Tagged: Atlanta

4th of July Fireworks in the Bronx…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Yankees take Braves Series with a win…

It may not have been a no-hitter like Dave “Rags” Righetti’s no-no in 1983 but I’ll take it. It didn’t look like it would be CC Sabathia’s day when the Braves loaded the bases in the first inning, but, as they say, ‘all’s well that ends well’. Sabathia escaped the first inning jam without giving up a run and he pitched six strong innings, limiting the Braves to  a couple of runs in the fifth and sixth innings, for the 6-2 win.

Credit to Sabathia for the adjustments he has made to become an effective older pitcher. I’ll admit that I had my doubts and I thought he was done just a couple of years ago. Thanks CC for proving me wrong. For all the other issues in the starting rotation, there’s no telling where the Yankees would be without Sabathia. CC improved to 6-3 and maintained his season ERA at 3.02.  

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

I always like games where the Yankees score first and this was one of those games. Didi Gregorious ripped a one-out liner to left inside the foul line for a double in the second inning. After Gleyber Torres struck out for the second out, Greg Bird singled to right, bringing Didi home for the first run.  

The Yankees got more runs in the third inning. Neil Walker led off the bottom of the inning with a single to right. Following outs by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks drew a walk from Braves starter Julio Teheran. Walker and Hicks came around to score when Giancarlo Stanton blasted a shot to the right field porch to put the Yankees ahead, 4-0. Maybe it’s just me but it sure seems like Giancarlo is starting to crank it up for one of his annual monster tears.  

Kyle Higashioka continued his dislike for anything but round-trippers with a solo shot in the fourth inning, his third consecutive home run to start his Major League career (matching the Yankees record set by Alfonso Soriano).  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Gleyber Torres exited the game in the top of the 5th inning when the Yankees moved Neil Walker from third to second and inserted Brandon Drury at third. Later we learned Torres was pulled due to the hip flexor issue that had limited him to replacement duties on Tuesday. After the game, Gleyber was placed on the 10-day DL when the MRI results revealed a mild strain. Hopefully Gleyber will only serve the minimum time on the DL and will be back after the All-Star break.

The fifth inning started right for CC Sabathia when he struck out Dansby Swanson, but then he issued a free pass to Ender Inciarte in a 10-pitch at-bat. Ozzie Albies single to center to put runners at the corners. Danny Santana grounded out to second but Inciarte scored on the play for the Braves’ first run. CC was able to escape any further damage by getting Nick Markakis to line out to center.

The Braves got another run in the sixth inning when Johan Camargo deposited a Sabathia pitch into the left field seats. Charlie Culberson, the former LA Dodger who always seems to come up with the big hit, followed Camargo’s homer with a double to left. Manager Aaron Boone stayed with Sabathia who was able to exit the inning by inducing Dansby Swanson to ground out to second.

The seventh inning brought the rested Chad Green into the game, and although the Braves made noise, they had no runs to show for it when all was said and done. Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies both singled to lead off the inning, with Inciarte moving to second. Representing the tying run, both Danny Santana and Nick Markakis hit deep flies off Green to cause momentary alarm but neither was deep enough to do any damage. Subsequently, a double steal advanced the runners to second and third. Kurt Suzuki had a chance to be the hero for the visiting Braves, but he lined out to right on a 2-0 pitch from Green to end the threat.  

Aaron Judge gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eighth when he hit his 24th home run of the season with a blast to right off Braves reliever Luiz Gohara. Hey, Gohara, that ball go far-ah! Well, not too far but it was still deep enough to set off the siren. Don’t worry about it, Mr Gohara, Judge has a tendency to do that to a lot of pitchers. The Judge homer made it 6-2, Yankees.  

Jonathan Holder, another rested arm, entered the game in the ninth in relief of Dellin Betances who had pitched a scoreless, one-hit inning (double by Charlie Culberson) in the eighth with a couple of strike outs. Holder, like Betances, allowed a hit (a single by Ozzie Albies who subsequently advanced to second on defensive indifference), but the runner could not advance beyond second as Holder closed out the game for the Yankees’ win. 

