• Melancon Mania Continues

    Posted by on July 27th, 2008 · Comments (2)

    Two years after Mark Melancon first appeared on the Yankeeland radar, here’s a nice and up-to-date report on him via the Post:

    A scout who saw him recently labeled Melancon as the Yankees’ top bullpen arm in the minors.

    “Out of the ‘pen, he’s at the top of the list,” the scout said.

    The scout was equally impressed with the fact that Melancon’s velocity was back at pre-surgery levels, with a plus fastball sitting between 92-94 mph, and a plus 12-to-6 power curveball that ran between 81 and 84.

    “Just a year [after the surgery], to have everything back with his kind of stuff . . . that’s exceptional,” the scout said. “A kid can’t come back the way he did without working hard.”

    With two plus power pitches, Melancon, 23, fits the textbook definition of a closer, and the scout believes he eventually could succeed Mariano Rivera in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen.

    “With those two pitches, I would say [yes],” the scout said. “You’re talking a power fastball and breaking pitch, and he comes right at you. He throws strikes. He’s not the closer who is going to come in and walk the house across.”

    One AL and one NL scout who saw Melancon in college liked his arm, and both agreed with the other scout’s assessment that he could eventually follow in Rivera’s footsteps as the Yankees’ closer.

    “Mark’s a guy who I think a lot of the area scouts really liked because he was a competitor,” the NL scout said. “He was always a ‘take the ball’ kind of pitcher. He wasn’t scared of anything, was aggressive, a strike-thrower.”

    “There are some guys who are middle relievers, that don’t have the mentality to come in at the end of the game,” the AL scout said. “But the way he goes about his business and gets the job done . . . once you see him, you’ll know.”

    Yankees fans have been aware of Melancon’s near readiness for a while now. Perhaps the only remaining question on Mark Melancon is how to say his last name?

    I’ve seen it as “muh-LAN-sen” (in the Bergen Record) and as “muh-LANCE-in” (in the Times). Then again, Mike Ashmore says it’s “Mell-ann-son.”

    According to the Yankees 2008 Media Guide, it’s “Muh-Lansen.” That’s close to “muh-LAN-sen” and “muh-LANCE-in.” So, that’s what I’m going with too.

    Busy Bernie

    Posted by on July 27th, 2008 · Comments (5)

    Via Ken Davidoff -

    The Yankees are working with Bernie Williams to ensure that the centerfielder, who left the team with hard feelings after the 2006 season, says a public goodbye to Yankee Stadium this season.

    The team invited Williams to Oldtimers Day on Aug. 2. For now, Williams has declined because of a long-planned vacation with his family. Club officials are holding out hope that he will change his mind this week.

    Nevertheless, if Williams isn’t honored on Oldtimers Day, he will be on some other appropriate occasion. If it isn’t an entire day dedicated to Williams, then there will be some sort of public acknowledgment that will give the fans a chance to thank Williams.

    The Yankees tried to arrange for Williams to pull the Stadium “countdown lever” when it went from 52 (regular-season home games left) to 51, Williams’ longtime uniform number, on June 6. But he had another commitment that night.

    It’s been 660 days since Bernie Williams last wore a Yankees uniform. Therefore, in a sense, you can say that Bernie’s been on vacation for the last 94 weeks.

    Williams should wake up and smell the coffee. With this “I’m busy” routine, he’s going to turn his Yankees legacy from a potential “somewhere between Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly” level to a potential “somewhere between Willie Randolph and Roy White” level – very quickly.

    Further, at some point, soon, the Yankees should say “Hey, we tried to get Bernie back. But, enough is enough. From this point on, we’re done asking. And, now, he’s going to have to start asking to come back.”

    Melky For Bannister?

    Posted by on July 27th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Via Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star with a hat tip to Peter Abraham -

    Should the Royals send pitcher Brian Bannister back to New York if offered outfielder Melky Cabrera or another run-production bat in return?

    Such an offer might be forthcoming, because the Yankees appear determined to boost their rotation and are showing increased interest in Bannister as an alternative if ongoing efforts to acquire Seattle’s Jarrod Washburn reach an impasse.

    Nothing appears imminent, but the framework for a deal seems to exist because New York has already shown a willingness to part with Cabrera. Add this: The Royals nearly obtained Cabrera in a trade-deadline swap two years ago for veteran outfielder Reggie Sanders before Sanders suffered an injury.

    The Yankees, like several teams, previously contacted the Royals regarding pitcher Zack Greinke. One major-league source said New York had offered Cabrera and second baseman Robinson Cano in exchange for Greinke and a position player thought to be outfielder Mark Teahen.

    Discussions fizzled when the Royals showed little willingness to trade Greinke.

