Saturday, September 10, 2011

Yankees news: Coffee's for closers

Years before Alec Baldwin earned loads of money playing a slightly amped-up version of himself on 30 Rock, he delivered one of the great monologues in movie history in 1992's Glengarry Glen Ross.

In the role of bastard sales strategist Blake, Baldwin completely destroys a roomful of salesman in an attempt to "motivate" the crew. When Jack Lemmon's character gets up during the beginning of Blake's rant to pour himself a cup of coffee, Blake barks, "Put that coffee down. Coffee's for closers only."

Great movie and I implore you to watch the scene here. As for the Yankees, there should be no coffee-drinking in their clubhouse today. Because the Yankees can't seem to close of late.

Three days. Three cities. Three wins for the opposition in their final at-bat. There's a special place in hell for a stretch of losses like this, made all the more regrettable as the Red Sox continue to stumble.

The comment section last night featured a lot of chatter about Joe Girardi blowing the game with his use of Aaron Laffey and Luis Ayala in the ninth, but I don't get that. Girardi knows the playoffs are less than a month away and he knows the Yankees will be in them.

Pitching David Robertson a second inning there simply isn't worth it. The team continues to tread lightly with Rafael Soriano. Boone Logan says he has dead arm. Bringing in Mariano Rivera? They haven't gone off script in 15 years, no reason to start now.

The Yankees blew the 2004 ALCS for a lot of reasons, but right near the top of that list was a gassed bullpen that Joe Torre murdered by overuse. Girardi, a YES broadcaster that doomed season, probably took note.

Onto the links ...

Dan Hanzus is a regular contributor to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yankees can't help Colon in Angels opener

Bartolo Colon deserved a better fate on Friday night, but then again, we've said that about Colon many times this season.

The right-hander allowed just one-run over seven innings against his former club, but the Yankees' offense couldn't solve Jered Weaver in a 2-1 loss at Angel Stadium.

It marked the third straight loss for New York, with the opponent scoring the game-winning run in the final frame of each game. This has happened over three consecutive days in three different cities, by the way. The Red Sox lost again — limiting the damage here — but something tells me the Yankees might kick themselves for how the last few days played out.

Colon wasn't the only Yankees bright spot. Jesus Montero flashed his considerable power again, giving New York its only lead with a solo shot off Weaver in the third inning. It's a small sample, but you can't help but get excited with what Montero has shown thus far: .350 average, three homers and six RBI in just 20 at-bats. That's a nice start.

Nice start for Montero, poor finish for the Yankees bullpen on Friday. The game was decided in the ninth when two Yankees relievers couldn't get the job done. First up was Aaron Laffey, who opened the inning by allowing a single to Alberto Callaspo. Exit Laffey, enter Luis Ayala. The right-hander suffered the indignity of giving up a single to Vernon Wells (.216 heading into the at-bat), putting runners on the corners with no outs. Ayala then hit Peter Bourjos with a pitch, setting the stage for Maicer Izturis, who skied out to center, picking up an easy sacrifice fly in the process. Ballgame over, Yankees lose.

Weaver was his typical ace self, allowing just one run on three hits over eight innings, striking out 11. The Yankees only stayed in the game because Colon nearly matched Weaver out for out. Colon's only real mistake came in the fifth, when he surrendered a two-out opposite field RBI single to Howie Kendrick.

The game's other big play came in the top of the ninth. With one out, Alex Rodriguez worked a walk off Angels closer Jordan Walden, fighting back after falling behind in the count, 1-2. A-Rod exited for pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez. Baserunners had been successful stealing on Walden in 12 of 13 attempts this year, but Mike Scioscia called a pitch-out at the right time, the end result an inning-busting caught-stealing.

The Yankees turn to CC Sabathia to end their losing streak on Saturday night. Things won't get any easier for the offense, which must next deal with Dan Haren.

