After Mike Mussina’s outing last night in which he tied Bob Gibson for 44th on the all-time win list, a message mysteriously appeared on Mussina’s white board in the locker room. The note, according to Dan Graziano, read: “Thanks ESPN for the 4:00 a.m. arrival and day game the next day.”

For Mussina, it doesn’t really matter. He pitched last night and doesn’t throw again until the Yanks get to Boston. But it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for the Yankees. Because MLB wouldn’t tell ESPN that they could not have last night’s Yankee game, the Yanks were stuck playing a 7:05 p.m. game on get-away day. They had to fly to Kansas City after the fact and play a day game today. Had yesterday’s game been at 1:05 p.m. as originally planned or had today’s game been set for 7:05 p.m., everything would have been fine.

The Yankees aren’t making excuses for themselves. “It’s difficult, but it’s not something you don’t expect,” Girardi said. “When I played here, we did it a lot. It’s just part of the baseball life. You’ve got to be resilient and you’ve got to go through it, and there are no excuses.”

Even if there are no excuses, the Yankees are facing a scheduling fight this month. Because of the Pope’s trip to New York, 18 of their next 20 games are on the road, and they have one day off — on April 21 — this month. The last thing they need are day games on the road after night games at home. Either way, we play today; we win today.

Mister Hughes pitches today for the Yanks. Watch that velocity. The sky might fall if he’s not throwing fast enough. With Hughes on the mound, I’d be remiss not to mention the Big Three K Craniosynostosis pledge drive. Please consider donating if you haven’t already.

Damon LF
Cano 2B
Abreu RF
Rodriguez 3B
Matsui DH
Posada C
Giambi 1B
Betemit SS
Cabrera CF

Hughes P

Game Notes: Jeter out; Giambi in. Derek is day-to-day and could miss up to a week, but for now, the Yankees are saying he won’t land on the DL. An MRI showed a mild strain. A-Rod remains at third base.

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (184)

As most RAB readers already know, the three of us are rather fond of ESPN’s Rob Neyer. He’s got a new book out, Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends. This is the third, and he claims final, of his “Big Book” series. Previously, there was the Big Book of Baseball Lineups and the Big Book of Baseball Blunders. In “Legends,” Neyer looks back at baseball tall tales, and through the aid of fact-checking, let’s us know how accurate each one is.

Of course, this type of text isn’t for everyone. Some people want to go on believing these stories of heroes in eternal bliss. No problem there. But for some of us, the truth adds another dynamic to the stories. If you’re of this ilk, then read on, because “Legends” is quite the fun read.

There are plenty of Yanks stories in the book, which is to be expected. With so many legends having passed through the halls of Yankee Stadium, I’m sure Neyer could compile an entire book just for the Yankees.

Leading off for the Yanks is a story relayed in the YES booth (apparently during a My9 broadcast) by Ken Singleton. On the occasion of Louisiana Lightning’s 57th birthday, Kenny told a story of how Ron Guidry never used his changeup until he was nine years deep in the majors. Willie Wilson was the victim of the first offering, and Singleton said it was a strikeout to end the game. In said game, according to Singleton, Guidry struck out Wilson three times.

Neyer, using the power of readily-available data, finds that this can’t possibly be true. In fact, Guidry never struck out Wilson to end a game, nor did he ever strike out Wilson thrice in a game. Neyer does relay a Guidry-Wilson story, though, of how Guidry struck out Wilson looking to start an inning, got pounded, and then struck out Wilson looking to end the inning. But no, the changeup story, as told by Singleton, is debunked.

Unfortunately, there’s only one Steinbrenner story. The good news: It involves him firing someone. This comes from 1973, Big Stein’s inaugural year in the Bronx. Ralph Houk was managing, and he claims to have sent up Johnny Callison — who was OPSing .337 at the time — to pinch hit with runners on in a close game in Texas. Callison, according to Houk, “struck out or popped up,” ending the Yanks potential rally. After the game, Stein called Houk and told him to release Callison. Houk didn’t want to, but after GM Lee MacPhail talked to the Boss, he called Houk back to tell him to release Callison.

