Sunday, April 29, 2007

Awful April Comes To A Close

The first month of the season is over, and here are some stats, observations, conjecture and questions that need to be answered.

Yanks post a 9-14 record to start the '07 campaign. Last in the East, and 2nd worst in the AL. Here's a scary thought, if not for the two improbable walk-off HRs by A-Rod, they'd be sitting at 7-16! Right now, it appears they are not ready or in shape for the regular season. There is a lack of intensity and at 6.5 back of the Sox, an air of urgency to start the month of May on a winning note would seem to be a must.

Here's what we know: The Boston Red Sox are a good team - possibly the best in the American League right now. Only noticeably weakness is their defense. This is a team that is built for the playoffs, they have 4 inning eating starters, a set up man and a closer who has the confidence that he is the next coming of Mo Rivera. They may be too good to catch.

What's working? Jeter, A-Rod, Pettitte, Posada, Henn (before today anyway) and Giambi

Who has possibly turned the corner? Igawa and Rivera

Changes to consider? Swap Cano and Abreu in the batting order. Give Pettitte a longer leash when he's on the mound. Declare a starting 1st baseman.

What's not working? Damon and his constant list of aches and pains. The job share at first base. Jeff Karstens, 2007 has not been kind to this kid.

Anything missing? Other than consistent starting pitching - yes, intensity. Jeter and A-Rod are class acts in terms of leading by example. However, I think right now, they need a leader from an emotional standpoint. Maybe that means making some changes and moving some furniture - the signing of Clemens, a managerial change to someone with more projected enthusiasm than Torre, or finding an above-average but well respected everyday player (think like a Paul O'Neil type) - all options should be on the table. Something is missing in my humble opinion and that something is the intangible that an emotional leader brings to a club. Someone needs to step up, or Cashman should strongly consider doing a deal.

What to look forward to: The press speculating on Torre's job status. Yanks start May with a pair of series against Texas and Seattle. Mussina set to return shortly, and possibly Pavano in 10 days or less. Melkey will be given another chance as Damon looks to get rested for a couple of games - if he does not produce any better than he has so far in '07, I'd like to see Kevin Thompson get his due.

10 comments:

old professor said...

Over the past several weeks, I have consistently made reference to the Yankees being a flawed team. You point out many of the weakness this team has.

The starting rotation is not being extended. At some point, the manager gives the ball to a starter and says - "don't look for help from the pen today, they need rest and you are it!!" It seems these starters get to about the fourth inning and begin looking over their shoulder to the pen. The other day Dice-K was not sharp but Francona stayed with him and Boston won the game.

Torre seems to always have an excuse. With Hughes and the juggling of the rotation it was he didn't want the kid to face the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium for his first start. If he is going to make a contribution to the team he is going to have to pitch against Boston some day.

Pettitte has pitched will, but did not look sharp against Boston (may be linked to not being his usual pitch day- see the last comment as to why). Igwa gave strong six innings, which could be an indication he has turned the corner, or it could be that he just had a good day. Next start will tell.

First base is a mess. They signed Minky for his glove hoping he would hit .250. Through the first month he is hitting .135. It may be time to declare the experiment over. You can't keep running the guy out there with the hope he will hit his career numbers, which by the way were generated before he had back surgery. (If he was such a asset to a team, why has he played for so many over the last few years? - KC, Boston, Mets, and Twins. All gave up on him. All those teams can't be wrong).

Defensively, the team gives additional outs to opponents. With the starting pitching as it is, you can't give other teams additional at bats.

This team seems distracted and you have to start to wonder two things: (a) is the pending free agency of Abreu, Rivera, Posada, and maybe A-Rod beginning to have a negative effect? and (b) are they pressing too much because they believe the hype that they are the best team on paper?

