Results tagged ‘ Minnesota ’

Yes, he is A-Fraud…

 

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice…

I have tried.  Honestly.  I tried to give Alex Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt and I tried to be positive that he was on my favorite team.  But with the latest swirling of PED use rumors, I’m done.  A-Rod’s contract is the albatross of all albatrosses.  He will single-handedly keep the Yankees from winning the World Series over the next couple of years because of how many salary dollars have to be steered his way.  If he was still producing, it would be one thing.  But he’s not.  He is clearly a player in decline who will miss the entire 2013 season.  He’ll be yet another year older in 2014, and it is highly unlikely that he’ll ever be a consistent threat at the plate.

For me, character is a very important component to building a successful team.  When it comes to class and character, A-Rod has none.  He is clearly a narcissistic player who prioritizes personal goals above team goals.  Perhaps I am judging him too harshly, but the cons far outweigh the pros when considering his place on the Yankees roster.  I am happier with an elder veteran, injury-risk third baseman like Kevin Youkilis than seeing A-Rod take the field.

As it sounds like A-Rod intends to keep playing after he recovers from his hip surgery, I am hopeful the Yankees can find a way to free themselves of the #13 baggage.

What, was Darryl Strawberry unavailable?…

With today’s announcement that the Yankees are nearing an agreement with former Cleveland Indians star Travis Hafner, it is hard to be enthused.  This post certainly has a negative spin to it, huh?  Well, anyway, Hafner has seen his better days and is no longer the feared hitter he once was.  It would have been great to have had Hafner, Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 or 2005, but they just don’t look quite as good in 2013.  Hafner can no longer play the field so the Yanks could easily have a glut of DH, no field type players if Youk or other older veterans become slowed by injury or for whatever reason.  In spots, Hafner can probably look good but I am just not confident in the starting lineup’s ability to stay healthy.

I know the Yankees still have a very good offensive lineup and an effective starting rotation, but has the rest of the league passed them by?  That’s a question that will have to be answered when the games begin, but the potential is certainly there.

This has been a long off-season without much to be excited about if you are a Yankees fan.  I am hopeful that someone like catcher Austin Romine will step forward in spring training and prove that he’s ready for major league fastballs.  I am anxiously looking forward to the arrival of outfielder Slade Heathcott but he’s still a year or two away.

The right way to kick off the season…

As a Yankees fan, it’s hard to like the Boston Red Sox.  But I really like the excitement and energy that goes into their annual Truck Day when the equipment truck loads up and heads for Florida.  It’s a great signal for the start of the upcoming season and it certainly helps get one into a baseball frame of mind after a winter of football and basketball.  I’d say hockey but they decided to take most of the season off until the recent return.  My Red Sox friends always get so jazzed this time of year and to a degree, I am envious.

End of the season celebration…

I am happy for Andy Pettitte that he will be able to end what will most likely be his final season with a series in Houston.  It does seem strange that the Yankees would be playing the Astros at the end of September as opposed to the Red Sox or Rays, but this should be a fun season for Andy.  I am also braced for what could be the final year for legendary closer Mariano Rivera.  So if both Andy and Mo depart, it will be special to watch them this year.  Those are two guys I hope are annual fixtures on Old Timer’s Day.

I think I’ll go with Harbaugh…

I live in the Bay Area so I should be supportive of the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but I am really undecided.  As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I do not have any attachments to the 49ers other than geographical location.  As I study the teams, they seem evenly matched and both have exciting young quarterbacks.  The Ravens have the added emotional incentive of the final game for future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis (yes, Denver, a team is finally throwing Lewis a retirement party).  To me, it comes down to the coaches.  I think Jim Harbaugh is a good coach, but coach-to-coach, brother-to-brother, I think John Harbaugh is the better coach.  Jim may have had the more successful playing career, but there are not many guys that understand the game like John.  I won’t be disappointed regardless of the result.  Both teams are deserving of victory.  There’s no one that I love to hate associated with this game, so it will be a good one to just watch and enjoy.  But I give the edge to the Ravens because of John…

And, finally…

By the way, congratulations to Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph for being named MVP of the Pro Bowl.  He can be a very effective weapon for QB Christian Ponder going forward.  I always loved the relationship between former Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman and TE Jay Novacek (or even the Patriots’ QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski).  Rudolph can be that type of guy for Ponder.  If they are successful, maybe I can watch the Vikings in the Super Bowl for the first time since I was a kid…

Happy February!

–Scott

 

 

All Quiet on the Eastern Front…

 

How come there are no players available through Groupon?…

It’s a new year but the new fiscally-responsible Yankees are still in late-2012’s penny-pinching mode and all remains quiet at River and 161st.

The latest move is the waiver pickup of utility man Russ Canzler who can play the corners and some outfield.  By all accounts, he is less talented than the guy he replaced on the 40-man roster (outfielder Chris Dickerson) but a better fit overall.  I only hope the Yankees are able to flip Dickerson, who was DFA’d, for a decent prospect.  There’s no doubt the Yankees need good depth behind third baseman Kevin Youkilis who has not exactly been the pillar of health in recent years.

