September 2010

Burnett Rumored Dispelled

I am happy to be able to report that the Yankees’ failure to anoint Juan Miranda with a pie-in-the-face for his walk-off walk at the witching hour Sunday night against the Red Sox owed simply to the fact that A.J. Burnett had left earlier in the day, so that he’d be fully rested for his cameo in Toronto.

The pie was not skipped because it was assumed if Burnett had aimed it at Miranda, he would have missed.

Some Yankees/Red Sox, With Pictures

I am told that the meeting Saturday night in which Joe Girardi “decided” to start Phil Hughes against the Red Sox Sunday night, was not limited to uniformed personnel and General Manager Brian Cashman. At least one other person was involved, couldn’t confirm who it was. The reversal proved invaluable as Hughes offered his cleanest outing in weeks and he may have staunched the Yankee bleeding for the moment.

The question remains what and who the Yankees can rely on in the post-season. Anything past CC Sabathia is a guess; it would seem it would be wise to try to give Hughes a rest until the playoffs begin, and pin second-starter hopes on him, and then see what Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett and even Ivan Nova might give you.

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Lost in the Yankees’ walk-off (literally) victory; this was the Stadium farewell for Mike Lowell, drafted originally by New York so long ago that Buck Showalter was still the Yankee Manager (Round 20, 1995, they sent him to Oneonta of the NY-Penn League where he hit exactly one homer in 313 plate appearances). Lowell would get fifteen Yankee at bats in 1998 before going in a foolish trade to Florida for pitcher Ed Yarnall and two others. 
One of my favorite memories of the game is an afternoon in Fort Myers in 2009 when I spent the first four innings of a Boston exhibition game on the bench between Lowell and Wakefield (at that point they had 29 years of big league experience between them). Of course we talked everything but baseball. Lowell remains one of the game’s classiest acts, and when I told him the game just wouldn’t be the same without him, he reassured us “I’ll be around.” He could succeed in anything from coaching, to ownership, to announcing. 
Two other photos are offered. On the right, that’s a tv viewer of mine, the rookie Red Sox first baseman Lars Anderson. In the shot at the left is SNL’s Jason Sudeikis, further down the front row in seats belonging to Lorne Michaels. Having dropped enough names I’ll leave you with this most bizarre of stats: I got to see 16 Yankee games from the seats this season and the home team won fifteen of them.
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See you Tuesday and Wednesday as Ken Burns premieres his PBS Baseball documentary follow-up, “The Tenth Inning.”

Tyler Colvin Out For Year: What WGN, FS-F viewers saw

Thanks to the telecasts of the Cubs-Marlins by Fox Sports Florida and the superb DVR service of MLB.Com’s MLB.TV, we get a good, albeit blurry image of the incident this afternoon in Florida in which Cubs’ rookie outfielder Tyler Colvin suffered a season-ending partial lung collapse when he was in the chest speared by a large shard of the broken bat of teammate Wellington Castillo:

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(C) MLB, FS-F, WGN-TV
Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports that the lack of blood or evident superficial damage hid a truly dangerous outcome: Colvin is being preventively treated for the possibility of a collapsed lung:
He’s being treated for pneumothorax, a puncture of the chest cavity, which allowed air into the chest wall and the potential of a collapsed lung. A tube was inserted into the wound, and Colvin is resting comfortably, but will remain hospitalized for 2-3 days for further examination, and manager Mike Quade said he will not play again this season.
There has been at least one occasion in baseball history where a broken bat shard has struck a player, but that was with a batter in the on deck circle. Bill Russell’s bat shattered and a piece hit his Dodger teammate Steve Yeager in the neck, actually piercing Yeager’s esophagus. Yeager required more than an hour-and-a-half’s surgery, and the injury led to the creation of the “throat flap” that would protect a catcher from a shard (or ball) injury to the same area. But there has never been any innovation to protect any other player on the field and that Colvin’s injury is the first of its kind in recent memory – especially in this day of easily-shattered maple bats – is truly extraordinary.
The gruesome images conjured up by the initial reports of Colvin being “rushed” to the hospital after having a broken bat “stuck” in his chest are fortunately not the reality, though these screen captures give an idea just how close a call this really was:
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COPYRIGHT MLB, WGN-TV, CHICAGO CUBS:
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Reporter Wittenmeyer speculates there’s no reason to think Colvin will play again this season:
With only 13 games left in the season it appears unlikely he will play again this year. Colvin is tied for the major-league rookie lead with 20 homers.
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Expectations And More Minor Leaguers

My apologies for my negligence here of late. It’s been busy.

