Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Happy go lucky routine bad idea by Clemens

Roger Clemens acted like he did not have a care in the world on the day of his arraignment on perjury and other charges, laughing with his lawyers before the hearing and playing golf afterwards. It's the wrong approach, but not at all surprising from a very stubborn man.

What many people want to see from an athlete accused of a crime is a little humility, if not remorse. Acting like he is not at all worried about the charges against him is probably supposed to come off as evidence of his innocence. Instead, it seems like evidence of his arrogance, that he is not taking the case seriously.

What's worse is that Clemens doesn't seem the least bit sorry for the mess he will drag former friends such as Andy Pettitte (and Andy's wife Laura) into. He does not seem to care that his former teammates on the New York Yankees and other teams will be hounded by reporters over the next year whenever there are developments in the criminal case. He does not care that this case (and the Barry Bonds trial) will continue to cast light on a shameful period in baseball history.

Maybe this is just an act and Clemens is really worried about his freedom. But I think he might have so convinced himself that he will be acquitted that he doesn't care how the case plays out. He really should. Even if he's found not guilty, the case is going to be very bad for him, bringing things into the light that he'd probably rather not have public.

The happy-go-lucky approach is just not a good idea.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quick Pettitte return would boost Yankees

If Andy Pettitte can return to the rotation in two weeks, that would provide a major lift that could carry the New York Yankees right into the playoffs.

It may be an optimistic scenario, given that he has spent more than a month on the disabled list and already had one setback. But Pettitte himself was encouraged by the lack of pain during his bullpen session Sunday. Perhaps more importantly, Joe Girardi seems convinced that Pettitte was telling him the truth when he reported no ill effects from the session.

Although the Yankees have gotten solid starts from Dustin Moseley and Ivan Nova, they'd much rather have Pettitte, even at less than 100%, starting big games against the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox in late September. If Pettitte can avoid reinjuring himself during his two weeks of rehab, he would quickly reenter the rotation, which would boost the Yankees’ postseason hopes. Pettitte at less than full strength is still a better option in an important game than an erratic AJ Burnett, unreliable Javier Vazquez or one of the youngsters that have no big-game experience.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed that Pettitte continues to feel good and can help his team secure a spot for October baseball.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nova gaining fans despite B12 controversy

Ivan Nova was so excited about winning his first major-league ballgame that he said he would get his teammates to sign the game ball for him. The way he pitched in his two starts this week, his teammates will be more than happy to oblige.

Joe Girardi was thrilled and impressed, not only by Nova’s pitching, but by his composure. The manager loved Nova’s efficiency and the good off-speed stuff that was responsible for some of his biggest outs. Girardi must have also been incredibly relieved by Nova’s outing, given the state of the New York Yankees rotation, and promised the kid another start.

But a player is truly impressive when the opposing manager goes out of his way to praise him. Ozzie Guillen, who never hesitates to criticize anybody, said Nova might have been the best pitcher the Yankees had over the last few days and expressed relief that the Chicago White Sox will not see him again unless both teams meet in the playoffs.

What I found most impressive was his ability to keep his composure with a cloud hanging over his head due to the news that Major League Baseball is investigating whether he and minor-league teammate Wilkin De La Rosa injected each other with B12 shots. Nova did not let the developing controversy bother him on the mound. From the big smile on his face after the game, he’s not going to let anything ruin his first big-league win.

Thomas, Piniella should be in Hall of Fame

It's been a big week of baseball news in Chicago, starting with Lou Piniella's early retirement as manager of the Cubs and ending with Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas having his number retired by the White Sox.

Thomas was a killer at the plate, belting more than 500 home runs in 19 big-league seasons, winning two Most Valuable Player awards and making the All-Star team five times before finally becoming a World Series champion in 2005. I'm completely bummed that I wasn't in Chicago today to cheer as his number was retired in what looked like a wonderful ceremony (and root for the New York Yankees afterward =). But I can root for him from afar to make the Baseball Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible in 2014.

There are writers who refuse to vote any player into the Hall on the first year of eligibility and others will cast a negative eye on his overall numbers because some of them came as a designated hitter. But his resume is impressive. To me, legitimate domination of the sport should be a key criterion when analyzing a Hall candidate and Thomas was undoubtedly one of the most feared, dominating hitters in baseball in the 1990s.

Piniella will be remembered as one of the great managers of his generation and no one can accuse him of doing it the easy way. He got his start managing for the notoriously difficult George Steinbrenner, who falsely accused him of stealing furniture despite his love for his "son," according to Bill Madden's Steinbrenner biography. Piniella won the World Series for the Cincinnati Reds, took the Seattle Mariners to the American League Championship Series and managed the then-doormat Tampa Bay Rays before heading to Chicago. He ended his career 14th on the managerial win list.

Both Thomas and Piniella deserve to be in the Hall of Fame and I hope they gain entry as soon as possible.

Thanks to Drdisque via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Girardi, Yankees losing patience with Burnett

AJ Burnett is really starting to wear on the nerves of the New York Yankees.

The fact that manager Joe Girardi did not dismiss the possibility of shipping AJ to the bullpen is a sign that he is clearly frustrated by managing the weekly headache that Burnett has become.

Imagine the very real possibility of Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin pitcLinkhing key games for the Yankees against the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox in September because Girardi & Co. simply don't know which AJ will show up on the mound at any given day. As risky as it may be, Girardi may need to trust Mitre or Gaudin more than he trusts his supposed #2 starter as the Yanks fight for the American League East.

I think Girardi's biggest frustration comes from Burnett's inability to step up when the Yankees need him, especially now with Andy Pettitte's injury taking longer than expected to heal and Phil Hughes closing in on his innings limit. The Yankees manager would much prefer to send Mitre or Gaudin to pitch the last four innings of Hughes' September starts. Instead, he may have to use them in Burnett's place and hope they can win big games in a tight division race.

It's a bad spot for the manager to be in and that's partly Burnett's fault.

Ailing dad could lure Girardi home to Chicago

Joe Girardi was happy to have an off-day in Chicago to visit his father Jerry, who has been stricken with Alzheimer's disease. But the New York Yankees manager was clearly troubled by the fact that he now only gets to see his father once every four or five months. He will have a golden opportunity to spend more time with his dad if he takes the job of managing the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs job is open now because Lou Piniella retired early to care for his ailing mom (although I’m sure he was also sick and tired of dealing with the mess that the Cubs have become). I can easily see Girardi making a similar life change and moving to Chicago to be close to his father, who doesn't have much time left.

