No one gave the Yankees a fighting chance when 2011 started. The lineup and defense was declared “old.” The pitching rotation was called “comically thin,” and the fact that the Yankees did not pick up a huge free agent in the off-season led every skeptic to believe they were going to fail this year.
Now look where they are – and who is struggling for their playoff lives.
The Boston Red Sox were the favorites. They acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, bolstering their already-potent, veteran-laden lineup. All the folks who talked up the Red Sox to win it all this season are probably kicking themselves now, as the Red Sox are just 2 ½ games in front of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL Wild Card race.
Yesterday the Yankees beat the Rays twice, sweeping a day-night double header. The Bronx Bombers won both games by the same count, 4-2, and captured their 17th American League Eastern Division title.
Meanwhile Boston dropped their second straight game – and they are 3-7 over their last 10 games. The Red Sox have gone ice cold at the wrong time and the Yankees have become red hot at the right time.
With the Yanks no longer having to worry about winning the division and the end of the regular season right around the corner, it’s that time of the year again: the time to reward the Yankee players for what they have achieved this season.
It’s the third annual Yankee Yapping End of the Year Awards!
Let us all find out who this year’s winners are.
Yankee Yapping Milestone Man Award
Winners: Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera
In 2009 both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera accomplished something special. Jeter became the all-time Yankee hits leader and Rivera captured his 500th career save.
Fast forward two years later and both of these perennial Yankees are still making history.
On July 9, Jeter stepped up to the plate at home and clubbed a home run to deep left-center field, his 3,000th career hit. He became the first Yankee to ever record 3,000 hits and the second person since Wade Boggs to leave the yard for 3K.
Rivera became the all-time saves leader on Monday, nailing down his 602nd career save, securing a 6-4 Yankee win over the Minnesota Twins.
With 602 saves under his belt he passed Trevor Hoffman for most career saves all-time. Including the postseason, Rivera has 644, as he also has saved 42 playoff games.
Jeter and Rivera have only solidified what we as Yankee fans have known all along: that they are legends. No one may ever duplicate what both of these men have accomplished. In the foreseeable future, there won’t be another Yankee to get 3,000 hits.
There’s also a good chance no one will ever do what Rivera has done in terms of closing ballgames.
I don’t have to sell the Captain and Mo at all; there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said a million times. Jeter and Rivera have earned the love and adoration of every Yankee fan in the world. Both are five-time World Series champs, and have an opportunity to become six-time champs this year.
Time will tell if they get there, but until then, there are Yankee Yapping Milestone Man winners. Congrats guys!
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player Award
Winner: Curtis Granderson
These past few years the Yankees have had a number of players in the running for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Last year it was Robinson Cano, this year it is Curtis Granderson. The centerfielder’s .270 batting average may be the only statistic that is holding him down, but he has done very well for himself in every other offensive category.
At press time Granderson leads the majors in runs scored (134) and RBIs (119), and is second in home runs (41) to Toronto’s Jose Bautista (42).
Yet, remember the old saying, which originated in 2005 when David Ortiz was in the running for MVP: it should go to “full-time players” only. Defense is part of being a baseball player too, and Granderson has exhibited excellent D.
In the field he is showing off his capability with 11 assists and a .992 fielding percentage.
Throughout the year Granderson has come up in some huge spots on both sides of the field, and has turned into the elite player the Yankees traded for before 2010. He has made a lot of progress and stepped up, especially against left-handed pitching – which was something scrutinized when the Yanks acquired him.
The big fuss about Granderson was his strife against lefties. But that has not affected him this year.
In fact, Granderson is actually hitting .277 off southpaws, as opposed to his .266 BA vs. righties. 16 of his 41 homers have come off lefties and his slugging percentage vs. left-handers is .614. Against righties, Granderson is slugging .549.
He has a chance to win the AL MVP this year. But if he doesn’t, he can always take solace knowing he has won the Yankee Yapping MVP Award. Congrats Curtis!
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year Award
Winner: CC Sabathia
I started this blog in 2009 and this will be the third Ace of the Year Award I will be handing out. All three years it has gone to the same man and rightfully so.
