Results tagged ‘ Tino Martinez ’

When a move that had to be made, is made…

Thank you, Merci, Gracias, Grazie, Danke, ありがとう

Yes, I admit it, I was worried that starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was either going to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers or head back to Japan to pursue his stated intent to finish his career in his home country.  Pulling Kuroda out of the Yankees rotation was not a promising thought.  Given CC Sabathia’s recent minor surgery, it is no sure thing that he’ll be Mister King of the Hill when the season rolls around.  After CC, there is nothing but question marks.  As it stands, the rotation would be Sabathia, Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps.  Nothing against the latter three, but all of them carry their own questions and concerns.  The Yankees are not going after a prize free agent pitcher, so they would have been left to try and find a diamond in the rough.  Fortunately, that’s no longer a concern, particularly if the Yankees get a return engagement from Andy Pettitte.

In the back of mind, I did feel that Kuroda would stay in New York due to a sense of unfinished business.  In his final season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, I remember he had veto power on trades and he made a comment that he wanted to finish the season with the guys he started the year with.  He struck me as a loyal and honorable player with those remarks, and despite rumors he left money on the table from other prospective clubs, he made the decision to return to New York on a one-year, $15 million deal.  This may be his second and final season with the Yankees, but he’s certainly proven to me that he has a great deal of integrity with a genuine respect for the game which places him among the upper echelon of guys who have put on the pinstripes.

Thanks, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

As for the other two notable Yankee free agents (Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher), I am indifferent about who they sign with.  I would prefer to see neither player sign with an AL East club, but then again, they have to find the best deal for them wherever that may be.  I saw some speculation that the Boston Red Sox might go after Swisher, but after their signing of former Oakland A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes today, I wonder if it lessens their interest in Swish.  I am concerned about right field, but I have to trust that GM Brian Cashman has a plan.  His trade for Swisher a few years ago was inspired, and I am sure they’ve scoped the league for players who are long on talent but have underperformed to this point.  Logan Morrison of the Miami Marlins is one player who immediately comes to mind.

Player most likely to replace A-Rod during the inevitable DL stint…

Once we get past Thanksgiving and to the Baseball Winter Meetings, we should start to get a better idea of what the Yankees game plan for 2013 looks like.  I am sure that there will be late moves in January or early February, but at some point, the Yankees have to do something to improve their roster.  Complacency in the AL East will only buy you last place.

There hasn’t been much talk about catching, but I wonder who’ll be the backstop in 2013.  Russell Martin has not been a priority so the potential increases every day that someone steps forward with a reasonable offer that entices Martin to bite.  I get the sense that if he is healthy, Austin Romine may see some time behind the plate.  It’s too bad Gary Sanchez is still so far away in the minor leagues.

Hello, again…

I was surprised to see the Toronto Blue Jays bring back former manager John Gibbons, but then again, they brought back Cito Gaston for a second tour of duty (when he replaced Gibbons a few years ago).  Gibbons must be jazzed about getting control of his old team combined with the influx of great talent through the trade with the Marlins that brought Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Emilio Bonificio to Ontario.  Of course that adds pressure to the job due the increased expectations.  I was still surprised that the Jays didn’t try to keep Torey Lovullo (who followed John Farrell to Boston) given the recent trend to go with younger, unproven managers (ala Robin Ventura, Don Mattingly, Walt Weiss, Mike Redmond, etc.).  Not that Gibbons is old (he is only 50), but he does kind of have that ‘been there, done that’ stigma attached to him.

Why did I tell Boston to shove it?…

Speaking of the Marlins, I wonder how their new hitting coach Tino Martinez feels about the team now.  He signed with the Marlins just prior to the blockbuster trade, so the roster looks completely different now than it did when he joined Miami.  He’ll have his work cut out for him as the Marlins unveil a largely unknown roster when play resumes in April.

Hal, Rupert Murdoch on Line 1…

Now that the News Corporation has acquired a 49% stake in the YES Network, I wonder how much influence Rupert Murdoch will have on the Steinbrenner family.  The YES Network is dependent upon the success of the Yankees, and if Hal’s imposed budgetary constraints on the Yankees result in diminished performance, how loud does Murdoch become?  People will not pay premium dollars to watch a 70-win team on the field.  The Steinbrenner family insists this is not a prelude to the possible sale of the Yankees, but then again, Hal and Hank were always reluctant to join the team’s management when their dad was alive and healthy.  For years, it seemed like a Steinbrenner son-in-law had more interest than a blood-born Steinbrenner (outside of George, of course).  If someone told me that I could make billions, I am sorry but I’d have to let go of my affection for the Yankees.  If Hal is so focused on the bottom line, I believe that inevitably he’ll seek to cash out when the team is at an optimum potential sales price.