From a baseball perspective, leaving the Yankees to manage the dysfunctional Cubs makes no sense. Girardi would be leaving a perennial playoff contender to run a team dominated by volatile individuals and players well past their primes. But his decision is not going to be strictly a baseball move. It's going to be driven by his faith and what he feels is best for his family. If he feels that he wants to be there for his father during his final years, then he is going to say good-bye to New York.

The Yankees have this unshakable belief that their wallets are big enough to lure and keep anybody in New York. I don’t believe that’s the case with Girardi. As much as he would enjoy the extra millions coming to him if he signs a new contract with the Yankees, we shouldn’t be surprised if he says no to the money, no to the prestige, no to the playoffs and goes home to his dad.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Strasburg news shows Yanks right about Hughes

With news that young phenom Stephen Strasburg is likely done for this year and next, I finally understand the fierce determination of Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi to protect young Phil Hughes.

It's a sad turn of events for a kid that has so much promise, that energized not just the Washington Nationals' fan base, but all of baseball. Strasburg was pitching very well and at times was dominant, with a 5-3 record and a 2.91 ERA while striking out 92 batters in 68 innings. Now he is done for the season and likely will sit out the 2011 campaign after having Tommy John surgery. We constantly hear that pitchers come back throwing harder after the surgery, but it's still a career-threatening injury and I really hope he pulls though it.

Old-school baseball players and officials have openly mocked the desire of new-age guys like Cashman and Girardi to adhere to strict innings limits to protect their young pitchers. But the Strasburg injury really gives weight to their protectionist stance. Although they didn't handle the Joba Rules for Joba Chamberlain particularly well, their hearts were in the right place and they seem to have learned their lesson in handling Hughes.

There's going to be tremendous pressure on the New York Yankees to keep Hughes in the rotation if the division is tight. People will argue that it's unfair to protect him at the expense of his teammates, but it is in the team's best interest to protect a guy that has surprised people with an impressive season and shown the potential to be the ace of their pitching staff for years to come. If Cashman and Girardi's approach protects Hughes from suffering the fate of Strasburg, I'm all for it.

Thanks to dbking via Wikipedia for the photo.

Hank Steinbrenner shows his dad's confidence

Hank Steinbrenner seems to be more like his dad George Steinbrenner in assuring fans of the New York Yankees that the team will be playing meaningful baseball in October.

Hal Steinbrenner runs the team on a daily basis with a calm, quiet precision and is rarely seen, let alone heard. So it was up to his brother Hank to take on his father's mantle in making dramatic public pronouncements, memorably calling Red Sox Nation BS, criticizing baseball's revenue-sharing system or defending his father's honor against the Joe Torre backlash. Although Hank has quieted down a lot since those initial statements, he still shows his dad's confidence in proclaiming that the Yankees will make the playoffs.

Hank did not go as far as his father probably would have because he did not assure fans that the Yankees would win the American League East. With the race between the Yanks and Tampa Bay Rays still too close to call, it was probably a wise decision.

But George Steinbrenner wasn't always the wisest person and it would have been a classic George move to tell any reporter who would listen that his team would walk away with the division title, putting extra pressure on his players to back up his proclamation. It's obvious that Hal and Hank understand the peril of ratcheting up expectations and have chosen a different path. It’s a smart move on their part, expressing confidence in their team without overburdening them with the weight of their dad’s expectations.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yankees never out of the trade loop

Brian Cashman insisted that the New York Yankees are not in the trade market for a starting pitcher. Let's not fall for it.

No question it will be difficult to get a decent pitcher through waivers and to the Bronx, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees figure out a way to pull something off. But do the Yankees actually need starting pitching help? Even with the recent problems in the starting rotation, the Yankees are still tied for first place with the Tampa Bay Rays.

CC Sabathia has been the ultimate ace and is closing in on 20 wins for the first time in his career, but the big guy can't do it alone. Last night's struggles aside, Phil Hughes is right behind his teammate in wins, impressive for a guy who was supposed to be the fifth starter. We keep hearing about his innings limit, but I doubt the Yankees will bench him even if he closes in on that number if the race is still tight and Andy Pettitte is not back in the rotation.

Pettitte's health is the real wild card. If he can prove he is healthy this weekend, then the Yankees can live with the unpredictable AJ Burnett, rookies making starts down the stretch and Javier Vazquez banished to the bullpen.

But just because they can live with their current roster of pitchers doesn't mean they will. These are the Yankees after all and they will do whatever they think is necessary to guarantee the best chance at the playoffs. And they have no problem looking greedy, as shown by their pursuit of Cliff Lee in July.

Bottom line, the Yankees are never out of the trade loop.

Thanks to jimmyack205 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Damon spurning of BoSox good for Yankees

I thought Johnny Damon's divorce from the New York Yankees was bad, but it was obviously nothing compared to his bitter split with the Boston Red Sox.

The Detroit Tigers outfielder/designated hitter turned down the opportunity to get back into a legitimate pennant race in the American League East. Damon is very well liked in Detroit by his teammates, but he is also well liked by his former teammates still on the Red Sox roster such as David Ortiz and Jason Varitek. The fact that they were unable to convince him to join their quest to stay alive in the East shows just how badly Damon believes he was treated on the way out the door by the organization and the fans. Given the joyful welcome home he received at Yankee Stadium recently, it's hard to imagine him turning down a similar opportunity to return to New York if it had come to that.

The Yankees should be relieved Damon opted to stay in Detroit. No question a Damon return to Boston would have been great for the Rivalry, but it would not have been good for the Yankees from a baseball perspective. Knowing how clutch Damon is, the last thing they needed to see was him at the plate for Boston with runners on base during what will be key games against the Red Sox down the stretch.

So Damon stays in Detroit where he can't do much to interfere with the Bombers' march toward another berth in the baseball playoffs. For the Yankees, that's for the best.

Thanks to Ken N and Mattingly23 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monument will only honor the good Steinbrenner

Having finally finished Bill Madden's biography of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, I have mixed feelings about Steinbrenner being honored with a monument in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

I'm grateful that Steinbrenner was one of the few owners in baseball willing and eager to reinvest his massive profits into his ballclub rather than close his wallet. Fans in towns such as Pittsburgh and Miami can vouch for how lucky Yankee fans really are in that respect. And Steinbrenner deserves tremendous credit for all his community good works, especially for the college scholarships for children of fallen cops and firefighters.

