Results tagged ‘ Andy Pettitte ’

Forgiving Damon for that 2004 homer…

 

Sayonara, old friends…

This was a sad week for former Yankees stars as Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were designated for assignment by their respective teams (Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians).  Matsui has subsequently been released and Damon’s release is imminent.  I doubt that either player will be picked up at this point in the season so it is most likely the sunset of both careers.

For Matsui, I think his original plan was to only play in the United States for three years but I am grateful that he extended his stay. He may not have been the “monster” player that he was in Japan (a/k/a Godzilla), but he knew and understood the power of the timely hit.  Time and again, Matsui had a key hit to propel the Yanks to victory.  He always seemed to rise to the occasion in the intense Boston-New York wars.  In terms of character, he could easily stand in the same room with guys like Derek Jeter.

It hasn’t been fun watching Matsui wear Angels, A’s, and Rays jerseys, but he will always be Yankee.

As for Damon, it is ironic that a player who played such a key role in the Red Sox breaking ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, plus the entire Caveman image, could become a valued Yankee.  Unlike Matsui, I won’t view Damon as a “Yankee” given his long tenure and success with other teams, but for his time in New York, he showed nothing but class and dignity.  Like Matsui, he was a clutch player who seemed to excel in the bright lights.

Introducing Billy Beane’s latest star pitcher…

With the apparent end of two great careers this week, I saw the opposite on a plane trip from Portland, OR to Oakland on Thursday.  The guy I was sitting next to was excited to be flying to Oakland to see his son, Dan Straily, make his major league pitching debut for the A’s on Friday night.  He was proud to say that his son led all of baseball in strikeouts, and talked about the hard work his son had accomplished to get to this point.  For the game, Straily didn’t figure in the decision, but his performance was a success:

 

Oakland Athletics
Pitchers

IP

 H

 R

ER

BB

SO

HR

PC-ST

ERA

D Straily

6.0

5

1

1

1

5

0

102-70

1.50

 

The A’s won the game, 5-4, in 15 innings.  I am sure that we’ve not seen the last of Mr. Straily.  Here’s hoping this is the start of a long and memorable career for Straily, his father and the rest of their family.

When in doubt, pick up a Pirate…

While the trading deadline was very active compared to recent years, it was another quiet period for the Yankees.  As the now fiscally conservative Yankees had been preaching, they did not make any moves for expensive, short-term rentals.  They picked up a need (third baseman Casey McGehee) to ensure that backup third baseman Eric Chavez is not over exposed to playing time while starter Alex Rodriguez is on the DL.  It’s a shame that Chavez is such an injury risk at this stage of his career, but I agree that it is best to limit his playing time for the good of his long-term health.

I thought the Yanks might try to make a move for a pitcher (someone like Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza) but it was clear that they would not overpay.  Time will tell if they made the right decisions, but I still have concerns about the team’s offense in the play-offs when every pitcher they face will be a #1 or #2 starter.  But September should see the return of top pitcher Andy Pettitte and a fresh Alex Rodriguez so perhaps those will be the team’s noteworthy “acquisitions” that boost team momentum.

Magic seems to be enjoying his new hobby…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have clearly re-emerged as a force in baseball with the new ownership group as they were the most active team in acquiring upgrades over the past couple of weeks (Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton).  I guess they’ve gotten over the reign of Frank McCourt and have shown that they are back in the game.  The San Francisco Giants are a strong team, but I think the Dodgers’ moves will help propel them past the Giants to the NL West pennant.  Good for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly who remains one of my favorite guys in Major League Baseball.

Nothing but crickets…

I was surprised the Boston Red Sox didn’t make any moves.  If there was a team that I had expected to make noise at the trading deadline, it was the Sox.  I don’t think they should give up quality guys like Jacoby Ellsbury or Jon Lester, but there were moves they could have made to give the team a jolt.  I may not be a fan of the Red Sox so I might be biased in making this comment, but I hope that this is a ‘one and done’ season for Boston manager Bobby Valentine.

We’ve moved into August and the Yankees hold a 6 ½ game advantage at the moment, but admittedly, it’s hard to get comfortable when that team in the rear view mirror is the Tampa Bay Rays.  The next couple of months should be interesting.  Let’s win this thing!…

–Scott

 

If you wear #51 for the Mariners, you are a future Yankee!…

 

I thought I was supposed to wear the white uniform!…

In recent years, it has seemed as though no Yankee trade sneaks up on you.  Even with Curtis Granderson, there were rumors swirling around before the deal was finally consummated.  It has seemed like the press has been tapped into GM Brian Cashman’s inner thoughts.  But admittedly, the Ichiro Suzuki trade surprised me.

