Results tagged ‘ Old Timer's Day ’

The sweet Snell of success

YOU NEED A SCORECARD, DUDE
At one point in the run-up to the Old Timer’ Day festivities, I was standing on the third base line near a bunch of Yankees players that included Jesse Barfield, Oscar Gamble, and Ken Griffey, Sr. Behind me, some guy in the stands was shouting, “Hit one, Cecil!” He yelled that over and over again. I couldn’t figure out if he (A) thought that Cecil Fielder had come back to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day–he hadn’t, and though some of the aforementioned Yankees weigh a few stone more than in their glory days, none looked anything like Big Daddy and none were wearing his number; (B) assumed that because the Detroit Tigers were in town, Fielder had somehow come along with his old organization (nope); (C) that he was somehow making fun of my weight (seems like an esoteric way of going about it); (D) was having an acid flashback to 1997; or (E) had somehow gotten hold of a beer vendor at 10 AM. A little later, Mike Mussina and David Cone were standing on exactly the same spot, and I kept expecting the guy to yell, “Throw one, Jack Morris!” or “Strike ’em out, Willie Hernandez!” or “Run for another term, Jim Bunning!”

snell_250.jpgSNELL MAIL
Over the weekend, Baseball Prospectus’s John Perrotto reported that the Yankees have interest in Ian Dante Snell, the Pirates’ punching bag who was recently demoted to Indianapolis. This seems a bit odd at first, given that since posting a 3.76 ERA in 2007, Snell’s one truly solid year, his walk rate has exploded and his strikeout rate dropped, a big reason why he’s put up a 5.40 ERA in 245 innings going back to last year. On further examination, acquiring Snell starts to make a little more sense. First, if you’re down to trying out Sergio Mitre in your starting rotation, you have to show interest in everybody. Second, at 27 years old, Snell isn’t too old to get back on track, assuming there’s nothing seriously wrong with his arm. There’s also a psychological aspect to consider: six years in Pirates drag might be enough to ruin anyone’s approach. Finally, Snell has looked great in four starts at Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s allowed just one earned run in 26.1 innings, and in his first start after going down he struck out 17 Toledo hitters in seven innings. The strikeout numbers since then haven’t been nearly so dramatic, but clearly there’s something alive in Snell waiting to be woken up.

TAKING THE OUTFIELD TEMPERATURE (AN ONGOING SERIES)
Since the end of April:
Johnny Damon:    .273/.358/.517
Brett Gardner:        .303/.391/.455
Melky Cabrera:    .271/.328/.396
Nick Swisher:        .206/.336/.363

As you know, I’ve been a supporter of Nick Swisher’s from the moment he was acquired, but what he’s doing right now is not adequate. The average right fielder is batting .266/.341/.439. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if too many players of that quality are going to be made available by the trading deadline. One wonders if Brian Cashman has shown any interest in Josh Willingham of the Nationals.

20-GAME WATCH: ORIOLES VS. YANKEES

Team
W-L
RS/G
RA/G
AVG
OBP
SLG
AB/HR
SB
CS
HR/9
BB/9
K/9
Orioles 9-11 5.2 5.3 .263 .329 .404 41 9 4 1.2 3.4 6.0
Yankees 15-5 5.9 4.5 .292 .379 .481 24 7 8 1.1 3.5 7.1

Extraordinary that the Yankees are 15-2 when not playing at Anaheim… As I observed the last time the Yanks and Orioles tilted, there are a few reasons why the latter make more interesting viewing than they have in recent years, beginning with their young outfield of Nolan Remold, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. None is older than 25, all are playing reasonably well (though not as well as they had been early in the season), and presumably will maintain their value long enough that if management is able to bang the rest of the roster into shape, they might be around to contribute to a competitive team. The Orioles also have some new faces on the pitching side, and even if they aren’t all world beaters, at least they’re not inflicting more laborious Daniel Cabrera and Adam Eaton starts on the world.

All three of the starters the Yankees face this week are under 30. On Monday night, the Yankees face the most interesting member of the group in David Hernandez, a 24-year-old who first came up at the end of May. A fastball/slider/changeup guy, Hernandez throws in the low 90s. In the Minors, he got a ton of strikeouts, 10.4 per nine innings since signing in 2005, but his Major League rate has been less than half that. He’s also still working on the whole control thing, and the Yankees will stress him by taking pitches if they’re smart. Hernandez had a quality start in each of his last two appearances. The opponents were the Angels and the Mariners, teams that don’t work counts.

