Category: Dailies

Welcome in ’07: UT Longhorns, “Dice-K”, Pettitte, Dumping The Unit & The Sheff, Missing Bernie

Hello to everyone! Charles has returned. Sorry I disappeared all of a sudden last year. One day I was blogging, the next day I wasn’t. What happened? I learned that I can’t multi-task and following baseball and passing classes was going to be impossible. So, with my grades all around low Cs and high Ds, I cut out the blog from my daily routine and focused on getting through the semester. I still followed the end of the season and watched the Yanks fall to the Tigers in the ALDS. The playoffs in the National League were more interesting, given that epic 7-game battle of Randolph v. La Russa. I, for one, was shocked that the Mets didn’t sweep them, but as the season closed down their foibles did become pretty apparent so rationally it was explainable. I’m glad the Cardinals ended up winning. I like Tony La Russa. He’s cool. If you haven’t yet, read the book Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger. It’s one of the best baseball books you’ll ever read. I promise.

I haven’t been keeping up with the blogosphere, so I don’t have a beat on what types of things are being discussed, over-discussed and under-discussed. So I’ll start out with my school team, the UT Longhorns. Yeah, I go to school in Texas. No offense to all the Texans out there, but I hate Texas. It blows. I guess Austin is an improvement over every other patch of land in this dried up, backward state, but it’s still on my list of places to leave and never return to. Anyway, so the Longhorns, after winning the National Championship in ’05 and going out with a whimper in ’06, are knocking out wins with an explosive offense. Check out our regular lineup (keep in mind, the season is only 34 games old):

Tucker, 2B, .335
Wheeless, 1B, .381, OBP of .483
*Danks, LF, .354, OBP of .494
*Suttle, 3B, .415, OBP of .494, 8 HR, 39 RBI
*Russell, RF, .353, SLG of .912, 17 HR, 40 RBI
Clark, C, .280, 29 RBI
Prince, SS, .431, OBP of .485
Fuller, DH, .323
Peoples, CF, .281, 28 RBI

*Murderer’s Row

Into the mix throw headcoach Augie Garrido, record holder for most wins in college baseball, and you’ve got the best offensive threat competing for all the marbles in Omaha. Our pitching isn’t too shabby, definitly not a pushover, but at the same time our only weakness. Defense is sometimes an issue, but nothing a huge rally can’t erase, because with this lineup hitting is contagious. There could be two outs and if someone gets a hit you might as well expect the next six or seven hitters to get hits as well.

Alright, so after dissing the whole state of Texas I comeback with some rooting for their main school. Hypocritical I know. Anyway, Daisuke Matsuzaka…

After reading Verducci’s article about him in Sports Illustrated I don’t understand how "Dice-K" (he needs a new nickname) has ever lost a game period. I don’t understand how anyone has ever even made decent contact off this guy. He long tosses at a distance of about 300 feet? He never ices his arm? He throws bullpen sessions the day after a start? He regularly throws between 120-180 picthes a game? He throws 8 different pitches? ***? The guy’s a freak of nature. I’m not jealous that the Sox got him and we didn’t. I’m glad Cashman didn’t blow $50 million just to talk with the dude’s agent. But holy cow I’m scared of this guy. He’s going to kill everyone. At least, I want him to. He seems like the type of player who literally eats and sleeps baseball and more specifically, his craft of pitching. Of course I don’t know him personally, but from all accounts I’ve read I assume he has the most rigorous work ethic of any MLB big-leaguer. He just seems to be an honest to goodness epitomy of 110%. There are other players like that too, I consider Jeter in that category, but right now I’m letting my imagination get the better of me because I want to believe that I’m in store for the greatest single season pitching performance of my lifetime. And if Daisuke Matsuzaka doesn’t do it, hopefully Kei Igawa will.

Pettitte is back. Sweet. Part of me doesn’t care just because last year wasn’t so good for him. But two years ago he had 17 wins and a 2.39 ERA. If that Pettitte shows up, it was money well spent. I think it’s going to work out. I think we’ll get the Pettitte of old back on the mound. And by that I mean that I anticipate him being much better than last season, which was pretty crappy. On paper Wang, Igawa, Pettitte, Pavano and Mussina is a darn good starting five. And if something goes wrong we have Karstens waiting in the wings and Phil Hughes behind him. Whether or not Hughes starts a game this season is beyond me. My guess is he might pitch a few games near the end of the year, like Karstens did last year when Moose was on the DL. I don’t like the idea of inserting him into the bullpen. He’s bred to be a kick-rump starter so he should stay there.

