Tyler Kepner, in his story about last night’s game, has an interesting notebook item on 2009:
With Jason Giambi a free agent after the season, two Yankees outfielders said Saturday that they would be willing to play first base next season. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon said they could learn the position if needed, though catcher Jorge Posada might have to play there as he builds strength in his shoulder. “A lot of players at the end of their careers are able to do that,” Damon said. “I think being somewhat athletic might be able to help me adjust to that.” While Joe Girardi said he expects Matsui to see a “substantial amount of time” as the designated hitter, Matsui said he would prepare himself to play the infield and outfield. “As long as I get a little work in, I should be O.K.,” he said through an interpreter.
How altruistic. Damon and Matsui, two free agents-to-be, are offering to prove that they can be more than just over-the-hill outfielders. I’m putting the Yanks’ desire to resign either of these two after 2009 at slim to non-existent, and they both know it. Here’s a prime chance for them to increase their values.
But more importantly, this tidbit gives us a glimpse at something we’ll discuss more next month: The 2009 first base hole. The Yanks probably won’t bring back Jason Giambi as the everyday first baseman, and they’re going to have to figure out what to do with Jorge Posada. While some Yankee-watchers have advocated for a lineup with Jose Molina, the offense he doesn’t bring far outweighs the defensive contributions he makes. Posada needs to catch.
So the choice — the fork in the road — will be one of either the stop-gap path or the high-priced free agent path. The Yanks could opt for a patchwork first base with Damon and Matsui, Posada and perhaps Giambi now and then with Juan Miranda potentially in the wings. Or they could go for broke and sign Mark Teixeira to a contract that will be too rich and too long. Neither option is ideal, and both will provide a lot of discussion fodder once the end of October rolls around.
First, the nitty-gritty: Sidney Ponson throws six innings, gives up three runs on five hits, a walk and a strike out. That’s a win and a quality start. Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi pick up six hits and five RBIs. Mariano Rivera gets a save and makes his first September appearance. The Yanks win and are still, barely, alive.
That’s all well and good. But let’s look a little bit closer at this one. Sidney Ponson threw six innings today and picked up a win. Every time that happens, I feel like I should sacrifice something to the Baseball Gods. In reality, Ponson was on the shortest leash you’ll ever see. Girardi yanked him after a whopping 66 pitches.
This will, of course, give the Yankees another excuse to start Ponson in five days. It will give them another excuse, when they’ve been just about eliminated from postseason contention, to give some washed-up never-was more innings when they could be tossing some of the kids. And it will give me another reason not to watch the game in a few days.
At this point, it’s a small complaint. Ponson won’t be with the team next year, and the Yanks are playing out the season. Tonight’s game definitely had that air of inevitability about it. It’s on the schedule; it has to be played; some team is going to win; and someone has to pitch. Tonight, the cards fell for the Yankees.
If it’s any consolation, this afternoon’s game will have some meaning as Mike Mussina goes for win 18. Meanwhile, I’m just hoping Joba and his rotator cuff are okay. His stuff isn’t quite there yet, and his line sure shows that. The Yanks have a weeks to make sure he’s healthy; they ought to be using him for more than an inning at a time every three days. That seems like small beans though right now, but small beans are all we have left.
PeteAbe’s got the Fall Instructional League roster. That’s a mighty fine crop of catchers.
Triple-A Scranton‘s game was rained out. SWB leads Pawtucket 2-1 in the best-of-five series. Today’s game will be made up on Monday, if necessary. Scheduled starters Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon will face off tomorrow in Game 4.
Double-A Trenton has advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series and was off today. They’ll take on Akron in the Finals, who beat Bowie 5-1 tonight to advance. Interestingly, the Thunder are going to skip over George Kontos & Chris Garcia, both of whom didn’t pitch in their first round sweep of Portland, and throw Eric Hacker in Game 1 of the Finals. He’ll have to face a 3-4-5 combo of Matt LaPorta, Travis Hafner & Wes Hodges when the series starts Tuesday.
High-A Tampa’s season is over, they did not qualify for the playoffs. The Fort Myers Miracle (Twins) will take on the Daytona Cubs in the Florida State League Championship Series.
Low-A Charleston’s season is over, they did not qualify for the playoffs. The Augusta Green Jackets (Giants) and West Virginia Power (Brewers) will play for the South Atlantic League Championship.
Short Season Staten Island‘s final regular season game was cancelled due to rain. They finished the year 49-26, the best record in the NY-Penn League. Brian Baisley set a new franchise record with a .336 batting average, surpassing Justin Snyder‘s .335 mark from last year. They’ll be taking on the Jamestown Jammers (Marlins) in the first round of the playoffs, best-of-three series. Looks like David Phelps will get the ball in Game 1 on Monday.
The Rookie GCL Yanks’ season is over. The GCL Phils won the league championship.
With the late-inning implosion of the Rays’ bullpen earlier this evening, the Yankees find themselves tied for third place. A loss tonight would drop them into fourth place in the AL East. It would be the first time since 1992 that the Yanks are in fourth this late in the season.
Over the course of the evening, we’ve seen a few opinions emerge as to whether or not fourth place matters. Some people feel that if the Yanks aren’t going to make the playoffs — first place or wild card — then it doesn’t matter where they finish as long as it isn’t last. Others — including me — believe it to be a point of pride.
