Casey Stengel once said, “Most games are lost, not won.” And let’s be honest the Detroit Tigers did not win Game Five of the American League Division Series – the Yankees lost it. The Bronx Bombers dropped the decisive game of the ALDS 3-2, forcing them to an early postseason exit.
It marked the first time the Yanks have been knocked out in the first round since 2007, when they were bumped at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.
And with their loss, they collectively became the second person (if you will) to break my heart this year. That’s no lie. More on that later in this entry.
In the bottom of the fourth the Yanks had the bases loaded with one out and failed to score a run. Russell Martin popped out to first base for the second out, and Brett Gardner – who had been raking this entire series – popped the ball up in foul territory behind third, and it landed in the waiting glove of Don Kelly.
Then in the seventh with one out, the Yanks put the ducks on the pond again. Alex Rodriguez struck out swinging, but Mark Teixeira drew a walk forcing home a run to make the game 3-2. But Nick Swisher came up to the plate and murdered the rally with a K.
The Yankees received their first run on a solo home run off the bat of Robinson Cano in the fifth, his second of the ALDS – his first being a Game One grand slam. Derek Jeter nearly clubbed what would have been a go-ahead, two-run home run in the eighth.
With Gardner on first, the Captain launched a ball deep to the right field warning track, but it slowly lost wind and fell short of a potential game-winning round-tripper.
What can you say? It just wasn’t meant to be this year.
The Tigers – not the Yankees – will now advance to the American League Championship Series to face the Texas Rangers. A rematch of last year’s ALCS was just not in the cards.
The postseason magic was not there; the aura was absent. But there are a lot of memories and thoughts I am going to take away from this year. Here are a few things I’ll never forget about the 2011 baseball season:
There is nothing like the thrill of Opening Day. Spring is in the air, you get the sense of new life, and warm, happy feelings envelope you. Baseball is back and the Yankees did what they couldn’t do in the ALDS: they beat the Tigers.
Curtis Granderson punished his former team with a tie-breaking home run in the seventh inning, and threw in some defensive, game-saving web gems, leading the way to a 6-3 Yankee win over Detroit.
The Bronx Broskis started their year with a clean win over the Tigers. I think I speak for most Yankee fans when I say I wish they could have finished off Detroit in the ALDS the way they did on Opening Day.
May 12 vs. the Kansas City Royals
The Yanks hosted the Royals on May 12, and it was my first trip to the big ballpark in the Bronx this year. Just as Opening Day has a certain, special appeal to it, going out to your first game of the season is always fun.
The game turned into a stinker in a hurry, as the Royals put up six runs in the second inning. The Yanks wound up losing 11-5, really only receiving offense from Cano and Rodriguez, who both went yard.
What I remember isn’t so much the game action, but the people (and more particularly a person) I was with at that game. I am not the type of writer who would bury anyone I personally know in this or any other blog or column, but let’s just say (using no names) I was with the other person who broke my heart this year.
If she is reading this, I don’t know about you, but I had a blast at that game; the time of my life, and I was very happy and blessed to have spent that time with you. Thanks again for the chili dog you bought me, too. I still think it was the best chili dog I ever had. 🙂
This game was the only time I can ever recall seeing the Yankees lose, but still being happy at the end of the night. In fact, I was probably the happiest person at the Stadium that night, and I can only hope she shared my happiness at the game.
I wouldn’t have traded the feeling I had for anything, not even a Yankee win.
June 15 vs. the Texas Rangers
On my birthday the Yankees met up with the Rangers – the same team that eliminated them from the ALCS in 2010. I once again went out to the Stadium, and wanted so badly for the Yanks to exact a little bit of revenge on Texas – and boy did they ever.
The Bombers squadoosh’d the Rangers 12-4, playing long ball to an eight-run victory.
Teixeira crushed two homers in the game, and Cano and Ramiro Pena also went deep. But the most special home run the Yankees hit probably came off the bat of Eduardo Nunez – it was his 24th birthday too!
A group of people, who I believe was Nunez’s family, were sitting in front of me, going absolutely crazy after his home run.
They held up signs that read, “Happy Birthday Eduardo!” and they were all wearing “Nunez 12” tee-shirts. Plus, they all bore a striking resemblance to him – so I’m convinced to this day it was the Nunez family in the row of seats in front of me that night.
A home run must have been a nice birthday present for Nunez. And a convincing, vengeful Yankee win was a nice gift for me.
Derek Jeter Leaves the Yard for 3,000th Hit
In what was probably the biggest story of the summer, the Yankee Captain, sitting on 2,999 career hits, smacked a home run on July 9, becoming the first player to ever record his 3,000th hit wearing pinstripes.
It was a moment for the ages.
All the Yankees came out of the dugout and congratulated Jeter, hugging him and giving him his legendary credit. The only picture I take away from that moment was Jorge Posada, his teammate since 1995, embracing him in celebration right after he crossed home plate.
If you were to ask Jeter, I’m sure he would say he was happy to have reached his milestone – but even happier the Yankees won the game. The Captain has always put the good of the team above himself and the Bombers topped the Tampa Bay Rays on July 9, 5-4.
Robinson Cano Wins the Home Run Derby
The prelude to the All-Star Game is the Home Run Derby. Certain clubs show off their most powerful sluggers, and Cano participated in this year’s home run contest in Arizona. To everyone’s surprise, the studly second baseman won it.
Now, I have to ask, what’s better than having a Yankee win the Home Run Derby?
How about a Yankee beating a Red Sox player to win the Home Run Derby!
Because that is exactly what happened.
Cano outdueled Boston first baseman Adrian Gonzalez 12-11 in the final round, becoming only the third Yankee (Tino Martinez, 1997, and Jason Giambi, 2002) to take home the Home Run Derby crown.
