Monday, July 2, 2012

Yankees Do Old-Timers Proud, Top White Sox

When last I left the Yankees, Joe Girardi's pitching futzups had ruined a good start by Ivan Nova and given the Chicago White Sox a 4-3 win at Yankee Stadium II on Thursday night.

Friday night was worse.  The Yankees had staked Adam Warren, a 24-year-old righthander from Birmingham, Alabama, making his major league debut, a 4-run lead in the 1st inning, including Curtis Granderson's 22nd home run of the season (and it was still June).

But he imploded, allowing 4 runs in the 2nd and 2 more in the 3rd, before Girardi mercifully lifted him.  As of right now, his career major league ERA is 23.14.

David Phelps, who's been up with the Yankees before and had just been called back up, was little better, allowing 2 more runs, and ended up as the losing pitcher (1-3).

Later on, Cory Wade continued a hideous stretch, allowing 6 runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Jose Quintana wasn't much better for the White Sox, if you look at his final line, but after that bad 1st inning he settled down (3-1).

White Sox 14, Yankees 7.  A football score.

*

The Yankees needed more than runs on Saturday.  They needed a good performance from all pitchers -- or, at least, a good from from most and a passable one from the rest.

They got it: Hiroki Kuroda pitched his best game since coming over from Japan, going 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts, and no runs, earned or otherwise.  David Robertson pitched a perfect 8th, and Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless 9th.  (8-7)

Granderson hit his 23rd homer, Robinson Cano his 19th, and Dewayne Wise his 2nd, all off ChiSox starter Jake Peavy, former San Diego Padre ace.  (6-5).

Yankees 4, White Sox 0.

*

Yesterday was Old-Timers' Day.  Having old men playing baseball in 95-degree heat is not a good idea, but the ceremonies and the Old-Timers' Game went on, anyway.

The Yankees honored 6 Hall-of-Famers by bringing them in from center field by golf cart, as if they were relief pitchers.  One was, Goose Gossage.  I wondered what happened to the pinstriped Toyota Celica that used to bring relievers in.  If that's still around somewhere, it should be brought back for next year's OTD.  The other Cooperstowners brought back were Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Jerry Coleman (who's in the Hall as a broadcaster, not a player), Reggie Jackson, and a guy I can never really think of as a Yankee, even though he was here for 5 years (same as Reggie) and he was one of the top 20 greatest players ever, Rickey Henderson.  (Dave Winfield did not appear.  I don't know why.  It doesn't seem to be ill health, as he was on Twitter later in the day.)

Of living honorees in Monument Park, attendees were Yogi, Whitey, Reggie and Ron Guidry.  Don Mattingly was not available, as he manages the Los Angeles Dodgers, and led them to a salvage of their 4-game series with the Mets.

As it was when I was a kid, and Eleanor Gehrig was introduced (always in George Steinbrenner's box, never on the field -- Claire Ruth was already dead by the time I started watching), five Yankee widows were introduced: Arlene Howard, Diana Munson, Helen Hunter, Jill Martin and Kay Murcer.  It should be noted that Billy's 4th and last wife is not the Jill Martin who reports for WNYW-Channel 5.  (Merlyn Mantle is still alive, but tends to avoid these events.  Both of Joe DiMaggio's ex-wives, actresses Dorothy Arnold and Marilyn Monroe, predeceased him and so never participated in this part of the ceremony.)

Joe Pepitone, not a Monument Park honoree but previously one of the better hitters in Old-Timers' Games, finally woke up to reality -- sort of.  He still wears a toupee, but has switched to a white one.  (He's 71, born on the exact same day as John Lennon.) I guess, now that he's got the white goatee, and wasn't will to go the Keith Hernandez & Walt Frazier route (Just For Men for mustaches and beards), he figured he might as well get the right color "guido hat." Not that all guidos wear hairpieces, but Joe usually had 2: A small one to wear under his cap, and a big one to go out on the town.  But he'd taken to wearing the big one on Old-Timers' Day.

Paul O'Neill, not yet honored in Monument Park, took up the late Bobby Murcer's role of wearing a battery pack on his belt and a mini-microphone on his jersey, so he could play in the Old-Timers' Game and still be a member of the broadcast crew.  It was joked that David Cone, who had served one up to Tino Martinez a year ago, would do the same for Paulie.  Nope: Paulie grounded out, and yelled, "Ow!" as he finished his swing.

Mickey Rivers got 2 hits and, while Mick is no longer Quick, he did score a run.  Rickey did his "snatch catch" (that's not a dirty term, kids), but he and Darryl Strawberry were otherwise rather lackadaisical in the outfield.  So they were in mid-career form.  I kid, I kid: At their ages (Rickey 53, Darryl 50), no one wanted to run in that heat.

