Results tagged ‘ Roy Halladay ’

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

I was never a fan of good-byes…

Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end.  Well, at least for the New York Yankees.  It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime.  Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.

I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen.  His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric.  The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand.  He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else.  Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way.  A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between.  His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.

Looking back, I certainly have no regrets.  It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend.  He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end.  Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore.  Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own.  They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner.  Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.

I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees.  I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition.  Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners.  To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”.   This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen.  The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since.  So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.

During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees.  Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera.  All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement.  That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.

Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time.  Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance.  I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past.  He wears #13.  Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point.  Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew.  He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man.  He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field.  If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo.  The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.

Mo, we thank you for simply being you.  You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were.  You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes.  You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents.  Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career.  I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan.  He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position.  He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame.  Anything less is unacceptable.  He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime.  Farewell, Mo.  This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.

 

Mariano Rivera

 

AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)

The gaze from under the brim of his cat…

While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte.  Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October).  He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner.  His passion showed and he was a champion.  It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back.  Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees.  He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be.  It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston.  A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger).  For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug.  There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation.  Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team.  I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.

Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow.  When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart.  CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff.  Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation.  Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher.  He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers.  We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime.  Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…

Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford.  The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history.  Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room.  DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto).  For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing.  It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.

What does the future hold?…

I really do not know what to expect next year.  At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back.  Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion.  Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages.  I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players.  The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best.  While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years.  I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves.  The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable.  Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest.  They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season.  Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition.  Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…

–Scott

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the lack of better words, Ouch!…

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

Open the Cooperstown doors now…

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

But are they Yankees fans?…

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

 

 

And the winner is…

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

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

–Scott

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

 

 

 

 

Can you throw 95 mph…and beat the Sox?…

 

If you can beat Boston and Tampa Bay, we want you!…

The Yankees’ season of uneven play continues.  They go to Oakland and sweep the A’s, and then lose a series to the Angels of Los Angeles but located in Anaheim or whatever they are called these days.  Granted, the Angels have always been a thorn in the Yankees’ side, but they started the season slowly so there was hope it would continue through the series with the Yankees.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  At the least the Yankees salvaged the final game of the season.  It is always good to win the get-away game regardless of the outcome of the prior games in the series.

Given the Yankees had pinned much of their 2012 hopes on starting pitcher Michael Pineda (lost for the season due to injury), it is not a surprise that trade rumors are starting to surface.  I saw one today about interest in Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs.  I’ve always liked Garza, and even if his time in Chicago has not been stellar, the guy knows how to pitch in the AL East.  He’s not going to be the second coming of Roy Halladay, but he would be an effective choice.  I would think that a trade for Garza, among other highly touted prospects, would include either Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova.  I couldn’t see the Cubs making the trade for prospects only.  I also couldn’t see the Yankees trading Hughes given his recent strong performances.  But including Nova would cost greater minor league talent to be included.  What I don’t want to see is a trade for the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez.  He has had a decent season so far, but the AL East is a different animal and I’d rather have someone with proven experience.

I saw a comment on one of my recent posts that Yankees fans needed to get over losing Cliff Lee.  Huh?  Where did that come from?  Yes, I would have liked to have signed Lee, but he obviously preferred to return to Philadelphia.  There’s nothing wrong with his choice.  I’ve moved on, and I think other Yankees fans have too.  Just because we are concerned about the state of the current starting rotation has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we lost out on Lee.

Youk, the star of Chavez Ravine…

I saw today that the Boston Red Sox are trying to move Kevin Youkilis in a move that would not qualify as a surprise.  Will Middlebrooks has shown that he is major league ready and the earlier confrontation in the media between manager Bobby Valentine and Youk shows that the clutch hitter supreme might be better suited in a different uniform.  Given the Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team, I am hopeful that the Dodgers will acquire Youk for manager Donnie Baseball.  I’d really hate to see the Sox trade Youk to the Rangers and only strengthen what has been the AL’s best team.