August 23 vs. the Oakland Athletics
This would mark my third and final trip to the Bronx this summer, a game against the A’s. My good friend and fellow die-hard Yankee fan Micheal Robinson was in New York, visiting from Atlanta.
He got incredible seats right behind the wall in left field, and although the Yankees once again lost, they nearly capped an unreal comeback late in the game.
Down 6-0 entering the bottom of the eighth, the Yanks plated three runs on a three-run Swisher home run to cut the lead in half. In the bottom of the ninth Posada clobbered a solo home run, and the Yanks later loaded the bases.
We thought we were in for an improbable comeback.
With the bases chucked and two outs, Cano drew a walk, cutting the lead down to 6-5. Then Swisher came up again and clubbed a towering drive to deep left-center field. On the edge of our seats, Micheal and I slowly stood up watching the ball fly, ready for a whipped cream pie celebration…
Only for the ball to slowly die on the warning track for the final out. Yanks lose, 6-5.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed the game. It was a great night with a great friend. My record in attendance at 2011 Yankee games ended at 1-2.
Mariano Rivera Becomes Baseball’s All-Time Saves Leader
On Sept. 19 at Yankee Stadium Mariano Rivera recorded his 602nd career save, passing Trevor Hoffman on the all-time saves list. Rivera, who has been lights-out at the end of each Yankee game for the better part of the past 15 years, only solidified what we have known all along:
That he is the greatest closer in the history of baseball.
In typical Rivera fashion, he mowed down the Minnesota Twins 1-2-3 in the ninth inning, wrapping up a 6-4 Yankee win. When he was finished closing the game, he humbly put his head down, and shook his catcher’s hand.
But after that show of sportsmanship Rivera (of course) realized what he had done and acknowledged the love and support he received from his home crowd. Posada even pushed him back out to the mound where he was cheered overwhelmingly.
Again, in typical Rivera fashion he thanked God, his family, the Yankees, and the fans.
It was just another wonderful moment in 2011 – and in Yankee history.
Boston Losing Out of the Postseason
I know I’ve told this story more than once, but for one last time, I’ll tell it again.
All the way back in January I was with a few friends down at a New York City bar watching the Jets’ AFC Title game vs. the Steelers. Although it was a football game, me and each of my friends were wearing Yankee apparel.
In walks a drunken Red Sox fan, wearing a 2004 Championship shirt. And he began to taunt us.
“Are you guys ready for Michael Kay this year? Swisher on the track, at the wall, looking up, SEE YA! Another home run for Carl Crawford and the Red Sox lead, 7-3!”
We just laughed it off and walked away. On the way home from the bar we made fun of him for not even teasing us the right way.
“Hey, at least he gave the Yankees three runs in his little fantasy game,” we snickered. “If he were smart, or maybe sober, he would have made it 15-0 in favor of the Red Sox.”
Boston failing to make the postseason – when practically everyone on this planet had them picked to win the World Series – in my eyes, was just epic; one of the worst, if not the worst collapses I have ever seen.
I would have loved to see that guy’s face when Tampa Bay battled back from nine games behind the Wild Card standings – and when Baltimore crushed Boston’s hopes at a postseason run on the last day of the regular season.
I will never forget how that Red Sox fan basically had his team in the World Series before the season even began and they didn’t even make the playoffs, going 6-20 in the month of September.
The Boston collapse proved two things to me:
1) You can never speak too soon, and
2) You can’t win games on paper. The Red Sox may have had the best-looking team on a lineup card, but if the best-looking team folds like an accordion when it matters, it doesn’t guarantee you anything.
Well, Yankee fans. It was one helluva season; one I’ll probably never forget. It is unfortunate the Yanks could not create the magic for us and bring home Championship No. 28.
I’d like to thank everyone for sticking it out this season and reading Yankee Yapping. I promise to write as much as I can during the off-season while the MLB hot stove cooks, boils, bakes, burns, or does whatever it does.
Hopefully I’ll be blogging about Ivan Nova winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award, and either Granderson or Cano winning the AL MVP.
Until then, I’ll say the same thing I did when the Yanks got booted in last year’s ALCS:
Keep your heads up, Yankee fans.
And just remember: we still own 27 World Titles, and we’re still the best team in the world.
No one gave the Yankees a fighting chance when 2011 started. The lineup and defense was declared “old.” The pitching rotation was called “comically thin,” and the fact that the Yankees did not pick up a huge free agent in the off-season led every skeptic to believe they were going to fail this year.
Now look where they are – and who is struggling for their playoff lives.
The Boston Red Sox were the favorites. They acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, bolstering their already-potent, veteran-laden lineup. All the folks who talked up the Red Sox to win it all this season are probably kicking themselves now, as the Red Sox are just 2 ½ games in front of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL Wild Card race.
Yesterday the Yankees beat the Rays twice, sweeping a day-night double header. The Bronx Bombers won both games by the same count, 4-2, and captured their 17th American League Eastern Division title.
Meanwhile Boston dropped their second straight game – and they are 3-7 over their last 10 games. The Red Sox have gone ice cold at the wrong time and the Yankees have become red hot at the right time.
With the Yanks no longer having to worry about winning the division and the end of the regular season right around the corner, it’s that time of the year again: the time to reward the Yankee players for what they have achieved this season.
It’s the third annual Yankee Yapping End of the Year Awards!
Let us all find out who this year’s winners are.
Yankee Yapping Milestone Man Award
Winners: Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera
In 2009 both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera accomplished something special. Jeter became the all-time Yankee hits leader and Rivera captured his 500th career save.
Fast forward two years later and both of these perennial Yankees are still making history.
