Results tagged ‘ Astros ’

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

I was never a fan of good-byes…

Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end.  Well, at least for the New York Yankees.  It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime.  Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.

I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen.  His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric.  The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand.  He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else.  Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way.  A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between.  His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.

Looking back, I certainly have no regrets.  It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend.  He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end.  Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore.  Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own.  They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner.  Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.

I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees.  I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition.  Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners.  To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”.   This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen.  The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since.  So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.

During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees.  Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera.  All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement.  That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.

Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time.  Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance.  I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past.  He wears #13.  Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point.  Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew.  He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man.  He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field.  If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo.  The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.

Mo, we thank you for simply being you.  You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were.  You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes.  You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents.  Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career.  I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan.  He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position.  He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame.  Anything less is unacceptable.  He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime.  Farewell, Mo.  This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.

 

Mariano Rivera

 

AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)

The gaze from under the brim of his cat…

While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte.  Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October).  He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner.  His passion showed and he was a champion.  It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back.  Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees.  He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be.  It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston.  A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger).  For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug.  There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation.  Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team.  I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.

Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow.  When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart.  CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff.  Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation.  Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher.  He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers.  We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime.  Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…

Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford.  The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history.  Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room.  DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto).  For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing.  It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.

What does the future hold?…

I really do not know what to expect next year.  At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back.  Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion.  Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages.  I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players.  The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best.  While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years.  I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves.  The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable.  Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest.  They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season.  Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition.  Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…

–Scott

 

A sad day, indeed…

 

Sadly, the fear is confirmed…

Today brought the news that this is the final season for Andy Pettitte.  I knew we were getting close to the end and of course, a disappointing season does not help.  If the Yankees were a cinch to make the play-offs, this might be a different story.  Winning seems to make those aches and pains hurt a little bit less.  Nevertheless, I am grateful for the time that Andy gave us.  I missed him those three years he was in Houston and of course the prior year of retirement.  But I am glad he came back both times and there’s no doubt that he’s a Yankee for life.

As much as I dislike and disrespect a certain third baseman on the active roster, I forgave Andy for the mistakes in his past.  He came clean (unlike the “Fraud” or Roger Clemens) and he proved to us that his words were truthful and from the heart.  Andy may never get into the Hall of Fame due to the steroid use, but he deserves a place in Memorial Park.  Like Mariano Rivera, I truly enjoyed Andy in pinstripes and knew that he gave us his “all” with every performance, win or lose.

I hope the team is smart enough to give him an invitation to come to spring training as an instructor and of course his presence at Old Timer’s Day is a must.  With Sunday being Mariano Rivera Day, it is so appropriate that the scheduled starting pitcher is Andy.  There would be nothing better than to watch Andy hand the ball to Mo with the appearance of no other Yankee relievers.  Hopefully, the game plays out to that form.  I love that Andy’s final two games are the aforementioned Mo Rivera Day and the final game against his former team, the Houston Astros.  There’s probably not a better away city for Andy to pitch his final game in than his home city.  As George Strait would say, “The Cowboy Rides Away”…

Thanks, Andy.  You gave us very memorable years and we always, without exception, were pleased when you took the ball.  You brought your heart and soul to every game and as a fan, there is nothing more that I could ask for.  Time and again, you stopped losing streaks and you were money in October.  The pickoff move was simply the best.  The guy from Deer Park, Texas proved that he bled pinstripes and you’ll always be remembered as one of the greatest lefties in Yankees history.  There will never be anything that we could give to you that would approach what you gave to us.  We will be forever your fans.

On the other hand…

While I was glad the Yankees emerged victorious against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants (as a Bay Area resident, I might add), it was disturbing to see Alex Rodriguez eclipse the legendary Lou Gehrig for the all-time record for career grand slams.  Man for man, there is no way that A-Fraud could even stand in the shadow of the Iron Horse.  This is a travesty and in my opinion deserves an asterisk.

I will be glad when the day arrives that A-Fraud is a “former” Yankee.  I never want to see this loser on Yankee Stadium turf ever again when that happens.  Too bad the Yankees can’t trade the Fraud back to Seattle so that they can disassociate themselves from the worst mistake of the post-George Steinbrenner regime.

–Scott

Over-promise and under-deliver…

The only non-dramatic series of the 2012 post-season…

Sadly, the 2012 season is over for the New York Yankees.  But admittedly, I did not feel the team had the horses to win the World Series this year.  I know, any team can get hot and take the championship (i.e., 2011 St Louis Cardinals), but the team’s hot and cold hitting pattern bothered me.  As the saying goes, “good pitching beats good hitting” so the Yankees’ hitting problems are magnified in the play-offs as they continually face #1 or #2 type starters.  If Robinson Cano had gotten hot, maybe it would have been different but no one rose to the challenge in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

The ALCS loss by sweep was painful.  For me, it probably ranks with the 1976 World Series when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds.  If memory serves, they won the World Series the following two years so I guess there is hope for next year!  Well, maybe not.  But all things considered, I’d rather be embarrassed on the ALCS stage than the World Series.  That’s probably awful to say because who wouldn’t want their team in the World Series and I am no different.  But I wouldn’t want to see the Yankees looking as pathetic in the World Series as they did in the ALCS if that makes any sense.