In retrospect, the Yankees could have easily swept this series but taking two of three from the NL East leaders is still a noteworthy accomplishment. I was glad they prevented the Braves from becoming the second NL team to reach 50 wins. The Yankees (56-28) stayed a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the disappointing Washington Nationals with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday behind a much-improved Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox are only a win away from becoming MLB’s first 60-game winner.   

The Yankees have a much-needed day off today as they prepare for a weekend series in Toronto, Ontario against the Blue Jays. All eyes will be on Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ when he takes the mound against the Yankees on Saturday. With trade speculation connecting Happ to the Yankees, he has an opportunity to show his potential future teammates what he can do. I guess it’s one of those situations where I want him to pitch really well but still take the loss. There’s a part of me that is quietly hoping GM Brian Cashman is able to pry Jacob deGrom from the New York Mets, but the realist in me knows that is very unlikely. Happ may not be in deGrom’s class, but he’d still represent an experienced improvement for the rotation. He would not shy away from the challenge of taking down the Houston Astros or Boston Red Sox.  

Neil Walker becomes the starter at second base while Gleyber Torres is sidelined. Brandon Drury, who served as the regular starting second baseman for the 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks, is also an option. I am hopeful that some regular playing time will help bring around Walker’s bat to minimize the pain of Gleyber’s loss. Ronald Torreyes is currently on the temporary inactive list with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so he is not expected to be an option to replace Torres on the active roster. Tyler Wade seems most likely, but we’ll see. The Yankees have options given the terrific depth at Triple A.  

A happy belated birthday to Yankees broadcaster John Sterling who celebrated his 80th birthday on the 4th of July (a birthday he shared with the Boss). George Steinbrenner would have been 88 yesterday. Michael Kay paid tribute to Sterling with his home run call for Giancarlo Stanton’s third inning homer using Sterling’s “Giancarlo, non si puo stoparlo” tag line.

Masahiro Tanaka made a rehab start for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders against the Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday. It didn’t start off very good. The first batter singled and the second, Richard Urena, took Tanaka yard for a two-run homer. But Tanaka recovered nicely, retiring fourteen in a row at one point. He finished with five innings of three-hit ball, giving up only the two first inning runs, and struck out four. He didn’t walk anybody, and did not factor into the decision. The RailRiders won the game, 4-2, thanks to a four-run seventh inning that included a double, scoring two runs, by likely call-up candidate Tyler Wade.  

Enjoy the day off. I am sure that with the 4th of July celebrations, we could all use some rest. Tomorrow is a new day, and the Yankees will be back in action north of the border and on a TV near you.  

Go Yankees!

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It was a Cole, Hard Night for the Braves…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Yanks prevail, thanks to Bullpen, a couple of homers, and a few walks…

Happy 4th of July!

The Yankees used the long ball and some very lucky breaks on Tuesday night to win the second game of their series with the Atlanta Braves, 8-5.  After losing Monday night’s contest in extra innings on a Ronald Acuna, Jr fly ball that glanced off the top of Aaron Judge’s outstretched glove into the right field stands, it was nice to get one back in the win column.

This game looked like it would be a Yankees rout, but then the Braves charged back before Giancarlo Stanton, with unlikely assists from A.J. Cole and Chasen Shreve, said “oh no, you don’t” with his two-run homer (20th of the year) in the eighth.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac (via Newsday)

Aaron Hicks followed up his three-homer performance on Sunday with a first inning two-run dinger to give the Yankees an early 2-0 off Braves starter (and childhood Red Sox fan) Sean Newcomb.  Hicks quietly has 15 home runs, matching his career high set last season.

