The Yankee Game Nobody Watched

    Sunday, May 15, 2011, 1:25 AM [General]

    Sometime between 1:30 and 2:00 yesterday afternoon as Jorge Posada and the Yankees were getting ready to appear for their Saturday night game against the Red Sox, the following songs appeared on Q-104.

    The classic rock station played “Under Pressure” by Queen with David Bowie. A few songs later “Alive” by Pearl Jam appeared and that was followed by “Badlands” from Bruce Springsteen.

    Obviously none of these songs pertain to baseball, but they could be in that context when the state of the Yankee hitting woes is mentioned, especially with the news as it pertains to Posada.

    By now you may have seen the numbers and you might be wondering are the Yankees feeling "Under Pressure" to do something with Posada. You might also be wondering when Posada's will come “Alive” and finally you might wonder if the Posada will emerge from the “Badlands” and perform better than his .165 average.

    About an hour later, Jim Morrison told Q-104 listeners to break on through to the other side and when the lineup was revealed there were some subtle changes to it, especially as it pertained to Posada.

    And when Posada reported for work, he found himself as the last man listed in the starting lineup, a place where he hadn’t been in exactly 12 years. At 4:00 he told the assembled media near his locker towards the back of the clubhouse the following:

    "I've put myself in this spot," Posada said. "It is not like I want to hit ninth. It is not like I want to hit a hundred and whatever I'm hitting, just a matter of really coming out of it."

    Two and half hours later an announcement came over the media public address system: Attention media, please note a lineup change for the Yankees. Now batting ninth, Andruw Jones and new lineup cards will be distributed.

    It was at that point, about a half hour before the first pitch that this nationally televised game between the Yankees and Red Sox morphed into the game that nobody in the press box watched because nobody knew what why Posada asked out with what he would repeatedly said was "insignificant back stiffness".

    Before that happened, the speculation was rampant.

    Was he hurt? Was he infuriated with batting ninth after all his years being a catcher with a good bat? Did the fact that he was batting ninth in a nationally televised game against the Red Sox?

    Simply put nobody knew, not on the FOX broadcast, not in the clubhouse (at least that's what Joe Girardi and Mark Teixeira said) and not in the press box.

    The announcement was made because of what Girardi said was a short conversation between manager and player in his office. The exact wording was not made public, though perhaps we might find out someday, but it involved a player asking for a "mental health day" - the kind of day we notify employers (if we're fortunate to have one or are not self-employed) that we won't be coming in for work.

    Except the only difference between the most of us, is that our employers are not presenting their work day on national television in front of nearly 50,000 people in a big office and paying a salary that many will not make in our lifetimes.

    So while the early stages of Posada's "mental health day” were going on, people kind of watched as CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett seemed destined for an outstanding duel of aces. Both pitchers escaped having two on and nobody out situations with strikeouts.

    Then at around 8:00, another announcement came over the airwaves:

    "Brian Cashman will be available in the print workroom"

    This was after Brian Cashman had spoken briefly to FOX and when that announcement was made, the print media emerged from their seats, left their stories and tweets and assembled into the room to listen to Cashman.

    What they heard was a preview of Posada and Girardi except with one major difference. At no point did he mention anything about an injury or physical problem. He simply stated that at 6:00 Posada walked into Girardi's office and asked to be removed from the lineup, nothing more and nothing less, just that fact.

    So when that announcement was made, print media people emerged from their seats and into the room to listen to Cashman say that at 6:00 Posada went into Girardi's office and asked to be removed from the lineup. There was not an injury and there was not a comment on anything else, other than that he expected Posada to address this after the game.

    Then came the more speculation, was he going to retire, was he upset at such a demotion? If it is the second how would the Yankees handle it?

    Since the media outlets (POST, Daily News) plus ESPN New York always brings out the heavy artillery for these games, they all huddled and planned their ways to attack a major story about a longtime Yankee, whose decline is being treated different than that of Derek Jeter.

    Eventually the speculation died down because what else could be done until Posada spoke and that wasn't coming until after the Yankees lost their fourth in a row and it was sometime after Derek Jeter made final out at 10:40.

