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Archive for August 24th, 2010

For much of the season, the Blue Jays have turned their games at SkyDome into Home Run Derby, but this time around the Yankees turned the tables on the home team by launching five long balls of their own.

Marcus Thames slams into home plate umpire Mark Wegner while trying to score in the second inning. In the third inning, Thames would find an easier way to touch home plate when he belted his fifth home run of the season (Photo: AP).

The Yankees jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against soft tossing lefty Mark Rzepczynski with single runs in the first two innings, but the fun didn’t really start until the third inning. Mark Teixeira got the ball rolling with a titanic blast off the windows of the luxury suites high above the left field seats. Then, after a Robinson Cano walk, Marcus Thames and Jorge Posada hit back-to-back home runs to extend the lead to 6-0. The Yankees erupted for another four run frame in the fifth inning. This time, Brian Tallet was the victim of the Yankees power display as all four runs resulted from a Curtis Granderson three-run shot and a Derek Jeter solo blast.

While the Yankees’ hitters were rounding the bases, Dustin Moseley was quietly preventing the Blue Jays from doing the same. Despite yielding four walks to go along with five hits over his six innings, Moseley was able to prevent the Jays from climbing back into the game by keeping their lineup full of sluggers in the park, reversing a trend that saw him surrender seven home runs over his previous three starts. Moseley’s bounce back performance may have been partly inspired by the presence of Ivan Nova, who parlayed his impressive major league debut into a second start against the White Sox on Sunday. This time around, Javier Vazquez was the victim of Nova’s emergence, but had Moseley struggled once again, his spot in the rotation would have grown more tenuous. In any event, by holding an explosive Blue Jay team in check, Moseley at least bought himself another start as the Yankees begin to count down the days until Andy Pettitte’s return.

In addition to their home run barrage, the Yankees also banged out 17 hits, including four each by Teixeira and Posada as well as three a piece from Granderson and Thames. It wasn’t all wine and roses for the offense, however, as both Robinson Cano and Austin Kearns were held hitless and, more importantly, Nick Swisher was forced to leave the game after fouling a ball off his knee in the seventh inning.

  • The Yankees hit five homeruns for the second time this season. On August 14, the Yankees also belted five long balls against the Royals.
  • Derek Jeter’s fifth inning homerun was his first in 145 plate appearances when he hit an inside-the-park home run against Bruce Chen of the Royals. The last time Jeter had hit a HR out of the park was back on June 12 when he belted a pair against the Astros, a span covering 61 games and 283 plate appearances. Jeter’s longest home run drought occurred over 75 games between May 10 and August 6 in 1997.
  • With a scoreless ninth, Kerry Wood has now thrown 10 consecutive innings without surrendering a run. Since joining the Yankees, Wood has an 0.84 ERA in 10 2/3 innings.
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vs. Marc Rzepczynski PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Derek Jeter SS 5 0.600 0.600 1.200 1 1
Nick Swisher RF 5 0.750 0.600 1.500 1 2
Mark Teixeira 1B 5 0.200 0.200 0.200 0 1
Robinson Cano 2B 5 0.400 0.400 1.200 1 1
Marcus Thames DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Jorge Posada C 2 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Austin Kearns LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Curtis Granderson CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Eduardo Nunez 3B 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 22 0.429 0.409 0.905 3 5
             
vs. Dustin Moseley PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Travis Snider LF 3 0.667 0.667 1.667 1 2
Yunel Escobar SS 4 0.250 0.250 0.250 0 0
Jose Bautista RF 5 0.000 0.200 0.000 0 0
Vernon Wells CF 7 0.429 0.429 0.857 1 2
Adam Lind DH 4 0.250 0.250 0.500 0 0
Aaron Hill 2B 6 0.600 0.667 0.600 0 0
Lyle Overbay 1B 5 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
John Buck C 3 0.667 0.667 1.000 0 2
Edwin Encarnacion 3B 4 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 41 0.308 0.317 0.513 2 6

 

Yankees vs. Blue Jays    
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
TOR: 6-4 NYY: 12-6 TIED: 9-9 NYY: 263-211

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  Last 10 Last 20 Last 30
Yankees 6-4 11-9 16-14
Blue Jays 5-5 11-9 17-13

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  Road vs. LHP
Yankees 35-26 26-17
  Home vs. RHP
Blue Jays 32-24 54-42

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Johnny Damon will not be returning to Fenway Park. It turns out he loves Detroit too much to leave.

