April 2012

The thrill of Victory…I just wish it would happen more often…

 

Going up or going down?…

About 20 games into the season and the Yankees are barely closer to first place than they are last place.  Only two games separate the Yankees from the dismal start by the Boston Red Sox but of course the Sox are playing better as of late.  It’s only April so at this point, the standings don’t really mean too much as the superior AL East teams will begin to separate themselves from the pretenders over the course of the next couple of months.

It was nice to see the Yankees pull off a walk-off win at Yankee Stadium last night against the team that seems to terrorize them in the play-offs in recent years, the Detroit Tigers.  I am really surprised that Justin Verlander holds an 0-2 mark with 4.50 ERA for his career at the new Yankee Stadium.  When he is on the mound, it is hard not to expect bad things for the home team.  So, regardless of Verlander’s struggles at Yankee Stadium, it is still a great feeling to pick up a win on a night when he took the mound.

Cashman made the right decision…

Lately, there have been numerous columns and articles written about how disastrous the Yankees trade for Michael Pineda has become.  I realize that he’s lost for the season due to his shoulder injury, but he is still a young and talented pitcher.  I know there’s always a risk that he isn’t quite the pitcher was projected to be when he comes back, but I think it’s way too early to criticize the trade which sent talented hitter Jesus Montero to Seattle.  Pineda’s injury was suffered on the Yankees’ watch and not while he was in Seattle, and there is still a good chance that he’s a strong, contributing part of next year’s rotation.

Phil Hughes is probably the beneficiary of Pineda’s injury as I feel that Freddy Garcia will be the odd man out when Andy Pettitte returns to the Bronx.  Hughes hasn’t exactly pitched like he wants to stay, but I am not ready to see the Yankees banish him to Pittsburgh or someplace like that.  Maybe I am an eternal optimist but I still believe that Hughes can prosper in New York.

I am a bit concerned by the uneven starts provided by new Yankee Hiroki Kuroda, but I think he’ll settle in and deliver consistent performances in the coming weeks and months.  Yes, I do thank the lucky stars every day for CC Sabathia.

A sad day in the Yankees Universe…

I was saddened to hear the passing of Yankees great Bill “Moose” Skowron yesterday.  He was part of the 1961 Yankees which will always be a special team in Yankees history for the famed M&M Boys (the year Mickey Mantle hit 54 home runs, and Roger Maris hit the then record 61 homers).  But there’s no way either Mickey or Roger could have reached those heights without guys like Skowron on the roster.

Next stop, Superstardom…

Well, the Bryce Harper Show begins its maiden tour in Washington with the scheduled first start today for the ultra-hyped, super prospect National.  Given that he was called up to take the roster spot of injured 3B Ryan Zimmerman, there’s always the chance that Harper goes back down when Zimmerman returns from the DL.  But if Harper starts to hit like we know he will, it will be hard for the Nats to remove him from the roster.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  America loves superstars and Harper certainly has as much of a chance to be the best as anyone in the game today.

When Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson are happy, so am I…

It’s only been three rounds, but I am pleased with the NFL draft selections made by the Minnesota Vikings.  Prior to the draft, my preference for the Vikings #3 pick in the first round was USC OT Matt Kalil.  There was talk that the Vikings were undecided among Kalil, CB Morris Claiborne, and WR Justin Blackmon, but in the end, it proved to be a smokescreen.  I was a bit anxious when I first heard the Vikings had traded down with the Cleveland Browns, but it was clear that the Browns were going after RB Trent Richardson so there was no risk of losing Kalil off the board.  At first, I didn’t understand the logic of the move, but clearly the Vikings (and GM Rick Spielman) had made the Browns fearful they’d trade down with another team which could potentially cost the Browns a shot at the premier running back in the draft.  The move brought three late round picks to the Vikings and it didn’t cost them anything as they were focused on Kalil from the start.

