Tagged: Johnny Damon

Yankees vs. Tigers: Thoughts and Notes

With one week and one day left of spring training baseball, the Yankees are starting to get into regular season form. Saturday afternoon the Bronx Bombers beat the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland by a score of 2-1.

 

Here’s what I made of it…

 

A.J. Burnett

 

 


Dr. Jekyll-Burnett came to play today 

Coming into this game A.J. Burnett was 0-1 this spring, not exactly setting the Yankees on fire. I recently wrote a blog about Burnett, calling out his inconsistency and how everyone compared him to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde last season.

 

Today, he was “Dr. Jekyll-Burnett.”

 

The Yanks’ number two man tossed 91 pitches over 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He only gave up three hits, struck out two, and issued three walks. Not a bad day at the office for Burnett and it was a good sign, considering the Tigers played most of their regulars.

 

Manager Joe Girardi liked what he saw from Burnett today too; the skipper said he was “mixing his pitches, using the fastball more effectively, and was demonstrating better control than his last few starts.”

 

Could not have said it better myself. Burnett was also in a good rhythm with Jorge Posada, who was catching him this afternoon. Many people have made issues about the Burnett-Posada battery in the past, but if they work together as nicely as they did today there won’t be many problems.

 

Overall, Burnett looked great. A smooth and effortless delivery, a good fastball, a great breaking pitch, and everything was working for him. Let’s just hope he pitches like this for the better part of the upcoming season.

 

Burnett will have one more start this spring before April 6–his first regular season start in Boston vs. the Red Sox.

 

Former Teams

 

 


Each player who lent a hand in scoring today played for the other team last year 

What was interesting about this game was the scoring. The Yankees scored two runs, both of which were brought on by former Tigers. The Tigers plated one run, which was scored by a former Yankee.

 

In the top of the first, Curtis Granderson knocked in Posada with a two-out RBI single. Of course Granderson played for the Tigers last season, as did Marcus Thames.

 

With the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the fourth, Thames took Tigers’ starter Nate Robertson deep to left for a long solo home run, a blast that gave the Yankees the lead they would not relinquish.

 

I think Thames needed that home run, considering the abysmal spring he is having. Heading into that at-bat, he was only averaging .114 at the plate. Yikes!

 

As for the Tigers, former Yank Johnny Damon scored in the bottom of the third on an RBI single off the bat of Magglio Ordonez. After Damon hit a two-out double Ordonez drove him in from second with a base hit to right field. I have to give credit to Randy Winn, who nearly made a spectacular outfield assist.

 

Damon just beat the throw to home plate, which was right on the money. A solid effort and a great throw by Winn, but the former Yankee was called safe at home.

 

It was just a strange day in terms of the scoring. Not many runs and a former player on each team lent a hand in each run. Crazy!

 

Joba Chamberlain

 


Joba Chamberlain will begin the season in the 'pen 

 

As announced on Thursday, Joba Chamberlain will begin the season in the bullpen. Phil Hughes won the fifth starting pitcher’s spot, much to the dismay of many people including Chamberlain.

 

A good friend of mine called me almost immediately after the Yankees made the decision. I answered my phone and he literally went off about how angry he was how Hughes was named the fifth starter over Chamberlain. His argument was that the Yanks wasted time with the “Joba Rules” and how they treated him last year.

 

Think about it: they put Chamberlain on six days rest and then had him go out and throw 4 1/3 innings in some instances. They put him through all of that just to make him a reliever again? My friend said,

 

“He may not have been Roy Halladay right off the bat, but Rome was not built in a day.”

 

Excellent point. Chamberlain is only 24 years old. If he was 34 years old and not performing at a high level as a starter, then I would say leave him in the bullpen.

 

I think many people forget what he did in July 25, 2008 against the Red Sox at Fenway. Chamberlain started the game and tossed seven shutout innings against the BoSox, beating the ace of the Red Sox staff, Josh Beckett. Not only did he pick up the win in that game, he only allowed three hits and fanned nine batters.

 

The capability and talent is there. He just needs a chance to put it to use.

 

Chamberlain said Hughes did a better job during spring training and earned the spot, but he also said he was disappointed. He has a right to feel that way. Everyone was expecting him to be the fifth guy and I can tell he wanted to be. But I think one thing has to be made clear:

 

Even though Hughes is starting the year in the rotation, it doesn’t mean Chamberlain won’t be there. If Hughes struggles (the way he has in the past as a starter) Chamberlain could very well be plugged into that spot and get some starts. Nothing is set in stone; it just means Hughes is starting the year in the rotation!

 

Maybe everything will work out fine. Perhaps Hughes will find his niche in the rotation while Chamberlain finds his in the ‘pen. Just as he has proven to be a dominant starter, Chamberlain can be just as deadly as a reliever.

 

After all, he did pitch a scoreless ninth inning today and pick up a save.

 

Other Notes:

 

 


Spring Training 

–The Tigers’ spring training field is named “Joker Marchant Stadium.” Detroit officially wins the award for silliest Stadium name. Ever.

 

–David Robertson took over for Burnett and got out of the sixth inning. The more I watch him, the more I like him. He is great!

 

–Chad Gaudin was released by the Yankees. He made seven starts for the Bronx Bombers last year and the Yanks were 7-0 in those games. I hope he finds a new team, he can really help a ball club the way he helped the Yankees.  

 

–Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and Robinson Cano did not make the trip over to Lakeland today.

 

–Nick Johnson played first base this afternoon. I think it’s good he can play the field, but unfortunately he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts at the plate. He did draw a walk though.

