…and those people are mainly visiting team players. Alan Schwarz checks in with a few Major Leaguers who won’t miss the amenities and smells offered up by an 85-year-old stadium. The money quote is, of course, All Star Catcher Jason Varitek’s: “Especially when it rains, the smell that comes up through the drainage system is not pretty. It affects your sinuses, I’ll tell you that much.” I guess he can’t fight sewage smells and sinus infections with his mask on. · (35) ·
As the Home Run Derby — or the Josh Hamilton Show — got underway last night at Yankee Stadium, the sun set behind New Jersey, lighting up the sky. Click through the jump to see more sights from last night’s Derby. I took all the photos, and you can find them and more in this photo set on flickr.
Josh freakin’ Hamilton. Seriously. Kyle Farnsworth must have been pitching to him, am I right?
Double-A Trenton (2-0 win over Binghamton)
Ramiro Pena: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
Colin Curtis, Edwar Gonzalez & Joe Muich: all 0 for 4 – Edwar K’ed twice, Muich once
Austin Jackson: 1 for 4, 1 K
Chris Malec: 4 for 4, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 E (throwing) – yeah, he’s kinda good at hitting
James Cooper: 2 for 4
Walt Ibarra: 1 for 3
Brian Bruney: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3-0 GB/FB
Phil Coke: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 8-5 GB/FB – that is some quality long relief right there
Mike and I will be enjoying the Derby tonight from Section 31 of the Tier Reserve (fair territory!). So let’s roll with an open thread. Ostensibly this is about the derby, but use this to discuss trade rumors, the terrible state of the Yankee offense, Brian Cashman‘s head on a silver platter and anything else that tickles your fancy. If you’re over 21 (of course) want to get drunk during the Derby, play the Home Run Derby drinking game.
Anyway, I’ll start the open thread fun.
This morning, Jayson Stark penned a typical A-Rod-bashing column about Alex’s decision to eschew the Home Run Derby. Stark claims that A-Rod first opted out of the “Call Your Shot” promotion that would have featured David Ortiz had he not been injured and then opted out of the Derby all together. Why? Stark posits it is because of Alex Rodriguez‘s fragile psyche.
Well, I’m fairly certain that with his face plastered all over the tabloids these days, A-Rod’s fragile psyche could have handled losing the Home Run Derby. While Stark claims A-Rod may be afriad of ending up on the tabloids after the Derby, I have to wonder how that end result would be any different from, oh, the last two weeks.
Stark slams the Yankees’ hitter — and indirectly Jason Giambi as well — for opting out of the game in their home town. Giambi would have participated had he been selected to the All Star team, but heaven forbid he enjoy a four-day vacation at home for the first time since early February. Writes Stark, “It’s not important enough, apparently, for Alex Rodriguez to risk not living up to his own ego. How sad is that?”
No sadder than an ESPN columnist using the meaningless Home Run Derby as just another platform to tear down A-Rod. It’s an old trope, but would we expect anything else from Stark and ESPN?
PeteAbe’s got the word. Paps thinks he’s earned it by closing out the World Series last year. With Joakim Soria (292 ERA+, 2 BSV) Joe Nathan (348, 2) and the Hammer of God (384, 0) on the team, Papelbon (178, 4) should be grateful if he pitches after the 6th. · (37) ·
This one’s for all you hosers out there: the 2008 Canadian Olympic Team has been announced (page 7 of the pdf). Highlighted by two very good prospects in Nick Weglarz (Indians) and Mike Saunders (Mariners), the Canadians boasts a respectable lineup but iffy pitching. Brett Lawrie, the Brewers first round pick (16th overall), is on the squad despite turning 18 just this year. Crazy.
The US Team was selected last night, but has not been made public. Remember, the US squad in yesterday’s Futures Game was a trial a team, a group of players in the running for the Olympic team. · (1) ·
What piece do you think is the most important for the Yankees to add in the next 16 days? Should the Yankees be adding players at all? These are questions we’ve been discussing for the past few months, and become ever important right now. The Yanks hit the break at 50-45, though things could have been a ton worse. With the injuries and general ineffectiveness, the team could have just as easily been five games under .500. With Tampa Bay faltering, and the Red Sox looking at least a little vulnerable, the Wild Card and AL East are still within sights. Clearly, though, something has to change over this three-day vacation.
