Thursday, June 30, 2011

Selig one step closer to pushing McCourt out?

Is Bud Selig one step closer to his ultimate goal for the Los Angeles Dodgers: pushing out their owner Frank McCourt? For the sake of the Dodger employees, I certainly hope so.

In the latest twist in the ongoing drama, TMZ revealed that the Dodgers have bounced some checks to their employees. Not to their players, of course, because the players’ union would never stand for that. But the team apparently has no problem bouncing checks to the good people who do all the behind-the-scenes work to prepare for a baseball game every day.

No doubt Selig will use this latest incident as ammunition to finally rid Major League Baseball of Frank McCourt once and for all. McCourt tried to undercut baseball’s efforts to take control of the team by filing for bankruptcy protection. The Dodgers owner was forced to turn to the courts after Selig put the kibosh on McCourt’s television deal, something the commissioner will likely try to do again in court. McCourt seemed to have delayed the inevitable by securing a loan to allow him to make payroll at the end of June. But the fact that his organization is bouncing checks of such small size demonstrates that they have no control over their finances and should not have control of a Major League Baseball franchise.

McCourt is probably right in arguing that MLB’s offer of a loan was probably part of its ultimate plan to take over the team. He may also be right when he accused Selig of harboring ill feelings toward him. Selig probably wants more than anything to push McCourt out of baseball and his lawyers are trying to do just that by painting McCourt as a greedy, uncontrollable owner who siphoned off millions from his baseball team to pay for his personal expenses.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Selig wants to put the Dodgers in more capable hands before the end of his tenure next year. I hope the commissioner succeeds because the Dodger employees and the fans that bleed blue don’t deserve this drama.

Thanks to Major League Baseball via Wikipedia for the photo.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Return of old favorites boost Old Timers' Day

The merry spirit surrounding Old Timers' Day hosted by the New York Yankees was boosted by the first-time appearance of Sweet Lou Piniella and the return of beloved Yankees ex-player/coaches Mel Stottlemyre and Ron Guidry.

I personally loved seeing the guys I watched during the Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s and 2000, particularly my favorite player Tino Martinez, who made my day when he went deep against another old favorite of mine David Cone.

More pictures from Old Timers' Day

The New York Yankees really know how to throw a party. Nice to see David Wells a.k.a.
Boomer back and looking so sharp. Looks like he shed a few pounds since his playing days.

I was happy to see Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden back together at Old Timers' Day, but can't help but feel sad every time I think about what might have been for them if they had been able to stay away from drugs and alcohol.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Yankees Old Timers' Day an instant classic

No one puts on a show like the New York Yankees, but yesterday they outdid even themselves.

I was thrilled to be a part of the crowd cheering for the old timers on what turned out to be a terrific summer day
(maybe a little too hot to be sitting out in the sun for five hours like I was, but fun nonetheless). It’s still strange for me to think of my favorite players Tino Martinez and Bernie Williams as old timers. But I felt a familiar surge of excitement when Tino whacked a ball into the right field seats, looking like the Tino of old, right after Bernie doubled to the thrill of the crowd that came to welcome him for his first Old Timers’ game back at the stadium.

But my favorite moments came during the pre-game ceremonies. Watching Joe Torre tear up at the sustained standing ovation he received from the Yankees faithful brought tears to my eyes too. It was the first real chance we got to thank Torre for the dynasty that he helped give to the city of New York. Torre was at the stadium for George Steinbrenner’s memorial last year, but that was a solemn day in honor of the Boss. Now, we finally had a chance to give Torre his due. I’m glad that the icy relations between Torre and the Yankees thawed enough to allow us this opportunity.

I also got teary during the extended celebration of Gene Monahan’s career as the Yankees trainer. In throwing out the first pitch, Monahan fired a strike to an emotional Jorge Posada, who donned the catcher’s gear one more time just for his trainer. Monahan is retiring this year, but he will not be going away empty handed. Between the truck, the trip to the Alps, the lawn mower and turf supplies, and the new dog, I would imagine Monahan is going to be just as busy during retirement as he is right now. It was a classy going-away party for the classiest guy.

