Going up or going down?…
About 20 games into the season and the Yankees are barely closer to first place than they are last place. Only two games separate the Yankees from the dismal start by the Boston Red Sox but of course the Sox are playing better as of late. It’s only April so at this point, the standings don’t really mean too much as the superior AL East teams will begin to separate themselves from the pretenders over the course of the next couple of months.
It was nice to see the Yankees pull off a walk-off win at Yankee Stadium last night against the team that seems to terrorize them in the play-offs in recent years, the Detroit Tigers. I am really surprised that Justin Verlander holds an 0-2 mark with 4.50 ERA for his career at the new Yankee Stadium. When he is on the mound, it is hard not to expect bad things for the home team. So, regardless of Verlander’s struggles at Yankee Stadium, it is still a great feeling to pick up a win on a night when he took the mound.
Cashman made the right decision…
Lately, there have been numerous columns and articles written about how disastrous the Yankees trade for Michael Pineda has become. I realize that he’s lost for the season due to his shoulder injury, but he is still a young and talented pitcher. I know there’s always a risk that he isn’t quite the pitcher was projected to be when he comes back, but I think it’s way too early to criticize the trade which sent talented hitter Jesus Montero to Seattle. Pineda’s injury was suffered on the Yankees’ watch and not while he was in Seattle, and there is still a good chance that he’s a strong, contributing part of next year’s rotation.
Phil Hughes is probably the beneficiary of Pineda’s injury as I feel that Freddy Garcia will be the odd man out when Andy Pettitte returns to the Bronx. Hughes hasn’t exactly pitched like he wants to stay, but I am not ready to see the Yankees banish him to Pittsburgh or someplace like that. Maybe I am an eternal optimist but I still believe that Hughes can prosper in New York.
I am a bit concerned by the uneven starts provided by new Yankee Hiroki Kuroda, but I think he’ll settle in and deliver consistent performances in the coming weeks and months. Yes, I do thank the lucky stars every day for CC Sabathia.
A sad day in the Yankees Universe…
I was saddened to hear the passing of Yankees great Bill “Moose” Skowron yesterday. He was part of the 1961 Yankees which will always be a special team in Yankees history for the famed M&M Boys (the year Mickey Mantle hit 54 home runs, and Roger Maris hit the then record 61 homers). But there’s no way either Mickey or Roger could have reached those heights without guys like Skowron on the roster.
Next stop, Superstardom…
Well, the Bryce Harper Show begins its maiden tour in Washington with the scheduled first start today for the ultra-hyped, super prospect National. Given that he was called up to take the roster spot of injured 3B Ryan Zimmerman, there’s always the chance that Harper goes back down when Zimmerman returns from the DL. But if Harper starts to hit like we know he will, it will be hard for the Nats to remove him from the roster. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. America loves superstars and Harper certainly has as much of a chance to be the best as anyone in the game today.
When Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson are happy, so am I…
It’s only been three rounds, but I am pleased with the NFL draft selections made by the Minnesota Vikings. Prior to the draft, my preference for the Vikings #3 pick in the first round was USC OT Matt Kalil. There was talk that the Vikings were undecided among Kalil, CB Morris Claiborne, and WR Justin Blackmon, but in the end, it proved to be a smokescreen. I was a bit anxious when I first heard the Vikings had traded down with the Cleveland Browns, but it was clear that the Browns were going after RB Trent Richardson so there was no risk of losing Kalil off the board. At first, I didn’t understand the logic of the move, but clearly the Vikings (and GM Rick Spielman) had made the Browns fearful they’d trade down with another team which could potentially cost the Browns a shot at the premier running back in the draft. The move brought three late round picks to the Vikings and it didn’t cost them anything as they were focused on Kalil from the start.
I also like the Vikings’ subsequent picks (late first round selection of S Harrison Smith and early third round choice of speedy CB Josh Robinson). For a team that was desperate of upgrades in the secondary, they fared well. It would have been nice if Robinson were a bit taller, but his 4.33 speed at the Combines was unmatched. I think he’s good material for the coaching staff to mold for playing at this level. The Vikings have a plethora of selections today as Rounds 4-7 are completed, and I am sure that the defense will continue to get attention. I also expect the Vikings to choose a wide receiver, but I have no idea who they might target. Nevertheless, with Spielman’s decisions so far, I have no doubt that he’ll continue to bring talented playmakers to Minnesota.
