Waiting on 600, the rain and Haren, Yanks trounce Royals

The Yankees and the Royals played a quick 2:33 game last night, but with an 85 minute rain delay stuck into the bottom of the 5th inning, I didn’t leave Yankee Stadium until nearly 11 p.m. last night. Meanwhile, the game on the field itself seemed to take second stage to the Dan Haren drama that’s still unfolding. The Yankees didn’t care. A-Rod didn’t hit his 600th home run, but he went 2 for 4 as the team slapped around Brian Bannister and the Kansas City bullpen en route to a 7-1 win.

Biggest Hit: Robinson Cano‘s first-inning double

Robinson Cano likes what he sees. Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

The Yankees got off to a very quick start against Brian Bannister tonight. On the sixth pitch of his lead-off at-bat, Brett Gardner roped a double down the right field that Alex Gordon misplayed into a three-base hit. Derek Jeter swung at the first pitch and grounded back to Bannister. After Mark Teixeira was hit by a pitch and A-Rod walked, Robinson Cano laced a three-run double into center field.

For the Yankees playing the Royals, they wouldn’t need more runs. Cano’s hit gave the Yanks an 80.6 percent win expectancy, and the club never ended a inning with their WE below 83 percent. Had it not been for the rain and Jorge Posada, this would have been a rather unmemorable win. The Yanks went about their victory in a business-like fashion, pounding out 11 hits and six walks against a Royals club that isn’t in the same league as the Bombers.

Biggest RBI: Jorge Posada’s first-inning double

After Robinson Cano’s double put the Yanks up by three, Jorge Posada followed with a double of his own into right field. As Cano touched the plate, Jorge has a mark to celebrate. The run batted in was his 1000th as a Yankee. The crowd of 46,801 gave Posada a standing ovation, and the Yanks’ catcher barely acknowledged the mark.

In the grand scheme of the game, Posada’s 1000th RBI isn’t as big a milestone as A-Rod’s impending 600th home run. Pages of players have reached the mark, and RBIs aren’t a stat over which the batter has much control. But of the 13 catchers in the Hall of Fame, only six have topped the 1000-RBI plateau. Jorge is in some rarified company as he makes his case for Cooperstown. He should get there easily.

The Best of the Pen

Let's keep Jonathan Albaladejo for more than a week. Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Outside of some first-inning thunder, the Yanks’ bats weren’t at their best tonight. They went just 4-for-18 with runners in scoring position, and plated a few off of some of the Royals’ relievers who were forced to get 10 outs after the rain delay. For the Yankees, though, their pitchers did the job. A.J. Burnett was, if not masterful, quite effective through five innings. He allowed four hits and walked just one while striking out three, and because of the rain, he threw just 58 pitches.

After the monsoon that flooded Yankee Stadium passed through, Chad Gaudin pitched three serviceable innings as a reliever. He allowed a run in the 8th, but he kept the Royals from ever creeping back into the game. Jonathan Albaladejo struck out two in the 9th while sitting in the low 90s with his fastball. When Sergio Mitre is activated later today, Dustin Moseley should get the axe.

Odds and Ends

I had no idea the Bronx was under a tornado watch last night. Neither did this guy. Credit: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Alex Rodriguez didn’t launch his 600th home run tonight, but he went 2 for 4 with a walk. This game was a stark contrast to those ABs in between his 499th and 500th home runs. During that span, he triple-slashed just .111/.306/.148. As long as he hits, that home run will come on its own.

Derek Jeter appeared to be visibly frustrated after his first-inning at-bat ended on the first pitch. With a runner on third, he tapped back to the pitcher. He failed to knock out a hit in his other four plate appearances and nearly drew the ire of the crowd when he hit into a double play in the 8th, jeopardizing another A-Rod plate appearance.

Props go out to the Yankee grounds crew tonight. As I stood in Section 424, visiting with a RAB regular, it was hard to believe the game would go on. Lightening and thunder crashed around us, and we were soaked to the bone. When the tarp came off, the outfield resembled a lake, but between the grounds crew’s sweeping efforts and the fast-draining system in place, the field was good to go. That was some rainstorm.

The Boxscores

If only they were all as stress-free as this WPA graph. Zen Baseball would rule the world.

(ESPN Box and Fangraphs box)

Up Next

The Yankees continue their four-game set against the Royals as Kyle Davies (4-6, 5.45) and Sergio Mitre (0-1, 2.88) square off in a 1:05 affair. A-Rod hit home run number 500 off of Davis back in 2007. Could history repeat itself? Only ti…oh, never mind. Game-time temperatures are expected to be in the low-to-mid 90s with a heat advisory and thunderstorm watch in effect.

Stark: Yanks ‘never close’ on Haren

The Dan Haren Saga’s long night’s journey into day continues as Jayson Stark files a missive on ESPN. He says the Yanks and the D-backs were, according to his sources, “never close” to a trade tonight despite rumors to the contrary. The sticking point, it seems, is Joba Chamberlain.

The two teams did swap names Friday, the source said. But the Yankees rejected a Diamondbacks proposal that would have sent Joba Chamberlain, highly regarded pitching prospect Ivan Nova and two other prospects to Arizona for Haren.

