It’s simply not something we Yankees fans are used to. The Tampa Bay Rays, since the return of Scott Kazmir on May 4, have used the same five guys to start every single game. James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine, Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, and Kazmir. They’ve only used seven starters all season. The Yankees have used 11 starters, 12 if you count the game Bruney started because of the potential rain delay.

Fun facts about the Rays starters. They’re all 26 or younger, the eldest statesman being James Shields. Save for Sonnanstine, they all have ERAs under 4.00. Each one of them is under team control through at least 2011, when Jackson becomes eligible for free agency. Kazmir has a 2012 team option, and Shields has one for ’12 and ’13. Sonnanstine and Garza didn’t even have a full year of service time heading into this year, though they could be Super Twos this winter — Garza almost certainly will be.

This, I think, is what the Yanks have been angling for. The difference, of course, is the sacrifice. The Rays have been terrible since entering the league. Prior to this season, their record for wins in a season was 70. That means lots of high draft picks, which they’ve used wisely. They didn’t have to take the signability or injury guy later in the first round. They were guaranteed premium talent. The Yankees are trying to do this without sacrificing the present. You have to admire that, though who knows if it will work.

So you can envy where the Rays are now. Kind of like you could envy where the Yankees were in 1995/1996. The difference is that the Rays lived with a decade of being the worst team in baseball. The Yankees had a few bad years in the 80s and early 90s, but only finished below .500 five times from 1982, the year after they had appeared in the World Series, through 1992, the last year to date they’ve finished below .500.

Your lineup:

1. Johnny Damon, CF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Bobby Abreu, RF
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B (why does my spell checker continue to put a red line under “Rodriguez”?)
5. Jason Giambi, 1B
6. Xavier Nady, LF
7. HIdeki Matsui, DH
8. Robinson Cano, 2B
9. Jose Molina, C

And on the mound, going for his seventeenth victory, number thirty-five, Mike Mussina.

Notes: Caught this on the Star Ledger Yanks blog: The City of New York could lose out on $141 million if the Yanks fail to make the playoffs. C’mon, Bloomberg. Light a fire under this team’s ass.

Categories : Game Threads
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Finally, a stadium with section numbers that run sequentially. It makes too much sense. (Click to enlarge.)

Over the weekend, as ESPN reported, the Yankees unveiled their season ticket prices for 2009 and the relocation plans for ticket holders not interested in forking over their left kidneys for comparable tickets. As the Yankees have repeatedly told the public, the vast majority of tickets in 2009 will be sold at the same price point as they were in 2008, but what the future holds is anyone’s guess.

The news first:

Prices for the best seats were announced in March, with the Yankees charging $500-$2,500 for tickets near home plate in the first nine rows, contained in 25 sections ringing home plate. In all, the Yankees have sold more than 3,500 of approximately 4,300 premium seats on the field, main and terrace levels, chief operating officer Lonn Trost said Friday. “Other than those 4,300 seats, which are going to subsidize everybody else, the prices are not” being raised significantly, Trost said. “And remember, 24,000-plus seats will have no price increase at all.”

The Yankees said Friday the remainder of the field-seats level seats cost from $75-$325 as part of season tickets, while main-level seats go for $45-$100. The highest deck is split into two areas, with terrace seats going for $40-$65 and grandstand selling for $20 and $25.

In a sign most of the best seats will be sold as season tickets, only the least expensive category of field seats and the two least expensive levels of main seats are being made available for partial plans. The Yankees are charging $5-$10 more per seat for partial plans than they are for season tickets. Individuals game prices haven’t been set.

So a lot of this information is nothing new. The Yanks long ago announced the new price points for the 2009 season tickets and their fancy premium seats. Now, we have season ticket pricing for other areas as well. Partial season packages will be available only on the Field and Main levels past first and third bases, on the Terrace level midway up the basepath and for the entire Grandstand and Bleacher levels. The seats right behind the outfield in front of the bleachers will basically cost $100 per ticket per game.

