Results tagged ‘ Ivan Nova ’

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the lack of better words, Ouch!…

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

Open the Cooperstown doors now…

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

But are they Yankees fans?…

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

 

 

And the winner is…

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

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

–Scott

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

 

 

 

 

All things considered, the first half was a success…

 

A 7-game lead is nice, but…

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

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

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

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

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

Farewell to the better Twin City…

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

The Kidd from Cal…

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

So wrong on many levels…

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

I want but cannot have…

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

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

–Scott

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

 

The 10-Game Roll…

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

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

Hats off to Cashman…

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

The personality alone is worth a few million…

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

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

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

Git ‘er done!…

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

Spending the end of July in the Hamptons…

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

Farewell to a beloved city…

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

–Scott

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

 

You had me at ‘Yankees win!’…

 

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

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

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

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

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

Please tell me more about the medical insurance…

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

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

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

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

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

 

–Scott

 

What happened to the Yankees’ Arms Surplus?…

 

Locked and not loaded?…

Worst case scenario seems to be playing out with news that Michael Pineda’s shoulder is cause for concern.  Everybody has wondered who would be the odd man out of the rotation, given the strong spring performances by Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. There’s been talk of moving either of those two or Ivan Nova to the bullpen, but all things considered, that’s not an ideal spot for any of the three.  I was hopeful that Yankees could find some trade value in Garcia to move him and make room for the others, given that Andy Pettitte looms on the not-so-distant future.  Yesterday, there were indications that Michael Pineda needed to have a strong performance to nail down his much anticipated spot in the rotation.  I didn’t watch the game, but I checked the box score in later innings with the score tied 7-7 only to see that Pineda had given up 6 runs in the first two innings.  Not exactly a strong performance.  Then, this morning, there were reports about Pineda’s shoulder.  He’ll be going for a MRI, but this could get worse, much worse.

Hopefully, the problems with the shoulder are minor and Pineda can recuperate with some rest.

Even though the Yankees ultimately won the exhibition match-up with the Phillies, it was a very costly game with the possible injury to Pineda, as well as reliever Cesar Cabral (elbow).  Both injuries make Joe Girardi’s decisions for the starting rotation and second lefty in the pen much easier.  At this point, it would appear that the rotation will be CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia.  There could be some shuffling of the last three, dependent upon who’s ready when based on how they’re currently lined up with their respective pitching schedules.  If Cabral is out, it opens the door for Clay Rapada to take the second lefty role behind top lefty Boone Logan.

I prefer striking out the opposing team…

I didn’t fully understand the move with Russell Branyan.  He was released from his minor league deal, and then re-signed to a new minor league deal at a savings of $100,000 to the Yankees.  The money would seem inconsequential, so I wonder if there had been an opt-out clause or something else in the contract that would have been triggered causing the need for the re-negotiation.  It’s not exactly like I’m expecting much from Branyan at this point of his career.  It’s hard to get expected about high strikeout guys like Branyan, but of course, the Yankees added to the fodder with the signing of Jack Cust.  I do not see either as a viable alternative to what the Yankees already have.

Is bashing the Yankees the only way to be beloved in New England…

Enough about the recent tie between the Yankees and Red Sox recently.  I don’t blame Joe Girardi for his decision not to play extra innings in their game with the Red Sox, resulting in a tie.  After the game, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine ripped the Yankees, saying that it cost a minor league pitcher, Clayton Mortensen, his opportunity to impress in an effort to make the team.  Subsequently, Mortensen has been making disparaging remarks about Girardi and the Yankees.  Seriously?  The guy’s career is going to be determined by one inning of pitching in a meaningless exhibition game?  Yeah, it was the Yankees, but guys don’t make major league rosters just because they play the Yankees well.  I think the other teams in the league have something to say about it.  If Valentine felt that Mortensen had a legitimate shot to make the roster, then he would create the opportunity in the spring schedule to showcase Mortensen.  His only opportunity to impress the Red Sox wasn’t that meaningless game with the Yankees.  For so much ink to be devoted to the unhappiness of Valentine and Mortensen is absolutely ridiculous.

