Results tagged ‘ Jason Varitek ’

All Hail the Red Sox Nation…


The first win of the season
goes to my friend Julia, of Julia’s Rants
Despite an 0-6 start to the season, the Boston Red Sox were able to
capture their first two wins of the season in this past weekend’s series
against the New York Yankees.


Red Sox.JPG


With the loss, I have to
write about what’s right with the Red Sox and what’s wrong with the Yankees.  So, here it goes…


Why the Boston Red Sox will win…

Pitching, pitching, pitching.  Say what you
will about Dice-K, but the Red Sox have, arguably, the best starting rotation
in the American League.  Jon Lester has
been one of my favorite pitchers and will be a Cy Young candidate when the
season is over.  Despite some early
season struggles, I definitely feel that Clay Buchholz is one of the up and
coming stars and will be solid over the course of the long season.  I know that the third starter, John Lackey,
has also struggled, but I feel very strongly that he’ll find his niche in
Boston and will consistently put the Sox in a position to win.  Josh Beckett, if he continues to pitch like
he did on Sunday, is back.  The Yankees
have a rookie in the 4th spot…the Sox have a former ace and one who
is capable of pitching like the elite pitcher he once was. 

You can say that the Yankees
have the better bullpen, but if Jonathan Papelbon falters, the Sox have several
fallback options in former Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks and future
closer Daniel Bard.  They have reliable
arms in the pen, and have a proven long man in a guy the Yankees are well
familiar with (Alfredo Aceves).  The gap
between the Sox and Yankee pens won’t be as big as experts may believe,
especially since the Sox will be able to be more selective in relief with a
superior rotation that is able to go much deeper into games. 

Adrian Gonzalez.  Count me as one of those who
believe that Gonzalez will be a monster at Fenway Park.  He counteracts anything the Yankees have with
Mark Teixeira plus he has the intangibles.  
A few years back, I was constantly looking up to see the highlights of
David Ortiz with another walk-off home run. 
I fully expect Gonzalez to be that guy for the Sox, and he is going to
win games with both his bat and his glove. 

Disruption.  Once Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury get
going (it’s a question of when, not if), the Sox are going to be very
disruptive for opposing pitchers. 
Singlehandedly, they have the ability to change the complexion and
momentum of games. 

The forgotten hitter.  For all the
headlines the newest additions have gotten and the return of players who were
injured last year (like Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia), it is easy to forget that
this lineup still features third baseman Kevin Youkilis.  Youk is one of the best clutch hitters in
baseball, and teams will be so focused on stopping Crawford and Gonzalez that
they’ll lose sight of Youk…and will pay a high price for it. 

The dead will rise.  It is easy
for people to write off David Ortiz and Jason Varitek given their respective
ages, however, they are both consummate professionals who can still perform at
a high level.  Like the Toby Keith song
goes, ‘I may not be a good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was’.  There’s no doubt that these two will figure
prominently in Sox wins over the summer. 

The bench.  If there is anything I’ve learned about the
Sox, it is to never underestimate the power of Theo.  Time and again, names come out of nowhere to
lead the Sox to victory.  They had a
chance to catch the Yankees last September despite fielding a roster of
unknowns.  Even on Tuesday night’s game,
the first run of the game came courtesy of a home run by Darnell McDonald.  It wasn’t that long ago the Yankees wanted
Mike Cameron as their centerfielder, and here he is backing up the Sox
regulars.  I don’t care if the player’s name
is Dork Fumblefingers.  If he puts on a
Sox uniform, he is most likely going to hit game winning home runs and make
highlight reel catches in the outfield.

Terry Francona.  When the Sox lose, Francona
detractors seem to come out of the woodwork, but he is, in my opinion, the best
manager in baseball.  The only place with
greater expectations than New York might just be Boston, yet Terry is always a
show of class and his decision making skills show a deft understanding of now
and the future (i.e., the season).  He
garners the most of his roster, and I have no doubt that he’ll right the ship
despite the slow start to the 2011 season. 
With the Sox standing at 2-8 entering play tonight, people are quick to
say how poorly comparable teams have finished. 
I will argue that when the season is done, the Sox will be the model of
the franchise that was able to successfully overcome such a poor start.  In future years, when a team goes on a losing
streak to start the season, the media will be saying ‘but the 2011 Red Sox were
able to overcome…’. 

Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino, and John Henry.  These
gentlemen took a franchise that was “cursed” from the 1923 trade that sent Babe
Ruth
to the Yankees, and eradicated the word “curse” from the Red Sox
vocabulary.  I also have not heard any
mention of Bucky Friggin’ Dent in several years.  These guys have successfully brought two
world championships to Boston, and there is no doubt that they’ll have a third
one in the not-so-distant future (much to my chagrin). 

