Over their last 20 games heading into today, the Kansas City Royals were 3-17. Over his last four starts prior to today, Luke Hochevar was 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA and an 11:18 K:BB ratio over 23 innings.

So clearly the Yankees had this game in their pocket. They assumed they had won it and simply didn’t show up ready to play. That clearly must be what accounted for their pathetic 3-2 loss at the hands of a Royals team that is now 4-17 over their 21 games.

Now, in reality, we know that a pitcher — especially one with Luke Hochevar’s pedigree — can emerge to shut down the Yankees. We know that Mariano Rivera is human and threw an unnecessary inning in during yesterday’s 96-degree game only to lose today. We know that this one loss is not the end of the world. But it is a maddening sign of an increasingly frustrating Yankee team.

Over that four-start span, Hochevar had managed to throw just 241 of 420 pitches for strikes. Today, the Yanks managed to draw no walks against the young righthander, and the only blemish on his record was an A-rod home run. It was one of those days.

Meanwhile, Mike Mussina was masterful again with nothing to show for it. He went eight strong and allowed two runs on a Miguel Olivo home run. The pitch — a hanging breaking ball — was the only mistake Moose made all day. He was denied his tenth win when Mariano Rivera gave up a home run to Jose Guillen.

And that brings me to a question: At what point do the Yankees stop pitching to Jose Guillen this weekend? At what point do they stop throwing a fastball hitter fastballs? Guillen went 9 for 16 against the Yankees this weekend with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs. Rivera threw him too good a pitch on 0-2, and Guillen smacked it over the wall for a game-winning home run. That was a poor pitch.

Finally, before I go throw my Yankee frustration with this game away, let’s talk about Melky. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Melky Cabrera took a ball and then pulled a Robinson Cano. He swung at a pitch, grounded out and slid into first base, out by about six feet. It was one pathetic display of hitting.

First, Cabrera shouldn’t be swinging in that situation. Joakim Soria had already walked and hit a batter. Melky must make him throw a strike and perhaps two before swinging. Second, the next time Melky slides into first base, Tony Pena should just bop him on the head. Enough.

At some point, the Yanks have to figure out what they have in Melky. Since hitting his last home run on May 4, Melky is hitting .250 with an OPS well below .500. Those are not the numbers of a Major League outfielder, but we’ll have more on the Melky debate at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Stay tuned.

Here’s to .500, once again.

Categories : Game Stories
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2008 Draft Review

By in Draft. Tags: · Comments (29) ·

After months and months of anticipation, the draft has finally come and gone, and all I have to say is: Thank God. It’s fun trying to find hidden gems and discussing who your team should take, but the actual event can be like watching linoleum curl. Televising the draft was a great idea, and it’s amazing how far draft coverage has come in the last 10-15 years, but it’s time to go back to the old rapid fire conference call. Four hours for 46 picks is just too long, sorry.

The Yanks employed their tried and true philosophy of taking the best talent available on their board regardless of bonus demands. While they didn’t land any of the sexy names in the later rounds like we’re accustomed too, Damon Oppenheimer & Co. still selected a bevy of high ceiling players late to supplement the talent they took at the top of the draft.

Obviously, the big prize is first rounder Gerrit Cole, a UCLA recruit who was ranked as one of top three high school pitchers in the country all year long, but other prep pitchers like Brett Marshall, Mikey O’Brien and Matt Richardson all bring a similar package of stuff, projectability and youth. To diversify the portfolio, so to speak, the Yanks also took safer college arms like Jeremy Bleich, Scott Bittle and Luke Greinke. Bleich and prepsters Blake Monar & Chris Dwyer give the club a solid group of southpaws for the farm system, which is all but devoid of quality lefties.

On the position player side, the Yanks went for youth and hitting ability up the middle with high schoolers Corban Joseph, Chris Smith, Garrison Lassiter and Sam Mende, and balanced them out with proven college bats like David Adams, Dan Brewer, Jack Rye and Luke Anders. Kyle Higashioka and Ben McMahan add to an already impressively deep crop of young catching, and Addison Maruszak is a prime conversion candidate.

Overall, I’m pleased with the haul. They landed high upside talent on the mound at up-the-middle positions, which are the critical areas of any baseball team. You can see all of the Yanks picks here. Selecting the players was only half the battle. Now they have to get them signed.

Categories : Draft
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I can only wonder if we’d be going for a sweep right now if Friday night’s ump didn’t need lasik. Yeah, I know, it does no good to complain about what we cannot change, but in my mind, it’s still bases loaded and two outs with Cano coming to the plate.

