A 7-game lead is nice, but…
As the All-Star Break comes to a close, I should be very happy the Yankees hold a 7-game lead in the AL East (7 ½ and 9 ½ games over their chief rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, respectively). There were times during the early weeks of the season that I really questioned the makeup of the 2012 team. At one point, after the horrific start of the Red Sox, only one game separated the two teams. Fortunately, the Yankees began to put together consistent pitching performances and powered their way to first before July arrived.
But, as I sit here waiting for the second half to start, it’s evident the Texas Rangers have the most balanced squad in the league even if the Yankees have the slightly better record. Last year, the Detroit Tigers simply shut down the Yankee bats to eliminate the Pinstripers in the play-offs. The old adage, good pitching beats good hitting. The problem is the Yankees didn’t have and still do not have a true, legitimate clutch bat. I am not trying to take anything away from Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and others, they’re good hitters. But there’s always doubt in key situations. There are certain hitters that always come through in the clutch or at least it seems like it. I’d put former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis in that category. You know that he’s not going to get cheated in an at-bat…win or lose, he’s going to grind.
While the Yankees have gotten good pitching lately, it’s still a fact that their top two starters are on the DL. Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have pitched very well in their absence, but even with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, the Tampa Bay Rays have a better pitching staff. I still find it hard to believe that the Red Sox are as bad as their record indicates. The realist in me keeps expecting them to go on a tear sometime in the second half. Neither the Rays or the Red Sox are finished, and I am confident both will be making noise in September.
While it is likely the Yankees do not make any moves this month as the trading deadline nears, the team needs to be aware that the competition is not going to sit back and go with the status quo. I fully expect the powerful Rangers to make a move to further improve their team. It’s scary to think of them potentially acquiring a frontline starter like Cole Hamels. I recognize and understand that the Yankees are more budget conscious under Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner than they were under the Boss. I get the reasons for reducing payroll by 2014 to avoid additional penalties. Plus, there’s always the fear that the Yankees trade a strong prospect or good player for a risk, only to see the player hit a home run and win the MVP award in an All-Star Game wearing an opponent’s jersey.
It will be good to see the return of Sabathia, Pettitte, and Brett Gardner in the coming weeks. Plus, Joba Chamberlain will finally begin his rehab starts this weekend. So, there is help on the horizon. But will it be enough? Time will tell.
Farewell to the better Twin City…
I moved from Minneapolis to the San Francisco Bay Area so I no longer have my great downtown view of Target Field. I so loved downtown Minneapolis, living in the Warehouse District. It was a great experience in a great city. Northern CA is a wonderful place to live, but it will take time for me to re-adjust to California after enjoying Minneapolis so much. So, now instead of being within walking distance of Target Field, I am a BART ride away from the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants. It’s not quite the same thing. Of course, ask me in December or January and my response will probably be substantially different.
The Kidd from Cal…
After completing my first year as a fan of the New York Knicks, I was pleased to see the team sign veteran point guard Jason Kidd to back up starting guard Jeremy Lin. I have always felt a connection with Kidd. I lived in Dallas when he was drafted by the Mavericks, and I moved to Phoenix shortly after he was traded to the Suns. Yes, I have moved a fair amount during the course of my life. I am not sure that the Knicks will win in 2012-13, but they should be very fun to watch.
So wrong on many levels…
Speaking of basketball, it was hard to see Steve Nash don a Lakers jersey. Despite his years in Dallas, I will always associate Nash with the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers, of course, are a chief nemesis of the Suns, so Nash’s move would be like Derek Jeter signing with the Red Sox at this stage of his career. I was a Lakers fan prior to moving my allegiance to the Knicks, but still, I hate to see players join a chief rival in any sport or league. I know that whenever a Yankee or a Minnesota Viking leaves as a free agent, I am always hoping they sign in the other league or conference.
I want but cannot have…
I feel bad for Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. After openly expressing his desire to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, the teams were unable to consummate a deal. Given that Howard has no desire to stay in Orlando, it will be interesting to see where he ends up. But Brooklyn would have been a lot of fun with the upcoming inaugural season for the former New Jersey team. I guess the Magic didn’t want Kris Humphries. Well, maybe Kim Kardashian was right after all…
Okay, let’s throw the first pitch for the second half! Time to race to October!