For me, the day was even more special because I had more than 1,000 of my fellow Syracuse alum there to celebrate with me. We swapped college stories over chicken fajitas and ice cream and cheered all the old timers, both young and old. It was a glorious day in every way and an instant classic for a team known best for its traditions.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jeter doesn't get his birthday wish

Derek Jeter isn’t getting his birthday wish this year: a quick return to the baseball diamond. But hopefully it won’t be too much longer before he does.

What the man who has everything probably wanted more than anything was a fast return from the disabled list. But that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Jeter is eligible to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday, but his calf injury hasn’t fully healed and both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi expect their primary shortstop to be out indefinitely. If it was up to Jeter, he wouldn’t even be on the disabled list, but it’s obvious that his calf needed the time to heal and not even the Yankees Captain knows when he will be back.

When Jeter does come back, he will be once again be plunged into the media circus about his pursuit of 3,000 hits. Once he finally achieves the milestone, the hard questions will quickly start again: should he be batting leadoff? Should he still be playing shortstop? Will he have to give up the one job he has ever wanted for Eduardo Nunez, Jose Reyes or some other young stud?

But I hope he at least enjoys this one day, even if he’s not playing the game he has loved since he was a small child. He’ll get back to baseball eventually. But Jeter should take a moment to enjoy birthday #37, which he wouldn’t have as much of a chance to do if he was playing baseball.

Happy Birthday, Derek!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cashman extending olive branch to Jeter?

Was Brian Cashman extending an olive branch to New York Yankees Captain Derek Jeter this week when he bluntly and emphatically expressed no interest in trading for Jose Reyes?

Ever since Jeter went down with a calf injury, there has been a very vocal group of fans and even some in the media advocating what would be a blockbuster trade between the Yankees and Mets. But Cashman put the kibosh on those thoughts when he said the Yankees have no interest in trading for Reyes, who is emerging as a true superstar in his walk year.

Of course, Cashman’s comments may just be a nod to the reality of the Yankees’ situation. Jeter is signed for another two years beyond 2011 and has an option on top of that. If he were moved off of shortstop, the Yankees would likely have a $17 million designated hitter with little power in their lineup. Plus, Cashman & Co seem very high on Eduardo Nunez, who has shown he has a solid bat, but has played terribly in the field (he’s very lucky to have Mark Teixeira at first, who has saved him at least a half dozen errors). Of course, Jeter was once a terrible shortstop too, but that was mostly in the minors and he has gone on to win five Gold Gloves, which the stat geeks will say he doesn’t deserve.

Does Cashman’s denial even truly matter? We know that the general manager doesn’t have the final say on baseball signings. Cashman was overruled by the Steinbrenners just this offseason when they ordered him to sign Rafael Soriano, who quickly made Cashman look like a genius by pitching poorly and then winding up on the disabled list. But if the Steinbrenners decide that the prospect of swooping up Reyes from the Mets, whether in a trade now or in the offseason when he becomes a free agent, is too much to resist, Reyes will be a Yankee.

I doubt Cashman and Jeter have shared anything more than an awkward handshake since the offseason, when Cashman took the contract negotiations to an ugly place by publicly questioning Jeter’s job performance and daring him to seek a better contract than the Yankees were offering.

If Cashman is trying to mend fences with his captain, will it work? I seriously doubt it. Ian O’Connor’s Jeter biography made it clear that Jeter is an unforgiving person, ready to cast out anyone for even the slightest perceived insult or betrayal. Of course, he did come to a truce with Alex Rodriguez, but that took more than four years. I doubt Cashman wants to wait that long for the ice to thaw.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strong start best birthday gift for Phil Hughes

I would imagine that what Phil Hughes wants most for his birthday is a strong start that puts him one step closer to returning to the big leagues.

Hughes' 25th birthday will be spent in Connecticut starting against a bunch of minor leaguers not that much younger than him who are hoping to replicate his success in reaching the big leagues. The New York Yankees will be praying Hughes’ start will be a successful one. The Yankees define success as about 75 pitches, a sustained velocity in the 92-94 mph range and the absence of any pain in that valuable right arm. If Hughes passes those three tests, he could be well on his way back to the major leagues.

This has to be a disappointing and frustrating season so far for young Mr. Hughes. In spring training, most of the talk was about Hughes becoming a pivotal member of the Yankees rotation, filling the #3 slot and trying to replicate his successful 2010 campaign. But now the talk is whether he can get back to the big leagues after a long stint on the disabled list in time to help the Yankees make a run at the American League East division title in the second half of the year.

