Thursday, May 31, 2007

A-Rod's April Seems Like Years Ago

It's very, very hard to believe that just over 5 weeks ago, A-Rod was the talk of New York. In a good way. The guy was hitting homers left and right, and he had finally won the admiration of Yankee fans.

Now, it's all fallen apart for him. His average has fallen, he cheated on his wife, and had an embarrassing "bush league" play last night. Any genuine Yankee fan has to be ashamed of those antics. O'Neill, Mattingly, and Brosius don't do that. Even Jeter doesn't.

A-Rod is back where he was last year: a $25 million embarrassment, getting ripped in the tabloids. So I would be shocked if A-Rod's in pinstripes next year. Back in April, when A-Rod said he wanted to stay in New York, I said, give it a couple of months. I guess I was wrong: it only took five weeks.

Why A-Schmuck is A Schmuck

When I wrote the recap after the game on Wednesday I was unaware of this latest classless incident of A-Schmuck yelling out during a pop up to distract the Blue Jays. Here's the article from the New York Post:

Thankfully, the article mentions the 2004 ALCS chopping incident against Bronson Arroyo.

Theory: He did this to take away attention from his cheating on his wife.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Can't Lose 'em All: Junkees Take One 10-5

Hey Junkee fans, can we finally stop drinking the Tyler Clippard cool aid? Yes he got the win, but watching the game, he clearly labored, throwing 98 pitches in 5 innings, walking 5, giving up 2 home runs. He was not very good, and if not for the 5 run cushion, the Junkees would be considering sending him back to Scranton. He got out of some jams, and Snorre aged 4 years just in the third inning alone.

Otherwise not a great night for a Yankee Despiser. A lot of the hitters did well, save for our buddy Mr. Minky -- with another hitless night -- now has a batting average of .217.

At one point the Jays cut the lead to 6-5, and for a moment I thought Old York might find a way to blow it, but they had to end their slide at some point, and did so on a night that the Red Sox lost, cutting the lead to 13.5.

- Couldn't care less about A-Schmuck cheating on his wife. Sorry, wrong blog for that.

- Junkees get a day off, then head to Boston. Worst case scenario they win all three, and the lead becomes 10.5. If the Bosox sweep, then it's 16.5, and we may as well count on seeing Derek Jeter on a golf course in early October. More on the upcoming series later in the week.

- At 22-29, supposing the AL Wild Card team will need 95 wins, Old York has to go 73-36 the rest of the way. Could happen, but I wouldn't bet on it. Then again, I wouldn't bet against it, either. By the way, over the past 40 years, only one Yankee team ever had a stretch of 73-36, and that was in 1998.

More on George

Decent piece in today's Times on George, and who's in control.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Line Of The Night

Mientkiewicz, Cano, Damon, A-Rod, and Abreu -- combined 0-for-16. Five hits total for the Yanks.

The one saving grace for the Yanks is that they'll continue to have company in the cellar, as Tampa Bay is getting drubbed by the Tigers. Two homers for Gary Sheffield, who now has 12 on the year. How'd that trade work out for ya, Cashman?

Beckett pitched great tonight, and in a possible playoff preview, the Sox beat the Indians, extending the lead to 14.5.

- And just like in the Subway Series, Tyler Clippard will be out there tomorrow looking to avoid the sweep.

What's Next?

All of the Yankees' panic moves this season haven't helped much. Phil Hughes stunk in his first start, then got injured in his second. The signing of Clemens didn't provide an immediate jolt of life to the team; the only one really affected by it was Suzyn Waldman. The Yanks haven't won a game since George ripped Cashman. And finally, Joe Torre's meeting didn't do anything last night. So what's next?

If the Yanks don't turn things around, I think George and his Tampa contingent will take the power back from Cashman and renege on the agreement made in late 2005. I think George would rather make Cashman powerless and miserable (like in '05) that fire the guy. Maybe the Clemens signing was the first step in that direction.

And with the Yankees expressing interest in the Rockies' Todd Helton and Brian Fuentes, there may be more players coming. If things get bad enough, the Yanks will do whatever it takes to get those guys. Even if it means parting with Phil Hughes.

Remember '03? The Yanks went through a rough stretch back then. First, Jeter was named captain. Then, top pitching prospect Brandon Claussen was traded for Aaron Boone. Claussen was the Yankees' top pitching prospect, and had a very good debut against the Mets. But George panicked, and traded the kid for a mediocre third baseman.

True, Hughes probably has a much higher upside than Claussen, but if George takes back the reins, all bets are off.

- One guy whose trade value has plummeted? Melky Cabrera. Pittsburgh offered Mike Gonzalez for him last year, and the Yanks didn't want to trade Melky. If that offer was made today, the Yanks would do it in a heartbeat (of course, Gonzalez is now on the Braves, so it's a non-issue).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Let the Good Times Roll

What can I say? This doesn't get old.

Another Junkee starter can't get out of the fifth inning, Villone is back to his late '06 form, and just five hits for the mighty Bronx Bombers.

Might as well just copy and paste some of my old posts. How many times can I write that Melky stunk it up, that Doug Smith went o-3, that Damon struggled, that the Junkee pitchers couldn't find the strike zone, walking seven....

