Wednesday was an ugly, ugly day in the Bronx. Ticking timebomb Sidney Ponson lasted just four and two-thirds, surrendering four runs on seven hits and four walks, en route to an eventual blowout. Yes, Sir Sidney has had his share of quality starts for the Yanks, and it’s tough to overlook his contribution to the team in August. However, we knew what we were getting when we brough this guy in for the Mets doubleheader back in June. He has the potential to take your team right out of the game. When you having him pitching in front of a Yanks offense which has had trouble scoring runs, you’re leaving yourself prone to disaster.
Many question whether Sid should start Monday’s makeup game in Detroit. After all, the team is clinging to a root as they dangle off the cliff of contention. Why let Sidney go out there and face another meltdown? Many fans have moved on, and don’t really care one way or another who starts. The game could very well mean nothing, so starting Ponson wouldn’t be the worst idea. However, if the Yanks somehow run off three wins against the Jays this weekend, they might be inclined to make a push. To do that, they might have to sub out Ponson.
Lined up perfectly is none other than Phil Hughes. He hasn’t seen a major league mound since April, after going down with a rib injury that seemingly took far too long to heal. After a few quality starts in the minors, Hughes hit a hiccup for two starts in August. Chad Jennings talked to Chad Moeller regarding his start from last Friday:
He said Hughes’ curveball was missing by too much, he couldn’t throw his offspeed stuff for strikes, and he wasn’t commanding his fastball within the strikezone. Too many bad strikes over the middle of the plate, not enough on the edges. That’s what it looked like to me, but it’s always nice to get some sort of confirmation from within the clubhouse.
Hughes had all of the Bison hitters, included Victor Martinez, looking foolish against his 75 MPH curveball. Delivered with a 15+ MPH difference from his fastball and some serious drop, Hughes used this as his out pitch with two strikes. It is very similar in speed and movement to the curve that Clayton Kershaw throws over in LA. His fastball, which stayed consistant at around 92, has good movement. As advertised Hughes had great command, striking out 7 while only walking 1.
The best news is the curveball. If Hughes is going to succeed at the major league level, he’s going to need the curve. He’ll probably need the change and the slider, too, but having just a 92 mph fastball won’t cut it.
So do you bring up Hughes for Monday? It’s a no-cost move; rosters expand that day, so you don’t have to DFA or option someone. The other side of the coin is that it might be in the team’s best long-term interest to have him continue pitching in the AAA playoffs, and only bring him up afterward, and at that point only to increase his innings totals. At this point, given his two stinkers prior to this, I think one more start in the minors wouldn’t hurt. If the Yanks sweep and Boston gets swept this weekend, maybe we can revisit this conversation Sunday night.
Fact: Since 2005, when Brian Cashman supposedly “took control” of the Yankees, the team has gotten, record-wise, progressively worse.
Fact: The Yankees are witnessing a lot of money coming off the books in about two months. Jason Giambi‘s contract, minus an option, will be up. Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte will be free agents. Bobby Abreu will no longer be a ward of the Yankees. The list goes on, but the savings are quite alluring.
So where is this leading? Why, to a discussion, albeit a brief one, on Brian Cashman of course.
With this confluence of circumstances all arriving at the same time on September’s doorstep, the anti-Cashman voices will continue to make their cases. I’ll admit it; right now, these folks have some compelling arguments. The Yankees aren’t very good this year; they’re going to miss the playoffs for the first time since the first years of the Clinton Administration; and the kids — as Melky, Phil and Ian have shown — weren’t really all right.
There are, of course, other reasons for the Yanks’ disappointing season. They’ve been hamstrung by injuries. No one expected Phil Hughes to throw just 22 innings and then come down with an injury. Chien-Ming Wang‘s Lisfranc disaster has resulted in more Sidney Ponson outings than I ever hoped to see. Jorge Posada‘s shoulder problem has been more disastrous than anyone expected, and Hideki Matsui‘s aching knee cost the Yankees these years as well. Now with Joba — nearly the Yankee ace in July — has been MIA for a few weeks, that the Yanks are even as close as they are is a minor miracle.
So as the Yanks head into a stretch drive and a postseason with lots of alluring free agents and lots of money coming off the books, questions abound about the team. Do they keep following the youth movement? Probably. But, as Jayson Stark reported this week, the Yanks plan a full court press on Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and, if they don’t land Sabathia, Ben Sheets. They’re going to spend the money they have available to them.