Years ago, this would have been a headline deal but it’s now obviously the acquisition of a former great player in the twilight of his career.

In recent weeks, I had seen other owners in fantasy leagues start to drop Ichiro from their rosters.  I had not been keeping up with his stats but I knew he was no longer the player he once was.  But if anything, Derek Jeter has shown what goes down does not necessarily have to stay down.  Some are suggested that Ichiro will be revitalized in the midst of a pennant race and the spotlight of New York.  Maybe so, maybe not.  But if you asked me if I prefer Ichiro in the outfield over DeWayne Wise or exposing Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez to too much play, the answer would be, without hesitation, yes.  I was a bit disappointed when I first heard the news of the trade as visions of Shane Victorino or Denard Span were dancing in my head.  Yet, the realist in me knows that the cost to acquire either of those players would have exceeded the reward.  On the other hand, Ichiro is simply a rental for the remainder of the season.  He’ll be a free agent in the off-season so he’ll hand left field back to Brett Gardner when he departs the Stadium in October.

I remember the thrill of seeing my first game at Safeco Field.  The player I was most interested in seeing was Ichiro and he did not disappoint.  He came through with a few clutch hits and showed why he has been one of the better players over the past decade.  The Yankees have missed a clutch bat so hopefully a revitalized Ichiro means that they’ll have the “pest” they need at the plate and on the base paths.

I know that the pitchers the Yankees gave up were not top shelf talent (D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquahar) but they have the chance to be good major league pitchers.  I always hate to see good talent leave, especially if Ichiro’s days in pinstripes do not go beyond the next couple of months.  I always remember how much I hated watching Jay Buhner punish the Yankees while wearing a Mariners uniform and wondering what could have been if the Yanks had held on to him.  Now, with former top prospect Jesus Montero in Seattle, there are multiple players in the Great Northwest who could haunt their former team.  The Mariners go for 20-something former Yankees while the Yankees go for almost 40-something ex-Mariners.  I think the M’s have the better business formula even if it isn’t showing up in wins quite yet.

Now that I’ve gotten over the shock of the trade, I will admit that it is nice to see Ichiro in a Yankees uniform.  It will be even better if he can get on base with consistency and make crossing home plate a common occurrence.

If there’s one thing about the trade that struck me as unusual, it is the consummation of the deal prior to the start of the Yankees-Mariners series in Seattle.  The trade guaranteed the Mariners fans would be subjected to watching the first three games of Ichiro’s post-Seattle career in an opposing uniform.  Not any uniform but the most hated and despised uniform in most parts of the country outside of NYC.  The Yankees apparently had conditions Ichiro had to agree to (batting in the bottom of the order, moving to left, and accepting an outfield rotation to get the bats of Jones and Ibanez into the lineup).  So, perhaps the Yankees had the upper hand in this deal and argued that it had to happen sooner rather the later.  For the Mariners, the motivation is clearly to move on and to further develop their further stars.

After the Cliff Lee debacle when he went to the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak after the Yankees thought they had acquired him, I really didn’t think the Yankees would forgive the Mariners and their general manager.  But after the Michael Pineda and Ichiro deals, there is no evidence of hard feelings.  Cliff Lee just wasn’t meant to be a Yankee.  He proved that with his own decision to rebuke the team to re-sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Lee is a good pitcher but some guys weren’t meant for Broadway.

The question now is if the Yankees are done dealing before the trading deadline.  With the returns of Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte looming on the horizon, perhaps they are the moves that can catapult the Yankees to the World Series.  I can’t really think of another move the Yankees need to make other than further enhancing an already good bullpen.  Sure, if the Philadelphia Phillies called to say that they’d trade Roy Halladay for Ivan Nova, you’d pull the trigger, but seriously, that’s not going to happen.

For the lack of better words, Ouch!…

After moving back to the Bay Area and living in what is described as A’s territory, it was really tough to see the Yankees swept in four games against the upstart A’s.  While the Yankees hold a 7 game lead, the race is far from over.  I still expect the Tampa Bay Rays to make a run, and of course, I am always fearful the Boston Red Sox make some major moves that propel them back into contention.  I’d be foolish to underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  So, every day, Brian Cashman needs to be trying to find ways to improve the team.  The nice thing is that I know he is.

