Results tagged ‘ Jon Lester ’

Are Youk freakin’ serious?…

 

Sleeping with the Enemy…

News that the Yankees have signed veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis have not been well received in the Yankees Universe…obviously.  Sure, there have been a few ex-Boston Red Sox players make their way to the Bronx but certainly none who have been as despised as Youk.  His crime?  Playing with passion and all-out perseverance to find ways to beat the Yankees.  He is one of those tough, gritty players that are relentless and when they smell blood, it’s over.  Youk has struggled with injuries in recent years and he had a falling out with former Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who has historically taken to gritty players.  I know, there is the stat line that he only got one hit in his final 59 at-bats with the Chicago White Sox last season.  Nevertheless, I am willing to give Youk a chance.

Admittedly, I am not an Alex Rodriguez fan and I am still bent the Yankees didn’t let him walk away when he opted out of his first mega contract.  But with third base possibilities such as Eric Chavez and Jeff Keppinger signing elsewhere, the Yankees had to do something given that A-Rod will be lost for most of the season due to his upcoming hip surgery.  Going to camp with Eduardo Nunez as the starting third baseman, given the team doesn’t have a starting catcher or right fielder, was not appealing in any way.  No one really knows how A-Rod will play next season when or if he returns, so odds are they need a solid third baseman for the entire season.  With Youk on board, the Yanks still need to get insurance at third in case Youk goes down.  But I think as long as he gets sufficient rest, he’ll stay healthy and be an effective part of the Yankees lineup.

When Youk homers for the first time against the Red Sox, I am sure that the Yankee cheers will come around.  Yankee fans love players who play with passion so long as the player is on their team.  It will always be hard to look at Youk and not think of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, but he is not the same player he was then and this is a new chapter in his life.  When he walks away from the game, he will be remembered as part of the Red Sox organization but for a year or two, he can certainly make an effective contribution for the home team.

There are guys on the current Red Sox roster that I have great respect for, like Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia.  Youk was one of those guys.  Sure, I hated the guy in difficult games between the Yankees and Red Sox, but I always had a quiet respect for him.  Of course, this could all be premature as Youk still has to pass a physical but I look forward to seeing what he can do in the Bronx sans the famed goatee.  It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees continue to hold #20 in reserve out of respect for Jorge Posada or if they assign it to Youk given it was his number in Boston and Chicago.  I suspect he’ll end up with something other than #20, but until it happens, you never know.

I saw a quote in George King’s column in The New York Post from Mariano Rivera that I agree with completely:  “Yankee (fans) didn’t like him but he was wearing a Red Sox uniform.  I can’t decide for them but he will be my teammate and I have to respect him for that.”  Youk is a Yankee, and like Mo, I respect him for that.

Ichiro, Part II…

All indications are the Yankees will be coming to terms with Ichiro Suzuki on a new deal to keep him in the Bronx.  The question is whether it will be one or two years.  At 39, I’d probably prefer a one year deal so that the team can reassess its options at the end of the year.  Every move has been made with the intent to get the payroll under $189 million by 2014 for luxury tax purposes and a second year for Ichiro would erode into the dollars available for any talent upgrades next off-season.

As it stands, I do not like an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro, but I will be interested to see who they bring in as the fourth outfielder.  Perhaps that individual will solidify this outfield corps into a strong and powerful unit.  I am not opposed to trading Granderson and moving Gardner to center, but the Yankees would need to replace his offensive production elsewhere in the lineup.  All signs so far this winter indicate the Yankees will not do anything to the extreme.  Yes, they could still swoop in with a blockbuster trade, but I highly doubt it.  The sad part is the current Yankees roster is not as strong as last year’s squad, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have clearly improved.  Tampa Bay may have traded a top starting pitcher in James Shields, but they picked up one of the best prospects in baseball in Wil Myers.  Tampa also seems to be able to pull aces out of their farm system every year so there’s no doubt they’ll find a capable replacement for Shields.  Baltimore hasn’t made any major moves but they still have the team to over-achieve.  I do not know what next year will bring.  The Yankees still have December and January to improve, but the likelihood diminishes with each passing day.  If the Yankees falter in 2013, what does 2014 look like?  I can’t see the team suddenly reversing course and going into “Dodger” mode to sign free agents.  I think the Yankees will remain competitive, but I am not convinced they have the horses to win the World Series.

Maybe the All-Star Game should be the Dodgers against everyone else…

My favorite National League team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I am struggling with the thought of cheering for the two highest payrolls in baseball.  My affection for the Dodgers is primarily because of my long-time hero, Don Mattingly, but the huge salary outlay by the Dodgers will create unrealistic expectations in Dodgerland and it will be tough for Donnie Baseball if the Dodgers struggle.  I remain hopeful that he’ll one day find his way back to the Bronx to manage, but I am not pulling for him to get fired next year.  I am not sure who I would pull for in the NL if not the Dodgers.  I live in the Bay Area so there’s always the San Francisco Giants, but they’ve won the World Series in two of the last three years and I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon.  My fallback has always been the St Louis Cardinals because that’s where I experienced attending my first major league baseball game as a teenager so many years ago.  I suppose that I’ll stick with the Dodgers as long as Mattingly is there, but Magic Johnson and company have certainly made it more challenging by their willingness to spend excessively.

Why does February 12th (when pitchers and catchers report) seem so close yet so far away?…

–Scott

 

Forgiving Damon for that 2004 homer…

 

Sayonara, old friends…

This was a sad week for former Yankees stars as Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were designated for assignment by their respective teams (Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians).  Matsui has subsequently been released and Damon’s release is imminent.  I doubt that either player will be picked up at this point in the season so it is most likely the sunset of both careers.

