The schedule makers have not been kind…
Following the Yankees victory over the New York Mets at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, they had to hop on a plane destined for Phoenix to play the Arizona Diamondbacks the next day. The jet lag showed in the Yankees’ dismal 10-4 loss. A.J. Burnett looked like he was pitching batting practice as he gave up 3 home runs in the first inning.
Marc Carig/The Star Ledger
Earlier this season, the starting pitching was stellar…except for Javier Vazquez. I read so many articles about how Javy just wasn’t suited for the American League and so many felt that he would not be able to rebound. But rebound he did as he has quietly become the Yankees’ most efficient starter. But as quickly as Javy has bounced back, A.J. Burnett has disappeared. Hopefully, Monday’s loss was truly the product of jet lag and not indicative of more serious problems. However, it is critical for A.J. to start pitching to his ability. Otherwise, the Yanks’ hold on first place will be brief.
Tuesday was a better barometer as the Yankees returned to the win column with a 9-3 decision over the D-Backs. Andy Pettitte did allow two hits to the opposing pitcher, Dan Haren, one of which was a two-out two-run game tying single in the second inning. Arizona would not score again against Pettitte, who went 7 innings to pick up the win. The game was actually much closer than the final score indicated. After Haren’s single, the Yankees quickly answered with a go-ahead run in the 3rd on a single by Alex Rodriguez. The game stayed 3-2 until the Yankees struck late with 6 runs in the 8th.
There is little question that Andy Pettitte will be on the All-Star Team. At 38, he is having perhaps his finest season. Phil Hughes should also make the team with 10 wins, although he is being skipped in the rotation this week as the Yankees look to limit his innings over the course of the season. As for who should start, that’s a tough question. Both Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox are certainly deserving, as is David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Suffice it to say that I think the American League starter in the All-Star game will be an AL East starter! Seriously, AL manager Joe Girardi couldn’t go wrong with any of those choices. At least he doesn’t have to worry about A.J. Burnett being one of the options! L
Tonight, the Yankees will send Vazquez against Arizona’s Dontrelle Willis. They missed former teammate Ian Kennedy who pitched for the D-Backs on Sunday. Following tonight’s game, the Yankees will be heading to Los Angeles for a reunion series with Joe Torre and Don Mattingly over the weekend. Given the flight is less than an hour and Thursday is an off day, the Yankees won’t have jet lag available for an excuse come Friday night. The Yankees must simply do what the Boston Red Sox did…beat LA! Hey Julia, the slogan does work!
Sunday, I will get the chance to root against the Boston Red Sox in person as I’ll be at the game in San Francisco. Of course, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without making another wager with my good friend, Julia, of Julia’s Rants. For our latest wager, if the Red Sox beat the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, I will have to include a short paragraph about a Red Sox player with my next 25 blog posts following the game. 25 represents each player on the roster as of June 26, 2010 (regardless of whether the player is later traded, demoted or released before I mention them on the blog). The paragraphs can be short and simple, but they must be positive and include a personal note about the player that others might not be aware of. If the Giants win, then Julia has to do the same for my beloved New York Yankees. Based on the Yankees roster as of 6/26, she’ll have to include a paragraph about a Yankee player for her next 25 blog posts. So, on Sunday, I’ll be a huge Giants fan!
John G. Mabanglo/European Pressphoto Agency
With the franchise’s 9,500th win (dating back to the New York Highlanders in 2003), the Yankees moved into sole possession of first place…
The two central figures in today’s win against the New York Mets were CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira.
Aristide Economopoulos/The Star Ledger
Sabathia has struggled at times this season, and held a 7-3 record heading into today’s action. Teixeira had a very cold April, started to warm up in May before lapsing back into a deep freeze in June. But today, they did what it took to win. CC pitched 8 scoreless innings, giving up only 4 hits with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. The Mets couldn’t stop him but a 20 minute rain delay finally did as Mo Rivera finished the game in a non-save situation after the delay ended.