But Madden's engaging, yet disturbing book made it incredibly clear to me just how terrible a bully Steinbrenner truly was. He lied about his employees, accused his manager Lou Piniella once of stealing furniture from him and fired employees for offenses as egregious as leaving the office a few days before Christmas for a long-overdue family reunion. People could argue that he was just being a tough boss, but he tortured many employees to the point that their physical and mental health began to fail and that is just inexcusable.

When someone dies, it's human nature to overlook their sins and focus on the good in their life. But I can't bring myself to do that. This book calls Steinbrenner the last lion in baseball, but it makes clear that Steinbrenner was more of a monster in the years before his suspension from baseball over the Dave Winfield affair.

I’ll be one of the 50,000 fans personally witnessing what promises to be a moving dedication ceremony on September 20 since I purchased my ticket for that game more than two months before Steinbrenner died in anticipation of the Yankees playing the Tampa Bay Rays in a critical game. The pre-game ceremony unveiling Steinbrenner’s monument is bound to overshadow what could be a decisive game in a tight division. But the real problem is that in placing Steinbrenner alongside the team’s immortals, the Yankees will be honoring his legacy while ignoring the bad side of the Boss.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pettitte, Yankees forever haunted by Clemens

Leave it to Roger Clemens to ruin a beautiful effort like HOPE week.

His indictment on perjury and other charges cast a terrible pall over the wonderful week of outreach by the New York Yankees. The week that started with baseball players spreading hope to their most disadvantaged fans ended with them fending off questions about their former teammate.

Obviously, Clemens didn’t control the timing of the release of the indictment, but he had a chance to make this issue go away more quietly and stubbornly refused to take it. But the indictment is just more evidence that the Yankees will forever be haunted by their association with Clemens. Remember, they greedily traded for Clemens after they won 125 games and the second World Series championship of their modern dynasty and then brought him back with great fanfare years later.

Of all the Yankees, Andy Pettitte is the player most entangled in the Clemens drama. The two of them used to be thick as thieves. Now they are just brothers in shame, no matter how much Clemens denies using performance-enhancing drugs. It was Pettitte's testimony that has given the most credence to the Rocket's alleged drug use and his subsequent indictment on perjury and other charges. It never made sense that Pettitte would admit to using human growth hormone himself and then “misremember” or falsely accuse his friend of steroids use. Apparently the grand jury didn’t buy that argument any more than the legislators did.

Reporters ran after Pettitte when news of the Clemens indictment broke Thursday, with the Yankee lefty so far not saying much on the topic. But during his Centerstage interview with Michael Kay on the YES Network, Pettitte showed a disturbing yearning for his friendship with Clemens. It was striking to me given that Pettitte probably wouldn't have touched PEDs without his pal's input. Not that I'm absolving Pettitte of the blame. He is a grown man who ultimately made his own choice. But I just think it’s strange that he is still hoping his friendship with Clemens can be repaired when clearly Clemens is still angry at him for telling the truth.

Unfortunately for Pettitte and the Yankees, the Roger Clemens they will forever be linked to is not the friend and co-champion, but the liar, cheater and possible criminal.

Friday, August 20, 2010

No Hall should be no-brainer for Clemens

Roger Clemens might end up in prison for allegedly lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. But there's one place he absolutely shouldn't end up: the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Clemens was indicted by a grand jury for perjury for allegedly falsely denying he used PEDs. The indictment is interesting reading. It goes out of its way to point out that Clemens were under no legal obligation to testify in front of Congress, that he was not subpoenaed and that he could have invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. But he showed up and firmly stated that he did not use steroids or human growth hormone. It speaks to his arrogance that Clemens thought he could lie to Congress and get away with it.

The criminal case is far more important, but the indictment also again raises the question of whether Clemens should be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Prior to the steroids allegation, Clemens was seen as a lock and I'm sure there are writers who will try to separate the good years from his bad behavior and still vote for him. Heck, even some of his former teammates such as current New York Yankees player Lance Berkman firmly believe he should still be elected to the Hall.

But now that Clemens has been indicted, I hope that a majority of writers will see it as a no-brainer that they should not cast votes in his favor. I've long believed that entrance to the Hall should be the punishment for PED users in baseball, mostly because of the permanent pall they have cast over the game, but also because there is no other suitable punishment.

It's ironic that if Clemens goes to jail, and I think he should, it will be for perjury, not for using steroids. I think he should still be kept out of the Hall as punishment for his drug use, especially since there's no other punishment available. He's definitely not giving back any of those seven Cy Young awards, even if they are now tainted.

The government is ready to try to punish Clemens for his misdeeds. It’s time for the baseball community to do the same and keep him out of the Hall of Fame.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bad blood doesn't boil over for Yankees, Tigers

Thankfully, the bad blood from last night's game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers didn't boil over into today.

The Yankees and Tigers played a relatively quiet game, with Phil Hughes pitching an efficient game, helped by some sparkling defense, and the Yankee offense finally coming back to life. I was concerned that some of the ugliness from last night would filter into this afternoon's game, but the players retreated to their neutral corners and focused on baseball.

I was surprised to see Johnny Damon of all people stirring things up on the Tigers' side, accusing Brett Gardner of a dirty slide that put Carlos Guillen on the disabled list. Damon should know his former teammate better than that, but he obviously wasn't the only Tiger who felt that way. Jeremy Bonderman hit Gardner in the first inning last night, triggering a warning from the home-plate umpire that turned out to be completely pointless.

There's no question the umpires did a bad job last night. Bonderman hit Gardner on the leg, which I have no problem with, and that should have been the end of it. But the warning led to any ugly dispute later in the game between Tigers manager Jim Leyland and the umpires after Miguel Cabrera was hit after hitting two home runs. I don't believe Chad Gaudin intentionally hit Cabrera, but the umpire boxed himself into a corner by issuing the warning. The Tigers were rightly enraged when he didn't throw Gaudin out of the game and later threw at Derek Jeter. No question that was on purpose.

But I'm glad it ended there, rather than the Yankees retaliating for their captain being thrown at. With about six weeks left in the season, the Yankees have a lot more to lose than the Tigers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yankees get dragged into NY political mess

The New York Yankees have become pivotal players in an ugly political mess involving New York Governor David Paterson.

Three Yankee officials testified in front of the Public Integrity Commission, which is investigating the governor's initial failure to pay for Yankee tickets during the 2009 World Series. They turned out to be key witnesses in the case against the governor, testifying about how he and his staff invited themselves to the game and then refused to pay for their seats until a reporter started asking questions.

The Yankees must be very uncomfortable with the mere notion of their officials testifying against the governor of New York, even if he is leaving office relatively soon. They must have cringed knowing that their testimony would reflect badly on the governor's failure to pay for baseball seats at the new stadium that most of us can only dream of sitting in.

