June 2009

Nationals vs. Yankees: 6/18/2009 Lineups

yankees.jpgYANKEES (37-28)
Brett Gardner CF
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Hideki Matsui DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Ramiro Pena SS

Pitching: Joba Chamberlain (3-1, 3.84 ERA)

nationals.jpgNATIONALS (17-46)
Cristian Guzman SS
Nick Johnson 1B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam Dunn DH
Austin Kearns RF
Corey Patterson CF
Willie Harris LF
Ronnie Belliard 2B
Wil Nieves C

Pitching: Craig Stammen (0-2, 5.86 ERA)

Nationals vs. Yankees: 6/17/2009 Lineups

yankees.jpgYANKEES (37-27)
Johnny Damon LF
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Hideki Matsui DH
Melky Cabrera CF
Ramiro Pena SS

Pitching: Chien-Ming Wang (0-4, 14.34 ERA)

nationals.jpgNATIONALS (16-46)
Cristian Guzman SS
Nick Johnson 1B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam Dunn DH
Elijah Dukes RF
Corey Patterson CF
Josh Bard C
Willie Harris LF
Anderson Hernandez 2B

Pitching: John Lannan (3-5, 3.51 ERA)

Nationals vs. Yankees: 6/16/2009 Lineups

yankees.jpgYANKEES (36-27)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Melky Cabrera CF

Pitching: CC Sabathia (5-4, 3.68)

nationals.jpgNATIONALS (16-45)
Cristian Guzman DH
Nick Johnson 1B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Elijah Dukes CF
Adam Dunn LF
Austin Kearns RF
Alberto Gonzalez SS
Wil Nieves C
Anderson Hernandez 2B

Pitching: Shairon Martis (5-1, 5.04)

Roster move
Jose Veras has been designated for assignment to make room for the returning Brian Bruney.

The view from D.C.
Washington Post beat reporter Chico Harlan reports that manager Manny Acta is safe – at least today. Acta was already on the field shortly before 3 p.m. Harlan also offers positive first impressions of Yankee Stadium:

I like the airy, Grand Central-ish concourse, where natural light floods in from the ceilings. This ballpark feels smart, purposeful. Everything from the elevators to the sightlines — all well-designed, well-thought out. (This is in decided contrast to Citi Field, which is far too busy and sloppy for its own good, kind of like a NASCAR T-shirt.)

– Jon Lane

The Pulse of New York

Every Tuesday, YES Blog takes the pulse of New York on the hottest
topics being talked about right now in the world of sports. What’s your
take on the below issues?

How many times will the Yankees beat the Red Sox this season?(opinion)

Who do you support in the Brian Bruney/Francisco Rodriguez incident?(polling)

Should Brad Penny be suspended for hitting Alex Rodriguez?(answers)

How many games will the Yankees win in their upcoming series against the Nationals?(trends)

Which YES Network talent blog is your favorite?(online surveys)

If Chien-Ming Wang has a poor outing tomorrow should he remain in the rotation?(poll)

There has been much speculation about Johan Santana’s poor outing against the Yankees. How do you explain it?(survey software)

Will Plaxico Burress play this upcoming NFL season?(surveys)

The beat of New York

parachute_210_061509.jpgBy Jon Lane
A wrap on the first installment of Subway Series 2009.

First off, above is a great shot from the AP of a member of the U.S. Army Golden Knghts parachute team drifting above Yankee Stadium after jumping from an aircraft before the start of Sunday’s game as part of Military Appreciation Day.

Mets-Yankees to me overdone and it would be better if it took place once a year, three games and alternate the venues each year. But not only does six games make more money, the Subway Series continues to keep the Apple’s heart pumping. I was at Friday’s game and despite a report to the contrary, Yankee Stadium had a pulse which grew as the game progressed and reached a fever pitch with Luis Castillo’s dropped fly ball.

Once Gary Sheffield became a Met, Dwight Gooden, his uncle and one of 104 players to suit up for both the Yankees and Mets, told him that experiencing the Subway Series from both sides will be a lifetime memory. The Tampa, Fla., native makes his baseball season home in New Jersey, where for years he’s been hollered at from all directions.

“When I was with the Yankees I used to get a lot of Mets fans yelling at me,” Sheffield said. “Now I have Yankees fans yelling at me. It’s fun because you don’t know who the real Yankees or Mets fan is until they get it out of their mouths.
 
