Tagged: A.J. Burnett

End of the Year Awards

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.

Congrats, CC!

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.

Congrats David!

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.

Congrats Jesus!

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.

CC a Warrior, But Won’t Win Cy

Today he got hungry – and forgot his manners.

Yankee ace CC Sabathia ate up 7 1/3 innings this afternoon, giving up just two earned runs on six hits en route to the Yanks’ 9-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at home. He walked just one batter and struck out 10 for the second straight game.

With the win, Sabathia has collected at least 19 wins in each of his three seasons in pinstripes – which ties him for most 19 win seasons (as a Yankee) with Andy Pettitte, Ron Guidry, and Mel Stottlemyre. He now has four career 19 win seasons and he has a good chance to win 20 (or more) before the 2011 campaign wraps.

Of late, the big man has been dealing like he’s been playing blackjack in Vegas.

But it hasn’t just been the past couple of starts that have put Sabathia in the running for the Cy Young Award. All season long he has been a horse. In fact, since day one he has done nothing but work, grind, and earn everything he has.

Case in point: his last start on Aug. 30 in Boston, a game the Yanks needed and won 5-2.

The Red Sox had gotten the better of Sabathia all season going into that game. His numbers proved that, as he boasted a poor 0-4 record with an inflated 7.20 ERA against the Yankees’ hated rivals. More than anything he needed to showcase his capability to win a hugely important ballgame in 2011 vs. the Red Sox.

And that’s what he did, although it wasn’t easy.

To start the game, Sabathia plunked Jacoby Ellsbury with a pitch – which probably sent a lot of skeptics and cynics into saying, “here we go again.” But he rebounded nicely, getting Marco Scutaro to ground into a force out before striking out Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia swinging to end the frame.

In the second inning, Sabathia threw a wild pitch with Jed Lowrie on first, getting himself into a first-and-second, one out jam (He fanned David Ortiz to open the frame). Boston eventually loaded the bases with two outs, but the Yankee ace responded by getting Ellsbury to ground out to second to end the threat.

The fourth was a bad inning for Sabathia, as he surrendered two runs – one of which came on a solo homer off the bat of Carl Crawford. He also allowed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to score on a double by Scutaro, giving Boston their only two runs in the game.

The Yanks had already put three runs on the board and never trailed.

However in the fifth, he got himself into more trouble. He gave up a one out single to Ortiz, followed by a Lowrie double, setting up the BoSox second and third, one out.  But Sabathia continued to refuse to buckle, as he got Crawford to line out and then whiffed Saltalamacchia to end another threat.

The big man labored; worked his tail off to earn the win – six innings pitched, 10 hits, two earned runs, two walks, 10 strikeouts, and he chucked a career-high 129 pitches to get through the game.   

If that performance doesn’t have the word “Warrior” written on it, what does?

Last year Sabathia came in third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, losing to Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners (who won, coming in first in the voting; 13-12, 2.27 ERA) and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays (first runner-up; 19-6, 2.72 ERA). Sabathia won 21 games last year while only losing seven, and his ERA was 3.18.

Most proponents for Hernandez’s Cy Young win argue that his individual numbers were better than Sabathia’s and Price’s – and that’s true. He led the league in batters faced (1,001), games started (34), ERA (2.27), innings pitched (249 2/3), and hits-per-nine (7.0).

Plus, he was able to post a winning record on a ballclub that gave him virtually no run support, another factor contributing to his winning of the award. Hernandez had a lot going for him; the writers recognized that and rewarded him for it.

I have always maintained that the Cy Young Award should go to the Most Valuable Pitcher – because the award says MOST VALUABLE PITCHER on it.

Sabathia (and Price, for that matter) were more valuable to their respective teams. Sabathia carried the Yankees into the stretch run and helped get them into the American League Championship Series. Price did much of the same. He stood at the forefront of the Rays’ pitching staff, leading them to the AL East crown.

There’s no doubt that Hernandez had an incredible year in 2010 because the numbers do not lie. Yet, the question has to be asked: if he was on a team (like the Yankees or Rays) that was locked a tight pennant race, would he be the same pitcher?

The Mariners were not going to the playoffs last year. Hernandez could have taken the mound every fifth day with no pressure whatsoever. Win or lose at the end of the day, Seattle wasn’t in the running for the AL West. Hernandez probably pitched “hakuna matata,” if you will; with no worries in his head.

Sabathia and Price had a lot to worry about, though. Both were the aces of pitching staffs that were going to be playing autumn baseball; they were under much more scrutiny and more likely than not, were thinking hard about the postseason.

