|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!
American League Championship Series
Astros 4, Yankees 0…
Astros win series, 4-3
“The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow.”
–Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Sure, it was very disappointing to see the Yankees come so close to making the Fall Classic but the future is so bright for this young Yankees team. This is only the beginning of the wonderful ride they are embarking upon and we’d better hold on tight because it’s going to be one helluva ride. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the 2017 New York Yankees. They achieved far more than anyone expected and are only setting themselves up for loftier heights as we advance forward. Congratulations, Yankees! Thumbs down, you are an incredible group of ultra-talented players and you are champions to us.
You have to give credit to the Houston Astros. They earned home-field advantage by winning 101 games over the regular season and it positioned them for success in a series dominated by the home teams. On Saturday night, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees to three hits and no runs to send the Astros to their first World Series since 2005 and only their second overall.
I was afraid that it would be asking a lot for CC Sabathia to be the savior for Game 7. I know that he had been undefeated in his role as a stopper following Yankee losses this year but this game obviously had heightened magnitude. With no offense to Sonny Gray, the Yankees paid a very high price to get him and this should have been his spot to be the team’s post-season savior. He may ultimately have a fantastic Yankees career but he was a non-factor this post-season.
After trading scoreless frames to open the game, Houston’s Yuli Gurriel lined a shot to right that looked like it had a chance to clear the wall. Aaron Judge, on the run, leaped up to make a terrific catch to deny Gurriel.
|Credit: Elsa-Getty Images|
I was hopeful that it was a sign for great things to come. Unfortunately, it was not.
The Astros, getting at least a single each inning against Sabathia, finally broke through in the 4th inning. Evan Gattis led off the bottom of the inning with a powerful home run to left center. Sabathia walked Brian McCann on a full count. Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius zipped to Starlin Castro to force McCann, but they were unable to turn the double play. Josh Reddick singled to left and Manager Joe Girardi had seen enough. He went to the mound to take the ball from Sabathia, perhaps for the last time in either individual’s Yankees career. Enter Tommy Kahnle who quickly induced George Springer, on one pitch, to ground into an inning-ending double play, short to second to first.
The top of the 5th brought a great chance for the Yankees. Greg Bird led off with a double to the right field corner. Starlin Castro was next but he struck out. With Aaron Hicks at the plate, a wild pitch on ball four allowed Bird to fly to third and Hicks to take first. Runners at the corners and one out for Todd Frazier. Frazier hit a chopper to third baseman Alex Bregman and Yankees third base coach Joe Espada made the decision to send Bird home. It would take a perfect throw to nail Bird at the plate. Sadly for us, that’s exactly what happened. Bregman’s throw to Brian McCann could not have been any better and McCann easily applied the tag on Bird’s foot.
|Credit: Ronald Martinez-Getty Images|
Chase Headley grounded out to second and it was an inning of missed opportunity for the Yankees.
The Yankees lack of scoring hurt as the Astros padded their lead in the bottom of the 5th. With Tommy Kahnle still on the mound for the Yankees, Jose Altuve blasted a one-out home run to right (too high for Judge to make another leaping catch). Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel followed with singles to put runners at the corners. Kahnle struck out Evan Gattis for the second out, but then Brian McCann doubled to the corner in right, scoring both Correa and Gurriel. Girardi pulled the plug on Kahnle and brought in Adam Warren to get the final out. The Astros had increased their lead to 4-0.
The Astros made a pitching change for the top of the 6th. Lance McCullers, Jr was brought in to replace Charlie Morton who had held the Yanks to two hits. Brett Gardner greeted McCullers with a single to left down the line and there was optimism that the Yankees could get back into the game. The optimism started to dissipate as McCullers retired the next three batters end the inning. Gardy’s hit was the last one that McCullers, who finished the game, would allow.