I wish we could do this more often…
Josh Haner/The New York Times
Those were the words of Yogi Berra as he travelled down the Canyon of Heroes yesterday during the Yankees Parade in New York City.
I am right there with ya, Yogi! Let’s do it again next year!
Andrew Mills/The Star Ledger
Jennifer Brown/The Star Ledger
Friday was the day for Yankees fans all over the World. Of course, most of us couldn’t make the trip to the City, but about two million fans lined the streets as the floats bearing the Yankee players made their way down Manhattan.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
When the season started, who would have thought this would have been possible? A-Rod was on the DL after undergoing hip surgery, so the starting third baseman was Cody Ransom. The bullpen was imploding regularly, led by Jose Veras. Mark Teixeira forgot his bat in Tampa. And there were regular calls for the head of manager Joe Girardi. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that little 0-8 start against the guys from Beantown. Nevertheless, Alex Rodriguez returned in May and the team, figuratively and literally, never looked back. When Boston was winning their championships, they displayed a ‘don’t quit’ mentality, and that was never more evident for the Yankees than this season.
Antonelli/NY Daily News
The off-season acquisitions were tremendous. I know, the jokes about the Yankees’ financial advantage have reverberated throughout the country. I think Conan O’Brien’s line was “It’s amazing what hard work, determination and a half billion bucks will do for you!”. While I agree that they have the revenue to keep the team competitive year in and year out, if you don’t spend the money on the right players, you will not win. Every year is a challenge to put together the right mix of team chemistry. Sometimes it is less about ability than it is cohesiveness. GM Brian Cashman certainly deserves much credit for putting together the 2009 Yankees. I am not sure that this could have happened a few years ago when there was a clear power struggle between the Yankees front office in New York and the group in Tampa, led by Mark Newman.
During the season, I felt the Yankees needed to make a move for a frontline starter and it was difficult to watch Cliff Lee go to Philadelphia and Scott Kazmir to the Angels. But in the end, Cash was right to stand pat. We didn’t give up any major talent, and now super prospect Austin Jackson stands ready in the wings to take command of center field. A trade for a quality starting pitcher could have potentially cost the Yankees Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, A-Jax, or one of the other high level prospects that can contribute to Yankee success in 2010 or 2011. So, thanks to Cash for executing a brilliant plan and sticking to it. His perseverance guaranteed the trip down the Canyon of Heroes, and hopefully ensures that this will not be the last one for owner George Steinbrenner.
Sipkin/NY Daily News
A few memories from yesterday’s parade…
Jennifer Brown/The Star Ledger
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
Kevin P. Coughlin
Victoria Will/New York Post
Congratulations to the 2009 World Champions…
New York Yankees!
Sipkin/NY Daily News
In other notes, the Angels acted very quickly in re-signing former Yankee Bobby Abreu to a two-year $19 million deal. It is a good move on their part. He helped to energize an Angels line up that came within one team of making it to the World Series.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The Red Sox were also very quick to make a move as they acquired young, under-achieving outfielder Jeremy Hermida from the Florida Marlins. What, are the Marlins the minor league farm club for the Red Sox? This is starting to feel like what the Kansas City A’s were to the Yankees back in the 50’s. Nevertheless, Hermida is a former first round pick and is only 25. The Red Sox gave up a couple of minor league pitching prospects but not any of their upper shelf talent. This was a very good low-risk, high-reward move by Theo Epstein.
The Yankees primary concerns heading into the off-season will be the statuses of Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Andy Pettitte. Of the three, the only one I expect to return is Andy Pettitte. I think Pettitte will take his usual time to decide if he’ll return but then he’ll sign a one-year deal somewhere around or after Christmas. Matsui, the World Series MVP, and Damon are less certain. Time and again, Matsui delivered the key hit to rescue the Yanks. However, he is a liability in the field and the Yanks have too many DH-types. I like Damon’s attitude and versality, however, I’d like to see someone with a stronger arm in left field. You’ll never see Damon gun someone down at the plate, unless the runner is Drew Carey…
I think both Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang are gone, although I do have reluctance in seeing both leave.
Kim Klement/US Presswire
In Los Angeles, it looks like Manny Ramirez will be back for another year with Joe Torre and the Dodgers. Manny exercised his $20 million player option on Friday. I think Manny has a lot to prove during the coming year. I cannot say that I followed the team closely during the season, but it seemed to me that the Dodgers were a stronger unit while Manny was serving his 50-game suspension. It will be interesting to see which Manny shows up in the spring.
