Tuesday, June 30, 2015

More Sabathia, Less Warren Is Result Of Conventional Wisdom, Not Common Sense

By Barry Millman

Dashing the faint hopes of many including me, Adam Warren has been demoted  from the Yankees rotation to the bullpen instead of C.C. Sabathia as many expected, including me; and many interesting reasons for the decision have been bandied about by team officials and quasi-official writers.

Chief among them: Warren's innings were getting too high as a starter and they need to be limited; he's the only experienced long reliever available, Sabathia doesn't have the experience or mindset for such a role; and -- the one most widely cited by team officials and the writers closest to it  -- he's C.C. Sabathia and you simply don't dare broach the subject with him because, well, he's a Yankee icon.

All perfectly reasonable responses straight out of the conventional wisdom handbook's reasonable responses chapter.

The problem with conventional wisdom though, as Bill James has said, is it's full of beans. Everyone from Milan to Minsk knows the 53 million unofficial reasons why Warren got demoted and Sabathia didn't. 

But putting those aside for the moment, let's look at the official ones.

Adam's innings are getting too high? Compared  to last year they will be, but then so will C.C.'s. Both are a couple of years removed from the last time they threw a full season as starters.

The difference is Adam is still three years on the right side of 30 and hasn't been injured or burning his arm out for the last three years, while CC is four years on the wrong side with more miles on his arm than anyone his age ever compiled; coming off surgery, and now well into his third consecutive season of suckage -- strongly suggesting he has already hit his permanent innings limit, courtesy of Father Time.

Perhaps another page in the conventional wisdom handbook suggests it's CC who should be limiting the innings on his old soupbone and not the young, strong, well-preserved Adam.

As for  C.C.'s lack of experience in the role of long reliever, the role of a long man is to come into games on short notice after the starter has imploded in an early inning and stop the bleeding, right? 

One could easily argue CC's been rehearsing for  that role almost every game this year walking out to the mound for the second and third innings of his own games. Think I'm just being a wiseass? Check his box scores. He's probably more experienced than Warren in that role. 

And  if this so-called "mindset"of being able to deal with sudden crisis and stress on short notice and preparation that conventional wisdom says is required of a reliever is so obviously beyond C.C's grasp or comprehension at this point in his career -- and at this point the word career must be used euphemistically -- then it only underscores the cruel and unusual punishment awaiting him (and the fan base) as he is left to deal with his degrading faculties and skillset in the rotation, helpless to adjust to or deal with the consequences.

There will be consequences for Adam from this decision as well, and of course none of them good, regardless how the conventional wisdom adherents (since they all seem to attend and subscribe to the same conventions, I'll just call them conventioneers for short) spin it, because yanking a successful starting pitcher from the rotation to make him do something else -- something he'd rather not do and hasn't prepared himself to do -- has seldom been a recipe for good things. (Joba Rules anyone?) 

Which brings us to the "Sabathia as icon" justification, which I admit is my favorite. I hadn't enjoyed a good laugh over a truly absurd like that since the "ARod is washed up" mythology spun by conventioneer sportswriters and team officials. Did I miss a Yankees presser announcing C.C.'s promotion to Core Four status? Was he named the Captain's successor by Hal Steinbrenner?  Did Brian Cashman leak plans to retire his number and install him in Monument Park after he's gone?

No, I didn't think so, and you can bet your Bernie Williams bobblehead none of the above will ever happen. Sabathia won one Cy Young with another team and parlayed that into the most lucrative contract for a pitcher in baseball history at the time, and in return he gave the Yankees four good years. But since then he's given them three consecutive clunkers, and with two more years left on his deal, the idea that it's impolite to even ask him to consider working on his American League-leading meatball catering service somewhere other than the rotation is almost as amusing as it is insulting to every player and fan who buys into the fiction the best players play. 

Not having attended any of the conventions or gotten drunk with any of the conventioneers myself, I'll end this with a three quick unconventional observations of my own.

First, removing Adam from the rotation makes it worse; leaving CC in it makes it much worse; and now that it's only a five-man rotation, CC will get to pitch even more often -- an outcome only conventioneers can seem to rationalize with straight faces.

Second, putting Adam in the pen as a long reliever won't save him any innings since everyone in the rotation seems to need long relief more often than not -- unless they stop using him as a long reliever, in which case they just killed off a promising starting pitcher's budding career as well as the badly needed long reliever they needed in one fell swoop.  