But this is the kind of political mess even private organizations like the Yankees become vulnerable to when lobbying for favors and benefits from the government, as the Yankees did with the new Yankee Stadium. Does that mean they will stop lobbying the government for anything they can get? Definitely not. Will they be more careful the next time some high-profile government official calls to ask for seats? No question.

I guess it's the price of doing business in New York.

Thanks to David Shankbone via Wikipedia for the photo.

Mets do the right thing in KO of KRod

It's about time.

The New York Mets are finally trying to punish Francisco Rodriguez for his bad behavior, trying to hit him where it hurts: in his wallet.

The Mets placed KRod on the disqualified list and converted his deal to a non-guaranteed contract, meaning he will lose at least the $3 million he is owed for the rest of the 2010 regular season and could lose the next year of his contract. The move was made following the season-ending thumb injury on Rodriguez's right pitching hand suffered when he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend's father at Citi Field last week. KRod will not be paid or accrue major-league service time while on the disqualified list as he rehabs following successful thumb surgery. Good for the Mets for finally stepping up and showing KRod they will no longer tolerate his self-destructive behavior.

I do wonder about the motives of the Mets owners. Is the move about the Mets sending a message they will no longer tolerate bad behavior that hurts their team? Or is it about saving some cash? Maybe it's a little of both. But the Mets reportedly wanted to impose a harsher punishment than the two-day suspension for the fight, only to be prevented from doing so by the players' union. Maybe they are using the injury to seek a more appropriate penalty, one they wanted to enforce from the very beginning. I hope that’s the case, but I doubt it given that team officials have looked the other way for far too long.

But the main point is that the Mets are finally standing up and doing the right thing. Even if they lose this fight, which they could with the union already vowing to challenge the decision, the Mets can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they finally took a stand against thuggery in their ranks.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jorge Posada!

Jorge Posada celebrated his 39th birthday today by easily stealing his third base of the year, the first time in his career he has stolen that many bases in one season, much to the amusement of his pal Derek Jeter and his other New York Yankees teammates.

The Yankees catcher has had a wonderful career in pinstripes and I'm praying he never wears another uniform, like his pals Jeter and Mariano Rivera will never wear other uniforms. If Posada were to retire tomorrow, he would complete a career that makes him a borderline candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He's been a major run producer (1,004 ribbies) on a team that has won the World Series five times since he first put on his pinstripes.

Posada is getting older, but is he getting wiser? If he is, he would understand that he's getting closer to being a full-time designated hitter, that his everyday catching days are long behind him. And he would accept that role, understanding that it could help him prolong his career as a productive hitter without the stress that catching puts on his body. But the fact that he is still catching at 39 years of age is beyond impressive.

Happy Birthday, Jorge!

Yankees give plenty of reasons to HOPE

In sports, there are plenty of reasons to be cynical. This is one of the rare weeks to be hopeful.

The New York Yankees kicked off the second annual HOPE week, a time when the Yankee players reach out to their most disadvantaged fans. Yesterday, many of the Yankees, most notably Mariano Rivera, attended a pool party for Jorge Grajales, a 13-year-old from Panama who survived a life-threatening condition by having his arms and legs amputated. Imagine the thrill of having the Yankees hang out at your house for a pool party and then going to a baseball game that night to throw out the first pitch, which looked pretty good to me.

But the Yankee players looked like they got just as big a thrill from visiting the youngster as he did in meeting them. Young Jorge cracked the players up on more than one occasion, recounting stories that reminded everyone he is just a normal teenager.

The players obviously love HOPE week, the brainchild of public relations director Jason Zillo, who deserves a lot of credit for carving out special time for the team to give back to those who are much less fortunate than they are. It's a real chance for the Yankees to connect with people they wouldn't normally come in contact with, a chance to receive as much hope and inspiration as they give.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Classy welcome back for Johnny Damon

Good or bad, New York Yankees fans never forget. For Johnny Damon, the memories are very, very good.

Damon got a really warm welcome from the Yankee Stadium crowd tonight that nearly brought him to tears. The cheers started building as the public address announcer began his introduction and got louder and louder as Damon took off his helmet (revealing a Mohawk, ugh!), smiled and waved in all directions and tapped his heart in appreciation of the fans' affection.

It's still difficult to say that the Yankees made the right call in letting him go. It did open up a full-time spot for Brett Gardner in left field, but Curtis Granderson has been a major disappointment in center. There's no question the Yankees miss Damon's clutch bat at times, although Nick Swisher has done a nice job in the #2 spot between Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.

But judging from the ovation, the fans definitely miss Damon and fully appreciate all he did during his Yankees tenure, despite the ugly divorce. No hard feelings from the folks in the seats. Nothing but love for old #19.

Thanks to Wsim12 via Wikipedia for the photo.

Girardi needs to focus anger on his team

Joe Girardi needs to focus his anger and frustration on his players instead of biting the heads off of reporters just doing their jobs.

The New York Yankees manager snapped at YES Network reporter Kim Jones when she dared to ask him how he felt about losing a game when AJ Burnett settled down after a rough start to give up only one run over eight innings. It’s not the first time Girardi has been testy with the media after a tough game and it’s really unfair and unwise considering the New York beat reporters could turn on him at any moment. But it's the Yankee players that are truly deserving of his ire for their futility against unknown pitchers.

Maybe the Yankees need a kick in the ass. The Orioles are 9-4 since Buck Showalter arrived in Baltimore to get them in line after spending the first four months of the season being the American League’s whipping boys. Maybe Girardi needs to pull a Buck (or dare I say, a classic Joe Torre tantrum) to light a fire under his guys' butts.

Girardi may not like doing that, maybe it's not in his nature. But he is the manager so it's his job. And his players deserve it more than the media.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pettitte must keep his frustration in check

Andy Pettitte is a competitive guy so the setback he experienced this week must be killing him. But he can't let his frustration overpower his good sense.

I suspect that Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland will have to work hard to make sure that their pitcher doesn't do anything to jeopardize his health. From his comments, it seems like Pettitte understands the importance of not pushing too hard. But the longer his rehab takes, the more pressure the veteran lefty will put on himself to return to the mound as quickly as possible.

It helps that the New York Yankees have broken out of their funk, with a key comeback win against the Texas Rangers and winning two of out three so far in Kansas City. If the Yankees continue to do well and keep the Tampa Bay Rays at bay, that will lessen the urgency for Pettitte to return to the rotation.