The RSN.  The fan base for the Sox is the most
passionate and fervent of any that I’ve experienced.  I am not saying that Yankees fans aren’t
passionate, but Sox fans are like no other. 
They stuck by their team when championships were only something their
grandparents or great-grandparents had ever experienced.  Yankees fans get spoiled by championships in
almost every decade.  The Sox fans have a
greater understanding and appreciation of what it means to be a true
champion.  I am not one of them, but I
respect them. 


Why the Yankees won’t win…

Pitching, pitching, pitching.  As great as
CC Sabathia is, he is still not a sure thing. 
He has his moments where he struggles. 
I know, like all pitchers, but there is something special when a pitcher
like Roy Halladay takes the mound.  Win
or lose, you expect the team to win.  I
expect the Yankees to win when CC is on the mound, but it is not with the
confidence that I’d have if Halladay were a Yankee.  After CC, there is nothing but question
marks.  A.J. Burnett has pitched well to
start the season, but he always starts good. 
It is how he finishes.  If he
reverts to 2010 A.J., the Yankees are toast. 
Phil Hughes and the decreased velocity are a concern.  He finished poorly last season, and he has
yet to pitch lights out this year.  At
this point, I am really not sure what Hughes lies ahead.  After Hughes is a rookie, Ivan Nova, who has
pitched well, but how will he perform the second time around when opposing
lineups get used to him?  Can he make the
necessary adjustments?  As it stood, the
ceiling for Nova was much lower than it is for guys like Brian Matusz or Jeremy
Hellickson
(or even Michael Pineda).  Is
he in the rotation because he has the potential to be great or is it because
none of the other prospects are ready.  I
remain fearful that it’s the latter.  I’ve
heard that Nova’s future is in the pen, and that doesn’t bode well for the
rotation.  In the fifth spot, who
knows.  Freddy Garcia has yet to pitch
due to rain delays.  Bartolo Colon is
waiting in the wings if Garcia stumbles, as are Kevin Millwood and Carlos
Silva
None of the options instill
confidence.

The bullpen looks great on
paper, but already this season, there have been failures by Rafael Soriano and
Joba ChamberlainPedro Feliciano is on
the DL and I heard that he had a setback today. 
Luis Ayala is headed for the DL so the Yankees are already looking to
Scranton-Wilkes Barre for replacements. 
One of these years, Mariano Rivera is actually going to show his
age.  Will this be the year?

Aging lineup.  Mark Teixeira is already
31?  Seriously, we are already in the
midst of another April chill for Tex.  He
started strong this year (thanks to Opening Day in March), but he went 0-fer
against the Sox.  He was as much responsible
for me writing this post as anyone. 
Derek Jeter has continued to show his age and is providing evidence that
his down season in 2010 may be a sign of things to come.  Jorge Posada feels like a fish out of water
at DH.  He’s done at catcher so where’s
his long-term potential with this team? 
Alex Rodriguez looked great during spring training, but he is getting
older.  Question marks continue to dog
Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner.  The
Yankees are a great offensive club, but their hitters just don’t put fear in
you.  If they don’t hit, they can be beat
as Josh Beckett proved on Sunday night. 
In October, you’re facing the best pitchers in baseball.  If the Yankees can’t hit the best, they can’t
be the best.

The bench.  Don’t get me wrong…I love Eric Chavez and I
am glad that he’s a Yankee.  But I am
concerned that injuries may force the Yankees to play Chavez more than they
should, exposing him to potential injury. 
What if Derek Jeter is done?  Is
Nunez ready to take over at short?  I really
don’t expect this to be the year that Jeter goes south, but you have to
recognize that it could happen.  It
eventually happens to all superstars

Hank Steinbrenner.  Eventually,
Hank is going to make an impulsive move that he’ll regret.  I am sure that he has a Jay Buhner like trade
that he’ll force causing the Yankees to relinquish a prime prospect for an
aging past-his-prime veteran in an effort to shake things up.
 

The off-season.  As difficult as last season was,
there is the potential that this off-season will be even more difficult.  CC Sabathia can opt out of his contract, as
can Rafael Soriano.  If the Yankees lose
Sabathia, they won’t be able to recover. 
As the season progresses, the Sabathia opt-out is going to get more and
more ink.  Hopefully, it doesn’t become a
distraction.

Who knows that the 2011
season holds in store for the Yankees and the Red Sox, but I can assure you,
that both teams will be in the thick of things come September.  I will never be fooled by Boston’s slow start.  This is a very dangerous team and one that
can never be underestimated. 

Clearly, I want the Yankees
to win, and I am hopeful they will, but Boston, even at 2-9, is still the best
team in the American League from top to bottom. 
That may change by the trading deadline, but as it stands today, the Sox
are still a team capable of 100 wins.

Julia, I’m out…

–Scott

 

Fat and Happy in Oakland…

 

Geesh, do we really have to leave Oakland?…

 

 

 

McAfee.JPG

 

 

 

The three game series against the Oakland A’s was perhaps the most stress free, relaxing series the Yankees have enjoyed this season.  Usually, they get much resistance from the A’s but not this series.  The Yankees completed the three game sweep on Wednesday night with a 6-2 win.

