When the city’s cement-truck drivers went on strike yesterday afternoon, work on the city’s major construction projects ground to a halt. As Steve Greenhouse notes in The Times today, those projects include construction on Yankee Stadium and CitiField. The strike is expected to last through Monday at the earliest, but the drivers could stay out of work longer. While a short delay won’t disrupt the timetables for the two stadiums, if the strike appears to be a long one, both the Yanks and Mets could face the prospect of delays as both teams race to finish their new stadiums before Opening Day 2009. · (4) ·
When Hank Steinbrenner starts talking, you know things are bad. But just how bad is another matter.
Over the last four games, the Yanks are 1-3. They managed to beat Johan Santana but have since been shut down by the likes of Oliver Perez, some guy named Scott Feldman and Kevin Millwood. That’s quite the rogues’ gallery of pitchers.
With the help of Baseball Reference, we know some cold, hard facts about the Yankee offense lately. Since Saturday, the Yanks have 140 plate appearances. They’re hitting, as a team, .172 with a .230 OBP and a .258 slugging. While the Yanks have had a few unimpressive four-game streaks this season, this one is by far the worst of the year.
For the Yankees, the timing of this slump couldn’t really be much worse. After closing their AL East deficit to about five games, they’ve slipped a beat. Just four games over .500, the Yanks find themselves 7.5 games behind the red-hot Rays and five games behind Boston in a very crowded Wild Card race.
With the Red Sox and Rays due in for a four- and two-game set, respectively, the Yanks needed to beat a mediocre Texas team before playing the AL East’s top dogs. But our Bombers, it seems, weren’t up to the task, and once Texas leaves town this evening, the Yanks — and their currently slumping offense — will face its toughest challenge of the year. While no team built like the Yanks and with their resources can ever be considered down and out by July 10, we’ll know in a week what sort of team we’re pulling for this year and what to expect over the last 70 games of the season.
Well, at least we know our owner can pick out the obvious. Hank Steinbrenner has opened his mouth again, so we in blogosphere are ready to listen with open ears. It’s nothing much, really, just echoing a lot of the talking points about the team’s poor offensive play. Strange part of the quote: “I don’t know. Maybe a little less outside distractions and a little more concentrating and they’ll start hitting better.” Is there any outside distraction in particular that you’re worried about, Mr. Steinbrenner?
For what it’s worth, the Yanks are 6-7 since the Yanks allowed ice cream back in the clubhouse. · (19) ·
From the D-Backs’ official site: “[Catcher Chris] Snyder was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Milwaukee outfielder Corey Hart in the fourth inning. Snyder was diagnosed with a left testicular fracture and will have surgery on Wednesday.” And you thought what happened to Jose Molina the other day was bad. · (13) ·
July 2nd always used to be an exciting day for me, it was basically another amateur draft, minus the bothersome shackles of the predetermined selection order. I’ve sort of lost interest though, the too-good-to-be-true scouting reports and Age-Gate have since turned me off. I’m not going to spend too much time discussing the goings-on (especially since this year’s big prize, Michel Inoa, is already off the market), but luckily Eric at Pending Pinstripes will. He’s got a list of confirmed signings set up that he’ll update as the news trickles in, and also a general discussion thread. Baseball America has an in-depth preview up at their site (subscribers only, sorry), and Saber-Scouting has all sorts of good info available (free!). · (23) ·
Ian Kinsler last night was a one-man wrecking crew at the top of the Rangers’ lineup. He went two for three with two walks, stole three bases and scored the game-winning run in the top of the 9th. For his efforts, Yankee fans and the YES Network awarded him with the Chevy Player of the Game. Let’s see if we can do better.
On the season, Kinsler is having quite a year in his third year with the Rangers. He’s hitting .324/.380/.536 with 187 total bases, 13 HR, 50 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He’s been caught on the base paths just once. By any stretch, those numbers make him the obvious choice for the All Star Game.
Except that he plays in Texas, and really, who follows the Rangers? Instead, this guy with his .303/.348/.439 line is leading in the latest AL balloting results. While honestly Dustin Pedroia isn’t a bad choice for second base, he’s not the best choice, and he’s not the guy Yankee fans want to see manning second base during the All Star Game in the Bronx in two weeks.
So with just 14 hours left in the voting, let’s see what we can do. Let’s get Pedroia out, and Kinsler in. In the grand style of Chicago politics, everyone is allowed to vote up to 25 times (per e-mail address) on MLB.com. If, optimistically, just half of the visitors to RAB voted for Ian Kinsler 25 times today, we could send nearly 100,000 votes his way. Stranger things have happened.
Head on over to the MLB.com All Star Ballot, and vote Kinsler. Otherwise, don’t complain when widdle Dusty is starting at second base in two weeks.
For much of the evening, the YES Network camera crews kept cutting back to a little boy sitting behind home plate. At various points in the game, those of us watching at home enjoyed the privilege of seeing the boy eating a hot dog and some ice cream, drinking a soda, getting a foul ball, cheering on the Yanks, getting another foul ball and magnanimously giving said ball to a fellow kid in the stands. It was nearly more entertaining than the squirrels they love to show.
Of course, this kid was enjoying the game from seats that cost upward of $300 per ticket, but hey, he was cute. Or something.
But he didn’t have the best — or the most expensive — seat in the house. That honor was reserved for the Yankees’ very own $21-million man. Derek Jeter, All Star short stop and future Hall of Famer, got the night of to rest, and when the Yanks needed his bat the most, Derek, at the orders of his manager, just sat on the bench, watching his time waste a lead-off walk and lose another one-run game to the Texas Rangers, this one by the score of 3-2.