I also like the Vikings’ subsequent picks (late first round selection of S Harrison Smith and early third round choice of speedy CB Josh Robinson).  For a team that was desperate of upgrades in the secondary, they fared well. It would have been nice if Robinson were a bit taller, but his 4.33 speed at the Combines was unmatched.  I think he’s good material for the coaching staff to mold for playing at this level.  The Vikings have a plethora of selections today as Rounds 4-7 are completed, and I am sure that the defense will continue to get attention.  I also expect the Vikings to choose a wide receiver, but I have no idea who they might target.  Nevertheless, with Spielman’s decisions so far, I have no doubt that he’ll continue to bring talented playmakers to Minnesota.

As Luck would have it…

Like everyone else, I think that QB Andrew Luck has the potential to be one of the greats in the game but how much more difficult can it be to be replacing one of the greatest QB’s to play the game with added pressure of being the number one selection in the NFL Draft (along with the expectations that go with it)?  If Luck succeeds, and I do not doubt that he will, he will prove, without a doubt, that he was the right choice to replace Manning.  Luck, with a horseshoe on his helmet, seems like it was destiny.  Meanwhile, I continue to “ponder” things in Minnesota…

Today, with Yankees-Tigers on tap and the conclusion of the NFL Draft, will be a fun day.  Enjoy!

–Scott

 

You win some, you lose some…

 

Uneven start to the 2012 season…

I guess the season opening series sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays set the tone, but this has been a hot and cold season thus far.  The New York Yankees followed the Rays series with their own sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, but they’ve struggled against the Minnesota Twins in the Bronx.  Given how the Yankees have owned the Twins in recent years and the fact the Twins were a 99 loss team last year with no notable improvements, it seems odd that the Yankees are fighting to salvage the fourth game of the series with the Twins and at least earn a split.

Now you see him, now you don’t…

I was excited last week when Hiroki Kuroda pitched a gem, but after getting pounded by the Twins yesterday , he’s had more bad starts than good.  It’s only three starts in, and I am sure that Kuroda will not be A.J. Burnett Revisited, but I’d prefer the ratio of good starts to bad to be reversed.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to change leagues, especially for a foreign player.  There is a difference in pitching in the AL versus the NL, and it would seem, to a novice like me, that it would be more enjoyable to pitch in the National League given the lack of a DH.

Odd men out…

As it stands right now, I think that both Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia are pitching their way out of the rotation to make way for the eventual returns of Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda.  I expect Hughes to be moved to the bullpen, but I am not sure what will happen with Garcia.  I don’t really see him going to the pen if Hughes goes there, and of course, he’s not going to the minor leagues.  Best case scenario is a trade to bring in a player with potential.  It obviously wouldn’t be a high ranked prospect, but rather something of a gamble with upside.

What have you done for me lately…

I feel bad for Francisco Cervelli sitting in AAA simply because he had options, but I have to say that I was impressed when no-hit back up catcher Chris Stewart had 3 RBI’s the other night.  Stewart is clearly on the roster because of his defense but his bat has never scared anybody.  It still won’t, but it’s always good to mix in a hit or two.

I didn’t watch the game but the match-up of Cliff Lee and Matt Cain last night in San Francisco was stellar.  I was going to say that the game featured two of my favorite pitchers, but I am still a bit miffed at Cliff Lee for his rejection of the Yankees a couple of seasons back.  Tim Lincecum gets the press in San Francisco, but I’ve always appreciated Matt Cain.  If I owned a baseball team, he would be one of the guys that I’d target for acquisition.  I’ve always admired his competitiveness.  The marquee match-up didn’t disappoint as Cain went 9 innings, allowing no runs, and Lee went an almost unheard of 10 innings.  Neither pitcher gave up a run.  A more startling statistic is that Lee only threw 102 pitches and Cain 91.  Neither pitcher figured in the outcome as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 in 11 innings.  But there is no doubt that was the season’s prime pitching duel so far.  Kind of makes me wish that I had been sitting in AT&T Park last night.

