Mother Nature tried to stop ’em, but Yanks beat O’s anyway

Four hours later, the Yankees and Orioles finally played. The first pitch was thrown until 11:08pm ET on Tuesday night, the final pitch at 2:16am on Wednesday morning, and in between there was a whole lotta grounds crew shenanigans. Drying agent, puddles on the warning track, more drying agent, outfielders slipping, all of that and more. The whole game was a complete mess. Let’s quickly recap…

  • Jorge Posada opened the scoring with a solo homer in the third, the third straight long ball hit by the Yankees DH’s. It might have been the last homer Posada ever hits at Yankee Stadium. Hell, it might be the last homer he hits ever. Crazy. Their second run scored with the help of the elements, when Jorge chugging all the way around from first after Matt Angle dropped Frankie Cervelli‘s fly ball to the warning track in left. The wind knocked it down, otherwise it would have been Frankie’s third homer in the last week. Now that is crazy.
  • Phil Hughes pitched fine for the first five-plus innings, but he gave up the lead when Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer to left. Cervelli called for the high fastball in the 0-2 count, Hughes threw the high fastball in the 0-2 count, and Wieters hit it out of the park in the 0-2 count. Seemed like a very weird pitch to call for at the time, but whatever. Otherwise, two runs across six innings is perfectly fine from the fifth starter.
  • The Yankees retook the lead the very next half inning, when Derek Jeter singled, Curtis Granderson walked (on a 3-2 pitch right down the middle, terrible call by the ump), and Mark Teixeira singled. Tex’s shot was one of those “he hit it so hard it was just a single” numbers. The Orioles re-tied it in the next half inning when Nick Markakis doubled home Robert Andino off LNOGY Boone Logan.
  • A half inning after that happened, things got weird. I mean really weird. Cervelli hit another rocket to left, and this one was ruled a homer after a fan appeared to reach over the fence to catch the ball. The umps reviewed it, and bam, the homer stood. That makes it four would-be homers over the last week. Because that’s not enough, Brett Gardner jumped all over a 3-0 fastball and clanked it off the right field foul pole for the second of back-to-back jacks. Cervelli and Gardner have no business hitting back-to-back homers, but we were well within the bounds of #weirdbaseball by that point. Fair game.
  • Once that all got sorted out, David Robertson pitched a scoreless eight and Mariano Rivera shut things down in the ninth for his 598th career save. He’s getting closer to the all-time record (601) by the day. The Red Sox won and the Rays lost about an hour before this game even started, so the Yankees remained 2.5 games up in the division and moved to 10.5 up for the wildcard. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot dropped to just 12. Here’s the box score, here’s the FanGraphs stats, and here’s the standings.

If you were supposed to go to the game, or even if you did go and stuck around all night, you’ll get a free ticket to a non-premium game next season. So hooray for that, I’m sure it’ll make up for the pneumonia. Anyway, these two teams are supposed to play again at 1pm ET on Wednesday, but there’s little chance of that happening since it’s going to keep raining. Expect another long delay. Whenever they start that one, it’ll be A.J. Burnett and Zach Britton on the bump.

Game 140: Hometown Hero (UPDATE: 11pm first pitch)

They love Jesus Montero here in New York, and they also love him back home in Venezuela. The Yankees wunderkind made the front covers of at least three hometown papers (here’s the third) after yesterday’s two-homer effort, so he’s kind of a big deal back home. As for the homerun balls, Montero did get them back and all it cost were three signed balls. The first guy got one signed by Montero and one signed by the entire infield, the second guy just one from Montero. Not a bad deal.

Anyway, it’s pouring in New York and has been all day. It’s supposed to all night as well, but because of the lack of schedule remaining, the Yankees and Orioles are going to wait this sucker out. Joe Girardi said in his pregame press conference that it’s supposed to lighten up at some point, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Good thing they have a bunch of September call-ups lying around to soak up some innings, pun intended. Here’s the lineup, should they actually play…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, 3B
Jorge Posada, DH
Frankie Cervelli, C

Phil Hughes, SP

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, but that’s not going to happen. If/when the game does begin, you’ll be able to watch on YES. Until then, talk about whatever you want in comments.

Update: First pitch is scheduled for 11pm ET. Oh yeah.