In the bottom of the second, Kyle Higashioka added a run with his second Major League hit and second MLB homer with a shot to left. “All he does is hit damn home runs” to borrow and slightly tweak the famous line uttered by the late Buddy Ryan about Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter and his propensity for catching touchdowns. Higgy has certainly allayed any concerns about Austin Romine’s sore hammy.

The third inning was a very unusual one for the Yankees. Newcomb loaded the bases for the Yankees with three walks around two outs before issuing a free pass to Brandon Drury to force in a run. The Braves made a pitching change to bring in reliever Luke Jackson but he couldn’t find the strike zone with Kyle Higashioka (I think every Yankees fan was hoping for another home run by Higgy to match the three-homer start to his career by former Yankee Alfonso Soriano) and walked in another run. Neil Walker lined out to first on a very sharply hit ball to end the inning but the Yankees had scored two more runs despite no hits to lead 5-0.

Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double to left center past a diving Ronald Acuna,Jr. He advanced to third on a single to left by Aaron Judge. Luke Jackson, after striking out the next two batters, threw a wild pitch that allowed Gardy to race home, sliding headfirst across the plate, for the Yankees’ sixth run. It looked like the game was going to be a blowout like Sunday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

Domingo German had looked good for the first four innings but it all unraveled for him in the fifth inning. After Johan Comargo walked to lead off, German was able to strike out Dansby Swanson but then the Braves homer parade started. Ender Inciarte took German deep to right for a two-run shot, and Ozzie Albies followed with a blast to right to make it a three-run game. German gave up singles to the next two batters to end his night, removing his ability to earn the win since he was unable to complete five full innings. A.J. Cole, who had been activated off the disabled list on Monday, came in relief for German.  Cole struck out the first batter, Kurt Suzuki, but then Ronald Acuna, Jr reached on an infield single to load the bases.  In perhaps his biggest moment as a Yankee, Cole struck out Tyler Flowers on a 3-2 count to end the inning, leaving the three Braves runners stranded. I continue to be amazed how effective Cole has been in his limited appearances for the Yankees after his miserable start to the year with the Washington Nationals.

The Braves made it a one-run game in the top of the seventh inning when Nick Markakis, no stranger to Yankee Stadium with his years in Baltimore, took advantage of the right field porch, like his teammates, with a two-run dinger off Adam Warren. There was a bit of a scare when Giancarlo Stanton crashed into the wall while attempting to make the catch on the ball hit by Markakis.

It was looking very precarious for the Yankees in the top of the eighth when the Braves had the go-ahead run on base with only one out following a couple of singles off Warren.  Aaron Boone made the call to the pen for Chasen Shreve (Yikes!) but despite my fears and absolute pessimism, Shreve recorded outs with both men he faced. I can’t say Shreve would have been my choice in that spot but credit to Boonie for keeping the faith.

Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees some breathing room in the bottom of the inning. Brett Gardner took a one-out walk, but was erased at second when Aaron Judge hit into a fielder’s choice at short. So, with Judge at first, Stanton came to the plate and hit what Sweeny Murti called “the Yankee Stadium-iest home run” with a short fly ball (331 feet) just over the right field wall. No matter, it gave the Yankees a 8-5 advantage.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Three up and three down in the top of the ninth for the great Aroldis Chapman and he had his 24th save of the season and another win for the Yankees.

Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Gleyber Torres didn’t start the game with what was described as a stiff hip flexor but he came into the game as a defensive replacement for Neil Walker in the eighth inning. Gleyber is expected to man second base in the series finale with the Braves today.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun

Brandon Drury got the start at first base over Greg Bird. He was 0-for-3 but had the RBI on the bases-loaded walk.

A.J. Cole picked up the vulture win with a very solid 1 2/3 innings of relief after German received the early hook in the fifth. Cole yielded only one hit in the scoreless appearance while striking out four Braves. He was certainly one of the keys to the game for a guy who has seemed to straddle the DFA line for weeks.

