May 2012

How about more W’s and less L’s?…

 

The season of “Win some, lose some”…

This season has had a strange aura to it.  Maybe it was the loss of the legendary Mariano Rivera for the season due to the knee injury suffered in Kansas City.  Maybe it is because of the anemic Yankee bats.  Maybe it’s because Hiroki Kuroda is acting like the latest incarnation of the Yankee versions of Ed Whitson and A.J. Burnett.  I am not quite sure, but the feeling is similar to last season’s play-off series against Detroit when it simply felt like the Tigers were going to win.

After Boston’s horrid start and despite the fact they are still in last place in the AL East, they actually have much greater momentum at the moment than the Yankees. Plus, they figure to get stronger as the injured players return to the lineup.  At the moment, the Sox only trail the Yankees by one game, so given Boston’s momentum, it actually feels as though the Yanks trail the Sox.

I hate to sound so negative.  Things always look so grim when the Yankees lose, and so happy and cheerful when they win.  But it’s the inconsistency and the quiet bats against lesser known pitchers that concern me.  Everyone always talks about the powerful Yankees offense and the pitching is viewed as the Achilles heel, so far, the offense has worried me more than the troubles of the pitching staff, most notably Kuroda and Ivan Nova (and of course the injuries in the bullpen).

I realize that Alex Rodriguez hit two home runs in tonight’s win over the Kansas City Royals, but one game does not a season make.  It’s the timely clutch hitting on a consistent basis that is needed so desperately.  Is the clutch hitter the team needs on the current active roster or is this a position Brian Cashman will need to focus on over the course of the next two months?  Time will tell.  I remember when Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said earlier in the season that he didn’t know if the Phillies would be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.  The same could still be said of the Yankees if they don’t start winning a few series along the way.

I could stand one of those ten game win streaks about now…

So long Kerry Wood…

Clearly, Kerry Wood will always be remembered as a Chicago Cub, but he does have Yankees alumni status due to his brief stint in the Bronx a few seasons ago.  He never fulfilled the fans’ expectations, but he had, without a doubt, a quality major league career.  He is not a future inductee to the Hall of Fame, but he’ll be remembered as a true professional and a great representative of the game.  Although I had wanted the Yankees to re-sign Wood, I am glad that he was able to return home to the Cubs to finish his career.  He will be forever linked to the organization and will be one of their greatest ambassadors in future years.

For me, this is bittersweet.  I’ve been aware of Kerry since he was a high school pitcher in Texas.  I never met him, but he was a very close friend of the son of a former co-worker.  The co-worker’s son was a good high school athlete, and I remember major league scouts were scouting both him and Kerry at the same time.  The co-worker always raved about her son (naturally) but the accolades from others centered on Kerry so you knew early on that he was destined for the major leagues.  I can still recall when we found out that Kerry had been drafted by the Cubs.  It was fun to follow his career from that point in time until his retirement this month.

I wish Kerry the very best as he moves into the next stage of his life.  Thanks for the 20 strikeout game among many other outstanding performances, and thanks for being a quality individual and great role model for kids.  Too bad there aren’t more guys in the big leagues like you…

Hello Andy Pettitte…

What can you say…simply outstanding.  After one game to shake off the rust, he has pitched back to back stellar starts, vintage Andy Pettitte.  For all the good things I said about Kerry Wood, I hold Pettitte, another Texan, in the same regard.  Andy is why it is great to be a Yankees fan.  He could lose the rest of his starts this year, and it wouldn’t diminish the high regard I have for the guy.  I greatly admire players who take personal responsibility and accountability, and Andy’s been that guy from Day One.  With the struggles of Kuroda and Nova, and the move of the ineffective Freddy Garcia to the pen, Andy has been the great stabilizer of the starting rotation.  It was an awful feeling when Andy signed with the Houston Astros as a free agent and it was awful when he retired.  But both returns have been invigorating even if the present team is a bit sluggish.

Andy may not make the Hall of Fame but he’s earned a spot in Monument Park.  His name should be forever linked to the Yankees.

–Scott

 

Winning is so much better than the alternative…

 

Playing better while waiting for an old friend…

With news that Andy Pettitte will be starting on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, it’s good to see the Yankees starting to play with more consistency.  It’s no coincidence that the Yankees better play of late comes during a month when Robinson Cano’s bat has started to heat up.  He is essential to the team’s success given an inability to consistently depend upon Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. 

CC Sabathia was in prime form against David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yanks took the final game of the series this week, and 2 of 3 from the Rays after getting swept in the season opening series in St. Petersburg.  I realize that David Robertson was not available to pitch on Friday night after his previous workload, but Rafael Soriano’s performance in saving the game does help illustrate the Yankees might be better served by having Soriano close and returning Robertson to his highly successful setup role.

I am not ready to condemn Robertson for the failed save that gave the Rays their only win of the series, but Soriano simply has much more experience closing games.  Robertson is great in the 7th and 8th innings, and perhaps he’ll be a future All-Star closer.  But for now, I’d rather go with experience at the end of the game and ensure that the 7th and 8th innings are covered.  It’s tough because I think very highly of Robertson, but his ability to weave in and out of trouble plays better in the earlier innings than it does the 9th.  Soriano is being paid like a closer, and it would be easier to fill his setup role than it is Robertson’s. 

