Results tagged ‘ Joe Nathan ’

The Anticipation…

 

The 2013-14 Hot Stove League has opened for business…

The baseball offseason is always interesting.  In November, when the Hot Stove League open, there is more talk and speculation than real action.  There is the occasional free agent signing, like Marlon Byrd to the Philadelphia Phillies, but for the most part, it’s the most boring part of the winter. 

Baseball fans get excited as the baseball winter meeting approach in early December.  The ‘name’ free agents come off the board and there are a few major trades as teams look to improve their rosters for the coming year.

Then, in January and early February, things go quiet again until the excitement of pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training begin to fill the air. 

The key is what teams do in December.  Doing something versus doing nothing can be the difference in an invigorated fan base.  With the Boston Red Sox fresh off a championship season, the Yankees and their fans need something to be excited about.  Hope needs to be restored in the Yankees Universe.  The Steinbrenner family have an enormous responsibility of the owners of baseball’s most storied and valued franchise.  Sure, it is their right to do nothing and cut salaries if they so choose, but it is not good for baseball.  MLB needs a successful Yankees franchise as much as the fan base demands a winner.

From early indications, it does appear that Hal Steinbrenner is taking a more proactive role.  He plays down the speculation that the team is resolved in its intent to bring salaries below $189 million and he recognizes the weaknesses of the current roster.  So, what is he going to do about it?  Time will tell, as the saying goes…

I am still not 100% convinced Derek Jeter can be the player of old or just an old player.  He might be able to play a serviceable shortstop if healthy but the Yankees need more.  I want Jeter to play for the Yankees his entire career and he is clearly a future Hall of Famer but this is the season of transition for the legendary player.  He needs to work on playing other positions, whether it is third base or left field, to give the team its greatest value.  It is obvious Jeter has the ability to exceed my expectations but I think the odds are against it.  I am just being a realist.  Age doesn’t slow down for anyone.  Well, except for maybe Mariano Rivera

The “gift” that keeps on giving…

The unresolved Alex Rodriguez situation casts an ominous shadow over the team.  I believe the Yankees should proceed as if A-Rod will not be a member of the 2014 team but that’s easy for me to say.  The Yankees have to be prepared for a scenario that allows baseball’s most vile player to return to the field in 2014.  Personally, I look forward to the day A-Rod turns in his pinstripes for the final time.  I do not expect the Yankees to go out and land a premier third baseman like Evan Longoria but they need more than they had last year.  I respect Kevin Youkilis but his best years have passed by and at this point, he is too much of an injury risk to re-sign.  I heard the rumors the Yankees had talked with the St Louis Cardinals about David Freese but I don’t think that would have been the solution.  It’s too bad that former number one draft pick Eric Duncan didn’t work out as this would have been his prime opportunity to take third if he had been successful and not released.  But still, there are Scott Brosius-type third basemen that can be found. 

Betances-Robertson?…

After years of knowing the back end of the bullpen was secure, the Yankees have uncertainty.  The heir apparent to the great Mariano Rivera is top set up man David Robertson.  However, there is risk.  When Mo was lost for the season in 2012, Robertson failed in his brief audition as closer before Rafael Soriano took the role and ran with it.  I like Robertson as the key 8th inning guy but I am not convinced that translates to 9th inning success.  I really do not want an aged option like Joe Nathan as I would prefer younger arms.  My hope is for Robertson to succeed but there does need to be a safety net in case it doesn’t work out.

I am looking forward to key bullpen roles for guys like Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne, and Adam Warren.  With the right moves this winter, the Yankees bullpen should be a strength even if we no longer get to see #42 warming up. 

I do remember the sense of some uncertainty when Mariano Rivera replaced John Wetteland and that turned out well.  Granted, David Robertson will never be Mariano Rivera but he can be successful in his own right.  With the right bridge from the starters to his late inning arrival, he can be successful. 

The April Iceman Cometh…

Mark Teixeira, I really hope your wrist has healed and is stronger than ever before…

But first, or rather, but second…

The perceived success or failure of the Yankees’ offseason will be tied to a single event…whether or not they re-sign second baseman Robinson Cano.  While that’s a huge part of the 2014 equation, the true testament will be how the team bolsters the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.  Nevertheless, I hope the Yankees can retain Cano even if the player has the desire to go for top dollar regardless of who cuts the checks.