On July 9, Jeter stepped up to the plate at home and clubbed a home run to deep left-center field, his 3,000th career hit. He became the first Yankee to ever record 3,000 hits and the second person since Wade Boggs to leave the yard for 3K.
Rivera became the all-time saves leader on Monday, nailing down his 602nd career save, securing a 6-4 Yankee win over the Minnesota Twins.
With 602 saves under his belt he passed Trevor Hoffman for most career saves all-time. Including the postseason, Rivera has 644, as he also has saved 42 playoff games.
Jeter and Rivera have only solidified what we as Yankee fans have known all along: that they are legends. No one may ever duplicate what both of these men have accomplished. In the foreseeable future, there won’t be another Yankee to get 3,000 hits.
There’s also a good chance no one will ever do what Rivera has done in terms of closing ballgames.
I don’t have to sell the Captain and Mo at all; there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said a million times. Jeter and Rivera have earned the love and adoration of every Yankee fan in the world. Both are five-time World Series champs, and have an opportunity to become six-time champs this year.
Time will tell if they get there, but until then, there are Yankee Yapping Milestone Man winners. Congrats guys!
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player Award
Winner: Curtis Granderson
These past few years the Yankees have had a number of players in the running for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Last year it was Robinson Cano, this year it is Curtis Granderson. The centerfielder’s .270 batting average may be the only statistic that is holding him down, but he has done very well for himself in every other offensive category.
At press time Granderson leads the majors in runs scored (134) and RBIs (119), and is second in home runs (41) to Toronto’s Jose Bautista (42).
Yet, remember the old saying, which originated in 2005 when David Ortiz was in the running for MVP: it should go to “full-time players” only. Defense is part of being a baseball player too, and Granderson has exhibited excellent D.
In the field he is showing off his capability with 11 assists and a .992 fielding percentage.
Throughout the year Granderson has come up in some huge spots on both sides of the field, and has turned into the elite player the Yankees traded for before 2010. He has made a lot of progress and stepped up, especially against left-handed pitching – which was something scrutinized when the Yanks acquired him.
The big fuss about Granderson was his strife against lefties. But that has not affected him this year.
In fact, Granderson is actually hitting .277 off southpaws, as opposed to his .266 BA vs. righties. 16 of his 41 homers have come off lefties and his slugging percentage vs. left-handers is .614. Against righties, Granderson is slugging .549.
He has a chance to win the AL MVP this year. But if he doesn’t, he can always take solace knowing he has won the Yankee Yapping MVP Award. Congrats Curtis!
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year Award
Winner: CC Sabathia
I started this blog in 2009 and this will be the third Ace of the Year Award I will be handing out. All three years it has gone to the same man and rightfully so.
It was announced tonight that CC Sabathia will not make another start before the American League Division Series begins, which means he went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA this year. He racked up 230 strikeouts, logged 237 1/3 innings, and registered three complete games (one of which was a shutout).
Sabathia has been the horse since day one; the leader. He takes the ball every fifth day and the Yankees seem to have a certain confidence and swagger whenever he’s on the mound. I think they take the field knowing they have a great chance to win with Sabathia pitching.
When the postseason begins, Sabathia has to be his usual self. Not that he pitched all that poorly last year, but he did end the American League Championship Series with a 6.30 ERA while surrendering seven earned runs in just 10 innings. If he can be that dominant pitcher we have seen, the Yanks can certainly win a lot of games. If not, they are in big trouble.
But we know what to expect from him – and he usually delivers. Sabathia won’t win the Cy Young Award because Justin Verlander of Detroit basically has that locked up. But he did win Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year for the third consecutive time.
Yankee Yapping Silver Slugger Award
Winner: Robinson Cano
The Yankees have a lot of players to thank for where they are. But the biggest thanks probably deserves to go to the studly second baseman Robinson Cano.
After he showed off his might winning the Home Run Derby, Cano continued to portray exemplary power – which is something that sometimes doesn’t happen. There has been a theory going around these past few years that the derby messes up a hitter’s swing.
Take David Wright on the other side of town, for example. He came close to winning the Home Run Derby in 2006, but according to some experts, never put up the same power numbers after that year. Same thing goes for Bobby Abreu, who won the derby in 2005, but never hit more than 20 dingers in a season following it.
Cano on the other hand has 27 homers, 116 RBIs, and is batting .305. He has been a consistent force in the Yankee lineup, taking on the cleanup hitter role in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. He has thrived in everything that has been thrown at him and continues to impress with his sweet swing and smooth stride.
Like Granderson he may be considered for AL MVP Award – last year he finished third in the voting. Whatever happens, he has been a major reason for the Yanks’ success. Congrats Robinson!
Yankee Yapping WTF?! Award
Winner: A.J. Burnett
When Spring Training started, Yankee analysts (namely Ken Singleton) raved about the difference in A.J. Burnett. Singleton called his pitching delivery “completely revisited” and after watching a bullpen session, said Burnett’s fastball and curve ball were “crackling through the strike zone.”
Under the tutelage of first-year pitching coach Larry Rothschild, I thought he could finally go back to that dominant form he once displayed when he pitched for the Florida Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. A lot of other fans also felt Burnett was primed for a big year.
But those thoughts were not well-founded.
The man who was signed to a lucrative five-year, $82.5 million contract has not lived up to it, as he is 10-11 with a 5.28 ERA – after going 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in 2010. He has given up 107 earned runs in 182 1/3 innings pitched, and has allowed more than a hit per inning. He also leads the league in wild pitches with 25 – and this is the third time in his career he has led the league in that category.
