For the last four days, the Yankee lineup has been Melky Cabrera-free. The benching of Melky was a move a long time in the making and well overdue. But later tonight, in the O.C., the center fielder, three days shy of his 24th birthday, will resume his duties in the starting lineup, and I have to wonder to what end?

First, a history lesson: Since May 6, Melky Cabrera is hitting .225/.275/.281 over his last 309 plate appearances. As Mike pointed out a few days, those totals rank him as one of — if not, the — worst every-day player in the Majors.

Now, we’ve been fairly critical of Melky over the last two years. We want him to succeed, but right now, he just isn’t getting the job done. With three years of Big League experience under his belt, Melky should be showing improvement. Instead, his numbers are getting worse each year. That .260 batting average with a low-.300s OBP and little power since the start of 2007 is about what you can expect from Melky right now, and that just doesn’t cut it on the Yankees.

When the team benched Melky earlier this week, they did so under the guise of giving him a rest. Melky Cabrera, the man who has played, on average, 150 games per season in his pro career, needed a break. The Yanks intended to give Melky just two days off, but Joe Girardi decided to add on an extra pair of days to that non-benching benching.

But here is where things get a bit ugly. According to that Ed Price notebook, Joe Girardi still views Melky as his everyday center fielder. “I think Melky’s a better offensive player than he’s displayed. And I think that Melky can have a strong last 50 games for us, I really do,” Girardi said. “The important thing is that he gets on base, and that’s what we need him to do more of.”

Now, I know and you know that Joe Girardi isn’t going to come out and say that they’re benching Melky for good. We know he isn’t going to throw Melky under the bus. That would completely negate whatever residual trade value Cabrera has. But I’m beginning to fear that Girardi isn’t seeing the forest for the trees.

Everyone loves Melky Cabrera’s supposed enthusiasm and love for the game. They love his energy, his center field prowess and his cannon arm. But it’s laughable to think that his presence in the starting lineup helps the team. For Girardi to say that “we need him to do more of” getting on base ignores reality. Melky, for the better part of four months, has gotten on base at a .275 clip. For the last two seasons, he has an OBP of .315. That’s not a sample size issue; that’s a full-blown trend.

What you see if what you get. If the Yanks choose to see boundless energy and youthful enthusiasm, they should know that those traits won’t win games. If they see Melky as a fourth outfielder capable of giving Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady or Bobby Abreu a night off but don’t want to damage a young player’s psyche or trade value, then so be it. But as Melky returns to the starting lineup tonight, I worry that the Yanks will use him everyday, and that does not a playoff team make.

Categories : Analysis
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Reading some of this might help kill the hours between now and quitting time.

Ed Price points us to some quotes from Ian Kennedy and Dave Eiland about the youngster’s start tonight in Anaheim:

“I feel real good lately,” Kennedy told the Times-Tribune of Scranton, “and I’d like to take that up there.”

“His command’s been a little bit better,” said Eiland, who watches video of the Triple-A pitchers. “And he’s commanded his slider a little bit more, it’s more consistent, with the tilt to it. He’s not hanging as many, he’s more consistent, he’s got a better feel for it. That just comes with repetition.”

The Angels will trot out Jered Weaver, who got knocked around last time against the Yanks. Here’s to hoping they can hit another four homers off him tonight. It would surely help out Kennedy, who could use some run support in his return to the show.

In the same piece, Price shares a quote from Girardi on Melky:

“The important thing is that (Cabrera) gets on base,” Girardi said, “and that’s what we need him to do more of.”

That’s the important thing for everyone. But the sentiment is appreciated.

Ivan Rodriguez is set to start tonight, despite his bruised knee. I’m a big fan of the youngsters going with Molina behind the plate, but if Pudge is going to be the regular catcher, you might as well have him work with Kennedy, who hopefully can reclaim his permanent rotation spot over his next few starts.

Dave Laurila of Baseball Prospectus sits down for a chat with Pat Venditte. The whole thing is a good read, but here’s a pullaway quote:

From the right side, I rely a lot more on my fastball; I throw a curveball but rely heavily on my fastball. From the left side, I rely predominately on my slider, which I throw from a low three-quarters slot, and an occasional fastball. I don’t have as much velocity from my left side, so I have to do certain things to equal it out. One of those things is being able to locate offspeed pitches, which is one thing I really need to do in order to get hitters out.

Finally, I’m not sure why this turned up in Google News, but it’s a Jack Curry article about Don Mattingly wanting to be traded 1991. It stemmed from the infamous “cut that hair!” incident, which also included closer Steve Farr, starter Pasqual Perez, and catcher Matt Nokes.