The people who end up getting the short end of the straw here are the fans sitting in what will become the premium seats. Those fans — including the ones sitting in what are now the primo sections in the Tier Boxes behind the plate — will either have to foot the bill for substantial price increases or enter the relocation lottery which doesn’t guarantee seats substantially similar to what those fans have now. That is, of course, the price to pay for moving across the street to the new digs.

While season-ticket and partial-plan holders are sure to feel rightfully upset by this move, I can only wonder what the future has in store for ticket prices. The Yankees are keeping 24,000 seats at the same price next year, but Lonn Trost has made no guarantees beyond 2009. I doubt the Yanks will be so altruistic come 2010. The best is yet to come.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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  • Melky in the minors, for now
    By

    The Sept. 1 roster expansion has come and gone, and for now, Melky Cabrera, once the Yankees’ starting center fielder, remains in the minors. Ed Price checked in with Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman on the state of Melky, and two Yankee officials are saying the same thing. “There’s not playing time for him right now so he might as well keep playing and improving,” Girardi said. In AAA, Melky is hitting .333 but with just two extra-base hits and a .778 OPS. At this point, the Yanks may have to address center field during the off-season as well. · (58) ·

The heat was on Robinson Cano Saturday, when he left the clubhouse early after the Yanks 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays. He had committed an error, which allowed Toronto to get back in it. So, of course, the beat writers wanted to have a few words with him. They were none too happy to find that he wasn’t around for comment. Our buddy Mark Feinsand caught up with Cano, though, who later explained his actions.

(Yes, I’m breaking the tabloid ban. I like Feinsand, and he’s got some good quotes in here.)

According to Cano, he used the media’s obsession with Alex Rodriguez as his out. Having seen reporters assembled around No. 13′s locker, Cano took the opportunity to sneak out undetected. That sly fox. Only he claims that’s not the case.

“People think I just left because I didn’t want to talk to the media; that wasn’t it at all,” Cano said, clearly bothered by the situation. “I would rather talk to (reporters) when I make an error than when I’m swinging good. Why wouldn’t I want to talk to (the media)? I’m there every day.”

Honestly, I don’t think he should have to talk to the media in any event. It’s just my personal bias, I suppose. I’m not in favor of mandatory media appearances for players. All we get are sugar-coated platitudes. When was the last time you heard Derek Jeter say something meaningful? If fans want quotes from players, well, dig through the archives. Whatever Jeter and Co. are saying has been said thousands of times before.

If you don’t believe me, check out Cano’s next quote:

“I don’t want to make errors; I want to be perfect. But things happen in the game,” Cano said. “People say that I’m not focused, but this stuff happens in games. I’m not going to be the first guy or last guy it happens to.”

I don’t want to make errors, but they happen. That’s the kind of insight I look for every morning in my newspaper.

Finally, Cano offers up thoughts on his play in relation to the contract he signed this past winter.

“People say (the bad year) is because I got my contract, but I made the same kinds of mistakes in my first few years,” Cano said. “Sometimes, I forget I even have the contract. I still see myself as a young guy, as a rookie. I don’t see myself on the level of guys like Jeter, Giambi or A-Rod. I’m the guy that has to keep fighting, to get better every day.”

You have to like the last sentence, though actions certainly speak louder than words. If he truly is working to get better every day, well, then he should have a monster 2009. Also, given what we perceive about Robbie — that is, his carefree (or careless) play — doesn’t the line about forgetting his contract make you chuckle?

Most importantly, it’s time he stops thinking of himself like a rookie. Until he starts seeing himself like Jeter, Giambi, or A-Rod, he’s going to be prone to the same old mistakes. Thankfully, he’s at an age where he’s supposed to be growing up. I’m just six months older than Robbie, and I’ve started to see plenty of positive changes in my attitude over the past year, year and a half. Let’s hope Robbie’s just slightly behind.

