Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oh no not the wave

Doing the wave is tolerable when the game is a blowout, but unacceptable and distracting during such a close game. Poor Ramiro Pena who was up in a key spot late in the game yesterday, probably thought the cheering was for him when it was really crowd encouragement to keep the wave going.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh What a Night

Heading to the stadium last night to see the game with my friend Deborah, my
expectations were pretty low, given that the Yanks already clinched and were playing the Royals. Imagine to my surprise this was one of the best games I attended all year. It started with the wonderful, surprise pre-game ceremony celebrating Mariano Rivera's 500 saves and Derek Jeter setting the all-time hits record. My favorite part was when Mo's three sons were given those gorgeous, enormous rings commemorating their dad's accomplishment. Can you imagine anything cooler? And Mo was given his gifts by his manager Joe Girardi (who caught his first save), Jorge Posada (who caught his 500th) and Yogi Berra (one of the great Yankees of all time).

Jorge Posada's tribute to his BFF and his favorite pitcher was short and sweet, nothing but love and thanks to them for "always being the same." Andy Pettitte also thanked his pals for the wonderful journey and all the growing up they did together. You could tell he was both nervous and Texan--he said Y'all at least 20 times.

Melky Cabrera was also honored for hitting the cycle earlier this year, the first time a Yankee did that since 1995, and he looked absolutely thrilled.

And I'll never turn down an opportunity to see Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez back at the stadium where they should be.

The game itself could have been a letdown after such an emotional ceremony, but it turned into a fantastic pitchers' duel (nothing I love more!) between the Royals' Anthony Lerew and AJ Burnett, who threw more than 100 pitches in 6 1/3 innings. His last inning wouldn't have been so bad except Phil Coke threw to first base instead of cutting the second Burnett run down at the plate. Boy did he have a rough inning!

It was great to see Dave Robertson back on the mound, which puts him into the mix for the postseason if he can prove he is healthy in the next four games. Brian Bruney was out there too and feeling pretty strong, as shown when he threw the ball over his catcher's head. He was helped out when Hairston let the ball drop to secure the double play after seeing the hitter not run the ball out, a brilliant decision.

Who would have thought Juan Miranda would end of being one of the heroes of the latest Yankee comeback? That ninth inning could have turned out very badly due to Girardi's late-inning substitutions. I'm all for resting players ahead of the postseason, but why take Jeter and Tex out with only one inning left and down by only one run? He had Cano hitting in Jeter's spot, which worked out when he hit the sac fly to tie the game. But Damon was intentionally walked ahead of Miranda, in Tex's spot. Luckily the kid made contact and put the ball in the perfect spot.

Miranda, undoubtedly, was not surprised by AJ's pie in the face!

Even though it's time to go to bed, I'm still buzzing from an awesome night. It was, as Barney Stinson would say, "legendary."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Nice bounce back from Bruney

Has anyone had a rougher season than Brian Bruney? It was hard watching a reliever so dominating in the past struggle through an injury-plagued season, only to come back and realize he had lost control of his fastball. Yankee fans have been tough on him with the booing, but his 5-out relief appearance Sunday led to an ovation that moved Bruney to tears. His outing raises an interesting question for Joe Girardi of whether Bruney should make the postseason roster. Right now, he's on the bubble and I'd like to see him duplicate his efforts before the end of the season. I think Bruney makes it if he has a couple of good outings, given how dominating he can be when he's right.

A lot will depend on how many pitchers Girardi decides to go with. The sure things are starters Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte and Chamberlain (who will likely start the first round in the bullpen). Hughes and Mo wil make up the core of the relief team. Mr. 10 Wins Alfredo Aceves and lefty Phil Coke will make the cut. It gets tricky after that so the next six games will be audition time for the other relievers. Jonathan Albaladejo should make it as long as his elbow is sound. Dave Robertson has been great for the Yankees, but he's injured right now and hasn't gotten game action since early September. I wouldn't count him out if the Yanks continue to the ALCS or World Series, but the first round is doubtful.

As someone who also dealt with a life-threatening medical condition this past year, it was heartwarming to see Ian Kennedy coming back from his surgery to pitch an inning of scoreless relief against the Sox. But it won't get him on the postseason roster, especially if Joba is already in the pen during the first round. Mark Melancon has pitched decently at times, but has had trouble with the Red Sox and Angels and the Yanks will face one of those teams in the ALCS. Marte has not pitched well this season, but might make it by virtue of being the second lefty in the bullpen. After such a dominating year, it's been disappointing to see Edwar Ramirez struggle with shoulder problems and inconsistency. I'm not a big beliver in wasting a roster spot on a long reliever so I wouldn't part either Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre in that role for the postseason.

