Tagged: John Smoltz

Whitley Chases What Matters: First Victory In KC

GAME 60

YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2

In his major-league debut on May 15 against the New York Mets, Chase Whitley drew high praise from former Atlanta Braves right-hander John Smoltz, who was providing color commentary of the game for the MLB Network. After the way the rookie pitched against the Royals on Friday, now Yankee fans can see what Smoltz noticed.

Whitley pitched seven solid innings in his longest start of his career and he went on to earn his first major-league victory behind the hitting of Brian McCann as New York edged Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 23,418 at Kauffman Stadium.

Whitley (1-0) yielded two runs on five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three in his first outing to last more than five innings. Whitley threw 51 strikes out of 87 pitches for a 59 percent strike ratio, keeping the Royals off balance with his fastball, slider and change-up.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to break a 1-1 tie in the third inning, keyed by a one-out, bases-loaded, three-run double off the bat of McCann.

Jacoby Ellsbury opened the inning with a single up the middle off veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2-6). Brett Gardner then looped an opposite-field single into left and  –  one out later  – Guthrie brushed the right shoulder of Mark Teixeira with a pitch to load the bases.

McCann then stroked an outside fastball into the left-field corner to clear the bases and hand Whitley and the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

Guthrie was charged with four runs on six hits and one walk while he fanned two in seven innings of work. He has now winless in his past 11 starts dating back to April 9.

Dellin Betances tossed a scoreless eighth and David Robertson threw a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save in 16 chances this season.

The Yankees took an 1-0 lead in the second inning when Teixeira led off by lining a single to right off Guthrie. Yangervis Solarte drew a one-out walk and Brian Roberts provided a two-out RBI single to center to score Teixeira.

However, the Royals were able to tie it up in the bottom of the second when Alex Gordon laced a one-out double into the right-field corner and Salvador Perez followed with an RBI single to left.

The Royals did close to within two runs in the fifth when Gordon led off the frame with a single and stole second. One out later, Lorenzo Cain bounced a ball into left-center that he was able to hustle into a double.

However, Whitley ended the threat by retiring Mike Moustakas on a groundout and Alcides Escobar on a flyout.

The 24-year-old was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15 as the Yankees lost starters CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda to injury in quick succession. The converted reliever did not get a decision in his previous four starts despite the fact he is sporting an excellent 2.42 ERA.

With the victory the Yankees have won two in a row and they improved their season record to 31-29. They also were able to pass the Baltimore Orioles to claim second place in the American League East six games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Royals, who have now lost 21 of the past 31 games to the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, fell to 29-32.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Whitley may end up being more than just a fill-in starter until Sabathia and Pineda are expected to return in July. His first five starts  –  and particularly this one  –  prove that Whitley deserves to stay in the rotation as long he continues to pitch this well. David Phelps is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in six starts and Vidal Nuno is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts as replacements. Whitley has simply been more impressive as a starter than they have, period.
  • McCann has been a major disappointment at the plate this season after entering the season as a career .275 hitter with 20 or more homers in the past six seasons. But his big three-run double showed he is willing to hit the ball where it is pitched to beat the extreme shifts teams play on him. Since May 27, McCann is quietly resurrecting his hitting. He is 14-for-33 (.424) in that span to raise his season average to .231.
  • Roberts entered the game in a 1-for-14 (.071) funk that dates back to May 31. But his two-out RBI single gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. The Yankees have been really disappointed with the production they have gotten from the free agents (Ellsbury, McCann, Roberts, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson) they signed this past winter. They all need to really start picking it up soon.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

After the team went through a horrendous four-game losing streak while the Blue Jays were red hot, they finally seem to have some life back in them. So after getting a huge victory out a pitcher they had not planned to use at all this season things may be finally falling into place. It’s about time, too.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Royals on Saturday.

Phelps (1-3, 4.11 ERA) will start for the Yankees. The right-hander is coming off his worst start of the season on Monday against the Seattle Mariners. He was tagged for six runs on six hits and three walks in six-plus innings.

The Royals will start left-hander Danny Duffy (3-5, 3.05 ERA). The converted reliever will be making his seventh start and he is 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA in those starts. He shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on one hit and one walk while striking out five in six innings on Monday.

Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Yankees’ Frugal Ways Can Be Traced To 2007 DUI

On Feb. 15, 2007, the course of history for the New York Yankees took a huge turn and the current state of the team begs the question: What if it did not happen?

Though the Yankees were still be operated ostensibly by managing general partner George Steinbrenner, the actual day-to-day operations were being run by Steinbrenner’s son-in-law, Steve Swindal, who was named the successor to Steinbrenner in June 2005.

Swindal was chosen over Steinbrenner’s two sons, Hal and Hank, because Steinbrenner felt more comfortable with Swindal’s leadership and his vast baseball knowledge.

However, while the Yankees were in the midst of spring training in 2007, Swindal’s vehicle unfortunately cut off in traffic a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office cruiser driven by a female deputy. A chase ensued in which Swindal’s vehicle was clocked at 61 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone before he was stopped by St. Petersburg police.

Swindal declined to take a Breathalyzer test but failed a field sobriety test and was charged with driving while under the influence.

