Never one to shy away from controversy, Mike Mussina, by pitching above and beyond expectations, may be courting the biggest debate of his career this season.
On one side are those who love Moose. They want him to land in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done. On the other hand are those people so hung up on the Big Nmbers that they can’t adequately judge a player’s Hall of Fame credentials.
Foremost among those detractors is Murray Chass. The one-time Times scribe who now keeps a Website he refuses to call a blog wrote about Mussina and the Hall this weekend. Says Chass:
Mussina, with a 15-7 record and 3.27 earned run average, is only five wins from the 20-win plateau that has eluded him in his 18-year career. Twice he won 19, three times 18, but never 20. No starting pitcher is in the Hall of Fame without a 20-win season on his resume. Even Dennis Eckersley, who became a relief pitcher halfway through his career, had a 20-win season.
Only four Hall of Fame pitchers reached that status without a 20-win season, and they were all relief pitchers – Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Rich (Goose) Gossage.
Mussina hasn’t won the Cy Young award either. No pitcher who has been virtually invisible in Cy Young award voting is in the Hall of Fame…
Mussina has an impressive career won-lost record (265-151) but not much else. He has never been a dominant pitcher, has never pitched his team to a World Series championship. He, in fact, is the darkest symbol of the Yankees’ failed post-season teams of recent seasons.
Chass concludes by noting that even a 20-win season by Mussina this year wouldn’t be enough to resurrect Moose’s Hall of Fame chances. That’s stellar logic.
The problem I have with Chass’ argument is that it ignores anything that makes sense. Are we to judge Hall of Famers solely by their awards and postseason success? Should Ted Williams — zero World Series rings — keep his plaque in Cooperstown? Should Ty Cobb, one of the game’s great racists, be lauded?
What I do know abut Mike Mussina is that his 3.42 ERA in the postseason is better than his career regular season ERA. What I know about Moose’s postseason pitching performance is that his teams lost despite his efforts. Just because a select few writers who have repeatedly shown their ignorance of baseball failed to vote Mussina a largely meaningless Cy Young award does not mean he doesn’t deserve Hall of Fame consideration.
Rather, for 18 years, Mike Mussina has been among the best in baseball. His career ERA is significantly better than average over that time period. He has 265 wins to his name and 2759 strike outs.
In the end, it all boils down to that hot-button question: Does Mike Mussina deserve a spot in the Hall? Right now, he’s on the fence, but it’s not for lack of postseason success or Cy Young Awards or 20-win seasons. Anyone who judges a pitcher solely on those metrics is missing the bigger pitcher. If Mike Mussina has been one of the best pitchers of his generation, then he deserves that spot in Cooperstown. There’s more to that evaluation than those three considerations. Someone tell that to Murray Chass.
It seems to be the hot question to ask this morning. Just for a quick rundown of all who are asking:
There’s plenty more, of course. And it’s a legitimate question to ask at this point, with just 27 percent of the season left and the Yankees four games out of the Wild Card. Add in the injuries and the uninspiring play of late, and you have a recipe for collapse.
Thankfully, the Yankees have a chance to right the ship. They’ve played Minnesota well over the past few years, going 13-7 against them since the beginning of the 2006 season, including a 5-2 mark this year. They follow that up with a series against the
last place Royals, another day off, and then a road trip to Toronto and Baltimore. If there was ever a chance to run off a 10-2 rally, this is it. Because behind the door of Baltimore lie the Red Sox.
If they play well enough over the next 12 games, they’ll have a chance to close the gap during that series. If they sputter as they have lately, well, then the series could be the Yanks last chance to make a playoff stand. Clearly, the next 15 games are going to play a large role in determining this season. It might seem bleak now, but we know the Yanks have the capacity to sock a few dingers and go on a run.
Plus, if they’re able to go on a tear now, by the time they reach Boston we might be seeing the returns of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Clearly, as we learned earlier this year, the Yanks cannot rely on these youngsters to carry them to the playoffs. However, they do represent clear upgrades over our rotation options right now. While it appears we won’t be seeing much of Chien Ming Wang for the rest of the year, a rotation of Mussina, Pettitte, Joba, Hughes, and Ponson/Giese (I’d choose the latter based on my bias against Ponson) might be able to get it done in the final month and change.
It’s easy to count the Yanks out right now, at the gloomiest part of the season. But there’s still enough baseball ahead to keep me interested.