    When he spoke, they all briskly walked to the elevator or stairs. Then they waited on a line of epic proportions even for a regular-season Yankee-Red Sox game.

    Their destination was set; the back locker on the left side of the vast clubhouse directly opposite the Yankee captain. When the group was assembled, they waited a few seconds as Posada made his way in front of the cameras.

    For roughly nine minutes, Posada spoke slowly though not necessarily with conviction. He talked about needing time to clear his head and that the group knew him better than that to be the type of person who would ask out of a game.

    When the topic of retirement was brought up, Posada offered an incredulous, "What".

    Eventually as the conversation to a wall of media humanity continued, Posada talked about a little disrespect from an organization taking away his catching responsibilities and was especially pointed when he found out that Cashman had spoken to the media during the game.

    When the conversation headed towards its conclusion, Posada offered this:

    "You guys know me better than that. I love to play the game, I love to be out there and today’s just one of those things. I couldn’t be there."

    Then the media moved across the room to hear Girardi, who seemed tense during a 9 1/2 minute discussion on a man struggling with a new job title.

    On it went.

    It was a short conversation, he was not made aware of his back; I'm not going to talk about this much; players go through difficult times and said he needed a day.

    If there was anything beyond those words, Girardi was not revealing and hoping to talk about the Yankees' 17th loss in 37 games.

    Except nobody wanted to talk about the events on the field (Josh Beckett dominating, CC Sabathia allowing a season high six runs, the lineup going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and 5-for-39 in the last four games, Adrian Gonzalez hitting a home run in his fifth straight game, Dustin Pedroia hitting .650 off Yankee pitching this year, the strike zone of Mike Winters that Girardi was sent to his office for disagreeing with).

    Nobody wanted to talk about those topics because it was the game nobody watched.

     

     

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    Breeze and a Miss for the Yankee bats

    Saturday, May 14, 2011, 2:52 AM [General]

    When Bartolo Colon threw his first pitch sometime after seven last night, the wind was listed at nine miles per hour. When the Yankees spent part of their Friday evening unsuccessfully trying to hit Clay Buchholz the wind velocity seemed to increase, especially because in the words of catcher Jarrod Saltalammachia, nothing stayed straight.

    Maybe the only things out of Buchholz's right arm that stayed straight were the three pitches that began the fifth inning when Jorge Posada lined a fastball into right, Russell Martin took a cutter over the wall and Brett Gardner lined a fastball up the middle.

    Other than those three pitches, the majority of Buchholz's 110 pitches were electrifying.

    Whether it was the two-seam fastball inside to right-handed hitters, the off-speed stuff or the cutter it all was good and created quite the breeze from the Yankee bats.

    "I thought Buchholz's movement on his fastball was as good as I've ever seen it tonight," Joe Girardi said. "He had as much sink as I've seen him have. When you're throwing sinkers like he is, it's tough to elevate the ball and put good swings on it. I thought his stuff was outstanding."

    That outstanding stuff generated quite the breeze - as in 16 swings and misses. It was 12 more than April 9 when the Yankees reached Buchholz for five runs and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings on April 9.

    "I thought he was tremendous," Terry Francona said.  "He was really good. He threw hard, down with movement. He started using his changeup and breaking ball, but the fastball had so much depth to it that, real good velocity. That was impressive."

    Here's the official breakdown according to pitch F/X, three swings and misses on the four-seam fastball, six on the changeup, one on the curveball, two on the two-seam fastball and four on the cutter and below is when exactly these swings and misses occurred:

    1 - On a 3-1 count to Derek Jeter, Buchholz gets the Yankee captain to swing at an inside fastball that just hits the corner.

    2 - On the next pitch to Jeter, Buchholz gets his first strikeout on a fastball that is slightly to the right of the first pitch.

    3 - On a 1-0 count to Curtis Granderson, Buchholz gets strike one by having the center fielder chase on the outer edge of the plate.

    4 - Two pitches later, Buchholz has his second strikeout when Granderson chases an inside curveball just below the knees.

    5 - On a 1-1 count to Mark Teixeira, Buchholz throws his first cutter and the location is a belt-level pitch that tails inside. That at-bat ends with a pop-up to third on a cutter.