Swindal’s wife, Jennifer, later that year filed for divorce from her husband and Swindal’s stake as a general partner and chairman of the Yankees’ parent company was bought back by the Steinbrenner family in November of that year. Hal was shifted into Swindal’s role with the club and the history of this franchise was forever changed.

The Yankees were known in the Wild West days of early free agency as the major-league team with the largest saddlebags. Under George Steinbrenner’s regime from when he purchased the team in 1973 through November 2007 the Yankees tossed around millions like pennies in a fountain to lure the free agents they coveted.

In some cases, the elder Steinbrenner would be so ruthless in negotiations with free agents he would even increase a bid that already was more than any rival team was offering – actually bidding against himself.

Of course, that led to such signings as Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage and Dave Winfield. Between free agent signings and some shrewd trades the Yankees won a pair of World Series in 1978 and 1979 and Steinbrenner and the Yankees were being cursed all around baseball for “buying their way” to prosperity.

Though Steinbrenner’s money did re-establish the Yankees in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Yankees actually failed to make the playoffs from 1982 through 1994. A combination of some poor signings and trades doomed the Yankees until their minor-league system began turning out a solid of corps of young stars such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

Those players along with the acquisition of Paul O’Neill and the signings of pitchers such as Jimmy Key, David Wells and David Cone pushed the Yankees into an amazing run in which they won four world championships from 1996 through 2000.

Since then the team has only failed to make the playoffs in one season – 2008. They won their 27th world title in 2009 after dipping heavy into the free-agent market in signing pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira.

But in 2003, Major League Baseball instituted its first luxury tax, which was supposed to operate alongside revenue sharing to allow small-market teams to draw money from teams who were over a threshold payroll limit, which was set at $178 million in 2011. All teams shared the remaining revenue.

Only four teams have ever exceeded the established luxury tax limit: the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Angels and the Detroit Tigers. However, only the Yankees and Red Sox have ever exceeded it twice and the Yankees have paid in 95 percent of all the luxury tax since its inception.

When Hal Steinbrenner took control of the team he decided that the Yankees’ philosophy of paying top dollar and ignoring the luxury tax would have to come to an end.

In 2014, the payroll threshold will be increased to $189 million. By a complicated formula set up by the teams, there would be refunded revenue sharing streams for teams who remain under the luxury tax threshold. That gives the Yankees an added incentive to cut payroll below $189 million in 2014.

Not only will the team save money by trimming payroll; they would receive a considerable sum of refunded revenues as well. This explains why the Steinbrenner family informed general manager Brian Cashman that he will have to pass on high-priced free agents and he will have to pass on trading for players with huge long-term contracts.

So Yankee fans have watched a stream of free agents like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jose Reyes, Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes sign with other teams instead of with the Yankees. The Yankees are already on the hook for long-term deals to Alex Rodriguez, Sabathia and Teixeira.

Those three contracts alone are worth $73,875,000 plus player benefits worth an additional $10.8 million, which will also count against the $189 million.

That leaves a remainder of a little less than $105,000,000 to pay the remainder of the team’s 40-man roster in 2014.

That is why the Yankees have let Nick Swisher and Russell Martin go this offseason and it is likely that Curtis Granderson will follow them out the door sometime within the next year.

The team will also have another group of expiring contracts such as one of Robinson Cano. Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are working this season under one-year contracts.

The question is will the Yankees make an effort to offer Cano a lucrative multiyear contract to remain a Yankee? Can they afford to do it? What will they do with Jeter, who is a significantly aging commodity at shortstop?

Some Yankee fans were quick to point out that if Rodriguez is found to have taken performance enhancing drugs past the 2003 date he previously claimed that the Yankees could easily just void his contract and dump him. But that may be a pipe dream.

First, Major League Baseball must have proof that he did it and then mete out a 50-game suspension. But Rodriguez can appeal the procedure and delay its effect. He also could have the suspension tossed out.

The Yankees would find it very difficult to find relevant clauses in his contract to escape from the $114,000,000 they owe Rodriguez through the 2017 season. The Players’ Association and his agent would certainly fight it and that could lead to a prolonged court battle with no guarantee the Yankees could win.

In addition, should the Yankees lose they would still have to pay Rodriguez and play him. He may not be in any mood to produce much for them either. He gets paid no matter how bad he is. So any thought of voiding his contract is going to have to be very carefully weighed.

The long-term effect of what has been an austerity program the Yankees have been under since the 2009 season ended is that the balance of power in baseball is widening out to teams who have lots of money to spend under the current salary threshold like the Tigers, the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Texas Rangers.

These are the teams that have been active in the free-agent market and teams like the Toronto Blue Jays have benefitted from what was a talent fire-sale by the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins.

The Red Sox traded most of their high-priced players like Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez away last season to the Dodgers to restock their 2013 roster while keeping well below the looming $189 million limit.

That is why the Yankees’ prospects for the 2013 season are not as bright as they might have been under the old George Steinbrenner regime or the short-lived rule of Swindal.

Would old George or Swindal have allowed the Yankees to wither on the vine for the past three seasons and basically pinch pennies and risk the team missing the playoffs in 2013?

Hal Steinbrenner has already stated quite clearly that he expects the 2013 club to remain a top-quality team within the confines placed upon Cashman and the team’s scouts. The result is the current Yankee roster is full of 40-year-olds like Rivera and Pettitte and players in their late 30s such as Rodriguez, Jeter, Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and the newly signed DH Travis Hafner.

