Results tagged ‘ Chicago ’

It’s 613 miles to Detroit. We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses…hit it!…

 

Are you mocking me?…

The final series of the season has begun and the Yankees find themselves a game up on the Baltimore Orioles with two games to go in the battle for AL East supremacy.  It’s been a dogfight since the O’s caught the Yankees earlier in the month, and the two teams have pretty much matched each other stride for stride since that time.  Sunday, when the Yankees were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 after the O’s had won was the first time that I legitimately felt the Yankees could end the day in second place for the first time since early in the season.  Fortunately for me…and the Yankees, they fought back to emerge with a 9-6 victory.

A season of surprises…

After years of Yankees-Red Sox and most recently, Yankees-Red Sox-Rays, I never expected this to be the year that the Baltimore Orioles would emerge as the Yankees’ primary nemesis.  Still, the Tampa Bay Rays are the team that scares me the most.  With their pitching, they have the potential to go all the way if they make it.  Granted, it’s clearly an uphill battle for them, but they are perhaps the hottest team in baseball right now with 11 wins in 12 games.  Hopefully, the Oakland A’s will end the Rays’ quest but I’d like to see the Rays with an opportunity for at least one more night so they’ll play at the top of their game against the O’s again tomorrow night.  If the A’s win against the Texas Rangers tonight, then it’s over for the Rays.  I am thankful that the Rays’ run got started so late in the season.  If it had occurred earlier, there’s little doubt they’d be bumping shoulders with the Yankees and O’s.

While I am surprised about the successful O’s season, I am flabbergasted by the dismal failure of the Boston Red Sox.  This is a team that could have and should have won the AL East in 2011, but after tonight’s game, the team stands at 91 losses.  It is the highest loss total since 1965 when they lost 100 games.  There’s no threat of 100 losses, but this is clearly an inferior Red Sox team.  I think they’ll be much improved in 2013 but the team has much to do in order to re-tool the once championship squad.  In my opinion, Bobby Valentine has to go.  He has contributed to the dysfunction of the 2012 season and while the losses may not be his fault, he is not the right man for the job.  I do not necessarily think that John Farrell is, or that last year’s runner-up, Gene Lamont, should get the job.  If I were the Red Sox GM, I’d probably go with a guy who has a great deal of minor league managerial experience but has never gotten the opportunity at the major league level, Ryne Sandberg.  He’d be respected by the players and he has the ability to effectively communicate with the younger prospects.

I thought this would be the year the Toronto Blue Jays would take a step forward.  If I would have had to choose between the O’s and the Jays at the start of the season, I probably would have taken the Jays. But I felt they regressed this year.  Well, actually they did.  Who knows how this plays out for John Farrell.  It could be ownership is more willing to let him go to Boston, but of course, does Boston want him and is he truly the right fit?  This remains to be seen.  Nothing like some good old fashioned drama as we head toward the off-season.

As for the other races, I was disappointed to see the Chicago White Sox fade.  I felt they had their division, but the talent of the Detroit Tigers persevered and thrust the team into the lead with a few games left.  Out west, there’s no doubt the Texas Rangers were going to be the champion, but to put the A’s into the play-offs over the Los Angeles Angels was a surprise.  Oakland’s pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t look so far fetched now.

In the National League, I never would have predicted a division championship for the Washington Nationals.  They earned and deserved it, but I didn’t foresee it.  The awful season the Philadelphia Phillies experienced was a surprise.  Hey, Cliff Lee, how does that decision to rebuke the Yankees feel now?  I know, one season does not a mega-million contract make, but hey, this is baseball and it’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately?’.  Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves for at least nailing the Wild Card slot.

The Cincinnati Reds were not a surprise, even playing in the same division as the St Louis Cardinals.  This was destined to be a challenging year for the Cards with a new manager and first baseman.  The Cardinals should still make the play-offs, but this division played out as expected.

