October 29th, 2007 → 3:17 pm @ Seth Mnookin
If you haven’t heard yet, you will soon: Joe Girardi has been named the new manager of the Yankees. That’s all sorts of interesting; for one, I’m curious to see how a guy who occasionally acted like a drill commander while with the Marlins is going to do with the Yankees.
Actually, I’m not that curious – for the next while, I’m just going to revel in the Sox’s total domination. That’s what the rest of the baseball world should be doing too…except that Hank “Mini Me” Steinbrenner is determined to prove that he can be just as much as an egocentric prick as his dad. Seemingly thrown into a frenzied panic when the country’s attention was focused on New York’s rivalsâ€šÃ„Ã®their better, classier, and better run rivals, it’s worth pointing outâ€šÃ„Ã®Steinbrenner is proving he’s genetically incapable of being gracious and letting a team besides his own dominate the headlines for a couple of days.
Not that this is necessarily bad news. In the last month, Hank has, among other things, ripped into Joe Torre to the tune of, “Where was Joe’s career in ’95 when my dad hired him?” At least we know life in Yankeeland isn’t going to boring just because ol’ George is sailing off into the twilight…
August 16th, 2007 → 10:36 am @ Seth Mnookin
2006: Mariano Rivera shut down for most of September after experiencing elbow problems.
Spring training, 2007: Joe Torre says he’d prefer not to bring Rivera in to a game before the 9th inning to protect the 37-year-old reliever’s arm.
Rivera’s game logs since last Sunday:
August 12: 1.1 IP, 3H, 1R 1R 30 pitches. (For the ninth time this season, Mariano is asked to record more than 3 outs. He’s brought in in eighth with the Yankees on top by a score of 5-2, 2 out, and runners on first and second. He hits Ryan Garko with a pitch to load the bases before getting a force out to escape the inning. He starts the 9th with a 3 run lead and allows to singles and a double before recording a single out.)
August 13: Blown Save, 1.0 IP, 3H, 1R, 1R, 19 pitches. Gave up three singles in the 9th to allow the O’s to tie the game; Melvin Mora thrown out at plate to help snuff Baltimore’s rally.)
August 15: Blown Save*, Loss, 1.0, 3H, 3R, 3ER, 1HR, 27 pitches. (Brought in in a tie game in the tenth at home; gave up two doubles to start the inning and a home run on the fourth batter of the inning. Fourth HR of the season; he hasn’t topped 3 since 2001.)
You want more? OK: Taking out his rookie year, Mo’s opponent’s batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS — all of which remain impressive — are the highest of his career’s. They’re also higher than Beckett’s, Okajima’s, and Papelbon’s. Even Manny D. has better numbers in everything except OPB, where Mo edges him, .290 to .294. His ERA stands at 3.46; it hasn’t been above 2.00 at season’s end since 2002. Since 2002, the latest in the season his ERA has topped 3.00 was August 11, 2002.
Now, I know I’ve been harping on Joe Torre’s bullpen use all season. But I’ve had good reason. (All of this raises a question: why aren’t we reading any of this info in our daily sports sections? Just wondering.)
* Brain fart: since Mo came in in a tie game, he took the loss, but that’s obviously not a blown save.
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August 15th, 2007 → 9:12 am @ Seth Mnookin
Yeah, last weekend sucked. I mean, it really, really sucked. I had forgotten what a good, swift gut punch to the stomach felt like: on both Friday and Sunday, I went into the eighth totally sure the Sox would win. (I was once again reminded of the Celtics-Sixers game when Bird missed two free throws at the end of a game in Philly; the result was that the C’s lead remained at 2. Dr. J, naturally, hit and throw-up-a-prayer three to win the game.) Those blown saves, coupled with a still-sputtering offense, coupled with a Yankees team that seems incapable of losing…well, let’s just say even though I might pretend I like the excitement of a tight pennant race, I was really looking forward to nice, calm September.
So, to deal with all this, I took refuge, as I oft do, in the life of the mind…or, at least, the life of the procrastinator, and tried to figure out some lessons to take away from what will heretofore be referred to as the Great Gagne Massacre of 2007…
1. Gagne is still filthy; some of his 69 MPH curves last night looked downright unhittable. I’m not (that) worried about him not being a reliable 8th inning guy. No matter what, striking out the side is an impressive feat.