“Just the New York fans all together, one rooting against the other. That’s always fun, but it’s still New York at the same time.”

I documented some give-and-take between fans in the bleacher section in my diary from Friday.

The Yankees hold a 39-30 record against the Mets since interleague play was established in 1997. This weekend by far was the most eventful of a saga that’s made names of Dave Mlicki, Matt Franco, Mel Rojas, Dae-Sung Koo and Fernando Nieve. The past three days boosted the profiles of Brian Bruney and Francisco Rodriguez, sullied Castillo’s reputation, and have Mets fans on alert and panicking over Johan Santana.

The Yankees smashed Santana for nine runs (the most allowed over his stellar career) in three innings (matching his shortest start), which left many worried over Santana’s decreased velocity and wondering if he’s hurt. Santana shot down any notions about his health after the game, but this is something to monitor. Remember the Yankees took flack over refusing to part with Phil Hughes for Santana. In the interest of building a program, which I’ve explained many times in this space, over the long haul one could make an argument that Brian Cashman was right.

Some more lopsided numbers: Sunday was the Mets’ worst loss since a 16-1 thrashing in San Diego on August 22, 2000. The 15 runs were a season-high for the Yankees and their largest shutout win since blanking the Blue Jays, 15-0, in Game 1 of a doubleheader on September 25, 1977

The Yankees’ off day today comes at exactly the right time – following 16 games in 17 days with no day off since May 28 (a travel day between Texas and Cleveland) and a rainout on June 5. When they resume play tomorrow night they’ll oppose the atrocious Nationals who can’t pitch, but can put runs on the board. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees ring up a couple of 10-spots and do expect a demotion for Chien-Ming Wang if he can’t get it done on Wednesday. That and CC Sabathia starting tomorrow adds some intrigue to series that in comparison to the Mets is like going from Happy Hour to a boardroom.

Off-the-field notes: A.J. Burnett’s conference call regarding the appeal of his six-game suspension for throwing high-and-tight to Texas slugger Nelson Cruz on June 2 was postponed until June 30 … Damaso Marte (left shoulder tendinitis) has an appointment with Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

UPDATE: 5:10 p.m.
From Yankees PR:

? Damaso Marte was seen by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Dr. Andrews concurred with the previous evaluations of Yankees team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad and Dr. David Altchek. Marte will return to Tampa, Fla., to continue his throwing program. Good news there.

? Alex Rodriguez will greet fans in Monument Park from 4:10-4:30 p.m. prior to Tuesday night’s game against Washington. Beforehand at 1 p.m., Robinson Cano will serve as “Principal for a Day” for PS 55 (450 St. Paul’s Place, Bronx, NY).

? The first 18,000 fans in attendance at Tuesday’s game will receive a “Strikeouts for Scholarships” keychain, courtesy of WCBS 880-AM, in support of Yankees media member Ed Lucas’ charitable endeavors with Seton Hall University. Through the “Strikeouts for Scholarships” program, established in 2008, WCBS donates $10 to Seton Hall’s Ed Lucas Scholarship Fund every time a Yankees pitcher strikes out an opposing batter. Ed is a great guy who does occasional interviews for YESNetwork.com. Visit him at EdLucas.org to learn about his inspirational story.

The morning after

By Jon Lane
Or in my case hours later. Thanks to mad traffic getting out of the Bronx  – even 45 minutes after Alex Rodriguez’s pop fly shockingly bounced off the heel of Luis Castillo’s glove – and an incident on the Long Island Rail Road, I walked into my door after 3 a.m.

Friday night came down to this: The Yankees did not deserve to win. Five pitchers combined to walk nine batters, Mariano Rivera inexplicably continued to not get it done in tie games and A-Rod was a routine catch from again being vilified for failing to deliver in the clutch.

Then Castillo dropped the ball and Mark Teixeira – running hard from first base, in other words doing what he’s supposed to do but more and more players refuse to do – raced home with the winning run. But considering the Yankees’ performance in Boston and against the Mets, in this case it was better to be lucky than good. To quote Derek Jeter, “We feel like we stole one.”

“It’s hard to believe, because we tried to give the game away all night, and they took advantage of all the mistakes that we made,” said Joe Girardi. “And in the end, we got the big gift. “I understand that we kind of got a gift tonight. And you can’t pitch like that and expect to win.”

