Being on the road means one thing for a Yankees fan

While many Yanks fans are headed down to Washington, D.C. for the series this weekend, I’m headed in the opposite direction. So while they get to watch the game live from Nationals park, I’m stuck with the two voices that any road tripping Yankees fan has to endure. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman will be my guides for the weekend’s slate of games.

It’s become popular of late to pile onto this broadcasting team. Some of it is warranted, of course. While Sterling might have a voice made for radio, he fails in so many other aspects of game-calling. It seems as though at least once a game he completely misses a call. As in, he says one thing, when nothing of the sort has taken place on the field. And that’s my biggest complaint.

Sure, there are other annoying aspects of the broadcast. Ralph Nader recently railed against the in-game advertisements Sterling reads. These ads, he says, “disrupt the flow and excitement of the game broadcast and undermine your responsibilities as a guardian of the national pastime.” It makes for nice rhetoric, but radio is still a business that needs to turn a profit. With traditional ad dollars down, they have to recoup somewhere. Sure, I sometimes imagine Sterling doing spots for companies I’m researching. “That’s an energetic blast, and your company can take care of all its energy needs with ABB energy.” But realizing its’ a business, it’s not that bothersome.

And yes, there are the inane conversations between he and Suzyn about seemingly irrelevant topics. But that’s pretty inevitable in any three-hour broadcast. They have so much time to fill, and even more when a pitcher is working slowly. (And they make sure to lament that when it happens.) It’s tough to begrudge them these conversations, though, because they’re impromptu. They’re naturally going to get a detail wrong here, or go off on an unrelated tangent there. Nature of the beast and all.

Of Sterling’s bombastic calls I couldn’t care less. He created his schtick, and he’s going to run with it until the day he retires. Yes, his home run calls have become increasingly pathetic with age. Oh well. He still gets riled up, and it’s not really bothersome. It is, after all, his broadcast, and if he wants to spice it up in some manner that’s his prerogative. But if that’s all they did — have boring conversations, make ostentatious calls, and read advertisements — I wouldn’t mind. It’d be a trade-off for free descriptions of a baseball game I can’t watch.

No, the real issue is with the descriptions themselves. The broadcast team is the eyes and ears for those who have no other means. And in this regard Waldman and Sterling fail us. Again, it’s the call Sterling makes that in no way reflects what happened on the field. It’s getting tuned up for a home run call only to have the ball go 30 feet foul (which we have to learn later). Or worse, an “it is high, it is far” call for a ball that lands comfortably in front of the warning track.

The bare minimum I ask from a broadcast is an accurate description of the game, and I don’t feel as though I’m getting that with Sterling and Waldman. I understand some people enjoy their cooky style. That’s fine; it’s a matter of taste, and it’s not as though I’m immune to accusations of bad taste. But style or not, no one can forgive their play calling mishaps. It’s the very foundation of the broadcast, and yet it’s lacking wildly with the Yankees.

As we’ve learned, the Yankees could be switching broadcast stations next season. There’s a chance that this is the last hurrah for Sterling and Waldman. If so, I’d welcome the new blood. Not because I can’t stand Sterling’s home run calls, not because I’m turned off by in-game ads (the new team will read them, too, just as the teams before Sterling did), and not because I don’t enjoy Waldman’s insights. It’s because they’re failing at the most basic aspect of their jobs. Describe me the game. Even if you do nothing more, add no more personality, at least I’m informed. As a baseball fan with no way to watch the game, that’s all I ask.

Make It Seven: Yanks beat Nats behind Hughes, Granderson

Source: FanGraphs

I’d say Nationals Park was 50-50 on Friday, basically half Yankees fans and half Nationals fans. There were a ton of boos to counteract the cheers for the Bombers, though I definitely heard a) a mini-roll call, b) a “De-Rek Je-Ter” chant, and c) at least two “Let’s Go Yan-Kees” chant. New York won it’s seventh straight game thanks to another strong start from Phil Hughes and some timely hitting in the mid-to-late innings. Since I assume most of you saw the game and know what happened, here are some random thoughts rather than a blow-by-blow recap…

