“The Noose”

Mike "The Noose" Mussina is at it again tonight. In a game the Yankees desperately need, he’s given up six runs over the first three innings and has the offense playing catch up right off the bat again. Mussina has just not given the team any chance to win of late, and questions have arisen as to replacing him in the rotation.

There’s only one problem. The Yankees don’t have anyone that can replace him. With Kei Igawa being a complete bust, and Joba Chamberlain shining in the bullpen, where the Yankees very much need him, "The Noose" has to go out there every fifth day for the rest of the season.

That puts the Yankees at a distinct disadvantage at least one out of every five days, and given their place in the standings, that is just too frequent an occurrence.  The Red Sox have caught fire again and are quickly distancing themselves, making this week’s series a do or die in regards to the division. But the Yankees can’t worry about Boston at this point. They need to win every game to keep pace with Seattle, Cleveland, Detroit, and Los Angeles. They have to beat out at least two of those four teams to get in.

As good as the Yankees have played since the all-star break, it may be all for naught if the rest of the pitchers in the rotation are unable to reestablish some consistency and pick up the slack for Mussina, who is quickly making a case for himself to be left out of a potential playoff rotation.

The offense has been in a bit of a funk, compared to where it was, but should be able to be relied upon. But if no one can go out there and put zeros on the board with some consistency, it won’t matter. There are not many games left on the schedule, and the pressure is mounting. If the Red Sox come in to New York this week and put a hurting on the Yankees, it could be enough to put the Yankees in panic mode.

Some one needs to step up, and it doesn’t look like Mussina is capable of being that guy.

Need to Get Back on Track

After really closing the gap on Boston in a hurry, the Yankees have lost 5 out of their last 6 games and stand 11 games out heading into tonight. Needing a win very badly, the Yankees must be glad to see Andy Pettitte on the mound at Baltimore, a bad team that’s getting worse by the day.

However, Jeremy Guthrie is on the hill for Baltimore sporting a 2.40 ERA. No one really talks about this guy but he’s a quality pitcher. Not to mention the Yankee bats are once again in a slumber, at least when it counts. They stranded a ton of runners in San Francisco, and really had some poor at bats (particularly Abreu and Matsui).

It’s important for the Yankees to get off to a good start in this series with a win tonight. I just wish I would stop seeing Johnny Damon in the lead-off spot…

Should’ve Swept, But Last Night Impressive

Coming into this series, I really thought the Yankees needed to sweep the Red Sox. Granted, that’s asking a lot when playing the hottest team in baseball at Fenway Park, but the pitching was lined up to do it. Had Jeter not booted the double play ball that would’ve kept the score at 7-6 on Saturday, I really believe the Yankees would’ve won that game. Anyway…

Last night was a very impressive victory. The Yankees had a four run lead into the 5th with their best pitcher on the mound, and saw that lead vanish in one inning. Not to mention Pettitte seemed to get injured. An inning like that can really deflate a team, but the Yankees showed their grit last night.

Robinson Cano (I love this kid, he is going to be such a tremendous hitter for years) hit an RBI triple off the center field wall in the 8th inning of Okajima to tie the game. In a pathetic showing, the Yankees failed to get him in from third with nobody out. Again, something that can be very deflating for a team. But up came Alex with 2 outs in the 9th against Papelbon, who threw an 0-2 fastball on the outside corner – really not a bad pitch in the slightest – but A-Rod stayed on the ball and took it the other way to right center into the bullpen for the game winning home run. It’s always a very, very, very good sign to see A-Rod drive the ball the other way. When he hits the ball to right field he can get extremely hot. It’s when he’s pulling everything that he struggles.

Arod_3

Mariano came on in the 9th to close it out, and did a great job, though Ortiz hit a ball very hard. That was a bit scary. But then Mo struck out Manny, and after hitting Youkilis, struck out Lowell on a cutter up and in. It’s very clear that Mo is still fine and can be very effective. The ball Ortiz hit was right down the middle. As long as he can locate, which will come from getting more work, he will be as unhittable as he’s always been.

Two out of three ain’t bad, as they say. The way the Yankees have been going you have to take it as a Yankee fan. Two out of three is what they need to take from each team. If they do that, they’ll be fine and will make the playoffs. But they have to carry over from a game like this and play well tonight in Chicago.