Cashman spent a lot of time and effort stocking the minor-league system with talented young players over the past five years and Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Brett Gardner have provided some support to an aging corps of veterans.

However, the two best minor-league prospects the Yankees have produced in that time, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero, were both packaged in trades. Jackson was sent out in three-player swap between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tigers that yielded Granderson for the Yankees. Montero was sent along with two other players to the Seattle Mariners in return for right-handed pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

While Jackson is thriving with the defending American League champions, Granderson has provided the Yankees with two consecutive seasons of 40-plus home runs and a lot of strikeouts. And though Montero has proven to be lackluster on defense as a catcher, his power in Yankee Stadium will be missed in a season in which the Yankees are choosing between singles-hitting catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.

In addition, both Pineda, 25, and Campos, 20, suffered injuries and had their 2012 seasons cut short. Pineda is recovering from right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and he could miss a portion of the 2013 season and may not be 100 percent until the 2014 season. Campos was shut down with a right elbow injury that did not require surgery.

The Yankees have a number of very good prospects within their minor-league system, including a catcher who hits as well as Montero and has better defensive skills in Gary Sanchez, 20. They also have a pair of good-looking outfielders in Mason Williams and Tyler Austin and an up-and-coming star reliever in Mark Montgomery.

But the question is will the Yankees allow these players to develop long enough to make the roster or will they package and ship them out as they have done with Jackson and Montero?

The problem with young players – most especially pitchers – as they develop in the minors is that they need to be promoted to learn at the major-league level. Too often the Yankees pull a player back and ship them back to the minors when they initially fail.

The Yankees did that with Hughes and right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy in 2008. They both got off to shaky starts (a combined 0-7 record) and the Yankees believed they could not afford to keep them on the roster.

Anyone want to guess what the records of Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were in their first full season with the Atlanta Braves?

Glavine was 7-17 with a 4.56 ERA in 1988 and Smoltz was 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA in 12 starts the same season.

If Glavine and Smoltz were with the Yankees in 1988 they would have been sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another season and their major-league development would have been stilted. In 1989, Glavine was 14-8 with a 3.68 and Smoltz was 12-11 with a 2.94 ERA.

The point is that players have to learn at the major-league level and when you are constantly shipping them back out they will never learn how to succeed in the major leagues. A good case in point is when the Yankees elected to ship right-hander Ivan Nova back to Scranton in the middle of the 2011 season despite the fact he ended up the season with a 16-4 record.

The Yankees are pretty rough on their prospects. If they are not ready to contribute on Day One they get sent back down. Sometimes players in the late 20s like Colin Curtis find themselves drifting in the Yankees’ system but never even given the chance to play in the majors much.

Then there are the Monteros and Jacksons who succeed just enough in the minors to be traded. Then there are the Kennedys, who are traded and ended up going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA for the Diamondbacks in 2011. So the Yankees show patience with players like Curtis, who never made it in the majors, and a lack of patience with players like Kennedy, who succeeds with another team.

If the Yankees are to adhere to this stringent luxury tax threshold in 2014 they are going to have to stop making the mistake of trading their great prospects away or, at the least, if they are going to trade them they better get something of real value back for it. They also could benefit by being a bit more patient with their young players when they call them up.

The Montero-Pineda deal is but one example of those mistakes. Cashman can’t afford to do that much going forward.

The Yankees are going to need good young athletes and skilled pitchers coming out of their system on a regular basis to retool this franchise through the end of the decade. It will certainly lower payroll, make the team better-suited for healthy runs at championships and may prove – ultimately – that Hal Steinbrenner had the right approach.

Otherwise, there will be hell to pay and old George will be have cigar smoke coming out of his ears as he rolls around in his grave. If a ghost could ever fire a son, old George will figure out a way to get that done.

 

Matsui’s 7 RBIs Help Yankees To Bash Bosox

YANKEES 20, RED SOX 11


Beckett vs. Burnett it wasn’t.
It was, in just three words, a one-sided slugfest.
Hideki Matsui hit a pair of three-run home runs and drove in a career-high seven runs to lead the New York Yankees to a 20-11 defeat of the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.
The victory increased the Yankees lead in the American League East to 7 1/2 games and dealt a serious blow to the Red Sox’ hopes to get back into the division race this weekend.
The Yankees unleashed a torrent of 23 hits at Fenway Park that began with Derek Jeter’s leadoff ground-rule double and fittingly ended with a Melky Cabrera single in the ninth in which he was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.

“It was incredible,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “The good thing is we kept tacking on. They kept coming back as well. Big nights … up and down the lineup.”

The 31 runs scored by both teams also set a record. It was the most scored in a game by the two franchises, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous record was set on July 29, 1903 when the Yankees beat the Red Sox 15-14.

“It’s baseball,” Jeter told MLB.com. “That’s why you can’t punch it all into a computer and figure out who’s going to win. You could try, but I bet you wouldn’t figure this out.”

