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Posts Tagged ‘Sergio Mitre’

Still wondering why Sergio Mitre is on the team? We may have found an answer.

From New York Magazine Sports:

The Wall Street Journal today published a survey of eighteen Yankees, in which they asked the players questions like “Who would score the best on Jeopardy?” (Mark Teixeira got the most votes), and “Who would be the toughest to beat in arm wrestling?” (Bartolo Colon won that one). But perhaps the biggest surprise was this: When asked “Who would you most want on your side in a brawl?” the players overwhelmingly picked reliever Sergio Mitre, whom the Yankees traded to Milwaukee during Spring Training and then reaquired last month after the Brewers designated him for assignment. Apparently, Mitre is well trained, should shit go down: “Long story short, I grew up fighting,” he told the paper of his childhood in Tijuana. “My dad got tired of me coming home, shirt ripped, always bloody. So he put me into martial arts — Chinese Kempo, boxing, wrestling. I have a full, well-rounded education.” That said, Mitre hasn’t been in a fight since high school and has never gotten to run in from the bullpen during a brawl. (Mitre actually started the game against Toronto in 2009 in which the Yanks and Jays fought, but he’d been lifted from the game innings earlier.)

As we just saw this man serve up a run to the Toronto Blue Jays in the 8th inning (making the score 7-1),  he has made everyone aware that “The Experience” is still in effect. We might be waiting for a fight that may never happen, and for all we know..he could have beaten up some whimpy kid in his high school days.

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Today has been quite a busy one for Yankees GM Brian Cashman. And he seems to have put an end to all of the questions about the make-up of the pitching staff come opening day.

What it will look like on May 1, though, is anyone’s guess.

The day started with Cashman signing Kevin Millwood to a minor league deal. You may remember Millwood from his days as the supposed ace of the Rangers and Orioles staffs. The fact that he was still available, less than a week before the season opens, tells you all you need to know about baseball’s collective belief in his ability. I even posted a comment on MLBtraderumors.com about how Scranton looked to have some interesting games this year, with Millwood and Kei Igawa being in the same rotation. It’s not a terrible move, since it gave the Yanks plenty of starting depth – even if said depth consists of old retreads.

Then Cashman went one up on himself, trading Sergio Mitre to the Brewers for yet another all field, no-hit minor league outfielder. In so doing, he spared us another season of ragged nails caused by the Experience, as now Milwaukee gets to entertain themselves watching one moon shot after another. Call it addition by subtraction. At least Mitre leaves with a world series ring, something the Brewers kids can oooh and ahhhh over.

All in all, in an interesting and productive day. It seems likely that Bartolo Colon is the 5th starter and Freddy Garcia the swingman, at least for now. If either of them blow up, there’s Millwood in the minors. Whether all of this makes the Yanks better than they were last week remains to be seen, but it could all hinge on what your definition of better is.

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Andy speaks to reporters / Courtesy NY Times

For some reason, a large number of Yankee fans were surprised by the news that Andy Pettitte decided to call it a career. Mr. Mailbag’s inbox is overflowing with questions; I figured this is as good a time to answer them as any.

Dr. Mr. Mailbag,

Since Andy isn’t returning this year, does this mean the Yankees season is doomed?

Sincerely, Afraid

Well, afraid…in a word, no. Even if everything stands pat, the current rotation isn’t as bad as everyone seems to think. The line-up should be actually be better than last year’s. Boston did improve their team, but Tampa Bay is much worse. And if we’ve learned one thing about the Yankees in the Steinbrenner era, the Yankees won’t stand pat if the team needs something come mid-season. Barring a sudden surge by a surprise team, the Yankees should wind up in the playoffs in 2011.

Mr. Mailbag:

How can I live without Andy? The Yankees just won’t be the same without him!

-Crying in my pillow

Well, Crying, you’re not alone. I’ve seen a lot of these in the last 24 hours. I understand that to a certain generation of Yankees fans – pretty much those under the age of 30 – Andy is the starting pitcher of record. But you should understand that what makes the Yankees the most successful franchise in sports history is the way this team replaces great players with other great players. If you’re of the current generation, you probably find it hard to understand how fans of my generation can hold such high regard for Thurman Munson or Chris Chambliss. (To me, Chambliss’ homer in the ’76 ALCS is still the most thrilling Pinstripe moment I’ve ever witnessed). For fans of my father’s generation, it was Mickey Mantle. And on through time it goes, back for 90 years, to the time of the Babe and Lou. There’s a crop of talented players making their way up from the minors now; guys named Betances, Banuelos, Brackman, Montero, and a whole bunch more. Andy Pettitte can’t necessarily be replaced anymore than Munson could. But other great players will come along who will carve out their own dynasties. It’s the Yankee way.

