Tagged: Clayton Kershaw

Astros Leverage Home-Field Advantage for the Win…

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Astros 13, Dodgers 12…

Astros lead Series, 3-2

You certainly do not expect a slugfest to develop for a game that featured frontline aces Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel. That game was as wild as any I have ever seen in the World Series. The YES Network was showing replays of the 2001 World Series yesterday, and Game 4 (a home run by Tino Martinez to tie it and Derek Jeter’s homer to win it) might be the closest to the drama and excitement we saw in the Astros’ big win. 

The win certainly puts the Astros in the driver’s seat as the series will now shift back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday night.  

The game started very positively for Dodgers fans. Chris Taylor led off the game with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out, but then Dallas Keuchel walked both Justin Turner anKiké Hernandez to load the bases. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out and it looked like Keuchel might find a way to emerge unscathed. Logan Forsythe made Southern California sports bars erupt when he singled to left, driving in both Taylor and Turner when the ball booted off the glove of left fielder Marwin Gonzalez.  Hernandez took third. Then, the Dodgers picked up their third run of the inning when Logan Forsythe took off from first too early.  It looked like the Astros would get out of the inning but first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s throw to second was wide which pulled second baseman Jose Altuve away from the bag.  It was just enough for Forsythe to safely slide into second (which the Replay challenge confirmed) and the run scored by Hernandez on the play counted.  

With Kershaw breezing through the first few innings, it appeared that the Dodgers were going to have their way. They picked up another run in the top of the 4th inning. After Bellinger struck out again, Forsythe doubled to deep center with a one-hopper off the wall. Yasiel Puig struck out for the second out but Austin Barnes singled to left, with the ball dropping in front of Marwin Gonzales which brought Forsythe home to score. The Dodgers were up, 4-0, and appeared to be in control of the game. Charlie Culberson subsequently reached on an infield single to shallow right when he beat Jose Altuve’s throw, moving Barnes to second. That was all for Dallas Keuchel as Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the call to the pen and brought in Luke Gregerson. A wild pitch moved Barnes to third but Gregerson struck out Chris Taylor to limit the damage for the Astros. 

In the bottom of the 4th, the craziness ensued. George Springer led off with a walk. Following a fly out to left by Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve reached first on a solid hit to left. Springer moved to second. Carlos Correa smashed a double to left to score Springer. Altuve advanced to third, with Correa sliding into second under the throw (the replay challenge review showed Correa’s heel touched the bag ahead of Charlie Culberson’s tag). Yuli Gurriel then jumped on Kershaw’s first pitch to send it very high over the left field wall for the game-tying three-run homer.  

The Dodgers quickly answered Gurriel’s shot in the top of the 5th. Corey Seager and Justin Turner led off the inning with walks off Astros reliever Collin McHugh. Kiké Herandez had the first opportunity to bring the runners home but he struck out looking (in disbelief at the call). Cody Bellinger was next and he showed the World why he will be the NL’s Rookie of the Year when he blasted a three-run shot to right a few feet above the wall to restore the Dodgers lead at 7-4.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Unfortunately, Clayton Kershaw did not survive the bottom of the 5th. He got two quick outs when Marwin Gonzalez flied out to left and Brian McCann struck out. But it unraveled from there. George Springer battled Kershaw through eight pitches before working a walk, and then Alex Bregman used a 10-pitch at-bat, down at one point to 1-2, to also walk.  Two outs, two runners and Kershaw was done.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Kenta Maeda entered the game and was promptly greeted by a three-run homer to left center by Jose Altuve to tie the game at 7.

Credit:  AP – Charlie Riedel

The Dodgers were able to recapture the lead in the 7th. Brad Peacock was on the mound for the Astros. Justin Turner led off the top of the inning with a double to right center off the top of the wall (bummer, if it had only been a few inches higher). Kiké Hernandez bunted back to the pitcher, but the Astros were able to erase Turner at third with a quick throw from Peacock to third baseman Alex Bregman. Hernandez safe at first. Cody Bellinger’s triple to center, which bounced past George Springer, scored Hernandez. The Dodgers were unable to bring Bellinger home but they had taken a 8-7 lead.   

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought reliever Brandon Morrow into the game for the bottom of the 7th. Morrow has generally been a lockdown pitcher for the Dodgers but not this time. George Springer led off with a massive Aaron Judgian home run to left to tie the game once again. Alex Bregman, swinging on the first pitch, singled to left center and he scored when Jose Altuve doubled to left center over the head of Joc Pederson.  A wild pitch advanced Altuve to third, but it didn’t really matter when Carlos Correa launched a blast over the left field wall while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts could only shake his head. The Astros had their first lead of the game, 11-8. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Tony Cingrani replaced Morrow to retire the next three batters in order and send the game to the 8th inning.

