I’m very nervous about this weekend. I’m going to be in Connecticut for the weekend.  Now that has a few implications.  I probably won’t be able to watch the first two games of this weekend’s series live.  I also probably shouldn’t watch the Sunday night game because I’m taking the GRE’s Monday morning.  That sucks.  Many times over.  Yankees-Red Sox games are always epic and well worth the four to five hours that they usually take.  They have made for some of the best games of the past few years and you never know when you’ll see an instant classic.  What else sucks about being in CT for the weekend, you may be asking me…well…it’s way to close to Red Sox nation for my liking.  In fact, you’re probably just as likely to see a Red Sox fan as a Yankees fan there.  Where I come from, that’s a very strange thing. The one thing I hate about going back to school is the 100,000% increase in Sox fans that I see and deal with on a daily basis.

Anyway, enough about my self-pity.  How about the start to this road trip for the Yankees.  With three games to go in it, worst case scenario is that they go 5-5 on it, which is pretty darn good on the road.  5-2 against two teams that the Yankees should beat is good.  It’s a good sign that they’re beating teams that they should beat.  With my GREs coming up and the fact that they’ve been on the west coast, I (shamefully) haven’t been able to watch much of the games so I don’t really have all that much to say about them other than that. 

Something I do want to talk about some more is how amazing Joe Mauer is playing this season.  He is having one of those seasons that very few other players have had.  And the other players who have had seasons like this are legends.  I don’t want to call Joe Mauer a legend (yet), but this season he’s having is stuff that legends are made of.  Being on a list with Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth tells you something about the season Mauer is having (.380 BA and 25 HR through 119 games).  The thing that saddens me about this is that this will probably be one of Mauer’s last seasons in Minnesota.  It seems the only hope for him staying in Minny would be his agent, Ron Shapiro, being a trendsetter.  Shapiro was the agent for both Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken JR. and managed to keep them with the same teams throughout their careers.  However, this is a different day and age and players are being offered ridiculously larger salaries from certain teams (cough…Yanks…cough…Sox…cough).  If Mauer even approaches the numbers he’s putting up this year next season, he’ll easily become one of the richest players in baseball.  He’s a hometown guy in Minnesota, and it would be very sad to seem him leave there, but this is the state of baseball these days.


Pitch Limiting (and 6 hits in 9 innings)

Congratulations to Adrian Gonzalez.  He became just the 67th player in all of major league history to have 6 hits in a nine-inning game.  There are almost 4 times as many no-hitters.  There have been over 4 times as many cycles.  Six hits in nine innings is truly something special.  Particularly for someone as underrated and (mostly) unnoticed as Adrian Gonzalez.

Now it’s definitely time to talk about Joba.  Everyone (myself included) really thought he had turned it around after the All-Star Break.  Even after his start against Boston I didn’t really think much about a downward turn.  It’s Boston.  Those games are different than any other regular season game.  The Yankees and Red Sox always beat up on each other and the pitchers usually come out with higher ERAs.  But then last night he had another mediocre performance.  What worried me more than his statistics, though, was the fact that he didn’t find that groove that he was in before the Boston series.  Previous to that, he had been pitching quickly, rarely shaking Posada off.  Last night, he and Posada looked like they were reading scouting reports for two different teams.  They never found that rhythm that was allowing Joba to pitch so well earlier in the second half and it showed.  Who knows when Joba’s next start will be, so we may have to wait quite some time to see if he can find that groove again.

This brings me to my next point.  Innings limits/pitch counts.  They suck.  Completely.  We all understand that teams are just trying to save young arms for the future and develop their soon-to-be aces slowly.  But it’s ridiculous that the Yankees are going to take out their clear-cut number 3 starter (and possibly even number 2, I think it’s close between Joba and Burnett) just because he’s a “future” star.  Believe it or not, this is a guy that once threw 12 shutout innings with 21 strikeouts in American Legion ball.  Look at how Texas has turned around it’s pitching since Nolan Ryan led the charge to take pitch counts and innings limits out of their system.  Those guys are pitching incredibly this year.  This year’s staff has allowed the fewest runs per game for a Rangers team since 1990.  That was when Nolan Ryan wasn’t the President of the team, but was still pitching on the team.  Almost 20 years ago.  That was the last time they had pitching this good.  And the names haven’t really changed all that much since last year.  They’ve just allowed their pitchers to pitch instead of worrying about getting yanked when they get to 100 pitches.  What a concept…pitchers pitching until they’re ineffective…like the old days.  Different guys have different limits.  Those limits should be tested and used, instead of giving every youngster an automatic limit of 100 pitches. 

