Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Rocket blazes again...or does he?

In one of the biggest shocks the sporting world has ever seen, Raymond Van Barneveld was totally owned by his fellow countryman Roland Scholten in the semi-finals of the Darts Premier League on Monday night. In slightly less surprising news, Newsday are reporting that Roger Clemens has inked a deal worth $3.5m per month for the rest of the season.

Both the Yankees and the Red Sox were very interested in bringing the Rocket back for second spells with their respective franchises, but it seems as though neither have been able to tempt Roger away from home, and another chance to pitch in front of his home town fans and play the game he loves as well as be a full-time father to his kids and be a full-time husband to his wife.

I have never made any quarms about my love and respect for the seven time Cy Young award winner and cast iron first ballot Hall of Famer. If the Yankees had been able to bring him back then they would've straight away become favourites for the AL spot in the World Series in my opinion. If the Red Sox had done the deed then they'd of also become the favourites in my eyes for hosting games in the final week of October.

Clemens is a genuine ace, and to get one for just money (Yes I know it's a bucketload of dosh) but just money and not losing any prospects, then it is a deal anyone would make. I wish the Rocket all the best and will once again look forward to watching one of the greatest of all time show even more fans a good time.

Still would've loved to see him pitch in the Pinstripes though, oh well, there's always next year...

UPDATE: According to Roger's agents, the situation is at it was and no deal has been signed. However I feel that Newsday wouldn't run the story unless they were pretty sure. The denial is on ESPN's website

Will the real Randy please stand up, please stand up?

Randy Johnson looked unhappy, he failed to raise a smile all afternoon, glared at the home plate umpire when he failed to call a couple of close pitches on the inside corner, but most importantly he pitched like the Randy Johnson of old. He no hit the Tigers through 5 2/3 before being lifted in the 7th having given up two hits.

Now my first reaction towards this was I was fast asleep and dreaming but then my logical part of the brain came to the fore and I remembered something Bobby and Kenny were saying doing the call for YES. The enjoyable duo were discussing about how it had the chance to be the warmest Memorial Day in Michigan since records began. Last season we saw time after time that Randy was a much better pitcher in warmer weather and once the sun came out on a beautiful day at Comerica Park Randy looked filthy.

Whether he's pitching to Jorge Posada (who I was delighted to see back in the line-up last night) or Kelly Stinnett, I think it is not of big importance. I put forward that the weather is the biggest thing to Randy Johnson, whether it's a conscious thing or not, he seems to have better command of both the fastball and the slider when the sun is blazing.

The Yankees scored four runs and that was plenty as the Tigers were two-hit. Damon hit an RBI up the middle, Jeter beat out a potential double play ball to plate a run, both in the third. In the fifth A-Rod and Posada chased home Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi respectively and that was that as the Yankees played a neat game to record a good win against the team with the best record in the bigs.

All in all a good game, Posada looked fine, Jeter left early but is expected to play tonight. The Yankees captain has a sprained right hand but it doesn't look like anything major. It was nice to see Ron Villone pitch in an important spot and get outs, he has been the under utilized member of our 'pen all season long but he can get hitters out, and will if given the chance. When Dotel comes back we'll have four very competent setup men for Mariano which should ensure they don't get overworked.

Oh and the Sox lost...bonus!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Yanks open it up early, still need Mo

Whilst the Red Sox BP were trying to dramatically lose a game in the 9th, the Yankees version allowed a slow drip of runs to get the Royals back in it before Mo nailed down a perfect 9th for the save.

Damon led off and went deep, Jeter and Sheffield hit soft singles before Giambi ripped a double down the right field line. A-Rod then plated both Giambi and Sheffield on a well blooped single. Cano grounded into a Double Play before Melky Cabrera worked a walk. All this against Royals starter Runelvys Hernandez (1-4) who was taken out after facing just seven batters, allowing six of them to reach safely. Terrence Long wrapped a single off the wall in right with Melky coming all the way round from 1st to score on a nice bit of aggressive baserunning (aided by the Royals inept communication).

5-0 up after an inning - easy eh?

It was 6-0 after two but then the Yankees offense packed up their bags and boarded the plane to Motown, forgetting that the game still had 21 outs to go. Jaret Wright (3-3) looked good but seemed to tire and only made it through 5.1. Joe turned to the overworked Proctor and whilst he did well in the 6th, he didn't have it in the 7th, nor did Mike Myers and Farnsworth struggled in the 7th as well. By now the Royals had cut the lead to just one.

Luckily Farnsworth's slider started to bite and Mo looked nasty as he breezed through the 9th to record his 390th save, equaling Dennis Eckersley on the all time list. It wasn't an enjoyable game really after the early stages, you just had the feeling that the Bombers were going to find a way to lose it, luckily they didn't but they head into a big four game series against the Tigers tonight behind Randy Johnson. I have even made Craig Monroe active tonight for my fantasy team as he's facing Randy, that says everything about how the big unit is looking at the moment.

A question from the Sox/Rays game last night

I saw the box score and heard that the Devil Rays had made a real fight of it in the 9th, scoring four and having the tying run cut down at the plate. However I have a kind of Aflac trivia question, for which I don't know the answer.

According to the box score, all four of the Rays runs were unearned but the Red Sox were charged with no errors in the game.

Can someone more intelligent than I please lead me towards how this could be?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The OF Question

The New York Yankees started the season with three $13/yr guys across the outfield, one is down for most of the season, one has just come off the DL and the other is playing with a broken bone is his foot. What options do the Yankees have? The longer haired member of the 3,079 Miles... team investigates:

Melky Cabrera - 21 We all know Melky came up last year and looked overmatched both at the plate and in the field. He's up again but this time he looks a bit more ready for the big dance. He looks average in the field, still nervous but made a very nice play on Friday night and seems to be gaining in confidence. At the plate he is without doubt the best option we have, he has patience and although his power numbers are woeful, he is getting bat on ball and has delivered seven RBIs this week (leading my keeper fantasy team). As long as Matsui is down and Sheffield is DHing, this is the kid I want starting.

