Jim Baumbach tracked down one-time Yankee honcho Steve Swindal recently, and Swindal, now the head of a marine towing company in Florida, talked with the Newsday reporter. Swindal left the Yanks after a drunk driving incident and a subsequent divorce from George Steinbrenner’s daughter Jennifer. He says he still roots for the Yanks: “Honestly, I wish them the best. I’ll always be pulling for them, and I’d rather just leave it at that.” That’s a rueful quote if ever I heard one. · (11) ·
There? Doesn’t that feel good? The Yankees won, and they did so on a night when the second-place Red Sox lost. So despite their 20-21 record, they’re just three games — two in the ever-important loss column — in back of Boston. A win later this afternoon against Scott Kazmir could do wonders for the morale of Yankee fans.
Let’s do this one up, bullet-point style:
- Had someone told me in March that Mike Mussina would be 6-3 with a 3.99 ERA after nine starts, I would have wondered what that person was smoking. Had I been told that Mussina would share the AL lead in victories in mid-May, I would have just laughed in your face. But Mussina was masterful yet again tonight. He used a devastating fastball-curveball-change up combination to keep hitters off balance, and one at bat late in the game really showed me how Mussina has progressed this season.
At one point in the AB, Mussina dropped in a 64 MPH curve for a strike before coming back with an inside fastball that hit 85 on the YES gun. At that point, Al Leiter was gushing all over himself, saying how pitchers are great if they can get a 10-12 MPH separation between their fastballs and their breaking pitches. That Moose can get a 20 MPH separation and can throw these pitches for strikes leaves me rather optimistic that he can sustain this new-found effectiveness. Girardi is keeping him on a short leash in the late innings, and that’s a-ok with me.
- Over his last five starts, Mike Mussina is 5-0. He’s thrown 29.1 innings with a 2.76 ERA. He’s struck out 17 good for a respectable 5.25 per 9 IP, but he’s issued just 3 — three! — bases on balls. It will be nearly impossible for Mussina — or any pitcher — to sustain this Cliff Lee-ian pace, but as long as he’s stingy with the walks, Moose will find success.
- The Yankees offense isn’t exactly out of the woods yet. Despite their win tonight, the Yanks were just 7 for 31 off of Jamie Shields and the Tampa bullpen. The team is hitting just .194 this week against the Rays. Ouch.
- There is an offensive bright spot, however. Robinson Cano is now hitting .350 on the month, and his average now sets at .205, a whopping .050 higher than it was a little over a week ago. I’m really glad Robbie’s doing well; he’s one of my favorites on this team right now.
- On the other side of the spectrum — and you all had to know this one was coming — is our good friend Melky Cabrera. With his 0 for 4 performance tonight, Melky’s season average dips to .261. In May, he’s hitting .191 with a .224 OBP with a .319 SLG. Now that he’s hitting seventh in the order, the bottom three members of the Yankee lineup have been an offensive black hole lately, and I’m almost tempted to offer up a RAB poll: When will Robinson Cano’s batting average be higher than Melky Cabrera’s? That .056 gap isn’t as large as it seems.
All in all, it was nice to walk away from that game with a win. Shields was tough, but the Yankee pitchers were tougher. We’ll do it again at 4:10 p.m. when one of the prodigal sons returns.
A: To the DL!
Triple-A Scranton (11-6 loss to Louisville)
Justin Christian: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Jason Lane: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB
Juan Miranda: 0 for 4, 1 BB, 1 K – .313-.459-.478 vs RHP … .147-.196-.176 vs LHP
Cody Ransom: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Eric Duncan: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
Nick Green & Greg Porter: both 1 for 4 – Green K’ed .. Porter scored a run
JD Closser: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB – .368-.478-.474 in 7 games with Scranton
Heath Phillips: 1 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 E (throwing) – spot starting has not been kind to him
Bo Hall: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1-8 GB/FB
Steven Jackson: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K – 28 of 38 pitches were strikes (73.7%)
Scott Patterson: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K – no baserunners, 4 K in his last 3.2 IP
By now, you know the drill: The pitching’s been good, but the hitting has not. Yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ve rehashed this all day; there’s no need to get into again.