The only thing that's missing is Snorre complaining about the umps, as he did Saturday when Abreu got called looking on a pitch outside. I've said it before and I'll say it again. No team has caught more breaks than Old York over the past decade, from the Jeffrey Maier home run and on. Granted, that was a bad call, as was the stolen base in the Mariners game. But that's not why the team is in fourth place. If you're a game or two out of first, fine. You were robbed. But when you're in a different stratosphere than the Red Sox, pipe down.

- About time the Junkee fans realized about Snorre what we've been saying for years.

- So much for their hour-long team meeting before the game. Gotta love that they lost because had they won, the Junkee pundits would go nuts about what a great motivator Snorre is.

- Bobby Abreu's numbers: .233 BA, .320 OBP, .296 SLG
- Gary Sheffield's numbers: .254 BA, .370 OBP, .459 SLG

Orlando Cabrera Tells The Truth

It's not much of a secret, but in the LA Times, Orlando Cabrera reminded us what Yankee fans are all about:

The New York Yankees might have the most fans, but they don't have the best fans. So says Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

"They don't appreciate good baseball," he said. "They just appreciate the Yankees beating up on everybody."

The Yankees are on pace to lead the major leagues in attendance for the fifth consecutive season, with fans spoiled by a team that has won 26 World Series championships and has not missed the playoffs since 1993.

But those fans can turn venomous toward opposing players — and even toward their own, when performance is not in line with expectations.

Cabrera played in Boston, another city with a loud and loyal fan base, before joining the Angels. He gives Red Sox and Angels fans high marks for supporting the home team through tough times and applauding great plays by the visiting team.

"In Boston, they admire baseball," Cabrera said. "In Anaheim, those fans are some of the best in baseball. They know you care there. They know you can't do it every day. I appreciate that.

"These people here, they're mean. And they're really mean to the other team."

Cabrera said the hostility in the stands has increased this season, with the Yankees below .500.

"When we came here last year, they were in first place, so it was OK," he said. "Now they're just looking for an excuse."

He is not bothered, he says, by whatever language Yankees fans direct his way.

"When people say [stuff], they only motivate me," he said. "They're bad losers."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Flunkees Fail Big Test

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the series against Chicago, the Mets, Boston, and the Angels would tell us whether these Yankees can win this year.

Well, a 4-8 run tells us all we need to know. After George's comments and getting swept by the Angels, the Yankees are a game out of the cellar. This is not April anymore. The season's about 1/3 of the way done, and this team stinks.

Damon refuses to go on the DL and will remain a part-time player. Coco Crisp never looked this good (and he had quite the web gem today). But even if the Yanks sidelined Damon, Melky Cabrera (.219) is not an option. Abreu has bounced all around the lineup, and still can't hit. Cano (.375 in the last week) looks like he's doing better. A-Rod (.227 in the last week) does not.

The Yanks pen is still in bad shape. Proctor blew it today, and Luis Vizcaino is not helping Cashman's job security.

The Red Sox and Mets sweep, making it a great weekend. The Yanks-Sox series seems like a million years ago, as the deficit is now 12.5 games. And Beckett is coming back.

When it comes down to it, this team can't win. The outfield is terrible, 1B is a joke, and the '06 A-Rod is making a comeback, as is the '04-'05 foot-in-mouth Jason Giambi.

- The Blue Jays looked done when Halladay and Ryan went down, but they've got a better record than the Yanks. With Clippard and DeSalvo pitching two games, they've got a pretty good shot at taking two of three.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

It's Getting Better All the Time....

First of all, Clippard got clipped by the Angels on Friday night, which makes him pitcher #275 that the Junkee fans fawned over after a good first outing only to get bombed the next time out. Hey, where's Chase Wright? Didn't he have that great debut against the Indians? And whatever happened to Matt Desalvo? Oh right, he got rocked in relief on Friday night, bringing his ERA to a nifty 5.29.

Oh yeah, and the Red Sox won, extending the lead to 10.5.

And then on Saturday, Wang gets tatooed in the first inning, the mighty Yankee bats never recover, so another loss. Bobby Abreu is now hitting .235, Cano is at .260, but hey, Doug Smith is up to .234, so things aren't that bad, right?

And then the Boss comes out of his shell for the first time in a while. Don't know what to make of that. Thought he was senile, but he sounded pretty with it in that interview. And I love how he gives it to Ca$hman. The guy is full of excuses. When he didn't have sole authority, he tried to make it like all the bad signings were other people's decisions. Now his excuse is that he's been trying to rebuild. (And that's why he signed Johnny Damon last year, a guy who can't do anything? We all know he did it to stick it to Boston, but they're having a good laugh right about now.) Listen Brian, you can't dance at all parties. Damon's been a bust, Mussina has been a disaster, Abreu over Sheffield is one for the ages, Cano was a one-year wonder, Doug Smith was PR, Luis Vizcaino is absolutely putrid, and Melky ain't what you thought.

Speaking of Damon, enough injury excuses. Drives me crazy when these guys think they're such great guys for playing hurt. If you can't do anything, go on the DL. But if you're out there, you've got to produce. Don't tell me about your hamstring, your ankle, or any other body part.