As difficult as it may be, keeping his frustration in check and not rushing back too soon is the best way for Pettitte to help his team.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Phil Hughes taking things one day at a time

Phil Hughes knows that the day will come soon when Joe Girardi will tell him he has to take a seat for a while. But he's not letting it bother him, taking things one day at a time. I think that's the right approach, especially for a young pitcher. Worrying about things you can't control is self defeating.

I suspect from the huge grin on his face during his interview with Kim Jones that Hughes knows the final innings count that Girardi & Co are aiming for, but wisely is not giving it away. As he gets closer to that number and faces the prospect of getting skipped again, he knows it’s for his own good so he is not going to lose sleep over it.

"I have too many other things to worry about and I'm not really that good at math," Hughes joked.

The young righty looks like he's just beginning to get back his rhythm after being skipped in the New York Yankees rotation back in June. He told Jones that he feels good and strong, but expressed frustration that one or two bad innings in his recent starts have spoiled the four or five good innings he threw.

"I still don't feel like I'm back to where I was at the beginning of the year and to where I know I can be," Hughes said. "But the last few have been a step in the right direction."

He has gotten great at stopping the bleeding and keeping the Yankees in games, as he did against the Boston Red Sox this week. "If I go out there and give up a couple of runs, I know we have the offense to win the game still," Hughes said.

Hughes revealed that he has been watching Shark Week recently, which makes a lot of sense since he’s back on the attack and not worrying about things out of his control.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Star status shouldn't protect bad Mets

The New York Mets and their fans need to stop looking the other way when their stars engage in bad behavior.

Just a few days after a woman filed a civil lawsuit against Johan Santana in which she accused the Mets ace of raping her, closer Francisco Rodriguez was arrested for allegedly assaulting his father-in-law at Citi Field. For that, he was suspended without pay by the team for two games. Two games.

"Ownership and the organization are very disappointed in Francisco's inappropriate behavior and we take this matter very seriously," said Mets COO Jeff Wilpon.

Not serious enough. Carlos Zambrano was banished for a month and ordered to undergo anger management classes before returning to the Chicago Cubs after a dugout confrontation with Derrek Lee. So I guess the lesson learned is that it's better to assault a woman or a family member than a teammate.

For me, this quote from Mets shortstop Jose Reyes about Rodriguez speaks volumes about how their teammates and the organization will happily look the other way because of Santana and Rodriguez's superior baseball skills: "One hundred percent we're behind him. I hope he comes out clean after what happened because we need him here."

Before I get accused of coming down harshly on the Mets because I'm a New York Yankees fan, let me say this: Yes, the Yankees are the poster team for steroids/human growth hormone use in baseball. I've written post after post calling them out for that behavior, which I truly believe has harmed and continues to harm the sport. But Yankee players aren't being accused of beating their in-laws or raping women and that behavior is much worse than cheating.

In Darryl Strawberry's memoir, Finding My Way, the former Mets outfielder describes in disturbing detail the culture of the Mets in the mid to late 1980s: all-night binge drinking before day games, players enjoying sexual favors from the same women. Strawberry even admits to beating his wives on more than one occasion. All this behavior was tolerated for years by the fans and the organization because the bad-boy Mets were winners.

It's clear that the Mets haven't learned anything from those years. If they had, they would have come down with a harsher penalty for Rodriguez. Unlike the he said/she said nature of the accusation against Santana, the Rodriguez incident happened inside their own stadium in full view of family members of other players and the Mets security staff, which reportedly had to pry the closer off of his father-in-law. Mets officials could argue that they didn't want to pre-judge the investigation, but their statement and two-game suspension makes that argument ring hollow.

Like Reyes, the Mets are hoping this all goes away as quickly as possible because without their two star pitchers, the season will be an even bigger disaster than it is right now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yankees show moxie with Texas comeback

After a devastating loss with Mariano Rivera on the mound Tuesday night, the New York Yankees could have easily folded against the Texas Rangers after being down five runs in the fifth inning. Instead, they showed moxie by mounting a comeback against staff ace Cliff Lee and the Rangers' vaunted bullpen.

If the Rangers had any illusions that the Yankees were going to fold for them like the rest of the American League West has, those illusions were shattered by the fierce rally and Mo slamming the door shut after allowing a leadoff triple in the ninth inning.

Marcus Thames has proven to be incredibly clutch in his limited playing time. Replacing Mark Teixeira in the three hole, Thames had five hits in 10 at-bats in Texas. He drove in one run with a monster blast and eventually knocked in the winning run.

Thames and his Yankee teammates knew how big last night’s game was. "There's no quit," Thames said of his team’s comeback, right before acknowledging "we really needed that one."

Yes, they did. The Yankees needed to prove they were no pushovers, that they could bounce back from a crushing defeat with their Hall of Fame closer on the mound. They passed the test.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cranky fans need to lay off of Mark Teixeira

It's hard to believe, but there are blogs out there written by some very cranky fans criticizing Mark Teixeira for staying home with his wife while she gave birth to their third child.

This is one of the nicer entries that I've read and I've got to say that I'm surprised at the level of animosity toward Tex for wanting to be present for his son's first few days. He obviously wanted to be there to support his wife and welcome his child into the world and I have absolutely no problem with that.

Personally, if I was married to a man and he missed the birth of our child to go play baseball, I'd probably be headed to divorce court. But if I was divorcing Tex I'd get half of his $20 million a year and that's not such a bad deal. That annual salary may be a big reason why these fans are so cranky.

Of course it was frustrating watching Lance Berkman flail at and pop up pitches as the stand-in for Tex last night. Of course I would rather have Tex batting in the third spot than Marcus Thames. But there is a potential upside for the New York Yankees in that a couple of days off for Tex might help keep him fresh during the dog days of August, which will be great as the Yanks head toward the playoffs.

Yes, Tex has an obligation to his baseball family, but his obligation to his actual family comes first. I think most, if not all, of his Yankees teammates understand that. If they don't have a problem with him taking a few days off, then neither should we.

Despite Mo stumble, Yankee bullpen steps up

It's always shocking to see Mariano Rivera struggle, which is why yesterday's loss to the Texas Rangers was so surprising. I can't remember ever seeing Mo give up hit after hit with an intentional walk mixed in, but even the great Mariano is entitled to a bad game now and then.

Despite Mo's stumble, the New York Yankees bullpen has had a great run recently. Prior to last night's game, Mo was sporting a 0.88 ERA with 23 saves. That we expect. But what has been surprising and uplifting for the team is the way the other guys in the bullpen are pitching, most notably David Robertson and Boone Logan.

