By Jon Lane
Of course, there’s uproar over the fact that the Yankees actually lost a game, this one Game 5 to the defending World Series champions, and Joe Girardi’s decision to start A.J. Burnett on three days’ rest instead of Chad Gaudin.
Take your imaginary scale and place it in front of you. Then weigh these options in a potential World Championship-clinching game: Burnett or Gaudin? Gaudin or Burnett?
I addressed your comments in my previous entry – great feedback, by the way, so keep it coming. Girardi’s over-managed at times and has made some strange moves, but I stand by him in this case. You win and lose with your best. Burnett didn’t lose that game because he pitched on three days’ rest. He lost because he’s an enigma and the Phillies were bound to bust out. I also refer to what Robin Roberts told a Philly reporter before Game 5: In his days starting on as little as 24 hours rest was nothing.
Yep, the Yankees are in serious trouble, just like when they were ahead 3-2 against the Angels in the ALCS after losing Game 5 and everyone had flashbacks to 2004. Chill. The Yankees took two of three in Philadelphia against the champs and have two chances to win it at home. They still need one win to win it all and have Andy Pettitte – owner of the most series-clinching wins in history – likely going in Game 6. You’ll take that, right?
Short rest or not, you like the Yankees’ chances, even against the amazing Pedro Martinez. Pettitte is 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA in his career working on three days’ rest. The last time he did it was 2006 in Houston (1-1, 3.79.).
Last I checked Burnett was 4-0, 2.33 prior to Game 5. Studying the numbers helps one make a decision, but in the big picture they mean nothing.
Here’s yet another reason why it’s not 2004 – or even 2003. The Yankees’ winning percentage at home was a league-best .704. They outscored opponents by 101 runs and hit 136 of their 244 home runs in the new place. You’d also have to go back to September 11 and 12 (Orioles), and June 17 and 18 (Nationals) for the last times they lost two straight at Yankee Stadium.
If the Yankees wrap it up Wednesday night, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez are, for my money, the team’s top MVP candidates. Jeter’s double-play grounder in the ninth was one of the final nails of Game 5, but he’s still batting .364 in the World Series. Damon is batting .381 and his two stolen bases in Game 4 is another part of Yankees lore. And since starting his first Fall Classic 0-for-8 with six strikeouts, A-Rod homered in Game 3 and totaled four RBIs in Games 4 and 5. One more big hit in Game 6 can seal it for the Yankees’ third baseman.
What Rodriguez is doing is more remarkable considering that Mark Teixeira has been terrible. Teixeira is 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts, including his game-ender as the tying run Monday night. In the postseason, Teixeira is batting .172 (10-for-58) with 16 strikeouts.
More troubling is Robinson Cano’s .167 average, which is tied with Nick Swisher for the team low, and his ridiculous struggles with runners on base have continued (1-for-10, one RBI). Swisher was benched for Jerry Hairston Jr. in Game 2. As one reader suggested, does Girardi gulp and bench Cano, a .320 hitter in the regular season, for Ramiro Pena, added to the World Series roster on Monday?
I wouldn’t, but Bill Madden reminded us of 1978 when the little-known Brian Doyle replaced the injured Willie Randolph late in the season and batted .438 against the Dodgers.
Chase Utley is the Phillies’ MVP to date; his five home runs is tied with Reggie Jackson (1977) for the World Series record. But despite the Game 5 win, the Phillies have issues.
If Martinez can get them through Game 6, the big debate in Philadelphia is who starts a Game 7: Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels or J.A. Happ? Hamels has taken some unfair flack for his “I can’t wait for it to end. It’s been mentally draining. At year’s end, you just can’t wait for a fresh start.” (Disclaimer: He said this after saying he’d want the ball in a potential Game 7.) However, the city – and reportedly Brett Myers – is down on him and, let’s face it, Hamels has been hideous. Happ hasn’t started since September 29 (more perspective to the Burnett-Gaudin debate).
Lee would pitch on two days’ rest, but Thursday is his scheduled throw day, so my guess is the Phillies got with their ace left-hander and empty the bullpen from there.