The next couple of years will be very pivotal years for the Yankees franchise.

Who died and made you George Steinbrenner?…

The Los Angeles Dodgers remain my second favorite team (otherwise known as my favorite National League team), but I maintain my reservations that they want to become the new “Yankees”.  It is not outside of the realm of possibility that they’ll surpass the Yankees in total annual salaries.  Yes, I am tired of simply buying players.  I do like the good old fashioned trade to help subsidize home-grown talent.  For years, that was the Dodgers’ business model and it is one that has helped propel the San Francisco Giants to two World Championships in three years.  I remain a devout Don Mattingly fan, but I hope that the organization is not creating expectations so great that Donnie Baseball can’t survive.  Then again, there is the scenario that the Yankees and Dodgers regress, and both Joe Girardi and Mattingly are fired, setting up the potential return to New York for the now experienced manager Mattingly.

I want to wish everyone a very happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving!  May it be a time of peace, joy, and robust memories for all of you and your respective families.  Of course, in Dallas, it will only be memorable if the Cowboys win, but everywhere else, I hope everyone is grateful and thankful for life and what life has to offer.  Be well and enjoy!…

–Scott

The Hot Stove League Pre-Season is underway…

 

Yes, Brian, I want to believe…

“I am excited about the opportunities we have.”

I wish that I could say that was my quote, but unfortunately, I am not feeling as optimistic as GM Brian Cashman who spoke those words.

With the imminent departure of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, and Hiroki Kuroda, combined with another year of age on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the future is not looking so rosy at the moment.  For a team that needs to upgrade its rotation, losing Kuroda would clearly be a setback.  I remain hopeful that the team will re-sign him to a one year deal since he appears willing to accept a short-term contract and all signs indicated he enjoyed his time in New York.  I really do not expect the Yankees to re-sign either Swisher or Soriano.  It’s unfortunate as I’ve appreciated the positive impact that Swisher’s personality had on the Yankees’ “corporate” clubhouse culture.  As Soriano, the excessively fat contract for a set up guy paid dividends when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and he superbly stepped in to give the Yankees a top closer as a brief trial with David Robertson.

If the Yankees could sign Joaquim Soria to a set up role, I do think it would help neutralize the loss of Soriano.  There is also the possibility that reliever David Aardsma could move into the role, along with Robertson, if he successfully makes it back from his injury.

Replacing Swisher’s bat will be the tougher challenge.  No offense against Torii Hunter, but signing him to be the new right fielder does not make me excited.  I do like the talk of moving Brett Gardner to center and Curtis Granderson to left.  Hopefully, the Yankees can bring Ichiro Suzuki back for another year.  I am not sure what the best answer is for right.  The best options are only available through trade.

I read this morning that the Boston Red Sox had signed Atlanta Braves’ backup catcher David Ross, whom the Yankees liked.  I am surprised Atlanta let him get away given the health of starter Brian McCann, but it’s disappointing to see the Red Sox snatch away a player that could have helped the Yankees.

With a team that is trying so hard to reduce payroll by 2014 and one that devotes so much salary space to decreasingly productive guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, I just don’t see Brian Cashman being successful playing “Moneyball”.  When you consider how many dollars the Yanks have committed to A-Rod and his drain on the roster, it would appear to me that the team has less dollars to play with than any of their big city rivals if the end game is to avoid luxury tax and penalties in 2014.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been so appreciative of players like Jeter, Rivera and Andy Pettitte.  But the fact remains that they will be another year older in 2013 and at some point, they will begin to break down.  There doesn’t seem to be any high level prospects ready to step into their shoes.  I wish there was a way the team could move A-Rod and his albatross contract but that’s unlikely to happen.

I remain hopeful that Brian Cashman is able to make a move this winter to improve the team.  If the team stays status quo or struggles to replace those they will lose, I do not see the Yankees finishing any higher than third in the AL East next season.  But, of course, if Hal Steinbrenner lets Cash make the moves necessary to position the team for 2013, then they’ll be in the thick of the pack at the top of the division.