 

–As mentioned before, Randy Winn almost made a great outfield assist. Even though he missed it, he still did a great job in right field. He made some nice catches and even doubled up a runner at first after an awesome snag. I’ll give him a lot of credit–he won some battles with the sun and wind today!

 

–The Tigers have a minor leaguer named Michael Rockett. Deik Scram, Michael Rockett…Jeesh, the Tigers are chuck full of minor leaguers with funny names!

 

–Chan Ho Park’s nickname is “Chop.” Cool. Even cooler, he worked his way out of a 1st and 3rd, one-out jam in the eighth inning.

 

–Joel Zumaya of the Tigers struck out the side in the sixth inning. He whiffed Granderson, Winn, and Ramiro Pena. I am officially scared of him again. He has been practically a non-factor these past two seasons, but his fastball hit 99 mph on the speed gun and his curve ball was NASTY. I am not looking forward to facing him this year.

 

–During the telecast, Michael Kay and Tino Martinez had a discussion about the pies to the face after a walk-off win. Kay said the dynasty teams were “very conservative” and that Paul O’Neill (at first) did not like the pies after the walk-off wins.

 

Martinez however liked them and said the team did not look like they were having fun the last five-six years. “The pies loosened them up,” Martinez elegantly stated.

I have to side with favorite player during the dynasty (Martinez) and say he was right.

 

–Tomorrow afternoon the Yankees take on the Tigers yet again, only this time they will play in Tampa at George M. Steinbrenner Field.   

Yankees vs. Tigers: Thoughts and Notes

In the first game of a split-squad doubleheader, the New York Yankees topped the Detroit Tigers 6-2 on Friday afternoon. 

 

Overall it was a good win. The team looked about as solid as they can be, coming off the 6-4 win over Tampa Bay last night. The Bombers will play the Rays again tonight in game two of their twin bill.

 

A few players and plays stood out this afternoon. All I can say is the Yankees are looking better and better as Spring Training continues!

 

CC Sabathia

 

 


CC Sabathia fanned 8 Tigers this afternoon 

The Yankee ace wasn’t having a great spring coming into today’s start. In fact, his numbers were brutal. 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA was the line on Sabathia up until today, indicating a little rust, I suppose. He pitched so much last season and into the playoffs, so he needed that rest in the off-season. But as the old saying goes, “when you rest, you rust.”

 

Yet Sabathia looked anything but rusty today.

 

The big man tossed 5 1/3 innings, surrendered four hits, and was charged with two runs this afternoon. He walked only two and struck out eight Tigers, making some of Detroit’s best hitters look as silly as the Joker at a comedy show.

 

The breaking ball, the fastball, and the changeup were working perfectly for Sabathia today. I will admit I had some doubts in the first inning. He quickly gave up a run and I thought “here we go again.” But he settled in nicely and found a good rhythm with catcher Francisco Cervelli. They looked to be on the same page all afternoon.

 

After today, I feel a lot better about Sabathia. Not that I ever really felt bad about him, despite the shaky spring. He always finds a way to win and always comes up big when the Yankees need him to.

 

I said it once and I’ll say it again: I believe in CC Sabathia.

 

Alex Rodriguez

 

 


Alex Rodriguez hit a TITANIC homer today!!! 

In the bottom of the third inning, Alex Rodriguez stepped into the box against Rick Porcello. The three-time MVP smacked a long, and I mean LONG, solo home run over the left-centerfield fence. As a matter of fact, the ball cleared the scoreboard and landed well beyond George M. Steinbrenner Field.

 

“That…was a BOMB!” It was all I could say.

 

Rodriguez went 2-for-3 today and he looks to be in top shape for this season. Last year he did not return to the lineup until May 8 because of the hip injury. The Yankees (and more notably Mark Teixeira) struggled in his absence.

 

2010 might be a different story, though. There are no injuries and he will be starting the season in regular form. I have a feeling he’ll have a typical “A-Rod season.” Look for about 35-40 home runs, over 100 RBIs, a batting average around .300, and probably 100 runs scored.

 

That is, unless, he stupefies us all like he did in 2007. That’s always appreciated, as well!

 

All I can say is “wow” to that homer he hit today. He absolutely crushed the ball and got very good wood on it. I shouldn’t even say “crushed.” Obliterated is probably the operative word. He said after the game he “lost track of it, but knew he hit it a long ways.”

 

That you did, A-Rod. That you did.

 

Derek Jeter

 

 


Derek Jeter was 1-for-3 with two RBIs vs. Detroit 

Last night vs. Tampa Bay, the Yankee captain looked to have tweaked his hand a little bit. He was grimacing as he was taking warm-ups, but stayed in the game. He also said nothing was bothering him (as usual) and he started today.

 

Not only did he start today, but he had a good game.

 

Jeter went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk. The captain knocked in both runs on a single in the bottom of the second, which put the Yankees ahead, 3-1. His hitting is exactly what we all expect at this point. Jeter’s been through Spring Training so many times, I’m sure he is used to it by now.

 

Along with his hitting, his defense looks great, too. Whoever said his range has gone down really needs to get their eyes checked. This spring, Jeter has been moving around just as well as he has his whole career.

 

It’s just good to know he did not hurt his hand last night and he had a good day today.

 

Mariano Rivera

 

 


Mariano Rivera gave up no runs & threw just 10 pitches Friday 

The Yankees’ closer needed just 10 pitches to retire the Tigers in the seventh inning today. Mariano Rivera’s line for the day: no runs, no hits, no errors, no men left on base…one strikeout.

 

It never gets old seeing that.