The Yanks’ bats though will be facing quite the challenge this evening. James Shields, who threw a one-hitter in his last start, takes the mound for the Rays. There’s nothing like trying to break out of a slump against a legitimately good pitcher.
For the Yanks, Mike Mussina will attempt to continue his career resurgence. Moose has won his last four starts, throwing 22 innings to the tune of a 3.27 ERA. He strikes out only a few batters these days but walks even fewer. Moose will have to be on his game to give the lethargic Yankee offense any chance against Shields.
Joe Girardi mixes the batting order up today. Again.
The refrains are becoming part of the daily routine. “We need another bat.” “Add a bat.” “When will this team hit?”
Somewhere out there, in between a rock and a hard place, is a free agent with the offensive skills to boost the Yanks. This free agent hit .276 last year with a whopping .480 OBP and a .565 slugging percentage. Of course, that free agent is also facing a federal indictment and has featured prominently in the steroids scandals that have rocked baseball over the better part of the last five years.
I’m talking about none other than Barry Bonds.
Now, these days, it sure is easy to consider Bonds. From what we know, he’s basically waiting for some team to pick up the phone and call him. He can probably be in playing shape in quick order, and installing him in the middle of any Major League lineup makes the lineup better.
For the Yankees — a team not afraid to court controversy and attention — Bonds would be a bit anathema to the supposed youth movement in place. But — and this is a fairly significant but — Bonds would have a role on the team. He’s the splashy sort of signing that Hank Steinbrenner would love, and he would be a valuable insurance piece.
For all of those who say the Yanks have too many first basemen and too many DHs, as we’ve seen with Jorge and A-Rod, when one of those seemingly spare parts goes down, then what? If Jason Giambi gets hurt, the Yanks lose his awakening bat. If Johnny Damon goes down and Hideki Matsui has to slide into left, the Yanks have a gaping hole in their lineup. There is, in other words, always a place in the lineup for a bat that can still hit .276/.480/.565, and Damon and Giambi have been far from paragons of health over the last few years.
I’m not suggesting or advocating for the Yanks to sign Bonds. I’m simply saying that he’s out there, lurking and waiting. He could fix the offensive woes and create all sorts of headaches for the Yanks and for their opposing pitchers. What would you do?
Manny Ramirez admires his own home runs. Jonathan Papelbon prances around in his underwear after a win, but when ESPN runs a feature on what they view as improper celebrations, guess who gets the giant red X?
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Attitude? Fire? Is that what’s really wrong with the Yankees? A team like the Yankees always looks old and slow when they’re losing, and here’s why — they are…
If a young Yankees pitcher went 5-15, would he keep his spot? Tom Glavine went 7-17 before becoming an ace for the Braves. Greg Maddux went 6-14 before becoming an ace for the Cubs. Among the many things Hank Steinbrenner has said is that he will be patient with young pitchers. Yet Steinbrenner also burns to win immediately.
Those can be conflicting goals, and that is why this attempt at a transformation of the Yankees’ culture is so fascinating. They may never be as young and outwardly energetic as the Rays; that’s just not the Yankees’ makeup in this era of the YES Network and the new Yankee Stadium.
But if Steinbrenner wants to be more like the Rays – and whoever thought we’d hear that? – he might have to live with a year or two of transition.
It’s spot-on analysis from Kepner, and one that win-now fans are grappling with as the 19-21 Yankees are struggling through some growing pains.
Via PeteAbe, Hank’s not too happy with the Yankee play lately. Well, join the club, Hank. The only difference between Hank and the rest of Yankee fans the world over is that we’re not in a position to get our stupid rants in the paper. Unfortunately for Hank, he’s not the sole decision-maker atop the Yankees management hierarchy. “This is going to get turned around. If it’s not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have to,” he said. What does that even mean?
