I am pleasantly surprised at the Yankees’ success,
so far, against the Minnesota Twins…
I had been so disappointed with the team’s pathetic
September performance that saw them lose any chance of winning the AL
East. Within a matter of days or even
hours, they went from the possibility of the AL East Championship with home
field advantage to a road-traveling Wild Card team. It was hard to be excited about the start of
the play-offs with the team playing so poorly.
For the first two games of the ALDS series against the Twins, the
Yankees have risen to the challenge.
Granted, the Yankees have a history of success against the Twins, but I’d
be the first to say that past domination does not guarantee future domination. 2004 wasn’t that many years ago…
Vincent Laforet/The New York Times
While the Yankees have the series advantage and are
now headed for the Bronx to resume the series on Saturday night, the Twins are
far from out of it. If they can get
solid pitching and timely hitting in New York, they have a chance to take the
series back to Minnesota for the deciding Game 5. Outside of perhaps CC Sabathia, the Yankees simply
do not have a pitcher that is capable of putting up a Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee
type of performance. Even CC has his bad
days. But going into the play-offs, I
knew that the lesser guys would need to stand up and so far, Lance Berkman and
Curtis Granderson certainly have.
Sipken/NY Daily News
I am very surprised to see the AL East Champion
Tampa Bay Rays trailing their ALDS series to the Texas Rangers (down two games
to none). I realize that the Rays
struggled in September like the Yankees but I felt they were probably the best
team in the American League based primarily on their pitching staff. Like the Twins, the Rays can still get back
in the series but the Rangers have to like their chances.
There have been great pitching performances in the
National League with the no-hitter thrown by the Philadelphia Phillies’ Roy
Halladay and last night’s 14-strikeout, complete game shut-out thrown by San
Francisco’s Tim Lincecum in the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Atlanta
Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle
Regardless of what happens, the League Championship
Series in both leagues should be very exciting this year. I still think the Phillies will win it all,
but the Yankees certainly have as much talent as anyone to get on a roll.
Going off-topic but staying with the ‘Minnesota to New York’ theme, I was very pleasantly surprised to
see the return of Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings play the Jets in the Meadowlands on Monday night. I have retained my purple #84 jersey all
these years but never thought that I’d get a chance to wear it again. I knew that Randy had become quite vocal in
recent weeks about the lack of a contract extension and of course there was
last weekend’s blow-up with a coordinator.
Still, I did not expect the New England Patriots to trade Moss. The Vikings have clearly been missing Sidney
Rice who will be out until at least mid-season due to hip surgery. It will be interesting to see if chemistry
develops between Moss and QB Brett Favre.
It is going to be weird watching Moss catching passes from Favre after
all those years of playing against each other in the Packers-Vikings series.
At 1-2, the Vikings face a very challenging
October. After the game against the Jets, they will face the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and
New England Patriots to close out the month.
The team should definitely know where they stand by Halloween.
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!
“I must be in the front row!”…
Bob Uecker, by Steve Moore/Getty Images
The Yankees capped a very successful weekend in sweeping the Houston Astros by moving into a first place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, the Yankees need to keep the pressure on to avoid falling behind the Rays again but they should be in good shape if CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett can keep the momentum going.
With Alex Rodriguez still on the bench due to an ailing hip, the Yankees rode Jorge Posada’s second grand slam in as many days to a 9-5 victory at Yankee Stadium.
Sipkin/NY Daily News
Manager Joe Girardi stayed with starter Phil Hughes a bit too long in the 6th as the Astros scored four runs after trailing 7-1. When the Astros scored the first two runs of the inning, I thought that Hughes should have been pulled. He was over 100 pitches but I know Girardi wanted to see him finish the inning. It turned out to be a big mistake as light-hitting Kevin Cash delivered a two run homer to end the day for Hughes.
William Perlman/The Star Ledger
The Yankees answered with several runs of their own and the bullpen was up to the task of securing the win for Hughes. It was his 9th win of the season to tie him for the league lead with David Price and Clay Buchholz. I thought Damaso Marte’s strikeout after relieving Hughes was huge. The Astros had seized the game momentum but it quickly evaporated with Marte’s strike out of Michael Bourn.