All the excuses in the world won't change the fact that 2007 may be a Yankee-free October!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mike Mussina - Waste of $24 Million

What the heck were the Junkees thinking when they resigned him this past offseason? I know the pitching market was thin, but come on!

Here's the thing about the Moose that we've been saying for years here on YD: The guy will show flashes of brilliance every now and then, making you think that if he could just put it all together, you'd have a Cy Young winner. Yet he never does. So he'll toss a few 2-0 gems, but he'll follow that up with a stinker.

This year, though, those gems have been few and far between. Granted, he pitched well in his couple of starts against Texas, but other that that he's been a disaster. Got bombed by Baltimore in April, roughed up by the White Sox earlier this month, and most recently, pummeled by the Red Sox. He's 38 years of age, so there's an excellent chance that he's done.

Looking back, he's had a couple of good years for Old York. 2001 was very good, with an ERA of 3.15, and 2003 was pretty good as well. I guess you'd have to throw 2006 in there based on the numbers that count (don't care that he won 18 games in 2002 with an ERA north of 4), but he has not been the ace that he was supposed to be. He gives up a lot of hits, a good number of home runs (at least 20 each year), but he doesn't walk a lot of guys, which is probably why he gets away with a lot.

It's hard to imagine him being this bad the rest of the way, but hey, you never know.

Still A Way To Go

Hey, anytime the Yankees beat the Red Sox in a series, whether it's May or October, it's disappointing (of course, it hurts a lot more in October). So yeah, this series stunk. The Yanks chased Wakefield and Schilling, and got good pitching from Pettitte and Wang.

As for the hitters, the only guy who seemed to come alive was Johnny Damon, with 6 hits in the series. Abreu is still a mess, and Matsui did well in the final game. But Damon is always touch-and-go, so you can't get too excited by his success.

When it comes down to it, the Yanks still have a 9.5 game gap to fill. In order for that to happen, they have to hope for one of two things to happen: Boston has to fall apart, or they have to go on a '98-like incredible surge.

I don't see any of the two happening, and it comes down to something I wrote about last week: Boston has depth, and the Yankees don't. Even if Boston has a few injuries, they have plenty of reinforcements. Once Lester joins the big club, they can use Julian Tavarez as insurance. And the way he's pitched against the Yankees this year, that's a good backup to have. And guys like Pena and Cora are good for a couple of weeks, if need be. The Yankees' best-case scenario would be if everybody gets injured, like last year's disaster. When you saw Javy Lopez catching, you knew it was all over.

And the Yanks just don't have the horses to go on a tear. Even after Clemens and Hughes join the team, they're not gonna get great starts from both guys every time out there. As we saw on Tuesday, Mussina is getting more and more inconsistent with age, and Wang and Pettitte will have the occasional hiccup. And even if Abreu and Cano eventually start hitting, Jeter and Posada will probably slow down for a few weeks. It's very unusual for any team to have all nine hitters be in the zone at the same time.

So although this series stunk, you've gotta be nuts to start thinking about 1978.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Junkees Batter Wakefield, Cut Lead to 9.5

When Wakefield pitches, it's all or nothing. Either he's fabulous, or he gets tatooed. He's been that way throughout his career, and Monday night was no exception. The Junkees took advantage, stealing some bases, and Boston had no chance.

While watching the game, Wang looked impressive, but looking at the stats, he wasn't exactly Cy Young. He gave up 7 hits and walked 3 in 6.1 innings, and was lucky to get out of some jams. Still, he deserves credit for the end result.

The Junkee offense did just enough to get by. Nice to see Mientkiewicz (0 for 4, .212 batting average) continue to stink up the joint. Wow, picking him up was the ultimate PR move. Ex-Met, guy who caught the last out of the '04 Series for the BoSox, and a character. And that last name ... you think he'd be a Yankee if his name were Doug Smith?

Anyway, the way I see this series is this - the worst that can happen is that the Junkees sweep, in which case they'd be 7.5 games out. But even if Boston takes the next two, that would increase the lead to 11.5. And I would still be uncomfortable. I've learned to never count out the Junkees. Until I see them mathematically eliminated, I'll continue to be paranoid.

Looking ahead, you have Julian Tavarez, another guy with whom you don't know what you'll get, taking on Mike Mussina, for which -- if you think about it -- the same can be said. So expect a high scoring contest on Tuesday.

Rookies Will Save Ca$hman's Hide

There's a reason Ca$hman hasn't gone the veteran route with all his pitching woes. First off, who's available? Brian Lawrence? Chan Ho Park? Joe Mays? If you can get someone decent, fine. But the Scott Ericksons of the world are never any good, unless you have a Dave Duncan or Leo Mazzone (perhaps Rick Peterson) who can turn these guys around a la Jeff Weaver, but the Junkees went the PR route in hiring Ron Guidry, who like Mel Stottlemye, never made a decent pitcher good, so getting journeymen arms is a waste.

But the bigger reason is that by using rookies, Ca$hman has given himself the perfect out. "We're building for the future, we didn't want to deviate from the plan, so even though we missed the playoffs in '07, we're in better shape for '08."