There’s room in the Bronx for Maxwell…

I am hopeful the Yankees find room on the roster for outfielder Justin Maxwell.  Hopefully, with fourth outfielder Andruw Jones slated to share some DU time with Raul Ibanez, there will be the need to carry a fifth outfielder.  I like Maxwell’s athleticism in the outfield, and he is a good role player.

Have Bat, Will Travel…

Speaking of Ibanez, he is finally starting to hit, but I still can’t get his slow start with the Phillies last year out of mind.  I know that he had decent numbers by the end of the year, but I don’t like streaky players and at 40, Ibanez is not going to improve with age.  It’s too bad that Jorge Posada was not able to more fully embrace the DH role.  If he had, he probably would not have been put in the position of having to retire in the off-season.  But that’s water under the bridge, so I hope the Yankees find a suitable and consistent bat at DH as early in the season as possible.  If Ibanez surprises me, and is the guy, so be it.  Just be prepared to bring the bat every day, that’s all I ask.

Finally…

Good luck to Joba Chamberlain on his recovery.  I do hope that he is able to achieve his goal of pitching this season.  Who knows if he’ll ever be the pitcher we thought he would be, but we surely won’t know if he’s not pitching…

Well, the new baseball season is upon us.  Best of luck to everyone and their respective teams.  At this moment, we all have the chance for October glory.  Well, not really, but the standing don’t know any differently.  May the best team win!

–Scott

Didn’t see that one coming…

Yeah, but at what price?…

I am bummed…

After years of trade rumors involving Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, I thought he was finally home free and slated to be a member of the 2012 Yankees unless a trade for the seemingly untouchable Felix Hernandez were to materialize.  So, to hear tonight’s news that the Yankees have traded Montero to the Seattle Mariners is a shock since it did not involve the aforementioned King Felix.

I was perusing the MLB Trade Rumors tonight when I saw the blurb that the Mariners were close to acquiring an “young impact hitter”.  Of course, there aren’t too many guys that fit that description and Montero is near or at the top of the list.  I didn’t suspect a King Felix trade since there have been no signals that the Mariners are interested in trading him, so my immediate reaction was the fear of trading Montero for something else.  My fear has been justified as the word has come the Yankees traded Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi, a potential candidate for the starting rotation, to Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda and minor league pitcher Jose Campos.  I  know nothing about Campos (whether he is a high or mid level prospect or just fodder for the lower leagues).  So, this trade was clearly about Pineda, 22, who made the All-Star Team as a fill-in for Justin Verlander last year during his rookie season.  I recognized that Pineda was a quality pitcher, and I had him on a few of my fantasy baseball teams.

But still, I bought into the hype that Montero was going to be an offensive force.  I recognized that he was a liability at catcher, and that Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli represent the best catching tandem at the moment until Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are ready to advance.  To ask a young player to start at DH does seem to be a poor major league decision, but I was looking forward to seeing Montero star in pinstripes.  His bat would have found a good spot in the starting lineup.  Maybe a few years down the road, this trade will look great for the Yankees if Pineda wins the Cy Young or becomes the ace of the staff.  But right now, I am just shocked.  It’s not the type of move that one can embrace or create excitement among the fan base.  I truly would have preferred a short term deal to Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt as opposed to giving up young, quality talent.  I also liked Noesi, and knew that he was a viable candidate for the starting rotation.

At the moment, and this could change in time, I think the advantage goes to the Seattle Mariners.  I am assuming that they have the young pitching talent, to go with Noesi, to find a suitable replacement for Pineda in the rotation.  Meanwhile, they get one of the best young bats in the game today.  This takes a little heat off first baseman Justin Smoak so perhaps now he can thrive.  Right now, I rate the Yankees rotation as CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett.  This means that Freddy Garcia is the pitcher most likely to be cut unless the Yankees can find a home for Burnett.

