Saturday, July 30, 2005

Game Report: July 29-30, 2005

Was at yesterday's game in the flesh, while today's is on the HD:

Last night was a surprise, a freebie from work. I had a hellish couple of days preparing an emergency motion on a divorce case, so this was a needed change of pace. It was my first appearance in main behind the plate in a good while, which was pretty exciting. Still, coming in from Long Island, I arrived late, without my camera, and not in good condition to score the game.

So all that I have for this game is the impressions. I missed Garrett Anderson's two run shot in the 2nd, but caught Bengie Molina's blast to cap the Angel's. After that, Mike Mussina settled way down, allowing only three hits over the next six innings. Unfortunately for the Yanks, Halo rookie Earvin Santana was cookin' with Gas, as my pal Aaron likes to say. Santana was throwing the pill in the mid-90's even after 100 pitches in the seventh inning. The Yanks threatened, but the offense was rather moribund. which makes some sense given the Yanks' bottom four: a slumping Jorge Posada (.182/.247/.348 in July), Tino Martinez, and Tony Womack (out on furlough from the Joe Torre doghouse, and starting in center). The funny thing is I say this in spite of the fact that all three had hits on the night, Woemack and Tino having two of the three balls against Santana that went for extra bases. Tino Martinez provided all the Yankees' scoring with a nice homer.

The Yanks threatened in the first, third, sixth, and seventh, but didn't get anything other than Tino's blast in. It was a poor, lethargic performance, making for a distracted crowd. There was a young lady in our section with a propensity for dancing on her chair who looked like all she needed was a pole to take her dancing to the next level.

But back to the Yanks, it is amazing what Mussina is doing, given what's happened to his stuff. The Stadium radar gun had him at 91 a couple of times, but I don't believe he broke 88 MpH, much less 90, all game long. He's changed his stuff to become a slopballer, which could lead him to a "second career" that isn't available to many pitchers. But I suspect he isn't going to be theMike Mussina we signed ever again.


Running notes:

Top 1st

Chacon looks better without the moustache. He also looks better without Coors field. Apparently, these are the only things that McCarver and Buck know about him.

Little looper by Erstad is the first hit against Chacon.

Bottom 1st

NOOOO! No Scooter! No!!!

I am sorry. I am frightened of Scooter, the evil talking baseball.

A couple of guys on for Matsui in the 1st, with Matsui DHing because of the HBP he took last night. This leaves Bernie and Woemack in the outfield at the same time. If there's a betting line for inside the park homers, today at Yankee Stadium is as good a bet as you'll get. No runs.

Top 2nd

If the Mets do that Ramirez trade the FOX guys are talking about (METS get Manny Ramirez and Danys Baez; RED SOX get Aubrey Huff and Mike Cameron; DEVIL RAYS get Yusmeiro Petit and Lastings Millege, Kelly Shoppach and Anibal Sanchez) they would be getting revenge for the rape they suffered at the hands of the D-Rays in last year's Zambrano trade.

If you're going to give up the jewels of your farm system, you get a Manny Ramirez, not a Victor Zambrano.

Bot 2nd

Holy moley! An infield single for Giambi, finally, that shift burns the defensive team. Of course, POsada immediately erases him on a DP.

Double by Bernie, and now another infield hit, by Womack. After Womack steals the base, Jetes hits one, to make this game 2-0. The inning would just keep on moving, except that Adam Kennedy made a beautiful play on a grounder up the middle by Cano.

Top 3rd

The Yanks defend the stolen base horribly. Figgins gets a huge lead and then draws no throw from Posada despite a semi-pitchout pitch. A nice play by A-Rod gets Figgins to third, and then Chacon's 2-0 offering to Darin Erstad gets past Posada. Again, Jorge and Chacon share responsibility for that run, since Chacon's throw crossed Posada up (although it was catchable).

After a walk to Erstad, Chacon strikes out Vlad (nice!) to keep the score 2-1 New York.

Bottom 3rd

ESPN has another version of that Ramirez trade going on, the D-Rays getting Heilman but having to substitute another prospect for Millings, and give the Mets Julio Lugo. By this measure, Omar Minaya becomes Boggs in the Shawshank redemption.

Wow, Brian Cashman comes into the booth, and it occurs to me that I may never have actually heard his voice before.

Ouch, Alex Rodriguez takes one off the ulna, and you can hear the groan of "Aaaow!" on the FOX mikes.