(h/t Gustavo for the links to the Venezuelan papers)

Staten Island Yankees playoff opener postponed

The Yankees are trying to wait out tonight’s rain, but the Baby Bombers are having none of that. The Short Season Staten Island Yankees had their first round playoff opener with the Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) postponed due to rain, and Mason Williams confirmed that the best-of-three series will just be pushed back a day. They won’t play a doubleheader or anything like that.

None of the Yankees’ five other domestic affiliates are playing anymore (the Rookie GCL Yankees won their league title, but none of the other four affiliates qualified for the postseason), so there’s no minor league action to recap tonight. For shame.

Update: MLB suspends Juan Carlos Paniagua, voids contract

Update (Sept. 6th): More from Badler. The suspension is a result of “falsified documents,” and technically it’s not even a suspension. The term “suspension” is reserved for players under contract, so Paniagua is considered “unable to sign.” His $1.1M deal with the Yankees was not yet official because he hadn’t secured a visa. MLB VP Kim Ng confirmed that they’re listening to Paniagua’s appeal and the the ruling is not yet final. Either way, it seems like a long shot that the Yankees will get their guy.

Original Post (Sept. 1st): Via Ben Badler, MLB has suspended Dominican righty Juan Carlos Paniagua and voided his contract with the Yankees. He agreed to a $1.1M bonus back in March. The reason for the suspension is unknown, and Badler says MLB won’t even tell the Yankees what’s going on. Paniagua is appealing the punishment, but it’s his second suspension after getting caught up in some identity and age fraud stuff two years ago.

The 20-year-old Paniagua had previously gone by Juan Collado and even agreed to a $17k deal with the Diamondbacks in 2009. He apparently picked up some big time velocity (sitting 93-95 touching the high-90’s according to Badler) while serving his suspension after the deal was voided. I have no idea what happens next, but the contract has been voided, so that’s pretty clear. Meanwhile, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Badler that right-hander Rafael DePaula (who agreed to a deal worth $700k in November) is still working to get a visa so his contract can become official.

Curtis Granderson named AL Player of the Month

What does hitting .286/.423/.657 with ten homers, 29 RBI, and 29 runs scored from one arbitrary end point to the next get you? How about August AL Player of the Month honors, which Curtis Granderson took home today. Not too shabby. August was Grandy’s best month of the season in terms of OPS, but he produced similar counting stats in May and wasn’t too far off on the triple slash line. Congrats to Curtis, the team’s best player since day one.

Brackman joins the list of September call-ups, Pendleton DFA’d

In addition to George Kontos, Ramiro Pena, Hector Noesi, and Greg Golson, Andrew Brackman joined the Yankees as a September call-up today. This isn’t terribly surprising; he finished the Triple-A season well and is already on the 40-man roster, so there was little reason not to call him up. Remember, Brackman was on the roster last September, he just didn’t pitch at all. Still no update on Dellin Betances though, who apparently may also get the call this month.

In an unfortunate bit of news, Lance Pendleton was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Kontos. That’s a shame, a damn shame. I’ll miss you, Pants Lendleton.

Update: Via Marc Carig, Ryan Pope cleared waivers and was outrighted to the minors. He was designated for assignment last week to make room on the roster for either Jesus Montero or Scott Proctor, take your pick.

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

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?

If you’re anything like me, you missed having electricity for a while thanks to that little vixen, Irene. No power meant no access to the Interwebs, and no way to share my musings.

Call me crazy, but anytime a storm causes catastrophic flooding, and like, deaths and stuff, I expect at least a half-day off from work. Nevertheless, Axisa, Pawlikowski & Kabak LLP runs a pretty tight ship, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

What do you get when you cross a 2.5 game lead for the best record in the American League, a Major League-best +206 run differential, and a 100% probability of making the playoffs? The 2011 New York Yankees, that’s what.

It’s taken virtually five months – amidst all sorts of uncertainty, injuries and controversy (in other words, a typical Yankee season) – but the 2011 Bombers now appear focused, opportunistic and capable of doing whatever is necessary to win games. They can beat you with power (197 team-dongs are 24 more than any other club) or speed (3rd in MLB with 131 team-swipes), they’re patient as heck (537 team-walks), and they can pitch a little bit, too (3.71 team-ERA ranks 10th in all of baseball – Boston lags behind at 20th).