Leave it to Santana to say “f” Mets history…

About a week ago or so, I was listening to the guys on MLB Radio talk about how the New York Mets did not have a no-hitter despite having no-hitter king Nolan Ryan on their roster at one time.  But of course all good things must end as Johan Santana threw a no-no tonight.  Congratulations to Santana as it has been a tough road since he left the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a…

I am a big fan of David Robertson, but I am hopeful that manager Joe Girardi keeps Rafael Soriano in the closer role and returns Robertson to his key setup position.  Robertson is the best setup guy in baseball in my opinion.  Sori has showed signs of his dominance several seasons back as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays as the team’s closer.  He’s no Mariano Rivera, but I think Robertson-Soriano provides the Yanks with the best case scenario all things considered.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

Scott

 

All things considered, he’d rather be in Pitt…

What he said was telling…

A.J. Burnett’s words upon his arrival in Bradenton for training camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates told me all that I needed to know.  The Yankees made the right decision.  It’s not like I needed any reassurance, as I’ve felt for a long time that a change of scenery would be the best case scenario for Burnett.  But reading his words, “Going back to the NL, where I can hit and run the bases, and get the joy back in the game” showed that he was never going to repeat his 2009 success in pinstripes or be the pitcher he was in 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Courtesy Pirates.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One day, he is among several others in competition for the #5 spot in the rotation and the next, he’s a frontliner.  The difference and perhaps why he’ll succeed as a Bucco are the lower expectations.  I am not from Pittsburgh and I cannot speak for Pirates fans, but somehow, I don’t think they have the same ‘World Series or bust’ mentality of Yankees fans.  I have always respected Burnett’s arm, and I like the guy from what I’ve seen in interviews.  He has a reputation for being a stand-up guy and of course he brought a lighter air to the stuffy Yankee corporate clubhouse environment.  Hopefully, if anything, his sense of humor and camaraderie will prevail among his former teammates.

It would have been interesting to see what Burnett could have done at the back of the Philadelphia Phillies rotation given his close relationship with Doc Halladay, but Pittsburgh is the best spot for Burnett to focus on his game.

For once it was young guys leaving Pittsburgh instead of the other way around in a Yankees-Pirates trade.  Time will tell if Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones can make the Show, but it would be nice to see former Pirates prospects excel in New York after so many years of the opposite situation.

Time to face the music…Exit the Sandman…

Speaking of words, it definitely sounds as though we may be witnessing the final year of a legend.  While Mariano Rivera hasn’t admitted that this is his last season, it would appear that his decision of ‘when’ has already been made.  So, it fells into what he didn’t say, and that tells me that he is prepared to ride off into the sunset.  Mo is already a legend and will leave the game of baseball as the greatest closer in major league history.  I have dreaded this day for a number of years but obviously it eventually has to happen.  I just don’t see Mo as a guy who hangs on and can’t let go.  I also don’t want to see an erosion of his amazing talent so I’d prefer that he walked away while he was still at or near the top.  Along with Derek Jeter, they are a pair assured of entry into the Hall of Fame.  While closers have generally had to wait for extended periods to gain entry, I doubt Mo will suffer the same fate.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe this is not Mo’s final season, maybe it is.  Regardless, I will value and appreciate every time he takes the mound…

Now, only the EZ acquisitions remain…

Welcome Raul Ibanez!  The Yankees finally settled the left handed side of DH, and went with a proven slugger.  Last year was bit of a down year for Ibanez but he still managed 20 homers.  His new role, which will be more limited for him than in years past, should allow him to continue to perform well.  A DH tandem of Ibanez and Andruw Jones should be a productive one, particularly given that they’ll be spelled from time to time by Alex Rodriguez.  Maybe Raul will let Cliff Lee know that being a Yankee isn’t all bad…

With Ibanez on board, I really hope the Yankees can entice third baseman Eric Chavez to return.  Nothing against Bill Hall or Eduardo Nunez, but I’d really prefer to see Chavez as the primary backup for those inevitable A-Rod absences.  I know, I need more faith in A-Rod’s ability to stay healthy.  I’d like nothing more than to see him prove me wrong and post a banner year.  If 2012 continues to be ‘more of the same’ that we’ve seen in recent years, his behemoth contract is going to weigh more and more heavily on the team.  Sadly, that’s not one that the Pirates or any other team can help with…

Wow, it’s actually kind of fun to have some Yankees stuff to talk about!  I love talking baseball and see the photos from spring training, even if it is snowing outside while I write this post.

