Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Paucity of Pitching…

Just as Christmas shoppers have a day, “Black Friday”, when all manner and sorts of sales go into effect, MLB and sports agents and players have their own version, which I call “Free Agent Day” when all manner and sorts of sales go into effect. Just like the real world, baseball has a variable date for the beginning day of the sale. Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving. Free Agent Day is 15 days after the final pitch of the World Series, although there is a super shopper deal in MLB which allows the free agent to sign only with his former team. By the way, is there a bigger oxymoron phrase that “free agent?” Even the worst of them gets the major league minimum salary, they are not free at all and the best of them make millions.



I am not expecting much from the Yankees in the big spending free agent market although they could surprise us. Other than signing CC Sabathia to an extension, I am only expecting Brian Cashman to pick up a few Bargain Basement Specials to fill out some bench and bullpen needs. What will be done with the starting pitching, remains a bit of a mystery right now and all the good little fans await the brightly wrapped gift which we will invariably rip open and then whine about – its not the right fit, I hate that style, he never threw more than 150 innings, he has only started a handful of games…you get the drift. Yankee fans are seldom happy with their gifts during the free agent season.

This post is all about starting pitching. The list of this year’s free agent gifts contains the usual garden variety of rag arms and the like. A review of the list tells us one thing – there really are no high class starters available. The best of the rest have 2 interesting names and a bunch of “has beens”. The biggest names are CJ Wilson and Vu Darvish from Japan. The “has beens” include Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Hiroki Kuroda and Rich Harden.

Wilson will benefit from the very thin market and get WAY more than his numbers would indicte he is worth. A former relief pitcher, he has been a starter for only 2 full years. On the plus side is the fact he is a lefty, and has less mileage on his arm. On the negative side, he has only 67 starts at 30 years of age and no one can predict if he is Cy Young candidate or potential Tommy John candidate. Someone will throw a lot of money at him. I figure the Yankees will go after him for a while despite what the news leaks have been saying. I don’t believe they will sign him though. If they did, he becomes the next candidate for the wrapped gift everyone whines about.

In Darvish, all I can say is that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The trickle of Japanese starting pitchers has been a disappointing one. Daisuke Matsusaka, Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa , Tomo Ohka, Kazuhisa Ishii have all basically failed in MLB even if they had some preliminary success. They are overworked and abused as starters in Japan, use a smaller ball which lends itself to control and pitch count problems and face mostly non MLB talent level batters which artificially inflates their numbers. Again I expect the Yankees to kick the tires on Darvish, maybe even put in a bid to acquire the rights to sign him but I prefer they leave him alone.

As for the "has beens", the only one who seems viable to me is Jackson but the whole group is covered in question marks related to age, injury, ineffectiveness and eroded skills. Again it seems like a pass is in order.

So, what to do if you’re the NY Yankees and need some starting pitchers? Unless you think Joba Chamberlain will be the second coming of Cy Young, the Yankees need some help here. I think you have to look to the trade market. Lets face it, most people (my friend JHop especially) love Nick Swisher, but the reality is that despite the clubhouse presence and infectious nature he brings, his numbers, in the post season, a Yankee hangout, have been atrocious at best. Check the numbers and then think about the callibre of starter they could bring. Suddenly too, the Yankees are deep in catchers including behind Russell Martin, names like Jesus Montero, Frankie Cervelli, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez. I am NOT in favor of trading Montero but if the right deal comes up??? Say, for a good pitcher, maybe a #2 starter? Might be worth it.



So, that is it. I don’t expect any major Christmas presents. I’m sure there will be some, with maybe a pretty bow or nice wrapping paper, but it is what is inside the box that counts. Perhaps Santa Cashman will leave a couple of beauties under the tree for 2012 but I'm just hoping there is no coal...

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Questions Continue…

“Why would you? How could I?
These questions lead to goodbye
But now I got my freedom
Don't I?”

Maroon 5 – Losing My Mind

PART 2
As I said in my last post HERE, the Hot Stove has begun for 2012 and I have a bunch of questions that need to be answered sometime before “pitchers and catchers report“ (perhaps the sweetest 4 word combination in the English language). What follows, in no particular order of importance (because they are ALL important,) is a list of questions for next year and a few thoughts of my own for possible answers.

#6 What to do with the aging left side of the infield?
Yes, I know, it is blasphemous to mention Jeter and ARod in the same sentence but the problem here is intertwined. Let’s face it, these guys are getting old and just because Mariano Rivera can still be doing it at 42 years of age does not mean they can or will and the time to plan for this is NOW. “Plan” here means SHORT TERM. We can worry about replacements later. First off, we have to keep them healthy which means Jeter DOES NOT play everyday. He needs breaks, both half days (DH) and full (bench cheerleader). And Joe, don’t let him convince you of anything else. ARod too, lots of rest days. Nunez (or as someone tweeted once, Nun-e-6) has the bat to be a capable fill in most of the time. But as a fielder, his best attribute may be his bat. It looks like Chavez will retire, so signing a player who can give one of the “ancients” a day or two off is essential.

#7 Do we need to brace ourselves for the decline of Teixeira?
Let’s face it, 3 years in Pinstripes, 3 year downward trend in BA and OBP. Sure he still got 30+ HR and 100+ RBI but his BA was in a JasonGiambiesque declining rapidly, slide, .248. Maybe I am being too harsh but when you combine this with the post season failures (28 games with NYY, 106 AB, 18 H, 3 HR, 12 RBI, .169 BA) and it makes one wonder how we will view his contract 10 years from now. My favorite line tweeted about him during this years playoffs was about a new nickname for him, Mr. Softee, the ice cream truck in NYC – scarce in April, all over the place during the summer and disappears in October. Yes, we have him for a while but he needs to step it up in the post season. Dave Winfield, Mr. May, says hello…

#8 Speaking of the postseason, what happens to Nick Swisher?
Our Swishalicious right fielder seems to do a reverse superman impression every year. You know, flying around the field from April to September and then going into a phone booth, putting on glasses and becoming the mild mannered (and underperforming) Clark Kent. Again the post season numbers speak volumes… 28 games, 100 AB, 16 H, 4 HR, 5RBI, .160 BA. Seems familiar doesn’t it? A mirror of Mr. Softee. Not what you want to see from a middle of the order guy+-. When ARod out hits you in the post season, you have got to be worried. I am sure, NY will pick up the option on his contract but there MUST NOT BE any extention or new contract until he proves he can hit in the playoffs. Could he be TOO hyper at that time of the year?

#9 Can Curtis Granderson do it again?
I have always like CG and was thrilled when the club traded for him. I was totally thrilled with his year this year but there is always some doubt about the future – can he do it again? I don’t think he has to have an MVP career year each year, just good solid, performance. If some of the other guys (ARod, Swish and Tiex raise your hands…) contribute just a bit more in the post season, the club is playing Texas right now for the AL Championship. Curtis did his job.

#10 Who will catch most of the pitches next year?
It may be easier to figure out who it won’t be, and that’s Posada or Montero or Cervelli, or even Romine. What else do we know, well the Yankees have to retain Russell Martin. My B-I-L, Manhattan Man, speculated HERE (check out the comments section…) that he might be the MVP of the team and he probably was close, only surpassed by Granderson’s great year and Martins lower batting average. But then again, this was the first time in a long time that they had a good fielder at the backstop, instead of just a good hitter. I actually think Martin will improve next year, as he gets to know the league’s pitchers better and is more comfortable here. It doesn’t hurt that this will be a big contract year for him as after next year he will be eligible to be a free agent.

So folks, this is what we got. If the Yankees can successfully negotiate these ten questions, I feel optimistic about next season. If the questions linger into the start of the season, or worse yet, are not addressed at all, then the Red Sox may not be the only team in full rebuilding mode. That would suck too, having the Sox be in a terrible downward spiral and not being able to enjoy it much because of our own issues. I trust Cashman. I trust Cashman. I trust Cashman…..

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Top Ten Questions as we move forward…

Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee (Tom Cruise): I think I'm entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth...
“A Few Good Men” written by Aaron Sorkin, spoken by Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson

PART 1
The Yankees were eliminated from the 2011 postseason sometime around midnight last Thursday evening. In this post I wrote about my feelings on their failure to advance. Now, all the press conferences are over, players have returned home with thoughts of an extended vacation dancing in their heads, reporters have moved on to more important stories such as “Will the Jets totally collapse?” or “Will the NBA play at all this season?”, and Yankee brass have begun to plan for next year. The postmortem is finished for 2011, the Hot Stove has begun for 2012, and I have a bunch of questions that need to be answered sometime before “pitchers and catchers report“ (perhaps the sweetest 4 word combination in the English language). What follows, in no particular order of importance (because they are ALL important,) is a list of questions for next year and a few thoughts of my own for possible answers.

