Week 5: April 30-May6, 2007
Record for the Week: 5-1, 43 RS, 22 RA
Overall: 14-15, 2nd place AL East, 5.5 games behind Boston
05/01 -- Yankees 10, Texas 1
Jorge Posada (3-4, BB, 2 RBI) and Robbie Cano (4-5, 3 RBI) bust loose with two doubles apiece in the lone star state, and A-Rod goes 3-4 in his old stomping grounds. It's all doubly overshadowed by Phil Hughes a) pitching 6 1/3 no-hit innings, then b) limping off the mound after feeling a "pop" in his hanstring. Lesson learned: That thing where they say it's always darkest before the dawn? A lie, an out-and-out lie.
05/02 -- PPD at Texas
Tornadoes threaten Arlington as Strength and Conditioning--er, Performance Enhancement Coach Marty Miller does the Walk of Shame out of the Yankee clubhouse. Lesson learned: scapegoating is fun and easy?
05/03 -- Yankees 4, Texas 3
Andy Pettitte gives the Yankees consecutive quality starts, Luis Vizcaino throws batting practice, Jason Giambi (homer), Melky Cabrera (3-4, triple) and Hideki Matsui (2 RBI doubles, including the go-ahead run in the 8th) key the offense. Lesson learned: Texas's defense is bad to the bone. That, and Luis Vizcaino looks tired already.
05/03 -- Yankees 5, Texas 2
Doug Mientkiewicz busts out his third homer, Derek Jeter goes 3-5, and (more importantly) Mike Mussina returns to the rotation with five good innings. Lesson learned: Even with three good starts, the bullpen still had to chip in 9 2/3 innings in this series.
05/04 -- Mariners 15, Yankees 11
The M's put up an eight-spot against Kei Igawa, Colter Bean, and Luis Vizcaino, which is how you lose a game in which you score 11 runs. After confounding the Red Sox in his last appearance, Igawa gets slapped around for 8 runs in 4 innings, making him an early candidate for Most Frustrating Yankee of 2007. Lesson learned: Colter Bean may be the pitching equivalent of Andy Phillips--a guy we've pimped relentlessly for his minor league performance, left to rot on the vine by the brass, then once he's past his sell-by date, the team decides to give him playing time. It's a sad story if true.
05/05 -- Seattle 1, Yankees 8
Chien Ming Wang takes a perfect game into the eighth inning, Jeff Weaver shows his stripes in the fifth. Probably the most enjoyable game of the entire season. Lesson learned: When Broussard hit the homer to end Wang's perfecto, I was actually relieved that the perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout ended that way, rather than with Wang limping off the mound. It was that kind of week.
05/06 -- Seattle 0, Yankees 5
I already wrote about this one yesterday, so no need to belabor the point. Lesson learned: With Rocket's support, Cotton Eyed Joe could plague us for decades!
Player of the Week: Clearly, I'm going to give co-players of the week to Chien Ming Wang and Phil Hughes. Those were two great, inspirational, exciting starts--even if neither of them will get its own commemorative DVD. Many of the hitters also deserve honors, but we can only spare honorable mentions for Hideki Matsui (.348/.444/.696 with 5 doubles, a homer and 7 RBI) and Jorge Posada (.500/.600/.750 with 5 RBI).
Dregs of the Week: The week's worst on offense, Bobby Abreu, wasn't really all that bad (.276/.267/.345), so it looks like the honors again go to a pitcher. Colter Bean's infinity ERA is too easy a target, so let's give it to Kei Igawa, for bringing Yankee fans so low after giving us such a thrill against Boston last week. Dishonorable mention to Luis Vizcaino, who coughed up the lead and scavenged a win in Pettitte's start in Texas, then coughed up a pair more runs in the big ugly Friday night game against Seattle.
Story of the Week: As I promised yesterday this is all about Roger Clemens. The Rocket's landing in the Bronx is the epitome of a deal that makes sense for both sides. For the Yanks, the injury to Hughes, the news that Pavano's shopping for Tommy John surgery, Igawa's ineffectiveness and a sub .500 record all added up to a mandate to get more pitching. Clemens is the best pitcher out there, and unlike any trade options all he costs is money (we'll talk about the money in a second). For Clemens, he had the Yankees about as far over the barrel as he could get them, far enough that they'd give him a historic sum of money to come pitch for two thirds of a season. Even from where the Yankees stand today, they're as good a shot to make the postseason as any team in baseball, and they're more likely than the Astros to make any moves necessary to improve themselves mid-season. So Clemens picked the right moment to strike, and the right place to go (unlike Red Sox fans, Yankees fans didn't hate Clemens after he left; unlike Red Sox fans, we won't be secretly hoping for him to fail).
But let's not go too crazy here. This move doesn't make the Yanks the favorite to win the division. It doesn't guarantee them dominance the rest of the season. Clemens is still a very good pitcher, but he won't give you what the Yanks need most, which is a pitcher other than Wang who will go deep into the game and give the bullpen a breather. What's been accomplished, at considerable expense (some $46 million, plus maybe $15-18million more in luxury tax) is reconstituting the 2003 starting rotation--the same rotation the Yankees let go of three years ago because they'd gotten too expensive, too long in the tooth, and they hadn't produced all that spectacularly in the 2002 or 2003 playoffs. Well, let me tell you, they haven't gotten any younger, better, or more durable since last Clemens, Mussina, and Pettitte were all in pinstripes together. Sadly, all the Yanks alternate plans fell through in the intervening years--Jeff Weaver? No way. Javy Vazquez? Nope. Jose Contreras? Heck, no. Let's not even mention Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson. It was all just a lot of work and money to wind up right back where we started from.
Speaking of money, the phrase my Brother J and I tend to utter when we talk about the Yanks' spending is "it's just George's money." The contract that Clemens will reportedly receive is HUGE--$28 million prorated, or $18.5 million from June 1 to the end of the season. Even if the Yanks get back a huge chunk of Carl Pavano's salary back in insurance money, it likely wouldn't defray the luxury tax that'll be owed on Clemens's salary, some $7.5 million. But this is actually a situation where the Yanks' spending on the here and now makes a lot of sense. There is a lot of uncertainty about the team after this season--Alex Rodriguez can opt out of his contract, Pettitte could decide to be a free agent, Posada and Rivera will be free agents, the team has to decide whether to pick up Abreu's option--so it makes sense to go for the title while this ballclub is still together.
It was pretty much either sign Clemens, or write off the season. Brian Cashman made the right call.
Link of the Week: Nice retrospective on Ruben Rivera by John Sickels. Check it out.