Robertson has supplanted Joba Chamberlain as the 8th inning guy when the Yankees are ahead, mostly because he has not given up a run in his last 10 appearances. During that time, he has pitched 10 1/3 innings, giving up only three hits and lowering his ERA from 5.01 to 3.95. He's walked a few too many hitters (five in his last four appearances), but they haven't hurt him.

Logan has been just as impressive in battling the lefties that opponents send up against the Yankees in the late innings. He has given up no runs and just one hit in his last 10 appearances, totaling 7 1/3 innings and lowering his ERA from 3.92 to 2.96.

Even Joba has pitched better of late, not giving up a run over his last seven appearances, totaling 7 1/3 innings. But Robertson and Logan are pitching so well, it's hard to imagine Joba reclaiming his job, unless the fiery Joba shows up again.

At a time when the starting pitchers are battling injuries and illness and the lineup has failed to show its offensive might, the Yankees bullpen has been a bright spot, even with yesterday's blip.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Texas Rangers will be a good test for Yankees

After failing to put away the Boston Red Sox despite another solid effort from Phil Hughes, the New York Yankees face a potential playoff opponent in the Texas Rangers. It will be a good test for the Bronx Bombers.

Of course, the Yankees will have to go with their B lineup, with Mark Teixeira home with his wife who just gave birth to their third child (Congrats, Tex!) and Robinson Cano now battling the cold going around the Yankees clubhouse that Hughes has fought through two starts. And they will have to survive Lance Berkman playing first base and AJ Burnett starting the first game.

The Rangers are five games behind the Yankees for the best record in baseball, but they are up eight games in their division. Their centerfielder Josh Hamilton is leading the American League in batting average at .355 while Vladimir Guerrero (thought he was done, LA!) is #3 in the league in ribbies. And their trade for Cliff Lee was sheer brilliance, stealing him right from under the Yankees’ noses, solidifying their division title and giving them a potent weapon for the playoffs, especially the first round best-of-five division series. Talk about a tough opponent.

No longer the doormat of the American League West, the Rangers pose quite a test for the Yanks. Let's see if the Bombers can rise to the challenge.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Teixeira's season going exactly as planned

Despite the epic struggles Mark Teixeira endured in April and May, his season is going exactly as planned.

Although not as notable as Derek Jeter's milestone, Teixeira's fifth inning home run gave him something to celebrate. Tex became just the fourth player in baseball history to hit at least 25 homers in his first eight seasons.

It was easy to overlook his early season struggles because the starting pitching was so superb that they didn't need a lot of runs. But now that his starters are battling injuries, illness and inconsistency, Tex picked the right time to get hot. He has blasted five homers and knocked in 12 ribbies in the last 10 games, helping the New York Yankees stay afloat during a tough stretch against the team's chief rivals.

The Yankees first baseman took some heat for referring people to the back of his baseball card to judge his productivity when he got questions about his slow start. Turns out he was exactly right. His home run and ribbie totals, both in the top five in the American League, will end up very close to his usual annual marks.

Tex is rather quietly having quite a career. His overall numbers are pretty impressive: .287 batting average, 267 homers and 882 ribbies. He's starting to make a quiet, but solid case for himself for inclusion into the Baseball Hall of Fame and since he only just turned 30, he has plenty of time to pad those numbers.

But most importantly, his team is in first place and Tex is making progress toward winning his second World Series championship. For Tex, things are going exactly as planned.

In passing Ruth, Jeter milestone praise worthy

Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News was apparently bothered by the fuss over Derek Jeter passing Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list. He argued that Jeter's milestone should be celebrated, but not compared to Ruth. Bondy completely missed the point.

We applaud Jeter's milestone, and every other one he will achieve for the rest of his hopefully long career, because we know that the day the New York Yankees Captain decides to hang up his pinstripes will be a sad day for baseball. We celebrate every accomplishment of a player we know to be pure and incorruptible whose greatest achievements came during a tainted era.

So what if Jeter is more of a singles hitter than Ruth. It doesn't diminish his accomplishment or Ruth's career. It is exactly because the Babe is so iconic that it makes a player passing him on any list worthy of celebration and applause. In congratulating Jeter, we're celebrating the career of a man who will someday join the legendary Yankee in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jeter deserves every standing ovation he receives for the rest of his baseball life, even if he is being compared to the Babe. It's not as ridiculous a comparison as Bondy suggests. It's celebrating the greatness and contributions of two very different kinds of players with a core feature in common: their love of baseball and the Yankees.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Too soon for boos for Lance Berkman & Co

Fans of the New York Yankees are notoriously impatient, but the boos for Lance Berkman are premature.

Barely a week into his Yankees tenure, Berkman is hearing it from a small portion of the Yankee faithful. From a performance standpoint, it's somewhat understandable. Berkman has not played well since he put on the pinstripes. He is only 2 for 19 with one ribbie. Then, of course, was his disastrous play at first base when he filled in for Mark Teixeira and helped CC Sabathia bury the Yankees early against the rival Tampa Bay Rays last weekend. But Yankee fans should cut him some slack. Anyone can slump for a week. Plus, Berkman went from playing for a team with nothing to play for in Houston to the middle of a race for a division title with his first games coming against the team's toughest competition.

The fans will have a similarly short leash for Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns. Wood, coming off Cleveland's disabled list, has given up one run in 3 1/3 innings. He's somehow looked both impressive and shaky in the same performance, striking out one batter before walking or giving up a hit to the next guy. Kearns, who is supposed to challenge Curtis Granderson for playing time, has so far been a non-factor, going hitless in six at-bats.

But it's way too early to label any of them bums. Give them time to make the adjustment to a tight pennant race and life in the New York fast lane. With some patience, they might wind up surprising us.

Thanks dwhartwig and UCinternational via Wikipedia for the photo.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Big daddy CC Sabathia gets big win #150

The New York Yankees’ big lefty had a really big week.

CC Sabathia was already having a good week when he took the mound Saturday afternoon. He and his wife Amber expanded their family when she gave birth on Thursday to their second son Carter Charles, appropriately CC for short, and bringing the Sabathia kid headcount up to four.

"It was an exciting week for us," Sabathia said.

But his week got even better. Taking the ball for the Yankees after an ugly loss on Friday, CC gave a solid performance on route to a much-needed victory against the Boston Red Sox. He raised his record to 14-5 and lowered his ERA to 3.14. Notably, CC served as the bridge to Mariano Rivera, going eight innings and allowing Joe Girardi to avoid having to navigate the late innings with anyone other than Mo.

"Tremendous," Girardi called CC's performance. "It's what we needed. CC stepped up for us today."