Johnny Damon will not be a savior in Boston. The Tigers’ DH/left fielder turned down a chance to return to the Red Sox because he “loves Detroit”.

Before the Tigers’ scheduled game against the Royals, Damon told a crowd of assembled reporters that he was spurning the Red Sox attempts to reacquire because of his affection for the Motor City. Then again, most reports had Damon willing to accept a trade to the Yankees or Rays, so it doesn’t really take a genius to read between the lines. In fact, the meaning is so easy to infer that even a caveman could do it: the prodigal idiot of Red Sox Nation is still unhappy with the way he was treated by both the Red Sox organization and what he likely feels are its ungrateful fans.

Ever since he left Boston to join the Yankees after the 2005 season, Damon has nursed an open wound pertaining to the stance that the Red Sox took toward him during contract negotiations. Compounding those hard feelings was the hostile reception Damon frequently received when returning to Fenway, an emotion that was probably rekindled after receiving a standing ovation in his return to Yankee Stadium. If Damon thought Yankees’ fans were still fond of him then, just wait until the next time he returns.

Although a very outgoing personality, Damon has also proven to be a very sensitive person. He gives 100% when on the field and goes above and beyond when interacting with fans, so you can see why he would bristle at the negative reception he encounters by virtue of the perception that he is a hired gun. Damon has been the baseball equivalent of a nomad, always searching for a home, so it shouldn’t come as surprise that he decided not to return to a place where he felt he wasn’t wanted.

Another lesson to be learned from Damon’s decision is one that won’t go down too easy in Red Sox Nation. More than any group of fans, Red Sox’ rooters throw their support behind management when there is a confrontation with a particular player. It’s almost as if they deem playing in Red Sox Nation to be an undeniable privilege that only a heretic would refuse. From the days of Carlton Fisk through Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens all the way through Pedro Marinez, Damon and Manny Ramirez, a litany of Red Sox stars have left Boston amid acrimony and resentment from the fans. Well, Red Sox Nation was forced to pay the price this time around. Their negative reaction was as much a reason as any that Damon decided to stay with the Tigers. You see, he very well may love Detroit, but it’s also pretty clear that he has no love for Boston.

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Over the past few days, Deadspin and AP have published confidential financial documents pertaining to the operations of the Pittsburg Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Florida Marlins, Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels. The leaked information, which has been verified by several teams, has provoked an angry response from several of the violated parties as well as justification for some of the underlying revelations from others.

The Pirates had the strongest reaction to the leaked information, which isn’t surprising because the financial records reveal that the organization has been turning a tidy profit while receiving monumental sums of revenue sharing, not to mention languishing in last place in the weak NL Central.

In addition to revealing the operating (EBITDA) and net (real profit) incomes of all five teams, the leaked documents also provided various details about several streams of revenue, including concessions, broadcast rights, post season gate receipts and revenue sharing, while offering a glimpse into some less publicized expenses like scouting and player development. Maury Brown’s Biz of Baseball blog provides a detailed breakdown of these items, but the bottom line is clear: smaller market teams have been highly profitable thanks in large part to generous revenue sharing payouts.

Of course, we already knew that. For years, Forbes has been conducting an annual analysis of baseball’s finances, so anyone familiar with that study probably didn’t even bat an eye at the findings emanating from the leaked financials. If anything, the published documents reveal that the Forbes figures overstate the profitability of smaller market teams, which you’d think would make teams like the Pirates happy. Then again, with some teams refusing to admit to any profit at all, you can see why a verifiable contradiction would be of concern.