 

Like the rest of the veterans, Rivera also looks to be in top form. He always is, it’s nothing new for him. I noticed that his velocity was down in the low-mid 80s at first, but he eventually made it up to the 90s toward the end of the inning.

 

I think velocity is not something that really matters when it comes to Rivera’s pitching. So many hitters have already said, “We all know the cutter is coming–yet no one can ever hit it.” My favorite quote was by Mike Sweeney, who once said,

 

“People always ask why you can’t hit Mo’s cutter when you know it’s coming. Well, you know what’s going to happen in a horror movie, but it still gets you.”

 

Best quote about the cutter. Ever.

 

I think people also need to realize, it’s not an easy pitch to hit. The cutter runs inside on left-handed hitters and tails away from righties. One player once remarked, “At first you think the ball is outside, and then it comes right in toward your hands.” Honestly, it’s probably the nastiest pitch there is.

 

Last year Rivera had 44 saves in 46 save opportunities with a 1.76 ERA. With the way he’s been pitching for the last 15 years or so, he might duplicate that in 2010. Knowing him, I would not doubt it. He said he will have about five more outings this spring and he is set to pitch again on Sunday.

 

 

Other Notes

 

 


Spring Training 

–Nick Johnson worked an 11 pitch at-bat in the fourth inning, ending in a walk. I expect more of this from him this year. It’s good to have a patient hitter in the lineup.

 

–Royce Ring pitched yet another scoreless inning. I think a roster spot could be in his future. I like him!

 

–In the 6-4 win over Tampa last night, Chan Ho Park tossed his first inning this spring. No runs, no hits, no walks, and a strikeout, along with making a nice bare-handed play for an out. Good stuff, let’s see if he can keep it up!

 

–In addition to Park’s good outing, Colin Curtis hit another three-run home run in last night’s win. I like this kid. I know he won’t make the team coming right out of the gate, but Curtis may make a case for a call-up this year, even if it’s at the end in September. He has a great left-handed swing, tailor-made for Yankee Stadium. I hope we see more of him, he’s got some pop!

 

–Joe Girardi stated that he hopes to have a decision on the fifth starting pitcher by March 25 or 26. If you ask me…anyone but Joba Chamberlain at this point. I have no clue who I would choose for that spot at the moment.

 

–Johnny Damon did not make the trip to GMS Field today. We didn’t see our old friend.

 

–We did however see Austin Jackson (we barely knew ye) and Phil Coke today. I have to ask…WHAT did Phil Coke do to himself? He looks like a hippie straight out of the 1970s! He has long hair and a mustache and looks…not right. Cut your hair and shave, Cokey!

 

–Coke did however have a good outing, as he struck Alex Rodriguez out swinging and then proceeded to retire Robinson Cano and Marcus Thames in order.  

 

–The Tigers played one of their AA minor leaguers by the name of Deik Scram. He is a centerfielder. Nice name! Kind of reminds me of Stubby Clapp.

 

–Tomorrow the Yankees will play the Houston Astros, Sunday the Tigers again, and then Monday they travel to Clearwater to play Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Final Thought:

 

Francisco Cervelli played today. As we all know, he has suffered three concussions and needs to wear a somewhat large, protective helmet. The YES Network made a reference to Gazoo, an imaginary cartoon character who always talked to Fred Flintstone.

 

I have to admit, Cervelli’s helmet does resemble Gazoo’s…


Hello dum-dum!!

Johnny Be Gone

 

 

Damon would have had to get on his knees and beg to come back to the Yankees

I had heard awhile back (through the hot stove grape vine) that the only way Johnny Damon would be able to return to the Yankees would be if he crawled back on his hands and knees and begged. Obviously he did not proceed to do that and now he is officially gone and not coming back.

 

Yesterday Damon and the Detroit Tigers cut a one year, $8 million deal.

 

I have to say, this was not completely his fault. For the most part, I blame this move on his agent Scott Boras. According to reports, the Yankees had attempted to negotiate with the left fielder several times with talks eventually stalling out before a deal was reached.

 

 


Scott Boras ruined Damon's chances of returning to the Yanks 

Boras has been known to do these types of things to players in the past. If you remember back to the end of the 2007 season, Alex Rodriguez had an opt-out clause in his contract. Rodriguez, also represented by Boras, chose to opt-out of his contract at the most inopportune time imaginable: in the middle of the World Series.

 

The Yankees had tried to negotiate with Rodriguez prior to the end of 2007 season, but no deal was made. Rodriguez told the Yanks that he was not interested in working out a new deal in the middle of the season. The Yankees responded by basically telling Rodriguez, “if you opt-out now, we are not chasing after you.”

 

Unlike Damon, Rodriguez became a free agent and reached out to the Yankees. The team and Rodriguez had a meeting and eventually worked out a new deal. Along with the new contract, Rodriguez distanced himself from Boras because of the ugly press he received for the opt-out move.

 

Good move, A-Rod. Unfortunately Damon was not as smart. He received ugly press and he allowed Boras to make a deal for him/control his destiny.

 

I’ll admit, I liked Damon and I will miss him. He was a hard worker, played the game the right way, and really did not make any excuses. The whole time he was in New York, I don’t think I ever heard him make an excuse for a bad game or a failure.

 

On top of that, he enjoyed many moments of success as a Yankee. Here are five:

 

5) June 7, 2008— A six hit day

 

 


On June 7, 2007, Johnny had six hits vs. Kansas City 

The Yankees played the Royals on a hot Saturday afternoon–should have been an easy win by any Yankee fan’s standards. But it looked like a lost cause at the end of the third inning when Kansas City was winning 5-1.