The 2013 season – optimism or pessimism?…

On the heels of Derek Jeter’s successful ankle surgery that will have him out for 4-5 months, there are reports that CC Sabathia will be consulting with Dr. James Andrews for his ailing left elbow.  Apparently, the ligament is intact so there’s hope that either rest or minor surgery to shave the bone spur in his left elbow will be the cure.  This definitely bears close watching over the course of the next few months.  If CC is unavailable to pitch in 2013, the Yankees would be lacking a legitimate #1 starter.  I have not heard how Michael Pineda has been doing, but he’ll  be expected to help fill the void in the rotation regardless of what happens to CC, assuming that he is healthy.  This was a difficult year for young Yankees pitching prospects, with injuries to Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, the latter of whom will be lost for 2013 due to Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees really need to do what it takes to ensure that Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year, and hopefully, Andy Pettitte will decide to go for one more tour around the American League.  With the Houston Astros moving to the American League in 2013, Andy would be assured of playing a few league games at home.  It would be a great farewell tour with Andy pitching in Houston while standing on the mound with the interlocking N-Y on his hat.

Another year in, and I still don’t know what the Yankees have with Phil Hughes.  At times, he is so promising, but others, such a disappointment.  I am not sure that he can be trusted to be anything more than a #5 starter with his inconsistency.  The Yankees have tough decisions to make on both Hughes and reliever Joba Chamberlain, two pitchers who have seemingly been intertwined since they arrived in New York.

I am concerned about Alex Rodriguez and the huge adverse impact of his contract on the team.  The production no longer matches the pay, and of course, the pay prevents those dollars from being spent more wisely.  The Yankees will have to settle for “less” in other areas, which will further handicap the team’s productivity.  If the Yankees can find a way to move A-Rod, regardless of the cost, I would be in favor of it.  I’ve never been a big A-Rod fan, and I would prefer to see his association with the Yankees eliminated.

I want the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, but if the cost is a 10-year, behemoth mega-million contract, I am not so sure the team should go down that road.  I am tired of these long-term deals where the player only performs to the level of the contract for the first few years.  Cano’s silent bat in the play-offs also was a red flag for me.  It’s disappointing because Cano has been one of my favorite players, but the future of an organization should not be tied to one or two players.  The St Louis Cardinals are an organization that always seems to make the right decisions for the good of the team, and it has worked out well for them.  They are a win away from the World Series despite letting one of the best hitters in baseball walk away last winter.

I do not want to be disrespectful of Derek Jeter and I recognize that he had a great 2012 season, but the fact remains that he’ll be a 39-year-old shortstop coming off ankle surgery heading into next season.

When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, it looked like a great signing…much better than the previous first base commitment to Jason Giambi.  But after a great 2009 season, Teixeira has not been the feared hitter that I thought he would be.  He has been great defensively, but never delivers the key, clutch hit.  Those ice cold starts to begin seasons are getting longer and longer.

I do believe the Yankees need to re-sign catcher Russell Martin.  I’d also like to see them either invest in a stronger back-up catcher or commit to Francisco Cervelli over Chris Stewart.

I had great respect for Eric Chavez when he was the starting third baseman for the Oakland A’s early in his career, and I’ve thought he was a great role player for the Yankees over the last couple of seasons.  But now is the time for the Yankees to move on and find a strong, reliable third base option to spot A-Rod (or replace him if they can somehow find a way to move A-Rod to Miami or Phoenix).

In the outfield, I am hopeful the healthy return of Brett Gardner will be a positive.  I have mixed feelings about re-signing Ichiro Suzuki.  I thought he rebounded to have a very productive end of the season, but the Yankees are too full of guys nearing or at 40 years of age.  A healthy Gardner can replace what the Yankees have in Ichiro…well maybe not the hitting ability, but all other components of his game.  I like Curtis Granderson and even though he underperformed in the play-offs, I would still like to see his return.  I’ve been a big fan of Nick Swisher, and have appreciated how his personality lightens the Yankees clubhouse.  But right field is an area in need of improvement.  If the Yankees can get Swisher to re-sign for a reasonable amount of dollars and years, maybe it makes sense to bring him back.  But if his expectation is 5-7 years at dollars approaching $100 million, then the team should let him walk.