  • Joe Girardi had to know Robinson Cano was going to be intentionally walked in the seventh inning, right? I mean … you could see it coming a million miles away. It obviously doesn’t matter now and it is just nitpicking, but the best move probably would have been to use him to pinch-hit for Jayson Nix rather than have Nix bunt one batter prior. They still would have had Raul Ibanez (or Eric Chavez) to pinch-hit for the pitcher.
  • Curtis Granderson is really starting to hit the ball the other way, and with authority. It seemed to all start during the series in Oakland, but it continued on Friday with his opposite field two-run double to blow things open in the seventh.
  • Phil Hughes struck out a season-high nine and he looked really good outside of a sloppy third inning. He actually got more ground balls (five) than fly balls (four), including a big double play ball to end that third inning. After that double play, Phil retired nine of the next ten men he faced to end his outing and has pitched to a 3.35 ERA in his last seven starts. Prettay prettay good.
  • Oh, and the streak is over! Hughes did not allow a homer in a start for the first time this season. He was two starts away from the all-time franchise record of 14 straight starts with a dinger. I had my money on Danny Espinosa for the #obligatoryhomer.
  • Gio Gonzalez also looks really good. The Yankees were able to get his pitch count up there early, but he’s not the nibbler he was with the Athletics these last few years. At 26 years old, it seems like the light bulb is starting to turn on. Glad he’s in the NL in that case.
  • I was happy to see David Robertson get an inning in just to get those first game back jitters out of the way. He did allow a run on a double and some ground outs, but no one really cares. I’m glad he’s back.
  • How awful did Clay Rapada make Bryce Harper look in the eighth? That was as bad a hack as he could reasonably take.
  • Speaking of awful, Alex Rodriguez‘s base-running blunder to end the third was as bad as it gets. Alex is by far the most instinctual player I’ve ever seen, but that was just bone-headed.
  • The Yankees were poised to win their first homerless game of the season … until Granderson ruined things by going deep in the ninth. This is why we can’t have nice things, Curtis.

As I said before, this is now seven wins in a row. It’s also ten wins in the last 11 games, 12 in the last 14, and 17 in the last 21. This is the best baseball the Yankees have played in a while, maybe even going back to 2009. What do you think? Anyway, has the box score, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Andy Pettitte and Jordan Zimmermann give it a go in game two on Saturday afternoon, then after than come join us for our post-game meet-up if you’re in town.

Sanchez homers, Gumbs has four hits in win

Tonight you get bullet points, and you will like it…

  • Triple-A Empire State (win): Chris Dickerson doubled while Ramiro Pena tripled, accounting for the team’s only extra-base hits. Corban Joseph and Jack Cust each drove in one run while Ramiro plated two. Go Ramiro. Dellin Betances through 103 pitches in only 4.2 IP, but he only walked two while striking out four. He did allow seven hits and three runs. Chase Whitley allowed a run in two innings of relief.
  • Double-A Trenton (loss): Abe Almonte had three singles and two steals while Luke Murton hit a solo jack to highlight a dull offensive night. Shaeffer Hall allowed three runs in six innings in an equally dull pitching night.
  • Low-A Charleston (win): Mason Williams and Kelvin DeLeon each had two singles while Angelo Gumbs had four. Gary Sanchez singled and homered — his third jack in four games — while Rey Nunez singled and doubled. Evan rutckyj threw five scoreless, walking two and striking out four.

High-A Tampa is off until Monday for the All-Star break. The actually game will be played on Saturday.

Game 63: The Nation’s Capitol

(Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

This is going to be a fun series. The Nationals are very clearly a team on the rise with some of the most exciting young players in the game, and these two clubs come in playing very well. Both the Yankees and Nationals have won six straight and both clubs are in first place, Washington by six in the loss column and New York by one. Their run differentials — +46 and +42 — are nearly identical. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Alex Rodriguez
RF Nick Swisher
LF Andruw Jones
Russell Martin
2B Jayson Nix — Robinson Cano‘s fine, just has terrible numbers vs. Gio Gonzalez (0-for-9, 4 K)
RHP Phil Hughes

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

FanGraphs Q&A with Tyler Clippard

David Laurilia of FanGraphs interviewed former Yankee and current Nationals closer Tyler Clippard when Washington was visiting the Red Sox last weekend, and the two spoke about a number of topics that I thought were worth sharing. Clippard spoke about having a “closer’s mentality” and the idea of leveraging relievers, why he falls off to the first base side on fastballs and the third base side on offspeed pitches, why he thinks he could go back to starting, plus a whole bunch of other stuff. It’s really fascinating stuff and gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation, so check it out.