If he gets some stinker 35 year old, what can he say then? He looks bad. He got lousy players. If his AAA guys mess up, what can you expect? It's a learning process!

So let's suppose this happens. These guys better turn out decent! I know Sterling and Waldman fawn over every single one of them, but if they all turn out to be busts -- which is a very strong possibility -- then Ca$hman is out of excuses.

But that's what this supposed youth movement is about. Ca$hman covering his fanny. Make no mistake about it.

Yanks Get One

Hey, these aren't the Nationals. You had to figure the Yanks would win sometime, and they played well last night. The three Yankees that aren't doing too badly, Posada, A-Rod, and Jeter, carried the team to victory, behind some impressive pitching by Clippard.

Is this a momentum-shifter? I don't think so. The Yankees still have a ton of games to make up in the standings, and still need a lot of guys to start doing consistently well.

- Yanks have their big three, Wang, Pettitte, and Mussina, going up against Boston this series. Should be fun.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sherman's Despiser Echo, and The Torre Mystique's Downfall

Joel Sherman has an unusually good column today, ripping Cashman for putting a bunch of scrubs on the bench.

Key paragraphs from that piece:

Now these Yanks are seriously looking at their first empty October since 1993, in part, because veterans such as Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi appear diminished while the young Cano seems to have regressed. Will that change? Even Joe Torre said he was worried if Damon and Giambi could shake off myriad injuries to construct familiar excellence.

But there are not a lot of other choices. The Yanks do not have depth like the Mets. Fourth outfielder Endy Chavez was a Subway star for the second straight game. Damion Easley, the Mets' backup second baseman, has one fewer homer (6) than the starting Yankees outfield of Abreu, Damon and Hideki Matsui. Jorge Sosa, recently summoned from Triple-A, has more wins (3) than any Yankees pitcher.

Where does Torre turn? Yesterday, Miguel Cairo took some time to lay down white tape as a barrier that the media could not cross in Shea Stadium's visitors clubhouse. That is the most useful thing he has done for his team this year. He is a righty, but Torre has used three lefty pinch-hitters against Mets southpaws in this series rather than use Cairo. And even with Cano struggling, Cairo is no answer.

The Daily News "Subway Squawker" blog is good stuff; Lisa Swan has a series of solid posts on Joe Torre; here's a great one. If you need proof of how the Torre mystique has fallen, here's some.

Ugly Get Uglier

You knew it didn't look good for the Yankees coming into this series, and it hasn't gotten much better. All Yankee fans can get excited about are the 15 hits tonight and the Braves blowing out the Sox in the nightcap.

Friday night, Endy Chavez once again proved why he's a fan favorite. Andy Pettitte pitched well, but got no run support. Years ago, Pettitte's claim to fame was that he always helped the Yankees win following a loss. No such luck this year, especially with the anemic bats. Melky Cabrera's average dipped to .220. Who's gonna be this year's Matt Lawton (insert steroids joke here)?

Today, it was Robinson Cano's day to shine, with a Sax-esque three errors. The guy is not doing very well. Yankee fans will probably say today's loss wasn't their fault, because of Rasner's injury and all, but still, a $195 million team should have a better pen. When are they gonna bring back $6 million mop-up man Sterling Hitchcock?

- In case you had any doubts about George's health, how could he show up to the Clemens game and Tampa and not say a word about his floundering team? Nothing?

- I remember John Maine's first start against the Yankees. It capped off that disastrous '05 for Baltimore, the one that started with them being in first in May and then totally got destroyed with injuries and the Palmeiro controversy. In Maine's start, Brian Roberts suffered that nasty elbow injury when Bubba Crosby ran into him, and Maine got knocked out in the 2nd inning, after giving up 6 runs.

It's been great to see Maine turn to into a great pitcher with the Mets. He faces Tyler Clippard on Sunday night, as the Mets go for the sweep.

- Speaking of Clippard, I give Ca$hman credit for going with young pitchers during all these injuries, rather than going with washed-up guys for PR. I guess Ca$hman saw just how well Tim Redding, Sidney Ponson, Al Leiter, and Scott Erickson worked out for him.

- And I give Giambi credit for being a lot more open that Bonds about the "stuff."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Subway '07

As we approach the first subway series of '07, it's amazing to see the way things have shaped up. In the New York Post, they had the usual page with the position-by-position matchups and the edges. The results were shocking, though they made a lot of sense: 7 edges went to the Mets, 2 to the Yanks, and the rest even. To be fair, some of the results were debatable (Chavez/Gomez > Matsui) (Green > Abreu), but right now, the Yanks don't look good. My favorite part was how Torre and Randolph were ranked even. The Torre mystique has worn off.

What I find interesting this year is that the Yanks have become a boring team. Maybe it's because George is not well, and not chirping after every loss. After the ugly White Sox series, I thought George (I mean, Rubenstein) would have what to say. But things have been quiet. The Yanks still have A-Rod, Jeter, and Wang, but the rest of the club bores me.

The Mets, on the other hand, get more and more fun to watch. It's been great to see the emergence of Oliver Perez and John Maine. And maybe Jorge Sosa's next.

Pettitte vs. Perez tonight, and Glavine faces Rasner tomorrow. Should be fun. At least watching the Mets, that is.