2. Speaking of a reliable 8th inning guy, I’m sure as shit glad that Okie from MuskaHokkaido is getting some rest. He needs it. (See: Proctor, Scott.) Despite the unfortunate results, last weekend’s — and last night’s — bullpen use by Tito made me glad, once again, that Torre ain’t in the Sox dugout. No team is going to succeed in the playoffs without a stable of relievers that can be relied upon, and if you want to rely on guys, you need to both keep them healthy and use them in enough situations to give them the confidence they can succeed when the game’s on the line.
3. Speaking of Torre, did anyone notice what Mariano has looked like the last few days? On Sunday, slow-and-steady Joe called on Mo to pitch an inning-plus for the ninth time this season. In the ninth, the great Panamanian One gave up two singles and a double, prompting Torre to come out to the mound to make sure the Greatest Postseason Closer in History (TM) wasn’t injured. Then, after throwing 30 pitches in that game, Mariano was called on again on Monday; not surprisingly, he gave up three singles in the ninth to allow the O’s to score the game’s tying run; if the O’s third-base coach hadn’t foolishly sent Mora home earlier in the inning, Baltimore would have gone into the bottom of the 9th with a 7-6 lead. That two-day sequence exemplifies Torre’s foolishness as well as anything: on one day, he’s worried he’s injured Riviera by riding him like an overworked hooker; a little more than 24 hours later, he throws him out there again.
4. Is there anyone else out there that would rather have Mike Lowell at the plate with the game on the line instead of Papi or Manny? (I know this is heresy, but I think right now, I might even prefer DP at the plate over the two Dominican sluggers. The world is a weird place.)
6. I also feel the man-love for Jon Lester.
That’s all for now. More on (He’s not Henry) Clay, among other topics, later…
June 25th, 2007 → 12:04 am @ Seth Mnookin
This weekend’s games showed why, for the remainder of the season, the Sox should worry about almost anyone before New York. While Francona continued to manage brilliantly down in San Diego — I almost jumped for joy when I saw Beckett go back out for the eighth this afternoon — Joe Torre continued the ritualized abuse he’s been heaping on the Yankee bullpen for years, guaranteeing that, should the Yanks somehow make the playoffs, they’ll have almost no arms to lead them to battle. (I’ve always said that it was Torre, along with Schilling, Ortiz, and Foulke, that played the biggest role in the ’04 ALCS: had he not rode Tom Gordon that year like a cheap whore, Flash might have had an ounce or two of gas left in the tank in the eighth inning of Game 4.) The CW storyline coming out of this weekend will be how, once again, the Yankees’ bullpen failed when the game was on the line. But the CW is wrong. The story here is how Torre’s mismanagement is already crippling New York.
There are so many places to start this discussion, it’s hard to know where to begin. There’s Torre’s use of Mariano for five outs on Friday, the second time Genius Joe has pulled that move after swearing up and down in spring training he’d never use Mo for more than one inning. There’s his ass-backwards bullpen management last night, which pretty much guaranteed the Giants would break their eight-game losing streak. And there was tonight’s emergency relief appearance by Clemens (I’m just sure that’s what he signed up for), the first time in 22 years Roger’s come out of the bullpen.
But instead of harping on any of that, let’s just look at some numbers. The first one is IP so far this season; the second what that’s projected to over the full year.
Proctor, 41, 92 (Last year Proctor led all relievers in IP with 102.)
Vizcaino, 37, 81.2 (Pretty much in line with his career averages.)
Farnsworth, 32, 70.2 (Since becomming a reliever in 2000, he’s topped 80 IP only once, in 2001.)
Bruney, 32, 70.2 (His career average is 32.2.)
Myers, 29.2, 65.2 (The last time he topped 50 IPs was in 1998.)
Then there’s the Sox.
Okajima, 36.2, 80.1 (No MLB comps.)
Piniero, 30, 65.2 (He averaged more than 180 IP during his years as a starter.)
Papelbon, 27.1, 59.2 (He was shut down after 68 IP last year.)
I guess Torre figures that now that Dusty Baker’s no longer on the bench, someone needs to wrack up those pitcher abuse points…
June 3rd, 2007 → 10:30 pm @ Seth Mnookin
Yup – I’m still trying to recover from my move, but I’m glad yesterday’s game at least showed that I didn’t jinx the Sox with this post. (I know: as I write this it’s 4-0 Yankees in the top of the fifth. But let’s not forget about yesterday.)