Categories : NYC Sports Media
Comments (32)
  • Joba a reliever until at least ’09
    By

    Mark Feinsand has the news. Joba Chamberlain will spend the rest of 2008 pitching out of the bullpen, and while the Yanks still consider him a starter, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi are clearly hedging their bets on this one. I’m reading between the lines a bit, and I don’t like what I’m seeing at all. Joba should start. One injury shouldn’t be the bellweather for that decision. · (48) ·

When the Yanks took a 4-0 lead after the first inning yesterday, I optimistically figured that Sidney Ponson would be safe. When Ponson gave one of those runs back in the first inning, I told my parents I wouldn’t feel good about the game until the Yanks scored 12 runs. Little did I know how prescient my worries would turn out to be.

In the second inning, the missing Yankee offense scored another four runs. An 8-1 lead, that has to be safe, right? Well, Ponson gave up another run in the second and had to pitch his way out of a bases loaded, one out situation. His luck would not hold up.

Enjoying an 11-2 lead by the time the fourth inning rolled around, Ponson gave up a single, home run, single, walk. An error by Robinson Cano allowed the Tigers to load the bases, and Joe Girardi opted to remove Ponson from the game. Edwar Ramirez would allow all three inherited runners to score, and while Edwar would give up another run in the fifth, the Yanks would hold on to win 13-9. It was ugly, but it was a win. I’ll take it.

What I won’t take is another start from Sidney Ponson this weekend. On Monday, Ponson threw three innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and a walk. Over his last three outings, Ponson has thrown 9.2 innings, and he’s been utterly terrible. He’s allowed 24 hits and six walks — a WHIP of 3.10 — while giving up 17 ER for a 15.83 ERA. All of this has earned Ponson a stay in the rotation, according to Girardi.

Right now, I just don’t get it. What has Ponson done on the Yankees that warrants another start? He’s got a 6.36 ERA while on the Yankees, and he’s no longer giving the team innings. He also hasn’t won since August 6. In other words, he’s not doing anything that Ian Kennedy hasn’t done this year.

The Yankees aren’t out of it yet this year. To make the playoffs, they would have to overcome ridiculously long odds. To do that, they’ll have to put the best possible product on the field. Sidney Ponson just isn’t part of that product. Even when he was 3-1 on the Yankees, he was still allowing nearly two base runners per inning. Now, he’s not getting outs at all.

The Yanks could use Al Aceves. He had a great appearance on Sunday and would slot in nicely this weekend. They could use Chase Wright. They could attempt to throw Ian Kennedy again. Kennedy, admittedly a disappointment this year, could regain his 2007 form. At least Kennedy has the ability to surprise us. Nowadays, we know what we’re getting from Ponson, and it ain’t good.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (53)

Sandwich rounder Jeremy Bleich will start one of Staten Island’s playoff games next week.  There’s still a week left in their season, and they haven’t clinched a postseason berth yet, but with a 3.5 game league in the McNamara Division, they’re sitting pretty.

You may remember that Ian Kennedy did something similar after signing late in 2006, making a pair of three inning starts for SI – one at the end of the year, one in the playoffs.  The length of the starts was by design, and I suspect Bleich will be held to a similar limit.  Good to know the elbow’s not an issue though, that should shut some people up.

Triple-A Scranton (4-2 loss to Syracuse)
Justin Christian: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB – threw a runner out at home from LF
Matt Carson: 0 for 3, 1 RBI, 2 K
Juan Miranda: 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding)
Shelley Duncan, Ben Broussard, Nick Green & Bernie Castro: all 1 for 4, 1 K – Shelley swiped a bag … Broussard tripled, swiped a bag & scored a run … Green doubled & drove in a run … Castro committed a fielding error
Eric Duncan: 0 for 4, 2 K
Phil Hughes: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 6-3 GB/FB – 67 of 104 pitches were strikes (64.4%) … too many walks, but he’s working on it
Zack Kroenke: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 3-0 GB/FB – 10 pitches (8 strikes), 3 groundballs & a strikeout … gotta love it
Scott Patterson: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0-1 GB/FB – and there goes the game
Scott Strickland: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

Scranton’s season is over; they finished the year 88-56, which ties Louisville for the best record in all of AAA baseball.  They won the IL North Division and will be taking on those pesky Pawtucket Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs.  Chase Wright & Ian Kennedy will get the ball in Games 1 & 2, respectively, and they’ll be opposed by knuckleballer Charlie Zink & former lobster fisherman Devern Hansack.  The series starts on Wednesday.