I am not in favor of bringing either Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez back.  Ibanez had some tremendous hits in the play-off series against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yankees need to strengthen their bench with younger players who have greater upside.

I am glad to see the Yankees commit to both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi for the 2013 season.  I think both, if given the resources and support, can bring the team back to championship level.  At this point, the Yankees seem to be in an inferior position to the last place Boston Red Sox in terms of roster flexibility.  The Sox ability to unload dead contracts on the Los Angeles Dodgers late in the season was huge.  Now that the Sox have their guy as manager (John Farrell), there’s no doubt that we’ll see an improved Red Sox team next season.  If the AL East was highly competitive in 2012, it will be even more so in 2013.  The difference between first and last place could be which team makes the best decisions this off-season.  The margin for error will be less than it has ever been.

I hate to be so doom and gloom, but the Yankees have much work ahead of them.  Despite baseball’s highest payroll, they have a team comprised of older ballplayers that are experiencing the inevitable declines in production.  The dollars committed to unproductive players like A-Rod and Teixeira are an albatross for a team that wants to reduce its payroll by 2014 to avoid excessive financial penalties.  The Yankees do have the talent in the front office and certainly the resources to persevere so how they navigate the next few months will determine if the Yankees are a team of promise and destiny at the start of the 2013 or just another aging ball club that has seen its better years.

A fan of whatever team plays the Tigers…

Despite being an American League fan, it will be hard for me to cheer for the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  With the Cardinals holding a 3-2 advantage against the San Francisco Giants heading into tonight’s NLCS Game 6, my preference is for the Giants to somehow find a way to overcome.  But if they are unsuccessful and the Cards advance to face the Tigers, I will pull for St Louis.  Residing in the Bay Area, the Giants are a “hometown” favorite for me; while the Cardinals are a “sentimental” favorite (my first major league baseball game as a kid was in St Louis).  Plus, as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks, it would be tough for me to pull for any city that boasts the Lions or the Red Wings.

At this point, I am ready for the Hot Stove League to begin…

–Scott

Belated Congratulations for the AL East Championship…

 

All hail the Champions…

A quick post to congratulate the New York Yankees for winning the American League East Division Championship on the last day of the season.  Thanks to the Baltimore Orioles’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the division was a foregone conclusion when the Yankees completed their thrashing of the Boston Red Sox.  Still, I am glad that the team won on the day they clinched the division.  A loss on “clinching day” always seems so cheap.

Although it was disappointing the Yankees let a large lead slip, they definitely went into ‘bend but not break’ mode as they held at least a share of first throughout the O’s challenge in the final month of the season.  It was a constant back-and-forth…tied, then Yanks ahead, and then tied again.  But in the end, the team persevered.

A funny thing happened on the way to the World Series…

The big surprise to me on the last day of the season was the Texas Rangers’ failure to withstand a large charge by the Oakland A’s.  I remember looking at the standings in July and writing it off as a foregone conclusion that the Rangers would be the AL West champions.  In my mind, they were still the team to beat in the American League.  While I recognized the A’s had the spirited ‘don’t quit’ mentality, I still viewed them as inferior either the Rangers or the Los Angeles Angels.  This was a team that was throwing Triple A pitchers into the starting rotation in September.  All the way to Game 162, I fully expected the Rangers to take care of business.  But they failed, and were forced to play the one game Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles, which they subsequently lost.  Here was the team that was in my mind, the team most likely to go to the World Series and win it, yet they collapsed in the final two most critical weeks of the season.

The Rangers’ loss opens the door for all of the other AL play-off participants to advance to the World Series.  I can’t say there is a clear-cut favorite because even the Yankees, with the best record in the conference, have their share of questions.  The ALDS series format is odd given the first two games of the series will be held in the inferior team’s ballpark.  The Yankees are tied with the O’s late in Game 1 tonight but that always favors the home team with last at-bat.

It was real, it was fun, but it was not real fun…

I am not a Bobby Valentine fan, but I really do believe that firing Valentine was the best case scenario for the Boston Red Sox organization.  As a fan of an opposing team, I’d love for the dysfunction to continue, but the Red Sox fans deserve better.  I subscribe to the adage that ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best’ so I really hope the Red Sox can secure a manager who fits the organization and maximizes the potential and ability of its players.  I still think that recently named Phillies third base coach Ryne Sandberg would be an excellent fit, but maybe it is John Farrell despite the disappointing year in Toronto or other manager.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Respectful of the man who brought two World Championships to Boston…

Speaking of Boston, it was good to see former Red Sox manager Terry Francona return to the game as manager of the Cleveland Indians.  Even when he was the manager of the Red Sox, I had a great deal of respect for Tito.  I have long felt he was one of the game’s truly good guys.  Yes, that final year in Boston did get away from him, but there were so many factors and personalities at play, I feel it is unfair to pin all the blame on Tito.  I am looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Cleveland with his batteries recharged…