When all is said and done, it comes back to Cashman. Is his autonomy on the wane? Should he even still be around? I’ve long said yes, and I’ll hold to that position. But the masses are growing restless, and the Yankees will again heading into November have the weight of the world on their shoulders as they look to rebuild and retool for a brand new stadium.
Spare us the pain and suffering. According to an MLB.com Press Release, everyone you wouldn’t want to see, with the exception of Dane Cook, in an MLB commercial will soon be on TV to remind us that “There’s only one October.” If there’s any consolation in the Yanks’ disappointed play this year, it will be avoiding these commercials if our team doesn’t make the playoffs. · (12) ·
Just a heads up, I’m going to hold another chat tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got some errands to run in the morning, but I figure we can get going around 2pm EST. I’ll post a reminder tomorrow with the definite time. Here’s the transcript from the last (and only other) chat we did.
Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Buffalo)
Justin Christian: 1 for 3
Melky: 1 for 4, 1 K – 6 for his last 21 (.286) after an 8 for 20 (.400) start in AAA
Matt Carson: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB – picked off second
rest of lineup: combined 0 for 19, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K – Juan Miranda K’ed three times … Shelley drew a walk & scored the run … Nick Green was hit by a pitch & committed a throwing error
Chase Wright: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 WP, 1 HB, 4-12 GB/FB – 67 of 99 pitches were strikes (67.7%) … that looks like a Dice-K-ian “he’s lucky he only gave up 3 runs” start
Steven Jackson: 0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 WP – only 4 of 12 pitches were strikes (33.3%) … just didn’t have it today
Billy Traber: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1-2 GB/FB
While the Yankees are set to open their new stadium against the Indians on April 16, the team is hoping to preview the stadium with a few exhibition games in early April or late March, according to Ed Price. This seems to be a classic case of “monkey see, monkey do” as the Mets announced a similar set-up earlier this week. No word yet on whom the Yanks plan to play, but you can bet those will be some hot tickets. · (7) ·
Unless the stars align and the Yankees and Red Sox both make the playoffs this year, this afternoon’s game between the two rival clubs marked the team’s last meeting in Yankee Stadium. As the Yankees did on Wednesday, April 18, 1923, when they opened the House that Ruth Built, New York emerged victorious over Boston for one final time in Yankee Stadium.
Today’s game, in a way, was a vital one not only for the Yankees but for Mike Mussina too. Moose won his 16th game of the year on August 27, and now he won’t win number 17 until at least September. He’s going to have to be nearly perfect to earn himself that elusive 20-win season.
Of course, it didn’t have to be like that today for Mussina, and for that, we again turn to everyone’s favorite punching bag. With two on and one out in the first, A-Rod struck out. With two on and one out in the sixth, A-Rod fouled out to Jason Varitek. Until the seventh, it just seemed, yet again, like one of those games.
But while Mussina would give up his two runs when he hit the Sox’s number eight batter, so too would the Yanks’ bottom of the order come back to haunt Boston. In the seventh, with two outs, Cody Ransom doubled. He’s now 3 for 4 in his short Yankee career. With Jose Molina due up and Hideki Okajima on the mound, Joe Girardi made the right move. While the lefty-lefty matchup didn’t favor the Yanks, Jason Giambi didn’t care, and he launched a ball into center field. Perhaps sitting Giambi against lefties all year hasn’t been the best strategy.
These runs offered the Yankee faithful a glimmer of hope, but in the 8th, when Girardi started to mix and match pitchers, Mussina lost his chance to walk away with a W. He’ll have to win four starts in September to get there.
In the 9th, the Red Sox seemed destined to tempt fate. With Jonathan Papelbon at the ready, they opted to stick with Justin Masterson instead. Masterson allowed a lead-off single to Xavier Nady, and while Robinson Cano failed to advance the runner, a Brett Gardner stolen base — he’s still alive! — pushed the winning run into scoring position. Hideki Matsui was intentionally walked; Pudge Rodriguez was unintentionally walked. And in came Papelbon.
Once again, the fate of the Yankees rested in Jason Giambi’s skilled hands, and he delivered a sharp single into center field. Jason Giambi 3, Boston Red Sox 2. Game over. Yankees win.
In the end, today’s win prevented the more pessimistic among us from driving another nail into the Yankee coffin. They’re six out of the Wild Card with 29 games to play, and they have to outplay both the Red Sox and whichever team doesn’t win the AL Central. They also need to avoid losing to the Blue Jays’ far superior pitchers this weekend.
