Kneejerk Foment

[caption id="attachment_81089" align="aligncenter" width="525"]A-Rod K vs OAK When you strike out with the bases loaded during a brutal RISP slump. Courtesy of the AP[/caption] I fully realize that I am falling in Wallchand territory here but I can feel the angst and brine rising within me. You have been watching these games along with me, right? This version of the New York Yankees has been such a drag to watch. I know Stacey wasn't as impressed as I was, but Michael Kay's "Groundhog Day" line the other night just felt so right. Each game has bled into the next with the same ineptitude and similar losses. It is like going off Broadway and watching the same bad production for fourteen straight days.

My rational mind is shouting to my emotional Italian side chiding the latter with reminders of sample size and season length. In the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, my heart ain't gonna buy it. My inner Yankee is foaming at the mouth.

This is what my mind has watched thus far this season. I qualify this statement knowing full well that observations are faulty and I will look at some stats a little later:

  • It seems that every fat mistake pitch thrown by a Yankee pitcher gets hammered while the Yankees take such pitches for strikes when they are batting.
  • You can squeeze more appeal from our front-running presidential candidates easier than the Yankees can squeeze runs out of a potential rally.
  • I wish Aaron Hicks could hit so he could play the field every day.
  • How long do we wait out Alex Rodriguez before doing the Soriano-Jones?
  • The Yankees' offense is the easiest team to defense in the history of baseball.
  • Why does Mark Teixeira have to stink every April?
  • How many of you are like me and start to get afraid every time a Yankee starting pitcher starts a game with two or three scoreless innings?
  • I would take four errors a week from Rob Refsnyder over watching Chase Headley every night
  • Austin Romine is no John Ryan Murphy. But he is like a J.R. Murphy. Maybe he should insist on being called, "Austin Allen Romine."

Okay, somehow, I need to pull this rant out of the gutter of my mind and put some data in here to at least make it sound respectable. I know full well that this is a lost cause because any stats I cull will be cherry picking and a rant is what this is and there seems to be no turning back. But here goes a few cherry picks to at least make it look like I'm trying.

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On Joe's Need To Mend Fences With Jacoby Ellsbury

[caption id="attachment_78940" align="aligncenter" width="375"]Ellsbury WC Game Courtesy of the AP[/caption] It doesn't exist.

Sorry for the lack of intro, but I wanted to make sure I wrote this while it was still fresh in my head.  I saw that Joe addressed it at his end-of-year presser last Friday, and I've seen it mentioned a few other times around the blogosphere and Twitter, and I really don't get it.  Joe doesn't owe Jacoby Ellsbury anything.  Not an apology, not an explanation, not a phone call, nothing.

Joe did what he thought gave his team the best chance to win by sitting Ellsbury in the Wild Card game.  And he had every reason to do so given the way Ellsbury had hit in the second half and given Ellsbury's physical condition leading up to that game.  Those two things were linked in some capacity this year, as Ellsbury was clearly not the same player post-knee injury.  He and the team swore he was fine, but his contact rates, low slash line, and lack of steal attempts in the second half say otherwise.  He hit .202/.254/.246 in September and October, and then he apparently dinged up his back crashing into the wall late in the regular season.  Everybody mentioned that when talking about Ellsbury in the few days leading up to the game.  So if he's hurt and not performing, what's the big deal in him being out of the lineup?

If it's about the money, that's a somewhat valid argument to make.  It's not a good look for Ellsbury or the team to have the $153 million man riding the pine in a postseason game, especially after he put up the disappointing year he did in year 2 of a 7-year deal.  But this wasn't a 7, 5, or even 3-game series, it was 1 game.  In a 1-game situation like that all normal operating procedures go out the window.  It's about what gives the team the best chance to win that game.  That's why Rico Noel was on the roster, it's why Rob Refsnyder got the start after not being good enough to start over the first 150 games, it's why teams bring back pitchers on short rest for this game every year.

And in that respect, the money doesn't matter.  Salary doesn't trump winning in a 1-game playoff, and neither do feelings.  Winning matters.  Winning one baseball game to keep your season going.  That was the goal and Joe made what he thought were the best baseball decisions to help achieve that goal.  Based on what he had seen from Ellsbury leading up to the decision and what he knew about Ellsbury's physical condition, he made the call that he's paid to make and he doesn't have to apologize for that, to Ellsbury or anybody.  Ellsbury is paid a lot more than Joe to produce and he didn't do it this season.  That's why he was sitting on the bench in the WC game and I'm sure he knows that.  If he doesn't, and if he's still upset about the decision, then too bad.  Be better next year and maybe Joe won't be forced to make that call.