#1 – What happens to CC Sabathia?
He has that pesky opt out clause, the one that ARod pioneered with the Yankees just a few years ago. With 5 years left on his contract, CC will be looking for more years and more money. My opinion is that the Yankees should play hardball on this but will not. Why alienate the Big Guy right? I don’t believe there is any team out there that would do more than match what the Yankees already have in place in the contract 4 years and $92 million ($23 million a year) whereas I think he will want it extended to 7 years and $175 million and no one, NO ONE has that kind of money in MLB to throw around. My guess is some sort of year/salary compromise like 5-6 years at $24 million a year. Then again I thought the Yankees were going to play hardball with ARod but ownership stepped in and gave him more than he wanted and now he will be a Yankee until he begins to collect Social Security while still DHing against left handed pitchers…

#2 – Who will be in the starting rotation next season?
Well with CC and Nova, you have #1 and #2. The question then breaks down to several parts including “What about AJ?”, “What about Phil Hughes?”, “What about Garcia and Colon?”, and “Who will be the new additions?”. Obviously the Yankees owe AJ a lot of money still and overall his season was very disappointing BUT if you are content to view him as a #4 or #5 starter and take some solace in the fact that after working with the PC Wizard, Larry Rothschild, AJ did considerably better in September than in the previous 3 months AND threw a gem in his only post season start in 2011, you have something to hang hope on. Phil Hughes was thought to be a top of the rotation guy but a stop in the bullpen a couple of years ago and an injury plagued 2011 season AND his failure to fully develop another pitch which affected his ability “put batters away” when they have two strikes, does not bode well for the kid. I know my friends JHop and Maqz and my BIL Manhattan Man will gasp when they read this but I say put him in the pen and let him throw 1 inning in pressure situations. As for Garcia and Colon, they seemed to walk a tightrope of success all season long but I think Garcia maintained his balance while Colon wore down and tumbled. I think you have Garcia come back as the #5 starter and hope to catch old man lightening in a bottle one more time.

#3 “Who will be the new additions to the starting staff?”
This breaks out to 3 areas – free agents, major trades, and members of the Yankee Kiddie Korp. The only viable free agents would seem to be CJ Wilson who wants AJ type money and contract and Japanese youngster Yu Darvish (which may be one of the great baseball names of all times). I like Wilson because he is a great left handed contrast to CC and Nova and AJ, but not at AJ money (5 years/$80+ million). With the thin market though, that is what it might take to sign him. As for Yu, the success rate for Japanese pitchers is so high (/sarcasm) he probably will be worth millions like Matsuzaka and Irabu and Igawa were (/even more sarcasm). OK, I’ll give you Nomo but that’s it. Poor history makes this one a gamble, a big gamble. The Yankees do not need another minor league superstar. As for major trades, the one constant seems to be King Felix but Seattle will want everything plus Cashman’s first born child so I don’t think that is happening. The list of Yankee Kiddie Korps includes the Three Killer B’s, (Banuelos, Brackman and Betances) and Hector Noesi. One of them could be the next Ivan Nova and the best bet for this would be Noesi right now, although on potential Banuelos and Betances are way above him, just younger, much younger.

#4 “What happens to the bullpen?”
Here I think the top 3 – Rivera, Robertson and Soriano stay the same. Guys like Wade and Ayala will be there based on their performance in the spring as they both did well out of the pen this year. The Yankees could bring in a bunch of inexpensive journeymen to fill it out. I mentioned in Question #2 that Hughes should be out there too (/gasp) and he would round out the pen nicely. One other bullpen issue (and I hardly dare to mention it) is the impending retirement of Rivera, maybe the best player we have had the privilege to see. It might not be after next year but then again it might so NOW is the time to start to see who will move into that role – Robertson? Soriano? Hughes??? This one will have all of Yankee fandom on the edge of their seats.

#5 “What do we do with a guy named Posada?”
NY has some trouble at times letting go of its legends and at other times helps them pack their bags and give them a ride to the airport. This is one that will once again test the limits of our fandom. Up until the beginning of September I was riding Posada out of town on a rocket sled. No place for him, deteriorating skills, attitude issues. Then something sort of magical happened. He got a clutch hit or seven and rode that and the fans increasing support right into the playoffs and back into the 2012 pitcher. I must admit that while tweeting during games with some friends JHop and Maqz and CollegeBoy all echoed at one time or another his locker room presence and clubhouse kleadership. My BIL even put in it an email to me. So who am I to argue with this notion? Heck, its my blog, my thoughts and my reality so I stand by my conviction. Next year, NO Posada on the roster. However in a nod to the karma of the whole “Core Four” legend I would love to have the Yankees sign him for one more year and during Spring Training, have him announce his retirement. He could be retained as a special advisor, coach, clubhouse guru, whatever. Just give NY a chance to say goodbye and good luck – maybe a “Hip Hip Jorge! Day” at the Stadium in April or May, complete with boat, watch, plaque, lifetime season tickets and a donation to his charity. Winners, one and all.

Next post = five more questions and answers…

Friday, October 7, 2011

It ended, not with a bang, but with a whimper…

It has taken some 15 hours since the Yankee 2011 season ended for me to be able to talk about this season and playoff run with thoughtful commentary as opposed to just being a string of curses and swears. To say I am disappointed would be like saying General Custer was a bit undermanned at Little Big Horn. However, it is time to step back and take a hard, soulful look at what it was and what it could have been. This team was not without warts, but I still expected it to go to the Ball. So, here is my take on this year’s failing to advance again…

Overall this postseason the Yankees had only 4 batters hit over .300 and one was Montero with 2 hits in two at bats. Posada, Gardner and Cano all came up big with 20 hits, 7 walks and 14 RBIs in the 5 game series. So, they were on base often enough. But the heart of the order – Teixera, ARod and Swisher totaled 9 hits, 3 for extra bases, and 5 RBIs in those same games. No wonder they lost 3 games by a total of 4 runs. One radio caller today said that Teixera’s new nickname should be Mr. Softee as he is not around in the cold spring weather, is all over the warm summer months and quietly disappears in the fall, just like the ice cream truck. Add to this a pretty ineffective Russell Martin at bat, and you see a very disturbing trend. Now, I understand that you have to go with the horses who got you there but I really think that Girardi could have managed to get the bench more than 4 at bats during the 5 game series. Maybe loyalty is nice trait but when you are trying to win a ballgame, perhaps a change or two was needed.

In the field, they were solid overall, with no real complaints from this end. Granderson made 2 spectacular catches in Game 4 and as a team, they committed only one error in the five games. Not a reason to hang a disappointing playoff end that.

This brings us to pitching. There certainly was some effect by the weather but in rating overall, they come up short. CC Sabathia had a poor (for him) start in the suspended game one and lost game three, also pitching way below expectation. Both Ivan Nova and AJ Burnett came up big in their starts even if Nova had to leave game 5 after 2 innings with some forearm tenderness. Someone mentioned that forearm tenderness is often followed by the words “Tommy John surgery” but it is way, way too early to speculate about something like that. Garcia took the loss in Game 2, giving up 3 earned in 5+ innings, not as good as we might have hoped but a winnable situation. Certainly, the bullpen deserves some praise as they allowed few runs, although one, the homerun off Soriano, cost them dearly. If I told you the pen would give up 2 earned runs in 15+ innings, you would have signed up for that in an instant. Again, this just points back at the fumbling offense as the root cause.

Finally, overall, Joe Girardi did a fairly good job in the post season in the general handling of the club. Sure, there were some curious decisions that were later explained by injury issues but his biggest failing was the sense of total loyalty he had, especially in light of the repeated failures. He stuck with CC too long in Game three and the additional runs scored off him, pushed them to a loss. He stuck with the big 3 – Tex, ARod and Swish along with Martin when he had some capable bats on the bench. In game 5 they had the bases loaded with less than two outs twice and scored a total of one run. The significance of this is amplified by the fact that they lost the game by one run. Martin, who I love dearly, was clearly struggling at the plate and Girardi could have pinch hit Montero or Jones or Chavez in the 7th to get a run in. He didn’t and they didn’t.

So, we go into the off season with a sense of disappointment. Not the disappointing feeling of Red Sox Nation whose team collapsed out of the playoffs before they even began, but disappointment anyway. The front office and Girardi will need to address several issues this winter including dealing with the Posada, the Sabathia opt out possibility, the aging of players like ARod and Jeter and starting pitching overall. I expect there to be a number of changes and new faces on the club next year, including more playing time for the Baby Yankees like Montero and some of the minor league pitcher promotions. Lets just hope they put together a better run in 2012.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It was the best of times, it was the worst…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
- The opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities or MY thoughts after watching the first two games of the 2011 NY Yankee Playoffs with friends.