One thing the Yankees did prove to the Red Sox is that it is not a good idea to dip into the bargain bin during the off-season free-agent signing period. 
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein scoffed at the Yankees megabuck signings of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett this winter and extolled the prudence of the Red Sox’ “low-risk, high-reward” signings of injured veteran starters John Smoltz and Brad Penny.
On Aug. 6 at Yankee Stadium the Yankees pounded the 42-year-old Smoltz for nine hits and eight runs in 3 1/3 innings en route to a 13-6 romp. Epstein promptly designated Smoltz for assignment. He was released and he has since signed with St. Louis.
On Friday night, the Yankees took care of Penny. They rocked the 31-year-old right-hander for 10 hits and eight runs in 4-plus innings.
In two starts against the Yankees, the “low-risk” pair of Smoltz and Penny were bombarded for 19 hits and 16 runs in 7 1/3 innings for an ERA of 19.64. In Penny’s last five starts beginning on July 29, he has given up 37 hits and 27 runs in 26 2/3 innings for an ERA of 9.11.
If the Red Sox get injured starters Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka back there is a good possibility Penny may be released also.
Penny left the game in fifth inning after having given up six runs in the first two innings and manager Terry Francona took him out after he gave up singles to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
Francona decided to summon rookie right-hander Michael Bowden, who was just recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier in the day.
Bowden did not fare much better than Penny. His second pitch to Hideki Matsui was smashed on a line into the right-field Boston bullpen to give the Yankees a 9-1 lead. The Yankees ended up bringing 12 batters to the plate in the inning and they put the game pretty much out of serious reach at 12-1.
Francona left Bowden in for two innings and he gave up eight hits, three walks and seven earned runs. On Saturday morning, Bowden was sent back to Pawtucket.
The only saving grace for the Red Sox was that Andy Pettitte succumbed to a three-run fifth inning and some bad luck in the sixth courtesy of right-hander Brian Bruney, who came on in relief of Pettitte and could not throw a strike. 
Pettitte (10-6) won despite being charged for seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks. Bruney walked three, hit a batter and gave up two hits. But even with the damage Bruney caused, the Yankees led 15-7 when he departed.
“No excuses. I should have gone deeper into the game,” Pettitte said to MLB.com. “I hate it that my pitch count got up so high. I felt good, the results — as far as the numbers and stuff — wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but we got a win. That was the big thing, and the guys are feeling good about themselves, swinging the bats well.”
With a largely partisan Red Sox crowd of 37,869 in attendance, they actually were on their feet in the sixth inning when J.D. Drew stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the Red Sox down 15-5. Grand slam was on their minds.
They got a bases-loaded walk instead and it was 15-6.
Lucky for Bruney, Alex Gonzalez pretty much killed the threat with a double-play groundout. A run scored but Jacoby Ellsbury ended inning with a weak popup to Robinson Cano. Gonzalez ended the game 0 for 5.
Matsui added another run for the Yankees in the seventh after Rodriguez tripled to lead off the inning. It was his first triple since the 2006 season. Matsui hit a infield grounder to score Rodriguez. 
Matsui added a three-run home run in a four-run ninth off right-hander Ramon Ramirez for his career-high seven RBIs.
Rodriguez, who entered the game hitting .188 in his last 10 games, went 4-for-4. The red-hot Jeter, who was hitting .550 in his last 10 games, went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Cabrera, who also had been in an extended slump, went 4-for-6 and drove in two runs.
The 20 runs were the most the Yankees have scored against Boston since a 22-1 rout on June 19, 2000 at Fenway.
“We were fortunate,” Jeter said. “We swung the bats well and didn’t pitch the way we wanted to, but you get away with some things when you score that many runs.”
The Yankees, who lost the first eight games against the Red Sox this season, have now won five in a row against their bitter rivals. They also are 26-8 since the All-Star break.

“I can tell you one thing: That’s not the team we played two months ago,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz told MLB.com. “We’ve got to keep that in mind. They have a lot of good players, and they’ve found a way to put themselves together. We’ve been watching that for years.”

The Yankees can now win the weekend series on Saturday afternoon and they will send right-hander A.J. Burnett (10-6, 3.69 ERA) to the mound. Burnett paid the price for one bad inning in his last start. The three-run fourth inning gave the A’s a 3-0 victory over the Yankees. He is now winless in his past four starts. In his last start against Boston two weeks ago, Burnett pitched 7 2/3 innings of scoreless one-hit ball in a game the Yankees won 2-0 in 15 innings.

The Red Sox are countering with rookie Junichi Tazawa (1-2, 5.40 ERA), who surrendered the game-winning home run to Alex Rodriguez in that 15-inning game Burnett started. Tazawa gave up four earned runs over five-plus innings against the Rangers on Sunday. He allowed 10 hits and three walks. He is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA as a starter.

NOTES . . . Johnny Damon left the game in the first inning with a bruised right knee he suffered in his first at-bat. Damon fouled a ball off his right knee. The Yankees said it is uncertain if he will be able to play Saturday . . . Left-hander Damaso Marte finally returned to the Yankees after four months on he disabled list with a sore shoulder. Marte pitched two-thirds of an inning on Friday, retiring David Ortiz on a flyout and striking out Mike Lowell with the bases loaded. Marte’s arrival means the Yankees now have two left=handers in the bullpen (Marte and Phil Coke) and Marte will be the lefty specialist . . . With the activation of Marte the Yankees optioned utility infielder Ramiro Pena back to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.




