Open Thread: Do I hear eight?

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Yes, yes I do hear eight. Eight wins in a row is a new season high, and all it took was a little Marcus Thames elbow grease to make it happen. The Yanks are now a whopping 36 games over .500 with a +187 run differential, both representing the best marks in the game. I approve.

Here’s tonight’s open thread. Depending on where you live, you’ll get either the White Sox-Red Sox or Braves-Marlins on MLB Network, plus there’s more college football than I care to recap on as well. With a little help from the ChiSox, the magic number will creep down to 17 tonight. That would be a productive Saturday. You guys know what to do, so have at it.

Marte may be headed for shoulder surgery

The Yankees have been without the services of Damaso Marte since before the All Star break because of a sore throwing shoulder, and now it sounds like the lefthander might be headed for the surgeon’s table. He felt some discomfort when he tried to throw in Chicago last weekend, but it’s unclear what the extent of the surgery would be. Perhaps it’ll just be a routine clean up instead of a full blown reconstruction. Either way, it doesn’t sound like the Yanks will get their second lefty back for the playoffs, which is a shame because he really crushed lefthanded batters this year (.146/.200/.268 against).

Shoulder surgery is never a good thing, but we’ll always have the 2009 playoffs, Damaso.

On the verge of a sale, Tampa Yanks could move to Orlando

The New York Yankees are in talks to sell part of the Single A Tampa Yankees to an Orlando businessman. If the partnership deal goes through, the Yanks’ representative in the Florida State League would likely move to Florida, but the big league club will continue to use Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for its Spring Training home.

At a press conference Wednesday, Orlando businessman Armando Gutierrez Jr. and the Yanks confirmed days of speculation about the potential sale. Gutierrez expressed his desire to bring the Tampa Yankees to the Orlando area but stressed that his deal covers just the minor league team. “You’re not losing spring training. That would be my comment to Tampa,” Gutierrez said.

The Yankees in a statement echoed Gutierrez. “These exploratory conversations will have no impact on the Yankees’ Spring Training facility or the Major League team,” the team said.

In the world of Central Florida, Gutierrez is an intriguing figure. He’s 28 and the son of a wealthy Cuban-American scion. He had been running for Congress as a Republican to fill a vacant House seat but recently dropped that bid to pursue this baseball opportunity. Earlier this year, he spoke at length about bringing a Major League franchise to Orlando, but it seems as though he’s willing to settle for a Class A team instead. “You have a chance to see an 18- or 19-year-old Derek Jeter before he becomes a Hall of Famer,” Gutierrez said of the Minor League affiliate.

Despite this public proclamation, though, a move is no sure thing. The biggest hurdle would, of course, be a stadium deal. “Until we secure a site, there’s still a chance that this could not happen,” Gutierrez said. “But if the county works with us to get us a site, we will make this happen.”

The Orlando Mayor Rich Crotty said a press conference earlier this week that the county has available approximately 12-15 acres of a 29-acre site that could be used for the stadium, but talks for that land are in the very early stages. The land may also be taken over as part of Florida’s ambitious high-speed rail plans, leaving Gutierrez left empty-handed. “I’m not going to go at this in a helter-skelter way,” Crotty said. “As usual, we’ll exercise a lot of due diligence. We’ll make sure that the taxpayers are well-protected and that if we do participate with a land donation in terms of a lease, there will be a return on investment to our citizens in terms of sales-tax collections and so on.”

Even with the land in hand, Gutierrez would have to foor the bill for construction costs. Orlando isn’t going to build a stadium with taxpayer money, and Gutierrez vaguely said he had “multiple options” when it came to carrying the stadium costs. No deal, in other words, is imminent.

Before any potential deal is completed, Gutierrez and the Yanks would have to secure approval from numerous bodies within baseball. The Florida State League and its clubs, Minor League Baseball and Bud Selig’s office all must weigh in on the deal. These hurdles, however, are generally considered nothing more than a formality. The other complicated pieces have to fall into place well before either side grows too concerned with Major League Baseball approval.

Interestingly, this move appears to be the first major one taken by the Steinbrenner family in the wake of George’s death. The team hasn’t said too much about any potential sale, and Hank, Hal, Jessica and Jennifer have been largely silent. They sent Felix Lopez, a team vice president and Jessica’s husband, to the press conference. Still, it appears as though the family may look to consolidate its holdings and focus on the Big League club. One day, they might look to sell the Yankees, but for now, only the Tampa franchise is on the block.