Tuesday’s starter is Rich Hill, who once looked like he would be something special for the Cubs but has since fallen on hard times, which is kind of a redundant thing to say given that he pitches for Baltimore. He’s become spectacularly wild, and has made just three quality starts this year. His most recent start was among the three, a six inning, two-run outing against the Blue Jays on July 11. He walked just one. Finally, Wednesday’s starter is rookie Jason Berken. Berken has made one quality start this year. Unfortunately for the Orioles, it came in his second big league start. Since then, he’s been routinely pummeled, and has gotten out of the fifth inning just once. In eight June-July starts, opposing batters are hitting .325/.388/.503.

What do all three of these pitchers have in common? The Yankees have never seen them before.

Sunday: Brunch and serious memories

MY JOB IS STILL EASIER THAN YOURS…
…Which is not bragging, but the opposite: I ain’t complaining about the arduous work I have to do. Still, I was just chatting with my colleague Jon Lane about what time I have to get out to Yankee Stadium II to do my annual set of interviews on Old Timer’s Day, and he was speculating 9 a.m. This is depressing in that it takes me about two hours to get up to the ballpark, so it’s going to be an early Sunday morning. On the positive side, I’ll get to enjoy breakfast fare in the press dining room, which I am told includes Eggs Benedict a la Babe Ruth (poached egg on an English muffin and hollandaise sauce, topped with a broiled horse shank).

I’m already feeling my fatigue, but it should still be a fascinating time. The Yankees always do a terrific job of assembling a memorable roster for these occasions. The usual Hall of Famers will be in attendance — Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, and Reggie Jackson — but I’m looking forward to talking to a couple of the first-timers, “Hit Man” Mike Easler and relief ace Lindy McDaniel. It’s fascinating that the former relief ace is making his first trip back at the age of 73. He played with many future Hall of Famers in a career that covered 21 seasons and three decades, and was an important part of the lost-years Yankees just before George Steinbrenner bought the club. He was then traded for Lou Piniella, which turned out to be one of the bigger robberies in franchise history. Luckily for me, most of the writers will be more concerned with more recent players who are returning for the first time, fellows like Chad Curtis and Charlie Hayes. I typically get the literal old timers to myself, and that’s the way I like it.

I JUST FEEL LIKE SAYING THIS
The Yankees had Babe Ruth for 15 seasons. They won seven pennants. 15-7=8. The Yankees had the best player in baseball by a country mile, and sometimes the two best players, but they still went home in October more than half the time. In 1920 they had Ruth and the best pitching staff in the league, but the non-Babe parts of the offense were weak. The same thing could be said of the 1924 offense, plus the pitching staff was just decent, not great, and the club got beaten by a Senators team that had one of the great pitching staffs of the period. Ruth missed half the season in 1925, the offense couldn’t pick up the slack (even with Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Earle Combs having good years), and the pitching staff was just mediocre. From 1929 to 1931, the Yankees were outclassed by a dominant A’s team that couldn’t hit with them but had by far the better pitching staff (there is no Lefty Grove in the history of the Yankees, nor, with the possible exception of Ron Guidry in 1978 and a couple of Lefty Gomez seasons, any starting pitcher who is even close). Weak pitching was again the problem in 1933. The staff began to come around in 1934, but not enough to win a pennant.

20-GAME WATCH: TIGERS VS. YANKEES
(SITTING ON A CORNFLAKE, WAITING FOR MAGGLIO)

After the Angels’ sweep, I’m out of the prediction business for awhile…

Team
W-L
RS/G
RA/G
AVG
OBP
SLG
SB
CS
HR/9
BB/9
K/9
Tigers 12-7 4.7 4.3 .260 .325 .444 9 5 1.1 3.7 7.7
Yankees 13-7 6.1 5.0 .285 .375 .465 13 7 1.2 3.1 7.3

The 2009 Yankees are not unlike those 1929-1931 Yankees that couldn’t beat out the A’s. They can scorch the ball anywhere, but their pitching staff does the same favor for the opposition. The Tigers do not have a good offense, and are hitting a tragically weak .245/.307/.395 on the road, averaging 4.1 runs a game while doing so. If they start blasting balls into outer space during this series, you not only have further proof of YS II’s pinball qualities, but also of the state of the pitching staff. .. Watch out for Curtis Granderson, a career .291/.408/.523 hitter against the Yankees.