For the past few years I have attempted to defend Burnett for the sake of our initials. I can’t take away from the fact that he pitched the game of his life in Game Two of the ’09 World Series. If he had not won that game and pitched as effectively as he did, I’m not convinced the Yankees would have beaten the Phillies.
Yet New York sports supporters have one question, Burnett: what have you done for me lately?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And there is no way I can defend an ERA of 5.28 in a pitcher who cost $82.5 million. Burnett was supposed to be a solid number two starter and he hasn’t even proved to be a good number four starter; maybe an acceptable number five man, but he is nowhere near what the Yankees expected him to be.
I lost a little bit of respect for him when he made a start in Minnesota vs. the Twins on Aug. 20. Burnett tossed just 1 2/3 innings before Joe Girardi came to the mound to take the ball from him. He allowed seven earned runs on five hits, walking three batters and striking out only one.
As he left the mound, Burnett lipped off at his manager and stormed into the clubhouse.
In my mind it was a complete and utter display of unprofessionalism.
After this year he is still owed $33 million – which is a lot of money. Unless the Yanks can get rid of him somehow, they might be stuck with him for at least another year and a half. I just don’t know what to make of him anymore.
Burnett I have one question for you: WTF?!
Yankee Yapping “He Proved Me Wrong Award”
Winner: Ivan Nova
I had serious doubts about Ivan Nova when the year began. In a big game, I did not want to trust him with the ball, being that he was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 games (seven starts) last year. In my mind I drew a comparison between him and Ian Kennedy (when he was a Yankee), thinking he would flop.
But soon after I found myself comparing him to Kennedy, I found myself comparing him to Chien-Ming Wang, being that his sinker ball has worked so effectively and he has induced a good amount of ground ball outs. Using that pitch, he has cruised to a 16-4 record this year with a 3.62 ERA.
Nova is in the running for the American League Rookie of the Year and is probably going to be the number two starter in the postseason – quite a responsibility for a 24-year old.
Although he has certainly proved me wrong as far as the regular season goes, he still has to show he can get it done when it matters. It remains to be seen whether Nova can help carry the Yanks in the postseason. But for now, he has shown an outstanding capability on the mound.
For the past two years pitchers have won Rookie of the Year; Andrew Bailey of Oakland in 2009 and Neftali Feliz of Texas in ’10. I wish Nova the best of luck to keep the line of pitchers winning ROTY moving.
And if he doesn’t win it, at least he won a Yankee Yapping Award. Congrats Ivan!
Yankee Yapping Best Season From a Newcomer
Winner: Russell Martin
He may be Canadian but after this year, I think he is officially a New Yorker.
Russell Martin was a wonderful pickup by the Yanks before 2011 commenced. He has displayed sheer durability, playing in 121 games this year. His batting average is hovering around.236, but he has smacked 17 home runs and knocked in 62 runs while scoring 55.
There’s an old saying about catchers: having one that can hit is a bonus – and we have that bonus.
Martin has also done very well working with a pitching staff he has never worked with before. He has done very well with every hurler on the staff and in the bullpen, and can easily call a good game behind the plate.
I’m looking forward to another year with Martin in pinstripes and he deserves the honor of being called the best newcomer to the team. Congrats Russell!
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: David Robertson
This will be David Robertson’s second consecutive Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year win. Last year he grinded through a slow start, only to become a lights-out relief man.
This year Robertson was an All-Star and in relief he is 4-0 with a tiny 1.11 ERA. The young man out of Alabama has struck out 96 batters in 64 2/3 innings pitched, has notched 39 holds, and has carved his niche as the primary setup man for Rivera.
He’s also earned the nickname “Houdini” for being able to get out of tight jams and sticky situations.
Robertson has been an asset ever since he joined the Yanks in 2008, and they have been lucky to have such a consistent bullpen pitcher on their roster. He scuffled a bit in last year’s postseason, but if he maintains that consistency he displayed all season, he will do just fine.
Yankee Yapping Future Star Award
Winner: Jesus Montero
On Sept. 1 Jesus Montero made his much-anticipated debut in a game against the hated Boston Red Sox. He went 0-for-4 while getting hit by a pitch, and didn’t impress many fans in his first game.
But he collected his first hit in the next game against Toronto, and a few days later on Sept. 5 crushed his first two homers against the Baltimore Orioles at home. He became the first Yankee since Shane Spencer (1998) to hit his first two Major League homers in the same game.
Montero has only played in 14 games and still has a long way to go in terms of showing off what he can do. There are certainly high hopes and expectations, but from what he has given us so far, I believe he is capable; he can live up to the hype.
With Jorge Posada likely on his way out and Francisco Cervelli constantly getting knocked in the head, Montero is likely the catcher of the future.
With Martin around for at least another year, he can learn the ropes a little bit and still act as a designated hitter. That way when his time comes and he is the every day catcher, he will be more than ready.
In the meantime, it was smart of the Yankees to call him up and at least give him a taste of the majors. If he gets his little bit of experience now, I have no doubt he will be very dangerous in the future. And for that, he wins the Yankee Yapping Future Star Award.
Well, that about does it for this year’s awards blog. Congrats to all the winners (save for A.J. Burnett; I’m just sorry for him at this point) and congrats to the Yankees on the AL East crown. Within the next few days we will have our ALDS opponent, so look out for previews and playoff analysis.
October, here we come.
He’s finished. He’s washed up. He’s through. He’s a loser. Why bother with this guy?
All things some current Yankees have probably heard over the past couple of years. But right now, no one is saying any of these things. Right now the Yankees are in first place in the American League East, mostly because of the players who were taken off the so-called scrap heap.
I’ll begin with the obvious: Bartolo Colon.
