Happy New Year to all!
I apologize for not blogging in quite awhile. I have been busy with work and the holidays set me back, so I haven’t really had a chance to do a lot of Yankee Yapping.
Since my last blog entry, Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, going back to the city of brotherly love for his second tour of duty. Am I upset the Yankees didn’t land him?
Yes, but only because he was really their only option. Andy Pettitte is expected to retire any day now and looking at things objectively, the Yankees have about two and a half pitchers in their rotation: CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett, who counts as a half a pitcher.
I checked out the free agent starters on the open market. There’s not much to look at, unless you count Carl Pavano and Ted Lilly as top-notch pitchers–both of whom have already faltered in pinstripes in the past.
Bottom line: the Yankee rotation needs help. And soon. The bullpen? Well…
Pedro Feliciano is coming across town from the Mets. Who knows how he will do, but he better pitch well. Kerry Wood is headed back to the Chicago Cubs, which upset me. He was probably the best part of our bullpen towards the end of last season, outside of Mariano Rivera.
Russell Martin came over from Joe Torre’s Dodgers, and hopefully he will exhibit better skills behind the plate (at least in terms of throwing out runners) than Jorge Posada, who has already been named the 2011 designated hitter.
Posada lost his starting catcher job. Sad, because more likely than not, this is his last year as a Yankee.
Reportedly, the Yankees were talking to Johnny Damon about a possible return. I hope he does come back because I have always liked him. It was a mistake to lose him to Detroit in the first place and I hope a deal can be reached. He would definitely improve the lineup, because everywhere he goes, the team gets better.
I really don’t know what to expect for 2011. I know the Red Sox have certainly improved, adding Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Bobby Jenks–joining the already dynamic group of players the Red Sox have, like David Ortiz (who can still hit for power) Dustin Pedroia (pesky little punk) Kevin Youkilis (annoying, strong hitter) and J.D. Drew (who can’t stay healthy with any team but Boston).
Buster Olney already compared the 2011 Red Sox to the Yankee Dynasty teams of the late 1990s.
As much as that scares me, it doesn’t make sense. They haven’t played a game yet. Who knows what kind of team chemistry the BoSox will showcase, and if they will click or stay healthy, or even pitch effectively. I mean, they haven’t even played a game yet.
On paper, they are the best team in the American League. But as Derek Jeter always says, “On paper doesn’t win you ballgames.”
Still, Boston scares me. Their off-season reminds me of what they did prior to 2007 and they went on to win the World Series that year. They missed the playoffs in 2006 and came storming back with a great off-season and a Championship year to follow.
I get the feeling they can do that again, as much as I hate to admit it. Boston is stacked.
But enough about that. Now that I have outlined some of the dreadful thoughts for this upcoming season, and in the spirit of the New Year, I’ll review the top 10 Yankee moments/plays of 2010.
10) CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes Flirt with No-Hitters
2010 was definitely the year of the pitcher. Perfect games and no-hitters were thrown by the likes of Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dallas Braden, Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson…and almost by Armando Galarraga, but we all know what happened there.
On April 10, CC Sabathia took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. Through 7 2/3 innings, Sabathia shut down the Rays’ potent lineup until Kelly Shoppach lined a sharp single into left field to break it up.
So close. But the Yankees won 10-0 and Sabathia picked up his first win of the year–his first of 21 wins.
Fast forward to 11 days later in Oakland and Phil Hughes on the hill.
The Yankees played the Athletics on April 21, and Hughes nearly tossed a no-no of his own. The 23 year-old righty stud pitched 7 1/3 innings before giving up a come-backer to Eric Chavez–a hit that caromed off Hughes himself. He ended the night with 10 strikeouts, a career-high for him. He only walked two batters.
Although he did not get the no-hitter, the Yankees once again prevailed, beating Oakland 3-1.
9) Opening Day at Yankee Stadium
I feel especially biased towards this day, simply because I was there to witness it.
On April 13 the Yankees celebrated their 27th Championship with a ring ceremony and a game vs. the Los Angeles Angels. It was a glorious day and it meant a lot to me, spending it with my friends and family.
My cousin Thomas got a batting practice ball, the Yankees got their 2009 World Series rings, and I got a whole bunch of memories that will last for the rest of my life.
The Yankees beat the Angels, 7-5.
8) Comeback vs. Boston
May 17 was a memorable night for all Yankee fans.
Down 9-7 in the bottom of the ninth, Alex Rodriguez clobbered a game-tying home run off Yankee pariah/ Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Marcus Thames came up later in the frame and crushed a walk-off home run deep into the left field seats to end the game. Yankees 11, Red Sox 9.
Papelbon walks off in shame, Thames walks off the hero. And the Yankee fans go home with smiles on their faces.
7) Grand Ol’ Days
The Yankees smacked 10 grand slams this season, more bases-loaded home runs in one season than I can ever remember.
Alex Rodriguez had three: May 14 vs. the Minnesota Twins, May 31 vs. the Cleveland Indians, and July 7 at Oakland. Rodriguez now has 21 career grand slams, and he will tie Lou Gehrig for most career grannies (23) if he hits two slams next season.
Jorge Posada crushed two grand slams this year: June 12 and 13 vs. the Houston Astros. Two grand slams in as many games–now that’s impressive.
Robinson Cano also hit two: May 28 vs. the Indians and Aug. 22 vs. the Seattle Mariners.
Curtis Granderson smacked a granny in Baltimore against the Orioles on June 8.
On July 3, Brett Gardner crushed his first career grand slam at home vs. the Blue Jays, a game my friends and I were going to attend. We opted instead to make a trip to Cooperstown to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
I was however at Yankee Stadium on June 20, when Mark Teixeira clobbered a grand slam off Mets’ ace Johan Santana.
It’s safe to say the Yankees did a number on opposing pitching when the bases were loaded in 2010. What’s more, the Bronx Bombers won every game they hit a grand slam in.
6) Derek Jeter’s Inside-the-Park Home Run
On July 22, Derek Jeter rounded the bases all the way for an inside-the-park home run in the Yankees’ game against the Kansas City Royals. It was only his second career in-the-parker, and ironically enough, his first also came against the Royals.
One could argue it was not exactly the prettiest inside-the-park home run, because center fielder David DeJesus had a play on the ball. He could not come down with it however, and he crashed into the plexiglass in right-center field. Jeter caught a break and was able to motor all the way around to tie the game at three.
DeJesus injured himself on the play and was taken out of the game. If he hadn’t fallen down, Jeter may not have been able to complete the home run.
In any event, it was one of the coolest home runs of the year. The Yankees went on to beat the Royals that day by a score of 10-4.
5) Joe Torre vs. The Yankees
Former manager vs. former team. Teacher vs. his students. Joe Torre vs. the Yankees.
In June the Yanks met the Dodgers for a three-game series during interleague play and for the first time since 2007, the Yankees saw their old skipper Joe Torre. It was an interesting weekend; a turning point in the Yankees’ 2010 season.