Other than picking up Igawa and Pettitte, the best moves made by the Yankees’ brass was getting rid of Johnson and Sheffield. The Big Unit’s days are numbered and he’s falling apart before our very eyes. And Sheffield, though I’m sure he has another 30 homeruns left in him, was kind of a nuisance and seemed to be bad for team chemistry. He has an unfathomably gargantuan ego that isn’t justified by his numbers and I think Abreu is a better all-around outfielder. I’m also overjoyed that Melky’s still here. Melky Cabrera is awesome.

You know who had the sweetest baseball swing I ever saw? Bernie Williams. I sure am going to miss seeing it this year.

It’s time to play ball. If you’re a new blogger or were a regular last season, leave a comment just to say hi so I know who’s out there. Peace.

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The 11-8 Win

Hooray. Today marks the conclusion of the "21 in 20" Marathon. The game wasn’t pretty, but we salvaged the series and regained our lead of 6.5 points over Boston (Thank you Mariners!). That’s good news. Jeff Karstens was also good news, earning himself his first major league win and giving up only 3 runs in 6 innings while doing it. He only used up 83 pitches, so I bet he could’ve given us 7 innings, but I suppose Torre doesn’t want to overwork him this early in his career. Karstens gave the Yankees what they desperately needed, an actual "outing" from a starting pitcher. Jaret and Lidle both giving only 3 2/3 innings hardly qualify as "outings". They forced our relievers to log even more innings on what must be a league leading total. Karstens has chipped in two winning performances in Mussina’s absence, but the case with rookies is that sooner or later scouting reports will circulate and they’ll get lit up one game. Hopefully Jeff has a few more good starts in him before that inevitable day arrives.

The offense was awesome today. The 11 runs on 17 hits got started right away when Damon led off with a double and Jeter went opposite field to give us a quick 2-0 advantage. What got into Bernie? Almost went ’77 Reggie on us. His totals on the day were 4 hits and 6 runs batted in. 2 homers and a double that I thought would leave the park. Cano also had 4 hits. Despite striking out 12 times, the lineup put on a show. But during all this A-Rod struck out for the 10th time in the series. Needless to say, when A-Rod slumps, it’s obvious and it’s ugly. Rather recently A-Rod told a reporter that last year he put up great numbers during the regular season, but struggled in the playoffs. He said he’s hoping the opposite is true this year; slump now, play like the MVP in October. If you do that A-Rod, and I’m rooting for you all the way, you’ll create some unforgettable Yankee memories, because Yankee fans know you can inflict some serious damage on another club.

While the offense was running on all cylinders, the pitching after Karstens left was a different story. Proctor allowed a run, but that’s just a footnote compared to what Farnsworth did. Kyle led off the 8th inning with 7 straight balls. After walking Rivera on 4 straight, he fell behind Kendrick 3-0 before working back to a full count, but lost him to put two on with no out. Kyle left after throwing 25 pitches, walking three, surrendering a single and a run, and not recording a single out. Basically the absolute worst he could’ve done. Forced Torre to use Mo for 2 innings. Then the Angels got to Mo the only way you can, and that is through an error commited by someone else. I was eating when Nick Green let that easy 4-6-3 grounder bounce through his legs and I nearly choked and died. I almost died again when Izturis’ chopper was fielded by A-Rod and he missed the tag on Napoli retreating back to third. Lucky for us Napoli was called out for running outside the basepath. Mariano pitched perfectly like usual. He did everything he needed to. 3 infield ground balls and a strike out. Unfortunatly 2 runs scored that shouldn’t have. But it didn’t matter when Mo got the 27th out. The Yankees built up a big lead and pitched well enough to make it count.

