Is there a more depressing image in baseball than the tarp?
If so, enlighten me, because I don't think there is.
You wait all night, as I did Sunday night in Taiwan, thinking over the first inning, getting your pencils sharpened and your scorecard prepped. You mix the coffee because the one a.m. start means staying up until four-thirty (at least); you go over the notes from the previous two Tigers games, turn on the TV and.... there's Michael Kay saying, "...dreadful weather and no real window for it to improve today...."
Ugh! I got the Charlie Browns, those feelings that things are just going to go south and there isn't a single thing you can do about it.
Utterly, completely, hopelessly depressing...
I've never been left at the alter, but I can't imagine it feels any worse than a rainout. I often compare baseball to a marriage -- it's long, and not every day is worth getting out of bed for, but there are enough good days -- and just enough great ones -- to remind you of why you agreed to spend your life with this person next to you. You hang in there after the (many) small defeats, and even after the few crushing big ones. There are times when you wonder if you can come back for another season, but when February rolls around, you're there. It's a commitment, and it's life-long, so you roll with it, knowing there are always better days ahead.
The rainout isn't like an argument with your wife; it's more like dealing with a wife who's going through really horrible PMS. It's not really her fault, but you're stuck with the fallout, regardless. So you suck it up and wait until she feels better. No hard feelings. Tomorrow's another day.
So here we are at tomorrow already. And yesterday, what was that? It's good times again!
On to Tampa...
Not so fast
Before we dive headlong into the week upcoming, let's look back at the week that was.
Rounding into form
Even though Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano still occupy the bottom two positions on the America League batting table, both of them are just a few games away from being out of the cellar.
Giambi carried the Yankee offense, in spurts, last week, driving in six runs while collecting five hits, all for extra bases. His .385 batting average and .539 on-base percentage signal an awakening that the Yankees sorely need with their bottom-of-the-order hitters fading fast. (Morgan Ensberg, Jose Molina, and Chad Moeller were a combined 3-for-19 last week, and a heating-up Wilson Betemit went down with a hamstring injury.)
Cano joined Giambi's hit parade, posting a .389/.444 week on the strength of seven hits in 18 at-bats, including a home run and two doubles. But beyond the numbers, Cano finally looked like a confident hitter. It may well have been the better numbers that boosted his confidence, but the body language and the hand speed seemed much better than they did during the first five weeks of the season.
Combined, Cano (3) and Giambi (6) drove in nearly half of the 19 runs the Yankees scored in their five games last week. With Alex Rodriguez set to rejoin the lineup, with Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui combining for a red-hot week (18-for-58/.328/.448), and a rejuvenated Cano and Giambi, the Yankee offensive slump over these first 38 games may be at an end.
All hail Hideki!
His hitting streak may not have made it through the week, but Matsui's bat was as hot as any other in the Yankee order last week. He tied Cano with seven hits for the week, and tied Abreu by getting on base nine times in the five games the Yankees played.
Matsui's .331 batting average allows him to begin the week as the American League's number two hitter behind Cleveland's Victor Martinez (.346), and his .414 on-base percentage has him in fourth place in the league.
Other Yankees climbing the league batting charts are Jeter (8th place, .308) and Abreu (14th, .303). Jeter, however, is struggling trying to earn more walks. His on-base percentage sits at a modest .340 (his career OBP is .388) largely due to his paltry total of just five walks earned so far this season.
That figure puts Jeter on pace for only 26 walks the entire season, far below his previous career worst of 43 walks, in his injury-shortened 2003 season. But Jeter is also on pace for his lowest strikeout total of his career. The future Hall-of-Famer averages about 107 whiffs per season, but is on pace this year for around 60, far below his previous low of 88, also in 2003.
Fans of the Bill Murray classic Stripes will recall that abbreviated lyric from Murray's army graduation scene. But it just as aptly describes the feelings Yankee fans have after watching Class AAA call-up Darrell Rasner post two victories in two starts after replacing Ian 'Kry-baby' Kennedy in the starting rotation. Simply put, Rasner was all that Kennedy never even appeared to be.
