Friday, April 07, 2006

Joel Sherman Steals From Me

Joel Sherman, normally of the New York Post but today writing for the MSG Network's website, ventured into the same subject I grazed yesterday: the 2006 Yankees have been showing shades of 2005.

The Yankees lost two of three to open the season against the A’s, but they lost far more than that. They also lost the ability to keep claiming they are a changed team. Despite all the talk and all the emphasis to address shortcomings, the Yankees were same as they ever were.

So the talk can stop now. We are going to have to see the walk to believe the Yankees are not a carbon copy of 2005, when their offense, overwhelming pool of talent and Mariano Rivera helped them win yet another division title despite the fact that their pitching was ordinary, their defense horrendous, and their reliance on walks and the long ball all but absolute.


Normally I don't like Sherman. But how can I dislike him when he posted the same opinion as me...and I beat him to it?

Also of note in this article:

For the record, James Frey says he was writing "Enter Sandman" well before Rivera or Wagner were even major leaguers.


Apparently Sherman has been perusing A Million Little Pieces, a half-fictional account penned by crack addict James Frey. James Hetfield was the author of "Enter Sandman" -- though I'm sure everyone but Sherman knew that already.

Anaheim, Coming Right Up

Kelvim Escobar and Shawn Chacon make their 2006 debuts tonight as the Yanks roll into Anaheim for another night series. Normally, these games are a bother, but since I’m working until 9 p.m. most weekdays, the 10:05 games are more than welcome. In fact, thanks to the dunderheads making the schedule, I won’t have to miss a game due to work until April 18th (and since I can’t watch the full game on MLB.tv until 6 a.m. the next morning, I have a feeling I’ll be up early in the coming weeks).

I said yesterday that I would be pleased with two of three, though I have a feeling I’ll be better described as perturbed when the weekend comes to a close. Those blasted Angels always give the Yanks problems, and coming off the heels of the Oakland series, I don’t expect that to change. No one wants to be the uber-pessimistic fan preaching doomsday three games into the season, but the last two games sent clear reminders that this team is flawed in the most crucial areas: pitching and defense.

Of course, my analysis falls victim to the small sample size conundrum. But after intensely watching baseball since I was old enough to understand it, you tend to pick up on a few things. For example, I still have plenty of faith in Kyle Farnsworth, despite the ride Frank Thomas took him for. He may have been removed after that, but he didn’t seem fazed. If I’m Torre, I’m handing him the ball at some point tonight, just to prove my continuing confidence in him. I think it would do wonders for his purportedly fragile psyche.

Here are some other quick observations based on the first three games of the season. I’ll be placing optimism and pessimism on a number line from –10 to 10.

[MORE]

  • Randy looked so-so in his first game and still killed the A’s. I know it’s only one game, but when you allow one run in seven innings without your best stuff, you have proven something from the get go. OP Scale: 5.

  • After a monster spring that won him a roster spot, Scott Proctor comes into the ninth inning of a tie game and blows it. During post-game interviews, reporters don’t cease asking him about his ill daughter and her effect on his pitching, leading me to hate all locker room reporters. Regardless, it doesn’t leave me very high on Proctor. OP Scale: -8.

  • A-Rod, Jeter, Cano, and Giambi have all made gaffes in the young season. We all figured the outfield defense was the biggest problem coming in, but the infield is now a concern. How much of a concern will be determined in the weeks to come. OP Scale: -2.

  • The Yanks didn’t score any runs after the sixth on Tuesday and none after the third on Wednesday. This was an enormous factor in the team dropping to 11-19 last year – scoring early and cooling off as the game wears on. Doesn’t mean it’s going to produce the same result this year, but it isn’t making me any more optimistic. OP Scale: -6.

  • Oakland scored nine runs on Wednesday. OP Scale: -7.

  • Five of them were unearned. OP Scale: -10.

  • Bernie Williams has struck out five times in 14 plate appearances while walking only once and posting a couple of rinky dink singles. OP Scale: -10.

  • Joe is using Andy Phillips as a late inning defensive replacement for Giambi. This brings me to three important points. 1) This negates Phillips’s value as a pinch hitter, 2) it means he probably won’t be starting at DH much, and 3) he takes Giambi’s bat out of the game, which I think makes up for his shaky defense. Seriously, Giambi isn’t as bad in the field as many would have you believe. OP Scale: -4.