 

A.J. Burnett continued to show that he is a much better pitcher under the tutelage of pitching coach Dave Eiland.  Burnett’s struggles came while Eiland was on a leave of absence, and his improvement has coincided with Eiland’s return.  A.J. went 7 innings and only gave up 5 hits and 2 runs.  He struck out 3 batters, while walking 2.  He improved to 7-7 and lowered his ERA to 4.75. 

 

 

Yankees starter A.J. Burnett snaps a six-game losing streak with seven strong innings Wednesday and gets a lift from Nick Swisher, who belts a solo homer in the sixth inning.

Ben Margot/AP

 

The A’s starter, Gio Gonzalez, successfully weaved his way into and out of trouble until the 4th inning when Ramiro Pena and Derek Jeter had run-scoring singles to go with Mark Teixeira’s 3-run homer as the Yankees erupted for 5 runs.  It would prove to be the only runs they would need, although Nick Swisher added a solo homer in the 6th. 

 

 

 

John G. Mabanglo/EPA

 

The late innings were quiet under the supervision of Damaso Marte and Joba Chamberlain as the Yankees picked up their 53rd win of the year.  Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Rays kept pace with the defending World Champs as they completed a sweep of the Boston Red Sox.  The Rays are 2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East standings, while the Red Sox fell to 4 ½ games.  Hey Julia, what is that speck in the mirror?  Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem so close anymore!  ;)

 

The Final Man Vote is in, and so is Nick Swisher!  As if the Yankees didn’t have enough attendees for this year’s All-Star Game, Nick Swisher will tagging along with Derek Jeter and company for next week’s All-Star Game in Anaheim.  Both of my Final Man votes made it to the All-Star Game, as I also supported the NL selection, Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.  Congratulations to both Nick and Joey! 

 

 

The Star Ledger

 

 

First baseman Joey Votto made an immediate impact with the Reds last September, hitting .321 in 24 games with four home runs and 17 runs batted in. (David Kohl/Associated Press)

David Kohl/AP

 

 

I am nearing the end of my “forced” spotlight on Boston Red Sox players (courtesy of a lost wager with Julia of Julia’s Rants).  Originally, I had to write a paragraph about all 25 members on Boston’s June 26th roster.  However, Julia was gracious enough to reduce my sentence to 10 players for good behavior.  :D  So far, I have completed 7 profiles, so this will be my 8th.  Just two more to go.  For this post, I am going to go with the Captain…

 

 

 

#33    Jason Varitek

 

Jason is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a broken right foot, but he was on the active roster as of 6/26/10.

 

 

 

Image: Varitek

Winslow Townson/AP

 

Tek, as he is affectionately referred to by the RSN, was born April 11, 1972 in Rochester, Michigan.  He enjoyed baseball success and glory at a very early age as his team won the 1984 Little League World Series (Altamonte Springs, FL).  The team would lose the world championship game to a team from Seoul, South Korea, the international champion, but it was only the beginning of championship and personal success for young Jason.

 

In high school in Altamonte Springs, he was catcher and third baseman for the 1990 state champions.  In 1992, he was a member of the U.S. Olympic Team and was recognized as the National Collegiate Player of the Year.  The next year, he was named Baseball America’s College Player of the Year.  Along with Nomar Garciaparra, he would lead his college team, Georgia Tech, to the 1994 College World Series title game (which they lost to the Oklahoma Sooners).

 

Tek was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1994 and joined their system in 1995.  In perhaps one of the most foolish trades of recent memory, the Mariners sent Tek and pitcher Derek Lowe to the Boston Red Sox for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb in 1997.  At the time, I didn’t know much about Varitek or Lowe, but I remember thinking that it was a lot for a guy that had been a journeyman reliever at best.  Little did I know that it would help set into a motion the grand plan to end the Curse of the Bambino.

 

Tek made it to the Show for a single at-bat in September 1997, but he was up for good in 1998, sharing catching duties with Scott Hatteberg.  His leadership qualities really began to took hold in 2003, the year the team lost the ALCS to the Yankees, thanks to Aaron Boone’s home run.  The next year, he would be one of the driving forces behind the team’s run to the World Series championship (their first in 86 years). 

 

 


Tek.JPG 

 

Courtesy NESN.com

 

 

Following the championship season, Tek has named the third Captain in Red Sox history behind Carl “Yaz” Yastrzemski and Jim Rice. 

 

Jason would go on to win a second World Championship with the Red Sox in 2007.  He has caught a major league record 4 no-hitters (Hideo Nomo, 2001; Derek Lowe, 2002; Clay Buchholz, 2007; and Jon Lester, 2008).