Operating Income Comparison

Year Team Leaked Financials Forbes.com
2008 Pirates  $    14,408,249.00  $   16,000,000.00
2007 Pirates  $    16,197,554.00  $   18,000,000.00
2009 Angels  $    11,926,000.00  $   12,000,000.00
2008 Angels  $    11,254,000.00  $   10,000,000.00
2009 Marlins  $    12,677,000.00  $   46,000,000.00
2008 Marlins  $    39,214,000.00  $   44,000,000.00
2008 Rays  $    14,202,206.00  $   29,000,000.00
2007 Rays  $    21,687,569.00  $   30,000,000.00
2008 Mariners  $     (7,672,000.00)  $    4,000,000.00
2007 Mariners  $    13,765,000.00  $   10,000,000.00

Source: BizofBaseball.com and Forbes.com

Even with leaked financials in hand, any conclusions drawn from the figures still have to be taken with a grain of salt. As private companies, most baseball teams are not beholden to the same rigorous accounting principles that are required of public companies (many of which still find a way to circumvent various financial reporting regulations). Besides, even when following generally accepted accounting principles, most companies can do magic with their financial reporting. As Paul Beeston once famously said while serving as vice president of business operations for the Blue Jays, “Anyone who quotes profits of a baseball club is missing the point. Under generally accepted accounting principles, I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss, and I can get every national accounting firm to agree with me.”

Anyone who quotes profits of a baseball club is missing the point. Under generally accepted accounting principles, I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss, and I can get every national accounting firm to agree with me.” Then Blue Jays Vice President of Business Operations Paul Beeston, quoted in chapter 4 of The Business of Sports

So, why is everyone making such a big deal about the leaked financials? For starters, the documents are meant to be confidential, so any breach is not only criminal, but also fosters a level of distrust between all the parties who may be privy to it (the teams, the league and  the players’ association). With the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire in December 2011, any grounds for mistrust could make negotiations even more contentious, especially when you consider the looming drug testing-related regulations that the owners are likely to request. After all, the MLBPA already has a reason to distrust ownership after the revelation of several names from what was supposed to be a confidential list of positive drug tests.

The fact of the matter is major league baseball, both as a league and on an individual team basis, is a hugely profitable business. The extent of those profits not only has a bearing on each team’s financial health, but also on the negotiating power of the MLBPA. One of the reasons the baseball union has become so strong is because it fully understands the value of the services its players provide. As much as owners have pleaded poverty of the years, you can’t blame the players for having a deep level of mistrust when it comes to financial facts and figures. That’s exactly why the MLBPA has shunned any attempts at a salary cap or other system that would be based on an unrealistic level of trust between with team owners. In the NFL, the players have finally realized this hard lesson (how can you tie your compensation to league revenue when you can trust the reported figures), which could send that sport careening toward a work stoppage.

Without knowing the source of the leak, it wouldn’t surprise me if the motive behind it was related to the upcoming negotiations for a new CBA. Just in case there was any doubt that baseball is doing very, very well, we know have five perfect examples to dispel any claims of financial duress. And that is what has teams like the Pirates so up in arms. Part of their smokescreen has been dissipated, and any chance at forming a hard-line coalition may have been severely weakened. The bell for round one in the upcoming CBA battle has officially been rung.

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Ivan Nova’s introduction to life as a starter in the major leagues was somewhat rude, but the young right hander shrugged off the early cold shoulder and gave a performance that suggested he might be in for many happy returns.

For the second time this season, Jose Bautista beat the Yankees with a pair of homeruns (Photo: MLB).

While at Scranton, one of the keys to Nova’s success had been his ability to pound the zone with a plus fastball. At the start of last night’s outing, he seemed determined to carry over that approach, but after two mid-90s fastballs were turned into a single and double, Nova may have had second thoughts. Seemingly scared off the fastball and out of the zone, Nova walked Jose Bautista to load the bases, setting the stage for what could have been a disastrous major league debut. Instead, Nova returned to what got him to the big leagues and began firing fastballs touching 97mph. Despite sitting dead red on a 2-0 heater, Vernon Wells was overpowered and lofted a lazy fly ball to left. Fred Lewis decided to tag on the play, giving Brett Gardner an opportunity to show off his very own impressive heater. Gardner’s throw easily beat Lewis to the plate and gave Nova the breathing room he needed to complete the escape, which he did by striking out Adam Lind.

