve got Ben on. It’s always nice to have that third voice in there. The main reason: we each posted our 20 Most Important Yankees lists this week, so we thought the podcast was a great opportunity to discuss them a bit deeper. We lead the program off with that, talking about what we considered important (something I regret leaving out of my list) and why we put players/staff where we did. Plus, we got to poke a little fun at Hank.
From there it’s onto reader questions, which are just a great way to get the conversation started. We talked about Joba’s velocity among other topics — including the battle for utility infielder. Yesterday on the RAB Twitter feed we asked if anyone else wanted Ramiro Pena to make the team solely because he’s not Angel Berroa. I guess I was outed as the guy who asked, because Mike and Ben seem to favor Berroa for other reasons. Oh well. As always, it was a great job by the listeners, sending in excellent questions.
Just a quick note before we embed the media player: This is the open thread for the evening. Feel free to discuss the radio show, but of course anything goes.
Late add: Dave from Blueseat Blogs asks, and I must oblige: Let’s go Rangers!
Onto the podcast. It is available in a number of formats. You can download it here by right clicking on that link and selecting Save As. If you want to play it in your browser, just left click the link. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, which will send it to you every Thursday. You can also subscribe in iTunes. Finally, we have the embedded audio player below.
No matter what happened on the offensive side of the ball today — and plenty did — the story was obviously going to be about Joba Chamberlain. There has been some internal concern about him, though nothing too serious since he’s still taking the ball every fifth day. This signals that he’s not hurt, because if there was any concern that he was, he wouldn’t be on the mound. So that’s a bit reassuring in itself. Some, though, are questioning his seemingly diminished velocity, citing his mid-90s heat even after he transitioned to the rotation.
We talked a bit about this in the podcast, coming up at 7, but there are a number of factors at work here. We know that in Spring Training most guys are consciously working on certain aspects of their games. Joba’s fastball velocity might not be of the utmost concern to him and his coaches at this point. He’s got to work up his strength to get to that level, and that could take some time. Plus, he’s also buddying around with A.J. Burnett, whose story this winter was how he learned from Roy Halladay that he doesn’t have to go max effort every time. Maybe Joba’s trying to learn that lesson early in his career.
Then again, maybe the velocity is a concern and we’re just sticking our fingers in our ears. That could be the case, no doubt, but at this point it’s probably best to watch how he’s throwing overall and ignore fastball velocity. If it becomes a problem during the season, that’s something to worry about then. For now, though, Joba’s not looking too bad at all.
After starting off the first inning with two straight outs, he gave up back to back homers to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Those are two premier hitters; it’s going to happen from time to time. After that, though, he seemed to settle down a bit. It’s also reassuring that those were the only two runs he surrendered — and two of the three hits. A bit more concerning are the three walks he issued. I’d like to think that this was the result of him working on hitting corners and using his secondary pitches a bit more often than he would in a game, but that could be the rose-colored view. In any case, he didn’t let it affect his results. We can safely place this game alongside Joba’s last two starts, in the “not overwhelming, but far from bad” category. Also remember, he’s not going to start a game until April 12. There’s still time.
The bullpen finished off the game without surrendering a run. Edwar Ramirez continued his spring dominance, striking out two in a perfect inning. The shoulder concerns from earlier this spring seem to be gone, and it looks like he’s just about locked up his bullpen spot. Brian Bruney got through a scoreless inning with a strikeout, lowering his spring ERA to 6.75. Jose Veras and Jon Albaladejo, who could be battling for that last roster spot, both tossed well, neither recording a strikeout, though Veras allowed two hits. And finally, Phil Coke struck out the only two batters he faced in direct relief of Chamberlain. He, too, has all but locked up his bullpen spot.
The Yanks managed four long flies in the game: Matsui, Ransom, Swisher, and Melky. The Yanks really took it to Scott Eyre, knocking him around for five runs in the eighth, including the Melky and Swisher home runs. Otherwise, Swisher took yet another walk and Melky went 2 for 3 with an RBI single on top of his two-run jack. Oh, and Derek Jeter went 2 for 4 in the leadoff spot. Girardi is a genius.
All in all, it was another encouraging spring game. The Yanks look like they’re in sync right now, and we can only hope this spills over into the season. Man, what I wouldn’t give to have it starting on time this year. April 6 seems like forever away.
