• WasWatching.com Water Cooler Talk 4/30/09

    Posted by on April 30th, 2009 · Comments (11)

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    Selig Mum On Alleged A-Rod Pitch Tipping, For Now

    Posted by on April 30th, 2009 · Comments (12)

    Via Tom Verducci -

    Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday he will withhold comment about any possible disciplinary action against Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez until he has read A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, a soon-to-be published book that details how Rodriguez tipped opposing hitters about what pitches were coming.

    “I’m not going to respond until I see the book,” Selig told SI.com. “I just heard about it.”

    When asked in general if giving pitches to an opposing team would subject a player to possible disciplinary action for striking at the integrity of the game and violating a contractual obligation to the “high standards of fair play,” Selig maintained his refusal to comment in detail. “I need to see the book and go over it,” the commissioner said. “I need to see the book, for goodness sake.”

    Wow. Check out Bud, talking to Tommy Vee like he’s Cardinal Wolsey urging Queen Katherine…for goodness sake.

    Actually, the whole pitch tipping thing is interesting. First, it would have to be a buddy of A-Rod, to be in on this one-hand-washing-the-other scheme. And, it would have to be someone who was in a position to tip pitches back to A-Rod when it was time to return the favor – meaning someone who played 2B, SS or C on the other team. That sort of narrows down the field, no?

    Miguel Tejada?

    SNY New York Baseball Today Video

    Posted by on April 30th, 2009 · Comments (0)

    To watch SNY.tv’s New York Baseball Today, which features a rotating panel of experts, click play below:

    A-Rod Reaction To Report On Roberts Book: “I’m Not Going There”

    Posted by on April 30th, 2009 · Comments (8)

    Via Nick Cafardo

    Alex Rodriguez said “I’m not going there” when asked about excerpts of a new book by Selena Roberts which appeared in the New York Daily News today which reveals that the Yankee slugger may have taken steroids as far back as high school and that he was taking human growth hormone while with the Yankees.

    “I’m not going there,” said Rodriguez, wearing a blue T-shirt and blue warm up pants as he left the Yankees’ minor league complex early this afternoon. “I’m so happy about being back on the field and playing baseball. My team has won two games up there. Hopefully I can come back and help them win more.”

    “I’m not going there” [Rodriquez said] when asked about the high school use and when asked whether he’d been truthful with the media when admitting his steroid use during a spring training press conference, he ended the press conference and said again, “I’m.not going there.”

    Asked if he were tired of the steroid talk, he said, “Ahhh, ya,”

    Rodriguez faced live pitching for the first time yesterday and went 1 for 6 with two walks. His only hit was a home run against extended spring training A-ball pitchers.

    “I think I’m in a good place,” he said. “I think I’m feeling better physically. I’ve had a great week here. I’ve worked extremely hard and I’m very anxious to do what God put me on this Earth to do and that’s play baseball.”

    Of course Alex won’t “go there.” After all, the Yankees took his driver, Yuri Sucart, away from him…just kidding.

    Seriously, at some point, A-Rod is going to have to address this book, right? Or, can he “No comment!” it forever?

    Roberts Book: A-Rod’s PED Use More Than Admitted & He Gave Away Pitches To Opponents

    Posted by on April 30th, 2009 · Comments (30)

    If you heard a noise this morning that sounded like “Awwww, crap!,” it was the collective sound of Yankees fans across the east end of America waking up and reacting to hearing this news…

    As per the Daily News today:

    Alex Rodriguez may have bulked up with steroids as early as high school – and was suspected of juicing while playing for the Yankees, a bombshell new book reports.

    Although the slugger insists he dabbled in steroids only while with the Texas Rangers, the book “A-Rod” strongly suggests he didn’t give up performance enhancers when he came to New York.

    Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts, who broke the story that A-Rod flunked a steroid screening in 2003, reveals fellow Bombers nicknamed the third baseman “B—h T–s” in 2005.

    That was after he put on 15 pounds in the off-season and seemed to develop round pectorals, a condition called gynecomastia that can be caused by anabolic steroids, she writes.

    In addition, an unnamed major-leaguer is quoted as saying Rodriguez and steroid-tainted pitcher Kevin Brown were seen together with human growth hormone – HGH – in 2004.

    Jose Canseco, an ex-teammate and friend of Rodriguez who accused him of steroid abuse even before last year, believes A-Rod was on ‘roids in pinstripes.

    “I absolutely think Alex is using HGH,” he said. “Probably a combination of growth and steroids.”

    Canseco said he believes Rodriguez’s steroid use goes back to his teens, when he was a high school standout in Miami.

    “Was he on steroids in high school?” he said. “I think probably so. I worked out with him when he was 18. He could lift almost as much as I could.”

    Rodriguez put on 25 pounds of muscle between his sophomore and junior years, and word was that his connection was a dog kennel owner.

    A former high school teammate told Roberts the future No.1 MLB draft pick was on steroids and his coach knew it.

    Another student said the son of coach Rich Hofman admitted he saw Rodriguez use steroids.

