While Mike Mussina earned himself a nice curtain call last night, Carl Pavano wishes he could win the adulation of the fans that way. Pavano, another high-priced pitcher who failed to deliver for the Yanks, won what will probably be his last start for the Yankees in a home uniform as New York triumphed over Baltimore 3-2.
Pavano threw five innings against Baltimore tonight, allowing two earned runs on six hits and a walk. He also struck out two. Somehow, improbably, Pavano is now 4-1 with a 4.99 ERA. While he probably has just two starts left in the Bronx, he is somehow pitching his way to another guaranteed contract, albeit one with incentives.
But while Pavano stymied the Orioles through five, the real pitching stars came out of the bullpen. Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamblerain and Mariano Rivera combined for four shut-out innings. This group gave up just two hits — both off of Rivera in the ninth. Coke and Bruney faced two batters and struck them both out; Joba faced three and walked away with three K’s. With Bruney and Coke set to return and Mark Melancon and Humberto Sanchez waiting in the wings, the Yanks’ bullpen is primed for a huge 2009 season.
With their victory tonight, the Yanks moved back into sole possession of third place. They’re nine games behind Tampa and 7.5 behind Boston. They are on the verge of postseason elimination for the first time in fifteen years. Yet, the fans care about these final games at the Stadium, and the team is playing with an urgency we haven’t seen all year. While it might be a little late for the Yanks’ October dreams, at least they’re sending the stadium out on the right note.
And so it begins, the final series at Yankee Stadium. It’s only fitting that the Orioles would close out the Stadium, since the Yankees’ franchise came about when the original Baltimore Orioles moved to New York in 1903. The Orioles became the New York Highlanders, who then became the Yankees in 1913. The rest is history.
If Mike Mussina’s send off was any indication of what we can expect these last few games, it’s going to be one exciting weekend. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Yankee baseball the next three days. They won’t disappoint us.
1. Damon, DH
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Nady, LF
7. Cano, 2B – .500-.545-.600 since the benching
8. Pudge, C
9. Gardner, CF – .364-.417-.455 with 2 SB in his last 3 starts
And on the mound, Carl Pavano.
A few hours ago, Mike posted a link to the Yanks’ plans for Sunday evening. As farewell ceremonies go, it sounds like a pretty swell plan, but something about it bugs me.
For ticket-holders to Sunday’s game, the Yanks plan to open the stadium at 1 p.m., seven hours before the first pitch. From 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., these fans can wander around the field — on the warning track only — and tour Monument Park. Then, the normal pre-game batting practice routine starts. At 7 p.m., the Yankees will begin the pre-game ceremonies featuring former Yankees and artifacts from the stadium’s past. The game is set to start at 8:15 p.m.
The catch is that anyone who enters the ballpark for the hours of pre-game explorations and ceremonies doesn’t enjoy the privilege of re-entry. If you show up at Yankee Stadium at 1 p.m. and want to see the game, you’re stuck in the Bronx at the stadium for the next seven hours. I’d guess that only the most die-hard of obsessed fans will go. I have tickets, and I probably won’t stop by the stadium until at least Yankee batting practice at 4:40 p.m, if not later.
While re-entry isn’t the norm at any sports venue across the country, the Yankees should make an effort on Sunday to accommodate fans making their final journeys to the House that Ruth Built. A re-entry system wouldn’t require much thought, but it would require a little bit of work. As the number of fans who would take advantage of it are capped by the capacity of the stadium, it can be done. Yet again, though, the Yanks are neglecting the common fan. But that’s why, as Cliff Corcoran so aptly wrote yesterday, they’re building this new ballpark in the first place.
Update 4:28: Now that I’ve reflected for a few minutes on this, I realize I come across as bitter over this plan. I want to clear something up: I love this ceremony. I love the idea that fans will be able to spend time on the field and watch Yankee batting practice. I love that the team is planning to honor the stadium with former greats and an extensive pre-game ceremony. I just wish the team could find a way to be a little more flexible with re-entry on a day during which some fans could be in the stadium for ten or eleven hours.
That’s one hell of a Jumbotron, ain’t it?. WCBS has a gallery of photos of the ongoing construction at the New Yankee Stadium, and it looks like it’s really starting to come together. The massive cranes have been replaced by the tiny work vans of small-time subcontractors, and piles of dirt have been replaced by the makings of a future field. While I am sad to see the old place go, I am pretty excited to see the new digs. Assuming I can afford to get in, of course.
Update (1:55pm): Fans will be allowed to walk on the field during a three hour “open house” prior to the Sunday’s game. Great stuff.