Alan Embree is a Yankee. What I wrote the other day for BP looks about right.

Top 4th

Chacon cruises

Bottom 4th

FOX is just idiotic. He's talking about the Yankees having a gap at CF for the "first time since DiMaggio"

So FOX shows a graphic with the Yankee Clipper, Mikey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Mickey Rivers...and Bernie Williams.

Mickey Rivers' last season in pinstripes: 1979. Bernie Williams' first season with the Yanks: 1991. Roberto Kelly, Claudell Washington, Rickey Henderson, Omar Moreno, Jerry Mumphrey, Bobby Brown and Ruppert Jones played in between.

Top 5th:

A leadoff walk to Adam Kennedy gets Chacon in some trouble, but he strikes out CHone Figgins, and Erstad around a Orlando Cabrera groundout to get himself out.

Bottom 5th:

Oops. Gotta hungry girlfriend, so the blogging ends here. I'll post tonight with a rap-up.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Notebook: Save the Jeter

Yankees time on Prospectus Notebook. Here's a sample:

In this land of plenty--after all, the Yankees are paying over $200MM this year in salaries alone--a team is starving. Starving for pitching.

Can you let this happen? Can you sleep soundly, knowing that as you rest in lap of luxury, the Yankees are signing Hideo Nomo, a guy that couldn't hack it for the Devil Rays? Can you sleep soundly knowing that Al Leiter is now the Yankees' #3 starter? Can you rest knowing that Darrell May or Tim Redding could possibly make another start in pinstripes? Can you just accept than in the land of opportunity, right now the Yankees are up to their elbows in that trash bin, hoping that Alan Embree makes it through waivers?

People, Derek Jeter hasn't missed the playoffs in nine seasons, and now he needs your help.

Check it out, and poke around the website to your heart's content. For the next few days, Baseball Prospectus is on a free preview, like you have with premium cable stations. That means that you can see all the site's subscriber content, including Brother Joe's Prospectus Today column, Will Carroll's Under the Knife injury columns and Will's Mill trade rumor column.

It's tasty stuff, so go get some!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Summer Blockbuster Movie Review Part I

I've been trying to write these two reviews for about a month now. Quite honestly, I have too much to say about each one, so I'm hoping to deal with them here in brief. If I ever edit down the huge versions, I'll just come back and post links.

Batman Begins

In any serialized fiction--mainly I'm talking comic books and TV shows here--eventually, continuity will take on a life of its own. You look at a classic comic book, like Batman or Spider-man, and if you looked at the characters' whole history, you'd see forty or more years of different writers and artists--each with different skill levels and talents--interpreting and reinterpreting the character. Eventually, what you get is a great big, self-contradictory mess. One writer sees Batman as Sherlock Holmes in a mask, so everything plays out like an episode of CSI, with Batman spending half his time in the Bat-Lab. Another sees him as a wisecracking James Bond type, complete with smirky one-liners and gadgets in his utility belt. Another views him as a big, brooding thug, who'd never crack a smile--Harry Callahan in tights. Yet another is into Eastern philosophy, and re-makes the Caped Crusader into a serene martial artist, "y'know, like Cane, in Kung Fu."

The makers of Batman Begins had been dealt a bad hand, continuity-wise. Their movie followed a series of four Batman movies that started well (with Tim Burton's original Batman, in 1989) but progressively got campier and more unrealistic in each iteration, until the last movie (1997's Batman & Robin) may well have been the suckiest suck that ever did suck. Maybe the worst part about this four-movie series (aside from the suckiness of the last movie) was that Batman was a bit player in the movies that bore his name. This was probably a legacy from the first film, where Jack Nicholson as the Joker both took top credit and stole the show from Michael Keaton's Batman. Those Batman movies were ensemble pieces, and each time out the ensemble got bigger.

Facing this continuity and these flaws, the makers of Batman Begins did the smartest thing they could--they blew up the series. Those four movies, along with the 1960's movie based on the Batman TV show, are relegated to the world of "Let's Pretend that Never Happened."

So now it's left for yet another crew to tell the story of Batman's origin, the story of a rich young boy whose parents are murdered in a mugging, and who grows up to fight crime in a nifty cape-and-mask combo. Learning from the mistakes of the just-eradicated film series, they make two important decisions: they make Batman (Christian Bale) the center of the story, the character from whose perspective you see 90% of the movie, and they make this movie as realistic as possible--as realistic as you can get when you're talking about ninjas and crimefighting billionaires who dress up like bats.