Furthermore, who’s Charlie Manuel’s closer? Ryan Madson started the ninth inning of Game 5 with Brad Lidge on the bench. Madson got it done, but barely. Neither inspire confidence in big spots.
By Jon Lane
It’s one more and done for the Yankees, who can accomplish the mission that’s been on Joe Girardi’s back as soon as tonight. I haven’t been in Philadelphia, but Chris Shearn, Joe Auriemma and Kim Jones have done a nice job keeping you plugged in. The crew – along with My YES – are in Philly one more night to either help celebrate a coronation or meet me in the Bronx for Game 6 Wednesday night.
There’s been debate on whether Joe Girardi made the right decision by going with A.J. Burnett tonight in Game 5 on three days’ rest, instead of Chad Gaudin with a 3-1 series lead and the luxury of having a fully-rested Burnett for Game 6 and Andy Pettitte for Game 7 if needed.
This afternoon on WFAN, Mike Francesa said he was against the idea and suggested Gaudin be the guy who gets the ball, telling his audience that Girardi’s message must be, “Hey this is a free game, just have fun,” while adding that Burnett ought to be sent back to New York tonight.
Fans have a problem with that, and they’re right.
Here’s my problem, besides telling Burnett, go home and miss out on a potential World Championship celebration with your teammates. Gaudin hasn’t pitched since working a mop-up inning October 20. He last started a game September 28, pitching 6 2/3 innings of an 8-2 win over the Royals. He’s pitched well since becoming a Yankee (2-0, 3.43 ERA in 11 games, six starts), but before that went 4-10, 5.13 for the Padres and owns a career record of 34-35, 4.50.
Let’s see, Gaudin is someone who you want to trust with a potential World Series-clinching game, especially one who isn’t fully stretched out, over someone you’re paying $82 million, who electrified New York with seven superlative innings in Game 2?
Here’s why you go with Burnett, and (if needed) Pettitte and CC Sabathia all on short rest:
? In four career previous starts on short rest – none in the postseason – Burnett is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA.
? Jose Molina will likely catch with Jorge Posada on the bench, which means a Yankees lineup without Posada and Hideki Matsui will have to break through against Cliff Lee. Not ideal, but the battery isn’t broken, so don’t break it. Besides, Posada won’t be sitting the entire game, not by a longshot.
? Phillies closer Brad Lidge pitched for the first time in 10 days in a pressurized spot in Game 4. No further explanations are necessary.
? Still worried about Burnett crashing emotionally? If he bombs tonight it won’t be because he imploded. It’ll be because his location is terrible, and Philly’s prolific boppers will awaken and pounce on it. And from where I sit, Burnett’s been at his best when everyone has bet against him.
? Burnett, Pettitte, Sabathia and the rest of the Yankees will have all winter to rest. This is the World Series and in this case you don’t worry about Game 6 unless you have to. You defeat or get beat with your best.
By Jon Lane
Joe Girardi told Mike Francesa this afternoon that he is not committed to a three-man rotation as first reported. It’s CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte for Games 1-3. In the three-man scenario, Sabathia would start Game 4 on normal rest, but Burnett and Pettitte – Sabathia too if there’s a Game 7 – would all come back on three days’ rest.
Girardi said he may kick this around until at least Thursday, but Chad Gaudin was scheduled to throw a 70 to 80 pitch bullpen session today at Yankee Stadium, reports Chad Jennings.
On a side note, here’s some fun stuff on the pre-Game 1 agenda:
WFAN’s Boomer and Carton will be hosting a Yankees Pep Rally at Modell’s in Times Square Wednesday morning from 6-10, broadcasting live while giving away prizes and getting fans ready for the opening night of the 2009 World Series.
At 12:30 Wednesday afternoon in Times Square, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will host a rally in Times Square with YES’ Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay.
By Jon Lane
CC Sabathia, officially named the Yankees’ Game 4 starter on Sunday, met the media before Game 3 in Anaheim. The big lefty is going on three days’ rest, which he made a habit of last season. This year though, with the Yankees affording the luxury of providing him extra rest down the stretch, there’s a lot more in the tank.