The fourth-ranked University of Iowa Hawkeyes look to extend their streak against Northwestern. I have been a Hawkeyes fan for as long as I can remember…I guess it’s a product of growing up in an Iowa farming community. The stakes are very high for the 9-0 Hawks at this point in the season. They lead the Big Ten, however, the Ohio State Buckeyes loom in the horizon. The Buckeyes play the Penn State Nittany Lions in a very pivotal game this weekend, and then the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes will meet for the final regular season game. I’ll be pulling for Penn State, but hopefully the Hawks can continue their ride in the driver’s seat. Of course, they have been cursed by the cover of Sports Illustrated so I am a little uneasy…
Hey Julia, I was reading the Boston Globe and read something about the Boston Celtics getting “sunburned”. I hope they’re okay! LOL! So much for the streak! J
As if Alex Rodriguez hasn’t done enough to fill the tabloids this year, now comes word that he shops at the same place as former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Of course, I couldn’t help but think of Charlie Sheen.
On TV, Charlie plays a morally corrupt bachelor with too much money…kind of like A-Rod.
He drinks excessively, and doesn’t worry about the impact on others when he opens his mouth. He’s the last person you’d want to depend upon if you needed help. He likes expensive clothes, albeit bowling shirts, but they are still expensive…again like A-Rod. He’s compulsive, a womanizer, and has yet to act his age.
The similarities between A-Rod and Charlie Sheen a/k/a Charlie Harper are uncanny…
Gustavo Cabellero/Getty Images
My only question…
If Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are two men, what does that make A-Rod?
Gene J. Puskar/AP
One difference between A-Rod and Charlie…Charlie’s funny…
ALFRED MANUAL MARTIN, JR
The other day, Jane Heller questioned my choice of Billy Martin as my all-time favorite manager. Billy was someone you couldn’t live with, but couldn’t live without. His fiery, combative style always eroded ownership confidence very quickly. But the guy was simply a winner. He loved the Yankees with a very strong passion, and he was his own man. Every time he was re-hired as a Yankees manager was a great day for me…every time he was fired was very sad. I always wondered what the start of the 1990’s would have been like had Billy returned for a sixth time.
To most people on MLBlogs, Billy Martin was a long ago figure. Perhaps many do not even know who he was. But I did, and I will always remember him…
Posted on YouTube by NESNMAN
YANKEES WIN STREAK OVER
I am definitely on the bandwagon of those who feel Rays pitcher David Price is destined for greatness. I have been all along, but today only reinforced why the guy has so much promise. Four scoreless innings, three hits, two walks and four strikeouts.
The Yankees lost the game, 5-0, ending their 9-game winning streak.
The Yankees also re-acquired catcher Chris Stewart from the Chicago White Sox, but he most likely falls behind Francisco Cervelli and Kevin Cash in the catching pecking order. With Cervelli most likely going back to AA Trenton, Stewart just fills catching depth at AAA Scranton.
There was great feedback regarding how everyone chose their favorite teams. Every story was very interesting, and I appreciated the ones that gave insight into all four major sports.
I am all over the board. I have been a fan of the New York Yankees and Minnesota Vikings since childhood. I grew up in Iowa, and Fran Tarkenton was my favorite QB, so following the Vikings was easy. Years ago, I was listening to The Musers (George Dunham and Craig Miller) on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas and they said if your state didn’t have a professional team, you were in a “free agent” state. So, I guess I took free agency by its most literal sense given that my favorite teams are scattered across the country.
In basketball, I am a fan of the Phoenix Suns. I lived in Phoenix for eight years, and my two children still reside there. I can’t say there is any one player that attracted me to the team. I liked the ownership, which was headed by Jerry Colangelo at the time, and it was easy to follow the team. I attended a number of games while in Phoenix, and today I am a big fan of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.
In hockey, I am a fan of the San Jose Sharks (as you may have noticed on this blog from time to time). Although I am presently living and working on the East Coast, San Jose is home. I have meant to extend my thanks to Julia for her Boston Bruins being so gracious as to send Joe Thornton to the Sharks a couple of years ago. Thanks Julia! 😉 When I get home, you can be assured that I’ll be hanging out at the Shark Tank.