A few thoughts on the season…

  • Hey Albert, how did that first year in Los Angeles work out for ya?  Well, at least you have all those mega millions to enjoy your off-season while the team you bailed on continues the defense of its world championship…
  •  Miguel Cabrera has overcome those personal demons, I think…
  • Bryce Harper got the press, but Mike Trout is the stud…
  •  A.J. Burnett proved that he is the latest incarnation of Ed Whitson.  Wilt under the New York spotlight, but thrive in a smaller market with less glare…
  •  Melky Cabrera, disappointment is an understatement.  I respect the San Francisco Giants for their intention to cut ties with the Melk Man.  I really wouldn’t want to be the organization that extends him an olive branch.  In other words, I do not want to see Melky back in the Bronx.
  • How many more years are left on A-Rod’s contract?  Geesh, Jeter continues to pay dividends on his contract at age 38, while A-Rod just keeps making me think of that old Dire Straits’ tune “Money For Nothing”…
  • The Atlanta Braves may have made a quiet departure with their Wild Card loss to St. Louis, but there’s no question that the Braves will continue to be a force with those young pitchers…
  • Oh, Philadelphia Phillies, where for art thou?…
  • The American League Houston Astros?  That sounds so wrong!  But then again, I have finally accepted the Milwaukee Brewers as a National League team so I guess we’ll have to re-visit this in a few years…
  • Trade Ivan Nova and re-sign Hiroki Kuroda…that sounds like a good plan to me!…

I know there’s many more thoughts regarding the 2012 season, but these were a few that immediately came to mind.  It was a fun season and continues to be as we move forward in the AL and NL divisional series.  The idea of two Wild Card teams per league was a success, and win or lose, it was the right thing to do.  There was drama and intrigue up until the last day of the season, and no team “mailed it in”.  I still have too many questions about my own team to anoint them as the AL representative for the World Series.  As of the present moment, my best guess is a “Sparky Anderson” World Series…The Cincinnati Reds versus the Detroit Tigers.  Obviously, I’d prefer to see the Yankees and I hope they prove me wrong about their pitching and clutch hitting…

Ah, October baseball, I love this time of year!

 

–Scott

 

 

The Yankees did what?…

 

Yankees sign top free agent…

Well, it wasn’t exactly Prince Fielder but I’ve felt all off-season that re-signing Andruw Jones was important for the 2012 Yankees.  In this off-season of inactivity, I was concerned that the Yankees would let Jones slip away to a team like the Boston Red Sox or the Texas Rangers.  There’s no question that Jones is NOT the player that he used to be (that’s a given), but he fills a valuable fourth outfielder role and I prefer him over Justin Maxwell, Chris Dickerson, or Melky Mesa.

When I read that the Red Sox were potentially interested in Jones, I was worried that it would drive up his price tag (which was probably the prime reason for the Red Sox “interest”).  But the base salary of $2 million (with additional incentives that could push the package to $3.4 million) was very reasonable for Team Suddenly Frugal.  The Yanks have a good outfield with Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, but Jones allows the Yankees to play match-ups and move guys around.  Plus, if any of the aforementioned starters spend any time on the DL, Jones is certainly a capable fill-in.

Wanted:  Non-starting starting third baseman…

Now that the outfield depth has been filled, I am anxious to see what the Yankees do about the mandatory need to acquire a strong backup for third base.  I remain in favor of the return of Eric Chavez, but regardless of what happens, the Yankees need a proven performer that does not weaken the team during the inevitable A-Rod absences.

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

It’s too bad that MLB teams don’t get a mulligan for bad contracts.  They should give every team a one player exemption that could be called the “Stupidity Clause”.  Given A-Rod’s $30 million annual salary with $5 million production, the Yankees could get a waiver for luxury tax on the bulk of A-Rod’s salary.  Same goes for the Angels and Vernon Wells, the Cubs and Alfonso Soriano, or the Red Sox and Carl Crawford (although CC does have the ability to re-earn his money).  It does stink knowing how much the Yankees will be paying A-Rod and Derek Jeter in several years in terms of the return.  I remain hopeful that Derek Jeter will depart gracefully when he realizes that his performance is not equal to his compensation.  But I know that A-Rod is into his contract for every undeserved cent.

Hats off to a rival…

In a statement of the obvious, I knew that Mark Melancon was not destined to be the closer for the Red Sox when they acquired the former Yank from the Houston Astros.  This week’s acquisition of Andrew Bailey by the Sox from the Oakland A’s was a solid move.  Bailey, a native Easterner, will thrive in Boston.  He matches Jonathan Papelbon in ability, and exceeds him in character and integrity.  The risk with Bailey is his health, but the Sox do have relievers with closing experience in Melancon and Bobby Jenks.  While I don’t think that the Bailey acquisition is the big bold move I’ve been expecting from new Boston GM Ben Cherington, it is certainly one that improves the team.