The Grandy Man can…

As I am sitting here typing this blog, Curtis Granderson has hit three home runs in the first four innings of tonight’s game against the Twins.  Yes, I think Grandy has settled into the Bronx.  As the song goes, with a slight variation, the Grandy Man can ‘cuz he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.  Yes, he does.  I remember being disappointed that the Yankees gave up Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke for Granderson, but even though Kennedy has prospered in the Sonoran Desert, I am glad the trade was made. Grandy is a class act and probably the closest to Derek Jeter in terms of quality of character.

Will Los Angeles continue to take the best of Minnesota?…

As a resident of Minneapolis and a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I am very disappointed in the recent chain of events in the Vikings’ efforts to secure a new stadium.  A state legislative committee nixed the Vikings’ plan and it is looking like the subject will be tabled until 2013.  The Minnesota legislature goes on break in a week so they are running out of time to take action with the stadium issue.  There hasn’t been any threats of relocation but they are starting to rumble to the surface.  The Vikings have passed the lease expiration of the Metrodome, so relocation is a genuine threat.  Based on reports, the Vikings will not tolerate delay until 2013 so this situation is critical.  I heard today that the NFL is coming to Minnesota in an effort to break the impasse.  But the odds of the Los Angeles Vikings becoming a reality have to be increasing.  This is very disappointing.  For me, I am not a native Minnesotan, so I’ll stay with the Vikings regardless of what happens, but they belong in Minnesota.  You would think that the city of Minneapolis would have learned something with the Lakers…

Well, what would we do if sports weren’t available to frustrate us?…

 

–Scott

 

 

 

 

Chavez Ravine to the Bronx!…

 

Chavez Ravine to the Bronx reminds me of Tommy John for some reason…

Welcome to New York, Hiro!  It was a terrific debut at Yankee Stadium for #2 starter Hiroki Kuroda, as he shut down the Los Angeles Angels, 5-0 in the team’s 2012 home opener.  The Angels, historically, play the Yankees very well in New York, so Kuroda’s performance was significantly more impressive than if it had come against a team like the Minnesota Twins.  Obviously, the former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher is not going to pitch like this every time out, but I do feel more confident in the #2 slot in the rotation than I did when it was held by A.J. Burnett.

The game also marked the 630th home run by Alex Rodriguez, which tied him with his former teammate, Ken Griffey, Jr.  The script couldn’t have been written any better for a marvelous day in New York.

A proud day for a Yankees legend and his father…

It was also a very classy move to have Jorge Posada throw out the first pitch, which is the good karma that set the stage for the wonderful day.  I am sure that it was a thrill for Jorge to throw the pitch to his father.  I lost my own father as a child, but who doesn’t love the scene in Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner plays catch with his father.  It has to be an absolute thrill, and I am sure that it was for Jorge as his father was able to take the field at Yankee Stadium.  I had heard the Yankees wanted Mariano Rivera to catch Posada’s throw, but Jorge wanted his dad.  You certainly cannot find fault in his decision.  Mariano’s day will come.  Both players have reservations for Monument Park.

DL-R-Us…

I was sorry to see the injury suffered by Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox.  The word is that he’ll be out 6-8 weeks with the shoulder injury he suffered during Boston’s home opening day win over the Tampa Bay Rays.  Boston may be a fierce rival, but I take so satisfaction in seeing the loss of one of their better players.  To be the best, you have to beat the best which means that I want Boston and Tampa to have their best players on the field.  The Red Sox probably have more dollars committed to guys on the DL than the team payrolls for a number of teams in major league baseball, with the likes of John Lackey, Dice-K, Carl Crawford, Andrew Bailey, and Bobby Jenks currently disabled.

Hopefully, Ellsbury will make a smooth and speedy recovery, and will be back on the field soon.