October has always been my favorite time of the year. The leaves changing colors, the warm apple cider, the first blaze in the woodstove, maybe cooking up a nice pork loin or pot roast in the oven, playoff baseball and the beginning of football season. But all those “best of times” come with a dark side, a slice of some despair with a topping of melancholy. Colorful leaves means falling leaves and raking, the warmed cider and oven roasted goodness means extra dish scrubbing and cleaning, the woodstove means ashes and soot, the beginning of football season can see ones team buried and out of it in the first three weeks. For me, the baseball playoffs with the NY Yankees also means lots of hand wringing, worries, nerves and feelings of insecurity.
I get nervous watching “my” teams play. I hate when they lose, sure, but I also hate it when they don’t play well and yet continue to watch because of the fear that changing my routines will somehow cause them to play worse, lose a game or the most deadly of all, be out of the playoffs. During the Giant’s Super Bowl run and victory against the over confident New England Patriots, it meant nachos every game and when we missed one, the Giant’s lost. This is how I get to spend a good part of the fall, with the Yankees and Giants (NFL) and this is how I spent this past weekend, the first weekend in October with them and some good friends.


Over the years I really enjoyed sharing the baseball playoffs and football season with my son, and up until he went away to college, it was a usual evening and weekend bonding experience. We were there together through the last Yankee Championship, the Giants Super Bowl run and lots of other similar activities. The intensity was infectious as we eventually lured my daughter and wife into this sports bacchanal. Unfortunately this changed as both my son and daughter headed off to college and I missed it a great deal. A couple of years ago however, we discovered an alternative – LIVE TWEETING or LVE CHATTING each of the games. This is a blog about baseball, not technology but let’s just set the meaning of this as - we communicated with each other during the games over the internet, which enhanced the enjoyment. It made the nervousness a little more palatable, sharing it, and so going into this year’s baseball playoffs, we decided to invite some friends to join the CHAT with us. So beginning on Friday night, into the rain suspended abyss, through the Saturday baseball game and Sunday baseball and football contests we were “LIVE CHATTING THE GAMES”.


Did it help? Absolutely not. I continued to be nervous and crazed at times, peering through my fingers at the screen when tensions ran high. I found out that my friends were as nervous and crazed as I was and instead of getting comfort in that, I simply allowed it to ratchet up my own insecurities. Conversational flow tended to mitigate the nerves but the collective angst was palpable throughout the entire sports watching weekend.


Did I learn anything? Absolutely yes! I learned several new and creative ways to curse and swear on the internet, and enjoyed each and every one of them. I learned that others too suffer this affliction with me and sharing it helps makes for even more creative cursing. But most importantly, I learned I have some great friends who enjoy taking a bit of time out of their busy schedules to indulge in this mindless, unproductive but totally rewarding slice of life, whether around the corner or a thousand miles away. Yes, I learned that this could be the worst of times, but also that it was the best of times too.



(Special thanks for all the fun this weekend to JHop, Shane, CollegeBoy, Maqz, and even Carrie who was there for all of 8 seconds but provided a spark we all enjoyed. Manhattan Man, don't worry, we'll figure this thing out for you and get a chance to read your pearls of wisdom too. Looking forward to doing it again, like tonight…)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It was Robbie Cano, don’t ya know...

(with apologies to John Sterling, although I should probably be apologizing FOR him, but that’s another blog post…)

Every one in a while, it happens to a sports fan, more specifically, to a baseball fan. Maybe things aren’t going your way, maybe your team has not gotten any breaks, or the Karma seems against you. Then you get this feeling, one you can’t put a finger on, that says that someone is going to take over a game and you will like that feeling a whole lot. Well, it happened last night and I must admit, it left me smiling and feeling better about things. As a matter of fact, it happened twice.

The set up: The first ALDS game between the Yankees and Tigers was suspended after 1 ½ innings on Friday night and a first thought was, we just can’t catch a break. Our big gun, CC Sabathia was going up against Jason Verlander, Tiger gunslinger and the game was tied, rained on and suspended until the next day. Unlike ticket holders who can use their tickets from the suspended game CC was down for at least a day or two. Our ace was slightly used and destined to wait until Monday or even Tuesday to pitch again. This was not a good thing.

This brings us to Saturday night and resumed suspended game. Rookie Ivan Nova gets the “relief” start as the game is picked up in the bottom of the second inning and after a couple of good plays here and there, you look up at the scoreboard and realize, he is pitching a gem. A real post season classic. Only a couple of hits. Nova was taking the place of the ace, and was performing better than the ace. I’m not really sure many people saw that coming, myself included. Hoping for the best and expecting the worst, I figured maybe the Yankees can score a bunch of runs. And, even though Nova didn’t need them now, they delivered them in quick order and this is where that feeling comes in.

Robbie Cano can probably be best described as a beast on the baseball field. Nice guy, mild mannered kid, but give him a bat and he makes things happen. With that quick, left handed swing, he can drive the ball a mile or miss it completely but that is the price one must pay for the type of success he has. He went to the All Star Game this past July and surprised many of us by winning the home run hitting contest. Not that we didn’t think he could hit homeruns, but his ability to be consistent throughout the contest helped him grab the trophy from several other “celebrated” home run hitters and this was somewhat new for him.

Now, to the game itself. In the first inning on Friday, Cano grounded out. In his second at bat of the game, now Saturday, he…grounded out again. Nothing seems to be looming but I just was having one of those feelings. Cano would do something – good or bad, he was going to be in the middle of things. When the Yankees threw a runner out at the plate in the top of the fifth inning, the feeling was there that something was going to happen. Then Cano began his show. Already 0 for 2, two routine groundouts, he came up with a runner on first and hit a ball right off the top of the fence in left field, so close that the umpires had to review it before confirming it a double, to the dismay of fans. One run in, Yankees ahead. So then Cano must have felt energized, because the next time up, he hit a ball into the second deck, with the bases load for 4 more RBI’s. He must have liked this turn of events so much, he hit an 8th inning double to drive in another. Three consecutive hits, all big, long majestic ones and 6 RBI’s. It was a weeks worth of production in about 1 ½ hours of work.

This is where that feeling comes up. No one I know predicted that Cano was going to have a big game tonight, but I have had this feeling he is going to do something big this post season. Perhaps this is the post season he grabs the title of Mr. Clutch. Perhaps this is the post season where he does what we always had hoped that ARod was going to do every post season. I think maybe this is the post season he wins a playoff MVP. He has a good start in that general direction.

Friday, September 30, 2011

An open letter to the Red Sox and Red Sox Fans (AKA Red Sox Nation)

Gentlemen:

Let me be the very first to welcome you to the real world of Major League Baseball as it occurs today. Please fasten your seat belt, it is going to be a bumpy ride.

Over the last several years, you and your team have moved from the “lovable losers” stage, right through the “Gee, isn’t this great, we got a ring” era and running smack into the “Great Expectations” eon of your franchise. Let me explain.

Years ago, the Red Sox were much like the red haired step son, barely tolerated by most of the baseball world, never amounting to much of anything. They had sold their best player, maybe the best player ever in the history of baseball and had embarked on a long, tortured, cursed, 86 year existence without winning anything. Sure, you came close a number of times – 1975 and 1986 come to mind and who can forget 1978, but you always failed to deliver and the faithful accepted this as par for the course. You were the lovable losers with the ancient crumbling ballpark and little good history to hold up to the rest of the baseball world.

Then in 2004 and repeated in 2007, you guys won a World Series and suddenly the talk changed to “dynasty” words and free agent expenditures, and your ballpark became classic, a relic of an era gone by, yet somehow, SOMEHOW, saved by THE Boston Red Sox. You sold out every game, players were clamoring to come to New England, fans flocked to identify with you, and you reveled in it. You put seats on your wall, let the common fan take pictures with your trophies and were proclaimed geniuses of all that you touched.

Then, almost as quickly as you rose from the depths of despair and failure, and triumphally entered the brave new world of Champions, something happened. You were taken by surprise by this and it hurt. You see, you loved being on top of the world (who doesn’t) and you began to expect that every thing would always go your way. You had geniuses in charge and they would continue to lead you to the promised land, time after time, after time. You spent big money on some questionable free agents from different worlds and different parts of the country, and expected they would just blend in, play well and get you ring after ring. And everybody LOVED it. Last winter, you were talk of the baseball world, with shiny new free agents who, according to your adoring minions, were going to be part of the best team in baseball, maybe the best team in baseball history. What is the record for most wins in a season you asked, we will score more. What is the record for most wins in a season, you asked, we will win more. Why play the season, you asked, just shine up the trophy, order the new Championship rings, and crown us now. Nobody can stop us from our appointed position as the best.

But a funny thing happened on your way to another World Series crown. You didn’t make it. You stopped yourselves. You didn’t even make the playoffs. In a world of the greatest expectation for your success, you collapsed, folded up the tents and left town in the dark of night. The fans blamed everyone on the team in one way or another. The press, oh the wicked press, blamed it on everyone too. Somewhere, on a fan bulletin board, someone called for the cabbie that brought a free agent pitcher to the stadium, to be fired as well. You had lost it in the last possible instant, in the worst possible way, like a flubbed grounder or walk off home run, and the reverberations were loud and clear. What was once seen as loveable losing was now branded a total and inevitable collapse. Even your own “children”, the "Peter Gammons" and "Dennis Eckersleys" of the media could not wait to crucify you, hold you up as an example of all that is wrong with the sport and condemn you to the fires of baseball Hell. The radio and news reports are all about the dissention in the clubhouse, the uncontrolled alcoholism of the failing players, the mismanagement of the club, the disconnect with the fans. It will probably cost you your manager, possibly your general manager and may usher in the era of bloated contracts and under performing prima donnas for the next few seasons.

