Seven years ago, I was a freshman in college. The country was just seven weeks removed from the horrible events of Sept. 11, and the Yankees were battling it out against the Diamondbacks in the World Series as the city poured its heart and soul into the games.
The night before, I had been at Yankee Stadium. Of course, I had leaped at the chance to go to game three of the World Series. With the Yanks down 2-0 to the Diamondbacks, they needed a win and got a solid, steady performance. As I returned to suburban Philadelphia and settled in to watch the rest of the series from the couch in our lounge, little did I realize the excitement and utter heartbreak the next five days would bring.
Halloween in 2001 was a Wednesday, and this midweek game would pit Curt Schilling against Orlando Hernandez. Prior to the game, Schilling lambasted the Yankee Stadium mystique and aura. He said that mystique and aura sounded more like cheap strippers than anything related to baseball. Little did Curt realize who would show up in the 9th and 10th innings.
For seven innings, Schilling and El Duque put on a show. Curt struck out nine in seven innings and gave up just three hits. The only blemish on his record was a Shane Spencer home run in the third. El Duque allowed eight baserunners in 6.1 innings, but Mike Stanton got Tony Womack to hit into a double play. Through seven, the game was knotted at one.
In the top of the eighth, Arizona broke through and carried a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth. The Yanks were in trouble, and I and my fellow Yankee fans were slumping on the couches, dejected at the thought of a 3-1 Diamondbacks lead in the World Series. Byung-Hyun Kim was due to pitch, and he had been stellar that year with 113 strike outs in 98 innings.
Derek grounded out, but a Paul O’Neill single kept the inning alive. After Bernie Williams struck out, the Yanks’ fortunes rested on the bat of Tino Martinez. The Yanks’ first baseman wasted no time. On the first pitch — BAM! — tie game. Tino’s blast to nearly straight-away center field brought life back to the Yanks. It was his first hit of the series.
Kim would allow two more baserunners that inning, but it wouldn’t be until November that the Yanks would win this game. Shortly after the clock on the scoreboard hit midnight, Derek Jeter blasted a home run into the night as the Yanks drew even with the Diamondbacks.
I went to bed that night quite content. I wondered if I’d ever see anything as dramatic as that Yankee rally in the World Series again. Little did I realize what the next night would bring.
I don’t have a link for you yet, but this year’s Elias rankings are out. Quick rundown of the Yanks: Abreu, Pettitte, Moose & Marte are all Type-A’s, Pudge is a Type-B, and Giambi isn’t anything. Eddie Bajek at Tigers Thoughts had Pudge projected as a borderline Type-A, but alas, he barely missed the cut. Marte’s ranking isn’t worth anything, they’ll almost assuredly pick up his option. All-Star Catcher Jason Varitek is inexcusably a Type-A, somehow ahead of Pudge. Bah.
Update (1:45pm): Farnsworth is neither a Type-A or B. Hah.
Update (3:45pm): ESPN’s Free Agent Tracker has the Elias Rankings. Check them out there. · (17) ·
Perhaps, the Yanks will send off Yankee Stadium with an off-season ceremony after all. According to Pete Caldera, the Yankees may, next weekend, ask Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte to carry home plate across the street. This farewell with the four remaining members of the 1990s dynasty would be a fitting way to ring in the new park while saying good bye to the old. · (16) ·
This one’s a short administrative note for all RAB readers who read the blog through our RSS feed. Please take the time today to make sure you’re accessing our feed via the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/RiverAveBlues. Many of you are using the old feed address, and we just want to make sure everything is as streamlined as possible. Thank you.
Update by Joe: This is probably best accomplished by unsubscribing, then clicking on our Feedburner icon to the left. Just make sure you re-subscribe if you unsubscribe. Because, you know, we’re cool like that. · (7) ·
I know a vocal contingency of Yankees fans don’t like Ian Kennedy. It’s easy to be down on the guy right now. He had a terrible year in the majors, and appalled fans with his post-game cockiness. Yet, this winter probably isn’t the best time to shop Kennedy. His value isn’t what it was last season, and what the Yankees could get in return likely won’t equal the production Kennedy can potentially give the Yankees rotation. Case in point, a nugget in the Denver Post, which says that Willy Taveras for Ian Kennedy is “not a longshot.”
Seriously, even the biggest Kennedy detractor can’t want this swap. Willy Taveras is clown shoes. He hit .251/.308/.296 this year. In other words, he’s Melky Cabrera with less power. That might have been the most absurd sentence I have ever written on RAB. He made $1.975 million last year, so he’s not only Melky with less power, he’s Melky with less power and more expensive.
