Four starts into the season, things were not looking up for Mike Mussina. The 39-year-old, coming off his worst professional season in 2007, began the year 1-3, and after a three-inning shellacking at the hands of Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox, his ERA stood at 5.75. On April 23, Hank Steinbrenner publicly slammed Mooes.
Well, since then, it’s been an entirely different story. With his eight shut-out innings this afternoon, Mike Mussina improved to 12-3 over his last 17 starts. He’s thrown 101 innings and has an ERA of 2.76 over that stretch. He has struck out 74 while walking just 13, none since his July 5 start against the Red Sox. He’s not giving up free passes; he’s pitching well with runners on base; and much like Old Man River, he just keeps rolling along.
For Mussina, today’s game was something of a milestone. He’s reached 13 wins in 21 starts, and he figures to have another 12 or 13 starts this season. Can he win seven more of those to reach 20 wins for the first time in his career? I’m pulling for him.
The Yanks, meanwhile, had their typical offensive game. Robinson Cano picked up his usual two hits; A-Rod picked up his usual two RBIs. After Glen Perkins stifled the offensive for the first four innings, mental errors doomed the Twins in the 5th, and the Yanks plated three more in the 6th.
While LaTroy Hawkins had to be lifted for Mariano Rivera with two outs in the ninth, the Yanks held on for a 5-1 win. They’ve won six straight since the All Star Break and ten in a row at home. While Tampa overcame a 2-0 deficit to top the A’s and the Mariners and Red Sox are facing off as I write, the Yankees are now in sole possession of second place in the Wild Card. This weekend, needless to say, is huge, and Joba will face Josh Beckett in a marquee match-up on Friday night. Who could ask for anything more?
Open Thread Rumors: With no game this evening, feel free to use this thread for a general baseball discussion. We’ve got rumors and news galore:
- While Jorge Posada is not quite ready to go under the knife, his days behind the plate this season are over. Ergo, according to RoboKen, the Yankees are looking for a catcher. I think the Molina/Moeller tandem can do well enough behind the dish, and the rest of the lineup should cover the offense. Go pitching, I say.
- Rumors are floating around the the Rockies are eying Humberto Sanchez as a possible piece to a Brian Fuentes trade. I’m still firmly in the “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp here. The bullpen has been outstanding and shows no signs of slipping. They don’t need a lefty if everyone else is getting outs, and trading a chip for unnecessary piece isn’t a smart baseball move.
- Manny being Manny. Perhaps he hurt that knee while jaywalking.
- Melky got a talking-to after his mental error leading off the game yesterday. Oops.
Mike will hit you up with DotF later, and if news breaks, we’ll have something. Otherwise, play nice.
Nothing makes a young fan feel old quite like Old Timers’ Day. In the past, Old Timers’ had long been the purview of players I never knew growing up. Sure, Don Mattingly’s made a few token appearances, but not until last year when Paul O’Neill and Scott Brosius show up did Old Timers’ Day really hit home. This year, it’s going to be even worse. The Yanks yesterday announced the cast of characters for the Old Timers’ Day set for Saturday, August 2.
On that list are a bunch of guys making their first appearances whom I grew up watching: Tino Martinez, Pat Kelly, Jimmy Key, Graeme Lloyd, Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson, Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson, Tony Fernandez and Buck Showalter. Kevin Maas, Wade Boggs, Steve Balboni and Jesse Barfield are set to make appearances as well. If these guys are Old Timers, well, that’s just a reflections on the whims of age in baseball. · (38) ·
The Yankees are hot hot hot, winners of all five games since coming back from the All-Star Break. They’ve won in blowouts, nail biters, extra inning marathons, you name it. Nine games back in the division as recently as July 6th, the Yanks have cut that deficit down to just 3.5 thanks to timely hitting, a lights out bullpen, and a well-timed slump by the Rays.
On the mound today is the AL’s second winningest pitcher, Mike Mussina. Picking up a win before heading up to the land of pizza throwers (with an off-day in between) would be pretty rad. Standing in their way is young southpaw Glen Perkins, a command-and-control lefty that tends to give up oodles of hits without many strikeouts. Dick Lock Sexy, this is why you’re in pinstripes brother.
Remember, off days are only fun when you go in with a six-game win streak.
As rumors continue to mount about a Jarrod Washburn-to-the-Yanks deal, a few developments late last night have me thinking that this won’t be a quick or easy deal. In fact, these sticking points could portend the collapse of a deal with a team notable for its unwillingness to trade. Ken Rosenthal reports that Washburn’s limited no-trade clause may complicate things. Jarrod could veto a deal to the Yanks, according to Rosenthal’s sources, and while one way to placate the lefty would be more cash, the Yanks aren’t going to be too willing to kick more money into Washburn after they pick up his hefty contract.