    Brian Bannister? Sounds like this is out there just to light a fire under the Mariners. Either that, or, Bob Dutton of the Star just had some column to fill today. Bannister is just another version of Darrell Rasner – and, the Yankees already have that.

    Washburn Soon To Arrive?

    Posted by on July 26th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Via George King -

    According to several sources, the Steinbrenner family has given GM Brian Cashman the financial green light to acquire lefty Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners, a move that is expected to be completed shortly.

    While the Yankees won’t part with high-level prospects, if the Mariners want something better than what the Yankees are willing to give, the Mariners are going to have to take Kei Igawa, who today was out-righted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is no longer on the 40-man roster. Igawa is in the second year of a five-year deal worth $20 million.

    With the Yankees playing at night on Sunday, and the M’s playing so close to Boston (in Toronto), it will be interesting to track this story going forward, during the day tomorrow.

    July 26th @ The Red Sox

    Posted by on July 26th, 2008 · Comments (3)

    We went to the Monmouth County Fair today. So, I missed some of this one today – other than what I heard on the radio, driving to the fair. (When we left the car, the Yanks were up, 5-2, in the sixth – with Abreu coming up with runners on first and second.)

    From what I heard on the radio, and gathered together once we were home this evening, it looked like Andy Pettitte gutted it out after he was forced to work some in the first inning – giving the Yankees a respectable six frames.

    And, once you got past the seventh inning – where the Red Sox managed to get the tying run to the on-deck circle with one out – the game was in the bag for the Yankees…thanks to some weak pitching from Boston’s Craig Hansen in the eighth. (Although Hansen gained himself some Red Sox Nation favor when he drilled A-Rod with a pitch.)

    The Red Sox really seem back on their heels these days. I’m sure the whole “Manny” thing doesn’t help. Good effort by the Yankees, again, today, to keep the Sox from getting up on their toes.

    It’s also nice to see the new guys, Nady and Marte, get right into action today. Also good to see LaTroy Hawkins sent packing and Kei Igawa taken off the 40-man roster. And, it makes sense, now, to have Brett Gardner return to the minors for regular At Bats.

    Hey, today, the Yankees and I were doing the same thing – just having a fun day at the park. Gotta say “Thanks Yanks!” to that. When things synch-up like this…for me…it makes it a lot easier to sleep at night. Good day with the family. Nothing to lament about in Yankeeland. If that’s not a mental version of a summertime hot toddy…then nothing is…

    Yanks Package In Nady/Marte Revised

    Posted by on July 26th, 2008 · Comments (9)

    About 20 minutes ago, I had just sat down with with a nice glass of Diet Coke on ice along with one of my favorite “at home” lunches – some cold turkey meatballs, a slice of swiss cheese, and sliced tomatoes on a reduced-carb bagel – and then I saw a report on ESPN News that said the Yankees were sending Dan McCutchen and Jeff Karstens to the Pirates, along with Jose Tabata and Ross Ohlendorf, and not Phil Coke and George Kontos (for Xavier Nady & Damaso Marte).

    My reaction? Whoa! (I screamed, out-loud.)

    When I said that, my wife (who was making some lunch for the kids) spun around and said “What happened?” So, I told her that that there was an update as to what the Yankees had given up in their recent trade. (I won’t tell you what she then said to me…but, it wasn’t “Oh, now I see why you have such a legit reason to scream out-loud.”)

    So, does this change my opinion on the trade? Well, since I’ve finished my lunch, been given a verbal reality slap by my wife, and had a few minutes to think about it…nah, not all that much.

    I guess you can say that Jeff Karstens and Phil Coke are a push. Both will probably have some form of a major league career. And, they could be useful to a big league team in some capacity. But, neither one of them will ever be an All-Star, etc.

    Now, getting Dan McCutchen, instead of George Kontos, is a better deal for the Pirates. Sure, McCutchen is older than Kontos. But, he’s closer to being major league ready and probably has a better attitude than Kontos. That said, it’s not a monster windfall for the Bucs to get McCutchen over Kontos…it’s just a somewhat better deal for them.

    On the whole, I’m still fine with this deal – even if it’s Dan McCutchen and Jeff Karstens being part of the package going and not Phil Coke and George Kontos.

    Do Yanks Need To Start Hitting For Power?

    Posted by on July 26th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Some interesting splits on the Yankees, to date, via Baseball-Reference.com.

    First, the Yankees’ starting pitching, month by month, with July being to-date:

    Month	G	W	L	IP	ERA
    April	29	11	12	148.0	5.17
    May	26	11	8	144.0	4.50
    June	28	11	9	165.0	3.82
    July	19	8	4	114.2	3.45
    

    As you can see, April was rough for the Yankees starters – and May was so-so. Thank you, Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes. But, since June, the Yankees starting pitching has been pretty good.