  • Jaret Wright pitched well for two innings, and the five run surge in the eighth wasn’t totally his fault (if Damon hadn’t smashed into the wall, Bradley might have been held to a double; if Cano doesn’t bobble that ball, it’s a man on third and one out). Yet, he’s still Jaret Wright. OP Scale: 0.


In so many words, I guess I’m saying that I don’t think the Yanks will win more than a game against the Angels. They should be able to hammer out a victory on the back of Randy on Saturday, but that’s about it. It’s not that I lack faith in Chacon and Moose, it’s that I think the Angles pitching staff is going to shut the Yanks down. Prediction time:

Friday
Angels 4, Yanks 1

They strike early for a run in the second off Escobar, but that’s all they get. Meanwhile, Chacon pitches a solid game that will be forgotten in a week, because the end result will be a tally in the L column. Thankfully, Chacon’s not the kind of guy who is phased by such things, and will rebound nicely. I have the OP scale for him at a 6 or 7 for the season. Look for a Proctor appearance – and him widening the gap.

Saturday
Yanks 5, Angels 3

Not predicting a no-no from Randy, but I figure he’ll go a solid seven again, allowing two or three runs. At this point, I’ll take it, though I expect him to pick it up from here. Ervin Santana has given the Yanks problems in the past, but I think they’ll bounce back against him and get to the bullpen by the sixth.

Sunday
Angels 7, Yanks 6

I don’t think Colon can dominate the Yanks, and I don’t think Moose is going to pitch well. You can ask my why, and I won’t come up with a good reason. It’s just a gut feeling that Moose will be off his game, and the bullpen won’t really do him any favors. That could be a recurring theme in 2006.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Athletics 9, Yanks 4

Is it too soon to compare the early goings in 2006 to those in 2005? We may only be one series into the campaign, so the sample sizes aren’t exactly convincing, but it still seems like nothing has changed. In fact, my most uttered phrase over the last two days: “Same Old Shit.”

The 2005 Yankees didn’t hit a low of 11-19 because they were a bad team. They hit that mark because their bullpen was questionable at best, they hit in spurts, they lost winnable games in the late innings, and played shaky defense. So this is different from this year how?

That we march into Anaheim tomorrow for a three-game set isn’t helping my confidence either. Those guys have been Yankee killers for quite some time now and could certainly send the Yanks tumbling down the ladder. Thankfully, they have a day off to regroup – but they had off-days early in the 2005 season as well.

[MORE]I’m not predicting another elderly couple start for the Yanks; I’m just saying that the factors leading to the 11-19 start are present in this incarnation of the team. Hell, those factors were present in the team throughout the 2005 season; they just overcame those obstacles as the season progressed. No one’s saying they can’t kick the problems in the teeth and start rolling from here.

The ONLY reason last night didn’t push me over the deep end: Jete’s error. You can say what you will about his mediocre defense, but he makes that play 49 times out of 50. Sure, the biggest innings came after that one, but I’m sure the play had an effect on the young Wang’s psyche. I’m not making excuses for the kid; those are the breaks and everyone knows it. Hopefully he can shake it off, buck up, and head back out next Tuesday for the home opener (against Joe Mays, who was anally raped by the Tigers yesterday).

Robbie Cano had me in a tizzy last night as well. He made such a spectacular baserunning maneuver in the third inning that I had to run to grab my notebook and write it down. Leading off the frame, Robbie smacked one up the middle and off the tip of Marco Scutaro’s glove (a bit of irony here, maybe? I mean, Cano DID knock Crosby out of the series). Mark Ellis was also in pursuit of the ball as it scooted into shallow center field, meaning no one was covering second base. I’d credit Tony Pena with seeing this and telling Cano to get on his horse, but Robbie was going hard all the way, flipping into overdrive as he rounded first. That’s something he never would have done last year.

But then we all know what happened in the eighth. It looked like Robbie just lost focus for a second, which was a perpetual problem in his rookie campaign. Larry Bowa should have been all over him after the game last night, and hopefully that further sparks Cano. He’s already made some snazzy plays at second during the first series, giving us all hope that he’s improved his defense as well as his baserunning.