Bernie Williams - 37 We all love Bernie, but his days as an everyday outfielder are behind him. He is struggling from the left hand side of the plate (.214) but is hitting a stunning .374 against lefties this season. He should be nothing more than a spot starter against a slow throwing lefty pitcher and pinch hitter, if the Yankees limit his role to just that then he'll be an asset to this team.

Bubba Crosby - 29 Bubba has a lot of love amongst Yankee fans but the reality is that he'll only ever be a 4th or 5th OF on any decent ML Baseball team. Shows good hustle with a good glove, but his batting is not great and we have better bats in the minors.

Kevin Thompson - 26 Kevin is back and hit a HR last night for Triple A Columbus. If the Yankees need an everyday RF if Sheffield is consigned to DHing for the majority of the near future, then this is the kid to add to the Cabrera and Damon led OF. He has hit the ball hard down in the minors and is of similar make up to Andy Phillips (who is being under utilized at the big club also). It has been a surprise he's not been in the mix to come up yet.

Terrence Long - 30 Not wanted by the Kansas City Royals but is yet good enough to play for the New York Yankees, I do love the logic in that. Long should not be around the great ballclub, let alone part of the 25 man roster. Long is the worst option, even worse than the final one I'm going to talk about...

Richard Hidalgo - 29 The only reason this guy is above Long is that when he gets in a groove he does seem to hit the ball hard for ten games or so in a row. He is extremely streaky but could provide some pop off the bench but he smacks of Raul Mondesi, talented but lazy.

So there we have it, it doesn't look great on paper but it could be worse. Melky is really staking his claim to be the answer, the next few weeks are big for him. Success means that the Yankees have an alternative to triggering Gary Sheffield's $13m option for the 2007 season, and winning the starting RF job for the New York Yankees, no pressure there then kid.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How to lose a series...

"That team right now is decimated. They've lost some very significant people. That's not going to be the same team the next time we see them. We have to take advantage of it now."
Wise words Curt, wise words...

Game 1, starter ERA... 1.13

Game 2, starter ERA... 8.10

Game 3, starter ERA... 16.62

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wright blows heat, wind blows out, Yanks top Sox

My headlines are getting longer and longer.

Jaret Wright threw five scoreless innings yesterday to lift the Yankees to a 7-5 victory over the Sox in Fenway. The much maligned right hander gave up hits and baserunners but reared back showed a pretty nice 95 MPH riding fastball to get himself out of trouble. He was lifted after five after being hit in the first by a comebacker in the ribs, which was aggravated in the fifth prompting Gator and Torre to play it safe and pull him. A very nice effort though and my faith in him is slowly rising, just like the sea levels, but just a little bit slower.

Away from a good starting effort we saw a poor bp effort with Proctor, Myers and Farnsworth limping through 2 1/3 before Mo came in for a five out save to record the victory for the Bombers. I am getting concerned about Proctor's workload and noticed his fb wasn't as fast and nor did he have as much control over it as he had done previously this season. His curve looked nasty and after making Manny look foolish on two straight curves, he threw a fb down and over the plate and Manny hit the tar out of before jogging and showboating around the bases like he'd won the World Series or hit one off the moon.

The Sox never gave in and five times the tying run was standing at home plate but it wasn't to be. The Yankees offense came from the top of the order, Damon wrapped one round the pesky pole leading off the game, Jeter had a 2 RBI single and A-Rod hit a three shot shot and also crossed the plate on a strike out/wild pitch allowing him to reach first, he took second on a wild pitch, third on a fielders choice and scored on, yep you guessed it, another wild pitch, not Doug Mirabelli's finest hour. It was a good job he threw that final wild pitch as T. Long was at the plate and promptly struck out on the next pitch.

Why is T. Long on the 25 man roster let alone starting? Please can someone tell me?

All in all it was a victory, Giambi sat giving him a much needed rest as he has looked a bit jaded. Sheffield returned from the DL and DH'ed going 0/3 with a walk, run scored and a stolen base. He looked like he was wielding a sword in battle the way he was swinging, a very good sign. Andy Phillips again impressed me, I'd like to see him given a chance to play every day as the 1B or DH as I think he's a better option than Bernie Williams in that spot at the moment.

Randy Johnson goes tonight for the Yankees, that'll be a Red Sox W then...

The mystery of the Bean, Yankees keep getting older.

I am not your avid Minor Leaguer watcher but I do like to keep up to date with stats and how the prospects are doing down on the farm. I lurk on the NYY Newsgroup and look forward to Tom K's Minor League updates, one player who has often been cause of much debate is Colter Bean, he was finally brought up a few days ago but has now been DFA'ed by the Yankees although they had no need to.

He had options left and there was room on the 40-man roster, so why o why did they let this kid go? I have to admit I don't know too much about him, what I do know is he throws junk but consistently gets people out. I also know that five innings in the bigs isn't enough to gauge whether or not he's good enough to stick around with the Yankees. I also know that the Red Sox thought he was worth a shot in the Rule V draft. Finally I also know that he is better than Scott Erickson.

This kid hasn't been treated terribly well by the Yankees and I for one hope he is picked up and does a decent job somewhere. There is little doubt that he is better than some of the scrubs littering bullpen's all over the league. What I am starting to get concerned about is the way the Yankees are going, signing Terrence Long and starting him over Melky Cabrera, calling up Erickson, possibly calling up Ramiro Mendoza tonight to replace Kevin Reese on the 25 man, I thought Cashman vowed this team would be getting younger. I'm not seeing much of a sign of this recently.

I know the team has been pretty beat up by injuries but why not give some of the guys in the farm a chance instead of playing guys not wanted by Kansas City ffs. Where is Rickey Henderson these days?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

For one night only...part deux

For one night only the Yankees couldn't hit their way out of a paper bag, no wait that is most nights these days, oh well. Neil H could not believe I was fast asleep when the first pitch from Schilling was delivered, I can't believe he was shocked I chose to get some kip when I saw a starting outfield in Fenway against our arch-rivals consisted of an unwanted Terrence Long, a washed up Bernie Williams and a rookie Melky Cabrera, I mean honestly, $200 payroll, give me a (expletive) break.

As much as I love Jason Giambi, and trust me boys and girls, I do. The guy is in a slump and seemingly it is he that gets this team going. When he's hot the rest of the team seem to play well but when he's cooler than my bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale that has been sitting in the fridge since I moved here, then the Yankees don't seem to do much.