Still, there are worse things than taking three out of four. Hell, we might be fighting for a split here if the offense didn’t go crazy on Saturday. So things are looking up, if only slightly.

And how ’bout Damon and Giambi? Plenty of people were counting them out during April, but they’ve been the catalysts of this offense for the past month or so. Though they’ll both certainly cool off at some point — especially Damon, who is now hitting far, far above his career averages — they’ve kept the team afloat when the rest of the pieces weren’t functioning optimally.

Our ace Mike Mussina (I say that only half-jokingly) takes the hill today. He missed Kansas City last time around.

Your lineup:

1. Johnny Damon, LF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Bobby Abreu, RF
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Hideki Matsui, DH
6. Jason Giambi, 1B
7. Robinson Cano, 2B
8. Jose Molina, C
9. Melky Cabrera, CF

And on the mound, number thirty-five, Mike Mussina

Categories : Game Threads
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As the new Yankee Stadium has gone up, I’ve written a few pieces about the Yankees, the city and the whole deal with the parks. In short, I don’t think that the Yanks and the city have played fairly in their park dealings.

The Yankees and the city were supposed to replace the parkland lost when the Yanks and the city agreed to build the new stadium on the spot of the popular Macombs Dam Park. However, neither side has upheld its own part of the bargain, and a new report has come to light accusing New York and the Yankees of deceptively stealing parkland from South Bronx communities. Alex Kratz at the Norwood News reports:

The New York Yankees baseball club and city officials are shortchanging residents on public parkland they promised to replace, and even expand, upon completing the new Yankee Stadium, charges a new report released last week by park advocates.

New York City Park Advocates released its report, “Broken Promises: The City’s Replacement Park Scheme for the New Yankee Stadium Project” last Thursday. It says that without a single public hearing, city and state officials alienated 25.3 acres of historic South Bronx parkland and then said it would be returned fully and then some. The report goes on to say that “a close examination reveals” that only 21.78 acres are being replaced.

The biggest discrepancy in the numbers, according to the report, comes down to the fact that a 2.89-acre asphalt baseball field in Macombs Dam Park (which is being replaced) was not considered in the city’s final analysis. City officials said they didn’t consider it a “recreational facility,” even though residents had used it for baseball, football, bike riding and other uses for decades, the report says.

The report — which you can read in full here at the NYC Park Advocates’ site — is more damning of the city than of the Yankees, but the team, which issued constant promises of adequate replacements for the lost parkland, shoulders some of the blame as well.

I keep coming back to this issue because I’m a firm believer in good government. At this point, I’ve come to terms with the existence of the new stadium. It’s there; it will open next year; and whether we like it or not, there are now just 49 regular season games left in the House that Ruth Built.

But just because the Yankees are a big draw in the Bronx and a powerful organization within the confines of the city doesn’t mean that they should bilk the surrounding communities out of parkland. The team has the fiscal resources and the city has the ability to right these parkland wrongs; there’s no reason why this story of green spaces in a borough noted for its lack of well-maintained greenlands can’t have a happy ending.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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Rich Harden stuck out the side on 9 pitches in the first inning today. They should make him a setup man. Oh, and be glad you’re not a Mets’ fan

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was suspended due to rain after the 8th inning. They were tied 2-2, and I’m guessing they’ll finish it off tomorrow. The big story was Alan Horne returning, and he was effectively wild: 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 HB, 2-3 GB/FB. Only 44 of 82 pitches were strikes, and Chad Jennings says he went to a 3 ball count on 9 of 18 batters he faced. He’ll never have great control because of his long arm action, but he can certainly improve on that kind of performance. It’s was his first start back, so no worries.

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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For a night, at least, the Yankees will be in third place in the AL East. After their 6-3 victory over the Royals on a stifling hot Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, the Bombers are 32-31, tied with the Blue Jays for the third slot in their division.

The story of the day — outside of Joey Gathright’s single-handedly keeping this game closer than it should have been — once again belonged to the starter, Joba Chamberlain. No one else gets a standing ovation in the Bronx before delivering the first pitch. It truly is a sight to see.

After a shaky first inning last time out, Joba came out strong and finished strong. In between, he ran into some trouble. In 78 pitches spanning 4.1 innings, Joba gave up five hits and three runs — two earned — on five strike outs and one walk. He had baserunners in every inning but the fourth.

