Monday, November 30, 2009

Captain Jeter on top once again

In a year when Yankee Captain Derek Jeter has already achieved tremendous individual and team glory, he has the distinct honor of being named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine. Jeter is the first Yankee to win the award, doing it in a year when he set records for most hits by a Yankee and by a shortstop. Just one more honor for a great player headed to the Hall of Fame.

Let's recount this year's accolades for Jeter: Roberto Clemente award, Hank Aaron award, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger. Although he didn't win the Most Valuable Player award, Jeter definitely played like one this year, a key reason for the Yankees successful pursuit of the team's 27th World Series title.

Of course, there are those who will argue with Jeter's selection. In a blog post, Joel Sherman argued that Alex Rodriguez should have gotten the award because of his story of redemption. How Sherman could think that ARod, an admitted steroids user, deserved the award over Jeter, the ultimate role model, is beyond me. Sherman even suggested that Pete Rose and Mark McGwire winning the award set a precedent for an ARod selection. That argument conveniently ignores the fact that both were selected for the award before the scandals that sullied their names came to light. I seriously doubt the SI team would have chosen either one of them if they knew what was coming down the road.
Sherman makes a better case for Mariano Rivera receiving the award and no one could really argue against Mo and Jeter sharing the honor. Jeter probably got the nod over Mo due to the extraordinary success of his Turn 2 Foundation, which has distributed more than $10 million in grants for programs encouraging kids to engage in positive and healthy lives and to stay away from drugs and alcohol. Mo definitely does charitable work, but is not nearly as visible as Jeter.

But anyone who makes the case against Jeter really is wasting their time. It's another well-deserved honor for the Yankee Captain.

Thanks to Chris.ptacek via Wikipedia for the photo.

No Yankee likely to make Hall in 2010

Lee Smith has the best case for inclusion into the Baseball Hall of Fame among former Yankee players eligible during this round of voting. Despite having the third-most saves in baseball history, he will likely fall well short again. Smith's difficulty getting into the Hall reflects a bias against closers who usually enter the game to pitch one inning. But Smith was a dominating reliever, retiring with 478 saves and 1,251 strikeouts. Yet, his vote totals have fallen in the 37%-45% range.

Smith had an extremely short career in pinstripes, pitching in only eight games although he saved three of them and did not give up a run. If Smith does eventually make it into the Hall of Fame, he will not be wearing a Yankees cap.

Tim Raines was a key role player during the 1996-98 World Series-winning Yankee teams, serving as a mentor to younger players like Derek Jeter. But during the 1980s, "Rock" was known as one of the most dynamic leadoff hitters in baseball. He ended his career with a .294 batting average, 2,605 hits and 808 steals, the 4th most in baseball history. Raines was named to the All-Star team seven times. But he only received between 22-24% during his first two years of eligibility. Although his career numbers are probably not enough to get him into the Hall of Fame on the writers' ballot, his play during the early and middle parts of his career and good guy personality will probably continue to get him some votes.
Two other former Yankees, good friends Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile, are on the ballot for the first time. Of the two, Ventura has a better case for the Hall, but neither player stands much of a chance. He has a low career batting average of .267, but hit 294 home runs, knocked in 1,182 ribbies and won six Gold Gloves at third base. Ventura's offensive numbers are all slightly better than his pal Zeile, who was not a strong defensive player.
Ventura was a favorite of the writers, always good for hilarious quotes. Upon finding out he was named to his second All-Star team in 2002, 10 years after his first appearance, he said: "I like to spread them out. It's easier on your body that way." But another Ventura quote is likely to define his Hall of Fame candidacy. When he hit the 16th out of his 18 Grand Slams, he was told by the writers that Dave Kingman was the only member of that select group of hitters not in the Hall. Ventura's deadpan response: "So I'll join Dave Kingman then."
Thanks to Terren Peterson via Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Mo!

Although he seems ageless, Mariano Rivera turned 40 years young today. Over those 40 years, the great Rivera has risen from a fishing village in Panama to take his rightful place as the greatest closer in baseball history.

Few people are truly blessed with the talent that Mo has and the personality and demeanor to use it the right way. He has parlayed that remarkable talent into an extraordinary baseball career. Mo has the second-most saves in the regular season (526) and has been named to the All-Star team 10 times. Most importantly, he's the the preeminent World Series pitcher, winning five titles with the Yanks as well as World Series and American League Most Valuable Player honors for his tremendous postseason performances. And Mo shows no sign of slowing down, pledging to pitch another five years after winning the World Series this year.
Happy Birthday, Mo! And a very Happy Birthday to my nephew Jonathan!
Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Donnie Baseball likely to fall well short again

There was a six-year stretch in the 1980s when Don Mattingly was the most dominant player in baseball. Even opposing players marveled at the Yankee captain's exploits on the field and his class and dignity off of it.

No doubt Mattingly put up tremendous numbers during his career, with a lifetime .307 batting average, 222 home runs, 2,153 hits and 1,099 ribbies. His defense at first base was stellar and he won nine Gold Gloves at the position during his 13-year career. Mattingly won the 1985 American League Most Valuable Player award. He still shares the record of most grand slams hit in a season (6) and most consecutive games with a home run (8).

I'm obviously biased, but that level of domination to me makes Mattingly a Hall of Famer. But the people whose opinions matter don't agree. His highest vote total was 28% in his first year of eligibility in 2001 and he only got about 12% of the vote during the last round of balloting. Unfortunately, with the influx of strong first-time candidates on this year's ballot, Mattingly will likely continue to see his support for the Hall drop and he may even fall below the 5% threshold needed to continue to be listed on the writers' ballot.

The back injuries Mattingly suffered in the second half of his career resulted in a sharp decline in his power numbers, which hurts him in the voting. The fact that the Yankees never made the playoffs during his years of domination likely costs him some votes too. But he almost single-handedly willed the Yankees to a division series win in his only playoff appearance against the Seattle Mariners in 1995 by hitting .417 with six ribbies. Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, who coined the nickname Donnie Baseball, had similar career numbers, but he won two World Series titles with Minnesota.

I think Mattingly's best shot at the Hall of Fame will come from the Veterans Committee, made up of current Hall members, many of whom played with or against Mattingly. I believe they are the ones who truly appreciate his dominance during their era and will welcome Donnie Baseball into their exclusive club.

Thanks to Googie man via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Halladay paving the way for Yankee trade

Roy "Doc" Halladay has reportedly told the Toronto Blue Jays that he will waive his no-trade clause for a move to the Yankees. This comes as great news to Yankee officials and fans after reports that the hated Red Sox were pushing hard on a Halladay trade.

Now it's time for the Yanks to put on the full-court press with a legitimate offer that will enable Toronto to pull the trigger on a deal and a contract that Halladay can't refuse. Although Brian Cashman is loathe to part with Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes, he must if Toronto asks for either one of them (but not both). Halladay will probably ask for at least CC Sabathia money (about $23 million per year), which the Yanks can pay.

During the negotiating window, the Yankees must have AJ Burnett, a Halladay pal from his time in Toronto, and captain Derek Jeter make the case for New York. Not that much of a case needs to be made as Halladay clearly is foaming at the mouth for a chance at a World Series title and must know that the Yanks represent the best opportunity, hence his willingness to waive his no-trade clause to come to New York.

Thanks to kw111786 via Wikipedia for the photo.

