Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Toledo)
Alberto Gonzalez: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 E (fielding)
Greg Porter: 2 for 3
rest of lineup: combined 0 for 21, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K – Cody Ransom drove in the run with a GIDP … Matt Carson K’ed twice … Ben Broussard committed a fielding error … Chris Stewart picked a runner off second with a snap throw
Jeff Karstens: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 5-5 GB/FB – picked a runner off first … 60 of 96 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … so much for getting him a spot start while he was hot
JB Cox: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 2-5 GB/FB – very un-JB-like … eh, it happens
As baseball analysts raced to judge the CC Sabathia trade, an interesting tidbit emerged about the Yankees: They don’t, as I noted earlier, know their 2008 chances, and as the season rushes into the All Star break, the Yanks could go one of two ways.
If they finish strong in their last six games before the break and start the second half of the season with a few wins, they could close the gap in the AL or at least in the Wild Card race and emerge as serious contenders. If they stumble their way to the All Star break and lose a few games against some of their stronger opponents after the break, they could slip further behind in the playoff hunt. Or they could keep on treading water as they’re doing now, holding back too far in the division but not quite far enough in the Wild Card to figure out what’s happening.
So submitted for discussion, two scenarios:
The Yankees Should Be Sellers
The New York Yankees are old and underachieving. They’re a collection of overpaid, under-performing players past their prime spending too much time on the DL. The Yankees should sell.
Maybe they could move Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui for a few younger players. Maybe they could ship off Kyle Farnsworth while he’s in the middle of a solid stretch. Maybe they could foist Mike Mussina, in the middle of a latter-day career resurgence, onto the Phillies. Maybe they should look at some of their more expendable and younger players like Wilson Betemit, who doesn’t have a clear-cut role but could command a decent return, or Melky Cabrera, who has seemingly outlived his usefulness in the Bronx.
They should sell now because when 2009 rolls around, this team will have a whole new look. They could land CC Sabathia; they could sign Mark Teixeira. They’ll have a full year’s worth of Joba Chamberlain in the rotation, a repaired Chien-Ming Wang and a hopefully healthy Phil Hughes. Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero will be one year closer to the Bigs, and the 2009 team will look far different from the current iteration of the 2008 team. Sell. Sell. Sell.
The Yankees Should Be Buyers
Sell? Since when do the New York Yankees give up on a season? They’re just four games out of the Wild Card and only three in the loss column. Even the nine games between them and Tampa Bay — Tampa Freakin’ Bay! — isn’t that daunting. They’ve done it before; they could do it again.
No, my friend, the Yankees should buy. Brian Cashman has built up a stocked farm system, and one of the advantages of such a farm system is knowing who to keep and who should be traded for what when the time is right. They could use some of those pieces to acquire what they need — a right-handed bat, a top-line starter — to push them over the edge.
If they let Abreu, Mussina, Farnsworth and Giambi walk next year, they’ll land the draft picks to replenish the system. So why not buy and win this year? Anything short of the playoffs is simply unacceptable, and with $200 million and his potential job on the line, Cashman may need to let go of some of his vaunted prospects if he wants to see October or a new contract.
* * *
So there you go. What would you do with the 2008 New York Yankees? Sell the ones you can sell or hold to your Major League chips, jettison some kids and stock up for a stretch run?
A select list of catchers who are having a better season than All Star Catcher Jason Varitek™, based on VORP:
A list of catchers who more plate appearances who are having worse seasons than All Star Catcher Jason Varitek™:
I understand that the players want to honor those they respect with a spot on the All Star team. I understand that the players may despise A.J. Pierzynski. But frankly, it’s embarrassing to baseball when they promote a mid-season exhibition game under the slogan “this time it counts” while allowing the players to vote a catcher who is hitting .218/.300/.358 over 273 plate appearances and who has nabbed just under 18 percent of would-be base stealers this season on to the All Star team. It shouldn’t count.
Open thread on something entirely different coming later.
I know a ton of people would just as well say “yes” and let that be that. His stay with the Yankees hasn’t been too impressive, and certainly hasn’t been near expectations. Yes, he’s an upgrade at the plate over Miguel Cairo. Then again, who isn’t? So as we head towards Betemit’s one-year anniversary, I’m sure many Yankees fans are wondering whether he’s worth carrying on the team.