But that was last year. Hernandez won. It’s over and done with.

With Sabathia’s outstanding numbers this year (19-7, 2.99 ERA) he is once again a candidate for the Cy Young Award. His stiffest competition is, without a doubt, Justin Verlander (21-5, 2.34 ERA) of the Detroit Tigers.  Verlander has put the Tigers on his back and carried them to first place in the AL Central.

You name the pitching category, Verlander leads it.

I think what is going to win him the award, along with his numbers, is this question: where would the Tigers be without Verlander?

It’s a legitimate question. The answer: probably not in first place.

But another question needs to be raised: where would the Yankees be without Sabathia?

Same answer: probably not in first place.

The Yankees have three pitchers in their rotation with losing records. Bartolo Colon is 8-9, Phil Hughes is 4-5, and A.J. Burnett is 9-11. Without Sabathia’s 19 wins and brilliant workmanlike efforts, the Yankee ship would be sunk.     

I still find it amazing the Yankees are in first place, considering three of their starters don’t own winning records. It’s pretty incredible that they have been able to continue to win games despite receiving subpar starting pitching at times.

Verlander has a little bit of an edge over Sabathia in terms of the Cy Young voting, as his numbers are a hair above the Yankee ace. Knowing the writers, they will give it to Verlander – and if he does win the award over the big man, I cannot dispute it in any way – certainly not the way Hernandez’s  Cy Young win can be brought into question .

It was easy to point out why Sabathia (or Price) should have won over Hernandez, but Verlander is for real.

If a pitcher has 21 wins and September just started, he is doing something right.

There are, however, a couple different Yankees who are in consideration for other awards, namely the AL Most Valuable Player Award and the AL Rookie of the Year. Curtis Granderson is leading the majors in runs scored with 125 and in RBI with 107. He is second in home runs with 38 to Toronto’s Jose Bautista, who has 40.

The only thing that’s killing Granderson is his .271 batting average. If he can raise his BA, he’s a shoo-in for MVP.

Meanwhile Ivan Nova (15-4, 3.89 ERA) is up for AL Rookie of the Year. Each of the past two seasons a pitcher has captured the award (Andrew Bailey of the Oakland A’s in 2009 and Neftali Feliz of the Texas Rangers in 2010). Nova will hopefully keep the line moving and become the first Yankee to win Rookie of the Year since Derek Jeter won it in 1996.

Last year I truly felt Sabathia deserved the Cy Young. Although he is having a great season, Verlander looks to be the favorite this year. But there are other Bombers who are in the running for league-wide end-of-the-year accolades. If not one player wearing pinstripes takes home an award, I will be thoroughly convinced that…well…

The writers hate the Yankees.

What’d I Miss?

What was it General MacArthur said when he got back from the Philippines during World War II?

“I have returned!”

But while I was gone, there was a lot I missed. Let me see if I can get caught up on what happened during my hiatus.

Robinson Cano wins Home Run Derby

Awhile back I thought about Robinson Cano’s swing and stride, and thought he looked an awful lot like Ken Griffey, Jr. – who won the derby three times (1994, 1998, and 1999). With his Griffey-esque swing, it should come as no shock that Cano was able to win the 2011 Home Run Derby in Arizona.

The studly second baseman clubbed 32 homers and beat out the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, David Ortiz, and Jose Bautista among others.

Cano became only the third Yankee to ever win the Home Run Derby, along with Tino Martinez (1997) and Jason Giambi (2002).

Woo Woo Woo. You Cano it!

Derek Jeter collects hit number 3,000 on a home run

Did we all know it was coming?

Yes.

Did we all expect the Yankee Captain to hit a home run for his 3,000th hit?

Well, I know I didn’t.

On July 9, Derek Jeter stepped up to the plate at home and belted a long home run off Rays’ starter David Price for his 3,000th career hit, a shot that landed in the left field bleachers.

DJ3K. He did it. Just another accomplishment to put on the resume.  

HBO followed Jeter around and put together a very nice documentary leading up to this 3,000th hit. It was strange to see the captain almost appear human, as to most Yankee fans he’s been super human his whole career.

I think the most eye-opening part of the whole program was him sitting in his kitchen, watching Tino Martinez and Bernie Williams at Old Timer’s Day back on June 26. Jeter looked stunned to see both of them there, and the first thought that entered my mind was,

“I think he knows that’s going to be him, soon.”

