Dave Brown, Yahoo! Sports’ very own Answer Man, sat down for an interview with Mike Mussina, and the results are priceless.
The always amusing and rather verbose Mike Mussina discusses the new Yankee Stadium, living in New York City, crossword puzzles and the smells on the subway. We also learn that the Yanks’ 15-game winner subscribes to Popular Photography, no longer throws a knuckleball and doesn’t find The Onion’s constant ribbing particularly amusing.
But my favorite part is this exchange:
Q: Why don’t people go to Orioles games anymore?
MM: I don’t think fourth place every year really brings in the fans.
This might just be my favorite interview with an athlete I’ve ever read if for the simple fact that Mike Mussina actually has something to say and sounds smart while saying it. Check it out. (Hat tip to BBTF.)
Manny Ramirez is the gift that keeps on giving. Today’s Manny-related headline comes to us from the Los Angeles Times: Bud Selig questions Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez trade.
The headline itself is a bit misleading; Selig isn’t concerned with the Dodgers’ acquisition of the future Hall of Famer but rather with the way Manny finagled his way out of Boston. Bud doesn’t like it and plans to send his minions to make some noises before declaring the whole thing a non-issue.
To this, I say: Of course, Selig doesn’t like it. Any self-respecting fan of baseball shouldn’t like it. With an assist from Scott Boras, his agent, who knows what Manny can get on the open market, Manny Ramirez put on a show to get the Red Sox to trade him. He took a few calculated risks, sat out a few key games, said just the right things to the ever-rabid Boston press. Voilà, Manny Ramirez has his options declined and gets himself a one-way ticket to Chavez Ravine.
Now in LA, Manny is hitting .464 with four home runs this month, and the Red Sox aren’t happy. But this is what baseball has become, and while A-Rod‘s opt-out shenanigans in October highlighted the baser business side of the game, Manny’s in-season antics drove home the idea with an exclamation point.
When players know they can get more money than their contracts allow and teams are willing to give their top players any sort of leverage with an option, those players and their shrewd agents will do anything they can to get out of seemingly bad deals even when those deals are for more money than you or I will see in our lifetimes. Bud Selig can cry foul; the Red Sox can cry foul. But Selig loves touting the economic health of baseball, and the Red Sox are among the richest, most successful teams in the game these days. They can’t have it both ways, and we the fans just get to watch a shouting match between the rich and the richer. How pleasant.
I’m not going to mince words about Ian Kennedy’s start today. It went about as poorly as anyone could hope.
Kennedy faced 16 batters tonight in just over two innings of work. He gave up nine hits and a walke en route to a five-earned run performance. On the season, he is now 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA, and opponents are simply teeing off against him.
As we saw with Kennedy in April and May, his approach at the Big League level seems off. He can dominate Minor League hitters, but he hasn’t yet made that jump up to the highest level of competition. For two-plus innings tonight, I saw Ian Kennedy miss with his breaking pitches and nibble at the corners. When he had to make pitches in hitter’s counts, he offered up 89-mile-per-hour fastballs that were drilled for base hits.
After Kennedy left, Darrell Rasner and Brian Bruney, pitching for the fifth time since coming off the DL and the fourth time in the last five days, combined to allow five runs on eight hits in six innings. While Kennedy didn’t do the job, neither did the bullpen, and a woudla-coulda-shoulda comeback by the Yanks — they were within one after a two-run sixth — never really came to fruition.
We could point fingers at the bullpen, but everyone knows this game is on Kennedy’s shoulders. As Ed Price noted during the game, the stats aren’t pretty. Kennedy has become the first Yankee rookie to win his first Big League start and then go winless in his next 11 outings. His ERA to date puts him in some rather unrarefied company as well.
Now, over the course of this season and especially tonight, we’ve long been accused of being Ian Kennedy apologists. We, our detractors say, have a blind faith in a young man who hasn’t yet shown that he can succeed above AAA. We are too willing to look beyond his short-coming and predict him as the next Mike Mussina, the next Tom Glavine, if only he would attack Major League hitters.
Tonight, I’m not going to offer up apologies for Kennedy. He was terrible. But — and you knew a “but” was coming — the idea that he’s finished as a prospect, that he sucks, that he will never amount to anything is simply wrong, and in responding to that spurious line of thinking, we are labeled apologists.
Kennedy now has a whopping 58.2 innings of Major League experience under his belt. In 19 of those innings, he was pretty damn good; in 39.2, he was pretty terrible. And it’s simply impossible to judge a pitcher based on 58.2 innings.