Schilling looked masterful, a true ace, Wang looked ok, nothing more, nothing less. He wasn't helped by T. Long misplaying balls in the OF although no errors were recorded, but he still was getting hit hard and the natural sink on his sinker wasn't sinking half as much as it has the past couple of outings.

Ortiz and Manny again turned up and saw the Yankee grey and hit the stitching out of the ball, and the bit part players all did what they seemingly do against the Bombers. One thing the Sox have that the Yankees don't is bench players who can come in and do a job. Willie Harris, Alex Cora, Wily Mo Pena against the likes of Miguel Cairo and Kelly Stinnett, boy that's a hard one to call.

However as my colleague has already noted, Sheffield is back and will be activated tonight. I assume he'll DH with Damon returning to CF, it is a plus but the Yankees need to find their groove once again. Jaret Wright goes for the Bombers tonight, and in all honesty he has looked good enough for his past two or three starts so for once I have a slight bit of faith in the right hander, Wakefield goes for the Sox, let's hope that knuckler isn't feeling the beat and decides not to dance towards home plate.

It's Sox v Yanks (again) and the Sox have won (again) could we have a different script please?

For one night only...

Let's hope it is not for just one night, but the full Schill is back, and as a nice bonus, he racked up win #199 of his regular season career.

That was Schilling at his impressive best - great location, nice curve, superb splitter... 8 strong innings, one run given up. As he said in his post-game news conference, that one run was a summary of his last five starts - two quick outs, then the mistakes crept in, leading to a Cabrera double, a Damon single to plate the run, a Jeter single to increase the threat, then a nice battling AB by Giambi ended by a pop up to shallow left / third.

The difference in this outing, was that in the next inning he settled back down quickly - a 1-2-3 inning after Ortiz and Manny added 4 runs to the evidence for "best 3-4 punch in the majors category", followed by another 4 innings where he faced the minimum, helped by two nifty double plays.

Foulke came in to the 9th to get Michael Kay excited as he gave up 4 runs on very hard hit balls - but I am guessing I wasn't alone in calling the A-Rod homer...

The Yankees are looking pretty beat up right now - Terrance Long made his debut in LF and had a few adventures out there. However, Sheffield is apparently driving up from Trenton and will be activated if he wakes up feeling ok in the morning - clearly he is unlikely to be back to his best in his first AB, but he really does help to change the look of the lineup.

The Sox are playing well, and it would be nice to take advantage of the Yankees injury travails - but I don't think the Yankees travails are solved by Sheffield coming back, nor would they if Matsui was suddenly to reappear in left. It is still all about the pitching, and the re-emrgence of the Big Unit would do more to solve Yankee woes, than any signing or call up.

Monday, May 22, 2006

News from Torre - Sheffield back for tail-end of Sox series?

Well according to Joe Torre, speaking from the dugout during the middle of the fifth inning they "are getting ready to send Sheff out on a rehab assignment" where "he will only need a game, maybe two" - does that mean that Sheffield will comeback during the Sox series?

Joe Morgan had earlier revealed that Sheffield had taken another cortisone shot in his wrist - something that he had earlier insisted he wouldn't do - perhaps a sign that Sheffield does recognize that the Yankees need him back in the lineup right now.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Some Sunday (Sox) snippets

  • As ugly losses go... the first two pitchers the Sox used on Sunday hadn't pitched for a combined 26 days... wonder why Lenny D didn't look that sharp?
  • Perhaps it was just because we had Lenny starting, but it never seemed that the Sox were much concerned about losing this game. I described it to Neil M as a "we are going home to play the Yankees tomorrow" effort - perhaps that isn't fair, but it just had that feel about it - and at least it brought another of our long unbeaten streaks to an end... on the same road trip...
  • Actually what made me think that the Sox weren't that concerned was Francona's decision to send out Alvarez in the 6th - he had pitched three full innings with the ups and downs that entails - the Sox were only 2 runs down at the time, but the Phillies were allowed to go double, single, home run before Francona pulled Abe... (having also allowed the Phillies to go walk, single, triple, single, single before he pulled Lenny in the 3rd - not quite so glaring, but...)
  • One of the things that worries me about Francona is the way he uses young pitchers, particularly when they have just been called up. I guess I am a bit soft, but I think we should be putting young arms in positions where we can encourage them to succeed. Cla Meredith was an example last year - giving up a grand slam in his first inning, having been brought in with 3 men on (feel free to correct me - it was at least 2), Manny Delcarmen has been used sparingly when he has been up, Hansen made his debut last year in a strange situation... and then Abe today is the latest example, brought in with 2 men on - now Abe did get out of DiNardo's jam, but it just seemed a crazy situation to bring in a guy that hadn't pitched in 2 weeks.
  • Given that the Sox weren't interested... I subscribed to the season package at MiLB.TV (another great example of how the internet has helped baseball reach a far greater audience) to watch some of David Wells outing against the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons (stunning name - give me an S... Give me a C...). I saw 2 innings of David's work and would have to say that he looked ready enough to make the start on Friday against the Devil Rays. The box score is here, but David gave up 2 runs in his 5 innings of work, and in the 4th and 5th (the innings I saw) he was effective, getting a mix of ground and fly outs, locating the ball well, particularly on the sweeping curve.
  • I guess the best thing about this package is the chance to watch some of the names that we hope will have an impact on the Sox - possibly as early as this season - Choi, Pedroia, Lester, Hansen amongst them - I will be watching Sox - Yankees on Tuesday, but will hopefully get to tune in to the Paw Sox at home to the Louisville Bats (the AAA team of the Reds) to see Jon Lester start.

Somehow the Yankees win

I had given up on the game after five as my take-away arrived, I then promptly threw it all up and felt rather rough as I settled down to watch the Eurovision Song Contest. Then however my MSN went bing and Neil H informed me that Giambi had a hit and A-Rod had walked to start the 9th. I tuned in just as Cano lined a RBI single past the outstretched arm of Jose Reyes and it was game on.