As Luck would have it…
Like everyone else, I think that QB Andrew Luck has the potential to be one of the greats in the game but how much more difficult can it be to be replacing one of the greatest QB’s to play the game with added pressure of being the number one selection in the NFL Draft (along with the expectations that go with it)? If Luck succeeds, and I do not doubt that he will, he will prove, without a doubt, that he was the right choice to replace Manning. Luck, with a horseshoe on his helmet, seems like it was destiny. Meanwhile, I continue to “ponder” things in Minnesota…
Today, with Yankees-Tigers on tap and the conclusion of the NFL Draft, will be a fun day. Enjoy!
Who is Amaury Sanit?
The newest Yankee is a
31-year-old career minor league reliever who was most recently with AAA
Scranton/Wilkes Barre. A Cuban emigrant,
he is also the same pitcher that was suspended for 50 games in 2010 after
testing positive for a banned performance enhancing drug. Infielder Ramiro Pena was sent down to make room for Sanit. Pitcher Jess
Todd, recently signed after being cut by the Cleveland Indians, was
released to clear space on the 40-man roster for Sanit.
Despite giving up three runs
in 4 2/3 innings of work tonight, Sanit provided length after Ivan Nova
imploded (giving up 4 runs in the 2nd and 2 more in the 4th). So much for the quality Nova starts…
The Yankees have a tough
stretch coming up as they face the Boston Red Sox and then the Tampa Bay
Rays. For the three-game series against
the Sox this weekend, I have made yet another wager with Julia of Julia’s Rants. At stake is a bottle of wine. If the Sox win, I will give Julia a bottle of
a Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend (aptly named Cabiovese) from a fantastic
boutique winery in Northern California’s Livermore Valley, Rodrigue Molyneaux
Winery (www.rmwinery.com). The wine, which is 75% Sangiovese and 25%
Cabernet, was aged for 12 months in American Oak. The blend of the Sangiovese’s high acidity
with the Cabernet’s tannin structure makes for an incredibly smooth wine. Of course, the Sox won’t win so I’ll just
drink the Cabiovese myself! If I win,
then Julia has to pick a wine from the New England region to send to me. Somehow, I just don’t think that’s going to
compare with Livermore Valley! 😉
As a Lakers fan, it was sad
to see the season come to an abrupt end at the hands of a sweep by the Dallas
Mavericks. It’s ironic that the Lakers
were defeated by Dallas given that I was a Mavericks fan for the 14 years I
lived in the city, but that was long ago.
When I was a Mavericks fan, Rolando
Blackman was the star and Roy
Tarpley was the problem child. It
was also pre-Mark Cuban. My biggest disappointment with the Lakers
loss is that Phil Jackson deserved a
better farewell. Still, he leaves as
perhaps the premier coach in NBA history.
I wish the Zen Master the very best for whatever he decides to do next. I’d like to see Phil stay connected with the
NBA so a TV role would be fantastic unless he aspires to be an exec with a
team. It would be great for us as fans
to experience the wit and wisdom of the legendary coach.
My other sports team, the
NHL’s San Jose Sharks, is also having its own set of problems. Once possessing a commanding 3-0 series lead
against the storied Detroit Red Wings, the Sharks face a do-or-die situation
tonight in Game 7. The Sharks are the
more talented team, but time will tell if talent will prevail or if it will be
the gut, guile and determination of a championship Detroit squad.
I’d mention the Minnesota
Vikings to get a full representation for all of my teams, but of course with
the lockout, QB Christian Ponder is
probably sitting by the pool, sipping Mojitos…
Lastly, I will be participating
in the 100th running of the Bay to Breakers 12K Run in San Francisco
on Sunday. Being San Francisco, you see
about everything which is probably more than you ever wanted to, but it is
still a fun experience. From the
Embarcadero to the Pacific Ocean, the day is a thrill. There’s nothing like getting slapped by
hurled pancakes at the starting line, and of course, enduring the drive up the
Hayes Street Hill. But it’s always a
thrill to reach Golden Gate Park. This
will be my fourth time with the run, and the first in an odd year.