Not looking forward to the day…

With the surplus of closer talent available this off-season, I hope that it is a similar environment when the ‘Greatest Closer Who Ever Lived’ decides to take his ageless arm and signature cutter home to Panama.  I like Derek Jeter but I will be ready for the day when a younger, talented option becomes available.  I will cry the day Mariano Rivera walks off the mound for the final time.  I loved Goose Gossage as the Yankees closer, but it took so many years for an equal (or in this case, greater) replacement to emerge.  There’s always been something so magical about a great closer.  I grew up watching the wild antics of the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky, in St. Louis, so the role of the closer became the “it” position for me at a very early age.  There’s nothing better than a game-ending punch-out with high intensity.

Game plan:  Success!…

Well, as 2011 comes to a close, I want to wish everyone a very Happy and Joyous New Year!  May your dreams come true and your happiness reach heights never before imagined!  It will be a fun and rewarding new year, and I’m glad you are here…

–Scott

Time to kick it up a notch…

Baseball’s not a slow game but the off-season is…

It’s Thanksgiving, and the Yankees’ big moves this week were to sign journeyman utility infielder Jayson Nix and last year’s Andy Pettitte stand-in, Freddy Garcia.  While I recognize that the Yankees needed to bring Garcia back, I hope that it does not deter them in their search for a legitimate #2 or #3 starter to go behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.  I have not seen any updates on how potential talks are going with backup third baseman Eric Chavez, but hopefully, he’ll return to New York for one more season.  At this point, I view Nix as spring training fodder that will be discarded by the time the team heads for the Bronx.

In recent weeks, I’ve heard the Yankees linked to potential trades for Jair Jurrjens of the Atlanta Braves and Gio Gonzalez of the Oakland A’s.  My preference of the two is Gonzalez because of Jurrjens’ history of knee trouble.  Gonzalez, ironically, has been involved in separate trades involving current Yankees players during his career (Nick Swisher, when he was traded from the A’s to the White Sox, and Freddy Garcia, when he was traded from the White Sox to the Phillies).

I am anxious for the Baseball Winter Meetings so that free agent and trade activity will begin to heat up.  So far, the early winner of the Hot Stove League has to be the Philadelphia Phillies for no other reason than they’ve been aggressive while other teams have been idle.  Jonathan Papelbon was a good choice for closer, especially when you have as much invested in the rotation as the Phillies do.  Ryan Madson did a good job last year, but it’s really anybody’s guess if he would have enjoyed the same level of success this year since he simply does not have the history to support it…yet.  I am not quite sure how Jim Thome fits in, but as a pinch-hitter off the bench, there’s certainly worse bats you could have.

The Texas Rangers also did a good job in picking up former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, even if it does come with significant risk.  As long as they have a solid Plan B in place, Nathan could be a very pleasant surprise if he shows that he can still pitch at a very high level.

Who will be the Astros’ DH?…

It will probably be strange for the Houston Astros next season as they make their farewell from the National League.  Andy Pettitte is probably wishing that this had happened during his playing days so that he could have been ensured of playing at home every season.  I think Brad Mills is a good manager but it will be interesting to see if he is retained by new owner Jim Crane when the Astros enter the AL West in 2013.  He certainly deserves the opportunity, but you have to wonder if he’ll be given sufficient time to succeed.

Happy north of the border or wishing that Yawkey Way was a daily routine…

It’s no secret that the Boston Red Sox would love John Farrell as their manager, but the Toronto Blue Jays were obviously unwilling to allow that to happen.  Nevertheless, I wonder how Farrell feels.  Is he happy and delighted to be in Toronto, or does he have an unfulfilled desire for the Sox?  Speaking of the Sox, I just don’t see how Bobby Valentine and the city of Boston are a good fit.  I don’t dispute that he’s a good manager, but eventually he wears out his welcome and the pressure of Boston is greater than Arlington, Texas or even Flushing Meadows, New York.  I don’t really know anything about Torey Lovullo’s managing background and Gene Lamont seems like an uninspired choice so I can’t say who I think would be a great fit for the job.  Admittedly, I am a fan of former manager Terry Francona, so it does seem that whoever takes his place is going to an inferior choice.  If it were my decision, I’d probably go with someone who has strong ties to the organization already, like bench coach DeMarlo Hale.  But Boston’s late season collapse effectively removed any September participants from consideration and perhaps wrongfully so.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the next few weeks.