So, where does this leave you? Back in third place, where I like to see you. In a turmoil of doubt and shame. Love it. Getting a view of the real world of professional baseball. Priceless. Welcome to the big league boys, we were hoping to see you get there.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Manager of the year?

So the NY Yankees came within a breath of sweeping the Red Sox last weekend and spent the last few days of the season trying to find out ways to lose to Tampa Bay in order to fully piss off Red Sox Nation. I figure I would use the time to talk about Joe Girardi, his season and candidacy for Manager of the Year.

I’ll begin by saying that I really believe there is an anti NY bias in this vote, related to payroll and the perceived notion that they buy a good team and that it takes no skill to manage a team of high priced superstars. Well, how do you think Tito Francona and Theo Epstein are feeling about that right now? They were the dream team this year, picked by all the “experts” to win the American League East, the chosen ones being bestowed the World Series Trophy as early as last February. Money has little to do with it if particular parts are not available or break down or just underperform. Therefore your argument here is invalid…

Let’s take a hard look at what Girardi has done this year. He was an underdog, with no one picking the Yankees to win the East by 6 games. He had to deal with several significant injuries on the club including 3 of the 5 planned relief corps, the starting third baseman, his back up, a starting pitcher for a month or so, just to name a few. There was the distraction of Derek Jeter getting his 3000th hit. In the last month, he had the team prepared to play, rested the veterans appropriatly and got to stick it to the Red Sox once again. They peaked at just the right time. All of these point to just how good a job he has done.

Who else could be in contention for this award? Well I can’t think of another candidate in the American League. No one else over reached projections of how they would do this year. I am beginning to think that Girardi should get it in a landslide. I’m sure Titi Francona will vote for him…from home…while the Yankees move on through the playoffs…

Monday, September 12, 2011

WTF is wrong with this picture Bud?



MEMORANDUM

To: Mr. Bud Selig
Subject: WTF?
From: T Fab P and baseball fans everywhere

It may seem that I only write to you when you make a mistake, which is like once or twice a week now-a-days. Remember when I told you back in June 2010 how to handle that no hitter/not no hitter when umpire, Jim Joyce, made that mistake that cost Armando Galarraga a chance at no hitter immortality? I laid it all out for you so you could have been the hero of the situation, but did you listen? No. I wrote to you again this past June, about the rumors of realignment and changes in the baseball playoffs. I gave you a detailed plan, centered on what the fans want, what we really need. Did you listen then? No. So when I heard about this newest debacle related to uniforms and commemorating September 11th, I harbored no fantasy or expectation that you would actually listen because this is all about the money for you and the owners. But I will tell you anyway and hope you will do the right thing. Do I suspect you will listen? No. But here it is anyway.

When baseball resumed playing after the September 11th tragedy, both the Yankees and Mets, our New York teams, honored the bravest and finest, by wearing caps that saluted the 343 policemen and firemen and EMT’s and paramedics who gave their lives that day as well as the hundreds more who were first responders. This was a stirring tribute, one that to this day, still brings a tear to my eye. They honored them and they deserved every moment of remembrance that this brought.

So imagine how I felt, how the fans of baseball felt, when we heard that the Yankee and Met players were planning to wear those caps again, on the 10th anniversary of that tragedy, in memory. What a wonderful and fitting tribute, devoid of any reason other than altruism, one to be embraced, and respected and honored.

So did MLB do the right thing here? Did they grab this wonderful notion and hold it up for the entire world to see? Oh, come on now, you know the answer as well as I do. No, they did not. They banned the wearing of those caps. They threatened to fine any players significantly if they ignored the ban. Was the reasoning pure? Oh, come on now, you know the answer to that too. Baseball with you, former owner and current commissioner, was going to honor your favorite thing in all the world - money. You butchered this one up real good. Just like you have infringed in all matters of patriotism with your MLB "official caps" on the 4th of July or Memorial Day, you have produced the “OFFICIAL” September 11th baseball cap, complete with American Flag on the back, that we the fan, will have the opportunity to purchase for a mere $36.99. Yes, you said no to the memory, yes to the money and produced a cap that would be worn on only “one day” in order to make a killing on the deaths and sacrifices of these true heroes.

Well you know what Buddy Boy, you can take your patriotic clap trap and shove it up your and MLB’s ass. I wouldn’t want one of your caps if you gave them away for free. If I got my way, this will be the spark of an event that leads to you resigning in disgrace. This was unconscionable. This was bad PR, this was greedy and self important. This was a mistake.

You sir, are an idiot…





















Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I hate to say I told you so, but…

Way back in this post, I chided the Yankees for not promoting Jesus Montero from the minor leagues. At times over the last couple of years, he has been the subject of trade rumors, being offered (Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez) or being wanted in any deal by a number of clubs. After his performance this weekend, it may begin becoming clearer just what we have in this young kid.



How young? Well he became only the 8th 21 and under major leaguer to hit 2 homeruns in a game, joining Manny Rameriz, and a bunch of middling youngsters like Tom Brunanski, Don Money, and Curt Blefary. Here’s hoping he ends up more like Ramerez and less like Blefary.



Minor leaguers performances after September call ups is a crapshoot. Many more don’t make an impact, while few grasp the mantle of stud and go on to phenomenal major league careers, so the fact that Montero hit two homers in his 4th game in the majors comes with mixed messages. One is that this is a true superstar in the making while the other is a long string of “one hit wonders” who never amount to much in the majors.



The Yankees are going to take a long look at Montero this month and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the playoff roster. He would do that in place of Jorge Posada, or possibly one pitcher who is left off the playoff team. Then again, after the major league scouts get a good look at him, compare notes and send reports to the big clubs, we will get to see just how he adjusts to changes in the way he is pitched to.



My only question, besides how well will he do, is what took the Yankees so long?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Post Season Awards

This has not been the “usual” situation for the Yankees regarding the post season awards as they actually have a player in the running for each of the three major awards – Rookie of the Year, MVP and Cy Young. Allow mw a few words on the particulars…

ROY: Ivan Nova has given the Yankees all they might have wished for optimistically and a whole lot more. Even thought they sent him to the minors for a short time during the season, he has delivered very positive numbers that must be considered. As of Hurricane Irene weekend, he is 13-4 with a 3.97 ERA. One can reasonably expect that he will get maybe 6 more starts in the last 38 games of the season so a 17-6 record is not an outrageous expectation. There would be two challengers for this title, Hellickson and Pineada. Hellickson with Toranto has a significantly better ERA (about 3.10) but only 11 wins. Pineada has a little bit better ERA (@3.77) but only 9 wins. I think it will come down to the age old argument of WINS vs. ERA. I remember this situation with Greg Maddux when he was in his prime. One year he led the league in wins but they gave the CY Young to a pitcher with a better ERA. A couple years later he had the league best ERA and they gave it to a pitcher with more wins. So Suzyn, you can never predict baseball. If I had to guess, it will be Hellickson by a smidge over Nova with Pineada, the heavy favorite in April, trailing in third place.

Cy Young: CC Sabathia is in the running with Verlander and Jered Weaver but I’m afraid this race is not as close as we might have hoped. CC is 17-7 with a 2.99 ERA, While Verlander has 19 wins and a superior 2.28 ERA. Weaver has 15 wins and even a more superior ERA of 2.03. I think CC has a good chance to get to 20 wins but his performance over the last few weeks is what will stick in the voters mind and losing 4 games to your arch rivals, the Red Sox does not look good on a resume. I see him finishing at best 3rd in the race. I also have begun to wonder whether this question of performance both against the Sox but also in the second half of the season might impact in some way his opt out of contract clause or the Yankees response should he opt out.

MVP: You can hear the cheer in the back of your head- “MVP, MVP, MVP… and Curtis Granderson heard some of them in Baltimore on Sunday as he manhandled the Orioles with a pair of homers, gaining the lead in the AL homerun chase, and thrusting himself into serious contention for Most Valuable Player. Although I made the argument earlier this year that Russell Martin was the team MVP, Grandy has picked up and worn that mantle with pride. The competition is tough with at least 2-3 Red Sox being in the race along with several others. Besides Pedroia and Ellsbury you have Paul Konerko with the White Sox, Jose Bautista of Toronto, maybe Michael Young of the Texas Rangers all in the running. Personally I think that Grandy deserves it. This is a comeback year for him, given his numbers, he has carried the team on his back at times given the injuries suffered by ARod and to a lesser extent Jeter, been pretty consistent all year long, and he leads the AL in homers and is near the top in RBI’s. All of the others deserve mention but I think they also deserve to finish second. Unfortunately, I don’t get a vote and I am afraid that the Red Sox performance will make it earier for someone to vote for one of those two players. Perhaps they split the vote and that lets Grandy sneak in!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where does A.J. Burnett Fall To?