Whatever happens tonight in Connecticut, I hope he has fun on what could be his last enjoyable milestone birthday, at least from a baseball perspective as players tend to lose their skills as they age. Ah, to be 25 years old again. Not that I mind being 35 as I’m actually enjoying this decade of my life. But I do wish I knew most of what I know now back then. My 20s would have been a lot more enjoyable.

Happy Birthday, Phil! Get well soon and hurry back!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Yankees should step up support for LBGT kids

The San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs are doing a wonderful thing in leading the effort in Major League Baseball to support the “It Gets Better" video campaign aimed at lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender kids targeted for discrimination. It’s time for the New York Yankees to join this worthy cause.

The Yankees do so much good for the community, particularly with their HOPE week events. But this particular effort to support LBGT kids is both urgent and critical because they are enduring tremendous pain, anguish and humiliation just because of who they are, feelings that have driven some youngsters to harm themselves.

Sports is one of the last bastions of open discrimination, seen when major stars such as Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah use anti-gay slurs and former New York Giants star David Tyree makes despicable, and quite frankly, ridiculous comments about how allowing gay people to marry would lead to anarchy. Tyree and others are entitled to their opinions, but what they are not entitled to do is enforce their version of morality on the rest of the world. But for every Tyree, there is a Michael Strahan willing to stand up for people being exactly who they are.

I applaud the SF Giants and the Cubs for what they are doing. It’s not an easy decision, especially with all the homophobia and discriminatory rhetoric out there. These baseball teams are risking being shunned by the most bigoted members of our society. Their courage in standing up and doing what’s right for these kids is something to be admired.

It’s time for the Yankees to show that kind of courage and leadership. I would love to see Derek Jeter and some of his teammates join the campaign. Jeter would probably hesitate as he is intensely private about all facets of his life, including his political leanings. But this is not about politics. It’s about doing what is right for kids and no one has been more focused on helping kids than Jeter. Perhaps he can take this next step and convince his teammates to join him. That would be a true show of leadership.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Girardi tries to quell Jeter leadoff fire

Joe Girardi is trying to prevent a potential controversy from brewing by firmly insisting that Derek Jeter will bat leadoff when he returns from the disabled list to the New York Yankees. But the real question is how long Jeter will hit first.

Girardi is not going to embarrass Jeter by shifting him out of the top spot before he reaches the 3,000-hit milestone. But once the well-deserved celebration dies down, how long will Girardi keep Jeter in the leadoff spot in the Yankees lineup? It’s not like the manager doesn’t have other options. The #1 spot has been kind to Nick Swisher, who has raised his game after struggling for most of the season, while Brett Gardner definitely has the speed and explosiveness to bat first in the lineup.

The problem with moving Jeter is that it likely means moving him to the bottom of the lineup. As well as Curtis Granderson is hitting, you can’t displace him from the #2 spot. The heart of the Yankees lineup is set with Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. I don’t think Girardi would put Jeter even behind Cano at #6 because ideally a hitter with a little more pop would be in that spot to protect Robinson.

Jeter has stated several times that he doesn’t care where he hits in the lineup although he has also stated a preference for batting in the first inning. Any move would be an adjustment for Jeter, particularly since he hasn’t hit in the bottom of the lineup since very early in his career. You’d have to hope that his pride doesn’t take too much of a hit when he is moved down in the batting order. But this is Jeter, who will probably be the last person in New York to acknowledge that his skills have diminished with age. He likely won’t be happy with a lineup move.

Girardi can only prevent this fire for so long. Sooner or later, it will burn out of control.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yankees next big move could be Hughes

Never mind Carlos Zambrano or Scott Kazmir. The New York Yankees next big move could be getting Phil Hughes back in the rotation.

This being the Yankees of course they are extremely likely to make some upgrades to the team before the trading deadline. But before he makes a splash on a big name in a major deal, Brian Cashman might wait to see how Hughes progresses in his attempt to return to the big leagues from his arm injury. Cashman might be inclined to wait in the hopes of not seeming desperate and getting fleeced by another team wanting one of his prized catching prospects.