A couple of comments, though, are in order. For anyone who didn’t actually see yesterday’s game, it’s hard to communicate how brutally inept the Yankees were in the seventh inning. Every team will have a couple of these innings, and when things are going along more or less as normal, that’s fine. But things are not going along more or less as normal…and it had to hurt for New York to throw away this game. Just for fun, let’s recap the mistakes, step by step. We’ll put the score in bold, followed by how many outs there should have been and how many runs should have scored in itals.
1. Joe Torre continues to ride his relievers harder than…well, this is a family blog, so let’s leave it at that. In any case, he leaves Scott Proctor in the game after Proctor gets three straight outs in the eighth. The chances of Scott Proctor getting through two consecutive innings unscathed is about equal to the chance of A-Rod and Jeter starting a men’s group together.
2. Bobby Abreu, taking a page from A-Rod’s “how to look manly on the field” manual, pulls up short on Ortiz’s imminently catchable ball to deep right. One out.
3. After an IBB to Manny, Proctor walks Youk on four pitches. This came as a surprise to absolutely no one…except, of course, for Joe Torre. Bases loaded, none out.
4. Robinson Cano flubs the throw to second on what should be a tailor made double-play ball from Mike Lowell. Cap’n Intangibles, intent on proving he’s a hero, forces a wild throw to first. Instead of bases loaded and one run in, there are two runs in, runners on second and third. Two runs, one out, no runs, three outs (if Abreu had caught Ortiz’s ball, and depending on what Manny had done); one run, two outs (if Cano had thrown on target), one run, one out (if Jeter had held on to the ball).
5. Tek gets and IBB, followed by another Cap’n I error on a WMP grounder. No runs, four outs or one run, three outs regardless of whether or not Cano had helped turn the DP earlier because of this ball’s DP potential.
6. Coco singles to shallow center on a ball that appeared as if it might be caught. With Jason “Speed Demon” Varitek hanging close to second, Melky Cabrera has a relatively easy force-out at third…except A-Rod seems to have noticed a hot blond over by first base and drifts over behind the mound, leaving no one to field a throw. In any case, Lowell scores, and Torre, who actually looked like he was falling asleep earlier in the afternoon, is revived from his siesta and pulls Proctor from the game. Three runs, one out, no runs, five outs or one run, four outs.
7. After a Julio sac fly, Dustin “I Will Cut You” Pedroia singles in WMP. Five runs, two out, no runs, six outs or one run, five outs
8. David Ortiz, long a black hole in the Sox’s lineup, grounds out to end the inning. Five runs, three out, no runs, seven outs or one run, six outs.
Phew. That’s a rough inning. My point, of course, isn’t to gloat; it’s to illustrate that when you’re in a shitstorm, everything smells crappy. The Sox have a long and not-so-glorious history of creating their own problems. That’s exactly what they haven’t been doing this year…and it’s exactly what the Yankees have been doing. It must feel veritably Sisyphusian over their in the Bronx. And with all that, really, who was surprised that Roger was scratched from his first start of the year?
May 30th, 2007 → 5:09 pm @ Seth Mnookin
There’ve been a couple of things going on:
1. I moved this weekend.
2. The place I moved into came with all of the previous owner’s crap.
3. I can be superstitious. (Look what happened to Wake in his next two starts after I posted this piece.)
That said, not even I am so self-centered to think that the Sox’s 14.5 lead over the Yankees could be affected by little ol’ me. (Think about this: the Sox could lose eight straight games, and the Yankees could win eight straight cames, and the lead would still be 6.5 games. Yes, that is definitely incredible.)
I’m also not sure what to add about this recent run. I fully expect the Sox to return back to earth, but even then I think their place in this world will be pretty lofty. It could be a very fun year.
I am, however, willing to weigh in on the Yankees. The last five games have shown a number of good reasons why the Yankees, while undoubtedly playing below their true talent level at the moment, may be in for a world of pain from here on out. Without further ado:
1. Joe Torre’s stupefyingly stupid bullpen management has finally come crashing down on his shoulders. I’m on record as saying that Torre, along with Schill and Papi, deserves credit for the 2004 ALCS: if Torre hadn’t ridden Tom Gordon into the ground, he might have been able to do something besides throw batting practice when the season was on the line. This year, with everything going to hell, Torre’s been even worse than usual. (Anyone wonder what would happen if you combined Dusty Baker and Torre? Just asking.) He very likely cost the Yankees two games this past weekend alone: when he yanked a cruising Mike Mussina in favor of a tanked Scott Proctor, who proceeded to cough up a double and three consecutive walks…two of which brought in a run; and when when he yanked Tyler Clippard after 76 pitches, a move which simultaneously continued to drive the bullpen into the ground and moved the game quickly out of reach.
