Greetings Yankee Fans!
And welcome to the seventh edition of Yankee Yapping.
I’d first like to say thank you to MLB.com for making Yankee Yapping the featured blog this past week. It’s a HUGE honor for me to be featured, as I someday dream of writing on MLB.com’s staff.
It’s my understanding that not many bloggers get featured, so THANK YOU to all who have read and enjoyed Yankee Yapping, and especially MLB.com who put me on the front page. Please keep reading, there’s a lot more to come!
Away we go!
My thoughts on…
The State of the Yankees and Upcoming Match-Ups
Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi said it best when he stated that in order for the team to succeed, they have to win series. That is precisely what the Yankees have done for the better part of the second half of the season, and it’s the reason they are currently 74-44, standing in first place atop the American League East.
Since the All-Star break, the Yankees are 23-7, losing only one series (at Chicago) since the halfway point.
After sweeping Boston last weekend, the Yankees took two out of three from the Toronto Blue Jays and then went on the road. They traveled to Seattle for a four-game set with the Mariners and took three out of four from them.
They have a solid 33-26 record on the road, but what really strikes me is the winning record at home. Of the Yankees’ 74 wins, 41 of them have come at their new ballpark. They’ve only lost 18 times at home this year (to this point) and most of those losses were pretty close, save for the 22-4 beating the Cleveland Indians gave them back on April 18.
But the Yankees are a much different team than they were on April 18. They have the best record in baseball and hold a 7.5 game lead in their division over the second place Boston Red Sox.
Despite dropping a 10-3 decision in the series finale vs. Seattle yesterday afternoon, the Yankees are still in good shape for a run down the stretch.
Tonight the Yankees open up a three-game series in Oakland against the Athletics, whom they have already beaten five times this year.
A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Chad Gaudin are the three probable starters for the Yankees in the Oakland series.
After the Yankees are finished in Oakland they will head back to the east coast and start a three-game set at Fenway vs. the Red Sox this Friday night.
According to Yankees.com it’s looking like Andy Pettitte vs. Brad Penny in game one. This series is much bigger for the Red Sox than the Yankees. Boston was swept by the Bombers the last time they met each other, so they’d really like to make up some ground in the standings by winning this series.
Boston needs to win two games out of the six they have left to play against the Yankees in order to win the season series against their arch rivals. If you want my prediction, I think the Yankees will take two of three from Boston this upcoming weekend.
The pressure is really off New York and on the Red Sox, and the Yankees can take the field knowing that if they lose, their season is not in jeopardy.
If Boston loses, well…things might not go as planned for the Red Sox this year, especially the way the Texas Rangers are playing right now.
Texas is currently ½ a game ahead of Boston in the Wild Card standings, so if the Red Sox (who are 4-6 over their last 10 games and just dropped two of three to Texas) do not start finding it, they could be in big trouble down the stretch.
Derek Jeter’s Milestone
It seems throughout his whole career he’s done it all. Four World Series titles, Six AL Pennants, a World Series MVP the same year he won the All Star MVP, and countless other accomplishments.
Yesterday Derek Jeter wrapped an RBI double in the top of the third inning against Seattle, but it wasn’t just another hit to go on his resume. It was his 2,674th career hit, passing Hall of Famer and former Chicago White Sox legend Luis Aparicio for the most hits in baseball history from a shortstop.
Always so humble, Jeter could hardly believe he had accomplished the feat. He told the New York Times that he just tries to be as consistent as he possibly can year in and year out, and he said that holding the record is “pretty hard to believe.”
Well, I can believe it. He has been around (in full force) since 1996, and every year he has provided the fans with thrills, hard plays, and awesome memories. Although the Yankees lost, Sunday was no exception.
This year (to this point) Jeter is batting .323 with 15 homers and 53 RBIs. His home run count has climbed a bit this year, and he has the chance to maybe tie or break his career-high mark in home runs.
In 1999 Jeter belted 24 homers, the most he’s ever hit in a single season in his career. He came close to the high-water mark in 2004 when he hit 23, but with that jet stream at the new Yankee Stadium he’s got the opportunity to break it. Jeter has homered in two out of the three games I’ve attended this summer.
Mark my words–when Jeter’s career is over he will have 3,000 hits. And when he is one day retired, he will be in the Hall of Fame alongside Aparicio and all the other shortstop legends.
In my eyes he is (and forever will be) the greatest shortstop of all-time.
This past Wednesday, Robinson Cano lined a deep fly ball that bounced off the fence in right-center field in the bottom of the 11th inning to beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-3.
It was his fourth career walk-off hit, and one of the 151 he has (so far) this season. Simply put, he is tearing the cover off the ball this year.