The team name on Damon’s jersey should come with Velcro…

I know it’s a paycheck but it seems like Johnny Damon will have played with every team in the AL by the time he’s finished.  He’s been with so many teams, I honestly can’t say what team he should be remembered for.  Maybe Boston because of the Caveman look and helping them secure their first World Series win in a century, maybe the Royals because that’s where he got his start, who knows.  I can’t look at him and say that ‘he’s forever a Yankee’ because his time was too brief and now it’s too watered down with other teams.  Damon as a Cleveland Indian just seems strange.  If Cleveland is out by July, I am sure that Damon will be moved to a contender, adding yet another team.  Or Damon doesn’t get enough at-bats and opts out of his Cleveland deal, and heads elsewhere.  Regardless, he just seems like a rent-a-player at this point.  Maybe MLB should incorporate 10-day contracts like the NBA…

Purple People are better…

I am looking forward to the upcoming NFL Draft.  The Minnesota Vikings, with the third selection and the top two picks already pre-determined, have some tough choices to make.  I’ve been in favor of OT Matt Kalil, but an argument can be made for WR Justin Blackmon or CB Morris Claiborne.  I thought it was interesting when Colts owner Jim Irsay made comments that teams interested in QB Ryan Tannehill should talk to the Vikings about their #3 pick.  I have not followed the story closely enough to understand his motivation, but I’d prefer to see the Vikings hang on to the pick (despite the opportunity to add more picks) given the strength of the talent available.  I am sure the Miami Dolphins are drooling over the idea of nabbing Tannehill so I guess it would depend upon how desperate they are to make a move.  Unless the Vikings are overwhelmed, I want to see Kalil, Blackmon or Claiborne wearing purple at a mini-camp coming soon.

Actually, it’s hard to believe that we are already starting to talk about football again.  It seems like the season just ended.  But then again, it’s hard to believe that the 2012 MLB Season is well underway.  It should be a fun sports year for all…

–Scott

 

You had me at ‘Yankees win!’…

 

For away games, I prefer to see a Yankees pitcher on the mound for the last out…

Finally, the first win of the year has arrived.  It was a bit delayed in coming, but alas, the victory came with the Yankees’ first game away from Tropicana Field.  Hopefully, the Tampa Bay Rays’ home won’t become a house of horrors for the Yankees this season but it was clear for the first three games of the year that the Rays were the better team.

Still, despite the Yankees’ 0-3 record as they departed Florida (the same mark as the Boston Red Sox at the time of their departure from Detroit), I never felt the sense of doom and despair that usually accompanies losses.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, the momentum of a series goes with one team.  Sure, you can say better hitting and pitching will do it every time, but the Yankees could easily take the series they play against the Rays…or not.  I don’t think the Yankees will sweep their latest opponent, the Baltimore Orioles, even though they’ve won something like 40 out of the last 55 games against them.  But there is no doubt that the Yankees rotation will right the ship.  In Minnesota, where the Twins also lost their opening series by sweep (to the Orioles) and now stand at 0-4 after a home opening loss to the Los Angeles Angels in Minneapolis, there is a sense of dread and gloom already.

While Boston matched the Yankees loss-for-loss, and finally last night, win-for-win, I haven’t sense of feeling of desperation from the Sox fans yet either.  So, it’s clear in both New York and Boston that the fans expect their respective teams to perform (unlike those in the Gopher state).  The main thing I hear from Boston fans is the overwhelming belief that Daniel Bard should be the team’s closer, not former Yankee Alfredo Aceves.  I tend to agree as I’ve always felt that Aceves is better suited for long relief and spot starts.

Back to the Yankees, if you asked me who would pick up the first win among the quartet of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, there’s no question that I would not have picked Nova.  I wasn’t crazy about the 10 hits he allowed, but he kept the O’s from scoring as they were only able to push 2 across home plate.  I would never be foolish enough to expect Nova to be a front-of-the-rotation starter, but he is perfectly cast in the back of the rotation and I don’t care what he has to do as long as it produces W’s.  With both Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda looming on the horizon within the next couple of months, there are two starters who won’t be starting.  If Nova can continue to produce, he increases the possibility that Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes are the odd men out.