Tino, Tino, Tino!…

I am happy to see Tino Martinez become hitting coach for the Miami Marlins.  It is bittersweet to see him leave the Yankees organization, but much easier to see him go to his home state as opposed to being the hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox.  The latter was a real possibility as the Sox had gotten permission to talk to Martinez, but fortunately, he opted to go help Mike Redmond turn around the Marlins.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite NL team in recent years due to manager Don Mattingly.  I enjoy seeing my favorites do well, even if they can’t do it in the Yankees organization.  Another example would be San Francisco Giants’ pitching coach Dave Righetti, fresh off his second World Series championship in three years.  Tino is certainly in the same class with those guys, and will always be someone that I will root for.  That’s why watching him go to Boston would have been so difficult.

Coach Giambino…

Speaking of hitting coaches, I am hopeful that manager “wannabe” Jason Giambi decides to take the hitting coach position with the Colorado Rockies.  Maybe he is not ready to hang up his bat just yet, but I think he would be a very positive addition to Walt Weiss’s staff and it would put him on the path of eventually reaching his goal to be a manager.  While I was surprised to see the Rockies go with Weiss as manager over Matt Williams, I recognize that Weiss knows the Rockies organization and they know him.  If he surrounds himself with the right coaching staff, I think Weiss can be highly successful in Colorado.

The Dodgers quest to overtake the Giants…

Regressing back to the Dodgers but staying on the theme of hitting coaches, I was mildly surprised by Mark McGwire’s decision to move from the Cardinals to the Dodgers.  I know that McGwire is a Southern CA guy, but still, the Cardinals were his organization.  Maybe that’s why it is best to move to another organization so that your legacy as a player is the primary association.  Granted, McGwire does not have the untarnished reputation like Mattingly had in New York, but hopefully it works out for Big Mac.  Performance-enhancing drugs or not, the guy knows how to hit.

It’s funny, particularly given my long history of being a Yankees fan, but I am a little put off by the free spending ways of the new Dodgers ownership group.  While I believe that you have to spend to put a quality team on the field, spending frivolously seems excessive.  For the Yankees, I only need to use A-Rod as the example.  Over $30 million in one season devoted to a player whose skills are rapidly eroding.  $30 million would go a long way toward bringing in multiple quality…and productive…players.  The Dodgers should no qualms about picking up the contracts of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford when it remains to be seen if they can rise to the current level of their contracts.  It looks like high stakes poker to me with much potential for disaster.

In a couple of weeks, the Hot Stove League should start heating up and it will be interesting to see what form this off-season takes.  I am cautiously optimistic, but understand that it’s very possible the Yanks go into next season hoping some young guys from the farm system are ready to take it to the next level.  I guess I now know what it’s like to be a fan of the Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals…

–Scott

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes good fans are the difference…

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

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

Deux Sorianos?…

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

Yeah, you and what bank?…

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

I choose you, no, maybe you…

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

Those pesky Nats!…

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

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

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

–Scott

A Day of Rumors…


Next week (the Baseball Winter Meetings) is my favorite
time of the off-season.  Like the trading
deadline in July, each day of the meetings bring anticipation and the hope that
your team can improve themselves in some way. 
For this year’s Yankees, it will hopefully bring pitcher Cliff Lee to
the Bronx and perhaps bring an end to the impasse between the team and star
shortstop Derek Jeter. 



Today was an interesting day with reports that the Texas
Rangers had approached free agent pitcher Andy Pettitte.  Subsequently, the Rangers were denying those
reports.  However, I wonder if the “rumor”
had been strategically placed in the media by the Rangers or an alliance to
tweak the Yankees.  Pettitte is already
on record saying that if he plays, it will be with the Yankees or no one.  If his only attraction was to play in Texas
to be closer to home, then maybe I could be convinced that the Rangers rumor
has legs.  However, at this stage of Andy’s
career, it is simply whether or not he wants to stay home with his family with
no baseball distractions or play one more year with the Yankees to build upon
his legacy.  The three years in Houston
already cost him the status of the greatest lefthander in Yankees history.  At this point, he is playing for the way he
wants to be remembered (if he decides to play). 


