Thursday, August 14, 2003

When the lights go out in the city . . . 

I'm fortunate enough to live in a part of New Jersey that did not loose power today, though it took me four and a half hours to get home from my day job in Manhattan. Needless to say I missed the entire Yankee game.

Looks like an ugly one, but Andy deserved the win after his last two heartbreakers. The big news to me, though, is the three solid innings (1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 3K) from the pen and another strong performance from Bernie at the plate (3 for 3, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 RBI).

I'm not sure if I should believe it, but my flight out of Newark tomorrow morning is still "on schedule." I'll cry for a week if I miss that Cubs game.

Here's hoping power is restored to all quickly and that the night passes peacefully. My next post should be on Wednesday.

posted by Cliff at 11:48 PM

No Comment 

I have nothing to say about last nights game. Let’s just pretend it never happened.

In predicting the outcomes of the Royals series I got all three wrong. And after professing my faith in Jeff Weaver I think I’ve officially lost it. Like a dutiful fan, I think I’ve found a new way to curse my favorite team (there’s a great old “Tom the Dancing Bug” strip about this phenomenon).

Moving on!

Thanks to a rain-out the Yankees begin a four game series in Baltimore tonight. Let’s hope the Yanks can right their ship as, with the possible exception of the Hitchcock v. Hentgen matchup on Saturday, they really shouldn’t loose any of these games. They key word there being shouldn’t.

On a personal note, Mark Prior is starting at Wrigley tomorrow and I’ve got tickets! Chi-town, here I come . . .

posted by Cliff at 1:17 PM

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Housekeeping, pt. II 

Eureka! Got a separate page for the tour blog. So we can keep the rock from the jock. Tour posts begin Wed. 8/20.

posted by Cliff at 9:06 PM


That's a lame M*A*S*H reference if you don't get it. Anyway, turns out Wells will miss his next start in favor of Sterling Hitchcock (ouch). No official word yet on his back, however. Meanwhile, Jason Giambi may need off-season knee surgery. The good news is that means more Nick the Stick at first. The bad new is Jason Giambi may need knee surgery. Ugh. I don't know about you, but I think it's very obvious that Bernie is far from 100% on his repaired knee. He's not getting to balls in the outfield and he's more station-to-station on the bases than before, unsure about taking that chance for the extra base. And thus begins Bernie's slow transformation into Paul Molitor (I hope . . . the alternative is not comforting).

posted by Cliff at 3:33 PM

Barry Bombs 

Barry Bonds hit his 649th and 650th career home runs at Shea last night. Is there any remaining doubt that, barring a freakish injury, he will pass Hank Aaron? There's a good chance he could do it before the end of the 2005 season.

I don't know what to make of Bonds, myself. The NL West is like a different planet to me, so I was never really exposed to Bonds at his peak (mid '90s with the Giants). Still, it seems to me as if the 2001-hence Barry Bonds is an entirely different animal than the 1990s Barry Bonds. While dismissing his rapid accent up the all-time homer list as a by product of that change in his offensive game is callous and unfair (he'd be over 600 homers by now playing at his 1996-2000 level of 40 homers-per-season--one must remember that he did hit 494 homers before 2001), it's likely that he would not have challenged Aaron without maintaining that high level of play past his 43rd birthday. At his current pace, however, he could experience some fall off and still top Aaron by the time he turns 42. So when do they start rerunning that Hank & Barry commercial?

posted by Cliff at 3:28 PM


In case I don't get the opportunity to post this tomorrow, I’m going to be away starting on Friday, so my posts may be few and far between for the remainder of the month. I’ll be at the Cubs/Dodgers game at Wrigley on Friday (my first game there!), and will be catching the Pirates in Milwaukee with the band while on tour (Battle of the Titans! Randal Simon vs. Italian Sausage rematch!). I’ll be back briefly on Wed and Thurs of next week and hope to get a post or two up. Then, starting mid-next week, this will temporarily become the home of my Joanie Loves Trotsky tour blog (my attempts to upgrade my Blogger account to allow for separate pages have not yet been successful). Things should return to form come September. In the meantime, don't forget to catch JLT on tour!