For Matsui, I think his original plan was to only play in the United States for three years but I am grateful that he extended his stay. He may not have been the “monster” player that he was in Japan (a/k/a Godzilla), but he knew and understood the power of the timely hit.  Time and again, Matsui had a key hit to propel the Yanks to victory.  He always seemed to rise to the occasion in the intense Boston-New York wars.  In terms of character, he could easily stand in the same room with guys like Derek Jeter.

It hasn’t been fun watching Matsui wear Angels, A’s, and Rays jerseys, but he will always be Yankee.

As for Damon, it is ironic that a player who played such a key role in the Red Sox breaking ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, plus the entire Caveman image, could become a valued Yankee.  Unlike Matsui, I won’t view Damon as a “Yankee” given his long tenure and success with other teams, but for his time in New York, he showed nothing but class and dignity.  Like Matsui, he was a clutch player who seemed to excel in the bright lights.

Introducing Billy Beane’s latest star pitcher…

With the apparent end of two great careers this week, I saw the opposite on a plane trip from Portland, OR to Oakland on Thursday.  The guy I was sitting next to was excited to be flying to Oakland to see his son, Dan Straily, make his major league pitching debut for the A’s on Friday night.  He was proud to say that his son led all of baseball in strikeouts, and talked about the hard work his son had accomplished to get to this point.  For the game, Straily didn’t figure in the decision, but his performance was a success:

 

Oakland Athletics
Pitchers

IP

 H

 R

ER

BB

SO

HR

PC-ST

ERA

D Straily

6.0

5

1

1

1

5

0

102-70

1.50

 

The A’s won the game, 5-4, in 15 innings.  I am sure that we’ve not seen the last of Mr. Straily.  Here’s hoping this is the start of a long and memorable career for Straily, his father and the rest of their family.

When in doubt, pick up a Pirate…

While the trading deadline was very active compared to recent years, it was another quiet period for the Yankees.  As the now fiscally conservative Yankees had been preaching, they did not make any moves for expensive, short-term rentals.  They picked up a need (third baseman Casey McGehee) to ensure that backup third baseman Eric Chavez is not over exposed to playing time while starter Alex Rodriguez is on the DL.  It’s a shame that Chavez is such an injury risk at this stage of his career, but I agree that it is best to limit his playing time for the good of his long-term health.

I thought the Yanks might try to make a move for a pitcher (someone like Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza) but it was clear that they would not overpay.  Time will tell if they made the right decisions, but I still have concerns about the team’s offense in the play-offs when every pitcher they face will be a #1 or #2 starter.  But September should see the return of top pitcher Andy Pettitte and a fresh Alex Rodriguez so perhaps those will be the team’s noteworthy “acquisitions” that boost team momentum.

Magic seems to be enjoying his new hobby…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have clearly re-emerged as a force in baseball with the new ownership group as they were the most active team in acquiring upgrades over the past couple of weeks (Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton).  I guess they’ve gotten over the reign of Frank McCourt and have shown that they are back in the game.  The San Francisco Giants are a strong team, but I think the Dodgers’ moves will help propel them past the Giants to the NL West pennant.  Good for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly who remains one of my favorite guys in Major League Baseball.

Nothing but crickets…

I was surprised the Boston Red Sox didn’t make any moves.  If there was a team that I had expected to make noise at the trading deadline, it was the Sox.  I don’t think they should give up quality guys like Jacoby Ellsbury or Jon Lester, but there were moves they could have made to give the team a jolt.  I may not be a fan of the Red Sox so I might be biased in making this comment, but I hope that this is a ‘one and done’ season for Boston manager Bobby Valentine.

We’ve moved into August and the Yankees hold a 6 ½ game advantage at the moment, but admittedly, it’s hard to get comfortable when that team in the rear view mirror is the Tampa Bay Rays.  The next couple of months should be interesting.  Let’s win this thing!…

–Scott

 

Is Generallissimo Francisco Franco still dead?…

 

Isn’t this kind of like pulling my finger- and toe-nails?…

One thing I’ve learned with these extended A.J. Burnett trade talks, patience is not my middle name and it’s not one of my virtues!  While the Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero came very fast and furiously, the potential Burnett trade has been dragging for an eternity.  There’s no question the Yankees have identified the Pittsburgh Pirates as the prime target.  It’s been reported that the Yankees and Los Angeles Angels were willing to make a trade that would have brought the return of Bobby Abreu to the Bronx, but it was nixed by A.J. as the Angels were one of the ten teams on his no-trade list.  This actually blows my mind to think that he’d turn down the Angels, arguably one of the best teams in the major leagues with Jered Weaver and Albert Pujols, but he’d be willing to go to Pittsburgh.  To me, and maybe I am off-base, baseball is about winning and championships.  Nothing against the Pirates, but the Angels, as currently built, will see deep October sooner than the men from the Steel City.

Granted, Burnett would be the #2 starter on the Pirates staff and no better than #5 on the Angels.  But, c’mon, how much pressure can there be pitching behind Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and Ervin Santana?  With Burnett in a low-risk situation, the Angels would have an absolutely ridiculous starting rotation and one that would clearly put the Philadelphia Phillies in an inferior position as baseball’s best rotation.  But Mrs. Burnett apparently has issues with flying, so the perfect situation for Burnett won’t happen.

What will it take to consummate the deal with the Pirates?  I’ve read the Yankees have proposed a sliding scale…the more money the Pirates take in salary, the less the Yankees will seek in terms of prospects.  I do think that Burnett could excel in Pittsburgh.  There’s pressure but it is certainly nothing like playing in New York.  A.J.’s problems tend to be mental as there is no questioning the value of his great arm.  I think A.J. can relax and trust his stuff better in a lower-pressured situation.