2. The team’s reaction to said bullpen management is bubbling up. After Clippard (who looks like he’s, at most, a sophomore in high school) was pulled, even he thought it okay to knock Torre to the press: “I never really had a terrible inning. I never got in a bad rut. I was very, very surprised. Youâ€šÃ„Ã´re a starter and your team is in the game. Yeah, I want the ball.” Mr. Clippard, welcome to the Bronx. And this is just a couple of week’s after Proctor joked that his four-game suspension was the only way he was going to get any rest. “They can wear me out pretty heavy before that,” he said, while waiting for his appeal to go through. Indeed they can. Just look at last weekend for the results.
3. The impending arrival of Roger “Mercenary” Clemens. Several weeks back — when the Yankees looked like they were scuffling as opposed to imploding — Kyle Farnsworth got all uppity about Clemens’ “family” clause. I’m with Farnsworth on this one: when you’re paying a guy more than any player in the history of the game, it’s not too much to ask that he actually, you know, show up. Before the Clemens signing, most everyone on the team gave lip service to the notion that whatever Clemens did wasn’t going to bother them. That might have even been true…if the team had been winning. That’s no longer the case. And if Clemens has a shitty start (or three), you can bet sure as Manny will end the year with somewhere between 30 and 40 HRs that something is going to go down in that clubhouse.
Anyway, there you have it. Now don’t blame me if the Sox don’t win every game for the rest of the season…
May 2nd, 2007 → 11:52 am @ Seth Mnookin
Like I said below, I’m going to be getting to some things a bit late…
A month into the season, we’ve seen a bunch of interesting things.
* The Yankees have been sucking. They also appear to have picked up the pesky black plague bug that infected the Sox last August.
* There’s going to be lots of talk about whether or not Joe Torre should be fired as long as the worst $200 million team in history stays in last place. Or third place. Or second place.
* Last night notwithstanding, the Sox’s bullpen has been lights out.
* Despite some disappointing performances at the plate — i.e., everyone in the starting lineup save for Youk, Ortiz, Drew, and Lowell — the Sox are, overall, doing fairly well offensively.
* This whole Schilling-Beckett-Dice K thing could work out pretty well.
And now for some quick thoughts on the above:
* Brian Cashman is getting some heat for the Yankees roster and it’s age/failure to produce. That’s not entirely fair (although not entirely unfair, either). The injury thing is hard to predict — Mussina is getting on in years, sure; on the other hand, but Wang could have reasonably been expected to stay healthy. And while Cashman has exhibited some creativity/flexibility in jettisoning some of his overpaid veterans, he’s still saddled with guys like Jason Giambi — and Giambi, at least according to almost everyone surrounding the Yankees — was one of those Steinbrenner “I have to have him RIGHT NOW” players that Cashman seemingly had little to do with.
* The Torre defenders out there are right when they say there’s only so much he can do — he’s not out on the field. But — and this is a big but — two areas that Torre most definitely can effect are a) bullpen usage and b) keeping a bunch of spoiled brats (er, I mean athletes), focused and motivated over the course of a long season. In regards to a), Torre has a Dusty Baker-esque tendency to abuse his bullpen, a practice that cost the Yankees at least one trip to the World Series (in 2004, when the Yankees had to depend on the ghost of Tom Gordon) and could very well lead the team down the road to ruin this year. As for b), I’m a firm believer in the notion that sometimes good managers need to go just because a team needs a change. Torre’s been very good at keeping a highly efficient and generally successful team on course. His laconic style might not be so good for a team in crisis. (Quick digression: I also put some of the blame on Captain Intangibles, who, much like Jason Varitek, seems to view his role solely as someone who sets a good example on the field. Jeter could, and should, have stepped up any number of times this year. Take spring training: the best things he could have done for the team were defend Pavano when Mussina was whining and embrace A-Rod to quell the ongoing talk about conflict there.)
And…I gotta run. Looks like I’ll have to address the Red Sox part of this equation later on.