The Midnight Hour <$BlogRSDURL$>

Thursday, April 29, 2004

It's Good to be the Bing 

Dig it, I like Bubba Crosby. I'm going to default to old school scout parlance and say that he's got a good baseball face, and is a gamer. What I don't like about Bubba is....Bubba. I mean look, Bubba's a good name for an O-Line man or a hunting guide, but I don't think it's befitting of the Yankees new everyday centerfielder..(You reading this Joe?)

As The Donald might say, the Yankees are a "classss organization, they are world class, the best in the woorrrrrld." They need a centerfielder with a bit of style and panache. So with that, let's retire "Bubba" and rename him, Bing. As in Bing Crosby. Think of the possibilities, Bing, Bingo, Buh Buh Buh Boo. When he hits a home run all the broadcast guys can say, "Bingo gets into one, and you can kiss it good buh-buh-buh bye." It'd be fun don't you think?

Memo to Jose: You're Good Enough, You're Smart Enough and Doggone it, People Like You!

Ok, so Jose Contreras pitched reasonably well last night and got the win against the A's but I'm not sure how to feel about this. First off, I fully expected Jose to win last night. Jose's biggest problem in the macro sense is that he's very inconsistent, he'll mix in a bunch of woeful starts with a few gems here and there and I figured he was about due for a gem. Which he sorta almost got last night. Here was his line:

IP 6
H 4
R 1
ER 1
K 4
BB 1

Not too shabby on it's face. Jose threw 105 pitches, 61% for strikes which is also good. Despite the fact that he looked wild he only walked one batter. But that's the interesting thing, he DID look wild at times. Eric Chavez referred to it as effectively wild. Even more interesting is that Contrereas game and frustrating inconsistency is pretty clearly psychological, and here's why I say that. In the sixth inning Bobby Kielty lead off with a gift infield single and moved over to second on a wild pitch. So with one out and a runner on second and the Yankees holding on to a 4-1 lead, Contreras had to face Jermaine Dye. Dye's a great hitter but Jose made him look stupid, with a 90+ mph fastball followed by a 78mph splitter that Dye just waved at.

Clearly this man has the stuff to just dominate guys. But it's pretty clear to me that he doesn't believe that. Consider this, Jose sailed through the first two innings on 22 pitches, 15 of which were strikes and 3 of those were foul balls.

Then, leading off the third, Bobby "Don't call me Bing" Crosby lead off with a home run, and Jose wasn't the same from then on. Whereas he had been efficient and effective leading up to the homer, after the shot, he labored. It took him 84 pitches to get out of the next 4 innings and the funny thing was he wasn't walking guys or giving up hits, he was just trying to throw every pitch perfectly to avoid the bats. The result was that after the homer he only gave up 3 more hits and walked one. His strike to ball ratio was 59% to 41% but there were 14 foul balls. Before Crosby's homer, no A saw more than 5 pitches in a plate appearance. After the homer, there were three 9 pitch at bats, two 6 pitch at bats and one 7 pitch at bat.

All the foul balls probably mean one of two things, Jose was throwing fastballs for strikes that the A's couldn't get around on, or Jose was throwing just off the plate trying to be so fine that the A's couldn't take the pitches but they couldn't really hit them either.

I think if Jose can get it into his head that his stuff is so good that it will endure contact, and thus stop trying to be perfect with everything, he'll cut his pitch counts down and become a much more successful starter. Right now under ideal conditions, he looks like a 6 inning pitcher, which granted, could well be good enough considering the Yankees alleged offense and established bullpen, but that's best case scenario. If he can stop getting rattled he'll be fine but if not he'll be a 4 inning pitcher who will lose his composure with every RBI single.

To his credit, he didn't get rattled last night, I thought for sure he was going to lose it when he threw the wild pitch, so the strike out of Dye may prove to have been the most pivotal duel in his young MLB career.


# posted by Steve : 10:35 AM

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Stick a Fork in Him, He's Finito Santiago 

Back when I lived in D.C. I used to listen to this sports/talk radio show called "The Sports Junkies." The Junkies were hilarious in part because their show was more about their own misadventures in life than it was about ranting and raving about the latest stupid move by the Orioles or Wizards. They also used their own made up slang that was part Swingers and part whatever they made up when they were teenagers growing up together. Something good was "money" something bad was, "hurting" pronounced "hurrrt-ting!" If you went into your bosses office and asked for a raise and he said no, you we're "finished" which evolved to "finito" which evolved to "finito santiago."

Well unbeknownst to many, Finito Santiago is currently playing for the New York Yankees. His name is Bernie Williams. Let me be crystal clear, I love Bernie. He has been my favorite Yankee since he came up. But enough is enough. The man has no business playing centerfield in the big leagues. And that means that he has no business playing for the Yankees. Ouch.

It's painful to watch him twist in the wind like this. Not to put too fine a point on it but the Yankees would be just about as well off if they put a piece of flypaper in centerfield, Bernie's range is nothing. He also, thanks to chronically arthritic shoulders, can't throw worth beans. I'm surprised he hasn't resorted to tossing the ball to Matsui or Sheffield and letting them worry about getting it back in to the infield.

The fact that Bernie has to throw the ball most likely aggravates his hurrrt-ting shoulders, which most likely makes hitting all the more difficult. Bernie hasn't looked confident in the batters box all year. So what to do with a guy who could potentially be a productive hitter, if he didn't have to incompetently play the field? Well DH of course. But it ain't that simple. DH'ing Bernie means that Jason Giambi has to play firstbase if you want his formidable bat in your lineup, and I want Jason Giambi playing first base every day, about as much as I want Bernie playing CF. Giambi isn't as much of a liability in the field as Bernie is in part because he's just not, and in part because, well first base isn't as demanding as the middle outfield slot.