My first year in Minnesota coincides with the Vikings’ worst year in their 50 year history…

With the Minnesota Vikings standing at 2-8 heading into this weekend’s play, the baseball off-season has already seemed so incredibly long and it hasn’t even really started yet…

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

–Scott

 

If Hot Stove League has opened, when do the Yankees play?…

 

With the Boss, we OWNED November…

Life under Hal Steinbrenner is certainly different than it was under the Boss.  In the old days, the Yankees would already be dominating the news in November.  At the very least, their name would be attached as a strong possibility for every elite free agent.  These days, the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and even the Houston Astros have garnered more press time.

As for the obvious options, I do think the Yankees would be foolish to join the chase for free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson.  I like Wilson as a starter, but he’s not worth the cost.  I still prefer Mark Buehrle because it wouldn’t take as much money and even if he’s not flashy, Buehrle gives you innings and is very consistent.  After life on the A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes Roller Coasters, I’d gladly accept some consistency in the middle of the rotation.  As for trade targets, I’d love to get Matt Cain but I don’t think the San Francisco Giants will trade him.

Now that Eric Chavez has indicated he wants to play in 2012, I hope the Yankees can find a way to bring him back for a second year in pinstripes.  It’s interesting that the team has acknowledged they may have been better off playing Chavez at third in the play-offs instead of the less-than-100% Alex Rodriguez.  A healthy A-Rod is critical for next season and someone like Chavez, assuming he can also stay healthy, is the perfect backup because he can be a very effective starter in spots.  At some point, A-Rod will probably see more time at DH than third, but that’s not going to happen next year.  Chavez is a good bridge to the point the Yanks need  a new full-time third baseman.

Sleep deprived Houstonians…

I think the announced move of the Houston Astros to the American League in 2013 makes sense.  I understand the negatives….they’ll lose the Central Time Zone rivalries with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs and will play more games on the West Coast…but I think they’ll develop good rivalries with the AL CST teams.  As for the time zone differences, they still have it better than the three hour time zone differences the AL East teams face on their West Coast trips.  I realize that those are not in-division games, but all things considered, having balanced leagues for scheduling purposes is important.  Plus, it didn’t seem fair that the AL West had only four teams while the other divisions had five.  I never fully understood why Milwaukee was moved from the AL to NL and I did think they probably should have been the team to move back to the AL, but clearly the MLB team owners used the sale of the Astros as leverage to force the move.

New meaning to ‘one and done’…

Of the other changes, I am not sure what I think about the addition of a second wild card team, and moving to a one game wild card play-off.  I didn’t like the current system that did not differentiate between winning the division or getting into the play-offs as the Wild Card (except for home field advantage).  But a one game play-off?  That doesn’t really seem fair either.  I know that the argument is to win the division and not put yourself in the wild card, but it doesn’t seem fair that one wild card team could finish 5 or 6 games ahead of the second team, but then lose out by virtue of a single off night.  I know, ‘don’t put yourself in that position’ but still…  Nevertheless, I am sure that this change will motivate teams to continue striving for the division championship and not mail it in once the wild card is secured.

I thought they put their pants on just like I do…

I think the right choices were made for the AL and NL Cy Young Awards…Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, respectively.  How scary is it that Kershaw’s only 23?  Donnie Baseball has to be very happy with the top of his rotation.  I am looking forward to the announcement of the MVP Awards, and I am in the category of those who believe that pitchers should not be considered for the award.  Obviously, I am pulling for Curtis Granderson in the AL, but even if a Yankee wasn’t up for consideration, I’d feel the same way about no pitchers for the award.  The Cy Young is a pitcher’s MVP award.

Trading Beer for Wind…

I was surprised to see Dale Sveum get the managing job with the Chicago Cubs.  It’s not that I don’t think he’ll make a good manager, but rather I thought he’d be a good fit for the Boston Red Sox.  I had been hoping that Terry Francona would get the Cubs job, and when he withdrew his name, I thought that Mike Maddux would be the next call.  I know that name withdrawals are usually prompted by behind-the-scenes conversations (Francona probably realizing that he wouldn’t get the job), but I think it’s a travesty that Tito won’t be managing in the big leagues in 2012…unless that was truly his choice.  If I owned a major league team, Tito would be at the top of my short list for managers.  He may have been the manager of my team’s most bitter rival but I have a great deal of respect for him.  It would have been great to see him manage the Cubs to a World Series Championship after ending Boston’s drought.

