The World certainly looks better when the Yankees are winning. We have our own problems but somehow they seem more manageable when the Yankees win.
While it was technically a quality start by definition, Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff on Friday night. He got off to an ominous start when he gave up a two-run first inning home run to Matt Carpenter of the St Louis Cardinals. Carpenter, by the way, makes a strong point for the Yankees Facial Hair policy as he proves not everyone looks good with a beard. Fortunately, the Yankees answered Carpenter’s homer very quickly when Starlin Castro, no stranger to the Cards from his days with the Chicago Cubs, launched a two-run bomb of his own to tie the game.
An Austin Romine solo homer and a run courtesy of a throwing error by Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong were the only additional runs the Yankees needed to hold off St Louis for their fifth consecutive win. Tanaka was strong after the shaky first inning until he got into trouble in the seventh. He finished the game with 6 2/3 innings, five hits, three runs, two walks and five strikeouts to pick up his first win of the year.
The game was in doubt in each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings as the dynamic trio of Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman succeeded Tanaka. Clippard, replacing Tanaka with runners at second and third and only one out, got both Wong and Dexter Fowler on fly outs with a great play by Aaron Judge on the latter as it looked like it could have been an extra base hit. Betances was solid as he recorded all three outs in the eighth by strikeout, but he did have brief trouble throwing strikes as he nearly walked Matt Carpenter and then did walk the next batter, Stephen Piscotty, on four consecutive balls. In the ninth inning, Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the third consecutive day, walked Randal Grichuk after easily getting the first two outs of the inning. The next batter, pinch hitter Jose Martinez, hit a solid double to left, which Brett Gardner got back to the infield quickly keeping Grichuk from scoring. The Cardinals third base coach initially wanted to send Grichuk but quickly changed his mind when the ball was returned by Gardner so quickly. That brought Chapman’s former Cubs teammate Dexter Fowler to the plate in a match-up of World Series Champions. Chapman won the battle as Fowler grounded out to Starlin Castro, and the baseball safely made it to first base before the speedy Fowler did.
It was an intense game but with Yankees-Cardinals, you wouldn’t expect anything less.
I watched Matt Holliday with great interest as this was the first time he had played against the Cardinals since May 8, 2008 when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies. For the game, Holliday did nothing as he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. I am sure that it was an emotional night for Holliday, being reunited with his former Cardinals teammates. It would be hard to spend eight years with a team and not have emotional attachments. Holliday’s last game against the Cardinals in 2008 was a much greater success. He was 4-for-5, with three runs scored, in Colorado’s 9-3 victory over St Louis. On that same night (to put into perspective how long it has been), Mike Mussina was beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-3, with a save by Mariano Rivera. Hopefully, Holliday will have greater success against his former team today and tomorrow.
I know that Greg Bird has struggled with the foot injury and the flu, but I am concerned about his 1-for-23 start. He hasn’t indicated any signs of the hitter he was during Spring Training. I had hoped the days of Mark Teixeira and his ice-cold starts were a thing of the past with the new first baseman but so far that’s not been the case. Hopefully, Bird will get untracked soon and start hitting like we know he can. I prefer Bird at first over Chris Carter, but if Bird continues on this path, we’ll be seeing more of Carter.
The Yankees are currently 2nd in the AL East Standings behind the Baltimore Orioles. The biggest surprise to me isn’t that the Boston Red Sox are in the 4th place with a .500 record (they’ll catch fire sooner rather later), but rather the last place Toronto Blue Jays with only one win on the year (1-9). I think I heard a stat that no team that has lost 9 of its first 10 games has ever made the playoffs. The Blue Jays were predicted to battle the Red Sox at the top of the division.
I have to comment on two incidents that occurred with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and two of their former tight ends in the last 24 hours. One was a very heartwarming story (no pun intended) and the other was one of life’s most devastating moments. In December, former Ravens tight end Konrad Reuland died of a brain aneurysm. On Friday, it was revealed that the recipient of his heart and kidney was none other than legendary Hall of Famer Rod Carew. Ironically, Reuland’s age (29) matched Carew’s playing number for the Minnesota Twins. Also, on Friday, former Ravens tight end Todd Heap accidentally struck and killed his three-year-old daughter while moving his truck in his driveway in Mesa, Arizona. This was such devastating news to hear and I cannot possibly imagine how Heap will be able to deal with this tragedy. I am so very saddened by this news, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Heap and his family.