When I first heard Friday’s pitching match-up was Seattle’s King Felix against Hiroki Kuroda, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Felix Hernandez is among the best pitchers in baseball and Kuroda has been inconsistent since his arrival in the AL.  But it turned out to be one of Kuroda’s better performances as the Yankees defeated the Mariners, 6-2.  The game did see a home run from former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero.  I hope this is not a sign of things to come.  It was never fun watching Jay Buhner taunt the Yankees after they traded him to Seattle, and I was glad when Buhner finally retired.  But now, with Montero in Seattle, it is Buhner revisited as I am sure he’ll become the latest Yankee killer. 

I was relieved to see the Yankees option Eduardo Nunez to minor leagues after his continued errors.  I am not sure what he can do to improve his fielding but I’d rather see him work on it in the minors rather than at Yankee Stadium.  Nunez’s exit meant the return of Eric Chavez from the DL, which is good for Alex Rodriguez. 

I am anxious to see what Andy Pettitte is able to do on Sunday.  Based on his late start in the minors, he didn’t appear ready.  But then again, with a professional like Pettitte, you can’t really judge his performance in a minor league game.  Andy knows when he is ready and he would not have accepted the advancement back to the Bronx if he didn’t feel that he was ready for major league hitters.  I was listening to John Smoltz on ESPN Radio today and he said that it would probably take 3-5 starts for Pettitte to get back up to speed.  I am sure that Joe Girardi will have David Phelps on call during Pettitte’s starts in case he needs long relief, but I am hopeful that Andy can keep his team in games while he works his way back.  At any rate, best of luck to Andy on Sunday!

Billy Beane’s working the bargain bin once again…

What’s Brandon Inge good for?  All he does is hit grand slams!  Seriously, it is good to see Inge start off his Oakland A’s career in grand fashion.  I haven’t followed the Detroit Tigers closely this season but admittedly I was very surprised when Inge received his release from the Tigers.  He had been such a mainstay in Detroit over the years, and was always there to fill a need.  From afar, he seemed to be the consummate professional.  After he was cut by the Tigers, I didn’t expect him to be unemployed for long and of course the A’s signed him shortly thereafter. 

When I first heard this morning that Inge had hit a grand slam, I thought they were referring to the one a few days ago.  But he had hit his second slam in three days on Friday.  If getting hits had been a problem in Detroit this year, Inge doesn’t seem to have the same affliction in the Bay Area.

Hopefully, this is a start of good things for Inge in Oakland….

Role model for not how to act…

I have never been a fan of Josh Beckett.  I may be a Yankees fan, but there are players on the Red Sox roster that I respect.  Beckett just isn’t one of them.  Beckett played a key role in the September swoon that cost the Red Sox a play-off spot last season and he showed no remorse for his actions.  So, it should come as no surprise that Beckett was dismissive of the public’s negative perception of his decision to play golf after missing a start due to a lat muscle.  Regardless of whether he was physically able to play golf is not the issue, it is the negative perception that it created in the minds of the Red Sox Nation as well as the rest of the country. 

I agree with the backlash against Beckett.  His comments after getting pummeled by the Cleveland Indians last night came across as very smug.  His comment that he only gets 18 days off a year was ridiculous.  If baseball isn’t important to him, then he should return his $17 million annual salary to the Red Sox.  I just don’t understand why he couldn’t say something like he was physically feeling well enough to play golf and the golf swing had no impact on the muscle soreness that he had been experiencing, and he was sorry for putting himself ahead of the team.  I know that’s just not Beckett’s personality, but these types of incidents are creating a wedge between Beckett and the RSN.  I’ve heard some say that the next time Beckett racks up 13 strikeouts or throws a shutout, all will be forgiven.  Perhaps there’s some truth to it, but I don’t see Beckett ever fully repairing the damage he’s done. 

I am surprised that Bobby Valentine is not saying much, but then again, he probably learned his lesson after he made negative remarks about Kevin Youkilis.  Or maybe Bobby doesn’t want to completely alienate his pitcher, given how critical he had been of Beckett when he was part of the media. 

Beckett deserves much credit for the success the Boston Red Sox have enjoyed in recent years, but he is doing his best to put a sour note on his legacy.

After being sacked on third down, Vikes toss a Hail Mary…

Congratulations to the Minnesota Vikings and the city of Minneapolis, as well as Vikings fans everywhere, for the passage of the $975 stadium deal through the Minnesota House and Senate.  This has been an incredible roller coaster ride for years.  Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked as though all might be lost.  Then , NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell came to Minnesota, and helped to reignite talks.  The bill still has to be signed off by the governor, but that’s a foregone conclusion as he’s been in support of a new stadium.  I am glad to see that the Vikings will be staying in Minnesota and won’t be a flight risk to Los Angeles. 