So, AJ is in the midst of another failing August for the Yankees, which is directly leading to another failing season for the Yankees. It is hard to evaluate free agent signings until their contracts are completed and a bit of time has passed. But in the grand scheme of Yankee free agents, one would be hard pressed to say his was not a momentous one.



But just how momentous? Well, lots of teams have had free agents they were less than pleased with (see Hampton, Mike or Zito, Barry, or even Vaughn, Mo for comparison sake). But the Yankees, who are always in the middle of free agent hoopla, have a unique crew of both good and bad signings – lots of players to choose from.

So where on the list of Yankee free agents will AJ fall to. Certainly he will be worse than Steve Kemp, right? But is he worse signing than Hideki Irabu? Irabu had one good year, like AJ, then went into oblivion. Maybe not worse than Jaret Wright, he of the 6+ era and banishment to the bullpen. Certainly not worse than everyone’s favorite whipping boy Carl Pavano? Maybe worse than Jason “steroids made me do it” Jambi, right?

Right now, he is on a mission to join that crew for sure. He is setting up to be the little pitcher who couldn’t, in my book. It may be too late for him to turn it around this season or for his Yankee career as a matter of fact. Could this be his tumble into the "Pit of Despair" of Yankee fans?



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Losing interest in baseball?

This is the time of the year that Bud Selig and all the network geniuses must absolutely hate as the various races start to fall out and a few final weeks ballgame broadcasts are contemplated. As a Yankee fan, I too hate this final stage of the season, and here is why.

As of Wednesday morning August 17th, the Yankees are ½ game in front of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East and all I can say is does it really matter? Is it worth a pennant fight when there is a wild card in the offing? They have like a 9 game lead for the wild card and so at the risk of a reverse karma slam, that race is essentially over. The Yankees will most probably flip flop several times with the Sox over the coming weeks in what has essentially become a ho-hum race.

The advent of the wild card has created this situation and I must admit to very mixed emotions about this. I know that it has helped the other divisions with some spectacular pennant races while ruining others. One needs to look no further than the 2010 season. The Giants essentially won the division down the stretch in an exciting finish with the Padres with the loser not making the playoffs. The other two divisions were finished early along with the wild card race. In the America League, the Yanks and Red Sox staged a great battle for nothing as the loser got the wild card and the other two divisions were runaways. So the wild card helped one race and eliminated another and so the season essentially came to a boring conclusion, unless you were a Giants fan.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I do like the wild card and the current playoff structure except for the fact that the first round is only a best of five series. I will be open to expansion of the playoffs by adding another team in each race and having them have a play in game or play in series. I actually think the addition of a second wild card team might even help as the team with the best record of the two gets the home game or extra home game so they have added incentive to do well down the stretch rather than be setting up their pitching staff for the post season. It just is the fact that the Yankees will not have a meaningful game for the next six weeks or so that I dislike. It just won’t matter.

Girardi will get to set up his postseason roster and pitching staff, some rookies will get some much needed major league exposure after the rosters expand and some veterans will get some much needed rest. Division winner or wild card won’t matter too much as the other two division winners have similar records. I guess some fans would be envious of this situation, where you know weeks in advance that you are the playoffs but the lack of meaningful games is more of an issue in the season down the stretch.

Friday, August 12, 2011

“Surprises” Continued...

Earlier in the week I gave you a list of every day player surprises for me on the club in my game "Surprises". As a reminder about the game: let me tell you the rules. My game, my rules. Surprises can be either positive or negative, they are just deviations from the norm or what was expected. So you might say that the Orioles early success was a “Surprise”, although now they are back to normal. Two: Today we look only at the NY Yankee pitching staff. Three: The “Surprise” could be either offense or defense. Four: I will give a list of “Surprises” as I see them in no particular order. You can play by either choosing one of my “Surprises” as the biggest of the year OR nominate one I did not include for consideration. I will tell you my choices of a top one in about a week and will also include readers choices at that time (so remember to sign your comment if you do not use a recognizable profile so I know who you are.

So as I invite you to gather around the computer screen, because it’s time to play America’s favorite game here on the blog, “Surprises”.

Ivan Nova – has lived up to the moniker “Super Nova” while throwing another gem this week. Raise your hand if you thought he had a chance to win 15 games this year with under a 4.00 era. Yea, I thought so. He is a quick learner who seems like he understands how to pitch, not just how to throw.

Bartolo Colon – Despite missing a couple of weeks (which may help him in the long run) the round one has been a positive performer. Eight wins, 3.33 ERA and a 95 mile an hour fastball tell you all you need to know. He paced the Yankees in the first part of the season, took a bit of a rest and is looking like he will continue to flourish down the stretch.

Freddy Garcia - Ten wins, 3.10 ERA and no fastball to speak of, this veteran has been a godsend all season long. Quality start after quality start with few clunkers, have elevated him to MVP on the club status in the pitching department.

AJ Burnett – You can’t see it but I am shaking my head as I write this. So much talent, so much money, so little performance. If it wasn’t for the cream pies, he might not have a role on this club at all. The rumors see him going to the bull pen, he is lucky they don’t just kick him to the curb.

David Robertson – he was looking like the 7th inning guy coming out of spring training and his early season work was uninspired at best. But suddenly, an injury here, an injury there and he is like the Ice Man in the 8th inning. Yea, he walks a few batters too many but he also comes into difficult situations and has been “The Man”.

Joba Chamberlain – Come on now, are you really surprised he destroyed his arm and had TJ surgery. Really surprised – Nope. Surprised he didn't live up to the hype - No again.

Well that is 6 for me so be sure to make you comments in the space below and remember to include your name. Got a couple of responses to the every day grunt post, hope to get a couple more in this one.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The State of the Yankees August 2011

So we are at the 3/4 mark of this season (boy that has gone very, very fast!!) and so I thought that it was about time to make a few observations about where we have been, where we are going and what we can expect when we get there, otherwise known as a State of the Yankees address. So, a couple of observations about the players this year are in order:

-Posada has gone from “Where is my catcher’s gear?” to “Where does the DH bat?” to “Where’s Waldo?” How many at bats can he expect the rest of the way? 10, 12, that is a lot of money to pay a pinch hitter. You have to wonder if one J. Montero is in his immediate future.

-Hughes – So Phil’s job was on the line and he responded last week with a neat 6 innings, 3 hit, zero run performance. Even more importantly, for someone whose velocity has been questionable, he hit 95 on the radar gun several times. Nothing like the threat (implied…) of banishment to the bullpen to get the adrenaline flowing and adding about 5 mph to your bread and butter. I hear rumors that he may be headed to the bullpen but personally I am hoping it is AJ instead.

-Montero – I have said it before and I will say it again, where is Montero and why is he not getting a few at bats for the Yankees right now. There are lots of rumors floating around that he will be called up soon but for my money (and Posada’s batting average as DH…) he should have been here weeks ago. Getting him some at bats now can only serve to help him, help the club this year during the pennant chase and the help the club in the immediate future.

-Banuelos – I am just hoping that this is not Déjà vu all over again (tip of the hat to Yogi if he even said this…) in regards to this talented, young starting pitcher, who has been the darling of the franchise for a while now, who has moved up the minor league chain in a quick manner and who, the rumor is, that he will be called up soon to be an extra left handed reliever in the bullpen (did anyone say Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain??). I want him here, I just do not want some bullpen/starter controversy. Lets get in front of this from the start. Just say we want to keep his innings low, we want him to get a taste of the major leagues, we want to see how he can do against major league caliber batters AND he will go back to being a STARTER in the minors next year with a chance to make the big club AS A STARTER, out of spring training as A STARTER. Did I mention he should stay a STARTER!

-ARod – This has been a bit of a lost season for the big third baseman and if you told me how he would have performed before the season started, I would have said without him, the Yankees would be lost but this has been far from the truth and the club continues to score lots of runs. I thought he was going to have a big year and bet my Fantasy Baseball team on his anticipated monster season that never happened. I thought he was going to fade and ended up trading him and have not regretted it although my trade partner JHop has as stated in her blog that she is disappoint..

-Chavez – Hopefully this gets published before Eric gets injured AGAIN but I wonder what the over/under is for games before he is injured, is. He has been better than expected at bat and in the field but has been right on target around anticipated injury and time missed. It would be great if he could go about 3 months without a trip to the DL. That is all I ask.