A-Schmuck Stinking Up the Joint in May

A-Schmuck's May numbers are as follows:

.236 batting average
1 home run
.327 slugging percentage

So Junkee fans, no, I don't think he'll hit 100 home runs this season.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Theo: Right About Damon

Theo Epstein's legacy will revolve around breaking the curse in 2004. But overall, the guy's had his shares of ups and downs. Big Papi and Curt Schilling were excellent moves, but Matt Clement and Edgar Renteria were disasters. For every Hideki Okajima, there's a Scott Sauerbeck. And then there are guys like Hanley Ramirez, prospects who got away. (Although Anibal Sanchez has got the sophomore jinx going on now.)

Theo took some flack for letting both Pedro and Johnny Damon go. They were huge contributors, big parts of the '04 season, and two of the biggest names in Boston. But right now, Theo's looking pretty smart.

Pedro had a good '05, helped by the switch to the NL. But the guy always had health issues, which were not gonna improve with age. Who knows how he'll do after returning from surgery?

And Damon has been playing through pain since his vicious collision with Damian Jackson in '03. I'm sure that was a factor in Theo letting the guy go.

Damon certainly deserves credit for gutting it out, much like Don Mattingly in the early 90's. But this year, the guy has constantly been day-to-day. His numbers so far are decent, (.256, 2, 13, 7 SB) but how knows how long he can keep going out there? And even if he's out there, is it worth having a Johnny Damon at 70%? Is a 70% Johnny Damon worth $13 million a year? At 33, Damon's health is probably not getting any better.

I'm sure Yankee fans will say that Coco Crisp (.232, 0, 10, 7 SB) has worse numbers. But that's missing the point. That doesn't mean the Sox should've kept Damon. Maybe he should've tried getting someone better.

But even if you want to rip Crisp, the guy was playing hurt last year. Also, he's making $9 million less than Damon. Much different expectations for a guy making $3.8 million.

Most importantly, aside from last year, Crisp has no history of injury and is only 27.

You've gotta give Epstein credit for this one. Right now, the Sox don't miss Damon.

- This afternoon: Red Sox win, Yankees lose. Another good day, as the White Sox (or as Fred Hickman would say, the Pale Hose) welcomed Matt DeSalvo to the big leagues. And after a good inning against Andy Cisco, it was back to normal for the Yankee bats. Schilling goes for the Sox in the nightcap tonight.

Yankee Despiser Classic: Joe Torre: Most Overrated Manager in Baseball History


I will be very ticked off when Joe Torre gets elected to the Hall of Fame for leading the Yankees to four World Series titles. He is not a great manager.

He has these things going for him:
(a) Mariano Rivera, which wasn't his doing anyway;
(b) George's huge payroll.

Question #1: Would the Yankees have won four titles with another manager?

Question #2: Where are all his World Series rings from his previous managerial jobs?

Answer #1: Jeter. Bernie. Mariano. Clemens. Pettitte... Point is, he's had great players throughout. I'll give him '96, because no one thought they'd go all the way that year, and with the Mariano Duncans of the world and the Charlie Hayeses, it wasn't as if he were fielding an all-star lineup, although the aforementioned guys (Clemens not included) are no slouches themselves.

But '98? '99? '00? When George started spending like mad and bought all the players he needed for World Series championships? Why give Torre any credit? Anyone could have won with those teams, be it Tony LaRussa, Grady Little, Greg Riddoch, Art Howe, Jeff Torborg... Granted, there's no evidence that a different manager would have done better, but there's no evidence that another skipper would've been worse!

I'm more impressed with Bobby Valentine making it to the Series with an outfield of Jay Payton, Benny Agbayani, and Bubba Trammell. Or Tommy Lasorda winning it all in '88 with the John Shelbys and Franklin Stubbses of the world.

Answer #2: There are none. He had decent teams in St. Louis in the early '90s, but never did anything. He won the division with the Braves in the early '80s, but never got to the Series. He was a disaster with the Mets, but his teams were terrible, so let's be fair.

Overall, managers are overrated because it's the players that have to perform, and it's the GMs who put the team together, so let's not go crazy calling Torre a genius just yet.

Besides, who knows - maybe other managers could have done better and won five, six, maybe seven championships.

But I give Torre credit for one thing - he knows how to kiss George's fanny all right.

SITYS: Mussina Full of Excuses

From today's New York Post:

May 17, 2007 -- CHICAGO - Out of all the Yankees, Mike Mussina is easily the biggest creature of habit. So, when his routine was thrown off by a day off Monday and a rainout Tuesday, the veteran right-hander had trouble adjusting.

"It's tough to stay sharp," Mussina said of having six days between starts. "I didn't stay sharp."

It showed in the first game of yesterday's doubleheader against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox hung a 5-3 loss on the Yankees. "We needed a well-pitched game and I didn't do it."

Working in front of the Dead Bat Society, Mussina (2-2) gave up five runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.

"Everything," Mussina said when asked what the extended rest affected the most. "I didn't feel like I had finish on my pitches."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Yankee Bench: Pathetic

One of the overlooked problems with the Yankee teams of recent vintage has been their lack of depth. This is very relevant now, when a lot of guys are struggling. Take a guy like Robby Cano - when his game is off, do you really want to put Miguel Cairo in there? A guy with a .600 OPS last year? Of course not.