 

Never underestimate your opponent, but also never underestimate the Yankee left fielder.

 

Damon put together a career day at the plate, going 6-for-6 with four RBIs and a run scored as the Yankees battled back. He even drove in the winning run on a walk-off ground rule double in the bottom of the ninth.

 

The Yankees won the slugfest, 12-11.

 

The ground-rule double was Damon’s first walk-off hit as a member of the Yankees, and he became the first Yankee since Myril Hoag to have six hits in a game. (Hoag accomplished the feat in 1934).

 

I would say Damon showed how valuable he can be on that day.

 

4) Boston Massacre, 2006

 

 


Epic. 

It was a really fun weekend to be a Yankee fan.

 

Heading into a five-game weekend series in Boston on Aug. 18, the American League title was basically up for grabs. We knew that whichever team won this series was the favorite to win the East.

 

Damon had been blasted when he returned to Boston earlier that season on May 1. Red Sox fans even held up a sign in center field that read “JUDAS DAMON” (the ‘N’ in his last name of course being the interlocking ‘NY’)

 

But never one to let things bother him, Damon kept his focus on the game. In the first three games of the five game series, he hit two homers, scored eight runs, and drove in eight runs.

 

Talk about letting your former team know what they are missing. And if you are wondering, the Yankees swept the Red Sox that weekend and went on to win the AL East. The Red Sox did not make the playoffs in ’06.

 

They had the Yankees to thank for that.

 

3) Walk-off Against Minnesota

 

 


Damon had the game-winning homer on May 17 this year 

Many people say the series the Yankees played against the Twins in May of last year was the turning point of their Championship season.

 

Melky Cabrera hit a walk-off single on May 15, Alex Rodriguez smacked a walk-off homer on May 16, and on May 17 it was Damon’s turn to ignite the team.

 

With two hits already under his belt on the day and the game knotted at two in the bottom of the tenth, Damon crushed a long, solo home run into the right field seats to win the game for the Yankees.

 

Damon’s walk-off blast marked the first time since 1972 the Yankees won three games in a row in their final at-bat. After the win, Damon proudly proclaimed faith in the team and the Yankees’ ability to win tough games.

 

He also received a pie in the face from A.J. Burnett, a tradition that occurred after every walk-off Yankee win in 2009.

 

 


pwned 

 

 

2) Oct. 7, 2007–Game 3 of the ALDS

 


Johnny kept the Yanks alive with a homer in the '07 ALDS  

 

Down two games to none and facing elimination in Game Three, “The Boss” George Steinbrenner had issued an edict to then-manager Joe Torre: “Beat Cleveland or you are gone.”

 

Roger Clemens started the game and quickly let the Yankees fall into a hole. Clemens was forced to an early exit because of a strained hamstring and rookie Phil Hughes took over on the mound. The youngster was able to toss 3 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, but the Yankees were still down 3-1 by the fifth inning.

 

Damon then came up to bat with two runners on base and took Indians’ starter Jake Westbrook deep to put the Yankees up 4-3. I had never breathed such a sigh of relief in my life. Damon had practically single-handedly saved Torre’s life as Yankee manager with one swing of the bat.

 

The Yanks were able to tack on four more runs and win the game by a count of 8-4. Unfortunately the next night in Game Four they were not as lucky and lost 6-4 in Torre’s last game as Yankee skipper.

 

Yet I cannot forget Damon’s effort in Game Three. He once again showed credibility in the playoffs and came through in the clutch. We Yankees fans had seen how capable he was in the 2004 playoffs and I for one was happy to see it translate in ’07.

 

In humility, Damon had five words to say after the game:

 

“We won it for Joe.”

 

1) Man of Steal: Game Four, 2009 World Series

 

 


Johnny stole two bases on one play in game four of the '09 fall classic 

It was the most epic base-running play I have ever seen in a World Series game.

 

After giving a warrior-like effort at the plate (a nine-pitch at-bat) and tapping a two-out single off the end of his bat into left field, Damon stood on first base in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game. The Philadelphia Phillies’ infield was playing the over-shift with Mark Teixeira batting from the left side of the plate.

 

With third baseman Pedro Feliz playing where the shortstop normally would, no one was covering third base. Damon took off like a shot and hustled to second base, the throw down to second being late. In a heads-up move, Damon right away noticed no one covering the bag and bolted to third, basically uncontested, and made it there safely.

 

You cannot coach that. It was just self-awareness. Damon was awarded with two steals.

 

Teixeira got hit with a pitch, setting up Alex Rodriguez who knocked in the go-ahead run with a double to left field. The Yankees tacked on two more runs after Rodriguez’s double and went on to win 7-4.    

 

Damon kept the team alive with his valiant effort with two outs in the inning and his great instinct on the base path. I have never seen a player keep his wits about him in such a pressure-laden situation. He maintained his bearings and made a terrific play.

 

I still feel if Damon had made an out, the Yanks would have lost Game Four.

 

But that didn’t happen thanks to his intelligence and heads-up steals. Ricky Henderson, eat your heart out!

 

On behalf of Yankee fans everywhere, THANK YOU Johnny Damon!

 

You afforded us some wonderful memories and like Hideki Matsui, we will truly miss you. It’s unfortunate how your tenure in New York ended, but at least you helped bring the city another title.

 

Have fun in Detroit with Austin Jackson.

 

P.S. We are sorry Scott Boras ruined it for you. Be smart and dump him. Please.

 


BYE!!!!!!!!!!!!   

Five Players to Watch This Spring

What’s up Yankee fans?

 

The date is February 15, 2010.