Jeter was a great champion at a time when we needed a great champion. But at 37 – and already accomplishing so much – I think he knows he’s in the twilight of his career.

Nonetheless, his 3,000th hit was a proud moment for the fans and the organization. With the hit, Jeter became the first Yankee to ever reach 3,000 hits, only the second player (to Wade Boggs) to get to 3,000 on a home run, and only the second shortstop (to Honus Wagner) to ever get 3,000 hits.

Alex Rodriguez goes to the Disabled List

  

Like Jeter, Alex Rodriguez is getting old. With age come aches and pains, and the Yankee third baseman landed himself on the DL with a torn meniscus.

Rodriguez wasn’t putting up the best power numbers before he was injured (13 home runs) but his batting average was typical for him (.295).

According to the media, A-Rod is expected back shortly; the second week in August, which would mean next week.

Although the Yanks have been winning without him, it would kill them to lose him for the postseason. He is certainly a bat I want in the lineup come October, so A-Rod: no rush. Come back when you’re 100%.

CC Sabathia is 15-5

I still find it strange that CC Sabathia won 21 games last year, yet did not capture the American League Cy Young Award at season’s end. The writers chose Felix Hernandez, who was one game above .500 (13-12) for the accolade, and…I still don’t understand it.

The argument most people gave was that Hernandez’s ERA was lower than Sabathia’s; his strikeout count was higher, his WHIP was lower, and he won games for a team that gave him no run support.

All very impressive, but I still feel Sabathia should have won it.

21 is greater than 13, by my math.

But that was last year. It’s over and done with. If Sabathia doesn’t win it this year, it’s a travesty and I will be totally convinced the writers just hate the Yankees.

At press time Sabathia is 15-5 with a 2.56 ERA. He’s recorded 156 strikeouts to this point and there are still two months left of baseball, meaning he’ll most likely get over 200 Ks. He’s got three complete games under his belt and one shutout.

He could easily finish the season with over 20 wins again and if Sabathia does not get the award…

I will go to each baseball writers’ house and rip their Felix Hernandez fatheads off their walls.

Hideki Irabu dies

It’s a sad state of affairs when someone dies. The way former Yankee pitcher Hideki Irabu died was just horrible, though.

Irabu, once dubbed a fat, p***y toad by George Steinbrenner, was found dead in his California home from an apparent suicide. From what I read, he had been dead for a few days before the authorities found him.

Although Irabu never had the easiest career (even I once called him one of the worst signings ever) I would never wish death on the man, and I think it was a very crummy ending for him.

Irabu was 42 years old.

I didn’t like him but I suppose, however, at one point in my life I did support him. I had an Irabu shirt as a kid…

A.J. Burnett is 8-9

I really don’t have much to say about this one, except, why does this not shock me?

A.J. Burnett seemed to have started the season with a fierce tenacity; I thought this was going to be a great season for him, but I guess not. At this point, I’m not sure if he’ll ever live up to being the solid number two man the Yankees signed before 2009.

Right now Burnett is up to a 4.23 ERA and has surrendered 20 home runs this season. He did not win a game in July, which is surprising, considering he usually thrives in the summer month.

All I can say is this:

At least I know another guy named A.J. in New York who’s a loser. (OK, that may have been uncalled for. I am so mean. To myself).

Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira push each other in home runs

These two are ridiculous.

Curtis Granderson is looking like the guy we traded for, smashing 28 homers to this point. He has collected 104 hits so far, made the All-Star team, and although his batting average is a little subpar (.269) he is still a tough out.

If he gets his BA up by season’s end, he has a case for the MVP.

Mark Teixeira has 29 homers, is slugging .509, and has driven in 79 runs. His batting average, like Granderson’s, is a little low (.246) but when he is hot, he is on fire.

It’s good to see these two stepping up in Rodriguez’s absence; it’s almost reminiscent of the 1961 Maris-Mantle home run chase – even though it’s not likely both of these guys will reach any records, it’s fun to watch two teammates push each other.

Talk about a deadly duo worthy of murder’s row.

Not only that, but it’s a relief to know these guys can put the team on their backs and carry it.

Well, looks like I’m all caught up. Coming into today’s action the Yankees are 63-42, two games out of first in the AL East to Boston and five games ahead of the Angels in the Wild Card.

Not surprising.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

And yes. I’m back.

Fight back, you bums, fight back!

Last night was embarrassing. Let’s face it. The Yankees, who had just taken two out of three from the Los Angeles Angels, came home to face their hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox. Having won six of their last seven games, the Bronx Bombers were stopped dead in their tracks, losing 6-4 to Boston.