Dear Mr. Mailbag,

How many ballots will it take for Andy Pettitte to get into the Hall of Fame? If it takes more than one, It’s a damn shame!

-A Yankee in Texas

Well, Texas… I hate to break it to you, but Andy probably isn’t getting into the Hall of Fame. He has a borderline case: in his favor, he did finish his career 102 games over .500; right now, only one other pitcher with a similar number isn’t enshrined (oddly, former teammate Mike Mussina). But when compared to the other pitchers of his era; well, his numbers don’t particularly stack up well. His career ERA is higher than that of non-HOF candidates like Kevin Brown, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Al Leiter. If anything, Andy should root really, really hard for Mike Mussina to get a HOF nod – because their final career numbers are eerily similar. In fact, Mussina’s are better than Pettitte’s (higer ERA+, more strikeouts, wins, complete games, higher winning percentage and lower OPS allowed), so you can bet if Mussina doesn’t get in, Pettitte won’t. Plus, Pettitte has the whole PED’s issue hanging over his career. I don’t think in the grand scheme of things it will make a huge difference, but if he’s close and that negatively influences a couple of voters…well, you get the idea.

Dear Mr. Mailbag,

When are the Yankees going to retire #46?

-A Huge Andy Fan

Um, Probably never. Was Andy an important cog in the past 5 championships? Yes. Does that mean he’ll get his number retired? No. Consider how many players from the 90’s dynasty have their numbers hanging on the outfield wall. Bernie Williams? Tino Martinez? David Cone? Paul O’Neill? Each was as integral to those championships as Pettitte; each as beloved in the Bronx as Andy – and none has their number retired. I strongly suspect that unless a player winds up in the Hall of Fame, their number will remain in circulation.

Mr. Mailbag,

Why did Andy Pettitte retire? The Yankees need him!

-Alarmed in the Bronx

Well, alarmed, as Andy said this morning, his heart just isn’t in it anymore. If you’ve watched Andy pitch over the past 5 years, then you know he’s gotten by mostly on heart. His once overpowering cut fastball doesn’t have the life it once did and neither do his secondary pitches. Perhaps more importantly for an athlete his age, he doesn’t have the drive to overcome injury – and a 38 year old pitcher is likely to step out on the mound with a nagging injury as not. Given his current state of mind, he’s making the right decision. Based on physical ability, he’s probably still better than Sergio Mitre. But without that competitive fire, Andy Pettitte would finish his career reminding Yankee fans why we hated Kevin Brown.

That’s it for now. These are representative of the most common questions I’ve seen. Somehow, I’m sure there will be more over the weekend, so stay tuned! Oh, and if you have one, feel free to shoot it out to me at Twitter or Facebook!


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Garcia tosses a pitch against the Yankees

Well, maybe not. It was widely reported last night that the Yankees inked Freddie Garcia to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, pending a physical. Assuming Garcia passes and earns a spot on the team, the contract is rumored to be worth as much as $5.1M, with incentives. He had a similar opportunity with the Mets in 2009 and didn’t cash in,  but it turns out he was injured then.

Garcia isn’t as terrible a pickup as some have complained, particularly on a minor league deal. Like every starting pitcher still currently available, his career has basically been that of a middle-of-the-rotation guy coming off injuries. He did make 28 starts for the White Sox last year, but that was more than he made in the previous 3 seasons combined. He wasn’t terrible; he wasn’t great. He did allow a .293 average on balls in play and only struck out 15.5% of the batters he faced, which means he wasn’t fooling too many hitters. But he also figured out ways to limit the damage, going at least 6 innings in 22 of his starts.

The real point of this signing is trying to build up some depth for the back-end of the rotation. Expect Garcia to compete with Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, Sergio Mitre and possibly rookie Hector Noesi for one of the two remaining spots in the starting rotation. (Unless Mitre turns in a lights-out performance this spring, expect him to wind up in the bullpen – but more on that later.) In that context, it’s another low-risk, high-reward move that might actually help the Yanks in 2011.