Usually, April has not been
kind to the Yankees. So to finish the
month with a winning record and in first place is clearly an accomplishment. After the Yankees were ripped in the
off-season for their failure to sign Cliff Lee while the Boston Red Sox were
signing Carl Crawford and trading for Adrian Gonzalez, the expectations were
greater in Beantown. As a result, there is a bit of satisfaction in the respective teams’ starts. Perhaps it was a good
thing as the Yankees finally shook the April curse and controlled the month of
April instead of letting the month control them.
John Munson/The Star Ledger
Boston, meanwhile, has
gotten off to a sluggish start, with a 13-15 mark entering play tonight. I’d be a fool to think the Sox will continue
to underperform. I have no doubt that
they will start clicking on all cylinders at some point, and I can only hope
the Yanks have built a sufficient cushion to withstand any Sox charge.
Roster to roster (today), I’d still give the edge of the Sox over the
course of the full 162 game schedule.
I think the keys for the
Yankees to hold off the inevitable Sox charge will rest primarily with
pitching. I’ve been pleased by what the
Yanks have gotten from Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, and Bartolo Colon, but I still
do not think that all three have the sustainability for the duration of the
The health of Phil Hughes
will be a key determinant. The recent
tests have been positive, but the fact remains that the Yankees are no closer
to getting Hughes on the mound than they were before. What if he isn’t able to come back this
year? What’s Plan B? The Yankees already needed a #3 starter or
better when Hughes was in the rotation. For
now, the Yanks have to hope that Nova, Garcia and Colon continue to perform
Count me as one of those who
believe that it is time to drop Derek Jeter down in the order. His days as a lead-off hitter are over, and
it’s time to get Brett Gardner at the top of the order. I realize that Gardner isn’t hitting, but I think
that leading off would revitalize his bat and of course his speed on the bases
with the guns coming to bat would be huge.
The Yanks could definitely
use timely hitting, but I fully expect the bats to come around. I saw the highlights of last night’s game
showing Hideki Matsui hitting a game-winning home run for the Oakland A’s, and
thought to myself, yeah, we could use that…
With the 2011 NFL Draft
behind us, I am still pondering the Minnesota Vikings first round selection of
QB Christian Ponder. There’s no doubt
that I would have loved to have DT Nick Fairley who went to the Detroit Lions
with the next pick. However, the Vikings
had to emerge from this draft with a franchise QB. Andy Dalton may turn out to be a great
quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals and Colin Kaepernick may do wonderful
things in the Golden Gate City, but all things considered, I am glad that
Ponder is in Minnesota. There’s no doubt
that I would have preferred Jake Locker but the Tennessee Titans made that an
impossibility. I had mixed feelings
about Blaine Gabbert, so short of Cam Newton and Jake Locker, I am satisfied
I’d be surprised if the
Vikings go to the training camp (assuming the lockout is lifted) with Ponder,
Joe Webb, and Rhett Bomar as the only QB’s.
I fully expect them to pursue a veteran.
I don’t think that Kevin Kolb would be worth the price since Ponder
should be ready to take over the position within a couple of years. So, I guess it depends how cheaply the
Vikings can get someone like Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, or Vince
Young. It definitely makes me wish that
Sage Rosenfels was still on the roster.
When the lockout is finally
resolved, I definitely hope the Vikings find a way to retain WR Sidney
Rice. I don’t want to lose free agent DE
Ray Edwards, but I think that Rice would be much harder to replace.
I was glad to see the Tampa
Bay Rays activate 3B Evan Longoria for tonight’s game. I may not be a Rays fan, but Longoria is
arguably the best third baseman in the league.
Win or lose, I’d rather see Longoria in the Rays lineup than not.
Congratulations to the Los
Angeles Dodgers’ Andre Ethier who has hit safely in 28 games entering play
tonight. I am sure that this is a trip
down memory lane for manager Don Mattingly, who once had a consecutive home run
streak going. I am sure that Donnie
Baseball has shared his insight into how to handle the pressure from the press
in these situations. Ethier’s a great
guy and I’d definitely like to see him continue this streak.
The San Jose Sharks are up
2-0 in their series with the Detroit Red Wings, but who in the world can
possibly be comfortable with playing Game 3 in Joe Louis Arena?…
The Los Angeles Lakers lost
Game 1 to the Dallas Mavericks? Really? What are they trying to do? Give a happy ending to the LeBron James