The Yankees went down quietly in the 9th and when Greg Bird’s fly to center was caught by George Springer, their season was over. As the Astros celebrated on the field and later in the clubhouse, the Yankees could only gather their things and begin preparations for the flight home to New York City.
|Credit: Ronald Martinez-Getty Images|
Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers watched the Chicago Cubs celebrate on Wrigley Field turf when the Cubs won the NLCS to advance to the World Series. They remembered that feeling and it helped fuel them to the NL Championship this year and a role as the host for Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. I am hopeful that the Yankees take the same sense of disappointment to fuel their hopes and aspirations for the 2018 season.
Hopefully, the Steinbrenner Family moves quickly to re-sign both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi so that the team can begin its off-season planning to bring the 2018 championship back to the Bronx.
|Credit: Elsa-Getty Images|
As always, Go Yankees!
Odds & Ends…
Friday, I was surprised when the Washington Nationals fired manager Dusty Baker. Yesterday, I was equally surprised when the San Francisco Giants dismissed Dave Righetti as the team’s pitching coach. Righetti, the former Yankees closer, was the longest tenured pitching coach in the Major Leagues, having served under three managers since 2000. During that time, Rags was part of three World Championships. Righetti, a Bay Area native, will remain in the Giants organization as a special assistant to GM Bobby Evans. Righetti is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game but I guess the age-old question ‘what have you done for me lately?’ gets the best of us. Rags is too good not to get another opportunity elsewhere if he wants it.
|Credit: Brian Rothmuller-Icon Sportswire|
The Chicago Cubs fired their pitching coach (Chris Bosio) too. Bosio had held the position since 2012 and he’s fresh off a World Series Championship from last season. I guess those three home runs by Kiké Hernandez last week to send the Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series and the Cubs home for the holidays were Bosio’s fault.
It sounds as though the Boston Red Sox will be offering a three-year deal to Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager. Cora will most likely accept once the World Series is over. The initial reaction from my Red Sox friends is lukewarm but I think Cora is a sound option for the Sox. For Cora, it will be about the right coaching hires to help him succeed. He will already have a strong team in place and he’ll be gaining front row World Series experience this year.
I will watch the World Series with interest. As a former resident of Los Angeles, it’s hard not to cheer for the Dodgers. They’ve been my favorite NL team, despite my love for the Yankees. So, I’ll be rooting for Blue and hoping they send the Astros home with saddened faces.
Have a great Sunday! Remember the magic of the 2017 Yankees and dream of the potential for the 2018 club. Go Yankees!
|Credit: Sean M Haffey-Getty Images|
Yankees 5, Angels 3…
One of the greatest highlights of this game were the chants of “MVP!” for Aaron Judge from the Anaheim crowd. It was incredible to get that type of response from the park that Mike Trout calls home. Judge is certainly deserving of the accolades but it is not something that you’d expect on enemy turf.
When Kole Calhoun, the second batter in the bottom of the first inning, homered with no one on, I had fears that Masahiro Tanaka was going to get rocked once again. But fortunately, the old Tanaka re-emerged and kept the Angels off the board until the 7th inning.
|Credit: Randy Miller-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
The Yankees built up a 3-1 lead through the top of the 7th. Following a couple of two-out walks of Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro in the third inning, Didi Gregorius singled to left, scoring Holliday and tying the game at 1. The Yankees took the lead in the 5th, thanks again to another two-out hit from Gregorius. After Aaron Judge walked and Starlin Castro singled, Gregorius singled to center which scored Judge. In the 7th, Judge singled and moved to second on a groundout by Matt Holliday. Castro followed with a ground out to the pitcher, bringing Gregorius up again with two outs. The Los Angeles Angels took no chances and intentionally walked Didi to put the bat in the hands of Chase Headley (ugh!). Despite my lack of excitement about Headley, he delivered with a single, scoring Judge. The Yankees subsequently loaded the bases, but Austin Romine hit a grounder for the final out of the inning.
