Record for the Month: 19-9, 202 RS, 124 RA
Player of the Month: I gotta say--he was looking pretty sluggish for much of the first half. He came into July hitting .270/.350/.434. Those are decent numbers for a second baseman, but not terribly big production for a left fielder. One month and thirteen homers later, Hideki Matsui's season totals were .294/.369/.529. It's been the best month of his career--on this side of the Pacific, at least.
Close behind Godzilla was the born-again bat of Robinson Cano (.385/.420/.633) and the steady march to free agency of Jorge Posada (.360/.466/.558). Heck, during Tuesday's blowout, it even looked like Robbie was trying to draw a walk--a true "will wonders never cease" moment. On the pitching side, Mariano Rivera and Luis Vizcaino combined for 29 1/3 innings striking out 31 and only allowing 27 base runners.
Dregs of the Month: The Yankees scored 202 runs in July, most in the majors by far. No Yankee with more than a dozen plate appearances had an OPS of less than 737. Yankee pitching wasn't equally compelling, so that's where our Dregs come from this month. Andy Pettitte allowed 59 baserunners in 32 1/3 July innings, to the tune of a 6.96 ERA. On a lesser level, Brian Bruney labored to the tune of a 10.80 ERA in ten appearances, Mike Mussina had a 5.08 ERA, and Edwar Ramirez had that one nightmare inning that ended his first stint in Pinstripes.
Story of the Month: The string of hellos and goodbyes in a month that clearly made them "buyers" rather than "sellers" in the player trade market. Good-bye to Kei Igawa, another Dregs guy with a 6.56? ERA on the month. Good-bye to Everyday Scottie Proctor, who had a decent month, but was showing signs of creeping gopheritis that were starting to give the Yanks pause. I have to say, having come into my own as a Yankee fan at a time when it seemed like most Yankee pitchers couldn't break a pane of glass with their fastballs, I (mostly) enjoyed Everyday Scottie's pitching stylings with the Yankees. The exception, of course, was the patented Proctor Special(tm)--from time to time in ninth or extra innings, tied game, on the road, Proctor would suffer a total meltdown, lose the strike zone, and walk in the winning run. Still, when it was working it was nice to see him throw that high 90's heat.
The big hello goes out to Wilson Betemit, whom the Yanks picked up from the Dodgers in return for Everyday Scottie. Betemit was an underappreciated part in L.A., a guy with low BA, big power, and a decent number of walks. He can play third or short, and the Yankees say he's going to be tried out at first base as well. Now, Betemit's never played first...so that's an iffy thing. Betemit's a switch-hitter, but one who's much better as a lefthanded hitter (.818 OPS) than as a righthanded hitter (.643) over his career--so he's not the guy to solve the Yanks' platoon problems against lefty pitchers.
Even more exciting than the guy we got are the fellows we might be getting back soon. Phil Hughes spent July rehabbing--he's allowed one run in five starts. He'll be at the Stadium on Saturday. Jason Giambi started his rehab assignment at the end of July, and he'll head to his final tuneup, at Scranton, this weekend. Joba Chamberlain spent July striking out 28 guys in 17 2/3 innings at Trenton, and another 10 in five more innings at Scranton. In August he's throwing out of the pen, and he could be the Yankees' September surprise (a la Francisco Rodriguez a few years back).
And the Yankees will probably need the help. Boston just had Christmas in July on Tuesday, with the Celtics landing Kevin Garnett and the Red Sox swapping a handful of minor leaguers--ranging from B-prospects to extremely long-term lottery tickets--for Eric Friggin' Gagne. Have fun, guys, and may the Celtics win several NBA titles. The Red Sox? May they also win a few NBA titles. Big Papi would make a lovely power forward.
Extras: Can we please have someone give Michael Kay an electric shock every time he mixes up the names of Andy Phillips and Andy Pettitte?
Daisy May's BBQ is damn good food, which makes me wonder--couldn't they have a better commercial on YES? I'm not sure that "you'll go crazy with every bite you chew"--sung off-tune, mind you--is really the kind of lyric that says "Yeah! Let's go there!" to prospective customers.
What's that sound? That's the smallest violin in the world playing for Bud Selig, recently seen whining about having to attend eight whole baseball games as Barry Bonds pursues the career home run record. It's not surprising that Selig approaches the game with all the vigor and enthusiasm of a guy going for his annual digital rectal exam--his initial reluctance to try to attend Bonds' record breaking game only melted after Barry threatened to break the record in his back yard, in Milwaukee. But shouldn't baseball's Commissioner at least be able to fake enjoyment of the game? Sure, maybe he has public support in his passive-aggressive treatment of Bonds, but what does it say to fans in San Francisco and L.A. when baseball's top executive considers luxury accommodations at their ballparks drudgery?
The bigger question is: why did anyone want Bud Selig at the record-breaking game anyway? If you're at the ballpark, would you rather sit next to a knowledgeable, enthusiastic fan who cheers good plays and is involved in the action, or some sour-faced suit grumbling into his cell phone about how he wishes the damn game would end already, so he can go back to working on his big presentation for the owners meetings on the 16th? Personally, I'd rather sit with people who think a day at the ballpark is a good time.
Speaking of which, last night I had the opportunity to meet Joe Posnanski, who was in town to talk about his book, The Soul of Baseball, which recounts Posnanski's travels with Negro League player/manager Buck O'Neil. O'Neil, who was a legendary scout in the majors, as well as MLB's first black coach, was the kind of ambassador of the game that I wish the Commissioner could be; he found the perfect counterpart in Posnanski, one of my favorite mainstream baseball writers precisely because he never lets you forget that he enjoys the game--even though (or, perhaps, particularly because) he covers a team that's only had one winning season since the 1994 strike.