    Next, the Yankees’ bullpen, month by month, with July being to-date:

    Month	G	W	L	S   	IP	ERA
    April	82	3	3	9	104.2	3.70
    May	76	3	4	7	91.1	3.55
    June	73	5	3	8	82.0	3.95
    July	53	5	2	4	58.1	1.85
    

    New York’s bullpen was decent for the first three months of the season. But, this month, they’ve been outstanding. Makes sense…as the Yankees starting pitching has improved…there’s been less need to call on the pen…and they’ve responded well to being rested, etc.

    Lastly, the Yankees’ batting, month by month, with July being to-date:

    Month	PA	R/PA	HR/PA	BA	OBP	SLG	BAbip
    April	1094	.114	.027	.255	.326	.411	.278
    May	1010	.123	.025	.275	.339	.424	.303
    June	1091	.126	.027	.282	.358	.434	.309
    July	726	.123	.019	.262	.340	.381	.302
    

    This is where it gets somewhat ugly. Look at the Yankees HR/PA and SLG numbers here. New York is really hurting in the long ball department this month.

    What happened? Well, guys who have produced some power for the Yankees in the past – like Giambi, Abreu and Posada – have been terrible in terms of slugging this month (so far). And, Matsui is out.

    However, the Yankees have won 13 of 19 games this month, to date. And, note that the Yankees’ runs scored per plate appearance numbers (R/PA) have been consistent over the last three months. So, has the lack of pop this month hurt the Yankees? Not really – in terms of scoring at the pace they were earlier in the year, or, in terms of wins and losses in July.

    And, that’s thanks to the Yankees pitching. So, if the Yankees can continue to pitch well for the next two months, things should continue to go well for New York – even with them not getting much thump these days from guys like Giambi, Abreu, Posada and Matsui, etc.

    Austin Speaks

    Posted by on July 26th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    No, it’s not the purple kangaroo from the Backyardigans with something to say. It’s Yankees prospect Austin Jackson. And, today, Jackson spends some time with Eric SanInocencio on his Baseball Digest Daily show via Blog Talk Radio to discuss his recent hot streak, the progress he’s made this season, and his expectations heading into next season. Click here to check it out.

    Xavier Nady & Damaso Marte

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (17)

    I thought I would provide some analysis on what the Yankees reportedly acquired and gave up this evening.

    First, Damaso Marte. The Yankees looked into picking him up back in December of 2006 and again last December. And, now, they finally got him. And, maybe, they might keep him for next year too. Marte has some value. And, he’s pitched on a championship team. But, he’s not always perfect either. Then again, he’s going to help the Yankees a lot more than someone…say…like LaTroy Hawkins or Billy Traber.

    Next, Xavier Nady. He’s an interesting case. Nady was the 49th overall pick in the 2000 draft and the California League’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in 2001. After that, for the next three years, he had more downs than ups. From 2005 through 2007, Nady appeared to be a decent big league player – with an average stick. In fact, during that period, he had 1,338 Plate Appearances and created one run above what an average batter would have produced in that playing time.

    However, this season, at age 29, Xavier Nady has been one of the best hitters in his league – albeit over a span of less than 100 games. Has he turned a corner now, or, is he just a flash in the pan?

    Well, put it this way – he’s better than Justin Christian. Now, the Yankees can play Nady in left, have Johnny Damon DH, send Christian back to the minors, and use Brett Gardner off the bench. Plus, the Yankees will have Nady under contract for 2009 – and they can then use him in right field (in place of Bobby Abreu and keeping that spot warm for Austin Jackson). And, even if 2008 is a fluke, Nady has shown that he can be a league average batter…and that’s not terrible. In fact, this season, Bobby Abreu has been just about a “league average” performer – in terms of creating runs. So, perhaps, at the worst, Xavier Nady can be a right-handed Bobby Abreu for the Yankees next season?

    Bottom line, the Yankees, in picking up these two players, have now improved their big league roster for the next two months – and perhaps for next year as well. But, at what cost?

    Ross Ohlendorf, George Kontos, and Phil Coke are, indeed, pitching prospects. But, at best, they’re what you would call “C+” prospects – again, at best – and not blue-chip pitching prospects. Given the number of “C+” pitching prospects in the Yankees system, New York can afford to trade these guys to help their big league team now.

    Now, Jose Tabata is another story. Many consider him to be a future star because, prior to this season, he’s had a high batting average in the minors and he won’t be 20-years old until next month. I’ve already seen comments from some Yankees fans that New York has “sold low” on Tabata by shipping him out now.

    However, Jose Tabata has also had injury issues, his attitude has been questioned by some scouts in the past – and he’s been disciplined for insubordination a couple of times this season. Plus, he’s yet to show any homerun power to date.