Cairo flew out but then came the AB that made me think that the game was there to be won. Melky Cabrera went down in the count 0-2 and fouled off three pitches before starting to take some out of the strikezone. He got it to 3-2 and had a very good swing at the pay off pitch but fouled it back, the next pitch was high and away and the bases were full of Bombers with the go ahead run at the plate in the form of Kelly Stinnett.

This was a sure sign that Posada couldn't field his position but Stinnett took four straight pitches outside the zone forcing home A-Rod from third. It was clear to everyone that Wagner had absolutely nothing, not a thing, nada, ziltch, but still he was left in to pitch to Bernie Williams. He threw a slider which hit Bernie, forcing home Cano from third, now it was a 4-3 game and finally Willie found his hook and took his closer, in came some left hander, I can't be arsed to look up how to spell his name, he got Damon to hit a groundball to Reyes who was playing in, he could've come home, he decided to go to second and attempt the game ending 6-4-3, Matsui took the throw from Reyes and fired to first and in a bang bang play, Damon was correctly ruled safe and the game was tied.

Proctor pitched a perfect ninth sending the game to extras where in the 11th the away side took the lead. A lead off walk to Cairo was followed by two uncontested steals leaving it down to Andy Phillips, who'd entered the game as part of a double switch in the 10th to bring Cairo home. He duly delivered a base hit to RCF leaving Mariano to nail down the win, he did, and boy did he do it in impressive fashion, three swinging k's and his stuff for the first time in a while looked evil, that inside cutter was simply unhittable.

It was a win we should never of had, Pedro pitched great and again doesn't get the W whilst Mussina was again sharp and got little help from his team mates who got nothing together offensively and committed four errors in the field. It was nice to win and really nice to do it against a stud closer but the Yankee injury situation is really starting to get dire and unless something changes I am fearful of the immediate future in the Bronx.

Those things that don't happen very often

Well so much for my earlier post, the Red Sox did get something going against the Phillies, giving Don Orsillo another day to talk about an unbeaten streak...

As part of that offense, Josh Beckett hit the first home run by a (current) Red Sox pitcher since Tuesday September 26, 1972 at Fenway, when 20,669 fans saw Martin 'Marty' Pattin hit a 2 run shot in the 2nd inning, as the Sox built a 4-0 lead... before losing the game 6-4 to those American League Milwaukee Brewers.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Some Saturday snippets

  • I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and don't knock the goodness of the cause - but really? I guess in our never-ending battle we should expect Red Sox Nation to be renamed the Red Sox Galaxy some time soon!
  • The major difference between NESN and YES - NESN's ability to be critical of the Red Sox. One example of that today - NESN shows classic Red Sox games where the Sox lose (not sure that I understand the concept yet, but I am patient), on YES Today before the Mets game, they were showing highlights of the past week for the Yankees, you would never know that they lost a game, to the extent that highlights of the Big Unit's outing against the Sox were shown, including the home run off Beckett, and all three of RJ's strikeouts!
  • Is Willie Randolph taking managing tips from Grady Little? I don't really understand why he went to Wagner in the 9th, but once Wagner showed that he had no idea where the strike zone was don't you go and get him? And then when he really showed he had absolutely no clue where the zone was... did he suddenly expect him to re-find the zone, mid outing? Single, walk, single, out, walk, walk, HBP... then he went to get him - crazy way to blow a ballgame by a team that I still think will be 'found out' unless they trade for pitching.
  • Barry has #714, and the baseball world has another silent shudder. As Buck and McCarver stated on the return of the Fox national game of the day - has any milestone ever been met by such significant... nothing...? I appreciate it wasn't a record, but I struggle to believe that if we were convinced by his numbers, and he was generally a good guy, we mightn't have gotten a little bit more excited by the third man in baseball history to hit 714 home runs.
  • Spreaking of which - how is it possible that someone sitting 3,440 miles from the action gets the pictures before someone sitting 25 miles from Shea? I think I have whined about this before, but if Pedro and 50,000+ fans at Shea can get upset about the game being delayed to suit Fox, can't the TV watching fan base get a little upset by Fox delaying pictures here so that they get the commercials in?
  • I don't know what the outcome will be, the Sox haven't got any hitting going off Myers after 5, but I wish NESN would shut up about streaks when the Sox are in the middle of one - did anyone have any doubt that the Sox would lose the last game of that series to the Orioles when NESN labored, and labored the 13 game streak? Tonight, Orsillo seems to have told me 1,872 times that the Sox are unbeaten in games at Citizen's Bank Park... I really do know what the outcome will be tonight...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Oh my...Hor-Gay!

I didn't watch the game last night, I was fast asleep. If I was up watching the game I'd of been gone at 10-1 getting some much needed kip. I woke up and caught the condensed game before work this morning and oh my word, what a game, if only I lived in America and could see these games live at a regular hour day in and day out.

The Yankees got shelled, Chacon got hit harder than a Julian Dicks penalty, Aaron Small settled down a pitched decent, Proctor got hit (but he is being overused) and Mo gave up yet another run, although to be fair he is always bad in non-save situations but despite all this, the Yankees got the W when all was said and done.

Jorge juiced one with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to score both himself and Damon to end the most dramatic game of the season so far for the Bombers. Jorge had a great night hitting clean-up for the first time in 2006, driving in five and blocking the plate and tagging out Mark Teixeira who smashed into him and the Yankees catcher fell backwards but held on. From that moment you knew it was his night and it most certainly was.

Damon got aboard in the 9th through a bad hop single and whilst Jeter and A-Rod couldn't drive home the tying run, the most under rated player on the Yankees late 90's dynasty teams stepped up to the ball and crushed a 3-1 pitch into the lower bleachers in right ending a marathon.

I wish I had more time to discuss this game, I may write more later but I'm not dressed yet and I have to leave for work in eight minutes and boy I'm running late.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A nice win in Baltimore, but...

When Matt Clement took the mound at Fenway on September 3rd 2005, the Sox were standing 5-8 in the season series against the Orioles, having lost the 2004 season series to the Orioles, despite that teams .481 'winning' record that year. And here we are 12 games later, and no Sox pitcher knows what it feels like to lose to them since... the team has averaged 7.25 runs a game, while giving up an even 3 - that is winning baseball!