    Hofman said it was news to him. “Whatever he was doing, he was doing it somewhere else,” he said.

    Roberts dishes up a highly unflattering portrait of A-Rod as a needy me-firster who had to have his ego constantly stroked.

    In one shocking disclosure, the book accuses A-Rod of “pitch tipping” when he was with the Rangers – letting a friendly opponent at the plate know which pitch was coming in lopsided games.

    Rodriguez expected players he helped would do the same for him when he was having an off night and needed to get his batting average up and it wouldn’t affect the outcome of the game.

    I suspect that Bud Selig could (or should) be interested in the suggestion that A-Rod intentionally tipped pitches. That borders on game fixing – in the sense that it could impact the run spread in a game…and it would help or hurt some gamblers.

    Gynecomastia? Well, maybe that would explain this?

    Yeah, I know that was from 2007…and, I was just joking on that….

    Back to the serious side of this…whether this news has some teeth behind it, or not, it’s still yet another distraction in Yankeeland – thanks to having Alex Rodriguez on the team. Way to go Hank Steinbrenner!

    I’m sure that many Yankees fans will want to make Selena Roberts out to be the villian here and say things like “Big deal” and “There’s no proof to any of this” and “Who cares?” But, that’s not going to stop the media and many other baseball fans from feeding off this news.

    Oh, boy, are the next two weeks going to be something in Yankeeland…and, sadly, it will have nothing to do with what’s happening on the field…

    Sandomir: Yanks Tkts Move Made To Quiet Critics & Pretty-Up T.V.

    Posted by on April 29th, 2009 · Comments (11)

    Via Richard Sandomir -

    Why not cut more ticket prices at Yankee Stadium, not just the really expensive ones?

    The Yankees’ move Tuesday to slash the price of slower-selling premium seats, including the $2,500 perches, and give away others affects a few hundred seats. It was a cosmetic move to quell criticism and put more bodies in front of television cameras.

    There are only 100 seats priced for season-ticket plans at $2,500 — and only 55 to 60 have been sold.

    The Yankees’ strategy exacerbates the visible divide between fans in exclusive areas and the tens of thousands outside of club access. The Yankees gave discounts to those who can afford $325 to $2,500 tickets for 81 games, but nothing to fans who might have had to stretch family budgets pinched by the recession to pay $50, $75 or $150 a game.

    Those fans — many of whom could once afford box seats — deserve something.

    There is nothing wrong with treating your highest-paying customers well. Anyone with a full season of $2,500 seats is paying $202,500 this year. That is a real commitment.

    But by rewarding only the wealthiest, the Yankees might be inviting some sort of class conflict.

    “I won’t predict that this will cause pitchfork riots at the stadium, but it will intensify resentment,” said Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University. “The people getting cut-rate deals are in the position of the bonus-getters from A.I.G. or the banks, and people could say, ‘How come these guys get a privilege when I’ve lost my job?’ ”

    Amen.

    April 29th @ The Tigers

    Posted by on April 29th, 2009 · Comments (7)

    Ugh. That was closer, than it needed to be, in the end.

    When Alba-la-no-no was pitching in the 9th, did David Cone, in the YES booth, really say something like ‘Sometimes you think you’re gonna cruise in a game like this, and, before you know it, they start talleywackering you around….’?

    Now, that was a first! I’ve never heard a Yankees broadcaster, on the air, use the word “talleywacker.” Awesome.

    By the way, nice game for Joba in this one.

    Getting back to “firsts,” did someone really pull a fire alarm at Comerica during the game? I’ve been watching baseball since 1973 and I’ve never seen that before…as far as I can remember.

    Speaking of false alarms, it looks like Jack Black might be back. Rock on.

    WasWatching.com Water Cooler Talk 4/29/09

    Posted by on April 29th, 2009 · Comments (14)

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    Yankees Fast Homer Starts

    Posted by on April 29th, 2009 · Comments (0)

    Here’s a fun list via Baseball-Reference.com. It’s Yankees, since 1954, who had 10+ games, within the team’s first 40 games of a season, where they had one or more homeruns in a game:

                       Year Games Link to Individual Games
    +-----------------+----+-----+-------------------------+
     Mickey Mantle     1956    16 Ind. Games
     Tino Martinez     1997    13 Ind. Games
     Alfonso Soriano   2003    12 Ind. Games
     Alex Rodriguez    2007    12 Ind. Games
     Joe Pepitone      1969    12 Ind. Games
     Yogi Berra        1956    12 Ind. Games
     Tino Martinez     2005    11 Ind. Games
     Mickey Mantle     1967    11 Ind. Games
     Alex Rodriguez    2005    10 Ind. Games
     Jorge Posada      2003    10 Ind. Games
     Roger Maris       1960    10 Ind. Games
     Roger Maris       1961    10 Ind. Games
     Mickey Mantle     1957    10 Ind. Games
     Mickey Mantle     1961    10 Ind. Games
     Jason Giambi      2006    10 Ind. Games
    

    I wonder if Robbie Cano can add his name to the list this season? He’s got four 1+ homer games now in the first twenty games of 2009…

    Kennedy & Johnson Out At AAA

    Posted by on April 29th, 2009 · Comments (1)

    Bad news for the 1960 Democratic Party presidential ticket down in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre…

    Via Chad Jennings -

    Ian Kennedy might skip his next turn in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees rotation, and Jason Johnson will certainly miss his.