For the Yankees, I think the #5 slot is Phil Hughes’ to lose regardless of the contract the Yanks gave to Freddy Garcia.  Garcia will be the long man and spot starter.  That leaves no room for Burnett, and of course, that would only bring a bad attitude if he reports to camp with the Yankees.  So, hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can put the distractions of his poor sleeping partner decisions to rest long enough to hammer out the deal with the Pirates within the next 24-48 hours.  With the recent promotions of Assistant GM Jean Afterman to SVP and Angels GM Candidate #2 Billy Eppler to Assistant GM, maybe the second string is working this one.  I don’t care if George Steinbrenner’s widow, Joan, is working this one, let’s just get it done…

Sorry, A.J., I love your arm, but I haven’t wanted to see a player leave New York this bad since Ed Whitson was a Yankee.

Welcome to New York…err, Tampa!..

I really enjoyed reading some of the early reports about new pitcher Michael Pineda.  He reported to camp early and talked about how excited he was to be a Yankee.  He gave glowing reports of his interactions with Robinson Cano, and it is easy to see that he’ll mesh very nicely with “King of the Hill” CC Sabathia.  Passion and intensity are two qualities that I’ve always respected, and Pineda seems to have “it”.

If Ken Griffey, Jr and Gary Matthews, Jr can do it, so can Donnie Baseball, Jr…

I realize that minor league OF prospect Preston Mattingly is getting a bit long in tooth after two failed tries with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians, but he is still only 24 years old.  I know that he’s getting “old” for a prospect, but it would be a wonderful story for Mattingly to seize the opportunity with the Yankees and prove that he can be the talent that he was once projected to be with the Dodgers.  So far, I’ve liked what he has had to say.  He certainly has his father’s positive attitude and realistic perspective, even if he isn’t the player his father was.  I’d like nothing more than to see Preston eventually earn a spot on the Yankees roster.  I am biased because his father was my favorite player and is the reason that the Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team.  Let’s hope that good things happen for a deserving son of a great legend…

Scratching nails on a chalkboard…

It rubs me wrong every time the Yankees sign a former Boston Red Sox player.  Well, I might be okay if the Yankees picked up Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia.  But otherwise, I really have no desire to see former Red Sox players pull on the pinstripes.  Conversely, it is even harder to watch former Yankees sign with the Red Sox.  When the Yankees cut ties with Alfredo Aceves due to his injury history, my immediate thought was a potentially huge mistake.  At that point, I was hoping someone like the San Diego Padres would sign Aceves, but unfortunately, the Red Sox swooped in and captured Aceves.  He went on to have a brilliant season with the Sox in the bullpen, and is a valued member of their pitching staff heading into 2012.  So, it pained me today when I saw that the Red Sox had signed former Yankee pitcher Ross Ohlendorf.  I realize that Ohlendorf had a miserable 2011 season with the Pirates, but I’ve always liked the guy who the Yanks acquired when they dealt Randy Johnson back to the Arizona Diamondbacks a few years ago.  I am really hoping that Ohlendorf doesn’t become the next Tim Wakefield for the Sox.

Clearly our loss…

Baseball-speaking, today was a very sad day.  I had heard that Gary Carter was battling cancer, but it was still hard to hear the news that he had passed.  I think back to when I first became aware of baseball and a Yankees fan.  It was in the mid-1970’s.  In those early years, I was focused primarily on the Yankees.  I was aware of other teams and players, but I can’t say that I know too much about them.  Thurman Munson was the catcher and he quickly became my favorite player.  I could never fully appreciate the greatness of Johnny Bench because of my admiration for Thurman.  Same holds true for Carlton Fisk, who I always saw as a Red Sock even after his trade to the Chicago White Sox.  My world changed on August 2, 1979, and it caused me to step back and look at the bigger picture.  Only then did I begin to truly appreciate the value of great players on other teams.  At that point, the catcher of the Montreal Expos quickly rose to the surface, for me, as one of the premier players at his position.  There was something very clutch and special about Gary Carter.  He went on to drive the New York Mets to a World Series championship in 1986, and proved that he was the catcher of my era.  I am glad that he saw his entry into the Hall of Fame and there’s no question that he packed more into 57 years than I’ll ever experience regardless of how old I live to be.  A good man, a proud father, a legendary baseball player.  Gary, we will never forget you.

Maybe Phil Jackson would like to have one more shot…

I had fun on Saturday night when the New York Knicks came to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Timberwolves.  As a Knicks fan (my first year!), I was excited to see what Lin-mania was all about.  He was a little off that night, but at the end, it was Jeremy Lin’s basket that proved to be the game-winner.  The T-Wolves, or the Muskies as they were referred to that night in tribute to a former Minneapolis basketball team from the 60’s or 70’s, had led the game from the start.  The Knicks had caught the T-Wolves a couple of times, but then Minnesota seemed to drop a few consecutive buckets to pull ahead again.  But at the end, Lin was not to be denied, and “Lin-sanity” continues.  It’s funny because I bought the tickets to the game hoping to see Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, and neither player dressed for the game.  But all things considered, Lin was the perfect substitute.

Yes, it was exciting to see the opening of Fantasy Baseball…

It’s fun to see the return of fantasy baseball.  I’ve already set a few teams with ESPN and I think my first draft is this weekend.  I am looking forward to when they open the live drafting functionality.  I like fantasy baseball if for no other reason than it helps you know and understand players on other teams than just your favorite team.  If Jon Lester heads my starting rotation or if Jacoby Ellsbury is roving my outfield, I am okay with that.  Granted, when Lester and Ellsbury come to Yankee Stadium, I’ll be pulling for L’s and O-fer’s but when Lester shuts down the Rays or Ellsbury slams a homer to beat the O’s, there might  be a smile on my face.