 

 


It's been a busy winter in the sports world 

As for news around the sports world, the NFL Super Bowl is over. The great Peyton Manning fell to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in what was (in my opinion) the best Super Bowl game since the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

 

The winter Olympics are in full swing in Vancouver and at press time the U.S.A. has claimed six medals.

 

The NBA is at their All-Star point and Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks became the only player in history to win the Slam Dunk Contest three times.

 

And last but never-the-least, MLB pitchers and catchers report to camp this week. We now know that baseball is almost back. Almost back, but we’re not quite there yet.

 

The Yankees obviously made a number of moves in the off season, bidding farewell to players like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and Chien-Ming Wang.

 

But they welcomed in new (and old) players like Curtis Granderson, Randy Winn, Javier Vazquez, and Nick Johnson.

 

Some of these moves haven’t been very popular among Yankee fans, but it remains to be seen how these players will perform. The best time to find out how well each player might do in the season is obviously in spring training.

 

With that being said, here are my five players to keep an eye on in March:

 

5) Javier Vazquez

 

 


Javier Vazquez is ready for his second stint in pinstripes 

At first, I was completely against the Javier Vazquez deal and part of me still is. I never liked him during his first stint with the Yankees in 2004. The only lasting image I have of him was that meatball he served up that Johnny Damon clobbered for a grand slam in the 2004 ALCS–a bomb that solidified the Yankees’ Game Seven collapse.

 

 


Vazquez picthed in the Yankees' losing effort in the 2004 ALCS 

But I suppose I’ll give him a second chance as the number four starter in 2010.

 

Everyone keeps talking about how Vazquez had a very low ERA these past few seasons, so who knows. He may surprise us. After all, I thought Hideki Matsui was going to have a horrible season in 2009. He went on to win the World Series MVP.

 

I have decided to give Vazquez until July 15–if he has decent numbers then, I’ll approve of the trade. But if he is basically hanging on by a thread with an inflated ERA and a record of .500, then I’ll stand by my initial thought: what are the Yankees thinking?!

 

I realize the Vazquez trade was a panic move to counter the Red Sox signing John Lackey. But the Yanks could have figured out another way to get a pitcher without having to give up a promising outfielder (Cabrera) for a one-year rental (Vazquez).

 

We’ll see how he does. But without question, he’ll be under the microscope in Tampa.

 

4) Jesus Montero

 

 


Jesus Montero is a top-ranked prospect we'll see this spring 

I have heard a lot of great things about this kid. I get the feeling he’ll one day be a star, but he’s just too young right now. Nonetheless, non-roster invitee Jesus Montero will be a player to watch this spring.

 

At 20 years old, Montero has been named the Yanks’ best prospect and the fifth best player by Baseball America. In his 2008 minor league season with the Charleston River Dogs, Montero batted .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBIs. He only stole two bases, but hey…he’s a catcher, we cannot expect a ton of steals from him.

 

The highest level he’s played at is AA Trenton Thunder, but mark my words; he’ll probably make it to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2010.

 

With Jose Molina leaving the Yankees, it’ll most likely be Francisco Cervelli backing up Jorge Posada. So in all likelihood, we won’t see Montero in the show this year. In 2011, he’ll more than likely be on the Major League squad.

 

But Montero will undoubtedly be on the field this spring. This is his chance to show Yankee Universe what he’s made of and for us to get a feel for what he is about.

 

3) Brett Gardner

 

 


Brett Gardner can run, but must improve on offense 

Brett Gardner has given the Yankees something they haven’t had in recent times–speed. And I’m not talking about just a decent pair of wheels. I’m talking the Flash/Sonic the Hedgehog type horse power here.

 

I mean, if he sprinted on the highway, he’d probably get a speeding ticket.

 

Gardner has also offered a great deal of defense in the outfield. With the departure of Melky Cabrera, the Yankees are obviously putting a lot of stock in him. Gardner can run and he can play some unbelievable defense. But he needs to get on base and become a better offensive player.

 

In 2009, Gardner had 67 hits in 248 at-bats, which translates to a .270 average–not too shabby. He drew 26 walks and stole 26 bases, which again, are decent stats.

 

But centerfield is a position that requires power; you need to have some pop coming from that spot on the field. Gardner only hit three home runs last year, two of which left the park (and yes, it was pretty sweet watching that inside-the-park home run on May 15…it was even sweeter because I saw it in-person!)

 

This spring, the Yankees will be trying out a number of different outfielders. There’s even talk that if Gardner is good enough, recent acquisition Curtis Granderson might play left field and Gardner will man center.

 

Well, that scenario remains to be seen, but in any event, Gardner has to take his game up to the next level. We’ll see how he responds next month.

 

2) Robinson Cano

 

 


Can Robinson Cano hit without Melky Cabrera on the team? 

Boy has this young man come a long way. I can remember the day he was called up to the big leagues in 2005 and how nervous he looked. He would make frequent errors and he looked so uneasy at the plate.

 

But Robinson Cano worked his game up to a Major League level, finishing in the top three in the 2006 batting title race. He was even compared to the incomparable Rod Carew. And from there, the rest is basically history. In my opinion, he’s unlike any other second baseman in the American League–and that’s a good thing.

 

He plays defense so well, gliding across the infield and making spectacular plays. I still believe he should have won a Gold Glove Award this past year. His hitting has certainly improved, as well. In 2009 he set a career-high in home runs with 25 and averaged .320 at the dish.

 

I have to say, of the younger players who are currently on the Yankees, Cano is my favorite. You can mention Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and all the legendary players of the so-called “core four,” but (for me) Cano has been the most exciting Yankee these past couple of seasons.

