Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday Afternoon Snapshot

I admit it. I thought the home run last night was an amazing home run. It was a surreal moment. The team has been a dead carcass for a week, and no better than mediocre for the first 28 games of the season overall. For the first time in what feels like ages, the Yankees now have a bit of energy and a bit of a buzz. One swing of the bat, backed by a brilliant, efficient outing by C.C. Sabathia, and it feels like maybe, just maybe, this group can coalesce into a cohesive unit. We'll see. One swing of the bat; it said "We're not dead yet."

I trust A-Rod maintaining his new media persona about as much as I trust Robinson Cano to maintain a high OBP. I think it's great he's going all Teddy Roosevelt on us, but there's a still a sense that the next drama or scandel is always looming around the corner. What I found more interesting from the post-game comments than the "I'll let my play do the talking" bit was the admission to just what effect the hip had on him last year. From John Harper's column this morning:

"Anything above 92 (mph), I felt like I didn't have a prayer on," he said. "I didn't know what it was. I just felt the bat speed wasn't there."

I can't imagine Peter Abraham, whose blog is now a daily read, is very popular in the Yankee clubhouse. For a beat writer, he is brutally honest with the written word, at least in his blog space. So when I hear something of a positive insight, I'm more likely to pay attention. From his latest entry, which details an exchange between A.J. Burnett and Nick Swisher regarding the clubhouse music:

Teams that win have good chemistry. Teams that lose have bad chemistry. But I’m here to tell you, The Yankees have better chemistry than they’ve had in several years. These guys like each other and they’ll play hard for each other.

If this team can get healthy and stay healthy — and there is no guarantee of either — they’re going to be pretty good.

I have very little juice for the Boston-Orlando series right now. I guess it's a letdown coming off the Chicago series, or maybe because the Yankees' season feels like it's on somewhat of a brink. In any case, the first three games have been background noise. With the Celtics clearly against the wall and on the road (and considering the no-baseball-interference 8:00 Sunday night start time), I'll be tuning into Game 4. Sox-Rays, the ESPN game in that time slot, will warrant some attention as well.

I found it ironic that the last words written in this blog before I found out about Manny Ramirez were: I'm not a fan of the Dodgers at all, but I find it next-to-impossible to not pull for a team that has Joe Torre and Don Mattingly sitting on its bench.

And then all hell breaks loose in L.A. Coincidentally or not, the Dodgers have lost two in a row at home after starting 13-0 and breaking the modern day record on Wednesday night. I still think they're going to be fine as far as the division goes. Although the Giants topped them last night at Dodgers Stadium, San Francisco is still the only other team over .500 in the division and are 4.5 games back. They also happen to be the lowest scoring team in the majors. Their pitching has been great, but their expected won-loss is still two games under .500.

The two commentators who struck me the most in the post-suspension babble were two of my favorites. One a Yankee fan, the other a Red Sox fan.

Goldman (who's on writing roll right now):

As always, what is depressing about this development is not its actual impact but the dishonesty that comes with getting caught. Ramirez's statement on the matter said, "Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility."

No, Manny, actually it's your doctor's responsibility too, and I fully expect that you will be suing him. Thing is, we know Manny won't be suing, because then this tissue-paper excuse would collapse. For that matter, he would also appeal the suspension, submit medical records as proof of his contention, and make every effort to stay on the field and clear his name. That's not what he's doing. Rather, he's meekly taking the rap.

Bill Simmons put together this excellent column in the wake of Manny's suspension. Set five years in the future, it depicts an afternoon spent at Fenway Park with his son and father. For a guy who can be funny as hell, it's quite a downer. But it's also one of the best things he's written in a long time, and prompted a quick email from me yesterday afternoon.


Random Notes:

Carlos Beltran is having an amazing season to date. Some of his league rankings as of the morning of May 9:

.377 BA (1st)
.472 OBP (2nd)
.585 SLG (10th)
27.0 Runs Created (4th)

The Mets, who had as non-descript a month of April as possible, are now 15-13 and have two more lined up this weekend with the sinking Pirates, losers of six in a row.

The Marlins started out 11-1. Since then they're 5-13. The flame that sparked their early run burned out quickly. From Neyer's blog yesterday:

Anyway, do you realize how far Bonifacio has fallen? (I didn't, until I checked.)

As you might recall, in the Marlins' first game this season, Bonifacio hit a home run, collected three singles and stole three bases. He was, for a day, the toast of the National League. In his first seven games, he batted .485 and radio hosts were asking me if this guy was for real (you might easily imagine my answer).

Bonifacio's line since those first seven games: .165/.224/.176.

Bonifacio's season line: .250/.295/.306 -- practically dead even with his career line (which now encompasses 345 plate appearances in the majors).

And now Anibal Sanchez is headed to the DL.

Justin Verlander was awesome last night. 9/2/0/0/2/11. Sure he was saved by the best catch (in terms of timing & importance) of the season in the bottom of the 9th, but ESPN showed that his fastball was in the vicinity of 95-97 the entire night, and actually picked up steam as the game went on. If his last three starts are any indication (3-0, 23/11/1/1/5/31), he is poised to reclaim his mantle as one of the best pitchers in the American League.

Speaking of top AL hurlers, Zack Greinke goes for 7-0 tonight in Anaheim. In looking at his game log for the season, do you know what his worst start of the season has been? It was either April 13 vs. the Indians (5/6/0/0/2/9) or April 29 vs. Toronto (7/5/2/2/0/8). And not only are those not poor starts, but he was the winning pitcher in both games. He's thrown three complete games, and has been simply been dominant. .189 AVG against and a .0.84 WHIP.

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