 

–Scott

 

Down but far from out…

 

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…

There is a reason that Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee for a very long time.  I know that Derek Jeter is a quality guy and a favorite of many, but for me, Mariano Rivera has always been the premier player in my opinion.  It doesn’t mean that I feel Jeter’s not a great player…he is.  He is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the greatest shortstop in Yankees history (with no disrespect to Phil Rizzuto).  But Rivera has always handled himself with dignity and class, and he’s always been accountable when things have gone wrong.  He has never disrespected another player or team, nor has he placed blame anywhere but with himself.  He hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s clearly the best closer in major league history (with no disrespect to Goose Gossage).

I have been dreading the day when Rivera walks off the field as a player for the final time.  But I never dreamed that, potentially, his final moment would be inability to walk off the field under his own power. It was very disheartening to see the pre-game injury when Rivera tore the ACL in his knee this week against the Kansas City Royals.  I kept hoping for the best when I first heard the news, but it is now known that he’ll miss the remainder of the season.  Given that he is 42, the road to recovery is going to harder than if he was still in his 30’s.  Nevertheless, withn 24 hours, Rivera was saying that he wasn’t going to go out like this and that he’d be back next season after much speculation this might be his final season prior to the injury.

If Mo says that he’ll back, I am fully confident that he will be.  I am sad that we won’t see #42 come out of the bullpen for the rest of the year, but I look forward to next season when Mo perhaps takes the final lap in what has been a legendary career.  I will always be appreciative that Rivera wore pinstripes, from beginning to end, and he’ll remain one of my favorites in the history of the storied franchise.

That first step is a doozy…

David Robertson has big shoes to fill as he steps into the closer’s role but I have faith and confidence in his abilities.  I hope that Rafael Soriano is up to the challenge of making a positive impact as he slides back into the role of primary setup man.  Just as Andy Pettitte has become a much more needed pitcher than he was when it was announced he was going to pitch this year, the need for the return to good health for Joba Chamberlain is equally important.  I am glad that one of Manager Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work the bullpen so I continue to view the Yankees relief corps as a strong unit despite Rivera’s absence.

A few favorites…

With Rivera as my favorite current Yankee player, it made me think of my other favorites:

  • Favorite living former Yankee:  Don Mattingly
  • Favorite former Yankee who played during my lifetime:  Thurman Munson
  • Favorite all-time player:  Lou Gehrig
  • Favorite manager:  Billy Martin (followed closely by Joe Torre)
  • Favorite owner:  George Steinbrenner
  • Favorite current Yankee (excluding Rivera):  Robinson Cano
  • Favorite Yankees team:  1998 Yankees (closely followed by 1927 Yankees)

There are many other players that I will always have special feelings for…most notably, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, for whom I attribute to why I am a Yankees fan today.  I was a fan of the Oakland A’s and Hunter in particular when I was young, but everything changed when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 1974.  I had always admired the history and the tradition of the Yankees (the first book I recall reading was a biography about Lou Gehrig), so bring the combination of the Yankees and Hunter together brought me to the team as a fan.  I’ve been a faithful one ever since that time.

I’d be remiss by not mentioning Mickey Mantle.  A great player who really could have been even greater than he was.  I was able to attend his funeral in Dallas, and I remember seeing a few of the former Yankee greats who were in attendance.  It was an experience that I’ll never forget.  Bob Costas delivered a tremendous eulogy.  It’s amazing to think of what Mantle could have accomplished if he had held himself to the same standards as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do.

Yogi Berra, of course, is an invaluable link to the Yankees’ history of success.  There are way too many guys to acknowledge, but these are a few that stand out to me.

Hard to close…

It’s amazing to me how 2012 has been the Year of the Fallen Closers.  So many closers on the DL (Rivera, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, etc.); so many demotions (Jordan Walden, Carlos Marmol, whoever is pitching for the White Sox, etc.); and guys who are on the brink of losing their jobs (most notable being Heath Bell).  This is one of the only years in fantasy baseball where all my bench slots are filled with guys on the DL.  But as they say, one guy’s misfortunate is another guy’s opportunity.  Sports is about the ability to step up and take it to the next level.

Game of Stars…

I realize that Bryce Harper is only 19 but I am hopeful that he can find success at this level now rather than a return trip to the minor before he is ready.  I can’t recall a player who has received as much hype (well, perhaps Stephen Strasburg) but I genuinely would like to see the player match (or even exceed) the hype.  It is good for baseball.  Robin Yount was in the majors by age 19 and I think he had a fairly successful career (<understatement).  While I still question the signing of Jayson Werth, it is fun watching the accumulation of talent in DC.  I am just glad they play in the NL and not the AL.

Where’s the caveat?…

When a pitcher throws a no-hitter like Jered Weaver did this week against the Minnesota Twins, they should come up with a degree of difficulty score.  C’mon, it was the freakin’ Twins!  It wasn’t like Weaver was facing the monster bats of Texas, New York, Tampa, Detroit, or Boston.  So, while a no hitter is a great achievement, it’s hard not to discount Weaver’s performance.

What am I doing writing this post?  I should be in line to buy my ticket to see The Avengers!  Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

–Scott

 

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