Tanaka pitched well enough to win but it was not to be. In the bottom of the 7th, after Andrelton Simmons had flied out, Eric Young, Jr reached base as a result of a fielding error by Chase Headley (his 11th of the season, one more than he had last year in 140 games at third). The next batter, Martin Maldonado, struck out but Young advanced to second on a steal. Former Washington National Danny Espinosa lined a single to right, scoring Young. Aaron Judge mistakenly threw the ball home on an overthrow which allowed Espinosa to take second. Manager Joe Girardi pulled Tanaka (hand clap for #19) and brought in Tyler Clippard. Clippard promptly gave up a double to Cameron Maybin, scoring Espinosa for a run charged to Tanaka and the game was tied at 3. He struck out Kole Calhoun for the final out, and the game moved to the 8th inning.
After Brett Gardner flied out, Aaron Hicks doubled to left. The Angels made a pitching change to bring in their interim closer, Bud Norris. On a 2-0 count, Judge showed the Anaheim crowd the magic that we’ve been experiencing in the Bronx with a home run to right center, giving the Yankees a 5-3 lead and the eventual margin of victory.
|Credit: Randy Miller-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
With two outs and a runner at first thanks to a walk in the bottom of the 8th, Girardi took no chances and brought in Dellin Betances to get the final out of the inning. It was a much cleaner than the last time Betances entered an inning with two outs (when he loaded the bases and threw 17 pitches to record the necessary out). This time, it was three pitches and a fly out.
In the 9th, Betances was on his game as he struck out the side. Yankees win, 5-3.
This was a great game for the California Central Valley native Judge. He finished 2-for-4 with a walk, 3 runs scored and 2 RBI’s, while increasing his batting average to .347, in front of family, friends and James Kaprielian. Yankees fans are everywhere and they certainly made themselves known on this night with the “MVP!” chants.
Gregorius was 4-for-4 with the 2 RBI’s.
It may be a down year for the Angels, but they’ve always played well against the Yankees so this was a satisfying victory. It would have been nice for Tanaka to pick up the win, but still, it had to be a confidence-booster for him. His final line was 6 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO. I hope to see more of this and less of the Tanaka starts we saw over the past month. Clippard, responsible for costing Tanaka the victory, took the win, thanks to Judge’s timely homer.
The Yankees (38-23) maintained their four-game lead over the Boston Red Sox. The Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 6-5, in extra innings. The Tampa Bay Rays (who had the night off) remained in third, but dropped to 6 1/2 games back. The Baltimore Orioles lost again (10-7 to the Chicago White Sox), sliding to 7 1/2 games behind the leaders. The O’s are now just a half game from falling into the AL East Cellar.
Odds & Ends…
I hate to say that I am disappointed with the MLB Draft because Yankees scouts know a heck of lot more than I do, but I was not enthused with the first round selection (16th pick) of right-handed pitcher Clarke Schmidt. Schmidt had Tommy John surgery earlier this Spring and will be unavailable to pitch until sometime in late 2018. I couldn’t help but get flashbacks to the pick of Andrew Brackman a number of years ago. Taking a chance on an injured but high ceiling pitcher who never rose to the level of his potential and is subsequently out of baseball. I hope this is not the same situation with Schmidt. I thought first baseman Evan White or lefty pitcher D.L. Hall would have been great picks at that spot, or even lefty David Peterson (who was later picked by the Mets).
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting, had these words for Schmidt (who is from the University of South Carolina like Jordan Montgomery): “Schmidt’s got four pitches that at times are all plus. He has command, he has makeup. We really like his delivery. He’s got a chance to be a top end of the rotation type of guy who combines pitchability with power stuff. And you always like it when they’re the Friday night guy, pitching and having success in that conference.” A few of the pitchers taken in the first round sound better suited for relief work so I suppose if you have a chance for a top of the rotation guy, you take it. I hope this one works out.
In the second round (with the 54th pick), the Yankees chose a high school pitcher (Matt Sauer). I like this pick, perhaps more so than Schmidt. Sauer is right-handed and just 18 years old, he is already 6’4”. He a product of an appropriately named Righetti High School (CA) even if the school is named for a guy named Ernest Righetti and not former Yankees closer Dave “Rags” Righetti. Oppenheimer offered these words about Sauer: “Sauer is a projectable high school right-hander who is athletic, with a ‘now’ fastball and a plus slider. He really has a good way about his aggressiveness and makeup on the mound. We see a chance there for a starter with power stuff.”
|Credit: The Tribune (San Luis Obispo)|
Welcome to the Yankees Family, Clarke and Matt!
