June 2011

“It is high, it is far, it is gone”…

Hello, he’s back…

I had been curious about how Jason Giambi felt about his impending return to the Bronx this weekend.  I read an article in The Denver Post where Giambi talked about how special New York was and what it was like to play on the same field as DiMaggio, Gehrig, Ruth, Mantle and others.  What he didn’t know was the type of reaction that he would receive.  The New York fans can be tough (obviously) but I really expected a warm reception for the Giambino.  Unlike his departure from Oakland (the first time), he didn’t leave New York at the prime of his career and while Oakland had wanted to re-sign Giambi, the Yankees had clearly moved on.  So, his departure was really the team’s decision and not his.

Howard Simmons/New York Daily News

Giambi had some difficult years in pinstripes and of course his stay will always be marred by the steroid admission.  But he persevered and I felt that he played hard through the duration of the contract.  I am thankful for the years that he gave New York and I certainly wish him the very best in the sunset days of his playing career.

I just wish that he wouldn’t have homered off A.J. Burnett in Friday night’s game.  But I guess if you are going to throw a 2-0 meatball, I guess that Ozzie Smith could have hit a home run.  Well, on second thought, Giambi’s home run was not the reason the Yankees lost so maybe it was good for old times sake.  “G” didn’t get to play at the new Yankee Stadium so he deserved a chance to shine at the new grounds.  He’ll be back.  After his playing days are over, it is a certainty that he’ll get an invitation to future Old Timer’s Days.

Joe Torre knew when to get out…

If there is one former Yankee that I want to succeed more than any other, it is Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.  The entire Dodger situation with Frank McCourt’s divorce, the team’s financial struggles and the league’s intervention just sickens me.  It is hard to believe that the two teams struggling the most right now are in the nation’s top two markets.  The Dodgers franchise has been one of the top organizations throughout the history of baseball, and they deserve so much better than the current situation.

Don Mattingly

Ben Liebenberg/US Presswire

If the Dodgers resort to a fire sale next month, I am fearful of the adverse impact it will have on the perception of Mattingly as a manager.  It would be hard for anyone to succeed under those conditions.  I don’t know that I’d want to see Mark Cuban as the next Dodgers owner, but I am hopeful that McCourt will sell the team to an owner or ownership group that would move quickly to restore the respect for the great franchise.

Stay Cash, stay…

I read Buster Olney’s piece that Brian Cashman may walk after the end of the season.  His contract expires this year and there will be no discussion of an extension until after the season.  I can’t imagine the Yankees without Cashman as the GM.  I couldn’t begin to fully understand the daily pressure the guy must be under, but I have to believe that working for Hank and Hal Steinbrenner is significantly better than what it must have been like under George Steinbrenner.  If Cashman is looking for a break, I could see him walk away for a year or two.  He’d certainly have his choice of opportunities when/if he decided to return.  A new challenge or opportunity can be good, but it wouldn’t be the Yankees.  That’s not an arrogant statement, but just a simple observation that the Yankees are the most storied and legendary team in baseball (sorry Dodgers!).

I could see the desire to build a winner without the perception that you have the most dollars to play with.  But I hope that Cashman ultimately decides to stay in New York and continues his long run as one of the greatest GM’s in Yankee history.

Enjoy the weekend!…

–Scott

Try to score, I dare you…

 

Don’t mess with Martin…

If there is anything about Russell Martin and what he has brought to the Yankees this year, it is his bulldog mentality.  After a strong start at the place, his average has tailed off and he has spent time on the DL.  His recent back problems could be a persistent problem, but when he plays, he is ‘all-in’.  I consider Boston’s Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia as championship competitors because they are always ready to play regardless of the game situations and Martin is certainly cut from the same cloth.

On Saturday against the Chicago Cubs, Martin blocked the plate after receiving a perfect throw from left fielder Brett Gardner and prevented a charging Carlos Pena from scoring in the 6th inning.   It was a critical situation with the Yanks up by just one run, and bases loaded with Cubs.   Given Martin’s recent health challenges, you could understand if he had chosen the path of least resistance but that’s just not his way.

 

Yankees catcher Russell Martin prepares to tag out Carlos Pena after Pena tried to score on a sacrifice fly in the 6th inning.

Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune

 

I know that Martin is just keeping the catcher’s seat warm until super prospect Jesus Montero is ready.  I know that Montero needs his at-bat’s in the minor leagues, but it would be great for him to spend time learning behind Martin at some point.  The sad part is what to do with Francisco Cervelli (we’ll cross that bridge when it comes), but Martin plays the position like my all-time favorite catcher, Thurman Munson.