Open the Cooperstown doors now…

I think I read recently that Mariano Rivera would like to make his return in September rather than next spring.  While I doubt he’ll be able to do it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.  He is clearly one of the most gifted athletes of our time.  He is my favorite current Yankee and he’ll be on the fast track to Cooperstown when he retires.  I am sure that his spot in Memorial Park has already been reserved, along with Derek Jeter’s.  It would have been great to watch guys like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle play, but I am glad that I lived in the Rivera/Jeter era.  I look forward to telling my grandchildren that I saw the game’s greatest closer play.  As a kid, I thought Rich “Goose” Gossage was the greatest closer. I never realizvbbbbb

But are they Yankees fans?…

I am the proud owner of two rescue kittens named Nathalia and Sophie.  They are sisters and at times, they are the synchronized twins.  Two American Shorthairs, both black and one with with a white undercoat, they have proven their love of baseball.  During the recent Yankees-Red Sox series in Boston, the sisters were engrossed in watching the game, just like their roommate (me).  I love this pic…

 

 

And the winner is…

The next week should be fun as teams race against the trading deadline.  Maybe it will be quiet, maybe not.  I fully expect the Red Sox and in particular, GM Ben Cherington, to make a bold move.  I respect Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster for preferring to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Atlanta Braves (I should qualify that by saying my favorite NL team is the Dodgers).  The Tigers have been active as evidenced by their recent acquisitions of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.  I saw tonight that the Pittsburgh Pirates were close to acquiring Wandy Rodriguez, who has long been on the radar for both the Yanks and Red Sox.  I almost missed the trade of Astros closer Brett Myers to the Chicago White Sox.  I think the Sox have the market cornered on goatees.

I am still missing Minneapolis but I am enjoying this baseball season.  Life is good.

–Scott

P.S.  Looking for some great photos?  Check out Erik van den Ham’s website, http://www.panoramio.com/user/62613.  Excellent!

 

 

 

 

All things considered, the first half was a success…

 

A 7-game lead is nice, but…

As the All-Star Break comes to a close, I should be very happy the Yankees hold a 7-game lead in the AL East (7 ½ and 9 ½ games over their chief rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, respectively).  There were times during the early weeks of the season that I really questioned the makeup of the 2012 team.  At one point, after the horrific start of the Red Sox, only one game separated the two teams.  Fortunately, the Yankees began to put together consistent pitching performances and powered their way to first before July arrived.

But, as I sit here waiting for the second half to start, it’s evident the Texas Rangers have the most balanced squad in the league even if the Yankees have the slightly better record.  Last year, the Detroit Tigers simply shut down the Yankee bats to eliminate the Pinstripers in the play-offs.  The old adage, good pitching beats good hitting.  The problem is the Yankees didn’t have and still do not have a true, legitimate clutch bat.  I am not trying to take anything away from Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and others, they’re good hitters.  But there’s always doubt in key situations.  There are certain hitters that always come through in the clutch or at least it seems like it.  I’d put former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis in that category.  You know that he’s not going to get cheated in an at-bat…win or lose, he’s going to grind.

While the Yankees have gotten good pitching lately, it’s still a fact that their top two starters are on the DL.  Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have pitched very well in their absence, but even with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, the Tampa Bay Rays have a better pitching staff.  I still find it hard to believe that the Red Sox are as bad as their record indicates.  The realist in me keeps expecting them to go on a tear sometime in the second half.  Neither the Rays or the Red Sox are finished, and I am confident both will be making noise in September.

While it is likely the Yankees do not make any moves this month as the trading deadline nears, the team needs to be aware that the competition is not going to sit back and go with the status quo.  I fully expect the powerful Rangers to make a move to further improve their team.  It’s scary to think of them potentially acquiring a frontline starter like Cole Hamels.  I recognize and understand that the Yankees are more budget conscious under Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner than they were under the Boss.  I get the reasons for reducing payroll by 2014 to avoid additional penalties.  Plus, there’s always the fear that the Yankees trade a strong prospect or good player for a risk, only to see the player hit a home run and win the MVP award in an All-Star Game wearing an opponent’s jersey.

It will be good to see the return of Sabathia, Pettitte, and Brett Gardner in the coming weeks.  Plus, Joba Chamberlain will finally begin his rehab starts this weekend.  So, there is help on the horizon.  But will it be enough?  Time will tell.

