Miguel Cairo, who was released last week to make room for the newbies, has been picked up by the Cardinals. He is reporting to AAA Memphis, according to Sports Illustrated.
We will miss him. This may come back to bite us, too. A more loyal, willing player does not exist. Bad karma.
Miggy, I am sorry. At least you are on a good team. Did you like them the first time ’round?
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.
Tucked-in among our losses of last year was a listlessness of my own — that is, if you can swallow my self-importance with enough ease to accept calling absence of one’s own spirit a loss. By losses I mean more than the Yankee Season of course, Corey Lidle coming right to mind, and the sabremetric blow to baseball that figured anyone to be Most Valuable Player of our league but Derek Jeter. I was at that last game, when he gave up his place in the line-up to no announcement, much was wrong, measure for measure, and far more.
Imagine if after all we had brought-in Mark Loretta to replace Miguel Cairo in the off- season.* [See below!] I have great news to repeat. Today’s New York Post is unofficially reporting a 1-year, $750,000 deal in the works. Thank you to MLB.com’s Brian Hoch for updating us.
- *To anyone wondering how I can argue for Cairo (.239, 0 HR, 30 RBI, 13 SB, only 81 games [injured]in 2006) over Loretta (.285, 5HR, 59 RBI, 4 SB, 155 games in 2006) Loretta, who is now with the Astros, has some good numbers and brings a lot to the field, but as you will read
elsewhere in this blog, I feel a loyalty to Cairo, whose bottomless
energy, effort, enthusiasm, and magic timing carried us far during our
disabled last year, as well as in his prior trek with us. I’ll have to look up the stats, but he actually performs better under pressure! Also, he
never stops improving, physically and mentally. Gaining strength enough to hit for doubles
last year was a big deal, I think. As announcer
John Sterling always says, "Miggy is the best .[fill-in-the-blank]
player in baseball." His average belies what he makes happen on the
field. Miggy is a Yankee.
Wed., July 26, 2006: Yankees 8 @ Rangers 7
I credit Mark Feinsand for choosing to center his article about this game around Shawn Chacon, who receives so little press, and whom the Yankees are reportedly — and, if true, regrettably — trying to trade. Quotations by players and Joe Torre are from Mr. Feinsand’s 7.27.06 article on MLB.com.
Someone get Shawn Chacon a BROOM! He swept those pesky Texans out of the way when no one else could. He re-ignited the GAME! Torre’s trusted team of relievers had just let the helium out of a heady homerun comeback by a headline-worthy "A-Bomb, from A-Rod," as John Sterling of WCBS never more aptly called the __ inning homerun by the slumping and much-maligned Alexander Rodriguez in the very ballpark he had abandoned 2 seasons ago for Yankee Stadium and the team everybody loves to hate. And it wasn’t just the A-Rod run….
It was the 8th, and we had been unable to score since the 1st, when Andy Phillips had singled-in Jeter and A-Rod. Despite reaching base 5 times that first inning, we paralyzed, Texas caught up then broke a tie to lead 4-2 in the 4th. Since that, nothing. Just that flat "When does Sheffield come back again" or "Gee, doesn’t Giambi look a little heavy and red about the eyes" kind of feeling. Not good.
So, nothing since the 1st and it’s the 8th and we’re down by 2. The man Marc Marc has called K-Rod and the master of the rally-killing homerun STARTS A RALLY. Well, first, he stepped to the plate and the earth shifted on its axis for a moment, from all those rolled eyes, you understand.
Chacon’s win in relief yesterday made tremendous, visceral sense of how a few tosses can constitute a genuinely meaningful "W" by virtue of turning the tide of a game. Here is A-Rod’s explanation of what Chacon did for the Yankees last night: "After Chacon got the double play, I had a good feeling. We were deflated, but we got some momentum back. When they didn’t score, we felt this was our game."
Even Torre gave it to him: "[Chacon] came in and was totally lights-out. He kept us in a position to do what we did. He’s the player of the game for me."
Before burying the point in what typically reads like shy self-effacement out of respect for what other players can do, even Chacon himself allowed himself to acknowledge the transformative power of his 3 8th inning outs: "After getting out of that jam, someone made a comment that we were going to win this game. It just felt like we were. They could have blown it open and they didn’t, and it wasn’t a game that was ever out of either team’s reach."