Happy for Girardi, but his contract can wait

Joe Girardi should be congratulated on guiding the Yanks to their first AL East title since 2006. He got off to a good start this year in reshaping the team--the Jeter/Damon line-up switch was downright brilliant. But it's too early to even talk about rewarding him with a contract extension. He presided over the first playoff-less Yankee season in 15 years in 2008.

While the team has made the playoffs this year, he still needs to prove he can make the right managerial moves in the key situations. I want to see him pull off a couple of moves that directly lead to postseason wins. For example, if there are runners are first and second with no outs and Jeter coming up, will he ask Jeter to bunt. (PS, Michael Kay, we know you don't like the notion of Jeter bunting, but he's going to keep doing it so let's move on, please!). Will be bring Mo into the game with two runners on and one out in the 8th inning or will he trust Hughes to get out of the inning, given how amazing the kid has pitched as Mo's set-up guy? Andy why should the manager be rewarded with a contract extension ahead of time when their team's Hall of Fame closer and gritty clubhouse/leader had to wait until the offseason?

Plus, Girardi has been slow to get in his players' faces even they deserve it or need in the most. By his own admission, he didn't jump on Robby Cano last year when his lackadaisical play embarrassed the team. And he only gave Joba the firm talking to he needed after weeks of watching Joba scuffle. I've always liked Girardi ever since his playing days with the Yanks, especially how he went out of his way to groom Posada even though he was clearly going to lose his job. I want to see him succeed, but let's table the contract extension talk until after the playoffs (and longer if the Yanks don't win it all).

Random baseball thoughts

Sotomayor delivers a strike

As a Hispanic woman, one of the proudest moments of the year for me has been the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Baseball fans owe her a huge debt of gratitude as she saved baseball from an ill-conceived strike in the mid-1990s--one that cut short a promising Yankee season. It was great to see the Yankees honor her by inviting her to toss out the ceremonial first this weekend at Yankee stadium. She is from the Bronx and a huge fan!
Thanks to the Supreme Court Collection for this photo.

President Obama is absolutely right to try to extend the school year with American kids continuing to fall behind in key subjects like math and science, but it wouldn't be good for baseball attendancxe. One of my favorte things to do is go to a day game in the middle of the week. I've seen a lot of great Yankee comebacks at these games. While I play hooky from work to do it, I wouldn't encourage the kids to do the same.

My sister and her roommate just adopted a dog they named Jeter. Her roomate is a huge Yankees fan, my sister is completely indifferent to baseball. He is part Pit Bull and part Jack Russell Terrier so I think the name suits him very well-he is tenacious and feisty. Like the human Jeter on the basepaths this year, he can't stop running around.

Filip Bondy right about quiet ARod

Check out Filip Bondy's story on Alex Rodriguez adopting a lower profile after his tumultuous spring and his hip injury and surgery. His troubles seem like they had a silver lining though. I've always thought he talked way too much and got himself in unnecessary trouble. As a Yankee fan who happens to be a journalist, I would often cringe when I heard him giving interviews, including the dreadful steroids conference, knowing how they would play in the papers the next day. I'm glad he finally realized that you don't have to answer every question and that getting the media to like you should not be a priority. Jeter is a great example of that: he doesn't actively court the media and he gives the most boring interviews (really he should consider a career in politics after he's done with baseball--there's no one better at talking for 30 minutes and not saying anything particularly interesting). But the New York media still adore him and somehow turn his mistakes into positives.

Getting back to ARod, his season is pretty amazing considering the hip injury could have kept him out for five months instead of six weeks. A .285 BA and closing in on 100 RBIs is beyond respectable. I'm not an ARod fan, but I do admire his efforts this year and it was nice to see him enjoying the celebration yesterday.

Love the Yanks but Citi Field feels more like home

This is going to sound sacrilegious to some Yankee fans, but I actually like Citi Field more than the new Yankee Stadium. The inside of the stadium reminds of a convention center, but Citi Field has a very homey feeling to it. Despite some recent bad press, it's a great place to view games. Plus, the park at sunset is a sight to see (check out this photo from my last visit). The Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi is amazing with the photos, video and dedications. Of course, Monument Park can't be beat and the Yankee Museum is a cool addition with the signed baseballs, trophies and other memorabilia. If you haven't seen it yet, try to get to a game early to check it out. It's fairly small so only a limited number of people are allowed in at one time.

The food at Citi Field is better too. They have a diverse set of food options, but my personal favorite combo is the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich from Blue Smoke and vanilla shake from the Shake Shack or a canoli from Mama's of Corona. Plus, they will bring you Dibs right to your seat. Ok, probably not great from a health perspective, but a nice once-in-a-while treat at the ballpark.

