Free Bartolo campaign = INSTANT SUCCESS

The greatest MLBlog in the history of MLBlogs is also the most influential.

While I didn’t exactly make it a point to say in any of my posts from this season that Bartolo Colon should be in the Yanks’ rotation, I did title one post “Free Bartolo,” and everyone should have realized that was just short for: “Free Bartolo from the shackles of the bullpen and put him in the rotation for he is a stud.”

I’m not going to lie and say I was on board the Free Bartolo campaign from the beginning (well, since I started it, I guess, technically, I was).  When I heard that the Yankees signed Colon to a Minor League deal, I, like most everyone else, thought it was another example of how unprepared they were for the possibility that Cliff Lee would reject their big-money offer AND Andy Pettitte would end up retiring (I know Colon signed before Pettitte retired, but I think they were pretty sure he was retiring at that point). Colon didn’t pitch in the Majors last season, he hasn’t been all that good/healthy since he won the Cy Young in 2005, and the thing I always think about whenever someone mentions Colon is the time A-Rod took him deep three times in the same game.

Also, the man is a bit portly. I know he wasn’t exactly lean when he won the Cy Young, but it’s never a good sign when a candidate for your favorite team’s starting rotation is being compared to Andre the Giant. However, despite the time off and the plus-sized pinstripes, Colon was impressive throughout Spring Training, and I was surprised when he lost out to Freddy Garcia for the fifth-starter’s spot (thus, Free Bartolo was born). Apparently the biggest supporter — outside of this MLBlog — of the Free Bartolo campaign was Phil Hughes, who imploded in all three of his starts this season and is now on the DL with a dead arm, which has allowed Colon to join the rotation and strut his stuff.

So, successful campaign, and while I’ll be rooting for him, I can’t wait to ignore Colon’s start against the Blue Jays on Wednesday while I watch the Rangers battle the Capitals in Game 4 of the NHL playoffs. #fireableoffense

Free Bartolo campaign = INSTANT SUCCESS

Beckett bringing the high, stinky cheese

Yes, I am typing this while watching “Rookie of the Year,” because I obviously have not watched enough baseball this weekend (fireable). However, “Rookie of the Year” is a tremendous movie with a great soundtrack (Bill Conti of “Rocky” fame … at least I’m pretty sure it’s the same Bill Conti. The movie is not listed on his Wikipedia page, and that’s obviously the most reliable source of information for getting one’s facts correct), and while I would have liked for Josh Beckett to have pitched like Chet Steadman during the first half of that movie tonight, he instead looked like Henry Rowengartner during the second half (minus the floater, of course).

Now, most people have naturally compared Beckett’s performance tonight to how he pitched against the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, but the thing I found most impressive was the fact that, unlike then, when he was a fresh face to New York, tonight’s performance came in his 25th career start against the representatives of Pride, Power and Pinstripes. Beckett’s career stats against the Yanks — not including the World Series, of course — aren’t all that impressive (10-7, 6.26 ERA, 92 earned runs on 155 hits in 132 1/3 innings), which isn’t all that surprising (at least to me) because New York always has a loaded lineup and has faced him so many times. So to be as overpowering as he was tonight against a team that’s seen him a ton of times and has a strong lineup, even with A-Rod out (hell, A-Rod’s replacement, Eric Chavez, got one of the Yanks’ two hits off Beckett), sort of blew my mind. It’s one thing to blow away a team when they’ve never seen you before and you throw in the mid-90’s with a ridiculous 12-to-6 hook like Beckett does, but to dominate them when they’ve already seen you at your best  … I begrudgingly (as a Yankees fan) tip my hat to Beckett (Pedroia gets no hat tip, even though he was piling up the big hits all weekend. Guy is clearly a dirtbag. Hate hate hate.).

Now, speaking of pitchers with overpowering stuff (at least at one point in the past), Joba (Joba Joba) Chamberlain had one of his performances tonight that hurt my head. I know young Kevin brought up Joba’s additional pounds in his post below this one, but that’s not what bothers me about Joba. A large belly didn’t stop David Wells, Bartolo Colon (Free Bartolo!) or Hideki Irabu from being top-notch pitchers (OK, Irabu was only a top-notch pitcher in my childhood fantasies … that sounds creepy). Joba’s problem, as always, is his lack of control (leadoff walk to Big Papi in the seventh) and dumb pitch selection (walking J.D. Drew that same inning on a 3-2 slider). Three of the four balls to Ortiz were fastballs: you can’t be an effective pitcher in the big leagues if you can’t control your fastball, and Joba’s tendency to throw 3-2 sliders is something that’s bothered me about him since the 2008 season.

So, decent first week for the Yanks — outside of some poor bullpen performances and whatever is going on with Phil Hughes’ right arm. And this upcoming week brings two more interesting matchups in the Orioles (are they for real?) and the Rangers (off to a red-hot start, and will they continue where they left off against the Yanks in the 2010 ALCS?). I also might head out to Citi Field tomorrow or Tuesday to give some support to Kev’s boy, Izzy. Funky buttloving.