Everyone involved with the team from Hank Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman on down knows that, with a plan that includes young pitchers, growing pains are part of the bargain. Sustained future success is more important that short-term, one-year victories, and if that future success means watching 23-year-old First Round draft picks struggle, then so be it. The Yankees are willing to accept that because they know the dividends it can pay. The fans want everything now, now, now.
Who knows what Ian Kennedy will become? He could be another member in a very long line of failed pitching prospects that dot baseball history; he could become a serviceable middle-of-the-rotation guy; he could triumph over this adversity and deal in the Majors as he has through every other level of professional baseball. But right now, we just don’t know what he’ll do, and 39.2 innings this year just isn’t enough to pass judgment. Kennedy haters can call us apologists, but I like to think of it as a more discerning approach to analyzing baseball.
While Mike’s not around to do a Down on the Farm tonight, and we’ve got the game thread going strong, I thought I’d put together a quick recap of the Minor League action. It’s better than watching yet another terrible Ian Kennedy effort.
In Scranton, the Syracuse Chiefs down the Yankees 5-2. Cody Ransom went 3 for 3 with his 22nd home run of the season. Juan Miranda and Brett Gardner picked up a hit apiece. Jason Jones allowed 3 runs on 5 hits in 6.1 innings. He walked none and struck out four. Chris Britton gave up two runs in the top of the ninth. Some guy named Vernon Wells went 0 for 4 as the Chiefs’ DH, but don’t count him out yet. He has a bright future.
In Trenton, in Game 1, the Thunder walked off with a 3-2 win over the Akron Aeros. P.J. Pilittere hit the two-run walk-off single. Anthony Claggett went 1.2 innings for the win but walked three. Jason Stephens, in his AA debut, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks. He struck out nine. Bronson Sadinha homered for the Aerons. Game 2 saw the Aerons dominate, 8-0 in seven innings. A-Jax went 0 for 6 on the day.
After falling behind 7-1 after two innings, Tampa outscored the Clearwater Threshers 13-2 en route to a 14-9 win. Ryan Pope got torched. His final line: 1.2 IP, 5 H, 7 ER, 2 BB. Seven Tampa hitters had at least two hits each.
Playing in the former Yankee stronghold of the Oneonta, the SI Yanks downed the Tigers 5-2. Michael Obradovich threw another scoreless inning, and Pat Venditte racked up two K’s for his 12th save.
The GCL Yankees were rained out.
Just over two years ago the Yanks spent the 21st overall pick in the draft on a polished college arm out of USC, one Mr. Ian Patrick Kennedy. The smallish righthander wasn’t your prototypical electric stuff guy, he was a high probabilty four pitch command guy that repeated his delivery like a robot. He was one of the unsexiest yet safest picks in the class.
Kennedy proved to be worth the pick his first full season as a professional baseball player, going 12-3 with a 1.91 ERA & 0.96 WHIP across three levels before being named Minor League Pitcher of the Year by milb.com, as well as Minor League Player of the Year by us here at RAB. He earned a September call-up and thrived in the shadow of Joba Chamberlain, twirling 19 innings of 236 ERA+ ball during the stretch run, including this gem up in Toronto. Baseball America rated him the 45th best prospect in the game during the offseason, and grabbed the sponsorship for his B-Ref page.
Kennedy was sidelined by a strain in his right lat-muscle for over a month this year, but has since returned to form during his rehab stint. Climbing the ladder from the Rooklie level GCL to Triple-A Scranton, Kennedy basically repeated his 2007 performance, posting a sub-2.00 ERA (1.99) and a sub-1.00 WHIP (0.88). He allowed 4 runs in his last 27 IP, including a near 7-inning no-hitter, before the Yanks once again called his name. Back home in front of friends and family tonight in Anaheim, Kennedy will look to stabilize a Yankee rotation plagued by injury and ineffectiveness.
Everyone deserves a second chance now and then. Kennedy starts fresh tonight.
Notes: You want a good omen for tonight? Well here’s one: the only other time tonight’s starters (IPK & Jered Weaver) faced off was this game back in 2004, the first time Kennedy ever pitched for USC … if that’s not a sign of Kennedy starting off fresh tonight, nothing is … Hideki Matsui felt no pain in his knee after working out yesterday, a good sign … in case of chest hair emergency, pull tab quickly and back away … sorry folks, no DotF tonight (life interrupts blogging sometimes), so here’s the scoreboards for AAA, AA, A+, A-, SS & Rk … you can get to the box scores from there …
So we’ve got a game at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. Let’s while away the hours debating the 2009 Yankees. And as an added bonus, we’ve even got a rare RAB poll.
