Umpires' foul play spoiling postseason (cont.)
Matsui wants to return
Free-agent-to-be Hideki Matsui would like to return to the Yankees, and those close to him saw some hope for that after he got the call from Yankees manager Joe Girardi to start at DH over Jorge Posada. The Yankees love Matsui, who hit 28 home runs with 90 RBIs to go with a .274 batting average this season, but the general feeling is that they'd prefer to keep the DH slot open next year and that Johnny Damon (also a free agent) might fit better than Matsui since Damon can play the outfield somewhat acceptably. Matsui will need knee surgery again after the season just to be able to DH.
One place that seems to make sense is the Mariners, since they have a potential DH opening with Ken Griffey Jr.'s contract up. However, people close to Matsui say he and Ichiro are not close, and Ichiro still wields a lot of power in Seattle. Ichiro is known to have one-on-one meetings with ownership (it is widely believed it was Ichiro who caused Mike Hargrove's ouster, though he technically resigned on a seven-game winning streak), and it is also believed that it's unlikely Ichiro would recommend the Mariners sign Matsui.
Matsui's first choice is the Yankees. But Gaku Tashiro, a reporter with Sankei Sports who consistently has the best info on Matsui for years, said he believes Matsui would like to stay in the U.S. and play even if it's not with the Yankees.
Joba's status takes a hit
The Yankees have determined that if they get to the ALCS, Joba Chamberlain won't be starting for them. This has nothing to do with The Joba Rules. It's that he simply hasn't good enough lately as a starter.
The Yankees will either employ bargain-basement pickup Chad Gaudin, or simply go with three starters, using their Game 1 starter in Game 4. Gaudin was acquired for $100,000. But this isn't about money or hype now. They simply need to use their best starters.
When I inquired whether this might mean that Chamberlain might be shifted to the bullpen next year, I was told by a Yankees source, "We're really not thinking past the Twins yet.'' But Joba's 9-6 season with a 4.75 ERA was a rare disappointment for the Yankees. He also had a 5.40 ERA in the second half, which was even worse.
That could mean that 1) the Yankees really are not thinking about anything past the Twins, or 2) they no longer view Joba as the savior starter of the future. Yankees higherups have been steadfast supporters of the disappointing Chamberlain. But of course, it's easy to give him every chance in the regular season. Now, when the games count, real opinions are learned. Chamberlain came into the game in the seventh inning of Game 2, but Girardi removed him after two outs were made and as soon as one Twin reached base. Girardi didn't let Chamberlain face a left-handed batter with a runner on first base.
If Chamberlain is taking this personally, he isn't saying, "I'm good," he said. "You can't think about it. Whatever situation comes up, it comes up.''
The first time I started to wonder whether Chamberlain's status was falling was when I heard Yankees people saying they might consider including him in a trade if the Blue Jays ever truly considered trading Roy Halladay within the division. Alas, it never came to that, as Toronto never got back to the Yankees with anything less than Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, plus more.
Chamberlain has been easily outpitched by Gaudin, a terrific pickup who's yet to lose a start. But this is more about Chamberlain than Gaudin. In the long run, some baseball people believe Hughes might make a better starter than Chamberlain. While Chamberlain has a more diverse repertoire, Hughes has a greater ability to think on the mound. Chamberlain is more of an adrenaline pitcher, which is conducive to relief.
The Phillies know that this winter will be a good time to try to lock up Cliff Lee. A.J. Burnett's $82.5 million contract will be a comparable used there (though Lee actually has better results than Burnett).
Burnett, by the way, pitched well enough that presumably he gets to have Jose Molina catch him the next time he starts. He allowed one earned run in six innings, though he did walk five (while striking out six).
There seems to be a little buzz to the talk of Milton Bradley to Tampa. The Rays weighed the character issue when they got rid of Elijah Dukes. But perhaps they think Bradley will do better in a smaller media market than he did in Chicago. A Rays exec said something along the lines of "We'll consider anything,'' which doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement. A Bradley-for-Pat Burrell trade has been speculated in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Jonathan Broxton and Ubaldo Jimenez have hit 100 mph this postseason already. Red Sox rookie Daniel Bard hit 97 on the Angels radar, which is the slower gun.
The Matt Holliday drop brought back memories of a similar play 31 years ago in the NLCS when Gold Glove outfielder Garry Maddox dropped a ball that was catchable though not quite routine (much like Holliday's ball). Maddox, who won eight Gold Gloves, couldn't handle Dusty Baker's fly. The game and series ended when the next batter Bill Russell singled in the winning run. The headline the next day was: "The Day Garry Maddox Dropped a Pennant."
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