Tanyon Sturtze pitched in the game.  In spite of the heat, I got a chilll down my spine.  You know what? His pitching hasn't gotten much worse.  Old-Timer? He last pitched in the majors in 2008! Four years ago! He's only 41!

As for the regular game: Phil Hughes once again showed that the Yankees were wise to NOT include him in a trade package for the incredibly overrated Johan Santana.  He had a tough 1st inning, but settled down nicely, going 8 (9-6) before giving way to Rafael Soriano (18th save).  Gavin Floyd, whom I'd seen pitch for the Lakewood BlueClaws, is looking more and more like a major league flop, and he had nothing (6-8), giving up home runs to Cano (20th) and Eric Chavez (6th).

Yankees 4, White Sox 2.

*

So as the season nears its halfway point, things are looking very good for the Yankees.  True, looks can be deceiving, especially with 3 starting pitchers, your (anybody's) best reliever, another reliever, and your starting left fielder out due to injury:

* CC Sabathia is out for another week and a half.  He should be back after the All-Star Break, meaning he'll miss 2 more starts.

* Brett Gardner should be back shortly after that.

* Joba Chamberlain is said to be "a week or two away" from pitching rehab games in the minor leagues, meaning he could be back in the majors in early August.

Andy Pettitte will be out until early September.


* Mariano Rivera still says he might make it back by the end of this season, but don't count on it.


* And Michael Pineda, for whom the Yankees gave up Jesus Montero (don't weep too hard, he's played nearly every game for the Seattle Mariners and his OPS+ is only 90), is out until May of next season.


Every team has injuries.  Some teams win anyway.


The Yankees are 48-30, and lead the American League Eastern Division by 6 games over the (finally) slumping Baltimore Orioles.  The Boston Red Sox are 6 1/2 games back (7 in the loss column), the Tampa Bay Rays 7 1/2 back (8), and the Toronto Blue Jays 8 1/2 back (9).  The entire Division is over .500.


*


Derek Jeter now has 3,186 career hits, having passed Cal Ripken, the other contender for the title of Greatest Shortstop in American League History.  He is 14th on the all-time hits list.

Among players who played all or most of their career in the AL, he's 8th behind Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Carl Yastrzemski, Paul Molitor, Eddie Collins, Eddie Murray and Nap Lajoie. (He needs 56 more hits to catch Lajoie, so it will be a while before he passes anyone else.) Among right-handed hitters (not counting switch-hitters), he's 6th behind Hank Aaron, Cap Anson, Honus Wagner, Molitor, Willie Mays and Lajoie.

Among players born after 1887, he's 8th behind Pete Rose, Aaron, Stan Musial, Yaz, Molitor, Mays and Murray.  Among players born after 1941, he's 3rd behind Molitor and Murray.  Among players born after 1956, he's 1st.

Alex Rodriguez has 2,849 career hits.  He's 151 short of 3,000.  Although is current batting average is just .265, he's getting hits, and should get it next season.  Among active players, only Jeter and Omar Vizquel are ahead of him -- and Vizquel is only 6 ahead of him, and has announced that he will retire after this season.  Next-closest among active players is former Yankee Johnny Damon, with 2,753, but he's really struggling with the Cleveland Indians, and at this rate he may not even make it to 2,800.

A-Rod has 642 home runs, leaving him 18 short of Mays at 660, 58 short of 700, 72 short of Babe Ruth at 714, 113 short of Aaron at 755, and 121 short of passing Barry Bonds to become the all-time leader with 763.  He has 1,928 runs batted in, 72 short of 2,000 and 370 short of passing Aaron to become the all-time leader with 2,298.

*

The Yankees go down to St. Petersburg to face the Rays.  Tonight, Freddy Garcia starts against Matt Moore.  Tomorrow night, Ivan Nova vs. James Shields.  Wednesday night, David Phelps vs. David Price.

That will conclude the numeric first half of the season (81 out of 162 games).  Then, Thursday will be a day off, and the official first half of the season will end with the Yankees heading up to Boston to play The Scum.  Starting pitchers not yet announced for either team.

The All-Star Game rosters were announced yesterday.  The Yankees chosen are Jeter, Cano and Granderson, all in the starting lineup, and Sabathia, who will not appear due to injury.  The Mets chosen as David Wright and R.A. Dickey, currently the favorite to be the National League's starting pitcher.  Former Yankee Melky Cabrera, now with the San Francisco Giants, was chosen as a starting outfielder for the NL.  The game will be played at Kauffman Stadium (formerly known as Royals Stadium) in Kansas City.  Oh, joy.  There's a place you want to be in the middle of July: Few American cities get as hot in the summer as K.C.  Also, few American cities get as cold in the winter as K.C.

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