Aristide Economopoulos/The Star Ledger
Teixeira came up huge in the third inning with a grand slam that provided the former Highlanders with the only runs they would need. Credit Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher for excellent play and hustle in loading the bases on three singles, only one of which made it out of the infield. It was very enjoyable to hear John Sterling’s trademark “Tex Message!” call.
Aristide Economopoulos/The Star Ledger
Despite losing Friday night’s game, the Yankees came back to win on both Saturday and Sunday to capture the series and end the season series in a split.
I was surprised to see Roy Halladay lose again. This time to Carl Pavano and the Minnesota Twins. Like his record against the Yankees, Halladay sported an excellent mark against the Twins. But it was not meant to be today against the Twins as he fell 4-1. I am not saying that Cliff Lee is a better pitcher than Halladay, but so far, the regular season performances in Phillies uniforms is tilted in Lee’s favor. Of course, it’s not all Doc’s fault given his 2.43 ERA which implies that he has not had run support given his 8-6 record.
I guess Joe Torre did not have a joyful return to Fenway Park, and neither did Manny Ramirez as the Boston Red Sox swept the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend. The AL East couldn’t be tighter with both the Tampa Bay Rays and Red Sox just one game behind the Yankees. The Toronto Blue Jays continue to lurk in the shadows, just 5 ½ games back although they did lose today.
The Yankees now head to Phoenix to play the Arizona Diamondbacks. I don’t have great memories of the Yankees in Phoenix, but fortunately Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are no longer on the mound and Luis Gonzalez is not in the outfield. The D-Backs have a good team and former Yankee Ian Kennedy has done well in the rotation. Nevertheless, I will be hoping for redemption anyway. Besides, we have a one game lead to protect!
I was bummed after the 2010 NFL Draft when the Minnesota Vikings did not draft a quarterback. They did select Joe Webb of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, however, the immediate talk was that Webb would be shifted to wide receiver. During the recent mini-camps, Webb, with his 11 inch hands and athleticism, showed that he can be a quarterback of the future. So, at least for now, the move to wide receiver has been postponed. The Vikings will take a long look at Webb as a QB in training camp.
I hope it was a great Father’s Day for all the baseball-loving Dads!
Not that we need further evidence, but the Yanks are clearly better at home…
Next to the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees have the word road record in the AL East. By salvaging the last game of the three game set with the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Yankees are 16-15. By comparison, the Tampa Bay Rays hold a road record of 22-8. The Yankees have the best home record in the division at 19-7 but they do need to figure out how to win on the road if they intend to be successful.
The Yankees had been playing great until their arrival in Canada. Friday night’s loss was abysmal as the Jays battered their former teammate, A.J. Burnett. Saturday, the problem wasn’t pitching as Andy Pettitte was great; it was the lack of hitting and scoring. Credit Jays’ pitching but they kept the Yankees off the board in extra innings before they prevailed in the bottom of the 14th inning, 3-2. Mark Teixeira had one of his worst games with 5 strikeouts.
Andrew Mills/The Star Ledger
The losses made Sunday’s game a “must-win” if there is such a thing in June. After losing ground to both the Jays and the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees needed to turn the tables. Early on, it was a stellar pitching duel between Toronto’s Brandon Marrow and New York’s Javier Vazquez.
Javy had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning. With two outs, he walked Adam Lind which brought Vernon Wells to the plate. Wells homered in what would be the only hit off the day off Vazquez for a 2-0 Jays lead.
Vazquez breezed through the bottom of the 7th inning with three up and three down. His day would be finished thanks to what would happen next. In the top of the 8th inning, the Yankees broke through for four runs and their first lead of the game.
Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner were both hit by pitches to start the innings (Cervelli by Morrow; and Gardner by Scott Downs). Derek Jeter made the Jays pay for their miscues with a run-scoring double. After Nick Swisher struck out, the Jays intentionally walked hitless Mark Teixeira (why?). With the bases now loaded, Gardner scored on a Jason Frasor wild pitch. After Alex Rodriguez struck out, Robinson Cano came up with the hit of the day when his single scored Jeter and Teixeira. The Yankees would need those extra runs as the Jays would close the gap to 4-3 in the bottom of the frame when former Yank Jose Molina scored on a single by Fred Lewis. Joba Chamberlain, who had started the 8th in relief of Vazquez, needed help from Damaso Marte to get out of the inning but it was Mariano Rivera and “game over” in the 9th.
The Yankees now head to Baltimore for a series against the Orioles at Camden Yards. Since they last saw the O’s, the O’s have a new manager (Juan Samuel, replacing the fired Dave Trembley) and they are no longer mired in a long losing streak thanks to today’s 11th inning walk-off win against the Boston Red Sox.
Hopefully, the Yanks can shake their road doldrums and end the current road trip on a high note.
Following the trip to Baltimore, the Yankees will return home for the continuation of interleague play. They’ll see the Astros, Phillies and Mets before heading west for a trip down memory lane. On June 21st through 23rd, they’ll be in Phoenix to face the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is the scene of two of the worst baseball games I’ve ever personally attended, Games 2 and 6 of the 2001 World Series. Then, in the climax of interleague play, they’ll be in Chavez Ravine on June 25th through 27th to confront old friends Joe Torre and Don Mattingly, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It should be a thrilling month, but PLEASE, work on the road record!
Now that CC is getting warmed up, Spring Training is officially underway…
Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger
So far, Camp has been very quiet for Team World Champions. Of course, that figures to change when position players report next week. But it has been great to see the guys arriving in Tampa as they begin defense of their World Series championship.
Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger
I always enjoy hearing about the players who re-committed themselves during the off-season, and arrive in camp in better shape than ever. This year’s “Biggest Losers” are reliever Jonathan Albaladejo and right fielder Nick Swisher. Both reported significantly lighter than we lost saw them in October. I have been a bit concerned that Swisher will have difficulty matching last season’s success, but hopefully, the weight loss will help him build upon the success and we’ll continue to see the A’s version of Swisher and not the White Sox version.
It’s evident the players have a great deal of respect for Andy Pettitte. Andy could have had the perfect ending to a great career by riding off to the sunset after last year’s championship, but he decided that he is not ready to hang up the glove yet. Obviously, I was disappointed when Andy admitted steroid use, however, throughout his career and including the time of the admission, Andy has handled himself with nothing but class and dignity. CC Sabathia credited Pettitte for helping his transition, and I am sure that he’ll have a similar influence on Javier Vazquez as he re-adjusts to life with the Yankees. I would have preferred if Andy had never left to play in Houston for three years, but conversely, the time away definitely gave Andy a different perspective and he clearly values his Yankees legacy now more than ever before.
I saw the comment by Hideki Matsui on the Angels MLB.com website that although he feels physically strong, his knees aren’t 100%. As tough as it was to see Godzilla leave, I think the Yankees made the right decision. While I recognize that he may have a great 2010 season, sooner or later he’ll begin breaking down and missing more time. Besides, there’s not much more that he could have done for a Yankees farewell than being named the World Series MVP.
Speaking of ex-Yankees, Johnny Damon is now officially a member. He signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers for $8 million. Damon will definitely be the poster child for negotiating failures, at least for the short term. With better strategy, he could have secured a longer term deal for more money from the Yankees, but Damon and agent Scott Boras overvalued the market. Of course, the Yankees quickly moved on. I do not find fault with the Yankees approach because had they waited, they risked getting nothing. As it stands, the Yankees offense should be fine with Nick Johnson, Randy Winn and Marcus Thames on-board. I am still puzzled by the Tigers since they moved Curtis Granderson because of money, and he would have made less this year than Damon will cost them. I guess Damon is an $8 million insurance policy as a hedge to see if Austin Jackson is capable of making the leap to the major leagues.