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With the recent acquisition of Rafael Soriano, the seemingly ageless question of whether Joba Chamberlain should be moved back into the starting rotation has resurfaced. It’s a question that has plagued the Yankees ever since Joba exploded on the scene as Mariano’s set-up man in the second half of the 2007 season.

Really, nobody thought the question would be a topic of discussion heading into this season. Joba was given a shot at the #5 spot last spring and lost to Phil Hughes. Going into this offseason, he seemed destined to be given a legitimate chance at earning the 8th inning role, despite his erratic pitching in 2010. After all, the Yankees were the consensus pick to land Cliff LeeAndy Pettitte wasn’t supposed to semi-retire. There wasn’t any room for Joba in the rotation and 8th inning duties looked to be a battle between him and David Robertson.

My, what a difference a few months and one type A free agent signing can bring. Now the 8th inning role is filled and the 7th inning features Joba, Robertson, Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano, while the rotation features world-beaters Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Given the way the pitching staff has suddenly been reshuffled, it’s no wonder the question of Joba’s proper role has resurfaced.

There are plenty of statistical reasons for making Joba a starter again. Mike Axisa of RAB has the usual arguments listed here. There’s also another reason moving Joba to the rotation makes sense: as currently constucted, the ‘pen doesn’t have a long man – the guy you bring in when the starter blows up in the 3rd or 4th inning. Last year, that role was filled by Mitre and Chad Gaudin. The rotation as currently set, with three guys who have a history of falling apart early in starts (not only Nova and Mitre, but the volatile and erratic AJ Burnett), that role looks to be more important than ever this year. After all, the back end of the pen is solid. The middle looks solid – but all six of the guys the team is counting on will wilt in the second half if they’re logging 1/2 of the teams innings.

The argument against Joba starting boils down to two problems: first, how healthy is his shoulder? Second, will he ever display the consistency to be effective over 7+ innings every five days – or is he more of an AJ-lite?

As to the question of health, we’ll never know unless Joba is returned to the rotation, it seems. Last year, his average fastball clocked in around 94-95mph, ending a three year decline in velocity. But, Joba also threw fewer pitches than in any full-season – 30% fewer. Was the increased velocity the result of a lighter workload not taxing that injured shoulder? If returned to the rotation, how will tripling his pitch count affect his velocity and control? (Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs)

The maturity question is another one that’s hard to gauge at this point. If it’s true that being bounced around from one role to another makes a pitcher great, then Joba should be ready to become the next Bob Gibson. But all the evidence thus far points to pitcher who has difficulty controlling his emotions, which is the principle reason he was relegated to the pen in the first place.

Of course, the Yankees could sign a back-of-the-rotation type over the next 4 weeks (Justin Duchsherer, perhaps?), relegating Mitre back to the pen or Nova back to the minors and rendering the whole question moot.

For now.

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31 days until pitchers and catchers report, and Andy Pettitte has yet to decide whether he wants to pitch in 2011. He announced he may sort of, maybe, pitch for half of 2011. In my humble effort to help the Yankees’ 3rd winningest pitcher of all-time make up his mind, I offer 5 reasons he should stop hanging out in his pj’s and get on a plane to Tampa.

  1. You stand to make one final, massive payday. If reports are true, the Yanks had penciled in $22 million for Cliff Lee. We all know that Lee walked away from that and headed to the land of cheese steaks instead, and the Yanks haven’t even begun to spend any of that money. My guess is you can safely tell Cashman & Company to fork over $17 million or so for one final season.
  2. New York loves a winner. There’s absolutely no way coming back can ruin your career reputation. If the team stays in contention, you’ll be the man who saved the season in many eyes. If the team falters and you have a great season, you’ll get to retire with your adoring fans thanking you for one final hurrah. Even if everything goes horribly wrong (team misses playoffs and you don’t play particularly well), everyone will remember you as a great pitcher who came back one final time and gave it your all, but couldn’t outrun Father Time any more.
  3. The Yankees need you! This might be stating the obvious, but they really do. Right now, the rotation projects to CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. It may not be the worst rotation in history, but it certainly comes close. Injecting an Andy Pettitte gives the Yankees two proven starters and gets Mitre back into the bullpen.
  4. Solidify those HOF credentials. Your regular season numbers are probably close to being good enough to getting you into the Hall of Fame, and your post-season pitching should get you over the top (hey, you’re mentioned in the same breath with Whitey Ford and Catfish Hunter when it comes to big game pitching!). But another 15 regular season wins and you’ll pass Herb Pennock, Amos Rusie, Joe McGinty, Vic WillisJuan Marichal, Carl Hubbell, and Bob Gibson – all of whom are already enshrined. Another 150 strikeouts gets you past Marichal, Early Wynn, Rube WaddellRobin Roberts and Sandy Koufax. I know you’ve never been the type to worry about how baseball history views you, but a plaque in Cooperstown is a fitting way to cap off a great career.
  5. Nobody wants their last year to be an injury plagued one. If 2010 is your final season, I can’t imagine it’s the way you envisioned closing your career. Spending 2 1/2 months on the DL and then still not healthy enough to pitch at 100% in the playoffs. (Although, that 80% you gave us was better than the other 3 starters combined). Come on back and show everyone what Andy Pettitte at 100% for a full season can do.