It appears Houk conflated the situation. In a game against the Angels in New York, Callison pinch hit for Felipe Alou and grounded out with runners on, keeping the score at 3-1 Angels, which is how it ended. He played a half inning in right field two nights later in Texas, but did not appear at the plate. That was his last major league game.

(In the end, Stein was clearly in the right in calling for Callison’s release.)

For the younger crowd, there’s an interesting story about Jeff Bagwell and Greg Maddux. I’ll quote George Will of Newsweek for the myth:

Leading 8-0 in a regular-season game against the Astros, Maddux threw what he said he would never throw to Jeff Bagwell–a fastball in. Bagwell did what Maddux wanted him to do: he homered. So two weeks later, when Maddux was facing Bagwell in a close game, Bagwell was looking for a fastball in, and Maddux fanned him on a change-up away.

Is Greg Maddux really that sly? He really had the wherewithal to groove one to Bagwell in a meaningless situation so that he could nail him in a meaningful one? Well, if anyone would do it, it’s Maddux. Still, something doesn’t seem right here.

Through Neyer’s inspection, we find that Bagwell hit seven career regular-season homers off Maddux. However, none of them came with an 8-0 or 7-0 score. Only two came when the Braves were leading by more than two runs. September ’96 was the first, but Maddux made zero starts against the Astros after that. The other was August 11 of ’99, which was also Maddux’s last start against the ‘Stros.

Ah, but the Astros did make the postseason that year, and they did face the Braves and Maddux. The two faced off in the series opener, and Bagwell did strike out. Further, it was a close game. However, it was the first inning, and no runners were on. So it appears that this is a rather overblown story.

(Mr. Will could have fact-checked this one himself. It was written in 2006, and Baseball Reference and Retrosheet were freely available.)

To quote Neyer on the conclusion:

I don’t doubt that Greg Maddux, in some fashion or another, set up Jeff Bagwell at some point during their long careers. Or rather, I don’t doubt that Maddux believes he did that. And maybe he did. Pitchers have been telling stories like this one for nearly as long as there have been pitchers. But believing you did something and actually doing it are sometimes different things.

As with all of Neyers’ work, this books is thoughtful and well-written. He’s conversational in his prose, which lends itself well to a book like this. Instead of plainly debunking baseball legends, Neyer acts as if he’s in your living room, sipping a cold Saranac and looking up the facts on his laptop. Which is nice, because that’s how the stories are told and spread in the first place.

Once again, some people might view this as a “That didn’t happen like that!!!111!!!!” kind of book. And if you don’t want to give up baseball lore, stay away from this tome. However, it’s hard to downplay the enthusiasm Neyer displays in his execution. You can tell he not only enjoys debunking old legends, but that he enjoys the legends themselves.

The book also represents a kind of melancholy about present-day baseball. There won’t be as much room for these kinds of anecdotes, since we have play-by-play data and a whole gamut of statistics a mouse-click away. It’s far more difficult to get away with telling a tall tale when someone can click back to last year’s game logs to prove it false.

There are plenty of other Yankees stories in the book, including the story of Thurman Munson and his feud with Carlton Fisk. Then there’s an always-intersting Reggie/Billy Martin story, plus one about Billy and Jackie Robinson. And no book of baseball legends would be complete without a little Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

I’d recommend parking this book in front of the toilet. The stories are short enough for even those of us who like to get in and out of the bathroom quickly. If you plan to pick up a copy, click here for Neyer’s Amazon affiliate. That gives him a commission on the sale, which is nice, since Amazon is notoriously skimpy on the royalties it pays to authors.

