Even before last night’s third deck shot, Andruw Jones had gone from dud to legitimate force for the Yankees in the second half. I wrote about his improvement earlier this week, and as it turns out, the outfielder had some help with the turn around. “My mom called me and told me look at your old tape,” said Jones to Jack Curry. So he watched some old tape of him from last year (.364 wOBA overall, .402 vs. LHP) and widened his stance, which helped him feel more comfortable at the dish. Andruw’s mom is cool with me.
Via Mark Feinsand, the Yankees have claimed lefty Aaron Laffey off waivers from the Mariners. Gustavo Molina has been designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster. Laffey will join the team in Minnesota tomorrow, which is kinda interesting.
I wrote about Laffey yesterday, suggesting the Yankees should claim him off waivers so he can be the second lefty out of the pen. He won’t be a shutdown southpaw, but he’s a better backup option than Raul Valdes or Steve Garrison. As an added bonus, Laffey is under team control through 2014 and has a minor league option remaining for next year. Solid move, improving on the margins.
The Yanks are rolling along pretty well right now. Mike and I find the few interesting nuggets from the past week.
- The only downer, really, was the botched home run call on Wednesday.
- Well, that and the starters not being that great the last turn or two through the rotation. That seems like a short-term issue, though.
- But on the bright side, the bullpen has been stupendous.
- We also turn the conversation to the playoff races, which, given how things have broken down this year, we can do in mid-August.
- Does Jim Hendry’s firing have anything to do with the Yanks?
Podcast run time 42:09
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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.
Every other week, Jamie O’Grady channels the 2005-version of Michael Kay by “Looking Back. Looking Forward.” to get you caught up on what just was, and what soon will be with the New York Yankees.
LOOKING BACK: So what did you miss?
Did you know that after last night’s win against the Minnesota Twins, the Yankees have now won 9745 games in franchise history? Coincidentally, that’s roughly the amount of times that I yawned watching the ‘Derek Jeter: 3K’ documentary on HBO recently.
Seriously, could the El Capitan be any more boring? I’ve experienced Nilla wafers less bland than Jeter’s personality. No. 2 values his privacy, but I was under the impression that guy’s got an edge, Baby. Not so much, but what he does have is Minka Kelly (safe for work) and a .344 (44-for-128) batting average since securing his 3,000th hit on July 9. My sources tell me the ‘DJ4K’ sequel is already in pre-production planning.
The ghost of Jorge Posada lives on! In the body of… Jorge Posada. Mere days after being unceremoniously demoted from the DH-slot – going 0-for-2 on the basepaths thus far in 2011 finally forced Joe Girardi‘s hand – the old Yankee catcher erupted with an unlikely 6-RBI game, his first such effort since 2006.
If only Posada could somehow bottle that fiery intensity and pour it into a sippy-cup for AJ Burnett, whose nine wins this season have cost the Yankees roughly $1.83m apiece. Maybe we’re all being too hard on AJ. After all, it can’t be easy to throw strikes when everyone keeps mistaking you for someone named Beavis. In his defense, Burnett did finally manage to win a game during the month of August – he had been 0-8 with a 7.18 ERA over 13 starts as a Yankee – by “scattering” 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings against the Royals earlier this week. Good times.
My first stab at the prediction business didn’t go so well, as the Yankees only managed to go 6-5 over their last four series. I had called for 10-2, although in my defense, one game was postponed. More importantly, New York is now in sole possession of first place in the AL East, and they are also 9 and 10.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, respectively, in the Wild-Card race.
Oh, if you missed Rivera’s media comments after his recent ineffective patch, you didn’t hear the most eloquent and accountable player in any professional sport today. His ability to compartmentalize his successes and failures, while keeping the larger picture in perspective, is probably the most overlooked secret to his success. Quite frankly, and don’t call me Shirley, not only will we never see the likes of Mo on any diamond again, but we’re highly unlikely to see his equal off it either.