Farewell to the better Twin City…

I moved from Minneapolis to the San Francisco Bay Area so I no longer have my great downtown view of Target Field.  I so loved downtown Minneapolis, living in the Warehouse District.  It was a great experience in a great city.  Northern CA is a wonderful place to live, but it will take time for me to re-adjust to California after enjoying Minneapolis so much.  So, now instead of being within walking distance of Target Field, I am a BART ride away from the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants.  It’s not quite the same thing.  Of course, ask me in December or January and my response will probably be substantially different.

The Kidd from Cal…

After completing my first year as a fan of the New York Knicks, I was pleased to see the team sign veteran point guard Jason Kidd to back up starting guard Jeremy Lin.  I have always felt a connection with Kidd.  I lived in Dallas when he was drafted by the Mavericks, and I moved to Phoenix shortly after he was traded to the Suns.  Yes, I have moved a fair amount during the course of my life.  I am not sure that the Knicks will win in 2012-13, but they should be very fun to watch.

So wrong on many levels…

Speaking of basketball, it was hard to see Steve Nash don a Lakers jersey.  Despite his years in Dallas, I will always associate Nash with the Phoenix Suns.  The Lakers, of course, are a chief nemesis of the Suns, so Nash’s move would be like Derek Jeter signing with the Red Sox at this stage of his career.  I was a Lakers fan prior to moving my allegiance to the Knicks, but still, I hate to see players join a chief rival in any sport or league.  I know that whenever a Yankee or a Minnesota Viking leaves as a free agent, I am always hoping they sign in the other league or conference.

I want but cannot have…

I feel bad for Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.  After openly expressing his desire to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, the teams were unable to consummate a deal.  Given that Howard has no desire to stay in Orlando, it will be interesting to see where he ends up.  But Brooklyn would have been a lot of fun with the upcoming inaugural season for the former New Jersey team.  I guess the Magic didn’t want Kris Humphries.  Well, maybe Kim Kardashian was right after all…

Okay, let’s throw the first pitch for the second half!  Time to race to October!

–Scott

We were once only one game away from the Sox?…

 

The 10-Game Roll…

Back when the Yankees were struggling, I knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t anything that a 10-game winning streak couldn’t fix.  Well, the Yankees have done just that with tonight’s victory over the Atlanta Braves.  Just like last year, interleague play has proven to be the Yankees’ friend.  Although the team hadn’t enjoyed a 10-game winning streak for a few seasons, they did rise up to the challenge of interleague play last year and this year, well, they’ve been nearly invincible.  Not bad for a team with questions throughout the starting rotation and perhaps its most valuable pitcher (Mariano Rivera) lost for the season.

Improved starting pitching from #2 through #5 has been the key.  Of course, the resurgence of former retiree Andy Pettitte has been crucial, but Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have all been raised the level of their play.  This sure beats last year when you could count on an implosion every fifth start by A.J. Burnett.  To Burnett’s defense, he has been very good for the Pittsburgh Pirates, proving that some guys are better served away from baseball’s main stage.  There was never any doubt about Burnett’s arm so he just needed a place to get his head straight.  But I digress.  I prefer Hiroki Kuroda over Burnett, even though Kuroda has had a few clunkers of his own.  Kuroda has always mixed in a few stellar starts and seems to finally be getting a grasp of life in the American League East. 

Hats off to Cashman…

Why can’t every trade work out as nicely as the one that brought Curtis Granderson to New York?  After a slow start in the Bronx during his first year, Grandy has been nothing short of a superstar since.  Time and again, he is getting a key hit and propelling his team to victory.  The price of the trade was high, and the players going the other direction have fared nicely in their new surroundings, but the trade was worth it. 

The personality alone is worth a few million…

With this being Nick Swisher’s walk year, it is assumed that he’ll move on after the season but I really hope that the Yankees find a way to bring his excitement and energy back to the Bronx next season.  With the Los Angeles Dodgers’ re-signing of potential free agent Andre Ethier, the free agent market won’t yield anyone of Swisher’s caliber.  Sure, you can have Vernon Wells or Alfonso Soriano for a bag of peanuts and a boatload of cash, but I’d rather take Swish. 

No recollection of who he played for between the Blue Jays and Astros…

So, Roger Clemens has been found not guilty.  Good for him.  Do I want to remember his Yankees legacy now that he is a free man?  Sorry, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  Let Clemens be remembered as a Red Sock, Blue Jay, or Astro.  I really don’t want to see Clemens at any future Old Timer’s games at Yankee Stadium unless he is buying a ticket. 