I feel bad for Green. I feel bad for players when they’re slumping or make an embarrasing error. If I was in Green’s shoes, I would cry. I don’t know who made up that no crying rule, but I’d break it right there on the diamond. That’s when you love players like Jeter even more, because from all the accounts I’ve read, Jeter is such a friendly and supporting teammate. He’s the Captain and he can’t allow a teammate to get down. Speaking of Jeter, what about that play he made to nail Figgins at first base? Even if you didn’t watch the game, you know the play I’m talking about. Video replays showed that Figgins was on the bag when the ball reached Wilson’s glove, but I think umpires feel they have to call out the runner to give Jeter credit for one of the most amazing plays you’ll ever see on a baseball diamond. To simply range that deep to the right, backhand the ball on the outfield grass and while leaping backwards execute a perfect throw right on the money in mid-air to a target about 120 feet away is unbelievable. And when Jeter does it with such grace and ease, the umpire only pretends to look at the base and regardless of how the pop of the mitt and the spikes on the bag match up, he’s tipping his hat to a great play and calling in Jeter’s favor.

Well, I’m very pleased where the Yankees stand. We finished the past 21 games 11-10, but gained significant ground in the standings. And that’s what’s most important. All that needs to happen is the bullpen recovering top form and the Yankees should skate undisturbed into October. If the recent trend displayed by Villone, Proctor and Farnsworth doesn’t disappear, we’ll be in trouble because we can’t reasonably expect the Red Sox to scuffle for the last month of the season.

Sooooo…

…the "lefty specialist" comes in to pitch the bottom of the ninth of a tie ball game and with two strikes gives up a lead off double. Thanks dude! Then Torre brings in Dotel. Come on Joe! Stop messing around and just bring in Mariano.

Overall, this was an ugly game. The Angels made a couple errors, hit a batter and threw a couple wild pitches. We stranded 13 runners on base. Green got caught stealing in the ninth. Jaret was bad. A-Rod stunk. I shouldn’t pick on A-Rod though. Abreu and Cano didn’t help the effort either, going 2-for-10 and stranding 9 runners combined. Our fifth run scored on a wild pitch, so the offense was hurting the whole night. Villone and Proctor weren’t themselves either.

Alright, bases loaded and no out. If we survive this, then we have to win this game.

OMG! Is it just me or was Dotel’s 2-2 pitch to Napoli a no doubt strike?

Well, good night. We’ll get ’em tomorrow.

P.S. Is there something about Mo I’m unaware of? Did he injure his back again from lacing up his cleats? Or is Joe simply being frugal with his arm?

The Boston Series and Last Night’s 6-5 Loss to the M’s

Only in my wildest dreams did I figure the Yankees would sweep 5 games in Fenway. I was confident the Yankees would win the series, but didn’t expect luck to bless us all 5 games. And I have to say, when you sweep a 5 game set, a certain degree of luck aided you. And the Yankees got lucky. The Red Sox didn’t. I’m still wondering how this Red Sox team ever won 12 in a row, because their pitching looked awful this weekend. I’m not counting them out of the postseason, but if they do make it, there’s no way they’ll advance past the ALDS. And if they do make the postseason, their ticket will be the Wild Card. A 6.5 game lead isn’t Mount Everest, but the only way for the Sox to overtake us would be a combined Boston winning streak during a New York losing streak and I don’t see that happening. There also isn’t enough time for the Sox to peck their way back to first place. Unless the BoSox sweep the series at Yankee Stadium, they have no chance at winning the division. It all depends on what transpires between now and September 15th.

I don’t know where to begin. Every Yankee contributed to this series. Every Yankee except for Sidney Ponson, who’s been released I believe. At least I hope so. That was a failed experiment. Dotel, Wilson, Abreu, Fasano and Lidle all got their first taste of the Rivalry. And they all stepped up their game in the spotlight. I could go on about the series in depth, but I won’t because I know that everyone even remotely related to the Rivalry witnessed the games, or at the very least has heard the news.

Moving onto the West Coast, which saw a team with a 5 game winning streak square off against a team chugging an 11 game losing streak. It was like a high-speed train vs. a coal-fueled locomotive. The Yanks had multiple chances to win it, but an M’s victory was already in the cards. Jeff Karstens pitched great in his Major League debut, and I hope to see him take the mound again. Damon continued his hot hitting and is slowly approaching a .300 batting average. A-Rod and Abreu hit home runs. It would be absurd to pin the loss on Villone. His purpose wasn’t to win the game. It was to give the other bullpen arms a day of rest. It was a smart and safe move by Torre. And surrendering a game ending walkoff was the best thing Villone could’ve done. The whole team probably exhaled a sigh of relief afterwards. Going into extra innings would’ve been h-e-l-l after that Fenway Series. No need to ***** all the life out of our team yet. I wouldn’t mind losing this series actually if it meant giving key players a day or two off.   