The plan has worked to perfection. Sabathia is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his two postseason starts. While he admitted that when working on shorter rest you may not have your best fastball, it’s about how you approach the game mentally, and Sabathia has said more than once that the extra rest last month left him energized and recharged.
“You know that going on certain rest that you’re not going to have like your best fastball,” Sabathia said. “So you’ve just got to stay under control and make sure your my delivery is good, and make sure I go out there and throw strikes.”
Someone asked on whether Sabathia feels any different the day after pitching in cold weather. He doesn’t citing all those years pitching in Cleveland.
Other comments from the press briefings:
Joe Girardi on Chad Gaudin’s role going forward:
“He’s more of a long guy for us,” Girardi said. “We had him up in Saturday’s game. [David] Robertson was done, and Gaudin was warmed up, so by having Chad down there it allows us to mix and match more in our bullpen, being able to use maybe a couple guys in an inning and not worry if you go extra innings or a long game.”
You can watch Girardi’s full conference here.
Angels Game 4 starter Scott Kazmir was asked about opposing Sabathia, he summed it up by saying he knows he has to be very good, and facing Alex Rodiguez the way he’s been hitting.
“Anyone that’s seeing the ball as good as he is, it’s tough,” Kazmir said. “You know, you can just tell when hitters are comfortable out there. When they start hitting the ball hard to the opposite field, they’re really seeing the ball good and really feeling comfortable out there. So like I said, you’ve got to attack the strike zone and just get them in defense mode. If you get behind hitters like that, especially how good he’s seeing the ball, he’s going to hurt you.”
By Jon Lane
These Yankees have proven to be a victorious concoction. The psychology of winning has been contagious not only to the team’s young, homegrown prospects, but veterans who have yet to experience the postseason.
Everyone has risen to the occasion, especially Alex Rodriguez, which has Chris Shearn and Joe Auriemma feeling good about the Yankees’ chances in the ALCS. You can listen to their breakdown in an all-new Off the Wall Podcast. Known in the YES circle as “The Godfather of YESNetwork.com,” Joe offers more takes on the latest Pinstriped Podcast.
Joe Girardi is taking a chance starting CC Sabathia on three days’ rest in Game 4, but it’s the best option, writes Steven Goldman. Of course, Mother Nature rules all, even Goldman, Girardi, Sabathia, the Steinbrenners, mystique and aura. The forecast beginning today through the weekend stinks; heck today it’s 20 degrees below normal for this time of year.
If there’s a rainout Friday or Saturday, Chad Gaudin will likely get the call for Game 4. As far as logistics and scheduling, well ….
The teams lose the off day on Wednesday and would play straight through Thursday before a break on Friday if the series reaches six games. However, there’s a scheduled off day on Sunday for a couple of reasons. First, the Dodgers and Phillies play Game 3 of the NLCS Sunday night. The Yankees and Angels could play Sunday afternoon, but FOX is covering this series and there’s a conflict with the NFL. A game Sunday night would compete with Dodgers-Phillies and, worse, force the teams to take a red eye to California and play a 1 p.m. (PST) game the next day.
Another thought: Move the games up a day. Play Game 1 on Saturday (again, rain rules all) and Game 2 in New York Monday afternoon, and then fly west for Game 3 which would be bumped to Tuesday night at 5 p.m. California time. Games 4 and 5 (if necessary) are played Wednesday and Thursday, and you’re back on track. Of course, television will have a say in that.
Here’s a take from Mark Feinsand: Push Game 3 to Tuesday and make Monday an off day. Games 3-4-5 then eliminates Wednesday’s off day. Furthermore, Feinsand writes that if Game 1 is postponed, those tickets would be used for Saturday and the Game 2 tickets would be good for Game 2, whenever it is.
Moral of the story: I hate rain.
By Jon Lane
A picturesque day here at Yankee Stadium for the first of two workouts as the Yankees prepare for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Friday night against the Angels. Of course, as timing has it, rain is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday night, the scheduled dates for Games 1 and 2, which means the best-laid plans of Joe Girardi and his crew will be altered if there’s a rainout.