    Johnson has a partially torn labrum and will go to Tampa to rehab the injury. He said his shoulder has bothered him since spring training, and after allowing seven runs in the first inning on Sunday, he went for tests that revealed the extent of the injury on Tuesday.

    “After that last start, I figured there was no sense staying here and being a liability on the team,” he said.

    Johnson’s next turn in the rotation is Friday, which is now listed as TBA.

    Saturday’s Yankees starter is also listed as TBA after Kennedy left Monday night’s game in Rochester with numbness in his throwing hand.

    Kennedy had two outs in the fifth inning when he was removed because of numbness in one of his fingers. He was sent for tests in Rochester after the game and spent Tuesday in New York with a Yankees team doctor.

    Details of those tests were not immediately available.

    “We don’t have anything concrete yet.” said Kennedy in an e-mail. “I’m having more tests done tomorrow.”

    Stick a fork in Johnson – as he wasn’t an effective pitcher before this injury. And, good luck to Kennedy. I believe that all in Yankeeland think of David Cone when we hear something like this news. I hope it all works out for Ian.

    With Hughes up, and Johnson and Kennedy out, the Yanks’ Triple-A rotation needs bodies. Maybe this is a break for George Kontos and a chance to get promoted from Double-A Trenton?

    April 28th @ The Tigers

    Posted by on April 28th, 2009 · Comments (22)

    Yeah, the Yankees scored like a gazillion runs in this contest. But, that’s not the story from this game.

    Tonight belongs to Phil Hughes. Wow. What a difference a year makes!

    This evening, Phil Hughes faced 23 Tigers batters and retired 18 of them. All told, Hughes went 6 innings in this game, throwing 99 pitches (with 58 being strikes), and he allowed zero runs. Last time I checked, you can’t do better than allowing zero runs. So, Hughes was real good today.

    But, more so, what impressed me was the quality of Phil Hughes’ pitches in this game. Here’s what I saw via the YES coverage:

    • A fastball in the range of 91-93 MPH
    • A cutter in the range of 86-88 MPH
    • A curveball in the range of 72-75 MPH

    Now, I know that many Yankees fans don’t believe the YES gun – claiming that it’s slow. So, once this game was out of hand, I went over to MLB.com’s Gameday and they showed me just about the same MPH marks for Hughes (as YES). The only difference was that Gameday called Hughes’ cutter a “slider.” (Big deal. Same difference.)

    It was very nice to see Hughes’ fastball in the range of 91-93 MPH tonight. According to the Yankees’ Brian Cashman, that’s where Hughes’ fastball should be, in terms of speed, and that’s where it wasn’t recently. (According to Fangraphs, in 2007, Hughes average fastball was 91 MPH, and, in 2008, his average heater was 91.2 MPH. So, this backs up Cashman’s point about Hughes’ fastball being below expectations the last two seasons.)

    Again, Phil Hughes was very impressive today – sans a few hanging curves – and he fully deserves another turn in the rotation. And, that should come on Sunday, May 3rd, at Yankee Stadium, on “Cap Day,” against the Angels and Joe Saunders. I’m very much looking forward to seeing that one – and what Hughes does to follow up on this evening.

    Now that I think about it, this game might be the best one that Hughes has thrown in the bigs outside of that game of May 1, 2007. Yup, he was that good.

    Lastly, Mark Melancon is still looking like a younger, skinnier, and blonder, Roger Clemens to me. Am I the only one seeing that?

    WasWatching.com Water Cooler Talk 4/28/09

    Posted by on April 28th, 2009 · Comments (16)

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    Yanks Cut 2009 Season Ticket Prices

    Posted by on April 28th, 2009 · Comments (49)

    I’m working on getting the press release now. It’s not a lot of seats. But, the $2,500 seats are now cut in half and the $1,000 seats are now $650.

    Those who already bought seats will get a credit, refund, or free tickets.

    How embarrassing. Has a baseball team ever had to cut ticket prices during the season before?

    When you’re the New York Yankees, you should not have to conduct a fire sale to move your tickets.

    Update: Pete Abe has the release.

