I’m not ready to write the obituary for the 2008 Yankees. At least, not yet.
While they’re not going to overcome the 9.5 games separating them from first place in the AL East, they can still make a run at the Wild Card. After all, the team still has a combined nine games against the White Sox and Red Sox, two teams in front of them for playoff spots. They don’t play the Twins, but they do play the Angels and two series against the Rays. That’s a schedule that will force the Yankees to earn a playoff spot and stave off that 2008 season obituary.
Of course, there’s a catch: The Yankees have to start winning, and tonight’s game — a rather discouraging 7-3 loss to the Red Sox — wasn’t a stellar night for boys in the Bronx. The papers tomorrow will begin and end with one man. Alex Rodriguez, at the long end of a season in which he has struggled in the clutch, went 0-for-5 and hit into two double plays. He single-handedly accounted for 26 percent of the Yankee outs and left seven runners on base.
Topping it all off with a throwing error, Alex drew the boo birds and Bronx cheers long into the night. When he grounded into a double play with one out and the bases loaded in the 7th, the crowd expressed its collective, season-long frustration with an underperforming team. When, fittingly on this night, A-Rod struck out to end the game, whatever was left of the 55,058 fans who paid for this game booed perfunctorily. I guess they meant it.
For better or worse, though, the Yankees will rise and fall with A-Rod. Tonight’s game was a rather drastic illustration of that point, and while maybe tonight, for one night, it’s ok to boo Alex Rodriguez, he’s going to be around for the next nine years. The Yankee brass may be, according to Jon Heyman, very skeptical of A-Rod’s extracurricular activities. But they knew what they were getting when he inked his name in blood on that $275 million contract. Until death do us part.
After the game ended, Joe asked me if this was the worst game of A-Rod’s career or just the worst game of his five-year tenure on the Yankees. While Game Six of the 2004 ALCS comes to mind, at least A-Rod can only go up from there. I hope.
But forgetting A-Rod for a second, another Yankee didn’t come through when the team needed him most tonight. That man — Andy Pettitte — will get a pass in the papers tomorrow but only because of A-Rod. Coming off a strong outing in Toronto, Pettitte couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning. He needed 101 pitches to record just 18 outs, and along the way, he allowed six runs on 10 hits and three walks. The Yankees needed more from Pettitte, and the lefty just didn’t come through.
So now, the Yankees will turn to Sidney Ponson, and that is never a comforting thought. Ponson as a Yankee faced the Sox at the end of July, and the results were not pretty. But that obituary just isn’t ready to go, and the Yanks shouldn’t be ready to give up. Tuesday’s game wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was probably one of the worst of the season. But later on tonight, the Yanks play again for another shot at narrowing that October deficit. There’s always more hope.
Austin Jackson and Kevin Russo are headed to the Arizona Fall League. The Yanks still have five more spots left to fill – four pitchers and an infielder.
Triple-A Scranton (9-1 win over Buffalo)
Justin Christian: 1 for 5
Melky: 1 for 4, 2 R, 1 K
Matt Carson: 2 for 5, 3 R, 1 K – threw a runner out at first from RF
Shelley: 1 for 3, 3 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB
Ben Broussard: 1 for 3, 1 R, 3 RBI – 7 for his last 16 (.438) with 8 RBI
Nick Green: 2 for 4, 2 RBI – 6 for his last 8 (.750)
Eric Duncan & Chris Basak: both 0 for 4, 2 K
Chad Moeller: 1 for 4
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 6-9 GB/FB – 63 of 96 pitches were strikes (65.6%)
Zack Kroenke: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 4-0 GB/FB
Scott Strickland: 1 IP, zeroes, 1-2 GB/FB – all 5 pitches were strikes
If you’re thinking sweep, you’re thinking too far ahead. We play today, we win today, das it.
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, Big Game Pettitte.
Notes: Instant replay starts Thursday, which is kinda dumb. Test it in the AzFL first or something, this is only going to make the games longer … the Yanks are 19-9 against the Sox in the second half since 2005 … Tim Wakefield hasn’t pitched since August 6th, no minor league rehab games or anything … Jason Giambi just bought two wine cellars in his apartment building at 78th St. and 3rd. The two rooms set him back $5000 each …
ESPN has the story. Here’s how it works:
For now, video will be used only on so-called “boundary calls,” such as determining whether fly balls went over the fence or whether potential home runs were fair or foul.
Video will be collected at the office of Major League Baseball Advanced Media in New York. If the crew chief at a game decides replay needs to be checked, umpires will leave the field, technicians at MLBAM will show umpires the video and the crew chief will make the call.
Personally, I am a fan of bringing instant replay into the game. While critics believe it will slow down the game and destroy the supposed integrity of the game — the same integrity that allowed for segregation, spitballers and steroids — anything that helps umpires get the calls right should be embraced. If the whole nation can see, via instant replay, that a ball left the yard but because the umpires, out of position, couldn’t make a call, why should the game suffer?