 

Tek is on the downside of a great playing career, but his potential as a future manager is huge.  There is no doubt that 2007 was not the last championship that he will experience in his career.  I can only hope that it will come after his Red Sox playing days are a distant memory.  George Steinbrenner always takes great pride in his “warriors”, and it goes without question that Tek is a warrior and a champion.   

 

Just 2 more to go… 

 

 

Why Do We Always Worry About THEM?…

 

How can we enjoy the Championship off-season when the Red Sox are just so darn busy?…

 

 

The champagne on the Yankee Stadium clubhouse floor hadn’t dried when it was announced that the Red Sox had acquired promising outfielder Jeremy Hermida from the Florida Marlins.  Hermida, 25, has underachieved in Miami but something tells me that he is about to blossom in Beantown.

 

Roger Williams/UPI 

 

As expected, the Red Sox exercised the option for Victor Martinez, the 2010 starting catcher and they re-signed the ageless Tim Wakefield for two years.  The team did not pick up the option of former starting catcher Jason Varitek, however, I fully expect him to exercise his player option for a return in 2010 to back up Martinez.  I agree with Julia that Tek is a manager in waiting so I see next year as a transition year to coaching.  It would not surprise me at all to see him on Terry Francona’s staff in 2011.

 

Bob Breidenbach/The Providence Journal 

 

As much as I would like to see Jason Bay sign with the Yankees, I fully expect him to return to Boston.  I think the Yankees need a solid addition for the outfield, but I do not expect them to pursue either Bay or Matt Holliday.  I’d like to see them pursue someone like Jeremy Hermida…oops, too late!  Nevertheless, I am sure that there are other deals that could be made under the radar for a potential horse.

 

AP 

There have been rumors that Boston will acquire San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  That’s a deal, if it happens, which would not surprise me and would significantly strengthen the Sox.

 

Adrian Gonzalez

Brad Mangin/Sport Illustrated 

 

That, in turn, could force the Yanks to be major players for Angels starter John Lackey.  Imagine Lackey as the #2 starter behind CC Sabathia, sliding A.J. Burnett to third.  That would be a top trio in baseball, and one that would virtually guarantee a return to the post-season next year.

 

perlman_lackey_angels.JPG

William Perlman/The Star Ledger 

 

I hope this off-season does not turn into another Brett Favre-like ordeal with pitcher Andy Pettitte.  If Andy wants to come back for at least one more year, and I think he does, the Yanks should move quickly to wrap him up on a one year deal.  The Red Sox showed Tim Wakefield much respect by how quickly they tore up his contract and signed him to a new two-year deal.  The Yankees need to give Andy the same respect.

 

Andy Pettitte, Angels, Yankees, pitcher

Jae C. Hong/AP

 

I saw that the Los Angeles Dodgers announced that Joe Torre’s staff would return intact for 2010.  It will be Torre’s final year on his current contract, although I read he is in negotiations for a new contract.  During his final years, I remember always hearing how his wife wanted him to retire and spend time with their daughter.  Here we are years later and the daughter is getting older.  Yet, Torre continues to manage.  Maybe he just can’t get managing out of his blood.  I hope it is something more like that than possible revenge against the Yankee brass or the desire to prove that he can win without the support of the Steinbrenner’s money.  I don’t want to take away from Don Mattingly but if he wants to be a future manager, is hitting coach the right spot?  I have always heard that Bench Coach or Third Base are better positions for future managers.  I still think that Donnie Baseball will replace Torre as Dodgers manager, however, it looks like it may be a few more years.

 

Don

latimes.com

 

Pedro Feliz may have hit a home run in Game 4 of the World Series, however, it didn’t take the Philadelphia Phillies long to say goodbye to their third baseman.  Thanks for all you do Pedro, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

 

AP

 

Why is my worst fear that the Yankees will be staring at Roy Halladay on the mound when April 5, 2010 rolls around?  I hope not, but of course, I am sure that a certain Red Sox blog will be gleefully delighted…

 

Paul Battaglia/AP 

Mission (nearly) Accomplished!…

 

The day brought several victories on the homefront…

 

Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP

 

The Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox, 3-0, on Saturday behind the stellar pitching of CC Sabathia.  The game featured the potent formula that the Yankees hope will take them deep into October.

CC Sabathia + Phil Hughes + Mariano Rivera = Win, Hold, and Save!

CC was locked into a pitchers’ duel with Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Dice-K pitched masterfully on the day.  His only mistake was a pitch left out over the plate with Robinson Cano batting to lead off the 6th inning.  Cano took advantage of the opportunity, and gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead with his career high 24th home run of the season.  It would be the only run that CC needed.

 

Credit:  Bill Kostroun/AP 

 

It would have been the final score except for an error in the 8th inning by Red Sox third baseman Chris Woodward.  The Sox had speedster Brett Gardner caught in a rundown between third and home, but Woodward couldn’t handle a throw from catcher Victor Martinez.