Categories : Reviews
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  • Checking in on an old friend

    While the Yanks won a game last night in which Brian Bruney, Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins all pitched, Joe Torre’s Dodgers were not so lucky. As Scott Proctor’s Arm relates, the only member of the Dodger bullpen made his fourth appearance in seven games. Last night, he gave up four earned runs on two home runs and sports a nifty 9.82 ERA on the season. Some things never change. · (3) ·

  • Here comes the short stop debate

    With Jeter injured, the great Yankees short stop debate kicks back up again. We all know Derek Jeter isn’t the best fielding short stop around, but how should the Yanks replace him? Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports thinks that using A-Rod at short is so crazy it just might work. John Harper thinks that A-Rod, who has played just a few innings at short since 2003, should stay at third. I think using Morgan Ensberg at third and A-Rod at short isn’t the worst idea the Yanks have put forth recently. · (43) ·

The big news out of the Bronx tonight was not a resounding Yankee win for the first time this season. It was rather a strained left quad.

Yankee fans the world over held their breaths as Derek Jeter left the game on Monday night. Word out of Yankee camp is that Jeter is day-to-day but will not land on the DL. He could miss up to a week of baseball after removing himself from the game with a strained quad. One of the quad muscles is, by and large, the best leg muscle to strain because the three others that make up that muscle group can bear some of the load. It’s never good to suffer a leg muscle strain, but it sounds like Jeter will be slowed but not stopped by this injury.

But the bigger news as far as I’m concerned from tonight’s game was Mike Mussina and his approach toward pitching. Last week, I took Mussina to task for his pitching performance against the Blue Jays. While he kept the team in the game, I wrote, his apparent over-reliance on mid-80s fastballs was bound to get him into trouble in the future. Moose, long accustomed to throwing fastballs by hitters, would have to adjust to find success in the Major Leagues at age 39.

And adjust he did. Mussina threw six very effective innings against a good offensive team. He gave up two hits and one run on a mistake to Jonny Gomes. He walked just one hitter and struck out three while surviving a few defensive miscues behind him.

But more important than the results were the ways he went about getting those results. Last week, Mussina threw nearly 60 percent fastballs with the fastest topping out at about 86 and most staying within the 83-84 range. This week, of the 76 pitches Advanced Gameday logged, 29 of them — or 38 percent of them — were fastballs, and some of those had zip on them. Mussina hit 88 once and 87 a few times while largely staying between 84-86 mph.

He threw a whole bunch of breaking balls for strikes and 11 pitches under 70 miles per hour with some nasty break to them. The results, predictably, were outs.

For Mike Mussina to win games this year, he will have to duplicate this process in start after start. I don’t expect him to go out there every five days and give up just one run on two hits. But if Mussina stays away from his fastball and employs the slow, slower, slowest approach to getting outs, there’s no reason why he can’t keep the Yankees in the game. From a fifth starter, that’s all we want, and for one start so far, this old dog showed that he could still learn a few new tricks.

Categories : Game Stories
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Triple-A Scranton (9-2 loss to Louisville) check out which old pal batted cleanup for Louisville
Justin Christian: 1 for 4, 1 RBI – playing CF while Brett Gardner nurses a sore foot
Jason Lane: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – broke up Justin Lehr’s perfect game, no-hitter and shutout with a solo job in the 7th
Chad Moeller: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B
rest of lineup: combined 0 for 20, 5 K – Cody Ranson K’ed twice and committed a fielding error … Eric Duncan K’ed once … Nick Green K’ed twice
Jeff Marquez: 4 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 8-3 GB/FB – he threw 38 pitches in a 6 run first, although he wasn’t removed from the game … the Yanks have a weird rule about taking guys out of the game after “high stress” innings, which are innings that require more than 30 pitches … maybe they just wanted him to suck it up and learn to get by on a day when he doesn’t have his best stuff
Dan Giese: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Heath Phillips: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Read More→

Categories : Down on the Farm
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Morgan Ensberg sits on the bench each day after a successful Spring Training wondering what he has to do to get into the lineup. Meanwhile, with Giambi out of the lineup, Wilson Betemit gets another start at first.