(In case you you missed them, you can click on the hyperlinks in this post's first paragraph to read my posts that forecasted and further explain this peculiar act of Yankee vandalism I've named Jobacide.)

And my third and final unconventional observation: If C.C. was paying the Yankees $53 million instead of the other way around, there would be more logic to keeping him in the rotation than the conventioneers' twisted idea that it's possible to make so much money that you can't lose your job AND should still be treated 
with all the deference of a Derek Jeter without a fraction of the resume. In what universe do these people live anyway? 

If it's Yankee Universe, then it looks like C.C. may have tapped a whole new fan base, and the Yankees may have found their next Face Of The Franchise.


Yep, that should sell a lot of T-shirts -- especially at the next convention.

You can email Barry Millman at nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Case For Sending CC To The Pen Instead of Warren Is Overwhelming

By Barry Millman

By now, the lead of a CC Sabathia game story almost writes itself. The Yankees gave him an early lead and he gave it right back -- with interest.

A 3-1 lead when he walked out to the mound for the fourth inning became a 6-3 deficit two outs later for MLB's favorite batting practice pitcher and he was done for the evening. His final line: six earned runs on eight hits, including two home runs, to the lowly Phillies. 

He faced 25 batters from the 25th- ranked hitting Phillies and they hit a collective .320 against him -- and for the first time after this game, team beat writers were finally asking manager Joe Girardi and writing about what this writer has been  writing and saying for over a month; namely, why is CC in the rotation when better options are available?  

Of 54 qualified starting pitchers in the league, his 5.65 ERA and .836 OPS are ranked  51st; his .306 batting average against is 52nd; his .500 slugging percentage against is 53rd; and his 17 home runs allowed leads all AL pitchers. According to Bill James' Average Game Score which measures a pitcher's overall effectiveness, he's the second least effective pitcher in the league. 

As a back-end rotation starter where his only potential value is as an innings-eater, he only burns up the pen with abbreviated starts and the negative impact of his decaying skills are compounded by Joe's reluctance to yank him when he implodes in the futile hope each time he will right himself and save the pen, resulting in even larger leads to overcome for the struggling offense.

As a reliever, there would be no reason to hesitate giving him a quick hook when he lost his stuff.  In the pen he would be able to continue working on his location issues without detonating 20 percent of the team's games and possibly rebuild his value for himself as well as the team. And for the pitcher with the third most innings on his arm in the game, fewer innings couldn't hurt.

He's shown he can still produce some quality innings for the team three, four and occasionally even five innings at a stretch. But so-called quality starts by even the most primitive definition have been too few to even refer to him as a starting pitcher with a straight face at this point. 

With Ivan Nova back in the rotation, Adam Warren outdistancing CC and continuing to progress as a starter, and with the bullpen still desperate for a long reliever, the logic of sticking CC there is inescapable.

It could wind up providing the pen with the long man it needs, allow Warren to become the young gun  he was always meant to be instead of returning to his role as a permanent bandaid destined to be traded or allowed to go free agent, and save the rest of the pen from becoming burnt toast. It might even allow CC the time and space he needs to fix his problems while being useful for a change in a new role that might make him tradeable down the road.

It's not like such a move would set some kind of precedent. The Giants, who have won three world championships in the last five years based on pitching and defense and face a similar rotation logjam, routinely have sent two-time Cy Young winner (that's twice as many as CC) Tim Lincecum to the bullpen to work out his problems when he has struggled. And Lincecum, gamer that he is and the team's highest paid pitcher, never complains and only says he doesn't merit a starter's role when they do.

Sending Warren to the pen would just be committing potential Jobacide on a perfectly competent starting pitcher who keeps the ball in the yard and gives the team a chance to win every start -- while leaving behind one who does precisely the opposite every fifth game.

You can email Barry Millman at nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

With One Swing, ARod Joins Two Exclusive Clubs And Takes A Giant Step Toward HOF

By Barry Millman

Another game, another milestone and two more exclusive clubs. With every swing of his bat, Alex Rodriguez is chopping to bits the list of ballplayers historians will be able to compare to him.

When he launched the first pitch he saw from Detroit Tiger pitcher and former MVP winner Justin Verlander into the right field stands Friday night, he became just the 29th player in MLB history to collect 3,000 hits -- and only the second to have more than 600 home runs and 2,000 runs batted in to go along with them.