Well, there you go. Just let me know when to send the limo around for you – I’ve got the jet all warmed up and the auto-pilot set for Yankee Stadium.

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According to Brian Cashman, Andy Pettitte will not be playing baseball at the start of the 2011 baseball season. That is not to say he won’t be playing at all.

“I don’t think he’s determined if he’s officially finished or not, but he’s chosen at this stage at least not to start in 2011,” Cashman said Wednesday at the baseball owners’ quarterly meetings in Arizona. “If that ever changes he’ll call us. We’re not going to hound him or bother him.”

“Andy’s been very communicative on these issues and right now he’s not in play, and if he does decide to play he’ll play for us,” Cashman said. “He’s a Yankee from start to finish.”

This doesn’t come as a shock, because it was already stated that Andy was behind schedule with his pre-season preperations. If Andy chooses to return, it could be a mid-season return like Roger Clemens did a few years back. This is not exactly the type of news fans want to hear right now, as Sergio Mitre and Ivana Nova currently anchor the back end of the roation.

Update: 9:53PM ET: (Via The LoHud Yankees Blog):

Just got off the phone with Brian Cashman who said The Daily News story about Andy Pettitte’s decision is not accurate.” It’s a misunderstanding,” Cashman said.

This was Cashman’s quote, as relayed by The Daily News: “I don’t think he’s determined if he’s officially finished or not, but he’s chosen at this stage at least not to start in 2011.”

Cashman said you could basically substitute the word “pitch” for the word “start.” What Cashman meant was, at this stage, Pettitte is choosing not to pitch in 2011, but the Yankees are — as they’ve been all winter — waiting for Pettitte to let them know something official. He’s leaning toward retirement, and he’ll let them know if that situation changes.

“Nothing new or different,” Cashman said. “Exactly what I’ve been saying for the past month or two months.”

So much for that….

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Third in a series

Ask anyone who knows the great game of baseball, and they’ll tell you the same thing: to win, you need pitching. To win it all, you need even better pitching. Any discussion of where things went wrong in 2010 has to begin with a serious discussion of the ultimate failure of the Yankee pitching staff. Injuries played a part, but the return of Javier Vazquez was underwhelming, AJ Burnett had his worst season ever and the bullpen never seemed to mesh until the Kerry Wood acquisition. The staff needs an overhaul, not a tweak, if the Yankees are to return to the World Series next year. So, who’s in and who’s out for 2011? (Highlighted players below don’t figure to return in 2011)

Under Contract (5):

CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Alfredo Aceves, David Robertson, Jonathon Albaladejo

Arbitration Eligible (6):

Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, Dustin Moseley

Free Agents (5):

Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera, Javier Vazquez, Royce Ring, Kerry Wood

Minor Leaguers on 40 man roster (5):

Andrew Brackman, Steve Garrison, Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, Romulo Sanchez

As things stand now, only five players have contracts for next year, and Aceves hasn’t pitched since May because of a bothersome back. Counting on his return is iffy at best and although he was extremely effective in 2009, there is no guarantee he will be ready or effective in 2011. As we dig into the scenarios below, new players are noted by an (*).

