The expectations of playing losing teams

A little less than three weeks ago, things didn’t seem so rosy for the Yankees. They were battling injuries to a few key players, and weren’t getting elite production from their elite players. After dropping two of three from the Mets the Yanks had something of a cold streak going, 5-9 in a two-week span that began with their trip to Detroit. The starting pitching, which propped up the offense in April, had a bad turn or two through the rotation, and it showed on the scoreboard and in the standings.

Yet there was a bit of hope ahead. The Yanks had an off-day after the Sunday night loss to the Mets, after which they’d travel to Minnesota for a mini three-game road trip. After three games against the first-place Twins, they’d have a string of games that had the potential to boost them back into gear. First four against last-place Cleveland. Then three against last-place Baltimore. The only tough series in that stretch came against Toronto, after which the Yankees would have last-place Baltimore again followed by second-to-last-place Houston.

So far the stretch has gone pretty well. The Yanks, by virtue of their pitching staff, took two of three from Minnesota before taking three of four from Cleveland. They swept Baltimore, so even though they lost two of three to Toronto it didn’t hurt so badly. They had still averaged only one loss per series. In the Baltimore series they maintained that pace. Since May 25 the Yanks are 11-5, with three games against Houston before they face a string of decently tough National League teams (excepting the Diamondbacks). They then get Seattle, Toronto, Oakland, and then Seattle again before the All-Star Break.

This is what the Yanks had hoped for. They played a tough schedule early in the year and despite injuries they weathered it. The Rays might have played better, but the Yanks still find themselves just two games out, which is still a good position right now. If they can make an interleague run like they have in years past, they’ll be in an even better position when they head into the break.

Yes, the Yankees were supposed to do this. They were supposed to steamroll the poor teams. I don’t think that takes anything away from the accomplishment, though. If the Yankees were going to underachieve they’d probably have lost more than one game per series, on average, during this stretch. They’d probably have dropped one of those one-run games in Minnesota. They might have gotten swept in Toronto. Those would be the marks of underachieving teams. The Yanks are just doing what they’re supposed to, and it’s been a joy to watch.

If the Yanks can keep that pace and take two of three from the Astros, they’ll head into the off-day having won 13 of their last 19, a 110-win pace for a full season, just to put it into some context. This has come during a time when they’ve seen Mark Teixeira go hot and cold, and during which A-Rod has hit .288/.317/.475. I guess they picked a good time to struggle. Their teammates can pick them up against the weaker teams. If they start to rebound during the interleague stretch, we’ll see even better things from this Yankees squad.

Why the wave doesn’t belong at Yankee Stadium

The video above comes to us from our friend Ross at NYY Stadium Insider. He shot it in April as the crowd did the wave while Curtis Granderson legged out a triple. Few fans were paying attention to the actual game, and the audio on Ross’ video is quite hilarious. It serves as a great introduction to this morning’s guest column on the wave.

Written by Larry Koestler of Yankeeist, this piece explores why many die-hards and more than a few newcomers can’t stand the modern phenomenon of the wave. I’ve always enjoyed the “Take the wave to Shea” chant, still relevant today even if Shea is just a parking lot.

A disturbing trend has come to pass at Yankee Stadium during the 2010 campaign. No, it’s not the seemingly automatic way in which the Yankees continue to compile wins at their beautiful ballpark. Or the proliferation of ridiculous Yankee paraphernalia that fans deign to wear to the Stadium. No, I’m talking about something much more sinister and disturbing: people at Yankee Stadium have — shockingly, and much to many long-time Yankee fans’ collective chagrin — resuscitated The Wave from its rightful place in the mausoleum and have been seen performing this paean to boredom at nearly every Yankee home game thus far this season.

That’s right. The Wave. At Yankee Stadium. God help us all.

The Wave began in the 1980s as a way for fans of National League teams to pass the time, because nothing says fun like a lame human ripple effect ringing around the upper deck of a baseball stadium. Then again, if I had to watch my pitchers hit I’d be bored as hell, too.

Kidding aside, participating in The Wave is basically the most insulting thing you can do to your team. You are literally telling everyone — as you wait to see if it’s going to make it all the way around and back to your section — that (a) You absolutely do not care about the fact that you are fortunate enough to be attending a baseball game, and (b) You have absolutely no interest in what or how your team is doing. You may as well have switched caps with a fan of the opposing team, because seeing as how they made the trip out to Yankee Stadium from wherever they’re from, they actually give a damn about the fact that a baseball game is being played.