But the Yanks didn’t just lose. They brought it to a new level.

In the first inning, Yankees’ starter Freddy Garcia surrendered three runs, putting the Bronx Bombers in a quick hole. Already down in the game, Boston starter Jon Lester beaned Mark Teixeira in the right knee cap, forcing the Yankees’ hottest hitter out of the game.

Later in the frame Russell Martin was hit, as Lester had no control at the outset of the game.

Luckily for the Yanks, Teixeira’s x-rays were negative. There is a contusion on his knee and he will be reevaluated today. As for him playing tonight, Yankee manager Joe Girardi said, “probably not.”

Were the bean balls intentional?

 No. Lester was going to his cutter and it wasn’t cutting.

Could it have cost the Yankees if the injury had been worse?

Absolutely. If Teixeira had broken his knee cap, the Yankees would be in serious trouble.

At the end of the inning: two hit-batsmen and no retaliation. OK.

The Bombers scraped one run across the plate in the bottom of the first, receiving an RBI single off the bat of Robinson Cano. They blew their chance to break out and erase the three-run first however, leaving the bases loaded to end the first inning.

Down 4-1 in the top of the fifth, David Ortiz stepped up to the plate with Adrian Gonzalez on first. Reliever Hector Noesi threw an inside pitch (middle-in) that brushed Ortiz off the plate.

Big Papi looked a bit flustered, but clearly there was no intent.

The next pitch, Ortiz crushed over the right field wall. Instead of just dropping his bat and running, he flipped the bat in a rather cocky manner, as if to show up the young Yankee pitcher.

So now: two hit-batsmen, an act of cockiness, and the Yankees were losing. Perfect grounds for retaliation and the Yanks did not respond.

May I ask why?

After Ortiz’s bat flip, one thing came to my mind; I thought back to the worst movie in the Rocky series, Rocky V. In the final fight scene, Tommy Gunn and Rocky Balboa were fighting in the streets. Balboa knocked Gunn down, then Gunn’s manager, George W. Duke, screamed at his protégé, “Fight back, you bum, fight back!”

My sentiments exactly. The Yanks should have fought back.

In the bottom of the fifth, New York got two runs back and cut the lead to 6-3. Nick Swisher, who had grounded out in the first to leave the bases loaded, came around and clubbed a two-run double.

The Bombers made one last ditch effort to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. Brett Gardner walked, but Captain Derek Jeter, now 12 hits away from 3,000, lined out to right field.

Curtis Granderson struck out, setting up Jorge Posada, who replaced Teixeira at first base. Gardner took second on defensive indifference and scored on a single by Posada.

Up came Alex Rodriguez, the tying run, 0-for-4 on the night. He made it 0-for-5 with a strikeout to end the game.

But there was plenty of blame to go around; enough goats in this game, other than A-Rod.

Granderson was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and left three men on base. Quietly he has gone into a little slump, and his batting average has dipped to .269.

Andruw Jones was another non-factor, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He stranded three men on base. Girardi started Jones because he is a right-handed hitter and Lester is a lefty; he hoped Jones would have an advantage, righty vs. lefty, on the Boston hurler.

I guess there is no such thing as an advantage against Lester.

What bothered me the most about the game was not retaliating against Boston following Ortiz’s showboating. There was no reason for the conceited bat toss and no reason the Yanks should not have responded to it. It seemed as if the Yankees were just laying down for Boston without caring.

Plus, if they couldn’t beat them on the scoreboard and they’re showing off, beat them with the ball. Show some gumption and some fight by hitting back.

I couldn’t help but think of May 23, 2006, when the Red Sox hosted the Yanks at Fenway. Manny Ramirez belted a long, three-run home run, but before he ran the bases he stood in the box and admired his shot.

The home plate umpire even had to intervene, telling Ramirez to get out of the box and run.

Did the Yanks fight back then?

Nope. They just let it slide.

After the game Girardi let the media know that he was not a fan of the bat flip and he took offense to it.

“I didn’t care for it,” the Yankee skipper said.

“I don’t know if Ortiz was upset that he (Noesi) came in hard at him. I never had a problem with David; he has always played the game hard. I’m just protecting my young kid.”

Ortiz’s comments on the matter:

“That’s Papi style,” he said with a smile on his face.

“It’s not the first time and it’s not my last one. I’m a home run hitter. It’s not like I do it all the time. What can I tell you? Just another homer for Papi.”