 

But some philosophize that Cano only performed so well for so long because of the presence of his best friend Melky Cabrera. The two became bosom buddies in 2007 and since then, both have played very well in each other’s friendship.

 

But Cabrera is now an Atlanta Brave and Cano is on his own.

 

I am anxious to see how Cano is going to perform in the absence of his best friend. I still feel he can play the same way he has these last few years. However, the only minor concern I have is how Cano played in 2008 without Cabrera; when his buddy was sent down to the minors because of a nasty slump, Cano struggled a little bit and fell into a funk of his own.

 

Hopefully nothing like that will happen to him this upcoming year. But if Cano gets off to a slow start and cannot find his rhythm, I might have to side with those philosophers.

 

1) Joba Chamberlain

 


Will Joba Chamberlain be the fifth starter?   

 

It’s no secret that Joba Chamberlain had a rough 2009. It started back when he was arrested for a DUI after the 2008 campaign. Then he was put back on the “Joba Rules,” only being allowed to toss a certain amount of innings according to the Yankees’ discretion.

 

He had some forgetful starts and some brilliant starts in ’09, posting a record of 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA. If that wasn’t enough, the 24 year-old flamethrower was sent to the bullpen for the playoffs and World Series as the Bronx Bombers chose to go with a three-man rotation. In relief, he posted an ERA of 2.84 and was 1-0 with one save and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings pitched.

 

Not too bad, if you ask me. Chamberlain seems to excel when he knows his role.

 

There’s a lot of speculation on which pitcher will land the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Chamberlain seems to be the logical choice, unless they either opt to pull Phil Hughes from his spot in the bullpen or allow Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin the opportunity.

 

It all depends on who is performing at the highest level in spring training. If we see Chamberlain in a dominant form next month, it could be him. But if he is going to be that fifth pitcher, the Yankees NEED to take him off the “Joba Rules.”

 

Chamberlain will have his growing pains, all young players do. But if they do not take the leash off, the only thing he’ll ever be is a caged animal.

 

I understand that the Yankees are not trying to wreck his arm because it’s happened to too many young pitchers (Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez…etc.) But the Yanks should not tell him exactly how many innings they want him to throw. I think that can upset the balance of his psyche.

 

So who will be that fifth starter? We’ll know when we see what they all bring to Tampa.

Yankee Stadium: A Piece of Cake

This week has been pretty rough for me (please don’t ask, I’m just glad it’s basically over!) so I haven’t been sleeping well these past few nights.

 

Anyway I was up around 1:30 this morning and I just happened to turn on the Food Network. The show Ace of Cakes was on, a reality show that centers on the work at Chef Duff Goldman’s custom cake shop. I don’t know much about the show because I don’t watch it on a regular basis, but they were making something so amazing.

 

A cake made to look like the new Yankee Stadium. I had to watch this.

 

 

A Yankee Stadium Cake! 

It was amazing how Goldman and his partners, Geof Manthorn and Mary Smith, were able to build this thing; they did such an awesome job of crafting the cake to look like Yankee Stadium.

 

It was just so fascinating how they molded the dough to make it look like the grandstands and how they iced the cake to give it the likeness of the field. They even made a mini Monument Park behind the centerfield wall, capturing basically every facet of the new ballpark in the Bronx.

 

I thought to myself, “These cake-makers are extremely good at what they do, great in fact. It is such an admirable talent that they have and it’s incredible that they are able to do this.”

 

I then thought, “If I were able to make cakes like this, I could impress so many people!” They certainly impressed me, that’s for sure.

 

Then my admiration for their cake turned to sheer, unadulterated jealousy when I saw that Goldman, Manthorn, and Smith were privileged enough to go to the Stadium and show off their cake to the Yankee faithful on May 1.

 

They were originally going to bring the cake out onto the field before the game began, but rain prevented that. We did have too many problems with the weather this past year, which is unfortunate. Instead they put the cake down in the press conference room and video taped it to show on the diamond vision screen before first pitch.

 

 


A work of art 

Now here’s where I got extremely jealous.

 

Yogi Berra came into the press conference room to see the cake. As he marveled over the work of art, Goldman, Manthorn, and Smith got to talk to Berra and take pictures with him. Then CC Sabathia and Johnny Damon each walked in to see the cake, and they were also left in amazement at its brilliance.

 

Then the captain himself, Derek Jeter, came in to see the cake. Like Berra, Sabathia, and Damon, he too was impressed with the cake and told them what a wonderful job they did in making it.

 

Jeter signed a ball for Smith; she was so overjoyed at meeting Jeter she said, “I can die happy now.” I would give my life to just have a five minute conversation with Jeter, let alone leave him in awe of something I helped work on. She is a very lucky lady.

 

The three cake-makers then got to go out onto the field while their cake was shown on the diamond vision screen. They were given a rousing ovation from the capacity crowd, and it was well-deserved. For making a cake that good, they earned a standing O.

 

The Yankees went on to win that game against the Angels 10-9 on a walk-off single by Jorge Posada. So not only did they get to make this beautiful cake, they got to go to the Stadium, meet three Yankees, a Hall of Fame catcher, get their autographs, take pictures with them, step out onto the field before the game…and the Yankees won the game.

 

 


They got to go onto the field. So jealous... 

Talk about making off like a few bandits, wouldn’t you agree?

 

I have to say it was just one of the more fascinating things I have seen in awhile. For a small group of people to make such an amazing work of art, it was inspiring. They make it look so easy, even though I’m sure it’s probably not.