With Brad Peacock still pitching for the ‘Stros, Joc Pederson hit a one-out double off the top of the wall in left. Chris Taylor was hit by a pitch in the ribs. The Astros pulled Peacock and brought in Will Harris.  Harris promptly gave up a double to left center by Corey Seager. Pederson scored and Taylor moved to third. After Justin Turner flied out to right, Harris was pulled in favor of Chris Devenski. The Dodgers sent Andre Ethier (that’s a name I haven’t written in a very long time) up to pinch hit for Kiké Hernandez.  Ethier grounded out to first to leave Taylor stranded at third.  11-9, Astros.

In the bottom of the 8th and Cingrani still pitching for the Dodgers, Brian McCann went deep with a solo blast to right. The Astros had increased their seemingly safe lead to 12-9.

But the Dodgers weren’t done yet. Cody Bellinger led off the top of the 9th with a walk. Devenski struck out Logan Forsythe for the first out.  Yasiel Puig was up next and his homer to left, which just cleared the wall, made it a one-run game. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Austin Barnes followed Puig with a double to center.  Joc Pederson grounded out to short, but Barnes advanced to third on the play.  Chris Taylor’s single up the middle scored Barnes and the game was tied yet again.

The Astros had a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th when Yuli Gurriel doubled (very nearly a home run) but they were unable to bring him home so it was off to extra innings with the 12-12 deadlock.

The Dodgers had a runner on base in the top of the 10th when Andre Ethier singled to left with one out, but they were unsuccessful in moving the runner.

It opened the door for the dramatic bottom of the 10th. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, pitching his second inning, retired the first two hitters before hitting Brian McCann with a pitch on the elbow. Next, George Springer walked. The Astros replaced the slow-footed and elbow-hurting McCann at second with pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman, jumping on the first pitch from Jansen, singled to left center well over the shortstop’s head. Fisher raced around third to score the winning run for the Astros ahead of Andre Ethier’s throw to the plate.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

It was a nice touch by the Houston Astros to have former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush on hand for the ceremonial first pitch.  I am not sure how many more times we’ll see the elder Bush in public but it was good to see that he was healthy enough to participate.

Credit:  Pool – Getty Images

A tough loss for the Dodgers but now the series heads back to Los Angeles and away from the raucous Houston crowd. They face an uphill battle but at least they’ll be able to continue the fight on home turf.  

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends…

Dave Martinez was one of my favorites, among current coaches, for managerial opportunities. As Joe Maddon’s long-time chief lieutenant, I felt that Martinez was ready to run his own show. I didn’t really expect him to get consideration for the Yankees job with no prior connection to Yankees GM Brian Cashman. So, I was not surprised that word leaked yesterday that Martinez is the new manager for the Washington Nationals, signing a three-year deal. It’s a good hire by the Nats and makes the best of a bad situation after they axed former manager Dusty Baker.

There were also reports yesterday the Philadelphia Phillies are close to naming Gabe Kapler as their manager.  Kapler, currently, Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, does not have managing or coaching experience.  If Kapler gets the job, he’ll beat out Phillies Triple-A manager Dusty Wathan, son of John Wathan, to do it.

As for the Yankees, Mark DeRosa is an intriguing name.  I know that like Kapler (above) or Jerry Hairston, Jr, he does not have any coaching experience.  An Ivy Leaguer (he graduated from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), DeRosa may not have any past connections with the Yankees or GM Brian Cashman, but he’s a Jersey guy (born in Passaic and raised in Carlstadt).  I respected DeRosa during his playing career and by all accounts he was a great teammate.  He was versatile playing all positions except catcher, pitcher and center field.  Listening and watching DeRosa, 42, on MLB Network shows he is a very  smart, talented guy and he would mesh perfectly with the New York media as well as the team’s core of Baby Bombers.  I know you need more than a New York accent to manage the Yankees, but I could easily get behind DeRosa as a potential manager.  After watching the Nationals and Phillies (apparently) make very inspired choices for their field generals, I would like to see the Yankees do the same.  Nothing against Rob Thomson but he represents the old guard to me.  It’s time for a fresh, new voice of leadership for the Pinstripers as they embark into the dawn of a new era.

Credit:  MLB.com

Have a great Monday! It’s an off day so if there will be baseball news before the end of the World Series, it happens today. Go Yankees!  

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End of Astros’ Two-Game Winning Streak…

Credit:  Los Angeles Times: Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Dodgers 3, Astros 1…

Dodgers lead Series, 1-0

Powered by the arm of Clayton Kershaw and the bat of Justin Turner, the Los Angeles Dodgers captured Game 1 of the World Series. It was a bittersweet game for Yankees fans as we were left to wonder what could have been. Nevertheless, the Yankees turn will be here soon enough.  For now, it’s about the Dodgers and Astros.

