Over the last few days — and with the introduction of the weirdly absurd Joe Torre blog — a lot of baseball commentators have been focused on the state of the Yankees. That this team — a team that went into 2008 clearly in transition — is something of a disappointment is not a point worth arguing. They’re 10 games out of first and five out of the Wild Card. Clearly things could be better.
But the comparisons to Joe Torre’s Dodgers and, to a lesser extent, the Mets are irrationally misguided. And it is, as always, a matter of perspective. Right now the Yankees are 67-59 in third place. For the Yankees, perennially expected to win the AL East, eight games over .500 and behind two teams in the East is hardly a bragging point. But the Mets and Dodgers aren’t any better.
Over in the pathetically mediocre NL West, the Dodgers are 64-62, two games behind the Diamondbacks. Yet, everything is coming up roses in the City of Angels. Got that? The Dodgers are 2.5 games worse than the Yankees. In the AL, they’d be behind the Blue Jays in the hunt for a playoff spot. Yet, somehow, because they’re in second place, Joe Torre gets the credit. Talk about a double standard.
Meanwhile, as Murray Chass stupidly pointed out, the Mets haven’t been hamstrung by injuries and poor play this year. Well, Mr. Chass, perhaps that’s because the four other teams in the Mets’ division are simply much worse than the Amazin’s. The Mets are 70-57, a whopping 2.5 games better than the Yankees. Again, if they were in the AL East, the Mets would be 7.5 games out of first and three games out of the Wild Card. As it stands now, if they suffer another late-season collapse, they will finish behind the Brewers and Cardinals in the NL Wild Card hunt.
But this figuring all this out seems to take too much effort for sportswriters. They’d rather write the accolades of other teams while burying the Yankees without bothering to look at it in perspective. Now, I’m not about to start excusing the Yankees by saying that they’d be running away with the NL West. But to call Joe Torre any sort of LA savior without looking at the Diamondbacks’ inability to put away the inferior Dodgers and to proclaim the Mets that much better than the Yanks without examining the other teams in the division is simply shortsighted baseball analysis. But should we ever really expect anything else from the likes of Murray Chass and Tim Brown? I guess not.
I guess the ice pack worked. According to Ed Price, Carl Pavano’s neck is feeling better, and Pavano will probably start on Saturday in Baltimore. This could be a momentous occasion indeed. Fun fact: Carl Pavano has made two starts since the beginning of the 2007 campaign, and I witnessed one of them in person. · (92) ·
When I see tonight’s Yankee game unfold, two different thoughts flash through my mind. On the one hand, I see Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte turn in what we would call vintage performances as the Yanks turned in a crisp two-hour and 22-minute victory.
But on the other, I see the Yanks playing out the season with this win. I see a mediocre team with some star players beating a bad pitcher when they should. I see an overpaid and overhyped team keeping hope alive, falsely, by hanging 5.5 games back in the Wild Card and not really moving forward. I guess it’s all about tomorrow. Whatever they can do tomorrow and the next day and the day after that will determine the real fate of the 2008 Yankees.
Before we jump ahead though, we can look at tonight’s quick game. The Yanks jumped out to a first-inning lead, and they would never look back. The first three Yankees reached base, and while A-Rod again failed to deliver with runners in scoring position, a Jason Giambi sac fly (against a lefty!) and a Xavier Nady single gave Pettitte a 2-0 nothing lead.
In the fourth, the Yanks would plate their final three runs of the game with Derek Jeter’s hitting his 8th home run of the season. That blast would be the 2498th hit of Jeter’s career and his 203rd Yankee home run. With that homer, Jeter tied Roger Maris on the Yanks’ all-time home run list and somehow, only 10 players in Yankee history have more home runs in pinstripes than Jeter, not quite a notorious home run hitter throughout his career.
But while the bats did their job tonight, the story of the game was Andy Pettitte. The lefty went seven strong, allowing one run on five hits, no walks and four strike outs. He threw 62 of 83 pitches for strikes. Brian Bruney threw a crisp two innings to complete the victory.
Clearly, the Yankees needed this game. By winning on Wednesday, they guaranteed at least a one-game lead in third place when they depart Toronto for Baltimore after facing Roy Halladay tonight. They also gained a game on Boston and Clay Buchholz, who was shelled again down in Baltimore.
Was tonight’s game a reprieve or a sign that we shouldn’t quite count the Yanks out? With the Bombers seemingly treading water in the standings these days, it’s easy to believe the former, but it’s always hard to count out the Yankees. Stranger things, after all, have happened.
How many people would be interested in joining a RAB Fantasy Football League? I’d like to get a deep league, like 16-20 teams so it’s nice and challenging. I’m thinking Sunday August 31st for the draft, figure same time as the Yankee game (1pm) so we can BS and watch the game as we pick. Let me know if you’d be interested (only if your serious, please), and I’ll set it up. If there’s enough interest, I’ll post an official “sign up” thread later this week.