In addition to displaying a complete and utter lack of interest in the events unfolding directly in front of you, The Wave also serves as a distraction to the folks who showed up to watch a ballgame. While playing at home may not statistically hold much of an advantage, a team’s fans still play a large role in both cheering the team on and trying to psyche the opposition out. Perhaps the most frequently recurring comment from opposing teams — at least about the old Yankee Stadium — was that once those 55,000 fans got going, there was no other noise on earth quite like it. The sound was deafening. The acoustics of new Yankee Stadium don’t allow for quite the same decibel level, but the proceedings can still get pretty loud, especially come playoff time. If people are trying to start up a Wave, it can be an immense distraction to the paying fans who know better, and also takes the crowd out of the game — how can 45,000 people will their team to victory through intense cheering and clapping when forced to shake their heads in disbelief that their fellow fans would rather throw their arms up in the air than clap for two-strike fever?

As far as I’m concerned, real Yankee fans don’t do The Wave. I attended well over 100 games at the old Yankee Stadium, and I honestly can’t remember a single instance of people even attempting to do The Wave. While I’m sure it broke out several times over the years — most likely during the dark late 80s/early 90s — it must have dissipated as the Yankees got better, because I seldom recall seeing it this past decade. At the old house, if you tried to do The Wave in the Bronx you’d have been more mercilessly razzed than a Red Sox fan.

Speaking of which, do you ever see fans at Fenway Park do The Wave? If you have, it probably happens fairly infrequently — I don’t remember seeing The Wave take place during any of the Yankee-Sox games I’ve watched over the years. Do you know why? Because Boston fans are obsessed with baseball and love and respect their baseball team. The idea of The Wave rarely if ever crosses the mind of a Boston Red Sox fan, because BoSox fans live and die with every single pitch. Every single pitch. And it should never be crossing the mind of a New York Yankees fan.

Clearly one of the reasons behind this atrocity is that a good number of classic, die-hard Yankee fans have been priced out of the new Stadium, and their seats are now being filled with people who barely even realize they’re attending a baseball game. However, that does not excuse things, and also begs the question: Why are you spending money to attend a baseball game if you’re going to be that bored? Do you know how many Yankee fans would kill to have your seats on any given night? Additionally, I don’t care if the team is losing 30-1; I’d rather you leave in the 6th inning than feel the need to participate in this atrocity.

I can’t believe I even feel the need to write about this; but it keeps coming up and something needs to be done about it. I was apoplectic when I saw The Wave at the first Yankee game I attended this season and actually had to stand up and put both hands up in an effort to “stop” The Wave while scolding everyone in my section. The Wave reared its ugly head again when I was back at the Stadium a couple of weeks ago, and I once again went hoarse yelling at people to quit doing it. And last week, Michael Kay even pointed out that people at Yankee Stadium were doing The Wave on the YES broadcast, which was the last straw.

So to the people who have been attending games at Yankee Stadium this season, I implore you: Stop doing The Wave. It’s incredibly disrespectful to the game and the players and makes all Yankee fans look like we couldn’t care less. Obviously that couldn’t be further from the truth, and I know not everyone attending a baseball game at Yankee Stadium is going to be hanging on every single pitch through all nine innings like obsessives such as myself, but if you’re really that bored, then go home. Or if you absolutely must do The Wave at a baseball game, then become a Mets fan and bring it to Citi Field, where it belongs.

Larry Koestler eats, drinks, sleeps and breathes the Yankees at his blog Yankeeist.

Yanks unable to complete sweep, fall to O’s

Hard to believe that it’s only June 10th and yet the Yankees have already clinched the season series against Baltimore, but that’s what happens when you beat a team the last ten times you face them. The Yanks were unable to complete their third straight series sweep of the O’s on Thursday, though their two main AL East competitors also lost, keeping them just two games back of the Rays.

Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP

It … Just … Kept … Carrying

They say the New Yankee Stadium is a bandbox, but Camden Yards certainly played that part in this game. The Yankees were nursing a one run lead in the 5th inning of this one, and A.J. Burnett had settled down after some first inning jitters to retire the last ten men he faced. The lead quickly evaporated when former eighth overall pick Scott Moore (look it up if you don’t believe me) got a hold of a 92 mph heater that ran back out of the plate, lifting the ball high in the air toward right-center. And up in the air it stayed.

I honestly thought it was a deep fly ball off the bat, deep but certainly playable. Instead the ball just hung up, chasing the outfielders back to the wall before ever so slowly landing in the people for a solo homer. Moore tied the game, which was certainly disappointing but far from a death sentence at that point in the game.

Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP

The winds from the Inner Harbor came into play again an inning later, or at least what I assume were the Inner Harbor winds. I always figure if it’s windy and there’s a large body of water nearby, blame it on that. Anyway, Luke Scott ripped a hanging curveball into right with one out in the 7th, and again the ball just seemed to hover in the air for eternity. Nick Swisher chased it back to the big scoreboard and made a valiant leaping effort to catch it, but the ball hit off his glove and Scott ended up on third. Again, it looked like a deep but playable fly ball off the bat, but instead it was ten feet up the wall.

Adam Jones drove in what was ultimately the winning run with a double two pitches later, though that one needed no help from the wind. He hit it right on the screws, giving his team the lead. Moore’s homer and Scott’s triple were the Orioles’ two biggest hits of the night, combining for .248 WPA, win(d) probability added.

Cleanup Roulette

It’s unfortunate whenever any player goes down with an injury, but when it’s your most potent righthanded bat and cleanup hitter, well then, that sucks. Alex Rodriguez left Thursday’s game after the bottom of the first inning with a stiff  groin before he even came to the plate, and was replaced by the noodle bat of Ramiro Pena. There was no obvious reason for A-Rod‘s departure at the time, though it appeared he took a short step before stopping himself on a hit hard ball through the 5.5 hole. He’s tentatively listed as day-to-day, and will see a doctor tomorrow.

Pena went 0-for-2 with a sac bunt during his six innings at the hot corner, but was pinch hit for in the top of the 7th with men on first and second and two outs. Backup catcher Frankie Cervelli and his .207-.313-.268 batting line over the last 31 days took Pena’s place in that 7th inning, but struck out after a hard fought eight pitch at-bat that featured one fastball and seven sliders. Cervelli then stayed in the game to catch while Kevin Russo took over at third.

It was just one lineup spot, but it effected 20% of the roster (A-Rod, Pena, Cervelli, Russo, and Chad Moeller) in one way or another.

Kinda Bad A.J.

Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP

It was a tale of two, really three A.J. Burnetts in this one. Bad A.J. allowed a pair of runs in the first on two singles, two hit batsmen (he really hit three batters in the first, but Nick Markakis struck out swinging when he got hit), and a sac fly. Good A.J. showed up after that to retire the next ten Orioles, but Bad A.J. came back for an encore in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings. He gave up one homer, two doubles, one triple, and two singles (with an intentional walk mixed in) to the last 15 men he faced.

It was an overall mediocre performance by the Yanks’ supposed number two starter, though four runs in 6.2 innings of work is usually good enough to keep the team in the game, as it was tonight. Believe it or not, this was second time in his last three starts that A.J. did not issue an unintentional walk, something he did exactly zero times in 2009.

For Better Or For Worse

Photo Credit: Rob Carr, AP

The most damaging out made by a Yankee batter in this game was not Cervelli’s in the 7th, but Marcus Thames‘ strikeout in the 6th. Rookie starter Jake Arrieta (left) was on the ropes with the bases loaded and his pitch count over 100, but Thames took a cut at a slider a foot off the plate to end the inning. He’s hitting just .189-.319-.259 since the end of April.

This was the first time in like, forever, that Robbie Cano didn’t have a multi-hit game against the Orioles. I think Michael Kay said during the broadcast that he had a ten game multiple hit streak against them, which is ridiculous. And how about Cano tagging up to go from first to second on Jorge Posada‘s sac fly in the 6th? Super risky, but he pulled it off. The guy can’t do anything wrong these days.

Speaking of Posada, he has just three singles in 34 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list.

I’m not sure if Mark Teixeira‘s bloop shot in the 3rd was fair or foul – it was extremely close – but all that matters is that the ump called it foul. That’s just a microcosm of how the season has gone for Tex.