There is no upside to bringing on Taveras. We already have two players who can top his production, and no one is sold on those guys. They’re both younger than Taveras, too. If you’re going to trade Kennedy for garbage, at least make it garbage that we don’t already have.
Via the Worldwide Leader, we learn that Junichi Tazawa is now a free agent. While the Japanese Leagues have recently tightened the rules about players heading to the U.S., nothing prevents teams from signing amateur free agents. The bidding war will not involve a posting fee.
So then attention this off-season will turn to Tazawa. He is a 22 year old with a high-90s fastball and some very good breaking pitchers, according to scouting reports. Early rumors indicate that he will draw plenty of interest from the usual suspects of MLB teams with the Red Sox and Yankees leading the pack.
As we while away the days until free agency, let’s speculate on Japan. The Yankees have gotten burned on Japan recently with Kei Igawa, but he didn’t come with nearly the same level of hype as Tazawa. The Yanks have also seen their rival Red Sox land an overhyped but pretty good pitcher in Daisuke Matsuzaka. What then do you do here?
Should the Yanks pursue Junichi Tazawa within reason? Are we too afraid of the Kei Igawa/Hideki Irabu vortex of overhyped Japanese pitchers?
It would be pretty unprecedented for a young Japanese pitcher to start his career in the Majors, and it sounds like Tazawa has the goods to make a go of it. But as the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
The Yankees announced this afternoon that they will continue to give behind-the-scenes tours of Yankee Stadium through November 12. Sign up here, and act quickly because supplies are very limited. I don’t know if this will be the last extension of the tour schedule. If the weather holds, they may keep the tours running through the end of November, but as the new stadium gets closer to reality, they will soon begin moving the sights such as Monument Park across the street. · (2) ·
AzFL Peoria (10-2 loss to Phoenix)
Kevin Russo: 2 for 4, 2 K, 1 CS – 15 for his last 26 (.577) … he’s hitting .383, fifth in the league amongst players with as many at-bats
HWB Waikiki beat Honolulu 9-0, but no Yankees’ farmhands played in the game,
AzFL Peoria (3-2 loss to Scottsdale)
Kevin Russo: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 2 K
Humberto Sanchez: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 Balk, 3-2 GB/FB – 20 of 37 pitches were strikes (54.1%)
Let’s dip into the mailbag again. Clearly, the Yankees’ outfield situation, while not an overwhelming priority, doesn’t stand to be a strength of the team without some serious upgrades. Bobby Abreu may be gone; Xavier Nady‘s production remains anomalous; center field is a huge question mark; and only Johnny Damon, soon to be 35, is a known quantity out there. While I’d advocate for Manny Ramirez, he’s more of a DH type than anything else right now.
To that end, a lot of fans have been inquiring about our thoughts on various trade options. Yesterday, I looked at Magglio Ordoñez. Today we tackle Aaron Rowand. Long-time reader and frequent commenter Stu writes:
Last year at this time, there was much talk about how the Yankees should sign Aaron Rowand. He was coming off a career year at age 29, however. I now wonder whether, after a sub-par year, the Yankees should trade for him. It seems like a decent fit: he wasn’t great, so the Giants should want to pare some of their payroll, while he’d be far better than anything the Yankees have now, and eventually can move to left or right when Austin Jackson is ready. 4 years and 52 million left on his contract is a hefty sum to most teams, but pretty reasonable to the Yankees.
Rowand is an interesting case. With OPS+ numbers of 130, 93, 86, 123 and 94, he seems rather inconsistent. Known for his fielding, his zone rating slipped in 2008, but his range factor remained high. This would seem like your typical case of the Giants’ selling to clear payroll. In that regard, if the Yanks could land Rowand for a B-level prospect and money, it seems like it wouldn’t be a terrible pickup. But there are a few red flag.
Of his last five seasons, Rowand has had two above-average offensive years. One of those came at the age of 26 during his first full year in Chicago. The other came while he was playing in Philadelphia during a season in which Citizens Bank Park seemed to favor hitters. That year, Rowand sported a .937 OPS at home and a .843 OPS on the road. This year, he had a .714 OPS at home and a .784 OPS on the road.
So right now, in Rowand, the Yanks would be getting an aging outfielder whose range seems to be on the decline, can’t hit and is under contract for four years. Rowand would become just another useless, old outfielder on a team that, recently, has specialized in them. He was never as good as Johnny Damon and won’t age gracefully. I just don’t think Rowand is the answer to the Yanks’ center field issues.