 

Now pitching for the Yankees, John Doe…

The Yankee scouts definitely deserve kudos for their continued prowess at identifying forgotten or unknown players who can help the team.  The latest examples are starter Brian Gordon, who came from Lehigh Valley in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system to beat the Texas Rangers last week, and reliever Cory Wade who had most recently been in the Tampa Bay Rays organization after coming up with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I’ve seen comments comparing Gordon, a 32-year-old journeyman minor leaguer, to Aaron Small and Dustin Moseley.  Small appeared out of nowhere to go 10-0 in the 2005 season before he vanished back into oblivion.  Moseley helped provide rotation stability last season before departing for the San Diego Padres in the off-season.  Gordon’s stay is most likely very temporary but hopefully he can continue to put up solid efforts like he did against the Rangers.  I did read one story that the Rangers were actually interested in signing Gordon, who had a major league opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the Phillies, but when they called, Gordon had already verbally committed to the Yankees.

In a bullpen that has been hurt by injuries (Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain being the most critical), Wade has stepped in to provide solid support.  In three games totaling 3 2/3 innings, he has yet to give up a run.  The solid performances by guys like Wade and Hector Noesi have allowed David Robertson to excel as the bridge to Mariano Rivera.

I do not expect any of these additions to help the Yankees overcome the Boston Red Sox, but at least they are helping the Yankees tread water until stronger reinforcements can be acquired.

 

The name rocked the Rockies and will now rumble in the Bronx…

I have to admit that it is strange seeing Dante Bichette’s name associated with the New York Yankees.  Bichette was best known for his years with the Colorado Rockies, and he had a monster year in 1995 when he hit 40 homers and 128 RBI’s to go with a .340 BA.  His days in Colorado spawned a close relationship with Yankees manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi started with the Cubs organization but was a draftee of the expansion Rockies and was with them until after the 1995 season when he was acquired by the Yankees.  I spent time in the early 1990’s in Denver so I am well familiar with the “Blake Street Bombers”.

The association of the Bichette name with the Yankees, of course, pertains to Dante Bichette, Jr., who was the Yankees first round selection in the recent major league draft.  A third baseman, young Dante projects as an eventual power hitting outfielder.  Yesterday, the Yankees announced that they had signed Bichette so time will tell if he can eventually play for his father’s buddy at the major league level with the Yankees.

 

dante bichette jr.

 

Happy Dad’s Day!…

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers across America!  May this be a spectacular day for you and your child or children!  J

 

–Scott

 

I hit the ‘publish’ button too soon last night…

Friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions  –Samuel Johnson

I expected a slowdown in Derek Jeter’s march to 3,000 hits but I didn’t anticipate a 15 day intermission until DJ can resume his hit parade.  I had been hoping that he could reach the illustrious milestone against this weekend’s opponent, the Chicago Cubs, but it was not meant to be as DJ was placed on the DL after straining his right calf.

It will be interesting to see what Eduardo Nunez can do for the next couple of weeks as the starting shortstop.  There is no chance that DJ is going to lose his job, but this is a great opportunity for Nunez to prove to the organization that he is capable replacement when the day does come for #2 to step down.

 

Eduardo Nunez

Paul J. Bereswill

 

What?  Was Ed Figueroa unavailable?…

Thursday’s starting pitcher is who?  It appears that Brian Gordon will be the starting pitcher for the Yankees on Thursday for the final game of their series with the Texas Rangers.  Pardon me if I don’t have the slightest clue who Gordon is.  He apparently opted out of his minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies to sign with New York.  I am assuming that he knows this is just a one start audition as Bartolo Colon will hopefully be back.  The 32 year old right-handed pitcher is a veteran of 15 minor league seasons.

 

Brian Gordon is in his 15th minor-league season. (Photo courtesy of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs)

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Ironically, Gordon made the switch from position player to pitcher after the 2006 season with the help of then Astros special assistant, Nolan Ryan.  Ryan, of course, is now the CEO and president of the team that Gordon will be facing on Thursday.

 

Sometimes the best trades are the ones never made, well, maybe not…

I wonder if the Kansas City Royals regret not trading Joakim Soria to the Yankees last year.  Soria has had his share of challenges this year, including losing his job briefly to Aaron Crow.  Meanwhile, the Royals are absolutely loaded with young talent as premier prospects Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have burst on the scene with more stellar talent on the way.  Add a few top Yankees prospects to the mix, and the Royals would clearly assert themselves as a contender for years to come.  They opted to keep Soria, but their future is still very bright.  It is just a question of how much brighter it could have been if they had been willing to part with the right pieces.