2010 Hall of Fame class could be crowded

Due to an influx of worthy first-timers on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, the 2010 class could be very crowded. Some of the greatest hitters of their generation are newcomers to the ballot this year. While none of them hit the magic 3,000-hit mark that virtually guarantees a player will make the Hall, several have made strong cases for induction.

Take Roberto Alomar for example. Before retiring in the spring of 2005, he amassed a lifetime .300 batting average, 2,724 hits, 1,134 ribbies and 474 stolen bases. He also won a record 10 Gold Gloves at second base. Alomar is widely considered one of the best, if not the best, second baseman of his generation. And he was a key player on the World Series-winning Toronto Blue Jays in 1992-93. Alomar makes it in fairly easily, unless there is some lingering resentment about his well-publicized spitting incident, for which he has made amends, or his puzzling collapse with the Mets.

Seattle first baseman/designated hitter Edgar Martinez had a career BA of .312, hitting 309 home runs and knocking in 1,261 runs. He fell far short of the 3,000 hit threshold, ending up with 2,247 hits. He could be hurt by the fact that he was the DH in more than 1,400 of his 2,000-plus games, but he is the best DH in baseball history. Martinez was one of the most feared hitters in baseball, especially by Yankee fans. It's going to be a closer vote than Alomar, and he may even have to wait a few years, but I think Martinez makes the Hall.

Barry Larkin makes an interesting case for induction as one of the best-hitting shortstops in baseball during his generation. His career BA of .295 with 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases is at the core of his solid resume. He also has a World Series championship (1990) and a National League Most Valuable Player award (1995) to bolster his chances. Larkin doesn't fare as well when compared with the current generation of shortstops, including Derek Jeter, who has surpassed him in most major categories. But really the comparison is Larkin's fellow shortstops and there is no question he was at the top of his class.

First baseman Fred McGriff put together a solid campaign for the Hall of Fame during his career. He hit 493 home runs, which is just shy of the 500-home run threshold that used to be considered an automatic validation of a Hall-worthy career before the shroud of steroids. He had 2,490 hits and drove in 1,550 ribbies. McGriff was also a leader on the World Series-winning 1995 Atlanta Braves squad. Yankee fans could have seen him playing in pinstripes had the team not foolishly traded him away as it was prone to do in the 1980s with young players.

Of the remaining first-time players, I think Andres Galarraga makes the best case for induction. The Big Cat was one of the strongest hitters in baseball before cancer twice interrupted his playing career. His numbers are still strong: lifetime .288 batting average, 399 home runs, 2,333 hits and 1,425 ribbies. But he's hurt by playing for Colorado for several years and the numerous injuries he experienced early in his career. His popularity in baseball will garner him some support, but not enough for the Hall of Fame.

Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven felt several dozen votes short of induction during the last round of voting. I imagine Dawson will make it in at some point, but you have to wonder if the influx of worthy hitters hurts his chances. I think Blyleven's best chances to make it in on the writers' ballot are behind him, but he can be elected later by the Veterans Committee.
To me, the key question for induction is whether a player dominated at his position for most of his career and on that there is no question that Alomar, Martinez and Larkin should make the Hall. I would particularly like to see players like Martinez and Larkin who played with one team their entire careers make it to the Hall. Should be a crowded dais at the induction ceremony in July.

Thanks to Rdikeman via en.wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, November 27, 2009

So long and good luck Shelley Duncan

Good guy Shelley Duncan's Yankee career came to an end after he was dropped from the team's 40-man roster and refused a minor league assignment, electing to become a free agent. Duncan made a splash when he was called up by the Yankees in July 2007, hitting three home runs in his first three games. He quickly became a favorite of Yankee fans who loved his energy and enthusiasm on a team that was sorely lacking both.

But he never really got a shot with the Yankees. He was called up several times to fill open roster spots, but never spent much time with the big league team before being sent back down. Duncan was named the International League Most Valuable Player this year after leading the league in home runs and ribbies.

I really hope he gets a chance with another team. Good luck, Shelley.

Thanks to Dave Hogg via Wikipedia for the photo.

The End of an Era: Voice of God retires

Finally confirming what Yankee fans have suspected for a while, Yankees radio announcer Bob Sheppard, dubbed the "Voice of God," officially retired. Sheppard, 99 years young, hadn't worked a game since September 2007 when a bronchial infection forced him to miss the remainder of the season. The great announcer had planned to attend key games at the old and new Yankee Stadiums, including the 2008 All-Star game and the final home game of the season, but his health simply would not permit it.

Sheppard was at the old stadium for some of the greatest and saddest moments in Yankee history, writing and reading poems in honor of Roger Maris hitting his 61st home run and Yankee captain Thurman Munson's death.

But Sheppard will remain a part of the grand tradition of the Yankees. His recorded voice is still heard at the stadium during at bats by Yankee captain Derek Jeter, who only wants to be introduced by Sheppard. And he has a plaque in Monument Park in honor of his 50-plus years with the team. He will be deeply missed. A sad day for Yankee players and fans.

Thanks to I, the Silent Wind of Doom, via Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Yankees give thanks by giving back

The Yankees give thanks for their good fortune by giving back to the community. The team was honored this week for these efforts, receiving an award at the National Sportsmanship Awards ceremony in St. Louis.

The Yanks were honored for their support of Camp Sundown, a retreat for kids with a rare genetic disorder that prevents them from going outdoors in daylight. The team went full out for the kids, keeping the new Yankee Stadium open until 4 am after a game in July for a private carnival. They also gave the camp's sponsors a $10,000 check.

I remember seeing the stories about AJ Burnett, a father of two, hanging out with the kids during the wee hours of the morning, touched by their stories. Burnett was at the event this week to accept the award on the Yankees behalf and has pledged to auction off the Yankees' WWE belt, given to the player of each game, to benefit the organization after having all the players sign it.

Along with Joba Chamberlain's appearance last week wrapping gifts at the New Yorkers for Children "Wrap and Rap" event, the Yankees are in full give-back mode this offseason. It's great to see that just a few weeks after winning the World Series, Yankee players and officials are using their precious offseason time to participate in worthy causes, particularly those benefiting children.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Thanks to ShortstopVM via Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pujols has a serious case of Jeter envy

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols just won his third Most Valuable Player award, by a unanimous vote. Not yet 30 years old, Pujols has already had the kind of career that most other players (and baseball fans who wish they could play the game) dream about. He has a career batting average of .334, has hit 366 home runs and knocked in more than 1,100 ribbies. He may (hopefully) one day pass Barry Bonds as the all-time home run leader. He's widely considered to be one of the best, if not the best, player in baseball today. And he led the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title in 2006, their first in 24 years.

A superstar slugger like Pujols doesn't envy many people. But Pujols can only aspire to what Derek Jeter already has: five World Series titles.
Jeter had an MVP-caliber season himself this year, but ran into the wall that was Twins catcher Joe Mauer and was also hurt by splitting the vote with teammate Mark Teixeira.

But Jeter doesn't much care for personal glory so he probably didn't mind losing the MVP award for the second time in the last few seasons (he finished second in 2006 to Mauer's Twins teammate Justin Morneau). Jeter was even reluctant to enjoy the remarkable feat of passing the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig for the Yanks all-time hits record, having to be nudged by his dad to enjoy that individual honor.