After Kershaw easily set down the Astros in the top of the 1st, Chris Taylor jumped on the first pitch from Astros starter Dallas Keuchel to send it 447 feet over the left field wall. The Dodgers led 1-0 on a very hot Los Angeles evening. It seems like every time I watch the Dodgers play, Taylor is coming up big. He filled in for shortstop Corey Seager during the NLCS when Seager was left off the roster to recover from a lower back sprain. Back in center field, Taylor hit 21 home runs and drove in 72 RBI’s in 140 games for the Dodgers this year, batting .288. It’s incredible to think the Dodgers acquired Taylor from the Seattle Mariners in June 2016 for a pitcher (Zach Lee) who has been released two times since the trade.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times:  Gina Ferazzi

The 1-0 score held up until the top of the 4th inning when Astros third baseman Alex Bregman took Kershaw deep with a solo shot to left leading off the inning.  It was not as far as Taylor’s blast but it still counts the same. It got Kershaw’s attention…he responded by striking out the side. Say what you will about Kershaw but he’s arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He has not had great post-season success to add to his resume…until now. With Kershaw pitching as well as he did, the Astros didn’t really have a chance.

With both starting pitchers still on the mound, the game stayed tied until the bottom of the 6th inning. The Dodgers recorded two quick outs when both Austin Barnes and Kershaw grounded out to shortstop Carlos Correa. But then Keuchel issued a two-out walk to aforementioned Chris Taylor. Justin Turner, the one-time Mets cast-off, strolled to the plate with long red hair and beard flowing. Dallas Keuchel tried to slip a 1-2 cutter past Turner. Boom! Over the wall in the left center and the Dodgers led, 3-1.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times

Kershaw was done after seven innings, receiving congratulations and hugs from Manager Dave Roberts and others in the Dodgers dugout while the Dodgers were preparing to bat. It was a tremendous performance by the big Texan left-hander. He was never in trouble despite the game-tying home run in the 4th inning, limiting the Astros to three hits and one run. He struck out eleven batters and didn’t walk anyone. A big game performance by the game’s elite.  

Credit:  Los Angeles Times: Robert Gauthier

From there, it was time for the trusted Dodgers bullpen. Despite scoreless relief from Houston’s Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski to hold Los Angeles in check, the two-run Dodgers lead was a canyon with Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen setting down the Astros in order for the final six outs. Jansen may have gotten a few dollars less than Aroldis Chapman last off-season when he re-signed with the Dodgers in free agency, but right now, it’s Jansen and not Chapman that you would want for that big final out. He has been Mr Consistency all season long.  

This was a great win for the Dodgers and a wonderful way to start the World Series. The 2017 post-season has been punctuated by home field advantage which certainly works to the favor of the Dodgers.  

Former Yankee Rich Hill gets the Game 2 start tonight for the Dodgers. He’ll be opposed by Houston’s Justin Verlander. I look for the Dodgers to grab a two-game cushion before the series heads to Minute Maid Park in Houston. My prediction is Dodgers 7, Astros 4.  

Credit:  Stephen Dunn-Getty Images

Prior to yesterday’s game, I was saddened to see that former Yankee Curtis Granderson was left off the World Series roster for the Dodgers. Based on performance, it was an easy decision for Dave Roberts. The Grandy Man was 1-for-15 in the post-season and he only hit .161 in 36 games for Los Angeles after being acquired from the New York Mets on August 19th (after that tremendous grand slam against the Yankees at Citi Field). Still, it would have been nice to see Granderson, one of the game’s classiest guys, on the roster after such a good career. The Dodgers made room for 12 pitchers on the World Series roster including oft-injured former Yank Brandon McCarthy which cost Grandy his spot.  

It was great to see Corey Seager back on the field after his absence in the NLCS. Kyle’s brother is one of the game’s best young talents and the Dodgers are clearly a better team with him in the lineup. Seager will most likely see time at DH when the series shifts to Houston to limit the wear and tear on his back.  

Credit: Los Angeles Times: Wally Skalij

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.  

Odds & Ends…

The World Series means very quiet news for other MLB teams. The only meaningful day for potential news will be Thursday since it is a travel day for the World Series teams.  

Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a one hour visit to Yankee Stadium yesterday which drew tremendous speculation on social media but no news from credible Yankees beat writers. It’s also being reported that the Houston Astros are looking at Yankees third base coach Joe Espada for the bench coach vacancy created when current bench coach Alex Cora accepted the managerial gig in Boston effective at the end of the World Series.    

I was glad to see former Cardinal great and one-time Yankees prospect Willie McGee added to the coaching staff for the St Louis Cardinals. I can still remember feeling so underwhelmed when the Yankees traded McGee, a highly touted young prospect, to St Louis for the forgettable Bob Sykes in October 1981. McGee went on to have a tremendous career for the Cardinals including the 1985 NL MVP Award. He was elected to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014.  His specific role on the coaching staff has yet to be announced.  

Have a wonderful Wednesday! Their season may be over, but Go Yankees!