    6 - On a 3-1 count to Alex Rodriguez in the second inning, Buchholz goes over the plate with a fastball except this pitch seems to dive down late and Rodriguez's swing is late and misses.

    7 - On the next pitch, Buchholz gets his third strikeout by throwing a belt-level cutter that just hits the inside corner.

    8 - On a 2-0 count to Nick Swisher, Buchholz throws another fastball that is over the plate but dives late and Swisher misses during an appearance that sees him walk.

    9-11 - On the first pitch to Granderson with two outs in the third, this is Buchholz's best sequence. Having already thrown the curve for a strikeout in the first, he tries a changeup that is clocked at 80. An inside cutter results in 0-2 and the at-bat ends with the same pitch but an outside location for his fourth strikeout.

    12 - With one out in the fourth and an 0-1 count to Robinson Cano, Buchholz throws an 81 mph changeup that is over the plate, knee level but somewhat towards the outside corner.

    13 - By now it appears that Buchholz is on to something with the changeup so with two outs in the fourth, he begins his encounter with Swisher with that pitch that is at the same location as the changeup to Cano listed above.

    14 - With the count at 0-2, Swisher fouled off a changeup slightly higher than the last changeup. The at-bat ends with a cutter that goes out of the zone after tailing inside for Buchholz's fifth strikeout.

    15 - With the Yankees having tied it earlier in the fifth, Teixeira reaches a 2-2 count on all fastballs. The at-bat and inning ends with Teixeira reaching across the plate for a changeup over the outer edge of the plate.

    16 - With a 5-2 lead to work with, Buchholz falls behind Jeter 2-1 and tries the changeup. The changeup is actually high but Jeter swings and the at-bat ends with a soft ground out on the cutter.

    Those were not even the biggest wave and a miss. That occurred in the eighth inning off Daniel Bard.

    The Yankees had scored one run and had runners at second and third with one out after a savvy double steal by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano during Nick Swisher's at-bat.

    Swisher had the count at 2-2 and just missed putting the ball in play when he was late on a 98 mph fastball. The next pitch, he was delayed because his swing was occuring just as the outside 99 mph fastball was landing in Saltalamacchia's glove.

    With the stadium sound system malfunctioning the natural noise was loud and waiting for the moment that eluded them through four and a half hours Wednesday. It never happened though as Posada despite being ahead in the count at 3-0 wound up with a weak groundout to second.

    The noise hit the same decibel level again in the ninth with two outs as Jeter was down to his last strike before lining a high fastball to right field. It stayed that way when he scored from second on a Curtis Granderson single but then it ended with a weak swing and a weak pop from Teixeira, capping a weak night for the Yankee offense against Red Sox pitching.

     

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    Items of Crawfordian Interest - Red Sox-Yankees

    Friday, May 13, 2011, 5:17 PM [General]

    Today is May 13 and for the first time since moving to the Bronx in 1923, the Yankees have a home game with the Boston Red Sox. They have played them twice on this date in Boston (1965 and 1995) but never at home either in the Bronx, the Polo Grounds and Hilltop Park in Upper Manhattan.

    Today also happens to be Friday the 13th for you superstitious types and if you’ve followed the Yankees the last two nights, their performance can be assessed a slop fest of horrifying baseball.

    And because of that the Yankees are not a first place team for the first time in roughly a month.

    "Maybe it's what we need. Maybe we need the Red Sox to come in. Everything seems to get turned up, the coverage, the intensity of the games seem to take on a new flavor, and each at-bat seems to take on a new game of its own. Maybe it is the right time. I don't know, but I know we're capable of playing much better and we need to start doing that."

    That was Joe Girardi’s tone after last night’s 11-5 loss that probably many fans shut off or lost interest. Maybe it is because for some the season does not actually begin until the first Red Sox series of the year at Yankee Stadium.

    Regardless, the Yankees are better than the four bleeping unearned runs allowed last night and the 2-for-bleeping-16 they showed with runners in scoring position the previous night.

    And speaking of doing better, there’s an element of that surrounding the 17-20 Red Sox, especially Carl Crawford. Crawford hits for the 15th time and during those previous games, the Red Sox have won eight of 14 while Crawford is hitting .290 from that spot.