    SNY New York Baseball Today Video

    Posted by on April 28th, 2009 · Comments (2)

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    Gardner Joins 50/65 Club

    Posted by on April 28th, 2009 · Comments (10)

    Via Baseball-Reference.com, Yankees, since 1973, through last night’s game, where they had an OPS+ <= 50 and PA >= 65 in their post-1972 Yankees career:

    Rk	Player	       OPS+	PA	From	To	Ages
    1	Paul Zuvella	-15	93	1986	1987	27-28
    2	Wil Nieves	-5	76	2005	2007	27-29
    3	Albe. Gonzalez	 5	73	2007	2008	24-25
    4	Rex Hudler	12	66	1984	1985	23-24
    5	Brian Doyle	18	171	1978	1980	23-25
    6	Johnny Callison	21	142	1973	1973	34-34
    7	Brad Gulden	32	108	1979	1980	23-24
    8	Morgan Ensberg	34	80	2008	2008	32-32
    9	Mike Fischlin	35	116	1986	1986	30-30
    10	Todd Greene	36	100	2001	2001	30-30
    11	Damaso Garcia	36	82	1978	1979	23-24
    12	Scott Bradley	40	73	1984	1985	24-25
    13	Johnny Oates	40	95	1980	1981	34-35
    14	Ed Brinkman	40	68	1975	1975	33-33
    15	Hal Lanier	40	90	1973	1973	30-30
    16	Andy Fox		42	259	1996	1997	25-26
    17	Jerry Narron	44	136	1979	1979	23-23
    18	Jimmy Wynn	44	92	1977	1977	35-35
    19	Juan Espino	46	78	1982	1986	26-30
    20	Scott Pose	47	96	1997	1997	30-30
    21	Brett Gardner	48	206	2008	2009	24-25
    22	Tony Womack	50	351	2005	2005	35-35
    

    Worse than Womack. Ouch.

    April 2009 Survey Question #4

    Posted by on April 28th, 2009 · Comments (13)

    Please consider taking the following poll:

    {democracy:57}

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

    The Swisher Time Bomb Is Ready To Blow

    Posted by on April 28th, 2009 · Comments (46)

    Two weeks ago, I wrote:

    Presently, everyone in Yankeeland is in love with Nick Swisher – and this includes the Yankees, their fans, the Yankees beat writers and just about every Yankees blogger to be found. And, why not? Swisher is batting extremely well now, he’s playing multiple positions – including pitching! – and is providing lots of good quotes and sound bites, etc.

    However, it should be noted that last season, while playing for the Chicago White Sox, Swisher got off to a great start as well. In his team’s first 12 games in 2008, Nick started in 11 of them. During that time, he collected 50 Plate Appearances and fashioned the following BA/OBA/SLG line: .289/.460/.474 – yes, that’s an On Base Average of four-sixty!

    But, then, Swisher hit the skids in Chicago. After those first dozen games, it was all downhill for Nick. In his team’s next 20 games in 2008, Swisher started in 20 of them. During that time, he collected 89 Plate Appearances and fashioned the following BA/OBA/SLG line: .147/.270./213 – which is down-right ugly.

    So, what happens if Nick Swisher, in a week or so, goes just as cold for the Yankees this season as he did for the White Sox in 2008? Will everyone in Yankeeland love as much then and they do now?

    Related, let’s take a look at Swisher’s season for the Yankees, to date:

    First 10 games of the season: 37 PA and BA/OBA/SLG line of .406/.486/1.000 and 6 K’s
    Last 9 games of the season: 42 PA and BA/OBA/SLG line of .171/.310/.257 and 13 K’s

    Looks like ol’ Saint Nick is following his pattern from last year, huh? The Yankees better hope that Xavier Nady gets better and fast – they’re going to need someone to play right field, in place of Swisher, in a hurry.

    Phil Hughes One Year Later – Vs. Tigers Again

    Posted by on April 28th, 2009 · Comments (6)

    Phil Hughes gets the start this evening for the Yankees, April 28th, against the Tigers.

    Almost one year ago to the day, Hughes also started a game for the Yankees, on April 29, 2008, against the Tigers.

    In that game, Phil Hughes went 3.2 innings, throwing 82 pitches, allowing 11 baserunners and 6 earned runs.

    Here’s a flashback to some commentary on that game:

    Actually, what was most interesting about this game was listening to John Flaherty and Al Leiter, on the YES coverage, go to town about how Phil Hughes’ 89-92 MPH fastball was straight with little movement, and, that, along with just a curve was not enough to retire big league batters on a consistent basis. I believe Leiter referred to Hughes’ fastball as being a ‘hittable speed.’ (The two also went on to talk about how Hughes needs to feature – or even just show – a slider or change-up on a more regular basis to be more effective.)

    Actually, what Flaherty and Leiter were saying today ties right into David Cone’s point on Hughes the other day – that after the line-up sees him once, they pretty much have him sized up.

    Of course, right after that start, we found out that Hughes had a busted rib and bad eyes.

    It will be very interesting to see the change, if any, in Phil Hughes this evening – and what the Yankees announcers have to say about him this time. How do you think Hughes will do?

    April 27th @ The Tigers

    Posted by on April 27th, 2009 · Comments (7)

    Via Phil Allard earlier today:

    It’s on to Detroit and the 2009 debut of Phil Hughes on Tuesday. Sure, call me a pessimist, but is there anyone who would be surprised to see Verlander shut down this tired, non-athletic, old team on Monday, especially after the Fenway butt-kicking? Zero runs in 7 innings sounds about right for Verlander. And with Damon’s shoulder barking, the bench just got worse. I’ll have the codeine on hand if Giradi and Cashman put Berroa at 3rd again.