Further down the line, with Mike Mussina on the mound, Jose Molina is behind the plate. That’s not a coincidence, but the corresponding move means that Jorge Posada will miss this game. If I’m putting this lineup together, I probably go with Ensberg at first today. In six games, he’s been up to bat just once this season.

On the hill is my favorite Yankee pitcher. Mike Mussina will attempt to blow his 84 mph fastballs past the Tampa Bay hitters. In all seriousness though, today’s start should be one in which we see how Mussina responds to his stuff. Last week, he had a slow fastball and some good breaking pitches. But he spent the game relying on his fastball when it’s not quite good enough to be an out-pitch anymore. Hopefully, Mussina will befuddle and confound the Rays’ hitters with an array of slow, slower, slowest that doesn’t involve 60 percent fastballs.

The Yanks face Jason Hammel today. Maybe Hammel is the cure for what ails them. Hammel, making his first start of the season, does not have much Major League success. Over 129 innings spanning two season, Hammel is 3-11 with a career ERA of 6.70. He’s given up 161 hits — 19 of those home runs — while walking 61 and striking out 96. Opponents are hitting .308/.381/.514 against Hammel, and the Yanks really should tee off against the Rays’ righty tonight.

Damon LF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Rodriguez 3B
Matsui DH
Cano 2B
Betemit 1B
Cabrera CF
Molina C

Mussina P

Iwamura 2B
Crawford LF
Pena 1B
Upton CF
Floyd DH
Hinske RF
Aybar 3B
DiFelice C
Bartlett SS

Hammel P

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (215)

We’ve all seen it: A beautiful day at the Stadium, not a cloud in the sky. The Yanks are winning, and all in attendance — save for the occasional Mets or Sox fan — are in a gleeful mood. And how do they express that glee? By standing up in unison with the rest of their section and throwing their hands in the air. Yes, I’m talking about the Wave. And yes, it is without question the dumbest ballpark tradition ever.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. The guys at Drunk Jays Fans — quite possibly the funniest team-specific baseball blog — have created their guide to doing the Wave. Their biggest tip on when to start the Wave:

Don’t try to start the wave in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings if the score is within three runs, or anytime that anything happening on the field is remotely interesting or could affect the final outcome, or in the middle of a feisty at-bat, or when the home team is at the plate and threatening to score, or if there are runners in scoring position, or basically ever.

Yeah, that about sums it up. I’d recommend your read the entire article, because it took me at least 10 minutes to decide which quote to pull. In fact, it’s so good that I’ve got to pull another:

OK, so maybe you’re trying to impress the girl you’re with. If this happens to be the case, try asking yourself, do I actually think that starting the wave is going to impress her? If yes, you might want to consider the possibility that she’s a retard, and that there are a whole lot better ways to go about impressing her, which won’t also happen to irritate the fuck out of the people sitting behind you. You should also consider the possibility that you are a retard. However, it is, in fact, most likely that you both are.

The Wave is one of many reasons I love sitting in the right field bleachers. Every time I’ve seen a Wave going at the Stadium, it’s stopped dead in right field. This is a good thing. Yeah, I understand some people have fun with it, but for many it’s nothing but a distraction from the game at hand.

While we’re on the topic of dumb traditions, can we please, for the love of poop, get rid of Cotton Eye Joe? Someone tell me that it’s going to be buried underneath the rubble of the old Stadium.

Categories : Rants
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  • Briefly revisiting Nick Johnson

    MLB Trade Rumors notes today that the Giants have expressed some interest in Nick Johnson. The Nats’ first baseman, working his way back from a year lost to injury, is hitting .368/.455/.688 in the early going, and Washington could look to offload his salary. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Yankees should be right there on the Nick Johnson talks if Washington is serious about trading the first baseman. He would the perfect fit. · (28) ·

Nothing incites passion in the world of Yankee blogs these days quite like Phil Hughes. Maybe it’s the hype; maybe it stems from the Santana trade that probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. But whatever the cause, when Phil Hughes comes up, passions run high.