Hank Aaron and Alex. How's that for an exclusive club?

With every new benchmark of baseball immortality he attains in this amazing comeback year, Alex is proving what a tiny band of us believers already knew back in spring training and historians will no doubt assert: We are witnessing a curtain call by one of the dozen or so greatest ballplayers to ever play the game.

As Yankee fans, we've taken a lot of static about fielding an aging team in recent years, and that era is slowly passing  into a new one bringing exciting young players with promising futures.

But one upside has been that we have gotten to see three bonafide Hall of Famers go out with a bang in consecutive years. First Mo, then the Captain and now Alex -- not a born and bred Yankee like the first two, but by far the greatest ballplayer to wear the pinstripes since the team's golden age.

Management wanted him gone. MLB wanted him gone. The media wanted him gone. Most fans wanted him gone. Yet here he is, the straw that stirs the drink: driving the Yankees forward, rewriting the record books, silencing critics, making converts and having the time of his life from the looks of it. 

Hall of Famers don't come along all that often, much less ones with his resiliency -- and fewer still with his stats and standing on so many all-time leaderboards. By the time he's done, you can start the clock on how long it takes the drama queens who guard the gates of the Hall like nuns guarding a flock of virgins at a Catholic school dance to relent and invite him to join the club in Cooperstown. It's only a matter of time.

Enjoy him while you can, baseball fans, because the likes of Alex will not pass this way again.

You can email Barry Millman at nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Phelps, Marlins Win Big Over Eovaldi, Yankees But Trade Is Still A No-Decision

By Barry Millman

Along with the 12-2 beatdown the Marlins laid on the Yankees Tuesday emerged the amusing narrative from many in the mainstream and social media that since ex-Yankee David Phelps iced his old team and new Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, the guy he was traded for, got scorched like a ballpark frank, the Yankees got taken to the cleaners in that deal.

If one judges trades based on a single game, unquestionably. 

Their pitching lines Tuesday night were the stuff of fantasy riches: Phelps - 7IP 2ER 6H 5K 2BB vs Eovaldi - 0.2IP 8ER 9H. 0K 0BB. 

"His fastball was finding the middle and his split was up, and that's a bad combination," said manager Joe Girardi after the game. Understatement of the week. In less than an inning he gave up three more runs than he'd given up in an entire game all season.

Of course, Eovaldi's 36-pitch appearance wouldn't have been quite the masterpiece of mayhem it was without a great band playing behind him. Accompanying him on bobbled infield single was shortstop Didi Gregorius; on botched double, Carlos Beltran, and in a virtuoso performance, Chris Young on catchable triple. All that was missing to complete the cycle of defensive ineptitude was a flyball bouncing off someone's head for a homer. Yes, quite an inning. 

For Phelps, it was his fourth win against three losses. For Eovaldi, it was just his second loss against five wins. Coming into the game, the pair's ERAs were 4.11 and 4.13, respectively. They left 3.96 and 5.12.

Nate remains the second-winningest pitcher in the Yankees rotation. In his last start he was robbed of his sixth win by the pen after seven solid innings, and prior to that the team had won seven of his previous nine starts. He just turned 25 -- more than three years younger than Phelps -- and is a raw work-in-progress who is still learning secondary pitches nobody had ever bothered to teach him before. He has undeniable natural tools, he's 5-2  under the bright lights; and Phelps, who never won more than six games in a season in pinstripes, carries a worse career ERA and FIP as a starter. 

Bad game? Absolutely. Bad trade?

You've got to be kidding. Too soon. Way, way too soon.

Meanwhile, the Yankees only managed to score two runs, which wouldn't have been enough to win even if Tanaka had been on the mound going the distance. So Nate couldn't have chosen a better game to waste one. File this one away under learning experience, forget it and get 'em next time.

It was nice seeing David again though, wasn't it? Maybe when Nate grows up to be his age he can be just as good.

You can email Barry Millman nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Battery Mates Warren, Murphy Spark Yankees To 5-3 Win, Ending Losing Streak

By Barry Millman

What a difference a starting pitcher who doesn't rely on an untradeable contract to keep his job can make.