posted by Cliff at 12:24 PM

Royals, pt. III 

I only caught the first inning of last night’s game because I had to practice with the band. Moose looked sharp from what I saw, and indeed he was, combining with Mo to shut out the Royals. So I got another thing right. That being that tonight’s game will be the rubber game of the series. Looking at the starters, Appier may have been cast aside by the Angels, but he’s not been significantly worse this season than Weaver. They have similar records, ERAs and WHIPs. Appier’s got a better avg. against, but Weaver’s got the better K/BB ratio and is about half as susceptible to the long-ball.

In other news, the Royals have designated one-time lead-off man and “second baseman of the future” (is that like the ice-cream of the future?) Carlos Febles for assignment. Surprisingly there seems to be some emotion attached to this move in KC. Check this article by the Kansas City Star's Joe Posnansky for a sentimental take on Febles’s career with the Royals. Objectively, Febles offered speed, defense and a modicum of plate discipline, but more or less couldn’t hit. As Posnansky’s article suggests, injuries and an “old body” have robbed the 27-year-old Febles of his speed and defense, making him dead weight on a first place team.

By the way, can I take a moment out to bitch about the Royals’ uniform changes of the past couple of years? Adding black highlights and away vests last year was bad enough, but the home vests they’ve moved to this year are just awful. Why is it that no two players seem to wear shirts under their vests that have the same sleeve length? The Royals used to be one of the few expansion teams with a classic and consistent uniform design. Until the mid-to-late ‘90s, when they started experimenting with a gray crown on their away caps and now the black bill on the blue cap (one of baseball’s all-time worst fashion developments) they only had one cap design in the history of the team. I personally think black-highlights should go the way of pull-over jerseys and waistband pants but quick. In the meantime, my list of worst unis in the bigs will have to start with the Mets, Reds, Royals and Rangers.

posted by Cliff at 12:18 PM

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Full moon? You don’t say. 

Well, I was half right. The Yanks got to Paul Abbott but good (his one-game ERA almost matches his figure for last year in the mid 11s). But I didn’t count on David Wells’ back flaring up, resulting in his worst outing of the year. Hitchcock held things together admirably for a couple innings, but after being staked to a one-run lead by Hideki Matsui’s solo homer, he walked the lead-off batter in the bottom of the sixth inning (his third inning of work). If I’m Joe Torre I get someone up in my pen then and there, but I guess having used everyone but Hitch and Mo on Sunday (and unsuccessfully at that) Joe was less eager to do so. So Sterling blew the lead and the Royals never looked back, despite three more runs from the Yanks. Brett Prinz, the 26-year-old righty fireballer picked up in the Mondesi deal and activated yesterday when Osuna was placed on the bereavement list, was thrown to the wolves after arriving at the park mid-game. Not the best way to build the confidence of a young pitcher, but I guess Joe was managing for tomorrow not today. Ultimately this was a real freak of a game, setting an American League record for most doubles (19), and a Royals team record for same (11). Despite missing a catch similar to his Friday game-saver earlier on, Dellooch made a spectacular airborne play to stop the bleeding in the 8th. Gotta love the way this guy plays.

Meanwhile, the situation with Wells’ back is a major cause for concern. Wells was the team’s best starter last year and has challenged for that title for most of this year. If this problem gets worse (or rather doesn’t get better) we could be looking at Contreras or Lieber becoming keys to the pennant race. I know I don’t want that. Nor, for all my optimism, do I want Weaver starting in the playoffs. Not over a healthy David Wells, no sir. This could also have major ramifications on next year’s staff. Wells had expressed interest in pitching for another year, and though no moves have been made to resign him, I for one would be surprised to see him do so anywhere else. But if his back forces him to retire along with Clemens . . . let’s just say things could get ugly quick.