The whole situation could mean retaliation tonight, but if history repeats itself and they just let it go as they did in ‘06, they won’t do anything back.

Yet tonight’s starter A.J. Burnett (6-3, 3.86 ERA) has a history of being wild. Whether he means to or not, there’s a good possibility a Boston batter could get hit with a pitch tonight. He is 2-0 with a 3.44 ERA and 15 strikeouts in his last three starts, and it will be his first start of the season against the Red Sox.  

The Yanks will face 44 year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (2-1, 4.40 ERA) who took the spot in the Boston rotation left by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who needs Tommy John surgery. Over the last 10 years alone vs. New York, Wakefield is 7-13 with a 4.58 ERA – and he’s been around longer than 10 years.

The Yanks have had a good amount of success vs. Wakefield, but in turn Boston (34-26) has handled Burnett in the past.

     

It could be a wild one in the Bronx tonight, but only if the Yankees (33-25) show some fire; if they show some hustle. If they show they won’t lay down in front of their arch-rivals.

If they show some fight.

Stadium Giveaways: Priceless Treasures

Last night was a brutal night to be a Yankee fan, as the Bronx Bombers let a middle-innings lead slip away. The Seattle Mariners eked a 4-3 win over the Yanks. With the win, the Mariners are now a .500 team.

The highlight of the game was perhaps Mark Teixeira’s first inning solo home run off rookie phenom Michael Pineda, his 14th round-tripper of the year. Seattle’s defense played a huge role, considering Franklin Gutierrez’s brilliant thievery in centerfield, robbing a scuffling Nick Swisher of a home run in the top of the fourth.

After the game I asked myself, “How would this game have played out if Swisher had hit that home run?”

Probably a lot different, because it was a one-run game.

Instead of focusing on that ugly loss last night, I figured I would lighten the mood with an interesting blog topic: Stadium Giveaways.

Whenever I purchase tickets to a Yankee game or have the chance to go to a game, the first thing I ask myself is, “Are they giving anything away at this game, and if so, what?”

There’s nothing like taking a free keepsake away from the game you attend, along with memories of a day at a ballgame. Some of those Stadium Giveaways can become extremely valuable, depending on what happens in the game.

I’m not exactly sure what the precise value is, but something tells me if you went to David Wells’s perfect game on May 17, 1998, and received the Beanie Baby giveaway, you have yourself a truly valuable item worth a good amount of money.

Every Stadium, not just Yankee Stadium, uses promotions as a means to bring fans out to the park and get butts in the seats. And in the spirit of Stadium Giveaways, I am going to share my favorite treasures, as well as share the action that specific game provided.

Get ready for some stories! Here goes…

Batting Glove Day, July 22, 1999

I will never forget this day, only because it was the first time I sat in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. It was quite interesting, considering me and heights mix about as well as peanut butter and ketchup.

The Yankee batting glove was given to children 14 and younger and it was a nice prize to carry up to the last row of seats at the old Stadium.

The Yanks hosted the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and beat them by a count of 5-4.

Bernie Williams went deep for the Yanks that day and Andy Pettitte tossed six innings on his way to his sixth win of the year.

Andy Pettitte Bobble Head Day, May 24, 2001

To this day, I am bitter about this.

My eighth grade class took a field trip to Yankee Stadium toward the end of the year. We were treated to a classic Yankees-Red Sox game, in which the Yankees won 2-1.

Mike Mussina and Pedro Martinez dueled it out, each fanning 12 batters in the game. Bernie Williams supplied some Yankees offense with a home run and Paul O’Neill notched an RBI.

The giveaway story was not a happy one, however.

The Pettitte bobble head was given to fans 14 and younger. I was only 13, turning 14 the next month. Because I had hit my growth spurt and I was tall, the Yankee Stadium bobble head distributors did not believe I was actually 13; they thought I was older and thus I did not receive a bobble head.

That day each of my eighth grade classmates got a bobble head and I didn’t. Words cannot describe how much that hurt me; I felt so left out. I was looking forward to a bobble head and I did not get one.

At least I still have the memory of a Yankee win over the Red Sox and a day with my eighth grade class at the Stadium. When we got back from the trip we all took a picture together. I guess I can carry that around with me instead of a bobble head.

Bat Day, June 30, 2001

Bat Day has been a longstanding tradition at Yankee Stadium, going back decades. It was my friend Vito’s 14th birthday and we celebrated at Yankee Stadium.