More random baseball thoughts

I invited my good friend Scott (a die-hard Mets fan) to hop on the Yankees bandwagon since the Mets are just killing time until Sunday. He said I should take the Number 7 train to Flushing if I want to see real baseball. And the next time I'm in the mood to see an exercise in futility, that's just what I will do.

I'm salivating over a possible Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup. The thought of Joe Torre coming back to try to beat the team that tossed him aside after more than 10 great years is irresistible, especially when you factor in his relationships with old-guard Yanks like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. Add in the subplot over his book (although to be honest I thought the whole thing was blown way out of proportion), and it makes for a sizzling series.
Thanks to ISU_79 and UCinternational for the photo.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Yankees Clinch AL East

Although we knew it was coming, the sight of the Yankees formally clinching both the AL East and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs was gratifying and fun, especially since it came at the expense of the Red Sox. After starting the season with eight straight wins against the Yanks, the Saux had to suffer through their latest butt-whipping by the Yanks, who swept their way to their destiny. It was great to see the new guys living it up during the post-game celebration, especially Nick Swisher. It's easy to forget that he helped keep the team afloat in April and May during A-Rod's DL stint and Mark Teixeira's early struggles. Even some of the veteran Yanks got a little giddy, including Mo, who took the liberty of pouring champagne all over YES Network clubhouse reporter Kim Jones. It's nice to see that even though he has experienced so much success in his Hall of Fame career, Mariano can still enjoy these moments as much as his proteges. Jeter seemed somewhat subdued at times, probably due to his consistent mantra that anything short of a World Series is a lost season. Here's hoping this is the first of four celebrations on the way to the ultimate title!!!

Toronto is the safest away city to see a Yankees game

I travel a lot on both business and personal trips, many of which happen to revolve around Yankee away games. I've been to games in many cities, including Baltimore, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Washington, DC. But as a single woman who often travels alone, I've never felt safer than when I go up to Toronto to catch games at the Skydome (Excuse me, Rogers Centre: whatever!). Not only do I always have a good time, but I've never felt remotely threatened or nervous. When I did some checking on this topic, I found out that Toronto is considered one of the safest cities in North America, a much safer place to enjoy a game than other baseball towns, including Chicago.

There are several nice hotels in the area around Skydome (and rooms can usually be booked for US$100 or less on Expedia or Hotwire. That area is a good place to hang out post-game because there are a lot of great restaurant and bar options nearby. As in any big city, you should be careful, but you can walk around and enjoy the beautiful Toronto waterfront. The stadium doesn't have the bells and whistles of the newer stadiums, but it's a comfortable place to watch a ballgame. And unlike Yankee Stadium this year (I got rained out twice!), you don't have to worry about rainouts with the retractable roof. U2 just played there in the first open-air concert since Bruce Springsteen in 2003. And if you have time to do a little sightseeing, you should work in a trip to Casa Loma. The castle is extraordinary, the gardens are immaculate and I'm told it's a great place to get married.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Joba is back, hopefully

Dear Yankee brass: You seem intent on returning Phil Hughes to the rotation at some point despite his success in the bullpen. Can we please not have a repeat of the Joba Chamberlain situation? Joba was a brilliant reliever and showed incredible promise as a starter, but the "Joba Rules" ruined him to the point he was close to needing a shrink to get all the voices out of his head. The inclination to protect your young arms is admirable, but you need to think about the damage the constant changes are doing their psyches. Like Yogi says: 90% of the game is half mental!

He did look like the Joba of old on Friday, limiting a good Red Sox lineup to 3 runs over 6 innings and dominating them for most of the game. Most impressive was his powerhouse pitching in the 5th inning, getting out of a major jam of runners on second and third with no outs without giving up a run. The stern reprimand from Girardi seems to have helped. But I need to see him do it again before the season ends before I believe he is close to being the Joba we know and love.
Many thanks to BubbaFan on en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Magic Number 1

How do I love pitchers' duels? Let me count the ways. CC was dominating today, blowing the ball past the Red Sox and getting the ground-ball double play when he needed. Daisuke was tough too, but it seems like the Yankees' lineup will catch up with anyone eventually. Yes, the Saux helped them out by botching that run-down, but Damon really made them pay with his clutch hit. It was a fantastic pitching performance by CC and with Hughes and Mo coming in to finish things off, I think it was a preview of the kind of game we'll see in October. With the Yanks finishing on top again of course! Would love to see the Yanks clinch tomorrow against the Saux, especially with the Saux planning their silly Wild Card celebration on the Yanks' home turf. Can you imagine the Yankees celebrating winning a Wild Card if they still had a mathematical shot at the AL East? Wouldn't happen because the Yanks have their eyes firmly on the end goal: winning the AL East title as a first step toward winning it all!
Thanks to chris.ptacek for the photo.