Amazingly, the big lefty is now halfway toward the magic number of 300 wins that gets starting pitchers into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And he's only 30 years old so he has plenty of time to rack up the wins, which could be easier with the Yankees offense behind him.

Congrats CC on both the baby and the big win. Halfway to Cooperstown!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Yanks-Red Sox still has plenty of fireworks

So what if the Boston Red Sox start the night six games behind the New York Yankees. Anytime these two teams get together, fireworks are guaranteed.

Something is bound to happen that will spice up this series, despite the distance in the standings. When these two teams last met, Marcus Thames hit a walk-off homer off of Saux closer Jonathan Papelbon, who promptly recovered the next day to save the Red Sox victory. In an earlier series at Fenway Park, CC Sabathia showed his pinstripe pride when hit Dustin Pedroia after his hitters kept getting plunked by Red Sox pitching.

The Yankees could use some of the juice of playing the Red Sox to ensure that they are truly out of their funk and they may be catching the Saux at just the right time. Boston has managed to stay in the race for a long time despite being without young guns Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury and ace Josh Beckett for long stretches of the season. But the season-ending injury to Kevin Youkilis, who was having an All-Star caliber season, could be devastating.

The Bronx Bombers can put the Red Sox out of their misery with a repeat of last year's August sweep. Let's see if they can do it.

Jeter's 3,000 hit will be worthy of salute, even in Beantown

Sometime next year, Derek Jeter will smack hit #3,000, the one that guarantees his admission to the Baseball Hall of Fame (although in reality, he's already headed there).

Jeter smacked four hits to pad his career total to 2,872 on Wednesday and raise his season batting average seven points to .280. Most importantly to Jeter, he scored three runs that helped the New York Yankees avoid getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite what has been at times a rough year for the Yankee Captain, Jeter is well on his way to achieving his 3,000-hit milestone, one of the few baseball accomplishments that still means something, that hasn’t been tainted in the steroids era.

Unlike with the Alex Rodriguez pursuit of 600 homers where I intentionally avoided the stadium, I will do my best to watch as many games as possible to make sure I can participate in the celebration of a genuine accomplishment by Captain Jeter. Hopefully, the Yankees shortstop will be surrounded by an adoring crowd at home as he was when he broke Lou Gehrig's all-time Yankees hits record last year.

But I bet that even if he is on the road, Jeter's accomplishment will be celebrated by non-Yankee fans, by people who love baseball and want to celebrate the best of the sport, all of which Jeter wonderfully represents. I think he could get a standing ovation wherever he gets the hit, even in Boston where Jeter is universally hated. Boston fans and the organization have shown a lot of class recently in honoring their hated rivals, most notably a thoughtful moment of silence when George Steinbrenner passed away. Despite their hatred of the Yankees Captain and his representation of the late 1990s dominance of New York over Boston, Jeter will likely get a warm salute if he gets that milestone hit in Beantown.

Again, unlike with ARod, I would be willing to follow the team on the road as he neared his quest for the purpose of being present to contribute to the well-deserved celebration that Jeter has coming to him, even if he does it in Boston.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mates happiness sign of ARod's turnaround

It's a sign of just how far Alex Rodriguez has come in his New York Yankees career that his teammates showed such genuine happiness for him when he finally hit that elusive 600th home run yesterday.

Flash back to ARod's early years in the Bronx. In his book the Yankee Years, Joe Torre recounts how a small group of players complained that ARod did not fit the team concept of the Yankees and they were sick of the special treatment he was getting as the Yankees tried to make him as comfortable as possible. Torre quotes Jason Giambi, a pretty well-liked guy, as saying that the Yankees needed to stop coddling ARod (page 258).

Flash back to the present. Derek Jeter, after being asked about ARod's milestone, jokingly accuses his teammate of lying about his age and teases him about having another 15 years on his contract. It's an intriguing example of how much things have changed for ARod in the clubhouse. The Torre book describes Jeter and ARod as being engaged in a cold truce that started from the time ARod first put on the pinstripes through the end of the Torre era. Going from that kind of awkward co-existence to genuine happiness for ARod was a major transition for Jeter and a sign of how ARod finally won his teammates over.

A large part was the change in the makeup of the clubhouse. One of the happiest guys for ARod was Nick Swisher (one of the happiest guys, period!). But players like Swisher, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira completely changed the chemistry of the clubhouse for the better, making it easier for ARod to start fresh with guys he didn't have that negative history with. It created an environment where ARod could thrive and he has taken full advantage of that, finally winning his elusive World Series ring last year.

It is fascinating to see a player go from being one of the most hated guys in his clubhouse to one whose teammates embrace and celebrate his milestones. Their happiness for him was real, even if the milestone wasn’t.

Hughes stops the bleeding despite cold

Battling not only the Toronto Blue Jays but also a head cold, Phil Hughes stepped up to pitch the game the New York Yankees needed.

Hughes admitted that he was not feeling great and the heat didn't help but somehow managed to pitch 5 1/3 solid innings, with quality support from his bullpen for the rest of the game. He had a lot of runners on base in the middle innings, but only gave up one run. It wasn't his best performance, but under the circumstances, it was exactly what his team needed.

“It was a battle for sure,” Hughes said. “I made some decent pitches with guys on base and got out of there with a win.”

I'm personally amazed that he could pitch that well with a head cold. I can't even get out of bed when I'm sick. Plus, I'm pretty mean. Not so with Hughes, who seemed his usual amiable self when answering questions after the game.

The Yankees needed a starter to stop the slow bleeding, a guy who wouldn't give up the two-run cushion he was given in the first inning. Hughes, knowing his team was scuffling, stepped up to be that guy and a Yankees losing streak goes by the wayside.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

ARod's home run quest finally ends

Alex Rodriguez finally hit his elusive 600th home run. Can we please move on now?

Not likely. The New York Yankees, who have been milking this silly chase for all its worth, just released a commemorative edition of Yankees magazine, for fans who want a keepsake of ARod's milestone. I will pass thanks.

The home run quest was simply getting ridiculous, from the changing of the balls during his at-bats to the ransom ARod was going to have to pay the fan that caught the ball (Dinner with him and Cameron Diaz? Way to keep a low profile, ARod!). But even worse, ARod was getting incredibly frustrated by his futility. Perhaps he can now relax and focus on just driving in runs.

But the best part of ARod hitting his home run, aside from the two-run cushion it gave starter Phil Hughes, is that all of the Yankees can finally stop thinking and talking about it after answering all the media questions today. I think ARod's extended pursuit was feeding into the funk that the team had fallen into. Maybe now that the milestone is behind them they can get out of it.