–Scott

Addition by Subtraction…

 

Whew, it’s over…

On one hand, I do feel bad because there’s no denying the talent in A.J. Burnett’s arm, even if it has lost some of its zip over the past couple of seasons.  If he had the mental fortitude of his good buddy, Roy Halladay, there’s no telling what he could have done with his extraordinary gift.  But it was the mental lapses in difficult situations, magnified on the big stage in New York, that led the Yankees to make the only move they could have made.  So, it’s exit Stage Left, or I guess Stage Right in Burnett’s case, as he moves on to the Steel City.

I am hopeful that the new and less-pressurized environment will allow Burnett to pitch more like the guy he was in Toronto with the Blue Jays.  If that happens, it will be a win-win for both the Yankees and the Pirates.  Granted, the two “prospects” the Yankees acquired in the Burnett trade (pitcher Diego Moreno and outfielder Exicardo Cayones) are considered low-level, but the salary relief for the Yanks (Pirates absorbing $13 million of what’s left on Burnett’s remaining $33 contract) is a positive.  Even for the almighty Yankees.  If neither Moreno or Cayones ever develop into major league talent, it was still a good trade for the Yankees.  So, anything out of either of those players would be a bonus.

Of course, the haters will come out in full force if Phil Hughes fails to seize the opportunity and Freddy Garcia proves he overstayed his welcome by one year.  But even in that worst case scenario, I’d prefer to see the talented arms in the farm system get the audition.

The Yankees will apparently sign both third baseman Eric Chavez and outfielder Raul Ibanez once the Burnett trade is finalized.  Those are two good pieces for the 2012 squad.  I like the idea of an Ibanez-Andruw Jones tandem at DH, with occasional time for Alex Rodriguez.  Ibanez may not be the slugger he once was, but with 20 homers in Philly last year, he proved he can swing it on occasion.  For sentimental reasons, it would have been nice to see the return of either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui, but Ibanez is clearly the better choice.

He did it the RIGHT way in more ways than one…

Pitcher Tim Wakefield has been a long-time nemesis as the member of the Yankees’ arch rival, but it was still sad to see him call it a career.  I know, it was time, and there’s always the chance the Red Sox call his number later in the season if they need help, but he leaves the game as a champion.  The city of Boston and the Red Sox organization are very privileged to have one of baseball’s most charitable and classiest individuals in the game as one of their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Wakefield and David Ortiz proved that anything can happen after they were both released by their previous organizations but flourished with the Red Sox in the major leagues.  It gives me hope for guys like Preston Mattingly and others.  Wakefield makes for an incredible role model, and hopefully, he’ll continue to be a fixture in baseball in some capacity.

The Los Angeles Vikings didn’t really sound very good any way…

Finally, the Minnesota Vikings have a tentative stadium deal.  Like the Burnett trade negotiations, this has been drawn out through eternity.  I know, there are still many hurdles to be cleared before actual construction begins, but at least it was the first positive move forward for the Vikings.  As a Vikings fan, there’s always been the fear in the back of one’s mind that the team would decide to move to greener pastures in Los Angeles (much like the Minneapolis Lakers did years ago).  The tentative stadium deal would keep the Vikings in Minneapolis, as opposed to a suburban area like Arden Hills.  Hopefully, this deal will get passed by the city and state, and will ensure that the Vikings are in Minnesota…and Minneapolis…for the long haul.