As for the Mets, Jerry Manuel refused to ostracize Castillo – so much for him throwing his players under the bus – while angry fans lit up sports talk radio demanding that Castillo, in the midst of a bounce-back season, be immediately released. An old cliche in baseball is that momentum is as good as the next day’s starting pitcher and if the Mets take the next two games less people will be talking about Castillo and more about the Yankees’ June swoon.

But remember, the Mets choked away the NL East two years in a row, falling short of a playoff spot by one game both times. They can’t look at Friday and say, “It’s one game and it’s early.”

“We’ve had three games this week where we should have had three wins over rivals and we came up short,” said Manuel, citing other blown chances the prior two nights against  the Phillies. “This is going to be a good test for us.”

And a bigger one for Castillo’s psyche. After the game he was alone in the clubhouse at his locker, elbows on knees and eyes reddening. The lone consolation is that the Mets don’t return to Citi Field until June 19. It’s up to he and the Mets to give their angry and jaded fan base something a lot more positive, or slightly less negative, to discuss.

Mets vs. Yankees: 6/12/09 Diary

firstpitch.jpgBy Jon Lane
First pitch: 7:09 p.m.
Off and running here at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will take a win, but if Joba can dominate it’ll be the ultimate shot in the arm coming off another disastrous Boston series. And yes, the sun is out and the sky is a crystal-clear blue.

A great start for Joba to retire the Mets in order on 14pitches. His first-inning troubles have been well-documented. Coming in he allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in the first (an 8.44 ERA).

7:27 p.m.
A mixed reception, though mostly boos, for Gary Sheffield. Sheff spoke at length before the game. No matter what you’ve read about him, my experiences covering him while he played with the Yankees was always positive. If you talked about baseball or boxing (one of his passions), or anything except steroid accusations, he was friendly, affable and quick with a smile. The veteran is enduring a miserable June (.107 coming in), but he’s been looked to for leadership and had high praise for Jerry Manuel even before Ken Rosenthal’s column was brought up.

Sheff’s struggles continue as Chamberlain caught him looking for Strike 3.

7:41 p.m.
Robinson Cano goes yard (what else?) to right field (where else?) to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead, home run 106 hit in this new building. According to various reports, speculation has centered on whether there is a wind tunnel in right field caused by either the open concourses or the slope of the stands, which is less steep that the original Yankee Stadium.

The next batter, Jorge Posada, missed a home run to dead center by about three or so feet. 

bleachers.jpg8:36 p.m.
I spent the third inning watching from Section 202, the bleachers, visiting a friend, which turned out to be a long visit. Chamberlain threw 43 pitches while walking and hitting a batter with the bases loaded to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. By the time I was leaving, Mark Teixeira homered to right center (really?) to put the Yankees back on top.

Some funny stories from the always-entertaining and fully loaded bleachers, so much so even the wine-and-cheese crowd can’t resist. A guard told me that many times suite ticket holders would venture down hoping to sit there.

“Let me see your ticket,” the guard would say.

“I’ve got better seats,” the person would reply.

“So why aren’t you sitting in them?” the guard would retort.

Later, while Chamberlain was walking the earth, a Yankees fans demanded that the guard give Mets fans the old heave-ho. The guard turned to me, rolled his eyes, and said, “I’m used to this. It’s a lot worse when Boston or Philly is here.”

In my friend’s row sat a line of Yankees fans with one poor Mets fan in the middle. She told me the Yankee boosters were taking bets on when this guy would get his rear-end kicked.

Not everything is perfect out there – far from it. That obstructed view everyone complains about? Whoa boy. From my vantage point in right center, the Mohegan Sun sports bar blocked off virtually all of left field from center field on. Still, it’s the place to be. Even if you don’t have bleacher tickets – again, the guards are strict about this, just ask the pampered ones – hanging out in the standing section above the sports bar, the food court, is a sense of community.

8:43 p.m.
Chamberlain allowed one hit in four innings, but walked five, hit two batters and threw 100 pitches. Another reason why the Yankees are fortunate to have CC Sabathia. The bullpen is somewhat rested, but Andy Pettitte is going tomorrow and the left-hander has thrown 104 pitches his last two starts, five and six innings, respectively. This creates a potentially precarious situation through the weekend.