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Quick Hit: Will No Help Ever Come To Second Base?

While the slumps at the top of the batting order were largely to blame for last week's offensive power outage, it is worth looking down at the bottom and pointing out that second base has become a black hole again.  The Yankees did nothing to address the position before the trade deadline, seemingly viewing Dustin Ackley as more of a bench outfielder, and now they are reaping the rewards of that decision. Since the deadline, Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan have combined to go 5-28 with 9 strikeouts and 1 walk.  Only 2 hits have gone for extra bases and both of those came from Drew over a week ago.  In the games against Boston and Toronto, these 2 had 1 total hit.

At what point does that become unacceptable for the Yankees?  At what point is having an automatic out in the lineup every single day something that they're going to address?  It's great that they've been good enough everywhere else to ascend to the top of the division, but to still be sticking with these guys is insane.  It defies logic.  It's almost as if the team is using that favorable division position as justification for sticking with something that's clearly not working, and that would fly in the face of the always-stated commitment from ownership to putting a "championship-caliber" team on the field.

Not saying that there is a championship-caliber player to be had at second base right now, but there have to be better options than Drew and Ryan.  There are better options than Drew and Ryan.  If Rob Refsnyder can't get called back up now, when the hell can he?  The dude's prospect value is basically on life support at this point.  If Cole Figueroa can't get a look after a .312/.369/.393 year in Triple-A and a respectable cup of coffee earlier, then why was he brought in?

I'm not asking Cashman to perform a miracle and I certainly am not trying to imply that I want Chase Utley around.  I just want the braintrust to admit that this Drew plan hasn't worked out and pull the plug.  Do something to improve that situation and help the team.  They've won plenty in spite of the black hole at second base. Why not see what they can do with something different and potentially better?

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Quick hit: Is Gordon Edes kidding me right now?

Now, let me preface this mini rant with some information. I do not follow Gordon Edes on Twitter but someone I follow from the @IIATMS* account retweeted this into the timeline, I saw it in Tweetdeck and I had an interesting reaction to it. Here's the tweet in question:

My reaction was as follows:


No, really, is he serious? One pumped up reaction from CC Sabathia after a pretty hairy in-game scenario cancels out over a decade of David Ortiz posing like a statue every time he hits a home run? One reaction from Sabathia getting a big strikeout cancels out Ortiz taking three minutes to round the bases after those home runs? One measly fist pump/scream/roaring-like-a-lion incident cancels out everything Ortiz has done? Nope.

Bite me, Gordon Edes.

(Writer's note: I'm not really that angry but Mr. Edes does has balls the size of the moon if thinks Yankee fans shouldn't be annoyed at Ortiz being a douche all the time.)

*By the way, if you're not following our Twitter account, what is wrong with you? We post updates from the beat writers, live tweet some games and you can find all our articles there as well.

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Trying (And Failing) To Make Sense Of Ryan Over Refsnyder

This was supposed to be a long post analyzing the decision to send Rob Refsnyder down and keep Brendan Ryan up on the active roster.  I was going to try to be fair and rational and logical and come up with an explanation that made sense for the team and the players involved.  But after thinking about it for the last 18 hours or so, I can't do it.  I can't.  I really don't have the energy or the desire to try to rationalize this move, and after 18 hours I still can't figure out why the Yankees made it. No matter what way I try to look at the decision, it doesn't make sense to me.  Keeping Ryan over Refsnyder makes the team weaker and worse than it was before.  Refsnyder might not have the defensive flexibility that Ryan does, but he looked good enough at second base.  Wouldn't the team be better off with him at second and Stephen Drew on the bench as the utility infielder?  Drew can play second, short, and third base if he needed to, and he can occasionally run into a fastball and hit it over the fence.  Ryan doesn't offer that kind of power potential, and at this stage in his career is he really that "elite" of a defensive player anymore?  The small sample numbers don't say so, and yet here he is.

If there are trades in the works that involve Refsnyder, fine.  I don't have a problem if the Yankees trade him and bring in another, better player to be the everyday second baseman.  I'm way past the point of wanting to hold onto every single prospect just because they're prospects.  But I fail to see how this move helps build Refsnyder's trade value.  Even if he goes back down to Triple-A and tears it up like he was for the next few weeks, he's still going to be the player who essentially got sent down for Brendan Ryan.  The Yankees called him up, let him play 4 games, and then sent him down for Ryan.  What kind of message does that send to potential trade partners for Refsnyder?  "Hey, does anybody want a second baseman who wasn't good enough to stick with our team for a week?  Well, I mean, he IS good enough.  He's great.  He's a great, young ballplayer that we really like.  He just didn't have the flexibility we need right now."

