Today one’s of those — whaddyacallit — off days for the Yanks. It’s a rare occurrence indeed this season, and obviously, we won’t have a game thread. So let’s try an open thread instead.
With 33 games down, the Yanks have seen 20 percent of the season fade into the rear view mirror. They’ve once again had their early-season struggles. The offense hasn’t clicked yet; the young pitchers haven’t lived up to expectations. But when all is said and done, they’re 17-16, three games out of first. Last year, they were 16-17 and a whopping seven games out of first place. Things are downright rosy for the 2008 Yankees through the lens of 2007.
For Yankee fans and the New York media, two groups who demand perfection at every turn in the Big Apple, 2008 is also a year of monumental change in the Bronx. We’ve got a new Joe in town. Joe Torre fled for LA after a fairly bitter divorce, and Joe Girardi took the reins.
Girardi’s tenure has been a little shaky through April. He didn’t have the smoothest of relationships with a media used to the mannerisms of Joe Torre. The Yankee propaganda machine has obscured injuries and roster moves, and press coverage in turn has been far from favorable.
On the field, Girardi has shown a tendency to keep some of his relievers out there for too long, but I think his bullpen management has been fair. He’s done a far better job at balancing the relief load than Joe Torre ever did, and he continues to trot out the young kids, such as Ross Ohlendorf, far more often than Torre would.
So here’s my question to you, loyal RAB readers, on this off day: How do you rate Joe Girardi’s first 33 games in New York? Do you like the job he’s doing? Do you pine for Joe Torre? How would you hope to see Girardi improve over his next 33 games and beyond?
From the “It’s Never Too Early for the Hot Stove League” department comes this gem from Boston Herald columnist Tony Massarotti: The Yanks could push hard for Derek Lowe’s services when the durable righty becomes a free agent this season. The Yankee fan in me would rather stab myself in the face than watch Derek Lowe pitch every five days, and I’d much rather see Yanks push hard for C.C. Sabathia. However, outside of his last year in Boston, Lowe has put up pretty good career numbers and has a six-season streak of 32 starts or more. The Yanks could do far worse in the short term if C.C. stays in Cleveland, but with Joba, Wang, Pettitte, Hughes and Kennedy right now projecting to start in 2009, it seems that the Yankee rotation is full. (HT to MLBTR) · (37) ·
Joe Torre’s at it again. Or actually, won’t be at it again. After seeing his shiny new manager signal for relievers Joe Beimel and Scott Proctor a combined 32 times in the Dodgers’ first 31 games, GM Ned Coletti instituted the Kershaw Decree to protect his 20-yr old stud southpaw, who will inevitably take over the fifth starter spot later this summer. Kershaw will be limited to 25 innings per month for the remainder of the year, putting him on pace for 150 IP or so after tossing 122 last year. “We don’t want to get teased and find out in September [that Kershaw's] not pitching anymore,” said Torre. I’m sure the front office is thinking “We don’t want to get teased and find out in September [that Kershaw's] shoulder and elbow are shredded.” Saving the world’s top young arms from Joe Torre, one GM at a time. · (15) ·
It’s no secret that we here at RAB weren’t the biggest fans of Melky Cabrera by the end of last season. We thought we had seen enough of Melky to recognize his ceiling and pinpoint his flaws. So far, through 118 plate appearances this year, Melky seems to be proving us wrong. He’s hitting .291/.359/.505, and he leads the team with 6 HR. He’s showing more patience at the plate and more power with the bat. While it’s still early, Melky’s been a pleasant surprise. Today, in Newsday, Ken Davidoff looks at the career path of Melky and praises the Yankees for their patience in developing the youngster. It is certainly ironic that the one piece of the Santana puzzle we were most willing to part with in December is the one producing the most for the team right now. · (24) ·
With Ian Kennedy on the way down, all signs are point to a Kei Igawa start in Detroit next weekend. Considering that Kennedy claims he’s making progress, I’d rather just see Ian make his next start at the Big League level. For what it’s worth, Igawa is 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 39.2 AAA innings. He’s walked just 12 and has 40 strike outs, but he’s still getting more outs in the air than on the ground. Igawa’s never had much of a problem getting MiLB hitters out, but his stuff hasn’t translated into Big League success at all yet. · (34) ·
A few hours after I got home from the Bronx, I was talking to my mom about the game. It was, we decided, one of the nicer days at Yankee Stadium. The weather was perfect; the game was fast and crisp; and, of course, the Yankees won. It was, in other words, a day on which I could easily imagine Ernie Banks waking up, stepping outside and saying, “Let’s play two.”
Sadly, for the Yanks, two against the Mariners was not in the cards today. They had to settle for one win and their first three-game sweep of the season. The Yanks now find themselves in second place at 17-16, three games behind the Red Sox for the AL East lead and two back of Oakland for that fourth playoff spot.
The good news for this weekend was the emergence of the Yankee offense. During the three-game set, the Yanks scored 19 runs and banged out 27 hits. With three solid outings from Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner, this weekend’s sweep came easy to the Yankees. It was baseball as it should be in the Bronx, and everything was ok.
