Archive for May 10th, 2010

The Yankees renew acquaintances with Johnny Damon, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson in Detroit as they kick off a four game series against the Tigers.

Game one features a matchup of journeyman spot starters: Sergio Mitre steps in for Andy Pettitte, whose start is being skipped as a precautionary response to earlier elbow discomfort, while Brad Thomas fills in for Dontrell Willis, who was scratched with the flu. Only Randy Winn has a history against Thomas, while Miguel Cabrera and Adam Everett are the only Tigers to face Mitre.

One day after DHing, Jorge Posada will crouch behind the plate for the first time since May 3. Posada’s ability to catch opens up the DH slot for Marcus Thames, who returns to Comerica Park after spending six seasons with the Tigers. Thames has had a very difficult time in the field, so he may (i.e., should) be limited to that role going forward. If that is going to be the case, Randy Winn will need to make the most of his starts against lefties, the first of which comes tonight.

The Yankees also made another roster move before the game, promoting Ivan Nova from Triple-A Scranton. To make room for Nova, Romolu Sanchez, who contributed 3 2/3 scoreless innings in last night game, was sent back to Scranton. With Mitre starting and Aceves still recovering from a bad back, the Yankees will once again be in the position of needing innings from the bullpen, especially considering Mitre will be limited to about 75 pitches. Nova, who had been starting in Scranton, should be able to provide innings and will likely be the first man out of the bullpen if Mitre isn’t able to go five innings. The 23 year-old Nova, whose stock as a prospect has been rising, is 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA in 37 innings for Scranton.

vs. Brad Thomas PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Nick Swisher RF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Mark Teixeira 1B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Alex Rodriguez 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Robinson Cano 2B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jorge Posada C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Marcus Thames DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brett Gardner CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Randy Winn LF 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
vs. Sergio Mitre PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Austin Jackson CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Johnny Damon DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Magglio Ordonez RF 0 0.200 0.200 0.200 0 0
Miguel Cabrera 1B 5 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 1
Brennan Boesch LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brandon Inge 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Scott Sizemore 2B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Gerald Laird C 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Adam Everett SS 5 0.400 0.400 0.600 0 0
Total 10 0.300 0.300 0.400 0 1
Yankees vs. Tigers
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
TIED: 0-0 NYY: 5-1 DET: 4-2 NYY: 1035-919
  • Before the game, the Tigers will hold a ceremony honoring Ernie Harwell. Part of the festivities will include Jose Feliciano singing the national anthem. In 1968, Harwell booked Feliciano to sing the anthem during the World Series. At the time, Feliciano’s non-traditional rendition was roundly criticized for being disrespectful.
  • Alex Rodriguez is one HR away from passing Frank Robinson into seventh place on the all-time HR list.
  • Miguel Cabrera has had a hit in all 15 regular season games he has played against the Yankees.
  • Austin Jackson (.371) and Cabrera (.370) currently have the top two batting averages in the American League.
  • Before this season, Brad Thomas last pitched in the major leagues in 2004. He spent the previous two seasons pitching in the Korean Baseball League.

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According to Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog, Jesus Montero was benched over the weekend for failing to run out a ground ball in Friday’s game. Montero is back in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Columbus Clippers.

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Tomorrow, Bill Madden’s long awaited biography, Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, goes on sale to the public. In anticipation, the Daily News printed a couple of excerpts, while Madden did an hour long interview with Mike Francessa on WFAN radio in New York. Both previews seem to point to a blockbuster biography, which considering the subject, should not come as a surprise.

Despite being a truly dynamic figure in American sports history, a definitive account of George Steinbrenner’s life has never been told. In 1982, Dick Schapp’s ominously entitled Steinbrenner did carry some weight, but since then no credible accounting of this incredible man has been produced. Now, it seems as if Bill Madden has filled this void.

In many way’s, Bill Madden is the only person who could write the complete story of George Steinbrenner. As a Daily News sportswriter since 1978, and UPI journalist for nine years before that, Madden’s career coincided with the rise of the Steinbrenner era. In fact, Madden eventually developed a reputation for being very close to Steinbrenner, and was even criticized at times for being a mouth piece of the Boss.