Baseball America continued their look into each league’s top 20 prospects with the Short Season NY-Penn League today. Tenth overall pick Jason Castro claimed the top spot, with several other fellow first rounders ranking behind him. The Staten Island Yanks were shut out though, not a single Yankees’ prospect made the list. Can’t argue, it was a deep league and SI’s talent was rather underwhelming.
The next list of interest to Yanks’ fans is the South Atlantic League, which will be released next Wednesday. I’m sure Charleston will be well represented, even though Jesus Montero will have to settle for a spot behind Madison Bumgarner & Jason Heyward. · (12) ·
A young Governor from Arkansas was finishing up his first year as President. A prosecutor from Brooklyn was just weeks away from winning the city’s mayoralty. And Buck Showalter would lead the Yankees to the cusp of the playoffs for the first time in years. As the Yanks face the reality of a year without the playoffs, Jack Curry takes us back to a more optimistic time in Yankee history. After years of mismanagement from on hight, the team had been retooled and was a few key pieces away from the playoffs. Curry’s column features all the optimism and excitement of the 1993 club that this 2008 version sorely lacked this year. · (23) ·
Were the season to end right now, the Chicago White Sox would be playing in October while the New York Yankees would be heading home for the first time since the strike-shortened season of 1994. After this week’s four-game set in the Bronx, that hardly seems fair.
For the third time in four nights, the Yanks held the Chicago offense in check and beat up on their pitching. Javier Vazquez, pitching on three days rest, had next to nothing, and the Yanks cruised to a 9-2 victory. With that win, the Yanks staved off elimination for another day. With their magic elimination number down to one, the Yanks are delaying the inevitable while playing looser and better baseball than they have all season. Funny how that works.
But for a few minutes at the start of the game, things didn’t look so easy. Mike Mussina labored through the first inning, allowing two walks in one inning for the first time since he lasted just 0.2 innings on May 20, 2008. With one run in and the bases loaded, Moose appeared headed for an early exit, and those of us sitting in the upper deck were a minute away from groaning. Not another bad Mussina start, we moaned.
Mussina, in his potential last start as a Yankee at Yankee Stadium, would have none of that negativity. He would allow only three of the last 18 hitters he faced would reach base, and the crowd gave Mussina a thunderous ovation. He tipped his cap, and the normally stoic pitcher even allowed a smile to creep onto his face. He knows as well as we do that his future in the Bronx is not guaranteed.
We’ll have to save that epic debate on Moose’s future for another day. I see the reasons why bringing him back would be a good idea; I see why cutting him loose would be the right step as well. Whatever the outcome, tonight belonged to Mussina, and he delivered. Maybe he’ll get to that magic 20-win plateau after all.
Offensively, another Yankee with an uncertain future led the barrage. Making sure that Home Run Javy lived up to his nickname, Bobby Abreu took Vazquez deep twice in the first three innings of the game. He drove in six of the nine Yankee runs and will also cause the Yanks’ front office and the team’s fans to wonder about the best course of action.
Additionally, Robinson Cano drew a walk. That, in and of itself, is significant as it had not happened since August 20. Cano really must improve his batting eye.
While the old pros gave the Yanks the game, the young kids popped in today as well. Most notable was the Major League debut of number 77 Humberto Sanchez. The center piece to the deal that sent Gary Sheffield to the Tigers, Sanchez had missed much of the last two seasons with a variety of arm injures. In his first outing, Sanchez showed why the Yanks coveted him. He hit 95 on the stadium gun, and his first big league out was a backwards K. He retired the White Sox in order on that strike out and two ground balls. Sanchez — along with Mark Melancon — should be a big part of the 2009 Yankee bullpen, and this duo should allow us all to forget about Joba the Reliever.
But the kids will wait until next year. Tonight belonged to Mussina, and in his final start at Yankee Stadium, he delivered his 72nd win in those hallowed grounds.
If Mike Mussina wants to win 20 games this year, he has but one choice tonight. He must win. He will make three starts, counting this evening’s, before the season runs out. If he wins them all, 20 wins will be his.
Unfortunately for Mussina, he has done little winning lately. While the Yanks are 5-2 over his last seven starts, Moose has nailed down just two W’s in that period, and his ERA over that stretch of 43 innings is 4.81. Mussina will also attempt to keep his walk total lower than his number of games started. He has allowed 27 base-on-balls in 31 starts.
This could also be Moose’s last career start in Yankee Stadium for the Yankees. In his Yankee career, Moose is 69-38 with a 3.66 ERA in 125 starts.
Facing Mussina will be old friend Javier Vazquez. The former Yankee is 12-13 with a 4.13 ERA. In his only 2008 outing against the Yanks, Vazquez allowed 10 hits and six earned runs in 5.1 innings of work. Meanwhile, on the year, Javy’s allowed a hit per inning and has just a hair under a strike per inning. If you want to talk about the Yanks’ selling low, Vazquez should enter the conversation.