    Tabata could just be one of those guys…like José Malavé, Alex Escobar, or Roberto Petagine…who looks great in the minors, at a young age, and never cuts in the majors. More times than not, that’s the case. And, based on the strikes against Tabata, to date, I don’t think the Yankees “sold low” on him – I think they sold “just in time.” Of course, time will tell as to whether or not I’m correct on this one.

    July 25th @ The Red Sox

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (11)

    So, things were different at Fenway Park tonight – compared to what they were four years ago yesterday, huh?

    What can you possible say about Joba Chamberlain? How about “Move over Mel Stottlemyre and take 1964 off the board?

    An awesome job by Chamberlain to make that one gift run (that the Yankees “scored”) hold up. Sure, the plays by Melky and Cano in the second inning were web-gems. But, tonight was all Joba.

    I love Andy Pettitte. And, what Mike Mussina’s done this season has been magic. But, right now, you can make a case that Joba Chamberlain is the ace of the Yankees starting staff. And, if the post-season started right now, I want Joba to get the ball for Games One, Four and Seven.

    Oh, did Chamberlain throw at Youkilis? Let’s be honest. To me, the answer is yes. Know what? That’s just another reason why tonight is so much different from four years and a day ago.

    Two last items…

    I guess Kyle Farnsworth still has a little Kyle Farnsworth in him? Good job by General Joe to pull the plug on him – and quickly.

    And, I finally figured out who Coco Crisp, of the Red Sox, reminds me of…

    It’s “Elaan of Troyius” from Star Trek (The Original Series). Not sure yourself? Well, check this out:

    Yanks Reportedly Acquire Nady and Marte

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (11)

    Reports suggest that the Yankees have acquired Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Phil Coke and George Kontos.

    Two weeks ago, I suggested that the Yankees should consider offering Ian Kennedy and Melky Cabrera in exchange for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. So, was the actual deal, as reported, better than the one that I suggested?

    George Kontos has promise – as does Phil Coke. But, they’re still far from being stamped as blue-chip prospects. Jose Tabata is a blue-chipper, according to some. But, he is troubled – with a bad attitude. Ross Ohlendorf, for the Yankees, was expendable.

    At first blush, I like this deal for the Yankees. What do you think?

    Quick Yanks Farm Pulse Check With Jim Callis

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (4)

    Baseball America Executive Editor Jim Callis was recently kind enough to answer some questions that I had in regard to the Yankees farm system and recent drafts. Here they are:

    WasWatching.com: Has the general opinion regarding the state of the Yankees farm system changed in the past year? If so, how has it changed, and why?

    Jim Callis: Not much, really. Their ranking is going to take somewhat of a hit because Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy have lost their prospect status (by exceeding rookie playing thresholds), and Brett Gardner and Ross Ohlendorf may as well. Jose Tabata has lost a little of his luster, too. But they still have a lot of pitching depth, and they still don’t have many position players to get excited about. Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero are the two best.

    WasWatching.com: How would you grade the Yankees draft of 2008? If you had to rank the Yankees’ drafts of 2006, 2007, and 2008, what order would you rank them in – from best to worst? Why would you rank them in that order?

    Jim Callis: First, I’ll have to throw out the standard caveat that it’s impossible to know exactly how good a draft is until five years down the road, and 2008 is tough because they haven’t signed everyone yet. That never stops us from ranking drafts, though, so here goes.

    2006 is clearly the best, with Kennedy and Chamberlain at the top, and then several more interesting guys like Zach McAllister, Dellin Betances, Mark Melancon, Daniel McCutchen and David Robertson.

    The last two drafts haven’t blown me away. They’ve signed guys for what I thought was over market value (sometimes well over market value), so I don’t think they’re going to get as much bang for their buck as they did in 2006. Assuming they sign everyone, I’d give 2008 a slight edge over 2007 if I had to pick, but they’re a tossup.

    WasWatching.com: Which players in the Yankees farm system have seen their prospect status rise and fall the most in the last year? Why has their “stock” gone up or down?

    Jim Callis: Jackson and Montero were already highly regarded, so I’m not sure if their stock has risen the most, but it is on the upswing. I’m still not sold that Montero is a catcher, though. Robertson, McCutchen and McAllister have all helped themselves. The Yankees knew they had good arms and they’re performing better. I think the guy whose stock has taken the biggest hit is Tabata. He’s still young a good prospect, but the repeated injuries and immaturity and the lack of power are frustrating.

    My thanks to Jim Callis for his time on these questions – and for allowing me to share them here.

    No Pressure, Joba, Really…

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (4)

    The last time the Yankees started a pitcher, age 22 or younger, at Fenway Park – where he made it past the fourth inning? That would be June 11, 1984 when Jose Rijo got the call for New York. But, Rijo was also knocked out of the game in the fifth inning.

    How long ago was that? Put it this way: Toby Harrah played third for the Yankees that day – and a week after that game, Lou Piniella retired as an active player.