The Dodgers and Yanks rekindled their old rivalry and traded victories in the first two games. Los Angeles handed the Yankees a decisive 9-4 win in the second game while the Bombers slipped past the Dodgers 2-1 in the first game.
The rubber game looked to belong to the Dodgers, as they led 6-2 in the ninth with flamethrower Jonathan Broxton on the mound. The resilient Yanks would not have any of it, as they rallied to score four runs in the ninth to knot the game at six.
An RBI double by Robinson Cano, a two-run double by Chad Huffman, and a fielder’s choice by Curtis Granderson, and the Yankees are back in it.
Cano came up in the top of the tenth, belting a long two-run home run to left-center. The Yankees went on to win 8-6 and beat their former teacher, winning the series 2-1.
I cannot speak for the rest of the Yankee fans, but to me, it felt SWEET to beat Torre. Sweet.
4) Mark Teixeira’s Big Day in Boston
Once, twice, three times the “Tex Message.”
The Yankees visited the Red Sox on May 8, beating them 14-3. It was one of those great days to be a Yankee fan, to say the least.
Mark Teixeira accounted for a large amount of the scoring, hitting three home runs and driving in five runs on a total of four hits. He scored three runs and became only the second Yankee in history to hit three homers in one game off Boston–second only to Lou Gehrig.
I can remember watching that game with so much joy. Anytime the Yankees embarrass the Red Sox on a Saturday afternoon Fox Game of the Week, it’s a good day.
What also made it more enjoyable was what happened afterward.
The YES Network hosted their “Extra Innings” postgame show, where they ask the audience to write in their thoughts, ideas, or comments. If they like them they use them on the show.
I noticed how Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre had eight errors to that point in the season, and it was only May 8. I wrote in a comment and it made it to TV. The YES Network analysts said my name on TV and discussed my comment on the show.
There could not have been a better way to cap off a big Yankee win over the Red Sox.
3) The ALDS
The Yankees swept the Twins in the ’09 American League Division Series and did the same in 2010. This year the Yankees did not have home field advantage and had to win two games at Target Field before coming home to clinch the division.
In all honesty, I thought this year might be the Twins’ moment; I thought it may have been time for the Twins to get over the hump and finally beat the Yanks in the playoffs.
No such luck.
Another year, another early exit at the hands of the Yankees for Minnesota.
Although the ALCS was painful–unbearably, absoluteLEE painful–to watch, sweeping the Twins was a great start to October. After the Yanks swept, I thought history would repeat itself yet again. Unfortunately the magic vanished to the Texas Rangers.
But nothing can take away the feeling of beating the Twins. It was a great feeling.
Alex Rodriguez, one way or another, is going down in the history books. Whether or not people recognize him as the greatest hitter of all-time, or just another major leaguer who tried to cheat the system, he will always be known and remembered.
On Aug. 4 A-Rod crushed his 600th career home run–exactly three years to the day after he hit his 500th home run. He joined baseball’s “600 Home Run Club” with the likes of Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Sammy Sosa.
A lot of folks, namely the New York Daily News, were quick to judge Rodriguez’s home run as a tainted accomplishment. Many people and baseball fans believe that because Rodriguez admitted steroid usage in his career, the feat means nothing.
Me on the other hand…well, I believe it still means a lot. I have offered my opinion on steroids and do not condone drug usage. However, I believe it takes more than steroids to hit 600 home runs. Plenty of players who were on the juice never came close to 100 home runs, let alone 600.
I still consider it a great moment for A-Rod and a great moment for the Yankee organization.
1) The Game for the Boss and Sheppard
On July 13 the Yankees lost their principle owner. I used to refer to George Steinbrenner as “The Godfather” of the Yankees, and this season he lost his life at the age of 80.
Steinbrenner was the longest tenured Yankee owner in team history and he died just two days after the Yanks lost their longtime public address announcer, the legendary Bob Sheppard.
On July 16, the Yanks’ first game following the All-Star break–and more importantly their first game after losing their Boss (and only their second game after losing Sheppard), they dramatically rallied back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4.
The night started off in emotional fashion. The team could barely hold in their tears and Jeter, our fearless captain, could hardly keep himself together as he addressed the crowd during the pregame ceremony. There was a two-minute period of dead silence during the ceremony, and not one Yankee fan made a peep.
All that was heard throughout Yankee Stadium during those two minutes: the whipping sounds of the flags blowing in the wind and a passing subway train. That’s how much respect Sheppard and Steinbrenner commanded.
Mariano Rivera placed two long-stemmed roses over home plate in remembrance of their fallen comrades.
The Yanks scuffled a bit during the game, giving the Rays a 4-3 edge heading into the eighth. Nick Swisher had other plans, crushing a game-tying home run in the bottom of the frame before recording the big game-winning hit in the ninth, a single which plated Curtis Granderson.
Yankees win an emotional game for Sheppard and the Boss.
Later in the season, Steinbrenner was honored with a plaque out in Monument Park. The Yankees invited many of their former players and dignitaries, including Joe Torre and Don Mattingly. Everyone filed out to the area behind centerfield and another ceremony was held unveiling the plaque on Sept. 20.
Unfortunately the Yankees could not capitalize and win their 28th title the year of Steinbrenner’s passing. However, it’s important to remember that when he passed away, the Yankees were reigning champions.
Well, that about puts a cap on 2010.
May 2011 bring many more great Yankee memories, and hopefully the 28th World Series Championship.
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next month!
On June 15, 1964, The Chicago Cubs traded away left fielder Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals for a right-handed pitcher named Ernie Broglio. Brock went on to enjoy an outstanding career; six All-Star selections, two World Series Championships, The Babe Ruth Award, The Roberto Clemente Award, his number 20 is retired by the Cards, and in 1985 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Not bad for a career’s work.
Broglio on the other hand…well. Not many people remember his name and he didn’t do much else with career after he was dealt to the Cubs. He finished his pitching career with a 77-74 record, a 3.74 ERA, and 849 strikeouts. His only accomplishment: winning the most games in the National League in 1960.
Who got the better end of that deal? The Cardinals, of course. Nowadays, whenever a lopsided trade occurs, in baseball terminology, it’s called a “Brock for Broglio.”
Being a devout Yankee fan, there are several instances (in my lifetime) I can think of when the Yankees either made a terrible trade or a bogus free agent signing. With the recent departure of Javier Vazquez, and in the spirit of “Free Agent Frenzy,” I got the idea to write about some of the worst moves the Yankees have made over the years.
So without any further ado, I give you my top Yankee trade/free agent busts.
Here we go…
Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps
“What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for? He had 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell your doing!!!!”
On an episode of the TV show Seinfeld, George Costanza’s father Frank (played by Jerry Stiller) scolded George Steinbrenner for trading away a 23 year-old right fielder by the name of Jay Buhner.
The Yankees gave Buhner to the Seattle Mariners in July of 1988 along with two minor leaguers–Rich Balabon and Troy Evers–in exchange for Ken Phelps. To this day, the trade is considered by many fans to be one of the worst trades the Yankees ever made in their history.