The NL West is where I am perplexed.  Although I currently reside in the Bay Area, my NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers.  This is primarily because of the manager (Don Mattingly).  But after the expensive acquisitions late in the season (Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Brandon League and others), I really thought the Dodgers would be well poised to surge to the division championship.  Of course, I fully underestimated the San Francisco Giants and their pitching staff.  Tim Lincecum may have had his struggles this year, but I’d still hate to face him in October with all the chips on the table.

Welcome to the 2012 World Series…

As for my prediction of World Series participants, I am going to go with the Cincinnati Reds versus the Texas Rangers.  The Reds, in my opinion, have a slight advantage over the Washington Nationals.  Of course, I’ve underestimated the San Francisco Giants all season long so why should I change now?  I know this is a Yankees blog and I should be ‘all in’ on another Yankees participation in the World Series.  But I am just not convinced the team has the clutch hitting to succeed.  Hey, I hope they prove me wrong, but I don’t really see anyone else emerging from the AL than the Rangers.  I do not like the Rangers but I recognize that their hunger for a World Series championship remains and they have the talent to succeed.  Best case scenario?  The Yankees go to the World Series to face the San Francisco Giants and see how their hitters perform against former closer Dave Righetti’s aces.

It seems like the season just started but now just two games separate us from the 2012 post-season.  The race to the World Series begins…

—Scott

 

Can you throw 95 mph…and beat the Sox?…

 

If you can beat Boston and Tampa Bay, we want you!…

The Yankees’ season of uneven play continues.  They go to Oakland and sweep the A’s, and then lose a series to the Angels of Los Angeles but located in Anaheim or whatever they are called these days.  Granted, the Angels have always been a thorn in the Yankees’ side, but they started the season slowly so there was hope it would continue through the series with the Yankees.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  At the least the Yankees salvaged the final game of the season.  It is always good to win the get-away game regardless of the outcome of the prior games in the series.

Given the Yankees had pinned much of their 2012 hopes on starting pitcher Michael Pineda (lost for the season due to injury), it is not a surprise that trade rumors are starting to surface.  I saw one today about interest in Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs.  I’ve always liked Garza, and even if his time in Chicago has not been stellar, the guy knows how to pitch in the AL East.  He’s not going to be the second coming of Roy Halladay, but he would be an effective choice.  I would think that a trade for Garza, among other highly touted prospects, would include either Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova.  I couldn’t see the Cubs making the trade for prospects only.  I also couldn’t see the Yankees trading Hughes given his recent strong performances.  But including Nova would cost greater minor league talent to be included.  What I don’t want to see is a trade for the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez.  He has had a decent season so far, but the AL East is a different animal and I’d rather have someone with proven experience.

I saw a comment on one of my recent posts that Yankees fans needed to get over losing Cliff Lee.  Huh?  Where did that come from?  Yes, I would have liked to have signed Lee, but he obviously preferred to return to Philadelphia.  There’s nothing wrong with his choice.  I’ve moved on, and I think other Yankees fans have too.  Just because we are concerned about the state of the current starting rotation has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we lost out on Lee.

Youk, the star of Chavez Ravine…

I saw today that the Boston Red Sox are trying to move Kevin Youkilis in a move that would not qualify as a surprise.  Will Middlebrooks has shown that he is major league ready and the earlier confrontation in the media between manager Bobby Valentine and Youk shows that the clutch hitter supreme might be better suited in a different uniform.  Given the Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team, I am hopeful that the Dodgers will acquire Youk for manager Donnie Baseball.  I’d really hate to see the Sox trade Youk to the Rangers and only strengthen what has been the AL’s best team.

Leave it to Santana to say “f” Mets history…

About a week ago or so, I was listening to the guys on MLB Radio talk about how the New York Mets did not have a no-hitter despite having no-hitter king Nolan Ryan on their roster at one time.  But of course all good things must end as Johan Santana threw a no-no tonight.  Congratulations to Santana as it has been a tough road since he left the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a…

I am a big fan of David Robertson, but I am hopeful that manager Joe Girardi keeps Rafael Soriano in the closer role and returns Robertson to his key setup position.  Robertson is the best setup guy in baseball in my opinion.  Sori has showed signs of his dominance several seasons back as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays as the team’s closer.  He’s no Mariano Rivera, but I think Robertson-Soriano provides the Yanks with the best case scenario all things considered.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