Maybe he missed pitching to #55…

Okay, after an off-season of solitude, Friday the 13th has just become Yankees Night.  The latest word is the Yankees have signed former Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.  Based on recent reports, I had expected Kuroda to sign with the Boston Red Sox.  Bobby Valentine’s experience with Japanese players, in my mind, gave the Sox the clear advantage.  Regardless of what transpired and why he decided to come to New York (Russell Martin?), he’s an innings-eater and fits nicely in the back of the rotation.  So, if the news of Kuroda’s signing is accurate, I need to update my starting rotation…CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and Kuroda (although an argument could be made for why Hughes should be at the back end of the rotation).  The wild card is Hughes, so do the Yankees keep Burnett for long relief and a potential return to the starting rotation if Hughes falters or do they simply cut their losses?  I suspect that it will be the latter with Freddy Garcia held in reserve.  I also think this virtually confirms that we’ll see Dellin Betances and/or Manny Banuelos in the starting rotation at some point during the season.

My second favorite team is my National League favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers, so I have to say that I enjoyed the starts I saw from Kuroda in his Dodger days.  He may be older, but he’s a quality pitcher.  He’s not going to shut down the opposition but he’s going to keep you in the game.  I would have preferred Edwin Jackson if no other reason than age (and Jackson’s ability to occasionally be a very dominating pitcher).  But still, it’s hard to find fault with the Kuroda signing.  I’d rather go with Kuroda over Roy Oswalt.  I’ve got to believe that the Yankees figured out the game plan for A.J. Burnett before the events of today unfolded so it’s likely that another deal is forthcoming before pitchers and catchers head for Tampa next month.

The fingerprints of Cash or Hal?…

I always wonder on these types of days if these moves were effected by GM Brian Cashman or if Hank and Hal Steinbrenner got bored and decided to take matters into their own hands.  I am not sure that there’s a move out there that could excite me at this point, but there’s no question the Yankees have a better rotation.  My primary concern still remains a quality backup third baseman for those inevitable A-Rod absences (i.e., trips to the DL).  But now, with Montero in Seattle and Posada on the beach waiting for Old Timer’s Day, who is going to be the DH?  At the moment, it’s a DH by committee with a rotation of A-Rod, Andruw Jones, and others.  It does make one believe that there is a potential acquisition for a veteran hitter in the making.  Bring back Johnny Damon?  It’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

The sleeping giant has awakened…

I know the Yankees objective is to get under $189 million in salary by 2014, but the team is always a sleeping giant.  If the Texas Rangers can come up with $51 million just to talk to Yu Darvish, you know the Yankees are capable of so much more.  It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks unfold.  After a season of inactivity, the Hot Stove League just got warmed up for the Yankees…

–Scott

Time to look to October…

The 2011 AL East Division Champions…

 

Most importantly, congratulations to the New York Yankees for their AL East Division Championship.  They should have been AL East Champions last season but stumbled in the final days of the season to allow them to be eclipsed by the Tampa Bay Rays.  So, fortunately, the Yankees have returned to their rightful throne!  Well, at least for September.  Come October, nothing less than a World Series Championship is acceptable!

 

So, I was only half right…

 

Admittedly, I am surprised the way this season has played out.  At the beginning of the season, I had picked the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies as the World Series participants.  The Phillies still look like the odds-on favorite at this point given their stellar starting pitching, but the Red Sox have faded oh so quickly.  I remember listening to Sox fans who were predicting at least 114 wins or more for their revamped Red Sox, and while I openly scoffed at the notion, there was a part of me that was concerned that the Red Sox did have the necessary personnel to pull off a magical season.  The chances for the magical season faded quickly when pitcher Clay Buchholz was lost for the season, but the Red Sox had charged back after a sluggish start and were in the thick of things at the end of August.  Up to that point, the Red Sox had played the Yankees very aggressively with a significant advantage in the season series.  They showed they had the offense to destroy virtually any pitcher on any given night, and there is no doubt that Adrian Gonzalez is perfectly suited for Fenway Park.  But sadly for the Sox, the calendar turned to September and the deteriorated pitching staff started to show the stress and strain of the long season.  Still, I didn’t expect the free fall that has currently left the Sox tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card slot, while the Yankees have wrapped up the division championship and best record in the AL.  I never dreamed that the Yankees would be in position to walk to the finish line.