The Yankees general manager might also wait in the hopes that Hughes turns out to the missing piece for a starting rotation that has held up surprisingly well during the first half of the 2011 baseball season. The early reports indicate that Hughes’ velocity is higher than it was when he went on the disabled list, which bodes well for the idea that his arm is healing nicely and he can come back in about two weeks and regain the form that made him an 18-game winner last year.

But even with Hughes coming back, I fully expect Cashman to make some type of deal to bolster his pitching depth. The GM has made good calls on Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon and could be hoping for some of the same magic with a guy like Zambrano. I just don’t expect Cashman to give up the moon to get him.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Time to phase out the designated hitter

It's that time of the year again, folks. Interleague play means it’s time to question the wisdom of having a designated hitter in one league while pitchers bat for themselves in the other league. Here's my solution: phase out the DH.

The DH should be a major part of the next negotiating session between Major League Baseball and the players’ union. The union will likely object to the potential loss of jobs for guys such as David Ortiz and Jorge Posada who can’t play in the field anymore. But if you put a timeframe for the elimination of the DH, say five years, you give older guys like Ortiz and Posada time to age out of their jobs naturally while giving American League teams the time to get used to life without the designated hitter, in essence phasing out the position.

In the meantime, I advocate allowing the DH to be used during interleague games during the regular season to prevent unfortunate injuries to pitchers not used to having bats in their hands (a.k.a. Chien- Ming Wang). American League teams can take the next few years to teach their pitchers how to hit in non-game situations (early in spring training) and proper base-running techniques to avoid injuries on the basepaths. National League managers can take advantage of an opportunity they normally do not have by giving their position players a half a day of rest by slotting them in as the DH, even in their home ballparks.

But let’s make it clear that this arrangement ends in five years when both leagues will finally be rid of the DH and baseball can be played the way it was meant to be played, with everyone getting a chance at the plate.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Too early for Reyes for Jeter talk

Derek Jeter has only been on the disabled list for about 24 hours and already people want to replace him with Jose Reyes.

Sure, Reyes is having a career year while Jeter is definitely not. But these folks want to ignore the fact that this career resurgence for Reyes is happening during his walk year and that there have long been questions about his work ethic (unlike Jeter whose work ethic has never been questioned, except once by George Steinbrenner, who was looking to pick a fight).

Reyes meanwhile has spent much of his career on the disabled list. The supposedly ancient Jeter is making his first stay on the list since 2003, when his shoulder was dislocated in that horrific collision at third base on Opening Day. The obvious comeback is that Reyes seems to be in the best shape of his career, but I wonder how long that will continue after he signs a lucrative, multi-year deal.

Never mind that the New York Yankees would then have a $17 million back-up shortstop in Jeter and that they will have to pay him that money for another two years, with his $8 million option after that, on top of whatever they would have to pay for Reyes’ services. Sure, the Yankees can afford it. But what do they do with Jeter when he gets back? Do you think he’s going to be happy being forced to suddenly become a full-time designated hitter, a move that will only add to the chaos when the Yankees sit or release Jorge Posada for Jeter to take that stop? They’re not going to have him start playing the outfield in the middle of the baseball season. Seriously, what’s the answer for Jeter if he’s not the shortstop this season? Not so surprisingly, the Reyes advocates do not have an answer for that one.

Will the Yankees have to replace Jeter at shortstop? Absolutely, perhaps as early as next year. As Ian O’Connor’s biography makes clear, Jeter understands that he will probably not be able to play shortstop into his late 30s, but he will have to have a say in when he gives up the only job he ever wanted (a right Jeter has earned) rather than being forced to the bench. To suggest that the Yankees should take advantage of Jeter’s injury to give his job to Reyes, or even Eduardo Nunez, is premature at best and really insulting and disrespectful to Jeter.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yankees take frustrations out on wrong team

Someone was going to pay for the way the Boston Red Sox manhandled the New York Yankees. Unfortunately for the Cleveland Indians, they were the unlucky team to come to the Bronx after Boston left town. But I wish the Yankees had shown that kind of fight against the Saux.