Yankees’ Success Has Theo In Panic Mode

COMMENTARY


It is fairly obvious to Red Sox GM Theo Epstein (i.e. the smartest frat boy in baseball) that the New York Yankees that his team faced earlier this season is not the team his team is playing now.
Oops! Theo, it’s your bad!
You fell asleep at the switch since your team was eliminated by the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS. Now that you finally have awakened to reality it is too late. Look at the evidence your team is about to fall into a pit:
  1. You may be rid of Man-Ram but Jason Bay does not scare pitchers like the bad boy you caudled all those years. 
  2. David Ortiz’ issues with his wrist are an extension of his steroid use and despite his lame denials, power hitters don’t decline at age 33 for no reason.
  3. You pinched “Penny’s” to sign Brad Penny and 42-year-old John Smoltz and bragged about it even after the Yankees actually lowered their 2009 payroll by signing Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. How is that working for you now, Theo?
  4. You have screwed Mike Lowell so many times it is laughable and he is your hottest hitter since he came off the disabled list. Trading for Victor Martinez may have looked like a great idea on July 31, but it is not producing a better offense.
  5. How does those signings of Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew look now, Frat Boy? Lugo not only could not field but you found out he could not hit either. Bummer. Now you find out J.D. Drew’s shoulder is a limp appendage and you are finding out that 12 home runs and a sub-.250 average won’t cut it anymore.
  6. You tried to get Roy Halladay but offering garbage to the Blue Jays for him was just a funny exercise in futility. J.P. Riciardi is not as stupid as the Diamondbacks front office when they handed you Curt Schilling for a bag of baseball, huh?
  7. Now that Lugo is gone, who is your shortstop? Nick Green? Chris Woodward? Cristian Guzman? None of them are as good as Nomar was or how Hanley Ramirez is now. Beckett or no, dealing Ramirez was a stupid error given the revolving door at SS.
  8. Was giving up $100 million worth getting Dice-K? It is obvious that the return you have gotten from that investment was pretty darn awful.
  9. You know when your manager brags about all the pitching depth you have in spring training that it might be a great time to start looking to add to it. Suddenly the Red Sox rotation is Beckett and Lester and pray for a lot of rain.
  10. A bullpen is only as good as the rotation it supports. When you get innings from your starters the bullpen looks great. When you don’t get those innings even great bullpens spring leaks. Yours has been leaking like a sieve lately.
So, though the players may say that they have not given up and that they will continue to play hard, the real fact is that the Yankees have passed you for good and the Rangers and Rays are knocking on the door to take the Wild Card away.
Will you still have your job if the Red Sox (or shall we call them Red Flops) don’t make the postseason party? If they don’t you may want to avoid calls on your cell from a J. Henry. May I also suggest you get that gorilla suit dry-cleaned.
You may need it real soon. 
But, fear not, I understand they are offering a course in trading and bartering online at the University of Phoenix. You may want to register for that one, son.

Ortiz Deserves Whatever He Gets

COMMENTARY


Witness the end of the Boston Red Sox’ most fearsome pairing in history.
Manny Ramirez and his petulance are long gone and Big Papi is now being called Big Popup. It is no accident the Red Sox are struggling to stay afloat in the American League East.
Though a large part of the problem with the Red Sox is because starting pitchers Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka are on the disabled list and cheap free agent retreads John Smoltz and Brad Penny are struggling, the Red Sox slump can also be attributed to an offensive slump.
Right in the middle of it is Ortiz, who is now batting .222 this season with a paltry 15 home runs. There also is the cloud of steroids looming over his head with the July 31 New York Times revelations that both Ramirez and Ortiz had tested positive for steroids in 2003.
Ortiz has ducked reporters questions about it, saying only that he would try to find out the facts and then answer the questions once and for all. But that “tell-all” news conference, scheduled for Saturday at Yankee Stadium, seems long overdue.
It obviously is weighing on his mind. He began the series against the Yankees on Thursday with only one hit in his last 14 at-bats. Last night, Ortiz made it 1-for-19 with an 0-for-5 night including hitting into a double play and a weak infield popup and groundout. Ortiz left nine base-runners stranded.
Now it is beginning to look to fair-minded baseball fans (certainly not Red Sox Nation) that the seasons from 2003 through 2007 were frauds for both Ortiz and Ramirez.
Ortiz came to the Red Sox after he was basically released by the Minnesota Twins for hitting just 20 home runs and driving in 75 runs in 2002. Suddenly Ortiz comes to the Red Sox in 2003 and hits 31 home runs and drives in 101 runs. For the first time, Ortiz bats above .288 with a .301 average.
Then comes the monster mash seasons:
2004  41 HRs   139 RBIs
2005  47 HRs   148 RBIs
2006  54 HRs   137 RBIs
2007  35 HRs   117 RBIs
Then, at age 32, Ortiz begins what appears to be the inevitable breakdown from the use of steroids in 2008. Much more rigorous testing has now begun and Ortiz must not be caught with them because he has been a loud voice opposing the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Not just once but many times.
In 2008, Ortiz hits just .264 with 23 home runs and 89 RBIs. Does that look a little like Minnesota numbers to you?
To be fair, Ortiz had left wrist issues. But the question then becomes what caused the wrist issues?
We will soon find out the answers to a lot of questions. But if Ortiz now admits he used performance-enhancing drugs he is going to be one of the biggest hypocrites in baseball history.  It is OK to say nothing or very little about the subject but when you rail against them and the players that use them, you suddenly become very, very small.
Ortiz already appears like his career is over at age 33. The fact the Red Sox ignored their pitching problems and acquired catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez at the trade deadline on July 31 speaks volumes about their concerns about Ortiz and his future with the club.
Now the adorable smiling big man that kids flocked to in Boston may have leave town with a release and no one showing up at the airport to bid him goodbye.
I am reminded of the MLB hat commercial where the Red Sox fan with a cap is mistaken for Big Papi at an airport in Japan. At the end, the innocent man’s hat falls off and a disappointed phalanx of Japanese fans sigh and say “You’re not Big Papi.”
There is something about seeing the real Ortiz now and the symbol of his hat falling off as these revelations and his early physical breakdown carry him and the struggling Red Sox into the abyss.
The team is 8-11 since the All-Star break. They have lost three in a row. The Tampa Bay Rays are gaining in the race for second place and the American League wild-card. The Yankees, meanwhile, are 13-4 since the break and coming off a 13-6 thrashing of Theo Epstein’s so-called “bargain-basement” free-agent steal in Smoltz in the first game on Thursday night.
In eight starts his ERA is now 8.33 and he has not turned in one quality start.
No matter how you look at it things for RSN they look bleak like 2006 did. Now knowing Jason Bay may not play in the Yankee series with hamstring pangs and Jed Lowrie has tingling in his left arm that could mean more problems for the shortstop.
There in the middle of it all is “Big Popup” and his sad decline into baseball purgatory. But after what Red Sox fans have heaped on Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi, it is only fitting that the final stretch plays out at new Yankee Stadium.
Say it ain’t so, David! Yeah, right! Yankees fans have a right to boo and loud.