Baseball, let’s get started…

–Scott

The best of a bad situation for the Red Sox Nation…

 

Bobby Valentine’s hire…

I am still surprised that the Boston Red Sox ownership and management team did not have a clear plan of succession when they failed to back former manager Terry Francona at the end of the season.  Sure, Francona left on his terms but the lack of support had as much to do with the decision as anything.  So, if ownership felt that they wanted a change, they should have had a short list of potential replacements in mind.  Theo Epstein moved more quickly in Chicago when they named Sox candidate Dale Sveum as their manager.  The Sox search just felt “messy” to an outsider like me.

Still, they probably did as well as they could with the hiring of Bobby Valentine.  There is no question that he is a superior tactician.  He is very passionate, which is an attribute that I have always admired.  I cannot say that I’ve been a Bobby V fan in my life.  I lived in Dallas during his years as the manager of the Texas Rangers.  But I respect his knowledge, skills and high desire to win.  At different points during the last few years, there have been times he has been mentioned as a possible Yankees manager.  You don’t have to like the guy personally if he can get the job done.  I think one of my friends referred to Bobby as “swarmy” and it’s a good description.  Nevertheless, I am sure that Bobby will prove himself worthy of the Red Sox Nation and they’ll love him.  Meanwhile, we’ll just continue our loathing of him which fits since he is now with a bitter rival.

I would like to see if Bobby can have a positive impact on pitcher Jon Lester.  Lester has been one of my favorite players, despite his uniform.  He is an ace, and capable of carrying the high expectations that go with it.  2011 was a regression year for Lester so hopefully he’ll get back on track in 2012 and clearly establish himself as the leader of the Red Sox rotation.

…and Terry Francona’s ire…

In recent years, I admittedly lessened my dislike for the Boston Red Sox and it was primarily because of my respect for manager Terry Francona.  In my mind, Joe Torre had been the model of a superior manager, and the Francona mold was in the same class.  I do not know the inner workings of the Red Sox organization, but I am still surprised that they didn’t support Francona based on comments Tito has made during interviews.  I was even more surprised to hear that he had to defend himself against questions about painkillers during his interview with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Here is a manager that won two World Series for an organization that had not won since 1918, or when Babe Ruth was still on the roster.  It’s incredible to think of how many Red Sox managers failed where Tito succeeded.  I think teams missed the boat in not aggressively pursuing Tito this off-season.  Hopefully, teams won’t make the same mistake next year.

All quiet on the Western front…

The days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas seem so incredibly quiet compared to life under the Boss.  While I recognize that part of it is posturing by the Yankees to avoid overpaying for players, there is the realization that this is a different ownership group even if it is still “in the family”.  The Yankees did not really make any notable moves last season outside of signing catcher Russell Martin and bringing in pitchers Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  To fail to upgrade the team this year is a mistake in my opinion.  Last year’s roster was easily defeated by the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs.  While I realize that anything can happen in a short series, I didn’t have the sense or “feel” that the Yankees were going to prevail.  It almost seemed as though it was inevitable the Yankees would lose.  That’s a bad feeling.  The team needs bench or role players that can come through like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui used to, and they need help at the top of the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia.

I hopeful that the team can re-sign Eric Chavez, Andrew Jones and Luis Ayala.  Chavez is a perfect fit behind Alex Rodriguez, assuming that he can stay healthy, and Jones was a great fourth outfielder if he is content with resuming that type of role for the upcoming season. Ayala seems to be garnering much attention with at least six teams interested.

I like the one rumor that I heard about the Yankees possibly being interested in Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek.  He would definitely be a pitcher that I’d target if I were the GM.  As a fan, the trade of Doug Drabek hurt at the time and it hurt even more when Drabek went on to achieve great success with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  While acquiring Kyle Drabek has nothing to do with his father as he has great potential on his own right, it would be nice to have the son of Doug Drabek in the organization.  Interestingly, the Yankees had obtained Doug Drabek in a trade with the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Roy Smalley.  If they had held onto him that trade would have been remembered as one of the Yankees better trades.  As it was, the Yankees traded him to the Pirates for Rick Rhoden, who was serviceable but not great.

Of the free agent pitchers, I am still most interested in Mark Buehrle.  I think he’d fit perfectly into the middle of the Yankees rotation.  I like C.J. Wilson but I can understand the team’s apprehension given the dollars that have been mentioned to sign him.  If Yu Darvish is posted later this off-season, I really would like to see the Yankees be aggressive in pursuing him.  I am convinced that he’ll have greater major league success than Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.  The negative is obviously the cost of the posting fee that it will take to get the job done.  The Red Sox paid over $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K, and apparently, it will take a similar if not higher number to land Darvish.

If the Yankees were to include outfielder Nick Swisher in a trade for a starting pitcher, they’d need to find a replacement.  As a fan, I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill type of trade to fill the void…acquiring a talented young outfielder with much promise who has yet fulfilled those expectations.  It’s a high risk move, but as in the case of O’Neill, high reward.  Curtis Granderson has thrived in a Yankees uniform despite the sluggish start, and it’s better to catch a player before he hits the upward arc of his career in terms of cost.  If the Yankees tried to acquire Granderson from the Tigers today, there’s no way that they could get it done with Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke (and that’s with Kennedy being mentioned in the NL Cy Young race this year).

Brace yourself, here comes Roller-Coaster Week!…

The upcoming week is always my favorite week of the off-season.  The Hot Stove League is at its pinnacle.  Even if the Yankees do not do anything, it is still a thrilling ride.  It’s fun to talk and think about all the potential possibilities, even as far-reaching as some may sound.  My primary wish is for the Cardinals to get their long-anticipated deal with Albert Pujols done so that we can move on to other storylines.  There’s no way that he is going to Chicago or Miami, and at the end of the day, he is and always will be a Cardinal.