I have to admit that it was very strange to see Aaron Boone wearing his Yankees jersey. I almost expected him to pick up a bat to hit for Miguel Andujar. It was probably the first regular season game that I’ve seen Boonie wear the famed Pinstriped jersey since his time with the Yankees in 2003 (this year’s Old Timer’s Day excluded).

Unfortunately, the Yankees (55-28) were unable to make up any ground on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East and continue to trail the Sox by a game. Boston thrashed the Washington Nationals, 11-4, for their second win in as many days against the Nats. I am really hoping that Bryce Harper has a banner day today for the 4th of July. Sadly, the pitching matchup seems to favor the Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez, 9-3, 4.11 ERA against Erick Fedde, 1-3, 6.00 ERA). Hopefully E-Rod will look more like the version that faced the Yankees last weekend.

For the Yankees, they’ll send crafty vet CC Sabathia (5-3, 3.02 ERA) to the hill against Julio Teheran (6-5, 4.21 ERA) for the series finale. This day always make me think of Dave Righetti when he no hit the Boston Red Sox on July 4, 1983.

Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Go Yankees!

The Return of the Empire…

Why?  Because the Yankees McCann!…

I have to admit that the Yankees’ free agent signing of former Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann caught me by surprise.  Like so many people did last Saturday, I went to see The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.  No sooner than I walked out the theater after the movie, I immediately saw the alerts the Yankees had signed McCann. 

I had heard the Yankees were interested in McCann, but so were other teams like the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and Colorado Rockies.  I thought the Rangers were the most likely landing spot.  It’s a winning organization in a city that puts more pressure on the local football team.  The cost of living is reasonable, and the area is spacious.  There’s not too much to dislike about Texas…well, outside of those hot humid summers, the long drives to get anywhere, and the infrequency of trees (at least in North Texas).  I also thought the Boston Red Sox might have an advantage with former McCann backup David Ross on the roster.  Either Texas or Boston offers the chance for World Series participation. 

But in the end, it was the Yankees’ offer (number of years) in combination with the short porch in right field which is very attractive for the left-handed slugger. 

I had Brian McCann as my catcher on my fantasy baseball team this year and his health caused me to seek other options.  While he was on the DL, I leaned on his Braves replacement (Evan Gattis) among others.  So, McCann’s health is an obvious concern.  But if healthy, he is a tremendous addition to the team.  He gives the Yankees their best offensive threat from the position since Jorge Posada retired.  Russell Martin would occasionally get hot, but he is not close to the hitter that McCann is.  Plus, McCann’s leadership abilities are well documented.  When Chipper Jones retired, he gave a strong recommendation for McCann as a team leader. 

Nothing against Francisco Cervelli, but I think he is better suited to backup someone like McCann than to start.  He had his moments last year before getting hurt and then the subsequent suspension, but he’ll get his opportunities when McCann rests or moves to DH.  I am fine with the number of years on the contract because I think McCann is an excellent bridge to super prospect Gary Sanchez.  When Sanchez is ready for the majors, it will be time to slide McCann to first or DH anyway.  It also frees GM Brian Cashman to potentially include other catching prospects like Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy is potential trades.

Signing McCann was a great start to the off-season but there is obviously still much work ahead for Cashman and the Yanks.

Where are we?…

As we turn the page to Thanksgiving, the Yankees have their manager, backup shortstop and catcher in the fold.  They are rumored to be the leaders for the services of free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran of the St Louis Cardinals, although I have heard he has a preference for staying in the NL (I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I personally believe he’d have even greater success in the American League).  I like the idea of Beltran in right. 

As it sounds, Robinson Cano’s camp is still asking for something in the neighborhood of $300 million.  They’ve dropped “slightly” from the initial figure of $310 million, but anything in the Alex Rodriguez area of contracts is too much…even for arguably the team’s best player.  I would rather see the Yankees use the money on multiple key players, shift the offense to other positions and then backfill second base with someone like Omar Infante.  I still hope there are compromises made on both sides to bring Cano back to the Bronx, but if it is not meant to be, I don’t want to see the Yankees overspend. 