As progress goes, today’s outing was definitely a step forward. Joba is maintaining a strike out rate of better than one per inning, and he should reach the 90-100 pitch mark later this week. From a pitch-by-pitch perspective, he seems to be having problems burying the curveball. His one mistake of the afternoon was on a 3-2 hanging curveball slider to Jose Guillen. The walk to DeJesus in the fifth that chased Joba from the game also came on a 3-2 breaking ball that Joba couldn’t spot. As he throws more, I expect these pitches to improve, and overall, this outing was a good second start from Joba as the Yanks stretch him out.

Meanwhile, the Yankee offense did its thing. They scored six runs on two home runs and a booming double by A-Rod. Johnny Damon continued his hot hitting; Jason Giambi, now batting .317 with 12 home runs and 19 walks over his last 148 plate appearances since April 22, crushed another home run; Bobby Abreu belted an upper deck shot in the first.

On the mound, Dan Giese continued to throw strikes, and Jose Veras worked a solid eighth, allowing a hit but striking out two. It was rather notable that Veras pitched instead of Farnsworth late in a three-run game, and I have to believe that Veras is slowly inching ahead of Kyle.

Personally, today was one of those days where I was glad to be sitting along the first base line in the upper deck. The Yanks were giving out water for free, and everyone in the stadium was doused in sweat. It was hot; it was humid; but when Rivera threw his seventh pitched and retired Mike Aviles to end the game, it was well worth it.

We’ll do it again tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. when Mike Mussina goes for win number 10. The Yanks will look to stay in third place and above .500 for longer than 21 hours.

Categories : Game Stories
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Man, it sure is a scorcher today. The little weather thing on my desktop says it’s currently 104-degrees in the city, meaning it’s about 120 out in the sun glazed tier seats, where Ben finds himself today. Lucky for him, he gets to see a primo pitching matchup.

Zack Greinke is just the kind of pitcher than can shut the Yanks down, a guy that changes speeds like a veteran and can hump it up to 96 if he needs it. Hopefully Joba is over his first start jitters, and can command his fastball enough to economize those 75-80 pitches he’ll be limited to. The Royals come into the game sporting a .312 team OBP, so hopefully they help get themselves out here and there.

Are you ready for some fist pumps?

1. Mr. 6 for 6, DH
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Bobby Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Matsui, LF
6. Giambi, 1B
7. Posada, C – two consecutive games in this heat coming back from an injury? What is Girardi thinking? What’s the point of carrying three catchers then?
8. Cano, 2B
9. Cabrera, CF

And on the mound, the Winnebago Wonder, Joba Chamberlain.

Categories : Game Threads
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  • Hank supports Cash, says Cash

    The back-and-forth over Brian Cashman’s future continued today with Brian Cashman’s stating that Hank Steinbrenner supports him as GM and has already approached him about returning next season and beyond. In an interview with Newday’s Ken Davidoff, Cashman said he’s not looking to leave the Bronx and appreciates the support of the Yankee owners. “I appreciate the fact that is on board with everything we’re doing, 110 percent, to the point where he’s recognized that making the move for Santana would not have been the right move,” Cashman said. · (4) ·

There’s nothing better than waking up late on a Sunday morning, a little while before the game — and Joba’s second start — begins, to some baseball reading. To wit, a dose of recommended reading for you:

  • Tyler Kepner profiled Gerrit Cole, the Yanks’ first-round draft pick. The youngster was 11 when the Yankees lost to the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. I feel really old now.
  • Peter Meehan, a travel writer for The Times, tells you what to eat and what to avoid at ballparks around the country. The corresponding map is pretty nifty.
  • Ed Price profiles the Yankees clubhouse attendants. As fun as it sounds in theory to work in a baseball clubhouse, it sounds very much like a tough, work-intensive job.
  • Doug Glanville, in his on-going contributions as a guest columnist for The Times, writes about the infamous game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. As a former member of that Cubs team, Glanville is quick to point the finger at Steve Bartman and omits any mention of Alex Gonzalez’s more costly error a few batters later on a potential inning-ended double play ball. Fun note: Kyle Farnsworth helped seal the Cubs’ doom in that game, giving up 3 earned runs in 0.1 innings of relief work in that 8th inning nearly five years ago.
  • Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports checks in with the Yankee veterans who are loathe to admit that the Yanks are in a rebuilding mode. I wouldn’t call what they’re doing “rebuilding,” but the Yanks are certainly pursuing something of a different course than the one they’ve charted year in and year out since losing to the Diamondbacks in 2001.
Categories : Whimsy
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