But for a day, we can forget, to a point, about these travails. In the last meeting between two archrivals in Yankee Stadium, the home team — our home team — won a thrilling game with a walk-off single, and a first-ballot Hall of Fame pitcher — Mariano Rivera — earned the win. Playoffs or not, during a season in which the Yanks would almost rather have their fans forget about the impending demise of Yankee Stadium, during a season in which the team is sending their stadium off with a whimper instead of a roar, today’s storybook game was one for the ages.
Prior to the Yankees’ afternoon’s walk-off victory over the Red Sox, Joba Chamberlain threw 45 pitches off a mound, and if a batting practice session goes well, he hopes to return to the active roster in a week. The Yanks could really use Joba this season, but they more so need a healthy Joba beyond 2008. I’m sure the team knows what they’re doing with Joba and his valuable arm, but there’s a nagging part of me that would rather be ultra-safe than sorry. Meanwhile, I sure am glad I don’t have to face Joba during batting practice. · (55) ·
Jason Giambi sits today. It’s a lefty. We’re used to this. Thing is, this time it’s a deserved benching. He’s hitting .208/.306/.458 in August. Basically, his greatest trait, the ability to not make an out, isn’t working right now. He’s got some pop, but that’s just not enough.
Chad Jennings gives us a juicy scoop: Al Aceves has been called up. No word yet on the move to get him on the 40-man. I’m guessing they’ll option Robertson. The presumption is that he’ll take Rasner’s start on Saturday. Ras would then move to the bullpen. Hopefully, this is a precursor to Hughes taking Ponson’s start on Monday in Detroit.
The Yanks have placed Carl Pavano on waivers. No doubt he’ll clear. That would give Cash and Co. just a few days to find a trading partner. They’ll get nothing for him at the end of the year, so you might as well get something, anything for him while you can.
The lineup, trying to avoid a sweep:
And on the mound, number thirty-five, Mike Mussina.
Hank Steinbrenner, the outspoken half of the Yankees management team, stopped by the stadium last night to watch the Yanks lose badly to the Red Sox. After the game, he agreed with just about everyone watching in noting that the Yankees sucked. But before the game, he spoke with reporters and all but admitted that CC Sabathia would be the Yanks’ number one priority this off-season. There will be changes, he promised. Who knows what those will be, but it’s bound to make for an exciting off-season. · (65) ·
Lately, we’ve seen Yankees fans fall into two camps. Those who have “given up” on the season, and those who haven’t. I have a question on this front, asked directly in the title: how do fans give up on the season?
We’re not the ones playing the games. It’s not like the Yanks are powered by the number of people who think they’re still in the race. Only the players can give up. You might think that they have. You have no way of knowing, but you can assume, if that’s your bag.
I guess I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what it means for fans to give up. Does it mean you won’t go to any of the remaining games? If that’s the case, you can certainly make a few dollars for your tickets. I know a number of people who would like to see the final games at the Stadium, whether or not the Yanks are contending.
Does it means that you won’t watch on TV anymore? That’s the mark of a real baseball fan right there. Watch your team while they’re winning, stop when they’re out of it. There’s a name for that type of fan. Hootie & the Blowfish know what I’m talking about. If that’s your thing, go ahead.
Does it mean you’re abandoning any expectations? I’m not sure that makes a difference, at least for me. Whether I expect them to win or lose, I still get frustrated when the Yanks fail to score runs, and when their mediocre pitchers give up five runs in four innings. I can tell myself that it doesn’t matter, but lying never got me very far.
Does it mean declaring the season dead? What does that accomplish? What, is the New York Post smarter than everyone else because they put a picture of a tombstone on the back page in mid-August? Is a blogger smarter for saying it’s over, let’s pack it in? I think not. We’re fans. We’re here to watch the team. What fun is it to sulk? How can anyone stand to go through an entire season doing nothing but criticize the team, bitching all the while? That’s not why I watch baseball, at least.
I remember back in ’96, when I was a freshman in high school, everyone started wearing Yanks caps in October. A few friends and I complained about the bandwagon mentality. Well, maybe this is just the kind of purge we need. Get rid of the fans who don’t care enough to watch a season of baseball. Of course, if the Yanks start winning next year, they’ll be back just as if they never left. C’est la vie.
So, I reiterate the question. What does it mean for fans to throw in the towel? Is it symbolic? Do you think it makes you a smarter fan? I’ve always yearned for a crop of smart baseball fans, with whom I could discuss the game with at a reasonable level. I have that with RAB. But if being a smart fan means bitching that the season is over, well, then maybe I got what I wished for — it’s just not what I had in mind.