So far, no help for the starting rotation.  Several notable free agent pitchers in a market void of any aces have already signed.  Dan Haren with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tim Hudson with the San Francisco Giants, and Ricky Nolasco with the Minnesota Twins.  I don’t think the Yankees were linked to any of those guys, but the smaller the free agent pool, the more intense the competition becomes at least for the guys who can win 12-14 games for you.  I know the Yankees are rumored to be heavily counting on the posting of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka if MLB and the Japanese are able to come to an agreement for a new posting system.  But you have to wonder what Plan B will be.  So far, I have not heard much about Hiroki Kuroda but I would like to see the team try to bring him back for one more year. 

The next few weeks will go a long way toward determining how strong and competitive the 2014 Yankees will be. 

Coaching staff intact…well, almost…

Several weeks ago, I heard that Joe Girardi’s entire coaching staff would be returning.  However, today, I saw that the Arizona Diamondbacks have named Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey as their new pitching coach.  Congratulations to Mike!  Larry Rothschild is not going anywhere so it is good to see Harkey get his opportunity elsewhere.  Now, the Yankees will be in the market for a new bullpen coach.  Say, I wonder what Mariano Rivera is doing…  😉

Well, that’s all for now.  Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

–Scott

 

Belated Congratulations for the AL East Championship…

 

All hail the Champions…

A quick post to congratulate the New York Yankees for winning the American League East Division Championship on the last day of the season.  Thanks to the Baltimore Orioles’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the division was a foregone conclusion when the Yankees completed their thrashing of the Boston Red Sox.  Still, I am glad that the team won on the day they clinched the division.  A loss on “clinching day” always seems so cheap.

Although it was disappointing the Yankees let a large lead slip, they definitely went into ‘bend but not break’ mode as they held at least a share of first throughout the O’s challenge in the final month of the season.  It was a constant back-and-forth…tied, then Yanks ahead, and then tied again.  But in the end, the team persevered.

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

The big surprise to me on the last day of the season was the Texas Rangers’ failure to withstand a large charge by the Oakland A’s.  I remember looking at the standings in July and writing it off as a foregone conclusion that the Rangers would be the AL West champions.  In my mind, they were still the team to beat in the American League.  While I recognized the A’s had the spirited ‘don’t quit’ mentality, I still viewed them as inferior either the Rangers or the Los Angeles Angels.  This was a team that was throwing Triple A pitchers into the starting rotation in September.  All the way to Game 162, I fully expected the Rangers to take care of business.  But they failed, and were forced to play the one game Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles, which they subsequently lost.  Here was the team that was in my mind, the team most likely to go to the World Series and win it, yet they collapsed in the final two most critical weeks of the season.

The Rangers’ loss opens the door for all of the other AL play-off participants to advance to the World Series.  I can’t say there is a clear-cut favorite because even the Yankees, with the best record in the conference, have their share of questions.  The ALDS series format is odd given the first two games of the series will be held in the inferior team’s ballpark.  The Yankees are tied with the O’s late in Game 1 tonight but that always favors the home team with last at-bat.

It was real, it was fun, but it was not real fun…

I am not a Bobby Valentine fan, but I really do believe that firing Valentine was the best case scenario for the Boston Red Sox organization.  As a fan of an opposing team, I’d love for the dysfunction to continue, but the Red Sox fans deserve better.  I subscribe to the adage that ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best’ so I really hope the Red Sox can secure a manager who fits the organization and maximizes the potential and ability of its players.  I still think that recently named Phillies third base coach Ryne Sandberg would be an excellent fit, but maybe it is John Farrell despite the disappointing year in Toronto or other manager.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Respectful of the man who brought two World Championships to Boston…

