Give the man what he wants

In recent comments which I’ve been unable to locate, CC Sabathia mentioned a desire to win the division, which means home field advantage. Contrasting the 2009 campaign with the 2010 campaign, Sabathia mentioned a certain fondness for starting the postseason at home, noting that he felt more comfortable. There’s been plenty of research done demonstrating that home field advantage doesn’t yield a sizeable benefit for the team. There’s not a whole lot that can be said to dispute these facts, and you’re likely to have the opinion thrown at you in earnest over the coming weeks. It will likely get old.

At Baseball Prospectus recently, R.J. Anderson took a different approach. He noted that winning the Wild Card likely results in more games played at home for the Wild Card team in the League Championship Series and World Series. Anderson’s argument is particularly compelling, in that he doesn’t dispense with the logic of wanting home field advantage, he simply notes that you may have more of it by winning the Wild Card. And yet, there’s still a part of me that would like to set this aside and root for Sabathia to get what he wants.

There has to be something to be gained by listening to players. Sure, a lot of times they get things wrong. You wouldn’t to make personnel moves strictly on the basis of clubhouse opinion. But leaving aside the issue that home field advantage typically yields no sizeable benefit for the team, I wonder if there’s really anything all that bad about rooting for the players to get what they want anyway. If CC Sabathia likes to play with his kids, eat dinner in front of his surely gigantic TV, sleep in his own bed and drive in his own car to the Stadium for Game 1 of the ALDS, then I’d like for him to have that luxury. If he thinks it yields a psychological benefit, I can’t see telling him it doesn’t.

Most people operate under similar rigueurs of habit, even if they don’t admit it. Most people have very circumscribed patterns of behavior, rituals and routines that they hold to tightly every day. If something gets thrown off-kilter, they can get flustered and feel disorganized. My early morning routine and walk to my train is nearly identical every day of the week, and it’s likely that way for most people. It’s why experts recommend you lay out your clothes and have your pencils and water and snack ready the night before a big standardized test: you don’t want any unexpected variable messing with your head. You’ll need all the focus you can get and you don’t want to burn energy, mental or physical, on dumb stuff. Maybe it’s the same for the $161 million dollar ace.

This is dangerous territory, because the argument about home field advantage and hoping the team gets what it wants isn’t really that much different from believing a player who tells you he needs to change his gum every half inning to play better. At the end of the day, this is really about endorsing something that yields at best a psychological benefit to the players. You can even call it an endorsement of superstition. It can’t be quantified.

I’m comfortable with that. As long as it doesn’t come at the expense of known, quantifiable factors like resting key players sufficiently, then I’ll be rooting for the Yankees to get that home field advantage, and for CC to be able to eat Captain Crunch on his couch before Game 1 of the ALDS this year. Come on, you don’t think he really quit the Captain, do you?

Offense still MIA in walk-off loss to Angels

On the bright side, at least they didn’t lose in extra innings this time. To the bullet points…

  • The Yankees have scored exactly one run in their last 16 innings, and that was Jesus Montero‘s solo homer off Jered Weaver in the third, a bomb over both bullpens to left. I honestly can’t remember the last time they had two runners on base at the same time, the whole offense is just stagnant. Perhaps it’s fatigue, given how ridiculous the last few days have been. Better to be slumping now than in three weeks, I guess.
  • Know what the sad part is? Bartolo Colon was pretty damn good.  The only blemish on his line came when he had to get four outs in the fifth inning because Derek Jeter rushed a throw with the slow-footed Jeff Mathis plodding down the line. The error extended the inning and eventually led to the tying run. The defense has been pretty awful over the last few games as well, so is that another fatigue thing? Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, Colon struck out five and walked just one in seven innings, getting five strikeouts and eight grounders.
  • After another dominant eighth inning from David Robertson, Joe Girardi ran up the white flag in the ninth with Aaron Laffey (ground ball single) and Luis Ayala (line drove single, hit batter, walk-off sac fly). The bullpen was short yet again (how can a bullpen be short with 19 pitchers on the active roster?), but you know what? One earned run in nine innings is good enough to win. The blame goes to the offense in this one.
  • The Rays beat the Red Sox, so the lead in the division remains at 2.5 games while the lead in the wildcard shrunk to eight. Gotta hope Tampa sweeps that series, just so they close the gap on Boston and make them sweat a little down the stretch. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot stays stuck on 12. Anyway, here’s the box score, the FanGraphs stuff, and the standings.