What we learned:
8/5 – 8/7 @ BOS – Ugh. When you rally from behind to beat your division rival’s ace in a series opener, you usually feel pretty good about your chances that weekend. Unfortunately, New York’s own ace, CC Sabathia, now sports an 0-4 record and a 7.20 ERA against the Red Sox, which kind of stinks and stuff. It’s a good thing Sabathia
is was, like, virtually undefeated against every other Major League club. Also on the bright side, the Yankee bullpen ahead of Mariano Rivera (more on him later), namely Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson showed why the team’s geriatric and/or mentally unstable starting rotation may not be as much of an Achilles heel as once thought. In fact, over a six-week stretch, Logan had allowed just three runs over 13 1/3 innings with 20 strikeouts, the highlight of which was a 3-pitch bases loaded fanning of the greatest hitter of all-time Adrian Gonzalez. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3) (Actual: NYY lose 2-of-3)
8/9 – 8/11 v. LAA – If there’s one thing Yankee announcer Michael Kay brings to the table, it’s consistency. Consistently awful announcing. You’ve heard him say it approximately 26,000 times over the years when a pitcher has runners on 1st and 3rd; “the ol’ “Jeff Nelson-move.” Well, the inevitable happened, the move finally worked. To end a game. Unbelievably, the impossible became possible only after a rare hiccup from the aforementioned Rivera, who had coughed it up against the potent bat of one Mr. Robert Abreu. Yes, that Abreu. He of the two home runs all season prior to facing New York. Oh, AJ Burnett also threw baseballs in no particular direction, so Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wives, ’cause he’s walkin’ everybody out here. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3) (Actual: NYY win 2-of-3)
8/12 – 8/14 v. TAM – Having already touched on Posada turning back the clock, a far more important development during this series was the potential resurgence of Phil Hughes. Following up a 6-inning, rain-shortened shutout of the White Sox on August 2 – when his fastball was consistently clocked in the mid-90s – Hughes held the Rays to two runs on four hits over six more-than-effective innings. Maybe Brian Cashman was right when he claimed his non-trades were essentially of the in-house variety at the trade deadline. Then again, Hughes hasn’t pitched more than six innings in any of his nine starts this season, so optimism should be tempered. (Prediction: NYY sweep series) (NYY split 2 games)
8/15 – 8/17 @ KC – Not much to say about Kansas City, because, well, they’re Kansas City, but I did note a few interesting tidbits. Former Yankee Melky Cabrera (.310/16/73) must be doing Pilates because he’s become toight like a tiger. Can’t-miss 1B Eric Hosmer has a gorgeous swing, but that facial hair is starting to cross into Big-Sloppy territory and it’s on manager Ned Yost to keep the inmates from running the asylum. Finally, if you watched Wednesday’s Yankee loss, you saw the umpires “use” instant replay to absolutely botch a disputed home run call. Notwithstanding the fact the crew apparently did not know the grounds rules at Kaufman Stadium, and therefore no amount of replay could have guided them to the correct call, it was a crappy outcome nonetheless. I’ve never been particularly concerned with either blown calls or too much technology, but it’s readily apparent that something needs to be done. Playing “Just the Tip” makes no sense; you either go with full-deployment of replay for everything but balls and strikes, or you don’t have it at all. Perhaps someone can address this when Bud Selig finally dies in 2069. (Prediction: NYY sweep series) (Actual: NYY win 2-of-3)
LOOKING FORWARD: What can’t you miss?
If it seems like everything’s been quiet on the Yankee-front for the past month or so, that’s because it has been. And as you might expect, that serenity is sure to evaporate faster than your 401K has lately with the impending return of Alex Rodriguez from the disabled list. ARod is expected to rejoin the lineup on Saturday or Tuesday, and if he can manage to keep his poker habit in check, he’s sure to restore order and depth to the already potent Yankee lineup.
If there’s any downside to ARod’s return – and believe me, some
morons folks will tell you there’s plenty – it’s that the uber-talented and super-underrated Brett Gardner will probably be bumped back to the 9-hole. If I was slipping the loose-leaf into Girardi’s binder, I’d roll with a lineup of 1. Gardner, 2. Jeter, 3. Granderson, 4. ARod, 5. Cano, 6. Teixeira, 7. Swisher, 8. Matsui (see below) and 9. Martin.
Alas, that will never happen, but it probably makes no difference anyway. Any way you slice it, this lineup is very scary to opposing pitchers, and the Yankees are making the playoffs regardless.