The offensive started, as it should, with the top of the order. After racking up 10 hits on Saturday, the Yanks’ one through four hitters dialed it up to 11 on Sunday. Over the last two days, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui are a combined 21 for 37 with 11 runs scored and nine RBIs. The table-setters are setting the table, and the clean-up crew is cleaning up. While the top of the lineup won’t hit .568 all season, it certainly makes for an easy baseball game when they do.
On the other side of the ball, Darrell Rasner was everything the Yanks expected him to be and more. He got off to a rocky start, giving up a two-run home run in the first, but that would be all the Mariners would muster against the 27-year-old. Rasner threw two-thirds of his pitches for strikes and didn’t walk anyone. He also managed to keep his pitch count low, throwing just 76 pitches through six innings. Ian Kennedy should take a lesson.
And that brings me to my one and only nitpick of the game. Why did Joe Girardi opt to remove Rasner from the game after six innings? Rasner hadn’t thrown a game in a few days, and he’s a 27-year-old. He was rolling, and he could have thrown at least another inning and maybe two. It seemed like knee-jerk management to me: Have your starter throw six good innings, and then turn things over to the bullpen.
In my book, if your starter is rolling through six innings with a six-run lead and his pitch count is at 76, just keep him in. It’s far better to go with the known — Rasner’s command — than the unknown coming out of the Yankee bullpen. (To take this one step further, the Yanks could have used Joba to throw the last two innings today to stretch him out. They have an off-day tomorrow, and he really has to start making some multiple-inning appearances.)
But that complaint is small beans. The Yanks won decisively; they got a good start from someone other than Wang or Mussina; and the bats seem to have woken up from their early-season slumbers. The Cliff Lee 0.96 ERA buzzsaw comes to town on Tuesday, but we’ll worry about then. For now, let’s just enjoy the sweep and hope for more days of solid baseball under the sun this spring.
I’ve got a minor correction to this comment I made the other day about draft eligibility. If a team wants to draft a player than isn’t in the MLB Scouting Bureau database, they have to request a “commisioner number” for that player ahead of time. If no request is made, the player can’t be drafted. Thanks to KLaw for the heads up.
Triple-A Scranton (9-5 win over Durham)
Wilson Betemit: 1 for 2, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 BB
Brett Gardner: 2 for 3, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB – on base 45 times in 28 games
Jason Lane: 1 for 3, 2 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI – 5 RBI total in his last 23 games
Eric Duncan: 2 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 CS – batted cleanup for the first time all year
Cody Ransom: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K
JD Closser & Justin Christian: both 1 for 4 – Closser K’ed once … Christian scored a run & K’ed twice
Kei Igawa: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2-11 GB/FB – 66 of 108 pitches were strikes (61.1%) … he bit the bullet and went as deep as possible because there were only two relievers available today
Scott Strickland: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0-4 GB/FB – 25 of 41 pitches were strikes (61.0%) … David Robertson was the only other reliever available
Stop me if you’re heard this one before: Jim Salisbury of The Philadelphia Inquirer opines on Brian Cashman’s future today. With a GM vacancy in Philadelphia probably opening up after the season, Salisbury believes that, if Cashman’s Yanks fail to make the playoffs, he could be out in the Bronx and in in Philadelphia. I think Salisbury is getting too far ahead of himself. As things stand today, the Yanks are 1.5 games out of a playoff spot and 3 games out of first. Meanwhile, the youth movement won’t happen in one month, and the Steinbrenners, despite Hank’s public comments, seem to understand that. I know a good number of Yankee fans don’t think highly of Cashman, but getting rid of him won’t be as easy or as quick as Salisbury seems to think. · (25) ·
Joe and Ben are both at the game today, so I’m your host for the afternoon. They’ll get to see the triumphant return of Darrell Rasner, one of the more underappreciated arms in the organization. He’s not flashy and he doesn’t have the overpowering stuff, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball in the park, which is more than say, Bronson Arroyo is doing these days.
Rasner will face perennial punching bag Carlos Silva as the Yanks shoot for their first sweep of a three game series this year. Hopefully facing Silva allows them to keep distancing themselves from that frustrating “score some runs early then go into hibernation” routine.
To make room for Rasner, Brian Bruney was shifted to the 60-day DL (to clear a 40-man spot) and IPK was demoted to Triple-A Scranton (to clear a 25-man spot). IPK’s elgible to be called back up on May 14th, four days after the next time the Yanks will need a fifth starter. So unless someone gets injured between now and then, it’ll probably be Kei Igawa or Steven White on the 10th in Detroit. The Yanks’ patience lasts only 6 games, I see.
Can you hear all the Dodgers’ fans crying bloody murder over Chad Billingsley’s poor start? I sure can’t.
The team’s leader in slugging percentage, LF
Jessica Alba’s baby daddy, SS
The offensive MVP, RF
Thank goodness there’s only 1 year left on his deal, 1B
The guy who kidnapped Melky Cabrera and is playing his place, CF
He won’t hit .150-.213-.230 all year, right?, 2B
The guy that’s hit exactly 36 HR since hitting 36 HR in 2005, 3B
Chad “is this what we’ve come to” Moeller, C
Notes: Looks like Latrell Spreewell needed that money to feed his family after all.
PeteAbe has more of the details surrounding Jose Tabata’s suspension last week. The year at AA is not going too well for a player once regarded as the Yanks’ top positional prospect. · (31) ·