Speaking of the rotation or lack thereof…

It is hard to get excited about potential names like Ricky Nolasco.  I remain hopeful Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year and Michael Pineda is finally able to fulfill the promise that brought him to New York.  It’s hard to speculate who I would want added to the team as there is no possibility for an acquisition of David Price or Felix Hernandez.  As Pineda has shown, arms carry great risk.  I have liked free agent Bronson Arroyo but he does not exactly fit the ‘younger arm’ mold.

Well, for now, the uncertainty and disappointment of the 2013 season still looms but soon the promise of the 2014 season will be upon us.  I said it last year and it did not happen so I’ll say it again:

Hal Steinbrenner, the message is simple…excite us!  Signed, Yankees fans.

 

–Scott

Wanted:  Clutch Hitter – Only the experienced need to apply!…

Although there have not been any official explanations for the DH plans this upcoming season, there’s been reports that the Yankees are content with a rotation to include Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Derek Jeter, with Eduardo Nunez sliding around the infield filling the holes.  My concern last season and it gave me a bad feeling heading into the play-offs that the Yankees had missed the clutch bats they enjoyed when Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui were on the roster.  Damon’s home run in the 2004 ALCS helped propel the Boston Red Sox to a comeback victory over the Yankees, and propelled the Sox to their first World Championship since the days of Babe Ruth.  I’ve heard minor league slugger Jorge Vazquez mentioned as a possibility, but I am with those who believe that he skills do not translate to the major league level.

In my opinion, the Yankees need to do something.  I am not looking for a $10 million slugger who would command 90% to 95% of the DH at-bats.  I am content with someone who could take the majority of the at-bats, allowing for the A-Rod/Jeter rotation, and would know and accept their role.  That’s why I feel that either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui would make complete sense.  I know the Yankees want to limit their payroll at this point and I get that.  But if the difference in making the World Series or not was an additional $5 million, would it not be worth it?  Yeah, yeah, it’s not my money and $5 million is a lot of money.  But when you are spending $210 million, what’s $215 million?  Wouldn’t the return on a championship more than replenish the difference?  The Yankees have options and I know that’s why they are not in a rush.  I’ve even heard Raul Ibanez’ name mentioned and would agree that he would be a viable option.  I guess I have greater affection for guys who have proven they can win in pinstripes.

It’s funny but the Philadelphia Phillies look like geniuses for signing Jim Thome early in the off-season.  At the time, it looked like a bad fit.  Maybe he stays with the Phillies, but they could actually move him for something at this point given the DH desperation that exists for a number of teams besides the Yankees (like the Detroit Tigers, for example).  If GM Ruben Amaro could somehow swing Thome for a decent prospect, he’d build upon his legacy as a great general manager.

It will be interesting to see how the coming weeks play out, but the Yankees clearly need a guy who can come through in the clutch.  Now more than ever…

If he is older than dirt, what does that make me?…

Congratulations to Jamie Moyer for his minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Colorado Rockies.  I was really surprised when I heard that Moyer intended to make a comeback following his recovery.  At 49, the odds are probably against him, but you have to love his no-quit mentality.

Sometimes good fans are the difference…

Similar congratulations go to reliever Joel Zumaya, who signed with a quality organization (the Minnesota Twins).  Ironically, it was at Target Field where Zumaya’s elbow exploded a couple of years ago.  I remember when he was hailed as THE flamethrower in the league, and was a huge part of the Detroit Tigers bullpen.  It’s anybody’s guess what kind of pitcher he will be going forward, but it would be good to see him recapture success for an organization that deserves better than last year’s 99 losses.  With the departure of Joe Nathan and the inconsistency of Matt Capps, there’s certainly going to be opportunity with the closing and set up roles for the Twins.