Tom Carron and Jim Rice on the NESN Extra Innings (I think I am contractually obliged to mention that the show is brought to you by WB Mason... or is it Granite City...) Show were obsessing on an apparent finger injury to Josh Beckett - I didn't see any evidence of it in game - and the mound visit was ascribed to an ankle issue - and it wasn't mentioned in either Beckett's or Francona's post game comments, but they have stressed it enough to have me worried about the morning papers - alarming pictures here, although context might be a nice thing to have...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Scott Proctor - Is he for real?

When the Yankees moved Robin Ventura on deadline day back in 2003, the club could never of expected to get much for him. Instead they got two prospect from the Dodgers, Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor, both of whom are on the Yankees 25 man roster. We all know what Bubba is, a decent 4th or 5th OF, nothing more, nothing less, but Proctor has always been the interesting one, a great arm but it just has never come together for him, until now.

The 2006 Proctor has one major difference from the pre-2006 version, he can throw his curveball for a strike, and not just a get over strike, a quality strike. This changes the whole dynamic of an At Bat against the Yankees right hander. You've always had to respect his 96 MPH fastball but now he can get over that curve for a strike, you have to respect that pitch also.

The AB against Manny this week was the perfect example, he threw a bad curve to Manny who turned on it and crushed it foul. Proctor then reared back and blew the fastball past Manny who obviously had to respect the curve meaning he was late swinging on the fastball.

Since his opening outing in Oakland, Proctor has fast become a very important part of the bp. He is the go to guy in the 5th/6th/7th in important spots, he has earned the manager's trust, but with this comes a lot of outings. He has appeared in 17 out of 35 games so far this season and has thrown more pitches than any other reliever so far this season (431). So there is certainly a bit of worry about overuse but who else is there in the bp that Joe could trust?

Got little or no idea why Eriksson came up to replace Sturtze, why not give Veras or Bean a chance? Sturtze looks done and has as much confidence in his pitches as fans do in Jason Giambi successfully stealing a base (and yet he did the other night!) so a trip to the DL is the very least I hoped for with regards to Sturtze. The Yankees do need that second righty who Joe trusts to go to in the 5th/6th/7th to give Proctor some off time.

Scott Proctor is finally turning it around and looking like a good Major League reliever, let's just hope we don't blow his arm out.

The rain in Spain

Some baseball would be nice...

I appreciate that both teams knew any games this weekend were unlikely, but the decision to start Friday night's game, and then the decsion to keep playing until it was official were just plain wrong - I can't imagine it was much fun as a hitter wiping the drips off their batting helmets then diving out the way as the ball slipped out the pitcher's hand... and hey let's not worry about the people in the stands paying for the Fenway experience...

And looking at the weather forecast for the next week in Baltimore and Philadelphia, you have to hope that the Sox have a good supply of Sudoku puzzles with them.


Some things happen infrequently enough that they deserve comment - and a 3 - 4 - 6 triple play has to count as one of them.

The last triple play before the Twins effort in tonight's ESPN Game of the Day was last May 5th when the Cardinals benefited from the Padres generosity. If Jayson Stark can write a story about triples, you know he is writing a 'Useless Information' story about a bunt into triple play - the theme could be - furthest the third man has been from safe in a triple play...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

So who'll replace our Japanese mythical beast?

He breathes fire and he even made it into an episode of The Simpsons, so what next for Godzilla? The baseball version may not return this season following a nasty injury in the first inning of the recent rubber game at The Stadium against the Sox. The surgery was successful on his wrist and Matsui showing his class even apologized to the Yankee fans for letting them down, that is classy but it wasn't his fault, it is just one of those things, he plays hard and sometimes bad things happen. As a side note it was an awful day for my fantasy team in my keeper league as I lost Matsui and Rowand to the DL within minutes of each other, talk about a bad inning!

So now the question turns towards who'll replace the Yankee LF for the next three months at the very least.

The first option is obviously to stay at home, Bubba Crosby could be the everyday LF and so could Melky Cabrera once Gary Sheffield returns. Melky has been tearing it up at AAA and is still only 20 years of age but there are huge questions regarding his make up and whether or not he is ready for the big dance in a full time capacity. Bubba is nothing more than a 4th or 5th OF but if he can field well and do the little things then maybe that'll be enough, a lot depends on how long Gary Sheffield remains on the DL.

Going outside the organization then the most likely options are Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and even Alfonso Soriano. Abreu is the one that is generating most hype with the Phillies desperate to offload his salary (he is owed $30m over the next 17 months) and is has been reported that a couple of B grade prospects might be enough to get the All Star RF, which means the Yankees would keep hold of stud prospect Philip Hughes.

Soriano is probably the most interesting option out there as the former Yankee has repeatedly spoken about his love for the club and how he'd love to return. He would happily play LF in the Bronx and the Nationals are not going to win a playoff place this year. Soriano is highly unlikely to stay with the club as he's a Free Agent after the season and with a $10m salary this year, the Nats may take the option to cut their losses on the former All-Star 2B.

Brian Cashman will obviously be looking around and seeing if the Bombers can make a move that makes sense, for now though expect Bubba Crosby to win a lot more playing time, and if he does well enough then it might well save the club a fair few dollars and a couple of good prospects.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A big win and a big loss

Well last night felt like the first real Red Sox - Yankees game of the season - close late, one of those situations as a Red Sox fan where you are looking an inning or two ahead to see when Jeter might be coming up to save the day for the Yankees, and when A-Rod is coming up to save the Sox...

It was also one of those nights where your frustration grew as the Sox left more and more men on base - there are some records that you are happy to take away from the Yankees, but the MLB high of 20 men left on base isn't one of them. The winning hit, as it was, wasn't the cleanest of the night, and I guess I would have liked my SS / 1b combo to have made the out, but given all that had happened at that stage, I was happy for the runs to get in any way.

It is still only a week of consistent hitting, but this team now does appear to be putting together better at bats as a team - fewer easy outs, fewer rash decisions (says Neil H quickly forgetting Mike Lowell's ugly at bat with the bases loaded in the 6th...). While my initial thought was that Joe was going to his bullpen early, Neil M pointed out that Chacon had already thrown 100+ pitches by that stage. The game really dragged from that pitching change - from Chacon, the Yankees would use another 6 pitchers, 4 alone in the game length 6th inning.