The Dawn of Something Great?…

October Baseball On Our Minds…

Everyone is talking like the New York Yankees are already in the World Series but I do not view (potentially) two games in Houston against the Astros to be a cakewalk.  Tonight, the Yankees send their best (Luis Severino) against crafty veteran Justin Verlander who is very clearly a big game pitcher.  If the Astros win tonight, they have to be viewed as the favorite for Game 7 in Minute Maid Park.  We’re not in the Bronx anymore. But the Yankees have already defeated the best team in the American League in a best-of-five series and they are a single game away from reaching the Fall Classic.  This Yankees team has incredible heart and a ‘no-quit’ drive like none other.

Regardless of what happens, I am very proud of the 2017 Yankees.  Going into the season, it seemed like the experts were forecasting a .500 season at best.  It was unclear if Aaron Judge or Aaron Hicks would win the right field job.  Questions were abound about whether Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia had seen their better days.  Or if Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius could continue their development in the middle infield.  I was one of many uncertain if Luis Severino’s stronger future was in the starting rotation or the bullpen. The Yankees answered those questions (and more) and now stand one game away from the World Series.  There is nothing that the Houston Astros can do to take away from the huge accomplishments achieved by the Yankees.  This is a young team that is only going to get better.  As the saying goes, ‘the future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades!’

If the Yankees do make it to the World Series, they’ll be heading to Los Angeles next week.  The Los Angeles Dodgers dethroned the Chicago Cubs last night to win the NLCS, 4 games to 1.  The Dodgers throttled the Cubs, 11-1, behind the power of their utility outfielder.  Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez put his name into the history books with three home runs and seven RBI’s as the Dodgers coasted to the victory behind the three-hit, one-run pitching of the great Clayton Kershaw over seven innings and three innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen.  Kenley Jansen, the closer, is a stud, but where did Brandon Morrow come from?  The one-time former closer of the Seattle Mariners and ex-Blue Jay has been ‘lights out’ for the Dodgers.  He was 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 games this year, and in 4 games against the Cubs in the NLCS, he allowed only one hit, a walk, and no runs over 4 2/3 innings while striking out seven.  There won’t be too many late inning rallies against the Dodgers.

For the Dodgers, their ten consecutive appearances in the post-season without a championship is the longest streak in MLB history. During that time, the Dodgers have been defeated in the NLCS four times, including last year on the very field they spilled champagne last night.  This makes their eleventh appearance in post-season play since they defeated the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.

The Managerial Musical Chairs…

Growing up watching the Yankees-Dodgers World Series (three times over five years from 1977 to 1981), it is very exciting and intriguing to think the Yankees might finally have the chance to avenge their loss in the 1981 World Series.  Ironically, the 1981 Dodgers also had to get past the Houston Astros (in the NLDS) to reach the World Series.  They defeated the Montreal Expos in the NLCS that year.  The 1981 World Series was also the time when Owner George Steinbrenner allegedly got into an altercation with two Dodgers fans in the elevator of a Los Angeles hotel.  Steinbrenner told reporters, “I clocked them.  There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me”.  Steinbrenner was not sued and the two guys were never identified.  Who knows if Steinbrenner really faced anyone in that elevator but the Yankees finally have the chance for redemption in the City of Angels if they can win one more game against the Astros (just one, let’s do it!).  I am sure that the Boss would be very pleased.

The MLB Post-Season has certainly not stopped other teams from taking action, or at the very least, talking action.

The Detroit Tigers are expected to announce former Twins manager and current Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire as their manager later today (replacing the fired Brad Ausmus).

Ausmus remains a candidate for the job to replace John Farrell in Boston as the Red Sox manager, however, all reports indicate that current Astros bench coach Alex Cora is the likely choice.  Cora is certainly getting a firsthand view of what he may be facing next year.

I personally think that it is a shame for current Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez hasn’t gotten stronger consideration for managerial openings.No word on the open jobs with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, but former Yankees and current Mets hitting coach Kevin Long has emerged as a favorite for the post in Queens.

It remains to be seen if Yankees manager Joe Girardi returns next year.  While one would think that it is a foregone conclusion that Girardi will be back with a new agreement in hand, it is also possible that family considerations could cause Girardi to walk away.  I think the latter is a greater possibility if the Yankees lose the ALCS to the Astros.  I continue to hope that Girardi and the Steinbrenner family come together on a new deal.  I honestly do not see a better alternative currently available.

Have a great Friday!  Like last night, let’s hope the road team is pouring champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game.  Go Yankees!

Slamming the Door, The Tale of Tanaka to Chapman…

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 0…

I ripped Masahiro Tanaka for his last start and he looked at me and said “F-U!” with his latest performance. I love it! Outside of Dellin Betances, I liked everything about this game as the Yankees took down the Jays for their 90th win of the season on Friday afternoon.

While many people were speculating about whether this was Masahiro Tanaka’s final regular season start wearing a Yankees uniform, Masa-hero came out strong. I always like to use the first inning as a barometer and Tanaka was firing on all cylinders, striking out the side on thirteen pitches.