My preferred landing spot for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, if he decides to continue playing, is the Miami Marlins.  I do not want to see him go to the Mets, Red Sox, or any other AL East rival including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Good move, Bad move…

The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite National League team, although I do not have the passion for the team or the sense of loyalty that I hold for the Yankees.  My affection for them began when Joe Torre was named manager (previously I had considered the San Francisco Giants as my NL team) and it has continued with one of my all-time favorite players as the current Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly.  I am dismayed with the ownership situation and do not have any respect for Frank McCourt, but I am optimistic that the sale of the team will restore the luster of the storied franchise.

While it was good for the Dodgers to lock up outfielder Matt Kemp long-term, I do question the move to sign free agent pitcher Chris Capuano.  The cost was too great ($10 million for two years) for a journeyman pitcher who is average to average-minus with no upside.  If this move prevents free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda from returning, then it’s an even greater mistake.  I don’t know how much it will cost to sign Kuroda and I realize that he is 37, but he’s still a better pitcher than Capuano.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

I was not excited when the Minnesota Vikings trade a 6th round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for QB Donovan McNabb before the season started, but I did realize the team needed a veteran presence.  McNabb was a failure for the Vikings, and I was glad to see the team finally cut bait with his release this past week.  I am not convinced he can thrive in any environment, contrary to what head coach Leslie Frazier may say.  I think the Vikings simply found out what the Philadelphia Eagles knew and what the Redskins found out last season.  He’s done.  I was pleasantly surprised to see QB Sage Rosenfels return as the third string QB after his release from the Miami Dolphins.  It’s not that I expect Rosenfels to take any regular season snaps this time around, but he’s a good insurance policy and allows the Vikings to continue to use second string QB Joe Webb in a variety of roles.

It’s tough when your favorite football team is playing so bad that you actually hope for losses to ensure a high draft pick.  The Vikings are only two games behind the Indianapolis Colts in the sweepstakes for Stanford QB Andrew Luck.  I am a fan of Vikings QB Christian Ponder, but even I would gladly take Luck over Ponder.  So, with the Denver Broncos playing the Vikings today, all I can say is ‘Go Tim Tebow!’ as a way to bring good “Luck”!…

–Scott

Season Ticket Holder for the Hot Stove League…

 

Waiting for the Hot Stove League to start…

I think the longest point in the off-season for a Yankees fan is from the day the team exits the play-offs until the conclusion of the World Series.  The shorter that gap, the better.  Unfortunately, it was not to be this year with the team’s departure after the opening series loss to the Detroit Tigers.

The saddest part of 2011 is that the Yankees could have beaten the Tigers, and I think they would have been very competitive with the new AL League champion Texas Rangers.  Texas pulled the perfect play-off card in getting the unexpected wild card Tampa Bay Rays who had been left for dead by everybody except themselves.  In the ALCS, they avoided the Yankees, or the top clubs that didn’t make the play-offs, the Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels.  I have long been in favor of expanding the divisional series from 5 to 7 games, and this year is just another reason why.  The Yankees, with the best league record, were unable to start against the weakest team in the play-offs, the Rays, because they are from the same division.  So, that pitted the Yankees against the stronger Tigers in a shortened series.  I am not saying that the Yankees would have won it had the series been in the 7-game format, but at least it would yield a more truthful result.

I am a former Dallas resident but not a Rangers fan…

I am not a fan of the Texas Rangers so it’s hard to feel any satisfaction in their team reaching the World Series for the second year in a row.  However, my son is a Rangers fan and he’s certainly excited about the team’s success.  We lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area when my son was small, and after a Rangers game, we had gone to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  There weren’t too many people in the restaurant at the time, and my son must have been about 2 or 3.  On the other side of the restaurant, then Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan was having dinner with his family.  We told our son who was at the table, and a friend walked him over to the table to introduce my son to Nolan.  My son was wearing a Rangers cap, so Nolan took it off and signed the bill of the cap.  My son is now almost 22 years old, and he still has that signed cap with him.  He remains a Rangers fan to this day, despite his dad’s loyalty to the Yankees.

The team with the second greatest World Series success…

While I think the World Series will be competitive this year, I still think the National League will emerge victorious again.  I don’t really see the Milwaukee Brewers getting past the St. Louis Cardinals, so it should be the Cardinals in the World Series against the Rangers.  It’s too bad the Cardinals don’t have Adam Wainwright in their rotation, but the team is certainly on a mission.  I think the Cardinals will end the NLCS with a Game 6 win tonight in Milwaukee.

Strike quickly with full force and focus…

I am anxious for the World Series to conclude so that we can move on to the Hot Stove League.  I really hope the Yankees can re-sign GM Brian Cashman to a new deal before the end of the month and before the start of the free agency period.  This off-season is about timing and the Yankees need to move very quickly to secure Cashman and hopefully re-negotiate with CC Sabathia so that they can turn to free agency and the trade market with full and heavy focus.  My wish list for the off-season is an improved starting rotation, strength on the bench, and perhaps a heavy hitter to offset the declining production from Alex Rodriguez in the batting order.

But I thought beer and hot dogs were part of baseball…

I am not quite sure what to make of the situation in Boston.  I think former manager Terry Francona has taken too much blame, and I was a little surprised to see GM Theo Epstein leave his hometown and his favorite team to take over as GM of the Chicago Cubs.  Granted, he’ll have greater authority in Chicago, and it would be tremendous to be the GM responsible for the first World Series victory for the Cubs after their historic drought.  But it leaves Boston without a manager or a general manager.  Obviously, when the Red Sox move Ben Cherington to GM, they’ll maintain the continuity and Ben will do a fine job.  However, the Sox will definitely have a new look in 2012.  It will be interesting to see what moves they make with the roster in the off-season if they intend to place greater priority in character.  Jon Lester has been one of my favorite pitchers, so I am hopeful that he is surrounded by better influences going forward.

