During Saturday’s NY Yankees-Oakland Athletics game, a 4-3 loss, announcers Michael Kay and Paul O’Neill wondered aloud why Yanks manager Joe Girardi removed pitcher A.J. Burnett in the sixth inning after he had loaded the bases with two outs. After all, they bantered, Burnett is your number two pitcher. Why wouldn’t you let him work his way out of the trouble he himself created?
What Yankee team have they been watching this year (or last year, for that matter)? Burnett might be their second highest paid starter, but he has not shown he is their number two pitcher when on the mound. If the playoffs were to begin today, Burnett would be my fourth starter, behind C.C. Sabathia, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. (Burnett’s record and steadiness last year were so suspect he didn’t even pitch in the playoffs.)
This year Burnett is 8-8 with a 4.21 ERA.; Garcia is 8-7 with a 3.21 ERA; Colon 7-6 with a 3.29. Clearly the team has a better chance of winning when a pitcher gives up fewer runs per nine innings. I’d even pitch Ivan Nova over Burnett. Though currently in the minor leagues, Nova posted an 8-4 record and a 4.12 ERA before being sent down to accommodate Phil Hughes’ return from the disabled list.
More on Number 2: Yankee fans griped earlier this week on sports radio about Derek Jeter’s lack of pressure hitting. They demanded his demotion from the lead-off or number two spot in the batting order, citing his failure in the Tampa Bay series to repeatedly knock in runs in critical situations.
It’s true, Jeter is not the same clutch hitter of his youth. Compared to other lead-off hitters in baseball, he’s smack-dab in the middle when you look at batting average, runs batted in, runs scored and on-base percentage. Hardly any crazed Yankee fan can accept mediocrity.
But let’s not forget that baseball is a nine-man game. In two out of the last four contests, one run losses to Tampa Bay and Oakland, Jeter had three important late inning hits his teammates failed to convert into runs. Against the Rays he doubled into left center field but was stranded. Against the A’s he twice got into scoring position, first by doubling in the 7th inning and then by singling, stealing second and tagging up to third in the 9th. Jeter’s value has always been as a table setter. The Yankee captain, who wears #2 on his uniform, did his job, but baseball is a quirky game. The Yanks who scored 17 runs Friday night barely mustered 3 on Saturday afternoon. All too often, individual accomplishments are wasted by the inefficiency of your teammates. In today’s game, Jeter knocked in an important seventh run in the bottom of the eighth.
Bottom line: Over the long haul, Jeter remains a positive force high up in the batting order, whether first or second.
Bases Loaded: I finally heard an announcer give the record of a pitcher facing the bases loaded. In today’s Yanks-A’s game, Michael Kay noted batters hit .250 against Mariano Rivera in such situations, as the incomparable reliever tried to close out his 25th save of the season against the stubborn Athletics. Josh Willingham promptly singled to left to narrow the Yankee lead to 7-5. Mo and the Yanks escaped with a victory despite the next batter’s scalding line drive because it fortuitously went directly to Mark Teixeira who stepped on first to double-up Willingham for a game-ending double play. It was Rivera’s 15th consecutive year with at least 25 saves.
Hacker-Gate Update: It’s not baseball-related, but I couldn’t wait to post this. Last week I commented how Hacker-Gate had similarities to Watergate (http://nosocksneededanymore.blogspot.com/2011/07/murdoch-most-vile.html). Maybe I was stretching a little, but the comparison continues to be bizarrely appropriate.
Word came Friday about the firing of another Murdoch editor because of the hacking scandal. If you haven’t heard or read about it, you might not believe your eyes. His name—Matt Nixson!!! (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/21/matt-nixson-news-of-the-world-the-sun)
Don’t you just love the way the British spell their names? Hacker-Gate's Andrew Coulson vs. Watergate's Chuck Colson. Matt Nixson vs. Richard Nixon. Is there a Deane waiting in the wings?