It was a bit hard to imagine Zumaya throwing from the mound at Target Field this morning as the temperature reading in my car read -10 degrees in downtown Minneapolis.  The weathermen were reporting that with the wind chill factor, it felt like -38.  In weather like that, it’s hard to imagine that the lights of Target Field will be back on in just a couple of months.  While I admit that the 16 degrees I experienced in Winnipeg, Manitoba a few weeks back felt much colder, there’s no question that in temps like this you just want to go from your heated house to your heated car to your heated work.  This past summer, I was in Phoenix when it was in the 120’s.  All things considered, I’ll gladly take -38 in Minneapolis as opposed to 122 degrees in Phoenix.  I don’t care that it’s paradise in Arizona right now…

Deux Sorianos?…

Back to the Yankees, I’ve wondered if some kind of deal involving the Chicago Cubs would work.  The Yankees want to unload A.J. Burnett, and he’d clearly benefit from a change of scenery.  He’d also be more effective in the National League at this point.  I wouldn’t say that the pressure would be less in Chicago, but I think A.J. could more himself.  Conversely, the Cubs have an albatross with Alfonso Soriano.  Soriano could still be a fairly productive DH at this point in his career.  Not that I want to give two rosters spots to over-paid, under-productive Sorianos but it would be a potential solution.  I think I can speak for most Yankees fan when I say that we’ve rode the Burnett train about as far as we care to.  Now that Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda have all but pushed Burnett out of the rotation, a win-win trade with the Cubs would certainly make sense.

Yeah, you and what bank?…

If I’m Cole Hamels, I am going for free agency in the fall of 2012.  Don’t even talk to me about an extension!  If the Texas Rangers will lay out $110 million for an unproven, albeit very highly talented, pitcher, there’s no question what a championship performer like Hamels can command on the open market.

I choose you, no, maybe you…

I am glad that Bartolo Colon was able to find a home with the Oakland A’s, but admittedly, I am glad that he is not returning for an encore performance in the Bronx.  I am not quite sure with what happened between Colon and the Arizona Diamondbacks (he apparently agreed with them and then reneged, ala David Wells a few years ago), but I am sure he had his reasons for why Oakland was a better fit.  But I guess those reasons didn’t include W’s…

Those pesky Nats!…

As for the ongoing Prince Fielder sweepstakes, I just wish the Washington Nationals would put one of those ridiculous Jayson Werth type contracts in front of him and get him signed.  I’d be surprised if the Texas Rangers were financially able to sign both Yu Darvish and Fielder but stranger things have happened.  I really don’t want to see Fielder in for Mitch Moreland on the defending AL Champions.  I still think the Los Angeles Angels, thanks to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, are a better team in the AL West, with or without Fielder on the Rangers, but I certainly do not want the potential roadblocks to a Yankees World Series getting stronger.

First base at Yankee Stadium will forever mean Lou Gehrig to me until the day I die, even if I didn’t personally get to see him play.  For what I have seen, Don Mattingly is the epitome of greatness.  I was a bit skeptical when Tino Martinez took over for Mattingly, but he played the position as well as anyone could have following the footprints of #23.  I loved the signing of Mark Teixeira and he was a prime reason for the Yankees success in 2009, but after a couple of disappointing seasons with the usual stone cold starts, something has to give.  Defense alone at first base is not enough.  Not that I want to go back to the days of Giambi (great bat, not-so-great glove), but Tex needs to dedicate himself to an improved performance in 2012.  I know that we’ll have to deal with the usual sluggish start, but he needs to show that he can be more like the 2009 Teixeira than the 2011 version.

Well, I am at this end of this post, but I see that GM Brian Cashman still has much work ahead of him before we start talking about games at Legends Field…

–Scott

Disappointment replaced by Optimism…

 

After some thought, I’ve come around…

Now that I’ve had time to digest the Friday night whirlwind that brought pitchers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda to the Bronx, my initial disappointment was evaporated.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the power potential of Jesus Montero, and I know full well that he’ll be as devastating against the Yankees as Jay Buhner was if not more.  But I recognize that from a position of need, a top of the rotation starter is better than a player without a position.

Ever since I first heard Jesus Montero’s name, it always included a statement that he’d eventually have to find a new position because he would outgrow catcher.  The obvious moves would be to either first base or left field, but last time I checked, both of those positions were occupied by long-term tenants.  Putting an offensive juggernaut at DH is great for offense but it does nothing to help with the defensive aspects of catching or learning a new position.  With Russell Martin in the fold for the foreseeable future, there was no way that Montero would gain the starting position at catcher.  Martin’s ability to handle the pitching staff is simply too important to the team even if his bat is nothing remotely close to Montero.