 

Ben Platt/MLB.com

If this year has proven anything to me, it is that you cannot rely on any relievers from year to year.  This year’s stud will be next year’s washout.  Well, unless your name is Mariano Rivera…

 

–Scott

 

Some good, some bad — just keep it close…

 

Empty Bottle of Colon…

Well, it was only a matter of time until Bartolo Colon ended up on the disabled list.  Of course, he is talking like he’ll be ready to take the mound as soon as his 15-day stint is finished, however, it shows how risky it is to depend upon Colon at this stage of his career regardless of how well he has pitched.

Yankee pitcher Bartolo Colon walks off with trainer Gene Monahan after he comes up limping after covering 1st in the 7th inning of a 4-0 win over the Indians Saturday.

Howard Simmons/NY Daily News

 

As for replacements, the possible names include anybody not named Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances so we’ll see who can step up and seize the opportunity.  I am a bit curious to see what Carlos Silva can do.

Although Freddy Garcia pitched well in his last start, the pressure is still squarely on A.J. Burnett as he is the key to the season at this stage of the season.  If he fails, the Yankees fail…no ifs, ands or buts.  So far, there have been more high points than low ones but with A.J., you just never really know what you are going to get.

It was only a matter of time until the Boston Red Sox got hot as evidenced by their current winning streak.  They seem to handle the Yankees with ease in their head-to-head match-ups, and right now, nobody seems to be able to figure them out.  I know that they’ll lose their share of games, but right now, they are clearly the best team in the AL East.  I only hope the Yankees can stay within striking distance until next month when GM Brian Cashman will hopefully be able to make some in-season upgrades.

 

Hits R Us…

Derek Jeter seems to be on cruise control lately in his march toward 3,000 hits.  He hit another single in today’s game against the Cleveland Indians to move to 2,994.  I wonder if he’ll start to slow down as he approaches 3,000, and how long he’ll sit at 2,999 before THE hit comes.  I say that he presses and it takes a couple of games.  At this point, the hit will probably come while the Yankees are on the road unless he hits a prolonged slump.

 

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter collects two hits as part of the Bombers' 18-hit attack against the Indians at the Stadium Sunday afternoon.

Ron Antonelli/NY Daily News

 

The Battle of Texas…or Florida…

As crazy as it sounded when I first heard it, the re-alignment of major league baseball makes sense.  Putting either the Houston Astros or the Florida Marlins into the AL would balance the leagues and would create an additional in-state rivalry for either the Texas Rangers or the Tampa Bay Rays.  I also like the elimination of the divisions, with the top 5 finishers advancing to the play-offs.  I do not like the current system that could prevent a non-division winner from advancing to the play-offs, when a division-winning team with an inferior record gets in.

 

AP Photo

 

‘Hey Butter, Butter, Butter’…

This past weekend, I was in Montgomery, Alabama and attended a minor league baseball game between the Southern League’s Montgomery Biscuits and Jacksonville Suns.  I was impressed with Riverwalk Stadium which was built on the site of a former Confederate prison which held Yankee soldiers.  I’ve always appreciated the intimacy of Coors Field, and Riverwalk Stadium gave me that same type of feeling albeit on a smaller scale.  It was visually appealing, and I like the way that the city of Montgomery has started to revitalize its downtown warehouse district.

 

 

I lived in Montgomery back in the early 80’s.  In those days, the minor league team was the now defunct Montgomery Rebels.  One of the Rebels’ rivals was the Orlando Twins, which, ironically, is now the Biscuits franchise.  The Biscuits are a farm team for the Tampa Bay Rays and of course it is funny to think that David Price and Evan Longoria used to be Biscuits.  I seriously thought about buying a Longoria t-shirt with the Biscuits emblem, but opted for a Biscuits cap instead (which has the Rays logo on the back).

 

Who said it was a Cowboys town…

Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks for their first ever NBA Championship!  I was a Mavs fan back when I lived in Dallas, but that was a long time ago.  I have since moved on to the aging, past-their-prime Los Angeles Lakers.  ;)  Nevertheless, it was still fun to see the Mavs win, especially since it came against the team that everyone thought was supposed to win (the D-Wade, King LeBron, Chris Bosh-led Miami Heat).  Pardon me if I don’t root for the city of Dallas to follow up with a World Series win!  A Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl would be okay…

 

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

 

–Scott

 

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