Following Sunday’s diasppointing loss to the Angels, the Yanks have just 44 games left this season. That amounts to just 27 percent of the season, and things are starting to look a bit dire for the Yanks. As ESPN.com’s Coolstandings-pimped standings tell us, the Yanks’ playoff hopes are decreasing by the day.
With the Rays 8.5 games ahead of them in the East and the Red Sox four up in the Wild Card, the Yanks make the playoffs just 13.1 percent of the time when the rest of the season is simulated one million times. They win the division just 3.5 percent of the time and capture the Wild Card 9.5 percent of the time. While it’s a good thing that the games are played on the field instead of by computers, the Yanks better start winning sooner rather than later if they hope to play in October this year. · (18) ·
Before we take a look at what went wrong in this game, let’s first take a look at the positives:
- Andy Pettitte rebounded nicely from a pair of rough starts, gutting out 7 innings just when the team needed it most.
- Alex Rodriguez broke out of a 2 for 20 slump, reaching base three times with a pair of booming doubles.
- Derek Jeter didn’t ground into a rally killing/inning ending double play.
- Both Boston and Minnesota lost, meaning the Yanks lost ground only to the ChiSox in the Wildcard chase.
So now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business and highlight the boo-boos.
- A-Rod trying to steal third in the 8th inning. What the freak was that about? He was already in scoring position with the team’s hottest hitter staring down a 2-0 count with only one out in the inning. Sure stealing third means he can score on a wild pitch or sac fly, but sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Classic example of a guy trying to do too much.
- Joe Girardi‘s substitutions in the 9th inning. Why would you pinch-hit the guy with a .278 OBP leading off the inning while not using the guy with a .394 OBP until there were two outs. Isn’t that completely ass backwards?
- Marte coming back out for the 9th. He had just thrown 17 stressful pitches to retire the Halos’ 4-5-6 hitters with a runner on first, and instead of using THE GREATEST RELIEF PITCHER IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE (who was well rested after working just 3 innings total in the last 12 days) Girardi sends Marte back out there. Two men predictably reached base, and by then it was too little too late. After throwing 29 pitches today, Marte is likely unavailable for tomorrow’s game against the Twins, whose two best hitters happen to be lefties (on a sidenote, Marte’s IP total this year is already his highest since 2004). And spare me that “Mo struggles when the score is tied” junk, is there really someone on this staff you’d rather have out there in that situation?
- The 15-hopper through the hole to end the game. Seriously Robbie, at least dive to make it look like you’re trying.
Things look ugly now, but there’s still 44 games left in the season and they’re only 4.0 games back in the Wildcard. Considering that the Yanks have endured injuries to basically everyone except Mo, Abreu and Moose, that’s not that bad. Anyone who thinks the season’s over hasn’t learning anything from last year.
The team does need to wake up though. It’s time to cut the shit and play with a little urgency.
Usually I like to update the standings for each affiliate once a month or so, but I haven’t done it all this year. Today’s as good a day to start as any; standings are coming into today and do not reflect today’s results.
Oh, and make sure you check out Chad Jennings’ great write-up on Matt Carson. Awesome stuff.
Triple-A Scranton was rained out. Syracuse doesn’t come back to town all season, so I’m guessing they’ll make this one up during the mutual off-day tomorrow. SWB has the best record in all of AAA at 75-48. They lead the IL North Division by 1 game over the PawSox with 21 games remaining.
Double-A Trenton (3-2 win over Akron, walk-off style) 72-47 with a commanding 9.5 game lead in the EL North division … they’ve got 20 games left after today
Reegie Corona & Austin Jackson: both 0 for 4 – Corona K’ed all four at-bats & committed not one, not two, but three throwing errors … talk about having a bad game … Ajax K’ed
Kevin Russo & Colin Curtis: both 1 for 4 – Russo K’ed twice, Curtis once
Chris Malec: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B – had been 5 for his previous 33 (.152)
PJ Pilittere: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
Cody Ehlers: 0 for 3, 2 K – now hitting .199 in 341 at-bats this year … yikes
Edwar Gonzalez: 1 for 1, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI – pinch-hit walk-off homer with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th
Frankie Cervelli & James Cooper: both 0 for 2, 1 BB - Cervelli K’ed
Steven White: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, , 1 WP, 2-7 GB/FB – what a miserable season he’s having
Kevin Whelan: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1-1 GB/FB- that’s some quality relief right there
Zack Kroenke: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3-2 GB/FB – picked two runners off first
The Angels have lefty Joe Saunders on the mound, so you know what that means: No Giambi. I’ve long been a Saunders fan, but this isn’t exactly Randy Johnson in his prime. Giambi’s got a 1.457 OPS on the road trip, and the team needs as many wins as possible. He should be in the lineup, no doubt about it.