Have a great week, everyone! J
P.S. This is my 61st blog, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t dedicate this one to Roger Maris…
Julia of Julia’s Rants has challenged me to a duel!
The New York Yankees play the Boston Red Sox for a three game series at Fenway Park in Boston beginning Friday, April 24, 2009. If the Yankees take the series, Julia has to change her website banner to show the Yankees logo. Conversely, if the BoSox take the series, I will have to sport the dreaded Red Sox emblem on this site.
But, let the record show that Julia has the unfair advantage of home field! But it is her birthday weekend, so I suppose some concessions must be made…
I am wondering what Julia’s site will look like…
My feelings about the
Boston Red Sox New York Yankees, baseball, sports and life in general.
This bet actually reminds me of an ongoing bet that I have had with a friend in Tampa named Kelly. Kelly has been a devout Devil Rays, excuse me, Rays fan for many years.
She was a season ticket holder for Rays games when getting a root canal was preferable to going to Tropicana Field. She likes to get her season tickets in the upper balcony, and there were often times that you would need binoculars just to see the person sitting next to you.
For several years, the bet has been about bragging rights.
For each series played during the season, the winner has bragging rights until the next series is played. Whichever team takes the season series has bragging rights throughout the off-season, and the other person is powerless to retaliate.
When the bet was first made, I had the advantage of the high and mighty Yankees against the lowly, pathetic then Devil Rays. Of course, tables were turned on me last season, and I had to reluctantly take what I had been giving for so many years. Fortunately for me, the Yankees went out and spent $423.5 million in the off-season, so hopefully, I’ll be able to return to my “perch” again this year!
Actually, Kelly let me know that I had a thing or two to learn about “bragging” as she showed me how it is really done!
It’s going to be a very exciting summer in the American League East…
Manny Is Officially From Another Planet
Manny Ramirez has turned down the Dodgers for the fourth time. I thought the latest offer was very generous given the current state of the economy. Plus, it isn’t exactly like there are teams beating down the door to sign Manny.
A quick scan of the Los Angeles Times’ Business section shows the following headlines:
- GM posts $9.6-billion quarterly loss
- Source: U.S. on verge of deal to boost its stake in Citigroup
- Student loan companies’ shares plunge on Obama proposal
- U.S. banks post collective $26.2-billion quarterly loss
- Weak healthcare stocks drag market lower
- The sun sets on the Rocky Mountain News
- 667K new jobless claims; continuing claims top 5M
- AIG could be broken up
- Economy still going south
I feel that Manny is proving to be very selfish, and we are seeing the true player that exposed himself in Boston. It is a very unfortunate situation, and the Los Angeles Dodgers deserve better.
On a side note, that is sad news about the closure of the Rocky Mountain News, which became Denver’s first newspaper on April 23, 1859.
Other Tidbits for a Friday…
Admittedly I do not follow the PGA very closely, but who is Tim Clark and how did he beat Tiger Woods?…
The Minnesota Vikings should be announcing later today that they have acquired QB Sage Rosenfels from the Houston Texans. I am not sure how I feel about the acquisition. Granted, I do not think that Tavaris Jackson is the answer, and Gus Frerotte is getting too old. I really like Matt Cassel, but when the New England Patriots placed the franchise tag on him, it removed him as a possibility as the cost to acquire him would be so great. Picking up someone like Jeff Garcia or even Michael Vick is equally unappealing. There just doesn’t seem to be any viable answers out there, so perhaps Rosenfels is the best option available. The cost to acquire Rosenfels is reasonable (fourth round draft pick, and contract extension of three years for $9 million). Like Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, Rosenfels hails from Iowa. He was born in Maquoketa, IA, and played college football at Iowa State. Given that I also grew up in a small Iowa town, I can relate to Sage and Kurt (well, except for the part about the million dollar contracts…and okay, the superior physical conditioning…and, I know, the heighth of the players…). Hopefully, Sage can have some of the success that Kurt has experienced. His stock was very high after the 2007 season, but the bloom lost much of its luster this past season when he went 2-3 filling in for injured QB Matt Schaub.