 

Credit:  Bill Kostroun/AP

 

The play extended the inning and allowed Johnny Damon to bat after Derek Jeter struck out with the bases loaded.  Damon delivered a two-run single to raise the score to 3-0.

 

Credit:  Henny Ray Abrams/AP

 

I realize that Red Sox manager Terry Francona is playing for October, as evidenced by his starting lineup (possible future Yankees left fielder Jason Bay had the day off).  Nevertheless, Yankees manager Joe Girardi is clearly playing for the AL East Championship.  I am sure that once the Yanks clinch the division, we’ll see a lineup that includes Shelley Duncan, Juan Miranda, and Ramiro Pena, with Josh Towers on the mound.  For now, the Magic Number is 1 and the Yankees have a game to win.

 

 

Their next victory will be the 100th of the season.  Joe Girardi’s second season has been very successful, so far.  CC has played a huge role (no pun intended) in the team’s success.  I know Zack Greinke is being highly touted for the AL Cy Young Award, but the Kansas City Royals reside in the cellar of the AL Central.  Without Greinke, they’d still be among the AL’s worst teams.  Felix Hernandez has also pitched great this season, but the Mariners season will be coming to an end in about a week.  CC Sabathia, on the other hand, has the Yankees at the doorstep of the AL East Championship.  Without CC, it’s likely the AL East pennant chase would have been much closer or perhaps Boston would have been in the lead.  So, in my mind, CC has made a much greater difference on his team’s success than Greinke or King Felix.  Admittedly, the Cy Young is for individual accomplishment, but CC leads the AL with 19 wins and is fourth in ERA (3.21).  He hasn’t lost a game since late July and he has been the true definition of an ace for the Yankees.  I know that Greinke has an ERA of 2.08, with 229 strikeouts, but seriously, there’s more pressure pitching in the Bronx against the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays than facing the Chicago White Sox in Kansas City.

 

Credit:  Bill Kostroun/AP

 

By taking the first two games of the latest series, the Yankees accomplished several objectives besides cutting the Magic Number to 1.  First, I am the winner of the latest wager with Julia of Julia’s Rants.  As her penalty for losing, Julia will once again grace us with a pro-Yankees blog entry.  She’ll post a list of Top 11 Yankees players, past or present (and can include managers).  The list will be in no certain order or ranking; she can simply choose 11 Yankees she feels have made a difference in the game.  I would like to see a mix of different eras, including the present, but it will be up to Julia to decide.  She will also be forced to wear a Yankees t-shirt in photographs near famous Boston landmarks.  The pink Yankees hat is optional.

 

 

I had a tough time trying to decide what t-shirt Julia should wear.  My initial thought was to go with the player I felt was most instrumental in the series win.  Despite CC’s great performance yesterday, the table was set on Friday night with the hitting (and stealing) show put on by Alex Rodriguez.  However, A-Rod has certain past indiscretions that made him an illogical choice.  I thought about Robinson Cano or CC, but I really wanted someone that represented the Yankees like no other.  With that in mind, the choice became clear.  “I’m Not A Headline Guy” is a tribute to Lou Gehrig so it is only right that Julia must wear a #4 jersey…

 

Lou Gehrig Yankees MLB Prostyle Player T-shirt

 

The second benefit of the Yankees victory is they have denied the Red Sox the opportunity to break champagne on Yankee Stadium soil.  If they had clinched the Wild Card slot while in the Bronx, they would have become the first team to break bubbly at the new stadium.  However, with two Sox losses and a win by the Texas Rangers yesterday, Boston’s Magic Number stands at 3, making it impossible to clinch on Sunday.  As a result, the Yankees are the only team with the chance to spill some champagne today so life is good…

 

Champagne.JPG

 

Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe wrote “Today might be a good day to employ the half-full theory.  Cover your eyes, let the Yankees celebrate, and think about October”.

 

Credit:  Henny Ray Abrams/AP

 

Yes, today is our day to celebrate.  It is time for the Yankees to put closure on the AL East Championship!  Tomorrow, we can join the RSN in thinking about October!

 

 

By the way, nice play by Boston’s Victor Martinez. 

 

Credit:  Henny Ray Abrams/AP

 

It’s the changing of the guard in Boston, as Jason Varitek makes his way to the exit door.  Tek has been a worthy opponent, and I am sure that we’ve not seen the last of #37 who is a future manager waiting to happen…

 

Credit:  Boston.com

 

Go Yankees!

 

Credit:  Simmons/Daily News

 

P.S.  Congratulations to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes for their 21-10 victory over the fifth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday night.  The Hawkeyes upset Penn State last year, so the Nittany Lions were seeking revenge.  It was not meant to be as the unranked Hawks moved to 4-0 on the season.  As a lifetime Hawkeyes fan, success has been very fleeting so it’s always a great time when they can play with the big boys.  J

 

Credit:  Matthew Holst/Press Citizen

 

P.S.S.  Good luck to A.J. Burnett’s father, who undergoes surgery on Monday.  Bill Burnett will have triple-bypass surgery.  A.J.’s start was pushed back to Tuesday so that he could make the trip to Arkansas to be with his dad.  Best wishes for a successful surgery, followed by a speedy recovery!