    Crawford had batted there 15 previous times in Tampa Bay and a majority of those have occurred during his early seasons with the Rays.

    "To be honest probably not,” Terry Francona said when asked if moving Crawford around the lineup has made an impact. "He’s too good a player. You can hit him anywhere you want and he’ll get hits."

    And in the eighth spot, that is accurate.

    Crawford takes an 11-game hitting streak and the man with the .356 batting average during that span was subject a media pack around him that simply couldn’t be avoided and was the subject of some good-natured ribbing from funnyman Mike Cameron, who hollered across the room the following sentiment:

    "Craw, they got you."

    And during that time, Crawford answered the obligatory questions about his first year with the Red Sox, the rivalry and other stuff. When it came to the hitting aspect of the discussion, he said that he didn’t like to think where he’s at but that he is trying to return to the numbers that generated a seven-year contract.

    There are numerous reasons for first-year players struggling when they get big contracts. It could be nagging injuries, adjustments to a new city or simply trying to justify why such a large portion of payroll is devoted to them.

    That is true somewhat especially if you consider what one of the easier ledes to write in a wire-service story is the following: “Performances like this are why the Red Sox Carl Crawford”. It’s a cliché lede but showed up occasionally when someone earning big money had a big game.

    As Girardi said, it happens with players who want to validate contracts but in the end you tend to base judgments on the players track record.

    Just look at the 2009 edition of Mark Teixeira, who joined the Yankees after signing for eight years and $160 million. He wound up leading the AL in home runs and RBI and that was after batting .200 over 70 April at-bats.

    Or look at the 2005 edition of Carlos Beltran, the player the Mets gave $119 million to for a seven-year contract after a monster playoff performance for the Astros. His first season he didn’t even hit 20 home runs but his fine the next three years even if Met fans won’t forgive him for Game Seven of the 2006 ALCS.

    You get the idea. Big money breeds big pressure in big cities and sometimes it starts slowly.

    Crawford will try to keep it going against Bartolo Colon, who is on the mound because Phil Hughes is not. Hughes threw 30 pitches from 50 feet as he completes his fourth week on the DL with a mysterious dead arm.

    Colon's last start against a Texas lineup missing Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton was not a good one. It was not a good one because as Girardi put it, he did not keep his hands on top of the ball and his fastball was missing bite on thirds of the plate.

    Of course Crawford is not the only big money player struggling. Alex Rodriguez hit a garbage-time home run last night and that ended a streak of 11 straight games without an extra-base hit.

    "We just went from one superstar to the next with the at-bats every day,"  Girardi said. "I thought they were better. I thought he had some of his better swings than what we had seen. Maybe one of the best swings I thought he had was the ball he popped straight up. It was just the ball was a little too high for him to swing at, but I thought the swing was excellent. Maybe last night is going to get him going."

    Maybe. Either way it's Yankees-Red Sox for the 2,047th time, so sit back, flip on the TV, grab a nice drink and settle in for three hours or so.

     

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    Items of Offensive interest - Royals-Yankees

    Thursday, May 12, 2011, 6:28 PM [General]

    Today is May 12 and that means it's Yogi Berra's birthday. Berra turns 86 today and on his 33rd and 34th birthday hit home runs in losing efforts to the Indians in 1959 and 1960. On his last birthday, the Yankees scored eight times in an 8-0 rout and that a doubleheader that saw them lose the opener 2-0 to Detroit.

    The Yankees have scored eight runs twice since April 23 when they began this stretch of .178 hitting. During the two games, April 28 and May 8, the Bombers have gone 8-for-28 with runners in scoring postion.

    On the eve of Boston's first trip here, the Yankees are in one of those funks that comes and for most teams that eventually evaporates. As Dustin Pedroia told the Boston media after the Red Sox dropped to 17-20 with a 9-3 loss in Toronto, "I ain't going to hit 2-bleeping-40."

    And the Yankees are not going to hit 1-bleeping-78 for the year and Alex Rodriguez is not going go stay at .259 and go 11 games without an extra-base hit.

    "I think there’s frustration," Joe Girardi said. I don’t think it’s normal not to have frustration when you’re hitting the ball like you’re used to. That’s the bottom line.