It takes some good acting to carry this kind of suspension of disbelief off, and Begins does marvelously on that score. Bale's got the kind of range you need for this role: he's a powerful enough actor that you can really believe in him as a predator, yet he's also able to show the child-like vulnerability of a victim. He's paired up with a gang of skilled actors who are comfortable in their supporting roles--Liam Neeson is now permanently typecast as the father figure of the knight-errant; Gary Oldman is excellent in a rare non-crazy role as the not-yet-Commissioner Gordon; and Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman each could have mailed in their roles, but were simply too professional to do so.

In a slightly flashier role, Cillian Murphy (who I couldn't recognize from his starring turn in 28 Days Later) is a revelation as a shrink whose grip on reality might not be all that tight. Even Katie Holmes, who's become a human pinata for her co-starring role in "The Madness of Tom Cruise" is solid, in a role that admittedly doesn't require all that much from her.

Together, these folks give Batman Begins an air that's closer to a horror movie than an action-adventure. Director Christoper Nolan obliges, by shooting a lot of the film in close-up. That's been criticized, as (much more properly) has been a car chase that goes on far too long. Those looking for other nits to pick will probably hone in on the superweapon at the end of the film. If you think about the physics of that twice, you've thought about it one too many times.

But all those things are overshadowed by a summer blockbuster that shows some brains, as well as hints of a soul. Just the fact that finally, someone attempted to explain why Batman just happens to live in the city that has the highest per-capita loony rate in the universe, is worth the price of admission. Highly recommend.

Next review: George Lucas with the Lid Off...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Unit Comes Up Big

Was watching the game at my pool hall, so there's no sound and lots of distractions. Every time I look up there's Randy Johnson, throwing and not looking particularly good. It's like he completely scrapped his fastball, or else his fastball has been Mussinaed.

So I'm following out of the corner of my eye, not impressed at all, until I see that it is the end of the fourth inning, and the Big Unit hasn't allowed a hit to the Minnesota Twins.

The Unit cruises through the fifth and I start to get excited, even allowing myself a little fist pump on a good play. If Johnson makes it through another inning, I'm going to have to call time, alert my brother J on the other side of the floor, and discreetly make my "Turn on your TV" calls. With two outs, the hit was truly crap: a grounder up the middle that Johnson couldn't handle, and which Jeter--aparently positioned in foul territory behind third base for Juan Frickin' Castro--couldn't lay a glove on. Lousy way to lose a no-no.

The shocker was that (looked to me, at least) like Johnson was throwing his slider exclusively. More realistically, I felt like Johnson was announcing before each pitch "Here comes kids--the slider! Only 85 miles per hour, eat up!"

And still the Twinks couldn't lay a glove on Rancy Johnson. Nice.

Gotta sleep now. More tomorrow.

Bookmarkin' the Notebook

One of the reasons I've been writing less around here is because I've been working like a madman in my day job. The other, is that I've been putting in a little time at Baseball Prospectus, writing pieces for Prospectus Notebook. I haven't been linking to them out of laziness, but my most recent piece, from last Friday, on the Indians, seems to have made a bit of an impression. Check 'em out:

July 22 -- Cleveland Indians, Steroid Suspensions

July 20 -- San Francisco Giants, the Worst/Best List

July 15 -- Colorado Rockies, Trading at Altitude

July 13 -- Cincinnati Reds, Felipe Lopez

July 8 -- Seattle Mariners, Bye Bye Bret Boone

June 29 -- Detroit Tigers, Carlos Pena

Sunday, July 24, 2005

You Can Come Home Again

The Roadtrip from Hell is over. Eleven days, from the end of the All-Star Break to the present, eleven games, three winning teams, three different time zones. Lots of people labeled it make-or-break time for the Yankees, but in the frustrating way that this team has had about it all year, they neither made nor broke. The final tally rests at 6-5, and leaves the Yankees a game and a half behind the Red Sox for first place in the East, as they head to a well-earned off day.