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

 

Why waste the paper for the signing?…

 

No Hablo Red Sox…

I know that it was a “no-risk, why-not-take-shot minor league with a major league camp invitation” signing but something just struck me wrong with the addition of former Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen.  Over the past few years, I have admittedly built up some respect for the good Red Sox players.  I’d count Red Sox ace Jon Lester as one of my favorite pitchers, and I appreciate players like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.  I think Adrian Gonzalez is one of the premier sluggers in baseball and all things considered, the Red Sox got the better end of the deal when they lost out on Mark Teixeira to the Yanks and had to “settle” for Gonzalez in a trade with the San Diego Padres.  There are those Sox players that I dislike but know they are ‘gamers’ like Josh Beckett, but conversely, there are those guys that I just thought were bad baseball players.  I’d put Delcarmen in the latter category.

Delcarmen is the bullpen answer to A.J. Burnett.  In other words, the guy most likely to implode.  The Red Sox proved they held a similar opinion when they dumped Delcarmen on the Colorado Rockies in 2010.  Delcarmen failed to stick in the Mile High City, and bounced in the minor leagues last season with the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, accumulating a less than inspiring 5.59 ERA.  Odds are that he’ll never see the light of day at Yankee Stadium, but I think my tolerance quota for ex-Red Sox players in Yankees camp has been exceeded with Hideki Okajima, Delcarmen, and the possible signing of former Sox infielder Bill Hall.  I guess the Yankees brass wants to counteract the strong performance that Alfredo Aceves gave the Sox last year after being cut by the Yankees with a rejuvenated former Sox player in pinstripes.  If this was the objective (I know it wasn’t), then the Yankees should have signed DH David Ortiz before he accepted arbitration with the Sox.

Good luck to Delcarmen, but I still hope that he finds success elsewhere.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Hendry…

I was surprised to hear that the Yankees had signed former Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry as a special assignment scout.  For one, the Yankees have a stable of up-and-comers in Billy Eppler and Damon Oppenheimer.  Eppler almost landed the GM job with the Los Angeles Angels before Jerry DiPoto was hired so he’s certainly a sought-after commodity.  I saw today that the Yankees added the title of Senior Vice President to Assistant GM Jean Afterman, while naming Eppler as an assistant GM.  I know that Afterman doesn’t have the authority of Brian Cashman but it’s weird that they are both SVP’s.  All things considered, Cash should be in line for a promotion to Executive Vice President since he is clearly above the other SVP’s.

Admittedly, I am leery about bringing in strong GM types like Hendry.  Sure, he has a wealth of knowledge, but this position allows him to learn the inner-workings of the Yankees organization.  I am sure that Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers used his brief time with the Yankees to identify pitcher Ian Kennedy as a trade target.  I realize that Kennedy brought Curtis Granderson to New York, but had the Yankees been able to include a different pitcher with qualifications below Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos in the trade, how good would Kennedy have looked at the back end of the rotation instead of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon?

Snow:  To be or not to be…

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is February and the month that players report to training camp.  My first winter in Minnesota has been so incredibly mild.  I think there have only been two days of challenging driving conditions but even on those days, I still managed to travel without too many obstacles.  Of course, we could be engulfed in a blizzard while Robinson Cano is punching one over the Steinbrenner Field wall, but I am definitely excited for the return of the primary major sport.  No offense to the New England Patriots or the New York Giants, but pro football ranks second to America’s favorite pastime (in my opinion).  I’ll be more excited to see CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda standing side-by-side in camp than watching QB Tom Brady tell me via TV that he’s headed for Disney World.

Let it snow in Minnesota and let those Michael Pineda fastballs start popping Russell Martin’s mitt.  Life is good.  Now, about that DH position for the Yankees…

–Scott

 

Down, set, 247, 247, hike, hike…

To act or not to act…

When is the beast (i.e., the YES Network) going to start screaming, “Feed Me!”…

Okay, okay, I know…the Yankees are a strong team with or without reinforcements.  Maybe it is just the residual effect of having to depend upon Alex Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett.