Missing the view…

Living in downtown Minneapolis, I have to admit that I miss seeing the lights of Target Field at night.  It created a great view from my place, and there’s definitely a void now that the ballpark lights have  been shut off until next spring.  So, as a newcomer to Minnesota, the obvious question to me as how many inches of snow will I have to deal with before those lights come on again?  ;)

–Scott

 

 

 

A couple of wins in Boston would be nice for the road team…

  

Have Gun (partially loaded), Will Travel…

Headed to Boston with minus a few bullets…

With the injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the Yankees are certainly in a precarious situation as they head for Boston after wrapping up the O’s series in Baltimore tonight.  A-Rod was sent to New York have a MRI on his thumb, and he’ll re-join his teammates at Fenway Park.  The results were negative, however, it doesn’t sound like he’ll play in the Sox series so the focus will definitely be on Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez.

Jeter fouled a pitch off his right kneecap in the first game of Sunday’s double header, so he should be back on the field when the team arrives in Beantown.

The Red Sox have their own challenges, with Kevin Youkilis on the DL.  But even without Youk, the Red Sox boast three legitimate AL MVP Candidates in Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Adrian Gonzalez.  If the Yankees are to stop Boston’s run of success against them, the guys from the bench will need to be the difference makers.  Plus, some good pitching always helps.  I haven’t seen the starting rotation for the series yet, although I know that CC Sabathia is starting on Tuesday.  I suppose that means the other starters will be A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, neither of whom instill great confidence, particularly when the opposing match-up’s will be Josh Beckett and Jon Lester (John Lackey faces the Yanks on Tuesday night so that’s probably the only matchup that favors the Yanks in the series).

Where are those darned reinforcements? Signed, General Custer…

The August trading deadline has been very quiet, and of course, I am not expecting any moves by the Yankees.  I still wish the team would move to get a clutch bat for the bench (someone like Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon) but all indications are the Yankees will stand pat like they did at the July trading deadline.

Love means never having to say you’re Sori…

So, David Robertson is arbitration eligible at the end of the season?  The Yanks would be wise to lock him up to a deal before arbitration hearings.  He always seems to be in the most precarious situations yet, time and again, he comes through in big spots.  The way he struck out three batters in the 8th inning on Sunday night with the bases loaded was vintage D-Rob.  His 8th inning success definitely has me wondering what the Yanks will do with Rafael Soriano for the next couple of years…

He makes the world taste good…

I remember a few years ago when there were predictions that Curtis Granderson could hit 40 home runs playing at Yankee Stadium.  I thought those were aggressive remarks, but here he is on the verge of hitting that plateau.  Every one points to the adjustment he made with input from batting coach Kevin Long last August, but it’s clear he has become a complete hitter since that time.  It is ironic that one of the trading pieces, pitcher Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is leading the NL in wins.  Kind of makes one wish that the Yankees had traded Phil Hughes instead of Kennedy.  Still, the trade has worked out for all three teams involved (Arizona, Detroit, and the Yankees).  What?  Curtis Granderson just struck out in the game against the Orioles with Brett Gardner in scoring position?  The bum!  ;)  Just kidding…

They’re just games…

This is a big week for the Yankees with the Boston series so they’ll definitely be challenged.  It doesn’t get any easier after Boston because the Toronto Blue Jays will be coming to the Bronx for a weekend series, and the Jays have definitely played the Yanks tough this year.  Do we really have to pin our hopes on A.J. Burnett?  Really?…  L

Have a safe and enjoyable week!

–Scott

 

 

 

 

 

Land of 2 Seasons: Winter is coming, Winter is here…

I don’t have a beret to throw in the air…

I am finally living in an American League city once again.  Today is my first day as a resident of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Somehow, recent years have found me in National League cities, which is tough as an American League fan.  Nevertheless, I persevered and now reside in a city that houses good baseball tradition.  In fact, from my living room window, I can see the lights of Target Field.  Sweet!  Of course, I will never be able to admit that I am a Yankees fan in public given the bad blood between the Yankees and Twins.  I’d probably have better luck wearing a Sox cap…

 

Target Field

 

I am looking forward to learning about my new city, and I am excited about the opportunity and potential the area provides.  Yes, I’ll have to get used to winters again, but after living in areas where winter meant a 20 or 30 degree dip in average temps, I am looking forward to true changes of seasons.  Growing up in the Midwest, I never complained about snowfall and it was always one of my favorite enjoyments.  The only issue I have with winter is ice.  Outside of that, I can deal with the cold temps and the white, frosty surroundings.

Oddly, as a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, this will be the first time that I’ve been surrounded by Vikings fans.  Admittedly, that’s going to be very strange.  Growing up in southeast Iowa, Vikings fans were mixed among fans of the Bears, Packers, Chiefs, and the then St. Louis football Cardinals with the Bears as perhaps the predominate favorite.  I’ve seen the Vikings play in person over the years, but they’ve always been road games.  I never made it to the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington nor have I been to the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.  That’s obviously going to change, but admittedly, it will be strange seeing everyone around me wearing purple and gold.