Yesterday's game might have been emblematic of the Yankee season as a whole. The Bombers sent Kevin Brown, an old, brokedown pitcher with an ERA about six, to the mound for the start. If someone had said before the season, "Will Brown still be in the rotation if he has a losing record and an ERA over five come July?" who would have answered yes. Brown gave up seven runs without finishing four innings--and surrendered yet another blast to Vlad Guerrero, who was the Pinstripers' own personal impaler this series. The parade of pitchers that followed Brown also said something about this Yankees season: Alex Graman, Felix Rodriguez, Buddy Groom, Aaron Small. It wasn't until Tom Gordon--not the devastating force he was last season--took the mound in the 8th that you saw a pitcher you'd expect on a $200MM team.

And for all that the game wasn't completely out of reach. The Yanks scored six runs, launching three homers against starter Earvin Santana and Estaban Yan. But it just wasn't enough--victory was just out of reach.

Today was the opposite--strong pitching by Mike Mussina, Tanyon Sturtze and Mariano Rivera (and some bad pitching by Gordon in between) looked like it might be betrayed by a weak offense. Still, the Yanks pulled through in the late innings, Hideki Matsui putting the Yanks ahead with a 2 run homer, Tino Martinez providing All-State with 2 RBIs.

So the road trip's over, but the hard times are not done. It's back to the Stadium to face a steady diet of over ..500 teams--the Twins and the Angels again, then to the road to face the Indians and the Blue Jays (who are currently at .500). The Yanks don't face a team that currently has a losing record until they face the Rangers at home on August 11-14. And the Rangers are only one game under .500.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Saturday, Catching Up

Since last we spoke:

1) The Yanks lost a nail-biter in Texas, 2-1, to Chan Ho Park and the Rangers. The Wayne Franklin era in the Bronx ends, since you can't send a whole starting lineup down to Columbus, even if they fail to get more than one run against Chan Ho Park. Franklin is replaced by Alex Graman, who has been converted to relief at AAA.

2) They salvage the series in Texas, with a 8-4 win backing journeyman Aaron Small. Small's a true journeyman, having played for nine different organizations since making the majors in 1994, playing in the bigs for six of those ballclubs.

3) Thursday's game, starting off a four game series against the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels, in Los Angeles of Anaheim, shoulda been a win. With a 3-2 lead, Randy Johnson "tweaked" his back--thank heaven I wasn't watching the game, 'cause a Randy Johnson injury would be enough to make me call for nitroglycerine tablets and a defibrilator--in the sixth inning. No problem, though, Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi come back with back-to-back solo shots in the seventh to give the Yankees some breathing room. Giambi's homer was his second in the game, and gave him 15 for the year. Then Buddy Groom and Tom Gordon gave it all back, on a grand slam surrendered by Flash to Vlad Guerrero.

4) Then last night, Al Leiter did not have that old black magic going against the Angels. They whooped down on Alois with 10 hits, all singles. Between a four-run second inning, and the Yankees squandering late scoring opportunities against John Lackey and Brendan Donnelly, the Yanks get done in, 6-3.

So now, the Yanks need to win one of the next two games to guarantee an over .500 road trip. If they win both, maybe they can convince me that the ceiling for this group isn't getting drummed out of the playoffs in the Division Series.

Monday, July 18, 2005

First Place

What this season may lack in everything else, it makes up for in sheer confusion.

The Yankees are in first place, an entire half game ahead of the Boston Red Sox and the never-say-die Baltimore Orioles. They've done it on a combination of occasionally overwhelming offense and BS luck that you have to see to believe.

Friday was a smackdown at the hands of David Wells and the Red Sox, avenging the previous night's drubbing of the Bullpen Savior Curt Schilling. Tim Redding, called in for the emergency start, couldn't get an out in the second inning. On Saturday, Randy Johnson was good enough and Matt Clement wasn't, bringing the Yankees back to within a game and a half. So on Sunday the Yankees, whose pitching cupboard is completely bare, turned to Al Leiter, who had just a few days earlier been designated for assignment by the Florida Marlins.

Let's put this in perspective. With the Marlins, Leiter had a 3-7 record, with a 6.64 ERA. He'd walked 6o men in 80 innings, and had more walks than strikeouts. Jack McKeown basically stuck a fork in Alois Leiter, and declared him done.

So here's a "done" pitcher, 39 years old, facing not just any team, but the World Champion Red Sox, on ESPN's Sunday night game. All Al did was shut the Sox down: one run, three hits, three walks, eight strikeouts over six and a third innings. Meanwhile the Yanks rode the occasional batting practice pitch from Tim Wakefield to a home run derby-ish 5-3 victory.