A classic “Brock for Broglio,” no doubt.
Buhner went on to become an All-Star and win a Gold Glove in 1996, and in 2004 he was inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame. As far as numbers are concerned, Buhner averaged almost 22 home runs per season after leaving the Yankees and knocked in over 100 runs for three consecutive seasons from 1995-97.
It is obvious Buhner established himself on both sides of the field and overall was an excellent player.
Phelps on the other hand just faded away. He had only caught Steinbrenner’s eye initially because he was able to hit 14 home runs in half a season–a feat the Yankee owner viewed as impressive. Unfortunately he gave away a player who went on to enjoy success and in return received a player who went on to become a nobody.
Now whenever someone mentions Phelps, he is remembered as “The guy that got traded for Jay Buhner.”
As a Yankee fan did losing Buhner upset me? Did watching him perform so well year after year against us annoy me because I knew he could have been doing it for us?
Yes and no.
I liked Buhner, even though he was on the Mariners. He had such poise and talent; he could swing a hot bat, could play stellar defense, and yes it was hard to watch him knowing he was once a Yankee.
But at the same time, the Yankees had a pretty good right fielder of their own named Paul O’Neill–a man who earned the nickname “The Warrior” by Steinbrenner. Having O’Neill may have even been better than having Buhner.
After all, O’Neill was a force in the Yankee Dynasty. Without him, the Yankees may not have won the title in 1996 and 1998-2000. O’Neill battled year in and year out and because of his work ethic, he helped guide the Yankees to the Championship.
And for as good as Buhner was, he never won a title. With O’Neill in right field, the Yankees did.
You know things aren’t going well for you when your boss calls you a “Fat P—y Toad.” Hideki Irabu was called this name by Steinbrenner, simply because he did not cover first base on a ground ball–in Spring Training, no less. In fact, The Boss didn’t even allow his pitcher to travel with the team to Los Angeles after the incident because he was so infuriated.
That’s what you would call a serious “FML” experience.
The San Diego Padres had purchased Irabu’s contract in 1997 from the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Believe it or not, his purchase led to the current format used today that MLB enacts to sign Japanese players. Without this deal, players like Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hiroki Kuroda would have never made it to the Majors.
Apparently Irabu wanted to act as much like a big-name superstar as he could, because he refused to sign with San Diego. What’s more, he stated he would only like to play for the Yankees.
That’s a bit egotistical, wouldn’t you say?
The Yankees eventually had to offer San Diego players in exchange for the rights to negotiate with Irabu. When it was all said and done, the Yanks gave up, $3 million, Rafael Medina, and Ruben Rivera (cousin of Mariano Rivera) for Homer Bush and the rights to Irabu–who was later signed by New York for $12.8 million over four years.
A complicated exchange and one that never really did pay off.
The best season Irabu put up was 1998. His numbers:
· 13 wins
· 4.06 ERA
· 173 innings pitched
· Two complete games
· 28 games started
Not exactly worth $12.8 million, if you ask me. I suppose the Yankees could have gotten a little more bang for their buck; or they at least could have signed him for less money.
Irabu collected two World Series rings (1998 and ’99) but didn’t even last all four years he was under contract with the Yankees. After 1999, Irabu was traded to the Montreal Expos (now known to most fans as the Washington Nationals) for Ted Lilly, Christian Parker, and Jake Westbrook. He finished his MLB career with a 34-35 record, a 5.15 ERA and 405 lifetime Ks.
And much like the Buhner trade, Irabu was spoofed on Seinfeld for his poor performance. In the show’s final episode, Frank once again confronts Steinbrenner and yells,
“How could you spend $12 million on Hideki Irabu????!!!”
I guess we will never know, Mr. Costanza.
I can understand why Steinbrenner and the Yankees sought Kevin Brown. He had racked up a lifetime of accolades, including a World Series ring. He was even named “Pitcher of the Year” by The Sporting News in 1998. Brown had made a number of All-Star game appearances, and had the ability to carry a pitching staff working as the ace.
What I cannot understand however, is how a pitcher can get so frustrated that he throws a punch at a wall and breaks his pitching hand in the process. I mean, if you are a pitcher and you have a bad game and get called on it by your teammates or manager, slam your glove to the dugout floor. Take a bat to the dugout water fountain, if you are feeling especially psychotic. Or my personal favorite, knock over a Gatorade cooler.
But don’t ever, under any circumstances, try to pick a fight with a wall and use physicality. The wall is guaranteed to win every time.
With that sheer display of immaturity, I not only lost all respect for Brown but now consider him a terrible move the Yankees made. I don’t really see it as a “Brock for Broglio” per se, because the Bombers only gave up Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban, Brandon Weeden, and $2.6 million for Brown.
Aside from Weaver, the Yanks did not let go anyone of note and Weaver struggled mightily in the 2003 World Series…although his fall classic struggles didn’t stop him from pitching like a stud for the Cardinals in the 2006 World Series…
In 2004 the Yanks probably felt Brown would help lead their pitching staff. But those feelings were not exactly well-founded.
In 2004 Brown went 10-6 with a 4.06 ERA, which weren’t bad numbers for an older pitcher who was playing for the first time in the crazy New York atmosphere. In fact, Brown pitched rather well in the ’04 ALDS vs. the Minnesota Twins, posting six innings and only giving up one run. The Yanks went on to win the series 3-1.
However, his ALCS Game Seven outing vs. Boston is what he is most infamous for; pitching less than two innings and allowing five runs, including a two-run homer to the hated David Ortiz. Essentially, Brown didn’t give the Yankees a shred of a chance to come back and win the pennant.
All Yankee fans, including myself, were outraged. He picked the worst day of the season to have a poor outing. The most important game ever and Joe Torre used the least intelligent member of his pitching staff.
In 2005, Brown attempted to come back, but was sidelined due to injuries. He finished the year in ’05 with a 4-7 record and an ERA of 6.50. The following off-season, he announced his retirement.
I don’t blame the Yanks for trying to catch lightening in a bottle with Brown; there is no denying that he was a decent pitcher in his prime. Yet, it did turn out to be a bad move because they caught Brown in the twilight of his career. As a Yankee, he was nothing but a shell of his former self and could not get the job done when it came to nut-cutting time.
Overall, I chalk Brown up as a big loss for the Yankees.
$39.95 million that could have gone to a better cause. Charity, I suppose.
Following the 2004 collapse to the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Yankees were convinced they needed starting pitching. Along with the big signing of the Big Unit, Randy Johnson, the Yanks sought and landed free agent hurler Carl Pavano.
I used the term “hurler” not because Pavano is a starting pitcher, but because just by mentioning his name makes me want to hurl.
Not for nothing, Pavano was coming off his best career season, numerically, in ’04. In his contract year with the Florida Marlins, he won 18 games while only losing eight and posted a respectable 3.00 ERA. His numbers made him a hot free agent commodity and multiple teams, including Boston and the Cincinnati Reds, wanted him.
