In the blink of an eye last night, the Yankees became the clear-cut front runners for C.C. Sabathia.
This dance began over the weekend when few were paying attention. The Milwaukee Brewers, it seemed, had emerged as the clear-cut front runners in the C.C. Sabathia Sweepstakes, and last night, just minutes before the start of a thrilling Yankees-Red Sox game and three and a half weeks prior to the trading deadline, the Brewers and Indians consummated what will probably be this July’s biggest deal. The Brewers sent Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and a PTBNL that will probably be Taylor Green, their MiLB 2007 player of the year, to the Indians for three months of C.C. Sabathia.
For the Brewers, the NL’s leading Wild Card team, this move cements their status as a legitimate playoff contender for practically the first time since they won the AL East in 1982. For the Indians, this move signals that the team is in sell mode, and while they may not have done this well this time, they pulled in a pretty decent haul in exchange for a pitcher sure to hit free agency in a few months.
The Yankees, however, are once again on the outside of a blockbuster trade involving a big-time pitcher. Unlike during the Santana sweepstakes, the Yankees weren’t blocked by the Twins’ desires to ship Santana out of the AL. Rather, they opted not to make a potential move. As Ken Rosenthal reported, “the Yankees also were ‘very heavily involved’ in the Sabathia discussions, one source said, but declined to commit the necessary prospects at a time when their 2008 chances are uncertain.”
As Yankee fans are very divided over the direction of the team, certain factions will have a field day with this tidbit. Once again, when faced with giving up some prospects for a quote-unquote proven ace at the time when the Yanks’ pitching is looking rather frail, Brian Cashman and the Yankee braintrust got gun-shy and stood pat. But of course it isn’t as simple as that.
Right now, the Yankees are in the unenviable position of not knowing what’s going on with their team. They’ve dealt with numerous injuries — 60 percent of their starting rotation, most of their starting lineup — and they’re on the cusp of contention, too far out of first place and just close enough to the Wild Card leader to be in it. They don’t know if they should buy or sell; they don’t know what they really need. Some people think they need a bat and can fill in the pitching from the organization; others thing their offense is fine, and they could use a pitcher.
But for the Yankees, they weren’t in a position to make this move yet, and they didn’t have to. They have Ian Kennedy and Dan McCutchen making their respective ways through the organization. They have Phil Hughes and — dare I say? — Carl Pavano rehabbing. By opting not to acquire Sabathia — and we really don’t know how close or far they were in doing so (and it would have cost at least Hughes and more) — they positioned themselves as the leaders in the eventual C.C. Sabathia sweepstakes bound to occupy the back pages after the Fall Classic ends.
I can unequivocally say that Sabathia will not re-sign with the Brewers before testing the free agency waters. Had he wanted to sign without hitting the market, he would have stayed with Cleveland, a town and an organization he has known and loved for over a decade. Now, he will be a free agent, and if the Yankees want him and he wants the Yankees, it will get done. They have millions of dollars coming off the books and millions more coming their way from a new stadium. And the best part of all is that they won’t have to pay twice for the big lefty.
After losing out on CC Sabathia, the Yanks have focused their attention on acquiring Zambrano. Victor Zambrano that is. Currently toiling away with the Rockies Triple-A affiliate, Zambrano has gone 0-6 with a 9.45 ERA, 2.30 WHIP & .367 BAA this year. He was demoted to the bullpen about two months ago, and hasn’t been as terrible, posting a 6.55 ERA & 1.45 WHIP. If the Yanks are interested, It shouldn’t take much at all to acquire him (“future considerations” should do it), and if he pitches like crap who cares? They’ll release him and be done with it, no risk at all. Could you imagine if they traded Hughes for him though? That would be crazy. · (54) ·
In 1997, the Yankees hired Kim Ng as an assistant general manager, and in doing so, they became the first team to offer such a high position in the front office hierarchy to a female. Eleven years later, Ng, one of the sharpest baseball minds in the game, still awaits the call to ascend to that coveted General Manager position. Last week, Tim Brown wondered when that call might come for Ng, now with the Dodgers, or Jean Afterman, one of the Yanks’ assistant GMs and only other female in the game with such a high title in baseball ops. Baseball has long been male dominated, but Ng is qualified enough to get her shot. One day she will. · (12) ·
As Robinson Cano led off second with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning about two hours ago and Brett Gardner, 2 for 20 in his short Yankee career, Mike and I were chatting online about the game. We had the following conversation prior to Gardner’s walk-off hit:
Mike: Brett Gardner, walk-off infield single right here.