-Cervelli – each season has its surprises and this is one of them as our backup catcher played several innings of second base on a Sunday a couple weeks ago. He took a couple of throws on stolen bases and looked awkward at best. If the Yankees had a bit more of a lead, I would have loved to see him field a ground ball or try to turn a double play, just for the pure entertainment value. Of course if that occurred, Eric Chavez would have gotten hurt on the play…

- Despite the occasional criticism, I for one, think that Joe Girardi Manager, and Brian Cashman, GM have done good jobs this year. Although I do not agree with every one Girardi makes, I think he has done a good job especially in light of ARod’s under performing, some injuries and the Derek Jeter contract distraction and chance for 3000 hits spectacle. Cashman made no move at the trade deadline and a lot of criticism was aimed at him but I for one am glad that we still have a few minor league chips in our bag. I just hope we get to see one or two of them before much more time goes by.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

WTF Mariano...

Mariano Rivera, perhaps the greatest relief pitcher of all times, blew his second consecutive save last night giving up a 2 run homer in the last inning. This was preceded by his blowing a save against the hated Boston Red Sox Sunday night on national TV, allowing the Boston Boys to tie the game in the ninth.

Maybe a trip to the minors is in order, for Mo to figure things out…

/sarcasm

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dumb ARod, Dumb MLB…

So in the tradition of such famous sports figures as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Pete Rose, we find out that Alex Rodriguez, our ARod, has a gambling problem along with his steroid problem and personality problem. Or does he? Major League baseball seemed to think so when stories were leaked that said MLB was going to investigate reports of high stake, celebrity, poker games. Now, I fully understand the MLB stance – they do not want their players associating with the unsavory types you might find in smoke filled gambling dens. Heck, they once suspended Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays for being Las Vegas greeters. I know baseball’s history and know the issue of hanging around with the types that like to fix World Series games. I fully support baseball’s stance against Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame and do not think he should ever be there, but this was high stakes celebrity poker, not anything more.





As I looked at this issue I thought maybe MLB should just give him a little reminder of their warning to him a while ago when this first came up, you know, a slap on the wrist. But no, MLB saves its slaps on the wrists for the players who get caught with DUI’s, not gamblers. Doesn’t it seem a little inconsistent here – no poker but drink and drive all you want. It doesn’t matter even that a ML player was killed by a drunk driver just a few years ago. Let them drink, just don’t let them “anty up”. Heck if your caught using steroids, you get suspended but if you drink and drive, MLB just looks the other way.


So, I’ve been thinking that maybe it is time for baseball to initiate a real code of conduct that deals with real problems. Sure, include gambling and steroid and other drug abuse but maybe take a page from the real world and include things like drunk driving, domestic violence, even racism if necessary. Hold them to a societal standard.

Bud, it is time to get off your ass and do something. Do the right thing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

An Interactive Game: “Surprises”

So as we get ready to reach the ¾ pole (sorry horse racing term…) I invite you to gather around the computer screen, because it’s time to play America’s favorite game here on the blog, “Surprises”.

First let me tell you the rules. My game, my rules. Surprises can be both positive or negative, they are just deviations from the norm or what was expected. So you might say that the Orioles early success was a “Surprise”, although now they are back to normal. Two: Today we look only at the NY Yankee every day players. In another post I will get you to play “Surprises” with the pitching staff but today is the every day grunts. Three: The “Surprise” could be either offense or defense. Four: I will give a list of “Surprises” as I see them in no particular order. You can play by either choosing one of my “Surprises” as the biggest of the year OR nominate one I did not include for consideration. I will tell you my choices of a top one in about a week and will also include readers choices at that time (so remember to sign your comment if you do not use a recognizable profile so I know who you are.

And now, onto my list of NY Yankee Every Day Grunt Surprises:

-Jorge Posada going from a serviceable player to “you don’t catch anymore”, to “You will bat where we tell you to bat”, to “We’ll find you a spot, its over on the end of the bench”. I expected more, we could not have gotten less. When blogs and Tweets are asking if he will be released soon, you know it is serious.

-ARod playing at an unexpected low level, lacking power, getting injured, making news instead of getting hits. I really expected him to have a big year and got him on one of my fantasy baseball teams. Early on I started to get a feeling that he was going to have problems living up to MY expectations and being that I needed so much help, traded him to one of my former friends, JHop. I say former friend because she HAS to think I stuck her with him, but I never thought his stock would get this low.

-Curtis Granderson gave us a taste of what was to come in the second half last year when, after working with Kevin Long, hitting coach, went on a tear. Well it has basically continued all of this year and at this point he is third in RBI, hitting for power and generally doing well with a bat in his hand. Sure, he still takes weird routes to balls hit to the outfield but you can’t have everything now can you?

-The resurrection of Eric Chavez, from the scrap heap has got to be mentioned. Sure, he followed expectations by getting hurt and missing a chunk of time but when he has played he has done very, very well, especially playing third base at such a high level. If he stays healthy the rest of the year, he may truly surprise us.

-Eduardo Nunez made the club as a utility infielder because of his bat, not his glove so much. He has filled in at SS for Jeter when he was hurt, at 3B for ARod when he needed a day off or was injured and made a boatload of errors. But his bat has stood out a bit and he certainly packs more hits and punch then former utility players. Right now he has 4 homers, 25 RBI and 16 walks, not bad for a very part time player. Now if he would only get rid of the iron glove for a nice leather one.

So, this is what I got, a couple positive surprises a few negative. Now it is your turn. Support one of mine or come up with one on your own…

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

So Loud!!!

On Sunday I went for the first time, to the new Yankee Stadium and had a great time with family and friends at the event. In my previous post I mentioned a bunch of personal observations about the experience but there was one thing I wanted to spend a bit more time on, as I thought it deserved a post of its own so here goes…

IT WAS LOUD AT THE STADIUM!!!

I’m not talking about a “hey you kids get off of my lawn” kind of situation here. It was loud. Not the fans. They were normal everyday fans. But the stadium itself was loud – the announcements over the P.A. system were loud. The organ music was loud. The rock and rap music between innings was loud.



HOW LOUD WAS IT YOU ASK?

Loud enough for me to have to ask you to repeat that question or any other thing you said to me during the game. . Normal conversation was impossible. I was looking forward to talking Yankee baseball with my son with some relatives, with my friend JHop. , but it wasn’t normal conversation, it was a shouting match. If you were not right next to a person it was impossible to converse. Trying to talk with 2 people at once was a mighty difficult feat.

SO WHY DO THE YANKEES DO IT?

It is not just the Yankees, it is sports teams all over now it seems. I have read a lot of articles and blogs talking about things being too loud in stadiums and arenas in all sports. It seems they feel the need to entertain or try to entertain during each second of your stadium or ballpark experience. Heavens forbid you attempt to be entertained by the game itself. I mean Sunday’s Yankee win was entertaining. It had good pitching, some good fielding, a nice Yankee rally in the 4th inning, highlighted by a triple, the most exciting play in baseball. We even had a Derek Jeter injury to discuss along with the strange moment when we found out Francisco Cervelli was the extra back up infielder. We couldn’t discuss it though because IT WAS TOO LOUD!









Look, I’m not asking for a lot here. I like the organ music at the ballpark. I like the in between innings music over the loudspeakers. I especially liked the TVs all around the stadium where you could see replays and such. All that stuff adds to the excitement of the game and the experience. I don’t want to get rid of that stuff. I just want them to turn the volume dial down from 11 to about 6 or 7, that’s all.

Can you hear me…anyone…can you hear what I’m saying?

Well, at least no one tried to do the wave…









Monday, August 1, 2011

Going to “The Stadium” for the first time…

This Sunday, July 31st, I made my first trip to the new Yankee Stadium. It has been a while since I have gone to a game in the Bronx and over the past winter we hatched a scheme to get a bunch of people together to go to a game. Originally we were going to try to do a baseball weekend, seeing a couple of minor league games leading up to the Yankee game but that didn’t work out and it was just the Yankees vs. the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. Before I go any further, let me thank Manhattan Man and CollegeBoy for originally thinking up the idea, PO Jen for her kick start on the effort about 8 weeks ago and the people over at Disability Services at Yankee Stadium who did a nice job of getting us in relative proximity for the game, on short notice.

I was looking forward to seeing the game with CollegeBoy and MillieJupiter and MissNicole (who is a more recent Yankee convert, much to the chagrin of her Red Sox lovin’ family!). I got to see some family and friends which is always fun. So I thought I would take a minute or two and make some personal observations about the game and the trip in general.

-Special thanks to MillieJupiter who did the driving! She was great and can now boast that she has driven in Bronx traffic and survived…

-The parking and the traffic situation at the new Yankee Stadium is vastly improved over the situation with the old place. We made the 3 hour trek from Massachusetts and within 5 minutes of getting off the Major Deegan Expressway, were parked within 500 feet of the main stadium gate. When leaving, the line out was quick and the traffic patrol had us back on the highway within 5 minutes. I have sat for 60 minutes trying to get to or from the old stadium, this was wonderful yesterday…

-the NY Yankees must provide employment for about a billion people. There was security and Yankee staff for help all around the place. You couldn’t swing Derek Jeter’s jockstrap without hitting on of the myriad of employees. They were courteous, friendly, helpful and helped make this an excellent experience. Special props to the guard who got me into the ticket window early and without having to wait on the line.