I hope to expand on each of these items separately in the next week, but watching the Rays, Rangers, and Reds flourish (as predicted in March/April) I’ll get cocky and make a few late-season and off-season forecasts:
The Red Sox got so hurt that the Yankee late-season fold (also predicted here) can’t be so bad as to include sliding completely out of the playoff picture. But if they don’t at least get back to the Series I would now expect pitching coach Dave Eiland to be dismissed, and possibly manager Joe Girardi with him. Take the bizarre pitching decisions of this Tampa series and add them to the skid Girardi steered them into during the playoffs against the Angels last year, and you have an issue that seems to become a crisis when the chips are really down.
I also would not be at all surprised to see both New York teams have new shortstops next year. Given the number of Gotham reporters and their traditional fixation with the bad, it really is amazing how little has been written about the deterioration of Jose Reyes’ defense. The Mets will at least try to trade him this winter. And in the Bronx, if it were anybody but Derek Jeter, reporters would’ve tried to run him out of town by now. Jeter has completely collapsed offensively, and is, from what I’ve been told, not handling it or the attempts to correct it, very well. At the present rate of decline he has no bargaining position in the free agent winter ahead and his best hope to stay in New York is on a one-year deal at a (comparatively) low salary and some kind of token, face-saving mutual option. If not he will be an offensive question mark picked up by a team hoping to capitalize on his reputation and his past.
Venturing further afield, I am beginning to suspect Ryne Sandberg will not get the Cubs’ managerial job. There is a future for him at Wrigley Field if he wants it, but the internal reviews of his work running Cubs’ farm clubs these last few years turns out to be far less sanguine than I had been previously told.
Now, for your dining and dancing pleasure, a few more of those wonderful minor league baseball cards of current big league figures:
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Yes, it’s General Managers – three current, one former/possibly soon-to-be-again. That’s Doug Melvin of the Brewers on a Neil Sussman set of the 1975 Fort Lauderdale Yankees of the Florida State League, Billy Beane of the A’s from ProCards’ Portland PCL set from 1987, Kevin Towers (formerly of the Padres, perhaps next of the Mets) in the same company’s Las Vegas PCL set from a year later, and Philly’s Ruben Amaro in his pro debut at Salem of the Northwest League in ’87.

So Good To See Buck Showalter Again (Not)

Update: Within an hour of posting this, I got an email from an old friend who used to be a national baseball writer for a major metropolitan newspaper. He reports that when Buck Showalter was the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, he pulled the same stunt on him as I outlined here. So we have a recidivist Manager-Who-Throws-His-Players-Under-The-Bus. 

From Yankee Stadium: On Sunday, August 22nd, 1993, the New York Yankees were tied for first place in the American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays. As I watched in horrified astonishment from the press box, they were 4-hit by Chris Haney, a soon-to-be journeyman pitcher who would end an eminently frustrating career with an ERA of 5.07. The Yanks, now in second place and flying out to Chicago hours later that afternoon for a critical series, were in big trouble and had a lot to worry about. Or so I would’ve thought as I ventured into the clubhouse to commiserate with my friend Danny Tartabull. 