Here’s a favorite example of mine.  Kerry Wood averaged a shade under 105 pitches per start in 26 starts during the 1998 (his rookie) season.  He was 21 years old at the time.  They shut him down for the last month of the season because of elbow soreness and then gave him one start in the postseason.  After that, he had Tommy John surgery and the rest is history.  What I want to focus on here is the 105 pitches per start.  Just 5 more than the magical 100 pitch limit imposed so often nowadays, yet he still ended up with elbow problems.  Obviously, he was pushed past his limits in his rookie season.  This doesn’t mean that 100 is an almighty number, it just means that the Cubs worked Kerry Wood too hard.  They should have been working to find his limit while he was in the minors and used that once he was in the bigs.

Now let us take a look at CC Sabathia.  The workhorse.  A beast of a man.  In his 21-year-old season (his second in the bigs) CC averaged 102 pitches per start over 33 starts.  He pitched 210 innings that year.  He has started at least 30 games in all but one year of his first 8 seasons (this one not included).  Obviously, that means he has never had major arm problems like Mr. Wood.  The Indians just found CC’s limit, slowly stretched him out, and developed him into a dominant starter that can throw 120 pitches in a game.  (As a side note: in his rookie season CC started 33 games and averaged about 94 pitches per start.  Notice the progression from 94 to 102, and now beyond.  This is the textbook way to develop a starting pitcher.)  Even at the age of 21 (same age as Kerry Wood) CC was able to handle a large workload.  Every pitcher has his limits, and teams just need to find those limits (while young guys are in the minors) and use them.  Not the generic 100 pitches and you’re done.

Playoffs? You Kidding Me? Playoffs?

So Bryan Hoch told me (in his blog) that the Yankees have never lost a division lead of more than six games.  Exciting, but everyone remembers the impossible-to-lose 3-0 lead in the ’04 ALCS.  This smells a lot like that to me.  Yankees fans as happy as pigs in slop with their team on a roll and the Sox left reeling after a streak of poor play.  Is it really too early to be talking about a shoo-in for the playoffs?

The Yankees have their largest division lead since the end of the ’06 season.  Sure, it’s only August 10, but with 50 or so games left to be played, the Yankees have a 96.6 % chance of making the playoffs (reference: Baseball Prospectus).  Statistically speaking, this is significant.  If this were a science experiment, the results would be reported in journals.  But this is baseball.  Anything can happen (and just about everything crazy has happened at least once). 

Just look at the Mets the past couple of years.  In ’07 they had a 6 game lead on Sept. 10.  That would be a month from now.  I couldn’t find the data, but I’m sure they’re playoff odds at that point were somewhere around 99%.  Not trying to be the pessimist here, but the only definite in baseball is that nothing is definite until the games are played.  Once the Yankees make it to game 162 with the AL East Division Title in hand, I’ll be staying leery.  OK, maybe if they have a 6 game lead with 5 to play I’ll celebrate…

Death of Radio Broadcasting?

Being the devoted fan I am, I listened to the game on my satellite radio on my way home yesterday (I was away for the weekend, which is obviously why the Yankees lost the series).  This being said, my radio plays the home team’s broadcast, so I heard the White Sox broadcast of the game until about the 6th inning (when I mercifully made it home).  Like I said…I am a devoted fan.  This was the worst radio broadcast of baseball I have ever heard.  Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson may just be the biggest White Sox fans in the country and they just happen to do the broadcasts of White Sox games.  I’m not exaggerating here.  When the guys were rattling off the starting lineups of the teams, they called Chris Getz one of the young stars of the game.  That’s right…Chris Getz.  You may be asking the same question I would have asked before this weekend series: Who the heck is Chris Getz?  Let me answer that question by giving you a short bio and some of Chris Getz’s defining statistcs:

