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.
You are pitching with a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the 9th. You just got 2 outs in a row. You are 2-2. If you get this out, your team wins.
- DO YOU HIT THE BATTER? I DON’T THINK SO!
- Pitchers weren’t warned despite 4 previous hit batsmen (3 hit by Red Sox, of course) and yet Yankee Scott Proctor — who has every reason to avoid another suspension — is thrown out of the game? Was he more likely to be guilty because he has a "record"? Even Joe Torre, who took an unusual position earlier in the game and got himself thrown out on behalf of a bad call against Bobby Abreu, would not back up Scott Proctor, who swears he didn’t mean to hit Youkilis. I believe him, and Joe’s job is to believe what his players say, at least publically. Instead his position is that he understands why Proctor was thrown out, because the ball could so easily have hit the head of Youkilis. In my opinion, that is all the more reason to believe Proctor, who would not want to take a risk like that. He’s no Roger Clemens, who didn’t get punished for those Mike Piazza incidents, by the way. And remember Pedro as a Red Sock? No umpire dared throw him out, despite his history, which always went unpunished. Clearly his hit batters were purposeful — he stopped hitting batters when he switched leagues and started batting, for the Mets. By the way, John Sterling and Susan Waldman were critical of Proctor, too. I am disappointed, especially because earlier in the game, they sounded as if they were finally speaking out straightforwardly about the bad calls that the Yankees have been receiving these last weeks. Susan even said she was going to start keeping a list. Yet, they made no comment on how Youkilis – screaming – came at the mound.
- Youkilis — the hit batter — came at Proctor screaming. I think that’s why the benches cleared for a brawl. WHY DOESN’T YOUKILIS GET THROWN OUT?
- OK, it turns out Youkilis was scared. Weee Weee Weee. (Kudos to Posada for calming him down.) Regardless, a big guy is charging the Yankees’ pitcher Proctor, who — several pitches into the at-bat, at 2-outs in the 8th with a score of 9-3– hits him up and inside. It just doesn’t sound like an intentional hit.
- Shame on the umpire, Torre, and Sterling/Waldman for not backing Proctor, or at least supporting the possibility that he did not hit Youkilis on purpose, especially after he went straight to Torre’s office to say so.
BY KEN DAVIDOFF
Newsday Staff Correspondent
November 16, 2006, 10:41 PM EST ____________________________________________________
NOW they’re talking. Here’s Brian Cashman’s quote, from Naples, FL:
"We’ll probably have him proceed and prepare as a starter, because you can always go the other way, slide him down and reduce his workload. But it’s hard to go the other way. But that’s for another day."
In 2005, Scott Proctor was a starter being squeezed into a reliever’s innings. I used to grimace when I heard that he was warming up in the bullpen. Floraine Kay and Marc Marc can tell you how I would repeat myself whenever he failed, announcing with familiar emphasis that the should have expected this, as he was a STARTER, not a reliever, that you could tell by how he used so many pitches and how he approached the at-bats. Early in the 2006 season, Proctor stared down death and helped his baby daughter recover from a life-threatening heart condition, he re-joined the team a little late and was nearly flawless as a reliever. I do not know what happened, and I wrote about this transition from starter to reliever at the time. In fact, back in 2005, I complained that he was being shoehorned into a role that did not fit. (In 2005, we kept hearing that "they" "loved his ‘stuff’" and were willing to put up with his struggles.)
In 2005 Proctor played in 29 games and averaged 49.2 innings, ending with an ERA of 6.04. He started 1 game and won it, accounting for his 1-0 W-L record. In 2006 he played in 83 games and averaged 102.1 innings, ending with a substantially lower ERA of 3.52. Although he did not start any games, his W-L record was 6-4, and more importantly, his Hold count was 26, whereas it was 0 in 2005. (As I may have noted elsewhere, I believe the Hold is one of the most under-used stats in baseball, and I strongly argue for its inclusion in box scores.)