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There to my shock I found the usual crowd of reporters but – 10 or 15 minutes after the game had ended – not a single player. Worse yet, though nothing was said, several of the reporters seemed to be staring at me. That’s when Yankee factotum Arthur Richman took me aside: “The manager would like to see you.” I asked Arthur if I had been sent to the Yankees’ farm club in Columbus. “Matter of fact, you have,” he deadpanned. Inside there was second-year boss Buck Showalter, affable and cordial and welcoming. After a few pleasantries he began his soliloquy: “I asked you in here, because when I saw you on the field before the game I was frankly worried for your safety. Some of them truly do not like your style on SportsCenter and I thought someone was going to take a swing at you. These guys claim to ignore the media but every day our newspaper recycling bin is full. Actually, the players refused to come into the clubhouse until you leave. Me, I don’t care, I have a tough skin, you’re a bright fella and you know your baseball and you make me laugh. But I thought Boggs or especially O’Neill might take a swing at you.” Having startled me with this announcement, Showalter asked a question. “Far be it for me to tell you how to do your job, but how much of that job is dependent on access to the players?” I told him that conveniently the answer was none. He was silent for awhile. I told him it was all academic because I would be leaving SportsCenter soon to join our new ESPN2 product. Showalter smiled. “Well, we have a flight to catch but it’s been a pleasure. Sorry I had to be the bearer of such bad tidings about how the players feel about you but I really thought you needed to know.” I left the Stadium quickly, wondering not just about the oversensitivity of the Yankees, but more importantly why they would be worried more about me than about getting shut out by Chris Flipping Haney. 
I’m not going to say the story haunted me, but I renumbered it. So at the ESPY Awards of, I guess, 1997, I was more than a little worried as I saw a door open and several Yankees step out. As I tried to look shorter, the outfielder extended a had: “Keith! Paul O’Neill. Big fan!” I rushed through my thanks to tell him the Showalter story. “What? That was you? Nobody was avoiding you. Buck ordered us into the trainers’ room. 25 guys in there like sar-blanking-dines! All he told us was there was a reporter he hated and he wanted to air out and we needed to stay put till he let us back in the clubhouse.” Several beverages and second-hand Showalter stories later O’Neill brought it back up again. “You ever heard of me hitting some BODY? All I do is hit water coolers. That Buck!” 
There were two former Yankee managers at the Stadium today, Showalter and Yogi Berra. It’s nice to see Yogi in such good health again.

Judge And Nyjer…eeeee

Here’s the least likely sentence I’ve ever written: Nyjer Morgan has truly damaged the great tradition of The Washington Nationals franchise.

Seriously, MLB has to step in – and quickly – on what you can smell from a thousand miles away is a serious and blossoming anger management issue. The Washington outfielder has, in less than a fortnight, thrown a ball into the stands (apparently at a fan), collided brutally with two catchers on two occasions when he should have slid, slid too aggressively into basemen at second and third, precipitated a bench-clearing brawl after a message pitch that didn’t come close to him, and then shouted obscenities at the Florida crowd in full view of the television cameras. And we’re not even bringing up what happened last May, when he threw not a fit nor a ball, but a glove when he mistook a ball in play for an outside-the-park homer.
That Morgan was pleasant and even nonchalant in interviews afterwards suggests the dimensions of his disconnect. The ex-junior hockey player described himself as simply playing hard, and his supporters suggested it was just ‘the hockey coming out in him.’ In hockey, if you did all this in a week or two, they’d have sent you back to Medicine Hat.
Most disturbingly, perhaps, is that his manager Jim Riggleman seemed to address only Morgan’s pair of steals in tonight’s disaster in Florida. Rig was right: the steals were fine. Nothing else about Morgan is, at the moment, and the Nationals or MLB might be doing him a favor by suspending him for the balance of the season and getting him some help. 
A QUICK NOTE ON SEPTEMBER NL CALL-UPS:
Freddie Freeman is the marquee name and it certainly was a surprise to see him and not Derrek Lee starting against the Mets on September 1st, but I don’t really know how much work he’ll get in Atlanta as the Braves go all out to wrap up Bob Cox’s career with a winner.
The premium player among the immediate recalls – at least in terms of opportunity – would seem to be Brandon Allen of the Diamondbacks. Arizona hasn’t had a leftfielder all year and the converted first baseman seemed to take to the position neatly in his seasonal debut (and added the grand slam). Brian Bogusevic of Houston, Yonder Alonso of Cincinnati, and Mat Gamel of Milwaukee were immediately summoned but seem to have little to do. Of all possible rotation inserts only the Mets have made a move, bringing back Jenrry Mejia and putting him right in against the Cubs at Wrigley on Saturday.
Oh and this Chapman guy might be of some use. Somebody around here picked the Reds to win the NL Central, as I recall.
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