Julie Jacobson/AP

There was also a report that the San Francisco Giants, on
a day that saw shortstop Juan Uribe sign with the division rival Los Angeles
Dodgers, had reached out to the agent of Derek Jeter.  Financially-speaking, there is no way the
Giants can compete with the Yankees offer. 
Yes, they have the money, thanks to the World Series championship, but
it would be foolish on their part to invest that kind of money in an aging
shortstop when the money could be better spent in other areas to improve the
team in its 2011 title defense.


San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson gestures as he rides in a victory parade for the World Series baseball champions in San Francisco, California November 3, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNI


For as loud as the Jeter negotiations have been, there
has hardly been a peep about the Yankees negotiation with closer Mariano
Rivera.  Tonight, the Toronto Sun is
reporting the parties are close to an agreement that will pay Mo $17 million
next year.  There is still a question
about whether it will be for one or two years. 
Every time I hear those kind of dollars, it always makes me remember
when George Steinbrenner said that he’d never pay a pitcher a million dollars a
year.  I think that was the year Ron
Guidry had to settle for $900,000. 


Getty Images


One Yankees is gone. 
The Florida Marlins signed former Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez.  I saw one headline that said the Marlins
stole Vazquez from the Yankees, but of course, the team made no effort to
re-sign Javy after the very disappointing 2010 campaign.  Early last season, one writer called Javy a
National League pitcher and I have to agree. 
I wanted him to succeed in New York, but I am just not convinced that
would ever happen.  It’s too bad.  I like Javy and I wish him the best in the
National League East.  He certainly knows
the division from his days with the Atlanta Braves.  The competition is steep but you have to like
the Marlins starting rotation.  I am not
going to anoint them as the next World Series champion and they still have to successfully
replace the production of former second baseman Dan Uggla, but the Giants
proved that as long as you have pitching, nothing else really matters.  I say that in jest but there is a certain
degree of truth assuming that you have the players capable of scoring runs and
playing defense.  The Yankees pick up a
supplementary draft pick due the free agent loss since they offered Vazquez
arbitration (which he had agreed to decline). 


javier-vazquez


I liked the Texas Rangers signing of catcher Yorvit
Torrealba.  The Yankees will be in the
market for a strong backup catcher in light of the decision to permanently move
Jorge Posada to DH and make minor leaguer Jesus Montero the starter.  At some point, Austin Romine will be in the
Bronx and perhaps the starting catcher, but I don’t think the Yanks can afford
to go into the season with both Romine and Montero on the roster.  I like Francisco Cervelli but I don’t think
he’s the answer either.  The Yankees need
to find a solid, veteran backup for Montero. 
John Buck, who has since signed with the Marlins, and Torrealba are
certainly guys who could have fit the bill. 
Now, the team will need to look at guys like Bengie Molina if they
decide to go externally for a backup. 



Congratulations to all the former Yankees on the Hall of
Fame ballot.  Of course, I’ll always pull
for my favorite living former Yankee, Don Mattingly, but I agree that his back
problems robbed him of the additional years he really needed for
induction.  The other former Yanks
include Tino Martinez, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Fred McGriff (why did we trade
him again?), Raul Mondesi, John Olerud, Tim Raines, and Lee Smith.  Of the group, Martinez was really the only
one who defined himself in pinstripes but I don’t see him making the Hall of
Fame.  Sorry Tino, but I can assure you
that I was a huge fan every game you played for the Yankees.


Barton Silverman/The New York Times


I was very saddened today to hear the news of the passing
of former Yankees infielder Gil McDougald. 
Growing up as a kid, I’d read about the great Yankees of the 1950’s
dynasty and they always included mention of McDougald.  He only played for 10 years but they were
perhaps the greatest 10 years of Yankees history as he teamed with Mickey
Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Billy Martin to dominate the 50’s with 5
World Series championships.  I remember
thinking as a kid how cool his name was. 
I wish I could have seen those 50’s teams playing for Casey
Stengel.  It would have been a great time
to be a Yankees fan.



–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…

 

 

NY Marathon – November 1st or October 17th?…

Wow, what an exciting game!…

 

 

NYC Marathon.JPG

 

 

The Yankees took a 2-game lead in the American League Championship Series with a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.  It was a marathon 5-hour affair that extended into the early hours of the morning (thanks to the 7:57 pm Eastern starting time). 

 

 

It's another windy night in the Bronx. Game time temperature is a blustery 47 degrees.