And with the game on the line, who do they have that scares you? Nobody. Melky Cabrera is decent, but he's still pretty unproven. I know, last summer he did pretty well, but that's not much of a track record. And this year, he's off to a slow start, batting .226. Maybe '06 was a fluke.

And after that? It's a total joke. Josh Phelps is the scariest bat on the bench? Unbelieveable. And Wil Nieves (.040) makes ex-Met Charlie O'Brien look like Joe DiMaggio.

Compare the Yankees to their rivals, the Mets and Red Sox. The Mets have Endy Chavez, a guy who's gotten them a few clutch hits and, if not for Yadier Molina, sends them to the World Series last year with that amazing catch. Julio Franco may be a PR move, but the guy is still a solid hitter. Ramon Castro, too, is a guy who can hit. And now Damion Easley has been the latest guy to step things up. (To be fair, however, the Mets were in a no-lose situation and got lucky. Kind of like the Yankees and Aaron Small. Let's see how Easley's doing in August.)

The Red Sox have a solid bench as well. Wily Mo Pena can take a bad pitch and hit it over the fences. Cora and Mirabelli are great at defense. Hinske is nothing to write home about, but he's the Clay Bellinger of that team, so you can't go too crazy. If not for winning Rookie of the Year, you wonder how long Hinske would still be in the majors. There's a mystique to that award.

When you look at the dynasty teams, they had much better benches. In '96, they had Hayes, Strawberry, and Cecil Fielder. And of course, Jim Leyritz. And later they had Sojo, Vizcaino, and Ledee. Sure they had guys like Felix Jose and Tony Tarasco have cups of coffees in the big leagues, but when it came down to it, they had some good bats off the bench.

And now that the payroll has ballooned to $200 million, you'd figure they'd have more depth. Nope. Not with Cashman running the show.

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Favorite Mistakes

Yankee haters, let's face it. The last few years have been great for us. Sure, I'd sign up for the Junkees to lose a hundred next season, but overall, no championships is what matters. Granted, there've been many here-we-go-again moments, the '03 ALCS was a bitter pill to swallow, but again, when you look at the end results, you just have to smile.

So now I'd like to look back at my favorite bad moves from each season beginning in 2002, when things started falling apart.

2002: Raul Mondesi. Aside from being a jerk and batting a measly .241, this acquisition helped the baseball world wake up and realize the salary disparity that existed in the sport. When the Junkees plunked down $7 million for a guy they didn't really need (if only Enrique Wilson had caught that pop-up against the Mets....), and gave Toronto a minor leaguer in exchange, that got Chris Russo screaming on WFAN and perhaps somehow helped lead to revenue sharing.

2003: I'd go with Jeff Weaver, who not only stunk up the joint all season long but gave up a game-winning home run to Alex Gonzalez in the World Series, but he was acquired in '02, so I don't know if he counts. Instead, I nominate Jeff Nelson. This was ultimate PR. Bring back a guy who was so instrumental during the good years, never fully replaced, and what does he do, aside from being an idiot during the ALCS fight? Contribute a 4.58 ERA. and prove to be totally unreliable. They got him the heck out of there the following year. Runner-up: PR-pickup Jesse Orosco.

2004: Toss up between Javier Vazquez and Paul Qauntrill. Vazquez was supposed to be that solid number 1 or number 2 guy, and after his terrific first start against the White Sox, absolutely fizzled. Okay, he had a few decent starts after that, but how do you give up 33 homers in 198 innings? He was so bad that he was a goner after that one year. Quantrill wasn't as much PR as Nelson the year before, but he too, was supposed to be the middle relief savior, and was horrid. Believe it or not, Kevin Brown was not horrible in 2004. The next year, on the other hand, was a different story.

2005: Carl Pavano. Need I say more? (Honorable mention goes to Jaret Wright, Felix Rodriguez, Ramiro Mendoza, Tino, Tony Womack, Matt Lawton....)

2006: Again, so many to choose from. Ron Villone turned out to be a disaster, but that's because Snorre pitched him until his arm fell off. You had Aaron Small return to journeyman form. Octavio Dotel stopped by and laid an egg. You had the Yankee bench, with their cast of characters such as Terrence Long. Aaron Guiel. Craig Wilson, and Sal Fasano. But the one guy who sticks out in my mind is Miguel Cairo. The guy was great for the Yanks in '04, let go and picked up by the Mets for '05, which made him a perfect PR candidate - former Met AND former Junkee. Did absolutely nothing at the plate, batting .239 with a .280 OBP and .320 slugging average. A waste of 222 at bats.

I know a lot of these moves didn't make or break them during the regular season or the postseason, but it's still fun to look back and laugh at Ca$hman, Snorre, and company. Further wears away the aura and mystique.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Real Tests Ahead

Glad to see Seattle take two of three this weekend, even without King Felix. Aside from their outburst against Miguel Batista, the Yankee bats were quiet. Giambi is the latest guy to struggle, stuck in an 0-18 funk. Aside from A-Rod, Jeter, and Posada, these guys can't hit right now.

