“When I go, this team goes a lot smoother.” so said Johnny Damon almost three weeks ago. They had yet to score more than four runs in a game at that point, though the team was heading into just the sixth contest of the season. For his part, Damon had been on the interstate since the second game of the year. Considering his sluggish start in 2007, you could tell he knew the critics were breathing down his neck.
He’s had some good games since then, but it’s not until the past three games that he’s really put everything together. He’s 7 for 14 with a walk in those contests, blasting two doubles and two home runs. He’s picked up is average to .253 and his OBP to .360 — if nothing else, a testament to the fact that it’s still early, and that anyone can turn it around.
It’s easy to write off Damon’s accomplishments as a small sample size. And if someone wants to do so, it’s tough to argue. But I can absolutely see this being a prelude to a solid season by Damon. And we’re going to need it. Because what he said about the team going smoother when he goes is visible in the team’s past three games.
Lost in all the hullabaloo over Hank Steinbrenner’s Joba comments was a piece from the tireless Ken Rosenthal. Kenny thinks that Brian Cashman should leave the Yankees after his contract is up this season because Hank Steinbrenner is too aggravating. Besides the fact that Cashman, a 22-year Yankee vet, is fiercely loyal to the Bombers, besides the fact that Hank is just one part of the Hank-and-Hal team leading the Yankees, Rosenthal misses the point. He’s simply validating Steinbrenner’s outbursts while Cashman’s handling of it this week was, in a word, masterful. Despite his flaws as GM, Cashman is and will remain the right man for the job. Hank knows this and so should Rosenthal. · (24) ·
Tonight’s game — a closer-than-it-should-have-been 6-4 win over the White Sox — proved that, yes, Mike Mussina can keep hitters off balance. In fact, he pitched like a more effective version of Jamie Moyer tonight. Funny how Hank nailed that one.
On the evening, Mussina went after hitters. He threw inside fastballs and had his slow, slower, slowest stuff out in full force. Except for two solo home runs, he largely silenced the White Sox. In seven innings, he gave up four hits, walked one and struck out three. He’s 2-3 with a 4.94 ERA, and if Mussina can keep that ERA around 4.50-4.75, the Yankees and their fans would be thrilled. With this game tonight, Mussina silenced the criticism for a few more trips through the rotation.
Meanwhile, the story of the night by the end of the game wasn’t Robinson Cano‘s utter bad luck, and it wasn’t Jason Giambi‘s utter lack of mobility at first base. Although both were out in full force tonight, the development from this game was LaTroy Hawkins and his inability to get hitters out. While I know that 9.2 innings does not a season make and I know that the Yankee fan reaction is “he’s not producing; let’s trade him,” I firmly believe that LaTroy Hawkins is simply wasting a roster spot on the Yankees.
For the season, Hawkins has made nine appearances, and he’s given up runs in four of them. He’s thrown 9.2 innings, given up 12 ER on 15 hits and four walks while striking out five. By any measure, he is right now the Yankee mop-up man, and I have to wonder about the wisdom of keeping him on this team for longer than necessary.
At AAA, the Yankees have three guys who have been throwing well — Chris Britton, Jonathan Albaladejo and Edwar Ramirez — along with Scott Patterson who is off to a slow start. Of those three, Britton and Albaladejo have successful, if limited, Major League track records, and Edwar has flashed bouts of brilliance in between bad outings.
If we assume that the Yankees could get something for LaTroy Hawkins — he is, after all, and Established Name with a track record of success — then they should look to move him. Britton, Albaladejo and Ramirez are all significantly younger than the 35-year-old Hawkins, and their upsides are much higher than Hawkins’. We didn’t need Hawkins in the pen when Brian Cashman signed him out of some requirement for veteran bullpen stability, and we don’t need him now when three guys at AAA could outperform him. If an offer sounds good, I say make the move.
Update: Austin Romine and Jairo Heredia are joining Bradley Suttle on the DL. Romine has a “lower body injury,” Jairo an “upper body injury.” How wonderfully descriptive. Why do the Yanks have to be so damn secretive about injuries? Sheesh.
Triple-A Scranton (6-5 win over Buffalo, walk-off style)
Brett Gardner: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – the last guy you’d expect is the one that deliver the walk-off homer
Bernie Castro: 0 for 2, 2 R, 2 BB
Juan Miranda: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K – pushes the hit streak to 9
Shelley: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K
Jason Lane & Eric Duncan: both 0 for 4 – Lane was picked off first … E-Dunc K’ed once, made a fielding error & made a great diving stop according to Chad Jennings
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HB, 6-2 GB/FB – 64 of 104 pitches were strikes (61.5%)
Chris Britton: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Sean Henn: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Edwar: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K – classic Edwar … 3 baserunners & 13 K in 9 IP with Scranton
Many of us have been quick to write off Mike Mussina this year. He hasn’t been spectacular for sure, with really one solid start against the Rays, and one not-so-terrible start against the Sawks. It seems like fans will judge him on a game-to-game basis this year, so six innings and three runs or fewer is crucial if he wants to stay in good favor.
