By Jon Lane
The Good: The Yankees are 14 games over .500. They are three behind the Red Sox in the American League East and lead the Wild Card by two-and-a-half games over the Rangers. Expectations in this city, for this team, are often ridiculous, which Chris Shearn pointed out this morning, and perceptions change more often than toll collectors during rush hour. For the most part there’s been a vibe about this team we haven’t seen in years, and that includes the later Joe Torre teams that made the playoffs. Furthermore, the Yankees are much better than last season. That is indisputable.
The Yankees have received better-than-expected contributions from Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera. The duo is batting a combined .283 with 11 homers, 53 RBI and 23 stolen bases, lest we forget Gardner’s mad – and inspirational – inside-the-park home run and Cabrera’s .375/2/14 in close-or-late situations (of his 34 RBIs, 12 have either tied or put the Yankees ahead after the seventh inning). The Yankees had a deal in place to send Cabrera to Milwaukee for Mike Cameron and a one-year stop-gap in center, and Cameron is .258/14/42/4. With Gardner, Cabrera and Eric Hinske playing well, the Yankees have outfield depth and absolutely no reason to rush Austin Jackson.
Hinske has three home runs in 12 at-bats with the Yankees, two more than he hit in 106 at-bats with the Pirates before he was acquired in a trade on June 30.
Phil Hughes in relief: 18.1 innings, seven hits, two runs, five walks, 19 Ks. He has solved the Yankees’ eighth-inning problem; a bullpen operates at peak performances when each reliever knows and excels in his given role. Here’s hoping this is a warm-up to many great years as a starting pitcher. And Hughes will be a starter. You don’t groom promising and electric young arms to be eighth-inning or middle relievers their whole careers. Look at Johan Santana.
Playing in likely his final season in New York, Hideki Matsui is 12 of his last 30 with four homers and 12 RBI. He’s .265-14-40 in 234 at-bats (78 games) as a full-time DH. Not bad for a veteran of both Japan and the Major Leagues now playing on shot knees.
Playing in the second of a 10-year, $275-million contract, Alex Rodriguez is 22 of his last 59 (.373) with eight homers, 22 RBI and 17 runs scored and batting.256. Not bad for someone whose game is back in form after missing the season’s first month recovering from hip surgery and with a second one awaiting him this winter.
The not-so-good: The Yankees’ 51-37 record is impressive. The fact that they’re 2-9 against the Red Sox and Angels is alarming. Any visions of a 27th World Championship will go through Anaheim and Boston. If the season ended today, the Yankees would play the Angels in a five-game series with at most three in Southern California.
Since 2004, the Yankees are 18-33 against the Angels overall and 7-18 at Angels Stadium. And guess what? They play the Red Sox and Angels 13 more times between now and the end of the season, including a return trip to Anaheim September 21-23, and after an off day, a three-game set at Yankee Stadium September 25-27 that may decide the AL East – and if the Rays have any say, possibly the playoff fate of either the Yankees or Red Sox.
Andy Pettitte is 8-5 with a 4.85 ERA, yet in his last four starts is 1-2 with a 10.38 ERA. He’s shown flashes of the old Pettitte, but you wonder more and more how much he has left.
Joba Chamberlain is 4-2 with a 4.25 ERA, but he’s had a no-decision in 11 of 17 starts and is off three straight in which he’s allowed nine hits or more. He’s pitched into the seventh inning once since June 7 and a combined eight over his last two. For the past couple of weeks the back-end of the Yankees rotation has been unreliable while Chien-Ming Wang’s potentially lost season leaves a gaping hole. Will the Yankees be compelled to go all-in for Roy Halladay?
In between: CC Sabathia is 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .218 batting average since May and A-Rod’s return. Overall, though, he’s 8-6, 3.86. With a great seven-inning effort at Minnesota in between, here are Sabathia’s two other pitching lines this month:
July 2 vs. Seattle: 5 2/3 IP, 10 H, six R, three BB, eight K, one HR (loss)
July 12 at L.A. Angels: 6 2/3 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 3 BB, six K (loss)
“So, so,” Sabathia said of his first 19 starts after Sunday’s game. “I was in a pretty good slot for a while, but I need to do better.”