Judging from yesterday’s comments, Girardi is seriously considering going with a three-man rotation in the LCS, which lines up CC Sabathia to start Games 1 and 4 and if needed Game 7. But if there’s a rainout the teams lose an off day, and Girardi will have to decide on starting Chad Gaudin in Game 4 in Southern California or pulling Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen.
Chamberlain and Gaudin provided their takes on the potential situation, and how each are staying prepared. Chamberlain said “As of 12:42 on Wednesday, that’s where I’m at. We’ll just approach it from there.”
Gaudin added, “The only thing I know right now is be ready Friday. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ll get ready to pitch on Friday. When they tell me otherwise, I’ll be ready to go. I can’t control it, can’t change it. I have to keep it simple as I can.
“I don’t in go pitching as a starter or reliever, I go in pitching trying to get outs each time. If it happens to be seven innings, it’s seven innings. If it’s two innings, it’s two innings.”
Jose Molina and Mark Teixeira shared their experiences from playing with an Angels team that’s been an annual contender since Molina was there in 2002 and become a World Champion. I’ll have more on this in my ALCS preview to run on Thursday.
Johnny Damon also reported on day after taking optional batting practice. Damon went 1-for-12 in the Division Series, including no hits in his last 10 at-bats with four strikeouts in Sunday’s clincher. Girardi said yesterday that Damon remains his everyday left-fielder and Damon knows it’ll be time to turn it around.
“I just wanted to get some work in,” Damon said. “There are so many days off during this time of year it’s better me coming in instead of sitting around the house.”
“It’s very easy to put it behind you when you win three games to nothing. The fact that we won the series and a few of us really didn’t contribute too much. For us to continue to be successful, we need to continue to pitch like we did, but also we need to get my bat going as well as a couple of other guys.”
Damon is well aware that one or two good swings can get him back on the beam. His postseason average bottomed out at .056 in 2004 before he went 5-for-11 with three runs scored, six RBIs and two home runs (the last a grand slam off Javier Vazquez) in Games 6 & 7 as the Red Sox completed a comeback from down 0-3. In the World Series Damon went 6-for-21 (.286) to help Boston to its first World Championship in 86 years.
“That’s why I’m not going to beat myself up over what happened in Game 3,” Damon said. “I felt like I had a chance every time I stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but my teammates picked me up and they helped us get a big win and helped us get to this part.”
Back with much more later.
3:33 p.m. As expected, no decisions regarding the ALCS roster or even a Game 1 lineup. Girardi and his staff met this morning to discuss various scenarios, including matchups and the bad weather in the forecast beginning Thursday afternoon. For that reason, the Yankees moved up their workout to Thursday morning.
“We still have a couple of days,” Girardi said. “We still have some things we want to look at. We still have a good 48 hours before it’s game time.”
The Angels worked out today in Anaheim, are flying to New York tonight and will also work out tomorrow at Yankee Stadium. John Lackey is expected to oppose CC Sabathia in Game 1.
Girardi isn’t concerned about the slumping Damon, among the hitters who showed up at the Stadium on Tuesday for extra batting practice.
“He had great at-bats yesterday,” Girardi said. “I know it’s not a real-game situation, but it’s as close as you’re can get without playing games. All hitters have gone through times they haven’t gotten hits. There was a thing about was Derek Jeter pressing when he was around Lou Gehrig’s record. I feel really good about Johnny this time of year because Johnny has played this time of year and has played at a very high level.”
“It might be just what they needed,” Girardi added on the extra days of rest earned by the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins. “The four days off might help them, and then if they don’t swing the bat well then someone says the rest didn’t. You really don’t know until you get into it.”
Like Damon, Nick Swisher had trouble against Twins pitching, batting 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in the Division Series.
“I thought for me two days off was too much,” Swisher said. “Right now the body doesn’t really need to rest that much because every time you take the field in front of this crowd in the postseason, it takes everything away.”