I hardly need to rehash the 9th inning. Mariano Rivera, appropriately, come in to pitch the 9th, but in a non-save situation, he struggled. Three runners reached base, and the Rangers plated a run that would eventually saddle Rivera with the loss. Curiously, on the season, Rivera is 22 for 22 in save situations with a 0.00 ERA. He’s allowed 8 hits and 2 walks to go with 27 strike outs over 23.1 innings. But in non-save situations, he’s 2-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings. He’s allowed 12 hits and just one walk to go with 15 strike outs. I wonder why.
But such is the way of baseball. The Rivera move was the right one; it just backfired. Ten minutes later, Joe Girardi had a chance to make another move, and he made the wrong one. Wilson Betemit, the King of Swing, drew a four-pitch walk. It was just his second four-pitch walk of the season.
With the tying run on base, Girardi had what seemed to be the easiest decision to make as Melky Cabrera, then 0 for his last 18, heading to the plate. Girardi could have used Derek Jeter to pinch hit; he should have had Melky bunt. Instead, Melky fell behind 0-2 on two called strikes. He then swung and hit into a double play. Who didn’t see that one coming from three miles away?
The decision didn’t make sense as the at-bat unfolded; it still doesn’t make sense two hours later. With one of the best hitters of the generation on the bench and the Yanks’ searching for a win, their manager opted to have their worst regular — Cano is at .245, Melky .240 — bat. While I’d hardly advocate for the bunt, if ever there was a chance to give up an out for whatever perceived greater good exists in the 9th inning of a one-run game, that was it. But Melky swung; the Rangers turned two; and the Yanks lost. They lost the game; they lost more ground; and they’ve lost whatever momentum they had after rebounding from that 15-6 loss on Friday.
A note on Joba Chamberlain: Tonight was not a good start, and as Mike said to me after the game, two things are common with young pitchers: They take their lumps, and they get injured. Tonight, Joba suffered through the former. He was rushing his delivery a bit, and he couldn’t find Posada’s target. He threw 91 pitches, just 49 of them for strikes and walked four in four innings.
Unlike Ian Kennedy’s control problems earlier this year in which he was trying to paint the corners and miss, Joba simply didn’t have it tonight. While some — cough cough Mike and the Mad Dog cough cough — may try to draw comparisons, the situations aren’t even analogous. Amusingly enough, even on his worst night, Joba still managed to strike out six in four innings. Mostly, he was ineffectively wild, but as the flailing Rangers bat showed, he had bursts of effective wildness tonight.
The Yanks’ bullpen picked up the slack; once again, the bats did not.
NPR interviewed Pat Venditte, check it out here.
Get your wallets ready, the International Signing Period starts tomorrow. Time to haul in a new batch of ridiculously over-hyped Latin American teenagers, most of whom will never make it out of A-ball.
Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Buffalo) faced the guy Jim Callis predicted the Yankees would select with the 21st pick in the 2006 draft
Justin Christian: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – send me down? I’ll show you!
Chris Basak: 2 for 4, 1 K
Juan Miranda: 0 for 4, 1 K – 2 for his last 14
Shelley: 1 for 2 – Chad Jennings said he left the game after apparently injuring his shoulder making a diving catch in RF
Jason Lane: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
Cody Ransom & Eric Duncan: both 0 for 3, 2 K - Ransom walked & scored a run
JD Closser: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K – second straight game with a 3-run jack, his first 2 homers of the year
Ross Ohlendorf: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 3-2 GB/FB – 29 of 47 pitches were strikes (61.7%)
Heath Phillips: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 Balk
JB Cox: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 4-2 GB/FB
Scott Strickland: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – 4 H, 4 BB, 14 K in his last 13 IP … hot damn
Kevin Millwood takes the mound for the Rangers tonight. He’s been quite crappy this season, pitching to a 5.08 ERA. He lasted just five innings against the Astros last time out, surrendering seven runs over five innings, walking three and giving up 12 hits. Now, we know the Yanks tend to suck against hittable pitchers, and Millwood seems like one of that ilk this season. But in 37.1 career innings against the Yanks, he’s surrendered 20 earned runs. So maybe they have a shot tonight.
On the other hill is a man who needs no introduction. In his five starts this season, Joba Chamberlain is pitching to a 1.80 ERA over 25 innings, and has now pitched more innings in 2008 out of the rotation than the bullpen. He’s struck out 26 while walking 13 for a nifty 2:1 K/BB ratio. He’ll need to decrease his walks to continue succeeding, but most of us have faith that this will continue. But, you know, since he hasn’t gone more than 6.2 innings over his first five major league starts, he’s only a six, six-plus inning pitcher. Thanks, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, for prophesizing Joba’s career for us.
Cap’n Jetes gets the night off, which is nice. I understand he wants to play every game, but he’s 34 years old. Guys that age could use a day off here and there. In his place, though, I feel Girardi has made a mistake in starting Betemit. Yeah, his bat has some pop, but I’d far rather have Alberto’s glove in there. Anyone else with me?
Via PeteAbe: Britton tossed eight pitches in the GCL, finishing an inning with a strikeout. Humberto Sanchez got through a 12-pitch inning while issuing a walk.
Now onto your lineup:
1. Johnny Damon, DH
2. Brett Gardner, LF
3. Bobby Abreu, RF — three lefties in a row. Wow
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Jason Giambi, 1B
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Robinson Cano, 2B
8. Wilson Betemit, SS
9. Melky Cabrera, CF
And on the mount, number sixty-two, Joba Chamberlain
I’ve noticed a lack of Bobby Murcer over the last few months on the Yankee broadcasts, and today we found out why. Murcer, according to numerous reports, is suffering the effects of his cancer treatments. He recently faced a bout of shingles and hasn’t been up to the speed he prefers. Here’s to you, Bobby. Hope you’re feeling better soon. · (7) ·