Girardi said after the game that Nick Swisher had an MRI on his injured left elbow, but he didn’t have the results yet. I’m sure we’ll hear more tomorrow. These same two teams will give it a go on Saturday, when Dan Haren gets the ball against CC Sabathia. That’s another night game, starting at 9:05pm ET.

Game 143: Swishaliciousless

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

After spending half of Thursday’s game flexing his left arm/hand, Nick Swisher is out of tonight’s lineup with a sore elbow and it could be a couple of days before he returns. He said his elbow has been bugging him for a while, but yesterday he felt a sharp pain after making a throw. He hopes to get it checked out by a doctor today. At this point of the season, there’s no reason for the Yankees to push it with anyone if they feel anything more than normal soreness; they should be focused on surviving the regular season and going into the postseason at full strength. Here’s the starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Andruw Jones, RF
Jesus Montero, DH – first start against a righty
Russell Martin, C
Brett Gardner, LF

Bartolo Colon, SP

It’s a 10:05pm ET start, and the game can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Yanks sending Burawa, Whitley, and Claiborne to the Arizona Fall League

The Yankees announced (well, I guess the league announced) today that right-handed relievers Dan Burawa, Chase Whitley, and Preston Claiborne have been assigned to the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League. Corban Joseph, David Phelps, Rob Segedin, and Ronnie Mustelier were already set to go to the desert. All three righties had fine seasons in 201 and will look to build on that success in the fall.

Friday Open Thread

From the picture archives...

The only think worse than a night game on the west coast is a Friday night game on the west coast. The regular game thread will be along shortly, but for now here’s a thread to use in the meantime. The Mets are playing and MLB Network is showing a game as well, but talk about whatever you want here. Go bananas.

Brooklyn forces Game Three with blowout win

Short Season Staten Island (12-5 loss to Brooklyn) the best-of-three series is tied at one, and the deciding game will be played in Staten Island on Saturday night (7pm) … winner advances to the Championship Series
Mason Williams, CF: 3 for 5, 2 R, 1 SB – got picked off first after reaching base in the first inning
Cito Culver, SS: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Ben Gamel, RF: 2 for 4, 1 BB
Tyler Austin, 3B: 1 for 5, 2 RBI, 1 E (fielding) – I guess we’re not going to see Dante Bichette Jr. at all in the postseason
Reymond Nunez, 1B: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 K
Casey Stevenson, 2B-LF: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
Zach Wilson, DH: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 2 RBI – continues to rake despite the long rain-induced layoff
Cody Grice, LF: 1 for 3, 1 2B
Angelo Gumbs, PH-2B: 0 for 1 – pinch-hit late, but to no avail
Nick McCoy, C: 0 for 4
Bryan Mitchell, RHP: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 5-4 GB/FB – less than ideal
Zach Varce, RHP: 2.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 0-2 GB/FB – couldn’t stop the bleeding
Jon Brebbia, RHP: 1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0-1 GB/FB – he couldn’t either
Mariel Checo, RHP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2-1 GB/FB

Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston all failed to qualify to the postseason. The Rookie GCL Yankees have already won their league title.

Astros claim Lance Pendleton

Via MLBTR, the Astros have claimed Lance Pendleton off waivers. The Yankees designated him for assignment earlier this week to make room on the 40-man roster for George Kontos. Remember, the Astros have the righty a look in Spring Training as a Rule 5 Draft pick, but they eventually send him back. Pendleton is from Houston and went to Rice (also in Houston), so he’s right at home. Good luck, I’ll miss you Pants Lendleton.