Problems with the offense
When your starting left fielder and starting DH hit the shelf, there’s not much you can do to compensate. Sure, you can swing a trade or sign a free agent, if a very good one still exists on the market. Given the nature of these injuries, though, such a move could cause a logjam, kind of like we saw at the end of 2006. Except this logjam would figure to become an issue far before that.
Johnny Damon should be back before the end of the month. Hideki Matsui has been taking BP, and could be back on a similar timeframe, though his ability to hold up over the duration of the season is in far more doubt. Still, it appears as though both will be back in the lineup at some point. Meaning that if the Yanks swing a trade for someone to replace either, they’re stuck with 10 guys filling into nine slots. While some of the vets could use a day off here and there, this would make the roster a bit crowded.
What do you do with the lineup if, for instance, you go out and sign Barry Bonds, and then Damon and Matsui come back healthy? You could institute a rotation, but is that really the answer? I’m not sure myself. I just think that with those two coming back in the reasonably near future, making another offensive acquisition makes little sense. Unless we’re talking Richie Sexson, who would occupy mostly a platoon/bench role. If he even wants to sign, that is.
Then again, the Yankees woes against lefties is overstated. They hold a .257/.338/.394 line against southpaws, versus a .271/.338/.422 against righties. So while adding a lefty masher like Sexson could be a strategic advantage, it’s not going to completely turn around a lackluster offense.
Problems with the pitching
When Wang came up limping in Houston, we knew we had a problem. At the time, I don’t think many of us imagined it would be as large as Sidney Ponson. While fattie has produced decent results thus far, you know he’s not going to sustain it. Getting him, and even Rasner, out of the rotation is of necessity if the Yanks want to contend in the second half.
The problem is, there’s not much help on the horizon. Kennedy is still working his way back, and cannot be counted on to be better than Ras/Ponson. Hughes is out until at least August, though he could probably benefit from an extended rehab stint. Wang we won’t see until September, if at all. Alan Horne has been injured much of the year. Igawa is a trainwreck in the majors. Etc., etc.
Of course, the problem with buying a pitcher is that not many are available. A.J. Burnett is the most attractive name on the market, though you have to wonder how willing J.P. Ricciardi is to send a veritable Yankee killer to the very team he kills. I’ve mentioned in the past that given Burnett’s opt-out likelihood after this year, the Jays might be more willing to deal him to the highest bidder, regardless of division. The exception, upon further thought, might be the Yankees. So we can safely forget about him for now.
So who can they add? There don’t appear to be many names to fill that void. The road ahead is going to be awful rough with 2/5 of the rotation composed of Rasner and Ponson. With a high-powered offense, they might be able to compensate. As it stands, though, they’re not going to win those Rasner/Ponson starts frequently if they’re scoring two to three runs per game.
Offense from within
The problem, as has been noted thoroughly this season, is hitting with runners in scoring position. As a team, the Yanks are hitting .254/.337/.376 in those situations. Puh-thetic. Worse, they’re hitting .220/.302/.318 with runners on first and second. They’re far better off with no one on, as the team hits .265/.335/.421. Though, as you can notice, OBP is a huge issue in all regards.
The team can try to add players, but a huge part of the problem is with the current starters who will not, under any circumstances, be replaced. You’re not getting Derek Jeter‘s .345 OBP out of the 2-hole or, for now, the leadoff spot. First, because Girardi would never do that, and second, because there aren’t many guys on the team who are doing better. If Jeter has his career-average .386 OBP, the Yanks are likely a ton better off.
Robinson Cano and his horrible OPB skill aren’t going anywhere, either. while his batting averages have been better since his abysmal .151 April, he has yet to exceed .300 in any month. While he might end up with an OBP around .300 to .320 over the final months of the season, that’s still below an acceptable level for a starter. He’s going to need to bring up his batting average, which isn’t always easy for a guy like Cano, who hack and hacks away.
Bobby Abreu has a career OBP of .405. That is what the Yanks signed up for when they traded for him from Philly. This year, he’s at .345. While that’s one of the higher marks on the team, it is not befitting of Bobby. It’s tough to ask more of one of the few guys producing, but in order for the Yanks offense to succeed in the second half, he’s going to have to be the .390 – .420 OBP Bobby we were used to seeing.
The list goes on. The only players with OBPs above .350 are Giambi and A-Rod, and their respective marks have come down in recent weeks. Damon and Matsui both sit well above the .350 mark, and we’re sorely missing them from the lineup.