I am glad to be in Minnesota, and I am looking forward to a very long stay.  And, no, I am not suddenly going to become a fan of Carl Pavano…

 

Fundamentals, is it really that hard?…

I was very disappointed to see the Yankees lose a close game to the Tampa Bay Rays last night due to errors.  When you are playing one of your key rivals, anything less than your best is unacceptable.  The Yankees had a chance to bury the Rays and couldn’t do it.  While the Boston Red Sox are running away with the AL East, the Yankees need to make sure that they put distance between themselves and the other wild card challengers like the Rays.  Losing a game because you are outplayed is one thing, but to lose a game because of your own incompetence is wrong.  The Rays had encountered a tough stretch of games with the 16 inning loss to the Red Sox, followed by the baseloaded walk loss to the Yankees.  Another loss last night could have started driving a stake in the heart of the Rays.  But the Yankees allowed the Rays to resume their Wild Card drive, and last year those types of games allowed the Rays to best the Yanks in the East.

 

Mike Carlson/AP

 

The Rays clearly have the superior pitching rotation, but the Yankees are the offensive club…even with Alex Rodriguez on the DL.  With the series tied after two games with two to play, the Yankees have to ensure that they leave St. Petersburg with no less than a split.

 

The price of an ace…

The trade rumors involving the Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez are great, but I am hesitant given the high cost that would be involved.  I get that Jimenez is young (27) and has a very affordable contract for the next few years, but giving up Manny Banuelos and Jesus Montero (and others) seems like such a high price to pay.  I like Jimenez and his road splits away from Coors Field are ridiculous, but I simply cannot condone giving away the farm to bring him to the Bronx.  That’s tough because who really knows if Banuelos and Montero will be genuine stars.  The cool demeanor of Banuelos seems like a perfect play in Yankee Stadium, and I do really believe that he is destined for greatness.  I also recognize that if CC Sabathia opts out of his contract and signs elsewhere this off-season, the Yankees will be lacking an ace.  Nevertheless, I do not think the Yankees should make the Jimenez trade unless the price is right.  Given the completion for the pitcher, I just don’t think that will happen.  The best deal for the Yankees would be one that no one is talking about.  Once the talk goes public, there is too much potential for other teams, like the Red Sox, to muck things up for no other reason than to drive up the price it would cost the Yankees.

 

Rockies starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez

 

When the Red Sox acquired Josh Beckett from the Florida Marlins, there was not much speculation ahead of the trade.  The Yankees need that same stealth like approach to their next major acquisition.

 

And the young respond…

 

I am glad to see some of the guys from the Yankees farm system get their opportunity.  Guys like Brandon Laird, who was called up when Ramiro Pena went on the DL, and pitcher Steve Garrison.  I’ve really wanted to see what Laird could do in a platoon situation with Eduardo Nunez at third so now is his chance.

Yes, I thank my lucky stars every night for David Robertson…

 

POSTSEASON WINNER: David Robertson's two postseason victories have not only added big-game experience for young relief pitcher, but also have given the Yankees confidence in him.

Charles Wenzelberg/NY Daily News

 

Mutual respect…

I was listening to MLB Radio this week and I heard a Red Sox fan give kudos to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.  I was glad to hear those types of comments because I hold a similar high respect for certain Red Sox players like Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester.  It seems so un-Yankee like to respect a Sox player, but Pedey and Lester play the game the way it is supposed to be played.  There’s no way that I could ever root against those guys.  If I was a team owner, they would be among the first players that I would want to acquire for my team.

 

Dustin Pedroia Of The Red Sox

 

You have to go back to the 1920’s?  Really?

The Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates in first place?  I can’t believe how much media attention that has gotten.  I do not expect either team to be a factor come October, but it’s nice to see their fans having reason to cheer this late in the season.   I enjoyed the early 1990’s when the Pirates were a factor in the play-offs every year.  After years of trading stars for prospects, it is nice to see the team thriving on those prospects.  But much of the credit has to go to first year manager Clint Hurdle.  Similarly, the Tribe’s success has to be attributed to Manny Acta.  Both men know how to get the most out of their guys.  It is very refreshing to see.  Nevertheless, I still do not see anything that’s going to derail a Boston Red Sox-Philadelphia Phillies World Series.

 

Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

 

Yes, I am finally home…

“…You can have a town, why don’t you take it.   You’re gonna make it after all.”  I finally get what Mary Tyler Moore was saying after all these years…

 

 

–Scott

 

The “Core”, sadly, has moved on…

The end of the “Core”?…

The deterioration of two-thirds of the remaining “Core” is very disheartening.  Both Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada have shown that it is time to pass the baton.  With both, I am not sure how you can gracefully move on but as long as both are in the lineup, the Yankees are in an inferior position to both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox.

Sadly, the day is going to come when Mariano Rivera just doesn’t have it anymore.  Fortunately, he is not showing any signs of letting up and thankfully so since his closer-in-waiting, Rafael Soriano, is having a tough time staying healthy.

With players like Jeter or Posada, you’d like to think that they’d come to the realization that they are an albatross to the organization and would willingly step aside.  But egos and money are not forgiving.  At some point, the decisions will need to be made for the players.  I think that DJ has a longer leash than Posada, who infuriated the organization with his behavior this past weekend.  I’ve read that Posada has until about the All-Star Break to start hitting before the team explores other options.  My sense is that this is not going to end well.  As for DJ, I am sure that he’s secure the remainder of the year, but I really wonder what the future holds.  Perhaps if the team is able to improve the offensive production in other areas, they can be more accommodating with Jeter’s reduced output.  If this experience has proven anything to me, it is a renewed respect for GM’s like Theo Epstein who are not afraid to the cut the cords to star players sooner rather than later.  Baseball is purely all about ‘what have you done for me lately’, and the Yankees do not owe Jeter, a future Hall of Famer and the last recipient of the #2 jersey at Yankee Stadium, anything.  This is about wins and losses, and the Yankees should field the best shortstop in the organization, regardless of who that individual is.