Git ‘er done!…

Note to Hal Steinbrenner:  Break team tradition and get Robinson Cano signed to an extension.  The key is the Yankees’ MVP, and he deserves a contract that rewards a player of his caliber.  It is unfortunate that the Yankees have so many dollars going to third base when their success or failure hinges on second base.  If they were on opposing teams, there’s no way that I’d trade Robinson Cano for the combination of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter…

Spending the end of July in the Hamptons…

If the Yankees are players at the trading deadline, I am not sure that they’ll focus on.  An outfielder given the slow return of Brett Gardner?  Another starting pitcher?  But if so, who do you move out of the rotation?  Last year, I was surprised when the team stood pat but this year, they probably don’t have any choice.  I think any moves will only be secondary in nature, such as another bullpen arm or some other auxiliary type of player.

Farewell to a beloved city…

My time in Minneapolis is coming to an end, unfortunately.  I have really enjoyed my short stay in the city and I was graced with an incredibly mild winter so I leave with great memories and much sadness.  Living in downtown Minneapolis, with a view of Target Field, was an incredible experience.  I am returning to Northern California.  No views of any baseball stadiums (Oakland, no thanks; San Francisco, too expensive), so I’ll just have to deal with BART to find my way to games.  As much as people in Minnesota complain about the winters, I am sure that I will be glad to be spending my Decembers and Januarys in NoCal but I definitely leave with mixed feelings.  A new job opportunity pulled me back to CA, but I can’t say that I am overly excited about the move (location; not job).  I loved Minneapolis so I leave with a heavy heart…

–Scott

I must be in the front row!…

 

Slip, slidin’ our way to first place…

Here I was getting concerned about the uneven start to the 2012 season and the Yankees have quietly showed up at the threshold of first place in the AL East.  A few weeks back, there was just a game I believe that separated the Yankees from the Red Sox.  Ironic since Boston had gotten off to such a horrid start.  But the Yankees started to win, and they now share first place with the Tampa Bay Rays after defeating the New York Mets tonight.  The Mets game, by the way, shows that Hiroki Kuroda misses the National League.  He was stellar tonight in the 9-1 victory.

Speaking of pitching, I have continued to be very pleased with the return of Andy Pettitte.  He had a not-so-great start followed by perhaps his best start in years.  Andy has been a great Yankee.  Yes, there is the association with steroids but Andy has taken far more personal accountability than most of the ‘roid users that we have seen.  When I think of the great Yankees, the guys that should be forever immortalized as part of the great Yankees franchise, Andy is in the same room.  When Whitey Ford passes, Andy will be the greatest living lefthander in franchise history.  I can still remember when he first came up from the minor leagues.  I certainly never thought that he’d have such an illustrious career.  There’s those Houston years, but the Yankees could have and should have done more to keep Andy in the fold.  Conversely, maybe Andy needed a few years away to realize how much he loved the Yankees.  He may be a Texan by birth and by heart, but he’s a Yankee forevermore.

Glad to see that Mark Teixeira is hitting again, but then again, it’s June so he is supposed to be…

I am anxious to see how much better the Yankees can be when Brett Gardner gets back on the field.  Nothing against Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, or the rest of the fill-in’s, but the Yankees lineup has been missing Gardner’s speed…

Russell Martin deserves a contract extension.  Get ‘er done!

I love David Robertson but the only place for him to go is the 8th inning.  Rafael Soriano has earned the closer’s role in his absence and the team is stronger with Robertson-Soriano than it is with Soriano-Robertson…

I like the draft pick of pitcher Ty Hensley, and I appreciate his excitement about being a member of baseball’s most storied franchise…

Robinson Cano has been and still is the team’s MVP…

But Curtis Granderson gets honorable mention…

I enjoy having Joe Girardi as manager, but I am very impressed by the growth and maturity Don Mattingly has exhibited as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I will always be a Donnie Baseball fan and it is sad that he’s not a part of the Yankees organization currently.  Maybe one day he can find his way home…

It’s still a long season, but I like where the Yankees are at.  I fully expect an upcoming hard run by the Boston Red Sox and there’s no way that the Tampa Bay Rays are going to go away.  But it should be a fun ride to the end of the season…regardless of the outcome.  Go Yankees!

–Scott

 

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

 

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 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

 

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