Ben: That would be a tough one.
Mike: True…This is the moment that will forever define Brett Gardner’s Yankee career.
Eight pitches later, Mike’s word were strangely prophetic as Gardner sneaked a single just past the dive of
Julio Lugo Alex Cora. Robinson Cano, running with the pitch off of the noodle arm of All Star Catcher Jason Varitek™, dashed home, and the Yanks won a game they needed to win.
For the Bombers, tonight’s game featured a bit of home-grown retribution. Outside of A-Rod‘s 536th home run — hello, Mickey — the Yanks won this game with a little bit of home-grown talent. Offensively, the player of the game was clearly the young Brett Gardner. He had his first multi-hit game at the Major League level, going 2 for 5 with a stolen base and the game-winning RBI. With that RBI, Gardner became the first Yankee rookie to record a walk-off hit against Boston since some guy named Derek did it in 1996.
But Gardner wasn’t the only home-grown Bomber to come through. While the home-grown Jeter drove in a run, Robinson Cano had a big role in this game. Cano went 2 for 4 with a game-tying triple in the 7th. He also scored the winning run and has generally been on fire lately. With his 2 for 4 performance tonight, Cano is now 19 for his last 48, and his triple slash line is .396/.400/.625. (He’s worked zero walks over his last 12 games.)
Meanwhile, the home-grown Bombers dazzled on the mound as well. For five of his six innings, Joba Chamberlain was downright untouchable, and his final line — 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K — shows another quality start for the youngster. After sailing through four innings, he allowed all three runs on two walks and three hits in the fifth. It was the only blemish on the evening. I’d say Joba has acquitted himself well as a starter.
The final home-grown Yankee to make an impact on this game was none other than Mariano Rivera. After giving Yankee fans a collective heart attack yesterday, Rivera rebounded with two scoreless innings. In a piece of high baseball drama, he struck out Manny Ramirez in the top of the 9th with two outs and the go-ahead runner 90 feet from home. Ramirez, in a prolonged slump, watched three pitches go by, and the crowd erupted.
For the Yankees, it’s tough to say that any game in early July is a must-win, but tonight’s win was as close as they come. The Yankees find themselves in third place, nine games behind a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t lose (and will find its way to New York for two games this week). With that victory tonight, they moved to within four games of a struggling Red Sox team in the Wild Card race, and with 73 games left in the season, anything can happen. They needed that win tonight to draw a split of a home series against the Red Sox, and the home-grown team delivered tonight.
Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Toledo in 12 innings)
Matt Carson: 4 for 6, 1 R – threw a runner out at third from CF
Alberto Gonzalez: 2 for 6, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) – game winning homer in the top of the 12th
Juan Miranda: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch) – just 3 for his last 26
Cody Ransom: 3 for 6, 1 R, 2 3B, 1 K
Ben Broussard: 2 for 6, 2 RBI
Jason Lane: 1 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K – avg down to .234
Eric Duncan & Greg Porter: both 1 for 5 – E-Dunc K’ed twice … Porter committed a fielding error
Ross Ohlendorf: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7-2 GB/FB – 43 of 62 pitches were strikes (69.4%)
Steven White: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Chris Britton: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-3 GB/FB – all he does is get outs
Heath Phillips: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Scott Strickland: 2 IP, zeroes, 4 K – 8 baserunners & 0 runs allowed in his last 14.1 IP with 18 K … dealin’
Steven Jackson: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 3-1 GB/FB
It would be nice to come out of this weekend five games over .500, wouldn’t it? Not only that, but only three behind the Sox in the loss column, though the Yanks were there when the series started on Thursday. But it started so horribly that I’m sure many of us are surprised a split is possible.
All right, enough of the negativity. We’ve got our ace-in-training on the mound tonight, as Joba Chamberlain faces the Sox for the first time as a starter. He’ll be opposed by Tim Wakefield, who has pitched 202 innings against the Yankees during his career. His ERA sits at 5.03, though the most damning number is the 110 walks he’s given up in those innings. That works out to 4.90 walks per nine; his career average is 3.48 BB/9. The Yanks hit him especially hard last year, plating 17 runs in 14 innings. They also amassed 17 walks in that period.
