With a week to go before Opening Day, the Yankees have already sold 3.8 million tickets this year. Before a pitch is thrown, the Yanks are guaranteed an average per-game attendance of at least 46,900 fans, and according to the team, this figure is 400,000 tickets ahead of sales from the same day in March 2007. That’s insane. · (5) ·
When Chris Britton received word of his trade from the Orioles to the Yankees, he probably thought he had died and gone to heaven. Escaping Baltimore’s baseball purgatory is a dream come true for any Major Leaguer. Little did Britton, now 25, realize that the Yanks simply wanted him to get outs at AAA. After throwing a few good spring innings and only 12.2 big league innings last year, Britton, who turned in a fine 2006 effort in Baltimore, was sent to AAA today. One day, we’ll understand why the Yanks don’t like Britton as much as his limited numbers would suggest they should. · (43) ·
Unless you’re willing to sacrifice a kidney or your first-born, getting into the All Star Game will be neigh impossible. The Yankees however are looking for All Star Game volunteers. Be a part of the New York welcoming committee; man the DHL All Star Game Fan Fest; register for the “opportunity to win All-Star Game tickets.” The team needs 2000 volunteers, and that commemorative shirt, cap, lanyard, and fanny pack may be as close to the game as most of us will get this summer. · (4) ·
You might have caught Bob Klapisch, normally one of my favorite MSM writers, discussing the Joba situation yesterday. Honestly, I have no problem with people arguing that Joba should be employed in the bullpen, so long as they provide ample logic to back up their position. However, Klapisch’s logic doesn’t pass muster.
A question Klapisch has early on: “But who else in the American League can boast a Joba-factor?” He goes on to say that Joba “demoralizes” lineups, “softening them up for Mariano Rivera in the ninth.” Well, what exactly demoralizes opposing hitters? The fact that they’re completely shut down in the eighth, I guess. And yeah, Joba completely shut down teams over his 24 innings last year, allowing just one run. However, I’m more than doubtful that the ratio would rise over the course of a full season.
Even if Joba managed a herculean 1.30 ERA in relief, he’d still have company. If B.J. Ryan does indeed come back, the Blue Jays have Jeremy Accardo, who is rather sickening in the bullpen. The Indians have Rafael Betancourt, who posted a 1.47 ERA last year (and don’t forget Rafael Perez, too). The Angels have Scot Shields, who is usually a shutdown guy, last season notwithstanding. So right in the AL, we have a few elite setup guys.
(Of course, Boston could add a Joba-esque 8th inning guy if they moved Josh Beckett into that role. Ditto Tampa Bay and Scott Kazmir, Detroit and Justin Verlander, and Seattle and Felix Hernandez.)
Klapisch goes on to say: “The Bombers haven’t been this reliable after the seventh inning in more than a decade.” The Yanks were 81-4 last year when they had a lead going into the 8th inning. In 2006 they were 84-5 in that situation; 77-2 in 2005; 82-5 in 2004. In 1998, a decade ago, they were 93-1. So yes, there is room for improvement. I just think that Klapisch overstates the point here.
In other words, the Yankees foresee Chamberlain as their ace – someday. But that grooming process could take a year or two, which is why the Bombers were wise to return Joba to the bullpen last week and would be even smarter to keep him there for the entire 2008 season. Put it this way: Is there anyone in the organization who can clone his eighth-inning brilliance? Anyone at all?
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems Klapisch is suggesting that since it will take “a year or two” to get Joba fully up to speed — at which time he’ll be 23 or 24 — they should eschew that option and just use him in the bullpen? I’m sorry, but that reeks of shortsightedness.
Furthermore, does it matter that no one can match his eighth-inning brilliance? The team ERA in that inning was 4.83 (5.16 without Chamberlain), but it wasn’t their wirst. The second and third innings were particularly terrible, at 5.56 and 5.33. The fifth inning was at 5.00, and the seventh was at 6.50. So it seems the team needs some brilliance all around. Of course, as a starter, Joba would be covering some, if not all of those innings in question.
Another disagreeing point: “Consider that Chamberlain is on a 140-inning limit this year. How many of those will be wasted as a starter when the Yankees are on one of their run-scoring binges?” Is that justification for starting Kei Igawa? Seriously, it’s a heap of faulty logic. You never know when you’re going to score runs. Joba will pitch in blowouts, and he’ll pitch in close games, just like every pitcher.
“When Chamberlain blew away three Blue Jays hitters the other day on 15 pitches, it was a reminder why he kept the American League to a .145 average last year…” Yeah. He blew away three Jays minor leaguers. Forgot to mention that, huh?
“In case anyone hadn’t noticed, Chamberlain’s ERA had swelled to 6.14 before returning to the bullpen this spring.” Repeat after me. Spring Training doesn’t count.
Klapisch finishes up by saying that “by all logic” Joba should be in the pen. Which is true if you count logic which has holes I can drive a Mack truck through.