Cleveland still has a good shot to avoid a four-game sweep since the Yankees have AJ Burnett on the mound tonight. But the Indians had to suffer through two dominant performances from Bartolo Colon (before his injury raised fresh questions about the state of the Yankee rotation) and Freddy Garcia and a pretty solid outing by Ivan Nova. And Indians starter Fausto Carmona instigated a near-brawl when he purposely drilled Mark Teixeira while Mitch Talbot was tossed from the next game for hitting Alex Rodriguez. In all fairness, I don’t think the ARod hit by pitch was on purpose, but the umpires had to throw Talbot out to regain control of the series before things got out of hand and someone got hurt.

While the Bombers have taken their frustrations out on Cleveland, they still haven’t figured out why they so easily succumb to the Red Sox. The Yankees looked like world beaters in going 6-3 on a long West Coast trip and in pounding the Indians. But it just seems they are beating up on the wrong teams. Where is that effort against the Red Sox?

In winning these three games against Cleveland, the Yankees have managed to keep pace with the surging Saux and remain only two games behind in the American League East. But the Yankees can beat up on inferior teams outside their division as much as they want. If they can’t figure out how to beat the Red Sox, their quest for another World Series championship may turn out to be futile.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Let the Joba Rules backlash begin

Now that Joba Chamberlain is officially heading for season-ending surgery, the Joba Rules backlash can really begin.

Since the shocking news of Joba’s elbow injury, we’ve seen the mumblings or mild criticism of the New York Yankees’ approach to handling young pitchers, which first came to light when Joe Torre openly talked – with a hint of disdain – about the restrictions on his use of a very young Joba in 2007. Now, with Chamberlain needing Tommy John surgery and Phil Hughes missing most of the first half of the 2011 baseball season, the Yankees have to answer questions about the effectiveness – or lack thereof – of the rules. Cashman seems to be annoyed by the prospect of having to defend the Joba Rules, but there are legitimate questions to be asked given the serious arm problems that Chamberlain and Hughes have been dealing with, the very problems that the rules were put in place to avoid.

In all fairness, the rules were probably necessary during the Torre reign because of his overreliance on his core guys. Cashman, understandably, didn’t want Torre burning out his prized young pitchers. But I wonder if the Joba Rules are even necessary anymore with Joe Girardi now running the club. Unlike Torre, Girardi is committed to protecting his pitchers and willing to risk losing a game rather than risk a dangerous injury to a key reliever by putting him out there three days in a row. Girardi doesn’t need to be told to do this, he just does it and deals with the consequences.

Regardless, with Chamberlain and Hughes both down, Cashman will spend a lot of time defending the Joba Rules. Hopefully, he spends as much time thinking about whether they are necessary or should be modified to make them more effective. It’s too late for Joba and Phil, but perhaps the Yankees can learn something valuable about how to really protect their promising young arms.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ortiz should blame his pitchers for HBP

If David Ortiz is looking for someone to blame for getting hit by a CC Sabathia pitch last night, he should look in his own dugout.

The designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox was irate with the media, blaming coverage of his showy bat tossing and the extensive reporting on his never getting hit by the New York Yankees for Sabathia’s decision to plunk him in the leg. But if he really wants to find the culprit, he should point the finger at Josh Beckett and the rest of the Red Sox pitching staff, who amazingly seem unable to control the ball when it comes to drilling the Yankees.

Sabathia didn’t step up the way his team needed him to in getting the ball to Mariano Rivera with a lead. But Sabathia did stick up for his teammates after Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were both hit by pitches. I was slightly surprised by the timing because I thought that he wouldn’t hit Ortiz with a runner on and only one out. But the fact that CC hit Big Papi regardless shows his moxie and confidence that he could escape the self-induced jam. It also shows that Sabathia is always willing to do exactly what needs to be done, no matter what the cost to him personally.

Ortiz wasn’t hit just because of his bat tossing, as Paul O’ Neill and Al Leiter made clear on the YES broadcast. That might have annoyed the hell out of us fans (and Joe Girardi), but really Ortiz took the hit because someone in the Red Sox lineup had to pay for all the plunked Yankees. It might as well have been Ortiz, who has become Public Enemy #1 here in New York, as shown by the extended standing ovation Sabathia received after drilling Big Papi.

A small victory in an otherwise dreadful week.

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

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Only CC Sabathia can save Yankees

The New York Yankees desperately need to be saved tonight by their ace CC Sabathia.