I'll bet if you ask Jeter he wouldn't trade even one of his rings for all three of Pujols' MVP awards. Ask Pujols the same question, I suspect he would have a different answer. It's the best kind of Jeter envy!

Thanks to SHGmom56 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Halladay sweepstakes heating up

No surprise that the Red Sox are interested in making a trade for Roy "Doc" Halladay, particularly considering their early playoff exit. But the Red Sox are reportedly trying to speed up the pace of negotiations, with an eye toward completing a deal before the winter meetings start on Dec. 7, when trades will be the hot topic of conversation.

Brian Cashman has said he won't meet with the rest of the Yankee brass until after the Thanksgiving holiday when the team is expected to finalize the 2010 budget. But Cashman needs to be prepared to swoop in with an offer if things go according to the Red Sox schedule. We all know the lengths Theo Epstein will go to get a starter over the holidays. He flew to Curt Schilling's home in Arizona over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2003, having Thanksgiving dinner with Schilling and his family, to get him to agree to a trade to Boston. And Yankee fans all know how that worked out. Let's hope we don't see any reports of Epstein spending the holiday in Odessa, Florida, where the Halladays live.

I can live with losing Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman to the Saux, but Halladay going to Boston would be devastating for the Yanks. It would solidify the Boston rotation to the point that they can go head-t0-head with the Yanks. Boston may even have a deeper rotation with Halladay than the Yanks given the uncertainty over whether Andy Pettitte will pitch one more year and the Yanks troubles with the 4th and 5th starting slots.

But the Yanks have a few things in their favor. They just won the World Series and Halladay has never even made the postseason so he will want to go to the team that has the best chance to win. Despite talk of their budget, the Yanks can outbid Boston on the the long, multi-year extension Halladay is going to want. They also have AJ Burnett, who is close to Halladay and considers him a mentor. AJ can be an ambassador for the Yanks and lobby his good buddy to join him in New York.

Of course, the Yankees acquiring Halladay would reignite all the "Evil Empire" talk, but it's something I can live with to have a dream rotation in CC Sabathia, Halladay, Burnett and Pettitte.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Yanks moving at a snail's pace

Brian Cashman was at a premiere for the release of the official Major League Baseball DVD celebrating the Yankees' 27th World Series title yesterday. That's about as much celebrating as Cashman is going to get to do this offseason (and it doesn't sound like he enjoyed it that much).

But the Yankees are moving at an extremely slow pace this offseason, with Cashman saying that he has not yet spoken to agents for his three key free agents: Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Cashman did say he plans to focus on his players before speaking to other free agents, a welcome change from previous years when Yankee players had to wait in line while he pursued the biggest fish in the free-agent market.

Joe Girardi, who also attended the premiere, said he has spoken to Pettitte a couple of times in the last few weeks, but that he didn't expect Andy to make a quick decision on his 2010 plans. The Yanks are hopeful he comes back as that will lessen the pressure of having to search for pitching in a pretty weak free-agent class. If Pettitte does decide to pitch one more year, then the Yanks should quickly come up with a strong contract offer that avoids the drama and bad feelings engendered by last year's negotiations.

While there has been no official movement on either side, the odds of Johnny Damon coming back with the Yanks look pretty grim from where I'm sitting. The Daily News reported this week that Damon could be willing to take fewer years on a contract in exchange for a raise, which I don't think the Yankees will do. Cashman said he hasn't gotten his budget yet, but the team is reportedly looking to cut payroll and may decide to look elsewhere if Damon insists on a raise from the average $13 million he made during his just expired four-year deal.
No word on where things stand with Matsui, but the consensus seems to be that the Yanks are planning to move on from the World Series Most Valuable Player. He's been a good Yankee for a long time so he will be missed by fans and by his teammates, notably Derek Jeter, who says Matsui is one of his favorite players. But I'll bet the team won't miss the horde of Japanese reporters covering Matsui.

Thanks to Jimmyack205 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, November 23, 2009

No surprise: Mauer tops Tex, Jeter for AL MVP

As expected, Joe Mauer won the American League Most Valuable Player award in a landslide victory, garnering 27 out of 28 votes for a whopping 327 points. He easily topped Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, both worthy candidates who might have won in any other year. But Mauer hit a ridiculous .365 on his way to his third batting title. He probably should have won the MVP by unanimous vote, given that he willed the Twins into the final playoff stop while Miguel Cabrera's team choked at the end, but Cabrera somehow ended up with that final first-place vote.

Both Yanks had strong showings, but they split the vote. Tex received a total score of 225 for a second-place finish
while Jeter finished third with 193 points. Tex finishing ahead of Jeter is unsurprising, given his power numbers, which hold sway with many writers. But Tex really didn't get hot until Alex Rodriguez came back from his surgery, so I think ARod gets an assist for those numbers.

Jeter, on the other hand, always has fewer RBIs than his teammates, partly due to his batting leadoff and not being a power guy, but also because his focus on scoring runs means he often gives himself up via sacrifice so that the guys behind him can drive the runs in. If I have one quibble with the MVP vote, it's that some writers put Jeter 8th, 9th and 10th on their ballots, reflecting what is an unfair bias in favor of sluggers and a continued unjustified belief that Jeter is overrated.
Personally, I think Jeter was probably more valuable to the Yanks, given his leadoff prowess and leadership, but it's close. Jeter and Tex both won multiple awards this year, including Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers. And they got the most important trophy: the World Series title.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yanks shouldn't go overboard for Cuban lefty

News that the Yankees and Red Sox are battling it out to sign Cuban lefthander Aroldis Chapman is not the least bit surprising, given the long-standing rivalry between the teams both on and off the field . The young pitcher has reportedly been clocked with a fastball over 100 mph, which has several teams drooling. But, of course, NY and Boston have the money and resources to outbid everyone else so it will likely come down to these two teams.

But if I were in the Yankee front office, I'd be leery about signing him. The last time the Yanks won a bidding war with the Saux for a stud Cuban pitcher, it didn't work out well for them. They gave Jose Contreras a 4-year, $32 million contract after he defected from Cuba. Contreras ended up being a major disappointment. He had flashes of brilliance with the Yanks and later the Chicago White Sox, but was inconsistent and never lived up to the hype.

The Yanks did hit gold when they signed Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Hernandez was a key member of the Yanks rotation during the title winning-runs in 1998-2000. He saved the Yanks historic 1998 season when they were down 2-1 to Cleveland in the American League Championship Series and was the MVP of the ALCS the following year.

But Hernandez was a known commodity, helping Cuba win a gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics while Chapman had a mixed record in the World Baseball Classic this year. And even the Hernandez signing was risky, as it later became obvious that Hernandez was much older than the Yankees thought.

Bottom line, given the Yanks mixed success with Cuban pitchers, they shouldn't break the bank for Chapman, even if that means letting him go to Boston.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Days off helped Yanks win World Series

I'm ambivalent about Commissioner Bud Selig's announcement that he will look into revising the playoff schedule to eliminate the number of days off. The extra time off must have been incredibly frustrating to some players and coaches, particularly Mike Scioscia, who has been in frequent contact with Selig about the issue.

But in truth the Yankees got a tremendous boost from the playoff schedule. It enabled them to go with a 3-man rotation of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte, obscuring the fact that the best team in baseball had no reliable 4th starter.

The extra days off also contributed to Alex Rodriguez's Herculean performance in the playoffs. His injured hip required him to take frequent days off during the regular season and being able to extend that into the postseason probably helped him cast aside the demons of playoffs past.