Given that the Yankees were playing very well heading into this series, the series win was a big boost.


From a Yankees perspective, this series exposed two risks that were identifiable at the beginning of the season - question marks in the rotation, and a lack of true depth on the bench. When fully healthy, it is hard to argue that the Yankees 1 thru' 9 aren't the strongest lineup in baseball. But with Sheffield on the DL and now Matsui out for an unknown period it will be interesting to see how they respond (and for the record, no team has the depth to survive the loss of Sheffield and Matsui).

It doesn't appear that Cabrera is quite ready, and it is hard to believe that the Yankees don't see Crosby as anything other than the replacement player he is. Where does that leave them with potentially tough series against the A's, Rangers, Mets and Red Sox on the agenda for the next two weeks? They could wait out Sheffield's injury - the concern there is that his time on the DL is still unknown, Cashman is quoted overnight as saying that Sheffiled will be on the DL for longer than 15 days, but less than 2 months - they could stay with Cabrera and be patient as he learns the majors the hard way, or they could look outside the organization.

Not surprisingly, Baseball Tonight moved straight into trade mode - names mentioned included Tori Hunter, which presumably would require Damon to move to left, or interestingly, Bobby Abreu of the Phillies. The Phillies apparently tried to move Abreu in the close season, but did not find the quality of SP they stated they were looking for, and right now, I am not sure that the Yankees match up that well without taking on more risk themselves.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bombs away

Five of them as a matter of fact, two for the Sox, three for the Bombers and when all was said and done the W rested next to Mike Mussina. The Sox hit Mussina early, Ortiz fouled off three full count fastballs middle away and when the fourth came down inner half of the plate, the next person to touch the ball was sitting in the upper deck in right. Mike Lowell hit a horrible pitch out giving Schilling a three run lead early, but as my fellow blogger has already stated, Schilling wasn't hitting his spots, this game wasn't over.

Posada stung a double prompting me to tell Neil that I wanted Jorge's babies, Neil thinks that he may not be interested, it made me sad. Cano would single and Bernie would drive Posada home on a sac fly. Melky drew an awesome walk, got to give props to him for that walk, it was extremely impressive and after fouling off a couple of two strikes pitches, Johnny Damon got into one and lined it over Manny's head for a two run game tying triple, but wait, Manny, the worst defender since Titus Bramble (don't worry if you don't get that one you USA folk) made a running catch over his head to record the third out of the inning.

Schilling knew it was big, but it wasn't going to be Schilling's night as Jeter got aboard for the quite amazing Jason Giambi who launched a game tying homer over the 385ft mark in RCF. Giambi would get a curtain call, too many of those are given out these days. Jeter himself would make a great play falling to the floor on an overhead catch in short center field but then it came down to the man who we've all been laying into, A-Rod.

The most expensive player in the game caught up with a 2-1 fastball high in the zone and deposited it a long way away from Jason Varitek's mitt. A mammoth blast that put the Bombers ahead for good and that is why he's a great hitter. Matsui would get on again after a long AB via the base on balls and Jorge would pop one up to RF but it just kept on going and ended up a souvenir and two runs for the home side.

Mussina had settled down but with one on and two out in the sixth, Mussina was yanked by Joe Torre for lefty specialist Mike Myers for the David Ortiz AB. Mussina left the mound to raptures as despite not having a good change all night and the Home plate ump Lanny Vanover squeezing both him and Schilling on the outside corner, he battled through to record yet another quality start, as long as his runner didn't touch the plate.

Myers couldn't get Ortiz so Torre went to his new go to guy, Scott Proctor for Manny. Proctor left a hanging curveball up in the zone for the Boston slugger but he was just too fast for it and yanked it foul. Proctor then decided it was fastball time, the 1-2 was way high, the 2-2 was 96 MPH on the outside corner at the belt and Manny swung through it.

That was the game, Proctor would retire the side in order in the eighth before Mo came in, in a non-save situation to close it out. The Bombers won 7-3 and moved ahead of the Sox in the AL East, albeit only by percentage points.

One on the chin

After Tuesday's victory, the Sox came out of the gate strong - Ortiz's 2 run shot setting the table for the Sox to hold the momentum and set up a series win with a day to spare.

But Schilling never really looked on last night - the outs never looked convincing, the location never exact, and had Manny not made a "only in Yankee Stadium" catch, the lead would have been gone sooner than it was.

An arguement is being made that Schill hasn't looked the same since the 1,467 pitch effort in Cleveland - conveniently ignoring the fact that Schill didn't look himself in that 7,590 pitch effort as it was going on. If I am honest, that was what surprised me about Francona that night, not that he left him in there for 15,213 pitches, but that he left him in there that long when he wasn't exactly pitching a gem.

While all in Soxland were quick to jump on the "he has returned" bandwagon, perhaps we were a little too early?


A-Rod, E-Rod, A-Frod, A-Fraud...

Call him what you like, but he can sure hit a baseball... but sadly, I think what he was given in baseball skills, was taken away in social skills.

Responding to 'The Boss' he came out with;

"I'm judged just the way I should be judged. I make an awful lot of money and I'm a talented guy," Rodriguez said. "I expect all the criticism, and it motivates me."

He just doesn't seem to have the capacity to understand why people don't like him. If he genuinely cares what people think of him - which I am not arguing that he should - he should try to understand what it is about his actions and character that people don't like, rather than trying to hide behind the "they are all jealous, so really it is their fault" line that he sets out in that quote.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bernie shows a real lack of class

I have read several Yankee fans defend Bernie over his ejection last night but I can't defend him, and I love Bernie, but really c'mon. Bernie was thrown out last night asking taking a called strike three across the knees on the outside corner of the plate, it looked a good pitch to me, but Bernie wasn't impressed and as he strolled back to the dugout he took off his batting helmet and tossed it behind him and it landed next to Home Plate umpire Charlie Reliford and he calmly tossed out the Yankee DH.