Ultimately it was the Yankees who got Pavano and I wish they hadn’t. It would have been better for them if the Red Sox or Reds had wasted their money on him.
At first Pavano appeared to be a decent pitcher. He gave the Yankees quality in seven of his first 10 starts, putting together a 4-2 record and posting a 3.69 ERA–again, not bad for just starting out in the New York environment.
But by June of ’05 Pavano got hurt for the first of many times. Truthfully, his injuries and disabled list stints piled up more than his actual baseball statistics.
· Went on the DL in June of ’05 with right shoulder injury. Ultimately went 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA for the season.
· Began 2006 with bruised buttocks; on DL for first half of year. Then…
· Broke two ribs in a car accident in August of ’06; did not end up pitching at all in an MLB game.
· On April 15, 2007 was placed on DL after what was diagnosed as an “elbow strain.” The next month Pavano announced that he would opt to have Tommy John surgery and missed the remainder of the year.
· First start coming off Tommy John came on Aug. 23, 2008. He pitched five innings and gave up three runs on seven hits.
· The next month on Sept. 14, Pavano left the game with an apparent left hip injury.
I have two words for all that: cry baby. He never pitched a full season with the Yankees.
What really struck me were Pavano’s comments after his last game as a Yankee. The press questioned him about his ineffectiveness and his repeated injuries; they were probably about as skeptical about his excuses as most fans were.
Pavano responded by saying, “Well, what are you going to do, you know?”
Really? That’s the best he could do? $39.95 million should buy a little more thought than that. Pavano concluded his tenure (if you can even call it that) with a record of 9-8.
Prior to 2007, Mike Mussina stepped up and publicly called Pavano on his injuries. Mussina said, “His injuries don’t look good from a player’s standpoint. Was everything just a coincidence? Over and over again? I don’t know.”
Thank goodness one of his teammates spoke out against him. Quite honestly it needed to be done.
In 2009 Pavano joined the Cleveland Indians and was traded mid-season to the Twins. I couldn’t even believe it when I noticed that halfway through 2009 he was one of the league leaders in wins. He even finished 2009 with a record of 14-12–winning five more games in one year with Cleveland and Minnesota than he did in four years with the Yankees.
How ridiculous is that?
At any rate, it must have been fun for the Yanks to punish Pavano for all the grief he put them through by beating him in Game Three of the ’09 ALDS–en route to their 27th World Series title.
If I were the Yankees last year, I would have sent Pavano a Christmas card with a picture of everyone hoisting the World Series trophy. Along with that, the Yanks could have attached a note to the photo that read, “Thanks for nothing.”
The Yanks also beat Pavano in the ALDS this past season, another satisfying moment for all Yankee fans.
Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson
I decided to combine these last two players simply because they failed in pinstripes not once, but twice.
I’ll begin with Javier Vazquez.
The day after the Yankees were eliminated from the ALCS at the hands of the Texas Rangers, it was reported that Vazquez was already speaking to the Washington Nationals about possibly pitching for them in 2011. His talks with the Nats obviously cooled off, and as reported on Sunday, Vazquez has apparently agreed to a deal with the Florida Marlins.
I have four words for him: good riddance, you bum.
Before this past season began, Vazquez was acquired from the Atlanta Braves along with reliever Boone Logan. In exchange for Vazquez, the Bombers gave up young outfielder Melky Cabrera and rookie reliever Mike Dunn.
I would not necessarily categorize the trade as a “Brock for Broglio,” although it kind of had that quality. Cabrera had an awesome year in 2009; he smacked three walk-off hits for the Yanks (including the first walk-off home run in the New Stadium), became the first Yankee to hit for the cycle since Tony Fernandez in 1995, and capped it all off with a World Series ring.
Cabrera was a beast and was looked at as one of the most pleasant surprises in ’09.
The Yankees however did need starting pitching. They only used three starting pitchers in the playoffs and were able to get over the hurdles on the strength of three horses: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte. They needed a fourth man and they looked to Vazquez.
Why they wanted Vazquez, I’ll never know.
Sure he was second in the National League when it came to ERA in 2009 (with 2.87) and he won 15 games for the Braves. I suppose the Yankees thought they would really be unstoppable if they could get that kind of production out of their number four starter–which made it somewhat understandable.
Yet, the Yankees must have forgotten how Vazquez busted for them in 2004, which was his first stint in pinstripes. In ’04 Vazquez went 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA. Like Brown, he pitched in Game Seven of the ’04 ALCS, giving up a grand slam and a two-run homer to Johnny Damon–once again, not giving the Yankees a shred of a chance to come back and win the pennant.
Maybe they figured he could do a lot better than that come his second go-round. Perhaps the Steinbrenners and Brian Cashman had the mentality of, “It can’t get any worse, he can only do better.”
In 2010 Vazquez pitched to a 10-10 season record with a 5.32 ERA. He started 31 games and allowed 32 home runs, pitching so poorly throughout the year that he did not even make it into the postseason starting rotation. Was the trade really worth giving up Cabrera?
Well I guess it didn’t matter. Cabrera finished 2010 with a .255 batting average for Atlanta and only hit four homers and knocked in 42 runs. But that doesn’t erase what he did in 2009, and if he had played in the Bronx in 2010, he might have had a better year.
The bottom line is that Vazquez was a bad move made by the Yankees. I knew he was going to bust before the season began; actually I knew he was going to fail again right after the trade was completed. It was just so foreseeable. And when he gave up that first-pitch home run to Jimmy Rollins on day one of Spring Training, I knew it was all over for him.
And then there was Johnson.
In 2001, Johnson served the Yankees as Tino Martinez’s backup at first base. When Martinez left for St. Louis after the season ended, Johnson became a little bit of a regular first baseman, albeit the Yanks did have Jason Giambi in their lineup and available to play first.
Johnson would go on to rank seventh in the league in hit-by-pitches in 2002, but did put up a somewhat decent year in ’03. Johnson clubbed 14 homers and drove in 47 runs with a .284 batting average, but his injury-prone nature kept him from truly breaking out.
The Yankees had no choice but to trade him at the end of ’03, ironically enough for Vazquez. Two useless Yankees got traded for one another. Really, what are the odds? And like Vazquez, as useless as Johnson was, the Yankees still could not manage to give up on him.
On Dec. 23, 2009 the Yanks signed Johnson back to a one-year, $5.5 million deal.
This past year Johnson was expected to be the everyday designated hitter, taking up the mantle of the great, 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. Unfortunately, Johnson saw little action because of a wrist injury. In fact, before the season even began, Johnson injured his back in Spring Training, proving once again that he did not belong in a Yankee uniform.
He finished 2010 very early with 24 games under his belt, only 98 plate appearances, two home runs, eight RBIs, and 12 runs scored.
The bottom line is, the Yankees have wasted a ton of money on terrible players and have given away some great players to get some rather mediocre ones. But they are not the only organization to do it; it happens to the best of teams.