Meanwhile, Jon Heyman reports that the Mariners may want the Yankees to take Jose Vidro too. Vidro would be dead weight on the Yanks, and his contract complicates these talks as well. Of course, right now, this is all just rumor and conjecture from unnamed sources, but it goes a long way toward illustrated why we as a fanbase shouldn’t put too much stock into these various reports. The Yanks may be kicking the tires on Washburn, but it takes a lot more that interest to seal a deal when millions of dollars are at stake. · (65) ·
So what’s the more remarkable accomplishment here? Kyle Farnsworth hasn’t allowed a hit in 28 batters. Robinson Cano is hitting .522 since the All Star break. The Yankees are 3.5 games out of first for the first time since May 14.
What a run these last few days have been. Since the All Star break, the Yankees are 5-0, and they’re rapidly gaining ground in the AL East. They’ve outscored their opponents by a combined total of 33-11, and just four teams have better records than they do in the American League. Ain’t baseball grand?
Tonight, the story was Darrell Rasner. On a night when Al Aceves, throwing on a limited pitch count, pitched well enough in AAA, Rasner saved his rotation spot for a few more outings. While he didn’t draw the win — that honor was reserved for David Robertson — Rasner went 5.2 innings and kept the Yanks in the game. He gave up four hits and a few too many walks (4), but with the help of two double plays, he held the Twins to two runs. As the Yanks’ fifth starter, Rasner delivered, and with a win, we couldn’t really ask for anything more.
Once Rasner left, the bats — largely slowed for five innings by Kevin Slowey — took over. Bobby Abreu put the Yanks up for good with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth. Robinson Cano delivered another pair of hits and two RBIs while Jeter drove in two and A-Rod picked up a few more hits. When the dust settled, the Yanks walked away with this one by the tune of 8-2. With a Tampa loss, all was right in Yankeeland.
While Rasner held his own to start the game, the bullpen once again threw lights out baseball. Four relievers combined for 3.1 innings of one-hit ball. Robertson, Jose Veras, Farnsworth and Dan Giese struck out five, walked one and slammed the door on the Twins. Since the break — a familiar phrase during this recent hot streak — the bullpen has thrown 16.2 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits and five walks while striking out 25. At some point the pen will falter, but Brian Cashman‘s plan is clearly working at the back-end of games. I hate to say it, but I no longer cower in fear when the starters are removed the Yanks’ ace corps of relievers take over.
The Yanks face the Twins tomorrow, and Mike — our good luck charm — will have the game thread. The Bombers are going for a sweep and a perfect home stand to start the second half. Mike Mussina will take the mound, and standing in the Yankees’ way will be Glen Perkins, a tough lefty.
But, hey, these are the Yankees. They’re just getting started, and we should all be glad they didn’t torpedo the team earlier this year when things were looking bleak. Baseball is a marathon; the second leg is only just under way.
Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Richmond)
Cody Ransom: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – 3 straight games with a jack
Chris Stewart: 3 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 E (throwing)
Greg Porter: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
rest of lineup: combined 0 for 17, 1 R, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HBP – Eric Duncan drew a walk & was hit by a pitch
Al Aceves: 3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K – 43 of 65 pitches were strikes (66.2%) … taken out after strugging through the 2nd and 3rd innings
Steven White: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 8-1 GB/FB – 17 of 34 pitches were strikes (50%)
JB Cox: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K
Brian Bruney: 1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K – schedule to pitch tomorrow night as well
Scott Strickland: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
It’s hasn’t been pretty and it certainly hasn’t been textbook, but the Yanks have managed to trim a full three games off the division and Wildcard deficit since the All-Star Break. As the season hits the century mark in terms of games played, take solace in the fact that only five teams in the AL have a better winning percentage than the Yanks. By the end of the night that number could be down to just four.
The Twinkies managed to push a run across in the 9th inning last night, so this is another test for Joe’s yet to be unproven theory that if a team is being blown out and they score in the final innings, they’ll carry that momentum into the next game for a win. Tonight would be a great night to disprove that theory.
Kevin Slowey’s been pounded his last two starts, but that means diddly squat tonight. Yes, I just said diddly squat.
1. Damon, DH – so much for that 0-fer I was talking about yesterday
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Cano, 2B
7. Cabrera, CF
8. Moeller, C
9. Gardner, LF
And on the mound, Darrell “From Waiver Claim to Yankee Fame” Rasner.
Notes: Rasner is 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA when Moeller catches him, 2-5 with a 6.87 ERA when anyone else is behind the dish … Dan Giese has pitched one inning in the last 19 days … Triple-A reliever Steven White is missing … Melky Cabrera has a 70 OPS+ this month, his second highest monthly mark behind April (135)
Jeremy Olshan and Rebecca Rosenberg, two of the New York Post’s more reliable reporters, penned an interesting story on Yankee Stadium security that showed up in Alexander Hamilton’s former newspaper this morning. The Yankees, in light of the recent heat wave and sun advisories, have taken to confiscating sunscreen containers from fans claiming these bottles pose a terrorist threat to Yankee Stadium.
Guards had advised patrons to apply sunscreen outside and then hand over the bottles. Inside the stadium, fans can get a one-ounce bottle of SPF 15 sunscreen for a whopping $5. With dermatologists calling out the Yankees and the Post noting the hypocrisy of the team in light of MLB’s Play Sun Smart anti-skin cancer initiative, the team has since caved to common sense and will now allow sunscreen into the stadium.