Really he is the only one that can salvage what has become a very bad week for the Yankees. AJ Burnett had a prime opportunity to prove that he could be the guy for the Yankees, to shut up David Ortiz and show the Boston Red Sox they couldn't just walk into the stadium and manhandle the Yankees. But Burnett put his team in a 7-0 hole that it just couldn’t get out of. The Yankees need Sabathia to do the exact opposite, to shut down the Red Sox long enough for the Yankee offense to scrape enough runs off of Josh Beckett for a victory.

The news got worse for the Yankees today as Joba Chamberlain's injury appears much worse than initially thought. If the diagnosis is confirmed and Joba needs Tommy John surgery, he's done for this year and probably the first few months of the 2012 season. I feel awful for Joba, who was finally on his way to fulfilling his potential. Sabathia can’t do anything about Joba’s injury, but he can make Joe Girardi’s day a lot easier by putting the ball in Mariano Rivera’s hands tonight.

The only thing the Yankees have going for them is that even if they lose tonight's game, they will be only a few games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. And yes, I know the 2009 Yankees lost the first 8 games against the Saux, only to go on to win the World Series. But that Yankees team was a lot better than this one because Derek Jeter was having a career year offensively and defensively and Andy Pettitte was in the rotation. But one thing the 2009 and 2011 Yankees have in common is that they both have Sabathia as their ace. And only he can right the ship with a big performance tonight.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sad setback in Joba Chamberlain's comeback

I feel really bad for Joba Chamberlain, whose renaissance this season is being disrupted by a surprising stay on the disabled list.

Joba has done a great job setting up Mariano Rivera and making everyone forget about Rafael Soriano's so-far disastrous tenure in pinstripes. Chamberlain is 2-0 in the 2011 baseball season, with a solid 2.83 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. But it’s about more than his numbers. We have been seeing a more mature and confident Joba on the mound this season. He has not reverted to his youthful antics (Chamberlain is only 25, but it feels like he’s been around forever), the antics that I’m convinced fuelled the perception that he is overrated.

David Robertson will now be forced into the 8th inning role, with Boone Logan the main guy in the 7th frame. Robertson has perfected his Houdini act, but I doubt Joe Girardi will be as comfortable going to his bullpen in the 7th inning as he has been with Chamberlain and Robertson as the main set-up guys. Brian Cashman may be forced to pursue outside bullpen help for the New York Yankees.

I hope Joba’s stay on the disabled list is merely a short, temporary setback in what has been an impressive comeback season. But I think these three weeks will prove that Joba is not overrated, but a key cog in the Yankees bullpen.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Juvenile antics by Ortiz must be punished

David Ortiz is an old man by baseball standards, which makes his antics after hitting a home run against Hector Noesi all the more juvenile and offensive.

Ortiz dramatically flipped his bat after knocking one out of the park one pitch after the youngster threw a ball low and inside. Noesi wasn’t trying to hit Ortiz; he was just trying to make him less comfortable in the box, a typical move for a pitcher. Why Ortiz was so offended by that is beyond me. But he clearly needs to be punished, not by Major League Baseball, but by the New York Yankees.

Even Yankees manager Joe Girardi was upset about the antics, coming after Mark Teixeira got drilled on the knee. To be fair, I don’t think that hit-by-pitch was intentional, but I also don’t think the Boston Red Sox pitchers are at all bothered by how many Yankees hitters they drill.

I wouldn’t have expected the young Noesi, having only four appearances in the big leagues, to understand that he had to retaliate against the Red Sox after the Ortiz at-bat. But the Yankees have two more opportunities for payback. A recent story in the New York Times detailed how close AJ Burnett and Ivan Nova have become over the last year and how the veteran Burnett has mentored the young pitcher. Now it’s time for Burnett to teach Nova and Noesi a lesson about how to deal with batters who show up pitchers after hitting home runs.

If Burnett doesn't make things right, CC Sabathia will do it on Thursday. CC has made it clear that he will not allow opposing pitchers to throw at his batters at will and I can’t imagine that he’s pleased by Ortiz showing up one of his guys. The Yankees ace has retaliated against the Red Sox before and I expect him to do it again, if the umpires don't get in his way.

Thanks to Toasterb at the English language Wikipedia project for the photo.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Giants GM makes bad situation much worse

Giants General Manager Brian Sabean made a very bad situation much worse by issuing a veiled threat against Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins, who ended Giants catcher Buster Posey’s season in a home plate collision.