Nevertheless, Giambi has a chronically bad knee, and while we can all hope and pray that Victor Conte passed Jason some magic knee healing pills, we know that historically these kinds of things are degenerative. They just get worse over time no matter what you do. Since Giambi is still a valuable hitter, and since the Yankees have him under contract for 5 years and they ain't paying him $17 million dollars per to be J.T. Snow , the best thing they can do to protect their investment in Giambi's offensive production, is to make things as easy on him as possible. Let him not risk worsening his knees and let him simply concentrate on hitting. So Giambi is your de facto DH and that is only going to get more and more necessary as the years go by. So what does that mean to Bernie?

Again, I love Bernie Williams, love him. He used to be the most graceful player in the game. He would run on tip toes, gilding to balls, he could turn around anyone's fastball, go the other way. While never a good basestealer, he was fast, really really fast. But for every Barry Bonds who can deny father time his day, there are guy like Bernie. Father Time, it seems, has come to collect the rent. Now. In full and maybe a bit early. Bernie may prove me wrong and start to turn things around....remember he had a short spring due to the appendectomy so maybe he's still looking for his bearings at the plate. But defensively it seems sadly clear that Bernie's productive days are behind him.

For the good of the Yankees, any and all trade scenarios should be considered, even if that means eating a large portion of his contract because what is at stake is another large contract, Jason Giambi's contract. And gambling with two high priced players is not a good idea for a team that is levereged up to it's eyeballs in high priced aging sluggers.

Bernie, we hardly knew ye.
# posted by Steve : 6:01 PM

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Required Reading 

If you're a Yankee fan or a Red Sox fan for that matter, you should read Rob Neyer's latest piece on the Yankee's real problems. Guess what, it ain't hitting.

As I said last week, what keeps me up at night regarding the Yankees is that they presently have two starters who are anything to feel good about. And since one of those guys is the ever fragile (fra-geel-ay, must be Italian) Kevin Brown, the wheels could come flying off this team at any moment. Mike Mussina will most likely pitch better as the season goes on, but Contreras is a crapshoot, if Brown of Vasquez go down with an injury, there's gonna be some trouble in the Bronx.

Let's hope the Yanks bats wake up against Mulder, Hudson and Zi....nevermind.


# posted by Steve : 9:30 AM

Monday, April 26, 2004

More G n R 

While I'm biding my time waiting for a few free moments to run some numbers on the new Yankee lineup and make some modifications, I thought I'd throw up a quick post.

In yesterday's post I compared the songs on Guns n' Roses Appetitie For Destruction to the Yankees lineup. Thinking about it further I started playing a little Match Game, which Yankees match up best with the songs on that record:

Welcome to the Jungle--Jason Giambi. Well, pre Yankees Giambi...The clean shaven G-man doesn't have the dangerous edge he had in Oakland.

It's So Easy--A-Rod. For years he's made it look that way. Let's hope it still is.

Nighttrain-- Sheffield. The ultimate sleaze rock song, Sheffield looks like the only Yankee who would be more than happy to whip someone's ass.

Out Ta Get Me--Enrique Wilson. And it's even got the word "out" in the title.

Mr Brownstone--Posada. He used to do a little but the little didn't do it so the little got more and more.

Paradise City-- Bernie Williams back in the day. The most graceful baseball player I ever saw and he could pound the living tar out of the ball

Sweet Child o Mine--Jeter. The crossover hit. Everyone loved this song although it's not the best on the album. It's still the icon.

You're Crazy--Matsui. After watching him slam dance with the seats in Comiskey last week, I'm beginning to wonder.

Anything Goes--Javier Vasquez. Shades of Coney out there on the hill, dontcha think? He is inventive and unpredictable...and good.
# posted by Steve : 1:28 PM

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Appetitie for Destruction... 

...But First, While My Guitar Gently Sweeps: Boston 3-Yankees 0
This was a gentle sweep. The Yankees didn't put up much of a fight. For all the talk of how these games have playoff intensity, the Yankees are playing like they couldn't be bothered. There is no way I would have believed that an offense that is this stacked would be producing runs at such an infrequent rate. I don't want to recap the game today or the series as a whole, I'm not goign to say anything that you probably don't know. This is not a time to recap the facts, this is a time for change, If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem right, so let's get radical, I have an Appetite For Destruction

Besides being one of the greatest rock albums in the history of rock albums, the name of GnRs seminal masterwork is apropos in light of the Yankee's struggles. Why you ask? Well what made Appetite such a great album was not just that it had a fantastic collection of songs, (Welcome to the Jungle and Sweet Child o' Mine, were bona fide first ballot hall of famers) but the supporting cast of songs were solid down to business rockers that are stars in their own right. In essence, Axl, Slash, Duff, Izzy and Steven put together a fantastic rock lineup:

Welcome to the Jungle
It's So Easy
Nighttrain
Out Ta Get Me
Mr Brownstone
Paradise City
My Michele
Think About You
Sweet Child o Mine
You're Crazy
Anything Goes
Rocket Queen

The beauty of that lineup is that you are never more than 4 and a half minutes away from another tough out. Which got me to thinking.....


You spend the money to get A-Rod, Sheffield, Giambi, and Matsui and then in the bottom third of the lineup you have Enrique Wilson? Travis Lee? It's like having two pitchers slots. I mean If you look at the names in Boston's lineup v. the names in NY's lineup you definitely give the advantage to the Yankees. But with at least two guaranteed outs, at the bottom of the Yankees lineup, I'd just let the boppers take their walks, knowing that I'l have a fair chance to get out of trouble.


Not that this will ever happen, but if I was Joe Torre I would start trying some RADICAL lineup constructions. Forget speed at the top and all that shit, that's conventional lineup building and the collection of hitters on this team is not conventional. For starters, I'd never let three lame ass hitters like Wilson, Sierra and Lee occupy the same third of the lineup. I'd like to see this line-up built like 3 mini lineups, that way you are basically going for broke every time through.

Using the players that were in the lineup today here's how I'd do it. First I'd designated a tercile anchor player. I'm going to use A-Rod (because he doesn't really suck,) Sheffield, (Because he looks to be slowly coming alive) and Posada (because he's the only Yankee hitter with a pulse right now.)