Tonight he played the role of stopper, pitching eight strong innings en route to a 3-1 Yankee win over the Chicago White Sox, ending a two-game losing skid. Colon worked effectively, throwing 99 pitches, striking out six and only issuing one walk.
He only allowed one earned run, an RBI single in the sixth inning from Adam Dunn which plated Carlos Quentin. Other than that hiccup, Colon was masterful. He worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the second inning and his fastball had both life and movement, topping out on the speed gun at 96 mph.
So far Colon is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.77 and honestly, who expected this from him?
Probably not many people.
It’s still early in the season, and Colon has not logged more than 200 innings since 2005, the year he won the A.L. Cy Young Award. In 2007 he tossed 99 1/3 innings, but only registered 39 innings the following year. In 2009 he only threw 62 1/3 innings.
The question has to be asked: can his arm hold up for the rest of the year?
Time will tell. If he continues to pitch as effectively as he has this month for the rest of the season, the Yankees will not have a problem. However if the season rolls along and his velocity goes down, his pitches lose life and they fall flat, the Yankees may have to take action.
But they will cross that bridge when they get there. For now, the Colon signing is looking as if it was the right move. Bench Coach Tony Pena managed him over the winter and recommended him to the front office.
At the moment, Pena deserves a vast amount of credit.
Another signing the Yankees made during the off-season, which right now is paying off, was the acquisition of Freddy Garcia.
Although Garcia hasn’t gotten a lot of mound time, he has made two starts and is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA. On April 16 he beat a powerful Texas Ranger team, pitching six innings and giving up no runs on just two hits. He only walked one and struck out one, but he made a statement with that game:
“I’m for real and I can still pitch.”
On April 24 he certainly pitched good enough to win, befuddling the Orioles for six innings and not allowing a run while giving up just two hits. He walked two but fanned seven. The Chief did not pick up the win, as the combined efforts of Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain weren’t enough to handle the O’s in the late innings.
The Yanks did win the game though, 6-3 in 11 innings.
Garcia still has a little bit to prove because he only has two starts under his belt in this early season. But both starts have been of the quality variety and he has demonstrated decent control and good command of his pitches.
Another signing paying dividend: Eric Chavez.
Some analysts called having Chavez on the bench a “luxury” being that he is a former Silver Slugger winner (2002) and a six time Gold Glover winner (2001-06). Again, he hasn’t had a lot of playing time (12 games played) but he is making it count when he does play.
So far Chavez is batting .348 (8-for-23) with two doubles, three RBIs, and four runs scored. He has also done a pretty good job playing defense, as he made a nice bare-handed play at third in yesterday’s game, playing third base for Alex Rodriguez who served as the designated hitter.
Chavez has had a series of injuries in his career and the Yankees took a chance signing him. That risk is proving to be a great reward, at least for now. Again, we are in the early stages of the 2011 season, and there is no telling what can happen in terms of injuries.
But if Chavez remains healthy, he could be looked at as a steal in the future; a brilliant acquisition and one of the better moves the Yankees have made in recent years.
Along with Chavez is Andruw Jones – a player once regarded as the most dangerous hitter in the National League. Like Chavez Jones is a former Silver Slugger (2005) and he is a 10-time Gold Glove winner and a five time All-Star.
Jones has played in eight games so far this year and is batting .316 with a home run and two RBIs. He isn’t as fast as he once was, and maybe not even as athletic. But serving the Yanks as the fourth outfielder, he has made a couple of good catches in left field.
As the year progresses, he could become more and more valuable to the Yankees. Jones hit 19 homers for the White Sox last year and knocked in 48 runs. If you ask me, that type of production from a bench player is definitely a plus, and in many ways a bonus.
Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman was criticized heavily by the media and the fan base for making these questionable moves in the off-season. Skeptics (including myself) thought the players taken off the scrap heap were never going to make it.
I think the only way to look at it this way:
If the GM signs the player and he bombs, the GM looks like an idiot. If he signs the player and the player prevails, the GM comes off looking like a genius.
So far, Cashman is looking like a genius.
Yet, it cannot be stressed enough: the season is young. Very young. Through the first month each of the scrap heap signees has done extraordinarily well. They have stepped into these roles and flourished, keeping the Yankees (13-8) above the rest of the teams in the division.
But they need to keep on trucking, otherwise Cashman, as smart as he looks now, will look like a person who didn’t know what he was doing in terms of making these signings.
And for now, they are the scrap heap heroes.
Before this season began, many folks called the Yankees’ starting rotation “comically thin.” Those same folks praised the Yankee bullpen, calling them dynamic and strong. Rightfully so, considering they have Mariano Rivera, and they bolstered the ‘pen with the signing of Rafael Soriano, who led the American League in saves last year with 45 for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Right now, it’s almost as if everyone had it backwards.
A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia have been pitching great, giving the Yankees length and quality. Each of the starters, who everyone thought were going to pitch terribly, are doing their part. The bullpen on the other hand has been faltering and failing.
Case in point: tonight.
With the Yankees leading 2-1 in the eighth, Soriano plunked Carlos Quentin, who was quickly replaced by pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge (more from him later). The next batter, Paul Konerko, pulled a home run over the left field wall, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead.
The Yankees tried to stage a comeback in the ninth; Derek Jeter singled, Curtis Granderson sacrifice bunted him over to second, and then Mark Teixeira walked.
Then it became the Lillibridge defense show.
Alex Rodriguez took a pitch to deep right field, all the way to the wall. On his horse, Lillibridge ran and tracked the ball down at the wall for the second out.
Robinson Cano, as the Yanks’ last hope, lined a falling blooper to right, again setting up another excellent play for Lillibridge; he dove, caught the ball, and ended the game.
The only two runs the Yankees generated were by solo home runs, off the bats of Cano (in the second inning) and Brett Gardner (in the fifth).