    Going forward, the Yanks have to sparse out the pen and add some bench depth. The idea of Berroa or Gardner as pinch hitters surely has the rest of the league laughing hysterically. Where is Juan Miranda? Where is Oscar Gamble?

    In the end, Verlander went seven today against the Yanks – allowing 7 hits, no walks, zero runs and punching out seven. Hey, Phil, nice call on this one!

    O.K., on the glass is half-full-front, the Yankees didn’t have to use their bullpen today and the game was over in 139 minutes.

    I can just hear General Maximus Decimus Meridius now: At least give me a clean death… a soldier’s death….

    Well, 139 minutes and having to burn just one pitcher is pretty quick and clean, right?

    But, as Bob Marley sang: Don’t worry ’bout a ding, ’cause every lil’ dings gonna be all right…

    Prince Philip returns tomorrow for the reboot of his coronation as the Yankees savior. And, it’s what the people want to see. Should be fun. It’s something to look forward to…and something to take the focus off another loss, today, in this game.

    Q&A With The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner

    Posted by on April 27th, 2009 · Comments (6)

    I recently had a chance to do a quick Q&A with Yankees beat reporter Tyler Kepner of The New York Times.

    To me, Tyler Kepner is the Peter La Fleur of Yankees beat writers/media bloggers. I do not ever recall seeing a blogger and/or Yankees fan post something on the ‘net that was even close to a rip at Kepner’s work. And, I’ve seen many praise him for his style/approach at covering the team. (And, for the record, I’m one of those “many.”)

    This quite unique – as even the best of Yankees beat writers/bloggers will have someone go cranky over them at some point or time. But, again, I’ve yet to see this happen to Tyler. Maybe we should call him “Kool Kat Kepner”? He’s earned that label. Here’s our exchange:

    WW: How do you manage being the father of four young children while also being a beat writer covering the Yankees? What are the biggest challenges on both sides of that fence for you as you try to manage a work-life balance that fits your needs?

    Tyler Kepner: That’s been the essential question of my life for the last 10 years. But this much is obvious: it would be impossible to keep any kind of balance without a supportive and patient wife and a fair and understanding boss. I am very lucky to have both.

    All of my editors at the Times have treated me wonderfully, allowing me to build some flexibility into my schedule so I don’t miss too many family things. Over my 10 years on the beat at the Times (2 with the Mets and now 8 with the Yankees), I can remember missing a series in Seattle for a birthday, the All-Star Home Run Derby for another birthday, the last game of a series at Tampa Bay for a school play, a series in Baltimore for a dance recital, a series at Minnesota for a wedding, and so on. I still end up covering probably 75 road games a year, but having a boss who understands that you have a life outside your job is just so crucial. It takes away the burnout factor, which is a very real risk but has never been an issue. By knowing the editors respect my personal life, I can give everything I have to the job on the days I work. And on the days I’m off, I don’t do any work at all. Most of the time, I don’t even watch the game.

    There are challenges family-wise, mostly because of how different life is when you’re covering games on the road compared to the way it is when you’re covering games at home. On the road, you’re naturally focused on yourself and your job, and at home, of course, there are more responsibilities. You’re constantly adjusting mindsets, back and forth. But I really don’t feel like I’ve missed much as a parent because of the job. Lots of parents leave for work before their kids wake up and get back when their kids are in bed — five days a week, all year long. The way I look at it is, when you factor in the days I work from home, especially the off-season, I probably get more face-time with my children that the average working dad. The hours and days are unconventional, for sure, but we make it work. And, again, pretty much all of the credit for that goes to my wife.

    The one thing I never forget is that I’m doing exactly what I’ve wanted to do since I was 14 years old. Not a lot of people get that chance, so I’ll take whatever comes with it.

    WW: It’s true: Anyone who gets to do something that they’re passionate about for a living is lucky – because then it’s not work. Somewhat related, many diehard fans have a fear of skipping a game (involving their favorite team) and then getting that dreaded phone call from their buddy that starts with “You’ve missed the greatest game – EVER!” Has there ever been a game that you missed that you wished you had covered? If yes, what game was it? If not, what kind of game would it have to be to make you lament missing it?

    Tyler Kepner: A no-hitter. I’ve never seen one, except when I was at Vanderbilt and an Arkansas pitcher threw one. So I guess I’d say that I wish I had been there for the Astros tag-team no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 2003, though that’s probably the lamest no-hitter ever. I was dying the day Wang took a perfect game through 7 innings against the Mariners while back. The other games I can think of are at least one of the Giambi walk-offs. Somehow I covered his whole Yankees career yet missed the walk-offs against Mike Trombley, Jose Mesa and B.J. Ryan. It also would have been nice to be there the day Clemens showed up in Steinbrenner’s box. Despite how it all turned out for Roger, that would have been a dramatic moment to see at the time.