The Yankees, instead, have proposed an entirely prospect-based deal, which Arizona rejected. Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall told reporters in Phoenix that other teams had made offers of “at least equal value” to what the Yankees proposed.

Another sticking point between the two teams, the source said, is how much of the $33 million remaining on Haren’s contract the Diamondbacks are willing to pay. Arizona’s initial proposal would have required the Yankees to assume Haren’s entire contract. The Yankees, and other clubs the Diamondbacks have spoken with, want the quality of the players in the deal to be dependent on how much of Haren’s money Arizona is willing to pay.

Earlier in the evening, Arizona team president and CEO Derrick Hall went on the record and echoed Stark’s sources. The Yanks, he said, are not leading the pack. “We are not close on a deal with the Yankees, and there are some other teams involved that have deals of at least equal value out there. I would not categorize the Yankees as a front-runner,” he said.

In terms of Stark’s information, we could debate whether or not Ivan nova is truly “highly regarded” until the cows come home, but if the Yanks didn’t want to trade Joba and Nova plus lesser prospects for Haren, I have to question the wisdom of rejecting such a deal. The Yanks have pigeonholed Joba into the bullpen where he has great peripherals but so-so results. He’s three years into a Major League career and will be arbitration-eligible after this season.

Haren, on the other hand, would immediately become the team’s second best pitcher, and he’s signed to a below-market contract through 2012 with a reasonable team option for 2013. My bet is that, with the Yanks way they seem intent on using Joba, Dan Haren will outperform Joba over the next three seasons. With both players set for free agency after 2013, that calculation should be a large part of the equation.

Our recap of the Yanks’ 7-1 victory over the hapless Kansas City Royals will be published shortly.

Laird goes deep again in Trenton win

Manny Banuelos  was named baseball’s fifth hottest prospect in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Jesus Montero was in the team photo, though both Zach McAllister and Cito Culver were included in the Not So Hot section.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Rochester)
Kevin Russo, DH, Chad Huffman, LF & Greg Golson, CF: all 1 for 4 – Russo walked & K’ed thrice … Huffman doubled, drove in a run & K’ed … Golson got caught stealing &  K’ed three times
Reegie Corona, 2B: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K – 12 for his last 34 (.353)
Chad Tracy, 3B: 3 for 4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI – musta seen me dis him last night
Jesus Montero, C: 0 for 4, 2 K – bust!
Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Reid Gorecki, RF: all 0 for 4 – JoVa K’ed three times, Gorecki once … Gorecki committed a fielding error, but he also threw a runner out at third
David Phelps: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 3-6 GB/FB – 57 of his 96 pitches were strikes (59.4%)
The Ghost of Kei Igawa: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1-3 GB/FB – 22 of 37 pitches were strikes (59.5%)
Mark Melancon: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – four of his six pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Rosenthal: Yanks in the lead for Haren

Update (8:51pm): Piliere hears that talks are “moving forward,” and the teams are discussing secondary pieces. Jesus Montero is not in the deal according to Piliere’s sources, but Joba Chamberlain might be.

7:31pm): Ed Price says that no deal is imminent, but Arizona is determined to trade Haren before his next start on Tuesday. Rosenthal’s updated story says Ivan Nova “fits the profile” of the kind of pitcher the D-Backs want, and Frankie Piliere confirms that he’d be a key piece in a trade. It’s also worth noting that Zach McAllister‘s father works in Arizona’s scouting department, for what it’s worth.

6:29pm: Via Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have become the front-runners for Dan Haren, with the Diamondbacks informing other interested teams that they are in “advanced negotiations” with one club. Bob Klapisch says GM Brian Cashman is deciding whether or not to pull the trigger. There’s no word on the package that would be going back to Arizona, but Jayson Stark reported earlier today that the Yanks would only get serious about a deal if they could get him for prospects. Arizona is reportedly looking for pitching, pitching, and more pitching in return.

Ben explored the possibility of a Haren trade earlier this afternoon. Stay tuned, people. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Game 95: No Swish

Hold up. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

There was a little bit of bad news not too long ago, as Nick Swisher had be scratched from the lineup with a sore achillies. Swish missed time earlier this year with a sore biceps, and hopefully this is just another minor ailment that’ll keep him out for no more than a few days.

One guy who will be in tonight’s game is A.J. Burnett, who has some work to do to get back on everyone’s good side. He slammed his pitching (his pitching hand!!!) against a clubhouse door in frustration last time out, removing any shred of effectiveness he had left against the Rays. Pitching well against a pushover team like the Royals tonight is a good first step back. Since they’ve pitched in each of the last two games, I’m guessing A.J. won’t enjoy the benefit of having David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen behind him.

Here’s the rest of the starters…

Gardner, LF
Jeter, SS
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, DH
Granderson, CF
Cervelli, C
Curtis, RF

And on the bump, it’s A.J. Burnett. Hopefully he won’t be slamming any doors after this one. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm and can be seen on YES.

The pursuit of 600 and ticket prices

Click the graphic to enlarge.