Joba has just 4.1 innings of work against the Sox, in which he has allowed one run and walked two while striking out five. The Yanks could use a solid seven out of him. But then again, when could they not use a solid seven from a starting pitcher. We all know that the Yanks will need Joba to step up with Wang out, and tonight presents a strong opportunity. He’ll certainly need to improve over his last start, in which he lasted just four innings against the Texas Rangers.
Word has surely gotten around already that Johnny Damon has been placed on the DL for the first time in his career. Justin Christian has been recalled to play the role of reserve outfielder. While this is certainly a devastating blow to the offense, it does open up a little competition between Melky and Gardner. Our rook speedster hasn’t gotten off to a hot start, but he should have at least 10 games of regular at bats to turn it on. Melky has seemingly responded to the Gardner call-up, going 5 of his last 10. So let’s see if he can turn that into a little hot streak.
Enough of all that, though. Onto your lineups.
And on the mound, number sixty-two, Joba Chamberlain.
Update by Ben (8:05 p.m.): During the pre-game show, Buster Olney reported that the Brewers have traded a package of prospects fronted by Matt LaPorta to the Indians for C.C. Sabathia. I’ll have more on this deal tomorrow morning, but quickly: While this now means the Yanks won’t have Sabathia this year, it puts them in a prime position to nab him once he hits free agency this winter. There’s no way the Brewers re-sign the lefty before he hits the open market. And LaPorta’s quite the price to pay.
The fan votes are in and the reserves have been picked. Derek Jeter and A-Rod won the popularity contest and will start the game at short and third. A-Rod was the leading vote getter for the second straight year. Ian Kinsler Dustin Pedroia will start at second. Our campaign was futile.
The selection show is on TBS right now. I’ll update this post once the pitchers & reserves are announced.
Update (2:35): The NL pitchers & reserves have been announced. Johan Santana didn’t make the team, but Ryan Dempster did. Hah. Looks like Billy Wagner is the only Met headed to the Midsummer Classic. I can’t wait to see Timmy Lincecum take the mound in the Boogie Down, but how in the world does Carlos Marmol not make the team? Look at those numbers. I believe the term is “sick.” PeteAbe has the full rosters for ya.
Update (2:50): The AL pitchers & reserves have been announced. Mariano Rivera made it, now lets see if Francona has the guts to start him. Jason Varitek inexplicably made the team; his OPS+ is 73. One time great Yankee prospect Dioner Navarro made the team, I’m super happy for him. That’s it, no Johnny Damon or Mike Mussina.
Update (2:55): The Final Vote players were announced, so you can vote Jason Giambi into the game. · (85) ·
PeteAbe passed along a rather impressive statistic yesterday: when Jose Molina threw Jacoby Ellsbury out trying to steal second in the 5th inning yesterday, it was the 10th consecutive would-be base stealer that Molina has gunned down. Despite being a backup for most of the year, Molina has thrown out a league leading 22 base stealers, good for 47.9%, which also leads the league. Just imagine if he didn’t have a .572 OPS. · (23) ·
Remember how Joe Buck & Tim McCarver were gushing over how great Clay Buchholz has been since returning to Triple-A? Spoke too soon.
Triple-A Scranton (5-0 win over Syracuse)
Justin Christian: 1 for 4, 1 K, 1 HBP
Alberto Gonzalez: 2 for 5, 1 K
Cody Ransom, Matt Carson & Eric Duncan: all 2 for 4, 1 2B – Ransom scored 1 run, Carson scored 2 … Ransom was picked off first … Carson threw a runner out at third from RF … Duncan drove in 3
Ben Broussard: 0 for 3, 1 K, 1 HBP – back for more with Shelley likely done for the year
Jason Lane & Chris Stewart: both 1 for 3, 1 K – Lane doubled, drove in a run, scored another & was hit by a pitch
Nick Green: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 K
Dan McCutchen: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 4-12 GB/FB – 77 of 109 pitches were strikes (70.6%) … the only way he could have been better was if the GB/FB ratio was reversed