Taking on Toronto

Here I come...

Well I’ll be at the big ballpark tonight as the Yanks take on the┬ákids from Canada. I’ve already examined some guy named Jose Bautista, so I’m not going to go into that one again. Don’t throw the guy a fastball, or he’s gonna hit it over the wall. Case closed.

Tonight, Bartolo Colon and his 3.16 ERA take the hill coming off an outing against the O’s when he twirled eight innings of shutout ball, only to see his 1-0 lead disappear. The game went to the 15th inning, and the Yanks pulled it out.

What to look for tonight

We know that Big Bart has seemingly turned back the clock. His fastball this year has averaged out at 91.8 MPH, just four tenths of a tick below his career average. Pretty incredible. What I’m going to look for tonight is any signs of wearing down. Nobody really understands how Colon is doing this, but the longer into the season he can hold up without breaking down, the better. He’s doing an admirable job, and he’s at least partially responsible for keeping the Yankees’ season afloat. Where would they be without him?

I do fully expect his arm to fall off soon, but until I see his fastball losing gas or his breaking ball losing sharpness, I’m going to keep putting my faith in him and his inning-ending glove claps (love those!). He’ll take on Carlos Villanueva, who’s been a good reliever (he’s making a spot start tonight). I like the Yanks’ chances. GO YANKS!

Apologies and Thoughts

Okay, I took a few days off. Or five. So sue me. I suppose it’s a combination of being busy lately and the Yankees playing some truly uninspiring ball. One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s always fun and easy to play the blame game when a baseball team is sagging. The manager isn’t firing them up. The team is poorly constructed. The pitching staff is useless. The Derek Jeter looks old. Etc. Etc.

Here are my thoughts: there really is no one person to blame for this slide. The Yankees are an extremely well built team. They’ve scored the most runs per game of any MLB team, even despite their fairly large slump. The bullpen should definitely be a strength as we head into the summer. That leaves a rotation made up of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, and Ivan Nova. CC is CC – this much we know. AJ has seemingly turned a corner. Bartolo Colon is pitching like vintage Bart. Freddy Garcia has a 3.12 ERA. And Ivan Nova has been serviceable at the very least.

Here’s the issue – while the offense will continue to produce (it’s just that strong), this group of starting pitchers will inevitably decline. Bartolo’s arm will fall off or Nova will lose the ability to get out hitters or Burnett will go back to his old ways. There are plenty of chances for problems. The Yanks will not skate by using six starters in a season. My feeling is that the Yanks need to win ballgames before midsummer. I feel very confident that they will acquire a pitcher at the deadline (or before) who can help them down the stretch, but they can’t fall into a huge hole before then.

Six-game losing streaks are painful, but I like that as I write this post, the Yanks took two of three from the Mets. Win series, and they’ll be there playing postseason baseball in October. As Derek says, the eight best teams make the playoffs, and the hottest team wins it all.

Yanks Swept, Universe Panics

Well that was one horrendous series. The truth is that the Yankees are just playing like poo right now. They do this a couple times every season, and it’s really not pretty to watch. Errors, blown leads, failure to score with RISP…It all amounts to a team that is not working, and you can tell that they’re frustrated. It doesn’t help that the team that swept them at home was the Sox. This is now five losses in a row.

The Yanks kick off a quick four-game road trip now – two in St. Petersburg against the Rays (6:40 starts – what?), and two at Camden Yards against the O’s. The quick remedy, of course, is to take two out of two from the Rays and tie them for first in the standings, because right now, sitting in second place just a game above Boston doesn’t feel good – yes, I know it’s only May.

To do that, the Yankees will certainly have to keep pitching well and stop playing sloppy defense, but they mostly need to hit with runners in scoring position. I’ve written plenty about how I feel about hitting with RISP, and the truth is that the team that feels RISPier on a given day is much, much, much more likely to win the ballgame. A-Rod, Teix, Swish – those guys are going to need to pick up the slack. Cano, too. Granderson’s carrying this offense on his back right now (man, is he on a tear or what?).

The chance to turn it around starts tonight. 6:40 in St. Pete. Don’t miss it. GO YANKS!

Ruh Roh…Trouble in YankeeLand

Remember my last post about how Red Sox weekends stress me out? Well, this weekend has gone about as badly as possible for the Yankees. After a full team meeting about picking up the slack and fixing the sloppy play, the Bombers have dropped both games so far to the Sox.

More important, though, is this Jorge Posada saga. He removed himself from the lineup after seeing his name penciled in at ninth in the order. He then said that it was because of back stiffness, which seems not to be true. Then he and Cashman fired at each other on national TV. And now the Yankees are looking to see if they can fine him and/or not pay the rest of his salary for the year. He’s not in the lineup today.

This is all part of a bigger problem, which is that Jorge is hitting absolutely horrendously this year, and he is burning a hole in an otherwise very potent lineup. Especially for a team that relies so much on hitting, the Yanks can’t keep running a .165 hitter out there every day.

