Is Cashman the problem or the solution?

In his most recent piece this afternoon, Peter Abraham dispelled what he feels are some myths about the Yankees’ current situation. Abraham feels like firing Cashman is a bad idea.

“The Yankees don’t have a lot of roster flexibility and Cashman has improved that to some degree. Firing him now could drop this team into a 10-year slump,” he wrote. Well, I disagree. In fact, I think many of the moves Cashman has made since supposedly taking full control of this team have led to this disastrous first two months.

Most notable from the last few months were the trades of Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson. The Yankees received few usable parts in return for these two players. Right now, Sheffield’s 10 home runs would put him second on the Yanks, and his .832 OPS is over .200 points higher than Abreu’s .613 OPS. The Yankees were a better team with Gary Sheffield and don’t have much to show for sending Detroit one of their missing pieces. I don’t miss Randy Johnson, but Luis Vizcaino, the only Major Leaguer in that deal, has been downright horrible.

Then, Cashman went out and threw $50 million at Kei Igawa when even his own scouts were telling him that Igawa would be, at best, a fifth starter in the Majors. Considering the Minor League pitchers in the Yankees’ system, this money could have been better spent just about anywhere else. The Yanks could have replaced Igawa with someone making just $380,000 this year. And that someone would probably have put up better numbers than Igawa.

He also re-upped with Mike Mussina for two years. The jury is out on that deal, but the early returns aren’t too promising.

Then, Cashman figured he could solve the first base hole by shoving Doug Mientkiewicz into it. Dougie’s .295 OBP is killing the team, and his defense just doesn’t make up for the number of outs – 98 in 133 plate appearances – he’s making at bat.

Finally, the Yankees’ bench is terribly weak. If Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez were to go down, Miguel Cairo would be the replacement. Wil Nieves, before this weekend, had been an unqualified disaster, and Melky Cabrera probably should have been traded last winter when his stock was at an all-time high. This is the weakest Yankee bench in years.

So I blame Cashman. While the team has been saddled with contracts that dole out millions of dollars to over-the-hill players (Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon), Cashman’s answer to this problem was to throw a pro-rated $28 million at Roger Clemens, an unnecessary piece considering the Yankees’ other problems right now.

I doubt the Yanks will fire Cashman. There are no real viable internal candidates right now, and the Yankee braintrust wouldn’t want to look outside for a mid-season replacement. So Cashman, the originator of this problem, will have to be the one to find a solution too. I can tell you this: Todd Helton ain’t the answer. Let’s see where he goes from there.

For fear of becoming a homer (d’oh!)

Ozzy Osbourne, in his final offering with Black Sabbath, sang words that ring so true for the Yankees season:

“Don’t you ever, don’t ever say die.”

It’s easy to give up on the team, to say “the season is over.” But what is accomplished by this? Is it that we’re showing how rational and logical we are? Are we trying to be super-pessimistic, so that if things do turn around we’ll be glad to say “I was wrong”? Or is it the ever-present fear of being viewed as a homer?

Baseball is a funny game, though.

The bats are all cold now, which is always unfortunate. You’ll see a few guys hitting well in the “Last 7 Days” bit at the end, but when the majority of the team is hitting below .260, you’re going to have trouble scoring runs. OBP is great — the most valuable single offensive statistic in baseball — because it means more men on base. But sooner or later, you’re going to need to drive those runs in, and only on rare occasions will a walk do the trick. The guys gotta start hitting; it’s that simple.

But what if the bats all get hot at once? Yeah, Jeter and Posada already lead the league in hitting. What if they go on a two-week tear where they hit .500? What if — God Forbid — Giambi finds his stroke and starts planting homers and gappers? What if Cano stops swinging at pitches at his eyes? What if Bobby finally finds the groove he was in last August?

I’ll tell ya: the bats all getting hot at once is just as likely as the bats all getting cold at once. So if the Yanks can string together two weeks of hot-hot hitting and can mix some down days (three or four runs) in with some solid pitching performances, they can still go on a tear. The Oakland A’s won an AL-record 20 straight games in 2002. Our team is better than that. So who’s to say we can’t rattle off 22 straight? Probable? No. Possible? Certainly.

This happened in 2005, remember? Yeah, people point out that we were 27-23 on May 29, 2005, and that we’re 21-28 this year. Well, on June 7 of that year, we were 28-30, seven games behind the surging Orioles. So it’s not like we were rolling at this point in the season that year, either.

(By the way. On May 29, 2005, the White Sox were 33-17, whereas the Red Sox are 35-15. Chicago ended at 99-63. We ended that season at 95-67. Four games. And we were running around with bottles that year, trying to catch lightning. We should — and yes, anything can happen — but should have a more established and solid pitching staff in the second half.)

