Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Girardi costs Yankees game with Hughes hook

Phil Hughes technically was the loser in last night’s game, but his manager’s obsession with numbers and matchups is what really cost the New York Yankees a victory.

For some reason, Joe Girardi did not see what the rest of us saw: that despite having a bases-loaded situation, Hughes was still dealing. Instead of giving the righty one more batter after a fierce strikeout for the second out of the 7th inning, Girardi removed Hughes in favor of lefty Boone Logan, who promptly gave up the lead for good in a game the Yankees had in their grasp. What was even more disappointing about the loss is that the New York Yankees missed an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and those pesky Baltimore Orioles.

Hughes, trying to be a diplomat and a good teammate, did not place the blame on his manager or criticize a lousy decision. But his disappointment and frustration were obvious from the moment he took a seat on the bench before Boone’s implosion through his post-game press conference, when he twice said that he didn't make decisions and just pitches to who he is told to. Hughes, I’m sure, believes he earned the right to clean up that 7th inning mess and he’s absolutely right (this isn't a second guess by the way, I started screaming at my television the minute I saw Girardi walking out toward the mound).

Girardi has a lot of strengths as a manager, but one of his weaknesses is his inability to read his players. He should have given Hughes, who has more victories than any Yankee pitcher this season, the opportunity to work out of the jam. Showing that kind of confidence in your players is a key part of being a good manager. It can’t be all about statistics and I think Girardi too often loses himself in the numbers game instead of trusting his players.

Phil Hughes didn’t cost the Yankees a game last night. Joe Girardi did. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, Joba Chamberlain

I would like to wish a belated happy birthday to Joba Chamberlain.

Joba seems to have turned a corner recently, finally shaking off the rust from his extended disabled list stint. He hasn’t given up an earned run in his last eight appearances and has been credited with one win and three holds in that timeframe.

With Rafael Soriano and David Robertson clearly overused and exhausted, Joba is going to play an important role down the stretch and in the playoffs. He has the freshest arm out there and plenty of experience in pressure situations. He has pitched superbly out of the bullpen in the past and the New York Yankees will need him to do so again this year if they are going to win the American League East division. I believe he can and will be a key cog in the reliever core the rest of the way.

Happy Belated Birthday, Joba.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Older Yankees showing the kids how it's done

Youth is a state of mind, isn’t it?

That’s apparently what the older veterans of the New York Yankees think. Yesterday, it was 40-year-old Raul Ibanez rescuing the Yankees with not one but two home run blasts, the second of which helped make an improbable comeback from four runs down in the 13th inning a reality. The Yankees would go on to win the game on an error in the 14th inning, but what everyone will remember most about yesterday’s victory is Ibanez’s heroics, which allowed the Yankees to stay one game ahead of those pesky Baltimore Orioles.

Until Ibanez’s fantastic day, most of the attention and marvel around Yankeeland was directed at 38-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, who had another home run yesterday that helped the Yankees start to climb out of the hole that Ivan Nova put them in. Ichiro has an unbelievable.700 batting average in the last five games and has been a key contributor to the current Yankees 7-game winning streak. I had my doubts about the Ichiro trade, not about him as a player, but about whether he was a necessary addition to the Yankees roster. A rejuvenated Ichiro is proving that he is.

Until Ichiro got hot, the only offense being provided by the Yankees vaunted lineup came from their hobbling Captain Derek Jeter. The 38-year-old Yankees Captain has returned to shortstop where he belongs, but is still bothered by that unfortunate ankle injury. You wouldn’t know it from his 16-game hitting streak, even though he had a rare 1 for 7 day yesterday.

Of course, no discussion of ace performances by veteran Yankees would be complete without mention of 40-year-old Andy Pettitte coming off a nearly 3-month stint on the disabled list this week to give the Yankees five shutout innings in the opening game of a doubleheader. Pettitte schooled the younger Yankees about how to win a game when you are a bit rusty or don’t have your best stuff. What was interesting about Pettitte’s performance is that manager Joe Girardi, who is usually very protective against overusing his pitchers to prevent injuries, allowed Pettitte to go out for that 5th inning even though he was very close to his pitch limit. Girardi has that much confidence in his veteran lefty and wanted to squeeze one more inning out of Pettitte in a game the Yankees had to win.