(Deep breath.) So, what should the Yanks do? This is my proposal: give Jorge one last shot – two weeks, let’s say. That brings us to the end of May, a full third of the six-month season. If he hasn’t shown any significant signs of improvement, it’s time to bench him (or, dare I say, cut him?). Who fills the void? A man named Jesus Montero. The guy has been knocking on the door for long enough. He’s raking in AAA again, and he’s a legitimate big league hitter. Let him catch a couple days a week to relieve Martin, who’s caught far too many games this year anyway, keep Cervelli on the roster (maybe), and let him DH some games.

It lets Montero continue to catch, the Yanks get a good DH, they also get some openings at DH for when A-Rod and Jeter need half days off, and the offensive production will improve.

Whatever ends up happening, it will be interesting to watch. The Yanks are loyal to their franchise players to a fault (see also: Jeter’s contract), but there have certainly been times when they let go of players they feel can’t cut it anymore (see also: Bernie Williams). I really don’t know what they’ll do with Posada, but if you’re out there reading this, Jorge, here’s a quick and easy remedy: start hitting again. Problems will disappear.

The Upcoming Sox Series

"I thought we agreed not to mention 2004."

It’s always a bloodbath when the Yanks play the Sox. I don’t care who’s where in the standings, what ballpark they play at, who’s on the mound…It doesn’t matter. There will be heartbreak. There will be runs scored. There will be lead changes.

I’ve always loved these games. You always hear people saying, “This is what baseball is all about” or “It always feels like the postseason when these guys play.” Here’s the part where I sound like too much of a fan. They stress me out.

Red Sox hitters all of a sudden become supermen (Kevin Youkilis is good, but not as good as he ALWAYS is when he plays the Yanks). The Yankees’ bullpen can’t hold a lead. There’s always the game in the series when a Red Sox pitcher who’s been struggling holds the Yanks to a run over six innings. They’re tough to watch! Would I wish them away if I could? Not a chance.

With these bad feelings come some great memories, not just of the Aaron Boone variety. How bout old buddy Melky Cabrera robbing Manny Ramirez? I actually called A-Rod’s shot that broke the zero-zero tie in the sixteenth (?) inning of that game in August. Gardner beating Papelbon. Joba beating Beckett. Jeter diving into the stands. It’s all part of the history. It sounds stupid, but this is what makes the Yankees special.

I fully expect to tear out my hair and yell at Girardi for this, that, and the next thing, but I’m also looking forward to a great series. Now let me not end on a sappy note. Here’s a list of annoying things that will happen in the series:

- Boone Logan will pitch in the eighth inning against Papi and give up a homer.
– Brett Gardner will not get a ball out of the infield in the first two games.
– Dustin Pedroia will make a nice diving play at second base and be called better than Robinson Cano.
– Dustin Pedroia will homer in his next at-bat.
– Nick Swisher will airmail a ball over the cutoff man’s head and the Red Sox will score an unnecessary run.
– Jorge will go 0-for-the-series with two walks.
– Brett Gardner will be picked off and caught stealing.

These things are all inevitable. Just win the series.

Using Your Second Catcher

Leave me in, Skip!

Picture the situation. Bases loaded. Winning by a run in the last game of a series that’s seen a lot of offense and lead changes. Stepping up to the plate…Francisco Cervelli.

Well, you’ve got the hot-hitting Russ Martin on the bench. Here’s the conundrum: you want the offense, but if you bring him in and he gets injured, then who exactly is going to catch the last couple innings? Generally teams have what they call an “emergency third-string” catcher, but that can get very ugly very quickly. So what do you do?

It’s a risk that I normally wouldn’t take, but yesterday, I would’ve. Given the rough road trip and the day off today, yesterday seemed like (perhaps irrationally) an important game to win, and I would trust Martin to at least get a run in way more than Cervelli. So yes, I would’ve pulled the trigger. Could it have burned me? Yes. That’s baseball.

Of course, Cervelli hit for himself and lined it over the center field wall for a grand slam, his second career home run in 434 career plate appearances, so I suppose the point is moot. Sometimes life works out like that.

Hey, guess what else they pulled the trigger on (or lack thereof)? Gardner didn’t bunt, and by golly, he singled to center to bring up Cervelli, who then hit the aforementioned grand salami. Maybe, just mayyyybe they’re learning.

Yanks Stomp on Texas (12-5 Win)

Don't worry, I gotcha.

Goodness gracious, sloppy play lately from these Yanks. The boys made four errors today, which was, quite frankly, a generous number, considering just how many fielding blunders they made. For some reason, they just haven’t looked great in the field the last few days – and then there was the day with the three or so running mistakes. Not what you expect from the Yanks, especially under Girardi, who seems like a big fundamentals guy.

Sabathia labored through six plus, and kept the Yanks in the game at least. He and his pitch count were hurt big time by the fielding, but he got the W in the end, and I’m content with that.

On the bright side, the Yankees offense came alive. A grand slam by Cervelli, two homers by Jeter, and one apiece by Teix and Granderson backed a 12 run performance that featured a six-run eighth inning. Bullpen wasn’t gonna blow this one.

Off days are always nicer coming off a big win, so it should be a nice and relaxed one tomorrow. Then the Yankees start a homestand during which they’ll play the Royals and the Sawx (Boston variety). Should be fun.