This may be the year the team bits the bullet and plays a lot of youth to rebuild and to see if the farm system is as strong as they think. Huges is up let the kid know he is going to stay and let him pitch. Bring Wright back and let him pitch. Tabata may be young, but let's see what he has. Bring Basak up and get rid of Cairo (who by the way has yet to get a hit this season - okay all of you Cairo defenders let's hear how versatile he is and is a great asset to have around.

And yes, it may be time to let Torre go. He doesn't appear capable of lighting a fire under this team. This team does not have anyone with the spirit and desire of Paul O'Neill, Tino, or Brosius. Those guys would run into a wall to win. The fire is non-existent with this team.

The Scooter said...

Well you guys seem resigned to making Torre the fall guy. Let me ask you this, if you were a Sales Manager for a widget company and you lost your top three salesman and were forced to plug in three interns to sell your widgets, do you feel that it would be fair to have the boss tell you to collect your belongings and have you escorted out of the building, or would you expect to be given a fair shake with a healthy sales staff?

And lets look at alternatives to Torre:

Mattingly...Not exactly the Billy Martin type that would be expected to light a fire under this team. His personality is very much like's Joe's. If you fire Torre, why hire "Torre-Light"?

Girardi...Might be the best "long term" solution, but do you think putting him in there with the continued rotation injuries sets him up well to succeed? How many more wins do you think Girardi is worth over Torre?

Bowa....How long before a team made up primarily of veterans would tire of his act? He is in the perfect position right now: Coach under a level headed manager like Torre.

You guys are jumping off the ship like rats....I seem to remember an 11 and 19 start not too long ago that resulted in a division title.

Prof, you want to bring up an 18 year old kid in Tabata, and play him where? Right field? OK, so we are giving up on Abreu because he's in a little slump? Or maybe you want to cut Damon and put this kid in Centerfield at Yankee Stadium. Your are out-Stenbrennering Steinbrenner. Chase Wright? Did you SEE him pitch when he was up?

And how about we wait at least 24 hours after Minky hits a home run to send him to Scranton, OK?

I'm preaching patience here. The Red-Sox are overachieving (won't last) and we've seen slow starts by the Yankees before. I'll make you guys a deal...if the Yankees go two times through the rotation when they are full strength and we don't see significant improvement, I'll jump on your Fire Joe bandwagon IF you guys get off his back until then.

Do you guys actually blame Torre for the batting slumps of Abreu, Damon and Matsui and for the injuries to the starters or are you looking to make a change for change sake? I'm convinced that there is no manager on the face of the Earth who would have the Yankees at a better record considering the circumstances. Keep the faith Chicken Littles...the sky aint fallin'.

Anonymous said...

Scoot - read closer - I did not call for the release of Torre - I'm simply stating that all options should be on the table becaue the 2007 status quo is not acceptable. We're 23 games into a 160 season. What would be the acceptable amount of time pass before you decide a change is necesary?
- your sales manager hypo, as a manager of people you should always have replacements in the pipeline in the event you lose your guys. In the Yankees case, those that they had in the pipe haven't exactly performed very well when called upon (Rassner, Karstens, Cabrera). So, maybe bring someone in a person who will - so that I think falls on the GM more than Torre.

Would you agree regardless of who is on the field that there is a lack of fire?
Mid

old professor said...

Scooter,

Girardi may be the long-term solution. He has one big advantage over Torre and that is he seems to understand pitching. For some reason, Torre never seemed comfortable managing pitchers. Maybe because for a time in his career he played third base.

No one can take away from him what he did with the Yankees from 1996-2000. But at some point players and their attitudes change at which point there are only three choices: (a) bring in players that conform to the manager's style, (b) the manager changes to meet the times or (c)Leave the game.

As for the general manager, Cashman has acknowledged he should take the blame for the team on the field. The GM doesn't make the moves or fills out the game card, the manager does.

The moves Torre has made this season begs the question if he is out of touch. He continually pulls his starting pitchers early and wonders why the pen is tired, he also tends to go to the same pitchers over and over again. Proctor is a perfect example and so is Vizciano.