But it is better for baseball to condense the playoff schedule so that the season doesn't extend so far into November. I just hope the Yanks can get a reliable 4th starter by next year's playoffs.

PS: Congrats to CC Sabathia for being honored by his hometown Vallejo, California. At $75 per person, the tickets are reasonably priced and proceeds support a worthy cause close to CC's heart: local programs for kids.

Thanks to edogisgod via Wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Swisher trade would be a mistake

Despite his postseason struggles, the Yankees denied they were looking to trade right fielder Nick Swisher. Though he certainly is not untouchable, a Swisher trade doesn't make much sense for the Yankees.

Swisher had a solid season, carrying the club when Alex Rodriguez started the season on the disabled list. If it hadn't been for Swisher, the Yanks could have fallen deeper in a hole that would have been difficult to dig out of.
He also helped energize what had become a quiet and robotic Yankee club and became a fan favorite, particularly after his relief work in a blowout game against Tampa Bay in April.

There's no doubt Swisher was a mess during the playoffs. I advocated benching him a few times because he looked so completely lost at the plate. Joe Girardi resisted that urge for most of the playoffs, only sitting him once in favor of Jerry Hairston Jr., who had great numbers against Phillies starter Pedro Martinez (we all know how much Girardi loves his numbers!). But Swisher was right back in the lineup in Game 3, hitting a home run that helped the Yanks get an important win.

The Yanks already have an open outfield spot in left field so why would they add another? Unless they get knocked off their feet with an offer, which I doubt, Swisher should stay put.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Clock ticks toward full free agency for Yankee trio

After midnight tonight, the Yankees lose exclusive negotiating rights with their three most important free agents: Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. The Yanks don't seem to be in a rush to sign any of them, but I believe Pettitte will be back for the 2010 season.

At a charity event, Joba Chamberlain made the case for Pettitte to return for one more season, promising to softly push his mentor and pal in that direction. The choice to return really is all Pettitte's. The Yanks will pay him well this time around, based not only on his regular season performance, but on his postseason exploits, where he was a key cog in Joe Girardi's successful three-man rotation. Pettitte was unhappy with the small base plus incentives contract he received for 2009. But I don't see the Yanks trying to short change him this time, despite Brian Cashman's desire to further trim payroll, since they have more dollars coming off this offseason.
I can make a better case for them re-signing Damon than Matsui, but Scott Boras may get in the way of that. Damon had a solid season, but I don't think he deserves a multi-year deal or even a hefty raise. The Yanks might want to take this opportunity to continue getting younger in the outfield. But if he's reasonable, I think Damon comes back too. Matsui is probably gone, which is a shame because he's been a good Yankee all these years.

Thanks to Googie man via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hope the Yanks don't mess up Joba next year

If the Yankees don't end up trading Joba Chamberlain for Roy Halladay, then I hope they make a quick decision about whether they want him to be a starter or reliever and stick to it. If he's a starter, then they need to stop with this Joba Rules nonsense because they completely messed up his head this season.

Personally, I thought the Yanks screwed up when they took Joba out of the bullpen. He seems well suited to be Mariano Rivera's set-up guy and could still learn a lot from Mo in the bullpen, perhaps one day replacing him when the great Mo retires.

Phil Hughes did a phenomenal job as the 8th inning guy during the regular season, but his recent struggles make me question whether he has the personality to do it in the heat of the playoffs. I'd rather see him as the fifth starter, hopefully without having to go through what Joba did. If you need to limit his innings pitched, then start him with fewer innings per start early in the season rather than trying to give him more days off or limit his innings in the middle of a playoff race.

We know Joba has the fire for the set-up job. Name Joba as the bridge to Mo in spring training and let's see what he can do there for a full season. My sense is that having a defined role would do wonders for Joba's confidence.

Thanks to BubbaFan via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Better luck next year Joe Girardi!

Joe Girardi will just have to settle for winning the World Series. Despite managing the best team in baseball -- a year after they missed the playoffs -- the Yankee manager came in third place in the American League Manager of the Year race. The award went to Mike Scioscia of the Angels, who Girardi beat on his way to the World Series. Hard to argue against Scioscia, especially after he got his team through one of the worst experiences imaginable: the death of a teammate, the young Nick Adenhart.

Girardi was heavily criticized for his postseason moves, none of which matter come awards time. But he did make some brilliant moves in the regular season that deserved recognition, including switching Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon in the line-up, which worked superbly for both players. More importantly, he allowed his new players to loosen things up in the clubhouse, dropped some of his rigid routines and stopped treating the media as the enemy.

Girardi already has a MOY award from his one season with the Florida Marlins. He may never get another. People will always talk about the Yankees buying the World Series, not giving Girardi's managing enough credit. No matter. As long as the Yanks continue to thrive, I doubt Girardi will miss the hardware.

Thanks to SFC Richard Guzman, USAREC via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sabathia loses Cy Young in Greinke landslide

I fully expected Kansas City starter Zack Greinke to take the AL Cy Young award over Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia, but I'm very surprised the vote wasn't closer. Greinke beat CC with an overall score of 134-13, winning 25 out of 28 total first-place votes.

No doubt Greinke had great numbers: 16-8 record on a bad team with a major league baseball-best 2.16 ERA and 242 K's. But Sabathia's hardly a slouch, finishing 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA. He obviously got no credit for pitching in the toughest division in baseball: the American League East. Of course, Sabathia probably isn't all broken up about the vote as he helped lead the Yanks to a World Series title, winning the AL Championship Most Valuable Player trophy on the way. Plus, he already has a Cy Young award.

Felix Hernandez probably has more reason to be mad the vote wasn't closer. He finished the season 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and 217 K's. He got 80 votes, including 23 second-place votes. And he was the ace on a more competitive team.

I hope this year wasn't a fluke for Greinke and Hernandez. It would be fun to see these two young stud pitchers go at it every year.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Jed Ortmeyer and I have something in common

We interrupt this steady stream of baseball news and opinions to draw your attention to a fantastic New York Times story about Jed Ortmeyer, a hockey player with the San Jose Sharks who continues to play a dangerous sport despite having a condition that makes his blood prone to clotting. Ortmeyer, a popular former New York Ranger, has developed at least three clots, including one that formed in a main artery in his lungs. He takes blood thinning meds that could put his life at risk if he's injured. Ortmeyer continues to play despite doctors and family members urging him to quit the sport.

This story has special meaning for me because I also developed a life-threatening blood clot last year. Unlike Ortmeyer, I have no genetic predisposition to developing blood clots. But that didn't make it less scary. I was diagnosed after experiencing worsening pain in my right leg that I attributed to a pulled muscle but eventually left me unable to walk for a time.
Women beware, my clot was attributed to two potential causes: either my heavy travel schedule or more likely my previous birth control method (the patch). Blood clots are listed as a side effect of taking the pill or using the patch, but any woman who is concerned about the potential of developing a clot should speak to her doctor about alternatives. Also, be careful when traveling and make sure you regularly walk around or perform leg lifts while seated.

The thing I find most fascinating about Ortmeyer's story is his determination. I had several doctors lecture me on the importance of avoiding any dangerous situations and warn me to immediately go to the hospital if I injured myself and began bleeding or hit my head. I remember going to an amusement park while taking the meds and not going on any roller coasters because of the risk. Ortmeyer continues to play a sport where fighting that results in bloody injuries is quite common. Some would say it's a dumb risk. I consider it inspiring.