 

But they did a fantastic job with it. To them, I’m sure it’s just a piece of cake.

Zack Greinke Wins the Cy Young

 

Cy Young

 

Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals won the American League Cy Young Award today, as voted by the Baseball Writer’s Association. He finished with 25 first-place votes.

 

Good for you, Zack. You had a great year on a terrible team.

 

I have to hand it to Greinke, though. He has had some abysmal years and with the Royals almost guaranteed to finish in the basement of the American League Central Division every year, it’s good to see that they can at least have something to cheer for and be proud of.

 

 


Zack Greinke is the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner. 

I’d also like to point out that Greinke overcame a social anxiety disorder which kept him away from baseball for two months in 2006. Having been routed back to the minor leagues, he worked his way back to the majors after returning from his ailment.

 

And I have to say, I know what it feels like; as a person myself who has suffered from anxiety disorder, I know what Greinke has been through. It is not fun; it really hurts when you are diagnosed with it, I know I was. I definitely sympathize with him on overcoming his disorder. You get the jitters, your nerves are going out of whack, and you cannot concentrate.

 

Anxiety disorders are horrible, I’m just glad Greinke overcame his (and if you’re wondering, I overcame mine, as well; I attribute it to my parents’ divorce, but still, it was uncomfortable)

 

In 2007 Greinke was basically hurting in the bullpen. He didn’t have a great year, only posting a 7-7 record with a 3.69 ERA in 52 appearances.

 

Coming back to the rotation in 2008, Greinke went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA. Not bad, at least he posted a winning record.

 

I actually saw him pitch in ’08 at old Yankee Stadium; it was June 8, the day after Johnny Damon basically single-handedly beat the Royals. It was also one of the last times I visited the old ballpark in the Bronx and it was Joba Chamberlain’s second career start.

 

Greinke was not impressive at all that day, tossing only five innings and giving up four earned runs on six hits. He walked four and struck out six.

 

I vividly remember that scorching, Sunday afternoon; Bobby Abreu murdered a long homer off Greinke in the first inning, a shot that landed in the upper deck in right field (did I mention I still love Abreu?)

 

Jason Giambi also took Greinke deep that day, blasting a home run in the sixth. The Yankees obviously won the game 6-3, and it was Greinke’s fourth loss in ’08.  

 

So the one time I did see Greinke…yeah, the Yankees smacked him up.

 

When I saw him, Greinke was not impressive 

 

But this year he was excellent. Greinke posted a record of 16-8 and led the American League in ERA with 2.16. And if he had gotten some help, he could have reached 20 wins, no doubt about it. If he was on a team like the Yankees or Red Sox or Angels and had received a little more run support–20 wins, hands-down.

 

He was 6-1 with a 1.75 ERA in his last 11 starts of ’09 and he threw one-hitters in back-to-back outings in August. He only allowed five stolen bases all year.

 

Now that is outstanding. It’s plain to see Greinke was in control this past year.

 

The Zack-man was awesome this year. The real question now is, can he do it again in 2010? We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m not sure I’m convinced he’ll be as good next year as he was this year; I mean I like Greinke, but was he just a flash in the pan?

 

Will Greinke be the same in 2010...? 

 

There is no denying he earned the award this year; clearly the best man won. But I’m not so sure Greinke will have the same type of year next year. His numbers don’t lie; he has had some awful, forgettable seasons in past years.

 

This year could have just been an isolated incident.

 

The runners-up were Felix Hernandez (2nd) Justin Verlander (3rd) and CC Sabathia (4th) and they have all posted stellar numbers year after year. There has been a pattern with the other guys–they have put up the same types of numbers for a few years now.

 

With Greinke, it was one year. The rest of his career has been horrid. But we’ll see. We won’t know until 2010. But what we do know is that he had an exceptional, Cy Young-worthy 2009 and he deserved to win it.

 

Greinke is truly a feel-good story. And I am happy for him.   

World Series Game 6 and the 27th Title!

 

 

World Series!!!

 

We did it…I…I really don’t even know what to say. I am truly speechless.

 

The Yankees defeated the Phillies 7-3 in Game Six of the World Series to capture their 27th World Championship. A wonderful, strong, winning season capped off with a World Title in the first year in our new ballpark.

 

What a wonderful, wonderful feeling. A feeling we all haven’t had since 2000.

 

I had been saying from the beginning of the fall classic that the Yankees were probably going to win in six games. Now, I don’t usually like to make predictions, as I have said before, but that was my best guess: Yankees in six.

 

But let me tell you all a true, almost scary story before Game Six.

 

I am a senior in College at this point in my life, obviously studying journalism. I attended my sports reporting class last night, mostly discussing the World Series with my fellow students and my professor. Well, after an interesting discussion, class ended.

 

I got in my car and made my way home to watch the World Series. As I’m driving on the highway, I notice a school bus in front of me. As most of you may or may not remember, all school buses are numbered, all numbers on the back of the bus.

 

 


Bus 

Of all the numbers that there could’ve been, what number was the bus? 27. I am not lying and I am dead serious. 27, right in front of me for quite a few miles up the Taconic State Parkway in New York.

 

Coincidence? I didn’t think so. This eerie feeling came over me as I was driving; chills went up and down my spine. One thought popped into my mind: “The Yankees are going to do it. I know it. There’s a reason that bus was in front of me.”

 

When I got home, I just smiled and laughed. The game hadn’t even started yet, but I knew what was going to happen; maybe not the score, maybe not every specific detail, but I swear to God I KNEW the Yankees were NOT losing this game!!!