The Yankees get a much deserved day off on Monday. They’ll need it since they’ll be staring at Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night. The Phillies will definitely be seeking revenge for last October. It should be a great series.
Speaking of grand slams, here is a look back at a great one…
Forget about 3 out of 4…
The Yankees may have won the weekend series against the Cleveland Indians, 3 games to 1, but they should have swept the series. What happened on Saturday? Four games and all I want to know is what happened to Joba Chamberlain?
With a 10-4 lead in the fifth inning, the Yankees should have been able to skate to the victory. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. CC Sabathia was less than sharp, so he does hold some responsibility for the Tribe’s momentum that ultimately led to the erasure of the six run lead against Sabathia and the New York bullpen.
But it’s getting torturous to watch Joba come into the game at times.
The last two games, although close early on, were both heavily tilted toward the Yankees by the end of the games. There was a sense that the Yankees would score the necessary runs in both games, which they won 7-3 and 11-2 on Sunday and Monday. However, there was a common denominator in both games. Neither featured an appearance by Joba Chamberlain. At this point, we don’t know if he has a short memory or if this two week stretch is a sign of things to come. Hopefully, he’ll right the ship and catch up with his teammates who appear to have moved past the struggles of late.
Speaking of today’s win, hats off to Andy Pettitte. It was a terrific outing by the left hander and in winning his 7th game of the season, he tied the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford, for 60th place on the all-time wins list at 236. Of course, you have to wonder what could have been in terms of those three years in Houston. When Andy left via free agency, I was surprised at the time given where he was on the Yankees career list for wins by a lefty. So, instead of tying Ford for the most wins in franchise history, he is 37 wins behind at 199 Yankees victories. This has been a fantastic year for Pettitte (7-1, 2.48 ERA), however, I feel this may be his last given how much more he has been talking about his family this year. Regardless of what happens, Andy is doing it his way…
It is a startling statistic when Mark Teixeira is intentionally walked. The grand slam by Alex Rodriguez in the seventh inning broke open what had been a tight pitching duel between Pettitte and Indians rookie Mitch Talbot. When Teixeira is given a free pass, A-Rod is 5-for-5 with 3 home runs and 18 RBI’s. So, please AL Managers, please continue to walk Mark Teixeira at your leisure! J
Derek Jeter was hit by a Talbot pitch in the second inning and left the game after hitting a single in the 7th inning when the hamstring tightened. Hopefully, DJ will be fine after a night’s rest.
A special shout out to two brilliant pitching performances over the weekend. Roy Halladay went a long way toward making Philly fans forget his recent rocky performances and Cliff Lee along the way in throwing a perfect game on Saturday night. It was the 20th perfect game in Major League history and the second game this season (Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s threw the other perfect game this season). Also, Ubaldo Jimenez (10-1) of the Colorado Rockies became the majors’ first 10 game winner with a 4-0 victory over Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants.
The Tampa Bay Rays lost to the Toronto Blue Jays today so the Yankees are just 2.5 games out of first place. But of course, the Jays and the Boston Red Sox are nipping at their heels. The Jays are just a game behind the Yankees, and the Red Sox are just 2.5 games back. So, the AL East lead could be taken by any one of the four teams depending upon who gets hot. Let’s hope it gets hot for the Yankees…very hot!
A wasted Phil Hughes performance…
From the movie, Hangover
Hughes did his part. Unfortunately, no one else did. Pitching into the 6th inning with only one run allowed, Hughes saw a potential victory evaporate in the hands of relievers Boone Logan and David Robertson.
Thanks, in part, to a throwing error by Jorge Posada in the 8th, and a subsequent hit by Cesar Izturis, the Baltimore Orioles had the insurance run they would need to hold off a late rally by the Yankees.
A fielder’s choice groundout by Alex Rodriguez in the 9th inning ended the game after two runs had scored in the inning to bring the Yanks within one run, 5-4. The blazing hot Robinson Cano was left standing in the on-deck circle.
Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post
This was a very disappointing performance by the Yankees, who have been very uninspired of late in losing four of the last five games. Not even a Monday trip to Washington to meet President Barack Obama helped motivate the squad.