Brett Tomko’s in. His job is to eat innings and keep the Mets off the scoreboard.

8:59 p.m.
A double, stolen base, walk and two-run double. 4-3 Mets. And at a blink of an eye, Gary Sheffield crushed a two-run bomb to left, strolling out of the batter’s box to admire career homer No. 505, 6-3 Mets. So much for Tomko doing his job. A reporter next to me quipped he’s a single and triple away from the cycle. Alas, Girardi spared fans the pain when he removed Tomko after his 37th pitch, a walk to Luis Castillo.

Interestingly, Joe Girardi changed his tune about Brian Bruney. The plan at first was for him to make a rehab start tomorrow at Double-A Trenton. Now it’s something the manager said had to be talked about and that he’d have an answer after the game. Reading between the lines, and evaluating everyone in the bullpen not named Mariano Rivera, Bruney could be activated tomorrow. Could Tomko be the one cut loose? It’s either that or DFA Angel Berroa and carry 13 pitchers.

jeterscoreboard.jpg9:11 p.m.
Shortly after I snapped this, the Captain went yard to – guess? – right field. The fourth homer of the game cuts the Mets lead to 6-4. Thanks to bullpen follies from both teams, expect us to be here awhile longer.

9:48 p.m.
Yet another home run, this a blast King Kong would be proud of. Hideki Matsui smoked one into the second deck in right field to put the Yankees back on top 7-6. Incidentally, today is Matsui’s 35th birthday, the second straight year he’s homered on his date of birth. I ran into his interpreter, Roger Kahlon, outside the Mets’ clubhouse before the game. He told me while this season’s been a struggle for Matsui, not playing every day reduces stress on his surgically-repaired knees. He came in batting .260 (.240 in June), but has gutted it out and delivered when the team needed it.

Alas, Sheffield led off the seventh with a double. Phil Coke is in for his team-leading 28th appearance and second in two nights.

9:53 p.m.
Coke gets Fernando Tatis, pinch-hitting for Brian Schneider, to hit into a double play, but Sheffield scored to tie the game at seven. This bullpen situation remains ridiculous and has to be addressed by July. No, Joba Chamberlain is not going there. In fact, Ken Rosenthal reported earlier today Huston Street, among others, is on the Yankees’ radar.

10:10 p.m.

Two on and one out in the seventh and the Yankees come away with nothing; Alex Rodriguez flailed at Strike 3 for the second out. They’re 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, a common theme during this current three-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, something rarely seen in Boston: Defense. Derek Jeter made like Billy Martin to catch a pop up between the mound and first base.

10:23 p.m.
Not fooling around, Girardi brings in Mariano Rivera with two out in the eighth. The best laid plans of mice and men … Rivera walks Carlos Beltran and David Wright doubles to right center to give the Mets an 8-7 lead. Let the speculation on whether Rivera is on the decline resume. This season, appearing in tie games, Rivera has allowed 6 ER in 6 2/3 IP.

10:39 p.m.
Here’s what the Yankees are facing in Francisco Rodriguez: 16-for-16 in save opportunities; league leader in saves with 210 since 2005; 2.35
ERA, 14 saves in 26 appearances against them.

10:53 p.m.
A-Rod vs. K-Rod. Yet another big spot for A-Rod, this time with the tying run on second and the winning run on first.

10:57 p.m.
Unbelievable. A-Rod pops up to second base … Luis Castillo dropped the ball. Jeter and Teixeira came home to score and some clown tossed a beer bottle into the press box. Yankees win 9-7.

11:31 p.m.
Turns out Bruney will pitch in Trenton on Saturday, while Damaso Marte will see Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Thanks for reading, everyone. I’ll have a full wrap on tonight’s wild events and this installment of the Subway Series on Monday.

Mets vs. Yankees: 6/12/09 Lineups

yankees.jpgYANKEES (34-26)
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Hideki Matsui DH
Melky Cabrera LF
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: Joba Chamberlain (3-1, 3.79)

mets.jpgMETS (31-27)
Alex Cora SS
Fernando Martinez LF
Carlos Beltran CF
David Wright 3B
Ryan Church RF
Gary Sheffield DH
Daniel Murphy 1B
Brian Schneider C
Luis Castillo 2B

Pitching: Livan Hernandez (5-1, 3.88)

Mets vs. Yankees: Pre-game chatter

By Jon Lane
Lots of housekeeping before first pitch in a little more than an hour. I spent most of my time in the Mets’ clubhouse where the discussion was about the intensity of the Subway Series, the team’s unbelievable injury situation and a mini-controversy about a column written by FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal in which he suggested that Manuel, in baseball parlance, “throws guys under the bus.”