 

Credit:  abcnews.com

Swishing Their Way to Victory…

“Did You?”

 

Getty Images

He did. 

Borrowing a phrase that Nick Swisher yells when a teammate hits a home run, Swisher went yard again in the Yankees’ 6-1 win against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.

Originally penciled in for left field (with Johnny Damon scheduled for the bench), Swisher became a last minute replacement at first base for Mark Teixeira.  Teixeira, who celebrates his 29th birthday today, has been bothered by a sore left wrist.  He believes it was injured late last week in Baltimore, and it hurts to bat right-handed (the Royals had a lefty starting tonight’s game).  Nevertheless, Swisher has been on a roll and Saturday night was no exception. 

Swisher walked in the first inning, and scored on a two-run double by Jorge Posada.  In the third, he tripled to right, scoring Derek Jeter.  In the fifth inning, he homered to left with one man on.  He walked to lead off the 7th inning, but was left stranded when the Royals proceeded to strike out the side.  He quietly flied out to left in the ninth inning, but the game was firmly in hand at 6-0.  The Royals did score a run in the bottom of the 9th, but thanks to Swisher’s heroics, the Yankees now have a winning record at 3-2.

CC Sabathia went 7 2/3 innings with six hits, no runs, and six strikeouts to earn his first victory as a New York Yankee.  This was the CC we have waited to see.  Hopefully, there will be an encore performance next week when CC opens the new Yankee Stadium against his former team, the Cleveland Indians.

C.C. Sabathia Picture

Nick Laham/Getty Images North America

Swisher, the son of former Chicago Cubs catcher Steve Swisher, was a 2002 draft pick of the Oakland A’s.  Ironically, the pick originally belonged to the Boston Red Sox, but the A’s were awarded the pick for the free agent loss of Johnny Damon.

Adrian Wyld/AP 

If Swisher’s website motto is accurate, he’ll be playing very hard tonight in Kansas City.  Be careful, Mr. Swisher.  We need you tomorrow…

OTHER NOTES

·        Cody Ransom is now batting .056 after 0-for4 night.  Ugh.  I didn’t want to begin the season with Cody, and it has only gotten worse.  At this point, I’d be willing to give Justin Leone or Eric Duncan an opportunity.  Given that Jose Guillen is hurt, it is unlikely that the Royals would consider moving Mark Teahen at this point.  I am surprised that the Yankees didn’t make a move for Dallas McPherson when he was released by the Florida Marlins, but he was signed today by the San Francisco Giants.

·        The St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols homered twice and drove in seven RBI’s tonight in an 11-2 win over the Houston Astros.  I think this is Pujols’ world and the rest of us just live in it.  The guy is clearly the best thing going right now…

·        Thanks to the loss by Julia‘s Boston Bruins today, the San Jose Sharks secured the NHL’s best record and President’s Trophy with a mark of 53-18-11.  The Sharks haven’t played well of late, but hopefully, they’ll reignite it for the play-offs.  I am hopeful for a Stanley Cup clash between the Sharks and the Bruins. 

·        Speaking of birthdays, it was also Jason Varitek’s birthday today.  He was 2-for-3 in Boston’s 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels.  Happy Birthday, ‘Tek!  But I still don’t like you…

 

The Yankees conclude their series in Kansas City on Sunday, and head to Tampa to play a big early season series against the Rays.  Swish, we’re glad that you’ll be making the trip… 

 

 

Have a Happy Easter, Everyone!

–Scott

As Fonz would say, I was “wr…wro…wr…”…

CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS, CONTINUED…

Upon second thought, I will acquiesce to the opinion that confidentiality agreements would not be a good thing.  First and foremost, it would have to be cleared through a collective bargaining agreement between management and the player’s association, and that would never happen.  If the Yankees were able to incorporate the language into their contracts for players, coaches and management without league consent, there would be potential negative implications in terms of trying to attract future free agents to New York.  It doesn’t seem that long ago when it was difficult for the Yankees to attract top free agent talent without severely overpaying.  The Yankees successfully changed the perception in recent years, and the Bronx became a very attractive place to play.  But the presence of a confidentiality agreement or clause in a Yankees contract could cause player to accept less from other teams without the same verbiage (knowing that they potentially would have greater revenue opportunities after baseball). 

In the end, I think the person most hurt by Joe Torre’s book, The Yankee Years, is Joe Torre.  Regardless of whether the negative backlash was deserved or not, Torre will have to work hard to make amends. 

I would not want to lose the opportunity to read future books that provide actual insight into the details of specific seasons and teams.  So, I agree that a disparagement clause in Yankee contracts would be inappropriate.