On the day when Delmon Young was suspended for fifty games for tossing a baseball bat that hit a Minor League umpire, Bernie decided that it was time to take some of the heat off the Devil Rays former #1 overall pick and do something stupid that'll lead to a suspension of his own, most likely around the five game mark.

One thing I've been taught in my relatively young baseball life is that the New York Yankees show the epitome of class and I have to admit I haven't seen too much of it with this current group of players. Superstars are often classless individuals (heck I know I'm tarring everyone with the same brush but sod it) and the Bombers have an abundance of superstars on this team but Bernie Williams is Bernie Williams.

This guy is a career New York Yankee, he should know better and whilst I'm not disgusted by his antics I am extremely disappointed. It was just another disappointing aspect to a very poor night for the Yankees, but heck it's only one night and tonight it is Moose v Schilling, now that looks a better matchup.

Is Randy nearing bust status?

He is on his way to Cooperstown, the best lefty of his era, tall, aggressive, dominating, that is all true but the 2006 Randy Johnson is a scared, meek looking, bottom of the rotation starter. I'm not writing Randy off but there is a time when players reach the cliff and start to tumble over it as their performances hit a steep decline, and sadly for New York Yankee fans, that time has come for Randy, and it has come in a big way.

Through eight decisions he has posted a 5-3 record, which you might think isn't so bad. The 5.01 ERA however looked distinctly below average and when you watch Randy pitch, you are never comfortable. His slider has no bite and he is unable to spot his fastball, those two pitches are the only ones he has really used since he's moved over to the Bronx, and if neither of them are firing on all cylinders then there is a gigantic problem.

He is getting $16m this year and exactly the same again next time around. So give or take a few $ then it's half a million for each start, that is a lot of money in anyone's books, even for the Yankees. The Yankees thought they were getting arguably the best pitcher in baseball at the time when he came over from the Diamondbacks, and although he struggled at times last year, he was still effective, and going down the stretch he looked pretty damned good. When it came to his big moment though in the playoffs, his performance left a lot to be desired.

Fast forward to this year and it is four quality starts against four non quality starts, not too bad but the worrying trend is his loss of the strikezone, walking hitters, unable to finish hitters off, even the bottom of the order are still finding ways of getting on base despite having two strikes on them, this isn't the Randy that baseball knows, this is a different man altogether.

Is it a mental thing, is it a mechanical thing or is his knee finally saying enough is enough? I know the Blue Jays looked like they knew what was coming when they smacked him about a couple of weeks back, so is he even tipping his pitches? Whatever it is then he needs to sort it out quick because at this rate he certainly isn't earning his salary and he isn't winning anyone's affections in the Bronx.

Is Randy nearing bust status? He certainly isn't a million miles away...

Wishful thinking

Well we are in the top of the 9th... and Michael Kay has just said that the Red Sox are ahead 8-3... he must have missed that Alex Gonzalez 3 run bomb - yes, you read that right, as part of a 2-4 night, Alex scored 3 and drove in 3 from the 9 spot.

I said before the series began that I was looking forward to the pitching matchups - and after 1 1/2 things looked good for the Yankees - Beckett had his now customary poor 1st, while Johnson had breezed through his half of the 2nd in 7 pitches - I then remarked to a Yankee buddy that the bottom of the second would determine what type of night Beckett would have. Well Posada and Cano would ground out and Williams would get the first of his K's for the night, and Beckett was on his way to 7 strong innings and as good a performance as we have seen from him this year. I have said it before, and I am straying dangerously toward fanboy status and a Sox jersey with Beckett on the back, but... I am going to enjoy watching this guy pitching for the Sox - he is into every pitch, every at bat, every inning - just great to watch.

And then...

Randy just looks terrible - no sugar coating, just terrible. What shocked me most was his timidity - he didn't want to throw the ball near home plate, and with a patient line-up he was punished. When Joe came out to take the ball in the 4th it genuinely looked like RJ was fearful, and not just of the lusty boos that accompanied his exit. Yes the Yankees defence helped the Sox (A-Frod having yet another big night for the Sox, two errors and a nice ground into double play) and hindered RJ, but he refused to help himself at any stage.

Aside from Beckett's pitching, the big plus for the Sox was the continued emergence of the hitting from early season woes - they are still hitting here in the 9th and have added another three runs, and another 5 hits to leave the score at 14 - 3 with 2 outs.

But it is just one game... and tomorrow... yet another great pitching matchup... on paper!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A 3 game set in the Bronx

Just look at the match-ups

5/9 Johnson v Beckett
5/10 Mussina v Schilling
5/11 Chacon v Wakefield

How can any Sox or Yankee fan not be looking forward to the next three days - arguably our top 3 starters, and hopefully both sets of fans better placed to know how the season will flow come Friday morning. Though, given it is still only May, there is a long time for each team to make the changes they might need.

As an aside, will the Yankees try and jump in for Zito if the Mets push those trade talks? The Yankees don't have a Milledge level prospect, but would Beane nibble at a major leaguer (Wang?) and Hughes deal - if for nothing else, but to try and get even more out of the Mets?

The only member of the cast that really should be present, but may not be, is Gary Sheffield. And can I be cynical for just a minute... of course I can, who can stop me... would Gary's wrist injury be mysteriously cured by a quick exercise... of his contract extension? The big game for me is Wednesday's Moose v Schill - who knows which Unit will turn up tomorrow - as these guys have clearly led the respective staffs so far this year.

Can't wait!

Monday, May 08, 2006

1,000 not out

Joe Torre is not everybody's cup of tea, his in-game management isn't the best, he has managed a team worth millions and millions of dollars but what no one can deny is that he has done an excellent job of managing the New York Yankees.

Whilst he has been lucky in the fact that he took over a team that had some serious talent, he has also been doing it in the NY spotlight under the immense pressure from The Boss and all the while massaging egos the size of a small cosmos.

Last night he won his 1,000th game as the manager of the bombers and only three guys have been able to amass such a vast amount of W's in the Bronx, Joe McCarthy (1,460), Casey Stengel (1,149) and Miller Huggins (1,067). He wasn't the guy that most fans wanted at the helm when he came in on November 2nd 1995, the New York Post even proclaiming him as 'CLUELESS JOE' and whilst that nickname has stuck with some fans, others appreciate his role away from the game management as the real reason for his long and successful tenure in New York.