Rasner looked confident, threw strikes (a razzle-dazzling 3.5-to-1 strikes-to-balls ratio in his second start), and made it through the fourth inning -- all things Kennedy was failing to do on an increasingly more frequent basis. Predicting success in baseball is such an inexact science that it's never really fair to say a mistake was made in trusting a young player; Yankee general manager Brian Cashman saw something he liked in Kennedy and promoted him. That it didn't work out this time just means that a new direction was needed. Thank goodness Cashman and Yankee manager Joe Girardi made the call they did.
With Rasner up and thriving -- so far; a dangerous Tampa lineup awaits later this week --Yankee fans feel a lot better about the fourth spot in the rotation.
On the other hand...
The Kei Igawa experiment just isn't working, and can anyone who has watched this guy pitch at the major league level say they see any positive signs when he's on the mound?
On Friday night, Detroit batters teed off on Igawa's pitches with such scary regularity that I actually feared for Igawa's safety as I watched. I was sure one of those shots was going to split Igawa in two right there on the mound. The guy has triple-A talent, and even down in Scranton he was only 3-3. With a one-game line of 3.0/11/6/6/0/0, 18.00 ERA and 3.67 WHIP, Igawa's future seems sealed. If he has any major league potential left at all, he has to go to the bullpen now and forget starting... forever.
For the bargain-basement price of $34 million, the Yankees got themselves a spotty, unreliable, situational reliever.
Season to date
The Yankees went 2-3 last week, finishing their nine-game homestand with a 4-5 mark after a win over Cleveland on Thursday before splitting two games on the road in Detroit. Sunday's rainout will be made up on either July 24 or September 1, two scheduled off-days for both the Yankees and the Tigers.
The Yankees are 19-19 on the season and tied for third place with the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East, four games behind the division-leading Red Sox, and two and a half games behind second-place Tampa. Tonight, the Yankees begin an important four-game series in Tampa.
Projected starting pitchers
Yankees: Andy Pettitte, LHP (3-3, 3.77 ERA)
Last start: In his 400th career start, Pettitte got a no-decision after throwing 6 and 2/3 innings against Cleveland last Tuesday. He struck out a season-high six batters but also surrendered another home run to Jhonny Peralta, this one a two-run blast.
Rays: Matt Garza, RHP (1-1, 4.91 ERA)
Last start: Garza took a tough loss from the Blue Jays, giving up just six hits and one run in 6 and 2/3 innings, but the Rays went scoreless, handing Garza his first defeat of 2008.
Yankees: Chien-Ming Wang, RHP (6-1, 3.12 ERA)
Last start: Facing his third ace in a row, Wang finally came up short. After defeating Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia and Seattle's Erik Bedard in successive starts, Wang pitched well -- striking out four and allowing only five hits and three walks in seven innings -- but lost 3-0 to Cleveland's unbeaten Cliff Lee. Back on April 6, Wang threw six innings of four-hit ball, walking two and striking out six and holding Tampa scoreless for his second win of the season. Wang is 5-2 with a 4.11 ERA in seven career starts at Tropicana Field.
Rays: Edwin Jackson, RHP (2-3, 4.04 ERA)
Last start: Jackson got a no-decision despite throwing eight shutout innings against the Blue Jays last Thursday. He is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in nine career appearances against the Yankees.
Yankees: Mike Mussina, RHP (5-3, 4.36 ERA)
Last start: The Moose won his fourth consecutive start, throwing five innings, allowing three runs and four hits while striking out three against no walks. Earlier this season at Yankee Stadium, Mussina faced Tampa and gave up one run on two hits over six innings in getting his first win of 2008. He's 7-5 in 16 career starts at Tropicana Field.
Rays: James Shields, RHP (4-2, 3.14 ERA)
Last start: Shields threw a gem at the L.A. Angels, tossing nine innings and getting a one-hit shutout. In his previous home start, Shields also threw nine shutout innings, giving up just three hits to get the win. He has not fared well against the Yankees, however, going 0-5 with a 7.83 ERA in six career starts.
Yankees: Darrell Rasner, RHP (2-0, 3.00 ERA)
Last start: Rasner got the win in Detroit last Saturday, throwing six-plus innings and giving up just two runs. This is his first career start against the Rays.
Rays: Scott Kazmir, LHP, (1-1, 2.70 ERA)
Last start: Kazmir sat out April with inflammation in his left elbow, but he won his first game last Saturday night against the Angels when he pitched six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out six. Last season's American League strikeout leader is 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA in nine career appearances against the Yankees.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Is there a more depressing image in baseball than the tarp?