I understand that Sabean is very upset and frustrated by losing his star catcher for the rest of the 2011 season, but his comments are simply inexcusable. He inflamed an already volatile situation in which Cousins has received several death threats. There is simply no room for a baseball executive like Sabean to say that he would be happy if a player never played another game or that his team will have a long memory, implying that Cousins could be thrown at or hurt in some way when the teams play each other again.

Posey, meanwhile, hasn’t exactly shined in this situation either. He issued a statement saying he did not condone threats against Cousins and his family. But his statement also made clear that he had no interest in speaking to Cousins, who is obviously devastated by what happened and has tried to personally apologize numerous times.

This situation reminds me of Derek Jeter’s terrible behavior after then Toronto Blue Jays catcher Ken Huckaby inadvertently dislocated his shoulder during a collision at third base on Opening Day 2003. After failing to contact Jeter via phone, Huckaby walked over to the New York Yankees clubhouse to seek Jeter out with a personal apology. All he received in return was, as Ian O’ Connor put it in his Jeter biography, “a cold, bloodless stare.”

That was truly the one time I thought Jeter behaved despicably, something that he has never made amends for. In fact, he continues to defend his behavior by insisting Huckaby never called and that he wasn’t being a bad guy by refusing to accept his apology. Posey, like Jeter, is upset about missing time playing baseball and is rebuffing efforts by Cousins to apologize. But, unlike Jeter, I hope Posey is man enough to forgive Cousins, which would go a long way toward easing the tension.

I don’t think Major League Baseball will discipline Sabean for his comments. Joe Torre apparently had a conversation with Sabean in which he made clear that his comments were out of line, but I wish Torre and Bud Selig would take it one step further and either fine or suspend Sabean. We simply can’t have baseball executives threatening players for playing the game of baseball.

Thanks to btwashburn via Wikipedia for the Brian Sabean picture.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Yankees All-Star votes drawing ire

The New York Yankees are pissing people off left and right with their success in the early All-Star balloting.

Some Yankees, namely Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin, are truly deserving of their high vote totals. Granderson has been the offensive Most Valuable Player for the Yankees. And Martin has been a godsend for the Yankees, who were looking to replace Jorge Posada’s offense and upgrade the defense behind the plate.

But I can understand why some baseball folks are incredulous about other Yankees leading in the balloting. Derek Jeter’s substantial lead in particular has drawn the ire of many folks, including Angels first base coach Alfredo Griffin, who seems really annoyed that his shortstop Erick Aybar is trailing despite having a superior batting average.

But fans want to see stars play in the All-Star game and Derek Jeter is still a star, even if a slightly diminished one. So it’s not surprising to see Jeter lead by a wide margin even in a season where he is struggling to raise his batting average. And we have plenty of anecdotal evidence about Jeter still being beloved by Yankees fans and even some fans of other teams that admire him personally, even if they hate the Yankees.

What is somewhat surprising is that a coach would be so vocal about Jeter being undeserving of an All-Star spot. To be fair, Griffin didn’t call Jeter out by name, but it was clear who he was referring to when he talked about the fans voting for who they want to see instead of who deserves to be in the game.

There’s still plenty of time for changes in the vote totals, but I expect Jeter to make the All-Star team, especially because he will get hit #3,000 just a couple of weeks before the game. That accomplishment will generate a lot of positive publicity and fans will want to reward Jeter for such an impressive career milestone.

Friday, June 3, 2011

St. Jeter! Don't think so

A New York Times book review of Ian O’ Connor’s Derek Jeter biography The Captain implies that the book completely fawns over the shortstop of the New York Yankees. I have to disagree.

Of course, the book is mostly a positive summary of Jeter's ascent to the throne of the Yankees because his journey and his life have been a mostly positive experience. But I also think that O' Connor did a good job of fleshing out some of the more negative aspects of Jeter's personality, namely his unwillingness to forgive and forget.