    "I think Alex has been through this enough to know you are going to come out on the other side, you’re going to get through this but while you’re going through it, it’s not necessarily fun.”

     Robinson Cano gets a chance to increase his .292 average after being checked out by doctors. Cano was last seen getting hit on the side of his helmet in the fifth inning last night but will sport a new helmet and the fifth spot in the lineup featuring Derek Jeter as the DH and Eduardo Nunez as the shortstop.

    Speaking of injuries, Rafael Soriano tested his tender elbow by playing catch and reported no problems.

    And also on the injury front, Eric Chavez revealed he might have been born with two broken feet. That came up when he was discussing the foot injury suffered a week ago in Detroit.

    "It’s got to be a genetic defect or whatever," Chavez said. "Basically, how I can explain it is the fractures, however they had happened, never healed completely. So there were two bones here that were semi weak. And when I hit the ground, one of them slipped and that’s where the irritation came from."

    Tonight Ivan Nova pitches and you might remember the time he last pitched here. That was May 1 against the Blue Jays when his curveball helped him get to the seventh inning. Nova did one better six days ago by going into the eighth in Texas.

    For the Royals, Sean O'Sullivan takes the mound. You might remember O'Sullivan as being the pitcher who faced the Yankees twice in five days during July. He faced the Yankees and won while with the Angels and then with the Royals the Yankees scored 12 runs in that game.

     

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    Four hours and lot of men on base

    Thursday, May 12, 2011, 3:24 AM [General]

    I have seen my share of four-hour Yankee games and a few of them have been of the memorable variety.

    There was an 8-6 win Dodger Stadium last June that took 4:02, which isn't so bad when you're physically in the Pacific Time Zone for a Sunday night game. That was a time when the Yankees decided to get to Jonathan Broxton and rallied from a 6-2 deficit in a game that until that point was somewhat boring and that was one of nine four-hour games last year for the Yankees.

    Two years ago, the Yankees played an epic 15-inning game with the Red Sox that took five hours, 33 minutes to decide and it's doubtful anyone complained about that one since A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett pitched so well. And nearly nine years ago, the Yankees and Twins were part of an epic five hour, 45 minute contest that was decided on a 14th-inning grand slam by Jason Giambi.

    Let's just say that that the four hours and 31 minutes it took for the Yankees to lose to the Royals would not fall into that category. For a somewhat low-scoring affair, it was rather tedious especially when you consider that the Yankees saw 220 pitches and 121 strikes from six Royal pitchers (four rookies).

    So was it the case of impressive pitching by a quartet of four first-year pitchers or a case of bad hitting? Who knows, but it was tedious, especially since the Yankees were 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and saw 67 pitches in those situations.

    For the third time since 1958, the Yankees lost a game when they outhit their opponent by at least eight hits. It also occurred July 4, 2004 against the Mets in a 6-5 loss when the Yankees went 5-for-8 with runners in scoring position but hit into three doubles.

    The other time was against the Indians on October 5, 1991 and that game was kind of like last night except that the Yankees were terrible and scored five runs in 12 innings. During that game which was played in 4:29, the Yankees stranded 18 and went 6-for-22 with runners in scoring position.

    Last night's game had the same score as one I remember being at July 19, 2008 against the Athletics. The Yankees wound up winning in the 13th when Derek Jeter scored the winning run as Jose Molina was hit by a pitch, ending an afternoon that saw them strand 21 and go 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

    "We still had a chance to win the game, " Joe Girardi said that day. "I think it's more frustrating when you lose, because you look back and look at all the opportunities that you had. But when you win a game, the bottom line is, we won the game."

    "It's frustrating that we didn't do better with runners in scoring position, but at the end of the day, big deal, we won," Brett Gardner said that day.

    And if the Yankees would have won 2-1 which they were six outs away from doing, then the runners in scoring position problem might have been pushed to the backburner. If that had happened, the big topic might have been A.J. Burnett pitching seven innings while surviving five walks and 13 three-ball counts.

    That would have been a more pleasant topic, but sometimes it doesn't work out the way it should just as in other aspects of life away from the ballpark.

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