Double Header: 2nd Game

To be honest, I didn’t expect us to win Game Two. We had our fun in the afternoon. Winning at Fenway just a few hours later with Ponson starting for us? There’s just no way. Sweeping a double header is hard enough. To do it on the road is even harder. Ponson doesn’t inspire confidence either. And the fatigue level of our bullpen must’ve sky-rocketed off the charts. With that said, I’m overjoyed that I stuck around. 25 runs and 34 hits later, the Yankees have started this series with an exclamation point. And it was a point well made.

Like I expected, Ponson got pummelled. 78 pitches in 3 innings? That’s not good, Sidney. Neither are 9 hits and 7 runs. I can’t believe Villone came in. He’s pitched four straight days now! There’s no way he’ll pitch another game for at least a week. And after pitching 1 2/3 innings in Game One, Proctor inherited runners at 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs in the 7th inning of Game Two, and washed away the threat with a lazy fly ball. He then stayed in and pitched a perfect 8th inning. Incredible. I love you, Proctor. So much of this win is due to the bullpen. Even after our breakout 7th inning, a 4 run lead with 3 innings left for Boston to bat still made me nervous. It just seemed like the odds were against us holding on to win it. Sure, Villone let a few of Ponson’s runners score and then Bruney let a few of Villone’s runners score, but Bruney ended up recording 5 outs for us. He shows up at a moment’s notice for the first time as a Yankee, and pitches a scoreless inning against Baltimore. Then he follows it up with 3 strike outs in 1 2/3 innings against Boston. Way to go man! Let’s not forget Myers who ends up with the win. Only pitched 2/3 of an inning, but it was a valuable 2/3. I hope Farnsworth is okay after that line drive. He’s taken a number of liners off his body in the past and so far hasn’t missed a significant amount of time because of them. To cap off the nightcap, Mariano enters his domain and scoring 4 runs off him is impossible. Maybe a run or two if you’re lucky, but 4 runs? Forget about it. Overall, I was impressed by the bullpen.

I don’t even know where to start with the offense. 8 2-out RBIs. 6 doubles. 8 walks and 17 hits. The Yankees went into October, do-or-die mode. They were playing like it was Game 7 of the ALCS. My two favorite moments of the game were in the 7-run 7th inning. With the bags juiced and 1 out, Melky worked a full count against Timlin. The score was 10-7 in Boston’s favor and Melky, who’s only a year older than me, delivered an RBI single. No way I could handle that pressure. But he did, like a true veteran. It’s one more reason why he must, and I repeat must, remain a Yankee. Then, following a Damon pop out, Jeter was faced with a full count and 2-out situation. So tense! So unbelievably tense! The Fenway Faithful realize how big a batter this is and rise to their feet. They’re a strike away from leaving with the lead, but aided by my shouts and yippies (and yours, too!), Jeter delivered a bases clearing double to give us a lead that we wouldn’t lose. Our Captain kicked some as*! It was his only hit of the night, but boy was it perfect timing. 2-outs, full count, bases loaded, down 2 runs….and Mr. Jeter does it again. Holy cow! Follow that up with an intentional walk to Abreu, a double for A-Rod, and a single for Cano, and the Yankees make their point.

As great as today feels, we have to focus on Games Three, Four and Five now. There’s still a chance we lose the series, but even in that scenario, first place in the East remains ours. I’m not forgetting how good a team these Red Sox are, so I’m ready for anything to happen in the next three games. Let’s just hope Saturday’s game doesn’t go extra innings.