    The last time the Yankees started a pitcher, age 22 or younger, at Fenway Park – where he made it past the fifth inning? That would be May 31, 1977 when Gil Patterson got the call for New York. But, Patterson was knocked out of the game in the sixth inning.

    How long ago was that? Put it this way: Dwight Evans, who was born a month after Bobby Thomson hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” played right for the Sox that day – and he was only 25-years old at the time.

    The last time the Yankees started a pitcher, age 22 or younger, at Fenway Park – where he made it past the sixth inning? That would be September 29, 1970 when Steve Kiline got the call for New York.

    That was a tough game. Kline pitched well – heading into the bottom of the ninth with a 4-2 lead…only to blow it…along with the “help” of some bad fielding and relief pitching…on singles by Joe Lahoud and Carl Yastrzemski…losing 5-4 in the end.

    How long ago was that? Dude, did you miss the part where I said it was 1970?

    Between Kline, Patterson, and Rijo…and today…we’ve seen Phil Hughes, Jake Westbrook, and Al Leiter (twice) have rough days as young Yankees starters on the hill at the Fens.

    Lets hope that Joba Chamberlain doesn’t melt at Fenway Park tonight – like these other young Yankees guns did…in fact, check this out…

    The last time the Yankees started a pitcher, age 22 or younger, at Fenway Park – where New York won that game? That would be June 22, 1969 when Bill Burbach started for the Yankees.

    And, the last time the Yankees started a pitcher, age 22 or younger, at Fenway Park – where New York won that game and the starting pitcher was awarded the win? That would be August 22, 1964 when Mel Stottlemyre threw a six-hit, complete-game, shut-out against the Red Sox. (New York native Jack Lamabe started for Boston that day.)

    Nineteen sixty-four!

    Now, that’s a real long time ago.

    Bridging the Statistical Gap – Q&A With Eric Seidman

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    I recently had a chance to do a quick Q&A with Eric Seidman – author of the blog of Statistically Speaking – regarding his new book: “Bridging the Statistical Gap.”

    (more…)

    Kennedy Dominates I.L.’s Worst For Seven

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Many Yankees fans are pumped this morning over the news that Ian Kennedy came within one out last night of pitching a seven-inning no-hitter down in Triple-A.

    Just one note to consider on this: Kennedy was pitching against the Richmond Braves – and they have the worst team offense in the International League (at this moment).

    Right now, the R-Braves have a team OPS of .677 – which is dead last in the I.L. (and 12 points below the next worst team). As a team, Richmond has scored 389 runs, to date, this year. That’s last in the league. In fact, the Braves are the only team in the I.L. not to score at least 400 runs yet. (And, most teams in the I.L. have scored between 440 and 500 runs this season.)

    Granted, some of the batters that Kennedy faced (against Richmond) last night have big league experience (like Jason Phillips and Scott Thorman). But, on the whole, I don’t think you can look at Ian’s performance last night and say that it means he is at a point where he’s ready to face major league hitters again.

    Numbers Show Yanks Doing The Right Things Now

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (4)

    Anthony McCarron, of the News, has all the important numbers on the Yankees today:

    The Yankees, who are now only three games behind both the first-place Rays and the second-place-by-percentage-points Red Sox (56-45), seemingly have cemented their contender status with their postbreak play. Nine games out as recently as July 6, they have won 11 of 14 and are a season-high 11 games over .500.

    Their second-half ERA of 1.89 is the lowest in baseball, and they have also allowed only 12 walks – the fewest in the majors – in 57 postbreak innings and haven’t given up a home run over that span. Opposing hitters have managed only a .569 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) over the last six games, tied with Milwaukee for lowest in baseball. Their strikeouts per nine innings – 9.63 – is tops, too.

    Yankee starters have held opponents to three earned runs or less in 13 of their last 14 games, going 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA.

    Even the bullpen, once considered a liability beyond Mariano Rivera, is thriving. The relievers have a 3.39 ERA overall, sixth-best, and are holding opponents to a .227 average, second lowest in baseball.

    Hindered in the first half by failure with runners in scoring position, the Yankees are averaging 6.3 runs per game, up nearly two from the 4.59 they averaged in the first half. They have also been more clutch – batting .333 with RISP following the break; they hit .254 in such situations before the break.

    And, that’s what winning is all about – your pitchers not allowing walks and homers while your hitters provide the big hits with runners on base. Pretty simple, huh?

    Will Ohman

    Posted by on July 25th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    I’m seeing quite a bit out there lately about the Yankees having an interest in trading for the Braves’ Will Ohman.