Another former Yankee, Chien-Ming Wang, signed with the Washington Nationals. I am surprised that he went with the Nats. Nothing against them, but I really expected to see Wang go with Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have a clear need for a fifth starter, and if healthy, Wang could have potentially filled the void. Whatever happens, I wish Wang the best of luck…and health. I hope he has learned to run the bases now that he’ll be hitting in the National League.
Now that Jose Molina is in Toronto, it sounds like manager Joe Girardi is going to make sure that Jorge Posada and A.J. Burnett work as a team this spring. Hopefully, they’ll be able to build a good rapport. If not, I hope that Francisco Cervelli is up to the challenge of being A.J.’s personal caddy.
The Yankees will definitely encounter more than a few former players (and manager) during the upcoming season.
Hopefully, the “pies” will belong to the current Yankees and not the former crowd. It should be a fun season, and I am looking forward to the renewed battle with Julia. I was hoping that we’d have a few “warm-ups” during the Spring, but the Yankees and Red Sox are not scheduled to face each other until Opening Day. Oh well, I am looking forward to starting the season 1-0. Right, Julia? 😉
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
This is off-topic, but now that American Idol has reduced the field to 24, my early favorite is Janell Wheeler…
But then again, Ashley Rodriguez does have a great voice…
It should be a great Season 9 on American Idol! Music and Yankees baseball…sounds like it will be a great summer to me! If Julia doesn’t agree, this video says it all…
Ready, set, go!…
It’s the start of free agency, and teams now have the right to negotiate with available free agents as teams’ exclusive rights period ended Thursday night. Of course, there were no significant signings on Friday, but activity should pick up in the coming weeks.
The big three for the Yankees are obviously Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. Regardless of what other moves the Yanks have in mind for their rotation, I feel very strongly they should bring back Andy assuming that he wants to come back for another season. Had he not gone to Houston for three years, Andy would potentially be in position to challenge Whitey Ford for the Yankees record for most career wins (The Chairman of the Board holds the record with 236 wins, while Andy stands at 229 career wins with the Yankees and Astros). Andy may never reach Ford’s Yankees record, however he still has the chance to reach the 200 win milestone wearing pinstripes, needing just 8 more wins. I think Andy is very proud of his Yankees legacy, and I do expect to see him back in the Bronx next season.
I would like to see the team re-sign Johnny Damon. The only thing about Damon that concerns me is his arm-strength in left field. Otherwise, he is still playing the game like a young man despite his age (36). He simply makes things happen and his double-steal in the World Series was classic but typical Damon-like. The Yankees would be wise to allow Damon to return next year on a two year deal.
As much as I like Hideki Matsui and how great his timely hits have been, I see this as the end of his career in the Bronx. Since he’s limited to DH, he simply wouldn’t get enough at-bats in the coming seasons with the need to increase the DH rotation to include older players like Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez (to allow them more rest from playing the field).
I am sad to see Xavier Nady go, but it doesn’t sound like there’s any interest on the Yankees’ part to bring him back. Some team is going to get a high quality guy and if healthy, a productive player. Of course, that means he’ll probably be signing with Boston any day now… 😦
The rumor mill regarding Roy Halladay is gaining steam once again. A free agent after next season, it is very likely that the Toronto Blue Jays will move Doc this off-season rather than wait until the trading deadline. The list of teams not interested in Doc is probably shorter than the list of team who are. The Blue Jays will be able to get a King’s ransom for Halladay and it should set them up for a bright future. Of course, the Yankees and Red Sox are always rumored to be in the mix, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doc go to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Assuming that Frank McCourt isn’t too distracted or financially drained by his divorce proceedings with wife Jamie, the Dodgers need a frontline ace to compete against the Philadelphia Phillies for supremacy in the National League. The Dodgers have a window of opportunity so they should certainly make every attempt to secure the final pieces of the puzzle in what could be Joe Torre’s last hurrah.