At this point, I would be really surprised to see the Yankees make any bold moves.  It appears they are willing to go to spring training to see what shakes out.  A few years ago, when Mark Teixeira left the Los Angeles Angels via free agency, the Angels’ farm system produced Kendrys Morales as a very capable replacement.  When Morales went down to a season-ending injury a year or so later, Mark Trumbo stepped up.  Of course, the Yankees do not have that type of depth in the farm system, particularly at first base, but there’s always the possibility that someone somewhere unexpectedly takes it to the next level.

Clearly, the Yankees would benefit greatly by having a few more cost-controlled young players on the roster.  But as far as major league ready prospects go, the Yankees need another year or two as the best talent is still in the lower levels.  I guess that means we’ll see more Russ Canzler type moves as GM Brian Cashman tries to capture lightning in a bottle.

If the Yankees underperform in 2013, are manager Joe Girardi and/or Cashman at risk for losing their jobs?  Or does the team’s current reduced spending posture mean ownership will be more tolerant of losses?  It remains to be seen but this is clearly putting Girardi and Cashman in the proverbial hot seats.

Scott Hairston, if your choices are the Mets or the Yankees, what are you waiting for?  Your brother looked great in pinstripes and you can too!  With Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, and Ichiro Suzuki as the starters, you are assured of receiving numerous quality at-bat’s in the Bronx and you are wanted by the team.  I might be biased but who wouldn’t want to put on the same jersey as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and so many other legends?…

Maybe we should just flip a coin to see who makes the play-offs…

I am glad to see the NHL has finally resolved its differences with the players and have agreed upon a new collective bargaining agreement.  However, it will be tough, admittedly, to be energized about a 48- or 50-game season.  If your favorite team struggles at the start of the season, it could possibly cost them play-off contention.  An entire season would have looked radically different than the upcoming shortened season.  Every year, new stars and heroes emerge and I wonder about the guys who could have been that star but now may never get the opportunity.  I guess pure talent perseveres, but still, there were far too many sacrifices made for the lockout.

Play-off loss, but a very successful season…

I was not optimistic about the Minnesota Vikings’ chances against the Green Bay Packers last weekend, particularly given the game was being held at Lambeau Field.  I did not realize that Christian Ponder’s elbow injury threatened his ability to play so Sunday’s announcement that he had been ruled inactive came as a shock.  The designated starter, Joe Webb, had not started a NFL game in two years.  Say what you will about quality practices and reps, but there’s nothing better than playing the games.  So, I did not expect Webb to provide a championship performance.  He didn’t, and the 24-10 loss was pretty much as expected.

Nevertheless, what a terrific season by the Vikings!  At the beginning of the year, the talk was the team would be drafting high in April 2013, perhaps as high as second or third.  Yet, the team won 10 games and made the play-offs over the Chicago Bears.  Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 rushing yards was an incredible accomplishment.  I remember being envious of the Bears when Walter Payton was playing as it was clear he was head and shoulders above everyone else.  But the Vikings have that guy in Peterson.  It was a special season to build upon and hopefully it will propel the Vikings to legitimate contender status in 2013.

Happy New Year to All!

–Scott

 

Farewell to a Champion!…

Exit Stage Left… 

A great Yankees career has come to an end with the retirement of former outfielder Hideki Matsui.  It has been gone from the Bronx for a few years but he’s certainly not forgotten.  When he arrived in 2003, he immediately attracted the attention of New York.  He had been well hyped as a Japanese superstar, and of course, everywhere he went, he was followed by a large pack of Japanese reporters.

As I remember his great career and those key clutch hits, I recall his Yankee Stadium debut in April 2003.  I remember it was a day game, and while home for lunch (I was in a West Coast time zone), I had turned on DirecTV in time to watch “Godzilla” hit a grand slam in the 5th inning that powered the Yanks to a 7-3 win over the Minnesota Twins.  If memory serves correctly, it was a gray day and Matsui’s shot was one of those line drives that kept going (it wasn’t a booming shot that you knew had been parked from the start).

Tuesday, April 8, 2003 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

Minnesota Twins AB R H BI
Jones, lf

3

2

1

0

Guzman, ss

3

0

1

0

Koskie, 3b

3

1

0

0

Hunter, cf

2

0

1

2

LeCroy, dh

4

0

1

1

Mientkiewicz, 1b

4

0

1

0

Cuddyer, rf

4

0

0

0

Pierzynski, c

4

0

0

0

Rivas, 2b

3

0

0

0

Totals

30

3

5

3

 

New York Yankees AB R H BI
Soriano, 2b

4

0

1

0

Johnson, 1b

3

1

2

0

Giambi, dh

4

1

1

0

Williams, cf

3

1

0

0

MATSUI, LF

3

2

1

4

Posada, c

4

1

1

0

Ventura, 3b

4

1

2

2

Mondesi, rf

4

0

1

1

Almonte, ss

3

0

0

0

Totals

32

7

9

7

 

Minnesota

0

0

0

1

0

2

0

0

0

-

3

5

1

New York

0

1

0

2

4

0

0

0

x -

7

9

1

E-Pierzynski (2), Almonte (3).  DP-New York 2.  PB-Posada (1).  2B-Jones (4), Hunter (1), Posada (2).  HR-Ventura (3),  MATSUI (1) 5th inning off Mays, 3 on, 1 out.  SF-Hunter (1).  SB-Johnson (1).  CS-Mondesi (1).
Minnesota Twins

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Mays, L (1-1)

5.0

8

7

7

2

3

Fiore

3.0

1

0

0

1

2

Totals

8.0

9

7

7

3

5

New York Yankees

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Pettitte, W (2-0)

5.2

5

3

3

3

2

Osuna

2.1

0

0

0

1

3

Anderson

1.0

0

0

0

0

1

Totals

9.0

5

3

3

4

6

WP-Mays, Osuna.  T-2:36.  A-33,109.