–Scott

Wanted: Big Production, Little Paycheck…

 

Joe says it so it must be true!…

So now even manager Joe Girardi is expressing interest in a left-handed bat!  Joe’s joined the club of us overly intelligent, know-more-than-Brian Cashman fans!  LOL!  Just kidding.  But it is interesting to see a key Yankee figure express the need for additional help.  With free agents Raul Ibanez (wow, I almost typed Mondesi!), Hideki Matsui, and Johnny Damon lurking on the sidelines, GM Brian Cashman recently indicated the Yankees would pursue help via trade.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Obviously, the Yankees need to unload a pitcher.  With three starters vying for the #5 spot in the rotation (Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes), it’s clear that this is going to end badly for one or two pitchers.  All things considered, I think you have to put Phil Hughes in the rotation.  The Yankees HAVE to prove that 2010 was not a fluke (or not).  Plus, Hiroki Kuroda, at 37, is not destined to be a long-term Yankee.  Sure, the Yanks could go hard after Cole Hamels or Matt Cain as a replacement following the 2012 season but I still subscribe to the ‘dance with the one who brung ya’ theory.  Well, at least until he proves us wrong.  I know, the leash is overly long, but Hughes is still young, and he can still be a force in the rotation.  He’d certainly be cheaper than either Hamels or Cain in the foreseeable future.

So, where does that leave Burnett and Garcia?  I think Garcia is the best option to plant in the bullpen as the long man and #6 starter in the event of injury in the rotation…at least until Dellin Betances and/or Manny Banuelos are ready later in the year.  This means shipping Burnett and lots of money to another team is probably best case scenario.  Trading Hughes would be foolish since the return, following his poor 2011 season, would be under market value.  Plus, Hughes has more long-term value to the team than Burnett.  There’s no way the Yankees re-sign Burnett at the expiration of his contract.  He’ll see the same door as Jason Giambi with a slight push from behind.

But, and that’s a big but, what does Burnett bring in trade?  He is not going to bring a young slugger, that’s for sure.  More than likely, it would only be someone else’s albatross, ala Alfonso Soriano.  I still think one of the available free agents is the best option for the left-handed bat, but I am sure whatever move Cashman makes will be the best one for the organization.

Wanted:  Someone who’s butt can withstand splinters…

As for the additional infield bench support to accompany Eduardo Nunez, I still would really like to see the return of Eric Chavez even though Bill Hall’s name has been mentioned more frequently as of late.

“Buck, we really need to be the focus of the tabloids”…

I have to admit that I am surprised to see the teams mentioned as possibilities for Manny Ramirez.  No, I don’t want Man-Ram calling 161st and River home, but the teams mentioned…Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays…seem like odd fits for a guy that has to spend 50 games on the suspended list.  With the emphasis on youth in Oakland and Baltimore, I’d question whether having Manny on the team is worth it in terms of the negative impact he can have.  Younger players are far more impressionable, and no team, even the Blue Jays, need a distraction.  Maybe Manny can still swing it.  I acknowledge that he was once the most feared hitter in the AL, but I don’t think he’ll ever be close to the hitter he once was.  Age sucks, but it happens to us all…

A funny thing happened to the Phillies on their way to the World Series…

Edwin Jackson to the Washington Nationals on a one-year deal was a good move for the Nats.  Outside of the New York Mets, the NL East is a scary division.  Yeah, the Philadelphia Phillies have the Big 3 (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels), but there are too many other question marks to make them the clear favorite.  I don’t think the Miami Marlins will win the division but they’ll make noise.  The Braves, the Nats.  That’s a tough division.  Then, there’s the Mets…

Go, boston?…

With a New York-Boston Super Bowl upon us, it’s weird that I, as a Yankees fan, find myself on the Boston side of the battle.  That seems so wrong on so many levels.  But it is what it is…go Patriots!