More on that shortly, but on the Yankees’ side a Twitter post by Red Sox owner John Henry ruffled the normally placid Mark Teixeira. Shortly after Texieira lined out to first last night to complete the Yankees’ eighth straight loss to the Red Sox, Henry wrote “The MT curse,” a reference to Teixeira spurning the Red Sox offer and going to the Yankees as a free agent. It wasn’t the first time the organization had their chance at landing the slugger, but was denied. As their ninth-round pick out of high school in 1998, the Red Sox couldn’t sign him then either.

“I play the game the right way.  If anyone has a problem with the way I play then they can take their shots at me,” Teixeira said.

“How old is Mr. Henry? There’s no reason to get into with a 70-something year-old man about baseball. If I’ve offended anyone from the time I was 18 years old to now, I’m sorry.  I don’t know what else to say. I think it’s a little silly. It’s actually very silly. There’s nothing else to say.”

Teixeira put the topic to bed by putting aside the 0-8 stigma and focusing on the Mets. And there’s action in that locker room as well. If you thought the Yankees’ injury situation last year was bad, what Mets are enduring is worse. Already without Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, J.J. Putz, Oliver Perez, Angel Pagan and Ramon Martinez, John Maine was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday night with weakness in his surgically-repaired right shoulder.

Fernando Nieve, a waiver claim from the Astros late in Spring Training, was told after the Mets’ loss to the Phillies on Thursday that he will take Maine’s place tomorrow here at the Stadium and will be evaluated start-by-start. Nieve debuted with two scoreless relief innings last Saturday at Washington after he was promoted from Class AAA Buffalo when Putz was put on the DL.

“I’m going to try and treat it like a regular game,” Nieve said. “I’ m excited about it, but I’m thinking like it’ll be a normal game. I’m a baseball player and I have to be focused on what I’ve been doing. If you start thinking about that stuff I don’t think you’re going to do out there.”

As for Manuel, Gary Sheffield and David Wright were quick to come to his defense. Before the topic was broached, Sheffield credited Manual as being the ideal leader to help an injury-plagued team weather the storm until its stars are finally back and healthy.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Sheffield said. “But at the same time you have to have a strong-willed team to go through something like this. And it starts with our manager holding us together the way he has. To be able to do that speaks volumes about him and this team. We just have to continue to keep our focus. “

Wright added he’s heard no complaints from players believing Manuel has thrown anyone under the bus and that all the players enjoy competing under him. Ironically, it was just under a year (June 17, 2008) when Manuel replaced Willie Randolph partly due to allegations that Randolph had lost the clubhouse.

“I love playing for Jerry — that’s false,” Wright said. “I think Jerry brings a nice dynamic to this team. He keeps us loose and jokes around. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, he’ll get on you if you need to be get on. I have zero problems with Jerry. He’s done a phenomenal job with the injuries and always getting the most out of his players.”

I don’t see this going any further. Rosenthal wrote a thesis citing facts before forming his opinion. It wasn’t an attack and he didn’t cite anyone speaking in confidence. Manuel wasn’t even asked about it during his pre-game press conference.

Back with a lot more as the night progresses. The sun’s been out for almost an hour and the skies are clear. About time, too.

Reality hitting harder

oldstadium1.jpgBy Jon Lane
The sight is impossible to ignore, and so is the reality.

I took this photo of the original Yankee Stadium en route to the new place. There’s an opening that offers a view of the ongoing deconstruction of “The House that Ruth Built.” Tom Kaminski takes frequent overhead shots from the WCBS News Radio 88 chopper; his latest gallery is here. And Mike Vaccaro today provided an update on how far along the process is already.

As the summer progresses, it’s going to be a whole lot tougher to look at either from the 4 train or across the street.

Funny, when I left Manhattan, the sun was out. When I got here, it was pouring. Now it’s clearing up again, ever so slightly. I think we’ll have baseball tonight.

3:30 p.m.
The sun is out!