And with Boston taking two of three from the O's (sweet win today), the Sox pick up a game in the standings.

- Amazing to think how much I used to look forward to Yankees-Mariners. The Big Unit, Griffey, A-Rod, and of course, Edgar Martinez. Plus the one that got away, Jay Buhner. That was a good team, and the series they played were great. After the ALDS loss in '95 ended an era, you got the feeling the Yankees wanted to beat Seattle every time.

And even after three of those guys left, '01 with Ichiro, 116 wins, and Piniella's tirade in the ALCS: still a great series. But now, I'm sorry, even Ichiro can't make these games watchable. That team is dull.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the next two weeks of Yankee baseball. That is gonna be the real test as to whether we'll see a Yankee-free October. They're playing the White Sox, who've struggled early on, but are starting to put it together. The Mets are gonna be a real test, and then we'll see Boston. Following that, the Angels, who are one of my favorite teams when they play the Yankees. The next easy series will probably be at the end of May, against that sinking ship in Toronto.

The next two weeks will be huge. Can the Yankees finally put it together, and pitch and hit well at the same time?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Texas Ends Season Series On High Note

Whenever you see Chien-Ming Wang vs. Brandon McCarthy as the pitching matchup, you have a feeling as to where the advantage lies. But last night, Wang, who doesn't strike anyone out, couldn't get anyone out, allowing seven runs. Luis Vizcaino stunk again, and I still think he'll gone by June.

By the way, whatever happened to Robinson Cano? Last year, they were all ranting and raving about him, as if he was the next Ryne Sandberg. This year, Cano's numbers are average: .250, 1 HR, and a platry .293 OBP. You wonder if the pitchers have figured the guy out. To be fair, he did bat .398 last June, so maybe he hasn't broken out yet. But so far, he's stunk. And Abreu's been terrible, too (.325 OBP, .309 SLG), and Matsui doesn't scare you that much anymore (.258, 2 HR). So far, lots of holes in the lineup.

That botched rundown by A-Rod reminded me of the '06 A-Rod. Wouldn't mind if he made a comeback.

- Yankees play Seattle this weekend; let's see if Rasner and DeSalvo can do it again. No Jeff Weaver this time, thankfully.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Back At .500, And More On Clemens

Another night, another win against Texas. Yankees go for the sweep tomorrow, and their starting pitching is looking great.

I'm not too frustrated with the Yankees success. Again, they'll kill teams with lousy pitching. And Texas is bad.

The good news is, there are two hot teams in the Central. The Indians have put it together following that awful series against the Yankees, and the bats of Peralta, Pronk, and Barfield have been heating up. The Tigers have been red-hot, although I wonder how the Zumaya injury will affect them. Rodney is pretty solid, too, so I wouldn't worry about them.

Why do I bring this up? Because if Boston stays hot and the wild card comes out of the Central - we've got ourselves a Yankee-free October!

- I'm tired of people talking about how the preferential treatment of Clemens goes against the Yankee way. Shut up with the aura and mystique (and I love Schilling's line back in '01 World Series). The Yankee way was gone when they replaced a warrior like O'Neill with one of the biggest jerks to ever play the game, Raul Mondesi. The Yankee way was gone when Steinbrenner wanted to ruin the game and put Montreal and Minnesota out of business. The Yankee way was gone when Kevin Brown punched the wall. So give it up already.

- And by the way, you will not see me complain about the Clemens signing ruining the parity of the game. Not when the mid-market Brewers have the best record in the game. Not after the Red Sox shelled out $100 million for Matsuzaka. Not when only 5 teams came into spring training with no shot at the playoffs. Baseball's system still needs some work, but we've come a long way since the late 90's.

I will say this: one Yankee fan told me he'd love for the Yankees to sign Johan Santana when he becomes a free agent. If that happens, I think I'll be watching the NHL playoffs this time of year.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Yankee Version of Russ Hodges

Giants fans have Russ Hodges' "The Giants win the pennant!" following arguably the most famous homer in baseball history.

Mets fans have Bob Murphy's "Gets by Buckner! Mets Win!" Easily the best moment in Mets history.

And Dodgers fans have Vin Scully's call on the Kirk Gibson homer - just incredible.

Be jealous no more, Yankee fans - your team is now in the annals of baseball broadcasting history as well.

The Yankee Way At Work

Igawa's reward for saving Torre's behind? A trip to single-A Tampa. At least he hasn't been called a "fat pussy toad" yet.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Can Clemens Close?

The tables have turned; suddenly, the Yankees starting pitching has been excellent, while the bullpen's been bad. Aside from the Igawa disaster Friday night, the starters have done really well. Rasner and DeSalvo pitched very well, though let's not go crazy; the Mariners, Ichiro aside, just plain suck.

Anyway, it's May 7th, and Mariano Rivera has an 8.44 ERA. So Yankee fans, wipe that smile off your face. Stop dreaming about the Rocket. Because you have to start worrying about Rivera.

I know, I know, he got a couple of saves against the Rangers last week. Still, there was Marco Scutaro, that awful night in Boston, and now this. Hard to keep calling them flukes.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think Rivera has suddenly morphed into Armando Benitez. But he's no longer Mr. Automatic. He no longer gives Yankee-haters that awful feeling in the stomach when he trots out of the bullpen.