Wow, with 15 wins, Tim Lincecum captured the NL Cy Young Award for the second consecutive year? I am not trying to take anything away from Lincecum (15-7, 2.48 ERA), but I was surprised. I know and understand that win total is the one statistic that a pitcher has the least amount of control over, however, I thought that Adam Wainright of the St. Louis Cardinals was the deserving choice (he led the NL with 19 wins). His ERA was slightly higher than Lincecum’s at 2.63, but it was still very good. You could also argue that Chris Carpenter should have won, as he had a remarkable season (17-4, 2.24 ERA despite missing time with a pulled muscle in his side). Wainright, 19-8, captured the most first place votes, but finished third behind Lincecum and Carpenter. I can’t help but think that if Wainright had pitched for the Mets or the Dodgers, he would have won the award. Even the local Bay Area press was surprised by Lincecum’s win. I was listening to San Francisco sports talk radio on Friday, and all they could talk about was how long Lincecum’s hair was going to be by Opening Day next season. Lincecum lead the league in strikeouts with 261, and was second in ERA and third in innings pitched. If you ask Lincecum which stat is most important, it’s WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). Timmy finished fourth with a WHIP of 1.047 (behind Dan Haren, Carpenter, and Javier Vazquez). I am not saying that Lincecum was a bad choice…it was simply unexpected, in my mind.
I am going to see a show by comedian Lisa Lampanelli tonight. I don’t know anything about her except that she is the so-called “Queen of Mean”. I found this review of Lisa’s show by Larry the Cable Guy: “Front row tickets to Lisa’s show are $100, and obstructed view tickets are $150”. I’ve heard she is very raunchy so I might want to get those obstructed view tickets! 😉
They got it right…
The homer pick was to go with CC Sabathia for the 2009 AL Cy Young Award. However, it was clear that Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals is THE right choice. He had an incredible season. Imagine what he could have done playing for Boston or New York. The win-loss record wasn’t spectacular (16-8), however, the 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts were. It was a dominating season and Greinke was the class of the American League.
Of course, “dessert” for Greinke is his upcoming nuptials this weekend to former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Emily Kuchar. Okay, Zack lives in a world that I will never know…
Congrats, Zack, on a tremendous season!
I am not so sure that I like the Yankees very slow and non-reactionary approach to the early off-season. I know that GM Brian Cashman is trying to see how many dollars in his wallet, however, the team is costing themselves money by not proactively seeking to retain certain free agents like Johnny Damon.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
The Yankees would be wise to start talking about an extension with Derek Jeter now rather than wait until the expiration of his current contract. By waiting, it will most likely cost the team more than if they’d put forth the deal to secure Jeter’s pinstripe-only career.
Barton Silverman/The New York Times
I was really shocked to hear that the only coach signed for next season is hitting instructor Kevin Long. Even manager Joe Girardi is a lame duck with a contract set to expire after next season. Maybe it’s just me, but it would be kind of nice to have a first or third base coach.
Maybe the Yankees have a grand master plan that will work to perfection. They’ll walk off with top free agents John Lackey and Matt Holliday signed to very reasonable deals. But then again, maybe they won’t and they’ll be scrambling to retain the likes of Sergio Mitre, who’s option they declined earlier today.
William Perlman/The Star Ledger
Admittedly, I am a bigger fan of Theo Epstein’s quick-strike approach. I’d rather make the moves with swiftness and confidence. Act before your opponent has time to react. Take a chance on the sleepers. I dislike going into September of a pennant chase with Sergio Mitre as your fifth starter. I know that you can’t have an All-Star at every position, however, there are a number of low budget moves the Yanks can make to strengthen the team for its defense of the World Series championship. If he’s ready, I would like to see Austin Jackson in center, but that does mean the team needs proven production from the corners. I liked Boston’s pickup of Jeremy Hermida and I think the Yankee scouts should be doing their homework on the next breakout players. Last off-season, I would have loved to have acquired the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Andre Ethier. Now, after the successful season he had in 2009, he’d be impossible to acquire. But he could have been had pre-2009. I know, I keep waiting for the next Paul O’Neill, however, those type of deals can be made.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
With the rumors of whether or not 2010 will be the final season for Dodgers manager Joe Torre, I do feel bad that he has to endure the divorce battle between Frank and Jamie McCourt. There has been talk of contract negotiations between Torre and the team so hopefully the divorce situation won’t adversely impact Torre. Ultimately, I am a fan of Don Mattingly as the next Dodgers manager, however, it should, respectively, be on Joe Torre’s terms.