What we expect to learn:
8/18 – 8/21 @ MIN – For the past decade or so, we’ve heard legions of broadcasters and fans tell us how amazing the Minnesota Twins are. “They’re MLB’s Little Franchise That Could” or “They’re proof that chicks also dig the small ball.” And with a spiffy new ballpark comes an increase in revenue, and thankfully, team-payroll – they’re ninth at $112.7m, approximately 95% of which they’re paying Joe Mauer – yet ironically, they’re 15 games below .500. Speaking of Mauer, he’s only hit one homer this season, and the greatest site ever created tells you exactly what his production is worth according to your measly salary. (Prediction: NYY win 3-of-4)
8/23 – 8/25 v. OAK – First it was Sergio Mitre. Then Scott Proctor. Might Hideki Matsui be next? Godzilla has reportedly cleared waivers, and you have to wonder if the Yankees have given any thought to bringing the Japanese-born, former-superstar back to the Bronx. Since the All-Star break, the 37-year-old Matsui is hitting .385/.573/1.012 (5 HR and 26 RBI) and I have to believe Cashman has at least pondered re-acquiring him. With the return of ARod, Matsui in the 8-hole ahead of Russell Martin makes a lot of sense. He’s always been great in the big spot, and given the team’s starting pitching deficiencies, lengthening the lineup might be the only viable path to reaching the World Series. By the way, Matsui is a career .333 hitter against Justin Verlander, he’s hit a home run once every 11.5 at-bats against Josh Beckett, and he sports a 1.041 OPS against Colby Lewis. Just sayin’. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3)
8/26 – 8/29 v. BAL – Since there’s virtually no source material here, let’s instead focus on what’s good about Baltimore. As far as I can discern, that includes crab cakes, Carmelo Anthony and The Wire. Oh, and Camden Yards. If you haven’t yet traveled down I-95 for an Orioles game – and yes, you do need to travel through New Jersey to get there – you’re really missing out. Not only are tickets widely available, but they’re also cheap as dirt and almost every seat in the house has a great sight line. Just make sure you don’t book your hotel room in “West” Baltimore, mostly because you’re not Stringer Bell, and you won’t be coming home. Ever. (Prediction: NYY sweep series)
8/30 – 9/1 @ BOS – I have a confession to make. Despite being born and raised in the Bronx, having once been employed as a writer by MLB.com, and growing up as the son/grandson of a mother/grandfather who were in attendance on October 1, 1961 when Roger Maris hit his 61st home run, I have never been to Fenway Park. Well, unless you count living vicariously through Ben Affleck in ‘The Town’ via Blu-ray. I know, it’s embarrassing, but now you know, and I hope we can move beyond this woeful inadequacy of mine. Not much to say here; the Yankees need to win these games, especially with Clay Buchholz and Kevin Youkilis on the disabled list. I suspect they will, and both CC and Rivera will redeem themselves for their earlier transgressions. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3)
And that’s all she wrote. I’ll see you back here in a fortnight, unless you follow me on Twitter, in which case I’ll see you every five seconds or so.
Five questions this week, and four are farm system-related in one way or another. You can use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar whenever you want to send in a question.
Matt asks: Would you agree that an off-season strategy could be to include E. Nunez in a package for something the Yankees want, while giving his role for 2012 to Corban Joseph?
I would not agree with that, mainly because Joseph can’t play shortstop. I assume he played it in high school, but he’s been a second baseman almost exclusively as a pro. I’m willing to bet that CoJo could fake short in an emergency, but Derek Jeter‘s getting up there in age, and the Yankees need someone capable of playing there for an extended period of time without embarrassing themselves. Nunez can do that, Ramiro Pena can maybe do that, but I’m not sure Joseph can. I think if anything, he could step into Eric Chavez‘s shoes as the lefty bat/corner infielder, but I can understand wanting a veteran in that role.
The CoJo situation will be interesting to watch, because I’m not really sure where he fits in. He’s obviously not going to unseat Robinson Cano at second, so maybe it’s best to turn into some kind of utility guy that can play first, second, third, and maybe left. Of course, they could always use him as trade bait. I would have no trouble trading Nunez in the right package, but I wouldn’t count on Joseph replacing him, at least not in 2012.
Jeff asks: Hey Mike, I read that Zachary Arneson signed for a 20k bonus. Any idea why it was so low compared to other picks before and after his round? Cheers.
Arneson, this year’s ninth rounder, was a college senior out of Lewis-Clark State, and college seniors don’t have much leverage at all. Their options are either sign or go back to school as a fifth year senior and come out next year with even less leverage. Very rarely do they improve their stock. Seniors definitely get the shaft in the draft game, but that’s life. Some other notable college seniors the Yankees have drafted in recent years: Adam Warren ($195k), Tim Norton ($85k), Kyle Roller ($45k), Sam Elam ($40k), T.J. Beam ($20k), and Chris Malec ($1k). Yep, Malec got a grand, that’s it.