While Damon and Matsui are out, the Yanks probably have to keep him around. He’s the only guy on the bench right now who can give Jason Giambi a day away from first base, and he’s the only conceivable threat off the bench. With Jose Molina getting more playing time, and with light-hitting Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner playing with regularity, the Yanks simply need a guy who can rake on the bench.
Betemit, we know, can rake. He’s got 10 extra base hits in his 100 plate appearances this year, which is about double the rate of Melky. It’s well above Derek Jeter, even the Derek Jeter of the past few years. It’s a better rate than Robinson Cano, Bobby Abreu, and Jorge Posada. Basically, the only players on the team with a better XBH/PA ratio than Betemit are Jason Giambi (barely), and Alex Rodriguez.
There are two glaring problems with Betemit. First is that the dude refuses to take a walk. In those 100 plate appearances this year, he has walked just three times. In 192 plate appearances for the Dodgers last year, he walked 32 times. That’s more freakin’ like it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what the Yankees signed up for. So instead of getting a guy who walks once every six plate appearances, we’ve got a guy who walks once every 33.33 plate appearances. This is especially frustrating, since he maintained a similar XBH/PA ratio last year in LA before coming east.
This problem is complicated by his strikeouts. We all knew coming into this that Wilson Betemit has a longish swing, and is sent down swinging on a decently frequent occasion. His percentage isn’t much higher than what we expected, a strikeout every four plate appearances, but because he isn’t walking it’s all the worse. It means that he’s simply making more outs, as evidenced by his .280 OBP. It is simply unacceptable.
The second problem with Betemit is his pitiful defense. We’ve seen him have difficulties taking grounders at first freakin’ base this year. He’s got no range at short. We’ve seen him make enough throwing mistakes to make any start at third an uneasy one. Even if he can rake, how can we carry a utility infielder who can’t play D?
Clearly, the Yanks will have a few questions to answer about Betemit heading into the trading deadline. His bat remains intriguing, but unless he can take a few pitches and not swing at everything in the dirt, he’s not going to have much of a role on this team. If Damon and Matsui come back healthy, there doesn’t figure to be many big-time pinch hitting opportunities for the Yankees bench. You’ll have Melky or Gardner, and maybe Molina, but that’s it. Do you need a guy like Betmit to fill that role? Or is the team better served with a more defensive-minded utility infielder?
In the blink of an eye last night, the Yankees became the clear-cut front runners for C.C. Sabathia.
This dance began over the weekend when few were paying attention. The Milwaukee Brewers, it seemed, had emerged as the clear-cut front runners in the C.C. Sabathia Sweepstakes, and last night, just minutes before the start of a thrilling Yankees-Red Sox game and three and a half weeks prior to the trading deadline, the Brewers and Indians consummated what will probably be this July’s biggest deal. The Brewers sent Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and a PTBNL that will probably be Taylor Green, their MiLB 2007 player of the year, to the Indians for three months of C.C. Sabathia.
For the Brewers, the NL’s leading Wild Card team, this move cements their status as a legitimate playoff contender for practically the first time since they won the AL East in 1982. For the Indians, this move signals that the team is in sell mode, and while they may not have done this well this time, they pulled in a pretty decent haul in exchange for a pitcher sure to hit free agency in a few months.
The Yankees, however, are once again on the outside of a blockbuster trade involving a big-time pitcher. Unlike during the Santana sweepstakes, the Yankees weren’t blocked by the Twins’ desires to ship Santana out of the AL. Rather, they opted not to make a potential move. As Ken Rosenthal reported, “the Yankees also were ‘very heavily involved’ in the Sabathia discussions, one source said, but declined to commit the necessary prospects at a time when their 2008 chances are uncertain.”
As Yankee fans are very divided over the direction of the team, certain factions will have a field day with this tidbit. Once again, when faced with giving up some prospects for a quote-unquote proven ace at the time when the Yanks’ pitching is looking rather frail, Brian Cashman and the Yankee braintrust got gun-shy and stood pat. But of course it isn’t as simple as that.
