Let me get this straight:
- The Yankees just traded reliever Scott Proctor for part-time Dodger infielder Wilson Betemit
- Meanwhile, the Red Sox just obtained Eric Gagne (2.16, 17 of 18 saves) from the Rangers, despite having a killer closer in John Papelbon (2.15, 23 of 25 saves).
Am I missing something?
- CONSENSUS There was one, right? Yankees need bullpen pitching BADLY. NOT batters.
- A BAT FOR THE BENCH? Let’s look at our oft-maligned bench.
- Anchored by the mending Johnny Damon (.247), replaced in center by Melky Cabrera, who has improved to .291 from April’s .200, hitting .373 in July as an every day player
- Enriched, we hope, by the upcoming return of refurbished slugger Jason Giambi
- Ignited by Make-It-Happen Miguel Cairo ("the best .239 player in baseball," John Sterling reminds us.), a defensive star and utility player who has hit .255 overall but much higher during periods of everyday play covering first base while the injured Giambi’s replacement Doug Mankiewitcz was on the DL, and until farmhand Andy Phillips was appointed permanent substitute. If that sounds like teaching in NYC, where teachers who have more than paid their dues after a decade or two in the system are being forced into substitution while youngsters take over the classrooms, you’re right.
- No offense to Betemit (.231), but, … well, do we need him more than we need Proctor? And isn’t the point that we needed to ADD to our bullpen?
- BULLPEN – Yankees just traded their righty reliever Scott Proctor (3.81 ERA) Why?
- True, he hit a wall in June when he averaged 5.17 runs. But his July ERA is 2.84!
- He has pitched in 52 games. Last year he entered 89 and ended the season at 3.52.
- Consensus is that manager Joe Torre overused him last year. Umm. Would you say he was ON PACE to burnout again this year? Remember the uniform-burning ritual?
- Why are so many Torre Dynasty relievers in the running for most innings pitched?
- Does Torre have a pattern of overusing a reliever as his trusted go-to guy? Hmm.
- Lefty Ron Villone was so wiped out last year that his arm was dead by postseason. To recognize his contributions, the Yanks started him in the minors this season. Today his ERA is 3.12 after 23 games. He ended last year with a 5.04 ERA after 80 games. Looks like Torre might have learned something here.
- Is Mike Myers the new trusted lefty? Uh-oh. 2.61 after 50 innings. Already!
- Wherever and however he pitches, the one comment you can count on hearing about Mike Stanton is that he’s on the list of the hardest-working lefty relievers in baseball. He pitched in over 70 games for over half of 6 years with the Yankees (over 60 for the other 3). As a Met, he reached his pinnacle of 83 games in 2004, and still managed to keep his ERA at 3.16. Did Torre start him on this path? At this point, I get the feeling that he he keeps going in order to see how many innings his career can survive.
- Remember righty Paul Quantrill in 2004? Get ready: 86 games, 95.1 innings. Remember him burning out his arm?
- You get the idea. And don’t forget the great relievers they let go. Remember the Stanton – Mendoza combo? I’m still smarting from that one.
So, Mr. Cashman- Would you mind ADDING to our bullpen rather than taking away from it? Between you and Mr. Torre, we’re losing our relievers faster than we can win our games.
- Pregame: LHP Chris Capuano (4-2, 2.63) is holding-on to his miniscule ERA. Chan Ho Park, RHP, has earned little but praise and no-decisions, as you can see from his stats (1-1, 4.12), which are not as exciting. But which one would you rather be? At least Park is a Padre, right? Capuano is a Brewer, after all. Wait a minute. Their teams have identical records (17-16)? Well, not anymore:
- Pregame: Any time Aaron Harang, RHP, pitches, you have a good chance at a real game, especially this year. Against Livan Hernandez, however, he and his Reds could be forgiven for falling to the Nationals, if they needed your pity, that is. Cincinnati’s record is better than it should be, some say, and Washington has been underperforming. Last year, Hernandez was more than an anchor — you might even call him the Nationals’ ace, with a 15-10 record and a 3.98 ERA. Today, however, he started the game with a 1-4 record and a 6.29 ERA. Unlike the Brewers and Padres, the Nationals and Reds’ records so far have been, not identical, but rather, inverse records: Washington: 12-21 21-12, Cincinnati. Harang walked into the game with a 5-1 record and a trim 3.78 ERA, and indeed had a good shot at the win, until David Weathers took it from him after first blowing his second save this season, allowing the score to tie up at 6-6 when he let Brian Schneider to score from 2nd on a Matthew LeCroy single after doubling off Kent Mercker earlier in the 8th. Mike Stanton deserves better than to red-carpet his own loss, inviting-in three runs with 3 walks, 2 of them intentional. Back to Harang and Hernandez, for a minute. I think their respective ERA’s with runners in scoring position summarize the differences between their own performances and their teams’ as well, though I would like to look more deeply into that before asserting it as a flat fact. Coming into the game, Harang had a .227 over 44 at-bats with RISP. Rodriguez: .327 over 49.