    For the past four seasons, statistically speaking, Ohman’s been a useful relief pitcher – and he’s very tough on left-handed batters. But, I know that Cubs fans – at least some of them – were not thrilled with Ohman’s control being an issue, at times. In fact, if you search around, you’ll find lots of references of Lou Piniella growing tired of watching Ohman throw “30- and 40-foot curveballs.” And, that’s probably part of the reason why Chicago traded him to the Braves.

    I dunno…I would be wrong…but…this one has a “Gabe White” feel to it that tells me, perhaps, the Yankees should pass on Ohman. Besides, as I’ve already stated, I just don’t see the dire need for that lefty-specialist in the pen…given the way the Yankees bullpen has thrown this season.

    Hank: We’re Considering Everything

    Posted by on July 24th, 2008 · Comments (5)

    Via the AP -

    Barry Bonds in pinstripes? If nothing else, the New York Yankees talked about it.

    High-ranking Yankees officials gathered for meetings at their spring training complex Thursday, a day off for the team before it begins an important three-game series Friday night in Boston.

    Missing injured sluggers Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada, the Yankees discussed ways to improve for the stretch run as next Thursday’s trade deadline approaches. After a three-hour meeting, co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner confirmed that one of the topics was the indicted home run king.

    “We covered everything, including Bonds,” Steinbrenner said.

    Hank Steinbrenner declined to get into specifics about potential trades, but said “there’s a couple things that might be promising.”

    “We’re playing great. That’s the key thing,” Hank Steinbrenner said. “Considering we’re not 100 percent because of the injuries, it’s pretty impressive. Where we can add, we’ll look into it.”

    I wonder if Hank asked Cashman if the Yankees should look into trading for Brett Favre too?

    Seriously, I wouldn’t mind the Yankees picking up someone like Casey Blake. The last few seasons, he’s hit LHP pretty well. He can DH, play third, or first – even a little outfield. And, he always seemed like a gamer to me. Right now, give me Blake over Bonds…for the Yankees this season. Then again, I’ve heard zero rumors about Blake coming to the Bronx.

    Knight Still Rides

    Posted by on July 24th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    Remember Brandon Knight? The Yankees got him in a trade for Chad Curtis after the 1999 season and he pitched in a few games for them in 2001 and 2002. Well, he’s still kickin’ – after all these years. Via the Ventura County Star (two weeks ago) –

    Unemployment rates have been rising steadily, but being jobless was a new experience for Brandon Knight.

    The former Ventura College and Buena High pitcher started last season in the market for an organization willing to take a chance on an aging right-hander.

    Just when the 32-year-old began planning for life after baseball, a former teammate reached out.

    Brett Jodie called Knight asking him to join the Somerset (N.J.) Patriots of the independent Atlantic League.

    Knight knew the job wouldn’t cover all the bills for his growing family, but he took a chance hoping it could lead to bigger things.

    The investment paid off. The New York Mets signed Knight to a minor-league contract in May, and he recently moved into the starting rotation for the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs.

    “All I wanted was a chance to pitch and I am getting that,” said Knight, who is 3-1 with a 1.71 ERA. “I really had no preconceived notions about how they would use me or what would happen when I came here. I was just happy to be in Triple-A again.”

    The move marks another another leg in Knight’s 14-season worldwide journeyman career.

    And, now, Knight may get to start a game for the Mets. Geez, all of a sudden, Eric Milton is looking good – well, make that “not as bad”…..

    Credit Girardi For Seeing Something In Mussina

    Posted by on July 24th, 2008 · Comments (0)

    Coming into this season, I did not have a great feeling about Mike Mussina’s potential contribution to this Yankees team. Then, during Spring Training, I thought that maybe, with a new game plan, Mussina, perhaps, could be a useful pitcher this year. But, to be honest, I never expected to see what we’re getting now from Moose – and I doubt many others out there predicted to see it as well.

    However, Joe Girardi always seemed to be in Mike Mussina’s corner. Back in February, Girardi was saying things like:

    “We are counting on Moose. It’s not an accident he has [250] wins and has been healthy. Moose knows how to pitch and we are counting on him. When you are young and have a bad month [the belief is] you aren’t ready. In the middle, it’s one bad month. When you are old, you are done.”

    And, later, in April, Girardi was saying things like:

    “I’m a big believer that you don’t forget how to pitch. When you’ve done it as long as Mike Mussina, and you see 500-plus starts, you don’t just forget how to pitch. Yeah, maybe you have to adjust a little bit, but he’s always had good enough control to make adjustments.”

    Now, General Joe has always been an optimistic guy. So, sure, maybe I can see the point of “What else did you expect him to say about Mussina?” However, whether it was just a reflex for Girardi to be in Moose’s corner, or, if it was because of something else, you have to give Girardi credit for standing by Mussina…because it’s paid off, in a big way, for Moose, Joe, the Yankees, and their fans.