Game 136: Can they make it eight?

Another chance for Javy. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

It’s very easy to get greedy in baseball. A player gets a hit in his first at-bat? How about he makes it 2-for-2 next time up. The bullpen has thrown ten scoreless innings over the last three games? Why not make it 11. The Yankees have won seven straight games? Let’s make it eight. It’s much easier said than done, but the Yankees have a chance to win that eighth straight game this afternoon, which would be their longest winning streak since coming out of last season’s All Star break with eight straight.

Making his long-awaited return to the starting rotation (depending on who you ask) is Javy Vazquez, who allowed four hits and struck out eight in nine innings of long relief since his last start. Hopefully some rumored mechanical tweaks have helped him rediscover his stuff and a fastball that seems to have disappeared without explanation. It is a classic trap game for Javy though, because if the Yanks lose he’ll get the blame even though it’s extremely difficult to win eight in a row in this league. Dustin Moseley, who forfeited his rotation spot to Vazquez, is available out of the bullpen.

The Yankees had a seven game winning streak halted by the Blue Jays on this exact date last season, but the good news is that Roy Halladay won’t be around to one hit them this time around. Here’s the starting nine, which originally featured Nick Swisher. He was a late scratch when his sore left knee stiffened up during pre-game warm ups.

Gardner, LF
Jeter, SS
Teixeira, 1B
Cano, 2B
Thames, RF – yikes, I assume Austin Kearns hand is still bothering him from yesterday’s hit by pitch
Berkman, DH
Granderson, CF
Nunez, 3B
Cervelli, C

And on the bump, it’s Javy Vazquez.

Yet another day game, though that’s not terribly odd on a Saturday. It’s those Friday afternoon games that get you. This one is scheduled to start a little after 1pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Pettitte, A-Rod come through simulated game with flying colors

Via Marc Carig and Ben Shpigel, both Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez came through today’s simulated game very well and with no setbacks, injury or otherwise. Pettitte threw 50 pitches to Alex and Greg Golson, presumably at max effort. Joe Girardi said he was very pleased with how his two stars did today, and that decisions on the next course of action will be made tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the first day A-Rod is eligible to come off the disabled list, but Pettitte surely needs a minor league rehab start, maybe two. Those will have to come during the playoffs, since the minor league season ends on Monday. I’m sure those kids will appreciate the help.

If not the Yankees, where could Jeter end up?

With Derek Jeter a free agent after the season and speculation of his demands running amok, I decided to take a look at where Jeter might fit if for some reason he ended up leaving the Yankees (but it ain’t happening).  Without getting too specific into contract details, how many teams out there would pursue Jeter in the offseason?

Arizona Diamondbacks

Stephen Drew, like his brother J.D. is somewhat of an enigma, but is a solid player whom the D-Backs would only replace if he became too expensive in arbitration.  No matter what, Jeter would be much more expensive, so the Diamondbacks are out.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves spend when they need to (see Derek Lowe and the offer to Burnett).  After trading Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez they will have a question mark at SS for next year.  They very easily could pick up Gonzalez’ $2.5 million team option for next year but without a SS of the future on the horizon they could be a fit for Jeter.

Baltimore Orioles

I’ve heard for years that Peter Angelos loves to make a splash, but the water in Baltimore has been calm for years.  While Jeter would certainly be a splash, the odds of him staying in the AL East to go play for the Orioles are miniscule.  The Orioles might be interested but Jeter won’t be.

Boston Red Sox

People think the Sox would love to stick it to the Yankees and sign Jeter but it’s not Theo’s M.O.  He would have to pay a ton of money to get Jeter, and already has a shortstop that’s having a similar season in Marco Scutaro. Scutaro is signed thru 2011 with options for 2012.  By then the Sox expect international free agent signee Jose Iglesias to take over and wouldn’t seem to have a place for, or the desire to pay Jeter.

Chicago Cubs

With Starlin Castro around the Cubs are definitely not a fit.