In the bottom of the first, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a one-out single through the hole to shallow left field off Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini. With Aaron Judge at the plate, Ellsbury stole second for his 22nd stolen base of the year. Judge ended up taking a walk anyway. Didi Gregorius was next and he singled to right on a looper that dropped in front of right fielder Michael Saunders to load the bases.  Starlin Castro hit a soft grounder between third and the pitching mound, and Biagini had no play by the time he got to the ball. Ellsbury scored on the play.  Greg Bird’s sacrifice fly to deep center scored Judge. It was the seventh consecutive game with a RBI for Greg Bird who has gone from a season afterthought to one of its prime performers in a matter of just a few weeks since he returned from the disabled list.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Headley struck out to end the inning but the Yankees had a 2-0 lead.  

Tanaka held the Blue Jays hitless through two outs in the top of the 5th inning, when Ezequiel Carrera hit a grounder to second. Starlin Castro went hard after the ball, crashing his knee against the ground, but his throw was not in time to get Carrera at first. With Raffy Lopez batting, Carrera stole second. However, Tanaka got out of the inning when he turned to fire a perfect strike to Didi Gregorius at second to nail Carrera who was trying to dive back to the base. 

Austin Romine led off the bottom of the 5th with a single over the second baseman’s head into right center. Romine was forced out at second when Aaron Hicks hit a grounder to second but Hicks was safe at first. With Jacoby Ellsbury at bat, Hicks stole second. Jacoby Ellsbury lined out to first for the second out.  Aaron Judge followed with a single to left, scoring Hicks. Blue Jays catcher was up the line for the outfield throw so there was no play at the plate but they got Judge between first and second for the final out.  

Ryan Goins picked up the Blue Jays’ second hit off Tanaka in the 6th, a single to center that dropped in front of Jacoby Ellsbury, but Tanaka was still mowing hitters down so Goins didn’t go anywhere when Tanaka struck out the side again. Thirteen strikeouts through six innings for Tanaka.  Incredible.  

Matt Dermody replaced Biagini in the bottom of the 6th inning. Didi Gregorius led off with a single to left. With Starlin Castro batting, Didi Gregorius stole second on what appeared to be third strike on Castro. However, Joe Girardi came out with the argument that it was a foul tip. The umps agreed with Girardi, and Didi returned to first base with Castro coming back to the plate.    Two pitches later, the outcome was the same. Castro swung at the third strike but Didi successfully stole second. Next, Greg Bird (rapidly becoming one of the Yankees best post-trading deadline “acquisitions”) drilled a line drive single off the wall in the right field corner to score Gregorius. Danny Barnes entered the game in relief of Dermody and induced Chase Headley to hit into an inning-ending double play, but no matter, the Yankees had increased their lead to 4-0.

Tanaka allowed one more hit, a double down the line into the left field corner by Josh Donaldson in the top of the 7th, for a total of three. Donaldson got as far as third on a ground out, but Tanaka retired the next three batters in order including two by strikeout to end the inning and his time in the game. He finished with fifteen strikeouts to go with no hits, no runs, and no walks.  It was simply an outstanding performance by Tanaka. If this was his final regular season start as a Yankee, thank you very much. It was a masterpiece to remember.

Credit:  Julie Jacobson-AP

David Robertson pitched the 8th inning. It started with the first walk by a Yankees pitcher in the game, but the runner was erased on a beautiful double play. Raffy Lopez hit a grounder to Greg Bird at first. Bird threw to Didi Gregorius for the force at second. Didi’s throw back to first hooked out but Bird sprawled out on the ground for the catch with his right foot still on the bag.  Excellent defensive play by Bird. D-Rob struck out Ryan Goins to end the inning.  

The 9th inning was not quite as much fun…at least not at the start. Dellin Betances came in with a chance to prove he has finally righted the ship. Richard Urena had other ideas and led off with a single to right, a one hop off the wall.  With Teoscar Hernandez at the plate, a Betances pitch went off Austin Romine’s glove for a passed ball on the catcher. Urena moved to second. Betances ended up walking Hernandez and all you could do was shake your head. End of Betances, who is running out of time to prove that he can be trusted with late inning relief again. I hate to say it, given my disdain for the man, but Dellin is proving Yankees president Randy Levine was right for his critical comments about Betances after the reliever’s arbitration hearing in the off-season.  

Credit:  Abbie Parr-Getty Images

Enter Aroldis Chapman. Man, oh, Man, I am so happy this guy is the Missile again. He struck out Josh Donaldson on three pitches for the first out. Jose Bautista hit a grounder to short and the Yankees were able to force Hernandez out at second but they couldn’t turn the double play when the ball went over Greg Bird’s head. The ball bounced back so Urena had to hold at third. With Rob Refsnyder batting, Bautista took second on defensive indifference. Chapman laid three 100+ mph fastballs across the plate for Refsnyder, with the last pitch hitting 102 mph. Three swings and misses by the former Yankee. Game over. Yankees win!