Billy Traber’s in the house, even though he provides as little relief as a relief pitcher possibly could. Not sure what the corresponding roster move is yet, but we’ll let you know. Ian Kennedy was optioned to Triple-A Scranton to make room. PeteAbe says he apologized for his comments the other day, and was given specific instructions on what to work on.
1. Damon, DH
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Nady, LF – .346-.426-.755 as a Yank … if he keeps hitting like this & the Yanks make the playoffs, his performance will be very reminiscant of this guy‘s
6. Cano, 2B
7. Dick Lock Sexy, 1B
8. Christian, CF
9. Molina, C
And on the mound, a guy who’s really gotta step it up the rest of the year, Andy Pettitte.
Frequent RAB commentor Eric Sanlnocencio spoke with Baseball America’s Jim Callis in the latest edition of Baseball Digest Daily’s podcast. The conversation starts around the 19:00 minute mark, and Callis drops some knowledge on some of the top unsigned players, of course touching on Gerrit Cole. The signing deadline is this coming Friday. Check it out. · (0) ·
No, this will not shore up the bullpen, nor will it give us an extra starter. It could, however, mean drastically reduced playing time for Melky Cabrera. The AP reports that Hideki Matsui has intensified his running program, and will soon running the bases. His return might not be that far off. The only question is if his knee will hold up, allowing him to contribute to this still-frustrating offense. · (10) ·
When Manny orchestrated his departure from Boston, you knew this gem of a news item would come sooner or later. Manny, according to news reports, wants to play in New York, and it seems as though he simply wants to don Yankee pinstripes in order to stick it to the Red Sox 19 times a season. Five years ago, I would have drooled over the idea of Manny in the Bronx, and five years ago, the Yanks could have had him for the price of his contract. But now I’m not so sure. He’s better than Bobby Abreu, but is he, as he approaches 37, worth $100 million over four or even five years? I doubt it. · (29) ·
Since joining the Detroit Tigers on August 1, Kyle Farnsworth has been a bit less than impressive. He’s thrown 4.2 innings, allowing seven hits and four earned runs. By all accounts, his Detroit performance has been something of a market correction after a stellar four months in the Bronx. But, right now, the Yanks actually miss him.
This afternoon, in Anaheim, the Yanks’ bullpen imploded. While Dan Giese exceeded expectations and earned himself another start, after Giese left the game, everything fell apart. Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez and David Robertson combined for the worst two innings I’ve seen any bullpen toss in a long time. The three gave up 11 hits and 10 runs — nine earned — en route to blowing a 3-1 Yankee lead. When the dust finally settled, the Angels walked away 11-4 winners, and with the Red Sox winning, the Yanks saw their October hopes slip further away.
Offensively, the Yanks didn’t do much against John Lackey and the Angels. A-Rod homered for the second straight day; Jason Giambi added his second post-mustache home run; Damon singled; and Jeter hit a sac fly. That would be all the Yanks would muster against the Angels.
But again the story focused around the bullpen. After giving up the game on Friday night, the gang out of the pen did it again tonight. In August, the pen has been beyond horrible. They’ve thrown 28.2 innings with an ERA of 8.16. They’ve blown Yankee leads and close games; they’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and have stymied potential comebacks. It has, in a word, been a disaster.
Ironically, the problems started when Kyle Farnsworth was shipped out for Ivan Rodriguez. While Farnsworth was never a sure bet, he provided stability in relief. With Krazy Kyle around, the rest of the Yankees relief corps were all pushed back an inning. But when Kyle left and Damaso Marte arrived, the New World Bullpen Order collapsed. Marte hasn’t yet filled in for Farnsworth, and no one else is getting the job done.
Perhaps, this rough patch is just one of those things that happens in August when everyone’s feeling the aches and pains of a 162-game season. Perhaps the pen will snap out of it and restore itself to its July grandeur. But right now, it’s costing the Yankees precious games in August in a pennant race, and I actually find myself missing Kyle Farnsworth. What ever have we come to?