Phil Hughes needs to snap Yankees funk

The New York Yankees are in a terrible funk right now and only a strong pitching performance can get them out of it. Phil Hughes gets his chance to step up for his team this afternoon.

It's time for Hughes to morph back into the guy who looked like the ace of the pitching staff and a contender for the American League Cy Young award. On June 2, Hughes was 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA. He won three more games that month, mainly because his offense was supporting him by scoring a lot of runs rather than his pitching with his ERA starting to climb. The righty is now 12-4 with a 4.07 ERA.

The youngster showed progress last Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays, but suffered a tough loss after getting beat on one bad pitch. He's going to have to step up against the Toronto Blue Jays, who have proven they will not be pushovers in the American League East.

At certain points of the season, a struggling team needs a guy who steps on the mound and completely shuts down the other team, inspiring them to a victory that can set them on a long winning streak. Hughes can be that guy today. It's time for him to snap his team out of its funk.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tight race still exciting despite wild card

The most annoying thing about AJ Burnett's latest implosion is that the New York Yankees never had a chance to maintain their one-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. That's how I know the American League East division race still matters, despite the wild card.

John Harper tried to argue that since both teams are likely to qualify for the baseball playoffs because of the wild card, the fight for first place doesn't matter as much. I don't buy it at all.

The race for the AL East crown matters, namely for home-field advantage. The Yankees won seven out of eight games at the new stadium during the 2009 playoffs. Having the better record in the division, and likely home-field advantage, will be critical again this year. The AL wild card team won't have home-field advantage against anyone this year, including the eventual National League representative in the World Series since the AL lost the All-Star game this year. Do you really think the Yankees want to give up home-field advantage to the Rays?

Right now, the closest team to either the Rays or the Yanks in the wild card race is the Boston Red Sox at 6.5 games back. While the Saux continue to be plagued by injuries, they are going to have plenty of games left against their rivals, including four at Yankee Stadium starting this Friday.

Minnesota is right behind the Saux and we all know that the Twins are always capable of making a late run. Any team that manages to stay close could benefit from the fact that the Yankees and Rays will beat each other up in seven games over the next couple of months and will have to deal with Boston too. So the wild card isn't a sure bet for either the Bombers or Rays, even if it looks that way on August 3.

Being a big-picture guy, Joe Girardi might be willing to sacrifice the division title if he felt it was more important to rest his guys before the playoffs. But I don't think anyone else on the Yankees has their eyes set on the wild card. They are always aiming for higher and this year is no exception.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Joe Girardi doing things his own way

Joe Girardi does things his own way, media be damned.

The New York Yankees manager can be quite prickly when being questioned about his baseball moves, but he has made it clear that the second guessing will not stop him from doing what he thinks is best for his team. Just in case we needed any more proof of that, he rested Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner (both of whom entered the game later) yesterday and put Mark Teixeira as the designated hitter, replaced at first base by inferior fielder Lance Berkman in the swing game of a key series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Granted, I probably wouldn't have rested both Gardner and ARod on the same day against the team's top rival, but I don't think Girardi was completely out of line. ARod definitely needed a mental break from the weight of his pursuit of 600 homers. The Tampa turf is unkind to all players and even a player as young as Gardner needs an occasional day off to ensure that he doesn't lose his greatest asset: his legs. And to be fair, all first baseman are inferior fielders compared to Tex, who has saved countless runs with his defense.

I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised at all the negative press Girardi's lineup decisions are generating, but I probably shouldn't be. The media will turn every little tidbit of information into a potentially huge story, will question every decision made no matter what the circumstances. Girardi's job is to simply answer the questions and ignore the newspapers in the morning. Even if he doesn't like the criticism, he's always going to do what he thinks is best for his team and no amount of questions is going to change that.

ARod shoots for elusive blast at home

Maybe Alex Rodriguez really wanted to hit that 600th home run in front of a home crowd at Yankee Stadium.

I was really hoping that he would hit the home run on the road to minimize its importance, but it obviously doesn't matter where he hits the blast. The press and excitement his chase generated among the New York Yankees faithful during the last home-stand was really depressing. What seems worse is that some fans actually went out of their way to follow ARod in the hopes of being present to see what they consider to be a remarkable accomplishment in baseball history, even if it is cheapened by his steroids use.

In hoping for ARod to hit his homer on the road, I forgot that Yankee fans travel far and wide to support their team. You would think I would have remembered this having spent three-plus days baking in Arizona to watch the Yankees play the much-inferior Diamondbacks not too long ago. Cleveland got a boost in attendance from Yankee fans last week, many of whom traveled there with the sole purpose of watching Rodriguez hit the elusive blast, but it was not meant to be. Tampa is basically Yankee Stadium south with all the transplanted New Yorkers living in the area. I’m sure a lot of those Florida-based Yankee fans were just there for an important divisional skirmish, but some were banking on seeing ARod go deep.

So now ARod will have seven games worth of chances to hit #600 in the comfort of his home ballpark in front of an adoring crowd. I wanted to catch a game on this home-stand, but I don't think I can stomach the possibility of being in the midst of the celebration if he does slam the elusive blast. I think I'll stay home.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yankees must quickly shake off series loss

At least the New York Yankees didn't get swept.

It could have been easy to forget that this was an important baseball series amid all the hoopla surrounding the Yankees trade acquisitions and the ongoing pursuit of Alex Rodriguez's 600th home run. But neither the Yankees nor the Tampa Bay Rays forgot. The Rays weren’t able to grab hold of first place, but they did prove just how formidable an opponent they are and will be for the rest of the season.

The Yankees won a thrilling game Saturday a day after they wasted a strong outing from Phil Hughes (before he got beat on one bad pitch). The Bronx Bombers lived up to their nickname in the middle game of the series, coming from behind several times with home runs and finally taking the lead when their Most Valuable Player Robinson Cano hit a monster shot in the 9th inning. I really liked their chances going into today's game with CC Sabathia on the mound. But the big lefty struggled for the second straight start and the offense disappeared against Rays starter James Shield. The Rays beat the Yankees at their own game, with great starting pitching and timely hitting. It was a disappointing series loss in what Cano himself described as a playoff-type atmosphere.

But the Yankees have to quickly move on. They are still in first place and now have qualified reinforcements in Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns. And the Bombers are coming back home for a long week of baseball, including four games against their archrival Boston Red Sox (remember them?). They are going to have to shake off whatever disappointment they have and get back to their winning ways.