Because he's actually hitting right now, Posada gets assigned to the top 3rd so in the near term he'll get the most AB's. We'll follow the same logic and put A-Rod in the second 3rd, because he's hitting the ball a little better over the past 8 games, and Sheffield gets the third 3rd. (Don't bust my balls on A-Rod v. Sheff it's pretty much a toss up depending on how you see it.)

Because I can't think of a better way to do this I'm going to assign each tercile anchor the midpoint in their third of the lineup. Here's what we have so far:

Hitter 1
Posada
Hitter 3
Hitter 4
A-Rod
Hitter 6
Hitter 7
Sheffield
Hitter 9

Now, as you'll remember, we have 3 crappy hitters to deal with in this lineup, Enrique Wilson, Reuben Sierra, and Travis Lee. In today's game, Lee was a (God Forgive Joe) pinch 'hitter', so we really have only two crappy hitters (by nature) to worry about. To me the objective should be to get them as far away from each other in the lineup as we can. So for the time being, let's put the more patient Wilson at the top and Reuben in the middle. But now we have a problem because A-Rod is already in the middle, so...since my decision to put A-Rod in the middle was arbitrary, I'll happily move him to 6th and Sierra can bat 5th, (I told you this was gonna be radical.) Here's what we have now:

Wilson
Posada
Hitter 3
Hitter 4
Sierra
A-Rod
Hitter 7
Sheffield
Hitter 9

Ok, change is scurry, don't worry it'll be ok...let's keep plugging away. We now have 4 spots open, one in each of the top 2 3rd's and 2 in the bottom third. Here are the hitters we have left to assign:

Jeter
Giambi
Matsui
Bernie


Ok, on paper that's not a bad group of guys, assuming that one of these days they have to start progressing to the mean. Surely we can find room for them in our wacky lineup.

Since we have two realtively crap ass hitters at 1 and 5, let's put our two best remaining hitters just ahead of them. For my money the two best hitters are Giambi and Jeter. That means, that Yikes! Giambi is hitting 9th and i'm putting Jeter in the 4 hole:

Wilson
Posada

Hitter 3
Jeter
Sierra

A-Rod
Hitter 7
Sheffield
Giambi


Ok, that leaves Matsui and Bernie. I'm gonna put Bernie in the 7th spot and Matsui in the 3rd spot.


Wilson
Posada
Matsui
Jeter
Sierra
A-Rod
Bernie Williams
Sheffield
Giambi


Can you tell me that that lineup is gonna be any worse than the one that couldn't get any runs on the board today?

Ok, I have to go do some work now because what i'd like to do is graph this lineup v. a more traditional lineup and see what it looks like. My goal is to have a lineup with evenly distributed good hitting versus clustering your good hitters and your bad hitters at separate places in the lineup.

To be continued....

Update: Still working on the analysis part of this lineup exercise stay tuned, Also, my comments are not working I am going to switch to another provider for the comments feature, but probably won't get around to it today.
# posted by Steve : 3:05 PM

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Moose is Loose  

In approximately, 34 minutes Mike Mussina will take to the mound as the Yankees try to complete a sweep of their 3 game series against the White Sox. I was at Comiskey for the game last night and honestly, it was one of those games that doesn't lend itself to a great blog post. It was a quick game, both pitchers, Javier Vasquez and Jon Garland worked quickly and effectively. Javier retired the first 7 hitters he faced and the last 10 hitters he faced. In between he left a curveball up to Carlos Lee and Carlos whacked it into the bullpen.

No worries as A-Rod hit a low line drive out to right center, Garland's quote on the hit was this, "I don't want to take anything away from him but I think he ran into that one." A-Rod himself thought he had fouled the pitch off. The piping hot Jorge Posada blasted his seventh homer of the season, with Sheffield on board to make the score 3-1. That was that. It was the first time I've seen the Yankees in person this season, A-Rod looked competent with the leather although he wasn't really tested. Jeter looked his usual rangeless self. Mariano Rivera seemed a little more wild than I've ever seen him. The cutter looked to be sailing a bit right to left but at least it was sailing outside and not out over the plate.

I continue to be mystified as to why Reuben on Rye Sierra has a job in the Major Leagues but I can't seem to work up the vitriol for a rant.

I'll say this, I like having Bubba Crosby around because with the loss of Nick the Stick and Soriano there Crosby is the only active Yankee who wears his socks and pants correctly. I'm not a fan of the baggy pajama look that Mussina tends to favor.

Speaking of which, Mussina has hopefully had his coffee, gotten a few winks and finally shaken off his jet lag. If Mike has another sketchy outing tonight, I'm going to officially start worrying about the guy. Think about this, if Mussina continues the way he's going, the Yankees will have a rotation with basically two guys you can rely on for a strong outing. Given that one of those two guys is Kevin Brown, Brian Cashman can't be getting much sleep these days. It just makes me happy to see Javier Vasquez looking calm, composed and businesslike in pinstripes.

I'm working late tonight and will be following the game via Gamecast, so I'll keep a running update with my ever so witty commentary. Hey, it amuses me at least.

Update Somebody get Billy Connors on the horn, STAT.

# posted by Steve : 6:30 PM

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Tough Guys Tumble 

Well, the Yankees held on to win a wet, wild, wobegone game against the White Sox last night. As detailed in my previous post, Alex Graman was staked to a 7 nothing lead in the first. Graman was miserable, giving back single runs in the first and second. Then the rains came and the game was delayed for more than an hour. When the tarp came off, Graman went back to being miserable giving up 3 more runs before Verizon Wireless brought us the Call to the Bullpen.