    Me? Yes, I was wrong about Mussina – and his chances – coming into the season. And, I’m more than happy to admit that now…and enjoy the season that Moose is putting together now.

    July 2008 Survey Question #6

    Posted by on July 24th, 2008 · Comments (7)

    George King of the Post is reporting that the Dodgers have an interest in Robinson Cano and might be willing to deal Derek Lowe and outfielder Matt Kemp for him.

    Related, please consider taking the following poll:

    {democracy:17}

    Thanks in advance. And, please feel free to add comments on your opinion in the comments section below.

    Early Bird Gets The Tar

    Posted by on July 24th, 2008 · Comments (1)

    The Baseball Early Bird – Gary Gillette and Sean Forman’s new baby – has a nice and concise look back at The Pine-Tar Game which was played twenty-five years ago today.

    Speaking of Yankees history, check out this video clip from WPIX’ 40th Anniversary special. Very cool stuff therein. Scooter’s call on Chambliss’ homer to win the ’76 ALCS alone makes it worth watching.

    Fenway Pygmalion Play?

    Posted by on July 24th, 2008 · Comments (2)

    Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe gives it a good try. But, I suspect that it would be easier to ask Homer Simpson to give up beer and donuts.

    The Last 50 Days

    Posted by on July 23rd, 2008 · Comments (0)

    With their win today, since June 4th, the Yankees are now 28-15 – which is a winning percentage of .651 (which is as good as any team in baseball over this period of time).

    Impressive, huh?

    But, it’s been a weird streak. Included in this 43 game span, the Yankees had a run (from June 20th through July 4th) where they went 5-9 (in 14 games). Then again, five of those nine losses were by two runs or less.

    Man, if the Yankees had won just two of those five close games…we’d be looking at a record of 30-13 in the last 50 days…a winning percentage close to seven-hundred.

    Wow.

    The Posada Puzzle

    Posted by on July 23rd, 2008 · Comments (8)

    Via George King -

    Jorge Posada and the Yankees confirmed what was reported in today’s Post: The All Star catcher needs right shoulder surgery that will require six months to recover from but wants to see if two weeks of rest will allow him to help as a DH/first baseman.

    “I have 15 days to make a decision and there’s no reason not to take the full 15. It’s worse now than it was and that’s the concern,” Posada said today. “It’s a labrum, that much we know. It doesn’t hurt when I hit, but it is restrictive, especially left handed because that’s my lead hand.”

    Posada is willing to miss the start of next season in order to contribute this year despite not being able to catch.

    “When I have the surgery it’ll be six months. So if I can come back this year and play, it means I’ll miss the first part of next year,” Posada said. “That would be my preference. Right now, I know I can’t catch. And right now this is nothing to do with me any more, it’s about what’s best for the team. I’m just hopeful at the end of the two weeks I’ll be in a position where I can play.”

    A blog item on the Journal News (Westchester) web site as well as LoHud.com that accused Yankees president Randy Levine of forcing Posada to play in order to get something back on the four-year, $52.4 million investment was scoffed at by Levine.

    “It’s a silly story,” Levine said. “(The writer) should have called me first then he would have known it was nonsense. We make our decisions on medical reports.”

    …It’s worse now than it was and that’s the concern…

    …When I have the surgery it’ll be six months. So if I can come back this year and play, it means I’ll miss the first part of next year. That would be my preference…

    Is it just me, or, is this crazy? It hasn’t gotten better for Jorge – just worse – by his own words. So, why try and play this year? What’s so important about this season that he’s willing to punt part of next season? The Yankee have basically played most of the year without him. What’s another two months?

    Randy Levine can say what he wants…but, it seems like something (or someone) is pushing Posada to try and play this season…when it makes no sense (based on his lack of progress) and it would also then spill into next season too. This is all very strange…

    July 23rd vs. The Twins

    Posted by on July 23rd, 2008 · Comments (7)

    LaTroy Hawkins aside – and, what a shame it was that Mo Rivera had to be used in this game – it was a great afternoon in the Bronx today.

    Pretty impressive the way that the Yankees handled the Twins, today – and this whole series. Add that to the way the Yankees handled the A’s in the series before this one. Hey, this is not the same as pushing around the M’s, Astros, and Padres. Both the Twins and the A’s came into Yankee Stadium with decent records. It’s great to see the Yankees take on good teams – and win…often.

    It’s also great to see how the Yankees are doing it lately…hitting with runners in scoring position, taking advantage of extra outs given to them (like on the rock pulled by Alexi Casilla today in the fifth), pitching well…in terms of both the starters and the bullpen.

    Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have looked…from top to bottom…and from inside to out…like a team firing on all cylinders.