 

Pitching, pitching, pitching…

 

My lack of faith in the Yankees at the beginning of the season was due primarily to the pitching staff.  I was concerned about A.J. Burnett and his ability to bounce back from a disastrous season (and rightfully so).  I did not think the Yankees could replace Andy Pettitte with two scrapheap pitchers in Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  Plus, the Yankees were placing much emphasis on Phil Hughes who, despite his 18-win season, had not proven that he was a reliable and dependable starter.  Rounding out the rotation was a rookie pitcher (Ivan Nova), who had not even been mentioned in the same breath with Yankees prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.   With CC Sabathia followed by a cast of characters, I did not see how the Yankees could compete with the Red Sox and felt that the Wild Card was the team’s best hope.  Now, I am very delighted that I was wrong.  While Burnett and Hughes have been disappointments, Ivan Nova has been huge and is now the second best pitcher in the rotation.  Garcia and Colon have been terrific even if Colon seems to be wearing down at this point in the season.  Garcia is definitely a play-off caliber starting pitcher.  If the Yanks go with a four man rotation, then the 4th man should be Burnett.  But he’ll have a very short leash with Colon and Hughes potentially in the bullpen.

 

Don’t play Poker with Brian Cashman…

 

If I had been the GM, I am sure that I would have made some impulsive and regrettable move at the trading deadline.  GM Brian Cashman, on the other hand, stood pat and played with the hand he was dealt.  In retrospect, he looks like a hero (which includes his anti-Rafael Soriano stance in the spring).  I hope the Yankees do whatever it takes to ensure Cash’s return to the Bronx.  I am sure that there would be significantly less stress in Chicago with the Cubs or some other major league team, but nobody understands New York better than Cash.  I definitely think the Steinbrenners need Cashman more than he needs them.  Hopefully, they’ll recognize it and make sure that Cashman is re-signed.

 

Passing of the Guard…

 

If the Yankees have learned anything in September (aside from the importance of quality starting pitching in watching the Sox freefall), it’s that Jesus Montero is ready for The Show.  This does not bode well for Jorge Posada who is most likely playing his final year in Yankee pinstripes.  If he continues his career season, it will be tough to see him play in different team colors.  My only request would be for him not to go to Boston or Tampa.  It’s always tough to see players cross those lines, and if it were me, I’d retain the respect for the Yankees and walk away from the AL East.

 

He surprised me yet again…

 

Count me as one of the skeptics in Ozzie Guillen’s decision to orchestrate his departure from the Chicago White Sox so that he could join the Florida Marlins.  While I realize that Guillen will sell tickets in Miami, I don’t see it as a good fit with ownership.  I am still not quite sure how someone could have issues with Joe Girardi, but fortunately, Miami did and he’s the highly successful manager of the Yankees.  But Joe is far less out-spoken than Guillen, so if Joe’s comments got him into trouble, what’s going to happen with Guillen who always openly and freely speaks whatever is on his mind.  I had always heard that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf loved Ozzie like a son, so there’s no way the relationship in Miami will be anything comparable.  His on the field performance had better outweigh the baggage that comes with Ozzie as your manager.  He may regret taking the money and running…

 

Two game sabbatical from ‘Red Sox Suck!’…

 

With the Red Sox and Rays tied for the Wild Card tonight, I’ll have to go with the Red Sox as my preferred team to advance.  I don’t think the Sox will be the easier opponent in the play-offs but that doesn’t concern me.  I’ve always believed that you have to ‘beat the best to be the best’.  This comes down to respect and I simply respect the Red Sox more…

 

–Scott

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