When he first came up in 2005, he struggled a little bit. I wondered if he was really going to be the guy who would be our second baseman for the next few years. I wondered if he could handle the spotlight of New York, and I wondered of he would ever become a solid hitter. Sure, he hit well in the minors, but could he do it at the Major League level?
Well he answered the call when he came back in 2006 and nearly won the batting title, finishing third to his teammate Derek Jeter and Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins. Cano ended ’06 with an average of .342 while Jeter finished at .344 and Mauer at .347.
After ’06 I knew Cano would be a mainstay with the Yankees, and he is–and probably will be–for years to come.
Cano has established himself as a fine average hitter, but his power numbers still confuse me. He has sort of gone up-and-down with his home run totals (14 in ’05, 15 in ’06, a career-high 19 in ’07, and back down to 14 in ’08)
This year he has smashed 18 homers, and will most likely set a new career-high in home runs. At press time he is on a 14-game hitting streak, and is really showing no signs of slowing down.
Just looking at his last 10 games he is 18-for-41 (.439) with two homers and three RBIs. He sports a .321 batting average at press time and is in the top 10 among MLB leaders in the batting average category.
On top of his hitting, he has played some extraordinary defense at second base this year. Last year his range seemed a little off and he looked a little slow on some lazy ground balls, but this year he looks to be in top shape. He’s been moving around very well.
I expect more big things from Cano in September. He can be an extremely dangerous hitter, and in my book he’s officially a big league hitter and he knows how to play ball in the MLB.
Cano may not walk away with the batting title this year, but I have a feeling he’ll finish with something. Whether it is a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger or a World Series ring, I don’t think he’s leaving the ’09 season empty-handed.
The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty (Part I)
If anybody has read the “about me” section on my blog, you know that I am an aspiring journalist. I am the sports editor of my college newspaper, and I have cited Buster Olney as one of my influences.
I’m sure most fans have seen Olney on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” program, and if you didn’t know, he was the beat writer for the New York Times during the Yankees’ Dynasty run in the late ’90s.
In 2004 he wrote a book entitled The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness. In February of 2008 he expanded the book and re-released it, updated. I had been meaning to read it for quite some time and finally got my hands on a copy this weekend.
I’ve only read the updated 46-page introduction and the first chapter, and I have to say it is probably the best sports book I have ever read. I think it should be mandated by the Yankees for every fan to read it.
I learned so much about what was going on (and in a lot of ways what still goes on) behind the scenes with the Yankees.
For example, Joe Torre wanted Paul O’Neill to come back and play right field in 2002. O’Neill hung up his spikes at the end of the 2001 season, but right field was in such bad shape Torre tried to talk O’Neill into coming back.
The Yanks eventually fixed their right field problem with Raul Mondesi in ’02, but still it was something I never knew. I would preferred O’Neil over Mondesi, and now wish “the Warrior” had returned in ’02.
I also thought it was astonishing how Olney used O’Neill taking batting practice in the cage before Old Timer’s Day in 2007 as the transition to O’Neill’s memories–namely because I was there at Yankee Stadium for Old Timer’s Day in 2007. I watched O’Neill take BP that day as those memories came back to him. (Pictured above)
Just from reading the first chapter I learned more about Mariano Rivera. I had no clue how difficult he had it growing up in Panama. His family was very strict; if he did something wrong he would be punished by his father, who was a fisherman. If he accidentally broke a window with a baseball, he would get spanked and harshly chastised.
Rivera came from a stringent, disciplinary family and that was what taught him to become a major leaguer. While his teammates watched The Jerry Springer Show in the clubhouse and laughed at how incredibly idiotic people can be, he was not laughing. He just stood silent and shook his head.
I learned that Rivera, even in the face of defeat, thought he controlled certain situations. Olney mentioned how in 1997 Rivera gave up a home run to Sandy Alomar, Jr. that helped give the Indians an ALDS win over the Yankees.
Rivera concluded that Alomar was lucky he was pitching that day. Alomar (a right-handed hitter) connected on a high fastball away that he took to right field for a home run. Rivera said that if any other pitcher with less velocity was on the mound, the ball would have tailed off and would not have left the park.
In Rivera’s eyes, he was the reason Alomar homered to give the Indians a victory. Not Alomar.
I’m sure there are plenty more stories like this throughout the book, and I hope to learn a lot more about the Yankees’ Dynasty years through the eyes of Olney, who witnessed it all as an outsider.
I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but if you really want to learn about the Yankees, do yourself an enormous favor and pick up The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty. It (so far) is an awesome read, and I’ll be back with more of an overview of the book next week.
Until then, Go Yankees!