Sabathia’s been a strong second-half pitcher his whole career (3.39 ERA/1.21 WHIP/.243 BAA compared to 3.89/1.26/.249). It’s one reason the Yankees spent big money to get him and they’ll be hoping for another yeoman effort, especially if not even a serviceable fifth starter can be had at the trade deadline.
By Glenn Giangrande
Would the Blue Jays ever consider trading Roy Halladay to the Yankees?
Should the Yanks inquire and see what it would take?
Fans of the Yanks often get criticized by others for wanting to play “fantasy baseball” – just bring in as many stars as possible! However, if recent comments made by Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi are to be believed, the right-handed ace could be in play.
“We have to see what’s out there,” Ricciardi said. “I’m not saying we’re going to shop him. But if something makes sense, we at least have to listen. We’re (leaning) more toward listening than we’ve ever been.”
While trading Halladay would send a tough message to Blue Jays fans, it appears to be the right move. Toronto’s pitching staff is chock full of youngsters, and the Jays are playing in a division filled with teams built to win now. Halladay’s big-money contract runs through next season, and he does have a full no-trade clause. Of course, clauses can be waived, money talks…you get the idea.
Prior to last season, the Yankees chose to hold onto a number of young chips while Johan Santana was on the trade market. With Andy Pettitte close to the end of his career, Chien-Ming Wang seemingly out for a long period of time, and Joba Chamberlain regressing in the rotation, Halladay is the kind of pitcher worth emptying the tank to acquire. Every youngster except Phil Hughes should be in play – he’s too valuable to this year’s cause in the bullpen.
Austin Jackson? Sure. Lastings Milledge was once a can’t-miss outfield prospect, remember?
Manuel Banuelos, the 18-year-old strikeout artist turning heads in Charleston? No problem. The Yankees are in the business of winning now. If a player isn’t on the Major League roster and is eligible to be traded, he’s expendable.
It’s not likely that Ricciardi would move Halladay to a divisional rival, and if this situation does indeed develop, a number of teams will put together packages for the ace that may trump what the Yankees could offer.
Still, he’d look so good pitching alongside CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett down the stretch that a phone call must be placed.
by Glenn Giangrande
The developing Phil Hughes\Brian Bruney eighth inning saga should be irrelevant. Someone get the media to take the pedal off the gas!
Joe Girardi sent the press into a tizzy on Friday by simply having Hughes record the final two outs in the second-to-last inning of the Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Blue Jays. Surely that must mean Bruney is finished in that role,
Why should it matter to anyone outside of the Yankees clubhouse who gets outs in specific innings other than the ninth? Call me when there’s a change at closer and Mariano Rivera is wrestled from his throne by Father Time. In a perfect baseball world, bullpens would be interchangeable, with relievers having the capacity to succeed in any situation, perhaps with the exception of long relief since pitchers who generally throw in the late innings tend not to be stretched out for that kind of work.
Bruney is clearly going through a rough patch. Heading into the July 4th matinee with Toronto, he had allowed five walks in his previous four appearances after giving up none over his previous 11. The three hits he surrendered versus the Mariners on June 30th almost doubled his season total. Should the fact that Girardi made a common sense decision and used his most effective reliever to get a couple of big outs in the 8th be treated as a major story?
Hughes. Bruney. Aceves. Coke. Robertson. Marte, wherever he is and whenever he returns. Whoever is throwing the best should get the late inning chances, and the press shouldn’t treat every appearance as if the pitcher was moving a mountain.
By Jon Lane
Inclement weather, part of the absolute worst June ever in terms of never-ending rain, compromised my time away, but only a little bit. I enjoyed quality time with the family and the week that was, from a landmark live streaming announcement, to Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, to a one-sided Subway Series and capped by the great Mariano Rivera, it was seven eventful days, along with a few to pause and mourn the tragic losses and reflect upon the legacies of two cultural icons.