And as if going 8-2 over their last 10 games wasn’t enough, New York recently “added” two potentially lethal right-handed bats to its already potent lineup with the return of Alex Rodriguez and promotion of the highly-touted Jesus Montero. Yup, it’s ARod and a son of God to the rescue. Montero, whose batting stance is eerily Pujolsian, arrived last Thursday, and if the early returns are any indication (5-for13 with 2HR), the Yankee lineup will truly be without weak link come October.

So you say you’re the biggest Yankee fan in the world, but have you actually looked at the numbers being put up by Curtis Granderson this season?

Admittedly, even I was astounded when I gave his 2011 statistics a bit of a “how’s your father.”

 The Yankee All-Star is first in the American League in runs scored (125) and runs batted in (107), he’s second in home runs (38), total bases (291),  and triples (10), and he’s the first Yankees player since Mickey Mantle in 1955 to record at least 30 home runs and 10 triples in the same season. In fact, Granderson is just the 15th major league player since 1950 to achieve that feat.

In short, the man is having an historic campaign, and with all due respect to either Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez, it’s hard to argue there exists a finer example of “most valuable” than Granderson. Well, unless you’re throwing Justin Verlander into the mix.

My second stab at the prediction business didn’t go so great, as the Yankees somehow managed not to play that .800 baseball I had called for. The nerve. Whatever, they’re bound to meet my lofty goals at some point over the remainder of the season, right?

What we learned:

8/18 – 8/21 @ MIN Just in case you missed it, Joe Mauer makes a helluva lot more money than you do, which is just a tad ironic given that he’s only managed to hit two home runs for the entire season. Apparently, Justin Morneau collects concussions like that dude from The Silence of the Lambs collects rare butterflies. The artists formerly known as The M&M Boys may be rapidly descending into Generation-K territory, although in fairness, none of the Mets’ trio ever won an MVP. Actually, rumor has it Bill Pulsipher is working for MVP Septic out of Schenectady. For a while there, it seemed like CC Sabathia had lost his moxie, but something happened in the 7th inning of his August 18th start when he retired Mauer, Morneau and Jim Thome. He’s been absolutely rolling ever since (3-0 with 36 Ks over 27.2 IP). (Prediction: NYY win 3-of-4) (Actual: NYY win 3-of-4)

8/23 – 8/25 v. OAKWhat a long, strange trip it’s been for Yankee hurler Bartolo Colon. After a lengthy sabbatical – presumably training for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest – Colon and his 2011 revival has had been nothing short of amazing. Taking a page from Boston’s playbook, GM Brian Cashman struck gold with the HGH-enhanced Colon, but the joyride may finally be over. Since July 7, Colon is just 2-6, having rocked out to the tune of a 4.90 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .301 against him, and his strikeouts are down from where they were in the beginning of the season. It goes without saying that Colon’s 145IP in 2011 are by far most he’s thrown since 2005. Tire much? Oh, New York scored more in one game (22 runs) against the A’s than the Jets are expected to score in the first month of the upcoming NFL season. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3) (Actual: NYY lose 2-of-3)

8/26 – 8/29 v. BAL – I’ve taken a lot of heat recently for dismissing Baltimore as some kind of minor league squad, so I decided to look deeper to try and find any redeeming qualities to the organization. Not including this season (84 losses already), the Orioles have averaged 91 losses per year since 1998. That’s not only dreadful, but it’s also patently inexcusable. Baltimore’s extended run of futility has coincided with high annual draft slots, yet there hasn’t been one impact player to come up through their system in the last decade. I’m sorry, but an allegedly juiced-up Brian Roberts isn’t exactly proof of organization competency. Moving on… (Prediction: NYY sweep series) (Actual: NYY lose 2-of-3 / rain-shortened 5-game series*

8/30 – 9/1 @ BOS – Yes, New York took two of three games. And yes, CC Sabathia proved he can actually beat the Red Sox. But for me, perhaps the more important take away is the sense that Mariano Rivera‘s lights-out-ed-ness is becoming less and less evident this season. The numbers say otherwise (his 7.43 K/BB ratio is almost twice his career average of 4.03), but I cannot remember seeing Mo experience such a consistent loss of command from one outing to the next. Maybe his stuff remains so great that location doesn’t matter as much as it would to some other aging closer, but my gut tells me that the long-feared (and oft-disproven) twilight of Rivera’s career has already begun. (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3)  (Actual: NYY win 2-of-3

LOOKING FORWARD: What can’t you miss?