 

–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

 

From Minneapolis to New York, with Love…


I am pleasantly surprised at the Yankees’ success,
so far, against the Minnesota Twins…



 


I had been so disappointed with the team’s pathetic
September performance that saw them lose any chance of winning the AL
East.  Within a matter of days or even
hours, they went from the possibility of the AL East Championship with home
field advantage to a road-traveling Wild Card team.  It was hard to be excited about the start of
the play-offs with the team playing so poorly. 
For the first two games of the ALDS series against the Twins, the
Yankees have risen to the challenge. 
Granted, the Yankees have a history of success against the Twins, but I’d
be the first to say that past domination does not guarantee future domination.  2004 wasn’t that many years ago…



Vincent Laforet/The New York Times

 

While the Yankees have the series advantage and are
now headed for the Bronx to resume the series on Saturday night, the Twins are
far from out of it.  If they can get
solid pitching and timely hitting in New York, they have a chance to take the
series back to Minnesota for the deciding Game 5.  Outside of perhaps CC Sabathia, the Yankees simply
do not have a pitcher that is capable of putting up a Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee
type of performance.  Even CC has his bad
days.  But going into the play-offs, I
knew that the lesser guys would need to stand up and so far, Lance Berkman and
Curtis Granderson certainly have. 



... scores Curtis Granderson to knot the score.

Sipken/NY Daily News

 

I am very surprised to see the AL East Champion
Tampa Bay Rays trailing their ALDS series to the Texas Rangers (down two games
to none).  I realize that the Rays
struggled in September like the Yankees but I felt they were probably the best
team in the American League based primarily on their pitching staff.  Like the Twins, the Rays can still get back
in the series but the Rangers have to like their chances.



Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee flips a ball during a practice for their American League Division Series baseball games against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lee is scheduled to pitch game one.

AP



There have been great pitching performances in the
National League with the no-hitter thrown by the Philadelphia Phillies’ Roy
Halladay and last night’s 14-strikeout, complete game shut-out thrown by San
Francisco’s Tim Lincecum in the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Atlanta
Braves. 



Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle

 

Regardless of what happens, the League Championship
Series in both leagues should be very exciting this year.  I still think the Phillies will win it all,
but the Yankees certainly have as much talent as anyone to get on a roll. 



 


Going off-topic but staying with the ‘Minnesota to New York’ theme, I was very pleasantly surprised to
see the return of Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings play the Jets in the Meadowlands on Monday night.  I have retained my purple #84 jersey all
these years but never thought that I’d get a chance to wear it again.  I knew that Randy had become quite vocal in
recent weeks about the lack of a contract extension and of course there was
last weekend’s blow-up with a coordinator. 
Still, I did not expect the New England Patriots to trade Moss.  The Vikings have clearly been missing Sidney
Rice who will be out until at least mid-season due to hip surgery.  It will be interesting to see if chemistry
develops between Moss and QB Brett Favre. 
It is going to be weird watching Moss catching passes from Favre after
all those years of playing against each other in the Packers-Vikings series. 



Randy Moss

 


At 1-2, the Vikings face a very challenging
October.  After the game against the Jets, they will face the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and
New England Patriots to close out the month. 
The team should definitely know where they stand by Halloween.


–Scott

  

Moving Forward…

With the franchise’s 9,500th win (dating back to the New York Highlanders in 2003), the Yankees moved into sole possession of first place…

 

 

The two central figures in today’s win against the New York Mets were CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. 

 

 

Aristide Economopoulos/The Star Ledger

 

Sabathia has struggled at times this season, and held a 7-3 record heading into today’s action.  Teixeira had a very cold April, started to warm up in May before lapsing back into a deep freeze in June.  But today, they did what it took to win.  CC pitched 8 scoreless innings, giving up only 4 hits with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts.  The Mets couldn’t stop him but a 20 minute rain delay finally did as Mo Rivera finished the game in a non-save situation after the delay ended. 

 

 

Mets at Yankees, June 20th, 2010

Aristide Economopoulos/The Star Ledger

 

Teixeira came up huge in the third inning with a grand slam that provided the former Highlanders with the only runs they would need.  Credit Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher for excellent play and hustle in loading the bases on three singles, only one of which made it out of the infield.  It was very enjoyable to hear John Sterling’s trademark “Tex Message!” call. 