I'm not the biggest hockey fan, having gone to only one game in my entire life. But now I will make it a point to catch any Sharks game I can to fully support Ortmeyer. I am happy to say that I am now clot free, off the meds and healthy. I will pray that Ortmeyer stays healthy too.

Thanks to Matt Emerson via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why hasn't Mariano Rivera won the Cy Young?

One day in the (hopefully) far-off future, Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the greatest closer ever. On that day, people will talk about him being the only reliever to win both American League Championship and World Series most valuable player awards. They will talk about him being a 10-time All-Star. They will talk about him having the second-most saves in baseball history (possibly the most if he pitches five more years like he said). But the one thing they can't say based on his resume up to this point is that he won a Cy Young award. There is still time to correct that incomprehensible oversight.

It's the eve of the announcement of the AL Cy Young Award winner for 2009 and there are several deserving candidates, including Kansas City's Zack Greinke. He won 16 games for a bad team and posted the lowest ERA in baseball at 2.16, a number hard to fathom in the American League. Mo's teammate CC Sabathia will get some well-earned votes, but he already has a Cy Young.
Mo's highest finish was in 2005, when he was the runner-up to Bartolo Colon. This year, he converted 36 straight save opportunities and 44 out of 46. Most notably, he saved his 500th game this year, a particularly sweet accomplishment because it came against the Mets. But he's still considered a long-shot for the Cy Young. Baseball writers apparently have a bias against relievers versus starters based on innings pitched. But no starter in baseball influences as many games as Mo does.
I can easily make the case that not only should Mo have a Cy Young, he should have won a regular season MVP award. I hate that some baseball writers exclude pitchers from MVP consideration. Mo is the most valuable player on the Yanks and in baseball because teams plan their entire game around avoiding him. The opposing manager knows that if he doesn't get a lead in the first seven innings, he's probably not winning the game. There are great players like Albert Pujols who managers have to think about pitching around or think about them batting several hitters before they are due up. But who else can you name that has the effect of actually shortening the game? Mo does that in every game and has since the 1996 season, when he was John Wetteland's set-up man.
I hope the Baseball Writers Association of America corrects this glaring oversight, if not tomorrow, than in the near future.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Let the speculation begin

After winning the World Series, the Yankees go into the offseason with the idea of tweaking their title-winning team by settling on a left fielder, firming up the back of the starting rotation and solidifying their bullpen.
But this being the Yanks, speculation will swirl about their possible involvement in major trades or free-agent signings, with several big names already mentioned: Roy "Doc" Halladay, the brilliant Blue Jays starter, John Lackey, the ace of the Angels, and Curtis Granderson, an outfielder with Detroit.

Let me go on the record here: I don't think the Yanks need Granderson and shouldn't consider that trade unless they are planning to let go of both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. And even then, I would only do the trade if they didn't have to give up any major young players. He's a nice player and would certainly help the Yanks get younger, but not a difference maker.
As far as pitchers, I want no part of John Lackey. He is a good pitcher who would help any team, but I think he would mess with the strong chemistry the Yanks developed this year. And the Yankee struggles during the 2004-2008 period proved how important chemistry is to a team and how detrimental bad guys in the clubhouse can be: Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, etc.

I would love to have Doc Halladay and would make the trade in a second if the Blue Jays asked for Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. I know both Joba and Hughes have great potential, but getting Halladay would put the Yanks on top for the next three to five years, assuming he signs a contract extension to stay with the Yanks. Imagine this rotation: CC Sabathia, Halladay, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte and whichever player stays between Joba or Hughes (or a healthy Chien-Ming Wang, then you have a former #1 guy as your fifth starter). That's unbeatable!

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Torre loyalty to Core Four, Girardi still intact

Anyone expecting Joe Torre to root against his former team in the World Series after his bitter divorce from the Yankees was sorely disappointed. Torre may not have the best feelings for his former bosses, but his loyalty to his former players is without question.
Although I'm sure he would have loved to lead his Dodgers to the World Series against the Yanks, he seemed happy that he didn't have to figure out how to get his former shortstop Derek Jeter out or avoid letting his brilliant former closer Mariano Rivera in the game. It doesn't seem like it would have been much easier for Jeter either, who said it finally sunk in that Torre isn't his manager anymore.

At his Safe at Home event last night, Torre seemed genuinely happy for Joe Girardi, his catcher during the late 1990s title runs and his former bench coach. Torre must know better than anyone how difficult it would have been for someone to replace him and he seemed pleased that Girardi was able to step out of his shadow so quickly.

Torre even seemed happy for Alex Rodriguez, who the manager really threw under a bus in his book "The Yankee Years" with Tom Verducci. In the book, Torre talked about ARod monopolizing all the attention and focusing on individual stats versus the team dynamic. But the manager yesterday acknowledged that things changed this year for ARod, who played a major role in the Yanks getting back to and winning the World Series.

Thanks to Googie Man at en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Wetteland's ex-mates, manager rooting for him

Joe Torre's annual Safe at Home foundation dinner was overshadowed by talk of the hospitalization of former Yankee closer John Wetteland. It's still unclear what exactly happened to him, with reports that Wetteland was contemplating suicide dominating the news. But his ex-teammates and manager are all clearly concerned about him and hoping he pulls through.

I have fond memories of Wetteland from the 1996 World Series, especially him saving Andy Pettitte's gem of a Game 5 (with a major assist from a limping Paul O'Neill) against the Atlanta Braves to send the Yanks back to New York on a high note.
I'll never forget watching him on the podium after the Yanks won Game 6 to clinch the series and he was named MVP. He was with his wife and twin baby daughters and looked so happy. And he said what to me is still the biggest understatement in all of baseball: "I guess I have a reputation for making some things interesting." This after I was almost pulling my hair out while watching him pitch the 9th inning.
He also said he was shaking and couldn't believe it was over. He was referring to the series, but could easily have meant his Yankee career as he had to know that the Yanks were ready to turn closer duties over to his protege: Mariano Rivera.

I really do hope Wetteland overcomes whatever physical or mental problems he is dealing with. This much is obvious: he will have a lot of people praying for him, including his former protege.

Thanks to Dopefish via Wikipedia for the photo.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mo to be honored at Safe at Home event

In what promises to be a wonderful event, Mariano Rivera will be honored by Joe Torre's Safe at Home Foundation tonight. Several Yankee greats will be there to help honor the best closer in baseball history. Derek Jeter is virtually guaranteed to be there as he is close to both Mo and Torre and has long supported Torre's foundation, which funds programs for victims of domestic violence.

As much as I would love to be there, the $2,500 individual ticket is slightly out of my price range. But it should be an amazing night, especially coming so soon after the Yankees winning the World Series. I'm sorry I'll miss it. But congratulations to Mariano Rivera. No one deserves to be honored more than Mo.

Thanks to edogisgod via Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More hardware for Tex, Jeter

The euphoria of winning the World Series may just be starting to wear off, but the magical ride continues for Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter as they keep taking home hard-earned awards.
It started Tuesday with them winning Gold Gloves for fantastic defensive seasons this year. Now they are both being honored for their offensive exploits, taking home the Silver Slugger awards for first base and shortstop in the American League.
Jeter won the award for the fourth time in the season in which he passed the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig for most hits by a Yankee. In typical Jeter fashion, he hit .334 and scored more than 100 runs. Tex, who has moved around quite a bit over the last few years, won the award for the third time by leading the league in ribbies with 122 and tying for tops in home runs with 39.