There are not a lot of unanswered questions at this point in the season, but the Yankee rotation continues to be one of them. Just when you think AJ Burnett’s carcass is finally ready to be cremated, he goes and tosses 5.1 serviceable innings in Fenway Park and completely redeems himself! Armed with a supposedly new, Larry Rothchild-inspired delivery, the enigmatic Burnett is going to have to show those kinds of results (and more) to be given any consideration for the playoff roster, let alone the playoff rotation.

On the bright side, at least the regular season’s conclusion means we won’t have to sit through three more months of Girardi promising to go back to a 5-man rotation.

And what of young Mr. Montero? We already know that John Sterling jumped the shark some decades ago, but his home run call for Montero was positively ungodly. Whatever, the coming of Jesus has been a long time… uhh, coming, and the smart money says that barring a complete September-implosion, Montero will be (and should be) the Yankee playoff-DH.

Mariano Rivera has amassed 597 saves over his illustrious career, and despite my unsubstantiated assertion that the inevitable end may finally near, 600 saves is nothing to sneeze at. Sure, the save statistic is oft-maligned (maybe rightfully so), but there’s no denying that Mariano’s brilliance is only slightly more amazing than his longevity. Here’s hoping he saves 600 more. Or at least 60.

It seems unfathomable, but Alex Rodriguez is finally flying under the radar in New York. Well, almost. While Granderson, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and to a lesser extent, Nick Swisher, continue to do the heavy lifting, you can take it to the bank that ARod will play a critical role in the success or failure of New York’s postseason aspirations. Rodiguez’s surgically-repaired knee should be fully healed by October, and I’m guessing that mid-season DL-stint will serve him well from a stamina perspective. 

What we expect to learn:

9/02 – 9/04 v. TOR – Sure, this series already happened, but I promise you my prediction was made before the four-game series commenced.  Check out this absolutely douche’alicious photo of Toronto phenom Brett Lawrie, and if that’s not enough of a reason to hate on him, he’ll only be tormenting Yankee pitching for the next six years or so before Cashman purchases the rights to his everlasting soul. Brandon Morrow and AJ Burnett should rent an apartment together and star in an ESPN2 reality series. They can call it “All Arms, No Brains.” Here’s the thing, Gents; when you throw 95+ mph, it’s a good idea to aim for that little thingy they call the strike zone. (Prediction: NYY sweep series

9/05 – 9/08 @ BAL – Oh Lord, these guys again? Seriously, how much can one man honestly be expected to write about this team? In fairness, the O’s did make an abnormally stellar move during the offseason, acquiring SS JJ Hardy from the Twins for a pair of minor leaguers. All he’s done this year is put up 26 homers and a .810 OPS. (Prediction: NYY win 3-of-4

9/09 – 9/11 @ LAAHave you heard of a dude named Mark Trumbo? Well, there’s a really good chance that Trumbo – I really hope his teammates have nicknamed him the “Rusty Trombo” – wins the AL Rookie of the Year Award. He’s put up 26HR and 80RBI  over 132 games, and he’s sure to garner enough votes to run neck-and-neck with Yankee starter Ivan Nova. The Angels have pulled to within 2.5 games of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers (2 games back in the loss column), so you know they’ll be plenty motivated this weekend with New York coming to town. Oh, the Yanks get to face Jered Weaver (16-7, 2.49ERA) and Dan Haren (14-8, 3.20ERA), too. Joy! (Prediction: NYY win 2-of-3

9/12 – 9/14 @ SEA – For fans of the Seattle Mariners, it’s all about baby steps. Like being on-pace for “just” 90 losses this year after 2010’s epic 101-loss campaign. Also on the plus side, Chone Figgins’ terrible four-year contract is almost halfway finished! Want to know how bad things are in the Pacific Northwest? Ichiro, a once-in-a-lifetime talent, is batting just .273, and he leads the team. At least Seattle still has an awesome stadium and cool uniforms.  And I’m pretty sure everyone who lives there hangs out with Eddie Vedder. (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.