    WW: It’s interesting that the first part of your answer was a no-hitter reference. You’ve pitched for the New York media in those games where the New York baseball media plays against the Boston baseball media. Would you describe yourself as someone who would lean towards the pitching side of the game, rather than the batting side, if you had to make a choice between the two in terms of the angle of the sport that you enjoy the most or feel more connected to it? And, what’s the reason behind your answer to this question?

    Tyler Kepner: Absolutely, I’m more inclined to the pitching side of the game. My first year following baseball was 1982, when I was 7, and my team was the Phillies. Steve Carlton won the Cy Young that year, throwing high fastballs and killer sliders, striking out everybody, and I was hooked. Throwing strikes was (and still is) the only athletic skill I have that is anything above average, and the chance to pitch in media games has been a real privilege.

    The pitcher just has so much control over the action and, ultimately, the outcome of each game. There’s so much going on, mentally and physically, with each pitch. I love learning about pitching grips, the action on the ball, the the thought behind pitch selection, even mechanics. I would never say I understand pitching the way the professionals do, because everything they do is on a level none of us can truly relate to. But I understand the mentality of pitching a lot better than I understand hitting, and because I’m more curious about it, I think I relate better to pitchers than to position players.

    WW: So, growing up a Phillies fan back then, did seeing Charles Hudson pitch well for the Yankees in 1987 bother you? Just kidding! Staying on tossing the pill, in your opinion, what one thing in the pitching department will be a pleasant surprise for the Yankees and their fans this year? And, also in your opinion, what will be the biggest pitching disappointment in Yankeeland this season?

    Tyler Kepner: I was just glad the Yankees took Marty Bystrom in exchange for Shane Rawley. He pitched pretty well for the Phils.

    I actually think the Yankees’ bullpen won’t be too bad. I like the way Girardi handles the guys, the way he really gives himself a chance to see who can pitch and who can’t. And when injuries arise, like this elbow issue with Bruney, we’ll learn something about Robertson and Melancon. I think they’ll be vital pieces as the year goes. As for disappointments, that’s tough. I suppose you could say that given Sabathia’s salary and the inevitable comparisons to Santana, he’s got a really tough standard to reach. From what we’ve seen so far — a startling lack of fastball command — he might qualify as a disappointment, though it’s very early. My question is, what would be considered successful for a pitcher making $23 million a year? If he wins 15 games and has a 3.50 ERA, is that a disappointment for the money? I guess it would be.

    WW: True, $23 million for 15 wins would be an interesting scenario in terms of the fan reaction. If I recall correctly, the Red Sox have a policy that says you should only pay $1 million per expected win from a starter. And, there’s no way that CC is going to win 23 games this season. Since you’ve brought up Girardi, I have to ask: If the Yankees win less than 90 games this season and do not make the post-season, do you think General Joe will he return to manage New York in 2010? Why?

    Tyler Kepner: My guess is he’d still come back. The Yankees always take measures to shake things up in a very obvious way each off-season. The way to do that next year will be to bolster the offense with Matsui, Damon and Nady all leaving. If Matt Holliday has a great year in Oakland, chances are they’ll sign him to a monster deal, sign someone else (plus maybe a pitcher) and feel as if they’ve fixed everything. To fire Girardi, someone would have to be really motivated to get rid of him, and I don’t see who that would be. Hal Steinbrenner runs the team, and he’s not rash and impulsive the way George was. My guess is Hal would defer to Cashman, who is signed through 2011, and I doubt Cashman would blame Girardi if the team doesn’t win. That’s not the way Cashman thinks.

    WW: What’s your opinion on the M.O. of Hank and Hal Steinbrenner with respect to running the team? Is their approach a good or bad thing for the Yankees?

    Tyler Kepner: Well, when you talk about Hank and Hal, you’re really just talking about Hal. He’s the control person for the Yankees. Hank talked a lot after the 2007 season and spent like crazy, but since then it’s been Hal’s team. Hal was the one who actually went to Yankee Stadium last year and met with Cashman and Girardi and tried to learn the baseball side of things as well as the business side. He’s in charge.

    I think Hal’s a smart businessman and a commanding authority figure in Tampa. Not in the same way as his father, of course. George was in people’s face about everything. Hal is more measured, a lot quieter, and he keeps people guessing about what he’s really thinking and how he will really act. What we’ve seen so far is that he’s willing to uphold the 2000s trend of the Yankees not just spending more than everyone, but spending a LOT more than everyone. The Yankees shrewdly capitalized on their late-90s success to build a business empire capable of sustaining such a payroll, and I can only assume that will continue. Hal also seems to trust Cashman, and that’s a good thing, I believe.

    Is Hal’s approach good or bad? I guess it’s good to spend the money as long as they have it. Fans know they care about winning, and they care about the star power those expensive players bring to the network. But it does lead to paying guys for work they did in the past, often with other teams, a trap the Yankees fall into over and over again.

    That’s it. My thanks to Tyler for granting this Q&A and for all his time and attention towards my questions!