To me, the best thing the Yankees could have done was keep Refsnyder up and let him continue to play.  If the goal is to move him as part of a package and showcase him as a potential starting second baseman, what better way to do that than by showcasing him as a starting second baseman?  Any team that has any interest in Refsnyder already knows what he can do in Triple-A, and there's nothing more he can do down there to convince teams to want him more.  If he hits a little over the next few weeks and continues to show that he can handle the position defensively, wouldn't that be a lot more helpful to the trade cause?

To say nothing of the help it would have provided to the winning baseball games cause, which the last time I checked was supposed to be the primary goal of a division-leading team in the middle of July.  Even based on the small sample size of minimal production in his 4-game cameo, any sane person has to think that Refsnyder is going to be a better offensive player than Ryan.  Him at second and Drew on the bench is a better combination than Drew at second and Ryan on the bench.  So at the end of the day, what we're talking about here is a decision by the Yankees to knowingly and willingly weaken their team for the time being.  That's not a decision that makes any sense if you're trying to win games.

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And the winner of the factually irresponsible Tanaka article of the year goes to...

...Kevin Kernan, for this stunning piece of overly-sensationalized, factually devoid, panic-pandering trash. In a season filled with back seat doctoring, Mr. Kernan has somehow leapt them all with this take. Let's feast on this buffet of goodness, shall we, with Mr. Kernan's opener:

This was the sound and the fury.

And the Yankees better take this warning to heart as the decline of Masahiro Tanaka continues.

" the decline of Masahiro Tanaka continues"? We've been through this before, with the second guessing of the doctors, but hey, facts don't seem to be a prerequisite for Mr. Kernan or The Post, who pays him to grind his pencil into the paper with a ferocity and anger which should be better applied to warcrimes.

Yes, our favorite elbow ligament surrounded by the body of Tanaka is a source of angst and nervousness for us all, but let's sneak a quick peek at his last three starts since returning from the DL:


That's right: Three starts, 1.71 ERA, a grand total of 4 earned runs over 21 innings (an even 7 IP/start). Strike out rate of 1 per inning with a WHIP of <1 per inning. How about a 21:0 K:BB ratio? And that game he lost, the last game prior to yesterday, was a 2-1 heartbreaker. Sure, small sample size warnings abound, but when facing off against a 1 game sample size that Mr. Kernan is thrashing, three games seems like a Library of Congress-level of "evidence".

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Quick Hit: Are The Yanks Going To Use A Sixth Starter Or Not?

With another "20 games in 20 days" stretch underway and a pitching staff that's a coin flip at best right now, the Yankees have reportedly been kicking around the idea of going with a 6-man rotation for a turn or 2 as a way to manage workloads and give everybody enough rest.  It's really not a bad idea and something Matt discussed on this very site last week.  All things considered, I could live with a 6-man rotation plan for the short term. What I can't live with, and what doesn't make me feel good about the possibility, is how the Yankees are going about it.  Or rather, how they're not going about it since there's no real plan in place.  Chad Jennings had a quote from Joe in his pregame notes yesterday, and what Joe had to say really didn't give me a warm, fuzzy feeling:

“We’re playing with some ideas, so I don’t have anything for you yet. Is there a possibility we’ll give everybody a sixth day? Yes. I just don’t have it. We haven’t come to a conclusion yet. We’re still talking about it because we still have time.”

Huh?  There's a possibility but you just don't have it?  You're "playing with some ideas"?  What the hell does that mean?  About the only thing in that statement that makes sense to me is the last part about still having time.  That's a statement of fact.  This weekend seems like the time frame being considered for inserting a 6th starter, so Joe is correct that he and whoever else is involved in making this decision do have some time to make it.

But if we're talking about this weekend, that's only a few days away.  To me, that's not the time to be playing with ideas and talking about them in vague half-statements.  That's the time to have the plan and the contingency plan in place so that all the players involved and affected can start preparing.  Adding a 6th starter shouldn't be something you sleep on Friday night and then wake up Saturday and do.  It's something that needs to be planned out and thought through, and the way Joe talks about the decision-making process doesn't paint that picture.  It calls back to some of the shortsighted roster decisions that have hampered the team over the past few seasons.

