In the game thread last night, Mike noted that Joba expected to start a throwing program tomorrow. Since then, the Yanks’ valuable young arm has been overruled by his manager, and the Yanks now expect Joba to begin his throwing on Friday, a full 11 days after he was removed from the game against Texas.
With Joba on the mend, the Yanks will soon face something of a tough choice with regards to their rookie hurler: Should they bring back Joba this season?
On the one hand, the answer is an unequivocal yes. With Joba in the rotation, the Yanks are throwing out their best team and giving the team a chance to win the playoffs. With Joba in the rotation, the Yanks can bump one of their less than ideal starting pitchers back to the bullpen, AAA or elsewhere. With Joba in the rotation, the Yanks could actually think about overcoming that ever-growing five-game Wild Card deficit. So bring him back.
But wait. It’s not quite that simple. Right now, three days before Joba is set to resume throwing and weeks before we can even think about his return to the rotation, the Yanks are facing a turning point. They’re a nearly insurmountable nine games out of first place and are, as I mentioned, five games out of the Wild Card with Minnesota between them and Boston and the Rangers nipping at their heels.
In four days — let alone two or three weeks — the Yanks will have a pretty good idea if October baseball is in the cards for them, and by then, if things are looking dire in the Bronx, if the odds are stacked against them, I’d have to advocate for holding Joba out of the games this year. If the Yanks are facing a Hail Mary situation, it would make more sense to ensure Joba’s health and strength for 2009 and beyond than it would to run him out there this year, risking injury for a playoff berth that is an increasing long shot.
As a Yankee fan, this line of argument is nearly anathema to everything I’ve come to know and love about this team since 1995 when I first got a taste of October baseball. For the better part of the last decade and a half, the Yanks have won at all costs, but with such a promising arm, the likes of which the Yanks haven’t seen in years, I believe that holding Joba back and maintaining his health for next year far outweighs the slim benefits the Yanks could enjoy in an unlikely 2008 playoff run.
In two and a half weeks, the fate of this season’s Yankees will become more clear. We’ll have to go through this debate again, but if the Yanks don’t improve and make up some ground, I’d be reluctant to see Joba pitch again this year.
With Ian Kennedy exiled back to AAA following his poor showing against the Angels on Friday, the Yankees are going to again turn the ball over to Darrell Rasner on Wednesday. So by the time the Yanks leave Minnesota, the Yanks will have tossed Dan Geise, Sidney Ponson and Rasner in three of their last four games against playoff-caliber teams. While fans may wish to blame Joe Girardi’s micromanaging, A-Rod’s seeming inability to hit in the clutch or Derek Jeter’s sub-par season for the Yanks’ struggles, it all comes down to pitching, and the Yanks’ pitching has, this season, utterly broken down. We’re eagerly awaiting Phil Hughes’ and Carl Pavano’s rehab starts later today, and that speaks volumes about the 2008 season. · (31) ·
The Yankees aren’t dead. Not in any mathematical sense of the word. They’re certainly dying, though, right before our eyes. It’s hard to stay optimistic after a fourth straight loss, one in which the team couldn’t manage a single run. This has been a maddeningly frustrating season on the offensive side.
What stings worse is that we got another quality performance from Sidney Ponson, and couldn’t plate a single run in his support. Not many of us like Ponson, but he’s been solid his last three times out. He forced the Twins to put the ball on the ground 19 times, with just two making outs through the air. Other than a mistake to Adam Everett, he did what he was supposed to. Didn’t matter, though. Might as well have been Kennedy pitching.
I wonder what Girardi was thinking before the game, when he was filling out his lineup card. He definitely wasn’t asking himself, “What lineup would give my team the best chance of winning tonight?” because any lineup that features Justin Christian (or Melky Cabrera) and Richie Sexson over Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi is not your best. But Girardi has to play the righties against lefties, even though that hasn’t worked too well all season. You’d think after 118 games of this shit, he’d get it. But no. Giambi still sits.
(Never mind that Giambi’s numbers against lefties nearly mirror his numbers against righties this year…and last year…and he was still really good against lefties in 05 and 06. And 03. And, really, every other year of Jason Giambi’s career.)
So the team drops yet another game, losing ground pretty much everywhere. Except on the White Sox, who lost to the Red Sox, who gained ground on the Yankees. Radical.
Don’t worry, though. They’ll just start the tear tomorrow.
Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off day, but tragedy has struck the team. I’m sure they’d much rather be playing today.
Double-A Trenton had a scheduled off day, as did the rest of the Eastern League.
High-A Tampa (3-1 loss to Sarasota)
Luis Nunez: 0 for 4, 1 BB
Eduardo Nunez & Seth Fortenberry: 1 for 4 – Nunez doubled & K’ed … Fortenberry scored a run & K’ed twice
Kevin Smith: 2 for 3, 1 2B, 1 BB
Josh Kreuzer: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Jose Gil, Tommy Baldridge (33) & Chris Kunda: all 0 for 3 – Gil K’ed … Baldridge drew a walk & K’ed … Kunda K’ed twice
Tim Battle: 1 for 4, 1 K – for all intents and purposes, he’s been their best hitter this year … seriously
Ivan Nova: 6 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 8-4 GB/FB – giving up too many hits … 152 in 139.2 IP this year
Mike Dunn: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Cody Miley, the soon-to-be-18 yr old son of Triple-A Scranton manager Dave Miley, was killed Monday morning in a Tampa-area car wreck. Dave will obviously be away from the team for the foreseeable future. Our deepest condolences go out to the Miley family. · (6) ·
Jason Giambi is sitting against a lefty again. Oh, and so is Johnny Damon. Sure Giambi’s OPSing 1.375 on the road trip, Damon’s hitting .406 in the last 7 games, and lefties are hitting .338 off Glen Perkins, but hey, let’s sit them anyway. Not like the team is in a Wildcard chase or anything.
Damaso Marte is likely to be unavailable tonight after throwing 29 pitches yesterday thanks to that inexplicable second inning of work. Unfortunately Minnesota’s 3-4-5 hitters tonight happen to be Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel (the same combo manager Ron Gardenhire has been using for about a month-and-a-half), all lefthanded batters. So when push comes to shove in the late innings tonight, get ready for some Edwar Ramirez change-up action, or even … gasp … Billy Traber. Heck, even if Marte is available, he’s going to be gassed.
So remind me again, what was so bad about Joe Torre running mediocre middle relievers like Scott Proctor and Tanyon Sturtze into the ground? Hey, I wonder if that whole fiasco about IPK’s comments would have been so ridiculously blown out of proportion if Torre was around to work his media magic …
1. Christian, LF
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Nady, DH
6. Cano, 2B
7. Sexson, 1B
8. Pudge, C
9. Melky, CF
And on the mound, Sidney “will pitch for food” Ponson.
Notes: Pudge has actually turned Sid Ponson into a pretty decent starter, squeezing a 2.03 ERA & .519 OPS against out of him in their two starts together (SSS, yes I know) … Joba’s going to start his throwing program on Wednesday … Hideki Matsui is close to beginning a rehab assignment …
(forgive me, I’m just frustrated that the manager continues to not put the team in the best position to win during one of the more critical stretches of the season)
So Ian Kennedy has been sent back to AAA, and all of a sudden, the Yanks have a giant rotation hole. Phil Hughes throws on Tuesday for Scranton and won’t be back in the Majors until at least next weekend. Carl Pavano is still a start or two away from rejoining the Yanks provided he doesn’t chip a nail or stub his toe. So where does that leave the Yanks? Chase Wright threw an uninspiring game on Saturday; Kei Igawa could make his less-than-triumphant return to the Majors; Darrell Rasner, barely serviceable in relief on Friday, could make a Wednesday start. No matter how you slice or dice it, whichever pitcher is facing the Twins on Wednesday will be far, far from our first choice of Yankee hurlers in the midst of a do-or-die stretch of baseball. · (48) ·
Never one to shy away from controversy, Mike Mussina, by pitching above and beyond expectations, may be courting the biggest debate of his career this season.
On one side are those who love Moose. They want him to land in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done. On the other hand are those people so hung up on the Big Nmbers that they can’t adequately judge a player’s Hall of Fame credentials.
Foremost among those detractors is Murray Chass. The one-time Times scribe who now keeps a Website he refuses to call a blog wrote about Mussina and the Hall this weekend. Says Chass:
Mussina, with a 15-7 record and 3.27 earned run average, is only five wins from the 20-win plateau that has eluded him in his 18-year career. Twice he won 19, three times 18, but never 20. No starting pitcher is in the Hall of Fame without a 20-win season on his resume. Even Dennis Eckersley, who became a relief pitcher halfway through his career, had a 20-win season.