NO MORE FREE AGENTS

As I read MLB.com’s report that the Yankees cannot sign more than three Type A or B Free Agents (excluding their own) under the terms of the collectively bargained rules established by management and the player’s association, I can’t help but wonder why this wasn’t brought to light sooner.  I personally do not think that the rule plays any part in the Yankees desire to add no further free agents.  I think economics played a greater part (the state of the US economy and the Steinbrenner family’s desire to stay under last year’s payroll).  But it’s funny that this rule wasn’t mentioned by anyone sooner.  Apparently, the Yankees could have requested an increase in the quota since the total number of Type A and B Free Agents exceeded 62, but they did not (which supports the argument that they’ve simply reached their appetite for player salaries).

So much for my gluttonous dream of Manny in pinstripes!

UPDATE:  It is now being reported that this was revised to no more than 8 Type A or B free agent signings due to the expanded pool of free agent players.  I thought it was weird that nothing was said about the limit before.  Nevertheless, I think the Yankees are done.  With the settlement of the arbitration case with Brian Bruney, the Yankees’ total salary is just under $200M with a few more contract issues to be resolved (however, no more arbitration cases remain).  Unless salaries are going out, I just don’t see any further free agent signings… 

OTHER THOUGHTS…

It’s almost humorous to hear David Wells’ comments about Joe Torre given how much time and energy Wells put into being a distraction himself.  But, based on quotes over the years and the recent events, I find much truth in the following Wells’ quote:

“I’ve always said if you weren’t Joe’s boy, he could care less about you. … Don’t get me wrong, he is not a bad manager.  I just thought he was a bad individual, because of the fact he didn’t treat everybody the same.”

And of course, to hear comments from Carl Pavano is even more humorous.  For all the negative things that have been said about Pavano (and deservedly so), I also think he has displayed the right attitude in his response.  I particularly liked the quote that ended with “…it does explain why I haven’t received any Christmas cards from Joe the last few years.”

In addition to reading the book, I will be anxious to hear what Torre has to say on David Letterman next week (Wednesday, February 3rd).  Hopefully, Dave won’t pitch softballs to Torre…

Torre’s first interview is scheduled for tonight on “Larry King Live”. 

Today is deadline day for Jason Varitek.  On the surface, it doesn’t look like this is going to end well.  Hopefully, Jason can set aside his pride, and accept the Red Sox offer.  It’s not like it would be a struggle to get by on only $5 million (at least not from my perspective).  I do feel that the Red Sox have handled the negotiations fairly, and to a degree, you could say they’ve been generous to a player who has meant so much to them.  Hopefully, the two sides can come together later today.  The Yankees-Red Sox battles just wouldn’t be the same without Varitek in the Boston dugout.  Hopefully, there will be another scene like this later today…

General Manager Theo Epstein of the Red Sox, left, introducing catcher Jason Varitek as the team's captain. 

(Courtesy Associated Press and the New York Times)

UPDATE:  Varitek agreed to the contract later in the day.  One year at $5 million, plus a second year club option for $5 million or player option for $3 million.   

 

The Day After the Texan’s Return…

THE DAY AFTER THE RETURN OF THE MAN FROM TEXAS

 

The Yankees designed pitcher Chase Wright, 26, for assignment today to make room on the 40-man roster for Andy Pettitte.  Wright is best known for giving up consecutive home runs to Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek on April 22, 2007.  If that’s not enough to get DFA’d, nothing is!  Seriously, I was surprised that the Yanks cut Chase Wright over Dan Giese.  Granted, Giese did carve a nice niche out of the pen last year, but I think Wright has better long term potential as age is certainly a factor.  I can see it now…the Yanks cut Wright after 10 days; he is quickly picked up by Boston, and returns to Yankee Stadium to throw a no-hitter for the Red Sox. 

 

Hopefully, the Yankees will be able to get something in return for Wright, which I think they most likely will.  Perhaps he will be part of a trade that involves Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher. 

 

As we get closer to spring training, I am becoming more and more reluctant to part with either Nady or Swisher.  I’d rather see them compete for the right field, and let the best Nick, errr I mean, man win. 

 

Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner , when asked about Manny Ramirez, responded “We’re out of it”.  Of course, you always have to take what Hank says with a grain of salt.  I’d find the statement to be more credible if it were coming from Hal Steinbrenner.  But, to Hank’s defense, he was the one in the organization who wanted Ramirez.  Nevertheless, you never know if the comments are continued posturing or a statement of fact.  Given the payroll and economical concerns, I do think the Yankees won’t pursue Ramirez.  But then again, they are the Yankees and they play in a completely different universe. 