What I don’t understand, however, is the need to implement instant replay in a haphazard fashion with 30 games left in the season. Basically, the 2008 season will be played under two sets of rules. We’ll have non-instant replay games from the season’s first five months followed by one month of instant replay. That doesn’t seem like a very logical decision to me.
I think it would have made more sense to bring instant replay online via next spring’s World Baseball Classic and a widespread implementation on Opening Day. But it is what it is, and this move should be applauded.
Now that the trade rumor market has died down, Fox Sports’s Ken Rosenthal has taken to analyzing teams. Up today, our very own Yankees. Rosenthal says that the team might be in a similar position next year, as even money can’t cover up some of their shortcomings.
Still, even if the Yankees landed Sabathia and Teixeira, they would be stuck with the same questionable group of young starting pitchers and many of the same underperforming hitters.
Yet, in a paragraph earlier in the article, Rosenthal admits that landing Sabathia would give the Yanks one of the top rotations in the league, headed by the big guy, Chien Ming Wang, and Joba Chamberlain. If the Yankees are able to bring back Mussina and Pettitte, and I presume they’ll make every effort to do so, then how in the world would they have the same young pitching problems as this year? Instead of handing Hughes and Kennedy de facto rotation spots, each would have to earn it. And even then, we’ve already listed five guys. With Sabathia in tow, Phil Hughes could easily start 2009 in Scranton.
Remember, the Yankees spent heavily last offseason — $275 million for third baseman Alex Rodriguez, $52.4 million for catcher Jorge Posada, $45 million for closer Mariano Rivera, $16 million each for Pettitte and right fielder Bobby Abreu. Those were all players who had proven they could play in New York. And yet, here are the Yankees, on track to miss the postseason for the first time since 1993.
I’m sorry, this is just lazy. All of those players were on the team last year. There was no upgrade. If they add Sabathia and Teixeira — and no, I am not necessarily advocating signing both, though there are worse off-seasons in which to do it — they will be complete and total upgrades over what we currently have. Or would have next year otherwise.
He also talks about Yankees players in decline, pointing the finger directly at Derek Jeter. You know what? There’s a decent chance that he comes back with another stellar year next year. Who knows what’s wrong with him in 2008. In any case, it seems he’s overcome it, as he’s hitting .352/.392/.432 in August. If he puts up those numbers over the course of next season, not a single person will complain. Yes, things might get worse for the Captain. Players at his age tend to hit a downslope. But that’s far from a given.
Further on Jeter, Rosenthal speculates on a position change. The most irksome passage here is where Rosenthal says Jeter’s bat is inadequate for first base. Yes, he would represent a lower than league average bat at first. But you know what? The ’77 and ’78 Yanks won the World Series with Chris Chambliss playing first. Even adjusting for the time periods, I would think that Jeter could keep that pace (112 and 100 OPS+ figures, respectively for Chambliss). With the correct pieces elsewhere, including Jeter’s replacement at short, this shouldn’t be an enormous problem.
It’s sexy to beat up on the Yanks. No, they’re not perfect. Yes, they have some flaws which might not be worked out by Opening Day ’09. But they’re far from hopeless. With a few calculated upgrades this off-season, the Yanks could be in a much better position in 2009.
When we heard that Ross Ohlendorf had been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a cog in the Nady/Marte trade, I found myself a bit disappointed. Sure, he was a disappointment as a reliever in the majors, but he was finding some level of success as a starter at Scranton. With the Yankees pitching woes at the time, I thought that maybe he could pull a few spot starts later in the season. Alas, it was not meant to be. He’s with Pittsbugh now, starting for their AAA Indianapolis team. He’s tossed 41.2 innings since the trade, all as a starter, and has struck out 35 to just eight walks. His ERA sits at 3.24. This past Sunday, he pitched eight innings, allowing just one run while striking out six and walking one. He’d tossed eight innings of no-run ball on August 13.
The Princeton Packet, hometown newspaper of Ohlie’s alma mater, caught up with the alum to see how things are going in Hoosier country.
“I would prefer to start,” said Ohlendorf, who went back to finish his coursework and graduated from Princeton in 2005. “Before the draft, I think there was a little discussion about whether I should be a reliever. I relieved some in Cape Cod the year before. I certainly am looking forward to hopefully having the opportunity to be a starter.”
“I do feel like I’ve been getting used to starting again. I need to get back to using my change-up more. I was able to do that. Overall, I’m definitely happy with how it’s going. It could be going better, but I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.”
He also reminisces about his times with the Yanks, particularly about his above-6.00 ERA as a reliever in the majors.
“I felt I pitched well the majority of the time,” the 6-foot-4 right-hander said. “I had four to five really bad outings. I was able to see that as long as I pitched well, I could get guys out. At the same time, I was able to see things that got me into trouble and what I needed to work on to be able to do consistently better. It’s mainly throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes and locating my fastball and not overthrowing it.”