One day after CC Sabathia, the American League's favorite batting practice pitcher,  torched yet another lead with two two-run gopher balls, Adam Warren took the mound Sunday and gamely fought to lower his pitch count with quick outs after a botched double play in the first inning led to a 29-pitch frame that ultimately sabotaged his streak of five consecutive starts reaching the seventh inning. And though manager Joe Girardi ultimately pulled him one batter shy of earning the decision, he succeeded in keeping the ball in the park and allowing just three runs on six hits -- all bests by a Yankee starter in the series -- before handing a weary bullpen the lead and his team a much-needed 5-3 win; averting a sweep by the Orioles and ending a three-game losing streak.

Chasen Shreve got the last out of the fifth for Warren and went on to combine with Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances to shut down the Orioles the rest of the way; preserving for one more day the team's tenuous hold on first place in a tightening division race.

The big offensive blow of the game came from backup catcher JR Murphy (sorry John Ryan, you've been JR to me far too long to change now) who went 3-for-4 on the day and drilled a bases-loaded double with two outs in the top of the fifth, providing the go-ahead runs after Garrett "GI" Jones walked home the tying run three batters before him. Earlier in the game, Mark Teixeira doubled home Brett Gardner in the first inning and Gardner drove in Didi Gregorius on a sacrifice fly in the second.

Fun thought: Next up is a four-game stand against the Marlins and, looking at the schedule, it dawns on me that if the Yankees decide Ivan Nova doesn't need another rehabilitation start before activating him, he'll be perfectly lined up to take Sabathia's place in the rotation there.  Hey, I can dream, right?

You can email Barry Millman at nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

If There Was An All-Star Game For Worst Players, Sabathia Would Be The AL's Ace

By Barry Millman

A two-run Yankee lead in the first inning and two more runs in the sixth might normally be enough to give them a shot at a win.

But baseball, as much as any sport, is about momentum; and in between the first and sixth, CC Sabathia, the American League's favorite batting practice pitcher, provided the Orioles five innings of excellent BP, serving up eight hits including two two-run home runs; forcing manager Joe Girardi once again to go to his depleted bullpen early and the team down 4-2. And at that point, it was as good as over.

Because the Yankees came back to score two in the top of the 6th after he was out of the game, Sabathia was spared the loss on his record.  But make no mistake. This loss was all his.

Sure, there were poor defensive plays and the long-ball-reliant offense could've scored more runs. And you can certainly point a finger at former Lowe's refrigerator mover Chris Martin and newly acquired David Carpenter-esque Dodgers castoff Sergio Santos who added three and two more runs, respectively, to the O's final nine-run total.

But bringing them into the game wouldn't have been necessary if Sabathia had performed his job -- his only excuse at this point in his nosediving career for being in the rotation other than justifying his misbegotten contract extension -- and that is to eat innings and keep the other team from hitting the ball hard and scoring runs.

Sabathia is now tied for the league lead in home runs allowed at 14; carries the second worst opponent batting average at .309; third worst opponent OPS at .833; and seventh worst  ERA at 5.38 among all qualified American League starting pitchers. 

By allowing eight hits and four runs in five innings, he put up precisely the same line in this game as O's starting pitcher Bud Norris --  who carries an ERA of 8.29 but somehow managed  to recover from his two-run first inning to retire 13 of the next 14 Yankee hitters he faced before allowing a leadoff single in the sixth and then Alex Rodriguez's history-making (aren't they all now?) 666th home run, giving him his 2,000th and 2,001st RBI, joining Hank Aaron as the only players to reach that lofty milestone and putting him just five hits away from the only slightly less exclusive 3,000-hits club. 

At least when a horrible pitcher like Bud Norris finally imploded, he had a good excuse. 

Sabathia, unfortunately, was just being Sabathia -- the worst starting pitcher in the American League.

You can email Barry Millman at nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Friday, June 12, 2015

On Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui's 41st birthday, A Moment To Reflect On ARod's DH Season

By Barry Millman

It's Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui's 41st birthday today, and it's one all Yankee fans should note well.

Originally an outfielder when he came to the Yankees, his distinguished seven-year career in pinstripes concluded in glorious fashion in 2009 when he transitioned to full-time designated hitter and had one of the most productive seasons of his career, rapping 28 dingers and driving in 90 runs. It ended with a world championship ring on his finger and World Series MVP trophy in his arms.

On this date that year, he was batting .260 with a .834 OPS and had collected 9 home runs and 25 RBI.  