Just a heads up, MLB.com has started posting scouting reports (with some video) for the top prospects of the 2009 Draft. Right now there’s about thirty reports, but they’re constantly being updated and come draft time there will be over a hundred available. It’s a great way to kill time at work learn about these guys. Also, make sure you check out ESPN’s MLB Draft Blog (unfortunately it’s behind the Insider wall). KLaw and Jason Churchill are updating the thing daily with scouting reports (with video!), performance updates, tons of stuff. Make sure you add it to your RSS reader, because the damn thing is impossible to find on ESPN’s site. · (32) ·
This afternoon’s game is on YES, so we’re going to throw up a game thread. Hopefully some of you get to watch Joba rock the start. Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez and Jon Albaladejo will follow, so it looks like Joba’s maxing out at four innings. That’s fine, given the news Girardi broke this morning. PeteAbe’s got it.
The news isn’t that CC Sabathia will start on Opening Day, because we knew that pretty much from the moment he signed. What we’ve been wondering, though, is how the team will handle Joba Chamberlain in April. Girardi said that he’ll start the sixth game, meaning that the first pass through the rotation will go CC-Wang-Burnett-Pettitte-CC-Joba. This lines up CC to start the home opener against Cleveland on April 16. This won’t really allow Joba to skip a start, as the off-day on the 23rd comes one day after he’s scheduled to start against the A’s. If all goes well he’ll get four April starts to Sabathia’s five.
In fact, after staring at the schedule for 10 minutes, it appears that the only reason Joba would start the sixth game rather than the fifth is so Sabathia can start the home opener. Otherwise, if the Yankees went with a straight one through five, Joba would have that honor. Don’t get me wrong, I love CC and all, but I think it would be rather cool if they let Joba start the home opener.
Now for my favorite part. JOE GIRARDI READS RAB!!!!111!! Okay, so maybe not. You’ll know what I mean, though, after you read this post on the Yankees lineup and then look what Girardi has for today:
Of course, flipping Jeter and Damon in the lineup could just be to get Jeter a couple more hypothetical at bats.
Side Note: MLB.TV is giving a free preview of it’s fancy new HD media player during the game today. So if you’re thinking about upgrading to the premium package, or are just going to be away from a TV during the game, make sure you check it out at MLB.com. (h/t Maury Brown)
Old Yankee Stadium is now completely grassless, and city crews will soon begin demolition. (Photo courtesy of Tom Kaminski/CBS 880 AM)
The Yankees had one final piece of business pending before the city could proceed with the demolition of the House that Ruth Built. On Wednesday, the team and city moved one step closer to finalize a Yankee Stadium $10 million memorabilia, and as Bryan Hoch reported, demolition of the old park will begin prior to the April 16 home opener.
Seats, foul poles, dugouts, urinals and numerous other items from the old Yankee Stadium will be sold to fans as part of a $10 million deal between the Yankees and New York City, the New York Post reported on Wednesday.
Demolition of the old Stadium will begin next month, prior to the scheduled April 16 opening of the new Stadium. Specifics on the sale of items will be available in the coming weeks, sources familiar with the agreement told the Post.
The old Stadium is owned by the city, which will receive a guaranteed $10 million, plus a percentage of any profits above $15.9 million, in exchange for allowing the Yankees to sell the city-owned portions of the ballpark, which includes all 57,000 seats.
No value has been placed on the seats — probably the most prized stadium position. I have to wonder though if the Yanks and City of New York are going to lose out by waiting so long. The Mets announced their memorabilia sales early last summer when the economy was still relatively strong. Their sales were brisk. The Yanks are going to try to sell in a buyer’s market.
As far as memorabilia goes, I don’t think I’m going to buy any seats, and I wouldn’t touch those urinals with a ten foot pole. Plus, I don’t really have the room for either item right now. One of those signs that say “Beware of foul balls” from the main level, however, would be a nice collector’s item.
What do you want out of the old Yankee Stadium?
Phil Hughes made his first appearance yesterday since being optioned down to Triple-A Scranton on Saturday, throwing five innings of one run ball against the Phillies’ top minor league affiliate. We don’t have a box score, but Chad Jennings says Hughes allowed only one extra base hit, which eventually led to the lone run. More importantly, Hughes retired the side in order in the fifth when pitching coach Scott Aldred told him to throw first pitch changeups to every batter he faced in the inning. He wasn’t facing a bunch of scrubs either, two of the three hitters he sat down in the inning were Shane Victorino and Jason Donald, an everyday player on a championship caliber team and the Phightin’s best prospect.
“I’m throwing my changeup a lot, trying to get my cutter going,” Hughes said. “I’m not throwing as many curveballs as I usually do, but that’s kind of what spring training is for.” Amen to that.
Elsewhere in the game, 2003 first rounder Eric Duncan played his first game outside of the infield, spending the entire game out in left field. In the never ending attempt to get some value out of him, the Yanks are having the Jersey born Duncan play some corner outfield this year to add some versatility to his game. Duncan only had to field three balls on the day – two that dunked in for hits in front of him and another fly ball near foul territory that he caught in stride. Baby steps people, baby steps.