The Yanks played the Devil Rays that day; Ted Lilly vs. Ryan Rupe. Down 4-0 in the sixth, the Bombers struck back with a three-run inning. They put up two runs in the eighth and went on to beat the Rays 5-4.

Williams crushed two homers (his 13th and 14th of the season) and Tino Martinez also went deep for his 13th long ball of ‘01.

I left the Stadium that day with a bat and a Yankee win. And looking back it was almost déjà vu from the batting glove game; the Yanks beat the Devil Rays by the same score and the same player (Williams) went yard.

Yankee Binder Day, August 7, 2003

  

Although it was only the beginning of August, the Yankees knew school was soon set to begin. And what better way to bring us back into the school spirit with a Yankee binder, featuring legends and present players?

The Bombers were hosting the Texas Rangers on that hot afternoon, and played them to a 7-5 win.

The ball was jumping off the bats that day, and a number of players had big-time home runs. For the Rangers, Rafael Palmeiro smacked his 28th homer of the year in the first inning, a three-run bomb which gave Texas a quick lead.

But the Yanks answered in the bottom half of the second with four runs, all coming from the same source. Enrique Wilson stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and clubbed a grand slam, his second home run of the year, to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead.

Soon-to-be Yankee Alex Rodriguez also homered, his 30th of the season.

Starter Mike Mussina settled down and tossed 7 1/3 innings, allowing just four earned runs on eight hits. He walked none and struck out five en route to his 12th win of the year.

Not a bad way to end a day at the Stadium.

Old Timer’s Day: July 9, 2005 and July 7, 2007.

I was fortunate enough to be at Old Timer’s Day twice. If you are a Yankee fan, do yourself a favor and get out to an Old Timer’s Day at least once. You will not be disappointed.

Every Old Timer’s Day, the Yanks issue all fans a commemorative pin.

The first time I had the pleasure of attending Old Timer’s Day was July 9, 2005. The ceremonies were cut short because of rain, but the weather held up for the actual game.

The Yanks played the Cleveland Indians and lost 8-7, but nearly made miraculous comeback at the end.

Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, and Ruben Sierra each homered for the Yankees, as the ball was once again exploding off the bats.

Darrell May started for New York and did not impress anyone, pitching 4 1/3 innings and giving up seven earned runs on eight hits. On the bright side he didn’t issue any walks and K’d three.

On July 7, 2007, it was a much better experience.

We arrived at the game early, and it was a beautiful day – a contrast to my previous Old Timer’s Day experience. Our seats were behind home plate and Jorge Posada’s wife Laura was sitting a few seats in front of us.

The ceremony was classic; Don Mattingly, Reggie Jackson, Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius, Ken Griffey, Sr., and many, many more were on hand to play in the Old Timer’s game.

 

With the retired players divided, they split up into teams: the Bombers and the Clippers. The Bombers beat the Clippers, 4-0.

As for the modern-day Yankees, it was a slow game. They wound up losing 2-1 in 13 innings to the Angels.

What was so ironic about the whole day was that Roger Clemens started for the Yankees in their game vs. the Angels – and he was older than three players who participated in the Old Timer’s Game!

May 24, 2008, Yankee Baseball Card Day

It wound up being my third-to-last game at the old Stadium, and it was a good one. All fans received a pack of collectible Yankee baseball cards.

Let’s be honest, who didn’t love collecting baseball cards as a kid? It certainly brought me back to my youth in a good way.

The Yanks played the Seattle Mariners and (unlike last night) beat them 12-6.

Mike Mussina pitched rather well, capturing his seventh win of his eventual 20-win campaign. The Yanks did it with their bats too, receiving home runs from Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu.

July 15, 2006, Collectible Stamp Day

This was one the best days I can remember from 2006. A day at the Stadium with my Uncle John and his two sons, my cousins Thomas and Gordon.

Each fan was issued an envelope with stamps of all-time great players: Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, Mel Ott, and Roy Campanella.

Before the game the Yankees held a special ceremony behind home plate with relatives of each player represented on the stamps, including Mantle’s sons.

The Yankees played the White Sox that afternoon and crushed them, 14-3.

Bubba Crosby and Andy Phillips were the only two Yanks to go yard, but they played plenty of small ball. Derek Jeter had three RBIs and two doubles.

July 22, 2009, Yankee Stadium Puzzle Day

One of my fondest memories of the magical 2009 season was going out to Yankee Stadium on July 22, when they faced off with the Baltimore Orioles. Every fan in attendance was given a Yankee Stadium puzzle.

Jorge Posada homered, backing a solid outing from A.J. Burnett. The Yanks won 6-4.