Update: One thing I forgot to mention … the signing deadline does not apply to college seniors. They are free to sign at any point before the next year’s draft.
Sean asks: With St. Louis about to (presumably) tie up a lot of money in Pujols, do you think there is a chance to snag a piece of their rotation in the off-season? Assuming they do not exercise their options for Wainwright or Carpenter, can you see the Yankees pursuing either of them or Edwin Jackson? And if so, what kind of contract would Wainwright be looking for?
Despite the Tommy John surgery, I can’t see why the Cardinals would decline Adam Wainwright’s options after the season. The team has to pick up both at the same time, and they’ll pay him $9M next season and $12M the season after. Even if he comes back and is two-thirds of what he was before (so 4+ WAR instead of 6+ WAR), that’s a bargain. They’d be foolish not to pick them up, but if they didn’t for whatever reason, I’d want the Yankees to be all over him. Wainwright’s a legit ace when healthy, with a fastball-curveball combo that will play anywhere, NL Central or AL East. There’s no real precedent for an ace-caliber pitcher hitting the open market after missing the year due to injury, so I have no idea what kind of contract would be appropriate. Maybe one-year, $10M plus incentives and a huge option for 2012 ($18M?) to let him rebuild his value than cash in shortly thereafter? I have no idea, just spitballin’.
Chris Carpenter is a much different story. We’ve written about him a number of times here, and his option is for $15M next year. That’s pricey for a 36-year-old who’s still very good (3.10 FIP), but maybe not truly elite anymore. He’d be an ideal stopgap number two type for the Yankees, allowing them to avoid the C.J. Wilsons of the world before going nuts on the 2012 free agent class (Matt Cain, John Danks, Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, all of them and more will be free agents after next season). Edwin Jackson … meh. I loved him as a rental for this year, but signing him to a multi-year deal as a free agent? I’d rather pass on that.
JCK asks: Pat Venditte has been great since mid-June in Trenton. Everyone says his stuff doesn’t play to major league hitters, but he’s adjusted to every level so far. Do you think the Yankees protect him this winter?
Venditte’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, and no, I don’t think the Yankees will protect him. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell, and George Kontos are all going to have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season, and there’s only so much room for pitchers on that thing. Venditte’s done a great job in the minors, but he doesn’t really have an out pitch from either side and it shows in his strikeout rate this year (8.74 K/9 this year vs. 11+ in previous years). He’s a great org arm, but there wouldn’t be much attention paid to Venditte if he only threw with one arm. I’m pretty sure some team will grab him in the Rule 5 just to give him a look in Spring Training, the novelty is too tempting, but I can’t imagine him sticking in the big leagues for all of 2012. I have to think he’d be offered back at some point.
Alex asks: How involved have the Yankees been in IFA this year? What have been their major signings? It seems as though they’ve been more quiet on this front than in years past.
The Yankees have only signed one player so far (that we know of), Dominican third baseman Miguel Andujar for $750k. The top guys (Victor Sanchez, Elier Hernandez, and Ronald Guzman) have all signed somewhere, but there is still plenty of talent out there for taking, namely Roberto Osuna, who the Yankees have their eyes on. The entire international market seems to have slowed down recently because MLB has really stepped up their age and identity verification process, but remember that the signing period never ends. There’s no deadline, but a new crop of players is added every July 2nd. In fact, the Yankees’ two biggest signings last year – Rafael DePaula and Juan Carlos Paniagua – didn’t agree to terms until December and March, respectively. You can question their drafting strategies, but there’s no way to question the work the Yankees do in Latin America. They consistently produce quality players and prospects year after year, and I see no reason to believe this year will be any different.
It’s kinda funny how the Yankees go into these big pitchers’ parks on the road and make them look very small, don’t they? They did it to CitiField earlier in the year, and did it on Thursday night to Target Field en route to an 8-4 win.
A few weeks ago I suggested that Andruw Jones has the most raw power on the Yankees. Not necessarily the best pure hitting ability, but just raw strength and the ability to hit the ball far. He showed off that power in the fifth inning, when he hit the second of back-to-back homers into the third deck in left field. The Twins said it went 434 feet, which sounds light but whatever. Hit Tracker says it’s the eighth longest homer in Target Field this year, behind a whole bunch of Jim Thome taters and various visiting players (Matt Kemp, David Ortiz, couple of guys from the Rangers). And you know what’s really crazy? Andruw hit a ball to center field in his first at-bat, which Ben Revere caught right in front of the 411 sign on the warning track. That’s a homer in like, 27 other parks. He also hit a ball into the second deck juuust foul in the ninth. Jones has been killing the ball since the All-Star break, and he’s not slowing down at all.