Eight is Enough: Yankees Finally Beat Red Sox

YANKEES 13, RED SOX 6


Famous television dad Dick Van Patten should have been in attendance at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night because you could definitely say that “Eight Is Enough” for the Yankees.
Riding a pair of three-run home runs in the fourth inning from Jorge Posada and Melky Cabrera the New York Yankees ended an 0-8 record against their hated rival Boston Red Sox with a 13-6 thrashing. The last time the Yankees had gone this far into a season without beating the Red Sox was 1912 when the Yankees were actually named the Highlanders.
“We are playing a lot better than we were at the beginning,” Posada said to MLB.com. “We are pitching a lot better and doing a lot of things well on the mound and at the plate. Hopefully we can carry on and do what we did today.”

The victory for the Yankees was their fourth straight and put them a season-best 24 games over .500 this season. They also extended their lead to 3 1/2 games in the American League East over the slumping Red Sox, who have lost three straight.
Boston, who led the AL East for most of the season, are now 8-11 after the All-Star Break. The Tampa Bay Rays, who swept the Red Sox in a two-game series at home, were idle Thursday but moved to within 2 1/2 games of Red Sox for second place.
The Yankees pounded an obviously fading 42-year-old right-hander John Smoltz for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings keyed by an eight-run fourth inning with the Yankees sending 13 batters to the plate. 
The inning started with the Yankees losing 3-1, the one run coming on a solo home run from Johnny Damon, who has hit home runs in the three straight games and now has 20 for the season.
Posada opened the fateful fourth with a liner Boston right-fielder J.D. Drew misplayed into a double. Robinson Cano followed with a lined single to center-field to easily score Posada, who was inexplicably thrown out on a similar play at the plate two innings earlier. Posada decided not to slide and was tagged easily by catcher Victor Martinez standing up. The Yankees, as a result, did not score that inning.
Swisher followed Cano’s single with a walk and Cabrera made sure to make the fourth inning count as he turned on an inside Smoltz fastball and launched a line-drive shot down the right-field line that landed in the seats to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead.
Smoltz was chased four hitters later when he walked Alex Rodriguez intentionally. He gave up nine hits and four walks during his short outing and his ERA was raised from 7.12 to 8.33.
“I’m pretty humbled right now with the way things have gone,” said Smoltz. “I don’t like to use the word embarrassed, but I have a lot of pride and I certainly don’t like letting somebody down.”