In light of the inherent absurdity of the situation — Sunscreen as a terrorist weapon? Really? — and the obvious commercial benefit that the Yankees enjoy by forcing their fans to buy sunscreen at a mark-up of nearly 100 percent, the Yankees come out of this dust-up looking pretty chintzy. They were confiscating sunblock at a time when people need the most and providing an inferior product at a higher price inside. While scientists made be debating the effectiveness of these sunblocks, we still the skin protection.
Never before had sunblock been an issue, and it just shouldn’t have happened at Yankee Stadium. We can take in water; we can take in sunblock. We’re baseball fans, not prisoners, and whichever official signed off on this decision should bear the brunt this bad publicity.
* * *
In a similar vein, today’s story reminded me of something that happened to me recently at Yankee Stadium. Last week at the Home Run Derby, I picked up a few clear plastic bags for my stuff. I always double-bag them at Yankee Stadium because the free bags they hand out are rather cheap and flimsy.
When I returned to the Stadium the next night for the All Star Game, the security guard looked at my bag — my supposedly clear plastic bags from the night before — and told me I had to take my stuff out of those bags and put it into clear plastic bags. These bags, sort of gray and not very transparent, weren’t clear enough for her. I told her, “These are your clear plastic bags I got here last night.” Her reply: “Oh. That’s not so good.”
I had a second bag with me that had some water in it. That bag was a perfectly transparent bag from the Fan Fest – the DHL All Star Fan Fest. The security guards made me take my stuff out of that bag and put it into some of the less clear plastic bags. Lesson: Plastic bags distributed by Yankee Stadium security are not clear enough for those very same security guards one night later.
Trust me: I understand that we live an age in which we have to be careful. I’ve lived in New York City my entire life, and I, like everyone else, has felt the emotional impact of a terrorist attack. But at some point, we have to draw the line between absurd security measures and practical responses to real threats.
It’s bad enough that the Yanks don’t allow fans to bring in tote bags or small backpacks, but when security guards start questioning the validity of the clear plastic bags, perhaps it’s time to start rethinking the security measures. When tubes of sunblock on overwhelmingly sunny days become security threats (or is that a business threat?), perhaps a level head should step in and assess the situation. Are the Yankees really this absurd?
Last night, Jarrod Washburn faced the Boston Red Sox. He didn’t beat them, but he kept them in check for 5.2 innings. Today, Washburn finds himself the subject of some Buster Olney-inspired trade rumors. The Seattle lefty, owed $13.6 million before the end of 2009, could be a good fit for the Yankees, and according to the ESPN scribe, a possible trade would involve Kei Igawa, a secondary prospect and large sums of money heading from New York to the northwest. While, according to the Seattle Times, the Yanks — and anyone with any baseball sense — would prefer A.J. Burnett, Washburn wouldn’t be a bad choice. He’s a lefty with success in Yankee Stadium and a 2.65 ERA over his last 51 innings. This is, of course, just a rumor, but it’s an intriguing one nonetheless. · (114) ·
Maybe a few more Yankees should think about signing with hot-shot talent agencies. A few hours after word got out that A-Rod had inked a deal with the powerful William Morris Agency, the Yanks’ third baseman kicked off a 12-run rout of the Twins with a two-run home run in the first.
Word of the deal first broke in the Wall Street Journal last night. Matthew Futterman’s article, available here only for WSJ subscribers, talks about A-Rod’s decision to sign up yet another management company:
The decision reflects the growing importance of Hollywood in athletes’ attempts to turn themselves into enduring brand names that can attract corporate sponsorships in addition to their big-ticket employment contracts. Major agencies, meanwhile, see star athletes as a growth niche. As TV ratings dwindle and movie box-office stagnates, sports-rights fees and the value of sports teams are growing. The marketing prowess of golfer Tiger Woods has become the envy of celebrity handlers…
For Mr. Rodriguez, the move marks the latest turn in his relationship with Scott Boras, one of baseball’s most successful and controversial agents. It was Mr. Boras’s decision to announce during last year’s World Series that Mr. Rodriguez would opt out of his contract with the Yankees. That move dented the future Hall of Famer’s reputation and forced him to pursue a new deal directly with Yankees brass.
Mr. Boras, who has represented Mr. Rodriguez throughout his career, said he will continue to represent the slugger in any baseball-related negotiations. “I do Alex’s baseball work,” Mr. Boras said Monday. Now, with what is likely the final contract of his sports career complete, Mr. Rodriguez is turning to William Morris to burnish his image as an athlete with appeal beyond his sport.
Right now, while A-Rod is one of the highest paid players in any sport with a guaranteed contract of at least $275 million over the next ten years, he lags in endorsement deals. According to Bloomberg News, A-Rod earns just $6 million a year in endorsements, putting him 20th on a recent Sports Illustrated list of top-grossing athletes by endorsements.
The agency, with offices in New York, LA, Nashville and London, will look to expand the reach of the A-Rod image, and the Yanks’ slugger, destined for the Hall one day, will also see his earnings reach new heights. It’s just another day in As The A-Rod Turns.