- “The Red Sox are down to their last strike.” Mr. Sterling, how nice it is to hear you say so. Indeed,
- After missing him at Comiskey and Yankee Stadium, I finally got to see Esteban Loaiza pitch live at Shea on Wed., Sept. 14. It was a long-awaited thrill, as readers of this blog will have inferred. Yes, Mom, I skipped work. Marc Marc came along, and we had fun being thrown-at by Met fans annoyed by our cheers for Loaiza and fellow ex-Yankee Nick Johnson — plastic cups, balled-up cellophane, etc. In fact, there may have been more Yankee fans at Shea that night than Met fans. You could hear them loud and clear. (Well, it was a $5 ticket night, and the Yanks were at Tampa Bay.) OK, how can you tell a true Met fan? S/he hates the Mets. Those boos bearing down on their starter Kris Benson in the FIRST INNING were from his supporters. With fans like that…. Back to baseball, I should mention that this very satisfying 6-3 win by the Nationals was framed by two unsettling errors on the part of their starting and closing pitchers. Loaiza’s 7-inning start to his 11th win was marred by an un-recorded error when he neglected to cover first base and receive the ball from Johnson, who had left the bag to field. It was strange — he just stood there, about halfway between the mound and first, just watching the batter run safely to the bag. Johnson had nowhere to throw. In the 9th, stellar closer Chad Cordero (ERA 1.84, with 46 saves, as of today) pointed hastily up to the sky to indicate that an infield popup needed catching. When it started dropping down toward him, he looked a little panicked, and, as two players converged on him, the ball dropped to the ground amid the three. He escaped unscathed, but, that was a bit unnerving. The rest of the game was great in a classic way. After the Nationals broke a first-inning 1-1 tie and pulled ahead 3-1 in the third, Loaiza lost the lead in the 4th when the Mets tied it up. This got tense. Having lost the advantage of some of his best run support this season, Loaiza looked likely to lose, but his teammates came back to score two more the next inning, and he was ahead 5-3 when he walked off the field in the 7th. I was glad Frank Robinson hadn’t taken the ball from him — those moments always come across ugly. I was hoping for a Mike Stanton sighting (3.81 lifetime, with 984 innings pitched as of yesterday) — the last time I saw him at Shea he was relieving David Cone in a Mets uniform. But Gary Majewski (2.65), who is flourishing, came in, and came through, for the eighth, and I was so pleased to see Cordero — the Eric Gagne (hurt this year, so I omit his stats) of the NL East — close it out in the ninth. Cordero trained as a closerat Cal State-Fullerton, sparing us his adjustment to the position. I wonder how prevalent the collegiate development of relievers is….
The Yankees have won their nearly-annual July 4th contest against the Orioles. Mariano Rivera gets the save. His third in 3 days.
Now, you know that John Sterling is beside himself. The more he anguishes that Mo doesn’t get to pitch, the more likely it seems that Mo will pitch. In consecutive games, no less. To “Suzy’s” credit [Was that a slip, or have John and Suzyn Waldman been bumping knees beneath the mikes?], she asserted on air today that even the great need to rest. Did she read yesterday’s blog? No, of course not. It’s just that obvious. It’s so obvious that no one talks about it. Right?
I love Sturtze. Floraine Kay calls his zone “The Tanyon Canyon.” As in, here it comes, strike, another one down the Tanyon Canyon. Sturtze was game, as he should be, to be a starter for the day. Joe Torre is sometimes too quick to plant people in the bullpen before their range has been explored. I’ll never quite forgive him for demoting Esteban Loaiza last year. The bullpen is not a demotion for pitchers who carve out a place for themselves there. Aaron Heilman, for example, may be considered a bullpen success for the Mets, though I think it’s still too early to label him, especially since his record this season does not adequately reflect the circumstances that compromised it. Same with Ramiro Mendoza, who started for the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in the last game in which I could in good conscience support a Boston win. He beat us good, much like David Wells did earlier this year, also at the Stadium. We deserved it. We let them go, and they were YANKEES. They loved nothing so much as this team, and they dug-in their best for those W’s. Remember when Mendoza said “I want to die as a Yankee”? We had already screwballed Wells once by then, in exchange for Clemens, who never did his best work with the Yanks. Then we sent Mendoza to the Red Sox, redeemed ourselves with Wells, then sent him to Boston too, albeit the long way, with an incentive-and-insult-ridden minor league offer of $300,000 at the end of the 2003 season. Now that Mendoza is allegedly back with us, let’s hope we do things right by him, though our second dispatch of Mike Stanton doesn’t bode well for our karma.
Stanton and Paul Quantrill are entitled to bolt down a round of scotch shots on Steinbrenner’s tab for each run given up by Scott Proctor and Jason Anderson in long relief for the sole long reliever we have left. But if revenge is sweeter than cognac, I hope our veterans prefer vodka. Since they were dropped, Flash Gordon has stepped up, and our fair closer has risked his arm for games we didn’t have a fly ball’s chance of winning.
I’ve got to track down Torre’s spring 2003 quotation. It went something like this: “There’s such a thing as too many pitchers.”