Archive for September 28th, 2010

vs. Kyle Drabek 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
Lance Berkman DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Curtis Granderson CF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Brett Gardner LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
vs. C.C. Sabathia PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI
Travis Snider LF 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Yuniel Escobar SS 9 0.222 0.222 0.333 0 2
Jose Bautista RF 8 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Vernon Wells CF 32 0.194 0.219 0.387 2 6
Lyle Overbay 1B 6 0.167 0.167 0.167 0 0
Aaron Hill 2B 21 0.158 0.238 0.421 1 2
John Buck C 44 0.205 0.295 0.359 1 4
Edwin Encarnacion 3B 11 0.300 0.364 0.500 0 0
AJ Arencibia DH 0 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0
Total 131 0.189 0.237 0.352 4 14


Yankees vs. Blue Jays    
Season: 2010 Season: 2009 Season: 2008 All-Time
TOR: 9-7 NYY: 12-6 TIED: 9-9 NYY: 266-214


  Last 10 Last 20 Last 30
Yankees 4-6 7-13 15-15
Blue Jays 8-2 11-9 15-15


  Away vs. RHP
Yankees 41-35 62-38
  Home vs. LHP
Blue Jays 44-32 12-21

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The Tampa Bay Rays entered last night’s action needing just one win to clinch a playoff spot for only the second time in franchise history. Rays’ fans seemed unimpressed by the potential accomplishment, however, as only 12,446 fans showed up for the game against the Orioles.

The sparse crowds to which the Rays have been playing have not gone unnoticed by the players. After last night’s lightly attended game, a boiling point seemed to be reached as All Star third baseman Evan Longoria openly questioned the empty seats.

We’ve been playing great baseball all year. Since I’ve been here in [2006], the fans have wanted a good baseball team. They’ve wanted to watch a contender. And for us to play good baseball for three years now, and for us to be in a spot to clinch again and go to the playoffs, we’re all confused as to why it’s only 15,000 to 20,000 in the building.” – Evan Longoria, quoted by ESPN.com news services

Longoria wasn’t alone in expressing his disappointment. Following the Monday night loss to the Orioles, David Price took to Twitter to voice his dismay. “Had chance to clinch postseason spot tonight w/about 10k fans in the stands,” Price commented not long after the game. Although the ace lefty followed soon thereafter with an apology, the cat had already been let out of the bag. As is often the case in this age of social media, Price’s message made its way around the internet with lightening speed, eliciting strong reactions from both sides of the issue.

Those critical of Longoria and Price have pointed to the Tampa regions relatively high unemployment as well as the inconvenient location of the Tropicana Dome as reasons for the depressed attendance, but in a region of nearly 3 million people, those excuses don’t really compute.   At an average price of $18, Rays’ tickets are among the cheapest in baseball, so the team is not prohibitively pricing itself out of the market.

Meanwhile, those who support the players’ comments have pointed to the fans’ apathy as evidence that the Tampa market isn’t willing to support baseball.  However, the Rays’ high television ratings seem to suggest a strong level of interest in the team. So, why is there a disconnect?

At TYU, Moshe Mandel presents several reasons why attendance at the ballpark has been depressed. Regardless of why fans have been staying away from the Tropicana Dome, the team and the community need to collaborate on a solution.

Not helping matters, however, has been the recent public posturing by Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg. Last Wednesday, Sternberg told reporters that there was nothing that could prevent the Rays from having to significantly trim down payroll during the offseason. Regardless of the veracity of such a statement, the timing was curious to say the least. On the one hand, the Rays expect their fan base to make a long-term investment in the team, but on the other hand the owner is openly declaring his unwillingness to do the same. Can you blame the community for not exactly buying into the team?

Nothing can change that. Unfortunately there’s nothing that can happen between now and April that can change that unless (manager) Joe Maddon hits the lottery and wants to donate it or I hit the lottery.” – Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, USA Today, September 22, 2010

Not surprisingly, many in the media have been sympathetic to Sternberg’s plight. After all, if the fans in Tampa wont come to games, why should the team spend any money? As is often the case, such sentiment is blinded by an economic smokescreen often put forth by sport team owners.

According to Forbes, the Rays have had $146 million in operating profit since 2004, during which time the franchise value has increased by 80% to $316 million. Sternberg first bought into the Rays when he led an investment group that purchased 48% of the team for $65 million. Sternberg eventually bought out former owner Vince Namoli in 2005 and has since seen his investment increase significantly. Obviously, no one should be shedding a tear for Sternberg, nor should they be so easy to accept his cries of poverty.

In many ways, the Rays are confronted with a chicken and egg situation. The Sternberg group seems to be demanding an overwhelming response before making a more significant long-term investment in the team, while the fan base has been tepid to the team’s success because of its tenuous status in the community.