Photo via Chad Jennings
Among the New Yorkers who expressed interest in big-league baseball, more than half – 56% – pledged alliance to the Bronx Bombers and only a third said they root for the Mets, a Quinnipiac poll found.
In a theoretical Subway Series, the Yanks are fan favorites, 55% to 42%, holding an edge in every borough but Queens, where the Amazin’s play.
“Except for Queens, New York City still is the home of the Bronx Bombers,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The poll also showed that the most popular Yankee is (surprise surprise) Derek Jeter, who picked up a staggering 48% of the vote. A-Rod came in second with just 9% of the vote, down from 15% last year. Man, it’s going to be a PR nightmare when Jeter’s contract is up, unless of course they re-up for huge money and keep him at short.
David Wright was the most popular Met at 27%, followed by Jose Reyes at 17%. Just about an equal amount of fans (~30%) said they would visit the New Yankee Stadium as they would CitiField. Heh, remember all that talk last year about how the Mets were NY’s team after landing teh Johan?
Bob Sheppard, the fabled voice of the Yankees, missed the end of the 2007 and all of 2008 with a serious health scare. He contracted a bad case of pneumonia and saw his weight drop to 105 pounds. But Sheppard, 97, made a great recovery, and he recently told the FAN that he finally has his doctor’s permission to begin announcing Yankee games again. He’ll be in the booth come the April 3 exhibition against the Cubs. Here’s to another 57 years of Sheppard’s voice at Yankee Stadium. · (21) ·
Joe Girardi‘s proclamation of Xavier Nady as starting right fielder earlier this week was a bit of a disappointment. Yet at the same time, as we’ve all noted over the past month, this “competition” will continue throughout the season. Once one hits a slump, chances are the other will start to get the majority of the at bats. While the RAB Triumvirate advocated Swisher, it’s not worth crying over.
You might remember an article from earlier this month, via Beyond the Boxscore, in which we presented Sky Kalkman’s analysis showing that Nick Swisher is the clear choice for right fielder. The analysis wasn’t without flaw; it was based mostly on CHONE projections, which are weighted in Swisher’s favor (not all projection systems rate him equally). Today he’s back up to it again, breaking down the players by offense and defense. It’s pretty tame compared to the last analysis, though it comes to the same conclusion.
Also interesting is how out of line 2008 was for each player. Sky uses wRAA, but we’ll just go with wOBA. After wOBAs of .336 and .346 in 2006 and 2007, Nady skyrocketed to .374 last year. Thankfully, that’s part of a consistently upward trend. Even if he regresses a bit, to say .365, it would be high-quality season. For Swisher it was a dip from .368 and .361 to .325. Yes, that’s a consistently downward trend, but .368 to .361 is hardly significant.
On the defensive end we’re learning nothing really new. Swisher has been fairly average, leaning towards slightly above, over the past three years. Nady’s UZR has been consistently negative throughout his career, but it doesn’t appear cripplingly so. Swisher also gets bonus points for logging over 1,000 career innings in CF, while Nady has just 45 at the most demanding outfield position.
This is just some information to chew on as we kick off the open thread. Yes, I still think Swisher should start, but I’m not worried because he’ll have the chance to prove his case once the games count. If Nady doesn’t get off to a hot start, you can figure to start seeing Swisher in right field five days a week by mid-April. If Nady gets off to a hot start, all the better for the team.
Before you guys have at it, we’d like to take just a second to mention the passing of former Yankee Johnny Blanchard. He was the backup backstop for the Yanks from 1959 to 1965, and hit quite well in the postseason. He was 76.
Ken Rosenthal this afternoon reported on a development that isn’t much of a development: The Yankees are willing to move Melky Cabrera. According to Ken, the Yanks feel that Melky is a more attractive trade target than Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady and could be targeting the White Sox.
I can certainly see why the Yanks would want to trade Melky. He’s out of options, and the Yankees like Brett Gardner for his speed and on-base prowess more than they like Melky right now. By trading the youngster, the Yanks would also enjoy more flexibility for their bench while clearing up the Gardner/Damon/Cabrera/Swisher/Nady logjam. With Austin Jackson’s arrival in the Bronx looming, Melky is sliding toward superfluity, and this move could be a classic example of trading from your strengths.
At the same time, it’s tough to give up on a 24-year-old who has shown in the past that he can hit Major League pitching. He hit .280/.361/.391 during his age 21 season but has regressed in the two years since then. During Grapefruit League play this year, he is at .295/.392/.409. He’s also cost-controlled for the next four years.
In the end, though, what you see is what you get with Melky. He was never an elite hitting prospect and could be a stater on the White Sox, as Rosenthal speculates, but could be a fourth outfielder on many teams including the Yanks. We’ll see what comes of this.