Of course, this could very well be the Yankees playing coy and not wanting to tip their hand, and that's fine.  I'm sure I'm just over-thinking it from my armchair and reading too deeply into things that aren't there.  But on the off-chance I'm not and this is really where the Yankees are at in their plan to implement a 6th starter, that would be very disconcerting.

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On Using These Off-Days To Plan For The Near Future And Improve The Roster

The Yankees had their first scheduled off-day since April 30th yesterday, and it couldn't have come at a better time.  At the end of a stretch that saw them play 30 games in 31 days, they were playing baseball like a tired team that needed a rest.  The bats had gone cold, the bullpen had been worked hard, and there wasn't much energy to their losses during their 1-5 week last week.  Despite that long stretch and rough finish, they still wake up today in first place in the division, with a respectably positive run differential (+15), and with another scheduled off-day on the horizon before they head home for the weekend. The Yankees are still in a good spot, and they're going to hopefully get some more pitching help back in the weeks to come.  I'm confident that 2 days off this week will help bring some life back to those old legs and cold bats.  But to make the most out of this now friendly off-day schedule, I think the Yankees need to do more than rest.  They need to take an honest look at this team and start making plans to improve it.

And I'm not talking about the trade deadline.  That's its own separate thing that is still a while away from becoming a real factor.  I'm simply talking about making changes with the guys they already have that can give the team a better chance to win.  We're basically at the quarter pole of the season right now.  The sample sizes are big enough to tell us who's really getting it done and who isn't.  The Yankees have fallen victim to holding onto guys for way too long the last few years.  They can't make that same mistake this year.

Everybody knows who I'm talking about too.  Stephen Drew.  The guy stinks.  He's hitting worse in May (.505 OPS) than he did in April (.693).  Rob Refsnyder has been tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A and is up to .307/.371/.438 on the year with much improved defense over the past 2-3 weeks.  If Drew isn't going to hit, he shouldn't be a starter anymore.  It's that simple.  If the Yankees want to give him until the end of the month to start to turn things around, fine.  But if he's still hitting .175 on June 1st, the team needs to reduce his role and give somebody else (Refsnyder) a chance.

How about Garrett Jones?  Granted he only has 39 plate appearances this season and it's hard to get into any kind of good hitting routine with a workload that small, but what has he shown to deserve more consideration?  He's hitting .158/.179/.237, he isn't drawing any walks, and he's been terrible defensively in right field and at first base.  What is he bringing to the table right now?  What is his value?  The Yankees have Ramon Flores hitting .290/.380/.435 and Kyle Roller hitting .273/.395/.512 in Triple-A.  Neither of them are likely to be stars or even above-average regulars at the MLB level, but can they play the positions Garrett Jones plays?  Yes they can.  Could they hit better than his .158/.179/.237 pukeslash?  I'd like to think so.

We're talking about 2 guys in their early-mid 30s who are on the downside of their careers and on 1-year commitments to what amounts to peanuts for the Yankees.  What is the reason for holding onto players like that when they're performing at a below-replacement level?  I understand the concept of giving veteran players a chance to prove themselves, but Drew and Jones have had that chance.  Nobody with eyes, a brain, or a working computer believes Joe when he says Drew is having good at-bats and making good contact.  Cut the good guy routine, be realistic and honest in your evaluations, and dump the dead weight.  This is a business, a business of winning baseball games and making money.  Guys like Drew and Jones help the team do neither.  If they aren't going to start hitting, cut them loose and try to find somebody who can.

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Read ALL Future "Player X Disappoints Me" Columns, Right Here!

When real news is sparse -- say, the week of opening day, when there's no further news about roster construction, yet no valid signs yet of who's performing above or below expectations -- beat writers often fall back on a favorite genre piece: "Player X Disappoints Me and Hey Look How Much He's Getting Paid Whaaa?!" I figure I'll save us some reading time, and save beat writers their modest effort of writing "new" columns, by pre-writing all future pieces in this genre, just by pasting together text from all past pieces in this genre. Following is a 500-word article I "wrote" just by cobbling together quotes from ten different articles about various Yankee free agent signings who made a beat writer really sad. That is, each below paragraph is an exact quote from the hyperlinked article. Each quote expresses disbelief, anger, and other stages of grief about one of the last half-dozen major free agent Yankee signings, all of whom at some point struck a beat writer as either disappointing from the start (McCann, Beltran, Ellsbury) or disappointing at the end of a long-term deal after providing several years of strong performance (A-Rod, Sabathia, Teixeira). To maximize the utility of this exercise to under-newsed beat writers, I'll call the disappointing player "A-McSabTeixBeltBury." The next time a beat writer wants to publish the same 500-word piece saying the same fucking thing about another player, he can have his kid explain how the technological wonder known as "find and replace" lets him insert the name of whatever player he want to crap on next for not being Mike Trout. You're welcome, professional journalists! A-McSabTeixBeltBury has been one of the biggest free-agent busts in the majors.