When the season draws to a close in a few months and the Yanks’ Front Office begins the process of reconstructing a roster for 2009, the folks in Baseball Ops will have a few decisions to make. Two of the tougher choices facing the Yanks this year will come internally and involve two of their more productive but older players: Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi.
In one corner, we have Abreu, the Yanks’ right fielder. On the season, Abreu is hitting .291/.363/.474 with 15 home runs and a team-leading 76 RBIs. While still good, his triple-slash numbers are well off from his career norms of .300/.400/.500, and at 34, Abreu is definitely past his offensive prime. In the outfield, his defense is merely okay. He has a stellar arm, but throwing accuracy has always been an issue for him. He isn’t the quickest guy in right, and his range has never been a plus baseball trait.
For the Yanks, Abreu represents a dilemma. Bobby wants to stick around, and he would be a good guy for the Yanks’ outfield. There is, however, a but. Right now, the Yanks are waiting for Austin Jackson to land in the Bronx. With an ETA of 2010, the Yanks don’t really need to sign an aging and declining player like Abreu to a deal longer than one or two years. Abreu will probably want a three- or four-year deal monetarily in line with what Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon have.
Meanwhile, the Yanks should have a glut of outfielders next year. For better or worse, Melky will probably still be around; Damon and Matsui — who should be healthy — are under contract; and Xavier Nady will play a role on the 2009 Yankees as well. Does Bobby Abreu fit in or do the Yanks say, “Thanks, but we’d rather have the draft picks”?
In the other corner, we have Jason Giambi. His situation is a bit more delicate. Similar to Abreu, Giambi has expressed a desire to stay in New York, and the Yankees are holding a $20-million option or a $5-million buyout on the Giambino’s deal. On the season, Jason is hitting .256/.391/.518 with 22 HR and 65 RBI. He seems to run hot and cold, and while he had a great series in Texas, he had been scuffling of late.
The Giambi decision is a bit more nuanced than the Abreu situation. First up is the option that the Yanks won’t pick up. If the Yanks cut Giambi and he signs somewhere else, the team will have, in effect, paid him $5 million to play against them, and the Yanks have never been too keen on that approach. Next up is age. Giambi, while healthy this year, will play his age 38 season in 2009 and doesn’t figure to be around for too long. The Yanks need to get younger, and they need a first baseman. Mark Teixeira looks awfully appealing.
So what do you do with Jason Giambi? Should the Yanks pay him to play elsewhere? Should they re-sign him to split time at first base and DH again? While Chuck Johnson recently penned a piece for the YES Network’s site calling for the Yanks to dump Giambi, I don’t think there’s an obvious answer to this one. It’s far, far easier to make the case against Abreu than it is to advocate for or against Giambi.
As always with these open threads, play nice in the comments and vote in the poll below. At this point, I’m voting for Jason Giambi but not Abreu. Number 53 still has a chance to change my mind though.
Updated: Courtesy of Ed Price comes a Joba injury update. The Yanks expect Chamberlain to miss at least a month with rotator cuff tendinitis. According to Price’s sources, the Yanks do not consider this to be a major injury. However, as Price writes, “there is also a chance Chamberlain does not return this season simply because the Yankees will be extremely cautious with their most prized young arm.” Meanwhile, Joba says that he’ll be back before the end of August. That decision though is really up to the Yanks. There is no point in ruining the future simply for the sake of today.
RAB Editors Note: We’ve got an open thread for you all at 7:00 p.m. and a game thread two hours later. Lots of good stuff tonight. So stick around. · (12) ·
While Manny Ramirez may be hitting .565/.615/1.130 in the early going with the Dodgers, apparently a 341 OPS+ isn’t quite good enough for Joe Torre. In a piece that notes the $200,000 Dodger fans have spent on Manny merchandise in the past week, Deadspin scribe Rick Chandler reports that Torre would like to see Manny cut his trademark dreadlocks. Oh, Joe. When will you ever learn? · (17) ·
For the last four days, the Yankee lineup has been Melky Cabrera-free. The benching of Melky was a move a long time in the making and well overdue. But later tonight, in the O.C., the center fielder, three days shy of his 24th birthday, will resume his duties in the starting lineup, and I have to wonder to what end?
First, a history lesson: Since May 6, Melky Cabrera is hitting .225/.275/.281 over his last 309 plate appearances. As Mike pointed out a few days, those totals rank him as one of — if not, the — worst every-day player in the Majors.