The Yankees (90-70) looked like a playoff team in this game. They picked up a game on the Boston Red Sox, who lost 3-2 to the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. The Yankees trail the Sox by two games with two to play. I don’t expect the Yankees to catch the Red Sox but they’ve certainly made it interesting these final days of the season.  

Mike Axisa had a great tweet after the game about Tanaka pitching on seven days rest: “One day it will be acknowledged that Tanaka does not actually pitch better on extra rest. Today is not that day.”

Odds & Ends…

Brad Ausmus became the first managerial casualty when it was announced earlier this week that he would not be retained after the season by the Detroit Tigers. I can still remember being disappointed when the Colorado Rockies chose Ausmus, a catcher, in the 1992 Expansion Draft out of the Yankees farm system. Of course, I didn’t really know anything about a guy named Jorge Posada at the time. The latest non-returnee is Pete Mackanin of the Philadelphia Phillies. After the season, Mackanin will become a special assistant to Phillies GM Matt Klentak. As a rebuilding team, I thought that Mackanin would be back but apparently the Phillies leadership team felt otherwise. Two managerial job openings and counting although it’s been widely speculated that Terry Collins of the Mets will not return. So make it three…

The Minnesota Twins have activated their best hitter, 3B Miguel Sano, off the disabled list. Sano was placed on the DL in August when he fouled a ball off his left shin. Sano will have the weekend to get ready for next Tuesday’s Wild Card game.

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tonight, I will be at Coors Field to watch Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies. It will be Kershaw’s final appearance of the regular season as he tunes up for his NLDS Game 1 start next week. This will be the first time I get to see Cody Bellinger play in person.  It should be a great game. As a former Los Angeles resident, I have so missed the ability to go to Dodger Stadium on a regular basis.  

Have a great Saturday! My only request for today is a Pinstriped victory! Go Yankees!

Let’s start this the right way…

1-0 to start the 2014-15 Off-Season…

First order of business has been accomplished.  With the signing of GM Brian Cashman to a new three year deal, the off-season can officially begin.  I am glad that Cashman will be returning, although I certainly would not have been opposed to Billy Eppler stepping into the role.

I found Cashman’s words about Alex Rodriguez to be intriguing.  It was a public admission that the team does not plan to rely upon Rodriguez as its everyday third baseman.  Granted, I am not an A-Rod fan, but I openly prefer to see the return of Chase Headley or would support the free agent acquisition of someone like Pablo Sandoval.  To hear Cashman talk about A-Rod possibly playing first base, I think that’s a great idea as Mark Teixeira is another older veteran who can no longer be relied upon to perform every day.  Of course, the use of 1B/DH between Teixeira and A-Rod doesn’t really leave much room for Carlos Beltran on those days that he can’t play the field.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  I would still like to see the Yankees find a way to sever ties with A-Rod even if it means eating his contract.  Easy for me to say given it is not my money but A-Rod, the 40-year old hip “impaired” DH that has not played in a year will not perform to the level of the money he is still owed.  So, filling the roster spot with a younger, more durable player certainly makes sense.

At this point in Cashman’s career, he is building his Yankees legacy as the longest running Yankees GM that I’ve ever known.  When his time is over, he’ll be remembered among the best of the all-time Yankees GMs.  Rebuilding a winner in the next three years would go a long way toward putting Cashman at the head of the class.  Of course, failure could mean his dismissal.  After 17 years on the job, he is truly entering “what have you done for me lately?” territory.

The Fall Guys…

I have long agreed that Kevin Long has been a great hitting coach, but for whatever reason, the message didn’t work this year.  Perhaps it was the direct product of the available talent on the roster or it was the loss of a vital cog in the heart of the order when Robinson Cano fled for Seattle.  But regardless of the reasons, it was time for a change.  So, I was not disappointed when I heard that Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher had been fired.

My personal preference for hitting coach would be the Oakland A’s Chili Davis.  I know that the A’s offense stalled late in the season, but I’ve always respected Davis and what his bat meant to a lineup.

The Yankees will be competing with the Boston Red Sox in their search since the Sox also need a hitting coach.

Giant hope…

For the World Series, after the Yankees failed to reach the play-offs and the Los Angeles Dodgers bowed out in the first round, my latest preference is the San Francisco Giants.  Maybe it’s because I am a Bay Area resident but it would be good to see the Giants prevail even if the Giants and St Louis Cardinals have been frequent participants of the Fall Classic in recent years.  There’s no way that I’ll pull for the Baltimore Orioles or the Kansas City Royals regardless of how many years it has been since they last won.  I had really hoped that Don Mattingly and the Dodgers would have succeeded with arguably the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw but his 0-2 mark against the Cards sealed their fate.