That’s it for blogging today. Tonight I’ll have a feature on how the Yankees’ homegrown youngsters and a veteran like Jerry Hairston Jr. have adopted to the organization’s philosophy of winning, and how it’s taken their games to new levels.
By Jon Lane
Joe Girardi gave indications during a conference call with beat writers that the Yankees may go with a three-man rotation during the ALCS. That would mean CC Sabathia would start Game 4 on three days’ rest. Not only did Girardi point out a lighter Sabathia workload compared to last season with the Brewers, and the eight days he has between Friday and Game 1 of the ALDS, off days will have Sabathia available on regular rest if the series extends to a seventh game.
“Not getting him to 250 innings during the regular season allows us to consider that,” Girardi said. “We’ve told him, though, to concentrate on Game 1. That’s the most important game, and we’ll go from there.”
Furthermore, Joba Chamberlain and Chad Gaudin would remain in the bullpen. We’ll know more over the next day or two – the Yankees will work out at Yankee Stadium tomorrow and Thursday – but it sounded like Girardi wants to again carry three catchers, which means the lone roster change could be Brian Bruney or Freddy Guzman for Damaso Marte.
By Jon Lane
Eventually I’ll be fully migrated into the new My YES structure. Click here to sign up and participate
My projected Yankees ALCS roster. The only change I’d make is Brian Bruney for Damaso Marte. Having Francisco Cervelli as a third catcher worked out better than anyone imaged in Game 2, so he stays. Chad Gaudin sticks around too. He’ll either start Game 4 or remain the long man if CC Sabathia gets the call, the only game he’d have to start on short rest.
Position players (14)
Jerry Hairston Jr.
By Jon Lane
Nothing like an inning of work to change perceptions yet again. Joba Chamberlain threw a scoreless inning – of relief – on Sunday, needing only seven pitches (five strikes) to retire the side in order while hitting 95 on Tropicana Field’s gun. Of course, that has the Loyal Order of Joba to the Bullpen firing the cannons.
I’m not complaining. A good debate, even one with the legs of a marathon runner, keeps the comments and message boards thread lit up, which is good for us! My take though is forget about Chamberlain’s future for this week and the rest of this month. The Yankees’ solitary goal is first winning the American League Division Series. If right now he’s most comfortable and productive throwing out of the bullpen, put him there and worry about this starter-reliever stuff all winter and into next spring.
The Yankees’ will announce their ALDS roster no later than tomorrow. Every indication has Francisco Cervelli making it as the third catcher, insurance in the event Freddy Guzman runs for Jorge Posada and subsequently Jose Molina suffers an injury. That means the Yankees will carry 10 pitchers. If Chamberlain makes the cut, Chad Gaudin and Brian Bruney are out.
Here’s how the roster will stack up with 10 pitchers and 15 position players:
Jerry Hairston Jr.
There are those who favor Ramiro Pena over Guzman. Understandable, but Hairston fills the utility role and brings more experience. Plus, Guzman will be deployed solely as a pinch runner. That extra element of speed is extremely important. The Yankees have a weapon in Brett Gardner, but bottom of the eighth or ninth and Jorge Posada in scoring position, you’re taking him out for Guzman, the only player who’d keep up with Gardner stride for stride.
By Jon Lane
“Breathe in, breathe out – and no scare fish.”
– Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid
Okay, some 1980s cheese to begin today’s blogging, but the point is you can take a deep breath, exhale and chill out. The Yankees are officially, securely, in the postseason after a one-year hiatus. Now there’s the matter of clinching both the AL East and home field advantage. Something catastrophic would have to happen to deny them both luxuries.
Thanks to everyone for providing feedback to my ALDS roster projections. Chad Gaudin did nothing to hurt his chances of making the cut, but didn’t provide reassurances that he’d be a viable alternative for Joba Chamberlain in Game 4 of the ALCS if the Yankees get that far. The Yankees are 5-0 in games he’s started, but that means nothing in the playoffs, where you can no longer rely on an offense to bail out a mediocre pitcher.
It would make a world of difference if Chamberlain shows life and passion Friday night while turning out Boston’s lights.