After a terrific start, the Yankees are now 12-7, 2 ½ games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. The Boston Red Sox have won two straight to pull within 3 games of the Yankees and into third place.
In typical Curt Schilling fashion, controversial remarks were abound as he indicated Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez was not an American League guy. Manager Joe Girardi defended Vazquez. “Guys are asked to analyze situations, and so they make their analysis. We still believe Javy’s going to be successful, and he’s going to pitch at a very high level for us.” I hope Joe’s right, but I have to admit I had the same reservations when I first heard the Yankees had re-acquired Vazquez. His greatest successes have come in Montreal and Atlanta, both National League cities. I am still hopeful Javy will succeed in the Bronx but the concerns and fears will remain until he proves me wrong…
Hats off to San Francisco pitcher Jonathan Sanchez for outdueling the great Roy Halladay in the Giants’ 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies last night.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
The Yankees starting center fielder is…
TBA on Thursday. Seriously? The word is that manager Joe Girardi will announce his starting center fielder on Thursday. He had been toying with playing Granderson in left and Brett Gardner in center, but c’mon, there is really no choice but to start Granderson in center. The higher risk player is Gardner, and if he fails in center, it would be tougher to move Granderson from left to center than it would be to just find a replacement left fielder assuming that Gardner is named to start in left as expected. I suspect that Randy Winn will see a fair amount of playing time, as will Marcus Thames if he makes the roster…and starts to hit (something that he has been unable to do this spring).
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Everyone was amazed with the switch-pitching of prospect Pat Venditte this week. The 24-year-old has no hope of making the final roster, and I’ve always heard that he is not a legitimate major league prospect, but it was still an interesting story. I enjoyed reading the rules about ambidextrous pitchers. I am sure that they had to blow off the dust to find these:
MLB Rule 8.01 (f), regarding ambidextrous pitchers
A pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire-in-chief, the batter and any runners the hand with which he intends to pitch, which may be done by wearing his glove on the other hand while touching the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher is not permitted to pitch with the other hand until the batter is retired, the batter becomes a runner, the inning ends, the batter is substituted for by a pinch-hitter or the pitcher incurs an injury. In the event a pitcher switches pitching hands during an at-bat because he has suffered an injury, the pitcher may not, for the remainder of the game, pitch with the hand from which he has switched. The pitcher shall not be given the opportunity to throw any preparatory pitches after switching pitching hands. Any change of pitching hands must be indicated clearly to the umpire-in-chief.
I am still very skeptical if Venditte will ever make the major leagues, but I wish him much luck and success in his journey. It would be tremendous to have a weapon that could turn around hitters without a pitching change.
Noah Addis/The Star Ledger
Phil Hughes found out that he’ll be staying in Tampa for an extended spring training, with a first start not scheduled until April 15th. The Yankees do not need a fifth starter during the first couple of weeks of the season, and there had been talk that Hughes would be sent down to AAA until he was needed. This is probably a better and palatable solution for Hughes. Once you’ve made it to the Show, it’s kind of hard to step back a level regardless of the circumstances.
What are the odds of hitting your mother in the stands with a foul ball? That’s exactly what happened to the Minnesota Twins’ Denard Span today in the Twins’ 4-2 victory over the Yankees. He hit a foul ball that struck his mother in the collarbone. The hardest part for Span was watching his mother cry, but fortunately, she’s okay. That was definitely a very scary and ironic story…
The Toronto Blue Jays pinned the first loss as a Phillie on former ace Roy Halladay today in the Jays’ 5-2 win over Philadelphia. Okay, it wasn’t an official loss, but still, there was a bit of irony that the first “loss” would come against the Jays.
Gene J. Puskar/AP
The Phillies decision to go with Doc over Cliff Lee looks much stronger given the recent health challenges Lee has experienced. I still think they should have tried to find a way to keep both, but admittedly, I do not know enough about the team’s finances or infrastructure to know if that was even a possibility. Speaking of the Phils, nothing against Jamie Moyer, but I am a bit surprised that the team would go for a 47-year-old as their fifth starter over a solid 25-year-old Kyle Kendrick. Maybe Kendrick is not quite ready, but I would think his upside is much stronger. I guess there’s a reason they call the NL the “senior circuit”….