It was announced tonight that CC Sabathia will not make another start before the American League Division Series begins, which means he went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA this year. He racked up 230 strikeouts, logged 237 1/3 innings, and registered three complete games (one of which was a shutout).
Sabathia has been the horse since day one; the leader. He takes the ball every fifth day and the Yankees seem to have a certain confidence and swagger whenever he’s on the mound. I think they take the field knowing they have a great chance to win with Sabathia pitching.
When the postseason begins, Sabathia has to be his usual self. Not that he pitched all that poorly last year, but he did end the American League Championship Series with a 6.30 ERA while surrendering seven earned runs in just 10 innings. If he can be that dominant pitcher we have seen, the Yanks can certainly win a lot of games. If not, they are in big trouble.
But we know what to expect from him – and he usually delivers. Sabathia won’t win the Cy Young Award because Justin Verlander of Detroit basically has that locked up. But he did win Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year for the third consecutive time.
Yankee Yapping Silver Slugger Award
Winner: Robinson Cano
The Yankees have a lot of players to thank for where they are. But the biggest thanks probably deserves to go to the studly second baseman Robinson Cano.
After he showed off his might winning the Home Run Derby, Cano continued to portray exemplary power – which is something that sometimes doesn’t happen. There has been a theory going around these past few years that the derby messes up a hitter’s swing.
Take David Wright on the other side of town, for example. He came close to winning the Home Run Derby in 2006, but according to some experts, never put up the same power numbers after that year. Same thing goes for Bobby Abreu, who won the derby in 2005, but never hit more than 20 dingers in a season following it.
Cano on the other hand has 27 homers, 116 RBIs, and is batting .305. He has been a consistent force in the Yankee lineup, taking on the cleanup hitter role in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. He has thrived in everything that has been thrown at him and continues to impress with his sweet swing and smooth stride.
Like Granderson he may be considered for AL MVP Award – last year he finished third in the voting. Whatever happens, he has been a major reason for the Yanks’ success. Congrats Robinson!
Yankee Yapping WTF?! Award
Winner: A.J. Burnett
When Spring Training started, Yankee analysts (namely Ken Singleton) raved about the difference in A.J. Burnett. Singleton called his pitching delivery “completely revisited” and after watching a bullpen session, said Burnett’s fastball and curve ball were “crackling through the strike zone.”
Under the tutelage of first-year pitching coach Larry Rothschild, I thought he could finally go back to that dominant form he once displayed when he pitched for the Florida Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. A lot of other fans also felt Burnett was primed for a big year.
But those thoughts were not well-founded.
The man who was signed to a lucrative five-year, $82.5 million contract has not lived up to it, as he is 10-11 with a 5.28 ERA – after going 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in 2010. He has given up 107 earned runs in 182 1/3 innings pitched, and has allowed more than a hit per inning. He also leads the league in wild pitches with 25 – and this is the third time in his career he has led the league in that category.
For the past few years I have attempted to defend Burnett for the sake of our initials. I can’t take away from the fact that he pitched the game of his life in Game Two of the ’09 World Series. If he had not won that game and pitched as effectively as he did, I’m not convinced the Yankees would have beaten the Phillies.
Yet New York sports supporters have one question, Burnett: what have you done for me lately?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And there is no way I can defend an ERA of 5.28 in a pitcher who cost $82.5 million. Burnett was supposed to be a solid number two starter and he hasn’t even proved to be a good number four starter; maybe an acceptable number five man, but he is nowhere near what the Yankees expected him to be.
I lost a little bit of respect for him when he made a start in Minnesota vs. the Twins on Aug. 20. Burnett tossed just 1 2/3 innings before Joe Girardi came to the mound to take the ball from him. He allowed seven earned runs on five hits, walking three batters and striking out only one.
As he left the mound, Burnett lipped off at his manager and stormed into the clubhouse.
In my mind it was a complete and utter display of unprofessionalism.
After this year he is still owed $33 million – which is a lot of money. Unless the Yanks can get rid of him somehow, they might be stuck with him for at least another year and a half. I just don’t know what to make of him anymore.
Burnett I have one question for you: WTF?!