Although the Rays’ players initial response has been to question the fans, their doubts would be more appropriately directed toward ownership. Sternberg knew the market in which he was entering, so its reticence to support the team should not come as a surprise. Instead of threatening a cut back, the Rays’ ownership should be promising increased investment. In order to sustainably grow revenue, risk is required. Simply spending to break even won’t result in the level of growth needed to support the team in the long run, and such a strategy is hard to justify when you consider the team’s favorable economics. It would be nice if Rays’ fan would come out to the ballpark in droves, but until ownership has done everything possible to make that happen, the raised eyebrows around baseball should not be cast upon the fans.

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Joe Girardi may have plenty of time to ponder the wisdom of his late season strategy if the Yankees don’t start playing better (Photo: AP).

Coming down the stretch, the Yankees have proven to be much more adept at clichés than clinching. After last night’s latest AJ Burnett debacle, we were treated to the classic “one step forward and two steps back” explanation that has defined the enigmatic righty’s season. As a result, the Yankees are still “taking it one day at time” until they secure their playoff spot, something they haven’t yet done because “sometimes you have to lose a battle to win the war”. Now, instead of setting up his playoff rotation, Joe Girardi has been forced to send C.C. Sabathia to the mound in a classic case of “why put off for tomorrow what you can do today”. Of course, if the Yankees don’t starting playing better, there may be “no tomorrow”, or at least not many in October. 

Thanks to Sunday’s dramatic victory against the Red Sox, a complete collapse now seems unfathomable. Nonetheless, the Yankees blasé approach to the final three weeks has not only forced them into a semi-panic mode during the final week, but surrounded the team with an air of negativity. Losing has a way of doing that, even if the defeats are explained away as a means to a greater victory. The latest debacle revolves around another putrid performance from AJ Burnett. Exactly half of Burnett’s 32 starts have recorded a game score under 50 (including a shocking 11 starts below 35), so the Yankees should no longer be surprised by his struggles. What is somewhat surprising, however, is that Burnett still seems to have a lock on a spot in the playoff rotation. 

AJ Burnett’s 2010 Game Scores 


After Burnett’s implosion, the Yankees bullpen rebounded from some minor recent struggles to shut down the powerful Jays lineup over the remainder of the game, allowing the team to chip away at the lead with a two run blast by Curtis Granderson and a three-run bomb by Mark Teixeira.  The Yankees eventually brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but never threatened again after Marcus Thames’ hard line drive landed in the glove of Travis Snider. Curiously, three of the final four batters in the game made outs on at least a 2-0 count, despite being down two runs and needing a base runner to once again bring the tying run to the plate. 

Although the struggles of the pitching staff have attracted the most attention, the Yankees’ offense has been an equal culprit. Not only has the lineup produced a season low 4.6 runs per game, but its steadily climbing strikeout rate has approached a whopping eight punch outs per contest. In yesterday’s game, that growing problem was on display as Blue Jay pitchers set down 14 Yankee batters on strikes, including nine by starter Marc Rzcepczynski. 

Yankees Monthly Offensive Output, 2010

  G R R/G K K/G
April 22 118 5.4 134 6.1
May 29 171 5.9 191 6.6
June 26 124 4.8 174 6.7
July 26 150 5.8 174 6.7
August 29 154 5.3 221 7.6
September 25 116 4.6 197 7.9

Source: Baseball-reference.com 

In tonight’s game, the Yankees will look to their one reliable starter to finally lock down a playoff spot. However, by starting Sabathia, the Yankees’ ace lefty will now be facing the prospect of having eight days off heading into the ALDS. Before being forced to push the panic button, Sabathia had been slated to pitch on Friday in Boston, which would have set him up to open the ALDS on regular rest. Similarly, by having to press Hughes into emergency action, the Yankees could be dealing with another starter making a post season start with an inordinate amount of rest. The overall performance of the Yankees rotation is concern enough, so introducing another element of doubt only further exacerbates the problem. 

In just over three weeks, the culture of the Yankees has been completely transformed. Instead of espousing a win at all costs philosophy, the organization-wide mantra has seemed to be about doing just enough. Girardi can talk about “trying like crazy to win the division” all he wants, but his actions speak louder than words. GM Brian Cashman is also guilty of advancing a tempered approach to finishing in first. So, it should not be surprising that the same attitude has filtered among the players. After losing the finale to the Rays, the normally intense Mark Teixeira talked about how “Itwould have been nice” to win the series, and following yesterday’s game, Burnett stated, “Everyone always says that the season doesn’t matter here and the postseason does.” 

If everyone in the Yankee organization is saying that, or implying as much with their actions, then systemic changes need to be considered after the season, regardless of the ultimate outcome. In 1996, the new Yankees dynasty was symbolized by a t-shirt the entire team used to wear. It read simply, “We play today; we win today…das it”. In 2010, that singular approach has been replaced with qualifications. It remains to be seen whether the team can simply flick the switch come October, but it does seem a shame that the lights were turned off in the first place.

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