So now, back to starter. Wow. Scott, I admire your Iron-Clad stomach. Good Luck.
Readers, should the Yankees convert Proctor back to a starter now that he is a successful reliever? What about the Mets’ Aaron Heilman, who shares the profile, and who has been quite vocal about his desire to return to starting?
Blue Jays 1 (57-49) @ Yankees 5 (62-41)
Nothing makes me remember that part of the world still makes sense like going to Yankee Stadium for a game. I’m on my way, will add later tonight. One plug for StubHub: Our Tier Reserved tickets accidentally were sold to someone else, and StubHub made good on their guarantee and replaced them at the same price — with Main Reserved MVP seats!
Floraine Kay and I agreed that this was an especially fun game to watch in person. Although homeruns are dramatic–and I will never turn one down–I am so glad that we have returned to the "small ball" style of play, which I find more strategically interesting and also more depenable than and the homerun style of game, in which we sit back and hope that someone expensive hits the ball out of the park. Frankly, I found that approach a bit demeaning to all our players during the year or two when we were acquiring sluggers with abandon. Runners gave up racing to base, fielding got sloppier (or was that my imaginaion?), etc. Anyway, now we have a lot of National League-style movement going-on on the basepaths, with swift basehits, double steals, and scoring. Nice. Even A-Rod and Giambi settled for basehits, and it was a good thing. A-Rod’s New York fans are determined to support him, even through strikeouts, and he got cheered in a big way when he connected for a single, and again when he stole second. Even when he was thrown out at home, the crowd was cool. The closest thing to a homerun by a Yankee was a roaring double by Miguel Cairo. Maybe he is strength training. He was fabulous. At bat, he got his own special Main Reserved MVP cheer. THAT was cool.
AJ Burnett seemed to burn out. Floraine thought the volume and intensity of the crowd might have worn him down toward the end of the 6th inning. Reliever Accardo kept us quiet for over an inning, but Tallet let in 1 more run. Jaret Wright let in only 1 run, in what would have been a bit of a pitching spectacle were it not for the tremendous infield assistance — especially the Jeter-Cairo-Giambi double plays. Outfield there were some big saves, too — one by Johnny Damon for Villone, one by Melky Cabrera, and a potentially damaging one in the 9th, for Farnsworth, by Bobby Abreu, with his bright orange glove, on his first day as a Yankee. Farnsworth closed out the 9th, once hitting 100mph. I had never seen that before. Wright pitched through the 5th allowing 1 run. Villone pitched the 6th and part of the 7th, Proctor finished the 7th and pitched the 8th, and Farnsworth got all 3 outs in the 9th. The relievers allowed no runs. What a cliche, relief.
Yankees 6 @ Orioles 5 in 10
BS(3)/W(2-1)-Proctor*, S-Wang (1), H-Myers (8) L-Ray (1)
*Proctor has 8 Holds. Johnsion pitched 7.1 innings with 4ER in a ND.
Scott Proctor: A starter reprogrammed into a nerve-wracking reliever. Started once in 2005, beautifully. Seemed to need to spread out and use more pitches, like a starter. 2006: Sharp in long relief, short relief, all relief. What happened? I hate to speculate about players’ personal lives, but I do wonder if his baby daughter’s life-threatening heart condition and surgery had an effect on his live-in-the-moment Zen Mind. It’s like he "had a Heilman," who is a converted Mets starter who may be inadvertantly impressing his way into a permanent bullpen artist.
And Chien-Ming Wang? Pitching in a relief spot could reduce his tendency to slip into a bad inning the way he does as a starter. Then again, that happens when his focus weakens with runners on base, so he may not be ideal for high-pressure relief in general, though he did well earning the Save today.