It’s kind of hard to say ‘have a great day’ after that news, so I’ll only say hug your loved ones and be thankful they are in your life.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…
I have tried. Honestly. I tried to give Alex Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt and I tried to be positive that he was on my favorite team. But with the latest swirling of PED use rumors, I’m done. A-Rod’s contract is the albatross of all albatrosses. He will single-handedly keep the Yankees from winning the World Series over the next couple of years because of how many salary dollars have to be steered his way. If he was still producing, it would be one thing. But he’s not. He is clearly a player in decline who will miss the entire 2013 season. He’ll be yet another year older in 2014, and it is highly unlikely that he’ll ever be a consistent threat at the plate.
For me, character is a very important component to building a successful team. When it comes to class and character, A-Rod has none. He is clearly a narcissistic player who prioritizes personal goals above team goals. Perhaps I am judging him too harshly, but the cons far outweigh the pros when considering his place on the Yankees roster. I am happier with an elder veteran, injury-risk third baseman like Kevin Youkilis than seeing A-Rod take the field.
As it sounds like A-Rod intends to keep playing after he recovers from his hip surgery, I am hopeful the Yankees can find a way to free themselves of the #13 baggage.
What, was Darryl Strawberry unavailable?…
With today’s announcement that the Yankees are nearing an agreement with former Cleveland Indians star Travis Hafner, it is hard to be enthused. This post certainly has a negative spin to it, huh? Well, anyway, Hafner has seen his better days and is no longer the feared hitter he once was. It would have been great to have had Hafner, Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 or 2005, but they just don’t look quite as good in 2013. Hafner can no longer play the field so the Yanks could easily have a glut of DH, no field type players if Youk or other older veterans become slowed by injury or for whatever reason. In spots, Hafner can probably look good but I am just not confident in the starting lineup’s ability to stay healthy.
I know the Yankees still have a very good offensive lineup and an effective starting rotation, but has the rest of the league passed them by? That’s a question that will have to be answered when the games begin, but the potential is certainly there.
This has been a long off-season without much to be excited about if you are a Yankees fan. I am hopeful that someone like catcher Austin Romine will step forward in spring training and prove that he’s ready for major league fastballs. I am anxiously looking forward to the arrival of outfielder Slade Heathcott but he’s still a year or two away.
The right way to kick off the season…
As a Yankees fan, it’s hard to like the Boston Red Sox. But I really like the excitement and energy that goes into their annual Truck Day when the equipment truck loads up and heads for Florida. It’s a great signal for the start of the upcoming season and it certainly helps get one into a baseball frame of mind after a winter of football and basketball. I’d say hockey but they decided to take most of the season off until the recent return. My Red Sox friends always get so jazzed this time of year and to a degree, I am envious.
End of the season celebration…
I am happy for Andy Pettitte that he will be able to end what will most likely be his final season with a series in Houston. It does seem strange that the Yankees would be playing the Astros at the end of September as opposed to the Red Sox or Rays, but this should be a fun season for Andy. I am also braced for what could be the final year for legendary closer Mariano Rivera. So if both Andy and Mo depart, it will be special to watch them this year. Those are two guys I hope are annual fixtures on Old Timer’s Day.
I think I’ll go with Harbaugh…
I live in the Bay Area so I should be supportive of the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but I am really undecided. As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I do not have any attachments to the 49ers other than geographical location. As I study the teams, they seem evenly matched and both have exciting young quarterbacks. The Ravens have the added emotional incentive of the final game for future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis (yes, Denver, a team is finally throwing Lewis a retirement party). To me, it comes down to the coaches. I think Jim Harbaugh is a good coach, but coach-to-coach, brother-to-brother, I think John Harbaugh is the better coach. Jim may have had the more successful playing career, but there are not many guys that understand the game like John. I won’t be disappointed regardless of the result. Both teams are deserving of victory. There’s no one that I love to hate associated with this game, so it will be a good one to just watch and enjoy. But I give the edge to the Ravens because of John…
By the way, congratulations to Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph for being named MVP of the Pro Bowl. He can be a very effective weapon for QB Christian Ponder going forward. I always loved the relationship between former Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman and TE Jay Novacek (or even the Patriots’ QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski). Rudolph can be that type of guy for Ponder. If they are successful, maybe I can watch the Vikings in the Super Bowl for the first time since I was a kid…