Tex and Jeter probably split the Most Valuable Player votes for their team, clearing a path for Joe Mauer to take home the award, which will be announced later this month. But they both had MVP-caliber seasons and will probably finish in the Top 5. Most importantly, they won the award that counts and will soon have the ring to show for it.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Yanks shouldn't make Jeter wait

The most frustrating thing about the Yankee brass has always been its reluctance to deal fairly with their own players while moving heaven and earth to get another team's player. They bucked that trend and did the right thing signing Derek Jeter to his current 10-year deal in the 2000-01 offseason before he hit free agency, but they could have had him cheaper if they had signed that much-discussed 7-year deal the year before.

I still believe that Andy Pettitte would never have left the Yanks for Houston after the 2003 season if the team made him a fair offer, instead of making him wait and then coming in with a monster contract offer only after the Red Sox went after him. Here's hoping Brian Cashman & Co. don't make the same mistake with Jeter.

Everyone knows Jeter wants to finish his career in pinstripes, but he is also a proud guy and would not just take any deal from the Yanks. Why wait until he is a free agent and risk the possibility of Jeter being convinced by his former manager Joe Torre - who Jeter adores - to finish out his career in Dodger Blue? Imagine the uproar, all of it directed toward Yankee ownership, given Jeter's iconic status in New York. It's not worth the risk. Make him a fair offer now (one that does not involve a pay cut) and ensure Jeter will reach the Hall of Fame clinching magic number of 3,000 hits and chase Pete Rose for the all-time record while still wearing pinstripes.

While they're at it, the Yankee brass should also extend Mariano Rivera's contract. If there's one thing the powers that be learned during the playoffs, it's that the Yanks are not remotely ready for life without Mo. If he is serious about continuing to pitch, than the Yanks should extend his deal and focus on grooming a set-up man who could be transitioned into the closer's role (though I wouldn't want to be the guy who follows Mo in that job). Five years may be pushing it, but that's what Mo said and since he's Mariano Rivera I wouldn't bet against him.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

BoSox starting quest to dethrone Yanks

The Boston Red Sox have started reshaping their team in preparation for another run at the Yankees next year. They have declined an option on shortstop Alex Gonzalez. They named catcher Victor Martinez the starter, ending team captain Jason Varitek's reign (although he could still accept a backup role for $3 million, more than he would likely get with any other team). They already re-signed knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who the Yanks usually have trouble hitting, to a two-year deal.

The big question is whether they will re-sign Jason Bay or move on to Matt Holliday, the biggest offensive free agent. Personally, I would think that Bay would be the more attractive option. He played great after arriving in Boston via the Manny Ramirez trade. Most importantly to Red Sox fans, he was clutch in many games against the Yankees, while Holliday would be unproven in the greatest rivalry in all of sports.
And he would seem to be the cheaper option as Holliday's agent, Scott Boras, apparently is looking for Mark Teixeira money (8 years at $180 million). Boras may try to make it appear that the Yanks are interested to drive up the price, but I don't think Brian Cashman wants or needs Holliday. Of course, this being the Yankees, never say never.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Hairston Jr. should return to Yankees

I'm hoping Jerry Hairston Jr. returns to the Yanks next year. I think he's a great fit for the team, especially as Joe Girardi is going to have to rest Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to keep them fresh throughout the season. As long as he doesn't ask for the moon, I think Brian Cashman should bring him back.

Eric Hinske could return too, but I think of him as less of a priority. He brings good pop to the Yankee bench, but he's a pretty one-dimensional player.

I'm less inclined to bring Jose Molina back. He's a good defensive catcher, but his lack of a decent bat puts the Yanks in a bad spot. I love what Francisco Cervelli did for the Yanks when Molina and Jorge Posada were injured and I'd like to see him get a shot as the back-up catcher.

I'd like to see Xavier Nady come back from his injury and play for the Yanks. He was a solid player after being traded to the Yanks in 2008 by the Pirates. If it wasn't for his unfortunate injury, I believe he would have made another strong contribution to the team.

Hairston Jr., Hinkse, Molina and Nady have all filed for free agency.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Costas chat with Selig must-see TV

In a time when too many journalists pull their punches, it was great to see Bob Costas (Syracuse University Newhouse guy!) challenge Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig again and again during the MLB Network's Studio 42 show. But Selig stuck to his guns, making their chat fascinating and compelling television.
Costas hit Selig hard for welcoming Mark McGwire back into baseball with open arms, but Selig stood firm on Big Mac's right to return to the game. Selig can't really criticize McGwire because he owes him a debt of gratitude for helping to resuscitate the sport after the 1994-95 strike. But Selig's support for McGwire is incredibly disappointing, considering the stain he has put on the game.
Selig tried to argue that the "sport is cleaned up," citing the fact that out of 3,700 tests this year, only two came back positive for steroids. But Costas pointed out that there is no test for human growth hormone, which Andy Pettitte has admitted to taking, to which Selig said MLB is spending millions to develop a test. As much as I love Andy Pettitte, I think the proper punishment for players found to have used steroids or HGH is to ban them from the Hall of Fame for life.
Selig also said Barry Bonds is the record holder for home runs, despite evidence of his steroid use, and he will leave it up to the writers to determine if he should be in the Hall of Fame. I personally would like to see the records of players like Bonds wiped out, in addition to a lifetime ban, but I don't think it will happen.
Both Selig and Costas agreed that it is a "tragedy" that clean players like Derek Jeter have to constantly defend themselves against the cloud cast over the game by the "steroid era."
Judging from Selig's response, the chances of instant replay being used in the playoffs are slim to none, despite the terrible umpiring in the postseason this year. Selig expressed concern about the pace of the game and the impact on pitchers. But Costas made the point that the calls have gotten so bad and the umpires themselves wouldn't mind the help. He also rightly noted that fans would be willing to sit through a few minutes of delay to make sure the calls are correct.
Although Selig expressed worry about baseball being played in November, he didn't seem to have a solution to the problem. He rightly noted that baseball owners will not agree to shortening the schedule and that this year's late World Series was due to the World Baseball Classic, which going forward will only be played every four years instead of three. He seems determined to keep the WBC, which is a good marketing tool for the sport on the international level. He also seems content to keep the division series at five games rather than expanding it to seven, which Costas argued would lower the risk of a "fluke outcome."

MLB Network is planning to rerun the interview several times in the next 24 hours. Check it out. It's definitely must-see TV for baseball fans.

Thanks to Major League Baseball via Wikipedia for the photo.

Well-deserved Gold Gloves for Jeter, Tex

I hope all this statistical nonsense about Derek Jeter being a bad defensive shortstop is finally put to rest after his superb defensive play this year earned him his fourth Gold Glove. Jeter, perhaps motivated by constant criticism of his defense, worked hard last offseason on improving his flexibility and lateral movement. And the work paid off. He committed just eight errors in 2009 compared to the league average for shortstops of 17 and led at the position in the American League with a .986 fielding percentage.

Hey stat geeks, is that good enough for you?