Joe Mauer, come back!…

I am still missing the lights of Target Field from my condo.  I can see the lighted field name sign, but there is just something about those stadium lights that give a magical feeling to the skyline of downtown Minneapolis.  I am looking forward to April when Jamey Carroll and the Minnesota Twins turn on the lights.  As for how the Twins do, they can lose 99 games again…

–Scott

 

 

And Then They Were Tied…

 

“I must be in the front row!”…

 

 

 

Bob Uecker, by Steve Moore/Getty Images

 

 

The Yankees capped a very successful weekend in sweeping the Houston Astros by moving into a first place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Of course, the Yankees need to keep the pressure on to avoid falling behind the Rays again but they should be in good shape if CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett can keep the momentum going.

 

With Alex Rodriguez still on the bench due to an ailing hip, the Yankees rode Jorge Posada’s second grand slam in as many days to a 9-5 victory at Yankee Stadium.

 

 

Jorge Posada hits his second grand slam in as many days to lead the New York Yankees to a sweep of the Houston Astros.

Sipkin/NY Daily News

 

 

Manager Joe Girardi stayed with starter Phil Hughes a bit too long in the 6th as the Astros scored four runs after trailing 7-1.  When the Astros scored the first two runs of the inning, I thought that Hughes should have been pulled.  He was over 100 pitches but I know Girardi wanted to see him finish the inning.  It turned out to be a big mistake as light-hitting Kevin Cash delivered a two run homer to end the day for Hughes.

 

 

William Perlman/The Star Ledger

 

The Yankees answered with several runs of their own and the bullpen was up to the task of securing the win for Hughes.  It was his 9th win of the season to tie him for the league lead with David Price and Clay Buchholz.  I thought Damaso Marte’s strikeout after relieving Hughes was huge.  The Astros had seized the game momentum but it quickly evaporated with Marte’s strike out of Michael Bourn.

 

The Yankees get a much deserved day off on Monday.  They’ll need it since they’ll be staring at Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night.  The Phillies will definitely be seeking revenge for last October.  It should be a great series.

 

Speaking of grand slams, here is a look back at a great one…

 

 

Nice To See Ya Again!…

 

A reunion victory for Andy…

 

 

AP/Eric Gay

 

 

In probably what will be Andy Pettitte’s only appearance against his former team, the Houston Astros, he emerged the victor tonight as interleague play got underway in the Bronx. 

 

It was a tight game throughout thanks to a pitching duel between Andy and Astros starter (and former Philadelphia Phillie) Brett Myers.  The Yanks scored first with three runs in the bottom of the first inning.  A bases loaded walk by Nick Swisher and a two-run single by Francisco Cervelli gave Andy and the Yankees an early cushion.

 

The Astros quickly answered with two runs of their own in the top of the 2nd inning.  With two outs, Astros shortstop Tommy Manzella doubled to deep left to score two runs.

 

In the bottom of the 5th inning, with the score still 3-2, Mark Teixeira hit a single to score Kevin Russo. 

 

After settling down in the 2nd inning, Andy was breezing through the Astros lineup, allowing only one baserunner, until he got into trouble in the 8th.    A hit and an error put two men on base.  After a sacrifice moved the runners to 2nd and 3rd, Andy’s night was done.  Enter Joba Chamberlain.  Unfortunately, a sac fly by the next batter, second baseman Jeff Keppinger, scored Manzella, before Joba was able to end the inning by striking out first baseman Lance Berkman. 

 

Enter the Sandman in the 9th, and it was game over.   Mariano Rivera struck out the final two batters to pick up his 15th save, which gave Andy Pettitte the win and his 8th victory (8-1) of the season to match Phil Hughes for the team high. 

 

The rumor mill has spun that Berkman is a potential trade target for the Yankees.  He’d make a great DH at this stage of his career, and would be an excellent replacement for former DH Hideki Matsui.  I know that Nick Johnson will be back later this year, but given his injury history, there’s no way that he can be counted on.  At some point, Jorge Posada will be ready to start catching again so the DH will spot will return to a rotation.  It would be tremendous, so long as the price tag is not too high and does not involve any blue-chippers, to have Berkman’s bat in the lineup every day. 

 

I am sure that the win, Andy’s 200th as a Yankee, was bittersweet for him.  I know that he missed the Yankees during his days in Houston, but on the same token, I am sure that he’ll always hold a soft spot for his hometown Astros.  The game would have been harder on Andy if it would have been played in Houston.  By the way, congratulations to Andy for the 200th Yankees win!  How ironic that it would come against the only other team for which he has played.

 

The Yankees have a chance to close within a game of the AL East Leading Tampa Bay Rays.  The “team that never loses” is trailing by 8 runs late in a game against the Florida Marlins.  For any other team, I’d consider a deficit of 8 runs to be a loss.  But with the Rays, if you told me that they just scored 9 runs in the 9th, I wouldn’t be surprised. 