Scott Proctor came on in relief, I was pretty excited to see the guy after reading some pretty good things about him on Cliff's Big Red Blog. 'Hard throwing righthander,' was all I knew and from what I saw, that's really all there is. While Proctor never approached the 100 m.p.h. plateau I have heard he's capable of, he did strike out 3 in 2 1/3 innings, but he also gave up solo homers to Paul Konerko and some cat named Aaron Rowand, who plays center field and has frosty hair. Proctor seems like a one trick pony, he throws hard but he throws straight as an arrow, and he doesn't seem to have much in the way of a repetoire, besides the fastball. I doubt he'll stick around too long.

Paul Quantrill, Tom Gordon and Mo combined to finish up the game and made sure the White Sox never got closer than 9-8.

Posada had a good night and hit another homer, I have to say I have always sorta underappreciated Jorge, but he could be the X factor for the Yankees this season. He stung the ball all over the place, and should have actually had 2 home runs last night. He hit an absolute bomb to right field in the 4th that everyone: announcers, cameramen, fans, thought was gone. The swirling Midwestern winds conspired to knock it down and into Magglio Ordonez' glove. But Posada looked good behind the plate as well, in the sixth he threw a sniper shot to Miguel Cairo at second, to nail Magglio and get a bit of revenge.

Speaking of Cairo, he hustles like a madman, in the 7th he hit what appeared to be a routine single to left center. I thought it was a single, Carlos Lee and Frosty the Rowand thought it was a single, but Cairo never stopped running and stretched it in to a double while the White Sox dawdled getting the ball back in. I love watching guys doing stuff like that because they know that every chance they get is an audition for more playing time.

Bernie Williams on the other hand, is apparently auditioning for less playing time. Either that or he recently turned 75 years old. He chased one flyball all the way to the fence before making the most half assed backhanded stab at a catch I've ever seen. The ball glanced off his mitt and it was left to Matsui, backing up the play textook style, to get the ball in to the infield. Bernie also looked lost on two other fly balls that dropped in front of him. Was he playing to the wet field conditions? Was he trying to avoid injuring himself on the wet field? Who knows but while watching all this it hit me like daylight, this could be the end of Bernie's tenure in New York I'll be surprised if he makes it to the end of the year. If Cashman can find someone willing to trade for Bernie I think he'll do it, even if the Yanks have to eat a sizeable portion of his contract.

If Bernie was too cautious in his approach to the Comiskey walls last night, his outfield cohort, Hideki Matsui was just the opposite. By now you'll have read that Matsui ran face first into one of the seats along the left field line, but in watching the replay here's what happend. Matsui goes charging after a foul ball, he's heading right toward the railing along the line. He looks down to see where he is and keeps going full bore. The railing hits him mid-thigh and he tumbles into an empty seat, the bottom of which puches him right below the ribs, before the back of the seat runs smack into the bridge of his nose. Jeter and Bernie come over to check on him, the trainers come running out, Matsui nods and says, "ok, i'm ok." He's a tough dude, or as the Sox announcers said, "There's one tough Hombre." I guess it helps to drop some Spanish when you're trying to convey toughness.

Speaking of the Sox announcers, they annoy me a lot. Here's why,

1) They shamelessly root for the Sox, I know I know so does everyone but it's like this, "John Adkins falls behind in the count. Here's the 2-2. Come on John!" I'm like huh? Aren't you suposed to pretend you're a little objective? Well maybe not, I guess the Sox pay their salary, but I don't remember that kind of shameless cheering when i lived in NY, D.C. or SF. Maybe it's selective memory.

2)Their strike out call. When a member of the opposing team strikes out they say, "He Gone!" It's like nails on a chalkboard.

Game 2 tonight and I'll be there come hell or high water. I'm fired up to see Javier Vasquez. I'll have a full report tomorrow.



# posted by Steve : 9:28 AM

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Suspense  

As a welcome to the Big Leagues gift, the Yankees offense roared to life in the first inning scoring 7 runs (on NO dingers! we'll talk about A-Rod's bunt single later) for rookie starter Alex Graman. Graman promptly gave one back but in a magnanimous gesture, Giambi and Posada were all, "No Really Alex keep it we want you to have it" and gave him another run in the second. Then Graman went out and he was all, "No really fellas I couldn't, really" and gave it back.

I'm ticked because I should be at that game, I have tickets and all but because A) The weather is crap, and B) I had a lot of work to do today and my computer at work decided it was only working a half day today, I wasn't able to go. So hopefully Graman will finally be all, "Ok I guess I can go a couple of innings without giving up a run." And the Yankees will win.

I have tickets for tomorrow night's game too, so if you're the prayin' kind, send a little missive to the Good Lord askin' for some clear skies tomorrow night.

Update Just as I feared, the game is being delayed due to rain in the top of the third. As I look out my window here in downtown Chicago, I see virtually no rain befouling the shiny city streets below me. Hopefully the showers on the South Side are doing what everyone else does on the South Side, passing through as quickly as they can, with the windows rolled up.

Man, if a 7 run first gets wasted I'm gonna start believing in the curse of Andy Pettitte. If we had just held on to Tino it would NEVER rain like this.

Ok, I'll have a wee wrapup tomorrow A.M. For now, I'm out like The Spice Girls.
# posted by Steve : 8:13 PM

Monday, April 19, 2004

The Trade Was a Bust 

Well, now that it's apparent that A-Rod sucks and that little "Best Hitter in Baseball" thing was obviously just an illusion perpetrated by all the other teams in the league, in order to make George Steinbrenner look bad, let's officially review the Soriano for A-Rod trade.

A-Sor A-Rod
BA .358 .156
OBP .407 .269
SLG .453 .289
OPS .860 .558
SO 8 10 make that 11
BB 3 6

See! If the Yankees had kept Soriano and Tino Martinez they'd be much better off right now. Also, can someone remind Mike Mussina that he's a good pitcher?

In case you didn't know, Yankees are up 4-3 in the 7th. Gabe (not the Babe) White is on in relief of Kevin Brown. White promptly got himself in a no out first and third jam. Good news, he struck out Mueller for the first out of the inning. Bad news, still has to get through Ortiz and Manny. Crikey.