Today, one month shy of his 40th birthday, Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees' first full-time designated hitter since Matsui, is hitting .270 with a .878 OPS and has hit 11 homers and driven in 29 runs.

I can think of no greater tribute to Godzilla's Yankee legacy on his special day than pausing to appreciate the year Alex is having fulfilling the same crucial role for this year's team Upper Deki did for that one. Alex is doing credit both to his old friend and teammate and to the path Godzilla blazed for Alex to follow.

[Note: I would be remiss, of course, if I didn't provide a link here to my spring training story predicting Alex would match Godzilla's 2009 season as a full-time DH if given the chance.]

You can email Barry Millman at nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Yankees Fan Congratulates Royals Fans On Winning The All-Star Ballot Game

By Barry Millman

It struck me as I've read all the reactions to baseball's All-Star Game voting controversy that no baseball fan or writer for any other team has had the balls to do what I'm about to do, and that needs to be rectified, so here goes: 

Congratulations and a tip of my Yankees cap to the Kansas City fans -- however few or many are responsible --  for putting seven Royals players in the lead on this year's All-Star game ballot. You guys rock and have done your team and your fellow fans proud. If there was an All-Star game for fans, you'd get all my votes this year.

By all accounts, no rules have been broken and the voting system is working exactly as it was designed to work. I'm rooting for those fans the rest of the way to reach their goal because fan excellence on that level deserves its due and needs nurturing.

I know and can appreciate the magnitude of their effort because when the ballots first came out, I launched an all-out campaign to get my own small corner of Yankee Universe on Twitter and Google+ enthused and voting for the one Yankee  on the ballot who was #ASGWorthy; consistently generating offense and raising all boats in the lineup; exciting the fan base and, statistically, was a lead-pipe, no-brainer choice to win his All-Star spot by any objective measure.

Alex Rodriguez was leading, tied for the lead or a close second in virtually every traditional, counting and sabermetric stat that matters among the American League's qualified  full-time designated hitters for much of the first two months of the season. Of all the races on the ballot, the race for DH was the only one that wasn't even a race at the time. Alex owned it, and I kept posting updated The Case for All-Star ARod stories nearly every day and during games for weeks and weeks, meticulously documenting his superior performance in relation to the other candidates with direct links to the official ballot. 

By and large, they got treated like spam. A lot of views -- almost anything with Alex's name in the headline will get you that -- but only a few favorites and almost no retweets or click-throughs to the ballot. The team's public relations and social media departments were no help, treating Alex's amazing comeback season like a bug on their corporate windshield. Had it not been for the home run milestone controversy and the marketing bonus controversy, you'd think I was asking my fellow Yankee fans to vote for some guy who won a radio contest and first prize was two months DHing for the Yankees.

Maybe I underestimated the contagious effectiveness of the team's bug treatment. Maybe too many of our good fans relied too much on the size of our fan base to do their heavy lifting for them. Maybe the team's rocky start stifled their desire to look ahead to summer. Or maybe the cheers I was hearing for him at home games and seeing on social media were simply mirages. Whatever the reason,  after more than a month of intensive effort and very little positive feedback, I gave up the campaign. And here we are with KC winning in a blowout and our position players likely shut out.  Not even Alex can save them in this game.

I'm as serious a fan as you'll find when it comes to the great game of baseball. But I try not to let the serious get in the way of the fun part of the game, and let's face it: the All-Star game was conceived as a purely fun popularity contest to increase fan interest and attendance, and it was never -- repeat never, ever -- intended to be a reward for players for a half season of statistical excellence, the very idea being absurd on the face of it.  Players become favorites for many reasons and you could populate the rosters of an entire division with the names of statistically-challenged All-Stars who were voted in, not just by fans, but by managers, coaches and players alike to play in the midsummer classic.

That was the whole point of letting fans -- and only fans -- vote for the thing in the first place for the first 24 years. Voting for the first All-Star-Game in 1933 was done by pre-printed ballots published in newspapers across the country. And nobody had a problem with the process until 1957 when Commissioner Ford Frick decided  Reds players were just too popular with the fans in Cincy and -- even though no voting rules had been broken -- decided to break the rules himself by arbitrarily intervening to play some real-life fantasy baseball and tweaked the roster so it was more to his  liking.