With Montero, I was always worried about the other young Yankee catchers.  Of course, there’s Francisco Cervelli on the active roster.  If Montero were to take the backup catching job, where would that leave Cervelli?  Most likely playing for the Twins, backing up oft-injured Joe Mauer or someone like that.  I like the defensive reports that I’ve heard about both Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez, but if their path was clogged by Martin and Montero, where did that leave them?  Sanchez needs more time in the minors, but Romine is nearing major league ready status.  With an injury or two, I fully expect him to get his chance to make an impression at Yankee Stadium in 2012.  The trade of Montero ensures that Romine will get his major league opportunity with the Yankees so that’s a good thing.  He doesn’t have Montero’s bat (who does?) but good defense is essential for championships.

Maybe just tell us who the Yankees haven’t talked to…

As for the DH slot, it seems like the Yankees have expressed interest in about everyone.  There have been reports they’ve spoken to the agents for Carlos Pena, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui.  There are pros and cons with all three players, but whoever the Yankees bring on board will have to share time at DH with Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, and Derek Jeter so I’d be okay with any of the three.  I’ve always liked the clutch bats of Damon and Matsui, and the swing for the fences power of Pena is nice even if the average is hovering slightly above the Mendoza line.  With all the reports that the Yankees only have a $1 million or two to spend on a DH, I half expect a report that they’ve talked to Reggie Jackson!  Okay, that might be a stretch, but I’d consider letting ‘all or nothing’ slugger Jorge Vazquez.  He does deserve a shot.  If not, the Yanks should cut him loose and let him pursue a team that will.

If Jorge Posada had embraced the DH role last year, he’d be on his way back to the Bronx for an encore performance…

Upon second thought…

As for the pitching staff, my initial prediction about the rotation order was flawed.  I recognize that Micheal Pineda is the clear #2 in the rotation.  I’ve seen Ivan Nova slotted at #4, but I’d still keep him at #3 at least until he gives reason to drop him in the order.  I think Kuroda is a great addition, but he has to adjust to the American League in the most difficult division, while moving from a pitcher’s ballpark to a park that is less forgiving.  So, I’d give Nova time for pinstripes served and put him ahead of Kuroda.  After the former Dodger, it’s anybody’s guess who will win out…Phil Hughes, my personal favorite; Freddy Garcia, probably the better choice among the pitchers in terms of consistency; and A.J. Burnett, the candidate for most likely to depart the Bronx if the Yanks can find a willing trade partner that wants Burnett…and a boatload of cash to pay that ridiculous salary.  What happens if either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances pitches “lights out” in training camp?  This is going to be an interesting battle.

He’s really a cousin of Alcides and Kelvim Escobar?…

Back to Friday night’s trade, I was a bit dismayed when I saw that pitcher Hector Noesi had been included in the trade.  I kept hearing that his ceiling was the back end of the rotation but there was something that I liked about the pitcher.  At first, I didn’t know anything about the “other” Mariner included in the deal, Jose Campos.  But since the initial report of the trade, I’ve come to realize that he has great potential.  At 19, he’s 6’4” and throws in the mid 90’s.  He’ll more than make up for Noesi and fits a better timeline in terms of being major league ready given the high level pitching prospects already in the organization (Banuelos and Betances, for example).  The Curtis Granderson trade has been labeled as a ‘win-win-win’ for all concerned.  Hopefully, this M’s-Yankees trade will meet a similar fate.

What would I expect Bobby V to say?…

Contrary to what Bobby Valentine may think, the Yankees are a better team today than they were last Thursday.  But, I recognize the Boston Red Sox are not done yet.  They signed former Dodger pitcher Vicente Padilla today (a guy I loathe personally) and there’s rumors they could go after Roy Oswalt if they can move payroll.  I still think Boston could be a player for Cubs starter Matt Garza given Theo Epstein’s knowledge of the Red Sox minor league prospects.  Whether Ben Cherington or rather Larry Lucchino would trade with Epstein is another matter.  Still, I think there are changes to be made on both the Yankees and Red Sox between now and training camp.  Last year, I saw a Red Sox friend predict 118 or 119 wins for Boston.  Teams look great on paper, but as they say, the ‘proof is in the pudding’!

Moneyball II, starring Jorge Garcia…

It’s hard to think of the Oakland A’s signing former Yankees starter Bartolo Colon as a low-cost, high reward “Moneyball” kind of move.  At 39, I don’t think there’s really any upside to Colon at this point and in my opinion, he’s not capable of sustaining a full season of starts.  I’d rather have Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill in the rotation, but I guess since those are no longer options, they have to look at the scrap heap that served the Yankees so well last season.