On one side of the Great Phil Hughes Divide are sites like ours and Save Phil Hughes, to name a few. Carrying the torch for the anti-Phil Hughes crowd is of course this guy. Among the recent critiques of Phil Hughes has been a focus on his velocity. Hughes, once touted as a prospect with a mid-90s fastball, has sat consistently around 91-93 during his Yankee tenure. Mostly, to be fair, he’s sit around 91.

Apparently, it’s chic to be worried about a 21-year-old with pinpoint control and great breaking pitches who hasn’t yet in April flashed his top velocity. At the end of last week, a few baseball experts fielded the question should we be concerned with Phil Hughes’ velocity. For the most part, the consensus was no. Phil Hughes, the second youngest player in the Majors, is doing just fine, and it’s still just April. Plus, the belief that 21-year-olds won’t see an increase in strength and velocity over their next few years is simply not correct.

Today, a piece came out that has to be examined, and it’s time that we broke our silence on this whole Phil Hughes velocity thing. Mike Pagliarulo, the famed pitching coach who once said that Kei Igawa would be a serviceable Major League starter, has determined that Phil Hughes’ mechanics are out of whack. Pags writes:

What to do about Hughes? He needs to change his delivery, just as Roger Clemens did when he went from Boston to Toronto. Hughes’ mechanics are the weakest during pitching stages three and four, the time in which he takes the ball out of glove to when the ball leaves his hand. Two issues: First, he’s not getting full arm extension after taking the ball out of his glove – and this creates an inconsistent release point and, therefore, an inconsistent pitcher. Second, he’s leading with his head instead of staying back and throwing “around” his head – something that young, aggressive hitters can be guilty of…

You’ll notice that Hughes has been throwing his slider more often, despite the fact it’s just his fourth best pitch. Because of his mechanics, Hughes’ arm slot is lower than ideal and, thus, his slider is the only breaking pitch that he can command effectively. It’s the same reason you don’t see three quarter or side arm pitchers with good curveballs. It’s also why if you’re looking at Hughes behind home plate his curve ball is breaking at a 10 to 4 angle as opposed to its typical 12 to 6…

My guess is that if Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland is allowed to really work with him, Hughes will be on track by 2009 or 2010. Let’s not forget this kid should still be in AA Trenton.

Here’s the thing about Pags’ scouting report: It’s wrong. It’s coming from someone who doesn’t get along too well with the Yankee brass, and it’s designed to jab at the Yanks and their coaches.

Starting from the end, the idea that Phil Hughes should still be at AA Trenton is patently ridiculous. Two years ago at AA, Hughes blew through the league. Hitters were overmatched, and the Yanks rightly didn’t see any reason to keep him there.

Meanwhile, the idea that Hughes’ slider is his fourth best pitch also goes against prevailing Hughes wisdom. Hughes had a Major League slider when he was drafted out of high school, but the Yanks made him put it in his pocket to in an effort to develop his other pitches. It’s highly unlikely that he’s lost so much feel for the pitch that it’s now his fourth best offering.

As for the mechanical issues, what we see is a 21-year-old in his first start of the season reaching the low 90s with his fastball. We saw him hit the mid-90s in the warm weather during Spring Training, and we know what he was capable of in the Minors. At the Big League level, it’s only a matter of time and warm weather before Hughes is breaking out the speedier fastballs, and in the end, if the results are what they were last week against the Blue Jays, it doesn’t really matter. With stellar breaking pitches and a change up, those low- to mid-90s pitches will seem a lot faster.

Right now, a bunch of people rooting for the same team are arguing over minor points after watching a 21-year-old throw six innings during the 2008 regular season. Doesn’t this seem a bit overblown as well?

Categories : Analysis
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