Then tonight, in a game which I completely missed watching, the Yanks and Texas Rangers played another game of "swing from the heels," eventually won by the Yankees, 11-10. Not holding an early lead for the Yankees was whipping boy Kevin Brown. The attitude around Yankeeland would be to cut Brown, if only he weren't the #4 starter (and only one good Leiter start from being the #3 starter). Bleagh.

Still, what he did was still good enough--when taken in combination with some bad work out of the bullpen--for the Yanks to win. And the Red Sox got hoisted on their petard by Scott Kazmir and the Devil Rays, 3-1. And the Yanks are in first place.

So the question is, can this last? Or rather, will it last? It'd be hard to expect more of the same from Leiter in the future, harder still for the Yankees to fend off two pursuers rather than just the Bostonians. But sometimes baseball is an illogical game, and you're best off just trying to enjoy the ride.

Yeah, I doubt my philisophical stance will last anywhere near as long as the Yankees' stay in first place.


The Yanks officially put an end to the Melky Cabrera era before the game, sending the baby Bomber down to AAA. The writing was on the wall when Joe Torre benched Cabrera over the weekend. At some point, it must have occurred to the brass that getting overmatched by pitchers, and undressed by fly balls in the field, might not be the best thing for a 20 year-old's psyche. Ya think, maybe?

Here's hoping that Melky gets over his PTSD in Columbus, and comes back strong to the majors--whether this September, or next year.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Welcome to the Show!

Alex Rodriguez gets dogged more than your average Yankee. He's been a bulls-eye for criticism since he signed his mammoth contract with the Rangers in 2001, and the World Series slap incident, the Varitek brawl, and his fielding errors earlier this season did very little to take the heat off arguably the best player in baseball.

The one thing that will get such a King Kong-sized monkey off your back is performance, big performance in big spots, like last night. After the demoralizing pregame news that the Yanks #3 starter, rookie Chien Ming Wang, was being put on the DL; after the Red Sox took an early lead, which the Yanks came back to tie; after the Red Sox brought in their absentee ace, Curt Schilling, making his much-hyped first appearance out of the bullpen in the ninth inning, Alex struck. With Gary Sheffield on second base, A-Rod thwacked Schill's first offering to dead center, long and gone. That's all it took: Mariano Rivera came in and struck out the side in the bottom of the frame to put it in the books, an 8-6 win.

The Yankees are now only a game and a half behind the Sox. That's close enough to feel someone breathing on the back of your neck.

Sheffield had a huge night, with two doubles and a homer; Giambi continued his surge, with a solo shot early in the game. But it's Alex who got to have The Moment, the video clip that even the most obtuse fans can look at and agree "You know, I think maybe this Rodriguez guy belongs here."

Kinda embarassing that some fans wouldn't already realize that, but baseball fans can be blockheaded sometimes.


Alex started a tempest in a teapot by saying that he wants to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Cup-style event planned for next March. Now the Commissioner's office steps in and says that the decision is out of Rodriguez's hands, and that Bud Selig will choose where the star thirdbaseman plays. That makes no sense.

Like me, Alex is the US-born child of Dominican parents. The both of us lived "over there" for a while as kids, so I can see why Rodriguez would want to join the Dominican National team, for reasons of ethnic pride. Then again, maybe Alex just thinks he can get better playing time competing with Miguel Tejada, Aramiz Ramirez and Adrian Beltre on the Dominican Squad than up against Scott Rolen, Derek Jeter and Troy Glaus on Team USA. Or maybe he just wants a vacation from Jeter, who knows? It makes no sense that the Commissioner's office is going to tell Rodriguez, much less guys like Albert Pujols and Manny Ramirez, who are naturalized Americans, what country they should play for.

Oh--and Jay Jaffe will tell you more about this if you ask him--the All-Star Game sucked. I watched without audio at the pool hall, but apparently the good folks at FOX outdid themselves, insulting Ernie Harwell in the pre-game show, and following that up with a fake conversation between Buck and McCarver about a pre-planned advertising stunt: a banner which the boys knew was a chrysler ad, yet they spent a while discussing the banner's authenticity as if they did not know what was going on. Why does stupid crap like this happen in baseball? Why aren't the broadcasters in the NBA Finals interviewing fictional advertising mascots? Why isn't Madden waxing homoerotic about Tom Brady's "calm eyes" during the SuperBowl? Is it because those sports have some backbone? Maybe they value their dignity?