A couple of notes:

  • Finally he went with Brian Bruney in the 8th inning last night. Farnsworth pitched the 7th. I’m not sure if Torre did this because he wanted Farnsworth to face the heart of the Boston order, or if this is a permanent switch. I believe Bruney should stay the 8th inning guy.
  • Because of Giambi’s injury, Torre is forced to make the move I’ve been wanting to see for weeks. Melky is the every day center fielder and Damon is the DH. Melky’s defense is so valuable, as seen once again last night on the amazing he catch he made on the warning track. Damon’s got no shot at making that play. There were also instances where runners could’ve tried to go 1st to 3rd if Damon was out there, but were forced to hold at 2nd because of Melky’s arm. It’s known around the league to not run on this kid, and having someone out there like that saves the Yankees from team’s taking extra bases on them.
  • As a final thought, why not bring back Bernie?! With Giambi and Mientkiewicz out for the long-term, the Yankees two pinch hitters are every day players – Melky and Phelps. There’s no bat on the bench right now. Why not bring back Bernie? It’s not like Kevin Thompson is going to be a defensive replacement, and he’s certainly not going to pinch hit. He’s not serving any purpose. Bernie could be a reliable bat off the bench and could even DH against lefties. I don’t see how this could possibly hurt the team.

Big four game set in Chicago against a team who is not really playing well at all. The White Sox have a lot of trouble putting runs on the board and it looks like the Yankee bats are starting to get hot. If they can put up 5 runs per game, that should be enough to win. The focus is from here has to be to win every series, which would mean taking three out of four. The pitching is of course a question, but with them facing such a dormant lineup, the Yankees just need to swing the bats well and they’ll be fine.

Getting Hard to Watch

21-27. Wow. 12 games out of 1st place. As it stands right now, the Yankees need to go about 74-40 the rest of the way to make the playoffs. For a team that can’t win a series and just got swept at home, that seems like a long shot. There’s a lot of problems with this team obviously, but here are the major issues:

  • Torre is completely mismanaging the bullpen. He wears out Proctor. Bruney has an ERA of about 1.50 and has been nothing but solid the entire season. Torre seems to refuse to use him in a big spot – big mistake.
  • Torre also is so worried about egos, and trying to play guys out of their slumps. This team needs to win games. You can’t keep putting Giambi in the lineup every day when he’s an automatic out unless he walks. Abreu needs to bat at the bottom of the order until he starts hitting again. The guys who are hitting need to be in the middle of the lineup. Cano is getting hot, move him up in the order.
  • Damon is a liability in center field. He should be the DH and Melky needs to play every day. His defense is so valuable. And he makes productive outs. He’ll hit a sac fly when needed, he can drop down a bunt, can steal a base, and can hit the ball the other way.
  • Desperate times call for desperate measures. That means when the team has an off day, skip your 5th starter! Today is an example. Pettitte could start tonight and be on normal rest, but DeSalvo is getting the start. Granted, this is probably to set up Clemens’ return over the weekend at Fenway, but this is not the first time a situation like this has come about. If you can throw your best starter on normal rest, do it. We’ve thrown kids out on the mound enough this year.
  • With the lineup struggling, the Yankees need to play more small ball and they just aren’t doing it. Torre needs to put down more bunts, put runners in motion, steal, hit and run, whatever it takes. They can’t keep sitting back and waiting for the three run home run because it just isn’t coming.

Finally, these guys just need to man up and put in the extra work and do what it takes to get themselves right so they can start winning games. Derek Jeter is still optimistic, and said that if you don’t think this team can win you should go home. I’m not saying anyone has given up, but it’s almost June already. Things need to get turned around and turned around in a hurry. At this point they should forget about the Red Sox and work on winning a series. The only way to get back into the race is to be consistent, and that means taking 2 out of 3 from everyone. But with the way they’re playing right now, that doesn’t even seem possible.

A Vintage Yankee Win

This is what Yankee fans have been looking for. Last night’s 6-2 win over the Mets looked like the Yankees of old and is huge for them heading into tonight’s series opener against the Red Sox.

Rookie Tyler Clippard was phenomenal in his big league debut, but the key to the game was the Yankee lineup. From top to bottom, everyone grinded out at bats and really made John Maine work for every out. They drew walks, worked themselves into good hitting counts, and made Maine show everything he has early.

The result – they got men on base and had multiple chances to drive in runs. Cano missed a three run home run by a couple of feet (an impressive blast into the 2nd deck the opposite way). Finally Johnny Damon came through with a bloop and then the Captain delivered a huge blow – a two-run rocket into the bleachers in left center. The following inning, the red-hot Jorge Posada delivered the knockout blow with a bomb down the right field line.