In other news, Juan Miranda makes his Major League debut tonight. He kills right-handed pitching.
Via MLBTR, I see that Ken Davidoff has written a piece categorizing the Yankees moves since Brian Cashman became GM. This is something we’ve talked about, oh, 18 gazillion times in the past, but it’s worth a revisit as the season winds down. I’m not sure exactly how Davidoff came about this information, but he’s got a bit more access than we do. So let’s see how it breaks down.
Cashman All The Way: Bobby Abreu, Alfredo Aceves, Armando Benitez, Wilson Betemit, Kevin Brown, Brian Bruney, Shawn Chacon, Tony Clark, Roger Clemens (both times) Johnny Damon, Kyle Farnsworth, Glenallen Hill, Kei Igawa, David Justice, Al Leiter, Cory Lidle, Hideki Matsui (re-signing in November 2005), Damaso Marte, Tino Martinez (his return), Jose Molina, Mike Mussina (re-signing in November 2006), Xavier Nady, Denny Neagle, Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte (his return), Sidney Ponson (both times), Darrell Rasner, Mariano Rivera (re-signing in November 2007), Alex Rodriguez (the 2004 trade), Ivan Rodriguez, Javier Vazquez, Robin Ventura, Jose Vizcaino, Bernie Williams (re-signing in December 2005), Jeff Weaver
His Player, Not His Price: Jason Giambi, Sterling Hitchcock (re-signing in December 2001), Steve Karsay, Jorge Posada (re-signing in November 2007), Rondell White, Bernie Williams (re-signing in November 1998)
He Might As Well Have Been at the Atlantis With His Family: Aaron Boone, Jose Contreras, Dwight Gooden (return in 2000), Chris Hammond, Orlando Hernandez, Randy Johnson, Travis Lee, Jim Leyritz (re-signing in November 1999), Jon Lieber, Esteban Loaiza, Kenny Lofton, Raul Mondesi, Alex Rodriguez (re-signing in November 2007), Gary Sheffield, Ruben Sierra (return in June 2003), Darryl Strawberry (his re-signing in November 1998), David Wells (return in December 2001), Jaret Wright
The only real surprise on that list is Kei Igawa. I thought for sure that wasn’t a Cashman move, but rather an organizational move in response to losing the Matsuzaka bid. Funny how Cash had nothing to do with bringing in Jose Contreras, nor with trading him.
What do you guys think of the list? I think, if it’s true, it helps his case for a new contract. What it’s missing, though, is the moves he put the kibbosh on. Most of those, unlike the Santana deal, we’ll never know about.
I am an unabashed Robinson Cano fan. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play the game. I love the enthusiasm and energy he brings to the team, and when he’s on, he’s as good a pure hitter as just about anyone in the game. I think he could be the second baseman on the Yanks for the next decade.
The Yankees may have other ideas in mind. According to Jon Heyman, the Yanks are open to moving Cano:
There’s more talk lately that the Yankees may consider trading Robinson Cano. The main reason apparently isn’t that he recently earned a benching for failing to hustle, but more because he has tremendous trade value despite his off-year and the Yankees have multiple needs. The Dodgers, managed by Cano’s first manager, Joe Torre, are said to be interested. The New York Post mentioned that possibility last offseason, well before Cano’s terrible year.
If the Yanks move Cano, Heyman speculates, they could go after Orlando Hudson. The current Diamondback will be a free agent this winter and will be turning 31 in December.
Now, off the bat, I won’t hold it against the Yanks if they opt to shop Cano. It never hurts to ask other teams what they would give up for some of the blue chippers in the system. But I’d be very hesitant to pull the trigger on a deal. This season, aside, Robinson Cano is an anchor around which the Yanks could construct a team, and the Yanks better make sure they get something really good in return.
But there’s another aspect of this move to consider as well. The man who would replace Cano will have a tough job. True, Robinson Cano in 2008 is very replaceable, but if he regains his 2005-2007 form — and there’s no reason to think he won’t — Orlando Hudson can’t come close to Cano.
Despite Sidney Ponson’s and Darrell Rasner’s presences on this team, the Yankees’ biggest problem this year isn’t pitching; it’s their offense. Plus, they can easily fill their pitching holes via free agency this year. Whatever Cano gets them has to address either their first base situation, their outfield situation or, potentially, their catching situation. But then they’d have to find someone who can fill second base and replace the offense Cano could provide. I just don’t think it’s worth it to fill a hole by creating another at the Big League level. I have nothing against trading the kids in the right deal, but the offer would have to blow me away if I were to move Cano.