Double Header: 1st Game

This was a great win following yesterday’s 12-2 loss to Baltimore. Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t his sharpest today, but he pitched excellently, allowing 3 runs in 6 innings with only mediocre stuff. My reason for thinking that he had only mediocre stuff is based on the ground outs-to-fly outs ratio, which was 6-to-10. On a good day the ground outs would outnumber the fly outs. He also missed the strike zone about as often as he hit it, throwing 41 of his 90 pitches for balls and walking four. Two of those walks were intentional though. Are the pitches in an intentional walk added to the pitch count? Despite not having his A-game, Wang was fantastic in keeping this nuisance of a Red Sox lineup at bay. And they really can be a nuisance. They’re chock full of tough outs and patience. The Red Sox lead the majors in walks with 502. The Reds are second with 470. The Red Sox are also in second place in the majors in runs scored. So for Wang to allow 7 hits, 6 of which were doubles, and minimize the damage to 3 runs is deserving of a W and a lot of clapping. Way to get ’em Chien-Ming Wang!

And in addition to that, the offense that mysteriously slept in yesterday showed up in bunches today, starting off with a Damon triple and a Jeter RBI single. Productive days at the plate were had by many. Damon was 3-for-6 with 4 RBIs. Jeter was 3-for-6 with 2 runs scored. Abreu was 4-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Giambi was 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs, and both those hits were singles. A-Rod was 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs. Cano was 2-for-6 with 2 RBIs and a stolen base. Every starting player scored at least once. And we only hit one homer. 12 runs on patience and simple hitting. It’s refreshing to see a dozen runs without the thumpers going yard a couple of times.

But all wasn’t cakes and ice cream. We did strand 12 runners on base. I attribute that to the number of walks and hits we were getting. It’s an impressive sign when you can score 12 runs while leaving 12 other potential runs on base. I was seething after we only scored one run in the first inning. With Jeter and Abreu at 2nd and 1st and no outs, Giambi popped out, A-Rod popped out and Cano grounded out. Then we go down 1-2-3 in the second inning. We again go quietly with only a walk and a stolen base to our credit in the third inning. In the fourth inning an A-Rod lead off single was wasted when Posada grounded into a double play. It was the fifth inning when we really took off. And after an uneventful sixth inning, we jumped on Snyder and Delcarmen for four runs following an error by Lowell that allowed Jeter to reach first. And then four walks and a couple hits in the ninth inning enabled the Yankees to effectively call this game over. We were slow to start putting hits together, but when we did, we did it often. Like I already said, it feels good to do this after scoring only 2 runs in consecutive games to the Orioles. We haven’t scored in double digits since July 15th against the White Sox.

I’m glad we were able to use as few bullpen arms as we did. After getting 7 outs in his longest appearance of the season in yesterday’s game, Myers produced a tailor made ground out for the Big Papi. And then Proctor pitches 1 2/3 scoreless innings. He really is incredible. And we are so fortunate to have him. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Yankees. And T.J. Beam pitched the ninth to save Mo, Farnie and Villone for the rest of the series. Thank you T.J.! I’m thinking that Torre won’t jeopardize our chances at winning the series by throwing everything we have to win tonight’s game. It probably would be most beneficial to save Farnsworth and Villone for Saturday through Monday. This is going to be one long series. I’m betting we’ll see Dotel and Wilson tonight.

The 5-3 Loss

Not much to say about today. Wang had a so-so game and the offense never bailed him out. Until the ninth inning the Yankees only had 3 hits, a Giambi swinging bunt, a Wilson homer and a Jeter single. That was it. We were forcing Weaver into deep counts and he was throwing a lot of pitches (83 after 4 innings), but for some reason we never got the better of him. In the ninth inning A-Rod and Giambi hit back-to-back solo homers, but it was too little, too late.

Villone was as usual, scoreless through 2 1/3 innings. Torre was smart to use the last 4 outs as bullpen rehearsal for Jose Veras. He did well, but whether he’s a bullpen arm we can count on in the September race for postseason play remains to be seen. Let’s hope so.

I assume the sudden slump of our offense is due to the Angels’ inexplicable spell of dominance over us. In the series so far Damon is 1-for-8, Jeter is 2-for-11, Abreu is 2-for-12 and Posada is 0-for-9 (0-for his last 25). We’ve only scored 12 runs in the last 3 games. Now you know why. A-Rod and Giambi are the only ones hitting. A-Rod is 5-for-11 with 2 homers and Giambi is 4-for-10.

Needless to say, if the Yankees expect to split the series the table setters must get on base. A-Rod and Giambi will drive ’em in. And if Randy Johnson turns in a decent start, we’ll be able to maintain our slim, hardly existent lead in the division.