Anyway, let’s hope I was wrong about Darrell May tonight.

posted by Cliff at 10:22 AM

Monday, August 11, 2003

Goin' to Kansas City . . . 

Tonight the Yankees play their first game of the 2003 season against Tony Peña’s upstart Kansas City Royals (their last game of the season against these Royals is next Wednesday, love that unbalanced schedule!), which seems to me like a great time to try to figure out what’s been going on in KC this year.

Before opening day, the Royals were lumped in with the Tigers, Brewers, and D-Rays as the four can’t-hit teams of the year. Can I get a “that’s why they play ‘em?”

A lot of the criticism aimed at the Royals was directed at their pitching staff, led by what amounted to an all-rookie (though not technically) rotation that looked like this:

Name Age GS Career
Runelvys Hernandez 25 12
Jeremy Affeldt 24 7
Miguel Asencio 22 21
Chris George 23 19
Kyle Snyder 25 0

How’d that turn out? Well, of the five, all have spent time on the DL with arm or hand problems except George, who is now in AAA. As of this writing, Affeldt has been regulated to the bullpen due to chronic blister problems, Snyder and Asencio are on the DL, and the team has turned to 22-year-old AA call-up Jimmy Gobble (seriously, that’s his name . . . if your last name was Gobble wouldn’t you go with Jim or James just to hold on to that last shred of dignity?) for help. Shockingly, Gobble—who’s got a 0.73 ERA and two wins in two starts (though far more ordinary walk, strikeout and average against numbers) isn’t the most desperate move the Royals have made with their rotation. That would probably have to be Jose “Lima Time” Lima, who was throwing beachballs made of flubber for the Tigers last year and had been exiled to the independent league (playing along-side Rickey with the Newark Bears). So what does Lima do? 7-0 2.96 ERA, .216 batting average against (though with horrendous BB/K numbers) . . . and then promptly lands on the DL.

That seems to sum up these Royals, a tremendous combination of good and back luck. They’re playing four games above their Pythagorean record, have given up more runs than they’ve scored (though it’s essentially even now), and yet they’re still clinging to first place, ½ game over the White Sox, who may finally have awoken from their season-long coma. They’ve also been without their leader and best hitter, Mike Sweeney, since late June.

Sweeney came back on Monday, however, and has collected a hit in each of his three games since being activated. As for the rest of their offense, Raul Ibañez (I so wish it was I-ba-nez, preferably the seven string model with hand grip . . . harharhar) is replicating his break out season from last year. Angel Berroa has emerged as a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, hitting for power and average with some speed mixed in. Aaron Guiel, a late-May call-up, has shown power from the lead-off spot and has the highest OPS after Sweeney in their current line-up. Peña has shown the smarts to spell Febles at second with Desi Relaford as often as possible. And Carlos Beltran . . . well, let’s just say he’d look real good in pinstripes in 2005.

Meanwhile, back in the here-and-now, Beltran was scratched from yesterday’s game with inflammation in the elbow he hyperextended on Saturday. I hope he makes a quick recovery, because I want to see him play, though the Yanks certainly won’t miss him.

Looking at the pitching match-ups you’d assume the Yanks would sweep this series, but as all the above was intended to point out, you just don’t know what to expect from this Royals team. Tonight David Wells goes up against . . . is that right? Paul Abbott? Let’s see. This’ll be his first major league start this year. He posted a 11.96 ERA with 20 walks in 26.1 innings last year and failed to make the pitching-hungry Diamondbacks this spring. Sounds like a win. Tomorrow Moose faces lefty Darrell May, who was actually one of the Royals starters last year (imagine!) but hadn’t pitched in the bigs since ’97 prior to that. May’s actually having his best season by far and I suppose I could see him stymieing the Yanks, especially as he’s held lefties to a .228 average. Game three sees the Royals going back to the scrap heap for a second round with Kevin Appier, who pitched well enough, though not great in his first start back with KC (5 IP, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K). For what it’s worth, I think the Angels should have stayed with Appier. It’s not like they're overrun with great starting pitching. Appier faces Jeff Weaver. I’m still optimistic about Weaver and I think being out in KC should see him through this game as the Yankees take the series.

posted by Cliff at 2:20 PM

So Long Seattle 

My hope here is to eventually separate my Yankee commentary from my Joanie Loves Trotsky diaries, etc. But until I get some bugs worked out I'm gonna have to put 'em all in together.