"I've said it time and time again, playing championship-caliber baseball starts with pitching and defense, and I think those two components were certainly the foundation for our success in 2009," Jeter said. "I've always taken a great deal of pride in my defense, and being honored with a Gold Glove is an accomplishment I will never overlook."

Mark Teixeira's defense was outstanding all season, but I was particularly impressed by his stellar D during the playoffs. Despite his offensive struggles, Tex never lost focus on the field and saved at least five runs during the Yankees' title march. Tex fits in perfectly in the grand Yankee tradition of brilliant first basemen, particularly guys like Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez, who were both great defenders and strong hitters.

"Solid defense is the most underrated component of winning baseball, but it is something I have always taken pride in," Tex said. "Winning a third Gold Glove means a lot to me, especially when good defense helped our entire team reach the ultimate goal of a World Championship."

Thanks OneTwo1 via Wikipedia for the Jeter photo and chris.ptacek via Wikipedia for the Teixeira picture.

Yanks focusing on their own for once

Despite free agents like John Lackey, Matt Holliday and Yankee killer Jason Bay, the Yanks seem to be properly focused on their own free agents: Johnny Damon, Andy Pettitte and Hideki Matsui.

Damon and Pettitte are the priorities, but both may be difficult to re-sign despite their stated loyalty to the Yanks. Pettitte has stated publicly that he was not happy with his contract and Hal Steinbrenner foolishly poured salt into the wounds by calling Pettitte the best investment the Yanks made last offseason, knowing full well that Pettitte was forced to take a drastic pay cut after the Yanks spent more than $400 million on CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira.
Damon, meanwhile, may already have one foot out the door if you believe the comments of his agent Scott Boras, who believes he should have a multi-year deal. Like I said before, I don't think the Yanks can or should give him even two guaranteed years so it might be time to say goodbye.

If the Yanks lose either Damon or Pettitte, they will at least get a draft pick in return, but won't be eligible for a pick if Matsui signs elsewhere.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Shame Moose missed out on Yankee title

I feel bad for Mike Mussina for missing out on the World Series this year. Pitching for the Yankees during the 2001-08 seasons, he played in two title bouts in '01 and '03 and lost both times, although he pitched great games in the 2001 division series against the A's (better known as the Derek Jeter flip play) to stave off elimination and the 2003 World Series against the Marlins.

Moose never got that World Series ring, but he did finally win 20 games in his final season in 2008 and came close to perfection a couple of times. He won 270 games during the steroid era, won seven Gold Gloves and finished in the top 20 in strikeouts, all of which I think help make him a Hall of Famer. He had a great career, as outlined by his Yankeeography, which will be replayed tonight at 9PM ET on the YES Network.

Moose seems to be at peace with his decision to retire, but I wonder if it pains him to watch the Yanks win it all without him. Don't think the Yanks couldn't have used him this year. If they had Moose, they wouldn't have had to do a 3-man rotation in the World Series, which they were fortunate didn't burn them as AJ Burnett was not sharp on short rest. But the Yanks did good without him in winning the title and I hope Moose doesn't regret his decision.

Thanks to Mandalatv via en.Wikipedia for the photo.

Now's the time to talk Girardi extension

Now that the World Series is over, the first thing on Brian Cashman's to do list should be to start talking to Joe Girardi about a possible extension. News that Joe Torre and the Dodgers are talking about a contract extension should bode well for Girardi's future with the Yanks. If Torre can get a contract extension despite not getting LA past five games with the Phillies for two consecutive years, than Girardi should get another two years on top of his 2010 contract for managing the Yanks to the World Series and stepping out of Torre's shadow.

I've been critical of Girardi during the playoffs. I didn't like the way he overmanaged his bullpen and thought it made the American League Championship Series a lot tougher to win than it should have been for his team. But he was absolutely right to have faith in Damaso Marte, who got key outs in the World Series. And he adjusted well to the ongoing struggles of Phil Hughes in the World Series, putting him on a short leash (that he hung himself with) before he gave way to Joba Chamberlain.

He made a lot of smart decisions in the regular season too, namely extra days off for his starting rotation that allowed CC Sabathia and company to pitch on short rest (although I think the constant juggling did hurt Joba more than it helped). Most importantly, he showed he could adapt his management style after struggling during his first year, engaging more with the media despite constant criticism and allowing the new guys to be who they are and not demanding they fit into the Yanks rigid corporate structure.

Girardi is going to have some tough chores in 2010. He must figure out a way to keep an aging team fresh. He must decide on and groom a proper set-up man for Mariano Rivera so Mo doesn't have to pitch 2 innings at a time in key games. But he's definitely earned the right to make those decisions, even if we all second guess him on them.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Yanks face tough choices in offseason

As much as I love Johnny Damon, I have a sneaking suspicion he won't be back next year. He is already talking about how he has options, which he definitely does after a solid regular season and strong World Series where his gritty at-bat against Brad Lidge and his brilliant 2-base steal set up a key Yankee win. But it seems like his agent Scott Boras is gearing up to demand a multi-year guaranteed deal and I don't think the Yanks will or should give him one. If they were to give him a two or three-year deal, I would bet that he would have a debilitating injury the first year that would cause him to be ineffective for the rest of his Yankee career.
Hideki Matsui made a great case to stay with the team with his MVP performance in the World Series, especially in Game 6. I think the Yanks should offer him a one-year deal if they can't get Damon to bite on a one year plus an option year contract. Signing Matsui for one more year buys them some time to develop younger players or go the free agent route after the 2010 season.
Andy Pettitte seems to be the surest bet to return, that is if he wants to come back. Pettitte always takes his time during the offseason to think about whether he really wants to pitch again. And as he told Dave Letterman, he has a 15-year old kid in high school who he wants to spend time with. He might decide to take his fifth ring and go back home to Texas. But he seemed rejuvenated this season and it might be hard for him to walk away after playing such a critical role for the Yanks in the playoffs, starting and winning all three clinching games.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mariano's the gift that keeps on giving

Mariano Rivera's joy at winning his fifth World Series ring led to his surprise but very welcome announcement that he wants to pitch five more years. I would have expected Mo to temper that enthusiasm after a few days passed, but he hasn't back off of that statement.

Mo's brilliance is unquestioned and the fact that he was able to close out the playoffs despite a nagging rib-cage injury is beyond impressive. Joe Girardi and his staff were able to keep the injury quiet, which is pretty remarkable in this day and age in Yankee land where as Brian Cashman said "there are no secrets."

Euphoria in the Canyon of Heroes

I knew going to the Canyon of Heroes for the Yankee victory parade was crazy, but I wasn't about to miss their first parade since 2000. Getting close enough to see anything was a major challenge. The first street we tried was dangerously packed, but luckily we got to Barclay Street before it fully opened to the public. From there, we couldn't see the cars, but we could see the top of the floats so we got good views of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Johnny Damon and other Yankees as they floated by on their way to City Hall.
The City Hall ceremony seemed a little flat, especially compared to the Giants ceremony last year with a stomping Michael Strahan. I wouldn't expect Captain Jeter to do anything that outrageous, but would have liked to see a little more emotion. And the ceremony was a little bittersweet because of the absence of the Boss, who was sorely missed. But I'm sure the new Yankees got a kick out of the parade and the adoration of the fans. It was nice to see Chien-Ming Wang and Xavier Nady on the dais, receiving keys to the city along with their teammates. I hope both of them recover from their injuries and return to the team next year.
The joy of the crowd was obvious. Yankee fans were in a great mood, the people who worked in the surrounding buildings not so much. A few of them were frustrated by not being able to get to their offices. And there was some pushing and shoving to get position. But for the most part, the fans were on their best behavior.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jimmy Rollins' sour grapes

Instead of gracefully accepting defeat, Jimmy Rollins felt the need to proclaim that the Phillies were still the best team, despite their World Series loss to the Yankees. Rollins probably felt foolish after the Yanks made him eat his words (he predicted the Phils would win in five games), but it's still shows an appalling lack of class to insist his team was better. His teammate Ryan Howard, who virtually disappeared in the series except for his home run last night, was more gracious in giving the Yanks credit for beating them and being the better team.