See 07/18/2006 article on mlb.com: Trade Deadline 2006: On the Block? .
YANKEES, PLEASE DO NOT TRADE THESE PLAYERS!
- RHP Shawn Chacon Contract status: through 2006, Yankees. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, PLEEEEASE! Send him to Columbus — he never got his rehab starts. Tell him you’ll call him back in a couple weeks, and do it. Did you see him walking off by himself from the bullpen to the dugout after the middle CWS game last Saturday? A more miserable figure I have not seen since Weaver, and that was different. Sad, but different.
- RHP reliever Scott Proctor Contract status: through 2006 (not yet eligible for arbitration), Yankees. Mid-to-high 90s fastball, curve, 2-seamer. Last season, I was all up in arms, feeling Proctor was being misjudged as an unsuccessful reliever with a starter’s mentality. Hate to say it, but ever since he started late this season due to his baby daughter’s heart trouble, he has tossed strikes with a knifethrower’s precision. It’s almost as if he has faced the devil down and nothing will scare him now.
- OF Melky Cabrera Contract status: through 2006, Yankees. So much better at fielding than he was last year, when he visited from A-Staten Island, it is clear that he subsequently worked with someone who believes in him at AAA-Columbus. Also, he has hit in the clutch and generally substituted for Hideki Matsui with naive aplomb. With Sheffield and Matsui losing months to wrist injuries, and with Bernie Williams working part-time, he seems to have a spot now and in the near future. Sheffield and Williams may both be playing part-time next season.
YANKEES, PLEASE CONSIDER ACQUIRING 1 or 2 of THESE:
OF Aaron Rowand Contract status: through 2006, $3.5 million, Phillies He froze at the plate post-season last year, but we need temporary fielding.
- OF Jay Payton Contract status: through 2006, A’s. Cheaper than Rowand. Was a good Met.
- RHP reliever Joaquin Benoit Contract status: through 2006, Rangers
- RHP reliever Brad Hennessey Contract status: through 2006, Giants. In his third year, Hennessey’s ERA has dropped significantly, and he is pitching more often.
RHP Josh Fogg Contract status: through 2006, $850,000, Colorado. He needs work, but I like him.
- LHP reliever Rheal Cormier. Contract status: through 2006, option for ’07. $2.5 million, Phillies. I know I like him, but it seems every time I look that he loses it. Still, I find him worth more than that look.
It was hard to know whom to root for in this afternoon’s Game 2 of the second Subway Series of 2006. On the one hand, the Yankees needed the win, and I am a Yankee fan. Should be cut and dried, right? The Mets did not need the win. Even simpler. But Steve Trachsel was pitching for the Mets against Randy Johnson and the Empire.
Forget the typical pleas for the so-called underdog. Please. The Yankees represent, among many things, my willing concession to the intertwining of power, money, and success. (I was recently gratified to find a similar sentiment expressed on the webpage of a politician I liked. I’ll have to look up his name.)
I started following Trachsel when he became a Met in 2001, as soon as Floraine Kay suggested that I keep an eye on him. She has a good eye. (Check out her Saddleshoe blog, linked to the right on my Blogroll.) Year after year, he threw pretty good games only to lose them either because the Mets’ line-up was on strike, or because the fielding behind him was anemic. Factoring in The Great Unravelling that followed the 2000 World Series, Trachsel — who already felt betrayed by the Cubs for letting him go to begin with (he split 2000 between Tampa Bay and Toronto) — walked into a clubhouse that was infected from top to bottom with mindgames, machinations, and backroom deals. What I remember is that the callers to the Joe Benigno WFAN show, which was on late nights back then, could say nothing good about this man. Sell him, get rid of him, he stinks, and much more colorful, less creative suggestions were made, and he wasn’t even bad. Good? No. But neither were the Mets as a whole. I’m not sure what they hit behind him that year, but he was 3rd in winning percentage among the 4 pitchers who earned decisions in 20 or more games (also Leiter, Appier, Rusch). From last in ERA in his first year with the Mets, he went to first in 2002, with 3.37, beating even Leiter who had 3.48. He and Leiter both posted .500 seasons, not bad in a season when the Mets won less than 47% of the time and had the worst fielding percentage as well as the highest number of errors commited in baseball.