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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Ben might check in later with a longer and more elaborate game post, but I wanted to make note of this. The Yankees today rallied for 17 hits. That’s remarkable itself, considering the offensive dearth we’ve witnessed for the better part of the season. Yet there’s something else behind this onslaught.

Of the 17 hits, just one went for extra bases, and that was a solo homer for Johnny Damon in the 2nd. That is one of the Yankees 13 runs. The other 12 came the hard way. Walks, singles, sacrifices, errors. This is something we’re not quite used to seeing.

The Yankees were 8 for 16 with runners in scoring position today with two sac flies. Alex Rodriguez, Mr. Unclutch himself, was 2 for 3 with runners in scoring position, and recorded four RBI. This is the kind of performance that leads to wins, even with Sidney Ponson on the mound. Unfortunately, this is an aberration for the 2008 Yankees. They’re hitting .258 with runners in scoring position, 10th in the American League.

Now for a tangent. Many people believe that the Yankees woes are centered around the offense, in particular the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position. Will you venture a guess as to who has the worst team average in the AL in those situations? None other than the first place Tampa Bay Rays. They’re hitting .246 with RISP. Yet, they’re still atop the division. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that they’ve had their top five pitchers going every game from early May through now. But they’re finding ways to win even though their numbers with RISP are the worst in the AL. They Yankees, well, just aren’t.

(The Yanks have had 76 more at bats with RISP, but does that make a huge difference when we’re talking 1,100 or 1,200 at bats for the season? Oh, and Baltimore is second in the league with runners in scoring position.)

I wish there was a way we could pinpoint the one thing that has hampered the Yanks this season, but one doesn’t exist. It has been a concoction of circumstances, not the least of which being their numbers with RISP and the fact that they’re trotting out the likes of Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner on a regular basis. You could list more than a dozen factors. I’m sure we’ll get to all that in the off-season. For now, though, let’s enjoy a win.

I wonder if they’ll be up for a Lynch Sidney Ponson night out in Seattle on Saturday.

Categories : Game Stories
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Posted by mobile phone:
So this sounds like fun, no? Over the next ten days, the Yanks will journey from Detroit to Tampa Bay to Seattle to Anaheim. I don’t have a very good feeling about a trip that includes the longest possible flight in the AL.

On the mound today is Sidney Ponson for some reason. Ponson is 7-5 on the season with a 4.80 ERA, but with the Yanks, he’s 3-4 with a 5.64 ERA. He’s been terrible of late, and with Al Aceves in the big leagues and Phil Hughes starting today for Scranton, I have to hope that Ponson’s days in the rotation are numbered.

The lineup is, uncreatively, the same as it was this weekend against the Blue Jays. Pudge is behind the dish. Perhaps we’ll see Krazy Kyle again today.

Damon CF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
A. Rodriguez 3B
Giambi 1B
Nady LF
Matsui DH
Cano 2B
I. Rodriguez C

Ponson P

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Joba set for Tuesday return
    By

    Posted by mobile phone: After missing nearly a month due to rotator cuff tendinitis, the Yankees plan to activate Joba Chamberlain from the DL on Tuesday. For now, Joba will rejoin the team in the bullpen as the Yanks stretch out his pitch counts while allowing him to contribute at the Major League level. At some point this month, he should return to the rotation as the Yanks attempt to get him the innings he needs while keeping his arm and shoulder in shape. · (25) ·