Via our partners at TiqIQ comes a chart showcasing the downward trend in weekend ticket prices. Even as A-Rod sits on the precipice of his historic 600th home run, ticket prices haven’t, by and large, increased this weekend. In fact, they seem to be trending downward.

The obvious question is why? Shouldn’t prices move up as history nears? One factor pushing prices down could be general A-Rod malaise. At the Pinstriped Bible, Steven Goldman posits that the cheapening of the home run milestones combined with the inevitability of A-Rod’s reaching the mark and general coolness toward him have combined to lend the act an air of something less historical than it otherwise would have. Sometimes, the media drives this narrative, but even without A-Rod’s PED revelations, 600 is just another number.

On the other hand, A-Rod is the youngest player in baseball history to reach 600, and as last night’s crowd reaction to his eighth inning double showed, the fans want to see him launch this home run. I blame the Royals and the weather. First, the Royals are an uninspired opponent. They’re 41-54 with few inspiring players and no gate attractions. These prices aren’t too out of line with any other weekend summer game, and the Royals don’t draw fans to the game. With rain in the forecast tonight and a heat advisory bringing another 95-degree day tomorrow, the ballpark is a less appealing place to roast away under the sun.

For those looking to get in on the A-Rod action, TiqIQ has seats in prime zones. You’ve got Field Level outfield seats for tonight under $60, Saturday bleacher seats for under $20 and Main Outfield seats less than $45.

Deadline dealing: D-backs listening on Haren

Luis Gonazlez’s RBI single that fell just to the edge of the outfield where Derek Jeter could have caught it had the infield not been in seems like just yesterday to Yankee fans. To the Diamondbacks, though, that moment of glory is long gone. This year’s team, currently 37-59, miles away from first place, is en route to a second consecutive last place finish, and with the trade deadline near, Arizona is holding a very attractive piece in pitcher Dan Haren.

To the uninitiated, Haren might not seem like much. His 7-8 record with a 4.60 ERA is nothing to write about, but those numbers, as they so often don’t, can’t capture the full story. Outside of Roy Oswalt, Haren is the best pitcher still available at the deadline this year. In 141 innings, he has struck out 141 hitters, best in the NL, and he’s walking just under two per nine innings pitched. The home runs have been his bugaboo this year, but even while surrendering 23 longballs, his FIP is still a nifty 3.84 and his xFIP 3.39.

And so, inevitably, many teams are interested in Dan Haren, and Buster Olney just happened to hear this: The Yankees are one of them. Even though Andy Pettitte will probably be out only for a few weeks, targeting Haren makes perfect sense. The right-hander would be a fit for any contender, and the Yankees know that pitching is what will separate the AL champion from the rest of the very competitive pack. The club also realizes that Phil Hughes is facing an innings limit. Haren would give them a plus arm as the innings mount.

Haren, though, will not come cheap. He’s signed through 2012 with a $15.5 million club option for 2013, and he’s set to make only $12.75 million in both 2011 and 2012. In a market where A.J. Burnett and John Lackey can both make upwards of $82 million for five years, Haren’s deal is a downright steal. The Yankees know that; the Diamondbacks know that; any team kicking the tires on Haren knows that.

Once upon a time, Arizona had let it be known that they wanted two Major League pitchers in exchange for Haren, and potential partners let it be know that the D-backs were off their collective rockers. Now, though, the price has come down, but the team still wants an A-plus package. “Ideally what we would ask for is major-league ready pitching, be it starters and/or bullpen, and prospects,” club CEO Derrick Hall said yesterday. “The volume doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to be four or five or six guys. It’s really about the quality.”

The Yankees match up, and as Jayson Stark said yesterday, the club is quietly letting other teams know they want to make some deals. Currently, says Stark (second item), the Yankees are “actively talking” with Arizona. If the deal “just involves prospects, they appear poised to jump into those talks aggressively.” In fantasyland, the Yankees could try to offer a Hector Noesi, a Romulo Sanchez or an Ivan Nova for Haren, but the realistic trade proposal probably starts with Joba Chamberlain.

Despite nearing arbitration, Joba is still cost-controlled, young and a viable Major League pitcher. He could be a starter; he could be a bullpen guy; he could be both. Depending on the prospects — and it always depends upon the prospects — the Yanks should be willing in a heartbeat to flip Joba in a Haren trade. Maybe that too has an element of fantasy in it, but it’s a fair starting point for both sides.

Any trade for Haren would have a cascade effect on the Yanks’ plans and would probably shift their off-season targets from another pitcher to a bat. With Haren on board, Cliff Lee wouldn’t be as imperative of a pick-up for the club, and it’s debatable if the Yanks would have room for him in their budget. If Andy Pettitte were to return for 2011, a decision that many beat writers have said seems to be an inevitable, the rotation would effectively be full. But I’m getting ahead of the situation a bit.

Today, at least four teams, including the Tigers, Phillies and Cardinals, are very interested in Haren. If the Yankees are serious, they have the pieces to get the deal done, and with the trade deadline eight days away, the speculation will wrong strong until then. Buckle up; it’s time for that wild ride that is late July.