Not unexpectedly, the Yankees failed to reach agreement with Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima.  Early speculation had Nakajima returning to Japan for one more year since the Yankees wouldn’t afford him the opportunity to start.  The Boston Red Sox seem like the natural fit given their need for someone with Nakajima’s talent and it doesn’t hurt that the manager can speak a little Japanese.

Just as they were not players for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, I don’t really expect the Yankees to pursue Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.  If the Yankees didn’t have any promising prospects it would be one thing, but the organization really likes outfield prospect Mason Williams.  It goes without saying that you can’t sustain a championship squad with $100 million players at every position.  Primarily, it is cost prohibitive, but secondly, the players quickly become less productive than their compensation (i.e., A-Rod) and you’re unable to do anything about it.  Good, cheap young talent is the way to sustain a championship squad.  That’s why Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos should both get opportunities to pitch in Yankee Stadium at some point this season.  If either could prove that he is major league ready, it would significantly strengthen the perceived weak starting rotation.

There are plenty of ‘what ifs’ with the Yankees this year, but IF Phil Hughes can show he is indeed the 18-win game winner we saw several years ago and not the notorious injury risk and IF A.J. Burnett could convert last season’s first half success into full season success, the rotation would be in great shape for supplementation by Betances and/or Banuelos.

Like many, I am anxious to see what Jesus Montero can do on a daily basis with his bat.  I am grateful the Yankees didn’t move him.  I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but if Montero starts hitting like we know he can, he’ll quickly become a fixed commodity in the Bronx.

My primary wish at this point is the return of backup third baseman Eric Chavez.  Yes, I would be in favor of a trade for Matt Garza or Matt Cain, or the free agent signing of Edwin Jackson on a short term deal, but I really think that a solid, proven replacement option for A-Rod is essential.  When A-Rod goes on the inevitable DL stint during the season, I don’t want to see his replacement with a guy that is fighting to stay above the Mendoza line.  I want a guy that is capable of changing the game, and that’s Chavez.  He might not be able to do it every day anymore, but he’s still a superior performer if used properly.  So, Brian Cashman, please talk to your owner and get this deal done.

Money for nothing and the chicks for free…

I have to admit that I am impressed with what Cubs president Theo Epstein has done so far.  To unload the pariah known as Carlos Zambrano and get a young, quality starting pitcher in Chris Volstad was genius.  I know that Andrew Cashner was a heralded pitching prospect, but I really like the move to pick up former Red Sox prospect Anthony Rizzo from the San Diego Padres for first base.  I used to think that Alfonso Soriano was untradeable, but now, if you told me that Theo had traded him for a quality return, I would believe you wholeheartedly.  I kind of feel bad for Cubs GM Jed Hoyer.  Regardless of what he does, Theo will always get credit.  San Diego GM Josh Byrnes is probably saying ‘Thanks, Dude’ every night.

What do you want to be when you grow up?…

I was a bit surprised to see Joe Torre step down from his job with Major League Baseball.  I am sure that the attraction of being a major league owner was very appealing, but it’s hardly a sure bet.  But I guess that Joe’s made his money, and he decided to gamble for the job he wanted, knowing that worst case, he is set for the rest of his life.  One thing’s for sure, if Joe’s ownership group is successful in buying the Dodgers, my longtime idol, Don Mattingly, is secure as Dodgers manager.  So, all I can say is ‘Good luck, Joe!’.

When did Arte Moreno become smarter than a fifth grader?…

I’ve been surprised to hear that the contract Albert Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels is so backloaded.  To pay the best player in baseball $12 million to play in 2012 is clearly the best return on investment that I’ve seen in a very long time.  Sure, in 8 years, the Angels will be paying $30 million for a past-his-prime first baseman, but by that time, he’ll have legendary records within his grasp, and will help fill seats, which of course, will pay his excess salary.  GM Jerry DiPoto is too new to give him credit, but this was a genius move by the Angels and it shows that the Cardinals were never going to pay that kind of money.