Yankee Yapping “He Proved Me Wrong Award”
Winner: Ivan Nova
I had serious doubts about Ivan Nova when the year began. In a big game, I did not want to trust him with the ball, being that he was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 games (seven starts) last year. In my mind I drew a comparison between him and Ian Kennedy (when he was a Yankee), thinking he would flop.
But soon after I found myself comparing him to Kennedy, I found myself comparing him to Chien-Ming Wang, being that his sinker ball has worked so effectively and he has induced a good amount of ground ball outs. Using that pitch, he has cruised to a 16-4 record this year with a 3.62 ERA.
Nova is in the running for the American League Rookie of the Year and is probably going to be the number two starter in the postseason – quite a responsibility for a 24-year old.
Although he has certainly proved me wrong as far as the regular season goes, he still has to show he can get it done when it matters. It remains to be seen whether Nova can help carry the Yanks in the postseason. But for now, he has shown an outstanding capability on the mound.
For the past two years pitchers have won Rookie of the Year; Andrew Bailey of Oakland in 2009 and Neftali Feliz of Texas in ’10. I wish Nova the best of luck to keep the line of pitchers winning ROTY moving.
And if he doesn’t win it, at least he won a Yankee Yapping Award. Congrats Ivan!
Yankee Yapping Best Season From a Newcomer
Winner: Russell Martin
He may be Canadian but after this year, I think he is officially a New Yorker.
Russell Martin was a wonderful pickup by the Yanks before 2011 commenced. He has displayed sheer durability, playing in 121 games this year. His batting average is hovering around.236, but he has smacked 17 home runs and knocked in 62 runs while scoring 55.
There’s an old saying about catchers: having one that can hit is a bonus – and we have that bonus.
Martin has also done very well working with a pitching staff he has never worked with before. He has done very well with every hurler on the staff and in the bullpen, and can easily call a good game behind the plate.
I’m looking forward to another year with Martin in pinstripes and he deserves the honor of being called the best newcomer to the team. Congrats Russell!
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: David Robertson
This will be David Robertson’s second consecutive Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year win. Last year he grinded through a slow start, only to become a lights-out relief man.
This year Robertson was an All-Star and in relief he is 4-0 with a tiny 1.11 ERA. The young man out of Alabama has struck out 96 batters in 64 2/3 innings pitched, has notched 39 holds, and has carved his niche as the primary setup man for Rivera.
He’s also earned the nickname “Houdini” for being able to get out of tight jams and sticky situations.
Robertson has been an asset ever since he joined the Yanks in 2008, and they have been lucky to have such a consistent bullpen pitcher on their roster. He scuffled a bit in last year’s postseason, but if he maintains that consistency he displayed all season, he will do just fine.
Yankee Yapping Future Star Award
Winner: Jesus Montero
On Sept. 1 Jesus Montero made his much-anticipated debut in a game against the hated Boston Red Sox. He went 0-for-4 while getting hit by a pitch, and didn’t impress many fans in his first game.
But he collected his first hit in the next game against Toronto, and a few days later on Sept. 5 crushed his first two homers against the Baltimore Orioles at home. He became the first Yankee since Shane Spencer (1998) to hit his first two Major League homers in the same game.
Montero has only played in 14 games and still has a long way to go in terms of showing off what he can do. There are certainly high hopes and expectations, but from what he has given us so far, I believe he is capable; he can live up to the hype.
With Jorge Posada likely on his way out and Francisco Cervelli constantly getting knocked in the head, Montero is likely the catcher of the future.
With Martin around for at least another year, he can learn the ropes a little bit and still act as a designated hitter. That way when his time comes and he is the every day catcher, he will be more than ready.
In the meantime, it was smart of the Yankees to call him up and at least give him a taste of the majors. If he gets his little bit of experience now, I have no doubt he will be very dangerous in the future. And for that, he wins the Yankee Yapping Future Star Award.
Well, that about does it for this year’s awards blog. Congrats to all the winners (save for A.J. Burnett; I’m just sorry for him at this point) and congrats to the Yankees on the AL East crown. Within the next few days we will have our ALDS opponent, so look out for previews and playoff analysis.
October, here we come.