The Phoenix Suns, minus star Amare Stoudemire, have now suffered blowout losses to the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers within the past week. The Suns were also without Steve Nash in the loss to the Lakers, but this has been a very disappointing season. The Suns, if they make the play-offs, look like they’ll suffer another first round exit…
On the bright side, the San Jose Sharks beat the Ottawa Senators last night, 2-1. The Sharks were powered by two power-play goals by Milan Michalek and Patrick Marleau, which were scored 1:18 apart in the second period. The Sharks, 42-9-9, lead the Western Conference by 5 points over the Detroit Red Wings.
Have a great weekend everybody!
RETURN OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!
Why look’st thou so? With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
— From Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Ancient Mariner has returned! Ken Griffey Jr., 39, decided to sign with his original team after deliberating between the sentimental choice versus playing close to home with the Atlanta Braves. Some news accounts earlier in the week were erroneously reporting that Griffey had chosen the Braves.
I was surprised. I had expected Griffey to stay close to home, but obviously the lure of the sentimental return proved to be too great in the end. On one hand, it is a nice story to see his return to Seattle. The fans are excited, and he has the chance to end his career wearing the same uniform he started with. But on the other hand, he is a shell of what he used to be.
As a Cincinnati Red in a June 2007 series at Safeco Field against the Mariners, Griffey did say, “I think I owe it to the people of Seattle, and myself, to retire as a Mariner“.
Apparently, it was Griffey’s teenage daughter who helped seal the deal. Taryn Griffey plays for an AAU basketball team that’s based in the Atlanta area, but according to agent Brian Goldberg, “She told him, ‘Dad, I really think you should go back to the Mariners and not have any regrets about how you finished,” Goldberg said. “That kind of put it over the top.”
Griffey, with 611 career home runs, will play left field and DH for the Mariners.
Despite signing free agent pitchers Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami and trading for pitcher Javier Vazquez, this has been a disappointing off-season for the Atlanta Braves. In addition to losing out on Griffey, they failed in their attempts to sign or acquire Mike Hampton, A.J. Burnett, Rafael Furcal, and Jake Peavy. It also sounds like the Braves will look to fill their outfield needs internally, rather than pursue a trade for someone like Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher.
I’ll admit that it’s nice to see Griffey back in Seattle, but hopefully, we won’t be seeing any repeat headlines like this…
NEW OLD VISITORS
The Yankees had two visitors in camp today. Bernie Williams was invited to practice at the major league facility by manager Joe Girardi as he prepares for the World Baseball Classic. “Obviously he’s retired as a Yankee, but, you know, once you’re a Yankee, you’re always a Yankee,” Girardi said. Hmmm, I wonder if Mike Lowell knows that he is still a Yankee? 😉 The other visitor was owner George Steinbrenner, who is rarely seen in public these days. The frail 78-year-old owner was taken from the parking lot to Steinbrenner Field by golf cart, using a wheelchair to get to his office.
LET THE BATTLES BEGIN…
Nice to see that the Great Yankees-Red Sox War resume battle this week with the opposing points of view regarding a salary cap in Major League Baseball. Red Sox Owner John Henry called for a salary cap, and President Larry Lucchino criticized the Yankees’ spending on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. Yankees Co-Chairman Hank Steinbrenner, never at a loss for words, fired back with “Along with a few other teams, we’re basically baseball’s stimulus package.” Say what you will about Hank, but he’s right. The Yankees pay a heavy price for their spending habits as evidenced by the high luxury taxes and revenue sharing they pay each year for exceeding the salary thresholds; money that is funneled to other teams. According to AP, the team paid about $110 million last season.
It’s exciting to see the Phoenix Suns return to their “offensive” ways. In the two games since Terry Porter was dismissed as coach, the Suns have scored a total of 282 points. Of course, the opponent in both games was the Los Angeles Clippers. But it’s exciting to see the team return to its fast-paced strategy. It doesn’t mean it will result in a championship, but it is fun to watch. I felt Terry Porter was a mistake when he was named to replace Mike D’Antoni since he was coming from a defensive-minded team like the Pistons. I know what much of the appeal to the Suns was, but they need to stick with the strengths. This is a great opportunity for interim coach Alvin Gentry.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
TIGER’S IN THE HOUSE
Tiger Woods has announced on his website that he’ll make his 2009 PGA Tour debut at the 2009 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship near Tucson, AZ February 23rd through March 1st. Tiger is the defending champ, and also won the event in 2003 and 2004. It will be exciting to see the new dad back in action!