Speaking of Boston, it was good to see former Red Sox manager Terry Francona return to the game as manager of the Cleveland Indians.  Even when he was the manager of the Red Sox, I had a great deal of respect for Tito.  I have long felt he was one of the game’s truly good guys.  Yes, that final year in Boston did get away from him, but there were so many factors and personalities at play, I feel it is unfair to pin all the blame on Tito.  I am looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Cleveland with his batteries recharged…

A few thoughts on the season…

  • Hey Albert, how did that first year in Los Angeles work out for ya?  Well, at least you have all those mega millions to enjoy your off-season while the team you bailed on continues the defense of its world championship…
  •  Miguel Cabrera has overcome those personal demons, I think…
  • Bryce Harper got the press, but Mike Trout is the stud…
  •  A.J. Burnett proved that he is the latest incarnation of Ed Whitson.  Wilt under the New York spotlight, but thrive in a smaller market with less glare…
  •  Melky Cabrera, disappointment is an understatement.  I respect the San Francisco Giants for their intention to cut ties with the Melk Man.  I really wouldn’t want to be the organization that extends him an olive branch.  In other words, I do not want to see Melky back in the Bronx.
  • How many more years are left on A-Rod’s contract?  Geesh, Jeter continues to pay dividends on his contract at age 38, while A-Rod just keeps making me think of that old Dire Straits’ tune “Money For Nothing”…
  • The Atlanta Braves may have made a quiet departure with their Wild Card loss to St. Louis, but there’s no question that the Braves will continue to be a force with those young pitchers…
  • Oh, Philadelphia Phillies, where for art thou?…
  • The American League Houston Astros?  That sounds so wrong!  But then again, I have finally accepted the Milwaukee Brewers as a National League team so I guess we’ll have to re-visit this in a few years…
  • Trade Ivan Nova and re-sign Hiroki Kuroda…that sounds like a good plan to me!…

I know there’s many more thoughts regarding the 2012 season, but these were a few that immediately came to mind.  It was a fun season and continues to be as we move forward in the AL and NL divisional series.  The idea of two Wild Card teams per league was a success, and win or lose, it was the right thing to do.  There was drama and intrigue up until the last day of the season, and no team “mailed it in”.  I still have too many questions about my own team to anoint them as the AL representative for the World Series.  As of the present moment, my best guess is a “Sparky Anderson” World Series…The Cincinnati Reds versus the Detroit Tigers.  Obviously, I’d prefer to see the Yankees and I hope they prove me wrong about their pitching and clutch hitting…

Ah, October baseball, I love this time of year!

 

–Scott

 

 

It’s 613 miles to Detroit. We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses…hit it!…

 

Are you mocking me?…

The final series of the season has begun and the Yankees find themselves a game up on the Baltimore Orioles with two games to go in the battle for AL East supremacy.  It’s been a dogfight since the O’s caught the Yankees earlier in the month, and the two teams have pretty much matched each other stride for stride since that time.  Sunday, when the Yankees were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 after the O’s had won was the first time that I legitimately felt the Yankees could end the day in second place for the first time since early in the season.  Fortunately for me…and the Yankees, they fought back to emerge with a 9-6 victory.

A season of surprises…

After years of Yankees-Red Sox and most recently, Yankees-Red Sox-Rays, I never expected this to be the year that the Baltimore Orioles would emerge as the Yankees’ primary nemesis.  Still, the Tampa Bay Rays are the team that scares me the most.  With their pitching, they have the potential to go all the way if they make it.  Granted, it’s clearly an uphill battle for them, but they are perhaps the hottest team in baseball right now with 11 wins in 12 games.  Hopefully, the Oakland A’s will end the Rays’ quest but I’d like to see the Rays with an opportunity for at least one more night so they’ll play at the top of their game against the O’s again tomorrow night.  If the A’s win against the Texas Rangers tonight, then it’s over for the Rays.  I am thankful that the Rays’ run got started so late in the season.  If it had occurred earlier, there’s little doubt they’d be bumping shoulders with the Yankees and O’s.

