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…


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…


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.


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.


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...)