–Scott

With a New Year, brings New Hope!…

 

Happy New Year to all Baseball Fans!…

January 1, 2014.  Time to replace the calendars.  With the arrival of the New Year, it brings optimism for baseball fans everywhere as they anticipate whether or not their team has done enough to ensure October success.  Boston fans dream of a back-to-back championship, while others hope they can be the ones to de-throne the defending champs.  In January, anything is possible, although arguably some teams have a much better chance than others. 

As a Yankees fan, it has been a bittersweet off-season.  The team finally made some bold moves after a couple of years of inactivity in signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, but the loss of Robinson Cano will hurt.  The team still has not done enough to improve the starting rotation nor has it repaired the losses in the pen.

I thought the Washington Nationals did a good job in bringing in Doug Fister for its starting rotation.  He was a solid performer for the Detroit Tigers and he should help provide back-end stability for the frontline starters. 

The Boston Red Sox did well in re-signing Mike Napoli.  He is a great role performer and he seems to thrive in the Fenway environment, however, I am not sure that A.J. Pierzynski makes up for the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  I think they’ll be okay losing Jacoby Ellsbury if Jackie Bradley, Jr is able to take the next step up in his promising career.  While it remains questionable whether Stephen Drew will be back or will be playing in Citi Field, any team would love to have Xander Bogaerts standing ready to take over the shortstop position.  Regardless of what happens, I think the Red Sox will be a force in 2014 and won’t relinquish their crown easily. 

The Minnesota Twins showed an unusual side in signing free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and bringing back Mike Pelfrey.  They missed out on A.J. Pierzynski, but the signing of Kurt Suzuki will allow them to bring their young catcher, Josmil Pinto, along slowly in the major leagues as they replace Joe Mauer who has moved to first.

Among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A’s, and the San Francisco Giants (in bringing Tim Hudson back to the Bay Area) have had productive off-seasons. 

There are countless other major moves that have been made and other teams that have significantly enhanced their chances for winning, but the point is that January is a time of optimism.  Spring Training looms on the horizon as this is the last full month before pitchers and catchers begin to report.  Players, if they took time off for the holidays, are aggressively starting or continuing their off-season workout regimens.  This is the time that will set in motion the attitudes and the chemistry that makes up each team.  Baseball is not about having the most physically gifted team, it’s about the team that can do the most to maximize the synergy of the team and create a culture that is unwilling to accept losing. 

It should be a fun season.  It’s too early to form an opinion of the teams that stand the best chance as there are still some roster-changing moves that will be made before spring training breaks, but in the AL, you know that the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, A’s, and Angels will have a say in who wins and who loses. 

I hope it’s a very happy and enjoyable New Year for everyone!  Time to make new friends, create fantastic new opportunities, experiences, and memories.    Time to get excited about the arrival of the upcoming Major League Baseball season.  May the 2014 season bring you great satisfaction and enjoyment!

The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes…

It’s been written that the New York Yankees are the favorites to sign prized Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but it’s really anybody’s guess where he will sign.  Personally, I could see the Los Angeles Dodgers blowing away the competition, and they would certainly provide a main stage for Tanaka to perform.  No offense to the Minnesota Twins, but I couldn’t really see a player with Tanaka’s potential playing in a small market.  I would love to see Tanaka sign with the Yankees and I think Hiroki Kuroda would be the perfect mentor to help Tanaka’s transition to the United States.  But the Dodgers have a strong history with Japanese players.  The Texas Rangers may be players and you certainly cannot underestimate the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels.  The Tanaka decision will be made within the next three weeks as it has to be completed by January 24th, so it should be interesting to watch Tanaka’s tour and to see how much teams are willing to pay for his potential.  Guys like Clayton Kershaw, with free agency looming in the not-so-distant future, have to love this, and it will help enhance the monetary packages it will take to sign or retain them with proven superior performance in the MLB. 

If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, I am not sure what a good Plan B will be.  I’ve heard Ubaldo Jimenez’ name mentioned, but it’s not a guarantee that 2013 was a return to the promise he once held or if it was just an aberration and he’ll continue his prior downward slide.  Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana.  None of these names excite me.  I am more hopeful that guys like Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos can come into training camp and make statements for why they should be the guys. 

Roster moves await…

With the 40-man roster filled, and the signings of second baseman Brian Roberts or reliever Matt Thornton to be made official, it’s clear the Yankees will need to open roster space.  Given the excess at catcher with the signing of Brian McCann, it’s fairly clear that either Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be moved.  I think we’ll see the departure of Vernon Wells despite his salary friendly status thanks to the Angels.  Even something free is not worth keeping if it has no value.  As speculated, I could still see a trade of Ichiro Suzuki to a team like the San Francisco Giants.  I have no problem with Zoilo Almonte taking the fifth outfielder role, particularly in light of his strong winter play.

I don’t think the Yankees have done enough yet, but I also do not think they are finished.  I am confident that by the time training camp opens, the Yankees will have the collection of players capable of restoring the team’s 90+ win ability.  Time will tell if they’ve caught up with their prime AL East competitors but at least with the Yankees, you know it won’t be for the lack of trying.