Chris Getz will be 26 years old at the end of the month and is the starting second baseman for the White Sox.  He is currently batting .271 after a solid series against the Yankees.  He has 17 stolen bases on the season and has only been caught once.  His OBP is .326 and his OPS is a ******** .704.  He is a very nice, speedy, young-ish player.  A young star of the game, he is not.  That designation belongs to guys like Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Braun, Hanley Ramirez, or Dustin Pedroia.  The only player that is older than Getz on that (albeit short) list of players better than Getz is Pedroia.  He’s 13 days older.  The rest of the list is comprised of players younger than Getz.  Younger by at least a few months (Braun, Ramirez) or by at least a year or so (Longoria, Lincecum).  However, I’m sure not a single person on the face of the Earth (other than possibly Farmer and/or DJ) would argue that Getz is better than any of these players.  Getz is a nice, young second baseman that can steal some bases.  He is most certainly not a young star of the game.

Going chronologically, the top of the 2nd is the next part of the broadcast that was truly excruciating.  I’ll skip over the top of the first inning where they said “We’re hoping for 2 outs in three pitches…and look at that…all we had to do was ask.”  We’ll just skip that and go to the top of the second with two on and Melky Cabrera up.  Melky hits a pitch down the right field line that goes for a 339′ homerun into the White Sox bullpen.  This hit would have been a homerun in all but two ballparks in the American League.  One of these parks is Comerica Park, which is a concensus pitcher’s park that nobody hits homeruns in.  The other is the Metrodome, which measures 343′ down the left field line.  However, the White Sox broadcasters decided to call this homerun “barely a homerun.”  A homerun in all but two parks in the AL, but barely a home run off their precious Mark Buehrle.  I’ll ignore the fact that their voices dropped about 20 dB when they were calling the play, and the fact that they sounded dejected.  I’ll ignore that they sounded hopeful when they said “it’s early in the game, we still have time to come back.”  “We”…as if they were part of the team.  The part of this that really got me steaming was that I didn’t even know Cabrera hit a homerun until they did their inning wrapup.  Their call didn’t draw any attention to the fact that Cabrera hit a homerun.  I understand not being excited about your home team giving up a homerun.  But should realize that not everyone listening to your broadcast is a White Sox fan.  And also be aware of the fact that even the White Sox fans want to know if someone hits a homerun.  It’s kind of a big part of the game.  At least change the inflection of your voice so that listeners notice when something big happens.

In the bottom of the 3rd I finally had to change the station.  After the Jermaine Dye homerun I couldn’t take it anymore (at least for a little bit).  Before the pitch, the tandem was talking about how they were “hoping” (their word) for a Dye homerun.  Their broadcast sounded like a couple of fans in the stands.  I would have rather listened to John Sterling.  That’s saying something.  I absolutely cannot stand John Sterling’s obnoxious, intrusive nicknames and cliche signature calls.  These guys were worse.  I changed the channel after the Dye homerun.  I changed it to some hard rock because I was so frustrated by listening to fans announce a game.  When I changed it back, the Yankees were back on top 5-4 and I half-listened to the game the rest of my ride home.  When I got home I was so happy to hear the terrible play-by-play of Michael Kay.  Al Leiter, my least favorite YES broadcaster other than Kay, was also doing the game and I was relieved.  I was relieved because Chris Getz was no longer a young star of the game and Kay actually raised his voice even for a big White Sox hit.  Thank goodness for some change in inflection when the other team gets a big hit.  At least I knew something happened, even when I didn’t want it to happen.  I just wanted to know that something happened.

I’m not saying now, nor will I ever say, that Michael Kay is a good broadcaster.  He’s good on Centerstage doing his interviews.  As a broadcaster, I think he’s below average.  I was never so excited to hear his voice as I was when I got home yesterday.  This makes me ask whether radio broadcasts matter so little that in a big sports town like Chicago these two bafoons are the best that can be found.  Do stations care so little about broadcasters that they throw guys like this on the air?  Gone are the days of Mel Allen, Vin Scully (sad to see him go after next year) and all the other legendary voices of baseball.  Today is the day of the fan announcing games, apparently.  Very unfortunate for baseball.