Finally the Yankees approach at the plate was where it needs to be. Even Bobby Abreu and Robinson Cano looked better at the plate. Abreu wasn’t flying open as much and Cano was a bit more patient and much more controlled at the dish. From an offensive standpoint, this game was extremely encouraging.

Clippard was great, and may get another start or two. It’s encouraging to see young pitching talent come up and do well, but for this season, Clippard doesn’t factor in to the long term plans.

The Yankees are 10.5 back of Boston heading into this series, and the Yankees are coming off of a spirited comeback that came up just short on Saturday, followed by a great win last night. This is an opportunity to get right back into the race with the Red Sox. A sweep would cut the deficit to 7.5 games, but simply a series win would show that the Yankees are not down for the count just yet.

I really believe that they could sweep the Red Sox. Our top 3 pitchers will be starting and the offense seems to be coming back to normal. Wakefield, Tavarez and Schilling are all very beatable with Moose, Wang and Pettitte going.

For right now though, tonight is the most important game of the season. Win tonight, then worry about tomorrow.

Showed Me Something

I know everyone is down on the loss to the Mets yesterday, but I actually came out of it feeling kind of good.

You can’t expect to win a game in which your starting pitcher is out of the game before even recording an out, and you have Mike Myers pitching in the first inning. With the way things were going for the Yankees, you would have expected them to get bombed, and that’s how it looked early on. Once Johnny Damon failed to bring back David Wright’s second home run, the Yankees faced an 8-2 deficit. The game seemed all but over. But then the Yankees showed something.

Derek Jeter drove in a run and after Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada homered back to back and Josh Phelps doubled, it was 8-6. Jeter ended up having a chance with runners on the corners down 2, but grounded to third.

Again a bad break was dealt to the Yankees, as Robinson Cano, who had a rough day to say the least, made a great diving play with two outs but threw the ball off of his own foot. The throw would have been online and in time. It was just a bit unlucky and the Mets’ lead went back up to four at 10-6.

The Yankees didn’t roll over and die though. Bobby Abreu plated A-Rod, thanks to Billy Wagner’s brain cramp, and the Yankees had the tying run at the plate with 1 out. Cano and Phelps both struck out to end it.

I was extremely pleased with the way the Yankees played though. The offense, which had been dormant, put 15 hits on the board, and went back to taking pitches and trying to work pitchers over. And they did all of this when it seemed they were playing a game that they just weren’t supposed to win. If not for Damon’s drop and Cano’s 3 errors, things may have played out differently.

Yes, it’s a loss. And it will hurt to see the Empire State Building in orange and blue on Monday, but this is the first time in over a week that I have felt confident as a Yankee fan. Tonight will be a battle as we’re throwing another rookie out on the mound in Tyler Clippard, but I think the Yankees will win tonight and head back home ready for Boston, with the starting pitching lined up.

This may sound crazy, but I’m looking for us to sweep the Red Sox. Joe Torre said on the FOX broadcast that there was still a lot of fight left in this team. I was a bit skeptical of that, but clearly he was right. With Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte going against the Red Sox, there’s no reason the Yankees can’t pick up 3 games in the standings. It’s possible. But as the old cliche goes – they need to just "take it one day at a time."

Hard to Be Optimistic

The Yankees are making it harder and harder for me to be optimistic. Every time you think they are going to turn things around, they go and lose another game. 18-21. That’s nothing short of ridiculous.

The pitching had been terrible, and now the hitting is nowhere to be found outside of Jeter and Posada. Really, their approach at the plate has been pitiful and a lot of guys are having terrible at bats, let alone not getting hits. I know Joe is trying to get the slumping guys going, and trying to not hurt their pride in the process, but he needs to juggle this lineup and bench guys that aren’t getting it done. Abreu? Damon? Giambi? A-Rod? Cano? These guys are doing absolutely nothing. Obviously you can’t bench them all but the lineup needs to feature the guys that are hitting right now at the top of the lineup. Here is what I would do:

1. Damon is not a great lead-off hitter people. I know everybody loves him, but he’s just not. He’s never had an on-base percentage above .380 and only twice has topped .370. That’s not good enough for a lead-off hitter. And with his injuries, he’s not as much of a base-stealing threat. When Abreu gets himself right, he needs to lead-off. Until then, Jeter should lead off. Why not get your best hitter and best on-base guy up as much as possible?