 

MORE ON JOE TORRE

 

It is interesting to see the retractions and backpedaling by Tom Verducci and Joe Torre regarding their book, The Yankee Years.  Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that the book needs to be read in its full context before decisions and judgments are made.  But, Torre read and re-read the book, and was comfortable with its contents.  Based on David Wells book alone, you know that little snippets get leaked in advance of the book’s release so Torre had to know that anything potentially controversial would hit the streets prematurely.  Verducci said that Torre was a third person author who is being treated as the first person author by the New York media.  Torre allowed his name to be put on the book so he has to take full responsibility for its contents, regardless of who said what. 

 

I think this will die down after the book’s release, but Joe has created the very media circus that he always tried to avoid.  This will be a distraction in the Yankees camp, and I suspect that Joe will be asked more Yankee-related questions than Dodger ones when he reports to camp.  Good timing, Joe.  Hopefully, Brian Cashman is right about this incident pulling the team together, standing united with A-Rod. 

 

Joe Girardi has probably written a note to self, “Remember to trash only the Florida Marlins and Jeffrey Loria”.  Of course, the Marlins are not necessarily a guaranteed hook when writing a book so if you’re going for the dollars, aim high.

 

JASON VARITEK BELONGS IN BOSTON

 

I think Jason Varitek should accept Boston’s two year offer which includes $5 million for the first year with a second year player option of $3 million, as opposed to the one year $5 million deal.  The fact is that Varitek’s offensive production is not going to improve at this point in his career, and could very well continue to erode.  But, the intangibles that Varitek brings to the team justify his roster spot.  As captain of the team, his leadership has been strongly evident to the players and fans, which includes opponents. 

 

I read an interview with new Yankees catcher Kevin Cash, and his quotes are very telling.

 

“I’m not pro-Red Sox or pro-Jason,” Cash said. “I’m not picking sides. I just know the value of what he does in the clubhouse. That pitching staff is unbelievable. The guys they sign and the guys they develop in that organization are all talented players. I think it works both ways. I think Jason has benefited from playing with the Red Sox and having the opportunity to work with those pitchers.

 

“At the same time, every pitcher on that staff will tell you how vital a role he plays in their career and during each season.”

(Courtesy The Providence Journal)

 

Cash also mentioned how Jason goes out of his way to communicate with his pitchers, particularly when there are language barriers with someone like Daisuke Matsuzaka or Hideki Okajima.  Boston will need to lean on catchers Josh Bard or George Kottaras, or perhaps still pursue a trade for someone like Miguel Montero, but Varitek needs to be there.  To win, you want to beat the best, and Varitek makes the Red Sox better.

Catchers always make the best managers, so I see a future successful managerial career for Varitek if he so chooses…

Latest Andy Pettitte inactivity…

According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers are more interested in Jon Garland, Braden Looper and Randy Wolf than they are in Andy Pettitte.  With the Astros already saying that Andy most likely doesn’t fit within their budget, it would appear that all roads lead back to Yankee Stadium…

I am still anxious to see if Scott Boras can save face on his recommendation for Jason Varitek to decline arbitration in December.  This situation has played out badly, and clearly no one has been hurt more than Jason himself…

As promising as catching prospects Jesus Montero and Austin Romine are, I sure do wish their ETA to the major leagues was 2009 rather than 2010 or beyond (particularly considering the rumors of Jorge Posada’s desire to play for Puerto Rico in the WBC and questionable health which remains in doubt until he is able to prove he’s healthy).

Given the intensity of the start of the season schedule for the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays (the Yankees play 10 of their first 30 games against the Red Sox and Rays, the Red Sox play 14 of their first 32 games against the Yankees and Rays, and the Rays play 15 of their 33 games against the other two), it will be interesting to see how the Yankees fare out of the blocks given the Yanks recent history of slow starts…not to mention that of Mark Teixeira individually.

I am not surprised that Michael Young relented and has accepted the move to third base for the Rangers (withdrawing his trade request).  Ultimately, it was conversations with team president Nolan Ryan that persuaded Young to reconsider his stance.  But the entire situation could have been avoided had Ryan held those talks with Young before the holidays…not after.

Less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa…sweet!

I saw the quote where Derek Lowe said that he was going to love playing in Atlanta.  Of course, I had to wonder, what else is he going to say?  “Ya know, all things considered, I’d really rather be in Boston.  Why didn’t you guys try harder to sign Smoltz?”  Geez…

I saw the idea in another blog, but I like the suggestion to pry Lastings Milledge from the Nats in a trade involving either Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher (Nady being the preference at this point).  Then, put Milledge in competition with Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera in center (assuming one of them aren’t involved in the trade).  I like that line of thinking as the Yanks need to upgrade either the bottom end of the starting rotation or center field with any trade. Milledge hit 14 home runs with 61 RBI’s to go with a .268 batting average and 24 steals in 2008.   His OBP, SLG and OPS were .329/.407/.735.  At only 24 years old, his upside is still tremendous and the leadership on the Yankee roster would help his attitude.  Of course, the cost to acquire him may be too great, but that’s the type of talent that would be great for the new Yankee Stadium center field. 

 

 

 

 

 

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