Only four Hall of Fame pitchers reached that status without a 20-win season, and they were all relief pitchers – Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Rich (Goose) Gossage.
Mussina hasn’t won the Cy Young award either. No pitcher who has been virtually invisible in Cy Young award voting is in the Hall of Fame…
Mussina has an impressive career won-lost record (265-151) but not much else. He has never been a dominant pitcher, has never pitched his team to a World Series championship. He, in fact, is the darkest symbol of the Yankees’ failed post-season teams of recent seasons.
Chass concludes by noting that even a 20-win season by Mussina this year wouldn’t be enough to resurrect Moose’s Hall of Fame chances. That’s stellar logic.
The problem I have with Chass’ argument is that it ignores anything that makes sense. Are we to judge Hall of Famers solely by their awards and postseason success? Should Ted Williams — zero World Series rings — keep his plaque in Cooperstown? Should Ty Cobb, one of the game’s great racists, be lauded?
What I do know abut Mike Mussina is that his 3.42 ERA in the postseason is better than his career regular season ERA. What I know about Moose’s postseason pitching performance is that his teams lost despite his efforts. Just because a select few writers who have repeatedly shown their ignorance of baseball failed to vote Mussina a largely meaningless Cy Young award does not mean he doesn’t deserve Hall of Fame consideration.
Rather, for 18 years, Mike Mussina has been among the best in baseball. His career ERA is significantly better than average over that time period. He has 265 wins to his name and 2759 strike outs.
In the end, it all boils down to that hot-button question: Does Mike Mussina deserve a spot in the Hall? Right now, he’s on the fence, but it’s not for lack of postseason success or Cy Young Awards or 20-win seasons. Anyone who judges a pitcher solely on those metrics is missing the bigger pitcher. If Mike Mussina has been one of the best pitchers of his generation, then he deserves that spot in Cooperstown. There’s more to that evaluation than those three considerations. Someone tell that to Murray Chass.
It seems to be the hot question to ask this morning. Just for a quick rundown of all who are asking:
There’s plenty more, of course. And it’s a legitimate question to ask at this point, with just 27 percent of the season left and the Yankees four games out of the Wild Card. Add in the injuries and the uninspiring play of late, and you have a recipe for collapse.
Thankfully, the Yankees have a chance to right the ship. They’ve played Minnesota well over the past few years, going 13-7 against them since the beginning of the 2006 season, including a 5-2 mark this year. They follow that up with a series against the
last place Royals, another day off, and then a road trip to Toronto and Baltimore. If there was ever a chance to run off a 10-2 rally, this is it. Because behind the door of Baltimore lie the Red Sox.
If they play well enough over the next 12 games, they’ll have a chance to close the gap during that series. If they sputter as they have lately, well, then the series could be the Yanks last chance to make a playoff stand. Clearly, the next 15 games are going to play a large role in determining this season. It might seem bleak now, but we know the Yanks have the capacity to sock a few dingers and go on a run.
Plus, if they’re able to go on a tear now, by the time they reach Boston we might be seeing the returns of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Clearly, as we learned earlier this year, the Yanks cannot rely on these youngsters to carry them to the playoffs. However, they do represent clear upgrades over our rotation options right now. While it appears we won’t be seeing much of Chien Ming Wang for the rest of the year, a rotation of Mussina, Pettitte, Joba, Hughes, and Ponson/Giese (I’d choose the latter based on my bias against Ponson) might be able to get it done in the final month and change.
It’s easy to count the Yanks out right now, at the gloomiest part of the season. But there’s still enough baseball ahead to keep me interested.
Following Sunday’s diasppointing loss to the Angels, the Yanks have just 44 games left this season. That amounts to just 27 percent of the season, and things are starting to look a bit dire for the Yanks. As ESPN.com’s Coolstandings-pimped standings tell us, the Yanks’ playoff hopes are decreasing by the day.
With the Rays 8.5 games ahead of them in the East and the Red Sox four up in the Wild Card, the Yanks make the playoffs just 13.1 percent of the time when the rest of the season is simulated one million times. They win the division just 3.5 percent of the time and capture the Wild Card 9.5 percent of the time. While it’s a good thing that the games are played on the field instead of by computers, the Yanks better start winning sooner rather than later if they hope to play in October this year. · (18) ·