Now, we’ve been fairly critical of Melky over the last two years. We want him to succeed, but right now, he just isn’t getting the job done. With three years of Big League experience under his belt, Melky should be showing improvement. Instead, his numbers are getting worse each year. That .260 batting average with a low-.300s OBP and little power since the start of 2007 is about what you can expect from Melky right now, and that just doesn’t cut it on the Yankees.
When the team benched Melky earlier this week, they did so under the guise of giving him a rest. Melky Cabrera, the man who has played, on average, 150 games per season in his pro career, needed a break. The Yanks intended to give Melky just two days off, but Joe Girardi decided to add on an extra pair of days to that non-benching benching.
But here is where things get a bit ugly. According to that Ed Price notebook, Joe Girardi still views Melky as his everyday center fielder. “I think Melky’s a better offensive player than he’s displayed. And I think that Melky can have a strong last 50 games for us, I really do,” Girardi said. “The important thing is that he gets on base, and that’s what we need him to do more of.”
Now, I know and you know that Joe Girardi isn’t going to come out and say that they’re benching Melky for good. We know he isn’t going to throw Melky under the bus. That would completely negate whatever residual trade value Cabrera has. But I’m beginning to fear that Girardi isn’t seeing the forest for the trees.
Everyone loves Melky Cabrera’s supposed enthusiasm and love for the game. They love his energy, his center field prowess and his cannon arm. But it’s laughable to think that his presence in the starting lineup helps the team. For Girardi to say that “we need him to do more of” getting on base ignores reality. Melky, for the better part of four months, has gotten on base at a .275 clip. For the last two seasons, he has an OBP of .315. That’s not a sample size issue; that’s a full-blown trend.
What you see if what you get. If the Yanks choose to see boundless energy and youthful enthusiasm, they should know that those traits won’t win games. If they see Melky as a fourth outfielder capable of giving Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady or Bobby Abreu a night off but don’t want to damage a young player’s psyche or trade value, then so be it. But as Melky returns to the starting lineup tonight, I worry that the Yanks will use him everyday, and that does not a playoff team make.
Reading some of this might help kill the hours between now and quitting time.
Ed Price points us to some quotes from Ian Kennedy and Dave Eiland about the youngster’s start tonight in Anaheim:
“I feel real good lately,” Kennedy told the Times-Tribune of Scranton, “and I’d like to take that up there.”
“His command’s been a little bit better,” said Eiland, who watches video of the Triple-A pitchers. “And he’s commanded his slider a little bit more, it’s more consistent, with the tilt to it. He’s not hanging as many, he’s more consistent, he’s got a better feel for it. That just comes with repetition.”
The Angels will trot out Jered Weaver, who got knocked around last time against the Yanks. Here’s to hoping they can hit another four homers off him tonight. It would surely help out Kennedy, who could use some run support in his return to the show.
In the same piece, Price shares a quote from Girardi on Melky:
“The important thing is that (Cabrera) gets on base,” Girardi said, “and that’s what we need him to do more of.”
That’s the important thing for everyone. But the sentiment is appreciated.
Ivan Rodriguez is set to start tonight, despite his bruised knee. I’m a big fan of the youngsters going with Molina behind the plate, but if Pudge is going to be the regular catcher, you might as well have him work with Kennedy, who hopefully can reclaim his permanent rotation spot over his next few starts.
Dave Laurila of Baseball Prospectus sits down for a chat with Pat Venditte. The whole thing is a good read, but here’s a pullaway quote:
From the right side, I rely a lot more on my fastball; I throw a curveball but rely heavily on my fastball. From the left side, I rely predominately on my slider, which I throw from a low three-quarters slot, and an occasional fastball. I don’t have as much velocity from my left side, so I have to do certain things to equal it out. One of those things is being able to locate offspeed pitches, which is one thing I really need to do in order to get hitters out.
Finally, I’m not sure why this turned up in Google News, but it’s a Jack Curry article about Don Mattingly wanting to be traded 1991. It stemmed from the infamous “cut that hair!” incident, which also included closer Steve Farr, starter Pasqual Perez, and catcher Matt Nokes.
“Maybe I don’t belong in the organization anymore,” Mattingly told reporters after the Yankees had defeated the Royals, 5-1, without him. “I talked to him about moving me earlier in the year. He said we’ll talk at the end of the year. Maybe this is their way of saying we don’t need you anymore.”
Yeah, good thing that never happened.