If somebody wants to change the rules so the voting goes differently next year, that's fine by me. But I sure hope Commissioner Manfred gives more of a frick about ethics than his predecessor did and doesn't taint the integrity or intent of this year's game by stepping in to arbitrarily circumvent the will of those dedicated Royals fans who persevered through untold nights wearing out untold keyboards and untold email addresses to carpet the heavens with ballots supporting their guys.

In recent days, I've seen a few embarrassing attempts to play catch-up by the Yankee PR department and some Yankee writers. To them, I would urge caution. This is a fight you're not remotely equipped to win and, even if you somehow pulled it off and managed to suddenly load the team with Yankees at this late date, the results would only be seen as twice as illegitimate as KC's -- and rightly so. 

Like the official Esurance-sponsored All-Star Game ballot blurb on every MLB team's website says, voting early and voting often was the clearest path to a victory in this contest, and it's way too late for that. Voting began less than a month after Opening Day and one fan base got there earliest and voted most often. They should be applauded, not penalized.

So I for one am taking a cue from our streaky, freaky first-place Yankees team who've lost to the worst and beaten the best while carrying its balls in five-gallon buckets all year and unashamedly tipping my cap to the KC fans who beat us fair and square. Good win, Royals Nation. Enjoy watching all your favorite players in the All-Star game. You earned it.

Speaking on behalf of Yankee Universe, we'll just have to console ourselves with the memory of our All-Stars sweeping yours in games that counted.

You can email Barry Millman nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

In A Laugher That Almost Became A Loss,
Few Heroes, Many Goats And One G.O.A.T.

By Barry Millman

The Yankees beat back a late rally by the Angels in their home stand opener Friday night to win 8-7 -- and  a game that almost went from laugher to loss in a few New York minutes provided heroes, goats and a G.O.A.T. to cheer, jeer and strike fear in the hearts of every Yankee fan who rode it out to it's heart-stopping conclusion.

Taking the above categories one at a time:

THE HEROES: Starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi picked up his 5th win, second most on the team against a single loss.  The team's flame-throwing good luck charm and resident raw work-in-progress continued to both grow as a pitcher and confront his flaws as the team won for the seventh time in his last nine starts. Spinning a beauty for five and a third innings, he allowed just four hits and struck out four before losing the plate in the sixth with one out and walking the bases full. The ump had been squeezing both teams all night and, to Eovaldi's credit, he stayed with the game plan that had gotten him nine groundouts as he kept aiming for the black rather than grooving one down the pipe, looking for the tenth that would end the inning. When he didn't get it and manager Joe Girardi pulled him, he walked to the dugout with a 5-0 lead, one GIDP short of a gem, lowering his ERA a quarter of a run to 4.16 and handing the team an easy win -- or so everyone thought.

Didi Gregorious was another hero. After the Angels had scored five runs in the ninth to make it 8-5 and Dellin Betances had reloaded the base with one out,  Didi kept  them from completing the comeback and tying the game with a diving backhanded stab of a hard-hit grounder to his right by Johnny Giavotella, then made a quick flip to Joe Pirela at second base to get the force for the second out. Only one run scored on the play instead of two and Betances was able to strike out the next batter to end the game. After the game, Betances was effusive in his praise of Didi and the importance of the play in halting the impending disaster. "Thank God for Didi." he said. Indeed. And speaking of God ... 

In a one-run game, anybody who drove in or scored a run played a crucial role, but this is my hero list and I'm adding Alex Rodriguez to it for the simple reason his 7th-inning run was the game-winner. On a night when he'd already made some history and easily could've just coasted or taken a seat with the game seemingly out of reach, he kept going to the plate and taking his cuts with a vengeance like the outcome was still doubt -- perhaps in his brilliant baseball mind, knowing this team as he does, he had an inkling it might be -- and that made the difference  in the game. After doubling in the 7th he moved to third on a wild pitch. Following  a groundout by Teixeira and walk by Brian McCann,  Joe Girardi decided to use the late 7-1 lead to try to kick start the slumping Chris Young and sent him in to pinch hit for Garrett Jones.   Young lofted a soft single to right to score Alex to make it 8-1.  A meaningless tack-on run at the time, two innings later it was the game-changer. 