Starting Rotation:Projected

1. CC Sabathia

2. Cliff Lee*

3. Phil Hughes

4. Andy Pettite

5. AJ Burnett

Right now, the Yankees return two starters from the 2010 team; Sabathia and Burnett. Hughes is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, but also figures to return. The key to the 2011 rotation is Pettite, who is contemplating retirement. If he returns for another campaign, the Yankees are reasonably set, only needing one more piece – which figures to come from the free agent market. The obvious target is Cliff Lee, who would team with Sabathia to give the Yanks an awesome 1-2 punch atop the rotation. In that scenario, Burnett slides into the 5 spot (based on his erratic performance, where would you put him?), with Hughes 3 and Pettite 4. If Pettite retires, then the team is in a bind. Jorge de la Rosa (8-7, 4.22 for the Rockies) is an interesting option, in that he’s always been a high strike out guy, with decent peripherals and is left handed. Oh, and he figures to be fairly inexpensive. Another option is the well-traveled Ted Lilly. There are also minor league players who might do, led by Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi. Nova had an extended cup of coffee during Pettite’s injury time in 2010. While he impressed in spurts, he tended to get hit hard his second time through a line-up and at this point might project to fill more of a swingman role, taking the place of Sergio Mitre and Chad Guadin. As far as Javier Vazquez is concerned, I’m sure the Yankees will wish him well as the door is slamming behind him.

Bullpen:Projected

CL Mariano Rivera

RH Joba Chamberlain

RH David Robertson

LH Boone Logan

LH Scott Downs*

SW Ivan Nova

Like the starting rotation, the bullpen hinges on a Core Four member’s off-season free agency decision. Unlike Pettite, who is a 50/50 shot to retire, pretty much everyone expects Mariano Rivera to come back and anchor the pen. Expect Joba Chamberlain, coming into his first year of arbitration eligibility to be back and once again vie for the 8th inning job. If he doesn’t secure it, Joba becomes trade-bait for 2011. Robertson and Logan were wild at times, but both pitched well enough to be invited back this year. The intriguing questions come in the last two spots. Joe Girardi is known to covet left-handed relievers (why else take a chance on Royce Ring?!?), and one of the best in baseball hits the free agent market this year. He’ll be expensive, but expect the Yankees to make a major push for Scott Downs (5-5, 2.64). Finally, the Yankees have a cheaper option for the swingman role in Nova, who can fill the role. Expect Mitre to get a spring training invite if nobody else signs him, but not at his 2010 salary. And only because Girardi has some kind of love affair with the guy, going back to their days in Florida, not based on ability. Wood would be a great addition, were he to return in the 8th inning spot, but the reality is he still wants to close – and he will want closer type money this offseason. There is also the question of what to do with Jonathon Albaladejo, who looks like a classic AAAA pitcher: unhittable at AAA, but eminently more so in the majors.

On a final note, there’s been a lot of talk recently about a Joba & <insert Minor League Prospect> for Zach Greinke trade. I really hope the Yankees aren’t tempted by the idea. Greinke is a nice kid with excellent stuff. But he has emotional and confidence issues pitching for the Royals. New York would tear the kid up within a month, and the Yanks would be stuck with another Ed Whitson for the next two years – and $27 million.

Name Age 2010 Salary 2011 Contract
Alfredo Aceves

28

$ 435,650.00 $ 436,000.00
A.J. Burnett

34

$ 16,500,000.00 $ 16,500,000.00
CC Sabathia

30

$ 24,285,714.00 $ 23,000,000.00
Jonathan Albaladejo

28

$ 403,075.00 Under team control
David Robertson

26

$ 426,650.00 Under team control
Dustin Moseley

29

$ 235,000.00 Arbitration Eligible
Boone Logan

26

$ 405,000.00 Arbitration Eligible
Phil Hughes

24

$ 447,000.00 Arbitration Eligible
Joba Chamberlain

25

$ 487,975.00 Arbitration Eligible
Chad Gaudin

28

$ 737,500.00 Arbitration Eligible
Sergio Mitre

30

$ 850,000.00 Arbitration Eligible
Kerry Wood

33

$ 10,500,000.00 Free Agent
Javier Vazquez

34

$ 11,500,000.00 Free Agent
Andy Pettitte

38

$ 11,750,000.00 Free Agent
Mariano Rivera

41

$ 15,000,000.00 Free Agent
Royce Ring

30

Unknown Free Agent
Potential Free Agent Signings
Jason Frasor

32

$ 2,650,000.00 Free Agent
Scott Downs

34

$ 4,000,000.00 Free Agent
Jorge de la Rosa

29

$ 5,600,000.00 Free Agent
Cliff Lee

32

$ 9,000,000.00 Free Agent
Ted Lilly

34

$ 13,000,000.00 Free Agent
Potential Trade Targets
Zack Greinke (KC)

26

$ 7,250,000.00 $ 13,500,000.00

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NEW YORK- SEPTEMBER 23: CC Sabathia

…anybody’s guess at this point. There are plenty of options available, but none of them really good options. Here’s aquick rundown:

1. CC Sabathia: Yes, it would mean the big guy would be going on short rest. There’s a good chance CC needs a breather, since he certainly hasn’t looked like a 20 game winner over his three previous starts (1-2, 5.19 ERA) going into last night. But when looking at the rest of the list, he may be the Yankees best option.