Strictly in the confines of baseball and the Yankees, many props to the newly-wed Joe Auriemma, and fellow colleague Glenn Giangrande, for filling the YES Blog. You’ll be reading plenty more from them and seeing the duo on Pinstriped Weekly as the season progresses. Wrestling fans are familiar with this expression from Jim Ross: “Business is about to pick up.”
? Turns out that’s what happened late this morning with the Yankees’ acquisition of veteran Eric Hinske (pictured) from the Pirates for two Minor Leaguers. It was only yesterday when Brian Cashman provided his usual GM-speak when discussing the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31 by saying, “We’ve got the pieces in place.” When you spend $400 million on people, you expect to have the pieces in place, yet Cashman is best at flying stealth before pulling the trigger. Expect him to look into Huston Street’s availability to buff the bullpen.
Since losing Xavier Nady for the season hurts, Hinske will help share the load with Nick Swisher in right field and even help spell Alex Rodriguez; last season for the Rays, he started 47 games in right, 37 in left, nine at first base and four at third. He’s never hit for average, but the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year slugged 20 homers with 60 RBIs and 21 doubles for the AL Champions and won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007. This is a guy whose value goes beyond subpar numbers. He’ll provide intangibles and grit, which even the high-priced Yankees need.
The team will need to make a corresponding roster move today, which means either Brett Tomko will be designated for assignment or Ramiro Pena optioned to Triple-A so he can play every day. This morning I figured Shelley Duncan’s return was imminent, but that won’t happen.
? The Yankees are winners of five straight – albeit three came against the New York Mess, er, Mets – while having busted out offensively. The numbers from their last three games against a Quadruple-A lineup from Flushing are staggering: The Yankees outscored the Mets, who never led, 33-3 and held them to a .102 batting average. Jerry Manuel’s men were atrocious defensively and lifeless all around; only Livan Hernandez and Gary Sheffield showed any kind of heart and soul. Worst of all, Francisco Rodriguez issued a bases-loaded walk to Mariano Rivera. Embarrassing. And word had it Carlos Beltran may need microfracture surgery, which would mean his season is over and career in jeopardy. Whoa boy.
It turned out Beltran won’t need surgery. But still, there are big problems in Queens.
? Rivera is the greatest closer to ever play baseball. Period. I don’t care if you love or hate the Yankees, this is as close the truth gets to opinion. Jim Kaat and Steven Goldman each ruminate on the magnificent Mo.
? In case you bring up that the Yankees bullpen owns a 1.60 ERA in their last 13 games and how well Phil Hughes has pitched, would you honestly trust this current collaboration against the Red Sox in late September? The Yankees are in decent shape: They lead the surging Rays by a game-and-a-half in the Wild Card race and are 3 ½ behind the Red Sox in the AL East while having outscored opponents 37-13 since Joe Girardi’s ejection last Wednesday. But neither that nor anything masks their insidious 0-8 record against Boston. The Red Sox have an elite bullpen from top to bottom, the Yankees don’t, and that’s been the biggest factor in this one-sided rivalry.
By Glenn Giangrande
Me thinks it’s time to proclaim Phil Hughes a reliever for the remainder of the 2009 season.
By Jon Lane
A few quick hits to set the table for Game 2 of Yankees vs. Red Sox (YES HD, 7 p.m.):
David Ortiz is having a miserable season, but leave it to the Yankees
to be the antidote for his ills. Ortiz hit one to Cambridge Tuesday
night to bring his average against them to .304 (7-for-23) with a
homer, seven RBIs and four runs scored in the six games between the
rivals. I couldn’t kill A.J. Burnett for Ortiz going yard despite it
being a terrible pitch. After all, he is still Big Papi, but a two-run double to Nick Green in the third
inning that bumped Boston’s lead to 5-0? Absolutely inexcusable. To
think that one reason why Yankees signed Burnett was his success
against the AL East last season, along with the
if-you-can’t-beat-him-sign-him theory. In two starts against the Red
Sox, Burnett has allowed 11 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings, a 12.91 ERA.