Chicago White Sox

Kenny Williams loves his veterans but the other Sox don’t make much sense either.  Alexei Ramirez is young, cheap, and despite his flaws, a good player who has a 3.1 bWAR and 3.5 fWAR this season.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have been a surprise team this year despite a horrendous year from Orlando Cabrera.  He has a mutual option for next season so he may be back.  If the Reds are looking to upgrade and build on this year’s success, it’s possible they would take a shot at Jeter (and I don’t mean that as “taking a shot at Jeter”).

Cleveland Indians

After a breakout 2009 Asdrubal Cabrera has struggled with injuries and the bat this year, but isn’t going anywhere, and besides, Jeter would have no interest in joining the Indians at the end of his career.  He’s not at Jake Taylor status quite yet.

Colorado Rockies

Troy Tulowitzki.  Next.

Detroit Tigers

Jeter grew up in Michigan and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch loves to open up the wallet, which will be even easier with Magglio Ordonez coming off the books.  The Tigers have had a black hole at SS all season so would have no problems fitting Jeter right in.  While Detroit is certainly not New York, the Tigers, to me, would be the biggest threat if Jeter ever is truly on the market.  Things line up quite nicely for both Jeter and the Tigers.

Florida Marlins

Even if they didn’t have Hanley they would never pony up the money.

Houston Astros

Shades of Pettitte and Clemens heading off to Houston?  With Tommy Manzella and his .523 OPS holding down the fort at SS, the Astros certainly have a need, but there would be no reason for Jeter to consider heading to such a poor franchise.

Kansas City Royals

Maybe if Jeter was a first baseman with pop and no on-base skills the Royals might be interested.  He’s not, but even if the Royals wanted Jeter, I’m sure the interest wouldn’t be mutual.  Besides Yuniesky Betancourt has a higher bWAR than Jeter this year anyway (I checked 5 times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating).

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Artie Moreno isn’t afraid to open up the checkbook but the Angels really like Erick Aybar.  He’s having a down year with the bat but is regarded as a very strong fielder (despite a slightly negative UZR this year).  I could see Jeter having some interest in the Angels, but I don’t think the Angels would have interest in Jeter.

Los Angeles Dodgers

If Mr. Torre wasn’t heading out the door this one might have a stronger chance.  While Jeter may respect Don Mattingly from his time in pinstripes, I think Torre would truly have been a draw to L.A.  With the McCourts’ messy divorce changing the budget daily, it’s tough to say whether they would be in on Jeter if he became available.  Even if the interest was mutual, the Dodgers already have Rafael Furcal locked into 2011 with and option for 2012 that vests with 600 PA’s (no sure thing for Furcal these days).  While on the surface it seems like a fit, I don’t see any way it would happen.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers are set with Alcides Escobar and there’s no way Jeter would head off to Milwaukee to finish his career.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins have been on a spending spree the past few years but this wouldn’t happen.  JJ Hardy is under team control through 2011, and while he’s not that good, the extra cost of Jeter would be too rich for the Twins’ blood.  I also doubt Jeter would have much interest in going to Minny and playing second fiddle (in a small market no less).

New York Mets

Because it makes no sense you can’t rule out Omar Minaya (if still employed) being interested in Jeter.  Jose Reyes hasn’t been great this year but has likely played well enough to have his 2011 $11 million team option picked up.  It makes a lot more sense to have Reyes at 1 year/$11 million than whatever Jeter would cost.  Again, the odds are slim, but the Mets just might be dumb enough to try and sign Jeter to make a splash, more than to help them on the field.

Oakland Athletics

Jeter isn’t a fit here.  Cliff Pennington is cheap, not an automatic out with the bat and strong defensively.  He’s been worth 2.9 bWAR and 2.7 fWAR this year for $405k.  No reason to change it up here.

Philadelphia Phillies

No reason to mess with “the greatest infield of all time” in Philly.  Well, of course it’s no the greatest of all time, but with Jimmy Rollins locked up for 2011 Jeter doesn’t fit.

Pittsburgh Pirates

I think Jeter would rather stay in New York for the minimum than sign with the Pirates.

San Diego Padres

Jed Hoyer learned under Theo, and like Theo I don’t think he would have any interest in Jeter at the market rate.  While the Padres don’t have anything set in stone at the position for 2011 it doesn’t seem to be a fit for either side.  San Diego is nice, but I don’t see Jeter wanting to chase 3000+ hits in Petco.

