Friday, July 2, 2010
LET 'EM THROW JOE!
Story and photos by Tony Mangia
PITCHERS CATCH UP TO HITTERS
I guess the Yankee's manager, Joe Girardi, didn't get the memo stating that 2010 is being called the "Year of the Pitcher." Sure, for every Carlos Zambrano pulling a Mel Gibson, there is a Ubaldo Jimenez winning 13 of his first 14 starts---in mile-high air of Colorado, no less. The Nationals Stephen Strasburg and Reds Mike Leake have become the aces of their staff---oh yeah, both are rookies. The abundance of no-hitters and two perfect games (and another phantom one) so early this season seem to back the theory of maybe performance-enhancing drugs were more prevalent among hitters than previously thought. This explosion of dominant pitching hasn't been seen since the late 60's when MLB lowered the pitcher's mound from 15 to 10 inches. Today's hitters might want to consider lowering it to five fingers.
GIRARDI'S TWISTED RULES FOR PITCHERS
From the team that brought you---sorry to say---the shaving cream pie-in-the-face and The Joba Rules comes The Hughes/Burnett Rules. Girardi surmises that starter Phil Hughes has to pitch less than 175 innings this season to be effective. So the over-manager has decreed, less than halfway into a season and in the midst of a playoff race, that his best pitcher will skip a start in Los Angeles and go to the back end of the rotation after the All-Star game; sparing the 24 year-old Hughes a few innings of wear and tear on his valuable wing. Meanwhile, Girardi believes that his worst starter, A.J. Burnett (the pie innovator) should be pitching more to get his mojo back. He claims the two will be better prepared for the playoffs. Let me get this straight...use a slumping player more while benching one of your hottest? Hey Joe! Hear that chomping? It's your old nemesis, the Boston Red Sox nipping at your cleats. Oh yeah, those pesky Rays are still only two games back. THERE ARE STILL 83 GAMES TO PLAY! You can't clinch without winning now!
The Joba Rules. Limiting the number of pitches thrown by a virgin arm. Pretty cute after Joba Chamberlain first burst on the scene in 2007. The rightie delighted fans with his strikeouts and fist-pumping. He was the new set-up man---heir to John Wetteland and Jeff Nelson. Then came the night of the midges in a playoff game against the Cleveland Indians. Who could forget that humid, sticky night? The bugs on Joba's neck...the cans of Raid...Joba's loss of innocence.
Chamberlain was micro-managed by Girardi for the next two seasons. He competed with Hughes over starting or coming out of the bullpen. Hughes won that battle and, thankfully, put a rest to that drama. Joba is like M. Night Shyamalan with his big summer debut and then the series of flops afterwards. Chamberlain occasionally has the extraordinary inning and can freeze a batter and wow the crowds, but his only consistency is his inconsistency.
Joe Girardi was a major league catcher and saw all kinds of pitching slumps and streaks. It's hard to argue with the idea of pitching yourself out of a slump. Burnett pitched a solid six innings yesterday against the Blue Jays, but one good outing doesn't make up for five stinkers and an ERA of 11.35. Burnett had the same song-and-dance routine last season---one good start for every four breakdowns. The Girardi plan seems to have worked for Javier Vazquez. The once-struggling starter (6-5) has picked it up in the last few weeks. He could possibly be 9-4 if it wasn't for a lack of Yankee run support.
Look at the Texas Rangers
Girardi's habit of pulling a pitcher based on pitch counts has constantly back-fired. Going to a bullpen with Chan Ho Park and Dave Robertson is futile. Both relievers have soaring ERAs and creeping confidence. The Texas Rangers' no-name rotation averages almost seven innings a start. The team is on fire too. As for the once-streaking Hughes, he was drubbed by the Mariners in his first start after giving his right arm a nine day vacation. Only time will tell if the Rangers drill-sergeant pitching coach, Nolan Ryan, will exhaust his staff or Girardi's nursery school approach will get the Yankees into the playoffs.
Oh Say Can You CC
CC Sabathia had a monstrous June and has whipped off six straight wins with an ERA of 2.00 during that span. Nolan Ryan would be proud of the 116 pitches he threw against the Mariners and only Jorge Posada's passed ball allowed two runs. The workhorse, Sabathia, has become the ace he was imported to the Bronx for. CC, Hughes and Andy Pettitte could be the first triple-10 games winners, before an All-Star break, on the same team since the Orioles Cuellar-Palmer-McNally trifecta in1971.
Forget the pile of cash LeBron James is about to score. Tiger Woods' wife Elin's attorneys have begun talks for a divorce settlement starting at $750 million. It would be the largest amount ever awarded in a divorce case. A fat bank account and no golf clubs or sext messages lying around the house---a win-win situation.
Must be a little bittersweet for Red Sox fan/actor Dennis Leary to use Derek Jeter in the ads for his cable show Rescue Me on FX. It's like Rudy Guiliani making out with Curt Schilling.
Go On LeBron
Take it to the bank. Lebron James is going to Newark. BFF, Jay-Z and the tall Russian will lure King James and Carlos Boozer to the New Jersey Nets. LeBron, just make sure your Lojack system is working when you park your Escalade outside the Prudential Center.
Flops, Sweat and Tears
Getting used to the vuvuellas in a soothing sort of way. Alexi Lalas still moping over the U.S. elimination annoys me now. The Netherlands win their first World Cup.