Disappointing showing by the Yankee bullpen today. A day after another wasted effort by Andy Pettitte (who's suddenly as consistent as I can remember him being since 1997), the offense did it's part. Jorge got a key two-run double to tie the game up in the 7th after a 5-run outburst by the M's in the top of the inning, and Dave Dellucci (who also made a key catch against the wall in the 9th . . . my new favorite Yankee?) hit his first homer in pinstripes, a two-run jobby that bounced from the old Yankee bullpen into my section of the bleachers. Security came to retrieve the ball from the fellow who caught it. I don't know if he bargained with them, but the same security guy came back later, apparently to get the guys info, and he was nowhere to be found. For future reference, if I get a ball like that I'm asking for a team-autographed ball, a bat signed by the player, and one of his jerseys, which I'll then wear to all the games. Meanwhile, Orosco, Nelson, Osuna and Hammond combined for 3 innings, 7 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks and just 2 Ks (not counting the 2 inherited runners from Clemens that Orosco & Nelson allowed to score). In Nellie's defense, he got to 2 strikes on every batter (except Olerud who was given an intentional pass) and was dealt several questionable calls by home plate ump Eric Cooper (watch it, Cooper, I got my eye on you now!) I usually don't gripe about officiating, but when guys like Edgar Martinez and Jason Giambi are crossed up on ball four and called strike three you begin to wonder. Back in 1998, Cooper became the only umpire ever to eject Wade Boggs . . . over a called third strike. Check this from the St. Petersburg Times:
Boggs was angry enough to spend five minutes talking to executive director of umpires Marty Springstead before Sunday's game. Springstead was at Tropicana Field to review stadium ground rules with GM Chuck LaMar.

Boggs said he had a running discussion with Cooper about close pitches throughout the game. After being called out in the ninth inning, Boggs said he pointedly told Cooper that the pitch was outside.

"He took off his mask and said he was tired of my b------- all night and I was gone," Boggs said. "But, you know, I didn't get over 1,300 walks without knowing the strike zone.”

Meanwhile, it's no wonder Orosco's ERA has been in the 7s recently. He usually faces just one batter. If he gets him he get's 1/3 IP. If he doesn't and that guy later scores (like today) he gets 0 IP and 1 ER. In retrospect, it's amazing he's been able to keep his ERA down in recent years. He'd have to get his man nine times for every time he didn't just to keep his era at 3.00. (well, sorta, the runner won't always score, and he doesn't always face just one batter, but work with me here . . . this ain't exactly Baseball Prospectus) That's a 90% success rate. Last year with LA (56G, 27 IP -- less than 2/3 IP/G), his ERA was exactly 3.00. No wonder he still has a job at age 46.

Anyway, neither Moyer nor Clemens was on his game today, but the Rocket managed to battle through, leaving up 4-1. Nelson’s bad outing didn’t sour my or anyone else’s enthusiasm for his return. Sori went 0-5 but hit the highest deep fly out I've ever seen to center and only struckout once. Jeter went 2-3 with 2 walks and a homer to left.

The Yanks thus finish the regular season 5-4 vs. the M’s. It’d make a fantastic playoff series if things should work out that way, between the Nelson/Benitez trade, the Boone Brothers . . . if only Lou was still there. Sigh.

Next up, the surprising Kansas City Royals, whom I hope to take a closer look at tomorrow.

posted by Cliff at 1:12 AM

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