Please tell me more about the medical insurance…

With so many closers on the DL (Drew Storen, Andrew Bailey, and Ryan Madson to name a few), it amazes me that not only has Mariano Rivera thrived at such a high level for so long, he’s done it without too much down time.  It reinforces to me that he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer despite the Hall’s reluctance to bring closers into the fold.  I am still amazed when I think that I was once disappointed that Mariano had been named closer after the departure of John Wetteland (I didn’t want Wetteland to leave via free agency).  Instead, Mo has rewarded me by allowing me to witness one of the all-time Yankee greats.  As a big fan of Lou Gehrig, I love the history and the tradition of the Yankees, and it’s reassuring to know that my grandchildren and their children will hear the name of Mariano Rivera.

A 5-day sabbatical and an apology is fine, but learn from the experience…

I am not quite sure what I think about the Ozzie Guillen fiasco in Miami with his pro-Fidel Castro comments.  I do know that I do not feel he should lose his job so long as he shows remorse and learns from the situation.  We all know that Ozzie is going to say whatever is on his mind and he’s not going to edit it first.  He speaks to provoke reactions and I am not convinced that he always believes what he says.  I know that’s no excuse for making insensitive comments in one of our country’s top Cuban communities.  He needs to realize that his words can and will hurt.  He now has a 5-game suspension to think about what he said.  I don’t think it will put a muzzle on him as he is, after all, Ozzie and there’s no changing that.  But I hope that he embraces Miami’s Cuban community and can show them he is on their side.

I know, sports history is littered with ruined careers thanks to misguided words.  But I hope that we can find forgiveness for Ozzie so long as he doesn’t later give us a reason to regret it.  I know that I will not always agree with Ozzie, but I respect him for being his own man.  So, for those who say fire him, I say keep him.

I am glad that baseball is finally underway.  Now, if just a few more wins could follow….

 

–Scott

 

Dust the uniform off and come back ready to play tomorrow…

 

Something wicked this way comes…

The stage was set for a masterful start to what could be the final season for Hall of Famer-to-be Mariano Rivera, but it was not meant to be.  Called on to protect a 6-5 Yankees lead in the bottom of the 9th at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, the Rays rallied against Mo to win the game, 7-6.  Control was the main culprit, but Mo will just shake this one off, and will be prepared to take the mound again tomorrow if called upon.

I had an uneasy feeling with the slim lead heading into the latter stages of the game.  David Robertson successfully navigated out of a self-created jam in the 8th inning and it did feel as though momentum was on the Yankees’ side.  But after the teams combined for 11 runs in the first three innings, the Yankee bats went silent and the crucial hits, when needed, later in the game never came.

It’s interesting that both the Yankees and Red Sox lost their season openers due to bullpen failures.  But at least the Red Sox can say that they had an unproven closer (Alfredo Aceves) in the game.  Aceves has a bit of catching up to do to accumulate as many saves as Mo has.  Still, it’s just one game, and last time I checked, there were still 161 more to go.  I am anxious to see what new Yankee pitcher Hiroki Kuroda can do tomorrow.

Just not quite enough room…

I knew that there was no room for outfielder Justin Maxwell, but it was still disappointing when he was designated for assignment.  Maxwell had a good spring, but he has the misfortune of playing for a team that boasts the likes of Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez in reserve outfield roles.

Now you see him, now you don’t…

The biggest surprise of the final roster breaking spring training was the demotion of backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, who was optioned to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  In a trade that sent reliever George Kontos to the San Francisco Giants, the Yankees re-acquired defensive catcher Chris Stewart.  Stewart will never make anybody forget Cervelli’s bat, but Francisco was a victim of circumstance.  Of the two catchers, he was the only one who still had options.  The need for Stewart was created by the injured Austin Romine.  I understand Cervelli’s frustration and disappointment with the move, but hopefully, he’ll get his head right and take advantage of starting in the minors until the inevitable call comes to bring him back to the Bronx.

Ah, the first time!…

Congratulations to pitcher David Phelps for being named the team’s long reliever.  It’s always great to see young players excited when they make a major league roster for the first time.  Hopefully it is the start of a long and productive career for Phelps.

Well, today’s loss was no fun, but time to move on.  Let’s go Yankees, let’s go Kuroda!  Game 2, bring it on!

–Scott

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