He finished his Yankees career as the MVP of the 2009 World Series.  Time and again, he came up with the crucial big hits, and seemed to excel against the Yankees’ key rival, the Boston Red Sox.  As a Yankee, he hit 140 home runs with 597 RBI’s.  Including his 10 years in Japan and major leagues together, he hit 507 home runs.  He represented the Yankees with the grace and dignity that he had with his prior organization, the Yomiuri Giants.  I wish there had been room on the Yankees roster for Matsui the last few years but sadly it was not meant to be.  He may have subsequently worn the uniform of the Angels, A’s and Rays, but he will forever be a Yankee.  I am hopeful he will return for future Old Timer’s games at the Stadium as he is now engrained as part of the Yankees history and lore.

Where’s Paul O’Neill when you need him…

While I have always liked outfielder Matt Diaz as a role player, it’s hard to be enthused about his arrival in the Bronx.  With no other additions, there’s a huge drop-off from former Yankees rightfielder and now Cleveland Indian Nick Swisher to Diaz.  The Yankees are banking a great deal that Ichiro Suzuki will be the player he was in pinstripes last year and not the Seattle Mariners version earlier in the season.  Inevitably, as Matsui showed, there is a time when the ability to execute simply erodes with the passage of time and age.  Given that Matsui is, in fact, younger than Ichiro shows that Ichiro is on borrowed time.  I know his superior conditioning has much to do with his late career continued success, but Matsui was no slouch when it came to physical conditioning.  I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman is able to bring a young outfielder with strong upside before spring training starts.  Yes, it’s easier said than done, but he’s done it before and can do it again.

Well, 2012 is rapidly coming to a close and it will soon be 2013.  Only January stands between now and the arrival of the Yankees in Tampa for spring training.  So close, yet so far away.  Hopefully, the Yankees will do something to enthuse the fan base in the coming days…

Happy New Year!

–Scott

Getting bug bites while lying in the weeds…

What to believe?…

Admittedly, I am concerned with the Yankees’ desire to get under $189 million in payroll by 2014, and what it will mean to the team in the long run.  Granted, many teams would love to struggle with the wherewithal to afford a payroll of $189 million, but the Yankees have $30 million tied up in annual salary to Alex Rodriguez and he’s hardly the player he once was.  As it stands, the Yankees need to find a quality, effective third baseman to play behind a guy who absorbs so much of the team’s payroll budget.  So, how much do the Yankees actually have to pay just to cover third base?  Obviously, the answer is a lot more than $30 million.

Granted, the Yankees are not about to become the new Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals, but to those teams’ defenses, they have better minor league systems at the moment (particularly the Royals).  In a statement of the obvious, the quickest way to reduce payroll is to replace highly paid, unproductive veterans with cheap, inexpensive young talent.  While there is quality youth in the Yankees’ farm system, most are at the lower levels.  The highly rated AAA prospects have stalled for various reasons, like Manny Banuelos and his Tommy John surgery.  A trade for young, inexpensive talent is not out of the question, but so far this off-season, the Yankees have been very quiet.  I do understand it when GM Brian Cashman says that you have to a tortoise and a hare.  Striking too quickly can be more expensive in some situations.  It is a never-ending balancing act.  Strike quick when you must, lay in the weeds when you can.

Is it time for Romine?…

While I am disappointed to see catcher Russell Martin depart (signing a two year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates), I realize that I won’t miss his .211 batting average.  At times, he was a force in the lineup with his bat, but other times, he completely disappeared.  The only downside is the lack of replacement talent at the major league level.  I do not feel that perennial backups Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli are starter material.  After a lost year due to injury, all indications are that Austin Romine needs another year of AAA seasoning.  At this point, I am probably with those who feel Romine should be given a legitimate shot at the job in spring training.  He has the pedigree (his father is former Red Sox player Kevin Romine) and he is 24 years old.  If he is healthy, he deserves a shot and certainly has more upside than the other catchers on the roster.

Regarding the loss of Martin, Cashman’s quote was “This isn’t something that caught us off-guard”¹.  Clearly, the Yankees have already identified a plan of action in the event Martin left.  But it will probably fall into the tortoise category.

Maybe Jenny Craig should be hired as a second bench coach…

This past week also brought forward a photo of a seemingly overweight Derek Jeter.  Staying with quotes from Brian Cashman, “It’s probably a wrinkle in the shirt”².  Hmmm, right…

 

 	November 29, 2012: Derek Jeter is seen limping around a South Beach hotel pool wearing a cast after surgery on his fractured left ankle today in Miami Beach, Florida.

INF PHOTO, New York Daily News

I have no reason to believe that Derek Jeter will not arrive at spring training in shape, but it’s tougher as you get older and having a foot in a cast is not ideal for physical workouts.  So, I guess that quality, effective third baseman we need for third had better be able to play short too.

Now playing in right field…

The Yankees have chosen not to be players for any major free agents.  It doesn’t mean that I think they should throw millions at Josh Hamilton, but they do need to find a quality replacement for departing right fielder Nick Swisher.  Plugging in an aging veteran is not the answer.  Hamilton is not old, but there are lower risk and lesser paid options available.