(Though I suspect Moose doesn’t care what you and me think.)
We’re facing old friend Javy Vazquez, who has had a good start to the season. He’s struck out 27 to just 5 walks in 25.1 innings, pitching to a 3.20 ERA. He had a very good year last year too, striking out 213 to just 50 walks in 216.2 innings, compiling a 3.74 ERA.
(I said it at the time of the deal, and I’ll repeat: I would have much rather kept Vazquez, not traded for Johnson, and signed Beltran. Though it’s not like Carlos is making me look good this year.)
Same lineup as last night. Let’s score as many runs!
And on the mound, number thirty-five, Mike Mussina.
Ed Price relates an odd story from Chicago: The White Sox have put up a sign exhorting players not to drink bottled water on the bench. Why? Because Gatorade, the official sports drink of Major League Baseball, won’t be happy if someone is spotted in the dugout drinking some other bottled drink. “White Sox clubhouse personnel said if players take bottled water onto the bench, all the bottled water will be removed from the clubhouse as punishment,” Price relates. That strikes me as utterly ridiculous. · (15) ·
Speaking of Chamberlain, here’s Johnny Damon’s take on his role. It seems to be the majority opinion of the veterans in the clubhouse: “Joba as a starter, he has a chance to help us out once every five days. Him coming in and bridging the gap to Mariano, he’s got a chance to do that three or four times during those five games.
Damon added: “Our objective is to win games. Down the road, if we can find someone else like him to throw that eighth inning, then so be it, he’ll be able to start. But he’s helping us win too many games so far this year.”
The emphasis, of course, is mine.
Johnny Damon’s math, in my opinion, is off a bit. Let’s say the Yankees play three games every five days in which they absolutely need Joba Chamberlain to pitch the 8th. I would consider that to be a one- or two-run save situation in the 8th inning or a situation, like last night, where the game could get out of hand in the 7th. Joba would then be throwing at most three innings every five days.
That math translates to about 100 innings pitched in a 162-game season, and only overworked folks like Scott Proctor see that sort of bullpen use and bause. Joba the starter could be throwing at least six innings every five days for something along the lines of 180-200 innings pitched a season. It’s a no-brainer in terms of numbers.
But what I find interesting about this short piece is how Kepner notes that Damon and the other Yankee veterans all see to prefer Joba in the 8th. To me, it seems as though the idea of Joba has become something of a crutch for the Yankees. Even if he pitches just once in five days because the Yanks lose two games and are winning the other two by lopsided margins, the idea that Joba is in the bullpen does more for the Yankees’ psyche than his presence does in the games.
That, however, is no way to win championships.
While we focused on Hank’s call to stick Joba in the rotation, the Yanks’ co-chairman also managed to invoke the name of Mike Mussina as well earlier this week. Steinbrenner said that Mike Mussina needs to learn to pitch like Jamie Moyer. Well, as PeteAbe points out, Mussina already pitches like Jamie Moyer at least when it comes to Manny Ramirez. · (8) ·
Chieng-Ming Wang gutted it out for six innings. The Yankee bats smashed three home runs — all by lefties. And the bullpen pieced together three decent innings as the Yanks downed Jose Contreras and the White Sox 9-5 last night. With Mike Mussina starting tonight against our old friend Javier Vazquez, Wang’s fourth victory of the season — which keeps him on pace for 25 wins — was a big one. The five strike outs in 6 innings was a good sign too.
On the injury front, Jason Giambi left the game tonight not because his defense is laughably bad but because his thumb is swollen. He hurt his thumb by taken a grounder off of it in the 7th. So actually, his defense did force him out of the game but in a more Pavano-ian sort of way.
Meanwhile, in Kansas City, C.C. Sabathia went six strong, allowing four hits and striking out 11. Reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated, and the Yanks will be seeing him first-hand this weekend. And that’s all I’m saying there. · (47) ·
Triple-A Scranton (4-2 loss to Buffalo)
Brett Gardner, Shelley Duncan & Cody Ransom: all 0 for 4 – Gardner walked & scored a run … Shelley drove in a run & K’ed three times … Ransom K’ed once
Nick Green: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
Juan Miranda: 2 for 3, 2 BB – hitting streak up to 8 games … 7-14 K/BB ratio on the year
Eric Duncan: 2 for 2, 2 BB, 1 SB
Jeff Marquez: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 7-5 GB/FB – best start of the year
Jon Albaladejo: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K – only 18 of 40 pitches were strikes (45%)
Scott Patterson: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – 11 of 13 pitches were strikes (84.6%)
Edwar: 1 IP, zeroes, 0-3 GB/FB