Shame on the guys scheduling for MLB, who are obviously Yankee haters. Not only were we stuck with three straight 10:05 games to start the season, we’re saddled with two more in Anaheim before finally playing in daylight on Sunday (and that’s only because there can only be one night game on Sunday, the ESPN game). That one’s a rematch of ALDS Game One, Mussina v. Colon. Before those two square off, we have Chacon v. Kelvim Escobar on Friday (Escobar scares the bejeezus out of me), and Randy duels with Ervin Santana on Saturday. Two of three would please me greatly.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It Reads Like a Journal...But I'm Posting It Anyway

Like none of us saw this coming: after two solid looking innings, Mike Mussina seems to be breaking down in the third, surrendering a dinger to Nick Swisher (good for fantasy, bad for Yanks), and a series of hits that resulted in another run. I sit here with runners on the corners and two down, Yanks trailing 2-1 with the Big Hurt at the plate…and he popped out, though the fans at McAfee Coliseum had me believing it was a homer.

The Yanks showed shades of 2005, failing to capitalize on a leadoff walk and an ensuing double. Second and third with none out, and Rich Harden bore down and whiffed the next three guys – not to mention Matsui to lead off the second. And, to make matters worse, all three guys in the first inning – Sheffield, A-Rod, and Giambi – all looked quite foolish in the act of whiffing. Thankfully, Giambi compensated by drawing a four pitch walk in the fourth, followed by Matsui’s redeeming double, leaving us with the same situation as the first. Unfortunately for the Yanks, Jorge, Bernie, and Cano are more likely to K than Sheffield, A-Rod and Giambi.

What the hell was up with A-Rod’s base running gaffe in the third? First off, he didn’t hustle out of the box, which pissed me off to begin with. Then, he looked to be turning on the jets when the lollipop throw came home, but he clearly wouldn’t have enough time to reach second safely. The only possible explanation is that he was trying to get into a run down so Sheffield could score…but that usually works better with less than two outs and a guy who gives a crap on third base. Complete mental error on A-Rod’s part.

[MORE]The AFLAC trivia question was regarding streaks of winning 10 or more games in a season. Considering I remember a very similar question from the A-Rod-Colon game last year, I think I know the answer is Greg Maddux. Answer as soon as we get it.

And, to make this entry a bit more disorganized, Posada just grounded out to short, allowing Giambi to chug home. Why can’t YES give us a split screen every time Giambi is on base? Is there anything more hilarious than his cartoonish body wobbling towards the next base? It’s a tie game with a runner on second, but Bernie and Cano make that moot, respectively popping out weakly and lining out to center.

Yep, that was a relatively easy trivia question. My dad routinely schools me on these things, so it’s satisfying when I know one for sure. I’m patting myself on the back.

I’m attempting to keep raw statistics for every player this season in an attempt to sort through all of these calculated statistics. It’s been interesting thus far, and of note to mention that Man Ram has struck out four times already this season, and has a measly single to show for it. Think he’s happy?

Mussina with a bit of redemption, striking out Swisher for the first out of the fifth. And here he goes again, falling behind Marco Scutaro – MARCO SCUTARO – 3-0.

Bobby Murcer is senile. “The last time Mussina missed starts was back in 2004.” Really now. What was September 2005? Nah, he wasn’t injured; Torre just gave him the month off. Jeter has Murcer’s back, making up for his gaffe with a swift double play to end the inning.

Justin Duchscherer in relief of Rich Harden now, which makes me hopeful with a 3-2 lead in the sixth. He pronounces it “DUKE-shur,” but I think he should go with, “DOO-shur.” Does that make me immature?

I’ll probably be the 8,000th person to note this, but so much for Eric Chavez’s slow starts. Ding dong and we’re tied at 3 with Thomas up and Mussina still throwing. And walking. And saved by Cano. Good job by the kid, and we’re in the midst of a nail biter.

Hmm…Scott Proctor to start the ninth. Interesting decision here. And now they’re walking Nick Swisher with first base open. Kay points out that the Yanks are doing it to set up the force, but in reality, it’s because Proctor is horrible against lefties and Swish has already parked one today.

Game. Scott Proctor let Marco Freakin’ Scutaro

Well, it was the same old story for the Yanks tonight, as they failed to score in key situations. I realize they’re not going to score every time they get guys in scoring position, but you expect at least one of Sheffield, A-Rod, and Giambi to at least hit a mid-range fly ball with runners on second and third with none out. And my dad has fuel for the A-Rod pyre, as he grounded to short to end the ninth.

Wang vs. Haren tomorrow night. Obviously, it’s not a must-win, but it’s certainly a "boy, I’d like to" win.

On a final note, the absolute best question of Torre's post-game debriefing: "were you happy when Johnny Damon doubled in the ninth?" Are you kidding me, lady?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

You Know It's Baseball Season...