What a surprise…

It’s funny that I used the word ‘surprised’ in the last two paragraphs.  That’s not the case with the Yankees where the crickets still reign supreme…

I know, the Yankees signed former Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima but I don’t really see him making the team if Cesar Cabral impresses in camp.  Crickets, just crickets…

–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

 

 

Yankee losses may not be over…

 

Good luck, well, not so much…

The Los Angeles Angels’ search for a new GM has me nervous as they’ve interviewed both Damon Oppenheimer and Billy Eppler.  Eppler, but not Oppenheimer, has been called back for a second interview which probably means that the chances are great the Yankees could lose a valued member of the front office.  I don’t dispute that either Eppler or Oppenheimer would make great general managers, but I truly believe that Kim Ng deserves an opportunity.  She’s held Assistant GM positions with both the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and she’s currently working for MLB.  She has a tremendous background, and if I was starting a franchise, she’d be my pick for GM.

Ouch, that photo hurt…

I wasn’t very pleased to wake up to the morning photo of CC Sabathia in Boston Red Sox gear.  Courtesy of the New York Daily News…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recognize that the Red Sox will be a very active player in the search for quality rotation arms, and they’d be aggressive with Sabathia if he hits the open market for no other reason than to drive up the price for the Yanks.  Just like I think the Yankees need to lock up GM Brian Cashman before the end of the month, they need to re-negotiate CC’s deal before he can opt out…not after.

The Yankees are the reason for all of the World’s problems…

At the gym this morning, I was listening to guys talk about how the Yankees make it impossible for other teams to compete.  I always find this talk so narrow minded given how much the Yankees contribute to other teams through luxury and payroll taxes.  Baseball is about good decisions at the end of the day.  The size of your contract does not ensure greatness.  As for this morning’s conversation, I just don’t think the Minnesota Twins have made the same quality decisions under their current GM that they did in years past when they won the World Series.  I know that a mistake by a small market team is going to be more severe than if the Yankees make the same mistake, but if memory serves correctly, there’s a team in the World Series…with the advantage…that was in bankruptcy court not too long ago.  They made the right decisions and persevered.  Their decisions were subsidized by Yankees money, so I am not going to feel sorry for other teams simply because the Yankees happen to reside in the largest market.

Go Theo…

I am not a Chicago Cubs fan, but I am excited about the front office re-build with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod.  Mike Quade might be a great guy and a good manager, but I just don’t see how he survives the regime change.  I remain hopeful that Terry Francona will get the job, but I agree with those who say that he might be best served by staying out of managing for a half season or so before re-entering the grind.  I would like to see a Chicago Cubs World Championship in my lifetime.  Maybe not with Alfonso Soriano on the roster, but I think if anyone can end the drought, it is Theo.  I will be watching the Cubs with interest next year.  My favorite NL team is probably still the Los Angeles Dodgers as long as Donnie Baseball is the manager, but the Cubs will be fun to watch.  As for the Dodgers, they would be easier to take if Frank McCourt is forced to sell the team.  Owner to owner, I’d take Tom Ricketts any day.

Time to Ponder a great future…

Breaking away from baseball, it was fun to see the debut of Minnesota Vikings rookie QB Christian Ponder.  He made his fair share of mistakes, but the energy he infused into the team was tremendous.  I think he’ll continue to grow with each start, and I am glad that he finally gained the starting opportunity after the lethargic performance of past-his-prime QB Donovan McNabb.  It sucks that we had to find out what Philly and Washington already knew, but at least that saga has reached its conclusion.  I am looking forward to seeing what Ponder can do in the coming weeks.  He is incredibly bright, and I think that his football smarts will offset some of the physical limitations.  They always talk about the “it” factor, and I think that Ponder, like Aaron Rodgers, has it.

The Cops must love the Vikings…

CB Chris Cook beat his girlfriend?  I agree with the felony charge and the suspension.  His loss to the defense is huge, but his behavior is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated.  There may be another side to the story, but there is no denying that this involved physical abuse.  Very disappointing.  As a former first-round pick, there’s no way that the Vikings can simply cut bait.  But they have to send a message to Cook that character and personal code of ethics are greater attributes than football ability.