For example, O’ Connor sheds more light on Jeter’s dispute with Chad Curtis, the former Yankees outfielder who was infuriated by Jeter’s playful banter with Alex Rodriguez (this being, of course, when Jeter and ARod was still friends during ARod’s Seattle days). Curtis, despite being a solid player for the Yankees and hitting a game-winning home run in the World Series, was dumped that offseason. O’ Connor’s reporting confirms what I always suspected: that Jeter had a major hand in getting Curtis shipped out of town. But O’ Connor also notes that Jeter didn't let that dispute stop him from showing kindness to some kids that Curtis brought to a Yankees game in Detroit several years later. I don’t think that was a sign of Jeter forgiving Curtis. I just think Jeter’s affection for children led him to briefly push aside any bad feelings he had for Curtis.

O’ Connor’s book also highlights Jeter’s coldness toward and distrust of people he has been friends with for years. From the book, I get the impression that Jeter doesn’t truly trust anyone except his parents and sister, which is somewhat understandable for a person in his position, but a terrible way to live.

As the Times review notes, the reason O’ Connor’s book doesn’t reveal a truly troubled side to the Yankees Captain is because it probably doesn’t exist. Maybe years from now, when Jeter is long retired, we’ll start to hear some really disturbing stories about the captain. But I seriously doubt it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Alex Rodriguez again shows poor judgment

Alex Rodriguez just can’t stop giving people something to talk about.

Major League Baseball quickly cleared ARod of wrongdoing in relation to his cousin Yuri Sucart’s presence at the hotel where the New York Yankees were staying this week. Sucart, who supplied Rodriguez with steroids during his years with the Texas Rangers, was banned by both MLB and the Yankees from the team’s facilities, which apparently doesn’t include hotels housing the team on road trips. But just because Sucart isn’t barred from the team hotel doesn’t mean he should be hanging out there either.

For the record, I don’t think ARod is back to doing steroids, although I have nothing to back up that assertion, other than believing that unlike Manny Ramirez, Rodriguez isn’t stupid enough to go down that road again. Somewhere in ARod’s mind, he probably still believes he can cement his legacy with a place in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame if he stays out of trouble and keeps padding his stats. I don’t think he would take the risk of being busted using performance-enhancing drugs again.

But if ARod is clean, why is he inviting trouble by hanging out with his supplier? Perhaps he feels bad that Sucart took so much heat for his steroid use and is trying to make things up to him. Or maybe for ARod, family is family and he just wanted his cousin to hang out with him on a long road trip. That type of familial loyalty is normally something to be admired, but in this situation just seems foolish. Brian Cashman seems to understand that family pull, but don’t think he won’t privately pull ARod aside or through his agent let him know that Sucart’s presence is unwelcome and that ARod is just creating unnecessary grief for himself.

ARod has always been his own worst enemy due to his poor judgment and propensity to say the wrong thing. But I’m really surprised he would open the door to a fresh round of steroid talk.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Yankees not overrated, just overpaid

Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain and Derek Jeter took the top spots in the annual survey of overrated players conducted by Sports Illustrated. But I suspect it has less to do with their talents and more to do with their paychecks.

It seems clear that many players are jealous of the millions of dollars the New York Yankees pay ARod and the Captain and that’s driving some of the negativity. Sure, neither ARod nor Jeter is the player he used to be, but I wouldn’t call them overrated. No one is still saying that ARod is the best player in baseball – that pretty much ceased after the steroids revelations —and Jeter is among the most criticized players in baseball these days, especially when it comes to his defense.

Joba makes less money than ARod, Jeter and most other players on the Yankees so that’s not driving the overrated comments. But it seems that players on other baseball teams are still annoyed by all the press he received when dominating out of the bullpen in 2007 and his old antics on the mound. But he has since tempered his emotions – perhaps he is just growing up –and nobody is talking about Joba the phenom anymore so I can’t understand why those bad feelings would linger.

Lighten up, Captain! ARod and Joba seemed to have fun with the poll results, with Joba mocking ARod for taking the top spot away from him. But Jeter was apparently bothered and it was hard to tell whether he was annoyed at being named to the list or just about answering the questions. But either way, he usually is good at deflecting such issues. Perhaps Jeter was just having an off night.

I do agree with Jeter’s annoyance that SI still allows this poll to be anonymous. I would have more respect for players who were willing to put their names to it and explain why they think this or that guy is overrated. But I get why they don’t want to admit that they think these guys are overpaid. Maybe they should just stick to that old saying: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.