Another minor league season is in the books, but this year was a bit more tumultuous than last. I’d say more guys underperformed and disappointed than stepped up this year, which is the exact opposite of what happened last year. Graduation, injuries and ineffectiveness have been prevalent, but there have certainly been some bright spots.
Yankees’ affiliates combined to go 485-348 this year, good for a .582 winning percentage, marking at least the 17th consecutive season the affiliates have combined for an above .500 record. I say at least because B-Ref’s data only goes back to 1992, and I’m not going to spend the time to keep digging further. Take a second to get your head around how ridiculous a combined .582 winning percentage is – that’s better than a 94 win pace in a 162-game season. Insane.
Keep in mind that this isn’t some kind of best prospect list, it’s a recognition of the guys who had great years, regardless of prospect status. In order to keep things from getting redundant, the winner of the Player of the Year award isn’t eligible for the other major awards. Fun starts after the jump.
With the Yankees in fourth place, it’s fairly safe to say that Sept. 21st will play host to the last baseball game ever at Yankee Stadium. Between now and then, the Yanks will be home just ten more times, and thousands of Yankee fans will make their final trips to the stadium. To that end, I’m sure souvenir hunters will be out in full force. I’ve already seen cops arrest would-be vandals, and now the Yankees (and Mets) have announced plans to beef up security measures during the final regular season games. That last game is going to be really messy from a security standpoint. · (13) ·
When I returned home, the Mariners had a 4-2 lead, Phil Coke was in the game and the New York Yankees with their $208-million payroll were staring at the inevitability of fourth place. The last 2.5 innings of the game today seemed like a mere formality. The Yanks, after their pair of early-game home runs, couldn’t do much of anything against the Mariners, and they limped out of Seattle losers of two of three and three of four, overall.
The dual stories today focus around Mike Mussina and the AL East standings. In losing today, Mike Mussina fell to 17-8, but he didn’t really pitch poorly. In six innings, Mussina showed great command of the strike zone, throwing 73 or 107 pitches for strikes, but two of those pitches — one to Adrian Beltre with a runner on and another to Jose Lopez — were too good. Seven hits — two home runs — and one walk resulted in four Mariners runs. Moose struck out seven, but he didn’t get the win.
With four starts left, Mussina is going to have to earn 20 wins. He’s going to face the Rays, the White Sox, the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Three of those teams are bound for the playoffs, and all four, as of this writing, have better records than the Yankees. The magic number 20 won’t come easy for Mussina.
Meanwhile, the Yankees, whose bats were silent against the likes of Ryan Feierabend, have to face the reality of fourth place right now as they journey south from Seattle to Anaheim, a city in which they haven’t enjoyed much success. In stark contrast to the Yanks’ fortunes, the papers in south California tomorrow will be filled with stories about Joe Torre’s first-place Dodgers. How ironic.
At some point soon, we’ll talk about injuries and an under-performing offense. We’ll talk about trades that weren’t, couldn’t and shouldn’t have been made. We’ll talk about where the Yankees are going, where they should go and where they shouldn’t go. For now, we just have to know that, on September 8, for the first time since Danny Tartabull drove in nine runs against the Orioles, the Yankees will start the day in fourth place. I don’t think anyone really saw that one coming.
Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Pawtucket in 10 innings, walk-off style) SWB wins series 3-1 … it’s their first trip to the Governor’s Cup since 2001 … they’ll be taking on David Price, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis & the rest of the Durham Bulls for the Cup
Justin Christian: 1 for 4
Bernie Castro: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K – led off the 10th with a double (he advanced to third on an error) after PawSox pitchers had retired 20 straight Yanks
Juan Miranda: 0 for 4, 2 K
Aaron Boone Shelley Duncan: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – walk-off homer to end the PawSox’s season
Ben Broussard, Matt Carson & Eric Duncan: all 0 for 3 – Broussard & E-Dunc K’ed
Nick Green: 1 for 3, 1 K
Chris Stewart: 0 for 2
Phil Hughes 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 7-6 GB/FB – 75 of 94 pitches were strikes (79.8%) … that’s domination homes, even more impressive considered he was facing a former Cy Young Award winner … career line in the playoffs: 19.2 IP, 12 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 30 K
Scott Strickland:2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB – 23 of 32 pitches were strikes (71.9%)
Mike Mussina has won 18 games five times, but he hasn’t accomplished this feat since 2002. Today, in Seattle, he’s gunning for his 18th victory of the year. If he nails the W today, he’ll have 20 in his sights. If not, he’ll have to win three of his last four starts.
Originally scheduled to face him was Carlos Silva, and it’s too bad that Silva’s back is acting up. Against the Yankees, Silva has been nothing short of terrible in his career. But alas, the Yanks will instead face Ryan Feierabend, a 23-year-old with some unimpressive Major League numbers.
Mussina P (17-7, 3.39 ERA)
No Yankee fan thinks too highly of Carl Pavano these days. While Pavano has managed to make three starts in a row for the first time since 2005, Yankee fans generally feel that he took the team for a ride. But what if he didn’t? What if he’s a tragic figure? That’s the question Tyler Kepner poses and attempts to answer in today’s Times. Pavano certainly should be blamed for his injuries, but maybe there’s a sympathetic side to this tale as well. · (22) ·
Tyler Kepner, in his story about last night’s game, has an interesting notebook item on 2009:
With Jason Giambi a free agent after the season, two Yankees outfielders said Saturday that they would be willing to play first base next season. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon said they could learn the position if needed, though catcher Jorge Posada might have to play there as he builds strength in his shoulder. “A lot of players at the end of their careers are able to do that,” Damon said. “I think being somewhat athletic might be able to help me adjust to that.” While Joe Girardi said he expects Matsui to see a “substantial amount of time” as the designated hitter, Matsui said he would prepare himself to play the infield and outfield. “As long as I get a little work in, I should be O.K.,” he said through an interpreter.
How altruistic. Damon and Matsui, two free agents-to-be, are offering to prove that they can be more than just over-the-hill outfielders. I’m putting the Yanks’ desire to resign either of these two after 2009 at slim to non-existent, and they both know it. Here’s a prime chance for them to increase their values.
But more importantly, this tidbit gives us a glimpse at something we’ll discuss more next month: The 2009 first base hole. The Yanks probably won’t bring back Jason Giambi as the everyday first baseman, and they’re going to have to figure out what to do with Jorge Posada. While some Yankee-watchers have advocated for a lineup with Jose Molina, the offense he doesn’t bring far outweighs the defensive contributions he makes. Posada needs to catch.
So the choice — the fork in the road — will be one of either the stop-gap path or the high-priced free agent path. The Yanks could opt for a patchwork first base with Damon and Matsui, Posada and perhaps Giambi now and then with Juan Miranda potentially in the wings. Or they could go for broke and sign Mark Teixeira to a contract that will be too rich and too long. Neither option is ideal, and both will provide a lot of discussion fodder once the end of October rolls around.
First, the nitty-gritty: Sidney Ponson throws six innings, gives up three runs on five hits, a walk and a strike out. That’s a win and a quality start. Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi pick up six hits and five RBIs. Mariano Rivera gets a save and makes his first September appearance. The Yanks win and are still, barely, alive.
That’s all well and good. But let’s look a little bit closer at this one. Sidney Ponson threw six innings today and picked up a win. Every time that happens, I feel like I should sacrifice something to the Baseball Gods. In reality, Ponson was on the shortest leash you’ll ever see. Girardi yanked him after a whopping 66 pitches.
This will, of course, give the Yankees another excuse to start Ponson in five days. It will give them another excuse, when they’ve been just about eliminated from postseason contention, to give some washed-up never-was more innings when they could be tossing some of the kids. And it will give me another reason not to watch the game in a few days.