Update: Ortiz singles, game tied. I hate all relief pitchers not named Mariano Rivera.

White gets Manny to GIDdyuP. I still hate him anyway. On second thought I'm only watching the game on Gamecast, so it's possible that Ortiz's infield single was because the Yankees infield sucks...anyone know and care to comment?

Score tied at 4 in the top of the 8th. Let's see if the Yankees brought a couple of extra runs with them today.

Matsui gets his 3rd hit of the game. Joe is gonna pinch hit Posada for woeful John Flaherty. I never feel bad with Jorge up in a big spot... so of course he strikes out. Is Joe gonna let Enrique hit? Nope, he goes with Reuben Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I hate watching Sierra hit, that leg kick of his drives me nuts. I actually hate watching any hitter with wacky timing mechanisms. I just don't see how they can hit the ball with all that noise going on. Though I love him as a player, watching Sheffields bat movement gives me the willies. My favorite story about Reuben Sierra is that someone, I think Tony LaRussa, once called him the village idiot. I'd love to know what precipitated that.

Wrap-up
So, the A-Rod finally got a hit with 2 out in the 9th but Giambi couldn't cash it in. Yanks lose and the Red Sox take the series 3-1. I'm still not worried about the offense, it will come around and I'd rather have it sputtering in April than September. The starting pitching is just as thin as I had worried it would be. Hopefully though, the team will settle down and start to play like they are capable of playing. It's worth noting though that the Yankees have a tendency to come out and score some runs early and then not do anything for the rest of the game. I think I may explore that phenomenon, which started last season, in my next post.




# posted by Steve : 11:48 AM

Friday, April 16, 2004

The $640,000 Question 

Sometimes folks the jokes write themselves. ESPN.com is reporting that Raul Mondesi will not be paid by the Pittsburg Pirates, until further notice. Why, you ask? It seems a Dominican court froze Mondesi's bank accounts and in turn the Pirates froze his salary payments, because the court ruled that Mondesi owes Mario Guerrero SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.

According to Guerrero he reached agreements with several major leaguers, for 1% of their MLB earnings in exchange for teaching them things that would improve their play and help get them ready for the Majors. Assuming that this happened before Mondesi hit the pros we're talking at least 12 years ago. Guerrero filed his suit in 1998. Mondesi flatly denies he entered into any such agreement.

Mario Guerrero had an 8 year professional career (1973-1980) and put up a staggering .597 career OPS. I'd sure hire that guy and pay him SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS to teach me how to play better in MLB.

Well who knows, maybe Mario is a fountain of knowledge that he couldn't apply physically. Mondesi was a ROY winner and has had a pretty successful if pretty underachieving career 266 career jacks and an .823 career OPS. I remember him as a Yankee, sucking like a Dirt Devil. Why do I get that feeling that $640K is a whole hell of a lot more than 1% of what Raul currently has in the bank? For reference, his 2004 salary is $1.15 million.
# posted by Steve : 4:57 PM

You Better Bring it. Oh Don't Worry I'll Bring it. You make sure YOU Bring it! 

The Hatfields and Mc Coys, Mc Coy and the defendants, The Bride and Bill, Bill and Monica, Monica and Disorganization, and of course, the Yankees and Red Sox. Bitter, natural born enemies and this weekend, not yet a dozen games into the 2004 season, the Yanks and Sox are gonna step into the ring for Rounds 1-4 of a Heavyweight Match scheduled for 19 Buh-uising Rounds.

To paraphrase Mr Garrison from South Park, I don't want to sound like a dickhole here, but the last time the Red Sox and Yankees teed it up I was in attendance. After Game 7 David Pinto published an e-mail I wrote him about the game, In case any Yankee fans want to take a walk down memory lane, here's that post:

Long story short, my first trip to the Stadium in nearly 10 years was for Game 7 of the LCS with Boston. And what a game it was. Pure depression and sadness for the first 7 innings. The team always seemed to win with smoke and mirrors…their record seemed better than the individual players were capable of…this was someone else's year…Boston was a Team of Destiny… let their fans have the win, let them get over the Curse so we could expel it from the lexicon. ‘Oh well,’ I figured, ‘there will be reason to hope again next year.’

And then a funny thing started happening, each time Giambi homered I felt a little spark of something...but figured it was too little too late. Just enough to redeem the G man for a tough season in which injuries dragged him down.

Then came the 8th and after Jeter doubled we were on our feet chanting, "Paaaaaay-Dro, Paaaaaay-Dro," trying to help our team out in the only way we could. Trying to turn the knob on the pressure cooker up to a Spinal Tap-ish 11. When Jeter's hit was followed by Bernie's and then Matsui's and finally Posada's I felt like we were finally back in this thing. And once again the core of this team had come through.

Rivera was scintillating as usual. And when Wakefield came in I started mentally calculating how significantly he had kept the Yanks bats in check and started to realize that the simple law of averages dictated that he couldn't keep it up much longer. There was a glimmer that this may be the guy who gives it up.

Boone had been taking a beating from the fans around me all game, "he hasn't had a hit in 6 weeks," one guy said. When he stepped in and swung and launched that high drive I though it was going foul. Sitting in the second deck on the right field line I couldn’t see the ball well in relation to the foul pole....we were all on our feet, on our tip toes, not a breath escaping anyone and then slowly, magically I saw the fans in the left field seats...the seats in FAIR territory rise to greet the ball and the place EXPLODED into a wave a white noise.

Two days later, my voice has yet to fully come back, my ears are still slightly ringing and my hands are bruised from clapping and high-fiving with the throng in the street in the heart of the Bronx at about 12:30 am on a Friday morning. I'll never forget it as long as I live, never. People who don't understand baseball like to say that Yankee fans feel it's their right to win the World Series every year, that we take no joy in it because it is such a common occurrence. They are wrong, nothing is guaranteed, nothing is taken for granted and the joy I felt watching my team come back against their most bitter rival, against one of the best pitchers to ever pitch in the big leagues, to overcome a bust of a start by the Rocket, to still rally after Wells gave up the home run to Ortiz...well it's the most pure sort of joy I think I am capable of feeling over something that I didn't personally accomplish. I'll never forget how lucky I am that this team happens to be my team.