I mean, the Red Sox gave up Jeff Bagwell for a reliever named Larry Andersen. (Who?)
The Blue Jays gave the Yankees David Cone for three minor leaguers who never made it.
The Devil Rays gave Bobby Abreu to the Phillies for Kevin Stocker. (Who?)
And who could forget the New York Mets giving up Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano?
Chan Ho Park–yes, Mr. Diarrhea himself–got $65 million from the Texas Rangers in 2002.
Juan Pierre received $44 million from the Dodgers in 2007.
Yes, baseball organizations are human and make bad moves sometimes. Maybe next week I’ll review some of the BEST moves the Yankees have made; off-season changes that have paid off royally and had a great impact on the team. I can think of quite a few right off the top of my head.
And while I’m waiting, I’ll hope the Yankees can decide on the right moves. The Baseball Winter Meetings begin next week and I’m hoping the Bombers can make a splash in Orlando.
“What do a Momma Bear on the pill and the World Series have in common?…
I have heard some pretty funny jokes in my life. The 2010 Major League Baseball End-of-the-Year Awards, though, have probably been some of the funniest jokes I have heard over the last couple of days.
To begin with, Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins was named the American League Manager of the Year yesterday. It marked the first time Gardenhire won the award and he won it because…um…why?
I don’t have an answer. He won it because the Twins took on and defeated a weak A.L. Central? He won it for going 2-8 over the last 10 games of the season?
Or maybe the Twins’ skipper won the award for getting booted in the first round of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive time. Do any one of those reasons make any sense?
I thought not. In reality they gave the award to the wrong Ron.
The Texas Rangers produced the best manager in the A.L.; no questions asked. Ron Washington took his team to the World Series for the first time in their franchise history. To get there, they beat a potent Tampa Bay Rays team in the American League Division Series as well as the defending champion New York Yankees in the ALCS.
In addition to that, Washington managed Texas past the Los Angeles Angels, a team that is almost locked in every year to win the AL West. Los Angeles had won the West three straight years entering 2010, but Washington and the Rangers did not let it happen again this year.
Apparently that is not worth anything in the voters’ eyes. Instead they gave the award to the Twins’ skipper, who although is good, clearly did not deserve it. I do not wish to take anything away from Gardenhire, but Washington was the logical choice.
So the writers made a boo-boo. You wouldn’t think they would do it again in a matter of one day, right?
Today it was announced that Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners won the American League Cy Young Award. The 24 year-old right-hander went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts in 2010.
13-12 and he won the Cy Young. Excuse me for a second…
OK, I’m back.
I had every expectation that either CC Sabathia of the Yankees or David Price of the Rays would win the Cy Young this year. I understand Hernandez had a great ERA, the lowest among A.L. pitchers, in fact. But I truly feel that it comes down to which pitcher is the most valuable to their team.
After all, the award does say MOST VALUABLE PITCHER on it.
Was Hernandez valuable to the Mariners? Perhaps yes, but look at the team in question. By the All-Star break, were they even playing for anything? Does the fact that they were out of the playoff race long before the season ended mean anything to any of the voters?
I guess not, so the joke is on me.
Yet, I think it should. Sabathia and Price pitched like studs under extreme pressure in a heated pennant race down the stretch and into the final week of the season. Hernandez has never been in that type of situation–needing to win in order to keep his team alive.
There are many who are currently arguing that wins do not mean anything; that Hernandez did not receive a great deal of run support and his overall individual stats were far superior to the rest of the candidates.
I understand the run support argument. I get the idea regarding individual stats. But please, do not try to sell me on the idea that wins mean nothing. I am not buying it. Winning is the whole reason the game is being played, isn’t it? Why would you not consider the most important thing when making a decision on who wins the Cy Young Award?
Sabathia won 21 games. Price won 19. Hernandez won 13. And in my mind, that’s how the Cy Young Award should have played out:
Sabathia wins it. Price is the runner-up. Hernandez comes in third.
And believe it or not, the fact that I thought Sabathia should have won it has nothing to do with the fact that I am a Yankee fan. In my mind, he was just the most valuable to his team–a team that competed in a division where it was anybody’s to win. The Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox were all fighting for the AL East up until September whereas the Mariners were cooked by the middle of July.
No pressure whatsoever on Hernandez. But with every pitch up until the last day of the season, there was enormous pressure on Sabathia and Price. I’m sure both of them had the mentality of, “If I don’t pitch well, we won’t win. If we don’t win, we are not winning the division.”
There’s no telling what was running through their minds every time they took the ball.
Hernandez could have taken the ball and potentially thought to himself, “Well, if I don’t win it’s not a big deal. We are going to finish in last place anyway, so it’s not like it matters.”
There’s a huge difference in that regard in terms of mindset.
Last year, it was a little difficult for me to accept Zack Greinke winning the award. But there were a lot of variables to consider. For one, he won more than 15 games and was at least eight games above .500 (at 16-8). He also overcame anxiety-ridden circumstances, something that I know (first-hand) is difficult to deal with.
And much like Hernandez, Greinke had the lowest ERA in the A.L.
Was Greinke on a particularly strong team? No, not at all. However his overall record and what he went through off the field to get himself back to prominence certainly means something. I would hope the writers took that into consideration when they voted for him last year.
In 2007 when Sabathia won it for Cleveland, I didn’t believe the right man won it. To this day, I still feel Josh Beckett was the best pitcher that year (and I am NOT a fan of his, so that really says something right there!) Beckett won 20 games, and as the ace of the Boston pitching staff he led the team to a championship. Again, he was the most valuable pitcher.
Sabathia won 19 games and helped lead the Tribe to the postseason. Yet when it came down to nut-cutting time, Beckett was the man who got the job done. He was clearly more dominant than Sabathia when it mattered.
I’d really like to know why the writers voted Hernandez the winner this year. I am still mind-boggled by the whole thing. Seriously, I mean I am really stunned.
Why don’t wins matter to anyone anymore?
When did the idea of being a valuable commodity to the team become obsolete?
Why is everyone caught up in ERA, WHIP, and IP?
Why is a guy who just barely made it over .500 this year our Cy Young Award winner?
What were the writers even thinking when they made this decision?
I guess I’ll never know. What I do know is that if I ever make the Baseball Writer’s Association, I intend to consider wins and how valuable the pitcher was as the most driving aspect of the Cy Young Award. I’d certainly never give a first-place vote to a player who was one game above .500, that’s for sure.
So on that note, congrats “King Felix.” You succeeded in winning an award that (in my eyes) you did not truly deserve. At all. Apologies to Mr. Sabathia and Mr. Price, both of whom were robbed of the Cy Young Award by a bunch of writers who don’t even think about winning, the whole reason baseball, or any game for that matter, is played.
Ron Gardenhire: 2010 A.L. Manager of the Year.
Felix Hernandez: the 2010 A.L. Cy Young Award winner.
Those aren’t award-winners. They are punch-lines.