Triple-A Scranton (7-2 loss to Rochester)
Justin Christian: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 K, 1 CS
Melky & Shelley: both 2 for 4 – Melk scored a run … Shelley drove one in & K’ed
Juan Miranda, Eric Duncan, Ben Broussard & Chris Basak: all 0 for 4 – Miranda K’ed once … Broussard & E-Dunc each K’ed twice
Chris Stewart: 2 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K
Bernie Castro: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
IPK: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 2-4 GB/FB – 67 of 101 pitches were strikes (66.3%) … remember, he’s there to work on his two-seamer & curveball, which Chad Jennings says were just missing
Scott Patterson: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K – 11 of 15 pitches were strikes (73.3%)
Phil Coke: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3-1 GB/FB – 13 of 18 pitches were strikes (72.2%)
Scott Strickland: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Counting tonight, there are 37 games left in the Yankees’ season. They are currently 6.5 GB of the Wildcard with 6 games left to play against the WC leader. The season is not over. Far from it in fact, no matter how ugly it looks. Go ahead and declare them dead if you wish, but don’t think that the other teams in baseball have so foolishly written them off as well.
You want playoffs, we’ll you got ‘em. October starts today.
1. Damon, CF
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B – but, but, but there’s a lefty on the mound!!!
6. Nady, LF
7. Matsui, DH
8. Cano, 2B
9. Molina, C
And on the mound, Andy Pettitte.
Notes: The Yanks are facing LHP David Purcey (2-3, 5.93 ERA), who they drafted, but did not sign, in the 17th round of the 2003 draft … Joe Nathan lowered his ERA to freaking 1.00 today …
Eddie Bajek at Tigers Thoughts has, with as he calls “reasonable certainty,” reverse-engineered the formula used to determine Type-A & B free agents, and has posted the current rankings of AL catchers. Pudge comes in as the highest ranked Type-B free agent, 0.891 points behind Ramon Hernandez. Under the new CBA, Type-A Type-B FA’s do not need to be offered arbitration to bring compensation. I’d rather see Pudge pick up his game and take the risk of offering arbitration. (h/t MLBTR)
Update (4:51pm): Nevermind, both Type-A & Type-B free agents need to be offered arbitration to yield compensation picks. My bad, yo. · (55) ·
On the one hand, we have an unnamed American League scout: “In a few years, Melky will be playing in some independent league. Or in the Mexican League.” On the other hand, we have Tim Marchman’s urging us not to write off Melky so quickly. It’s the old numbers vs. scouting debate on display for all to see. The scouts don’t like what they see, but Marchman sees historical precedents for players exiled to the Minors who have managed to turn things around. As always, time will tell. · (54) ·
While Tyler Kepner speculates that Carl Pavano could — baring some not-so-catastrophic injury — be Saturday’s starter, Pavano seems to have other plans in mind. According to numerous reports — including one from PeteAbe — Pavano skipped a bullpen session yesterday with a stiff neck. I mean, seriously? Seriously? Just pitch. · (30) ·
In the 7th inning, Michael Kay and Al Leiter do what they do every night at that time: They read the choices for Chevy Player of the Game. As Darrell Rasner’s name garnered the top slot on their slate of candidates, my thoughts flashed, albeit briefly, on the word “jinx.” With the way the Yanks have been playing lately, how could the YES Network be so presumptuous with three innings left in a 1-0 game to start offering up names for Player of the Game?
As luck — or fate — would have it, the Yanks would not win this game, and they didn’t win in spectacular fashion. When the dust settled — and it literally settled as A-Rod was called out at second for the first out of the ninth — the Yanks were emerge 2-1 losers in a game they desperately needed to win. With that loss, they’re one game out of fourth place, 11 games out of first and, more importantly, 6.5 games behind Boston in the Wild Card with 37 games left to play. No wonder Yahoo! Sports ran this image earlier tonight.
Before we really delve into the negatives from tonight, let’s stop and tip our collective caps to Darrell Rasner. The Yanks’ righty had one of his better starts of the year. He went 6.1 innings and allowed a walk and three hits. He struck out three and kept the Blue Jays off base. His only mistake came on a 3-2 pitch that Adam Lind deposited beyond a leaping Bobby Abreu over the right field wall to tie the game at one.
With that out of the way, it’s really hard to say anything nice about the rest of this game. Again, the Yanks didn’t hit with runners in scoring position. Bobby Abreu lead off the fourth with a double and ended up staying on second as the next three batters — A-Rod, Jason Giambi and Xavier Nady — went down with nary a peep. Jason Giambi had four strike outs; A-Rod three. While A.J. Burnett, in his audition, was masterful, the Yanks couldn’t put anything together at all.
Meanwhile, I hate to say this, but in a way, I was right when I questioned Hideki’s arrival last night. Matsui’s return to the lineup — a smashing 0-for-3 performance — pushed Johnny Damon into center field where he made one error early on and then cost the Yanks the game with one of the worst plays you’ll ever see a center fielder make in the 8th inning. Melky Cabrera would have caught that ball; Brett Gardner would have caught that ball; it’s quite possible I would have caught that ball. But Damon didn’t; the Blue Jays scored a second run, and that was that.
Or, that was that until the ninth inning when Alex Rodriguez led off with a bloop base hit over the first baseman’s head and managed to get himself thrown out at second base for the first out of the inning. On the surface, I have no problem with A-Rod’s play. He was trying to make something — anything — happen for a lackluster team and got himself thrown out.
But after watching the replay, I have a problem with A-Rod’s not really running hard to first. He didn’t have second base in his mind out of the box. Only after he saw Lyle Overbay chasing the ball did he turn it on as he rounded first, and by then, it was too late. Much like this Yankee season so far, A-Rod just fell a little short. He was out; the Yanks lost. And that’s that.