At this point, it’s a small complaint. Ponson won’t be with the team next year, and the Yanks are playing out the season. Tonight’s game definitely had that air of inevitability about it. It’s on the schedule; it has to be played; some team is going to win; and someone has to pitch. Tonight, the cards fell for the Yankees.
If it’s any consolation, this afternoon’s game will have some meaning as Mike Mussina goes for win 18. Meanwhile, I’m just hoping Joba and his rotator cuff are okay. His stuff isn’t quite there yet, and his line sure shows that. The Yanks have a weeks to make sure he’s healthy; they ought to be using him for more than an inning at a time every three days. That seems like small beans though right now, but small beans are all we have left.
PeteAbe’s got the Fall Instructional League roster. That’s a mighty fine crop of catchers.
Triple-A Scranton‘s game was rained out. SWB leads Pawtucket 2-1 in the best-of-five series. Today’s game will be made up on Monday, if necessary. Scheduled starters Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon will face off tomorrow in Game 4.
Double-A Trenton has advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series and was off today. They’ll take on Akron in the Finals, who beat Bowie 5-1 tonight to advance. Interestingly, the Thunder are going to skip over George Kontos & Chris Garcia, both of whom didn’t pitch in their first round sweep of Portland, and throw Eric Hacker in Game 1 of the Finals. He’ll have to face a 3-4-5 combo of Matt LaPorta, Travis Hafner & Wes Hodges when the series starts Tuesday.
High-A Tampa’s season is over, they did not qualify for the playoffs. The Fort Myers Miracle (Twins) will take on the Daytona Cubs in the Florida State League Championship Series.
Low-A Charleston’s season is over, they did not qualify for the playoffs. The Augusta Green Jackets (Giants) and West Virginia Power (Brewers) will play for the South Atlantic League Championship.
Short Season Staten Island‘s final regular season game was cancelled due to rain. They finished the year 49-26, the best record in the NY-Penn League. Brian Baisley set a new franchise record with a .336 batting average, surpassing Justin Snyder‘s .335 mark from last year. They’ll be taking on the Jamestown Jammers (Marlins) in the first round of the playoffs, best-of-three series. Looks like David Phelps will get the ball in Game 1 on Monday.
The Rookie GCL Yanks’ season is over. The GCL Phils won the league championship.
With the late-inning implosion of the Rays’ bullpen earlier this evening, the Yankees find themselves tied for third place. A loss tonight would drop them into fourth place in the AL East. It would be the first time since 1992 that the Yanks are in fourth this late in the season.
Over the course of the evening, we’ve seen a few opinions emerge as to whether or not fourth place matters. Some people feel that if the Yanks aren’t going to make the playoffs — first place or wild card — then it doesn’t matter where they finish as long as it isn’t last. Others — including me — believe it to be a point of pride.
Sure, the $200-million Yankees are a big disappointment this year, but that doesn’t mean they should roll over and give up on the rest of the season. Their fans are still watching; we expect decent baseball. So the team should deliver. Plus, it’s better to win more games than anything else. While some cite the difference in draft picks, the Yanks aren’t going to land one of the top five picks no matter how poorly they do over their final three weeks of the season. I’d rather see them finish in third and land the 20th pick than finish in fourth and land the 18th pick.
To keep the Yankees in third place, Joe Girardi will painfully hand the ball off to Sidney Ponson. The only reason Ponson is starting tonight is because Al Aceves has to replace Darrell Rasner next week. Such are the state of things in September. As a Yankee, Ponson is 3-4 with a 6.22 ERA. Since winning on August 6, he’s 0-3 in 20.2 innings spanning four starts. He’s walked nine and struck out seven while pitching to an ERA of 7.40. I’m glad I’m leaving the house tonight before this game starts. It could be an ugly, ugly evening.
A. Rodriguez 3B
I. Rodriguez C