Rookie reliever Jacob Lindgren, who came on to pitch the 8th, struck out two, induced a groundout and walked one, was the only pitcher other than Eovaldi deserving of applause  rather than a sigh of relief and a shot of liquor or other sedative when he walked off the mound.

THE GOATS: Chase Headley, who failed to yield to rookie second baseman Joe Pirela fast enough on a pop fly in the 9th, causing it to drop between them and triggering the beginning of the 9th inning collapse.  Pirela may only be a rookie with  15 major league games at second base under his belt, but he has many more there as a minor leaguer and Headley has only played seven at first base in his career and Pirela was right to come in and call Headley off. Headley's job there is to go back and cover first in case the runner strays off the bag or in case there's a muff. Turned out the muff was his, though the hometown scorer didn't charge him with it. 

For the sake of brevity, I'm putting all the relief pitchers who added to the unnecessary drama of the game  on this list. That list includes:

Esmil Rogers, the so-called long reliever who hopefully isn't long for the unemployment line, gave up five runs on four hits and a walk without recording an out.

Dellin Betances, who allowed all three baserunners he inherited from Rogers to score and added one of his own before mercifully remembering who he was and why he was there.

Chasen Shreve, who came in to pick up the final two outs of the sixth for Eovaldi and promptly spoiled the starter's scoreless outing by sending home a run. It was the beginning of the Angels comeback.

And of course, you can't leave Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and his binder off the goat list in this one. The bullpen is frying like crisp bacon  because long before Opening Day they made the decision to put their only reliable long reliever in the rotation and didn't -- and still won't -- make a contingency plan for another one. 

THE G.O.A.T.: 4-for-5. Second most RBI all-time. Nine hits away from 3,000. What can you say that hasn't already been said elsewhere by better scribes than yours truly about Alex? Of course this scribe has been writing and saying it longer than many of them, but it's always nice to see so many others come around to the same realization: We're all witnessing history with every swing of his bat and have been for years.  Savor it. It's doubtful anyone of his greatness will pass this way again in our lifetimes.

A final word in the aftermath of this fugly win:  Word on the street is Brian C's beating the waiver wire for another garage sale band-aid righty reliever to replace the dearly departed David Carpenter -- or at least let's hope it's a garage sale and not a trade for  one of our prospects. Memo to Brian: One call to Scranton does it all.  Your next righty reliever, your next long reliever, your next two starters, your next second baseman, they've got everything this team needs. Did you forget the number? It's 570-969-2255.  There now, no more excuses. For the love of Alex and everything else that's holy, please call them today!

You can email Barry Millman at nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Nine Reasons Yankee Fans Should Be Excited About Nate Eovaldi's Start Tonight

By Barry Millman

Nathan Eovaldi takes the mound against the Angels tonight, and regardless how Yankee fans may feel about the work-in-progress that is Big Nate, here's nine reasons why they should be looking forward to it:

1) At 4-1, Eovaldi is second only to Michael Pineda among the team's starters in wins and leads the team's rotation in winning percentage. 

2) The team has won six of the last eight games he's started.

3) He's allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven of his 10 starts.

4) At 5.60 runs of support per start, the Yankee bats wake up and come through for him better than all but five other starters in the AL and four in the NL. (A just reward for MLB's leading victim of low run support since 2011.)

5) He's pitching on five days rest. He's  3-0 and has a 1.74 ERA  in three starts this season when pitching on five days' rest.

6) Since his second start of the season on April 15th, he's followed every appearance in which he failed to reach the sixth inning with one that made it into the seventh or beyond.

7) Per Fangraphs, his fastball is averaging 95.7 mph this year, the second highest velocity in MLB among pitchers with a minimum 50 IP. Only Joe Kelly's at 95.9 mph is higher. 

8) Per MLB.com analyst Mike Petriello, Eovaldi's splitter is gradually becoming a unique and useful third weapon for him that hitters have had difficulty squaring up and Nate said this week he's going to be throwing it more often.

9) While Eovaldi got shelled by these Angels in an abbreviated outing last year playing for the anemic Marlins, all the hits he yielded were singles and more than half were of the airborne variety, befitting his groundball/flyball ratio of 0.87 at the time. This season he's become a virtually neutral pitcher with an 0.99 G/F ratio, meaning roughly 50% of the balls hit off him now are as likely to kill worms as mosquitoes -- and that ratio's been improving.

You can email Barry Millman at nyyankeefanforever@ymail.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.