On Sunday, he went with Henn for 1/3 of an inning and Bruney for 2/3s of an inning. Why not leave Henn in or let Bruney finish the game. Nope, he has to bring in Vizciano to pitch the ninth. Nine straight games with five pitchers used - ludicrous.

As for Tabata, I believe in an earlier blog you (it may have been mid-relief) that mentioned when Abreu departs Tabata will be the heir apparent and is the next big name five tool player. If that is true, bring him in now. Abreu was a good add to the team, but seems to be somewhere else at times. He has dropped fly balls in the outfield and just ended an 0-20 streak.

Damon has good speed and can be an offensive asset when he is healthy. Bad back and neck issues have his batting average at .229. His arm in center won't make people forget Bernie Williams any time soon.

As for Minky, his batting average speaks for itself as does not playing the line in the 8th inning allowing for Crisp to get a triple in Boston.

Boston is for real (it pains me to say that since I have been a Yankee fan since 1956 - also the year of the best Ford T-bird). Their first four starters are better than anyone else's top four and they eat innings. This allows what has been perceived as their weakness - the bullpen- not to be on the field.

Why is it that many of the pitchers the Yankees have faced this year are already throwing over 100 pitches in a game while the Yankee pitchers are throwing between 75 to 85.

57 said...

Mattingly has never managed a pitching staff. Don't expect miracles if he's the manager.

Anonymous said...

I think the Yanks should consider signing Robert Horry - the man is money in the bank in the playoffs - very Yankee-like even if its not the same sport.

The Scooter said...

Mid, I agree with your contention that Cashman has done a poor job by not accounting for the very real possibility that his solid but aging starting rotation was bound to face injuries.

And as for how many games must pass before a change is acceptable: I don't think you can measure it in number of games. I think it needs to be measured in number of games where you are able to throw a quality Major League starter out on the mound. Like I said, let's talk more about it after they can get through two turns in the rotation when everyone is healthy.

Prof, I agree that Torre's weakness throughout his managerial career has been his handling of pitchers. Thankfully he had Mel Stotts around to help him with that during most of the ten years of his successful rein. I think its much easier to handle pitchers when you have quality arms to chose from and especially when you are getting some length from the starters.

To me, the bottom line is that Cashman has done a horrible job during his tenure with the pitchers he has brought in. Some of it turned out to be just plain bad luck, but some of it borders on incompetence.


Total Busts:
Kevin Brown
Vasques
Weaver
Karsay
Dotel
Farnsworth
Pavano
I could add Randy Johnson to the list, but it's hard to call someone who won 34 games (or thereabouts) in two years with the team a TOTAL bust, but we can agree that it didn't work out.

Am I missing any? Mike Myers, maybe?

It's a long and ugly list.

57....Go back to the Mets board, Ketchup Boy.

old professor said...

It is amazing when you look at the list of pitchers the Yankees have brought in to "bolster a staff" and they have all failed. Vasquez has turned his career around, the rest have never recovered from their time in NY.

It may be the tough mental aspect of coming to NY has finally settled in with free agents and is making it tougher for the Yankees to get quality people.

With the Yankees in the basement, I cannot see the Rocket coming back to play for them. There is a problem in itself - looking to a 45 years old pitcher to be a savior for the a staff - sad commentary.

You have to hope that the young arms brought in through trades this past winter will eventually be able to pitch in NY.

The Yankees and Steinbrenner may actually regret pushing Mel out the door, but Guidry has not been that bad - Joe still makes the call.

The Scooter said...

I haven't thought of how the slow start will effect the "Clemens Factor". Prof, that is certainly one way to look at it.....but knowing Clemens ego, I'm thinking how he would LOVE to ride back into town as the Conquering Hero who along with his trusty sidekick Andy brings the glory back to the Bronx.

Anonymous said...

You think Farnsworth is a bust?? did not realize his numbers were that bad -

Give Farnsworth and Melkey to Houston for Lidge

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