The sleeping giant or the ‘Feeble 40’?…

Brian Cashman says, “We’re still capable of a lot.  People should be leery of us and afraid of us, as if we’re the stalking horse”³.  I really hope so, but it appears to me that the 2013 roster will feature highly paid but underproductive veterans, supplemented by waiver signings and minor leaguers.  That might be a bit extreme, but it does feel that way at the moment.  I do not want to take away anything from the recent re-signings of Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera, but the fact remains that all three are at the tail end of their respective careers. They’ll be serviceable major league players in 2013, and perhaps will shine at times, but they need help.  “40” is not necessarily the new “30”.

With the baseball winter meetings next week, we should start to see some moves unfold.  The Yankees need to strengthen their roster and put a team on the field next year that is capable of overcoming the Detroit Tigers (among other teams).  They also need to somehow excite the fan base.  George Steinbrenner felt like the master showman at a Barnum and Bailey Circus, whereas Hal Steinbrenner comes across as a nebbish bookworm (even if he really is not).  Yes, Yankee fans are spoiled but it’s also one of the largest fan bases if not the largest.  Rupert Murdoch would not have invested so much money into the YES Network if he believed the team was headed for a downward spiral.  But the truth remains that if left unchanged, the current roster is no better than third in the AL East and perhaps headed for worse in 2014 when guys like Pettitte, Kuroda and Rivera are settling into their retirement homes and the team makes the moves necessary to come in under the $189 million wire.

Despite my pessimistic comments, I do believe that the Yankees will do the right thing in the end.  I am confident the team that takes the field next April will be one capable of competing with the league’s best.  I guess maybe I always preferred the hare over the tortoise…

–Scott

 

¹ Source:  The New York Post

² Source:  The New York Daily News

³ Source:  The LoHud Yankees Blog

Over-promise and under-deliver…

The only non-dramatic series of the 2012 post-season…

Sadly, the 2012 season is over for the New York Yankees.  But admittedly, I did not feel the team had the horses to win the World Series this year.  I know, any team can get hot and take the championship (i.e., 2011 St Louis Cardinals), but the team’s hot and cold hitting pattern bothered me.  As the saying goes, “good pitching beats good hitting” so the Yankees’ hitting problems are magnified in the play-offs as they continually face #1 or #2 type starters.  If Robinson Cano had gotten hot, maybe it would have been different but no one rose to the challenge in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

The ALCS loss by sweep was painful.  For me, it probably ranks with the 1976 World Series when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds.  If memory serves, they won the World Series the following two years so I guess there is hope for next year!  Well, maybe not.  But all things considered, I’d rather be embarrassed on the ALCS stage than the World Series.  That’s probably awful to say because who wouldn’t want their team in the World Series and I am no different.  But I wouldn’t want to see the Yankees looking as pathetic in the World Series as they did in the ALCS if that makes any sense.

The 2013 season – optimism or pessimism?…

On the heels of Derek Jeter’s successful ankle surgery that will have him out for 4-5 months, there are reports that CC Sabathia will be consulting with Dr. James Andrews for his ailing left elbow.  Apparently, the ligament is intact so there’s hope that either rest or minor surgery to shave the bone spur in his left elbow will be the cure.  This definitely bears close watching over the course of the next few months.  If CC is unavailable to pitch in 2013, the Yankees would be lacking a legitimate #1 starter.  I have not heard how Michael Pineda has been doing, but he’ll  be expected to help fill the void in the rotation regardless of what happens to CC, assuming that he is healthy.  This was a difficult year for young Yankees pitching prospects, with injuries to Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, the latter of whom will be lost for 2013 due to Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees really need to do what it takes to ensure that Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year, and hopefully, Andy Pettitte will decide to go for one more tour around the American League.  With the Houston Astros moving to the American League in 2013, Andy would be assured of playing a few league games at home.  It would be a great farewell tour with Andy pitching in Houston while standing on the mound with the interlocking N-Y on his hat.

Another year in, and I still don’t know what the Yankees have with Phil Hughes.  At times, he is so promising, but others, such a disappointment.  I am not sure that he can be trusted to be anything more than a #5 starter with his inconsistency.  The Yankees have tough decisions to make on both Hughes and reliever Joba Chamberlain, two pitchers who have seemingly been intertwined since they arrived in New York.

I am concerned about Alex Rodriguez and the huge adverse impact of his contract on the team.  The production no longer matches the pay, and of course, the pay prevents those dollars from being spent more wisely.  The Yankees will have to settle for “less” in other areas, which will further handicap the team’s productivity.  If the Yankees can find a way to move A-Rod, regardless of the cost, I would be in favor of it.  I’ve never been a big A-Rod fan, and I would prefer to see his association with the Yankees eliminated.

I want the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, but if the cost is a 10-year, behemoth mega-million contract, I am not so sure the team should go down that road.  I am tired of these long-term deals where the player only performs to the level of the contract for the first few years.  Cano’s silent bat in the play-offs also was a red flag for me.  It’s disappointing because Cano has been one of my favorite players, but the future of an organization should not be tied to one or two players.  The St Louis Cardinals are an organization that always seems to make the right decisions for the good of the team, and it has worked out well for them.  They are a win away from the World Series despite letting one of the best hitters in baseball walk away last winter.