The overall point, though, is that you’re not replacing some of these guys who aren’t performing the way we’re used to. You can talk about adding Bonds all you want. The bottom line is that his playing time would cut into that of Damon and Matsui, two of the guys who were already shouldering a good portion of the offensive load. The problem is with Jeter, Abreu, Cano, and Melky, none of which, it seems, will be replaced anytime soon. Not that they necessarily should be. It’s just that they need to up their game to normal levels.
The hitting with runners in scoring position won’t be fixed by adding a player, either. We know this team can hit in those situations. They hit .293/.378/.451 with RISP last year, which was consistent with their numbers with no one on (.828 OPS) and with any number of men on (.830 OPS). The overall numbers are down this year, and the discrepancy is greater. The team OPSs .755 with no one on, .745 with runners on in general, and .317 with runners in scoring position. Once again, puh-thetic.
So no, this team is not just a move away from turning it around. The guys currently on the roster, and who for the most part cannot be replaced, are going to have to start hitting like they’re capable of in the second half. If they can’t do that, you can add as many OF/DH/1B types you like. They’re not replacing poor production in premium lineup spots.
While it doesn’t quite carry the same cache as the Waveland Ave. apartments in Chicago, Gerard Ave. and the apartments lining this Bronx street share a history with Yankee Stadium. When the apartment buildings went up in the late 1920s, the top floors had uninterrupted views into Yankee Stadium. When the team and City of New York renovated the Stadium in the 1970s, some residents suspected the Yankees of building the walls higher to block this free view. (The Yankees deny this claim.)
Nowadays, savvy fans can catch glimpses of the outfield and pitchers mound from the roof but only for a few more months. When the Cathedral closes and the new stadium opens, the Gerard Ave. lookouts will be gone forever. In The Times today, Manny Fernandez explores the Gerard Ave. quirks and those who know the Yankees as the rich baseball team in a relatively poor neighborhood. · (1) ·
Over the weekend, Joe Brescia checked in with Bernie Williams and churned out a rather wistful piece about number 51. Bernie is in the City this week to play guitar at a few of the MLB-sponsored All Star festivities, but he hasn’t made a public return yet to Yankee Stadium. The Yanks, Bernie tells Brescia, asked him to flip the countdown clock, but he had a family obligation. I hope the Yanks and Bernie can heal their own wounds before the season ends so Bernie can get a proper day of appreciation before Yankee Stadium meets the wrecking ball. · (5) ·
The Yankees really had a chance to do some damage this week. Coming off of a promising two-game sweep of the then-first place Tampa Bay Rays, the Yanks had four games against two fifth place teams. The future seemed bright and promising.
Well, here we are four days later, and the Yanks managed to go an utterly unimpressive 1-3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays. The now-second place Rays haven’t won in seven games, and the Yanks find themselves 5.5 games behind Tampa in the Wild Card race and six behind Boston for the division. The Yanks have managed to gain just two measly games on Tampa and lose two to Boston over their last 10 days. That, folks, is dropping the ball.
Today, Andy Pettitte drew the short straw. Number 46 threw a decent enough game. He ran into one spot of trouble in the second when Marco Scutaro delivered his 34th career home run. The Blue Jays wouldn’t need anymore offense, and the Yanks lost 4-1, their lone run coming on Jason Giambi‘s 19th home run, tying him with A-Rod for the team lead at the break.
After the game, no one was too happy about the outcome, and with the extra off-day on Thursday, the team will have four days to stew this one over. “We stink right now, for the most part. As a team, we’ve kind of stunk it up here lately and we’ve got to play better,” Pettitte said to reporters after the game.
As PeteAbe noted, Pettitte’s comments were right on the money. Per the Journal-News’ beatwriter, 25 of the Yanks’ 32 plate appearances were three pitchers or fewer. The Yanks didn’t even bother to try to work the count facing a pitcher throwing on three day’s rest.
Now, the Yanks head into the break facing a lot of questions and with no answers. They still don’t know if they’re buyers or sellers; they still don’t know if they’re legitimate playoff contenders or a just a collection of overpaid and underperforming aging baseball players. We’re heading some alarming trade rumors that would address a need — middle relief — that has been one of the team’s lone bright spots these days.
The Yanks are directionless, and they collectively have a few days to forget about baseball. Other than Derek Jeter, A-Rod and Mariano Rivera, the Bombers will scatter home for the next four days. When they come back, the team could look different or they could go through the motions for the rest of the month and sell off whatever spare parts other teams want on July 31st. We’ve still got a long way to go before the season ends, but that +24 run differential suggests a team not bound for October baseball quite yet.