Damaso Marte retired Luke Scott to end the 7th, and lefties are now hitting just .179-.233-.250 with seven strikeouts in 30 plate appearances off him this year. Chan Ho Park has quietly struck out nine of the last 22 men he’s faced.

The Melkman Delivers

Sorry, but I had to include this clip from earlier today. It makes you kinda miss the little fella…

WPA Graph & Box Score

Traditional box score comes from MLB.com, nontraditional box score comes from FanGraphs.

Up Next

The Yankees are flying home after the game to take on the lowly Astros as interleague play starts back up. Andy Pettitte takes on Brett Myers, who is having himself a nice under-the-radar season.

Betances returns to beat Furbush

Second baseman Casey Stevenson (25th round) and RHP Mike Gipson (31st) have already signed. Meanwhile, the Yankees are going to follow the progress of LHP Kramer Sneed (32nd) and RHP Keenan Kish (34th) during their summer ball seasons before deciding on whether or not to offer them a contract. They did the same thing with David Robertson back in 2006, who went to the Cape Cod League and exponentially increased his stock by learning a curveball.

Triple-A Scranton (5-2 win over Charlotte)
Reid Gorecki, LF: 1 for 3, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 SB
Colin Curtis, RF, Reegie Corona, 2B & Greg Golson, CF: all 0 for 4, 1 K – Curtis drew a walk
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Chad Huffman, 1B: both 2 for 3, 1 R, 2 BB – Huffman doubled
Juan Miranda, DH: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI – he’s just too good for this league
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 5, 1 2B, 1 K - hard to believe that’s just his 14th XBH of the season
Ivan Nova: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 11-5 GB/FB – 51 of his 88 pitches were strikes (58%)
Boone Logan: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 0-1 GB/FB – nine of his 14 pitches were strikes (64.3%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1.2 IP, zeroes, 4 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 16 of his 20 pitches were strikes (80%) … why can’t he do this in the bigs?

[Read more…]

A-Rod leaves game with stiff groin

Update (10:09pm): A-Rod has some stiffness in his groin (giggidy) and is day-to-day. He’ll see a doctor tomorrow for a better diagnosis. It’s the same groin that gave him trouble in Toronto.

7:35pm: Alex Rodriguez left today’s game for an unknown reason after the bottom of the first inning. About the only indication of injury we have came on a groundball single through the 5.5 hole, when A-Rod took no more than a step to his left to try and make a play on the ball. He deal with a sore groin last weekend. Hopefully this is nothing serious, because no A-Rod is no good.

Ramiro Pena will play third and bat cleanup (!!!) the rest of the game. We’ll update this post if/when we find out more.

Game 60: Look Out!

With an otherwise uninteresting early-June game against the Orioles on tap for tonight, let’s focus on something else for a chance: It’s Ken Singleton’s 63rd birthday!

A career .282-.388-.436 hitter, the switch-hittin’ Singleton hit .297-.406-.464 with 163 homers and more walks (819) than strikeouts (740) during his peak from 1973-1980. He actually started his playing career with the Mets in 1970 before being traded to the Expos with two others for Rusty Staub in 1972. Montreal then shipped him and Mike Torrez to Baltimore after the 1974 season, where he stayed for the rest of his 15-year career.

A three time All Star with four top ten finishes in the MVP voting, Singy’s 40.6 career WAR is more than Don Mattingly (39.8) and at least 16 Hall of Famers, and less than a full win shy of Jim Rice. So happy birthday to my favorite YES commentator and one helluva ball player.

Meanwhile, here’s the Yankee lineup that’s face Jake Arrieta this evening, who’s making his big league debut…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, DH
Granderson, CF
Thames, LF
Moeller, C

And on the mound, A.J. Burnett.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Girardi selects Scioscia, Geren as All-Star Game coaches

Via Erik Boland, Joe Girardi has selected Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia and A’s manager Bob Geren to be his coaches for the All Star Game next month in Anaheim. He obviously wants to make sure he has a fourth and fifth catcher available. The announcement we’re all really waiting for is the AL All Star pitching staff, just to see if Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes make it. My gut says Girardi will do everything in his power to get them both there, but will keep Hughes off the roster if there’s a numbers crunch. No reason in particular, just a hunch.