Stray observations

  • The Yankees are reportedly concerned with the status of Nick Swisher's elbow. Swishalicious is feeling a sharp pain in the area. Obviously, losing Swisher for an extended amount of time will hurt this team badly. I just have my fingers crossed that we're not talking about a "TJ" situation here.
  • Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4 and is now hitting .268. He's going to have to hike up that average 10 points or so to stay in MVP contention. Batting average ain't dead for everybody.
  • Bobby Abreu is aging worse than the homecoming queen at your 10-year high school reunion.
  • Colon hasn't won on the road since July 2.
  • Is it just me, or does every Yankees pitcher wearing No. 22 remind you of Jimmy Key? The man left his mark, no doubt.
  • Ayala didn't get the job done tonight, but I'm going to give him a pass. He entered the game with a 1.48 ERA in 48 2/3 innings pitched. Who could've seen that coming?

Dan Hanzus is a regular contributor to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at or on Twitter @danhanzus.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Derek Jeter's last laugh

In the fading twilight of Don Mattingly's career, every contribution by the erstwhile Hit Man was cause for celebration in the Bronx.

Mattingly was adored by Yankees fans in a way that was almost familial. He wasn't just loved, he was protected. A bad back had robbed the captain of the torque necessary to be a productive offensive player, but on the days Mattingly did find the short porch in right, a standing ovation was always in order.

There was no getting around the fact that Mattingly had no business being an everyday player by the end of his run in New York. In his last two seasons, Mattingly hit 13 homers in 830 at-bats. His OPS was a Joey Cora-like .754 in 1995, his final year before retirement.

Mattingly took heat for his lack of production, but the old media model was still in place, limiting the vitriol. WFAN's Chris Russo was outspoken in his criticism, and George Steinbrenner was accused by Mattingly himself of planting negative stories with the help of Bill Madden, columnist for the Daily News.

But with no Internet and the nasty snark streak that it helped create, Mattingly's final years played out with an air of dignity that could never happen today.

Just ask Derek Jeter. The current Yankees captain rivals Mattingly in fan adoration levels, but Jeter has faced scrutiny that Mattingly never could've imagined. Even when Jeter was in his prime, he was described by some as grossly overrated. As he's grown older, the sniping has increased considerably — first about his range at shortstop and later about his ability at the plate.

Last winter was open season on Jeter, as his ugly contract situation combined with an underwhelming 2010 campaign made for a turkey shoot. Things didn't get better as he staggered toward 3,000 hits this spring. Kevin Long's new swing model was unceremoniously scrapped (a black mark for the venerable "Cage Rat") and Jeter scuffled in April, May and June, hitting .250, .274 and .239, respectively.

In June, a calf injury sent him to the disabled list on the precipice of 3,000 and suddenly Jeter was literally limping toward the milestone. Jokes about the big hit being a misplayed infield chopper were commonplace. Derek Jeter, the great and dignified Yankee, was washed up ... and a lot of people seemed to be enjoying it.

Of course, Jeter has since altered that narrative. The shortstop put his swing back together, and is hitting .343 with three homers, 34 RBIs, 33 runs and eight stolen bases in the 51 games since his return to the lineup. His breakup with Minka Kelly may be the only blemish on an otherwise sterling summer.

Predictably, you've heard less about Jeter's revival than his supposed downfall. I suspect this bothers me more than him, however. Jeter's unflappable nature was on full display in the HBO documentary about his quest for 3,000. This was a guy with his career at a crossroads, who was being questioned on a near-daily basis about whether he was still a player, and he never blinked.

The doc was a fascinating look into Jeter's life while also distilling the core brilliance of his mastery of the media. Even when you think you're in, you're not. Jeter never lets us see him sweat. The emperor always keeps his clothes.

And that's why we can only speculate this morning about Jeter's satisfaction with how this 2011 season has played out. He won't gloat now, just as he wouldn't pout then. He is the finest example of how a professional athlete in New York — or any market — should carry himself. Just as Mattingly was a generation before.

Dan Hanzus can be reached at or on Twitter @danhanzus.