 

 

Mets at Yankees, June 20th, 2010

Aristide Economopoulos/The Star Ledger

 

Despite losing Friday night’s game, the Yankees came back to win on both Saturday and Sunday to capture the series and end the season series in a split. 

 

I was surprised to see Roy Halladay lose again.  This time to Carl Pavano and the Minnesota Twins.  Like his record against the Yankees, Halladay sported an excellent mark against the Twins.  But it was not meant to be today against the Twins as he fell 4-1.  I am not saying that Cliff Lee is a better pitcher than Halladay, but so far, the regular season performances in Phillies uniforms is tilted in Lee’s favor.  Of course, it’s not all Doc’s fault given his 2.43 ERA which implies that he has not had run support given his 8-6 record. 

 

I guess Joe Torre did not have a joyful return to Fenway Park, and neither did Manny Ramirez as the Boston Red Sox swept the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend.  The AL East couldn’t be tighter with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Red Sox just one game behind the Yankees.  The Toronto Blue Jays continue to lurk in the shadows, just 5 ½ games back although they did lose today.

 

The Yankees now head to Phoenix to play the Arizona Diamondbacks.  I don’t have great memories of the Yankees in Phoenix, but fortunately Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are no longer on the mound and Luis Gonzalez is not in the outfield.  The D-Backs have a good team and former Yankee Ian Kennedy has done well in the rotation.  Nevertheless, I will be hoping for redemption anyway.  Besides, we have a one game lead to protect!

 

I was bummed after the 2010 NFL Draft when the Minnesota Vikings did not draft a quarterback.  They did select Joe Webb of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, however, the immediate talk was that Webb would be shifted to wide receiver.  During the recent mini-camps, Webb, with his 11 inch hands and athleticism, showed that he can be a quarterback of the future.  So, at least for now, the move to wide receiver has been postponed.  The Vikings will take a long look at Webb as a QB in training camp.

 

 

Andy King/AP

 

I hope it was a great Father’s Day for all the baseball-loving Dads!

 

–Scott

And Then They Were Tied…

 

“I must be in the front row!”…

 

 

 

Bob Uecker, by Steve Moore/Getty Images

 

 

The Yankees capped a very successful weekend in sweeping the Houston Astros by moving into a first place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Of course, the Yankees need to keep the pressure on to avoid falling behind the Rays again but they should be in good shape if CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett can keep the momentum going.

 

With Alex Rodriguez still on the bench due to an ailing hip, the Yankees rode Jorge Posada’s second grand slam in as many days to a 9-5 victory at Yankee Stadium.

 

 

Jorge Posada hits his second grand slam in as many days to lead the New York Yankees to a sweep of the Houston Astros.

Sipkin/NY Daily News

 

 

Manager Joe Girardi stayed with starter Phil Hughes a bit too long in the 6th as the Astros scored four runs after trailing 7-1.  When the Astros scored the first two runs of the inning, I thought that Hughes should have been pulled.  He was over 100 pitches but I know Girardi wanted to see him finish the inning.  It turned out to be a big mistake as light-hitting Kevin Cash delivered a two run homer to end the day for Hughes.

 

 

William Perlman/The Star Ledger

 

The Yankees answered with several runs of their own and the bullpen was up to the task of securing the win for Hughes.  It was his 9th win of the season to tie him for the league lead with David Price and Clay Buchholz.  I thought Damaso Marte’s strikeout after relieving Hughes was huge.  The Astros had seized the game momentum but it quickly evaporated with Marte’s strike out of Michael Bourn.

 

The Yankees get a much deserved day off on Monday.  They’ll need it since they’ll be staring at Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night.  The Phillies will definitely be seeking revenge for last October.  It should be a great series.

 

Speaking of grand slams, here is a look back at a great one…

 

 

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