According to Madden, although not authorized, the book was done with full cooperation of the Steinbrenner family. And yet, it appears as if no punches were pulled. What’s more, Madden’s book is given a further credibility boost by access to several prominent figures from the era, such as Gene Michael, Al Rosen and Ralph Houk, as well as a treasure trove of recently discovered audio tapes recorded by Gabe Paul, who served as Yankees general manager from 1973 to 1977.

Because of his first hand knowledge and access to the principals, Madden seems as if he touches every base. Based on the tone of the interview, however, it seems as if Madden’s greatest challenge with the book was how he was able to reconcile Steinbrenner’s current health against the dominant figure that he once was. In the WFAN interview, Madden revealed, perhaps for the first time, that Steinbrenner has suffered a series of mini strokes, called TIAs, that have inflicted him with an irreversible form of dementia.  In another sad admission, Madden also mentioned that Steinbrenner probably wouldn’t know who he was if they crossed paths, adding “I can’t believe the way he is now. The George who exists now is not the one I was writing about”.

George and Billy at one of their famous press conferences.

Because of this sad reality, I am most fascinated about how Madden was able to avoid the tone of an obituary for a man who, while severely diminished, is still alive. Although the book mostly focuses on George in his prime, its ending reportedly does capture the poignancy of Steinbrenner’s slow decline.

There will probably never be another George M. Steinbrenner III. Not only was he one of the most important figures in the history of the Yankees and major league baseball, but he was also one of the most influential men in all of American sports. Even though his brash, outspoken style may have made him seem like an open book, a definitive biography worthy of his stature has been a long time in coming. I look forward to reading it and offering my thoughts in the coming days.

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When Brian Cashman reconstructed the 2010 Yankees roster, even he probably didn’t expect it would produce a 21-9 record over the first 30 games. Of course, that record has been accomplished in spite of the struggles of his three main additions: Nick Johnson, Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez.

The Tigers and Austin Jackson have had a lot to celebrate together (Photo: AP).

So, as the Yankees make their first trip to Detroit, where they will renew acquaintances with Johnny Damon and Austin Jackson, it seems like the ideal time to make an early assessment of Cashman’s off season tinkering. Over in the sidebar, I’ve been keeping tabs on the Yankees major offensive additions and subtractions. Unfortunately for Cashman and the Yankees, the balance has been decidedly one-sided in favor of the castoffs.

Although the Yankees did have some regard for Austin Jackson, I don’t think anyone in the organization expected he would be able to adapt to the major leagues so quickly. Heading into tonight’s game, Jackson leads the American League in hits and batting average, has an impressive OPS of .927 and ranks fourth among outfielders with an UZR/150 of 12.6. In other words, Jackson has the inside track to be the league’s rookie of the year.

There are, however, some warning signs on Jackson. For starters, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is an astounding .511. While his equally impressive line drive rate of 40% warrants a high BABIP, such a lofty rate does seem to suggest some luck has been involved. What’s more, Jackson has shown a propensity to strikeout. He is second in the league with 37 strikeouts, which represents a rate of 28%. Considering his lack of power, such a high percentage of strikeouts could be a sign of future struggles.

Will open arms await the Yankees' reunion with Johnny Damon in Detroit? (Photo: AP)

After a slow start, Johnny Damon has also played very well for the Tigers. Although his power numbers have dropped off (he only has 1 HR), he has been getting on base at over a 40% rate and seems on track for a season not much different from his previous two. Of course, if Damon’s OBP drops to his career norm and he isn’t able to replace that production with power, he could see a regression. The biggest surprise with Damon, however, has been his defense. According to UZR/150, Damon leads the American League left fielders with a rate of 32.3, albeit in only 117 innings. As a Yankee, Damon’s UZR numbers fluctuated quite a bit, so they do need to be taken with a grain of salt (as do UZR figures in general), but it does appear as if Damon’s defensive demise was somewhat exaggerated.

With both Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson on the DL, and struggling when they were in the lineup, it’s easy to call Cashman’s off season a failure. And, to this point, it has been. That case gets made even stronger when you consider the travails of Javier Vazquez, who seeks to rehabilitate his season when he returns to the rotation on Tuesday. Of course, things can change very quickly in baseball. The Yankees are built to peak in October, not May, so until that point, Cashman’s grade remains an incomplete.

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