I do not want to be disrespectful of Derek Jeter and I recognize that he had a great 2012 season, but the fact remains that he’ll be a 39-year-old shortstop coming off ankle surgery heading into next season.

When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, it looked like a great signing…much better than the previous first base commitment to Jason Giambi.  But after a great 2009 season, Teixeira has not been the feared hitter that I thought he would be.  He has been great defensively, but never delivers the key, clutch hit.  Those ice cold starts to begin seasons are getting longer and longer.

I do believe the Yankees need to re-sign catcher Russell Martin.  I’d also like to see them either invest in a stronger back-up catcher or commit to Francisco Cervelli over Chris Stewart.

I had great respect for Eric Chavez when he was the starting third baseman for the Oakland A’s early in his career, and I’ve thought he was a great role player for the Yankees over the last couple of seasons.  But now is the time for the Yankees to move on and find a strong, reliable third base option to spot A-Rod (or replace him if they can somehow find a way to move A-Rod to Miami or Phoenix).

In the outfield, I am hopeful the healthy return of Brett Gardner will be a positive.  I have mixed feelings about re-signing Ichiro Suzuki.  I thought he rebounded to have a very productive end of the season, but the Yankees are too full of guys nearing or at 40 years of age.  A healthy Gardner can replace what the Yankees have in Ichiro…well maybe not the hitting ability, but all other components of his game.  I like Curtis Granderson and even though he underperformed in the play-offs, I would still like to see his return.  I’ve been a big fan of Nick Swisher, and have appreciated how his personality lightens the Yankees clubhouse.  But right field is an area in need of improvement.  If the Yankees can get Swisher to re-sign for a reasonable amount of dollars and years, maybe it makes sense to bring him back.  But if his expectation is 5-7 years at dollars approaching $100 million, then the team should let him walk.

I am not in favor of bringing either Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez back.  Ibanez had some tremendous hits in the play-off series against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yankees need to strengthen their bench with younger players who have greater upside.

I am glad to see the Yankees commit to both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi for the 2013 season.  I think both, if given the resources and support, can bring the team back to championship level.  At this point, the Yankees seem to be in an inferior position to the last place Boston Red Sox in terms of roster flexibility.  The Sox ability to unload dead contracts on the Los Angeles Dodgers late in the season was huge.  Now that the Sox have their guy as manager (John Farrell), there’s no doubt that we’ll see an improved Red Sox team next season.  If the AL East was highly competitive in 2012, it will be even more so in 2013.  The difference between first and last place could be which team makes the best decisions this off-season.  The margin for error will be less than it has ever been.

I hate to be so doom and gloom, but the Yankees have much work ahead of them.  Despite baseball’s highest payroll, they have a team comprised of older ballplayers that are experiencing the inevitable declines in production.  The dollars committed to unproductive players like A-Rod and Teixeira are an albatross for a team that wants to reduce its payroll by 2014 to avoid excessive financial penalties.  The Yankees do have the talent in the front office and certainly the resources to persevere so how they navigate the next few months will determine if the Yankees are a team of promise and destiny at the start of the 2013 or just another aging ball club that has seen its better years.

A fan of whatever team plays the Tigers…

Despite being an American League fan, it will be hard for me to cheer for the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  With the Cardinals holding a 3-2 advantage against the San Francisco Giants heading into tonight’s NLCS Game 6, my preference is for the Giants to somehow find a way to overcome.  But if they are unsuccessful and the Cards advance to face the Tigers, I will pull for St Louis.  Residing in the Bay Area, the Giants are a “hometown” favorite for me; while the Cardinals are a “sentimental” favorite (my first major league baseball game as a kid was in St Louis).  Plus, as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks, it would be tough for me to pull for any city that boasts the Lions or the Red Wings.

At this point, I am ready for the Hot Stove League to begin…

–Scott

Money for nothing and the chicks for free…well, maybe not…

 

Knock me down, dust me off, and get back up…

I never expected the Baltimore Orioles to catch the Yankees in the AL East in the month of September.  All season, I’ve been expecting the O’s to run out of gas and drop off the pace.  It was the Tampa Bay Rays that I was most fearful of.  At one time, the Yanks had what seemed to be an insurmountable lead, but sluggish play in August and now September allowed the O’s to catch the division leaders.

Fortunately, a night later, the Yankees are back up by one game after defeating the Rays, 6-4, while the O’s lost to the Toronto Blue Jays by the same score.

I keep hearing the excuses of injuries but every team deals with its share of setbacks.  It is how the teams respond to adversity that defines the winners from the losers.  After the Yankees had defeated the Orioles in the second game of a recent three-game set (a game the O’s should have won), I thought the Yankees had turned back Baltimore’s threat.  But in the third game, the Yanks fell flat and the O’s walked away winning two of three.  That set the stage for this week’s tie as the Yankees continued to under-perform.

I knew that tonight’s game with the Rays was a “statement” game.  The Yankees needed to show who they are and what we can expect in the coming days and weeks.  It was a close game and less than stellar start for pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, but the Yankees got the all important “W” so that’s all that matters.  Now, they need to continue upon the momentum and kick this into a short (or long) winning streak.