    Speaking of peak performance…today, the Moose Magic continues…

    …bottom line, the Moose is just flat-out getting jiggy with it this season. And, it’s a pleasure to watch this hero type season from Mussina…

    Mike Torrez & Jeff Weaver

    Posted by on July 23rd, 2008 · Comments (1)

    Via Tracy Ringolsby back on July 10th -

    Consider: Since Mike Torrez won the final game of the 1977 World Series for the Yankees, the only starting pitcher acquired in midseason who has won a World Series game was Jeff Weaver, who, after losing Game 2 of the 2006 Series for St. Louis, won the Game 5 clincher against Detroit by allowing two runs, one earned, in eight innings.

    Is it just me, or, is this an amazing stat? Makes me think back to my theory regarding the importance of having four horses in order to reach the World Series. And, obviously, this season, Wang, Hughes and Kennedy were not very horse-like. So, does this mean it’s too late for the Yankees – even if they get another starter? Probably not…still, the Torrez/Weaver thing is a very interesting stat.

    Yanks Ready To Make A Deal

    Posted by on July 23rd, 2008 · Comments (10)

    Via Mark Feinsand -

    With the trade deadline looming a week from Thursday, the Yankees’ brain trust will gather Thursday in Tampa to discuss potential moves.

    The meeting will include co-chairmen Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, president Randy Levine, general manager Brian Cashman, special adviser Gene Michael, pro scouting director Billy Eppler and senior VP Felix Lopez. Manager Joe Girardi isn’t expected to be at the meeting, but he is expected to have some input.

    A source with knowledge of the situation said that the Steinbrenner brothers have been pleased with the team’s recent play, so they want to show the players that they are committed to winning this year by making moves to bolster the roster.

    “They’re ready to do whatever they need to do at the deadline,” the source said. “They want to make a run this year.”

    During last week’s All-Star break, the source said, Hal Steinbrenner instructed Cashman to make whatever moves were necessary before the deadline, even if it meant dealing some of the organization’s highly touted prospects.

    This is an interesting report. So, now, if the Yankees do not make a deal to help their big league team, should that be seen as a failure on Brian Cashman’s part?

    Sir Sidney…Tick, Tick, Tick…

    Posted by on July 23rd, 2008 · Comments (4)

    Ken Rosenthal is reporting that it could be costly for the Yankees to acquire Jarrod Washburn.

    In reaction to that, some Yankees fans may be thinking “No problem. The way Sidney Ponson has performed, we probably don’t need Washburn.”

    After all, sure, Sidney Ponson has started four games for the Yankees and New York has won all four of those contests. In fact, for the Yankees, Ponson is averaging 5.6 IP per start, has an ERA of 4.37 and now has a record of 2-0.

    However…do not be fooled. Sidney Ponson is a time-bomb waiting to explode.

    As a Yankee, Sidney Ponson has faced 102 batters and has allowed the following BA/OBP/SLG line: .318/.412/.477

    Yes, 41% of the batters to face Ponson, the Yankee, have reached base. And, Sir Sidney has been very lucky, to date, in his starts for New York, getting out of some major jams (in terms of runners being on base). Think that’s going to last forever?

    Hey, I’m not saying that Washburn is the answer for the Yankees rotation needs – for sure. Maybe he can help – then again, maybe he cannot? But, the numbers show that Sidney Ponson has not been as effective as his W-L record and ERA would suggest…and the Yankees better come up with a plan to replace him…and quick.

    Maybe that person is Alfredo Aceves? Maybe that person is Ian Kennedy? I’m not really sure…other than I’m sure it has to be somebody…because Sir Sidney is going tick, tick, tick

    July 22nd vs. The Twins

    Posted by on July 22nd, 2008 · Comments (2)

    Nice “numbers” night in the Bronx. It’s game #100 (on the season for the Yanks). And, with this win, New York is now 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.

    It was also nice to see how this game was won – in terms of who made contributions for New York. The Yankees pitching was on point this evening…Rasner, Robertson, Veras, Farnsworth…and even Mr. “I pitch now about once every ten days”…aka Dan Giese.

    And, it was even nicer to see some guys who were not contributing earlier in the season – but, who have come on in the last few weeks – drive in key runs…like Jeter, Abreu and Cano.

    The Yankees should be the talk of the town tomorrow…pitching and hitting well, reaching new heights (in terms of their record) this season, winning 9 games now in a row at home, moving in on the leaders in the A.L. East…yet, it’s not going to happen. Why?

    Did you see what happened in Queens this evening? Holy shades of last September, Batman! Think Willie Randolph cracked any smiles this evening over this one?

    Hey, maybe I’m wrong on this…and maybe the media will give the Yankees the props that they deserve tomorrow…in the papers, on the radio, and on the tube…

    nah, right?

    Well, either way, as Yankees fans, we can deal with it…it’s all good. Hey, bring on the dancin’ girls!

    I think the lady in green, in the back, must be a Pavano. She quit way before the dance was over.

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