Circling back to yesterday’s post, 2002 was when I first grew suspicious of some of those who call themselves "diehard Met fans" because they truly sound as if they hate the Mets. I may boo less than the average fan, but I can identify a [self] hater when I hear one. They are still calling-in to WFAN with the most insulting commentary on one of their steadiest pitchers, who never let himself get embroiled in the soap operas, even during the most turbulent years.
So, am I glad Trachsel won, holding the Yankees to 2 in front of Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner for over 6 innings? YES. Did I hope the Mets’ bullpen would give up the game? YES. (In light of a post earlier this week, I must confess that I share in some guilt: As soon as A-Rod hit his 25th home run off Aaron Heilman in the 8th, I knew any hope of a comeback was futile. Is that backward logic, or what!)
I am, by the way, worried about Trachsel’s health. Willie Randolph saw something and pulled him immediately in the 7th. It turns out that his groin tightened after a fielding play, having aggravated an injury that has nagged at him for a couple weeks now, according to Marty Noble, the MLB.com Mets correspondent (Another article, with more detail about the injury, is here.)
The Red Legs have been coming along for a couple years now, especially in pitching. Take a look at RHP Aaron Harang,a starter who has been lowering his ERA with the Reds for 2 years.
Last year, over a career-high 211 innings, it was 3.83 despite a W-L
record of 11-13 — the latter a product of the young line-up, no
doubt. In his 2 innings yesterday, he outpitched Boston’s Bronson
Arroyo with 0 ER’s to Arroyo’s 5 over 3 innings, all of which were
scored in the first. Among the 7 batters Harang faced were historical
over-achievers Coco Crisp, Tony Graffanino, Trot Nixon, and Manny
Ramirez, and he held them to a single hit. To be fair, Arroyo (0-2 in
3 starts, 17.55) seems to be having a rough spring. On paper, his 2nd
and 3rd innings look more characteristic of him, with no runs scored,
but Arroyo uncritically attributes the difference only to "luck,"
saying that his pitches just happened to get popped up after the 1st.
I share his manager Tony Francona’s reluctance to get worked up about
Arroyo’s pitching so early in the spring. On the other hand, I would
be concerned about his somewhat lackadaisical appraisal of the
distinction between his first inning pitches and those that followed.
That is, I would be concerned if I were not basking in mild
complacency about the threat that this Yankee nemisis seems to be
posing, for the moment.
Consider another young ace, the bait for a much-bemoaned 2003 trade
for the Yankees’ post-season lucky charm-to-be, third-baseman Aaron
Boone: lefty Brandon Claussen,
who was then setting the air afire at AAA-Columbus (1.36 in 6 starts,
following 1.64 in 4 A-Tampa, the latter following a rapid-fire 10-month
recovery from Tommy John surgery). He had already set Yankee hearts
aflame when he came up for his MLB debut to pitch 6.1 winning innings in the second game of a subway-style doubleheader against the Mets at Shea.
Two weeks later, after Claussen had gone back down to Columbus, George
Steinbrenner set the stage for a future acquisition (care to guess, anyone?!) that would leave
Yankee fans speechless (not a frequent occurence). Oh, the dampening of those fiery Yankee
hearts! Not only did we lose Claussen (and soon after, another lefty, fan favorite David Wells, who would be insulted into leaving his second tour with New York for hometown San Diego after being offered a minor league contract — yes, a story goes with it — this is not that story) — but also the first half of our switch-hitting third baseman "Robin Zeile." who was sent to Los Angeles for Scott Proctor and Bubba Crosby in another part of this contortionist multi-team deal. Rumor had it that the whole tangle was really about blocking Boston from acquiring a certain Expos pitcher…any ideas?! I longed for company, for historical context, for character, for, yes, Mike and the Mad Dog. Indeed, the Yes Network reliably kept the camera on Mike Franscesa as he poured his baseball soul dourly into the microphone on the WFAN radio talkshow…. —to be continued later on today.