“Maybe I don’t belong in the organization anymore,” Mattingly told reporters after the Yankees had defeated the Royals, 5-1, without him. “I talked to him about moving me earlier in the year. He said we’ll talk at the end of the year. Maybe this is their way of saying we don’t need you anymore.”

Yeah, good thing that never happened.

Categories : News
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  • As the Andy Pettitte saga turns

    Late yesterday afternoon, Mike reported the news, via Mark Feinsand, that Andy Pettitte may miss his next start. Well, when word of Feinsand’s story hit the Yankees’ clubhouse, both Andy Pettitte and Joe Girardi issued denials, and now the story is different. As Feinsand writes in his updated post, Pettitte will start on Sunday but could earn himself an extra day of rest the next time through the rotation. Clearly, Pettitte isn’t 100 percent; his post-All Star Break numbers are terrible, and he could be suffering from the ever-popular fatigue. We’ll see how this one develops, but the Yanks can ill afford to lose Pettitte right now. · (21) ·

On August 11, 2007, the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Devil Rays played a rather meaningless game in the scheme of the season. Both teams were far out of the playoff hunt, wrapping up the formality of a 162-game season. In that game, Edwin Jackson would throw a four-hit shut out. It would be the last time the Rangers would get shut out at home until last night.

Three hundred and sixty two days later, someone else finally shut out the Rangers in Arlington. As the team has scored a Major League-leading 651, this is, clearly, no small feat, and tonight, the superlatives fall on the shoulders of Mike Mussina, the Yanks’ first 15-game winner. Over seven innings, Mussina scattered eight hits — only two for extra bases. He struck out six and walked just one. He’s now allowed 20 walks in 24 starts. Not only is Mussina chasing 20 wins yet again, but he may well finish the season with fewer walks than starts.

Moose, ever humble and sporting a nifty 3.27 ERA, would have none of the praise. “I didn’t have my best stuff,” he said after the game. Of course not. Who shuts down the Rangers at home with their best stuff? And for all the grief I’ve given Moose over the years, I have to tip my cap to him this year. He has shown, week after week, that old dogs — headstrong ones at that — can indeed learn a few new tricks.

Meanwhile, after a hiccup earlier this week, the bullpen was again strong for the Yanks. Brian Bruney got his out; Damaso Marte got his two outs; and Mariano Rivera needed a whopping eight pitches to dispatch the Rangers in the ninth. Game, set, match.

For the Yankees, the offense came to them courtesy of Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon. The three combined for eight of the Yanks’ 11 hits. Jeter’s home run in the first and his single in the 9th plated two of the runs, and Damon’s fifth inning single plated the other.

Of note was the odd non-double play in the ninth. With Wilson Betemit on first, Jose Molina hit a sure DP ball to Ian Kinsler. But the Rangers’ second baseman threw to first, and Wilson Betemit, either alert or too oblivious, scampered back to the bag, safe. He would later score on Jeter’s single. I’ve never quite seen a play unfold as that one did.

As the Yanks head to Anaheim tonight, they do so 5.5 games out of first following a rare Tampa loss and three games behind Boston in the Wild Card. They have Ian Kennedy and Dan Giese lined up to start the first two games. Beyond that, who knows? But that’s the maddening joy of baseball. Anything is possible, and while the Yanks are down, they’re aren’t out yet.

Game A-Rod Slump Notes: Alex Rodriguez had a series to forget. He went 0 for 14 and hit into four double plays. Prior to this week, he had hit into four double plays all season. Hopefully, he’ll heat up in Anaheim. He is a career .332/.399/.678 hitter in 352 plate appearances at the Big A…When A-Rod struck out with Derek Jeter on third and one out in the seventh, it was his 35th at-bat with a runner on third and less than two outs. He is now 7 for 29 in those situations, and the runner has scored in 13 of 35 situations. Those are bad numbers, albeit in a small sample.

Categories : Game Stories
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Triple-A Scranton (6-1 win over Pawtucket)
Matt Carson: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K – filling in for Brett Gardner, who’s day-to-day with sore legs
Eric Duncan: 0 for 4, 1 K
Shelley Duncan & Juan Miranda: both 1 for 3, 1 2B, 1 BB – Shelley scored a pair of runs, drove in a run & K’ed twice … Miranda K’ed once
Cody Ransom: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 CS, 1 HBP
Ben Broussard: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K – 10 XBH in his last 11 games (5 doubles, 5 homers)
Nick Green & Chris Basak: both 0 for 3, 1 K
Chad Moeller: 1 for 4, 1 K
Phil Hughes: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 9-3 GB/FB – 40 of 64 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … that’s a classic Phil Hughes start right there, right down to the pitch count … Chad Jennings said he was looking pretty nasty
Phil Coke: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K – it’s always fun when a pitcher records all of his outs via the K
Steven Jackson: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 3-1 GB/FB
Mark Melancon: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K – 15 of 24 pitches were strikes (62.5%) … for the first time in his professional career, he entered a game in the middle of an inning