While I am surprised about the successful O’s season, I am flabbergasted by the dismal failure of the Boston Red Sox.  This is a team that could have and should have won the AL East in 2011, but after tonight’s game, the team stands at 91 losses.  It is the highest loss total since 1965 when they lost 100 games.  There’s no threat of 100 losses, but this is clearly an inferior Red Sox team.  I think they’ll be much improved in 2013 but the team has much to do in order to re-tool the once championship squad.  In my opinion, Bobby Valentine has to go.  He has contributed to the dysfunction of the 2012 season and while the losses may not be his fault, he is not the right man for the job.  I do not necessarily think that John Farrell is, or that last year’s runner-up, Gene Lamont, should get the job.  If I were the Red Sox GM, I’d probably go with a guy who has a great deal of minor league managerial experience but has never gotten the opportunity at the major league level, Ryne Sandberg.  He’d be respected by the players and he has the ability to effectively communicate with the younger prospects.

I thought this would be the year the Toronto Blue Jays would take a step forward.  If I would have had to choose between the O’s and the Jays at the start of the season, I probably would have taken the Jays. But I felt they regressed this year.  Well, actually they did.  Who knows how this plays out for John Farrell.  It could be ownership is more willing to let him go to Boston, but of course, does Boston want him and is he truly the right fit?  This remains to be seen.  Nothing like some good old fashioned drama as we head toward the off-season.

As for the other races, I was disappointed to see the Chicago White Sox fade.  I felt they had their division, but the talent of the Detroit Tigers persevered and thrust the team into the lead with a few games left.  Out west, there’s no doubt the Texas Rangers were going to be the champion, but to put the A’s into the play-offs over the Los Angeles Angels was a surprise.  Oakland’s pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t look so far fetched now.

In the National League, I never would have predicted a division championship for the Washington Nationals.  They earned and deserved it, but I didn’t foresee it.  The awful season the Philadelphia Phillies experienced was a surprise.  Hey, Cliff Lee, how does that decision to rebuke the Yankees feel now?  I know, one season does not a mega-million contract make, but hey, this is baseball and it’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately?’.  Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves for at least nailing the Wild Card slot.

The Cincinnati Reds were not a surprise, even playing in the same division as the St Louis Cardinals.  This was destined to be a challenging year for the Cards with a new manager and first baseman.  The Cardinals should still make the play-offs, but this division played out as expected.

The NL West is where I am perplexed.  Although I currently reside in the Bay Area, my NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers.  This is primarily because of the manager (Don Mattingly).  But after the expensive acquisitions late in the season (Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Brandon League and others), I really thought the Dodgers would be well poised to surge to the division championship.  Of course, I fully underestimated the San Francisco Giants and their pitching staff.  Tim Lincecum may have had his struggles this year, but I’d still hate to face him in October with all the chips on the table.

Welcome to the 2012 World Series…

As for my prediction of World Series participants, I am going to go with the Cincinnati Reds versus the Texas Rangers.  The Reds, in my opinion, have a slight advantage over the Washington Nationals.  Of course, I’ve underestimated the San Francisco Giants all season long so why should I change now?  I know this is a Yankees blog and I should be ‘all in’ on another Yankees participation in the World Series.  But I am just not convinced the team has the clutch hitting to succeed.  Hey, I hope they prove me wrong, but I don’t really see anyone else emerging from the AL than the Rangers.  I do not like the Rangers but I recognize that their hunger for a World Series championship remains and they have the talent to succeed.  Best case scenario?  The Yankees go to the World Series to face the San Francisco Giants and see how their hitters perform against former closer Dave Righetti’s aces.

It seems like the season just started but now just two games separate us from the 2012 post-season.  The race to the World Series begins…

—Scott

 

Melky, what were you thinking?…

 

Disappointing…

I am not quite sure what was reaction was when I heard that San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera had been suspended for 50 games due to substance abuse.  As a former Yankee, I watched his career as it went through Atlanta and Kansas City before his arrival in the City by the Bay.  The year in Atlanta was forgettable, but Melky rebounded in Kansas City and continued his renaissance in San Francisco.  The highlight of the year for him was capped with the MVP Award for the All-Star Game.