Will Carroll had an interesting piece about credibility and the media the other day, which I thought of as I read the controversy over this. McCarver and Buck are damaged goods after this. Their credibility is dead to me now. FOX's baseball contract can't be over quickly enough. Beyond stunts like this, you have to consider the ADD editing style they employ, and their belief that the first pitch of every friggin' inning is not an important event.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Wang to the DL

...and just in time for the team's toughest stretch of the season.

I don't know whether to scream or throw up.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

At the Break

After taking three of four from the Cleveland Indians, the Yanks finish the first half 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, 1/2 a game behind the Orioles. Aside from the Orioles part, that's not terribly unexpected. Here are the parts that have been unexpected:

1. The AL East Sucks -- pretty much just what it sounds like. The Yanks and Red Sox were supposed to be leviathans casting a shadow over all of baseball. Instead, they've been bit players--playing second (and third, and sometimes worse) fiddle to the Orioles for much of the season, by far underperforming the West and Central leaders. It was always assumed that regardless of their order of finish, the Yanks and Sox would both make the playoffs, as they have the two previous seasons. That doesn't look likely right now.

2. Youth Movement the Hard Way -- The Yankees reach the All-Star Break with Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera as starters in the lineup, and with Chien Ming Wang in the starting rotation. Cano and Cabrera are not temporary fill-ins for injured veterans--the men they replaced, Bernie Williams and Tony Womack are still on the roster, and as healthy as could be expected. While Wang was an injury replacement, but the least you could say is that he's more than held his own compared to the Yankees' top two starters, the inconsistent Randy Johnson and the aging-before-our-eyes Mike Mussina.

None of these rookies had a role with the club coming out of Spring Training. The only one who was thought to be able to contribute this year was Wong, as a long reliever or spot starter. Bad planning by the front office has meant rushing Cano a bit, and Cabrera a whole lot. We can only hope that neither player's development is stunted by the bad choices the Yanks made regarding second base and centerfield this offseason.

3. Surprising Good Judgment -- The Yanks have, in past seasons, shown a tendency to stick with their mistakes. Identifying that Bernie Williams should be a DH, and that Tony Womack and Tino Martinez should be bench players, was a good, timely move.

4. Surprisingly Fragile Roster -- Sure, Jaret Wright we expected. The guy failed his post-signing physical, and the Yankees signed him anyway. Kevin Brown was virtually guaranteed DL time this season. But the Carl Pavano and Felix Rodriguez injuries weren't predictable, and neither was Rey Sanchez's breakdown. To some extent, these injuries have cleared the scrub away for the young players, but even as they are in the thick of contention, the Yankees' roster has all the depth of onion skin. Darrell May, a reject from the Royals and the Padres, has been pressed into the starting rotation. Scott Proctor and Wayne Franklin are now important members of the bullpen. How long can the team bear up, under these circumstances?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Rumors of My Demise...

...greatly exaggerated. Greatly.

After Friday night's humbling loss, an interesting last four days:

The Yankees carried a series win against the Detroit Tigers, despite spending much of their time looking like they deserved no such thing. On Saturday, they were getting smacked around, only to come back on the strength of some well-timed hits by some much-maligned hitters. Even the Ol' Whipping Boy, Tony Woe-mack got into the action, slapping a high fastball by Troy Percival to key a ninth-inning comeback. After Woe-mack's clutch (did you hear that? clutch!) hit plated the go-ahead run, Bernabe Williams iced the deal with a three run homer.

On Sunday, they looked impotent against Motown starter Nate Robertson, producing only a single run in Robertson's complete game effort (that on an RBI single by Mt. St. Sheffield). Fortunately for the Bombers, Chien Ming Wang was just a tad bit better, allowing no runs in his seven innings of work, and passing the baton to the two trustworthy relievers remaining in the Yankee pen for a 1-0 win.

If things weren't confusing enough already, over the last two days they've put the smackdown on those unlikely division rivals, the Baltimore Orioles. The Independence Day game was an ugly baby--you can pretend all you like, but all the cooing in the world couldn't make this thing pretty. After projectile-vomiting up an early 6-0 lead, the Yanks posted a seven spot in the eighth inning for the win on Mr. Steinbrenner's birthday. Again, the key hit (a bases-loaded single) was provided by Bernie Williams, against Baltimore closer B.J. Ryan. The rally started with a homer by the late Jason Giambi (resthissoul).