Read More→

Categories : Down on the Farm
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Bravo to Joe Girardi for the lineup the past few days. Melky’s been a drain on the offense, and I’ve said on more than one occasion that I think Wilson Betemit can be a productive (i.e. at least average) player if given regular at-bats. Last week I proposed a lineup scenario to Joe in which Betemit, A-Rod, Jeter and Cano played every day, taking turns at DH to keep everyone fresh, and it looks this may be the case, even temporarily.

This is the A-lineup right now, the best they can trot out there as long as Matsui’s hurt.

1. Damon, CF
2. Jeter, DH
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Nady, LF 
7. Cano, 2B
8. Betemit, SS
9. Molina, C

And on the mound, the man with the third most wins in baseball, Mike Mussina.

Notes: Andy Pettitte might miss his start Sunday … Phil Hughes is scheduled to throw 60-65 pitches for Triple-A Scranton tonight … Bobby wants to come back next year … blogging HOFer Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog interviewed Giuseppe Franco

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Pettitte may miss next start

    Via Mark Feinsand, southpaw Andy Pettitte has been experiencing some sort of stiffness is his throwing arm, and may not be able to make his start this Sunday in Anaheim. This probably explains why Pettitte has sucked lately. The simple solution is to stick Darrell Rasner in that spot. When it rains, it pours baby.

    (Save us, Phil)
    · (101) ·

When it comes to the economics of baseball, conversations tend to begin and end in New York. The Yankees — and, to a lesser extent, the Mets — hold the blue-chip market captive and command hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues each year. While teams such as the Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers and Cubs can attempt to compete, the potential will always be greater in New York.

To that end, the Yankees have always been Public Enemy No. 1 and everyone’s best friend. They are frowned upon for spending exorbitant sums of money on free agents, but through baseball’s current revenue sharing system, they are funding many of their top competitors year after year. It’s a double-edged sword, and while lately, Bud Selig and the owners have kept the anti-Yankee rhetoric to a minimum, nothing would please the powers-that-be more than a decrease in the power of the Yankees.

To that end, then, the recent news that the new Yankee Stadium would push the Bombers’ revenue streams to stratospheric heights probably isn’t welcome news around the Commissioner’s Office. The rich are getting richer, and while the poor will piggy-back their way to more money, the name of the game these days is equality.

Enter Maury Brown. In a recent piece, Brown brings up the dreaded E word. That’s right; it’s time to talk expansion. As Brown notes, the only major baseball move since 1998 when the Devil Rays and Diamondbacks started play was the relocation of the Expos to Washington, D.C. This is the second longest stretch of stability in baseball since the Marlins and Rockies broke a 16-year hiatus on expansion.

As the other major sports leagues have all expanded more recently than baseball and with attendance booming, might the big wigs be itching to extend their reach? Perhaps so, but with an unstable U.S. economy and Mark Cuban nearly ready to close on the Cubs, baseball may not have the luxury to expand any time soon. But Brown ponders the available markets, and his number one destination is something of a tease to those of us living in the New York Metropolitan Area.

Brown recommends Northern New Jersey as the number one destination without a team that could support one. Drawing on the estimated 21 million people who live in the megalopolis that stretches from Philadelphia to the New York suburbs, this vast media market could easily support another team. There are, of course, the typical catches: The Yankees, Mets and Phillies would have to be compensated a prohibitive amount to waive their territorial rights over New Jersey. There is no stadium that could adequately house a Major League team. Transit options to any potential stadium site are dicey at best.

But I have to wonder if this is a path Major League Baseball could pursue in an effort to decrease the financial clout of the Yankees. A third team in the New York media market would draw fans and TV viewers away from the Yankees. While the Yanks would continue to profit at obscenely high margins, they would have to do so knowing that the local competition won’t roll over and die or play in another league, as the case may be with the Mets.

Brooklynites — I among them — yearn for the arrival of a Major League team in our borough. The day the Dodgers left is still a bitter one for fans from that generation. But what if the key to baseball’s economic inequalities lies not within the five boroughs but across the Hudson River in New Jersey? It won’t happen any time soon, but it’s a very distinct possibility.

Categories : Rants
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