If the Yankees do non-tender Chien-Ming Wang, I do hope that they move quickly to sign him to an incentive-laden deal. I still think that Wang can be the pitcher he was in 2006 and 2007. I was frustrated last season, however, he clearly was not healthy.
I’ll be headed to Arizona in a few weeks to finally see Brett Favre play as the Minnesota Vikings take on the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, AZ. I haven’t seen the Vikings play (in person) for about 20 years. The last time was against the Dallas Cowboys in Irving, Texas. The Vikings won a shoot-out in overtime, 44-38. A quick Google search tells me that it was 22 years ago on Thanksgiving Day. Hopefully, December 6th in the Sonoran Desert will be equally exciting and with the same result!
The previous week will start with a Kelly Clarkson concert (oh yeah!) and will also include a Broadway play in New York City, so here’s hoping for a GREAT week for ME! J
Yankees fans are everywhere…
Even the Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre admittedly that he was pulling for the Yankees during the World Series. Okay, maybe he has good reason, but you can find us Yankee fans in the most unlikely places. Don’t look now, but the person standing next to you could be a Yankees fan! 😉
Of course, in a championship year, that’s the problem. Suddenly, everyone is a fan. In the down years, not many people admitted they were Yankees fans. I have stood by the team through thick and thin, but I recognize that the good times have outweighed the bad times. As a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I knew the heartbreak of championship losses (four Super Bowl losses in the Joe Kapp/Fran Tarkenton eras). The Vikings have never won a championship and they haven’t been in the Super Bowl since that dreadful 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders on January 9, 1977. I am still haunted by the visions of Brent McClanahan’s fumble, Willie Brown’s 75-yard interception return for a touchdown, and Chuck Foreman sitting on his helmet with a blank expression at the end of the game.
Anyway, I digress. “Yankees fan” Joe Torre was in New York for his annual Safe at Home foundation benefit dinner, and he indicated he was pleased the Yankees won the World Series. That was good to hear, particularly considering that he would have every reason to hold bitterness against the Steinbrenners and Yankee top brass for how the end of his managerial reign was handled. Don’t worry Joe, we would have pulled for you had the situation been reversed.
It does sound like Joe wants to continue to manage beyond 2010. He is still having fun, but I still think his wife will eventually help him realize that it’s time to step aside and turn over the team to Donnie Baseball. So, I guess the question is how many World Series championships can Joe Girardi win before Joe Torre retires? 😉
John Munson/The Star Ledger
I was sad to hear the situation in Texas with former Yankees closer John Wetteland. The initial reports came out that he was hospitalized for depression and attempted suicide. His employer, the Seattle Mariners (where he is bullpen coach), stated that the hospitalization was due an elevated heart rate. Wettleland has since been released from the hospital but regardless of what happened, I hope that he gets the care and treatment that he needs.
Watching Mariano Rivera set up Wettleland in 1996 was a thrill, and I remember being a bit unsure when the team made Rivera the closer following Wetteland’s free agent departure that winter. Wetteland was a great Yankee, even if his stay was short. He deserves much happiness and success, so I hope all goes well in his world.
Did you see that Derek Jeter has a cameo appearance on Will Ferrell’s next film, “The Other Guys” which also stars Mark Wahlberg? I guess he’s starting to contemplate a career post-Yankees. But of course, the Yankees have a few more championships to win before that happens!
Hey Derek, stick with the day job! 😉