When you're sitting at your computer on a beautiful day, voraciously entering in statistics, listening to a game, and reading anything and everything related to baseball.

By the way, Aaron Boone racked up his third hit of the day, driving in another run. Who is this Aaron Boone character, and where was he from August through October of 2003?

Update: Holy Lord, he just hit a bomb. Boone is now 4-4. I hate this guy.

It's 7-1 right now in favor of the Tribe, so it's looking like revenge from Sunday night's drubbing. It's nice to see a blowout every once in a while (and all the time if the Yanks are on the victorious end), but I expect more from these two teams.

Hopefully the Cliff Lee-Jose Contreras rubber matchup will prove more gratifying tomorrow.

And on a final note, listening to the Indians makes me long for Bob Uecker in the booth. I have a feeling that I'll be hitting up a Brewers game or 50 this year.

Thome Flipping Off Naysayers

Two games in a White Sox uniform, two ding dongs. I can't tell you what the homer looked like, since I'm listening to the game on MLB radio rather than watching it on MLB.tv. It's not that it's more satisfying; it's that I'd rather listen to the radio when I'm performing other tasks like compiling stats and applying for jobs.

Victor Martinez went deep in the second for the Injuns to put them on top 1-0, which was followed in the fourth by three straight two-out singles, leading to another three runs. So despite Thome's evident dominance, the Sox are trailing 4-1. Jake Westbrook looks to be in a bit of trouble, however...

Killer Opener

Seriously, can Opening Day get any better than last night? A team heralded for the ferocity of their one through nine slammed their way through a team heralded for their superior pitching staff. Advantage: Yankees. At least for now.

I revisit this topic with friends at the beginning of every season, and I mentioned it quite a few times throughout last summer in this here space: I like listening to Sterling and Waldman better than watching games on TV. Some may think me crazy; others may think I’m saying this for the sake of originality. Neither is true. So, since the Yanks didn’t give us much to talk about last night (we killed them, das it), I’ll delve into my radio/TV debate briefly.

[MORE]The most notable difference is the voice of the play-by-play man. I’ve heard every possible criticism of John Sterling – most notably that he interjects himself too much and becomes the center of attention rather than the game. Say what you will about him, but you can’t lambaste him for his broadcasting voice. His baritone is the perfect voice for calling a game, much to the contrary of Michael Kay, whose nasal diction makes me cringe.

Just so I’m not jumping around here, I should also note the contrast of their respective home run calls. I make it no secret that I think, “Looking up, see ya!” is the lamest of the lame when it comes to homer calls, while “It is high, it is far, it is gone!” is borderline masterful. Maybe not the line itself, but the way Sterling’s booming voice resonates through my speakers. And it only gets better when he adds the embellished, “Off the Meezzzzzaaaaaannnnniiiiiinnnneeee!!!!” In fact, that may be my favorite home run call ever.

Perhaps the greatest difference between Sterling and Kay is their supporting staff. Kay is stuck in the booth with two rotating color guys, all of whom are former players, while Sterling is accompanied by Suzyn Waldman, who obviously hasn’t played a day of any professional sport. Ergo, Sterling can get away with gaffes in his baseball knowledge, while Kay gets to hear it from the guys surrounding him. For example, Ken Singleton and Bobby Murcer started a discourse about hit batsmen after Brad Halsey plunked Jorge square in the back on an 0-2 count with the A’s down 11-1. They riffed on message pitches and why it was obviously on purpose because of the score and the count. Kay was befuddled, asking, “…on an 0-2 count? Don’t they want to get outs?” This was received by ostensible (yet inaudible) laughter from the other two, as they explained baseball psychology to the layman Kay. Think Waldman would ever correct Sterling if he used similar logic?

And you know what? I’m actually starting to warm to Waldman. At the commencement of the 2005 season, I couldn’t stand her. During the month of April she was nothing more than a talking billboard, routinely interjecting herself to talk about the merits of W.B. Mason. After my buddy Andy informed me that she was in the booth merely due to a friendship with Sterling, I was irate. How could they let such a visibly terrible commentator work 162 games a year?

Well, a lot of learning can take place during that many games, and Waldman began to grow into the role. Sure, she still spurted off ads, but that’s part of the job. Her baseball knowledge has tripled since April 2005, and she’s ceased her longwinded stories that were oft interrupted by Sterling, who had to talk about the game on the field. I now thoroughly enjoy her colorfully articulated pregame show, and am more than satisfied with her growth as a color commentator.