So Mo hasn't totally lost it yet. But now, he's human. No more lights-out.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Rocket a Yankee? Not Surprising

I'm pissed about Clemens coming back to New York. Pissed, but not surprised.

You knew Houston wasn't going to happen. That team doesn't have what it takes to contend, especially if Milwaukee and the Cubs stay hot. Besides, the Astros weren't gonna pay nearly as much as the AL East teams.

And Boston, too, had no reason to shell out $28 million. They're already on the hook for Dice-K (posting fee and salary), and with Beckett, Schilling, and Wakefield doing well, they don't have a need for Clemens. And Jon Lester should be back at Fenway soon.

Throw in the Pettitte factor, and you had to figure Clemens would be back. So much for Ca$hman's youth movement.

What I'm afraid of is that this move will have the same impact as the Abreu move; a move that can galvanize the team and get them to go on a tear. And unfortunately, it wouldn't surprise me if that were the case. If Clemens can still get the job done, and Mussina, Pettitte, and Wang can keep pitching well, the Yankees rotation suddenly looks like one of the best in the league. And if Hughes comes back and pitches like he did against Texas? Not good.

The big x-factor in Clemens' case? He hasn't pitched in the AL since '03. And every team in the East can hit. I don't think it'll be a disaster as it was with, say, Javier Vazquez, but his ERA will probably go up at least a run.

One more thing to keep in mind: in the '05 WS, his hamstring acted up, and helped ruin the Astros' chances. I know he's famous for his crazy workout routines, but the guy is 45. There's no guarantee that the Yankees can call on him when they'll need him most.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Yankees Sweep Texas

All the talk of Joe Snorre's job security has faded, as the Yanks swept Texas. I know a win's a win, but you can't get too excited here.

First off, Texas, as a team, is all about their hitting. Their pitching has been terrible for years; even when they made the playoffs, they had no shot with also-rans like Aaron Sele, Rick Helling, and Darren Oliver. And in '07, Kameron Loe and Vincente Padilla are nothing to write home about. So if they can't score 7 runs, they're done. And with the exception of rookie Ian Kinsler, the hitting has stunk. Young, Blalock, and Teixera have struggled, and Brad Wilkerson and Kenny Lofton don't scare anyone.

So their getting hammered by the Yankees doesn't mean anything. To Texas's credit, they still got Mussina and Pettitte to throw a lot of pitches and leave early. And at this rate, Luis Vizcaino will last about as long as Carlos Almanzar.

- The saga with conditioning coach Marty Miller reminds me of the last Yankees strength and conditioning fiasco - the "Bronx Burners" of 1982. Which, of course, was the first year of a 13-year playoff drought in the Bronx.

- Next up, Yanks and Seattle. Seattle has played decent ball thus far, but if Felix Hernandez doesn't stay healthy, they're done. Especially with Weaver and Batista in the rotation. Bill Bavasi can duke it out with Kevin Malone for "worst GM in the west."

- Kei Igawa goes tonight. Let's see if last week's performance was just a fluke.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Who's Running The Show?

I recently read Michael Morrissey's "The Pride and the Pressure," a book about the Yankees' tumultuous 2006 season, and one of the ongoing discussions throughout the book was George's health. Over the past few years, George has had a couple of fainting incidents, has looked frail in public, and has given speeches that were bizarre and incoherent. The book mentioned how, each time George seemed to be losing it, Rubenstein, Swindal, and Co. made statements that the Boss was all there and still in charge.

A lengthy New York Times piece from August 2006 discusses George's gradual retreat from the spotlight. A couple of interesting quotes from that piece:

Pitcher Mike Mussina said he had not seen Steinbrenner since spring training, and Derek Jeter added, “He hasn’t been around for the past few years.”

But Steinbrenner, who once savored and orchestrated his dealings with reporters, often appears to want to give more than terse responses before a son-in-law, Felix Lopez, a Yankees executive, and a security official squire him into a waiting limo.

Late last year, in an interview on the Yankees-controlled YES Network, he had a distant look in his eyes, offered little detail and gave answers that sounded very much like the questions.

At a visit to the owner’s suite when the guest was former President Bill Clinton in June 2005, Steinbrenner demonstrated to Clinton how much he knew of Olbermann’s career. “What I saw was the sharpness, but he couldn’t remember my name,” Olbermann said.

According to a recent piece in the New Yorker quoted by "Gawker," (hat tip: Rob Neyer), George has Alzheimer's. This would explain the Olbermann incident. And in which case, we offer George and his family our prayers and best wishes.

This also explains why Torre and Cashman aren't going anywhere anytime soon. After Swindal's divorce, who's running the show in the Bronx? According to the Post's George King, Hank Steinbrenner is now in charge. And Hank is pro-Torre, even though Rubenstein didn't seem to be too thrilled with the man.

Whatever it is, I can't take Rubenstein/Steinbrenner seriously anymore. All I know is, with the Yankee front office in a state of flux, Snorre and Ca$hman can breathe easier. In years past, they would've been gone long ago.