(the view from our seats!)

-One of the best things that happened (besides the Yankee victory) was that I also got to meet an internet friend JHop, whose blog “Chicks Dig the Fastball” always interests me and is one of my daily internet reads. We got to spend some time with talking baseball and fantasy baseball (where she is a rookie wizard and is positioning my herself to be the first rookie to win the whole a championship in a rookie season in the 28 years I have been running a league!), and fantasy football and Derek Jeter and blogs and podcasts and oh my! It was great to finally meet her and everyone should click on THIS LINK and give her blog a read. You will enjoy it.

-CollegeBoy said it best when he tweeted: “There is nothing greater in the world than being with family and friends at a New York Yankee game. Greatest feeling in the world.” I concur 100%; it was nice to see everybody, catch up a bit and enjoy the game!

-Speaking of the game, it was just a perfect experience. The Yankees won, we got to see Mariano Rivera, the best relief pitcher ever, throw a perfect 9th inning for the save, we saw Brett Gardner triple into the right field corner, the most exciting play in baseball and CollegeBoy and MissNicole collected enough Yankee souvenir cups to last us until the next game we go to. Perfect…



(Mariano enters the game and the Baltimore Orioles shudder...)

-You know, you can never predict baseball… I talked with CollegeBoy about the fact that he had never seen any thing memorable at the stadium in all the games he has gone to and almost before the words were out of his mouth, we had a weird situation crop up. Derek Jeter was hit on the hand with a pitch and the Yankees back up infielder was already in the game as Robbie Cano was the DH. This lead to lots of speculation about what they were going to do as it was early in the game and no one likes to give up their DH. We were among the surprised when Francisco Cervelli, the back up catcher came out to play second base for a few innings, a position he had never played in the major leagues before. “Well, Suzyn, you know, you just can’t predict baseball!”– John Sterling

(This post will be cross posted in Penguin Droppings...)

Friday, July 29, 2011

…and now, the Oscar for best performance in a sports documentary…



And the winner is Derek Jeter in Derek Jeter 3K, the new HBO documentary that will premier tonight. Thanks to the guys over at RAB, River Avenue Blues, the Yankee blog, we get a look at an extended trailer for this documentary and from the very first moments, it is obviously a winner. This four minute clip has the following tidbits: Jeter’s November homerun, “The Flip’, Jeter’s dive into the stands against the Red Sox, Jeter holding a World Series Trophy, other MLB players gushing over Jeter, and Jeter’s 3000 base hit. The only things missing from this clip is his canonization by the pope and a bunch of thumbnails of the girls he has dated over his career ending with a shot of Ms. Lucky, Minka Kelly. Of course this last one could not happen as the documentary is only a hour long and just reviewing the thumbnails would take twice that long.




I kid but must admit I usually love these kind of documentaries. They are a way of summing up a career, putting a sports hero’s life into focus and reminding us about how lucky we have been. In Jeter’s case, we got a throwback to the Yogi and Mickey era when the Yankees were in the midst of glory days that can hardly be matched. Derek has 5 World Series rings and we have a trunk load of memories and good feelings and images we can never forget. It is almost like HBO got a legendary film maker like Glenn Bracken Evans, director of the Sarah Palin Epic “The Undefeated”, to make a positive movie and give it a baseball twist and this is what he came up with. Derek is seen in his entire splendor, without faults or flaws, just the way we most like our icons. Surely a match made in heaven.









(Minka is not wearing Yankee pinstripes here but they're good enough for me!)



Now, I don’t have cable so I do not get HBO but you can be sure I will find a way to see and study this documentary and put all of the things it espouses to good use. Derek is a true Yankee, with pinstripes running through his veins and comes wrapped in Yankee midnight blue. As best I can tell, the only thing we may want that didn’t make it into the documentary would be naked pictures of Minka. Oh well, nothing is perfect, except perhaps Derek…









































































Sunday, July 24, 2011

Now batting leadoff…

This past week, Joe Girardi set the Yankee blogosphere a twittering with the simple statement that Brett Gardner may deserve a look at in the leadoff spot. The unspoken meaning of this is OMG DEREK JETER IS BEING DEMOTED TO ANOTHER SPOT IN THE ORDER. This is immediately followed by comments like “it’s about time” or “how can they do that to him he’s (a) true Yankee, (b) a Yankee Hero, (c) Derek Jeter. I must admit that I am firmly in the “it’s about time” camp. Some thoughts…

Gardner is hitting maybe 30 points higher and has maybe a 40 point lead in OBP, at this point. The leadoff hitter is the set up guy, the one you want on base for the other players to drive in. This fact is very clear - Gardner is hitting better, is getting on base more often, and can steal a base or two (leads the AL with 30 right now). What is there not to like with him leading off.

NY has always had an uneasy relationship with most of its superstars across all the major sports. The Yankees are no different. Look at what happened historically with players like Babe Ruth, Phil Rizzuto, Reggie Jackson, Alex Rodriguez and other like them. I understand that in order to be a superstar, to have that competitive edge, you must believe that the next hit is right around the corner even if you haven’t had a hit for a week. But at the same time is there not some pride in performance, some feeling that you are hurting the team in some way, having a negative impact. Seeing your superstars fade, your childhood heroes crash a burn, is difficult. All of which brings us back to Derek Jeter.


Jeter has had a tremendous impact on the NY Yankees for all of time he has been here. One needs to look no further than the championship rings on his fingers and the title of Captain of the Yankees to begin to understand the impact. But the facts speak for themselves. His is getting older; he has had his hitting decline for several years despite a bit of a blip up 2 years ago. Yes, he has 3000 hits now, the first Yankee ever to do that but his skills are eroded. He is NOT the best lead off hitter on the team. He HAS to know that deep down somewhere. And here is where he needs to make the most difficult decision and most difficult statement of his tenure as Yankee. To be a true Yankee legend, to finish his climb to greatness, to totally seal the deal as one of the greatest Yankees ever now is the time to make it easier on Girardi, easier on the team, and help the Yankees in the best way possible in their quest for Championship number twenty eight.




I will even write it out for him. It goes like this. “I have been the NY Yankees leadoff hitter for most of my career. During this time I have been able to experience a wealth of success as we have won the World Series five different times. I have been blessed with the success of 3000 hits to go along with that. However in my heart I feel that the best way that I can help this team again reach the goal of a championship is for me to do what is best for the team. Today I told Mr. Girardi that I am willing to bat anywhere in the batting order that he feels is appropriate and gives us the best chance at winning a pennant. I will continue to strive to do my best everyday in meeting that goal and expect no less from every teammate, Yankee management and Yankee ownership. This is the only statement I will make about this as I want to continue to focus on the job at hand. We are in the midst of a pennant race and all energies should be going toward finishing the job we started back in Florida in February. Thank you.”





Amen…

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Baseball crimes

Back in early July, there was a newspaper article about the NY Mets playing the Atlanta Braves. Jose Reyes, one of baseball’s hottest players right now slipped several times on the base pads around first base and the umpires ordered some drying agent put down. He eventually stole two bases and keyed a Mets win. It seems that the grounds crew got a little overzealous in trying to keep the dust down when watering the infield and made mud. This is reminiscent of how the San Francisco Giants dealt with Dodger speedster Maury Wills by doing the same thing like 50 years ago. This got me thinking about this sort of “wink-wink” cheating that goes on in baseball, anything to get a competitive edge.

Let me begin by saying that I have no issue with this sort of creative competitive efforts. In the long run how different is something like this then a team, not in a dome, using artificial turf and then stocking their team with slap hitting, quick running, and good fielding players to gain a competitive edge. Or how about having loads of space in foul territory to help pitchers getting extra outs. There are lots of them out there and I thought I would highlight a few of my favorites and also identify those that go beyond attempts at competitive advantage.

First up, stealing signs. Whether a base coach tries to pick off the catchers signs or a coach in the dugout tries to figure out what signs the third base coach is giving, this has been around since Abner Doubleday (I know Maqz, Doubleday didn’t invent baseball but most people think he did and I playing to the masses here!) One thing I don’t understand though is why this effort is considered an ultimate baseball skill (some coaches have remained in the game because of their ability in this area) yet if you put an eye in the stands or in front of a TV set they consider it cheating. This is like saying its ok to steal money from a bank but not ok from the corner grocery store.

Watering down the infield to slow runners is on a par with watering down in front of home plate to slow infield hits or letting it bake rock hard to favor your own slash hitters or letting the infield grass or outfield grass grow long to compensate for slow fielders or “tilting” the foul lines to encourage or discourage bunts. All part of the environmental approach to baseball skills I guess. No problem for me here.