2. AJ Burnett: The Yankees aren’t paying him nearly $83 million to  be a long reliever. But then, I doubt they paid him that kind of cash to post a 10-15 record with an ERA north of 5 this season, either. Simply put, with AJ it’s a crapshoot. If he gets the nod in game 4, the long relief better start getting warmed up in the first inning. Or we may be treated to the second ever post-season no-hitter. Who knows?

3. Ivan Nova: Start a rookie with 7 major league starts in the playoffs, in what might be the most crucial game of the year? Yikes. If the team is up 3-0 against their opponent, maybe. But Nova has had trouble getting out of the fifth inning, making him ideally suited to a long-relief role.

4. Javier Vazquez: 2004. Dead arm. Hit three consecutive batters in his last appearance. Quite frankly, if he’s even on the post-season roster I’ll be amazed. But such is the state of the rotation that the Yankee brass has to at least consider it.

5. Dustin Moseley: Moseley has playoff experience. Ok, it was one inning in the 2007 ALDS for the Angels. But he hasn’t been awful since getting called up in July, which is saying a lot when compared to options 2 & 4.

6. Sergio Mitre: Joe Girardi seems to have a soft spot for Mitre; otherwise, how to explain his being on the team? If he gets the start in game 4 it means the Yankees are making plans to attend Oktoberfest, not the World Series.

So, what do you think? Should the game 4 starter be one of the above, or someone else?

Oh – and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for great in game commentary!

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As we prepare for tonight’s tilt with the Rays, there are numerous questions surrounding the Yankees. Will Andy Pettites groin be fully healed before the playoffs? Will Phil Hughesinnings limit result in him being ineffective? Who will be the fourth starter? Will the offense ever remember how to hit? Can Derek Jeter regain the form that made him a Yankee icon?

But the biggest question of all has to be this: Why is Joe Girardi still the manager?

Yes, I realize Girardi was the manager last year for #27. But many observers, myself included, felt the team won despite his managerial hijinx, not because of them. And the job he’s done this year – well, this current road trip pretty much sums up his season.

A manager’s job is two-fold: one, to put his players in the best position to do their job; and two, to motivate and inspire his squad to shine. Girardi consistently fails to do either. He insists on putting in line-ups where there are as many reserves as regulars. (How else do you explain bench players accounting for 21% of the teams plate appearances this season?). Quite frankly, I’m getting tired of seeing a bottom of the order consisting of Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli. (That particular duo has started together an incredible 15 times this season – better than 10% of the season). It’s nothing against either of those guys, but this is supposed to be the Yankees, not the Orioles. Or the Cubs.

Girardi over-relies on the bullpen; the Yankees only have 3 complete games as a staff – 11th best in the AL. Don’t forget; this is the same guy who was run out of the Marlins clubhouse largely because he burned his bullpen so badly in 2006, they fell out of contention. It makes you wonder if Alfredo Aceves‘ workload contributed to his (possibly career-threatening) injury.

He also rubbed that clubhouse the wrong way, as the players simply got tired of his act. I doubt we’ll ever hear anyone on this team complain about the skipper – they’re all too professional for it – but I defy anyone to tell me this team actually wants to win for Girardi. To be blunt, lately the Yankees look as though they would rather be taking a nap than playing baseball. That type of lethargy is direct reflection on Girardi’s leadership -or lack thereof.

Last night’s game – with the odd bullpen choices (Kerry Wood and Boone Logan combined to throw fewer pitches in 1 1/3 innings than Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre did in 2/3 of an inning), lackadaisical hitting, base running blunders – was a microcosm of the season thus far. Lost in all the noise about the bullpen maneuvering and Brett Gardner’s inexplicable attempted steal of third were two other moves that make absolutely no sense. In the 5th, Jorge Posada was caught stealing. On a straight steal. With two out. Later, in the 11th, after Austin Kearns led off with a sharp single, Girardi had Curtis Granderson bunt. If you have the heart of the order coming up, that makes sense. But not when the next hitter is Colin Curtis.