- I still do not understand what happened to turn Scott Proctor from a prospective starter on his way to AAA Columbus into a first-class middle reliever with a stomach lined with iron. Or, is it teflon? Actually, I think it is All-Clad. (There is nothing I have burned onto an All-Clad pot that I could not wipe off, and that is saying quite a lot. With the amount of cooking I do, I will settle for admiring it from afar, however.) Proctor says it is a matter of confidence, which he gained during the one start he was allowed last year. Readers know that I have felt he is a starter at heart for some time, and, yes, I felt gratified to learn that "the powers" had planned to send him down to turn into just that. That, however, was before we lost our pitching Now we all sigh in relief when he comes in, as we used to for Tanyon Sturtze, who, after another troublesome outing preceding Proctor’s today, finally admitted he is hurt.
- I think Joe Torre might really be upset. The locker room was clear by the time Suzyn Waldman was allowed in after the game. She compared Sturtze’s failure to report his injury (he did this last year, too) — and Torre’s apparent reaction — to the Kenny Rogers episodes back in 1995.
- Kerry Wood is on his way back! He encourages me by his caution.
Keep an eye on these guys, if you like:
A’s: Loaiza, Street Reds: Claussen, Harang, Womack Diamondbacks: Clark Boston: R. Seanez, Mota (+ Foulke no less!) (Wells says he commits) Beckett, Lowell Padres: Peavy, Estes, Greene Tigers: Rogers, Maroth, Robertson, Bonderman, Seay, Inge, Leyland Cleveland: Sabathia Rockies: Fogg Orioles: Benson (Bottalico, Yates), Duquette, Mazzone Mets: Trachsel, Heilman (+obvious Billy Wagner), Keppinger Angels: Figgins Cardinals: David Eckstein Cubs: Eyre, Jacque Jones Brewers: Capuano Tampa Bay: Marlins: Girardi Pirates: Zach Duke, Ty Wigginton Phillies: Rowand (great fielder, does not hit under pressure, though) Dodgers: Sele White Sox: McCarthy Rangers: Benoit, Eaton, Dellucci, Durazo Royals: Runelvys Hernandez, McEwing Astros: Taveras Yankees: Chacon, Small, Wang, Proctor (as a starter), Sturtze, Mendoza, Ron Guidry (Hughes, Cox)
Johnson 5ER 15.0 3.0 IP; 2 batters in 4th
Small 2ER 6.75 2.2 IP L, 0-1
Sturtze 0ER 13.5 .1 IP
Gordon 1ER 6.75 0.0 IP; 4 batters in 7th; 1 unearned run
Leiter 2ER 9.0 1.1 IP
Proctor 0ER 0.0 1.2 IP
NOTE: 2 errors (though I’m not sure I agree about Sheffield’s throw)
- Poor Aaron Small. To paraphrase what someone said about Wang the game before, "he deserved better than he got." Second-guessing Joe Torre’s pitching changes is futile, even when we turn out to be right. Right? As they keep saying about Ozzie Guillen, his management choices were brilliant, because they worked. If they hadn’t worked, they wouldn’t have been so brilliant. There’s a logical flaw in there somewhere — I hate when people use that kind of reasoning, but we know what they meant. The choices wouldn’t have SEEMED so brilliant. Well, some of Torre’s Game 3 choices don’t seem brilliant either, but chance and luck — distinct entities, I think — may have thrown a knuckleball, and we all know we don’t hit those too well. Anyway, I thought — and still think — he left Randy in 1 too many innings. Did it have to be almost 4? I didn’t catch Torre’s explanation for that. If you know, please leave a comment! I also thought — and still think — he took Small out too quickly. Another inning or so, even if runs came in, would have controlled the bleeding. As it was, Torre had to let Leiter pitch too long, accelerate Sturtze’s slump, misuse Proctor as a short reliever (He is a STARTER!), and give Gordon too much lead time to prepare mentally because he knew he was in for 2 innings. He says he works best with no warning. As regular readers know, I have my questions about whether Gordon is a big game pitcher. To be fair, I am glad to say that he did great when we were closing in on the pennant.
