Why I’m sick of Mike Mussina

Time after time, some little thing disrupts Mike Mussina’s rhythm, and he feels the need to make excuses for himself. After watching this go on and on since 2001, I’m beyond sick of it.

Yesterday afternoon, during the postgame interviews, Mussina claimed that he had nothing coming out of the bullpen and that he really struggled to make it through his half-assed start against a White Sox club that came into the game batting .220 with a sub-.300 OBP AS A TEAM.

But really, Mussina didn’t like the rain-out and the extra day of rest. It bothered him. For a smart guy – Stanford, crossword puzzles – Mussina sure can’t conquer the mental aspects of the game. He falls apart when someone makes an error; he can’t deal with a disruption to his routine.

Mark Feinsand said it best in his blog recapping 14 hours spent at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago:

Mike Mussina needs to just go out and pitch. I know he’s a huge creature of habit, so being pushed back two extra days is a big problem for him, but after playing as long as he has played, he needs to find a way to get past it and give his team 100 pitches.

I know Feinsand isn’t the only sports reporter who questions Mussina’s fortitude. You have to believe that an accomplished pitcher in his 17th season in the Majors could just suck it up now and then. But more and more, it seems like Moose cannot, and it’s a let down.

John Sickel’s Mock Draft

Just wanted to make a quick little announcement and say that Joe and I (and maybe Ben if he’s interested) will be acting as co-scouting directors for the Yankees in this year’s Mock Draft over at John Sickel’s Minor League Ball.

If you don’t know what the Mock Draft is, go here to find out. We’ll periodically update you on our progress, and I’m sure we’ll do something cool for draft day.

We’re looking for some help with scouting guys/doing research, so if you’re interested in lending a hand, here’s the diary thread. Remember, this is NOT about who we think the Yanks should pick, it’s about who we’d pick if we were in charge. But most of all, this is about having fun, so come join in and help pick the next wave of great Yankee prospects!

We won! We won!

Aren’t we all thankful for Chien-Ming Wang? On a night defined by frustration (which was only exacerbated by the rain delay), he provided some relief. Just imagine how you would have felt last night (or this morning, depending on when you had to pry yourself away from the TV) if the Yanks had dropped the second half of that doubleheader. It would have been devastating. It would have been inexcusable. So you can thank Mr. Wang for the emotional swing.

Here’s the question, though: is it better to savor the victory, or point out the Yankees flaws? On one hand, you have a much-needed boost, both emotionally and statistically, and it feels wrong to undermine that. However, it also feels somewhat irresponsible to not point out what went wrong, and why it’s a signal that things might not have changed all that much. After all, we don’t live in the land of sunshine and lollipops; if the Yankees demonstrated a flaw last night, chances are it’s going to be exposed over the next few days.

Isn’t it fitting, then, that Bobby Abreu led off this game with a strikeout? Talk about poetry: in a game where much went right, yet plenty went wrong, Bobby Abreu embodies both poles. His leadoff strikeout was repeated two more times, leaving little faith left for (what could have been) his final at bat. Of course, the run wasn’t necessary — but with the unpredictability of the bullpen, every run counts. After taking a ball, Abreu looked absolutely silly on a Contreras splitter, whiffing on the pitch well before it got to the plate. The next pitch was a similar speed, and why not? Abreu had been out in front all night. The main difference: the pitch was right down Broadway (as opposed to the first two pitches being right around the corners). It’s a pitch that many hitters would crush, but with Abreu still mired in a slump, he did what he could with it. Base hit and an RBI, and the Yanks got some breathing room.

Another guy who’s been a bit iffy is Matsui. He doesn’t seem to be eyeing the outside part of the plate well, which results in him getting way on top of pitches and grounding out. This is something I’m sure he’ll work out; you don’t suddenly lose the ability to take pitches the opposite way. However, if you leave that pitch over the plate, he’s still going to crush it, as he did on a 3-0 pitch in the third inning. That was a fat pitch. What’s crazy is that the pitch on which he struck out in the sixth inning was in the exact same spot. I can’t speak for the velocity (Enhanced Gameday doesn’t have the pitch data for either at bat, just the locations), but the location was right there. In fact, all three strikes were right over the plate. I’m very surprised that Matsui, following his crush shot in the previous at bat, didn’t whale the first pitch Contreras threw him. If there was ever a time to hack at the first one…

The best inning, however, was clearly the ninth. Melky’s homer was super-sweet. Not just because it’s a rarity, but because he freakin’ whaled a 93 m.p.h. heater on the inside corner. So it’s not like he took advantage of a bad pitch; Sisco put it where he wanted, and Melky said, “I think I can state my case for playing tomorrow by depositing your best effort over the left field wall.” And so he did. The home run to Jorge was in the same exact location. I guess it was a changeup, since it came in at 86 m.ph., and was directly preceded by a 97 m.ph. heater. At this point, you almost have to feel bad for Sisco: he hit the corner with two pitches (though coming inside to a righty with a change is a questionable call), and was taken deep. He threw another good one to GIambi, on the outside corner, but Giambi reacted and punched that baby to left. The Giambi of 2002-2006 tries to pull that and whiffs. It’s good to see that he’s adjusting to his sapped power.

There were other little flaws that cropped up during the game, like Kyle Farnsworth’s imitation of John Wetteland: he can’t get out of an inning without putting a guy on base and making us all clench our teeth. But all in all, especially considering the 9th, it’s a good sign moving forward.

Last 7 Days
Posada: .476/.500/.714
Jeter: .409/.500/.545
Matsui: .360/.385/.480
Melky: .308/.357/.923
Damon: .227/.227/.273
Phelps: .200/.200/.500
Minky: .167/.167/.250
Abreu: .160/.192/.280
Cano: .095/.095/.095
Giambi: .091/.286/.091
Alex: .087/.192/.087

Down on the Farm

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 win over Norfolk)
Kevin Reese: 2 for 5, 1 R, 3 K
Chris Basak: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI
Andy Phillips: 2 for 5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
Shelley Duncan: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K – it took 34 games and a 1.093 OPS, but he’s finally hitting cleanup…
Eric Duncan: 1 for 5, 1 R, 1 2B – first XBH in 9 games…
Kevin Thompson: 3 for 5, 1 2B, 3 RBI
Alberto Gonzalez: 1 for 3, 2 BB, 1 E (fielding)
Eric Junge: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K – signed to fill out the rotation, but he was a big-time prospect like, 8 years ago…
Tim Lavigne: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – another guy signed to bolster the staff
Edwar Ramirez: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K – moved up a level, but still schoolin’ guys…

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And we get to see a second one!

Sorry for the cynicism, but that was just an ugly game. I’m short on time, so let’s just go over some of the good and bad from the game.

Good
Josh Phelps homered.

Bad
It was too little, too late.

Good
Melky had an RBI double to tie the game

Bad
Joe left Cairo in to hit with runners on second and third.

Good
Vizcaino didn’t let all of his inherited runners score.

Bad
Joe used him in a high leverage situation, which at this point is too risky.

Good
Bobby Abreu homered and singled (the opposite way, no less).

Bad
Miguel Cairo: 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Good
Jorge with 2 for 3 with a double and a walk.

Bad
Alex went 0 for 4 with a strikeout.

Good
Bruney and Meyers didn’t allow a run.

Bad
Moose allowed five.

Bad
Damon struck out thrice (sorry, I squeezed all the good I could out of this game).

Bad
We allowed five runs to a team that had exactly zero players enter the game with a BA over .250 (Erstad started with a BA of .250).

Bad
We lost to a team whose best hitter is Darin Erstad.

And it goes on and on. There is no excuse for this. None.