San Francisco Giants

Juan Uribe has been ok this year in San Fran but is a free agent after the season.  He’s certainly a possibility to return, but the Giants have been willing to open up the checkbook.  Brian Sabean usually brings in position players when they are past their primes, so Jeter could be a fit by the Bay.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners this offseason prided themselves on defense, and while it hasn’t quite worked as hoped, I doubt they would want to sign a SS to a multi-year deal heading into his age 37 season.  Considering how poor their offense has been though, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities to sacrifice some defense at SS.  They do have Jack Wilson signed at $5 million for 2011, and would have to eat most of that if they wanted to move him.  Adding close to $5 million to Jeter’s pricetag doesn’t seem very likely though.

St. Louis Cardinals

On the field the Cardinals could be a fit as Brendan Ryan has been awful in 2010.  Opening the wallet for Jeter is a problem however. After blowing away the market overpaying for Matt Holliday and with upcoming contract negotiations for Albert Pujols, the Cardinals will be watching every penny.  Throwing $10-$15 million/year at a 37 year old shortstop isn’t likely to happen.  The Cardinals will likely just hope Ryan can return to his 2009 form, which produced 2.7fWAR and 3.4 bWAR.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays certainly aren’t a fit financially and despite Jason Bartlett’s fall from his great 2009 they are fine with him going forward.  Bartlett could go if he becomes too expensive in arbitration, but the Rays wouldn’t replace him with someone more expensive anyway, so Jeter’s a no go here.

Texas Rangers

I’d say the Rangers are plenty happy with Elvis Andrus, so no room for Jeter.

Toronto Blue Jays

Not a fit here as the Jays will likely let Yunel Escobar hold down the fort until Cuban signee Adeiny Hechavarria is ready.

Washington Natinals Nationals

The Nationals are set at SS with young and cheap Ian Desmond who has produced 1.5 bWAR and 1.5 fWAR for $400k this year.  He’s not going anywhere.

So there we have it.  Of the other 29 teams in baseball I only see one team that makes a ton of sense for Jeter (the Tigers) and a few others that might be a fit (Braves, Reds, Mets, Giants, Mariners).  While the last thing I want to happen is for the negotiations to get publicly contentious, I definitely think the Yankees have the upper hand when it comes to leverage.  No matter what, I can see almost no scenario in which Jeter isn’t back in the pinstripes next year.

Gardner, Granderson, bullpen back Nova as Yanks win their seventh in a row

The Yankees came into Friday’s game riding a six game winning streak that helped push their lead in the AL East from zero games to a game-and-a-half, but the odds of extending the streak weren’t very good with the Blue Jays coming into town. Toronto has played the Yanks hard this year (they’d won seven of the dozen meetings before this game) and were sending Brandon Morrow to the mound, who just worked the Yanks over for six innings less than two weeks ago. Thankfully, Morrow, making his final start of the season due to innings limitations, was off his game, and the boys from the Bronx were able to extend their streak to a season high tying seven games.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Biggest Hit: Granderson Extends The Lead

Travis Snider gave the Jays a quick one-zip lead in the first inning with a solo homer, but the Yanks battled back and plated a pair in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. Not content with a one run lead, they came to the plate the next inning and immediately went to work. Austin Kearns led off with a hit by pitch (more on that later) and made it to second on an Eduardo Nunez fielder’s choice, then leadoff man du jour Brett Gardner drew his second walk in as many innings to put runners at first and second with the lone out.

Curtis Granderson, coming off yesterday’s two homer game, stepped in with a chance to keep the line moving and get the Yanks headed in the right direction. Morrow started him off with a pair of fastballs that went for a ball and a foul tip, but his third offering was a curveball that tumbled into the zone rather than dove out of it, and the Yankee centerfielder pulled it down the first base line and into right field. Kearns scored easily, but Gardner gets major kudos for hustling and scoring from first on a ball that didn’t even go into the corner. Jose Bautista fielded it on a ricochet off the sidewall about halfway between the infield and warning track. Gardy just straight up outran the play, giving the Yanks a much more comfortable 4-1 lead.

Brett had a little uniform malfunction today. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Honorable Mention: Tex Does It Again

An inning before Granderson blew things open, the molten hot Mark Teixeira got the Yanks right back in the game with a run scoring double that knotted things up at one. It looked gone off the bat, but the wind was pretty vicious during the game because of Hurricane Earl, blowing numerous balls back towards the infield. Pop-ups were an adventure all afternoon, infield or out. Tex came into the game 9-for-13 (.692) with two doubles, two homers, two walks and one strikeout on the hometand, so he picked up right where he left off. This guy man … he’s just a baseball playing robot.