Update: At the urgings of a commenter, here is Hank’s entire quote: “There’s no question we need to turn it around and we have the talent to turn it around. We’ve got the team in place, and now they just have to go out and do it. This is going to get turned around. If it’s not turned around this year, then it will be turned around next year, by force if we have to.” Even when we consider the whole thing, he still sounds rather blustery and ridiculous. His point — that the Yanks are playing poorly — can be seen for miles, and I doubt the players are going to feel motivated just because Hank sort of threatened them. Their contracts are, after all, guaranteed. · (32) ·
Now, that’s a weird headline to write. The concept of the Tampa Bay Rays being in first place on May 14 is causing some cognitive dissonance around here.
Anyway, the Yanks lost a heart-breaker tonight. The Chien-Ming Wang ground-ball machine that we know and love showed up in place of Chien-Ming Wang, the strike out artist. Wang went seven strong, allowing 7 hits and 1 run on 3 walks and 2 strike outs. He lowered his ERA to 2.90, and for the second straight outing, he walked away without a win. Over his last 14 innings, Wang has allowed 4 ER on 12 hits, and the Yanks have scored a grand total of zero runs with their ace on the hill.
Meanwhile, tonight’s loss belonged to Mariano Rivera in the record books, but he doesn’t carry the blame. The run he allowed tonight raised his ERA to 0.56, and it was bound to happen with some dinky hit as it did last night sooner or later. So instead of blaming Rivera, let’s play the Blame Game, Yankees Edition.
Alberto Gonzalez: The Former Attorney General comes up with runners on the corners and one out in the top of the second. He hacks at the very first pitch against a pitcher known for his control problems and hits into an inning-ending rally-killing double play. This set the tone for tonight, and if you don’t think the Yanks miss A-Rod, keep on enjoying those Morgan Ensberg/Alberto Gonzalez outs at the bottom of the lineup.
Bobby Abreu: Abreu put up perhaps the most pathetic 0 for 4 I’ve ever seen (and, yeah, in a week, I’ll look back on this fine piece of hyperbole and smile). The defining at-bat came in the 6th inning after Derek Jeter hit a one-out, Eric Hinske-assisted triple. Abreu came up and did exactly what the Yanks didn’t want by tapping out to short. When Jeter hit the triple, I just knew the Yanks wouldn’t score, and my prophecy sadly came true.
Jason Giambi: After watching a fieldable grounder roll by Giambi in the bottom of the 11th, I yearned for the days of yelling at Joe Torre for taking Giambi out in the late innings of a close game. Defensive replacments, where have ye gone?
Jose Molina: Great throw there in the 11th, buddy. Way to nail a runner.
But of course, the point of this blame game is moot. The Yankees are not going to win by scoring one run a night off of pitchers like Edwin Jackson. While it’s true he had good stuff, it seems like the Yankees have run up against a good number of pitchers who just happened to have good stuff against the Yanks. The American League just isn’t that deep in pitching.
Whenever the offense wants to wake up, I’ll be ecstatic. But this team is just putting too much pressure on their pitchers. Allowing two runs over 11 innings is fantastic, but with the way the Yanks’ bats are going, it’s not enough. No wonder the team is losing.
Sorry folks, had a long and tough one at the ol’ 9-to-5 today, and I’ve got a massive headache that the Yankees only exacerbated. I don’t have it in me to pour over minor league box scores and punch numbers into my laptap for half-an-hour tonight. Here’s the links to the box scores, feel free to sift through them yourselves. Biggest story of the night was Kevin Whelan returning to action with Tampa. The usual updates return tomorrow.
Triple-A Scranton (Marquez pitched like crap again, Andy Phillips batted cleanup for the other team, JB Cox made his Scranton debut)
Double-A Trenton (might be time for everyone to chill out on the whole “call-up Dan McCutchen” kick)
High-A Tampa (the opposing pitcher was Jonah Nickerson, who threw 388 pitches in an 8-day span to help Oregon State win it’s first ever College World Series in 2006)
Low-A Charleston (Montero’s at it again) · (15) ·