Break out the brooms, the Swiffer Wet Jets, the dust pans, the mops…whatever cleaning device you prefer. Tonight, the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins by a score of 6-1, completing a three-game sweep in the American League Division Series.
The Yanks will now vie for the A.L. pennant against either The Texas Rangers or Tampa Bay Rays.
The story of the night offensively was the work of Marcus Thames and Nick Swisher. Already up 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Thames blasted an opposite-field home run, a shot that landed in the right field stands. It marked Thames’s first career postseason home run and it put the Yanks up 4-0.
Swisher followed suit in the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run, his second career postseason round-tripper, striking the proverbial nail in the Twins’ coffin.
Jorge Posada started the Yankee scoring in the bottom of the second with an RBI single, knocking in Robinson Cano. Mark Teixeira followed with an RBI single of his own in the bottom of the third to score Swisher, giving the Yankees their early 2-0 lead.
After Thames’s home run in the fourth, Curtis Granderson scored on a sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner, after stealing second and reaching third on an error by catcher Joe Mauer.
Phil Hughes made his first postseason start for the Yankees and he looked as sharp as a brilliantly crafted katana. Hughes tossed seven strong innings of work and gave up no runs on four hits. The 24 year-old right-hander only issued one walk and struck out six batters on his way to a win.
The only blemish on the Yankee pitching was an RBI single off the bat of Orlando Hudson, which plated Danny Valencia in the top of the eighth off reliever Kerry Wood. With one out and the bases loaded, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi summoned Boone Logan and David Robertson to record the last two outs.
Logan and Robertson delivered, escaping the frame without another run allowed.
Mariano Rivera closed it down in a non-save situation, tossing a perfect ninth inning to secure an ALDS victory.
It should comes as no surprise to me that the Yankees won this series. I’ll admit, I was somewhat skeptical coming into this year’s ALDS, simply because of what the Twins had going for them.
I stated in the preview that they had a tremendous record at home (53-28 at home, which I believe was the best in the A.L.). With home field advantage, I never would have guessed that the Yankees could take two from the Twins at Target Field.
In addition to home field advantage, I thought the Twins may have been able to handle Andy Pettitte, being that he had not won a game since July 8. However, Pettitte came up huge in Game Two and was arguably more effective than CC Sabathia in Game One.
I also made mention of Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer, all of whom I imagined would come up with timely hits in big spots.
Not even close.
Aside from Cuddyer’s Game One, two-run homer, they were ghosts.
I just do not have an answer. The Twins must be perplexed and probably frustrated. I guess they just weren’t meant to beat the Yankees. It’s not as though they have a bad team, either; I think that’s why manager Ron Gardenhire is so confused.
This season, Minnesota was able to beat out a competitive Chicago White Sox team and a fairly resilient team in the Detroit Tigers (at least up until late July-early August). They captured the A.L. Central for the second consecutive year and just could not maintain their bearings when the calendar reached October.
I thought that maybe the Twins could quell their postseason demons, meaning the Yankees. In my head I drew a comparison between the Twins this year and the Yankees last year. The Bombers just could not beat the Angels in the past, as they had been eliminated by them twice (2002, ’05).
Could the Twins, with a number of things finally working in their favor, beat the Yankees in the playoffs, the way the Yankees finally beat the Angels in the playoffs last year? Could the Twins, who just opened their new Stadium, win it all in their first season in their new Stadium the way the Yanks had last year?
No. It could not be done. The Twins fell victim to the almighty Yankees for the fourth time.
A clean sweep.
Inside the Series
· The Twins were .111 in the ALDS with runners in scoring position. The Yankees hit .360 with men on second and third.
· Curtis Granderson hit .455 in the ALDS, his first postseason series in pinstripes.
· The Twins have now lost 12 consecutive postseason games. Nine of those 12 losses have come at the hands of the Bronx Bombers.
· With his RBI single in the second inning tonight, Jorge Posada passed Mickey Mantle for ninth place on the postseason RBIs list.
· Capturing the win in Game Two, Andy Pettitte now has 19 career postseason wins. No other pitcher in baseball history has as many.
· Before Game Two of the ALDS, Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire burned his uniform from Game One. Well. That didn’t work.
· Heading into Game Two, lefties were hitting .292 off Carl Pavano. Lance Berkman hit a home run and a double off Pavano…from the left side of the plate.
· Mariano Rivera now has 41 postseason saves and 600 all-time in his career (including the playoffs). Brad Lidge is second on baseball’s all-time postseason saves list with 16.
· Rivera now also owns an all-time postseason ERA of 0.72.
· The Yankees outscored the Twins 17-7 in the ALDS.
· Phil Hughes picked up his first postseason win as a starter. He previously won a playoff game against the Cleveland Indians in 2007, coming on in relief of an injured Roger Clemens.
· All-Star catcher and 2009 A.L. MVP Joe Mauer registered no RBIs in the ALDS.
· Mark Teixeira led the Yankees in RBIs with five for the ALDS. Granderson knocked in four runs and Posada drove in three.
· The Yankees became the seventh MLB franchise to win a World Series and then open the next postseason series with a sweep. The last time the Yankees accomplished the feat was 1998-1999, when they beat the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.
Once again, the ALCS will start on Friday Oct. 15 in either Tampa Bay or Texas, pending the outcome of the Rays vs. Rangers series. According to reports, Girardi will meet with his coaching staff to discuss the pitching rotation for the ALCS, needing to decide whether or not to utilize a three or four man rotation.
It all depends on A.J. Burnett’s focus and confidence level.
But that’s another story for later on in the week. Right now, the Yankees can rest knowing they will once again compete for a chance at their 40th American League pennant; they have another chance to once again represent the A.L. in the World Series.
Rays? Rangers? We’ll soon find out. As for tonight…
I cannot say anything to the Twins. Residents of St. Paul and Minneapolis are probably shaking their heads right now, wondering what they need to do to beat the Yankees; what can they do to finally get over the postseason hump.
And maybe, just maybe…Twins fans are wondering if there’s even an answer.
I certainly do not have one.
Tied at two in the top of the seventh inning of tonight’s game, Minnesota Twins’ starter Carl Pavano pumped a 91mph fastball right over the plate to Yankees’ designated hitter Lance Berkman on a 1-2 count. Pavano took a few steps off the mound, expecting home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt to ring Berkman up.
No such luck.
The pitch was called a ball and then, with a 2-2 count, Berkman doubled in Jorge Posada, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. New York added two more runs after the botched call and went on to win the game 5-2 and take a two games-to-none lead over the Twins in American League Division Series.
“It was a tough pitch,” Berkman told the media after the game.
“I thought it was in and off the plate. The umpire was not giving much inside all night and he was pretty consistent with that. I really thought it was in, that’s why I didn’t swing.”
Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire, who is said to have a troubled relationship with Wendelstedt, was run from the game after arguing the call. Despite their rocky history, Gardenhire stated after the game that he spoke with Wendelstedt and they have “cleared the air.”