A sad day for Twins baseball and all of MLB…

I was very sorry to see the passing of Minnesota Twins great Harmon Killebrew.  Earlier in the week, I saw the comments that Harmon was no longer seeking medical treatment for his cancer but I never realized that we were just days away from his passing.  Growing up in Iowa, I used to listen to Minnesota Twins games on a regular basis.  Killebrew had retired by the time I was listening, but I clearly knew who he was and his stature in major league baseball.  Frankly, I am surprised that I was never a Twins fan.  Rod Carew was the star of the team in those days, and they routinely fielded quality teams as they do today.  I guess they didn’t have that magical player on their active roster to endear me to the team.  Instead, I latched onto Oakland A’s star pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter as my favorite player and of course when he left to sign with the Yankees on 12/31/74, my fate as a Yankees fan was sealed.  Nevertheless, I am appreciative for what Killebrew meant to the Twins organization.  He will be missed…

No more LeBron, please…

How sweet would it be if the Chicago Bulls ousted the Miami Heat from the NBA Play-offs?…

The closet door may be open, but the key to victory remains unchanged…

For the record, I have no issue with Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts coming out of the closet to announce that he is gay.  His sexual preference has nothing to do with his ability to lead and develop a championship organization.

Collaboration at its finest…

I was glad to hear that Minnesota Vikings QB Christian Ponder is seeking out the Vikings wide receivers for workouts and has plans to work with my favorite Viking, Percy Harvin.  I was also glad to see Sidney Rice reach out to Ponder to express his willingness to participate.  I don’t want the Vikings to lose Rice, but until the lockout is settled, it’s anybody’s guess what happens with Rice.  He is clearly the greatest WR the Vikings have had since Randy Moss (the Dante Culpepper version, not last year’s).  The NFL needs to put closure on the lockout and aggressively pursue resolution with the Player’s Association.

A toast to Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz…

I received my shipment of Jon Lester’s CabernAce and Clay Buchholz’s ChardonClay today.  You can buy the wine at www.charitywines.com.  For Clay’s wine, your contribution benefits Jimmy’s Fund, while Jon’s wine supports the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  I can’t think of a better way to enjoy fine wine while supporting two great causes!

Have a great night, everyone!  J

–Scott

Yeah, I was afraid so…


So, was the injury to Eric Chavez unfortunate or
inevitable?  Sadly, it’s a little of both…


Chavez.JPG

Kim Klement/US Presswire


I enjoyed watching Chavez
rebound his career with the Yankees, but I was always concerned that he was
just a play away from the DL.  That time
finally reared its ugly head when Chavez fractured his foot.  Hopefully, best case scenario proves out…Chavez
wears the protective boot for two weeks and is ready to begin rehabilitation
play soon over.  On the bright side, the
injury is unrelated to past injuries so this should not be a recurring theme
(hopefully).

I was surprised that the
Yankees brought up Ramiro Pena
instead of Jorge Vazquez.  I had really thought that Vazquez would get
the first call if/when Chavez went down. 
I realize that he isn’t on the 40-man roster, there was talk of the
Yankees making a move with minor league infielder Kevin Russo.  The Yanks did
DFA Russo today, but they signed Cleveland Indians cast-off Jess Todd, a reliever, to take his
place on the 40-man roster.  I don’t know
much about Todd but he has gotten off to a poor start with the AAA Columbus
Clippers.  He does have strikeout
potential so I am sure that his youth (he is only 25) and pedigree (a former
second round draft pick for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007) were factors that
led to the Yanks decision to take a bite. 

Unfortunately, the move
keeps Vazquez at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre. 
All he has done this year is hit (9 homers, 27 RBI’s, .300 BA).  I am sure that he’s wondering what it takes
to crack the bigs.  At age 29, he’s not
getting any younger.

After losing the four game
series to the Detroit Tigers, the Yankees look to rebound tonight in Arlington,
Texas against the Rangers.  I’ve been
concerned about the Yankees reliance on the home run and lack of timely
hits.  So far, the pitching had been
compensating for the hitting deficiencies but it’s impossible to ask the
pitchers to continually walk a line with no margin for error. 

Congratulations to the Los
Angeles Dodgers’ Andre Ethier as he
extended his hitting streak to 30 games tonight against the New York Mets.  Ethier is now just one game from tying the
franchise mark which was set by Willie
Davis
in 1969.  I like Ethier’s
approach which was typified by his pre-game comment that he is “not losing a
wink of sleep about it”.  Ethier has been
one of my favorite Dodgers on a team managed by perhaps my all-time favorite
living ballplayer so it’s a great situation all the way around.  I continue to cheer for Ethier with each hit.


Andre Ethier high fives Don Mattingly.JPG


I am a fan of the Los
Angeles Lakers but I don’t like their current situation…down 2 games to zero
and in Dallas tonight to play Game 3. 
Plus, Ron Artest has been
suspended for one game so that’s one less bullet in the gun.  The Lakers will be hard pressed to win in
Dallas.  It looks like destiny is removing
the barriers for Team LeBron.  I know,
Chicago and Dallas are formidable opponents, but I really thought that either
the Lakers or the Boston Celtics would be able to stop the Miami Heat.  So far, the Celtics have done nothing against
the Heat and the Lakers have put themselves in a life support situation.

My friend Julia, of Julia’s Rants, attended a charity event
this week that featured the release of two new wines…Clay Buchholz ChardonClay and Jon
Lester
CabernAce.  Clay’s 2009
Chardonnay benefits Jimmy’s Fund, while Jon’s 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon benefits
the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 
Count me in as I’ve bought both wines. 
More info can be found at charitywines.com.

Clay BuchholzClay Buchholz

–Scott

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

 

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