Nick Swisher was on the front end of the back-to-back homers, clubbing a two-run bomb to left that landed two decks below Andruw’s shot. That stretched the lead from 3-2 to 5-2, then Jones made it 6-2.
CC Was So So
CC Sabathia has been just a little off lately, struggling with his command more than anything else. The first four batters he faced hit the ball very hard, but two of them made outs and Justin Morneau’s two-run homer was reviewed and ruled to have gone foul. Sabathia came out in the second and was struggling again, allowing a pair of runs to negate the one his teammates tallied in the top of the inning. His stuff was fine, but he was leaving the ball up, a common theme in his last few outings.
Someone flipped the switch after the second, because Sabathia retired the next eight men he faced and 12 of the next 15. Things got a little hairy in the seventh inning, but it was more bad luck that poor pitching. Tsuyoshi Nishioka started the inning with a legit line drive single, but Drew Butera blooped in a base hit and Ben Revere plated a run with a ground ball single that had eyes. The bases were loaded when Eduardo
Nunez Scissorhands booted what looked like a double play ball, and there were still none out. CC managed to retire both Joe Mauer and Morneau on fly balls (Mauer’s drove in a run) before Robinson Cano made a great diving stop to rob Thome of a hit and RBI. It could have been a lot worse, but the Twins kinda stink and the Yankees countered some bad defense with some good defense.
The final tally: four runs and ten hits in seven innings, with nine strikeouts and just a single walk. Sabathia also got seven ground ball outs to three air outs, throwing 106 pitches (eight swings and misses). He was bad in the first and second, vintage CC in the third through sixth, then iffy in the seventh. He’s still fighting through this little rough patch, but as long as it’s just command and not lack of stuff (his velocity is fine, the slider is biting, all looks good on the stuff front), there’s no reason to worry. Plenty of starts left for him to figure it out.
Curtis Granderson smoked a triple in the third inning, his tenth three-bagger of the season. He’s the first player in franchise history to rack up 30+ homers, 10+ triples, and 20+ steals in a single season. He’s quite good at this baseball thing, in case you didn’t know. Curtis went 3-for-5 to raise his season batting line to .281/.374/.593.
Nunez made up for his seventh inning error with a great series of baserunning in the ninth. He slapped a hustle doubt to left center with Jones on first, then scored all the way from second on Frankie Cervelli‘s line drive that Danny Valencia knocked down but couldn’t glove. I didn’t think he had a prayer to score on the play, even with two outs, but he was halfway between third and home before Valencia recovered to pick up the ball.
Andruw’s shot overshadows Mark Teixeira‘s two-run bomb in the third, which only went into the second deck in left. He, Granderson, and the revived Derek Jeter combined to go 7-for-13 with a double, a triple, and a homer. Jones, Nunez, and Cervelli combined to go 6-for-14 with a double and a homer further down the order. Pretty solid all-around night for the offense.
David Robertson and Cory Wade combined for two perfect innings after Sabathia, striking out one each and not allowing a ball out of the infield. Roberson’s worked in three of the last four days but Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera have had two straight days off, so look for them to be the eighth and ninth inning combo on Friday. Mo did warm up before Cervelli drove in those two insurance runs in the ninth, however.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, Ron Gardenhire came out to argue after the umps reviewed Morneau’s non-homer and ended up getting tossed. I get coming out just to talk, even if it’s just for show, but he was arguing pretty emphatically. Joe Girardi put up less of a fight after the Billy Butler nonsense on Wednesday. Weird.
Did Michael Kay seriously rant about the Twins signing Mauer long-term then building a ballpark that took away his power in the first inning? Did that actually happen? I didn’t imagine that, right? Sigh. Anyway, the Yankees maintained their half-game lead in the AL East because the Red Sox beat the Royals. They’re also nine games up in the wildcard race.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Game two of this four-game set will be played Friday night, when Phil Hughes gives it a go against Kevin Slowey. The Yankees will look to up their record to 61-19 against the Twins in the Gardenhire era.