Friggin’ 49ers…

As for Aaron Rodgers, I hate to say anything pro-Green Bay, but he has clearly surpassed Bart Starr and Brett Favre as the greatest QB in franchise history.  Tom Brady was the best QB in the NFL for a few years, along with Peyton Manning, but there’s no doubt that Rodgers is now setting the bar.  I continue to ask myself, why did the San Francisco 49ers select Alex Smith over Northern CA local Aaron Rodgers.  That has to be one of worst draft decisions in recent memory.  Where’s Carmen Policy when you need him?…

Is it time for Spring Training yet?…

 

–Scott

Watching CSI in October is so wrong…

 

What’s on TV?…

With the Yankees at home for the year and an AL team that I don’t care for still playing, I have to admit that I have not been watching the World Series this year.  Of course, that cost me the chance to watch history last night as Albert Pujols showed why he is a living legend with three home runs, ala Reggie Jackson.  Somehow that huge contract that he’ll get in the off-season just got a little bigger.  I am not saying that the Yankees should try to sign Albert (I’m satisfied with Mark Teixeira at first and feel that the money is better served for weaker areas like starting pitching), but the Yankees do need someone like that who is capable to singlehandedly taking over a game.  I have no doubt that Robby Cano is that type of player, but with the deteriorating skills of Alex Rodriguez, it puts so much pressure on the rest of the lineup to pick up the slack.

Back to Albert, I do hope that he continues his drive and helps deliver another world championship to the city of St. Louis.  As much as I would like Albert on my team, I really hope that the Cardinals do what it takes to keep him in the organization for the duration of his career.  To this day, Stan “The Man” Musial is still a huge part of the Cardinals and their history, and Albert would have that same impact for years to come.  If he departed and played a few years for, say, the Chicago Cubs, it would definitely taint his Cardinals legacy.

If there are no concerns, why am I concerned?…

I keep hearing that there are no concerns about getting a new contract in place for GM Brian Cashman, but as each day passes and we draw closer to the end of the month, I do grow a bit more concerned.  Given how difficult the Derek Jeter negotiations were last year, what if the team tries to short pennies on Cash?  What is Plan B if Cashman opts to leave?  With Damon Oppenheimer and Billy Eppler talking to other teams, the best in-house talent could be gone.  I doubt if both of those guys leave and from the sounds of it, neither one is the leading candidate for the Angels GM job.  Still, a team could turn to one of them.  I’d really prefer to go to Oppenheimer or Eppler should Cashman leave in order to maintain the continuity within the organization.  That’s very similar to what the Red Sox will be doing by promoting Ben Cherington to GM to replace Theo Epstein.

Can he replicate the success of Larry Lucchino?…

I do wish Theo Epstein and soon-to-be GM Jed Hoyer the best of luck in Chicago as they try to end the World Series drought for the Cubs.  I know that the road is much more difficult than it was when Epstein became the Red Sox GM, but I’ve certainly learned to never under-estimate Theo.  He has made his share of poor decisions (such as signing John Lackey), but that only means that he is not afraid of making difficult decisions.  Some will pan out, some will not.  I am sure that there are a few moves that Brian Cashman would like to undo.  But I’d rather see a GM make the bold moves and potentially uncover great talent and chemistry for the betterment of the team.  Given that Theo will be bringing a few of his guys to Chicago, I wonder when manager Mike Quade gets the ax.  It would be interesting to see if Theo and Jed would go for a top managerial candidate with Red Sox connections like DeMarlo Hale or go to a Cubs legend like Ryne Sandberg.  I think either move would be sound should they decide to part ways with Quade.

It’s only money…

Put me in the category of those who would like to see the Yankees pursue Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish.  I know that the past success of Japanese pitchers has been mixed, but I really feel that Darvish is a special talent.  He would like great in the middle of the rotation.  I am also anxious to see what pitcher Hector Noesi can do in winter ball.  As much as I thought Freddy Garcia did everything asked of him, I’d really rather see the Yankees develop a younger arm in the rotation.  Just like last year, A.J. Burnett will come to camp as a question mark.  Plus, there’s the potential that CC Sabathia opts out and takes an offer from another city despite how well he has adapted to New York.  I have come to not rely upon Phil Hughes, so that means the only certain reliable starter at the moment is Ivan Nova.  I would aggressively go after Rangers starter C.J. Wilson regardless of whether CC stays or goes.  I wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Burnett, but it’s probably not going to happen.  The Red Sox will probably have better luck getting rid of John Lackey.