I never put the puzzle together. It’s still in the box.

Hopefully this year I can get out to a Yankee game on a day they give away something neat. It’s always fun to collect and reflect on each game and the memories attached to each giveaway.

When one of us loses, we all lose

Think back to the movie “Cool Runnings” for a second. Irv Blitzer, John Candy’s character, scolds his bobsled team after they failed in their first Olympic heat. His team had proven they were good enough to be in the Olympics, but buckled under pressure, showing that even though they have the talent and skill, they lost.

“You choked. It was yours for the taking, and you choked. You were ready, and you choked. You know the turns. You know everything there is to know about this sport. I’ll tell you something: you had all better find a way to stay loose out there. That’s something I can’t help you with. I’ll see you tomorrow on the hill.”

Yankee Manager Joe Girardi needs to say something like this to his team. The Yanks have proven they are a lot better than how they have been playing, yet they are not showing it. The Bronx Bombers have now lost six games in a row and they are 3-10 in their last 13 games. The last time the Yankees won a game was a week ago today on May 10; a 3-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.

Since then, it has been a dark time to be a Yankee.

There are so many guilty parties to consider in terms of this losing skid. Collectively it has been the whole team that has been struggling – there is plenty of blame to go around. But a number of players stick out. I’ll start with…

Joba Chamberlain

On Friday May 13 Joba Chamberlain came into the game in the top of the seventh, in relief of Bartolo Colon – who had given the Yankees six innings while only allowing two runs. Chamberlain proceeded to give up a three-run home run to Kevin Youkilis, giving Boston a 5-2 lead.

The Yankee offense, scuffling, managed to score two runs but could not come back to tie the game or win it. New York went on to lose, 5-4.

Two days later Chamberlain was just as ineffective.

With the Yanks trailing 6-5 in a tight series finale with the Red Sox, Chamberlain surrendered a solo home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia – a player who had not homered all season up until that plate appearance. Saltalamacchia is currently batting .217, and has 24 strikeouts in 83 at-bats this year.

It’s almost impossible to give up a homer to him. Chamberlain did the impossible.

That tater gave Boston a 7-5 lead and they won by the same count.

Although Chamberlain’s current numbers don’t necessarily reflect a poor season (2-0, 4.05 ERA, 17 strikeouts and 16 hits in 20 innings pitched, and only three walks) he has given up 10 runs, nine of which have been earned.

It’s safe to say he has been a part of this losing streak, even to a small capacity.

Jorge Posada

We all know about the controversy. Jorge Posada took himself out of the lineup because he was batting ninth and he didn’t want to bat last in the order. His wife mentioned he had some back stiffness, but in the end he wasn’t injured; he just didn’t want to play on Saturday against the Red Sox.

Whatever. It’s over. I, for one, was glad he didn’t play. Has anyone else seen his numbers?

Posada is batting .165 this year, the worst in baseball among everyday players. In a big situation you cannot expect Posada to come up with a big hit because nine times out of ten he is probably going to disappoint you.

Case in point: Wednesday May 11 vs. the Royals, the night the losing streak began.

Eduardo Nunez (more from him later) stole second base, tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Nick Swisher was intentionally walked, setting up Posada. The 39 year-old DH had the perfect opportunity to silence his critics and regain some of that pride everyone talks about him having.

So with two runners on and a chance to win the game, what did he do?

He struck out swinging on a 3-2 count. Posada whiffed at a low slider that barely had the plate.

Since Saturday Posada hasn’t been in the starting lineup, although he has been used as a pinch-hitter. The media has made it seem that Posada has been left out of the lineup because he has been having a hard time with left-handed pitching – and since Saturday, the Yankees have only been facing southpaws.

Tonight however, a righty (James Shields) is taking the ball vs. New York. If Posada is in the starting lineup, we can assume everything is alright and that everyone is over his actions from Saturday. If he is once again left out, then get ready for another soap opera.

Ivan Nova

On Thursday May 12, Ivan Nova took the ball hoping to get the Yankees back in the win column. Nova failed at playing the role of stopper, getting shelled for eight runs on ten hits in just three innings pitched. He walked two batters, struck out two, and served up two homers.

What made it worse for me: I was there to witness it. I sat in the right field bleachers of Yankee Stadium to watch Nova blow the game and the Yankees lose, 11-5.

It was only one bad start for Nova, but it was a big one. If he could have managed to come out strong and win the game, the Yanks may have been able to gain some momentum heading into the Boston series. Instead they were reeling, it carried over, and as we all know Boston swept them.