As a team the Yanks only had four hits tonight and two of them went over the wall. The Yankees collectively have 38 homers, and it’s evident they are relying heavily on the home run.
And as they say: if you live by the home run, there’s a chance you can die by the home run.
Tonight, that was the case.
But it probably should not have come to that in the first place. The Yankees brought Soriano to New York to fill the void in the eighth inning. He was meant to get big outs in the eighth inning; to hold close leads late in the game and set up Rivera, but so far he hasn’t done much of that.
In fact, Raphael the Ninja Turtle seems to be doing more for the Yankees than Rafael Soriano.
He is 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA and he has more walks (8) than strikeouts (7). He left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths last night, not going for that popup behind the mound. Tonight he blew a tremendous outing by Nova, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up one earned run on five hits.
Nova walked two and struck out three, the longest outing of his young career.
It was unfortunate for Nova, because if he had won he would have moved to 2-2 on the year. Instead Soriano blew the game and his chance at his second win of the season. Soriano’s body language has also been rubbing certain people the wrong way.
When he surrendered the home run to Konerko, he didn’t look fazed; he remained stoic and it didn’t look as though he cared he had blown the lead. There are some pitchers who do not show emotion, but with the way Soriano has been recently pitching, it wouldn’t kill him to look a little upset with himself.
Yet as poor as Soriano has been pitching, he isn’t alone. Rivera has blown his last two save opportunities, both after good performances from the starters.
On April 19 in Toronto, Burnett gave the Yanks a great outing, turning in 5 1/3 innings and only allowing two earned runs. Rivera blew a 5-3 lead in the ninth and the Blue Jays went on to win 6-5 in 10 innings. Fast forward five days later in Baltimore, and another quality start, this one by Garcia.
Six innings and no earned runs by the starter and Rivera came in and once again let go of the lead. The Yankee offense bailed him out, taking the game into extra innings to beat the Orioles 6-3 in 11 frames, but it still goes as a blown save for Rivera.
The Yankee bullpen, as dynamic and strong as it can be, is not doing the job.
The only bright spot seems to be David Robertson, who has five holds so far this year. Robertson is 1-0 and has not allowed a run in 8 1/3 innings pitched. Tonight he tossed 2/3 of an inning, struck out one, and did not issue a walk.
It’s nice to know we have one guy out there doing his job, but the rest of the relievers are ghosts.
Tomorrow night Colon (1-1, 3.50 ERA) will take the hill for the Yankees (12-8), looking to get them back in the win column. He will face Chicago ace Mark Buehrle (1-2, 5.40 ERA).
As for the bullpen, minus Robertson, I have one closing thought for you:
Act like you care. Get your heads in the game. Start doing work and taking care of business.
The Yankees had a rare game on Tuesday – a complete meltdown of the bullpen, taking a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Yesterday’s game was rained out, making this afternoon’s game a rubber game. The Bombers came out on top, beating the Twins 4-3 in the series finale.
The Yankees and Twins will make up Wednesday’s rainout in September.
A three-run fourth inning by the Yankees gave them the lead, which they never gave up. Down 2-1, Andruw Jones blasted a double to score Alex Rodriguez, tying the game up at two. Russell Martin then grounded out to first base, allowing Robinson Cano to come to the plate.
Jones came home on a bloop single by Brett Gardner, finishing off the scoring in the frame.
The Yankees built a run in the bottom of the third, with Gardner ultimately coming home on a sacrifice fly to right field by Nick Swisher.
Speaking of Swisher, he took out Twins’ second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the seventh, sliding hard into second base to break up what would have been a Mark Teixeira double play.
Swisher broke it up, but in the process, fractured Nishioka’s fibula. The Yankees’ right fielder looked visibly disappointed in himself after Nishioka was removed from the game. He is headed to the disabled list.
Next time the Yankees meet the Twins…watch your back, Swish. (Although Swisher did apologize after the game. Will the Twins will get back at him? We’ll have to wait and see).
In another storyline, Derek Jeter had two hits and he passed Rogers Hornsby and Jake Beckley for 33rd place on baseball’s all-time hits list. The Captain now has 2,931 hits, just 69 base hits away from 3,000.
The Twins scored two in the top of the fourth receiving RBI doubles by Jim Thome and Jason Kubel. They plated their final run in the top of the seventh on a groundout by Denard Span to score Alexi Casilla.
A.J. Burnett pitched for the Yankees and turned in a good performance. The lanky right-hander tossed six innings and gave up two earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out five, mixing pitches and using his curveball with confidence.
He was backed by the combination of Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera who put the Twins away in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, respectively. It was certainly an improvement over Tuesday’s collapse. The only blemish was a run given up by Chamberlain – Span’s groundout to score Casilla was on him.
Burnett improved to 2-0 on the season and he is now 7-0 in 12 April starts as a member of the Yankees. He leads the Yankee staff in wins this year.
Rivera has saved all four games the Yankees have won this season, as the Bombers are 4-2.
Now they will head into Boston for the weekend, where things have not gone according to plan. While the Yankees have a winning record, the Red Sox have started the season 0-6, losing their first three games to the Rangers and their next three to the Indians.
Boston has only started two other seasons at 0-6 (1905 and 1927) and statistically it’s the worst start they have ever seen since 1945. Baseball analysts are asking themselves, “What have happened to these guys?” After all, many experts predicted the Red Sox to win it all this year, considering their huge off-season acquisitions. They added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to help bolster an already-potent lineup.