My colleagues Jerome Preisler and Steven Goldman aptly sum up where
Burnett stands at this point.
It’s bad enough the Yankees are 0-6 against the Red Sox; any prayer they have of capturing the AL East, this has to improve – immediately. Tonight it’s hold your breath with Chien-Ming Wang taking the hill. Even during his peak performance, Wang is 3-3, 5.11 in seven career starts at Fenway Park, while Ortiz owns a .444 (16-for-36) lifetime average with two homers and four doubles against the right-hander. Keep your expectations in check, says John Flaherty, but Wang needs to perform. If not, Phil Hughes must be summoned at the first sign of trouble.
Amazing, the Yankees are winners of 19 of 26 and are tied for first place, but this has the settings of another panic attack if Wang can’t get it done. He may be limited to 85-90 pitches, but that sinker needs to be biting. At the very least Wang has to keep the Yankees in the game; Hughes, Alfredo Aceves and Mariano Rivera will be ready and rested. Of course it’ll help if the offense can muster more than two hits off Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield.
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?
By Jon Lane
The Yankees just announced that Chien-Ming Wang will return to the starting rotation and start tomorrow afternoon against the Rangers. CC Sabathia, initially the scheduled starter, will now go Friday against the Rays. This also means Phil Hughes will pitch out of the bullpen.
Wang tossed three scoreless innings in relief of Hughes on Sunday, walking one and striking out three while looking sharp. As well as Hughes has pitched, Wang is a two-time 19-game winner. You can’t keep him idle and waiting. He’s the present and Hughes is the future, and the latter will be around a long, long time.
Stay logged on to YESNetwork.com for reaction from manager Joe Girardi.
By Jon Lane
Wow! Such fervor on YESNetwork.com these days. The source of it is a 23-year-old kid from Nebraska who set a standard so high as a set-up man that everything he does is measured against it. And each time he fails or simply takes his lumps, his destiny has to be altered permanently.
Yeah, here we go again. Joba Chamberlain belongs in the bullpen. It’s a topic that just won’t go away (at least we’re not discussing PEDs, the height of annoyance, this time) and right now it’s hot. Chamberlain has labored as a starter, Chien-Ming Wang is not in the rotation and everyone in the Yankees ‘pen not named Mariano Rivera can’t be completely trusted. Since we live in a town that demands instant gratification, Joba to the ‘pen will solve all the Yankees’ problems.
I’m not suggesting this is an argument without merit. It is. Chamberlain was fantastic in his eighth-inning role and only midges off Lake Erie dented him in 2007. Pitching out of the ‘pen allows him to go from zero to 100 using his best two pitches (2 > 4, writes Chris Shearn) while thriving off his emotion. Somebody has to eventually replace Rivera and Chamberlain is currently the best candidate to do it. Many made their points and they’re all valid. Kim Jones is practical. Mike Francesa is angry. Jerome Preisler combines passion with historical precedent. You the readers are speaking too. At last check of our homepage poll, it was 171-5 with the belief that Chamberlain will be back in the bullpen before season’s end. I can’t scientifically prove it, but there are probably many who initially believed in Joba the starter have since changed their tune, which is their right.
I’m not budging. Why are we drawing conclusions after 21 career starts? Does Joba have to be Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander, two guys off the top of my head who instantly met (or meeting) success as rookie starters? Do enough people study the cases of Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine or Zack Greinke, the latter who four seasons ago was 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA and now 8-1, 0.84 with five complete games? (Greinke also overcame social anxiety disorder and depression, another layer to his amazing story.)
Another question: Does anyone notice if Chamberlain was pitching in Kansas City?