Go Yankees; Long Live Baseball


Well, that was then and this is now, and now is looking pretty good. As of now, the Yankees are in first place, as of now, Javier Vasquez looks like a pretty solid addition to the rotation and the Yankees moribund bats are probabalistically sure to wake up one of these days.

The Sox have Wakefield the Yankee Slayer on the bump tonight so they should feel pretty good about that. I'm gald that Tim-May hasn't been scapegoated by the Red Sox nation, after all, that guy was murder on the Yanks all ALCS long until Booney got lucky.

I don't know about you but I love the idea of 'meaningful' games played this early in the season. Even if they are only truly meaningful in context of the rivalry. I think that that is one of the benefits of team rivalries in sports. You can have two last place teams but if there is historical rivalry and bad blood people will get passionate about it. You can have a 4 game series barely 2 weeks into the season that will feel like the playoffs.

From purely a Yankee fan perspective, having the Red Sox as rival creates a sort of dramatic convention, they are the anti hero, the bad guy. I don't just root for my team in a vacuum, I measure my team not just by their performance, but by how well they fare against the Red Baron and his gang of uhhhh cavemen. I think this is one of the reasons that Sox fans get so bitter, not only have they not won a World Series since 1918, but in that time the Yankees have done almost nothing but win. I think if the Yankees were a bottom feeder, or even a mediocre team the rivalry wouldn't be as strong. What's cool about that though is that as both organizations field championship caliber teams the rivalry heats up, there are no foregone conclusions. Two evenly matched squads (and put payrolls aside, these teams are pretty well matched) make a long standing feud even more explosive. This has the potential to be a dogfight all season long, no sense in putting off the inevitable then, let's get it on!

Tonight
Vasquez (1-0) v. Wakefield (0-0)

Vasquez looked money in his first Yankee start. He gave up a single run through 8ip, and sent five White Sox grumbling back to the dugout and issued a pair of walks. I'm not worried about Javier's makeup, he seems like he has his head together. If this guy isn't in the top 3 in CY Young voting this year I'll be shocked.

The Yankees Offense slept late this season, at the moment they're still sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to get the sleep out of their eyes and figure out what the hell they're gonna wear to work today. I want to see A-Rod have a big breakout series in Boston this weekend; not so much because I'm disappointed with his slow start, but because every time he doesn't get a hit he's going to get PASTED by the Sox faithful. Honestly, if A-Rod had signed with Boston, and came to New York for a series and didn't light it up, I'd be all over the guy too, so I don't blame Sox fans. I'm sorta still in denial about the whole thing to be honest, when it looked like he was going to Boston I told anyone who would listen that A-Rod should stop enginerring a way out of his contract ,and live up to the one he signed. He was a disingenuous, greedy, hypocritical so-and-so as far as I was concerned. And then I wake up one morning and my girlfriend says, "Hey honey, it say here the Yankees just traded for some guy named Rodriguez. Do you know who that is?" Unreal.

Keys the the Series
Simple really, get some hits. The Yankees have a team OBP of .323 which is just anemic considering the guys in the lineup. It's especially poopy when you consider that the team Batting Average is only .210. Now, I'm an enlightend baseball fan. I know that OBP is king and it doesn't matter terribly much how you get on base. But if you aren't getting any hits to go with your walks it's gonna be hard to drive many guys in. Dig it?

Play Ball!!

Update by way of clarification: Loyal and astute reader Cliff from Cliff's Beg Red Blog, points out that I have it backward when I say a ".323 OBP is anemic considering that the team BA is only .210." Cliff is correct, I have my syntax backwards. A .323 OBP is pretty good considering a .210 BA but here's the point I was Really trying to make.

If your OBP is relatively low, .323 and the bulk of it is coming from walks, that means you aren't getting a lot of hits. And there's no such thing as a 2 run walk or a runner scoring from second on a walk. So hurrah you have discipline and take a bunch of walks, but at some point you need hits. They need to work together.

On the other hand if you had a team OBP of .323 and all of it or most of it came from hits, at least you're getting hits, of course there's an opportunity cost involved because it means you're probably giving away outs by not taking walks. That's a little confusing I know so let me try to simplify:

Here's the hypothesis:

If a team has a lot of hits but no walks they are giving away outs by swinging at pitches that are probably not strikes. Conversely, if a team has a lot of walks but no hits they are probably just unlucky, they are most likely swinging at strikes but just hitting them at fielders. Or striking out. Eventually the balls that are hit are going to start finding the holes. So I'm not saying that it's bad that the Yankees are a disciplined lineup, don't swing at balls, take walks. In the long run it is to their benefit. But in the short term some of those balls they hit need to turn into hits and not outs.

Causation?
I suspect that new Yankees like A-Rod and Sheff might have mechanical adjustments to make. When they make contact I suspect they are "over-swinging" or trying to pull the ball to much, that will be fixed. Guys like Giambi and Jeter are probably over compensating for the other guys to try to take the pressure of them. Matsui has a vexingly flat stroke sometimes that produces a lot of groundballs to 2B. The great news is that with the plate discipline everyone has this lineup will eventually start to click and get tons of hits.

Thanks to Cliff for the comment and the readership.