Have a great Tuesday! It should be a fun day as the Yankees try to keep this winning streak alive and MLB Draft continues with rounds 3 through 10.
Yes, Brian, I want to believe…
“I am excited about the opportunities we have.”
I wish that I could say that was my quote, but unfortunately, I am not feeling as optimistic as GM Brian Cashman who spoke those words.
With the imminent departure of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, and Hiroki Kuroda, combined with another year of age on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the future is not looking so rosy at the moment. For a team that needs to upgrade its rotation, losing Kuroda would clearly be a setback. I remain hopeful that the team will re-sign him to a one year deal since he appears willing to accept a short-term contract and all signs indicated he enjoyed his time in New York. I really do not expect the Yankees to re-sign either Swisher or Soriano. It’s unfortunate as I’ve appreciated the positive impact that Swisher’s personality had on the Yankees’ “corporate” clubhouse culture. As Soriano, the excessively fat contract for a set up guy paid dividends when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and he superbly stepped in to give the Yankees a top closer as a brief trial with David Robertson.
If the Yankees could sign Joaquim Soria to a set up role, I do think it would help neutralize the loss of Soriano. There is also the possibility that reliever David Aardsma could move into the role, along with Robertson, if he successfully makes it back from his injury.
Replacing Swisher’s bat will be the tougher challenge. No offense against Torii Hunter, but signing him to be the new right fielder does not make me excited. I do like the talk of moving Brett Gardner to center and Curtis Granderson to left. Hopefully, the Yankees can bring Ichiro Suzuki back for another year. I am not sure what the best answer is for right. The best options are only available through trade.
I read this morning that the Boston Red Sox had signed Atlanta Braves’ backup catcher David Ross, whom the Yankees liked. I am surprised Atlanta let him get away given the health of starter Brian McCann, but it’s disappointing to see the Red Sox snatch away a player that could have helped the Yankees.
With a team that is trying so hard to reduce payroll by 2014 and one that devotes so much salary space to decreasingly productive guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, I just don’t see Brian Cashman being successful playing “Moneyball”. When you consider how many dollars the Yanks have committed to A-Rod and his drain on the roster, it would appear to me that the team has less dollars to play with than any of their big city rivals if the end game is to avoid luxury tax and penalties in 2014.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been so appreciative of players like Jeter, Rivera and Andy Pettitte. But the fact remains that they will be another year older in 2013 and at some point, they will begin to break down. There doesn’t seem to be any high level prospects ready to step into their shoes. I wish there was a way the team could move A-Rod and his albatross contract but that’s unlikely to happen.
I remain hopeful that Brian Cashman is able to make a move this winter to improve the team. If the team stays status quo or struggles to replace those they will lose, I do not see the Yankees finishing any higher than third in the AL East next season. But, of course, if Hal Steinbrenner lets Cash make the moves necessary to position the team for 2013, then they’ll be in the thick of the pack at the top of the division.
Tino, Tino, Tino!…
I am happy to see Tino Martinez become hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. It is bittersweet to see him leave the Yankees organization, but much easier to see him go to his home state as opposed to being the hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. The latter was a real possibility as the Sox had gotten permission to talk to Martinez, but fortunately, he opted to go help Mike Redmond turn around the Marlins. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite NL team in recent years due to manager Don Mattingly. I enjoy seeing my favorites do well, even if they can’t do it in the Yankees organization. Another example would be San Francisco Giants’ pitching coach Dave Righetti, fresh off his second World Series championship in three years. Tino is certainly in the same class with those guys, and will always be someone that I will root for. That’s why watching him go to Boston would have been so difficult.