He will no doubt have his number (six) retired when he walks away from the club as will Derek Jeter (two) leaving no single number available for the future player of this great franchise. Joe Torre is the only Yankee manager I personally have ever witnessed and whilst I question a decision every now and then, I am fully behind him as manager and am very glad that we have him in charge.

1000 wins is pretty darn impressive and even all his knockers will concede that the Yankees dynasty was down in part to the management style of Mr Torre. Can he win another World Series in the Bronx? Sure he can, whether or not he can start another dynasty though is another matter altogether...

1,000 wins for Torre - a Red Sox view...

I am sure that my fellow blogger will offer a more appropriate tribute, but Joe Torre became the 4th Yankee manager to record 1,000 wins with his teams sweep of the Rangers this weekend.

However, when you think that this now means that Torre averages one World Series every 250 wins, while our own Terry Francona averages one World Series win every 212 wins... doesn't seem that impressive... ;-)

(And Yankee fans really need to look at the Yankees Wikipedia entry - enjoy the discussion of the "World Series drought")

Well done Joe.

Season so far - Mike Lowell

As part of the Josh Beckett trade, the Marlins let it be known that whoever took Beckett, had to take Mike Lowell. Given the full dump mode that the Marlins were in this off-season, Lowell, with 2 years and $18m remaining on his contract, would have had to have gone in any case. The package element simply recognized that the demand for 3b players hitting .236 / .298 / .658 was, to be polite, minimal.

Given that he has just posted a crazy .429 / .520 / 1.234 home-stand, with 9 hits (including 6 doubles), 6 runs, 6 RBI and 4 walks, to start May, it seems an appropriate time to give him some kudos.

Neil M and I had an interesting debate mid-season in 2005 about Lowell when it was rumored in the July trade season that the Red Sox were one of the teams speaking to the Marlins about AJ Burnett, where again, Lowell had to go as part of the package - my view then was that Lowell was done (at least as a useful chip last year), and probably not a price worth paying to get a guy that was soon to be a FA, while Neil M argued that the price being discussed wasn't high enough given Lowell's ability to bounce back. While no team got a deal done in-season in '05, the Sox took Lowell as part of the package to get a pitcher who will be under their control for at least two years - at least it could be argued that this was a more worthwhile bet.

Lowell, pre 2005, was a career .277 / .346 / .823 hitter (a hat tip as ever to David Pinto's fantastic Day to Day Database at Baseball Musings) and given the absolute collapse in his power numbers, there were the now customary discussion threads connecting Lowell's name to the 'S' word. Lowell, from 2000 through 2004 hit 22, 18, 24, 32 and 27 HR... then 8 in 2005. During that same period though, including 2005, his doubles numbers stayed relatively consistent - a high of 44 in 2002 and 2004, and 36 in 2005.

So far in 2006, and this is still early, the throw in part of the Beckett deal is working out very well for the Sox - he has a .339 / .402 / .952 line, and a major league leading 17 doubles. His hitting chart from his Pro-Player career does suggest that he has the ideal swing to take advantage of the left field wall in Boston, and so far he has. While I can't imagine that he will be hitting at .300 come season end, he has certainly done more than enough so far to suggest the Sox aren't simply pouring $9m per year down the Yawkey Way drains.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The day after the night before

Don't you just love two game series... every team in the league has these this week, presumably the schedule makers thought it would be fun... someone had to.

I was out for dinner last night and didn't make it back until the bottom half of the 7th inning - and even then got to see the effect the wind was having - a Jeter mis-play on a pop-up into shallow CF, and the wind knocking down some hard hit balls - to the extent that I thought there was no way anything was getting out of the park - bad Neil, never doubt the Papi...

Out of morbid curiousity I Tivo'd the game to give me the opportunity to watch Damon's first AB - I know it has been done to death elsewhere, but man, the media really does love to overplay these things. I actually thought the reception he received was relatively muted, all things considered - YES were clearly trying to use the booing as part of the 'Boston should be kicked out of the Union campaign'... but at least some people were openly cheering...

What has amazed me is that the behaviour of the Sox fans was variously described as 'shameful', 'embarrassing', and memorably, 'a black eye for New England' - as if Sox fans have some unique ability to be cruel to ex-players... was it really just a year ago that David Wells had to undergo intensive therapy following his opening night chorus from the boo-birds in the Bronx?

And to cap it all, Joe Torre chimed in as well...
"I'm a little disappointed in the reaction by the fans," Torre said. ''I guess we should feel proud. Evidently, wearing a Yankee uniform overrides winning a World Series and busting your tail for four years. Without Johnny here, they may have been working on 89 or 90 years."
Hey, Joe, classy, just think, you have him now and you are working on 6... good luck with that.

Monday, May 01, 2006

So tonight...it all starts again

Tim Wakefield v Chien Ming Wang
Josh Beckett v Shawn Chacon

A short two game set at Boston heralds the start of yet another season of Yanks and Sawks rivalry. This year the main player is Johnny Damon who turned his back on the Red Sox to join the Yanks, he has and will continue to have to deal with the pressure of moving to the other side of one of sports most intense and fabled rivalries.

However Damon is but one player, this game is far bigger than whether Damon will be cheered or booed by the Fenway Faithful. The Bombers are hoping Gary Sheffield can return to the lineup, without him on Sunday the Yanks moved Giambi up to the three hole, which is where he should be playing day in, day out, but nevermind.

A potent Yankee offense will take on Wakefield tonight but I said earlier today on a forum that the Yankees will run early and run often. Mirabelli's replacement as Wakefield's catcher Josh Bard has yet to look comfortable handling the knuckler so I fully expect Damon, Jeter, Sheffield and A-Rod to be looking to run on the Red Sox battery.

As for on the mound for the Bombers, Wang has been ok this season without looking all that great. Against the Twinkies he looked very impressive but he seems to be giving up too many hits for my liking, although a sinkerball pitcher will always give up his fair share of hits.

Who will come out on top tonight? Time as they say will tell but in my keeper league I have both Wakefield and Wang going tonight so it's not going to be fun watch a slugfest, I can tell you that much!