    WasWatching.com Water Cooler Talk 4/27/09

    Posted by on April 27th, 2009 · Comments (26)

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    Week 3 – 2009

    Posted by on April 27th, 2009 · Comments (0)

    What stands out the most in my mind, this past week, is that the Yankees, for the most part, barely got by a weak Oakland A’s team (in two games) and then went up to Fenway Park and were treated like a fish in drop-seat pajamas walking backwards into Folsom State Prison (for three games).

    That said, this makes “Week 4″ an interesting week in Yankeeland. Will it be better than last week for the Yankees? The same? Worse? Heck, can it even get worse?

    In seven days, we’ll know the answer.

    SNY New York Baseball Today Video

    Posted by on April 27th, 2009 · Comments (0)

    To watch SNY.tv’s New York Baseball Today, which features a rotating panel of experts, click play below:

    The Steinbrenner Family Business

    Posted by on April 27th, 2009 · Comments (1)

    I just saw this from Monsters and Critics last month – with a hat tip to Neil Best for making me look for it:

    ESPN has just announced that three additional filmmakers for ESPN Films’ “30 for 30″ film project have been secured.

    Dan Klores (Black Magic, Crazy Love), Barry Levinson (Diner, The Natural) and Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) along with previously announced participant, Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA and Shut Up & Sing), will film a variety of sports subjects from the past 30 years in sports.

    The subjects are: Reggie Miller and the New York Knicks, The Steinbrenners, The Baltimore Colts’ departure to Indianapolis and the title fight between Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes.

    The Steinbrenner Family Business (Barbara Kopple)

    Love him or hate him, there is no denying that George Steinbrenner has been one of the most colorful and successful owners in contemporary sports. Since buying the New York Yankees in 1973 for under $10 million, “King George” emphatically branded the world’s most celebrated sports franchise as his own. The Boss has boasted ten pennants, six World Series trophies and a corporate net worth well above $1 billion. As the team has transitioned to new leadership and moves into a new stadium this spring, two-time Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple will examine this challenging and intriguing transfer of power of baseball’s ultimate Family Business.

    I wonder if Kopple got the Yankees to partcipate in this one? And, if she did, does this mean it will be a total puff piece?

    April 26th @ The Red Sox

    Posted by on April 26th, 2009 · Comments (43)

    On the bright side, in this game, the Yankees had the tying run on deck in the ninth inning. And, finally, we got to see Mark Melancon pitch in a big league game. Other than that…well…things were not so good here.

    I happened to be in Penn Station today from 4:30 pm ET until 5:00 pm ET. And, it was an interesting time to be there. The place was loaded with people wearing Mets gear, Rangers gear, and NFL jerseys. Actually, it was a bit of a zoo. It seems that the Mets game, Rangers play-off game, and Day Two of the NFL Draft all unloaded near the same time.

    Related, there were many fans of the Mets and Rangers on my train back to New Jersey this evening. From the reactions of those decked out in their team’s shirts and caps, you could not tell if they were coming home from a win or a loss. It wasn’t until I came home, and caught ESPN, that I learned that the Mets dropped a game to the lowly Washington Nationals (getting whipped, 8-1) and the Rangers lost to the Washington Capitals (setting themselves up for a Game 7, after being up 3-1 in their playoff series).

    Funny, I’m now sitting here with steam coming out of ears because the Yankees got swept by the Red Sox, during three April games in Boston, and those fans on the train earlier this evening seemed pretty cool, calm and collected. Does that say something about me, them, or both of us?

    In any event, hey, I’m sorry. But, the Yankees blew a win on Friday. They got their fannies kicked on Saturday. And, they were out-played in this one. New York lost every which way you can in these three games.

    When you live and die with this stuff, how can you not come away from three losses like these with your feathers in a bunch?

    Related, it’s a series outcome like this, against the Red Sox, that shows us that Hank and Hal Steinbrenner are, indeed, nothing like their father George.

    And, I know that many, many, Yankees fans feel that this is an excellent thing.

    Me? Right now, I’m not so sure…

    Hank and Hal, after this set at Fenway, will probably react like those Mets and Rangers fans on my train today. But, Big Stein? Well, I suspect, in his prime, “The Boss” would be steamin’ away like me…

    Is that the wrong thing to do? Maybe. Yet, nonetheless, this venting fan wouldn’t mind some company/empathy from the people in charge of the team he roots for…you know…a little solidarity from the Brothers Stein.

    So, Hank, Hal, whaddaya say? You guys have an pulse, whatsoever? Let’s see it.

    A Brick At The Hot Corner

    Posted by on April 26th, 2009 · Comments (1)

    Is it just me, or, is watching Angel Berroa try to play defense at third base somewhat like watching Manute Bol try to shoot three-pointers?

    Almost 3 Years To The Day, Yanks Embarrassed Again By The Full Wind-Up

    Posted by on April 26th, 2009 · Comments (7)

    During tonight’s Yankees-Red Sox, on April 26th, Boston had the bases loaded in the bottom of the 5th inning, with Jacoby Ellsbury on third, and two out. On a 2-2 pitch to J.D. Drew, New York’s Andy Pettitte, throwing from a full wind-up, allowed Ellsbury to steal home.