It sounds like trade talks between the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers are heating up again involving Mike Lowell. Lowell is a favorite of my good friend Julia, but he is a man without a position thanks to the Sox free agent acquisition of third baseman Adrian Beltre. If Boston is going to pay a significant portion of his salary anyway, you’d think they would just keep him to strengthen their bench. Nevertheless, it would seem this is a trade rumor that will happen. So, Julia, I dedicate this song to you…
In the eyes of a ranger,
The unsuspected stranger
Had better know the truth of right from wrong,
Cuz the eyes of a ranger are upon you,
Any wrong you do he’s gonna see,
When you’re in Texas look behind you,
Cuz that’s where the rangers are gonna be
Good luck to Mike wherever he lands. He is the consummate team professional and he’ll be a valuable cog on any roster. Admittedly, I’d prefer to see him on anyone’s roster other than Boston’s…
Jim Davis/Boston Globe
It’s hard to believe that the 2010 season is almost upon us. This is a great time. Every team is equal, and every fan is hopeful that this will be the year. Best of luck to everyone for what I hope will be a truly fantastic baseball season regardless of the outcome. Well, for me, a 28th Yankees World Championship would be good! J
Doc or Josh…
Joel Auerbach/US Presswire
To repeat as World Champions, the Yankees clearly have to upgrade the middle of their pitching staff. No offense to Andy Pettitte, but going into the play-offs with a three man rotation is not the recipe for continued success…especially if Bud Selig is successful in shortening the off-days during play-off series. At this point in his career, Andy is better served by bringing up the rear of the rotation. So, if the Yankees decide to pursue a frontline starter to go with CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, should they go after Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays or Josh Johnson of the Florida Marlins?
Pitcher to pitcher, it’s easy to say that the choice should be Roy Halladay. He is arguably the best pitcher in the American League, and he knows how to win in Boston, New York, Baltimore, Tampa and Toronto. He is not intimidated by the Los Angeles Angels, and at 32, he is primed for a few more years of dominance.
But if it were my decision, I’d have to go with Josh Johnson. I know that he doesn’t have Doc’s resume, and there is the age old argument that National League pitchers struggle in the American League. However, it goes beyond just Johnson’s age (he will be 26 next season). After undergoing Tommy John surgery in mid-2008, he is 22-6 since his return and according to FanGraphs, he ranked third in average fastball velocity this past season with 95.1 mph (behind Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Verlander). He enjoyed a very fine 2009 season, going 15-5, with 3.23 ERA. He struck out 191 batters in 2009 innings. He will continue to get better, and will soon be an elite ace if he’s not already there.
Probably the bigger reason I’d pursue Johnson is that either pitcher is going to require a hefty bounty in return. There is no doubt that the Yankees will lose the likes of Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, and other high level talent to make a trade. Realistically, if we are going to lose those guys, I’d rather see them pitching in the National League instead of right here in the AL East. The counter-argument is that some team is going to pay the Blue Jays a very high price, so they’ll walk away with a much stronger team either way. But still, I am not prepared to see Joba Chamberlain pitching for the Jays. The AL East should be very competitive next year. Aside from the Yankees and Red Sox, you know that the Tampa Bay Rays will be a force to be reckoned with. The fine young talent in Baltimore is finally starting to gel and should result in a much improved Orioles squad. So, if the Jays are smart about the pieces they receive in a Halladay trade, there will be no pushovers in the division.
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
The Yankees have A.J. Burnett locked up for four more years so I am not concerned about him. However, CC Sabathia still has the right to opt out of his contract after two more years so I think it would be wise for the Yankees to go with the younger option so that they can build a cornerstone for future years. I don’t think CC will opt out, however, as long as it exists as a possibility, it has to be considered. Much can happen in two years.
So, I say go with Josh Johnson and send the premium Yankee talent to the National League…even if that means Doc Halladay calling Fenway Park “home”. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is familiar with Johnson from his year as the Marlins manager in 2007, so it would aid Johnson’s transition to the Bronx.
There is a question of whether the Marlins organization will be willing to part with Johnson, but it should be interesting to see what develops in the coming weeks…
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
But tonight, I choose to see Kelly Clarkson… 🙂