In Grapefruit League action, Brett Gardner, the Yanks’ speedy 24-year-old center field prospect, is hitting .379/.455/.517 with six stolen bases in six attempts. While Melky Cabrera, the reigning center fielder, is having himself a decent spring, rumblings are growing around Gardner. Last week, Brian at Depressed Fan pondered Gardner’s fate. Today, in The Times, Jack Curry looks at the player who considers himself the center fielder of the future. It’s a excellent look at a dynamic player, and as we’re somewhat skeptical of Melky’s long-term prognosis — to say the least — Gardner is a intriguing option in center field for sure. · (45) ·
Did you know that more than one in every 100 American adults is in prison? That’s kinda scary. Every year over 1,500 players hope to kick start a potential big league career come the June amateur draft, and it’s inevitable that a few bad apples end up in the crop. Lastings Milledge was a first round pick despite being expelled from high school because he allegedly raped a classmate. Clay Buchholz was a sandwich pick after … well, you know what happened there. Elijah Dukes is in a class all by himself. Heck, even Tyler Clippard was booted off his high school team because of a DUI. Boys will be boys, except sometimes those boys are really good at playing baseball.
Major league teams have shown that they’re willing to take a chance on a player with makeup issues if the talent is there. While it’s not ideal to build your franchise around guys with less than colorful backgrounds, remember that prospects generally serve two purposes: feed talent to the major league roster, and serve as trade fodder. There will always be someone out there ready to take a chance on a talented kid if you’re sick of dealing with him. And people do change; life isn’t about what they do or what they’ve been through, it’s about the type of person they become afterwards. Everyone needs a second chance now and then.
This draft class is no different, with a handful of guys bringing more than just baseball ability to the table. I’ve decided to highlight the best of the worst because sometimes the talent is just too good to pass up. Fun starts after the jump.
According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees plan to convert Joba to a starter some time this summer if all goes according to plan. He will transition from the pen to the rotation in 2008, Yankee officials say. This is, in my opinion, good news, and the more I see of Ross Ohlendorf, the more I think he could be the answer to the Yanks’ 8th inning once Joba is starting. · (35) ·
In the seemingly never-ending march toward Opening Day, the Yanks find themselves yet again facing off against the Pirates. They didn’t take many regulars with them. So this game is bound to be filled with all the excitement of a late-September call-up game against the Royals.
It’s on YES and MLB.tv, and only the promise of potentially seeing Ross Ohlendorf pitch is a bright spot. Jeff Karstens draws the start, and it’s hard to say if the Yanks brought the four regulars with them that MLB requires for Spring Training away games. Maybe they think Morgan Ensberg counts.
Graig Nettles is battling prostate cancer, according to the New York Post. Nettles was diagnosed with the disease around Thanksgiving but put off surgery to come to Spring Training. He’ll go under the knife on April 8, and the Yankee community will be pulling for him. · (15) ·
Take a look at any architectural rendering of the new Yankee Stadium, and something is clearly missing from the pathways outside the stadium. The Yankee Stadium Bat, that familiar meeting place in the Bronx, visible from the Major Deegan, has not been included in plans for the new Stadium, and no one is quite sure what’s going to happen to it.
Anthony Rieber, in today’s Newsday, tried to get ascertain the fate of the Bat. He did not have much success:
The 120-foot Louisville Slugger outside Gate 4 — actually a boiler stack fitted to look like a bat, complete with a knob at the top, tape at the handle and Babe Ruth’s signature on the barrel — seems to have been overlooked as the Yankees prepare to make the move across the street to a new Yankee Stadium in 2009.
“We do not have knowledge of what will happen to ‘The Bat,’” Yankees spokesman Michael Margolis said.
A spokesman for the city parks and recreation department, which owns and runs Yankee Stadium, referred calls about The Bat to Mayor Bloomberg’s press office.
Said mayoral spokesman Joseph Gallagher: “The city is working with both the Mets and the Yankees on a plan to sell memorabilia from their respective stadiums that will be timed with the end of the 2008 season, and won’t interfere with existing plans to demolish the stadiums.”
It’s highly doubtful that the City and team will find too many buyers for a 120-foot boiler stack.
A few months’ back, a similar quandary arose for Mets fans. The Mets were not planning on transporting the home run apple to CitiField, and fans were not happy to hear that news. In fact, a few of them — a high school classmate of mine included — starting an online movement called Save the Apple. While it’s unclear if they saved the apple from the Shea, CitiField will include its own home run apple.
But what about Yankee Stadium? The Bat doesn’t exactly have any sort of storied history. Everyone and their uncles likes to use as a pre-game meeting spot because it’s rather easy to spot and centrally located. Otherwise, it’s a piece of engineering equipment made to look somewhat like a Babe Ruth bat. The colors don’t even look much like a wooden bat, but it is a part of Yankee Stadium. Fans identify with that part.
Since public support for saving the old Yankee Stadium never really materialized, what about that famous landmark behind home plate? Should we Save the Bat? Or should it serve as a marker of the old Yankee Stadium forever sitting where it now rests?
Photo of The Bat by flickr user wallyg.