 

So eventually the game began and…well…I guess the only way to describe it was the “Hideki Matsui Hitting Show.”

 

 


Hideki Matsui hits a home run in the second inning of game six 

Godzilla knocked in six RBIs in game six, two of which came on a two-run homer in the bottom of the second off the Yankees’ favorite son Pedro Martinez. It was Matsui’s third home run in the World Series and second that came off Martinez.

 

But Matsui was just getting warmed up.

 

In the next inning, Godzilla singled to knock in Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon and in the fifth he doubled to score Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. No one could get Matsui out, it seemed.

 

And for his efforts in this entire World Series, Matsui was named Most Valuable Player. He deserved it. Three Homers, a .747 batting average, and six RBIs in the clinching game. Yes, I’d say that’s MVP worthy. Domo Arigato, Mr. Matsui!

 

 


Hideki Matsui won 2009 World Series MVP 

Congrats Godzilla! (Remember, he also won another prestigious award–the Yankee Yapping Comeback Player of the Year Award!)

 

Teixeira was responsible for the only other RBI not registered by Matsui, as he singled in the fifth to score Jeter.

 

And who else was on the mound to close it out but Andy Pettitte, the winningest pitcher in postseason history. Everyone was concerned because Pettitte was pitching on three days rest for this first time since 2006, but those concerns were not well-founded. To be honest, I couldn’t even tell the difference.

 

The veteran lefty pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up three earned runs on four hits. He walked five and struck out three. His line may not have indicated an overly impressive start, but I think he did great and gave the Bronx Bombers a good chance to win.

 

And they did, like they usually always do when he pitches. I mean, Pettitte was the winning pitcher when they’ve clinched the ALDS and ALCS this year…what’s one more?

 

The Phillies scored two of their three runs on an opposite-field homer run by Ryan Howard in the top of the sixth, his first home run in the World Series.

 

Sorry to say, but too little, too late, Howard.

 

Jimmy Rollins, who erroneously predicted the Phillies to win the fall classic in five games (and is probably eating his words right now) knocked in the Phillies’ first run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the third.

 

Well, thanks to some solid bullpen help from Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte, the Yankees bridged the gap to Mariano Rivera, who came in to get five outs.

 

Did he get all five of them? Of course he did! And the Yankees are Champs again!!!

 

Celebrate!!!! 

 

The team dog pile on the infield, a victory lap around the field proudly waving the 2009 Championship flag, and hoisting the Championship Trophy. Doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

 

I laughed. I cried. I jumped up and down. My heart overjoyed, my fists pumping in the air. I got that feeling; the feeling that comes over a man when he gets exactly what he desires. My phone was blowing up; calls, texts, people clicking the like button on my Facebook status, which read:

 

 A.J. Martelli is in tears of joy :’) THE YANKEES ARE KINGS OF BASEBALL!!!! 27!!!!! “WEEEEEE AREE THE CHAMPIONS, MY FRIEND! WE’LL KEEP ON FIGHTIN’ TILL THE END! NO TIME FOR LOSERS, ‘CAUSE WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS…OF THE WORLD!!!” 2009 was the Year of the Pinstripes. In a perfect world we’d ALL be Yankees! I am so proud of my team. SO proud. It was destiNYY.

 

Stephen, an old friend of mine from grade school, posted as his status:

 

“Time for every person in New York to jump on the Yankee bandwagon and say ‘my boys did it.’ I think the only person who has any right to say anything about it is A.J. Martelli. He posts about every game because he lives in blue and white. I hope he gets to see this.”

 

Oh, I did see it. And it made me feel great, because it is true. Then I turned to my 26 Time World Series jacket, which is now obselete. “Guess I’ll need a new one,” I said with a laugh.

 


 

What a way to end this year!

 

Another thing I’d like to point out was the date. It was on Nov. 4, 2001 that the Yankees’ World Series magic vanished in the Arizona desert. The last night of the Yankee Dynasty of the late ’90s. Since that night, the Yanks had not won a World Title.

 


Nov. 4, 2001 was the last night of the Yankee Dynasty 

 

That is of course until Nov. 4, 2009. Perhaps the first night of the new Yankee Dynasty.

 

 

 

 

Two members of the core four, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, hold the World Series Trophy

 

There was something strange about this night. Seeing that bus with 27 on it, watching Matsui practically single-handedly crush the Phillies’ dreams of repeating as Champions, and winning the title back on the same exact date we lost it nine years ago.

 

And even the fact that 2009 was the new Yankee Stadium’s first year, and when the original Stadium opened back in 1923, the Yankees won the World Series for the first time.

 

Not to mention, I checked the Yankee Yapping Facebook fan page to update the status…and at the time the Yankees won the Championship, there were precisely 400…and 27 fans.

 

Forces were at work, I believe that. This night happened for a reason. There ARE baseball gods and they were working tonight.

 

It has been a remarkable year; the year of the Yankees. 103 wins during the regular season, 114 overall…this was the only way to end it.

 

I would like to thank everyone who read my blog, there will be plenty more entries over the off-season, I promise you that. For right now, I would like everyone to ENJOY this!!! A World Series victory was the goal and our team reached it.

 

I’d also like to thank the 2009 Yankees for the season of a lifetime. I’m sure there will be many people (myself included) who will write about the ’09 Yankees. They are certainly a group of special players, and at one time (in June) I even described them as a “group of warriors that never quit.”

 

They are warriors and they never did quit. They took it all the way.

 

It’s been one hell of a ride, my friends. Thanks to all!

 

GO YANKEES!!! We made it to 27 and victory is ours!!!

 


The Yankees have won their 27th title