After his eventful first inning, Nova not only settled down, but seemed to get stronger with each inning. Over his final 4 1/3 innings, Nova surrendered only four hits, including two infield singles. In fact, one of those infield singles was actually an out, but first base umpire Mark Wegner incorrectly ruled that Eduardo Nunez’ throw pulled Mark Teixeira’s foot off the bag on Yunel Escobar’s third inning single. Unfortunately for Nova, Wegner’s mistake preceded one of his own, as Jose Bautista hammered a hanging curveball deep into the left field seats.

Despite only throwing 73 pitches, Nova was finally lifted with one out in the sixth, although the reason for his early exit had nothing to do with his losing effectiveness. Instead, Joe Girardi was likely trying to have his young right hander leave the game on a positive note, especially after one of his fastballs sailed over the head of Bautista, prompting an angry response from the Jay’s right fielder and a minor benches clearing incident. Impressively, Nova responded to the adversity by retiring Bautista on a fly ball to center, but after Wells reached on an infield single, Girardi opted to call it a night. Although it would have been interesting to see how Nova responded in the entire inning, you can’t blame Girardi for wanting to avoid having the rookie spoil his outing, especially with the way the Yankees’ bullpen has been performing of late.

When Nova departed the game, the score was tied 2-2, ensuring he would not have a chance at his first big league victory. However, with the way Toronto starter Brandon Morrow was throwing, Nova was lucky that he didn’t leave on the hook for a loss. In his six innings, Morrow struck out 12 batters, but the Yankees were able to score single runs in his first and last frames thanks to RBI doubles by Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada. Both times, the runners who scored reached base on a walk, but otherwise, Morrow was in command thanks to an overpowering fastball and devastating curveball/slider combo. Of course, it should also be mentioned that the Yankees’ bottom of the order (Nunez, Pena and Cervelli) as well as a rather large strike zone by Jerry Meals probably both played a role in Morrow’s dominant performance. Regardless, the emerging right hander has now struck out 36 Yankees in 24 1/3 innings this season.

With both starters out of the game relatively early, the contest became a battle of the bullpens, a common theme in a season series that has now featured four one-run games (out of 10 total). This time around, the Blue Jays bullpen got the better of the showdown, posting three shutout innings to close out the game. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ relievers also performed well, but another mistake to Bautista proved to be the difference in the game. With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Francisco Cervelli sat on the outside corner, but David Robertson’s fastball tailed back over the middle of the plate before being deposited over the left field wall. As soon as the ball left the bat, Bautista took a moment to glare at Robertson and then took several more to make his way around the bases. With retribution apparently on his mind, or perhaps jubilation over hitting his 40th round tripper, Bautista then pumped his fist upon reaching home plate, a gesture that very well might be revisited at some point over the two teams’ final eight games.

Putting aside the loss for a moment, Ivan Nova’s performance was certainly encouraging. His fastball command was excellent (70% for strikes) and his velocity was both premium (topped out at 98) and enduring (his last fastball was 95). Nova also featured a sharp moving hard change that seems as if it will be particularly effective against lefties. One area of concern, however, was the breaking ball. Not only did his curveball lack late bite, but he also struggled to throw it for strikes. As impressive as his fastball was, Nova is going to need another pitch, especially against right handed batters who are less likely to be fooled by the hard changeup. According to scouting reports, Nova does have a good curve (and is also working on a slider), but last night at least, he was really just a two pitch pitcher.

The Yankees are in a pennant race, so there really isn’t room for moral victories. It’s great that Nova pitched well, but the Yankees can’t afford to lose games while learning lessons about their 40-man roster. What’s more, the initial plan is to push everyone back a day, so even if Nova pitches well, he won’t be replacing the weak links in the Yankees starting rotation. Of course, if the Yankees keep trotting out a lineup with a bottom third as weak as last night’s batting order, it may not matter who is starting.

Ivan Nova’s Pitch Breakdown

  Avg. Speed Max Speed Count Strikes Percentage
Changeup 86.91 87.3 8 5 62.5%
Curve 82.4 86.3 18 6 33.3%
Fastball 94.4 97.5 47 33 70.2%

 

Inning Pitches Strikes Percentage
1 16 7 43.8%
2 13 9 69.2%
3 18 10 55.6%
4 10 6 60.0%
5 8 7 87.5%
6 8 5 62.5%
Total 73 44 60.3%

Source: http://www.brooksbaseball.net

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