He has fallen – physically and statistically – but to where? The offensive identity of A-McSabTeixBeltBury lingers as a key question to this season.

Injuries happen, but when they happen repeatedly to a ... [player] who will be paid $23 million … it’s hard to stomach.

In a game overflowing with big dollars, that is an enormous amount.

When he signed the deal, there was … a feeling the Yankees would have to derive more of the value from the beginning of the contract than the middle or end.

But in his first season as a Yankee, the numbers were … career lows. This was not the player the Yankees signed …. This was the ghost of A-McSabTeixBeltBury.

Since then, he has been a different, and rapidly declining, player.

With two straight poor seasons on his record, he has to prove both his health and his effectiveness.

It is easy to see why the Yankees can look at that trend and rightfully say they will be happy with whatever they can get out of A-McSabTeixBeltBury this season.

But he can’t be a zero for a variety of reasons, notably that the Yanks do not have an obvious replacement for him.

The organization still wants A-McSabTeixBeltBury up in key spots and the ball hit to him in critical moments.

“It would be a huge boost to our lineup,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He can do a bunch of different things offensively. Do some different things in the lineup with him …. We really missed him. We missed his production last year. It’s important to get it back.”

“I’m a gamer,” A-McSabTeixBeltBury declared Thursday …. Nevertheless, it’s important to note he already was off to a shaky start … when he got hurt. At his advanced baseball age, he might not be capable of another self-rescue mission.

The soon-to-be 38-year-old has underwhelmed this spring, as he tries to rebound from his disastrous … year.

“Two to three weeks from now, I’ll have a better feel,” said A-McSabTeixBeltBury, who added, “Everything feels a little off right now. Everything feels a little strange right now.” … “It’s just a matter of getting your timing,” Girardi said.

As good as A-McSabTeixBeltBury has been throughout his career, it’s hard to imagine him staying healthy long enough to justify the investment over the next two seasons.

Throw in the fact that he will turn 40 … , and you’ve got all the potential in the world for a great, big letdown. All windup and no pitch.

Once you strip away all the soap opera … , you are left with this reality: A-McSabTeixBeltBury hasn’t been a truly good ballplayer for ... years.

It has been quite a while since A-McSabTeixBeltBury looked like he was having fun…. What little the Yankees have accomplished the prior two seasons, they did with virtually no help from A-McSabTeixBeltBury.

The Yankees desperately need him to do more … , but take a look at A-McSabTeixBeltBury's career stats and you wonder how much more he has to give.

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McCann And Teix Talk About Dealing With The Shift (And I Rant About What Teix Said)

With more and more players getting into camp, there have been some more stories trickling out among the A-Rod nonsense; meaningful, baseball-related stories.  Like Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira being asked about their thoughts on facing the shift this season and the approaches they want to take to beat it.  Quotes via Chad Jennings. McCann:

“I want to hit the ball where it’s pitched. It’s not necessarily that I’m going to try to go up there and hit the ball to left field. If it’s away from me, it needs to go to left field. If they come in on me, I need to be able to pull it, but pull correctly. If you pull correctly, you create back spin which is going to help you hit home runs. … If I hit two or three singles in a row to left field, they’re going to continue to play the shift because that’s where my power is. That’s just the way it is and whether that takes a couple of points off my batting average, if I take the approach I have day in and day out for 500 at-bats, at the end of the year things will be there.”

Pretty reasonable if you ask me.  He acknowledges the value in hitting the ball where it's pitched, being flexible in his approach, and knowing the nuances of when and how to swing to pull for maximum effectiveness.  All the kinds of things I want a guy who's going to be facing the shift all year to be thinking and doing when he's up there.

Now Teix:

“Thoughts on (beating) the shift? Hit more home runs, hit more doubles, and walk more. We’ve talked about it ad nauseam. Every time I try to slap the ball the other way, it doesn’t go well for anybody. That’s what the other team wants. They want to take a middle-of-the-order power hitter and turn him into a slap hitter. So if I can hit more home runs, more doubles, walk more, that takes care of the shift. I don’t want to ground out to second base. That’s not what I’m trying to do up there.”

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