2. When Abreu is right, of course Jeter should be here. He’s perfect for the 2-hole. He hits the ball to the right side, doesn’t strike out, can bunt, hit and run – he can do it all. But right now, I would put Melky here. He’s been having quality at bats lately, and he is very good at making productive outs. He can put a bunt down for you and can pull the ball through the hole on the right side with Jeter on 1st base. Another candidate here would be Cano, but right now he’s just not making enough contact…If Damon is going to play, I would put Mientkiewicz here. He isn’t striking out all that much and is very good at handling the bat. Plus, he’s hot right now.

3. Your best hitter traditionally bats in the 3-hole. Well right now, no one is hotter than Posada. Why not put him here? Posada

4. After Jeter and Cano, really no one is doing much. Giambi is still at least worth a walk and can still get on base even if he’s not hitting. Opposing pitchers still seem to fear him for some reason, and so I’d put him in the 4-hole for now.

5. Only at the 5 hole, we’re choosing from a bunch of guys who are doing nothing. A-Rod goes here by default. Also, having him here would allow Giambi to see a few more fastballs, or if teams still are going to put Giambi on, it creates more RBI situations for Alex who, if he can figure out how to hit the ball to right field again, may be able to come through here and there.

6. Matsui showed signs of coming out of his struggles in Chicago. He hit a couple of balls hard, but still grounds into way too many double plays. But he still puts on a good at bat most times up at the plate, so if Giambi and A-Rod can find ways to get on, Matsui can really wear down a pitcher.

7. I know it’s a run of lefties from here on out, but right now Mientiewicz is the hottest of them. If Damon is in the lineup, I would bump Cano up to 7, let Abreu hit 8th, and Damon 9th.

8. Cano has looked down right awful. It’s sad too because the kid has as much potential as anybody. He’s just suffering from A-Rod syndrome right now and is jumping at the ball instead of waiting for it to come to him. It seems he’s trying to pull everything like A-Rod does when he gets in long, pathetic slumps. These guys get so anxious. Hit the ball the other way again Robby!…Abreu’s here with Damon in lineup.

9. Abreu can turn the lineup over nicely and act as a leadoff hitter, making Jeter a 2-hitter again in later innings. His swing is as ugly as they come though. All his weight is headed for the first base dug out, so if he sees anything on the outer half, he’s got no chance. He’s so easy to pitch to right now. Pound him away and he’s not doing anything. He’s another one who needs to dive in a bit and just try to drive every ball the other way. Forget about right field. Hit it to left…Again, Damon here if he’s in the lineup. He’d serve as a 2-hitter, with Abreu acting as a lead-off hitter, and Jeter would follow Damon when the lineup turns over.

This is what I would go with right now. You can’t keep putting Abreu and Damon at the top of the lineup and avoiding putting Posada right in the middle of things. I know Joe has to manage a bunch of egos, but he needs to win some games. And this team isn’t doing that right now. The bullpen has performed well of late, so they need to get a lead early and turn the game over to the pen.

Another solution to the problem, is for these guys to man up and have a sense of urgency. 9 1/2 games boys!! The season is about 1/4 of the way over. And Boston doesn’t look like they’re going to slow down any time soon. The wild card will be no cake walk either. Cleveland, Minnesota and Oakland are not going to be easy to beat out.

The next couple of weeks may be the most important of the season. Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule:

5/18-5/20: @ NY Mets
5/21-5/23: vs. Boston
5/25-5/27: vs. LA Angels
5/28-5/30: @ Toronto
6/1-6/3: @ Boston
6/4-6/7: @ Chi Sox

Ouch. This could be the defining time. If they continue to struggle in the upcoming weeks, it’s going to be a miracle to win the division. However, if they can get hot at the plate and win some games, they could close the gap in a hurry. Right now though, not looks like the long shot.

Torre

It starts tonight. Maybe playing their rivals will spark them a bit. Because clearly Torre hasn’t done that. The good news? Andy Pettitte starts tonight. How many times did he bail us out winning Game 2s over the years? There’s no one I’d rather have on the hill tonight.

One more note: Tyler Clippard on Sunday? I know there was a rain out on Tuesday but desperate times call for desperate measures. Wang needs to go on 3 days rest and start Sunday night. That could be the game that decides the series and the Yankees have to, HAVE TO, win 2 out of 3 this weekend.

THE ROCKET RETURNS

Oh my God. After I was all fired up and ranting about Proctor, all of a sudden Susan Waldman made my day. Roger Clemens is a Yankee again! Again, I’m listening on the radio so I haven’t seen the television broadcast but it seems that Clemens was on the jumbotron and announced his return.