Although the BoSox are scuffling, they cannot blame Gonzalez. He is hitting .304 with five RBIs and he has a home run. Crawford on the other hand is not producing, hitting .174 with no extra base hits, only one RBI, and six strikeouts.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who is Boston’s leadoff hitter, is only batting .167 and has struck out seven times this year. Kevin Youkilis, one of the Red Sox main RBI producers in the middle of the lineup, is hitting a meager .105 with just one RBI and five strikeouts. Dustin Pedroia is batting .227 with no extra base hits and no RBIs.
After their 1-0 loss to the Indians today, Pedroia said he was going to go home and his wife was going to tell him “he stinks.”
Yet, it isn’t just the dead offense. Boston’s pitching hasn’t been much better.
John Lackey, who will start tomorrow afternoon against Phil Hughes (0-1, 11.25 ERA) was shelled in his first start of the year against Texas. He tossed only 3 2/3 innings and surrendered nine earned runs on ten hits. He walked two batters, struck out three, and served up two homers. Lackey’s ERA right now is 22.09.
On Saturday the Yankees will send Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) to the hill to face Clay Buchholz, who was touched up for four homers in his first start of the season against the Rangers. He pitched 6 1/3 innings on the way to a loss in Texas, as he is 0-1 right now with a 5.68 ERA.
The series will conclude on Sunday night with CC Sabathia (0-0, 1.38 ERA) squaring off against Josh Beckett – once the Boston ace, now throwing out of the number four spot in the rotation. Beckett only tossed five innings in Cleveland on Tuesday, giving up three earned runs on five hits. He walked four batters and struck out four, on the way to his first loss of 2011.
Look at it this way: tomorrow is Opening Day at Fenway Park. The Red Sox fans are going to be excited and hoping their team can put the abysmal 0-6 start behind them with a win over the Yankees. During the opening ceremonies, the fans will be cheering and going wild for their players, new life and rebirth fresh in their heads.
If the Yankees jump all over Lackey for a few runs early on, they might turn on their team and get angry. The Boston fans might be getting restless, witnessing their team – that everyone thought was going be dominant – struggle so mightily in the early-going.
And with the way the Yankees have been going ahead early, getting on base, and putting pressure on the other team, it could make for a long weekend for the Red Sox.
As the people in Boston continue to scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with the Red Sox, New York would love nothing more than to keep the ongoing Boston Massacre alive.
Today, God let there be baseball. And life.
And with it all came a 6-3 Yankee win over the Tigers, as the Bombers have now won 13 of their last 14 home openers. Today’s win also snapped a two-game Opening Day losing streak, as the Yanks dropped their road openers in 2010 and 2009 – to the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, respectively.
Where to start?
How nice was he? He made three outstanding catches in center, highlighting the day on defense. Along with notching a few web gems, he was a force at the plate. In the bottom of the seventh Granderson broke a 3-3 tie with a solo home run to deep right field, a shot that landed in the second deck.
It was Granderson’s first home run of the year and it marked the third consecutive time he homered on Opening Day. Last year he took Josh Beckett deep on Opening Night at Fenway Park vs. the Red Sox and as a member of the Tigers in 2009, he homered in a 12-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ironically enough, Granderson went deep off the same pitcher he was traded for – Phil Coke. Coke took the loss and Granderson was pretty much the player of the game.
Knowing that, it must be tough to be the Tigers.
Granderson homered off Coke, a left-handed pitcher. Last year he scuffled against lefties (.234 batting average), so the fact that he took a southpaw deep today is hopefully a good sign of things to come.
Not to mention he hurt his oblique during Spring Training and showed no lingering signs of an injury.
Overall, Granderson stole the Opening Day show. And if nothing else, he ushered in the Yankees’ first win of 2011 – hopefully the first of many.
CC Sabathia ended the day with a good line: six innings pitched, six hits, three runs (two earned), two walks, and seven strikeouts. Overall it was respectable, considering it was the first game of the year and Sabathia hasn’t had a fair amount of success to open up the season.
The big man provided the Yanks with a quality start, but the real story was the perfect bullpen.
Joba Chamberlain relieved Sabathia and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, recording one strikeout. He was very effective, although he was only hitting the low-90s on the speed gun.
After Chamberlain was Rafael Soriano, who tossed a scoreless, hitless eighth. The new setup man got the chance to strut his stuff, and I’m sure I can speak for every Yankee fan when say I loved what I saw.
Following him was who else but the great Mariano Rivera. With a new regular season look, sporting his socks high – the same look we saw in Spring Training – Rivera came on to shut down the Tigers in the ninth, 1-2-3 for his 560th career save and first of 2011.
Chamberlain picked up the win while Soriano recorded a hold.
The game has been shortened when it comes to Yankee pitching. If each starter gives the Yankees what Sabathia gave them today, the Bronx Bombers are going to win a heck of a lot of ballgames.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Mark Teixeira blasted a three-run homer to right field, his first of the year, to put the Yanks ahead, 3-1. Like Granderson’s homer, it landed in the second porch in right field.
Teixeira was 1-for-3, as his homer was the only hit he had. But if he swings the bat the way he did today, he might possibly be able to exorcise his “slow start demons.”
Derek Jeter is still 74 hits away from 3,000 for his career, not reaching base by way of a hit today. He did however draw a walk and he drove in Russell Martin with a sacrifice fly.
Speaking of Martin, he scored two runs today and stole a base. That’s right, a catcher stole a base.
Nick Swisher knocked in the Yankees’ sixth run of the afternoon with an RBI single to score Alex Rodriguez. Swisher hit a blooper into right field and tried to stretch it into a double. He was put out 9-3-6-3, but not before Rodriguez crossed the plate.
Rodriguez had a monster double in the sixth that, on any other day, would have gone out for a home run. It caromed off the wall in right-center field, as A-Rod just missed it. The slugging third baseman quite possibly could have had a triple, but he was in his home run trot when he left the box.