In addition to his RBI double in the seventh, Berkman broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the fifth with a solo home run, an opposite-field blast that landed in the Twins’ bullpen behind the left-centerfield wall.
Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter contributed to the Yankee scoring, both with RBI singles. Granderson drove in Brett Gardner in the seventh while Jeter padded the Yankees’ lead in the ninth, driving in Berkman.
Alex Rodriguez initially got the Yanks on the board with a sacrifice fly in the fourth, driving in Granderson.
Minnesota only managed two runs off postseason stud Andy Pettitte. In the bottom of the second, Danny Valencia drove in Delmon Young with a sacrifice fly to right field. Later in the sixth Orlando Hudson got around on a hanging, inside curve ball and drove it into the left field stands for a solo home run that knotted the game at two.
Aside from those two hiccups, Pettitte was dealing. He tossed seven strong innings of work and scattered five hits while walking one batter and striking out seven. With the win, Pettitte now has 19 career playoff victories, the most of any pitcher in baseball history.
Backing Pettitte was Kerry Wood, who tossed a perfect eighth inning out of ‘pen. Mariano Rivera nailed it down in the ninth for his 41st career postseason save and second in as many nights. Rivera also lowered his postseason earned run average to 0.73, which is the lowest all-time among any pitcher.
Pettitte and Rivera seem to be a dynamic postseason duo.
The Yankees have now beaten the Twins in eight consecutive postseason games dating back to 2004 and will look for their ninth win in a row on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.
If you want my honest opinion, the blown call really wasn’t fair. Much like Francisco Liriano last night, Carl Pavano was holding his own for the better part of the game. He finished the night with six innings pitched, he scattered 10 hits, gave up four earned runs, only walked one batter, and struck out three.
Pavano didn’t pitch poorly and he caught a bad break on that blown call. That almost personifies his whole career–a bad call; a bad break. I would have rather had Berkman strike out looking and win the game another way, not by a bad call by the home plate ump.
I hate to say it…
But I don’t think the Twins have it in them. I don’t think they will ever be a team built strong enough for the playoffs. They have not won a postseason game since 2004 and the Yankees have just had their number for the better part of the past 10-12 years. When you really think about it:
· The Yankees eliminated them from postseason contention three times in the last seven years, and potentially could eliminate them four times in eight years if they win this year’s ALDS.
· The Yankees threw a perfect game against Minnesota (David Wells; May 17, 1998)
· Under Ron Gardenhire, the Yankees are now 56-18 against the Twins.
· The Twins have been outscored 63-34 in all postseason games since winning Game One of the 2004 ALDS vs. the Yankees.
· The Twins have now lost 11 straight postseason games. Eight of those losses have come at the hands of the Yankees.
· Going back to last season (including the 2009 and ’10 postseasons) the Twins are 2-14 in their last 16 meetings with the Yankees. Both of their wins came this past regular season (May 16 and May 27 this year)
I refuse to say that the Twins are done right now. In 2004, I repeatedly stated that the Red Sox were done after losing three straight American League Championship Series game to the Yankees and…well…everyone knows what happened. They made history, won four in a row, came from behind, won the pennant, embarrassed the Yankees….
Yeah. It was not pretty. In fact it was my worst sports experience.
However, it will be extremely difficult for them to come back and win. The Twins would have to win two games in Yankee Stadium, then come home and win the final game in order to advance. Considering how well CC Sabathia responds in big games and how dominant Pettitte was tonight, things are not looking up for the Twins.
Not saying it can’t be done…but it will be tough for them.
See you after Saturday night’s game.
Around the seventh inning of tonight’s game, Buster Olney tweeted this:
“I know it’s the postseason, but Joe Girardi looks tortured by all this, as he did all the way down the stretch. It looks like no fun for him.”
It may not have been fun for the Yankee skipper at the time, but at the end of the night, he probably breathed a huge sigh of relief, as the Yankees battled back from a three-run deficit to beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4 in Game One of the American League Division Series.
The difference in the game came off the bat of Mark Teixeira in seventh inning, the very inning Olney noted Girardi’s stressed out body language. With the game knotted at four, the Yankee first baseman blasted a tie-breaking, two-run homer inside the right field foul pole off Jesse Crain to give the Yankees all the run support they needed.
Teixeira ignited the Yankee offense in the sixth inning, crushing a one out double and eventually coming around to score on a base hit by Robinson Cano. Jorge Posada later singled to drive in Alex Rodriguez, and now has 40 career postseason RBIs.
Curtis Granderson capped off the sixth with a monster triple to score Cano and Posada, giving the Yankees a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the frame. The lead was short-lived however, as Yankee starter CC Sabathia walked Jim Thome with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth to knot the game up at four.
Sabathia battled through six innings of work tonight, but hit a few bumps on the way to a win. Michael Cuddyer took the Yankee ace deep in the bottom of the second for a two-run home run, and a passed ball allowed Orlando Hudson to score from third, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead after the first three innings of the game.
Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Kerry Wood held the Twins scoreless after Sabathia’s departure while Mariano Rivera nailed down his 40th career postseason save. The Great Rivera is the all-time postseason saves leader and no one else even comes close to 40 career postseason saves.
In fact Brad Lidge, who is second on the postseason saves list, only has 16.
Francisco Liriano held his own for the better part of the game, mowing over the Yankees until he reached the sixth inning. He finished the night with 5 2/3 innings pitched and he allowed four earned runs on six hits.
Liriano walked three batters and struck out seven.
Despite Liriano’s effort, it all came crashing down on the Twins, as it has so many times when they have played the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers have now won their last seven postseason games against the Twins, dating back to the 2004 ALDS.
With the win tonight, the Yankees have also taken Home Field advantage away from the Twins.
Tomorrow night Andy Pettitte (11-3, 3.28 ERA) will take on former Yankee Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.75 ERA) in a rematch of Game Three of the 2009 ALDS. Pettitte will be making his 41st career postseason start and he stated today that, despite how he has been pitching lately, “everything feels different when the playoffs begin.”
Pettitte has not won a game since July 8 and has only made three starts since coming back from the disabled list. In those three starts, he is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
On the other hand, Pavano has had little success against a pair of the Yankees’ key hitters. Derek Jeter owns a .429 lifetime batting average against the Twins’ Game Two starter. Tonight’s hero Teixeira has five RBIs and a home run lifetime against Pavano, along with a .333 career batting average against him.
It’s no secret that Game Two is a must-win for Minnesota. If they cannot get it done tomorrow night, it is obvious their chances of advancing to the next round of the postseason are slim.
Meanwhile the Yankees will look to keep on rolling over the Twins.
Chill out, Girardi.
They say retaining is tougher than obtaining.
Last year, the New York Yankees obtained their 27th World Series Championship. Here we are, almost a year after they won number 27, and the Bronx Bombers are looking to repeat as World Champs.