Theodorakis/NY Daily News

 

 

It was the fifth longest game in LCS history.  The only surprise is that it didn’t involve the Boston Red Sox, who have played three of those long running games.  Hey Julia, it couldn’t have involved the Red Sox “with the Red Sox season over”! 

 

 

 

 

Sorry my friend!  Okay, maybe not…  ;)

 

It was definitely a long day for me.  I started my morning in San Jose, and I drove to San Francisco to catch a flight to New York.  Arriving at JFK Airport around 6 pm Eastern, I got a rental car and drove down to my former home city of Wilmington, DE.  I listened to the Yankees game on WCBS (John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman) until I was out of range and had to switch over to ESPN Radio (Jon Miller and Joe Morgan).  I was surprised that the rain didn’t appear at Yankee Stadium until the late innings, because I drove through rain throughout my drive down the New Jersey Turnpike, and it continued to rain as I made my way through Pennsylvania to Delaware.  I stopped at a sports bar to watch game, but I finally decided to check into the hotel in the 10th inning.  So, I finished watching the game in the cozy confines of my hotel room.  In all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever watched/listened to a single baseball game through so many different sources!  Oh well, as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well!

 

Hairston cheers after scoring the winning run as a dejected Angels catcher walks off the field.

Simmons/NY Daily News

 

 

I thought that A.J. Burnett pitched a great game.  I was disappointed that a potential victory was aborted by his wild pitch in the 5th inning that allowed the Angels to tie the score.  Had they not scored, it’s possible that the Yankees could have won, 2-1, in regulation with the way their bullpen performed.  Nevertheless, baseball is a game of ‘ifs and buts’ so it didn’t happen so this one was earmarked for extra innings. 

 

 

Elise Amendola/AP

 

 

 

Before I proceed to the latter innings, I do want to congratulate Joba Chamberlain for the job he did in the 7th inning.  He inherited two runners when he relieved Phil Coke.  After allowing an infield single to Torii Hunter to load the bases, he struck out Vladimir Guerrero to end the inning.  That was a huge moment in the game.  Clearly, had they scored any runs, they most likely would have won the game. 

 

 

Julie Jacobson/AP

 

 

Mariano Rivera also did a tremendous job for 2 1/3 innings.  Anything beyond an inning was almost unheard of during the Joe Torre days as they sought to protect Mo.  I understand that, but these are the days of ‘no tomorrow’.  Every game is critical.  I know that it has been difficult for closers to get into the Hall of Fame, but I think that both Rivera and Trevor Hoffman deserve first ballot consideration when their playing days are over.

 

 

Mariano Rivera comes out in the eighth and does a good job at keeping the Angels quiet on the offensive front for 25 pitches.

Antonelli/NY Daily News

 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the stellar defensive play of first baseman Mark Teixeira.  He continues to save runs game in and game out.  I am always amazed at how far he can reach to save errant throws, and there is no doubt that the Yankees stayed in last night’s game because of Tex.  There is no way that Jason Giambi could have gotten to many of these throws (sorry G!).

 

 

And he does it again! It's close, but Teix gets Torii Hunter out in the fourth in the same Stretch Armstrong style as before.

Antonelli/NY Daily News

 

I was bit frustrated in the 11th inning when Alfredo Aceves opened the inning by walking Gary Matthews, Jr.  He scored on a single by the previously ice-cold Chone Figgins after a sacrifice had moved him to second.  Nevertheless, I really didn’t feel like the Yankees would lose the game at that point, despite the Angels’ 3-2 lead. 

 

 

The dry spell is over for Figgins in the 11th inning after his RBI single gives Angels the lead, 3-2, for the first time in this series.

Antonelli/NY Daily News

 

My faith was vindicated in the bottom of the 11th when Alex Rodriguez hit a game-tying home run just out of the reach of a leaping Bobby Abreu.  The ball bounced back onto the field, so for a moment, there was a thought about whether or not was a home run.  Even A-Rod had to slow around second to look at the umpire for the home run signal.  But replays clearly showed the ball hit the stands and ricochet back onto the playing field.  A-Rod, finally, is playing to expectations in the post-season and it has been great.  If the Yanks win it all, the MVP, at this moment, has to be A-Rod.

 

 

Bobby Abreu jumps, but the ball sails into the stands, hitting an unfortunate fan before popping back onto the field.