PS – Congrats to Melky on the first cycle for the Yanks in a while.  Cycles are nice, not a huge deal to me, but a four hit game is definitely a good game.


Warning: This entry is only loosely based on baseball.

The word enhancement has been given such a negative connotation by baseball lately.  I just heard a commercial for a hair regrowth product and had to hold myself back from screaming “CHEATER!” when the commercial said “hair enhancement.”  Just a random thought and an…enhancement…to my last post.

David “Ban-Em-For-a-Year” Ortiz

This is the single worst era in the entirety of baseball.  News will seemingly never end about guys testing positive or having some connection to steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.  Now the latest comes from a guy who wanted stricter testing and punishment for users.  Here, I’ve been a (rare) Yankee fan who actually respected David Ortiz and apparently I was duped by his statements about what to do with steroid users.  Ortiz had always been a big guy, even coming up as a Twin he wasn’t small.  Certainly there was no way he could be using…he just finally came into his own in Boston…right?  Nope.  Turns out he, like so many others, was using.  Manny Ramirez’ involvement in this story should come as no surprise because he was just recently caught during “random” testing.  But Big Papi.  Possibly one of the most likeable guys in baseball.  Always fun and with a smile.  Mr. Clutch for the Red Sox for a period of time.

It’s hard to think of anyone in baseball as clean anymore.  Who’s going to be the next story?  Derek Jeter?  How about Pujols?  Griffey?  Any of those three would be devastating, but you just don’t know.  It’s all just a witch hunt now.  There’s a good chance that stories like this will continue coming out for at least the next decade.

David Ortiz is right, though.  There should be at least a year long suspension for first time users.  Unfortunately, these “unannounced” tests are being announced.  Yeah, sure, you have to get parking passes and all that, but this defeats the purpose of this policy.  The policy needs to be revamped.  Testers should have permanent parking spots at stadiums for one thing.  How terrible would it be to take one spot out of a lot of thousands to reserve for a tester.  Secondly, guys should be required to have more than just one test per year.  Just like Ortiz said in February, every guy should be tested at least 3 to 4 times a year.  Now we know that he was just playing the same game every other steroid user before him played.  Pretend your against it until you’re caught.

Ortiz now has several routes he can take.  He can go the Clemens route and deny, deny, deny.  He can forget English like Sammy Sosa.  He can look plain stupid like Mark McGwire.  Or he can follow the recent trend of saying sorry and having people forgive him (ie how the Yankees have done it for 3 or 4 years).  It’s truly sad to see how easily forgiven these players are for ruining the sanctity of the game.  The wrong message is being sent to so many young fans and players out there today.  All of the guys that have past connections to PEDs say that they haven’t used them since, but we all know that’s a lie.  Liars should not be forgiven so easily.

Baseball has the longest and richest history of any sport in America and players that took steroids are forever tarnishing a game that lived off that history.  This era could be what ruins baseball for my generation…and that’s big trouble for the sport that was once America’s Pastime and is now becoming America’s Tragedy.

Rubber Matches

First of all, I definitely have to say congratulations to Mark Buehrle for his incredible streak.  I can’t decide if it’s just as impressive or even more so than the recent Bobby Jenks streak.  Buehrle did it over the course of three games while Jenks had his streak for almost an entire month (27 days).  Not to take anything away from Buehrle at all, but 27 days (14 appearances) without allowing a baserunner is pretty impressive.

Anyway, finally going to move onto the Yankees in here.  I happened to look at the probable pitching matchups for the Yanks over the next few days and happened to notice that we face Buehrle on Sunday…should be interesting.

Tonight’s the rubber match of the Yankees vs. Rays series in the Trop and the pitching matchup is Joba vs. Matt Garza.  Can’t really say who has the edge in that one.  Both have been pretty hot since the break with Joba having a small edge there, but Garza has a slightly better season ERA.  Garza has also had two great starts against the Yankees this year, though both resulted in no-decisions.  Joba on the other hand has had one start against the Rays which was the definition of a quality start (6 IP 3 ER) resulting in a no decision.  Since neither pitcher has a decision against their opponents, I’m going to refrain from making a decision on who has the better pitcher going tonight.  I will say it should be a good matchup, though I thought that about last night’s matchup, too.

That’s it for now, got to get to work.