Yes, I know the way to San Jose!…

Speaking of Oakland, I do hope they are successful in their desire to move to San Jose.  As a former San Jose resident, I think it’s very exciting for the city and its metro area to be on the verge of landing both the A’s and the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, to go with the NHL’s Sharks.  I saw that A’s owner bought the famed Hotel Sainte Claire in downtown San Jose.  He already owns one hotel in San Jose so I guess you can’t read too much into it, but he’s definitely positioning himself for the growth and excitement that San Jose could see in the coming years.  I’d be happy with a Stanley Cup Championship this year, but that’s a little off-topic…

I really don’t forsee another 99 losses when you place character first…

I was a little surprised to see the Minnesota Twins sign former Detroit Tigers flamethrower Joel Zumaya.  He suffered his devastating arm injury at Target Field in 2010.  So, in terms of Karma, you’d think that he’d avoid Target Field like the plague.   But I read comments in this morning’s paper about how he was touched by the reception he received from the Twins fans as he left the field that fateful day.  Stories like that certainly make me feel honored to be a Minneapolis resident, but I was still surprised by Zumaya’s decision.  I wish him the best as he begins the Comeback Trail.  Hopefully he can get back to the level he was before.  For the Twins, with Joe Nathan in Texas and Matt Capps scheduled to close games, they need Zumaya as the pitcher he once was and hopefully will be again.

When it’s tough being the son of Donnie Baseball, come home to the Bronx!…

Before I go, I want to say that I am really hopeful that the Yankees organization proves to be a blessing for former Dodgers prospect Preston Mattingly.  I’ve always heard what a great athlete he is/was when he was younger.  I don’t know what happened through his time in the Dodgers and Indians organizations and I realize that he is getting a bit long in tooth for a prospect, but I really hope that he can find some level of success with the Yankees.  It would be very cool to see Mattingly make a debut at Yankee Stadium at some point in the future.  Who knows if it is in the cards, but being a late bloomer is not outside of the realm of possibility when it comes to someone with his bloodline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe that we are just a month away from training camp.  I’m excited and looking forward to a great season.

 

–Scott

Time to kick it up a notch…

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

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

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

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

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

Who will be the Astros’ DH?…

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

–Scott

 

Joba and Phil and the rest of the Guys…

Who’s the frontrunner?

 

 


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Suddenly, Sergio Mitre is gaining the backing of the New York Press in his attempt to win the fifth spot in the starting pitching rotation.  I still think the winner will ultimately be Phil Hughes, but he needs to show he belongs in the rotation now and forevermore.

 

 

Phil Hughes will be out of the Yankees' rotation until July.

Cataffo/NY Daily News

 

What happens if Mitre doesn’t win a starting role?  With the many arms competing for spots in the pen, several with long relief experience, the best case scenario might be to showcase Mitre for other teams for a possible late spring training trade.  Prospects are fine, but the Yankees need to parlay Mitre into potential for the future.

 

Yankees' Sergio Mitre fires scoreless 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball before a shot off right forearm ends day (below).

Keivom/NY Daily News

 

It was scary to hear the news that catcher Francisco Cervelli had been plunked in the head.  I was in Arizona on a business trip and somewhat removed from sports news.  I received an email from my good friend Julia, who expressed legitimate concern for a Yankee even though she dislikes anything Bronx-oriented.  Thanks Julia!  Cervelli may be ready to play by Friday and I am hopeful for a smooth and healthy return.  Cervelli, and his attitude, are definitely why I am proud to be a Yankees fan.  He’s a genuinely good guy and the team is placing great faith in his ability to backup Jorge Posada.  At his advancing age, Posada will need more days off so the defensive-minded Cervelli will play a huge role for the 2010 Yankees. 

 

 

AP

 

I gotta admit that it was nice to see Nick Johnson in the lineup again. ..

 

 

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Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

 

Today was a good day.  Two wins.  7-5 over the World Series rival Philadelphia Phillies, and 6-0 against Team ex-Yankees, the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Considering the recent string of losses, today was a day to enjoy.  I still can’t figure out why the Red Sox aren’t on the spring schedule but two wins are two wins.  Well, at least until Opening Day when we pick up our first official win!