Antonelli/NY Daily News

 

 

I understand why the Yankees placed Freddy Guzman on the play-off roster (at the expense of Eric Hinske), however, it was frustrating to see Guzman (who had earlier pinch run for DH Hideki Matsui) bat following A-Rod’s homer.  You could almost feel the air deflate out of the Yanks’ momentum when Guzman struck out.  The Angels retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.  Guzman is here because of his Brett Gardner-like speed.  However, I would have felt so much better with Eric Hinske coming off the bench to bat in that situation. 

 

The Angels had their chances.  With two outs in the top of the 12th, the Angels defensive catcher Jeff Mathis (not known for his bat) ripped a double off David Robertson who had just entered the game.  After the next batter was intentionally walked, Robertson struck out Matthews to end the inning. 

 

In the bottom of the 12th, I thought the Yankees missed a golden opportunity when A-Rod flied out to end the inning with the bases loaded.  At that point, I started to turn a bit pessimistic.  David Robertson was still on the mound and Chad Gaudin was the last man standing in the bullpen so I knew time was running out. 

 

 

Last Man Standing.JPG

themovied.org

 

 

 

The Angels got the 13th inning going when an error by Robinson Cano allowed Erick Aybar to safely reach base.  He advanced to second on a sacrifice.  After Bobby Abreu was intentionally walked, an infield groundout by Torii Hunter moved the runners to second and third.  That brought Vlad the Great to the plate.  Of course, memories of his game winning hit in Boston swirled in my head.  But, in keeping in sync with the Angels penchant for leaving men on base…at least in this game, Vlad hit into a groundout to end the inning. 

 

To the bottom of the 13th it was!  Instead of allowing Freddy Guzman to hit, manager Joe Girardi brought Jerry Hairston, Jr. off the bench to bat in the DH slot.  Hard to believe that it was the first play-off appearance for Hairston, but he didn’t disappoint as he reached base on a single to center.  After Brett Gardner sacrificed Hairston to second, Robinson Cano was intentionally walked.  That brought Melky Cabrera to the plate.  In a play that made absolutely no sense to me, Angels second baseman Macer Izturis fielded a ball hit by Cabrera and threw wildly to second base rather than going for the sure out at first. 

 

Erick Aybar, Robinson Cano

Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger

 

 

At this point in the game, the only runner that mattered was the lead runner (Hairston).  He was already advancing to third, so Cano was an irrelevant runner.  The ball sailed past Angels shortstop Erick Aybar and it allowed Hairston to race home with the winning run. 

 

 

Jerry Hairston Jr. Yankees ALCS

John Munson/The Star Ledger

 

 

The first two games of the ALCS have been very un-Angel like, given the multiple errors and men left on base.  I suspect that we’ll see a very different Angels squad at Angels Stadium as the series shifts to Anaheim for three games.  This makes me glad that the Yankees will be taking a 2-0 series lead to the West Coast rather than heading out West tied.  I still fully expect this series to go seven games as it is far from over.  However, I am hopeful for a few more endings like this…

 

 

Yanks take Game 2, 4-3, in a grueling five hours and 10 minutes. 

The Bombers now lead the ALCS, 2-0, and play the Halos in Game 3 in Anaheim on Monday.

Antonelli/NY Daily News

 

 

On a final note, it was great to see Tino Martinez throw out the first pitch, but he definitely looked better hitting game-winning home runs at the old stadium!  

 

 

Former Yanks first baseman Tino Martinez throws out the ceremonial first pitch to Jorge Posada.  

Antonelli/NY Daily News

 

 

I am planning to watch tonight’s game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a Philly sports bar.  I guess I’ll just remain a closet supporter of the Dodgers and smile whenever the Phillies do something good even though inside I will be cheering wildly for Joe Torre, Don Mattingly and company.  Hey, I need to survive the night so that I can head back to New York on Monday morning!  :)

 

 

 

 

One (more) final note…good luck to Dodgers Assistant GM Kim Ng.  She interviewed for the GM job with the San Diego Padres.  It’s strange to think that Kevin Towers will no longer be there, but Kim deserves the opportunity to be the first woman GM in major league history.  She did a great job with the Yankees, and for the past 8 years, she’s been magnificent as Ned Colletti’s top adviser.  I hated to see her leave New York, but I knew that there were bigger and better things in her future.  Kim Ng, General Manager of the San Diego Padres.  It has a great ring to it.  Good luck, Kim! 

 

 

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