The ultimate show of good sportsmanship was displayed by John Smoltz after the Yankees swept his Braves in the World Series in 1999. He gave the most dignified interview I've ever seen from a player on the losing team, giving all the credit in the world to the Yankees for a brilliant series. Someone should show Rollins that tape. Or make him watch the Yankee parade tomorrow.

Thanks to Rdikeman via Wikipedia for the photo.

Yankees end the Curse of Hillary

My good friend Scott may have been right about the "Curse of Hillary." The Yankees last won the World Series in October 2000, right before Hillary Rodham Clinton became the junior senator from New York. The Yankees title drought continued for the next eight years until Clinton accepted Barack Obama's offer to become Secretary of State. Thank you, Mr. President!
I'm still on Cloud Nine after the Yankee victory. I was strangely calm yesterday before the game, probably because I felt so good about their chances last night with Andy Pettitte on the mound and a rested Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. I'm incredibly happy for Mo and Andy as well as Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. They all played superbly, not just during the playoffs, but really throughout the season. Well-deserved victory for the Core Four!
But Brian Cashman made an interesting observation during his interview with Mike Francesa today. He talked about how in previous years new players had trouble integrating with the old guard, maybe because of intimidation, but that he encouraged the new players like Nick Swisher not to dwell on the "Yankee way" of doing things and just to be themselves. And it worked. Swisher, AJ Burnett and other new Yankees made things fun around the team again and that was probably a big factor in the Yanks winning it all.

Thanks to the US Senate for the photo.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Robinson Cano needs to step up

Robinson Cano has pulled a virtual disappearing act in the postseason, stranding a small army of baserunners. Even though the Yankees get their designated hitter back in Game 6, the Yankees lineup got shorter with the injury to Melky Cabrera. With Brett Gardner subbing for Melky, Cano needs to bring some pop back to the bottom of the lineup.

Whether he can do it or not is questionable. Cano is currently batting .167, popping up the ball with alarming frequency. It's baffling when you consider he had a good year offensively and defensively, but Cano has been unable to regain his regular season form through three rounds of the playoffs.

It's not too late for Cano to redeem himself. He can erase the memory of his playoff failures up to this point with a timely hit or two to help the Yanks finish off the Phillies. It's time for him to step up.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Closer troubles make you appreciate Mo

Brad Lidge's struggles closing games this year, culminating in a benching by Charlie Manuel in a Game 5 save situation, really does make you appreciate Mariano Rivera's lasting brilliance.
Even with a 3-run lead, Manuel wanted no part of Lidge pitching the 9th inning. He brought in Ryan Madson, who gave up a run before closing out the game.
Lidge, Joe Nathan, Brian Fuentes: all closers who have been hit hard during the postseason by the Yankees. Yes, the Yankees have a good lineup, but their inability to close out games makes Yankee fans incredibly grateful to have Mo on our side.
One of the few positives of Game 5 was that Mo did not pitch, giving him two days off before Wednesday's Game 6. Mo is probably quite fatigued with all the innings he's pitched this postseason and fighting a bit of a cold, but he's continued to battle through and get out after out. It makes you wonder why Mo can close out game after game at less than 100% while younger pitchers, including those who are supposed to be setting him up, continue to struggle in the playoffs. Phil Coke became the latest Yankee reliever to wilt in the spotlight, giving up what proved to be the winning run.

It will be a sad day in Yankee land when Mo decides to retire. Hopefully, that day is years away because the Yankees are clearly not even close to being ready for life without Mo.

Monday, November 2, 2009

AJ up to his old bad tricks again

AJ Burnett was back to his old habits again tonight, walking and hitting batters. I didn't expect him to repeat his brilliant Game 2 performance, but I thought it gave him enough confidence to put in another good start tonight. Obviously, that was wishful thinking on my part.
Burnett gave up six runs in just over two innings, putting the Yanks in an enormous hole against the red-hot Cliff Lee, who didn't pitch nearly as well as he did in Game 1 of the World Series. But Lee took his team to the 8th inning with a sizeable margin for victory. I was hoping for the same from Burnett, but it wasn't meant to be.
It was the right move to start AJ Burnett on three days rest over the barely used Chad Gaudin. You can't trust a World Series game to a guy who has only pitched one inning in the last three weeks. Joe Girardi shouldn't be criticized for this move. Players need to execute when given opportunities and Burnett didn't do that tonight.

Phillies know the end is near

Cole Hamels gave a good indication of where his mind is right now when he said he can't wait for the season to end. Yes, it was open frustration by a young pitcher, but the feeling is probably spreading in the Phillies clubhouse after last night's crushing loss. After battling back to tie the game in the 8th inning, closer Brad Lidge came in and promptly gave up the game. If the Phillies do lose the World Series, many will point to Lidge's struggles and the resulting confidence drain as a key reason for their failure to repeat.

Jimmy Rollins is looking pretty foolish for his prediction that the Phillies would take the series in five games. He revised it to say Phillies in six games after Saturday's victory--wonder if he's going to change it to Phillies in seven or just shut up now?

Mariano Rivera is set to make Rollins eat his words. He's been the rock of the Yankees pitching staff this year (and for the last 14 years), and the only dependable reliever this postseason. “I could care less what he said,” Rivera said when asked about Rollins' prediction last week. “That’s not what is going to happen.” And he's right. One more win to go!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Yankee comeback kids do it again!

Just when you thought the Yankee bullpen was going to ruin the night again, the offense mounted a thrilling, 2-out rally against Phillies closer Brad Lidge. Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada will get a lot of credit for clutch two-out ribbie hits, but the real star of the night was Johnny Damon, who wore Lidge out fouling off pitch after pitch before his base hit. Then he promptly stole second and third with heads-up base running against the Mark Teixeira shift. The Yanks would not have been in a position to win that game without that at-bat so Damon deserves a lot of the credit for tonight's victory.

It was nice to see Posada and teammates rally around Joba Chamberlain after they put three runs on the board to get him off the hook. But the Yankee bullpen is seriously testing Joe Girardi's faith in them. Joba looked like he was on the verge of being the old dominating set-up guy, but he gave up a long home run to tie the game. You have to wonder what Girardi will do tomorrow. Mariano Rivera has thrown less than 20 pitches in Games 3 and 4. As much as he might not want to, Girardi may have to use Mo for 2 innings if he has an opportunity to close out the World Series.

Tonight's win was crushing, you could see it on the faces of the Phillies at the end of the game. To battle CC Sabathia all night and then finally come back to tie the game, only to have their closer give it up has to be devastating. It's difficult to see the Phillies coming back from this, even if they get another fantastic performance from Cliff Lee.

Thanks to Googie man via Wikipedia for the photo.