 

Wow, what a week for college football!  I had not been following the USC story very closely, so I was stunned when the two year probation was announced.  I also heard that their juniors and seniors can transfer to other schools without the standard one-year waiting period (unless it involves another Pac-10 school).  Aside from the fact that this will remove USC from significance for the short term, I couldn’t help but think what goes around comes around for new head coach Lane Kiffin.  I am sure that Raiders owner Al Davis and the great fans of the University of Tennessee are shedding no tears for Lane’s predicament.  Yeah Lane, good luck with that… 

 

Speaking of the Pac-10, I was equally shocked when the University of Colorado announced they were leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-10.  All week the talk had been about whether the University of Nebraska would leave to join the Big 10, a move which happened today, however, the Buffaloes drew first blood.  There is no speculation that the University of Texas, and the other Texas schools, like Texas A&M and Texas Tech, may be joining the Pac-10 to become a ‘super-conference’.  All the rivalries we have grown to love over the years, like Texas-OU and Nebraska-OU, will soon become memories.   The expectation is that the Big 12 will collapse so it will be interesting to see what happens with the other schools.  Plus, of course, there is always the speculation about what Notre Dame may do.  Interesting times in the NCAA…

 

–Scott

For All The Marbles…

Friend or Foe?…

 

 

Unfortunately, when Cliff Lee faces CC Sabathia on Wednesday night, they’ll have to put their close friendship aside and wage a battle of Champions.  Lee and Sabathia were teammates in Cleveland and are very close. 

 

 

 

When the new Yankee Stadium opened on April 16th, the winning pitcher was Lee in a matchup against Sabathia.  On that day, Sabathia struggled with his command and was gone long before the bullpen imploded by allowing 9 runs in the 7th inning.  Lee wiggled in and out of trouble but avoided any damage in the 9-2 victory by the Cleveland Indians.  Jose Veras (remember him?) was the loser, so there are no chances of a repeat performance by the same guys.  But note to Joe Girardi, stay away from Damaso Marte…far away!

 

Jason Szenes/EPA

 

So, Cliff Lee gets the honor of being the starting pitcher for the opposing team in the new Yankee Stadium for both the first regular season and first World Series.  This will definitely be a future trivia question on Julia‘s website!

This will be a very tough World Series.  The Philadelphia Phillies have a very strong rotation, led by mid-season acquisition Lee.  The staff also features former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez, last year’s ace performer Cole Hamels, and former A’s pitcher Joe Blanton.  And, oh yeah, there’s a young guy in the pen who’s not too bad, J.A. Happ.  So, clearly, the Phillies are loaded with starting pitching and long relief.  Fortunately, the bullpen is vulnerable so they do have an Achilles heel.

 

 

 

The bats, up and down the lineup, are strong.  I like the way you can mention Jimmy Rollins as an after-thought…um, not really.  That’s scary to think that if you managed to get by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, you still have guys like Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez, and others ready to do damage.   There aren’t really any weaknesses in the lineup, and if the Yankees had trouble trying to get the Angels’ Jeff Mathis out…

 

 

The Yankees will see former adversary Pedro Martinez in Game 2.  The decision apparently came about given the history that Martinez has in New York against the Yankees, whereas Cole Hamels, the Game 3 starter, has been better at home this year.  Still, at the beginning of the year, I never dreamed that Pedro would be starting the second game of the World Series…of course, I sure that he didn’t either.  Nevertheless, this is no longer Pedro in his prime, but the question will be which A.J. Burnett shows up.  Hopefully, we’ll have a classic pitcher’s duel, with the game decided in late inning, walk-off, pie-in-your-face fashion!

 

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

 

I am glad that the Yankees have home field advantage for this one.  I guess I’ve never been so glad that the American League won the All-Star Game as I have this year.  I never dreamed when I moved from Wilmington, DE to the Bay Area in California in July that the Yankees would be facing the “local” team in the World Series.  It would be a very exciting time in Wilmington at the local sports bars.  I was there last year when the Phillies won the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it was a very exciting time for the Philly fans.  But this is a new year and it’s time for the Yankees’ 27th World Championship!

 

Why was former Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta in such demand?  Granted, I don’t know much about Acta, however, his record in Washington wasn’t exactly stellar and of course, he lost his job for a reason.  However, that didn’t stop the Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians from actively pursuing his services.  The winner, ultimately, was the Cleveland Indians.  The Astros, in turn, went with their second choice, Boston Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills.  No offense but I think the Astros got the better end of the deal.  Plus, it’s always a good thing to see Red Sox losses!  J

 

photo

Brett Comer/Houston Chronicle

 

If 2010 is truly the final year for Dodgers manager Joe Torre (the end of his contract), I wonder if he’ll move hitting coach Don Mattingly to the bench or at least third base if he is the likely successor.

 

 

 

Well, how many hours until the first pitch?… ;)

 

 

Go YANKEES!  :)

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