I have been worried that the Yankees didn’t really add any reinforcements at the trading deadline.  Being forced to use Freddy Garcia in the starting rotation or over-exposing aging vets like Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez is not a good thing.  I had been hopeful that either Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos would step up at some point this year after the season-ending loss of Michael Pineda in spring training, but injuries wiped out the talented duo.

I’d like to think the Yankees have the horses to win the World Series, but I do not.  I think they’ll persevere and win the AL East, but admittedly, I do not feel they’ll advance very deep in the play-offs.  Inferior pitching and the lack of timely hitting will again prove to be their Achilles Heel.  I am still convinced the Texas Rangers will once again represent the American League in the World Series.  Perhaps this is their year to finally win it.  I’d love it if the Yankees got hot and went on a roll that took them deep into October, but I just don’t see it happening.

Aaron Rodgers-Lite, is that too much to ask?…

As we move into the NFL season, it’s tough when your team (Minnesota Vikings) is picked to be on the fast track to a top pick in next year’s draft.  There is talent on the team so I don’t see anything close to 0-16, but Christian Ponder certainly needs to step up his game.  He has the intelligence and the ability to do it so time will tell.  It’s not going to hurt having T Matt Kalil watching his back.  Hopefully, the Vikings can regroup to the point that they are a championship caliber team by the time the new stadium opens.

Win a championship, lose to the Cowgirls…

Well, the NFL Season has opened and the Dallas Cowboys lead the rest of the league by one game.  Let the games begin!

–Scott

 

Winning is so much better than the alternative…

 

Playing better while waiting for an old friend…

With news that Andy Pettitte will be starting on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, it’s good to see the Yankees starting to play with more consistency.  It’s no coincidence that the Yankees better play of late comes during a month when Robinson Cano’s bat has started to heat up.  He is essential to the team’s success given an inability to consistently depend upon Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. 

CC Sabathia was in prime form against David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yanks took the final game of the series this week, and 2 of 3 from the Rays after getting swept in the season opening series in St. Petersburg.  I realize that David Robertson was not available to pitch on Friday night after his previous workload, but Rafael Soriano’s performance in saving the game does help illustrate the Yankees might be better served by having Soriano close and returning Robertson to his highly successful setup role.

I am not ready to condemn Robertson for the failed save that gave the Rays their only win of the series, but Soriano simply has much more experience closing games.  Robertson is great in the 7th and 8th innings, and perhaps he’ll be a future All-Star closer.  But for now, I’d rather go with experience at the end of the game and ensure that the 7th and 8th innings are covered.  It’s tough because I think very highly of Robertson, but his ability to weave in and out of trouble plays better in the earlier innings than it does the 9th.  Soriano is being paid like a closer, and it would be easier to fill his setup role than it is Robertson’s. 

When I first heard Friday’s pitching match-up was Seattle’s King Felix against Hiroki Kuroda, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Felix Hernandez is among the best pitchers in baseball and Kuroda has been inconsistent since his arrival in the AL.  But it turned out to be one of Kuroda’s better performances as the Yankees defeated the Mariners, 6-2.  The game did see a home run from former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero.  I hope this is not a sign of things to come.  It was never fun watching Jay Buhner taunt the Yankees after they traded him to Seattle, and I was glad when Buhner finally retired.  But now, with Montero in Seattle, it is Buhner revisited as I am sure he’ll become the latest Yankee killer. 

I was relieved to see the Yankees option Eduardo Nunez to minor leagues after his continued errors.  I am not sure what he can do to improve his fielding but I’d rather see him work on it in the minors rather than at Yankee Stadium.  Nunez’s exit meant the return of Eric Chavez from the DL, which is good for Alex Rodriguez. 

I am anxious to see what Andy Pettitte is able to do on Sunday.  Based on his late start in the minors, he didn’t appear ready.  But then again, with a professional like Pettitte, you can’t really judge his performance in a minor league game.  Andy knows when he is ready and he would not have accepted the advancement back to the Bronx if he didn’t feel that he was ready for major league hitters.  I was listening to John Smoltz on ESPN Radio today and he said that it would probably take 3-5 starts for Pettitte to get back up to speed.  I am sure that Joe Girardi will have David Phelps on call during Pettitte’s starts in case he needs long relief, but I am hopeful that Andy can keep his team in games while he works his way back.  At any rate, best of luck to Andy on Sunday!

Billy Beane’s working the bargain bin once again…

What’s Brandon Inge good for?  All he does is hit grand slams!  Seriously, it is good to see Inge start off his Oakland A’s career in grand fashion.  I haven’t followed the Detroit Tigers closely this season but admittedly I was very surprised when Inge received his release from the Tigers.  He had been such a mainstay in Detroit over the years, and was always there to fill a need.  From afar, he seemed to be the consummate professional.  After he was cut by the Tigers, I didn’t expect him to be unemployed for long and of course the A’s signed him shortly thereafter. 

When I first heard this morning that Inge had hit a grand slam, I thought they were referring to the one a few days ago.  But he had hit his second slam in three days on Friday.  If getting hits had been a problem in Detroit this year, Inge doesn’t seem to have the same affliction in the Bay Area.

Hopefully, this is a start of good things for Inge in Oakland….

