ALDS Preview: Yankees vs. Twins

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Here at HardballTalk we pride ourselves on writing dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing possible. We’re told, however, that some of you have lives and thus not all of you are able to read dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing possible.  That’s a shame, but for that reason, we’ve put together a few previews covering the broad strokes of each of the four Division Series matchups, which will pop up between now and first pitch on Wednesday afternoon. Let’s begin, shall we?

The Matchup: New York Yankees (95-67) vs. Minnesota Twins (94-68)

How’ve they been doing?
Both teams enter the playoffs stumbling, with the teams losing six of ten and seven of ten, respectively. The Yankees are 13-17 in September and October. The Twins, 18-12.  It’s worth noting, of course, that neither team had a ton to play for down the stretch. The Twins more or less had the division sealed up in early September. The Yankees were theoretically challenging for the AL East title, but a playoff spot had been assured for several weeks, if not longer. Both teams are better — and will play better — than they did down the stretch.

Haven’t I seen you before?
The Yankees won the season series 4-2. Since Ron Gardenhire took over the Twins in 2002, the Yankees have owned him, going 54-18 against the Twins, including wins in the 2009, 2004 and 2003 Division Series.

Who’s pitching?
For the Yankees it will be CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte out of the gate. Minnesota counters with Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing. Each team likely fears having to go with their fourth starter — AJ Burnett for New York and Nick Blackburn for Minnesota. The Yankees have ruled Burnett out. Like New York, if the straits are dire, look for Minnesota to think about heading back to their top guys on short rest for games 4 or 5.

The storyline which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
but which TBS will nonetheless beat to death

Probably that stuff from above about the Yankees recent dominance of the Twins. Yes, I understand why it’s something worth mentioning and I even mentioned it myself in HBT’s Playoff Power Rankings. But baseball should come with the same disclaimer that comes on the mutual funds in your 401k: past performance is no guarantee of future results. While interesting, recent history is not exactly illuminating. As they say, momentum is only as good as your next day’s starter. And given that Andy Pettitte’s back and Phil Hughes’ stamina at this point of the season is in question, the next day’s starter for the Yankees is not as strong as it used to be.

The storyline which actually does matter but about which TBS won’t spend a lot of time
talking

Less of a storyline than a dynamic: unlike the previous three playoff meetings between these clubs, the Twins should be considered the favorites. I don’t care about seeding: bet your bippy that we’ll hear a lot about the allegedly plucky Twins and the Big Bad Bronx Bombers. The betting lines and even smart guys like Aaron Gleeman disagree with me, but I think the Twins are a better team. At least on paper. Their starters are better right now. Their bullpen is stronger than most people think. The differences between the team’s offense are not that great. If you tell mystique and aura to go down the street and get you a box of chicken or something, you’ll be able to see clearly enough to realize that the Twins should be favored here. That said . . .

What’s gonna go down?
Favored is one thing. That’s an objective, intellectual concept. We’ve lived with the Jeter-era Yankees so long by now, however, that it’s impossible to ignore gut feeling.  As I sit and think about the components of each team, I can make a case for the Twins taking the series. To actually pick them, though, would force me to ignore all of the times that the Yankees seem to have simply willed themselves to victory over the past 15 years.

When I told Gleeman that I was thinking about picking the Twins, he told me that the betting line had them as +170 underdogs, and that if I felt so strongly about it, I should put some money on them. I don’t bet on baseball, but even if I did, I don’t think I could bring myself to do so. My head says Twins but my gut says Yankees.

If Francisco Liriano can pitch a deadly efficient Game 1 and set himself up nicely to come back on short rest later, I think the Twins can do it. If Delmon Young can draw on some of that early-season magic and not muff a bunch of fly balls, I think the Twins can do it.  Every time I try to imagine the ultimate outcome of this thing, however, I see Jeter getting clutch hits, Pettitte coming up bigger than he should and Brett Gardner making some crazy diving catch to rob Joe Mauer of a bases loaded double. In short, I see the Yankees taking it.

Yell at me all you want, objective thinkers, but I’m going with my gut: the Yankees in 5.

Nationals place Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list

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Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg lasted only two innings in Sunday’s start against the Diamondbacks. He said he had trouble getting loose and had some stiffness in his forearm. Two days ago Dusty Baker said that expected Strasburg to make his next scheduled start on Saturday at home against the Rockies.

Nope. Not happening.Today the Nationals placed Strasburg on the 10-day disabled list with a right elbow nerve impingement.

Not that they expect it to be a long stay. The plan is for him to miss one start, rest up and come back. Erick Fedde will be promoted from Triple-A Syracuse to pitch in Strasburg’s place on Saturday against the Rockies.

Optimistically, this is a situation in which, if the Nats were in a tight race, Strasburg would try to gut it out, but since they’re not, they can afford to be cautious with him. Obviously time will tell if such optimism is warranted.

Danny Tartabull: dumbest fugitive alive

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Remember Danny Tartabull? He was a pretty dang good, and underrated, slugger in the 1980s and 1990s. For a brief moment he was even baseball’s highest-paid player. He began with the Mariners, but his best years came in Kansas City where he put up a line of .290/.376/.518 (144 OPS+) with 124 homers over five seasons. From there he went to the Yankees, where he continued to be a solid producer for the most part, with an .845 OPS (128 OPS+) and added another 81 homers in four seasons. He was a journeyman after that and retired after the 1997 season.

Since then things haven’t been all that great for Tartabull. While he was a key contributor to the teams for which he played, he didn’t contribute much to his own dang children. In 2011 he was adjudged a deadbeat dad with a $275,000 outstanding child support bill for which he received a criminal conviction. He was granted probation, which he violated, and then failed to report for the six-month jail sentence he was handed. Since 2012 there has been a warrant out for his arrest.

Given that there are still enough people around who know and remember Danny Tartabull, it seems like it’d be pretty easy to track him down. He’s been a fugitive for the past five years, however, likely due to the police not prioritizing a six-month sentence for a deadbeat.

Thankfully, though, Tartabull helped them out. How? He called them:

54-year-old Tartabull has basically been under the radar ever since … until July 24, when he called police himself to report that his car had been broken into near his apartment in Agoura, CA.

When cops arrived, they ran Tartabull’s name through the system and noticed the active warrant — and immediately arrested him.

Not supporting your kids is shameful. Skipping out on a jail sentence is wrong. Calling the cops when there’s a longstanding warrant for your arrest is stupid.

Congratulations, Danny. You haven’t played baseball for 20 years, but this week you won the triple crown.