Sure, the $200-million Yankees are a big disappointment this year, but that doesn’t mean they should roll over and give up on the rest of the season. Their fans are still watching; we expect decent baseball. So the team should deliver. Plus, it’s better to win more games than anything else. While some cite the difference in draft picks, the Yanks aren’t going to land one of the top five picks no matter how poorly they do over their final three weeks of the season. I’d rather see them finish in third and land the 20th pick than finish in fourth and land the 18th pick.
To keep the Yankees in third place, Joe Girardi will painfully hand the ball off to Sidney Ponson. The only reason Ponson is starting tonight is because Al Aceves has to replace Darrell Rasner next week. Such are the state of things in September. As a Yankee, Ponson is 3-4 with a 6.22 ERA. Since winning on August 6, he’s 0-3 in 20.2 innings spanning four starts. He’s walked nine and struck out seven while pitching to an ERA of 7.40. I’m glad I’m leaving the house tonight before this game starts. It could be an ugly, ugly evening.
A. Rodriguez 3B
I. Rodriguez C
Following up on my morning post about the non-sold out Mets-Phillies games comes more stadium shenanigans. Richard Sandomir in The Times writes about the Yankees haven’t really honored their legends during the final year at the Stadium.
Descendants of Babe Ruth, the man who built the house, and Mickey Mantle, for example, have wondered why the Yanks have neglected history. Peter Abraham notes growing discontent among Yankee fans who feel that the team hasn’t done much beyond the All Star Game to honor the building’s history. And a quick scan of the list of people who have pulled the countdown lever leaves me underwhelmed.
So with ten games left, the Yanks have one more homestand to send the stadium out in style. For a stadium, 1970s renovations or not, that has played to host to so much Yankee history and has been a part of New York’s sports, cultural and religious life since 1923, the building has gone largely unappreciated by the team this year, and I’m not holding my breath that this attitude will change before Sept. 21.
It’s nearly impossible to find any affordable tickets for one of the final ten games at Yankee Stadium. But 13 miles away, the Mets can’t even sell out an important series against the Phillies. As mediocre as the Yankees are this year, at least the fans are still going to witness history in the making, and that’s more than we can say for the Mets and the Shea Faithful. · (19) ·
Brandon Morrow is 24 years old. Prior to Friday evening, he had thrown 100 big league innings and had made a grand total of zero starts.
This year, Morrow, one of the Mariners’ top pitching prospects, has thrown up some impressive numbers. In 36.2 innings, he’s allowed 18 hits and has a better than 3:1 K:BB ratio. He also throws in the upper 90s.
The Yankees, meanwhile, were coming off a night game in Tampa and a cross-country flight. Clearly, that’s a winning combination for the Mariners, and Morrow did not disappoint. The youngster didn’t give up a hit until Wilson Betemit doubled in a run in the 8th. He walked three, struck out eight and threw 72 of his 106 pitches for strikes. On nights like these, you just tip your cap to the opposing pitcher and salute him for a stellar game.
On the Yanks’ side of the ball, Andy Pettitte, with his pinstripe future in doubt, had himself a nice outing. He threw seven strong innings, striking out nine Mariners and allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk. He did what he’s supposed to do against a punchless offense. Too bad the Yankees were even more punchless tonight.
With that loss, the Yanks fall 8.5 games behind the Red Sox for that final playoff spot. More alarming, however, is the 0.5 games separating them from the Blue Jays. Right now, I’ll retire my pipe dream of seeing the Yankees overcome the odds to play in October and start rooting for them to avoid a fourth-place finish. Considering their schedule the rest of the way, they don’t have a lock on third place.
Damon Sublett is heading to Hawaii Winter Baseball after missing most of the season due to injury.
Triple-A Scranton (6-4 win over Pawtucket) SWB leads the best-of-five series 2-1 … Phil Hughes takes on Bartolo Colon in Game 4 tomorrow
Justin Christian, Juan Miranda, Shelley Duncan & Chris Stewart: all 1 for 4 – J-Chrizzle drew a walk & scored a run … Miranda doubled, drove in a run & K’ed … Shelley K’ed twice … Stewart committed an error on catcher’s interference
Bernie Castro: 0 for 4, 1 K
Juan Miranda: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
Ben Broussard: 3 for 3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Matt Carson: 0 for 3, 2 R, 1 K – playing CF now that Melky’s back up
Eric Duncan: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB – drove in the game winning runs with a 3-R jack … but it came in the 4th inning, so it doesn’t count because it wasn’t late in the game and therefore not clutch, right?
Nick Green: 2 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 10-7 GB/FB – 61 of 103 pitches were strikes (59.2%)
Steven Jackson: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1-0 GB/FB
Scott Strickland: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 1-0 GB/FB – now that’s how you slam the door in the playoffs
Last night’s game ended at roughly 10:30pm EST, then the Yanks had to board their charter for the longest possible flight in baseball. I’m guessing the team didn’t get to their hotel until about 7am EST this morning. That’s why they get paid the big bucks I suppose.
Don’t be surprised if they look a little flat tonight, especially with Brandon Morrow and his 98mph heat making his first career start for the M’s. Seattle sucks, but the Yanks are set-up to lose tonight.
1. Damon, CF
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Nady, LF
7. Matsui, DH
8. Cano, 2B
9. Molina, C
And on the mound, Andy Pettitte.
Notes: Darrell Rasner is out of the rotation, Al Aceves is in … after throwing only 43 pitches last night, I suspect Rasner will be available out of the pen as early as tomorrow, good thing considering Ponson’s starting … Wilson Betemit has three at-bats since August 15th, he’s basically useless now, no way he can do much of anything with all that rust …