Smoltz (2-5) was replaced on the mound by former Yankee left-hand reliever Billy Traber, who recorded an ERA of 7.02 in 19 appearances for New York in 2008. Brought in to face left-hand DH Hideki Matsui, the veteran actually legged out what might have been a double play grounder into a fielder’s choice that scored another run.
Posada then teed off on Traber for no-doubt three-run blast to center-field to cap the scoring and give the Yankees a somewhat comfortable 9-3 lead.
“You still want to keep coming,” Posada told MLB.com. “I don’t think any lead is safe with them. You just want to keep on scoring runs.”
The Yankees added two runs in the fifth on a Matsui double, one run in the sixth on an RBI single by Derek Jeter and a final run in the seventh on a solo home run from Mark Teixeira, which tied him with Justin Morneau for the American League lead in homers with 28. All the runs came off Traber, whose ERA is 12.27 after his first outing with Red Sox since being called up from Pawtucket a day earlier.
“We got 10 RBIs from the bottom half of our order,”  Girardi told MLB.com. “It’s nice to see everyone contributing. At times, we’ve scored some runs and our games have been real close. It gave us a little bit of a cushion and we just kept adding on.”
The Yankees pitchers, meanwhile, did not have a night to remember. Though, the Yankee prevailed it was not their pitching that contributed much. Five Yankees pitchers combined to walk 12 Red Sox batters.
Joba Chamberlain (8-2) got credit for the victory despite showing signs of not pitching for a week. The Yankees deliberately skipped his spot in the rotation so he could pitch against the Red Sox. But Girardi may be questioning the move now.
Chamberlain gave up four runs on six hits and season-high seven walks. He was in trouble in every inning. Dustin Pedroia tagged him for a pop fly home run to right in the third inning and Casey Kotchman stunned him in the fourth with a two-run home run he reached out for on the outside corner and pulled into the right-field seats to make 3-1 for the Sox.
But the fifth inning typified Chamberlain’s night. Sent to the mound with a 9-3 lead and needing only three outs for the victory, Chamberlain tested Girardi’s and the Yankees fans’ patience by walking the bases loaded and retiring only one batter. 
Mike Lowell made Chamberlain pay for his wildness with a single to center to bring in one run. Kotchman came to the plate with a chance to get the Red Sox back to 9-8 with another home run. But Chamberlain fanned him on a pitch in the dirt and struck out Nick Green looking to end his 108-pitch ordeal.
“I knew their game plan was to take pitches,” Chamberlain said. “They’ve done that all year. They’re good for a reason. They get deep into counts and get the starters out quick.”
David Robertson, Phil Coke and Mark Melancon pitched over the next three innings without giving up a
hit. But they did walk three batters.

“I felt we walked too many people, and I think we got away with some situations and we can’t continue to do that to this lineup, or they’re going to hurt you,” Girardi toldMLB.com.

Melancon also managed to ruffle Pedroia’s feathers with a high inside pitch that hit the volatile second baseman.

Posada escorted Pedroia to first base assuring him Melancon’s pitch just got away. But Red Sox skipper Terry Francona came out to argue and home plate umpire Derryl Cousins warned both benches.

“It’s very unfortunate that he hit him. It’s 13-4. We’re not trying to hit anyone,” Girardi said.

The Red Sox did manage to score two meaningless runs in the ninth on Yankees rookie Anthony Claggett, who was only called up to add a 14th pitcher to the staff for this series. 

“It’s definitely better to be 1-8 than 0-9, but we’re definitely still not happy about it,” Damon said. “Those are eight games that we can’t get back. We went out and played all right. We walked too many guys, but we swung the bats OK.”
The Yankees will have a chance to add to their AL East lead Friday night with A.J. Burnett (10-5, 3.89 ERA) going. Burnett was cuffed around for seven runs and 10 hits in less than five innings in a 14-4 loss on Saturday to the Chicago White Sox. He was his first loss in six decisions. He has faced the Red Sox twice this season and was roughed up in both outings.
His loss on June 9, a 7-0 drubbing, was his first loss against the Red Sox in his career. He is 5-1 with a 3.81 ERA in 10 starts.
The Red Sox will counter with Josh Beckett (13-4, 3.27 ERA), who is coming off seven shutout innings in a win against the Orioles. Beckett has faced the Yankees three times this season with a 2-0 record. But his ERA is 5.82 in those games. 
Gamtetime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . Sergio Mitre’s days as the Yankees’ fifth starter are definitely numbered. The Yankees acquired right-hander Chad Gaudin from the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later. Gaudin, 26, was 4-10 with a 5.13 ERA with the Padres this season. Mitre, 28, has posted an ERA of 7.50 in four starts with the Yankees.