Biggest Out: Robertson Escapes The Jam

Joe Girardi‘s bullpen has come together quite nicely over the last two months or so, and the addition of Kerry Wood at the trade deadline only made things better. David Robertson assumed the eighth inning role from Joba Chamberlain for a few weeks, but on Friday he entered the game with a man on first and one out in the sixth inning.

Robertson dropped a pair of curveballs on John McDonald, who hit a routine grounder to short that should have been an inning ending 6-4-3 double play, but Robbie Cano threw a palmball on the relay to first and pulled Tex off the ball. D-Rob did his job, got the double play grounder, but sometimes the unexpected happens in baseball. He followed up the non-GIDP ball with a six pitch walk to his former teammate Jose Molina, a move that put the tying run on base and the go-ahead run at the plate.

Thankfully, Robertson was able to right himself and managed to strike out Mike McCoy by getting him to swing through a pair of 91 mph fastballs on the outer corner for strikes two and three. McCoy, a 29-year-old journeyman with a .094 ISO in the minors, wasn’t likely to give Toronto the lead with one swing of the bat, but if he had reached base the Yanks were suddenly looking at a bases loaded situation for Snider, would had already gone deep earlier. It was by far the biggest out of the game, increasing New York’s chances of winning by close to nine percent.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Ivan Nova had to battle in this one, it certainly didn’t come as easy as it appeared to in his previous two starts. It seemed like he was unable to throw either his curve or changeup for strikes consistently, which is probably why he struck out zero batters in his four-and-two-thirds innings of work. He did get nine outs on the ground compared to just four in the air, but Girardi yanked him with the tying run on base with two outs after just 76 pitches, and Nova was visibly disappointed. Maybe not at Joe for taking him out so early, but at himself for failing to go any deeper in the game. The Jays really worked him hard, so I wasn’t upset with the early hook. Team wins are far more important than individual wins at this point.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The bullpen, as usual, was fantastic. Boone Logan came in and cleaned up Nova’s mess. He gave way to Robertson who did his thing. Wood retired all five men he faced in the seventh and eighth, then Mariano Rivera capped it off with a hilariously easy ninth inning. Seriously, a bunt groundout back to Mo, a weak grounder to Tex, and a foul pop to Ramiro Pena at third on six total pitches. Piece of cake.

Speaking of Ramiro, he picked up another two hits today and is now eight for his last 18 (.444). Eduardo Nunez also went 2-for-4 from the nine-hole.

Not to be outdone by the guys at the bottom of the order, Gardner and Granderson combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles (both Granderson’s), one triple (Gardner’s), four walks (two each), and four runs scored (three by Gardy). Big time production from the top two hitters today, can’t say enough about the job they did.

Jorge Posada doubled and Lance Berkman hit the ball right on the screws four times and came away with a pair of hits. Berkman’s really been tattooing the ball since coming off the disabled list, albeit in a small sample. Pretty much the only player you can’t praise today is Robbie Cano, who struck out once in five at-bats, taking some awful looking swings along the way.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Austin Kearns took that pitch off his hand early on and appeared to favor it the rest of the way. I saw him shaking it several times later in the game, especially after making contact with a pitch. Hopefully he’s just a little banged up and won’t miss any time.

Ready for some creepiness? This seven game winning streak started on August 28th with a game against the White Sox. Last year on August 28th, the Yanks beat those same White Sox to start a seven game winning streak that ended on September 4th. Their opponent for that loss? The Blue Jays, of course. Kinda creepy, no? Hopefully they don’t repeat history tomorrow.

The Rays topped the Orioles, so the division lead remains at a game-and-a-half. The Red Sox were rained out, so the Yanks picked up a half-game on the Wild Card lead and now have an eight-and-a-half game cushion. Their magic numbers to clinch a playoff spot and the division are 20 and 27, respectively.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs all the other cool stuff.

Up Next

The Yanks will play the third of five straight afternoon games on Saturday, giving the ball to Javy Vazquez for his first start in two weeks. He’ll be opposed by Marc Rzepczynski, who the Yanks knocked around just ten days ago.