The YES booth, however, is hit or miss. I actually like Bobby Murcer better as a play by play guy. He has the voice for it and can keep up with the game. That, and I’m not particularly enamored with him as a color man, though his vast experience in the game does add another dimension to the broadcast. The same could be said for Ken Singleton, though I hold him in a lesser regard as a color man than Murcer. He’s not terrible, but he’s not really providing me with the insight I would expect from a former Major Leaguer. It seems that I beat him to many comments and observations (though I don’t have to wait for someone to finish speaking before I blurt something out). Once again, great broadcasting voice, mediocre broadcasting skills.

Jim Kaat is a fan favorite, and I can’t disagree. Sure, he’s getting a bit senile nowadays, but he still provides excellent knowledge from the perspective of a pitcher. It’s when he strays from the pitching aspect of the game that he gets trite and annoying. While I enjoy his work, I don’t think he’ll be with the YES crew much longer. Beyond the fact that he’s getting up there in years, YES has a pitching guru waiting in the wings in Al Leiter, who has made clear his desire to enter the world of broadcasting. I thoroughly enjoyed him during the 2004 playoffs, and expect he’d only get better as a full time commentator. Ultimately, though, I’d like to see him coaching the Yanks pitchers some day.

You want to talk about long-winded? Well, look no further than one of the newest additions to the YES crew, David Justice. Thankfully, they’ve been limiting him to studio time, where Bob Lorenz can keep him at bay (though I do miss Fred Hickman, and wish he would get more time on Sportscenter). When he gets in the booth, though, you’re better off hitting mute and adding your own commentary. Not only do his stories go nowhere, but he often causes Kay to miss a call on the field. Let him hone his skills in the studio before throwing him back out for game action.

So when we score Radio v. TV, it ultimately boils down to Sterling trumping Kay as a play-by-play man. Both have mediocre supporting casts, though Waldman hasn’t reached her potential yet, while I don’t think we’ll be seeing much improvement from the guys in the YES booth. If Sterling could become a little more Gary Cohen and a little less Joe Buck, I would probably turn on the radio nightly instead of flipping on the boob tube.

Oh, and just because it’s amusing, we’re on pace for a 162-0 season with 2,430 runs scored. Come on, boys, let’s keep up the pace.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day, Bitches

Talk about stimulus overload. I’ve got the Red Sox-Rangers and Mets-Nationals on the TV and a flurry of games on MLB.tv. Life doesn’t get much better than this…

That is, until tonight, when we have Opening Day (in jeopardy due to rain) and the National Championship beginning about a half hour, 45 minutes apart.

HOME RUN ALBERT PUJOLS! Very glad I’m sticking with the Cards-Phils for the most part, because this is looking like quite a game in the making. Mainly, though, I want to see what everyone else wants to see – Jimmy Rollins and his hit streak bid.

Freakin’ Red Sox are up 5-0 and Schilling, while looking slightly vulnerable, has been quite solid. I don’t expect he’ll be back for the bottom of the 6th. However, should he come back out, he’ll be facing the heart of the Texas order. That could be disaster for him at this juncture of the game. C’mon Tito, let’s start the season by making some poor pitching decisions.

Ortiz homered today, and he now leads Alex Rodriguez 1-0 in the 2006 home run race. If A-Rod wants to have a shot in this thing, he’ll have to answer tonight…multiple times.

Honestly, though, Ortiz seems like he should be hitting a homer per game. The guy just locks in, has a huge swing, impeccable eye, and a quick bat that goes right through the zone. As much as I want to see A-Rod – or even Giambi – come though in a monster way to win the MVP, I have a feeling Ortiz is going to run away with it this year.

Lordy lord, what an ending in the Mets game. With two outs and no one on, Jose Vidro smacked one in the gap, and apparently didn’t see Beltran cut it off. He tried for second, and was gunned down – though the replay leaves in question whether Anderson Hernandez slapped the tag down properly.

Okay, so Schilling did come out for the 6th, and Hank Blalock did take him deep (just barely), making the score 5-2, and giving me hope that the Sox will go 0-162. A man can dream.

Ooh, sucks for Philly fans. Not only are the Phils down 10-0, but Scott Rolen just figuratively flipped the bird to the crowd as he drove one into the seats for a grand salami.

Be back later with some more of the greatest day of the year.