Look, Joba the starter has been a tease and often frustrating, but 99 out of 100 young starters pegged for greatness experience a learning curve, and some longer than others. If Chamberlain is moved back to the bullpen, you stunt his development and reduce the innings pitched the Yankees are trying to limit anyway. Furthermore, each time Phil Hughes is lights out, he’s the phenom everyone was dreaming about. Every time he bombs – which will happen again – he’s a bust and belongs either in the ‘pen or the Minor Leagues. You can’t have it both ways and the Yankees have made the choice to build not for only this year, but rebuild a program they hope will come close to winning four World Championships in five seasons.
A big part of that is learning from failure and learning how to lose. Chamberlain deserves the same education. Once he’s a finished product he’ll have four dominant out pitches and a fully matured state of mind. I’ll take an elite starter over someone who only gets three outs and isn’t assured of pitching in every close game.
Another perspective: The problem isn’t Joba the starter. It’s the construction and handling of the current bullpen. Alfredo Aceves needs a defined role and why Jose Veras is continually asked to get big outs I’ll never figure out. David Robertson is back in the bigs. Use him and not just for mop-up duty. Thankfully for the Yankees, Brian Bruney will be back, and this time every extra precaution will be taken. That will leave you with Bruney – not Chamberlain – as your eighth-inning guy, and young guns Robertson, Mark Melancon and Phil Coke as the underbelly.
A nicely-laid plan unless the Yankees manage to swing a deal for Huston Street.
About Wang: Use him too. Don’t wait another nine days to dust him off, but don’t just shrug your shoulders and put him back into the rotation. Injury or not, Wang’s ERA was still 34.50 after three starts and that’s your judge and jury. Hughes got hurt and failed last year. He’s earning his way back. Now it’s Wang’s turn.
By Jon Lane
I’m trying to figure out how and why the Yankees are handling Chien-Ming Wang.
Here’s someone coming into 2009 who was 46-15 with a 3.74 ERA in three seasons and slotted in between CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the team’s revamped rotation.
Alright, Wang started 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA,
allowing 23 runs on 23 hits over six innings. Apparently he wasn’t completely over the foot injury that ended his season in 2008 and that contributed to the poor results. So the Yankees disable him to allow him to start from the beginning and clear his head. He throws 13 scoreless innings in two rehab games for Triple-A Scranton. One more was scheduled before his return to the big-league rotation, but that was changed when Joba Chamberlain was struck by a line drive in the first
inning of a game last Thursday, which meant Wang was told to return to New York and serve as a needed arm in a depleted bullpen.
That’s fair. You could not blame the Yankees for making a move they didn’t want to make. The problem now is Wang is stuck in purgatory and the reasons are perplexing. Last night, after Chamberlain was removed after laboring for four innings, was the ideal spot to give Wang not just work, but quality work; the score was 3-1 Rangers in the bottom of the fifth.
Alas, Joe Girardi summoned Alfredo Aceves, who for reasons known only to Girardi pitched a meaningless ninth inning of an eventual 11-1 Yankees win the day before. Wang has thrown three innings in the last nine days. Aceves has been the best out of all of Mariano Rivera’s set-up men.
Alas, Aceves (who has been real good) gave up three runs on four hits in two innings and the Yankees lost 7-5. Girardi said Aceves was his choice because he was the hot hand. So why pitch him in garbage time, in the middle of the game, while a two-time 19-game winner is sitting confused on the bench?
“I just felt like we’d go to Ace,” Girardi said.
Meanwhile, it’s hurry up and wait with Wang, out of the rotation with Phil Hughes pitching well and no chance he goes to the Minors because he’s out of options. The Yankees hope A.J. Burnett can turn it up tonight and lead the Yankees to a series win over a first-place team, but would it hurt to give Wang some work?
“This is very hard for me,” Wang told reporters in Arlington, Texas, before yesterday’s game. “At least I could pitch. Now I don’t know what to do.”
And observers of the team are left wondering why.