Checking his game log, that statement checks out. He allowed more than two runs in four appearances, getting hammered against the White Sox, Mets, Orioles, and finally again against the Mets, which was the final nail in his coffin. In his 25 appearances, he held the opponent scoreless 13 times, and allowed just one run six times, three of which were in appearances of more than one inning.
Here’s to hoping Ohlie enjoys a long and fruitful career as a starter for the Pirates. Or at least a better career than Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett, John VanBenschoten, Brian Bullington, Brad Lincoln, etc., etc., etc.
According to the Associated Press, the Charleston River Dogs, the one of two Yankees minor league affiliates not named the Yankees, will extend their relationship with the parent team. And why not? They’ve set attendance records the past two years, and expect another one this year. With this commitment, though, one has to wonder whether they’ll soon become the Charleston Yankees. · (36) ·
In mid-July, McFarlane Toys, designers of the popular MLB figurines, announced that Melky Cabrera would be included in their 2009 set. The Yanks’ former center fielder was to be a part of a showcase of young players that will include Dustin Pedroia and Justin Upton. But a funny thing happened on the way to February: Melky Cabrera found himself bound for AAA Scranton after a terrible four months.
Now, as Jim Baumbach reports, McFarlane Toys has scratched their plans to include Melky Cabrera in the next line of figurines. The company offers up no explicit reason for this change in plans, but I’m sure Melky’s demotion had everything to do with it. There’s nothing like kicking a man while he’s down, eh? · (16) ·
When I arrived home this afternoon, I found waiting for me in the mail the latest in a long line of Yankee Stadium tribute books. This new arrival — Remembering Yankee Stadium: An Oral and Narrative History of “The House That Ruth Built” — is by Harvey Frommer, a prolific baseball scribe who once wrote for Yankees Magazine.
The introduction to Frommer’s tome is penned by none other than the Voice of God himself. That’s right; Bob Sheppard, with a picture of the soon-to-be 98-year-old in his younger, dapper days, introduces the oral history of the building in which he has probably spent more time than anyone else alive. It is a fitting way for a book of this magnitude to begin.
While I’ll put together a more formal review of Frommer’s offering over the next few weeks, just seeing Bob’s name on the cover of the book and his image on the first few pages triggered a few Yankee Stadium-related thoughts. Mostly, I realized we have heard neither hide nor hair of Bob Sheppard since he announced that he wasn’t healthy enough to announce the All Star Game. Since then, nothing. No word on his recovery; no word on his potential return. No word on anything.
Right now, the Yankees have just 16 home games left at Yankee Stadium, and with the Yanks on the outside of the playoff picture looking in right now, there’s no guarantee that Yankee Stadium will see baseball in October this year. Meanwhile, Sheppard has been out for over 11 months now, and I have to wonder if Bob won’t make it for a single game of announcing duties during the final season of the Stadium.
If indeed Mr. Sheppard doesn’t make it back this year, the Yankees’ venerable announcer will have gone out unexpectedly last September when, one day, he was too sick to make it to work. He will have missed his opportunity to send off Yankee Stadium in grand fashion, and I’m sure he’s just as disappointed about it as any of the team’s fans are.
But I’m not quite yet ready to count Bob out yet. He may be out of the public eye right now; he may still be convalescing from what sounds like a very serious illness. But when all is said and done, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Bob Sheppard in his proper place when the evening of September 21st rolls around. The Baseball Gods hopefully wouldn’t have it any other way.
Chase Weems was promoted to Charleston. He didn’t play much for the GCL Yanks after Kyle Higashioka showed up, and I can’t imagine he’ll get much playing time with Montero & Romine on the team.
Victor Zambrano was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. Hah.
Triple-A Scranton (7-2 win over Buffalo) 16 of their 20 hits came off of one pitcher … yikes
Justin Christian & Matt Carson: 2 for 5, 1 R – Carson drove in a run & K’ed
Melky: 3 for 5 – on base 17 times in 8 games since being send down
Juan Miranda: 0 for 0 – left the game in the bottom of the first with dizziness says Chad Jennings
Shelley: 1 for 5, 1 R, 2 K – got struck out by an old friend
Ben Broussard: 2 for 4, 1 R, 2 K
Nick Green: 4 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI – seriously?
Eric Duncan: 2 for 4
Chris Stewart: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Bernie Castro: 1 for 4
IPK: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 5-4 GB/FB – 64 of 106 pitches were strikes (60.4%) … remember, he’s there working his two-seamer and curveball, which CJ says he’s doing
Steven Jackson: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K – 12 of 22 pitches were strikes (54.5%) … 11 K in his last 7 IP
Phil Coke: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB – only 6 of 13 pitches were strikes (46.2%)
Scott Patterson: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0-2 GB/FB