We knew George was angry, but we didn’t know he was desperate yet. Fire Joe? Hmm. No. How about sign Roger for a bijillion dollars. Oh yes. He’s going to pay this guy like he is the savior. And, well, he just may be.

The questions about the Yankee rotation will now be dead. Wang, Pettitte, Moose, and now Roger is as good a rotation as any in baseball. Clemens will eat innings, give the Yankees a fire that they haven’t had on the mound, and will make Manny and Big Sloppy a little bit more uncomfortable than they usually are digging in.

You know Clemens will perform. He wouldn’t play unless he knew he could still dominate and win a World Series. But the intangibles that he’ll bring may mean even more. He’ll serve as a mentor for young Phil Hughes, show him the ropes and let the rook pick his brain. But just having him will give the team much more confidence and could really wake them out of this funk.

Finally, the Yankees getting Clemens means that the Red Sox don’t. This was even earlier than expected too. Most believed he wouldn’t pitch until June. The Yankees needed this. This is huge.

Shut Up Sterling

I’m listening to today’s game on the radio and I just heard Scott Proctor threw at Betancourt after Phelps was hit. John Sterling and Susan Waldman are whining about the bullpen and the innings and how it’s stupid how these guys show that they’re macho. But these two just don’t get it.

This team is 13-15! 13-15! They need a **** wake up call. If Proctor thinks this could be it, then fine. And it’s about time one of our pitchers had a pair of you know what. If they show that they’ll throw inside or hit someone, maybe Jeter wouldn’t get plunked all the time.

I have no problem with what Proctor did. He did it with nobody on and two outs in the 7th to a guy at the bottom of the lineup. All it cost the bullpen was for someone to get one extra out.

Sterling and Waldman need to realize that this team needs a kick in the butt every now and then and some kind of spark. Who cares if the **** bullpen has to get one extra out.

Hooray for Pitching

It’s amazing how much easier it is to win baseball games when you get solid starting pitching. Hughes, Pettitte and Moose all gave strong outings and the offense did just enough to get a much-needed sweep in Texas. A couple of things of note from this series:

  • Now everyone knows why the Yankees did not want to bring up Hughes this early. However the kid looked fantastic. I was amazed at how live his fastball was and the late movement on it. He looks like the real deal.
  • Torre should have let Pettitte start the 7th inning yesterday. He went 1-2-3 in the 6th inning and was at about 100 pitches. On a day when you have a DH, he should have let him try and go one more – especially when Mussina was starting the nightcap coming off injury.
  • Mariano is fine! Can that nonsense stop now?! He just hadn’t had any work. Ask any reliever. If they don’t throw, they tend to lose their effectiveness in ballgames. He just needed to get some work – yesterday two saves.
  • Abreu and Cano need to get going. I thought Cano was back with a 4-5 game on Tuesday, but he was 0 for the day yesterday. Abreu is doing nothing in the 3-hole. I liked that Torre batted him lead-off on Tuesday. When he’s getting on base, I think he is a better lead-off hitter than Damon. Abreu’s on base percentage with the Yankees last year was .419. Damon’s was .359 and he’s never had an OBP higher than .382 in his career. Plus, Abreu can steal just as many bags as Damon. I think it’s something that should be considered once Abreu gets back on track.
  • Brian Bruney has been awesome all season and needs to be considered for the role of set-up man. Cardiac Kyle Farnsworth just makes things too dramatic all the time. I would use him earlier in the game, see if he performs better under less pressure. To me, Bruney should be the 8th inning guy right now.
  • Finally, Carl Pavano could be out the next two years! Tommy John surgery. You know what? Good. Get this guy out of here and away from the team. He’s just a distraction. It’s better to have him out for good than to have him hanging around the team and everyone wondering what his deal is. Just tell him to go away. It’s better for the team and I’m kind of glad to hear this news. To me, Pavano wasn’t going to give us much anyway, so I’d rather throw Rasner out there every 5th day until Hughes comes back or until Cashman finds a starter through a deal – one that could possibly ship Farnsworth out as well.

    After a pathetic weekend, the Yankees took care of business against a team they are clearly better than. They hadn’t done that yet this season (Tampa Bay, Baltimore anyone?). The next 10 games are against Seattle and Texas, so the ship should be righted sooner rather than later.
    Igawa gets the ball tonight, coming off a great outing. Hopefully that is the real Igawa, not the high-school-like pitcher we saw to start the season.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.