2012 Draft: Yankees sign second rounder Austin Aune

June 15th: Via K. Levine-Flandrup and Jim Callis, Aune has officially signed for $1M. Slot money was just shy of $550k, so they went over big time for him. Check out our Draft Pool page for the latest on that front. Interestingly enough, Aune will begin his professional career as a shortstop, not as an outfielder. He did play short in high school and I was wondering if they would have him at least have him try it after signing. No reason not to, really.

June 5th: Via Adam Boedeker, the Yankees already have an agreement in place with second round pick Austin Aune. The high school outfielder from Texas was committed to TCU, and New York selected him with the compensation pick they received for failing to sign last year’s second rounder, Sam Stafford.

Slot money for the 89th overall pick is $548,400, though it’s unclear how much the agreement is worth. In their subscriber-only scouting report, Baseball America said Aune “offers an impressive package of tools, starting with plus raw power and arm strength … He has a balanced lefthanded stroke and solid speed, and scouts praise his makeup as well.” I don’t remember the Yankees ever having an agreement in place with a draft pick this quickly, but I suppose this is a result of new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams had to make sure they could sign their guys before committing.

Yanks interested in Dempster and probably every available pitcher

Dempster said he’ll waive his 10-and-5 rights for a contender, but will he shave his beard for one? (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

If a columnist connects an available player to the Yankees, you can bet it will get widespread publication in the major baseball blogs. It wasn’t a surprise, then, to open up Hardball Talk and see the headline, “Yankees, Dodgers are interested in Ryan Dempster.” Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times stirred the drink here, writing that Dempster “is coveted by several would-be contenders, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.” Coveted? Really?

Two weeks ago we heard quite the opposite. Jon Heyman wrote that the Yankees have concerns about Dempster pitching in the American League. Since his debut as a 21-year-old for the Marlins in 1998, Dempster has pitched exclusively in the NL. The Yankees seemingly haven’t had success with pitchers who switch leagues, though Hiroki Kuroda has performed admirably this season. It does seem, as Heyman writes, that they’d prefer to trade for Dempster’s teammate Matt Garza, though Garza will be a bit more expensive since he’s still under team control for 2013.

Dempster has gotten off to a great start this season, allowing just 19 earned runs through 74 innings while striking out 63 to just 20 walks. His ground ball rate is down a bit, which is somewhat concerning. During his peak years of 2008 through 2010, when he produced a 3.49 ERA in 622 innings, his ground ball rate was around 47 percent, while it’s under 43 percent this year. And, again, the transition from the NL Central to the AL East is a significant one. That shouldn’t stop the Yankees from acquiring Dempster, but it should certainly limit the price they’re willing to pay.

The Yankees might have five starters going well right now, but as we’ve seen in years past, that can change at any time. In 2010 they had five starters pitching well when the Cliff Lee trade fell through, and it seemed like no big deal. But then Hughes’s performance worsened considerably. Javy Vazquez fell off a cliff. Andy Pettitte got hurt. And A.J. Burnett again turned in a poor summer performance. That is to say, a currently full pitching staff shouldn’t turn off the Yankees. With the rate at which situations change, they’d be fools to write off such a trade solely because they seem set in the moment.

This is no ringing endorsement of Dempster. Where he is, he’s fine. Great, you can even say this season. But move him out of his current environment and stick him in the AL East and it’s a different story. I think he can pitch well, but not nearly to the level he’s currently achieving. We’re talking more back-end starter. There could come a time between now and July when the Yankees might need such an arm. Getting Dempster for the right price will be tricky, but if they can figure out something with the Cubs then they should go ahead. There will inevitably be a need on the pitching staff later this season.