Role model for not how to act…

I have never been a fan of Josh Beckett.  I may be a Yankees fan, but there are players on the Red Sox roster that I respect.  Beckett just isn’t one of them.  Beckett played a key role in the September swoon that cost the Red Sox a play-off spot last season and he showed no remorse for his actions.  So, it should come as no surprise that Beckett was dismissive of the public’s negative perception of his decision to play golf after missing a start due to a lat muscle.  Regardless of whether he was physically able to play golf is not the issue, it is the negative perception that it created in the minds of the Red Sox Nation as well as the rest of the country. 

I agree with the backlash against Beckett.  His comments after getting pummeled by the Cleveland Indians last night came across as very smug.  His comment that he only gets 18 days off a year was ridiculous.  If baseball isn’t important to him, then he should return his $17 million annual salary to the Red Sox.  I just don’t understand why he couldn’t say something like he was physically feeling well enough to play golf and the golf swing had no impact on the muscle soreness that he had been experiencing, and he was sorry for putting himself ahead of the team.  I know that’s just not Beckett’s personality, but these types of incidents are creating a wedge between Beckett and the RSN.  I’ve heard some say that the next time Beckett racks up 13 strikeouts or throws a shutout, all will be forgiven.  Perhaps there’s some truth to it, but I don’t see Beckett ever fully repairing the damage he’s done. 

I am surprised that Bobby Valentine is not saying much, but then again, he probably learned his lesson after he made negative remarks about Kevin Youkilis.  Or maybe Bobby doesn’t want to completely alienate his pitcher, given how critical he had been of Beckett when he was part of the media. 

Beckett deserves much credit for the success the Boston Red Sox have enjoyed in recent years, but he is doing his best to put a sour note on his legacy.

After being sacked on third down, Vikes toss a Hail Mary…

Congratulations to the Minnesota Vikings and the city of Minneapolis, as well as Vikings fans everywhere, for the passage of the $975 stadium deal through the Minnesota House and Senate.  This has been an incredible roller coaster ride for years.  Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked as though all might be lost.  Then , NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell came to Minnesota, and helped to reignite talks.  The bill still has to be signed off by the governor, but that’s a foregone conclusion as he’s been in support of a new stadium.  I am glad to see that the Vikings will be staying in Minnesota and won’t be a flight risk to Los Angeles. 

 

–Scott

 

You win some, you lose some…

 

Uneven start to the 2012 season…

I guess the season opening series sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays set the tone, but this has been a hot and cold season thus far.  The New York Yankees followed the Rays series with their own sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, but they’ve struggled against the Minnesota Twins in the Bronx.  Given how the Yankees have owned the Twins in recent years and the fact the Twins were a 99 loss team last year with no notable improvements, it seems odd that the Yankees are fighting to salvage the fourth game of the series with the Twins and at least earn a split.

Now you see him, now you don’t…

I was excited last week when Hiroki Kuroda pitched a gem, but after getting pounded by the Twins yesterday , he’s had more bad starts than good.  It’s only three starts in, and I am sure that Kuroda will not be A.J. Burnett Revisited, but I’d prefer the ratio of good starts to bad to be reversed.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to change leagues, especially for a foreign player.  There is a difference in pitching in the AL versus the NL, and it would seem, to a novice like me, that it would be more enjoyable to pitch in the National League given the lack of a DH.

Odd men out…

As it stands right now, I think that both Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia are pitching their way out of the rotation to make way for the eventual returns of Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda.  I expect Hughes to be moved to the bullpen, but I am not sure what will happen with Garcia.  I don’t really see him going to the pen if Hughes goes there, and of course, he’s not going to the minor leagues.  Best case scenario is a trade to bring in a player with potential.  It obviously wouldn’t be a high ranked prospect, but rather something of a gamble with upside.

What have you done for me lately…

I feel bad for Francisco Cervelli sitting in AAA simply because he had options, but I have to say that I was impressed when no-hit back up catcher Chris Stewart had 3 RBI’s the other night.  Stewart is clearly on the roster because of his defense but his bat has never scared anybody.  It still won’t, but it’s always good to mix in a hit or two.

I didn’t watch the game but the match-up of Cliff Lee and Matt Cain last night in San Francisco was stellar.  I was going to say that the game featured two of my favorite pitchers, but I am still a bit miffed at Cliff Lee for his rejection of the Yankees a couple of seasons back.  Tim Lincecum gets the press in San Francisco, but I’ve always appreciated Matt Cain.  If I owned a baseball team, he would be one of the guys that I’d target for acquisition.  I’ve always admired his competitiveness.  The marquee match-up didn’t disappoint as Cain went 9 innings, allowing no runs, and Lee went an almost unheard of 10 innings.  Neither pitcher gave up a run.  A more startling statistic is that Lee only threw 102 pitches and Cain 91.  Neither pitcher figured in the outcome as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 in 11 innings.  But there is no doubt that was the season’s prime pitching duel so far.  Kind of makes me wish that I had been sitting in AT&T Park last night.

The Grandy Man can…

As I am sitting here typing this blog, Curtis Granderson has hit three home runs in the first four innings of tonight’s game against the Twins.  Yes, I think Grandy has settled into the Bronx.  As the song goes, with a slight variation, the Grandy Man can ‘cuz he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.  Yes, he does.  I remember being disappointed that the Yankees gave up Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke for Granderson, but even though Kennedy has prospered in the Sonoran Desert, I am glad the trade was made. Grandy is a class act and probably the closest to Derek Jeter in terms of quality of character.