Today's game was more of the same, just different. Yeah, I know, that's a useful description. I mean, more of the same offense, just without the craptastic pitching. Randy Johnson tied the O's bats in knots, while the Yankees' slugged the O's into submission. If you looked, aside from the longballs by Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield, Steroid Boy chipped in a three for four performance, with a homer and two doubles.

Giambi--one of the players we've left for dead--is hitting to the tune of .268/.420/.433. It ain't superstar performance, but that's a useful major league player. Bernie Williams's totals, .259/.345/.381 still imply that the ink is dry on his death certificate. It's hard to push dirt onto his casket while he can still turn on a good high fastball from Troy Percival. Wang, a player who was never supposed to get a chance in the Bronx, has been impressive--at this point, he's the best home-grown Yankees pitcher since Ramiro Mendoza...and climbing. Robinson Cano wasn't supposed to be ready, and was supposed to be bloacked at the keystone. He's handling Major League pitching, he's not lost on defense. The contributions of Wang and Cano are substantial for a farm system that guessed it, dead.

And the Yankees, as a team? They are 4 games out of first place, 1/2 a game from evicting the Orioles from second place. I'll refrain from continuing the death metaphor.

Now, things aren't exactly rosy for the Bombers, either. The rotation is currently being held together with twine and Tanyon Sturtze. Following Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown before him, Carl Pavano is injured. He's got one of those mysterious, horrifying shoulder things, so it's anybody's guess what they get from him for the rest of the season. Right now, it would appear that a Pavano who doesn't eat innings is essentially useless.

But for a shining moment, we can dream that there is hope for this team. We'll worry about the pitching tomorrow.

Friday, July 01, 2005


An embarassing week, all around:

Tonight, Randy Johnson gets punked by the Detroit Tigers, allowing seven runs in five innings. The Unit is still giving up home runs, two leaving the confines of cavernous Comerica Park on his watch (the Tigers would get another clout against recent call-up Scott Proctor). Like Javy Vazquez and Kevin Brown before him, last year he was dominant, this year he throws batting practice. I feel like Leo Bloom in the Producers: "No way out. No way out."

Speaking of getting punked, I usually don't take gossip-type items, but I saw on Bill Simmons' ESPN website that Terry McMillan is getting divorced. Turns out the guy who gave Stella Her Groove Back is gay; now that he's gotten his green card, he's trying to find a way to break the couple's pre-nup and get alimony. Ain't love grand?

You'd have to think the worst part of this story is the fact that this guy was publicly celebrated in McMillan's book. Taye Diggs played him in the movie, fer crissakes! This has to be the worst artistic humiliation since Billy Joel divorced his wife a few years after scoring a big hit with "I Love You Just the Way You Are."

Back to baseball, former Yankee Kenny Rogers may be the game's biggest bonehead. Rogers, who was having an All-Star season (9-3, 2.46 ERA) first broke his hand punching a water cooler, in a bizarre echo of Brown's antics with the Yankees last season. He then added insult to injury, losing it with a camera man on the field and trying to push the camera out of the guy's hands repeatedly before he was restrained. Now, on top of his broken hand, he has a twenty game suspension. The suspension's too short--unless he further screws his team with the appeals process, Rogers will probably be unable to pitch anyway through much of his suspension.

The difference between Rogers and Brown is--since Rogers was pitching well, and the Rangers need him if they have any hope of winning the AL West--Rogers might just be welcomed back with open arms once he's eligible to return to the roster. I really can't condemn Rangers fans or management if that's their reaction, because the main (some would say only) reason fans come to the ballpark is to see winning baseball.

In other suspension news, Mt. St. Sheffield got a two game suspension for his helmet-throw and subsequent blowup at the umpire during the Mets series last weekend. Seems kinda arbitrary, since the big reason Sheffield blew up was because the first base ump had an old-style itchy ejection finger, basically threw the guy out as he was in the process of hurling his helmet.

Finally, in a development I think is more humorous than embarassing, over at Will Carroll's The Juice Weblog, Scott Long has been doing a riff about Psycho Ex Girlfriends that's truly excellent. Taken along with his powerful Anti Father's Day post, Scott's doing some impressive life-based writing, perhaps even sowing the seeds for an interesting memoir.