Speaking of hitting coaches, I am hopeful that manager “wannabe” Jason Giambi decides to take the hitting coach position with the Colorado Rockies. Maybe he is not ready to hang up his bat just yet, but I think he would be a very positive addition to Walt Weiss’s staff and it would put him on the path of eventually reaching his goal to be a manager. While I was surprised to see the Rockies go with Weiss as manager over Matt Williams, I recognize that Weiss knows the Rockies organization and they know him. If he surrounds himself with the right coaching staff, I think Weiss can be highly successful in Colorado.
The Dodgers quest to overtake the Giants…
Regressing back to the Dodgers but staying on the theme of hitting coaches, I was mildly surprised by Mark McGwire’s decision to move from the Cardinals to the Dodgers. I know that McGwire is a Southern CA guy, but still, the Cardinals were his organization. Maybe that’s why it is best to move to another organization so that your legacy as a player is the primary association. Granted, McGwire does not have the untarnished reputation like Mattingly had in New York, but hopefully it works out for Big Mac. Performance-enhancing drugs or not, the guy knows how to hit.
It’s funny, particularly given my long history of being a Yankees fan, but I am a little put off by the free spending ways of the new Dodgers ownership group. While I believe that you have to spend to put a quality team on the field, spending frivolously seems excessive. For the Yankees, I only need to use A-Rod as the example. Over $30 million in one season devoted to a player whose skills are rapidly eroding. $30 million would go a long way toward bringing in multiple quality…and productive…players. The Dodgers should no qualms about picking up the contracts of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford when it remains to be seen if they can rise to the current level of their contracts. It looks like high stakes poker to me with much potential for disaster.
In a couple of weeks, the Hot Stove League should start heating up and it will be interesting to see what form this off-season takes. I am cautiously optimistic, but understand that it’s very possible the Yanks go into next season hoping some young guys from the farm system are ready to take it to the next level. I guess I now know what it’s like to be a fan of the Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals…
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…
It seems weird that the Yankees season is over with
the World Series set to begin tonight.
When I was a kid growing up in Iowa, there was a cartoonist who worked
for The Des Moines Register that used to say it wasn’t an official World Series
unless the Yankees were in it. I have
always believed those words! 😉
Seriously, it is interesting that we finally have a
World Series with two teams that do not have a history of World Series success. For the Texas Rangers, they’ve never been to
the World Series, and for the Giants, they’ve never won a World Series since
they moved to San Francisco although they have made a couple of trips. Given that I live in the Bay Area and the
Giants have generally been my preferred NL team over the years, I’ll be pulling
for them tonight as they embark on Game 1 against the Rangers.
There are no active Giants players with ties to the Yankees
organization, however, the Yankees do have a presence through the coaching
staff and back office. The two most
notable individuals are GM Brian Sabean who started in the
Yankees front office working for George Steinbrenner and pitching coach Dave Righetti. I always chuckle when I think of Rags as a
pitching coach. Please don’t get me
wrong. I think he’s a terrific coach and
he was a great player, however, when he was young…before he “made it” to the
big leagues for good, he used to struggle with his control. So, he was the guy who needed such intensive
coaching and now he is the master. I
lived in Dallas for 14 years and during many of those years, Rags was the
Yankees closer. So, I have so many
memories of Rags closing out games in Arlington, Texas. So, in many ways, he’ll be returning to an
area that he is well familiar with and has enjoyed success. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pass on that
success to Tim Lincecum and company.
Some of the other names in the Giants organization
who have past connections to the Yankees:
Roberto Kelly, First Base
I remember being upset when the Yankees traded
Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O’Neill.
Ha! I think that trade worked out
well for the Yanks. Sorry Roberto…
Hensley Meulens, Batting Coach
I remember when “Bam Bam” was a much-hyped
youngster with so much promise. He never
achieved success with the Yanks and was eventually sold to a team in Japan.
Henry Cotto, Coordinator,
Cotto was a bench player for the Yankees during the
lean years (1985 to 1987). I think of
him more as a Chicago Cub although he only played one year for them
(1984). He had an undistinguished career
but he definitely could run.