In sum, everyone went home demoralized because of the pitching when a 1-inning alteration in the pitching plan could have kept the game within range. Remember how the sudden shock of Small’s entrance sparked that fabulous double play and the subsequent 5th inning spectacular? Oh, well. Wait ’til…Sunday.
- Anyone hear what happened with the Red Sox? (2090!)
- I swear they are chanting in Chicago (I’m still here): WHITE SOX! WHITE SOX! GOOOOOO WHITE SOX! In unison! Who knew White Sox fans could be so cute?! That’s not a barb. I’ve liked them a lot for years now. Yankee fans like them. I wrote about that relationship somewhere below….Can I still wear my #26 Yankee t-shirt, El Duque? I’d never have let you go.
Off my proverbial chest I foist the following:
- ERRORS are not being called on sloppy and questionable fielding plays. Managers are taking out pitchers for relievers when sharper fielding would prevent baserunners. This undermines pitchers and destabilizes weary late-season teams. To paraphrase a dazzled, recently traded starter: ” It’s so different when there are people behind you who might catch the ball.” Losers: Esteban Loaiza: WAS @ PHI — 8-17-05, Aaron Heilman: NYM — at least twice this season — I haven’t followed the Mets closely lately. Steve Trachsel: NYM — several times over the last couple years. David Wells: as a NYY (I’m not talking about the first time, when Jeter talked to him about trusting that his teammate-trust needed work) If I were a pitcher, I would feel secure, even fortunate, if Aaron Rowand had my back in Center, Tino Martinez covered 1B, etc. More on this to come.
- STRATEGICALLY SIGNIFICANT CALLS AGAINST SOME TEAMS IN HIGH PLACES ARE INCREASING (and not against their opponents): Losers: CWS, NYY, WAS, etc. I stick my neck out with the inference, but announcers wonder about the calls even when their own team benefits. Full disclosure: I support the Yankees, obviously. However, to me, they do not appear prepared for this year’s post-season. I have no interest in false wins. It’s hard that everyone comes to the park with their best game when they play the Yankees, but the players are paid well because they are expected to handle the extra attitude and prepartion that opponents bring to the game. When they fail to do that, they fail, and an umpire has naught to contribute. They can fail on their own, and I have seen them fall by their own hand a lot this season. They can handle the responsibility. I don’t need to blame umpires for stupid mistakes that players make on on their own. Given that every fan wants their teams to get lucky breaks, “we’re all in” the same boat as I see it. However,… keep your eyes open if your team is doing too well, is too popular, or is too rich to BE popular!) More on this to come.
- That said, GET OFF THE LATE-SEASON YANKEE-BASHING! I mean it. It’s amazingly predictable to correlate cheap shots about the Yankees with poorly-researched commentary. You really can’t buy a World Series team. They would have. Look at the last 4 years. If you could buy one, they’d have 29-30 rings by now, not 26. Can you buy advantage that may be unfair? Sure. Before we go there, please find out and tell me what the low-performing and under-funded teams DO with the dollar-for-dollar cash that Steinbrenner hands over when the Yankee payroll exceeds the salary cap. When their payrolls hold steadily low, and when they annually collect the Yankee subsidy, do they really think that building a newer-than-Yankee-Stadium (est 1923, fyi) will foster a fanbase more reliably than investing in a productive farm system? I grow cliched. I stop. in new stadiums that lose money rather than invest i continue Serious observers have noted fatalistically that the Yanks have been “building” up not just a hugely talented and expensive team, but also a twisted underdog status — as in, how could they possibly keep losing? This is complex as well as painful to write about. Unless you believe they are intentionally dropping games for betting, or are covertly planning some sneaky (and risky) come-from-behind surprise (WHEN? After how many losing postseasons?! Hurry!! Just kidding), you are wise and sane enough to be weighing alternatives. Your stomach may be stronger than mine. More on this later.