# posted by Steve : 10:36 AM

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Midnight Hour Top Ten 

While reading a post on the Redbird Nation about some of the all-time most classless ballplayers, I immediately thought of Kevin Mitchell. Thinking about Kevin Mitchell led me to think about his former teammate David Cone. People may have forgotten, especially since Cone is revered as a Yankee legend and all around good guy, but back in the day, Coney was accused of pleasuring himself in plain sight in the bullpen of a Mets game. So without further adieu here are the top ten pitching euphamisms for what Mr. Cone was doing that fine summer day:

#10. Working on his Knuckler
#9. Pitching from the stretch
#8. Getting a head of the batter
#7. Effectively Changing Speeds
#6. Shaking off the catcher
#5. Serving up a long ball
#4. Getting through the meat of the order
#3. Issuing a free pass
#2. Holding the Runner

And the # 1 pitching related euphamism for pleasuring yourself

#1. Coming in on the hands
# posted by Steve : 2:47 PM

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

P***Y 

Not that I'm a big Barry Bonds fan or anything but Roger Clemens intentionally walked him in the first inning. I mean really, if that isn't the most vagina move ever.


# posted by Steve : 7:08 PM

Couldn't Hit the Water if They Fell Out of a Boat 

In case you are a Yankee fan and you are having a good day but are looking for an excuse to jam a letter opener into your neck, the Yankees are being no-hit through 5 by a dude named Paul Abbot. If this continues, The Midnight Hour will no longer be active, at least until I get out of the hospital after throwing myself through my plate glass window and 7 stories down to the street.

Update: The much maligned (by me) Kenny Lofton just saved my life. But he should still be batting 8th.

Update: I'm looking at the ESPN gamecast (obviously) and they still have Giambi's picture from when he was on the A's and looked like he was running a meth lab on the weekends in Mendocino. Good to see ESPN is keeping current.

Update: Abbot just went 2-1 on Sheffield with two runners on. Bad things coming for Mr. Abbot.

Update:Sheff grounded out. I'll teach him to make me look bad. Bases loaded with Bernie up. Grounds out to second and the big inning eludes the Yankees. At least they grabbed the lead. I'm interested to see if Brown et al make it walk.

Update: Enrique Wilson huh? It's kinda like buying a $20million house and furnishing it with IKEA in the bedroom. Isn't there someone in the minor leagues who could play second base? He whiffs. Kenny Lofton is next up, suddenly remembering he is Kenny Lofton, he fails to get on base and strikes out.

Update: Kevin Brown or as my girlfriend calls him, The Godfather of Soul, and no, I'm not kidding, is out to start the 7th. He's thrown 90 pitches so far, 70% of them strikes. And despite the Detroit worthy offensive output from the Yankees, they are leading because Brown is keeping the Rays quiet. Lots of groundball outs, 6 K's it'll suck real bad when his arm comes flying off his shoulder in a week or two.

Update A-Rod greedily took two outs hitting into a Jeter killing DP, "Hey one out per customer Mr Rod!"

Giambi doubled but Sheff wastes it by grounding out again. It's good to see Jason off to a nice start. Tom Gordon is out to start the 8th and I refuse to refer to him as "Flash."

Tino walked. See, we never should have let that guy go. Gordon fans the Most Italian Sounding Name Having Guy on Earth to end the 8th.

Update: Well, the Yankees lead 3-1 and Rivera is on his way in. So it's about time to cue the music and call in the janitors..... Hold the phone...Rivera's in a pickle. First and Second one out....

Eduardo (or is it Eddie?) Perez doubles and it's 3-2 Yankees.

Geoff Blum is up, luckily Geoff Blum sucks. So of course he gets the intentional free pass.

Rivera, because he is the best closer ever, induces a double play ground ball and the Yankees win, thuh-uh-uh-uh Yankeeeeeeeeeees win.
# posted by Steve : 4:31 PM

Line Em Up! 

Ok in case Cliff hasn't convinced you, Joe Torre is obviously halucinating when he's putting his lineup together. Let's say you have two hitters and a limited number of at bats to divvy up between them

Player A
1999 OPS .944
2000 OPS .838
2001 OPS .838
2002 OPS .923
2003 OPS 1.111

Player B
1999 OPS .837
2000 OPS .791
2001 OPS .720
2002 OPS .764
2003 OPS .802

Now remember you have a limited number of plate appearances to hand out. One of these two hitters will come to the plate less frequently than the other. Obviously you give more PA's to Player A right??

Not if you're Joe Torre. Torre is electing to bat Kenny Lofton leadoff, because hey Lofton is a "Leadoff Guy." Do you know what that means if Lofton stays in the leadoff spot all season? It means that the Yankee with the second lowest OBP (based on 2003 numbers) will get the most chances to get on base or make an out as the case may be. This is stupid. Fine, we got Lofton because Bernie can't play center and Lofton in CF is better than the George Burns style defense that Bernie was capable of but come the fuck on!

Here's what the frickin' lineup should look like

Player 2003 OBP
Jeter .393
Williams .367
A-Rod .396
Sheff .419
Giambi .412
Posada .405
Matsui .353
Lofton .352
Enrique Expletive Deleted

Now what's so hard about that? And if Lofton doesn't like it tell him to stick it and park my car.
# posted by Steve : 3:56 PM

The King 

A Little Blogging, Larry King style: P.S. Click on the links and see what 'Larry's' thinking.

Mike Mussina may not be pitching well but noone feels worse about it than him.

I don't think I'd ever take steroids, a shot of bourbon is all I need to get going in the morning.

Jason Giambi may have lost weight in the off-season but I bet he could still win his fair share of arm-wrestling matches.
Now that David Wells is in San Diego I bet the number of tattoo related conversations in the Yankees clubhouse has been cut. At least by half!

Tim Hudson is a great pitcher but then again so is Barry Zito!

For my money you can't beat a good-set up man.

Is there anything more American than Opening Day? Maybe but only if they held Opening Day on the Fourth of July!

Don't look now but there is some Motown magic revving up.

If you told me that the A's would ever win a baseball game again after the ever placid Art Howe left, I'd tell you to shut up.

I could be wrong but I bet the Yankees will miss Andy Pettitte's Christian country music around the clubhouse.

Bernie Williams could hit .400 this year. Then again so could anyone.

Roger Clemens took his buzz cut and penchant for swearing to Houston and the fans love it!