The words of Randy Levine…

Admittedly, I do not know much about Yankees president Randy Levine, but I am not impressed with the man.  I wasn’t before the text messages between Levine and Alex Rodriguez were released and I am even less so now.  Some of his comments come off as very unprofessional.  I remember how vilified Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was by Yankees fans when he made his ‘Evil Empire’ remark and how hated he is, but I really do not see Levine as any better and very likely, much worse.  At least Lucchino has overseen three world championships since 2004.  The Yankees’ 2009 World Championship was more Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, among others. 

Perhaps Levine is a great leader and effective in his role within the Yankees organization, but it is not apparent from the outside looking in.  I can only shake my head when I see his text message comments.  Aside from any of his words or how I may feel about the man, I strikes me as very odd that the president of the team would go direct to a player, bypassing the manager and the GM.  Maybe it would help if more stories about Levine’s positives were written, but then again, they wouldn’t be interesting and wouldn’t sell papers.  So, maybe we’ll never know the good the man potentially does.  But as it stands, he just seems like a buffoon to me.

Happy Holidays…

I hope the holiday season has been a very happy time for you and your families.  Enjoy the New Year, and may good health, success, happiness, and prosperity be yours!

–Scott

 

 

 

 

Where’s George Steinbrenner when you need him?…

Missing the point…

Life has been incredibly difficult since the Yankees, expectedly, lost to the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs last October.  While the Angels were adding Josh Hamilton to go with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout and the Dodgers were adding Zack Greinke to go with Clayton Kershaw, the Yankees did nothing.  Okay, they did fork over the cash to bring back senior citizens Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, but there was nothing to excite the fan base.

Excite the fan base…

Why is that so difficult?  So, we watch Russell Martin leave for the 2013 version of the 1950’s Kansas City A’s…the Pittsburgh Pirates.  No worries, rather than chase a proven catcher like A.J. Pierzynski, the Yankees announced that they’ll go with an in-house candidate.  So, that leaves a career back-up, a AAA catcher last year, and a minor leaguer who missed most of last season due to injury.  Nick Swisher leaves, but no worry, we have an aging 39-year-old former great player in Ichiro Suzuki who is now sporting more gray hair than Bill Clinton and was clearly a player on decline until a brief renaissance after his trade to the Yankees.

Last year’s closer, Rafael Soriano, departs so what is the response?  We have ace set up man David Robertson returning and a rehabilitating former closer in David Aardsma on the roster.  If memory serves, Robertson was not effective during his brief stint as closer following Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury.  Plus, Rivera is a not-so-young 43 years old.  He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and my favorite Yankee for a number of years, but time is destined to catch up with even the greatest.

The bench strength (Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez) depart, and the Yankees answer by signing former rival Kevin Youkilis and role player Matt Diaz.  I sent a picture of a clean shaven Youkilis to a Red Sox friend asking if this was really THE Kevin Youkilis (as he looks so less intimidating than those goatee’d Red Sox years).  The response was, “I hear he’s hurt (oblique)…yes, that’s him”.  The only thing I know about Diaz is that he pronounces his name DYE-az rather than DEE-az.  All I ever saw him as was a part-timer for the Atlanta Braves.

We go to camp and the calendar doesn’t even turn to March before we hear that Curtis Granderson is lost for 10 weeks due to a broken forearm.  Immediately, the response from the Yankees is that they’ll cover the loss in-house.  Believe me, I get the reasons for why you wouldn’t chase down Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells for 10 measly weeks but Granderson represented a major part of the team’s offense.  You KNOW that Mark Teixera’s bat won’t show up until at least June.  Derek Jeter is another year older and coming off injury. The outfield is full of those Dave Collins type players…speed first, light hitting outfielders.  It’s too bad that Billy Martin isn’t around to consult with Joe Girardi on the fine art of small ball.

My trust in the Yankees farm system to produce a quality major league starter is weak at best.  We hear how great Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are, yet now we sit with Banuelos recovering from Tommy John surgery and Betances proving himself to be Prince Overrated.  I look at guys like Al Leiter and Doug Drabek.  They struggled when called up to the Yankees but prospered as quality major leaguers elsewhere.  It has been awhile since a Jeter or Robinson Cano burst onto the scene.  So, my faith in the minor league system producing a surprise that immediately helps the Yankees this year is weak.

Today, the news comes out through GM Brian Cashman that the Yankees did make a significant offer to free agent to be Robinson Cano.  Given that the news didn’t say the Yankees actually signed Cano, I see this as a negative move.  If there is resistance on the player’s front, this is most likely going to lead to Cano’s free agency in the fall.  With Hal Steinbrenner’s “financially responsible” approach, that most likely means that some other team makes an incredibly ridiculous offer to snatch Cano from the Bronx.

As I write this, the Yankes are 1-6 in spring training.

Excite the fan base.  Why is that so difficult Mr. Steinbrenner?…

–Scott