Right now, the Yankees are in the unenviable position of not knowing what’s going on with their team. They’ve dealt with numerous injuries — 60 percent of their starting rotation, most of their starting lineup — and they’re on the cusp of contention, too far out of first place and just close enough to the Wild Card leader to be in it. They don’t know if they should buy or sell; they don’t know what they really need. Some people think they need a bat and can fill in the pitching from the organization; others thing their offense is fine, and they could use a pitcher.
But for the Yankees, they weren’t in a position to make this move yet, and they didn’t have to. They have Ian Kennedy and Dan McCutchen making their respective ways through the organization. They have Phil Hughes and — dare I say? — Carl Pavano rehabbing. By opting not to acquire Sabathia — and we really don’t know how close or far they were in doing so (and it would have cost at least Hughes and more) — they positioned themselves as the leaders in the eventual C.C. Sabathia sweepstakes bound to occupy the back pages after the Fall Classic ends.
I can unequivocally say that Sabathia will not re-sign with the Brewers before testing the free agency waters. Had he wanted to sign without hitting the market, he would have stayed with Cleveland, a town and an organization he has known and loved for over a decade. Now, he will be a free agent, and if the Yankees want him and he wants the Yankees, it will get done. They have millions of dollars coming off the books and millions more coming their way from a new stadium. And the best part of all is that they won’t have to pay twice for the big lefty.
After losing out on CC Sabathia, the Yanks have focused their attention on acquiring Zambrano. Victor Zambrano that is. Currently toiling away with the Rockies Triple-A affiliate, Zambrano has gone 0-6 with a 9.45 ERA, 2.30 WHIP & .367 BAA this year. He was demoted to the bullpen about two months ago, and hasn’t been as terrible, posting a 6.55 ERA & 1.45 WHIP. If the Yanks are interested, It shouldn’t take much at all to acquire him (“future considerations” should do it), and if he pitches like crap who cares? They’ll release him and be done with it, no risk at all. Could you imagine if they traded Hughes for him though? That would be crazy. · (54) ·
In 1997, the Yankees hired Kim Ng as an assistant general manager, and in doing so, they became the first team to offer such a high position in the front office hierarchy to a female. Eleven years later, Ng, one of the sharpest baseball minds in the game, still awaits the call to ascend to that coveted General Manager position. Last week, Tim Brown wondered when that call might come for Ng, now with the Dodgers, or Jean Afterman, one of the Yanks’ assistant GMs and only other female in the game with such a high title in baseball ops. Baseball has long been male dominated, but Ng is qualified enough to get her shot. One day she will. · (12) ·
As Robinson Cano led off second with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning about two hours ago and Brett Gardner, 2 for 20 in his short Yankee career, Mike and I were chatting online about the game. We had the following conversation prior to Gardner’s walk-off hit:
Mike: Brett Gardner, walk-off infield single right here.
Ben: That would be a tough one.
Mike: True…This is the moment that will forever define Brett Gardner’s Yankee career.
Eight pitches later, Mike’s word were strangely prophetic as Gardner sneaked a single just past the dive of
Julio Lugo Alex Cora. Robinson Cano, running with the pitch off of the noodle arm of All Star Catcher Jason Varitek™, dashed home, and the Yanks won a game they needed to win.
For the Bombers, tonight’s game featured a bit of home-grown retribution. Outside of A-Rod‘s 536th home run — hello, Mickey — the Yanks won this game with a little bit of home-grown talent. Offensively, the player of the game was clearly the young Brett Gardner. He had his first multi-hit game at the Major League level, going 2 for 5 with a stolen base and the game-winning RBI. With that RBI, Gardner became the first Yankee rookie to record a walk-off hit against Boston since some guy named Derek did it in 1996.
But Gardner wasn’t the only home-grown Bomber to come through. While the home-grown Jeter drove in a run, Robinson Cano had a big role in this game. Cano went 2 for 4 with a game-tying triple in the 7th. He also scored the winning run and has generally been on fire lately. With his 2 for 4 performance tonight, Cano is now 19 for his last 48, and his triple slash line is .396/.400/.625. (He’s worked zero walks over his last 12 games.)