I’m sure the infamous binder had all kinds of percentages for each of the weird moves we saw. But games aren’t won in a computer model; they’re won by players on the field. Speaking of computer models, the Pythagorean prediction says the Yankees should be 89-55 or two games better than they’ve played. Why do you suppose that is?

Managers can rarely win a game. But when they insist on managing like the league idiot, they can certainly lose them. For that reason, Joe Must Go.

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In an earlier post, I discussed Javier Vazquez‘s recent ineffectiveness and his “dead arm.” I postulated the idea that this is the perfect opportunity to skip him once or twice through the rotation, see if his arm strength returns in September and take it from there. I fretted about the cumulative effect of having an ineffective Vazquez, an inconsistent AJ Burnett and Phil Hughes’ innings limit will have on the team as a whole and on the bullpen in particular.

If you watched last night’s game, you saw everything I’m worried about in a nutshell.

I realize the offense was pathetic and if the team had hit – even just a little bit – they likely win that game. I realize, too, that mid-August is not the time for a team-wide slump (but anytime your line-up includes Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner you’re not likely to see much offense, anyway). And I know Joe Girardi publicly blasted the team for the overall horrible way they played yesterday. But let’s have a reality check here: Javy’s performance last was the epitome of “it’s better to be lucky than good.” He pitched with men on base throughout his four innings of work and every ball the Tigers hit seemed to leave a vapor trail. Once again, his average fastball clocked in at 87mph – below his season average of 89mph and more than 4mph below his career average.

At this point, the question isn’t if Javy can be effective pitching without velocity. The answer is patently obvious – he can’t. The question now is, what do the Yankees do about it? I can’t see them throwing him out there again without having Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre warmed and ready to go in the first inning. Much as the Mets found themselves doing earlier this season with John Maine, it may be time for the Yanks to tell Javy he’s hurt and DL him. Even though you might think that Vazquez would let somebody know if he’s hurt, this is a guy with a track record for hiding injuries. The last time he was in pinstripes, much the same thing happened – and it can be argued that it cost the team a chance to repeat as AL Champions that year. And this year, facing free agency at the end of the season, Vazquez has even more reason to hide an injury – even if it costs the team a chance to defend their World Championship. As bad as he’s been lately, he still has a chance at a decent contract with a 2nd division team. But nobody will give a 35 year old pitcher coming off an injury much in the way of a contract – a fact Vazquez has to be aware of.

Regardless of his health, the team simply cannot let him pitch until they know he can be effective. The race is too tight to let the bullpen eat up this many innings on a nightly basis. If they aren’t going to DL him and bring up a serviceable starter in his stead, then the least they can do is skip his next turn or two and let Mitre or Gaudin take the turn. While they’re not exactly world-beaters (there IS a reason they’re in the bullpen, after all), it would give Vazquez a chance to rest his arm and the Yankees a chance to see if he can be counted on for the stretch run.

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Andrew Marchand reports that Javier Vazquez has a dead arm. If true, it certainly helps explain why Javy reverted to his 2nd half of 2004 form on Friday night, when a depleted Red Sox lineup used him as their personal pinata.

As Yankee fans remember (only all too well) it was a sore-armed Vazquez who imploded late in the 2004 season, capped by an epic grand slam allowed to Johnny Damon in game seven of that year’s ALCS. The implications for this year’s team could be no less dire. Phil Hughes is quickly approaching his innings limit for the season. If Vazquez remains ineffective and AJ Burnett remains inconsistent, that leaves the Yankees with only two starters they can remain confident in, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettite. And don’t forget, Pettite is battling an injury of his own. The confluence of events could see the team limping into the playoffs with an overworked bullpen and both Dustin Moseley and Sergio Mitre in the rotation.

Personally, if Vazquez is hurting, I’d rather see the team shut him down now for a start or two. Hopefully, he comes back form a brief rest throwing as well as he did in June. If he can’t, then at least it gives the Yankees time to try and figure out an alternative – rather than count on an ineffective pitcher in the stretch drive. The potential for completely screwing up the season that matters most, the one in October, is too great to risk in August.

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