In 2005, things weren’t working out at second base. So the Yanks dipped into the minors for Robinson Cano. He had been passed over by the Diamondbacks twice: once at the trade deadline in 2004, once over the winter, both in trade proposals for Randy Johnson. Yeah, he tore up AAA in April, but to think he could sustain that would be silly given the small sample size. But he came up and made a difference.

In 2007, first base isn’t working out. While there seems to be no solution in AAA, why not give Eric Duncan a shot? I know, I know. He’s hitting just .234, and has a .683 OPS. But in his last 10 games, he’s walked eight times to just two strikeouts. For some guys, it just clicks. Maybe we can catch that lightning again with Duncan. Or hell, even give a shot to Shelley Duncan, who is just hammering the ball. We’ve already infused some youth into the rotation — and may have found a useful starter in Clippard. Now it’s time to try the same thing with the offense.

It ain’t over. And so what if it is? Are you going to just stop watching? If you do, we don’t want you back when the Yanks start winning again.

Last 7 Days
Cano: 304/333/435
Jeter: 296/321/407
Minky: 294/368/529
Posada: 286/286/381
Matsui: 261/320/565
Damon: 222/263/278
Alex: 190/320/429
Melky: 167/267/167
Abreu: 143/280/143
Giambi: 125/300/125

Yanks looking up … at everyone

When I left New York on Friday afternoon, the Yanks had just come off of a series win against the Red Sox. They had cut their deficit to 9.5 games in the AL East and were beginning to show some signs of life. Well, four games later, things are looking terrible for the Bombers. They were swept by the Angels and lost pathetically to the Blue Jays this evening. They’re as bad as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and sit in last place in the AL East, 13.5 games behind the Red Sox and 7.5 behind the Tigers for the Wild Card with six teams in front of them. What a weekend.

Down on the Farm

The field of 64 is out; I’m going with Texas as my early pick for the CWS Title, although I’m looking forward to seeing how far Brian Matusz & Josh Romanski (aka the best 1-2 rotation punch in the nation, remember those names for the 2008 draft) can carry San Diego.

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Toledo)
Andy Phillips: 2 for 3, 1 R – only 1 RBI and 1 XBH in last 7 games…
Eric Duncan: 1 for 3
Bronson Sardinha: 1 for 3, 1 RBI – nearly 50 games into the year, and he still hovering near the Mendoza line…
Alberto Gonzalez: 0 for 3
Roger Clemens: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K – they should let him play in the Futures Game
Edwar Ramirez: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K – WHIP skyrockets up to 0.82, Kper 9 plummets down to 16.83…
Jim Brower: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K – he’s been with the organization for only 22 days, and he’s already got twice as many saves (6) as Mo (3)…

[Read more…]

Down on the Farm

Triple-A Scranton (8-5 win over Indianapolis) 
Kevin Reese: 3 for 4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Andy Phillips: 3 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 BB – dude lives in a Holiday Inn
Shelley Duncan: 1 for 5, 2 K, 1 E (throwing)
Eric Duncan: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB – 8 walks, 1 K in last 7 games…
Alberto Gonzalez: 2 for 4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
Angel Chavez: 3 for 4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI – 16 for 49 (.410) with 7 doubles, a homer and 9 RBIs in his last 10 games…
Eric Junge: 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 2-8 GB/FB
Ben Kozlowski: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – 6 H and 16 K in last 12.2 IP…
Chris Britton: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Jim Brower: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K – 10 of 13 pitches were strikes (76.9%)

[Read more…]

Down on the Farm

Just a reminder, I’m acting as the Yanks’ Scouting Director in the 2007 Mock Draft over at John Sickels’ Minor League Ball. If you’re interested in joining the fun by helping me formulate a draft strategy and “scout” players, head over to the diary thread.   

Triple-A Scranton (6-2 loss to Indianapolis) dominated by the #1 overall pick in the 2002 draft
Kevin Thompson: 1 for 4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Kevin Reese: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 SB
Andy Phillips, Bronson Sardinha & Shelley Duncan (i.e. the 3-4-5 hitters): combined 0 for 11, 1 BB, 5 K – Sardinha walked…
Eric Duncan: 1 for 3
Alberto Gonzalez: 1 for 3, 1 2B – 4 of his last 7 hits have gone for extra bases
Sean Henn: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
Colter Bean: 3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HB
Edwar “Hell, even I’m better than Luis Vizcaino” Ramirez: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HB – 40 K, .110 BAA in 21 IP this year…

[Read more…]

Hughes hurt again

When it rains, it pours:

Phil Hughes rolled his left ankle while performing conditioning exercises at the Legends Field training complex on Friday, and will have an MRI performed to determine the severity of the injury.

“He was doing his agility drill and stuck a spike; [the] spike caught,” manager Joe Torre said. “They don’t think it’s anything, just rolled it a little bit. It may set him back a couple of days.”

Couple days huh? We’ll see…

(hat tip to Patrick)

Update: Sprain. Probably sets him back a week.