Will Los Angeles continue to take the best of Minnesota?…

As a resident of Minneapolis and a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I am very disappointed in the recent chain of events in the Vikings’ efforts to secure a new stadium.  A state legislative committee nixed the Vikings’ plan and it is looking like the subject will be tabled until 2013.  The Minnesota legislature goes on break in a week so they are running out of time to take action with the stadium issue.  There hasn’t been any threats of relocation but they are starting to rumble to the surface.  The Vikings have passed the lease expiration of the Metrodome, so relocation is a genuine threat.  Based on reports, the Vikings will not tolerate delay until 2013 so this situation is critical.  I heard today that the NFL is coming to Minnesota in an effort to break the impasse.  But the odds of the Los Angeles Vikings becoming a reality have to be increasing.  This is very disappointing.  For me, I am not a native Minnesotan, so I’ll stay with the Vikings regardless of what happens, but they belong in Minnesota.  You would think that the city of Minneapolis would have learned something with the Lakers…

Well, what would we do if sports weren’t available to frustrate us?…

 

–Scott

 

 

 

 

Chavez Ravine to the Bronx!…

 

Chavez Ravine to the Bronx reminds me of Tommy John for some reason…

Welcome to New York, Hiro!  It was a terrific debut at Yankee Stadium for #2 starter Hiroki Kuroda, as he shut down the Los Angeles Angels, 5-0 in the team’s 2012 home opener.  The Angels, historically, play the Yankees very well in New York, so Kuroda’s performance was significantly more impressive than if it had come against a team like the Minnesota Twins.  Obviously, the former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher is not going to pitch like this every time out, but I do feel more confident in the #2 slot in the rotation than I did when it was held by A.J. Burnett.

The game also marked the 630th home run by Alex Rodriguez, which tied him with his former teammate, Ken Griffey, Jr.  The script couldn’t have been written any better for a marvelous day in New York.

A proud day for a Yankees legend and his father…

It was also a very classy move to have Jorge Posada throw out the first pitch, which is the good karma that set the stage for the wonderful day.  I am sure that it was a thrill for Jorge to throw the pitch to his father.  I lost my own father as a child, but who doesn’t love the scene in Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner plays catch with his father.  It has to be an absolute thrill, and I am sure that it was for Jorge as his father was able to take the field at Yankee Stadium.  I had heard the Yankees wanted Mariano Rivera to catch Posada’s throw, but Jorge wanted his dad.  You certainly cannot find fault in his decision.  Mariano’s day will come.  Both players have reservations for Monument Park.

DL-R-Us…

I was sorry to see the injury suffered by Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox.  The word is that he’ll be out 6-8 weeks with the shoulder injury he suffered during Boston’s home opening day win over the Tampa Bay Rays.  Boston may be a fierce rival, but I take so satisfaction in seeing the loss of one of their better players.  To be the best, you have to beat the best which means that I want Boston and Tampa to have their best players on the field.  The Red Sox probably have more dollars committed to guys on the DL than the team payrolls for a number of teams in major league baseball, with the likes of John Lackey, Dice-K, Carl Crawford, Andrew Bailey, and Bobby Jenks currently disabled.

Hopefully, Ellsbury will make a smooth and speedy recovery, and will be back on the field soon.

The team name on Damon’s jersey should come with Velcro…

I know it’s a paycheck but it seems like Johnny Damon will have played with every team in the AL by the time he’s finished.  He’s been with so many teams, I honestly can’t say what team he should be remembered for.  Maybe Boston because of the Caveman look and helping them secure their first World Series win in a century, maybe the Royals because that’s where he got his start, who knows.  I can’t look at him and say that ‘he’s forever a Yankee’ because his time was too brief and now it’s too watered down with other teams.  Damon as a Cleveland Indian just seems strange.  If Cleveland is out by July, I am sure that Damon will be moved to a contender, adding yet another team.  Or Damon doesn’t get enough at-bats and opts out of his Cleveland deal, and heads elsewhere.  Regardless, he just seems like a rent-a-player at this point.  Maybe MLB should incorporate 10-day contracts like the NBA…

Purple People are better…

I am looking forward to the upcoming NFL Draft.  The Minnesota Vikings, with the third selection and the top two picks already pre-determined, have some tough choices to make.  I’ve been in favor of OT Matt Kalil, but an argument can be made for WR Justin Blackmon or CB Morris Claiborne.  I thought it was interesting when Colts owner Jim Irsay made comments that teams interested in QB Ryan Tannehill should talk to the Vikings about their #3 pick.  I have not followed the story closely enough to understand his motivation, but I’d prefer to see the Vikings hang on to the pick (despite the opportunity to add more picks) given the strength of the talent available.  I am sure the Miami Dolphins are drooling over the idea of nabbing Tannehill so I guess it would depend upon how desperate they are to make a move.  Unless the Vikings are overwhelmed, I want to see Kalil, Blackmon or Claiborne wearing purple at a mini-camp coming soon.

Actually, it’s hard to believe that we are already starting to talk about football again.  It seems like the season just ended.  But then again, it’s hard to believe that the 2012 MLB Season is well underway.  It should be a fun sports year for all…

–Scott

 

You had me at ‘Yankees win!’…

 

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

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

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

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

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

Please tell me more about the medical insurance…

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

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

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

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

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

 

–Scott

 

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