Overall, the Yankees played a great game. It was a hard-fought win, because the Tigers kept chipping away at their lead. Finally Granderson was able to put the Tigers away with one swing of the bat and from there it snowballed.
Tomorrow the Yanks will have their traditional off-day following Opening Day. They will be back at it on Saturday afternoon against Detroit.
A.J. Burnett, who is battling a cold, will make his first start of 2011. The number two man is hoping to erase his 10-15 record last year, and what better way to do that than by beginning this season with a win?
He will face Brad Penny of the Tigers.
Today the Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 in Tampa, leaving only three more Grapefruit League games left on the schedule before they start playing for real on Thursday. The highlight of the afternoon was a towering, two-run homer off the bat of Alex Rodriguez that flew over the batter’s eye in centerfield, his sixth round-tripper of the spring.
A few decisions and moves were made recently, most notably the trade of Sergio Mitre, the signing of Kevin Millwood, and the naming of the fourth and fifth starting pitchers.
Yesterday Mitre was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Chris Dickerson. In this afternoon’s win over the Bucs, Dickerson made his Yankee debut and put on quite a hitting show. The 28 year-old pounded out three hits (including a double) in three at-bats while knocking in a run.
Unfortunately Dickerson was forced to leave the game with an apparent hamstring injury after notching his third hit. As of this point, the Yankee medical staff can only diagnose his injury as “spasms and cramping.”
Tough luck for the kid to go down – especially following such an impressive debut. What’s more, it hurts the Yankees, being that Curtis Granderson is not yet confirmed to be playing on Opening Day in light of his oblique injury. Yesterday Granderson did some running and agility drills, as he hopes to avoid beginning the 2011 season on the disabled list.
Millwood, 36, was signed just yesterday. He owned the worst record in baseball last year, going 4-16 for the Baltimore Orioles with a 5.10 ERA. However, he has been a dominant pitcher in the past, leading the league with the lowest ERA in 2005 (2.86), making the All-Star team in 1999, and finishing third in the N.L. Cy Young voting in 1999 as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
Even though he has proven himself in the past, he hasn’t proven anything yet. He will probably have to go through extended Spring Training and wouldn’t make the team unless he flourishes, another pitcher struggles, or another pitcher gets hurt.
Along with the trade and the signing, it was announced that Ivan Nova will be the Yankees’ number four starter this year, and Freddy Garcia will pitch every fifth day. Bartolo Colon, who many people feel had a better spring than Garcia, will pitch out of the bullpen.
Garcia owned a 5.93 ERA in four spring outings, throwing 13 2/3 innings. Colon held down a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings, giving most people the impression Colon should have won the number five job.
Yankee Manager Joe Girardi maintained that Garcia, 35, was the favorite to win the spot because Colon, 37, hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since 2009. Girardi added that, for his standards, Garcia had a good spring.
Now that we are only six days away from Opening Day, here is how Girardi should build his roster. Only 25 players can be at Yankee Stadium on Thursday and these men (I feel) have earned the honor of making the trek from Tampa to the Bronx.
1) Derek Jeter – SS
2) Alex Rodriguez – 3B
3) Robinson Cano – 2B
4) Mark Teixeira – 1B
5) Jorge Posada – DH
6) Russell Martin – C
7) Brett Gardner – LF
8) Nick Swisher – RF
9) Curtis Granderson* -CF (*if he does not start the season on the DL)
10) Andruw Jones – Fourth Outfielder
11) Eric Chavez – Backup IF/Utility
12) Eduardo Nunez – Backup IF/Utility
13) Jesus Montero – Backup Catcher
14) CC Sabathia – No. 1 Starter
15) A.J. Burnett -No. 2 Starter
16) Phil Hughes – No. 3 Starter
17) Ivan Nova – No. 4 Starter
18) Freddy Garcia – No. 5 Starter
19) Bartolo Colon – Long Relief
20) Mark Prior – Middle/Long Relief (he is interchangeable; can be used for both)
21) Joba Chamberlain – Middle Relief
22) David Robertson – Middle Relief
23) Rafael Soriano – Setup Man
24) Boone Logan* (*Pedro Feliciano will most likely start the season on the DL) – Lefty specialist(s)
25) Mariano Rivera – Closer
Most of these players will be in the Bronx next week and all of them deserve to be. Girardi will probably make a few modifications to my Opening Day roster, but expect to see most of these names called during the pregame ceremony on Thursday.
Mark Prior deserves to be on the roster because of how well he pitched this spring (eight games, 7 2/3 innings pitched, three hits, three runs, one earned run, 1.17 ERA, 11 Ks, and five walks).
He earned the chance to prove himself and could provide the Yanks with some solid middle and/or long relief. I’m not sure if Girardi will send Prior to the Bronx, but if they don’t call him up, at least at some point in the season, they are making a mistake.
If Granderson does start the season on the DL, obviously a spot will be open and it’ll be a toss up. I would expect someone like Justin Maxwell (.206 in Spring Training, but he only had 34 at-bats, three RBIs, and four runs scored) or even Dickerson (if he is healthy, given his injury today) to backup Jones in centerfield. That spot would only be open until Granderson returns, anyway.
Another position in question is the backup catcher role. I feel it is time for Montero to at least gain some experience on the Major League level. Today it was reported that Gustavo Molina could back up Martin at catcher, until Francisco Cervelli returns from his foot injury.
If you ask me though, Montero needs a taste of the big leagues – even if he doesn’t spend the entire season in the show.
Whichever way it goes, in a matter of days, anticipate Girardi giving the official word on who is going to the Bronx and who will be heading to the minors.