— Brian Cougar

Beckett bringing the high, stinky cheese

Here comes a bikini whale!

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Of course the day I pointed out how well the Joba/Soriano/Mo
trio was performing this season, Soriano goes out and is charged for four runs
in two-thirds of an inning in a dumb loss to the Twins. First moral of the story:
don’t walk three batters in less than an inning when you come into a game with
a four-run lead. Or ever. Second moral of the story: things I say are true will often be proven false within 24 hours.  Also, let’s not forget that Boone Logan walked the
leadoff hitter in the tenth. Relief pitchers drive me insane (outside of
beautiful Mo).

– Brian Cougar

Here comes a bikini whale!

The Joba controversy

Because Hank Steinbrenner said this quote in Play Magazine:

“‘Red Sox Nation?’ What a bunch of (expletive)
that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled
with Red Sox fans.

anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll
see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to
put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.”

He is already a Yankees legend.  Just like Hideki Irabu, Luis Sojo, Derek Jeter, and Jose Canseco.  You see, anyone who has ever worn a Yankees uniform is a Yankees legend (yes, that includes Kyle Farnsworth).

However I, like many sane people, am not with Hank on the current Joba controversy.  You see, I support what seems to be the Yankees’ current plan.  Start the season with the rotation they have now, keep Joba in the setup role and then, around June, work him into the rotation.  The only reason the Yankees have to accelerate putting Joba into the rotation is if any of the five starters suffer an injury that would keep them out long-term.  Right now (and hopefully, not ever), that hasn’t happened.  I realize Hank and many fans of the Yankees think Hughes and Kennedy may not be ready, and that Mussina may be finished as an effective starter, but I do not agree.

With Hughes and Kennedy (and Moose to some degree) the main problem right now seems to be they’re not being aggressive.  Moose, of course, needs to take a page out of Tom Glavine’s book and start pitching inside more.  This doesn’t mean Moose has to completely reinvent himself as a pitcher, that’s not what Glavine did, he just has to sneak the fastball inside enough that batters can’t sit on his breaking balls or a fastball over the outside of the plate.  A successful Moose start at this point also relies on him having excellent control and a sharp breaking ball.  He had that against the Rays and he pitched a great game (He also worked inside a bit more, especially to Gomez).  In the first start against Boston he had it early, but they have one of the best offenses in the league and were going to score a few runs off him no matter how great he pitched.  It also didn’t help that in both starts against Boston he was matched up against Josh Beckett.  Moose can still be successful (I’m talking a 2008 record of somewhere in the 13 wins, seven losses range) but he’s going to have to make some adjustments.

With Hughes and Kennedy I think they’re problem, right now, is their both being tentative.   With Hughes, and I’m not sure if this is because he’s still building up his arm strength, his fastball velocity seems to be less than he’s capable of throwing.  When he was pitching his brief and infamous no-hitter against the Rangers last year, he was topping off with a fastball in the mid-90’s, while I don’t think I’ve seen him hit over 93 on the gun this year.  If it isn’t an arm strength thing, I think it’s a situation where he’s aiming the ball too much, and not relying on his stuff.  He has a tremendous curveball, and he’s had success with it so far this year, but it seems like he’s too concerned with absolutely nailing his spot with his fastball that he’s either missing off the plate for a ball, or he’s getting too much of the plate with a subpar fastball and it’s getting hit hard.   Again, I’m not sure if this is a arm strength issue or a situation where he’s worrying too much about hitting his spot with perfection.  We will see as he progresses over the season.

I managed to catch a few of Kennedy’s starts during Spring Training and was quickly becoming a fan of his approach.  He seemed willing to throw his tremendous change up on any count, and he was consistently throwing strikes with his fastball.  Then, in his first start against the Rays and his start against Baltimore this weekend, he became an extreme nibbler.  And when he was getting into 3-0 and 3-1 counts, he would then just throw a fastball right down the middle of the plate.   He seems afraid of letting the batter make contact early in the count.  At 89 mph, hitters are going to catch up with his fastball.  For him, he has to keep it low in the zone and, most importantly, throw strikes.  It would be great if he could hit the black with every pitch, but it’s not going to happen.  Attack the zone, work in the change up (I’d also like to see a bit more of the curve, for a different look) and, most importantly, throw first-pitch strikes.

The most exciting part of this season, for me, is the young pitching.  The offense will be great, there’s too much proven talent there, but the great unknown is the pitching.  Outside of Wang and Pettitte, it’s off to a rough start, but they’re young, they’re talented, and I think fans have to be patient (and by patient I mean see progress by Memorial Day) before there are any shake ups with the rotation.

The Joba controversy