Slumping Sox To Meet ‘New’ Yankees Team

COMMENTARY


Here we go again. The Red Sox play the Yankees for their fourth series of 2009.
The rivalry does not look like much of a rivalry from the perspective of the Red Sox having won all eight games this season. But, in baseball, timing is pretty much everything.
So I can actually make a case that the Red Sox were very fortunate to have faced the Yankees when they did early in the season. Try to think back to that time in the Yankees season and understand why I am saying this.
First of all, the Yankees actually trotted out Chien-Ming Wang as a starter in early April not knowing how seriously injured he really was until he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with degenerated muscles in his hips.
Fortunately the Yankees had Phil Hughes to replace Wang. But Hughes had never really established himself as a starter in the major leagues and he was extremely inconsistent in his starts.
The Yankees, though, were also not getting great work out of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the first two months of the season. Sabathia was 1-2 with a 4.73 in April and he did not pitch against the Red Sox until the June series in Boston.
Burnett, who was undefeated against the Red Sox in 2007 when he was a member of the Blue Jays, began a horrific stretch of starts against Boston on April 25 that lasted through June 9 when he faced Boston again.
In those nine starts, Burnett was 2-3 with a 5.50 ERA. Burnett gave up 59 hits and 28 walks during this stretch.
The only starter who pitched well in April was veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte, who was 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA. The one loss was a 4-3 loss to the Red Sox.
But the real reason that the Yankees were not the same team they were when the faced the Red Sox early in the season was the absence of Alex Rodriguez. He returned on May 8, just three days after the Yankees dropped the fourth and fifth games of the season to Boston in the new Yankee Stadium.
It was pretty obvious pitchers adopted a game plan to beat the Yankees with A-Rod sidelined after hip surgery: Don’t give Mark Teixeira anything close to the strike zone to hit and make the others in the lineup try to beat you.
It has been well documented that Teixeira, who also has been a notoriously slow starter in past seasons, was hitting .198 with 5 home runs and 15 RBIs when A-Rod was placed in the starting lineup for the first time.
Teixeira, then as legend has it, exploded to now where he is hitting .284 with 27 home runs and 80 RBIs. Actually, Teixeira did hit well in the two-game series against Boston in Yankee Stadium. He hit .333 with two home runs in the series to raise his average to .209 but pundits want to pick A-Rod’s return as the catalyst so it must be true, right?
To tell you the truth. There were two significant events in the Yankees season. One was May 8 when A-Rod returned — though he did not really become productive as a hitter for the Yankees until he was left out of the starting lineup on June 19 and June 20 in a series against the Marlins.
Rodriguez did not really begin hitting with authority and for average until those days of rest were provided for him. Although he had 9 home runs and 26 RBIs on that date, he was hitting paltry .212. He is now hitting .261 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs. Rodriguez either tried to come back from the surgery too soon or manager Joe Girardi made a mistake in not resting him during that stretch of over a month.
Either way it was corrected.
Now a rejuvenated and ready A-Rod was batting behind the thunder of Teixiera’s bat and the offense is now at its peak for the season.
The second most significant event in the Yankees season actually happened on June 8, just before the Yankees faced the Red Sox in Fenway Park for the second time from June 9-11. That was the first appearance in relief for 23-year-old Hughes.
And who could have known that after he gave up two runs (one earned) against the Red Sox in relief at Fenway Park on June 10, he would then start a stretch of 16 straight scoreless appearances.
Fans forget the Yankees lost a significant piece of their bullpen on April 25 when Brian Bruney went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right flexor mass. The Yankees had lost their “bridge” to closer Mariano Rivera.
It took Girardi a while to figure out just how good Hughes had become in the bullpen, but once he did the bullpen took off. On July 3, Phil Hughes actually was used in the eighth inning for the first time as a bridge to Rivera in a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays.
Hughes has made 22 appearances out of the bullpen and has been scored upon in just three. He has a bullpen ERA of 1.48 with 39 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. His ascension as a late-inning stopper has allowed Girardi to use Alfredo Aceves and Phil Coke earlier. They now can enter in the sixth and seventh innings and their success has made the bullpen a strength, which it wasn’t in June when the Yankees met the Red Sox.
On May 8, the Yankees were 13-15 and tied for third in the American East with the Rays 5 1/2 games behind the Red Sox. They are 51-27 since then, the best record in baseball since that time.
But on June 11, the last time the Yankees faced the Red Sox, the Yankees were 34-26 in second place two games behind the Red Sox. Since then they are 31-16, again the best record in baseball since that date. By contrast, the Red Sox are 26-20 and they now trail the Yankees by 2 1/2 games going into the series tonight.
So the combination of the Yankees getting A-Rod back and developing a bullpen centered around a new set-up man in Phil Hughes are likely the two biggest factors in the Yankees resurgence.
There also some changes in personnel that have helped the Yankees. 
The Yankee bench now does not contain backup catcher Kevin Cash and the Yankees are not starting Francisco Cervelli. Both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina are back and healthy unlike early in the season when both of them went down leg injuries.
The Yankees have also jettisoned Angel Berroa and Cody Ransom and now have power-hitting left-hander Eric Hinske and super utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. There is no doubt the bench has been strengthened.
The only significant current injury for the Yankees is the loss of backup outfielder and base-stealer Brett Gardner, who is on the 15-day disabled list.
The Red Sox however, have some significant issues that have stalled their ascent this season.
They currently have two members of their starting rotation on the disabled list, Tim Wak
efield and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The additions of Brad Penny and John Smoltz, who Theo Epstein practically paid for with a bag of baseballs and bragged about it, have been disastrous. Clay Buccholz, sporting an ERA over 6, has still not established himself as a reliable starter since his no-hitter two years ago.
So the Red Sox are using the vaunted bullpen more than they want to use it and, as a result, it has not been as reliable as it was in the past when John Lester, Josh Beckett and Wakefield were going deep into games. 
The offense has also suffered due to the fact that David Ortiz, now virtually an admitted steroid abuser, is on the downside of his career. 
Mike Lowell is just coming back from the disabled list due to complications from hip surgery. But now he finds that he has a reduced role with the acquisition of Victor Martinez. Martinez has been used mostly at first base, which moves Kevin Youkilis to third and parks Lowell’s surgically repaired hip on the bench.
Shortstop has also been a revolving door between Jed Lowrie, Nick Green and the much-maligned Julio Lugo, who is now gone.
However, the bottom line is the Red Sox are 8-10 after the All-Star Break. Among those 10 losses are two to Toronto, three to Texas, two to Oakland, two to Tampa Bay and one to Baltimore. In the Red Sox championship seasons those kind of losses would never have happened.
So this is a new chapter in the 2009 rivalry and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. If the Red Sox continue their slide they started after the All-Star Break, they could be buried in a heap this weekend.