Up until that point Nova had been on a little bit of a roll; he had won his previous two games against Texas and Toronto. But somehow he unraveled against the Royals.

Nova has to be able to get into a groove; he will be in for a long season if he keeps going up-and-down. Tonight he will once again try to play the role of stopper against the Tampa Bay Rays.  

If he can stop the bleeding, he will be known as the guy who played a major role in ending this run of misery. Yet if he falters again, goes out and gets beat up the way he did against Kansas City, he will be considered a huge part of why the Yankees are losing.

Mark Teixeira & Alex Rodriguez

If anyone has seen these two, please call the NYPD. I don’t know where they have disappeared to, but I am reporting them missing.

Throughout this losing streak, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have practically been non-existent in the Yankee batting order; we might as well rename them Casper and Slimer, because they have been ghosts.

The number three and number four hitters are there to provide power, and most often intimidate opposing pitchers. At this point, every opposing pitcher is probably comfortable facing Teixeira and Rodriguez.

During this six-game skid Teixeira has one RBI, just four hits, no home runs, no runs scored, and he has struck out four times. His season batting average has plummeted to .250.

Teixeira looks off-balance and hasn’t been swinging the bat well.

Rodriguez hasn’t been much better, although he has been a bit more productive in recording four RBIs and hitting a home run (on May 12 vs. the Royals) during the losing streak.

However it doesn’t change the fact that A-Rod is hitting .242 on the season and he is fouling out an awful lot. The follow-through in his swing doesn’t look normal and as a result, he isn’t getting around on a lot of pitches, popping them up for outs.

Rodriguez also committed a costly error on defense in Sunday’s game, letting a ball go through his glove and allowing Dustin Pedroia to score.

The Yanks cannot expect to win when both of these players aren’t hitting. When one or two people are struggling, the other players are supposed to rise to the occasion and produce; it’s what baseball is all about, picking each other up.

Teixeira and Rodriguez always pick each other up. But when both of them are slumping, who picks them up?

Right now nobody, unless you count Curtis Granderson, who has been the only player on offense that has been hitting.

But Granderson can’t hit in all nine spots in the batting order, nor can he pick up every single hitter on the team. Teixeira and Rodriguez need to help him out and start swinging their bats.

When they get hot, the team gets hot. And right now they are about as cold as Antarctic ice.

Eduardo Nunez

I can’t exactly knock what Eduardo Nunez has been able to do at the plate. For a bench player he hasn’t done poorly on offense, hitting .304 on the year (7-for-23) with only two strikeouts. Nunez has also proven his worth on the bases, stealing four bags and getting caught just one time.

But that’s his offense. On defense…well…

For a bench player, he’s done well. For a backup shortstop, he has failed.

At shortstop he has committed five errors in six games. He played one game at third base and in that game, committed an error. That gives him a total of six errors this season at two different infield positions.

On May 5 in Detroit Nunez botched two throws filling in for Derek Jeter at short, helping the Tigers overcome a strong start by A.J. Burnett. In fact, Burnett had been no-hitting the Tigers into the sixth inning. Even with that strong of a start, the Yanks lost.

If Nunez could field the ball, he would be a genuinely good bench player; a good hitter and a good fielder. But his defense kills him; it only makes him a threat on offense and a below average defender (and saying he’s below average is being generous).

 

 

I could probably rant on all day about how poor the Yankees have been playing.

I could point out other struggling players like Brett Gardner, who is supposed to be a speed threat and has been caught stealing six of the 11 times he has tried to swipe a base this season.

I could touch on how Burnett had a chance to end the losing streak, and how once again he fell flat on his face, giving up five runs in the sixth inning of last night’s game to blow it.

I could mention how Russell Martin hasn’t been swinging the bat well and is carrying a .252 batting average, with only three RBIs and seven strikeouts over the last 10 games.

I could go on forever about how useless Rafael Soriano is, with his arm problems and inability to pitch.

But it’s not necessary because everyone knows it. The world knows the Yankees are scuffling and these Yankees that we see playing in front of us are not the real Yankees at all.

The real Yankees don’t choke.

The real Yankees know what’s theirs for the taking and don’t choke.

The real Yankees are ready, and don’t choke.

The real Yankees know how to hit, field, and pitch.

The real Yankees know everything there is to know about this sport.

I’ll tell them something…

These Yankees need to find a way to stay loose out there, which is something their coaches and manager can’t help them with.

We’ll see them tonight at Tropicana Field.