Next up, feigning success. Why is it that every outfielder who attempts to make a diving or sliding catch tries to sell it to the umpire as if he was successful even when it obviously was not? Why does a fielder make a sweep tag and hold the glove up even if he didn’t come close to touching the runner. Why does a catcher hold his glove up when the ball was in his hand and not involved in making the tag? Why does the middle infielder straddle the bag or come across it even if he doesn’t touch it officially for the out? These are all gamesmanship and everyone gets away with it. It seems the only time there is controversy is when an umpire makes the correct call when no one was expecting anything other than a phantom tag. Again, no issues with that either.

Finally, a question. Why is it wrong for a batter to cork his bat or a pitcher to scuff a baseball but is ok for a first baseman to use an elongated glove or a catcher using a flexible glove with a knuckle ball pitcher or an outfielder to use a extra long glove to reach farther over the fence or lower into the grass on a shoe string catch. It seems inconsistent to me. I’d ask why a batter doesn’t get credit for a sacrifice fly on a long out that advances a runner from second to third but does for a short fly that gets a runner from third to home but that is rules issues not cheating issues and so it is a topic for another time.

One final note; I know it has been a while since I have written but circumstances required a bit of a break. But I am back, I'm loud, proud and ready to take on baseball once again!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What do we, the fans, want?

June 16, 2011

Dear Bud Selig, Baseball Commissioner:

This is a plan I propose that you follow around the recent stories that baseball is discussing possible realignment and thus changes in the way baseball does its playoffs. A friend stopped by my office yesterday and we chatted about it for a while and my own ideas began to crystallize a bit. Then last night I read this post by a friend, JHop, who writes the very funny and poignant sports blog “Chicks Dig the Fastball,” where she was furiously taking copious notes on the back of her work files for a post about the same issue, so I knew the time to address it had come. I had no idea what she was going to say about other than the clue she gave “rant about realignment”. She told me her thoughts in today's post - she doesn't like the idea. Meanwhile a friend in work, a Red Sox fan (so you know my thoughts about HIS opinion are guarded at best!) also came out against a realignment effort. So I figure it is time to admit it. I am a realignment advocate but ONLY IF you do it correctly. What follows is a well thought out, structured plea for MLB to do the right thing. Mr. Selig I offer it to you for free.

First off, I think the approach needs to be different then MLB has taken in the past. The way in the past has always been "the goal is to make as much money as possible and we will figure out the details later". The real way to approach this whole issue is to say “What do we baseball fans want”? What we want, really want, is exciting, meaningful baseball throughout the last month of the season. We want meaningful games in September, none of this playing out the string because you have made the playoffs. No, we are out of it in the third week of April so who cares. Get this right, and the fans and excitement will follow.

I also think that the idea of realignment, into 2 15 team leagues, makes lots of sense. Where it starts to breakdown is when you are talking about going back to one giant division for each league with 5 teams with best record making the playoffs. In this scenario, the 13-15th place teams loss interest in April with increasing numbers of teams fans losing interest as the season progresses. Plus how would explain how a team in first place in a division does nort make a playoff while 4 teams from another did. And you thought the tie in the All Star Game was a nightmare? No, stick with 3 divisions within the league and then two wild cards from the balance based on record, and unbalance the schedule to focus more games (not too many though) on playing the other 4 teams in your division. Now this also raises the specter of interleague games. With 15 teams in each league, there is the need to have an interleague series every series. My response to this is “So what?” The idea of interleague play is fun, but we do not need to set aside a special time of the season to play all those games. This was done originally to boost attendance (make more money) and is not necessary. It can be just as exciting to have two AL teams playing each other and then playing an NL club and then going back to a AL matchup. “See the ‘National League club” in its only appearance in “AL city” is just as an effective an advertizing tool as is “this week the AL club faces three different NL opponents’.

As for the schedule, unbalance it and don’t worry about it. This highlights the natural rivalries in the different divisions and adds more significance to the race to the division title. Play each team in your own division 15 times (60 games) each of the 5 teams in the other two same league divisions 6 times (60 games) and add 6 games with one division of the opposite league (30 games) adding up to a nice round 150 games. Then start the playoff run a week earlier. The interleague games should be in the same geographic area as the them is in. In other words the AL East plays the NL East, Central versus Central and West versus West. This will allow for less travel, easier to make up rainouts, keep this part of the schedule balanced as each club in the division will play the same five teams in the opposite league, and continue to foster the natural rivalries while not overly contaminating the World Series match up in October.

As for the playoffs, you MUST give significant advantage to the team that wins the division. None of this wildcard madness where they get the same benefit for finishing in second place as the team that wins. Plus, the Wild card Team could have the fifth best record overall. Why should it get any advantage? It made the playoff lottery, which is enough help. You accomplish this is two ways – when games are played and in rest time for teams. In my playoff system this is how it goes. When the season ends on Sunday, the three division winners get at least 5 days off, allowing them to set their playoff rotations, nurse injuries and prepare for and scout opponents. There are then two wild card teams, the two teams with the best records not to win the division. They play a best of 5 series. The Monday of the playoff run is saved for a tie resolution for a division and Tuesday is for the start of the Wild Card series. If there are no division ties, then the Wild card starts Monday. The Wild Card proceeds for 5 consecutive days, no days off, Monday – Friday or Tuesday – Saturday. Don’t like having to fly coast to coast? Then play well enough to win the division! The Wild Card winner then gets to play the winning division team with the best record. Same division? Doesn’t matter. Play the games! The other series between the division winners begins that Friday. This level of playoffs is 4/7 as is the Championship round, as is the World Series.

As for who moves where, the simplest would be for the Houston Astros to move from the NL Central (now six teams) to AL West (now 4 teams). This requires only one move. I guess you could move Houston from NL Central to NL West and Arizona from NL West to AL West but this requires 2 moves and I would rather keep it simpler rather than more complicated.

I like my plan, I think it serves several purposes. It keeps interest higher by allowing one more team into the playoff system preserves balances schedules and unbalanced schedules where important and promoting more rivalry games both in your own division and within the interleague structure. It rewards teams winning divisions with extra rest and opportunities to plan a playoff run, allows teams who do not win a division a chance to play in the post season and distinguishes rewards for division winners versus wild card candidates.

Mr. Selig I say this – You didn’t listen to me about what to do about the no hitter that was ruined by a bad umpire call. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Your legacy will be enhanced by a playoff system that is fun and exciting and offers the thrills of the hunt for fans across the nation. Don’t give into the greedy desires of a handful of owners. This is not hockey or basketball or football for that matter where way too many teams make the playoffs. You can keep it mean and lean and exciting all at the same time.

You’re welcome.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where’s Montero? (with apologies to Waldo!)


(click to embiggen and find Montero, err Waldo...)

To me, this is as simple as a phone call to Scranton. Probably cost you all of 15 cents. Only have to utter 7 words – “Send Montero up to Yankee Stadium, stat!”

Let’s check out the situation:

1) Yankee back up catcher Frankie Cervelli is a great guy, enthusiastic teammate and nice breath of fresh air in the clubhouse. What Cervelli is not, is a major league level catcher or batter. He is a black hole in the lineup with little power, does not hold up his end of the defensive stick when he is behind the plate and seems this year to be as likely to throw a ball into center field as he is to get t to the shortstop. Nice guy, not so nice back up catcher.

2) Russell Martin has been a godsend, taking over the everyday catching duties. He is everything that Cervelli is not in the catcher’s equipment – good, solid hitter, good defensive catcher, good game caller. Because he is the only viable catcher on the roster, he is catching the majority of games, his stats are slipping and he is injured. He is suffering from over use and this is impacting his entire game.

3) Former catcher, Jorge Posada (hip hip Jorge!) was never much of a catcher, stayed behind the plate due too his bulldog nature and ability to swing the bat. However, this skill seems to be deserting him at an alarming rate as in quickly. He has stirred a bit in the last week batting wise but he is not a catcher any more and to put him in this situation would be a disservice to him and potential injury risk and batting deterioration risk as well. At 39 years of age, Posada is not likely to get better nor will he reach his standard numbers. He is in decline.

Let’s check out some reasonable alternatives:

1) Jesus Montero has been at the top of the Yankee prospect list for a couple of years. He is an adequate defensive catcher, one who will make it or break it in the major leagues on the strength of his bat. After some initial slowness in adapting to AAA baseball last year, he came on like a monster for ¾ of the year and ended up solidifying his status. He came to spring training this year and did not do anything special, started slowly again in AAA but quickly got out the hitting stick and as of now hitting .290 in the first third of the season.

2) THERE IS NO NUMBER TWO OPTION!

Look, in a nutshell, Martin needs a break, Cervelli can’t field or hit, Posada can’t catch. At worst, Montero only does as well as Cervelli behind the plate but outhits him night and day. Montero can get 4-5 games a week at the ML level by backing up Martin, DHing a couple times a week and pinch hitting on other days if necessary. For a trial basis you can even keep Cervelli around and send someone else down for a while to give him his shot. If he catches fire, maybe he wins a couple of games, gets a taste of ML baseball and works out the kinks.

What do the Yankees have to lose?