 

 

 

AP 

 

I really hope the Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan is not seriously hurt.  I am not a Twins fan but there is something right about baseball when the Twins are competing.  The loss of Nathan would be huge so hopefully the news in the coming days will be positive for Nathan and the Twins.

 

 

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

 

Count me among those who think the Baltimore Orioles will be much improved this year.  If the Orioles were a stock on the NYSE, I’d definitely rate them as a buy.  Kevin Millwood is formidable at the top of the rotation, but Brian Matusz flat out scares me.  The O’s are quietly assembling a championship club.

 

 

AP

 

I thought the Hank Blalock signing was a solid move by the Tampa Bay Rays.  The AL East is going to be a battleground this year.  No team can afford to let up for any stretch of the schedule.  I am very thankful that Doc Halladay is no longer pitching in Toronto.  Here’s my first pass at a 2010 prediction for the AL East:

 

1.       Yankees (of course!)

2.      Rays

3.      Red Sox (a disappointing year for the newcomers!  :D)

4.      Orioles

5.      Blue Jays

 

For some reason, I don’t think Julia will agree…

 

 


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Late Inning Magic Resides at 161st and River…

Merry Teix-mas!…

 

 

Barton Silverman/The New York Times

 

 

As the saying goes, “All’s well that ends well”!  Friday night certainly proved the point as the Yankees defeated the Minnesota Twins 4-3 in Game 2 of the ALDS.

 

The game featured a pitching duel between A.J. Burnett and Nick Blackburn.  It was scoreless until the 6th inning.  The Twins broke out first in the top of the frame on a run-scoring triple by Brendan Harris.

 

 

Julie Jacobson/AP

 

The Yankees countered in the bottom of the inning when Alex Rodriguez singled to score Derek Jeter from second.

 

 

Kathy Willens/AP

 

At that point, the Yankees went to the pen.  Joba Chamberlain retired the first two batters in the top of the 7th, but surrendered a single to Joe Mauer.  He was relieved by Phil Coke who struck out Jason Kubel to end the inning.

 

After a ‘3-up, 3-down’ bottom of the 7th, Phil Hughes was on the mound to start the 8th.  Like Chamberlain, he retired the first two batters but then got into trouble.  After walking Carlos Gomez, Brendan Harris singled to move Gomez to third.  Nick Punto followed with a single that scored Gomez, and Hughes headed for the showers at Joe Girardi’s “suggestion”.

 

 

failure.jpg failure image by mistichic18

 

 

Mariano Rivera entered the game but he promptly gave up a single to Denard Span that scored Harris.  Mo struck out the next batter, Orlando Cabrera, to end the inning but the damage had been done as the Twins had taken a 3-1 lead.

 

 

Kathy Willens/AP

 

The Yankees were retired easily in the 8th, and Mo had no difficulty with the Twins in the top of the 9th despite a Michael Cuddyer single.  So, the stage was set for the bottom of the 9th inning.  Enter Twins closer Joe Nathan…

 

 

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Mark Teixeira was up first and he lined a solid single to right.  That brought the much criticized post-season “underperformer” to the plate.  A-Rod silenced his critics by coming up big.  His home run off Nathan tied the game, and the Yanks were back in business.

 

 

Julie Jacobson/AP

 

Nathan retired the next 3 batters so the game moved to extra innings.  The Twins had a chance in the top of the 10th against Alfredo Aceves but they left runners stranded at the corners.

 

The Yankees followed with what I thought was going to be the victorious moment.  After Melky Cabrera grounded out, Jorge Posada singled.  Of course, that brought Mr. “Make It Happen” (Brett Gardner) into the game as a pinch runner.  When you talk about certainties in life, Brett getting his jersey dirty when he is on the base paths is a given.  As expected, he stole second with a huge burst of speed.  An errant pick off throw by Nathan sent Gardner to third although he did stumble to make it close.  So, with just one out, the speedy Gardner stood at third.  It wouldn’t take much to bring him home.  With Gardner on third, the Twins opted to intentionally walk Derek Jeter.  Nathan was relieved by Jose Mijares.  The stage was set for Johnny Damon to be the hero.  If he couldn’t get the job done, Mark Teixeira was on deck.  Much to my chagrin, Damon hit a smash right at Orlando Cabrera.  Brett Gardner had already broken for home, so the Twins were able to easily record the double play to end the threat.