Lee Smith, Coordinator,
Lee is obviously better known for his great years
with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, but he was with the Yankees in
1993 toward the end of his career. He
was a late season pickup and did well during his short stint even though the
Yankees did not that year.
J.T. Snow, Special Assistant
Snow, the son of former Los Angeles Rams great Jack
Snow, was originally drafted by the Yankees.
But he was traded in the deal that brought Jim Abbott to New York. He had some productive years for the Angels
but he achieved his greatest success with the Giants.
Dick Tidrow, Vice President,
Tidrow is definitely one of the more notable
Yankees as he played a very prominent role in the Yankees bullpen during their
two championships in the late 70’s. As a
kid growing up, he and Sparky Lyle were the faces of the bullpen.
Fred Stanley, Director, Player
Another player from those World Championship clubs
of 1977 and 1978, “Chicken” backed up shortstop Bucky Dent and was a valued
reserve during those years.
Joe Lefebvre, Senior Adviser,
Drafted by the Yankees, he only played for the team
one year (1980) before moving on to the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia
Phillies. However, he did play a part in
helping the Yankees win the AL East Division that year. I remember 1980 as the year the Yankees won
103 games but lost to the Kansas City Royals in the play-offs resulting in the
firing of late manager Dick Howser (back when George had a very itchy trigger
finger when it came to managers).
This “prayer” was making its rounds on email
yesterday. I do not know who the author
ors, as we forgive those who home run against us. Lead us not into defeat, but help us beat the
Rangers…with the help of the Beard, the Buster and
the Dirty Dozen.
Here’s hoping the former Yankees enjoy a World
Series championship in 2010!
As for the Yankees, they are apparently negotiating
a new 3-year deal with manager Joe Girardi.
I am glad to see that they are working to resolve Girardi’s situation
quickly so they can focus on the critical needs of the team. GM Brian Cashman acted very swiftly in
announcing that pitching coach Dave Eiland would not return. I have no issues with the decision. The Yankees starting pitching underperformed
this year, and A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez were the biggest reasons
why. I also think that Phil Hughes was
capable of more than he showed down the stretch. I am not sure who’d be the best candidate to
replace Eiland. Hey, I’d love to see
Dave Righetti back in New York but unfortunately he’s not going anywhere. Hopefully, Cashman and Girardi will be very
selective about who they chose for the very important role.
I saw this morning that CC Sabathia will be having
minor knee surgery. While this procedure
does not sound serious, I hope it is not indicative of the start of future
problems associated with CC’s weight.
This does show how critical it is for the Yankees to secure another ace
for the staff. Like everyone else, I am
strongly in favor of signing free agent to be Cliff Lee, however, I am very
dismayed at the reports of the poor treatment his wife received from the
Yankees fans during the ALCS at Yankee Stadium.
That type of abuse is completely unacceptable and it is an embarrassment
to be associated with those types of Yankee “fans”. I use the term “fans” very loosely because
those idiots are very poor representation of “fans”.
Hopefully, this does not keep the Lee’s from
considering an offer to join the Yankees.
I know it will be a tough, uphill battle to sign Lee as it is, and they
certainly did not need ill-treatment by the fans to give Mrs. Lee a strong
reason for not wanting to come to New York.
I want the core Yankees to return (Derek Jeter,
Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte).
However, I do not feel that the Yankees should overpay to convince them
to stay. So, if it is time to sever
ties, I am prepared as I feel the money would be better served to help bring
younger, more talented (at this stage of their careers) to New York to help
pursue a championship in 2011. Of the
core, I think re-signing Mariano Rivera is the most vital. He is still performing at a top level,
although the Yankees would be well served to re-sign Kerry Wood if
possible. I don’t want Derek Jeter to
leave but at some point, he is going to start becoming a liability at
short. I’d rather see the team cut ties
before rather than after that happens. I
want Andy Pettitte to return, but I would not want to see high expectations
placed on him. Put him in the #4 or #5
spot in the rotation and be satisfied with the results if he decides to
return. I didn’t mention the last core
member, Jorge Posada, since he is still under contract. However, I am ready for a change at
catcher. Just like the Boston Red Sox
moved Jason Varitek to a reserve role, the Yankees should do the same with
Jorge. At 39, he is past his prime at
the catching position and now is the time for the highly heralded Jesus Montero
if he can show in spring training that he is ready for the job. If the Yankees do sign Cliff Lee, it would be
great to see Lee pitching to Montero since Montero would have been the cost of
a trade with Seattle to get Lee before they reneged and moved him to Texas.