I hope the Yankee kids are paying attention to what the older Yankees are doing this month. They could learn a few things. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Baseball Giants go green

Here’s some news out of San Francisco that warms this environmental journalist’s heart. The San Francisco Giants installed four new electric vehicle charging stations at AT&T Park, a nod to California’s status as the environmental leader in the US.

I had the great pleasure of visiting the beautiful AT&T Park back in April with my good friend Scott, another notch in my quest to visit every Major League ballpark in America (have already been to the Rogers Centre in Toronto many times, thanks to the New York Yankees). 

AT&T Park was the last stop on a fantastic day that started with a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge and a visit to the Muir Woods.

The area around the ballpark is just gorgeous, especially McCovey Cove, as seen in these photos. I found the food choices at the ballpark somewhat limiting and it gets very cold there, even on a relatively nice day. But the atmosphere and the fans were fantastic, including the mother and college-bound son sitting next to us who I chatted with for much of the game. Plus, there was an awesome fireworks display after the game (and I’m a sucker for fireworks so I loved it).

The Giants are rightly proud of their green partnerships (the giveaway that day was sponsored by solar panel maker Hanwha Solar, as you can see from this photo). 

I’m glad to see baseball teams such as the Giants and other sports franchises taking the initiative to truly be greener in their operations. It’s not just good for the environment. It’s good business. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Derek Jeter puts Yankees on his back

Derek Jeter has put the New York Yankees on his back and is trying to singlehandedly carry them across the finish line.

The Yankees Captain got a big assist last night from Phil Hughes, who shut down a beleaguered Boston Red Sox team, avoided giving up the long ball (no small feat as his is one of the league leaders in this category) and got his 15th victory last night, tops on a Yankees rotation that includes CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. But as impressive as Hughes was in Fenway Park, Jeter showed us why he is the true captain of the team, not just in title, but out on the field.

Ignoring the pain that has him hobbling and limping all around the bases, he managed to once again come up in the clutch, with a well-earned single that gave the dominant Hughes a small cushion. We shouldn’t really be surprised by anything Jeter does, except the man is playing on one leg, which, of course, he won’t even talk about. I wish I had Derek Jeter’s pain tolerance (my recent back injury has shown me that I do not).

It has become obvious to everyone that the Yankees are still in the division race only because of Derek Jeter. In the YES postgame show, David Cone said the Yankees Captain is basically willing the Yankees to win the American League East and get them into the baseball playoffs.

By the way, Jeter also tied the incomparable Willie Mays for 10th place on the all-time hits list. As amazing an honor as that is, Jeter doesn’t have time to think about it. He was too busy dispatching the hapless Red Sox. Now he will turn his attention to beating the Tampa Bay Rays, on his one good leg. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Yankees must step up for stretch run

My baseball blog has been completely neglected for the past 10 days due to a recent back injury that makes sitting in front of my computer for long stretches of time very painful. Watching the New York Yankees play during that period wasn’t nearly as painful, but it was very uncomfortable and depressing.

The only positive for the Yankees is that they barely survived a tough stretch against their two division foes, slinking their way to Boston with a one-game lead. But the Yankees only went 4-6 against the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing the teams to cut into, and in the O’s case actually temporarily tie the Yankees, for the top spot in the American League East. They were probably lucky to win those four games as they did not play particularly well, with ace CC Sabathia leading the way with two stinkers and the Bronx Bombers offense completely disappearing for most of that stretch.

And more bad news hit Monday as the Yankees found out they will be without Mark Teixeira for at least 10 days and possibly the rest of the regular season, which would make a postseason appearance for the Yankees first baseman extremely unlikely. His absence has hurt the sputtering offense, which is looking for someone in the middle of the lineup to put the team on his back and drive in Derek Jeter, who seems to always be on base.  

The Yankees do have the advantage of a weaker schedule down the stretch, starting with the Boston Red Sox tonight. But even if they can hammer their inferior opponents (not a sure thing given what the Toronto Blue Jays did to them on the last home stand) to gain the division title, Yankee fans will be consumed with fear because the team has not proven it can beat other good teams such as the O’s and Rays. But first things first, the Yankees have to win the American League East and they need to start playing better right now.