You have the right to remain silent…

As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I’ve faced my share of disappointment over the years.  I have never had to deal with losing Super Bowls like I did as a kid, but that’s only because the team has never been back.  I think character is a quality component to building team chemistry and unity, and the Vikings have had more than their fair share of poor off the field decisions.  Now we have the latest news that starting cornerback Chris Cook is in jail for the weekend on domestic assault charges.   This is very disappointing news.

The Vikings certainly have their hands full this weekend as they will be facing the undefeated Green Bay Packers with a rookie QB (Christian Ponder) making his first NFL start.  It looks to me as if the deck has been stacked against Ponder, but hopefully, he’ll show why he was a surprise, but great, early selection in the first round of the last NFL Draft.

–Scott

 

 

 

 

 

Here we are, Game 5 — Play Ball!…

 

The Yankees are playing an elimination game, so of course, I need something to take my mind off the game!  ;)

Maybe we’ll see the new White Sox manager run toward the Texas Rangers owner’s box in a fit of rage…

I was surprised to hear the announcement that former Yankees third baseman Robin Ventura had been named the manager of the Chicago White Sox.  I think Robin’s a great guy and he should be a good manager, but he’s definitely the anti-Ozzie Guillen.  I thought that Jerry Reinsdorf and company would go for a more experienced manager.  Personally, Terry Francona would be at the top of my list but I am sure that Reinsdorf had good reasons for taking a chance with Robin.

I have not done any research to see what Ventura has been up to in recent years but hopefully he’s prepared for the rigors of managing in a big city with high expectations.  If the Chicago Cubs somehow managed to land GM Theo Epstein and/or Terry Francona, it would put pressure on Ventura to produce quickly in the Battle of the Windy City.

Now you see them, now you don’t…

I was equally surprised to see the quick exit from the play-offs by the Tampa Bay Rays.  After they successfully caught the Boston Red Sox in September and captured the Wild Card, I did think they were a team of destiny.  They certainly have the starting pitching to contend, but it was not meant to be.  Red Sox fans were so hoping for the ouster of the Yankees and Rays on the same night.  Fortunately, they were disappointed.  I really hope the Yankees get the chance to play the Texas Rangers in the ALCS to, hopefully, avenge the play-off loss last year.  Texas has an incredible offensive machine, but they are not unbeatable.

Weren’t the Cardinals left for dead just a month or so ago?…

It is interesting that all division series, except Rangers-Rays, have gone the full 5 games.  I don’t expect the St. Louis Cardinals to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, but they’ve certainly shown they can play on the same field.  The Phillies remain the team I think will win the World Series, but I’d be foolish to underestimate the heart of the Cardinals.  The Arizona Diamondbacks were able to dig out of a 0-2 hole against the Brewers, but I don’t really expect them to beat the Brewers in Milwaukee on Friday night.  I think the NLCS will feature the Phillies and the Brewers, with the Phils advancing to the World Series.

The Vikings are dead…

Football has definitely not been fun this year as my team, the Minnesota Vikings, have lost all four games to open the season.  Every game has been close, but the Vikings simply do not know either how to win or how to close out games.  Is that the coach or the players?  I really want to see Head Coach Leslie Frazier succeed, but I am not a big fan of QB Donovan McNabb (he will never again approach the success he enjoyed in Philly).  Also, I was not a fan of Mike Singletary when he was coach of the San Francisco 49ers and now he has Leslie’s ear as his chief confidant and close friend.  Perhaps Frazier would be better off without Singletary and with Christian Ponder as the starting QB…