As for the Hot Stove League rumors, I have to admit
that I am somewhat intrigued by the potential of bringing Jayson Werth to New
York to play right field. As much as I
like Nick Swisher, he is a streaky hitter and hasn’t shown the clutch bat in
October like Werth has. Of course, I
would love to have Carl Crawford in left, but I think right is a greater
need. I fully expect Brett Gardner to
continue to improve. Granted, he is no
Carl Crawford, but his speed is very disruptive on the bases and he showed a
much better ability to get on base this year.
Brian Cashman definitely has his work cut out for
him this off-season. It should be
A Post-Red Sox Hangover…
Fresh off a four game series sweep of the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees stumbled tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays, losing 5-4. Of course, the deck was stacked against the Yanks with Sergio Mitre on the mound. Mitre went five innings, giving up five runs (three of which were earned). He also had six strikeouts. It wasn’t a great performance, but it wasn’t awful…somewhere in middle which seems to be typical-Mitre…not bad but not quite good enough. I am ready for a change. Give Chad Gaudin a chance or, gasp!, reach down and pluck Kei Igawa from AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre. I wish now that the Yankees had made a play for Pedro Martinez who is scheduled to start for the Phillies on Wednesday. Heck, even Luis Tiant was looking good the other night on ESPN! Anybody but Mitre. I know, he pitched better tonight than his previous outings and it was a miscue (his, by the way) that was his downfall. But I am just not convinced that he is the answer…
The Yankees’ seven game winning streak was halted with the loss, and they lost a game in the standings to the Red Sox, who defeated the Detroit Tigers, 6-5. Their lead in the AL East is now 5 ½ games. Of course, I’ve already read that the largest lead the Yankees have ever blown was 6 games in 1933. Julia is probably already writing about it on her blog…
Cody Ransom cleared waivers, and now heads back to AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
Today was a sad day with news of the death of Mickey Mantle’s widow, Merlyn Mantle. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s, and made her last public appearance during a dinner before a memorial for Bobby Murcer. I lived in Dallas during Mickey’s final years. I never saw the Mantles, but I attended Mickey’s funeral in 1995 and used to drive by their condominium building on a regular basis. Just this morning, unaware of Merlyn’s health, I put up an autographed picture of Mickey in my office.
On a brighter note, I heard that Aaron Boone is already playing baseball again for the Houston Astros’ AA team, the Corpus Christi Hooks. He played third base and was hitless in two at-bats before departing. Less than five months ago, Boone was undergoing open heart surgery to correct a congenital defect in his aortic valve. That’s incredible news. I suffered a stress fracture of my left tibia several months ago, and I am still trying to make a comeback. Boone is sliced open so the world can see his heart, and he is swinging at 90 mph fastballs. I’m a wimp. I thought that Boone’s career was finished, and he proved me wrong. I wish him the very best as he attempts to make a comeback. I hope that the road leads to Houston. Good luck, Aaron, old friend…
Tomorrow night, I’ll get my first taste of the San Francisco Giants rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers when I travel to AT&T Park. It will be my first time to personally attend a game in opposition to Joe Torre and one of my all-time heroes, Don Mattingly. On the bright side, I’ll be wearing the same hat as my favorite closer of the 80’s, Dave Righetti.
It just wasn’t that long ago when I was cheering for Rags to close out games…
Hopefully, Tuesday will bring a new Yankees winning streak…
New York Daily News