When Melky was a Yankee, he was often in the mix for game-winning hits and the recipient of one of A.J. Burnett’s pies.  It was tough to see him go to Atlanta in the ill-fated trade for Javier Vazquez but I had hoped that he would have a chance to thrive outside of Yankee Stadium and the platoon situation he found himself in.  Even with his recent success, I still feel that Brett Gardner, when healthy, is a better fit for the Yankees.  Nevertheless, I was glad to see that Melky had found major league success as a regular.

Well, until the day it was announced that he had been suspended.  I lost most if not all respect that day.  Melky’s quick acceptance of his suspension only rubbed salt in the wound, and now there’s a report that he staged a bogus website in a botched attempt to mask his guilt.  I can gladly say that I am glad that Melky is not a Yankee today.  I would not want him on my team and if I was the Giants’ GM Brian Sabean, I’d cut my losses and move on.  The last thing the Giants need is a player with the aura of substance abuse, particularly on the heels of former Giants outfielder Barry Bonds.  Character should be the first criteria when determining if a player is a good fit for any organization.  Yes, athletic ability and talent rank very highly but it means nothing if the player is one of poor character.

News of the totally irrelevant…

Speaking of substance abuse, it’s ironic that another former Yankee is again in the news.  There were reports that Roger Clemens has signed with an independent team.  Seriously?  A 50-year-old pitcher trying to make a comeback?  The only guy who could make Jamie Moyer look like a teenager?  I don’t care if Clemens was acquitted in June.  He is one guy that I never want to see wear pinstripes again or ever set foot on Yankee Stadium soil.

I have been supportive of current Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.  There was something very honest about Pettitte’s admission of substance abuse a few years back.  Maybe he has all of us fooled.  Maybe not.  I tend to believe the latter.  On the other hand, I don’t believe anything Roger Clemens has to say.  Nor do I believe Alex Rodriguez for that matter.  I tolerate Rodriguez because he is on the Yankees but I am not a fan of his.

I’d like to put Melky in the category of guys that should be forgiven, but he just strikes me as another Clemens or A-Rod at this point.  It is incredible that a guy, at this point in time, would risk millions by doing something that is so closely watched.  He was on the fast track for failure.  I doubt we’ve seen the last of Melky but I hope that he learns something from the time off.

I was a Yankee for two months…

I know that the Ichiro in Pinstripes Era is very short-lived and will be expiring at the end of the season, but it was a joy to see him hit two home runs off Josh Beckett in the weekend series against the Red Sox.  Although the Yankees only took two of three from the Sox, this is not the same Red Sox squad of years passed.  Although Bobby Valentine has gotten a vote of confidence from the Front Office, I don’t see how he makes it past just one season in Boston.  It is no secret the Sox covet Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell so if there’s a way to pry him from Canada, I am sure that he will be immediately named the next manager of the Sox.

How did I go from Ichiro to John Farrell?  I am not quite sure about that one myself…

Where did all these former Dodgers come from?…

It’s only a brief sample, but I really wouldn’t mind seeing Derek Lowe return as the long man in the pen next season.  I’ve always admired Lowe’s competitiveness and determination.  It’s still a bit weird watching him in pinstripes, but he is a welcome addition.  There’s no doubt that I want to see the return of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.  He’s been even better than I had anticipated.  I always wondered why Dodger fans were so endeared to him as I had viewed him as a middle of the road starter.  But, wow, I was wrong!  I totally get why he meant so much to Dodger fans.  The team would be lost without Kuroda, particularly after the DL stints of most notably CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.

It’s hard to believe that September is right around the corner.  I guess we will soon be inundated with magic numbers.  There is only one number I am concerned about…#28.  Let’s go, Yankees!

–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!