Thanks for my iPod…

The Yankees and Detroit Tigers are getting ready to play Game 5 so I’d better cut this short.  But before I go, I’d like to say my condolences to the family of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.  His passing this week was difficult news to hear.  Somehow it seems as though we’ve lost a great friend and the world will never be quite the same.  He is missed by so many and rightfully so.  When he stepped down as the CEO of Apple in late August, I didn’t realize that he was so close to the end.  Nevertheless, he lived his life his way and on his own terms.  He left a legacy for all of us to learn from.  If we could accomplish 2% of what he did, we’d be wildly successful…

 

–Scott

 

 

Bad Day for Baseball…

 

The Pride of the Red Sox…

I am sure that there are Yankee fans rejoicing tonight at the news the Boston Red Sox and manager Terry “Tito” Francona have mutually decided to part way.  There is no rejoicing on this Blog.  I have a great deal of respect for Tito and he was/is arguably one of the best managers in baseball.

When Joe Girardi was named manager of the Yankees, I was a bit disappointed.  Of course, I’ve been a huge fan of Don Mattingly since he came up through the Yankees farm system and he was my favorite choice for manager despite his lack of managerial experience.  I liked Girardi the player, but he was never one that I was able to fully embrace.  I was concerned about the red flags that he exhibited during his year of managing the Florida Marlins and didn’t think that he’d be able to make the transition to the ‘Bright Lights, Big City’.  I was envious of the Red Sox and their manager because he was the standard that I wanted Girardi to achieve.  To Joe’s defense, he has but he is still not quite on the same level as Tito.

When the Red Sox first hired Tito, I simply viewed him as a Philadelphia Phillies reject.  To me, he hadn’t proven himself as a manager and it was hard for me to take him seriously (kind of reminds me what I felt when the Yankees named Joe Torre as their manager).  For years, the Red Sox had brought in guys that I just viewed as the manager of THAT team.  None were able to capture my respect and admiration, and that includes Don Zimmer who I didn’t develop respect for until years later as a Yankees coach.  But Tito was different.  In 2003, the Red Sox lost a heartbreaker in the ALCS, thanks to Aaron Boone’s home run.  Yet, the following year, the Sox were back.  Even though his team fell down 3 games to none, they stayed calm and persevered toward the AL Championship, and the first World Series Championship since 1918.  He was responsible for the end of the phrase “Curse of the Bambino”.  He followed up with another World Series Championship in 2007, making him the most successful manager in the modern history of the Red Sox.

When I look at the 2011 Red Sox, it is a team that should have prevailed.  They had a superior pitching staff, and the additions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford made it a much better team than the 2010 version.  But the injuries, most notably, starting with starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and later Kevin Youkilis, were devastating.  That’s really beyond the control of the manager.  He has to play with the hand he has been dealt.  The Red Sox recognized the flaws in the starting rotation, yet the best they could do was former Seattle pitcher Erik Bedard.  Nothing against Bedard, but it has been years since he was considered a stopper due to injuries.  So, if there is any blame, it has to reside with GM Theo Epstein for failing to make the right move.  While Epstein made the unsuccessful Bedard deal, the Detroit Tigers made a deal with the same Mariners team to bring them a starting pitcher (Doug Fister) that is as responsible as any for the Tigers’ late season success.  Epstein was clearly outdone by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, and had he made the right move, the Red Sox would be playing Game 1 of the AL play-offs tonight and Tito would still be manager.

If I am Jerry Reinsdorf, I am already on the phone calling Tito’s agent.  He is the perfect choice to follow the highly volatile Ozzie Guillen for the Chicago White Sox.  Chicago has a sound and supportive ownership group and the team is willing to make the necessary moves for success.  I think it would be a great fit, although it would probably be better as a Yankees fan to see Tito in the National League.  Another option would be the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It’s not that I want to see Don Mattingly fired, but I think any change in ownership will also result in a change at the managerial level.  Regardless of where Tito goes, some team is going to  benefit greatly.  If he doesn’t take a managerial job and becomes an ESPN analyst, we still win because we’ll get a first-hand view of his wisdom and insight.

Tito, you were a worthy opponent and a great champion.  I wish you nothing but the absolute best in whatever the future holds for you.  We look forward to your next adventure!

–Scott

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