 

 

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The next inning would prove to be very memorable.  Joe Mauer opened with a double to left off Damaso Marte except there was a small problem.  The umpire (Phil Cuzzi) ruled the ball foul, however, replays clearly showed that the ball landed a foot inside of the foul line. 

 

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Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

 

 

Nevertheless, Joe Mauer was still able to reach base with a single.  But his placement at first instead of second would prove to be very significant.  Jason Kubel singled to move Mauer to second (he should have been on third if the double had stood).  David Robertson, boyish face and all, entered the game in relief of Marte but gave up a single to Michael Cuddyer which loaded the bases.  Had Mauer been on third, the Twins would have taken a 4-3 lead.  Robertson proved to be a magician with the next 3 batters.  Delmon Young lined out.  Carlos Gomez hit a fielder’s choice to Mark Teixeira who threw Mauer out at home.  Brendan Harris, with several key hits earlier in the game, came up with a chance to save the day for the Twins.  But his weak fly ball was caught by Nick Swisher and the Twins had failed to score despite loading the bases with no outs.

 

 

Julie Jacobson/AP

 

With Jose Mijares still pitching for the Twins, Mark Teixeira came to the plate.  As great as Teixeira has been this year, it is hard to believe that he didn’t have any walk-off hits during the course of the season…well, at least until Friday night.  He connected on what appeared to be an extremely hard liner but the ball never dropped until it reached the left field stands.  After the game, Teixeira called the ball a “wall scraper”.  Whatever it was, it gave the Yankees the 4-3 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series.

 

 

Julie Jacobson/AP

 

Have a pie, Mr. Teixeira!  You deserve it…

 

 

Kathy Willens/AP

 

I have to admit that I do empathize with Twins fans.  During football season, the majority of those fans share my passion for all things purple and gold.  We cheer together when Adrian Peterson breaks a long run for a TD, Percy Harvin makes a key catch, Brett Favre zips a pass for a game winning touchdown or Jared Allen getting up from sacking yet another quarterback.  The Twins had every opportunity to win Game 2, but the ghosts of Yankee Stadium ensured that it didn’t happen.

 

 

Mark Teixeira Yankees Twins

Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger 

 

 

The series now moves to Minnesota for Game 3 at the Metrodome on Sunday.  Andy Pettitte and the Yankees will face former teammate Carl Pavano.  I remember the comparisons of Pavano to Pettitte when he joined the Yankees, as they are both similar physically.  But clearly Pavano does not have Pettitte’s heart.  The Yanks have a chance to close out the series and it wouldn’t get any better than a victory against the former American Idle.

 

 

 

 

A funny thing happened last night watching the Angels-Red Sox game.  I have been giving Julia (of Julia’s Rants) a hard time and repeatedly telling her “Go Angels!”.  But truth be told, I really do not like the Angels.  I have never cared for the team.  It’s not to say that I have found new love for the Red Sox, but I found myself cheering for Boston and rooting for a late inning comeback.  It was not meant to be as the Angels emerged with a 4-1 victory against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox to take a 2-0 advantage in the series.  I will pull for the Red Sox when the series resumes in Boston.  I really want to see the Red Sox and Yankees in the American League Championship Series.  I have no desire to see a team that couldn’t win 90 games in the World Series, so I wouldn’t pull for the Twins if they are able to successfully overcome the Yankees in the ALDS.  My dislike for the Angels would prevent me from cheering for them, so the only two choices in my mind are Yankees and Red Sox.  As a member of the AL Eastern Division, the Red Sox would be my second choice for AL representatives in the World Series if the Yankees cannot be there.  I hope that doesn’t happen, believe me, as I am hoping to see the 27th World Championship for the Yankees…and nothing would be better than beating the Red Sox to advance.  So, Julia, I’ll say this for you, Go Red Sox! (statement expires at the conclusion of the Angels-Red Sox series).

 

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Mark J. Terrill/AP

 

Speaking of the Minnesota Vikings, I’d like to say Happy Birthday to quarterback Brett Favre!  The graybeard is now 40 years old.  For your birthday, we’d like to give you a Super Bowl Championship!  J

 

 

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Courtesy Star Tribune

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