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54° Good Afternoon
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Derek Jeter, A.J. Burnett, Mariano Rivera, Jose Reyes and Roger Clemens

Greetings from Cleveland, where I wish I had seen the famous Spinal Tap concert back in 1984.

Plenty to discuss today, so let's go at it Jackie Harvey style:

--Item! The Yankees lose in Cleveland, and we learn after the fact that Mariano Rivera wasn't available due to "tenderness" in his right triceps.

Let's start with Derek Jeter, because, well, I wrote about him, that's why. Enough is enough already. No, as I wrote in the column, he wasn't the primary goat last night, but in going 0-for-4, he didn't help the team, either.

At this point, my primary objection isn't with Jeter, but with Joe Girardi, who simply has to cut out the nonsense and drop Jeter in the lineup. To ninth, ideally.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times, who wrote this column last night, presented the question to Girardi, in the pre-game news conference, this way: We know you use statistics in your managing. Why, then, are you ignoring the statistics in continuing to hit Jeter first?

Girardi discussed hot streaks and cold streaks, and how you can't change your lineup every time someone gets in a slump.

This isn't a slump for Jeter, I followed. This is about 800 plate appearances (I should've said 1,000) in which he simply hasn't been very good. 

Girardi responded by citing statistics that Jeter hits better at leadoff than hitting second this year, and how he does best in his first plate appearance of the game.

Both true, but misleading. To say that Jeter is better hitting first than hitting second is like me saying I'm a better fielder than hitter. That's accurate, yet that doesn't mean I should be coming in to replace Nick Swisher on defense in the late innings, now that Chris Dickerson has been demoted to Triple-A. 

And the first plate appearance of the game deal? Terrific. Let him excel in his first plate appearance of the game when he's hitting ninth, and when his subsequent plate appearances are nowhere as good, he won't hurt the team as much. Since he won't have as many trips to the plate.

It's getting silly already, and it ultimately isn't helping Jeter as he tries to restore some luster to his pursuit of 3,000 hits.

Item! A.J. Burnett takes the loss, as he allows four runs with two outs in the seventh inning.

First of all, Burnett deserved better, as he shouldv'e been out of the inning on a Lonnie Chisenhall foul pop. Alex Rodriguez should've gotten out of the way and let Brett Gardner catch it.

That stuff happens, though. The pitcher has to overcome it. And with Grady Sizemore on second base, Burnett proceeded to unravel, walking Chisenhall and then getting hammered by marginal ex-Yankees Shelley Duncan (run-scoring single) and Austin Kearns (three-run homer, Kearns' first of the season).

This is turning out to be quite the Girardi-bashing morning, but really, this is becoming a recurring theme with the manager and Burnett. We all know Burnett's deal: When he hits a speed bump, especially later in the game, get him the heck out of there. He doesn't cope well.

We saw it in ALCS Game 4 last year, which concluded with Bengie Molina's sixth-inning, three-run homer. We saw it earlier this season in Tampa Bay, which culminated with B.J. Upton's two-run homer.

Girardi had a thin bullpen last night, which we'll discuss further in a moment. But at that juncture, anyone has to be a better option than Burnett. Give Lance Pendleton an opportunity. Or certainly Luis Ayala. Just get Burnett out of there, already, when he has passed the five-inning threshold and lets a string of guys get on base.

Which leads us to...

Item! Mariano Rivera wasn't available last night due to tenderness in his right triceps.

On one hand, Rivera has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his words on such matters (he said he thought he might be able to pitch as soon as tonight) and his durability.

On the other hand,...any time Rivera displays a sign of humanity, Yankees fans understandably panic.

For starters, you'd think this means Rivera will now get out of another All-Star Game, which is one of his unheralded specialties. Should he sit this one out, it would mark the fourth time he was selected and didn't attend. My favorite occurred in 1999, when he asked to be excused from the Midsummer Classic so he could fly home to Panama to deal with a contentious contractor.

More important, Rivera's soreness is a reminder that the Yankees could really, really use the healthy return of Rafael Soriano. And if Soriano can't come back - unlike Rivera, he has earned very little benefit of the doubt - then the Yankees would have to explore the trade market, featuring Heath Bell, Matt Capps, Francisco Rodriguez and Kerry Wood, among others.

--Item! The Mets beat the Dodgers, even with Jose Reyes sitting out again

Reyes is clearly going to play this one very cautiously, even if he has to go on the disabled list, and I can't blame him. Of course, a DL stay also would enhance his reputation as someone who has perennial issues, and that could impact his free-agent value.

Which could help the Mets, ultimately, if Reyes' price drops.

Joel Sherman of The New York Post reported that Sandy Alderson is leaning toward authorizing a strong offer to retain Reyes this winter, and I spoke recently with a friend of Alderson's who told me he wouldn't be shocked if Alderson indeed wanted to make a special case of Reyes. 

As Joel notes, the Wilpons' finances are still a huge concern, and we'll also see how Reyes performs the rest of the season.

In general, it's very dangerous to approach a player with the notion that you can't afford to lose him. Usually, you can afford to lose him, even if you take a short-term hit. And as we've discussed here before, fan reaction/ticket sales never should be the impetus of a baseball operations decision. Instead, strong ticket sales should be the result of smart baseball operations.

Item! The Roger Clemens trial kicks off today with some pretrial motions.

Follow Jim Baumbach on Twitter to get all of the updates. I know that I will be.

What I'm looking forward to the most:

1) Andy Pettitte's testimony. He'll bolster Brian McNamee's credibility by confirming that McNamee injected him with HGH. But I'm curious how well he'll hold up with recalling his conversation with Clemens about using HGH.

He'll obviously be prepared, having rehearsed and all that. But I know Pettitte somewhat well after so many years of covering him, and he does not have a very sharp memory. He wasn't even sure what year the conversation took place, 1999 or 2000.

Furthermore, it'll be interesting to see if Clemens' attorneys ask Pettite about procuring HGH through his father in 2004, as an attempted attack on Pettitte's character.

2) Brian McNamee's testimony. Of course. Should be explosive.

3) George Mitchell's testimony. The former U.S. Senator largely skated when he testified to Congress in 2008 about his infamous MItchell Report. Of course he did. That's why Bud Selig selected him in the first place.

It'll be fun to see him face some hostile questioning. About his questionable process in publishing the names. About whether he and his investigators went fishing for names, as Kirk Radomski wrote and as Chad Curtis told me a few years back. And why, according to McNamee, Mitchell hugged him upon confirming that he had nabbed Clemens.

(Because that was the whole point of the Mitchell Report. To feed some names to Congress to get them off MLB's back. Serving up Clemens was like giving Congress a cut of chateaubriand. Just sayin'.)

Item! Albert Pujols (fractured left wrist) could return to the Cardinals' lineup as soon as today, which would be weeks earlier than anticipated. 

Like Reyes, Pujols is in the first walk year of his career. Like Reyes, it's important for him to put up good numbers and be on the field as much as possible.

Like Reyes, Pujols has spent his entire career with one team and is beloved by his fan base. If Pujols can come back and hit like his old self, like he was in the weeks before he went down, then he'll get his mammoth package. Over $200 million, you'd have to figure.

--I'll check in later from the ballpark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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