    Let’s flash back to April 21, 2006. Remember what happened then, when the Yankees told Worm Killer Wang to pitch from the full wind-up, on a 3-2 count, with two outs, and the bases loaded? Via Tyler Kepner back in the day:

    With two outs and Millar on second, Wang lost his control, walking Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to load the bases. From the bench, the Yankees told Wang to work from the windup, thinking he would be more comfortable.

    But Wang is slow from the windup, and on the 3-2 pitch to Melvin Mora, Roberts and Markakis took enormous leads. Mora smacked a grounder to shortstop Derek Jeter, but his only play was to first, and his throw pulled Andy Phillips off the base.

    By the time Phillips landed on the bag, Mora had slid in safely. He also had accomplished a rarity, knocking in two runs on an infield single.

    Brian Roberts, three years ago, took the Yankees to school on what can happen when you go to the full wind-up with the bases juiced, two outs, and a full count…and, this evening, Jacoby Ellsbury showed us that New York learned nothing three years ago…because, again, the Yanks got embarrassed by sleeping on the field in a big spot.

    Yeah, I know it was a 2-2 count this time. But, that’s close enough to it being a full count in a situation like this…

    WasWatching.com Water Cooler Talk 4/26/09

    Posted by on April 26th, 2009 · Comments (6)

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    Yanks Join “3 In 17″ Club – Need 1 in 13 To Join “4 in 30″ Gang

    Posted by on April 25th, 2009 · Comments (1)

    The Yankees A.J. Burnett allowed 8 earned runs in his start today against the Boston Red Sox. This was the third time that a Yankees starter has allowed 8+ earned runs in a contest this year – with the season just being 17 games old (including today). The other two times were on April 13th and April 18th when Chien-Ming Wang got banged around in his starts.

    Since 1954, how many big league teams, within the first 17 games of their season, have had 3+ games where their starting pitcher was charged with 8+ earned runs? The answer is, besides the 2009 Yankees who just made the list, below:

     Tm  Year Games Link to Individual Games
    +---+----+-----+-------------------------+
     COL 1998     6 Ind. Games
     TBD 2005     3 Ind. Games
     SDP 2006     3 Ind. Games
     MIN 1993     3 Ind. Games
     MIN 2006     3 Ind. Games
     COL 2004     3 Ind. Games
     BOS 1975     3 Ind. Games
    

    So, with the 2009 Yankees added in, this makes it eight times. 

    This leads to the question:  Since 1954, how many big league teams, within the first 30 games of their season, have had 4+ games where their starting pitcher was charged with 8+ earned runs?   Here’s that list:

     Tm  Year Games Link to Individual Games
    +---+----+-----+-------------------------+
     COL 1998     6 Ind. Games
     HOU 2000     5 Ind. Games
     COL 2004     5 Ind. Games
     MIN 2006     4 Ind. Games
     CIN 2003     4 Ind. Games
    

    That’s just 5 teams since 1954.  But, the Yankees still have 13 more games to join this group and make it a Gang of Six…

    Humberto Sanchez’ 903 Days As A Yankee

    Posted by on April 25th, 2009 · Comments (18)

    Via the Daily News on November 11th 2006:

    The Yankees consider Humberto Sanchez, who went to South Bronx High School, the jewel of the three pitchers they got from Detroit in exchange for Gary Sheffield yesterday. Sanchez is a 6-6, 230-pound righty who can reach 96mph on the radar gun, but mostly throws his fastball between 90-94 mph. Yankee GM Brian Cashman said Sanchez, 23, also has “an average changeup right now, but it could be above average, and he has a power curveball.” Sanchez had an identical 5-3 record as a starter for both the Tigers’ Triple-A team and their Double-A team, and had a combined ERA of 2.63. He struck out 129 batters in 123 innings and held opposing hitters to a .220 average. He’s had elbow problems, but the Yanks believe he’s healthy. Cashman said he’ll likely begin next season at Triple-A Scranton, and the Yanks “hope he takes a big step forward. He’s got a lot of ability.” The Yankees had a chance at him earlier – Cashman noted that Sanchez was at a tryout at the Stadium the year he was drafted (2001).

    On that same day, WasWatching.com told you that Humberto Sanchez’ elbow was shot. Just 164 days later, that was proven to be correct.

    And, today, we have this from Sports Network:

    Prior to the game, the Yankees made a slew of roster moves, which included placing pitcher Brian Bruney and third baseman Cody Ransom on the disabled list. Pitcher Mark Melancon and Berroa also had their contracts purchased from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and righty Humberto Sanchez was released.

    Humberto Sanchez threw 29 pitches for the Yankees, in the big leagues, during his time with the team – with 15 of them going for strikes.

    What was Brian Cashman talking about when he said Sanchez had “a lot of ability”? Was that the “ability” to “do nothing”?

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