That Dontrelle Willis kid maybe the best Willis since Whatchoo talkin bout Willis. if the Marlins were smart, and I think they are, they'd sign a short guy named Arnold. I bet it would sell tickets.

So far Derek Jeter looks like he had his arm dislocated on opening day...again!

There's a security guard in my building that looks exactly like Karl Malone, seems like a nice guy.

The security guard seems like a nice guy, I've never met Karl Malone.

The Hot Dogs may vary from stadium to stadium but thankfully beer is beer in any language.

Do you think that Kaz Matsui got Hideki Matsui's home run stroke by mistake when he was going through customs? Russ Ortiz probably does.

Wouldn't it be cool if in the off-season Jose Contreras and Jean Claude Van Damme put together a crack team of mercenaries to rescue his family? The image of Contreras hurling fastballs at communist soldiers sure gives me a chill.

Rob Neyer sure likes numbers.

If there's a better interviewer on the web than Alex Belth I'd like to meet him. Or her.

Home runs are great but show me a guy who hustles to first after a dropped third strike and I'll show YOU a guy who can play for me any day.

If Kevin Brown wants to stay healthy this year maybe he should try Pilates!

I don't know about you but I'm glad baseball is back!
# posted by Steve : 11:34 AM

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Opening Day and Night 

Well Opening Day has come and gone, mostly. I'm still looking at today as an Opener of sorts, it will be the first game for the Yankees on good ol Red White and Blue soil. The only game I was able to follow yesterday was the west coast timed, A's v. Ranger matchup. Let me say this, the Rangers are a horrid team. I feel sorry for and admire their fans. Until last night I don't think I'd ever been able to sit through an entire Rangers game because first, they always seem to play the loooooooongest games in history, and as a matter of fact David Justice pointed that out last night during the telecast and it isn't going to improve with Soriano and his wrist punching antics. Second here's the way a typical Rangers game goes in my experience. Rangers score a bunch of runs then you sit through 4 innings of Rangers pitching coughing up the lead. Then in the 8th or 9th inning someone on the opposing team hits a 2 out 2 run double to seal the win. Which is more or less what happened last night.

That said, there were some compelling reasons to watch the game last night, Tim Hudson was on the bump for the A's, it was my first time watching Soriano play for any team but the Yankees, the Rangers lineup has some really exciting young hitters, I wanted to see Chavez struggle against the lefty Kenny Rogers, and David Justice is quite possible an atrocity to all color men who came before him. (Editors note: I said COLOR men.)

Hudson pitched decently, but like Pedro on his opening night, if "superace" pitchers aren't lights out everybody thinks they are struggling. Well, Hudson struggled in the sense that he threw a lot of pitches and with his build I think it's key that he not throw too many pitches per start, the A's were wise and yanked him after 5 IP and 106 pitches. One of those pitches drilled my favorite ex Yankee square in the midsection right under his ribs.

Soriano shook it off and then in a classy exchange, Huddy looked over to first and nodded at Sori as if to say "My bad, you ok?" Soriano nodded in the affirmative although you could tell there was a welt rising up under the double knits. Like his affable nature and the trademark grin, little seems to have changed with Soriano over the winter. He made an error in the field and though he reached base 3 times, he still looked like he had too much weight on his front foot and was lunging at pitches. I don't profess to know much about hitting, certainly not as much as THIS GUY, but it just makes sense that you have to stay back and keep your hands behind the ball if you want to drive it. But I root for him, he seems like a good kid, there is something naive and fun loving in his face and in the way he plays that I really respond to, at least I can still root for him and have his strikeouts be someone else's problems.

Here's what I learned about the Rangers lineup last night, it's young and it's scurrrry. Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Brad Fullmer (ok he's not so young) (ok he's not sooo scurry) and the previously mentioned Soriano, are all capable of putting a charge into the ball. If that team had any pitching they might walk all over the West.

Rob Neyer has had a few comments lately on the left/right splits for the A's splurge, Eric Chavez. In case you were not up on these things, Chavez flat out stinks against lefties, so I expected to see him flailing away at the southpaw, Kenny Rogers. Well Chavez may not have the numbers against the goofyfooted but he had the same basic disciplined approach I see him have against righties and that can only lead to good things. Like Neyer, I believe that someday Chavez will figure out left handed pitching. If he stays healthy I think that guy's gonna go down as one hell of a great third baseman.

Of course in one critical at bat, 5th inning none out man on second, Chavez came up and my favorite color commentator David Justice starts ranting like a lunatic about how if he was up the only thing on his mind would be getting that guy on second to third. That's what a professional hitter does, that's what the A's are paying their slugger to do, get that man to third.

So Chavez, ever obliging grounds out meekly to second and the man on second, Bobby Kielty, scampers to third. Justice almost fell out of the box heaping praise on Chavez. "That's a great at bat that's exactly what you're supposed to do, that communicates to the entire team, 'this is how we're going to play ball this year.' " Ok dude, the A's aren't paying Chavez $ 11 million to ground out to second. I don't care if he did move the runner along and I don't care if subsequently Jermaine Dye knocked him in. The dude grounded out. Ok?

This is typical of Justice, first of all, good color guys know when to talk and when not to, Justice has not learned this lesson, he just talks and talks and talks, it sounds something like this after a while, "beeep blip dooope wwwaaa wwwppw nnnooo foo." You're like, is this guy still talking? Why won't he shut up? Can someone kill me?

Also at least twice a game, Justice talks about how rich he is, or how much money people he knows have. Like last night, "I batted 4th, the 4th place hitters drive the Cadillacs, those leadoff guys drive the Hondas." Huh? Jigga what? Jigga who? I mean, is this the 70's? Barry Bonds drives a Hummer not a Cadillac, Superfly. And I'm sure Ichiro doesn't drive a Honda, although if he did I wouldn't blame him, those thing run forever, unless they are stolen and subsequently crushed by the City of Chicago......'nother story for another day.

Guess what folks, that's the news and I am out of here!



# posted by Steve : 9:40 AM

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