Meanwhile, the home-grown Bombers dazzled on the mound as well. For five of his six innings, Joba Chamberlain was downright untouchable, and his final line — 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K — shows another quality start for the youngster. After sailing through four innings, he allowed all three runs on two walks and three hits in the fifth. It was the only blemish on the evening. I’d say Joba has acquitted himself well as a starter.
The final home-grown Yankee to make an impact on this game was none other than Mariano Rivera. After giving Yankee fans a collective heart attack yesterday, Rivera rebounded with two scoreless innings. In a piece of high baseball drama, he struck out Manny Ramirez in the top of the 9th with two outs and the go-ahead runner 90 feet from home. Ramirez, in a prolonged slump, watched three pitches go by, and the crowd erupted.
For the Yankees, it’s tough to say that any game in early July is a must-win, but tonight’s win was as close as they come. The Yankees find themselves in third place, nine games behind a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t lose (and will find its way to New York for two games this week). With that victory tonight, they moved to within four games of a struggling Red Sox team in the Wild Card race, and with 73 games left in the season, anything can happen. They needed that win tonight to draw a split of a home series against the Red Sox, and the home-grown team delivered tonight.
Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Toledo in 12 innings)
Matt Carson: 4 for 6, 1 R – threw a runner out at third from CF
Alberto Gonzalez: 2 for 6, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) – game winning homer in the top of the 12th
Juan Miranda: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch) – just 3 for his last 26
Cody Ransom: 3 for 6, 1 R, 2 3B, 1 K
Ben Broussard: 2 for 6, 2 RBI
Jason Lane: 1 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K – avg down to .234
Eric Duncan & Greg Porter: both 1 for 5 – E-Dunc K’ed twice … Porter committed a fielding error
Ross Ohlendorf: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7-2 GB/FB – 43 of 62 pitches were strikes (69.4%)
Steven White: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Chris Britton: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-3 GB/FB – all he does is get outs
Heath Phillips: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Scott Strickland: 2 IP, zeroes, 4 K – 8 baserunners & 0 runs allowed in his last 14.1 IP with 18 K … dealin’
Steven Jackson: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 3-1 GB/FB
It would be nice to come out of this weekend five games over .500, wouldn’t it? Not only that, but only three behind the Sox in the loss column, though the Yanks were there when the series started on Thursday. But it started so horribly that I’m sure many of us are surprised a split is possible.
All right, enough of the negativity. We’ve got our ace-in-training on the mound tonight, as Joba Chamberlain faces the Sox for the first time as a starter. He’ll be opposed by Tim Wakefield, who has pitched 202 innings against the Yankees during his career. His ERA sits at 5.03, though the most damning number is the 110 walks he’s given up in those innings. That works out to 4.90 walks per nine; his career average is 3.48 BB/9. The Yanks hit him especially hard last year, plating 17 runs in 14 innings. They also amassed 17 walks in that period.
Joba has just 4.1 innings of work against the Sox, in which he has allowed one run and walked two while striking out five. The Yanks could use a solid seven out of him. But then again, when could they not use a solid seven from a starting pitcher. We all know that the Yanks will need Joba to step up with Wang out, and tonight presents a strong opportunity. He’ll certainly need to improve over his last start, in which he lasted just four innings against the Texas Rangers.
Word has surely gotten around already that Johnny Damon has been placed on the DL for the first time in his career. Justin Christian has been recalled to play the role of reserve outfielder. While this is certainly a devastating blow to the offense, it does open up a little competition between Melky and Gardner. Our rook speedster hasn’t gotten off to a hot start, but he should have at least 10 games of regular at bats to turn it on. Melky has seemingly responded to the Gardner call-up, going 5 of his last 10. So let’s see if he can turn that into a little hot streak.
Enough of all that, though. Onto your lineups.
And on the mound, number sixty-two, Joba Chamberlain.
Update by Ben (8:05 p.m.): During the pre-game show, Buster Olney reported that the Brewers have traded a package of prospects fronted by Matt LaPorta to the Indians for C.C. Sabathia. I’ll have more on this deal tomorrow morning, but quickly: While this now means the Yanks won’t have Sabathia this year, it puts them in a prime position to nab him once he hits free agency this winter. There’s no way the Brewers re-sign the lefty before he hits the open market. And LaPorta’s quite the price to pay.