And much like last year, the Yanks will begin their quest to the title against the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series. Tomorrow night 21-game winner CC Sabathia will take the hill, opposed by 14-game winner and the 2010 American League Comeback Player of the Year, Francisco Liriano.
Game One could very well be a legitimate pitcher’s duel.
The same could be said about Game Two, which will feature postseason ace Andy Pettitte facing former Yankee and 17-game winner Carl Pavano. Game Three will take the series back to Yankee Stadium where Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA) will square off against Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62 ERA).
It seems to me that there are many things working in the Yankees’ favor in this series, but just as many things working against them. Everything is up in the October air right now, and it is the Yanks’ series to win…or lose.
In the Yankees’ Favor
· History vs. Twins
This one almost goes without saying.
The Yankees have eliminated Minnesota three times in the first round of the playoffs (2003, ’04, and ’09). In ’03 and ’04 the Yankees won three games to one. Last year it was a clean sweep, as the Yankees took care of the Twins in three.
· The Yankees vs. Liriano
Brett Gardner, Marcus Thames, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Nick Swisher all have stellar career numbers against the Twins’ Game One starter. Combined, they own a .435 batting average against Liriano, coupled with four home runs and seven RBIs.
Winning the first game of the series is always important and can genuinely set the tone of a playoff series. While it looks to be a pitcher’s duel, the good numbers are probably in the back of Yankee manager Joe Girardi’s head–something he will most likely consider when putting together the lineup card.
· The Twins Aren’t Clutch?
Since the Twins took Game One of the 2004 ALDS from the Yankees, they have lost nine consecutive postseason games. In those nine games, they have been outscored 52-28 by the opposition.
When the calendar turns to October, the Twins’ offense seems to be switched off.
· No Morneau
Before Justin Morneau was injured with a concussion on July 7, he was in the discussion for the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award. In the 81 games he played this season, he hit .345 with 18 homer runs and 56 RBIs. In fact, he led the Twins with Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 5.6.
Morneau has been ruled out for the entire postseason. The absence of a rather dangerous hitter in the Twins’ lineup might somewhat ease the pressure on the New York pitchers.
· Ron Gardenhire’s Attitude
In the press conference after team workouts today, the Twins’ skipper referred to this series as a classic “David vs. Goliath” match. Ron Gardenhire sees his team as David, trying to take out the almighty Goliath-like Bronx Bombers.
He made a great analogy.
Under Gardenhire, the Twins are 18-54 in 72 games against the Yankees, and they only average 3.6 runs per game against the Bombers. The Twins are also 2-9 vs. the Yanks in October, contributing to the skipper’s underdog attitude.
· Alex Rodriguez Carryover?
Up until last year, the Yankees’ slugging third baseman was revered as a goat in the postseason. From his infamous “slap of the ball” out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in 2004 to his deer-in-the-headlights strikeout with the bases loaded against Joel Zumaya in 2006, Alex Rodriguez struggled when it came to the playoffs.
But all that changed last October.
Rodriguez erased his troubled postseason past with a .378 batting average in last year’s playoffs, along with hitting six homers and knocking in 18 runs. In last year’s ALDS vs. the Twins, Rodriguez hit .455 and slugged 1.000.
He went from “Alexander the Goat” to “Alexander the Great.”
And Rodriguez has really turned it on this past month. In September, he hit .309 with nine homers, 26 RBIs, and maintained a .667 slugging percentage.
The Yankees certainly have plenty of things working for them. However, there are certainly a number of factors working against them as the playoffs begin…
Working Against The Yankees
· Home Field Disadvantage
I know many people say “home field advantage means nothing.” The fact is that home field advantage can mean something, especially because the Yankees do not have it at all this postseason.
Joe Torre said it best: “It’s hard to win extra-inning games on the road.”
He couldn’t be more correct. The Yankees lost five one-run games on the road in the month of September, along with dropping an extra-inning game against Boston this past weekend. In terms of the postseason…well…2004 at Fenway Park is evidence of that “hard-to-win extra-inning-games-on-the-road” mentality.
The Twins were also 53-28 this season at Target Field, which doesn’t help the Yankees’ cause.
· The REAL Andy Pettitte?
The Yankees’ Game Two starter has tremendous numbers in the playoffs. As the winningest pitcher in postseason baseball history, Andy Pettitte owns an 18-9 playoff record with an ERA of 3.90. Lifetime in the ALDS, Pettitte is 5-3 with a 3.73 ERA.
There’s no denying that Pettitte has been championship-tested. But what will we see this year?
Since coming back from his groin injury (suffered in July) Pettitte is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA.
In his final start of 2010 on Saturday, Pettitte was roughed up by third-place Boston, getting chased from the game after four innings of work. He surrendered three earned runs and scattered nine hits, as he walked two batters and struck out eight.
Pettitte remains a little bit of a question mark right now. He hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning in each of his last two starts and has not won a game since July 8.
If the Yanks want to win it, Pettitte has to be in his regular, dominant form.
· Phil Hughes at Yankee Stadium
Although Phil Hughes has 11 wins at home this season, he is far from perfect. The Yankees’ Game Three starter has a 4.66 ERA when playing in the Bronx, opposed to a 3.47 ERA on the road.
Simply put, Hughes gives up more runs at home.
This season, Hughes has failed to keep the ball inside the Yankee Stadium Park. Of the 25 homers he surrendered, 20 of them were given up at Yankee Stadium.
Furthermore, of the 82 earned runs Hughes has allowed this year, 55 of them have been given up at home. He also issued 39 of his 58 walks at Yankee Stadium, subjecting his stats to worse numbers at home than on the road.
If you ask me, Hughes should be the Game Two starter, that way he does not have to pitch at home, where, as his numbers indicate, he tends to struggle.
· Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer
There are not many Twins hitters who have a great deal of success against CC Sabathia. Come to think of it, there aren’t many hitters in the entire American League who have a great deal of success against Sabathia.
However, Alexi Casilla owns a .692 batting average against Sabathia with one career RBI. Denard Span is .333 lifetime vs. Sabathia, and is a serious threat to run when he gets on base.
Michael Cuddyer only has a .222 batting average vs. Sabathia, but he has taken the Yankee ace deep once in his life for one RBI.
· Curtis Granderson vs. Left-Handed Pitching
Before the Yankees acquired him from Detroit, there was a lot of chatter about Curtis Granderson’s struggles against left-handed pitching. He finished the 2010 season with 24 homers and 67 RBIs on top of a .247 batting average.
However, against lefties this year, Granderson only hit .234.
This would not be such a problem if two of the first three Twins starters this postseason were not left-handed pitchers (Liriano and Duensing).
Granderson has a little bit of experience in the playoffs; in 2006 he made it all the way to the World Series as a member of the Tigers only to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals. Lifetime in the postseason he has a .226 average with three homers and seven RBIs.
How he performs in his first postseason as a Yankee remains to be seen, but he may need to spend some extra time in the batting cage if he continues to struggle against left-handers.
· Wild Card Losers
The Yankees were favorites to win the AL East, but it was swiped from under them on the last day of the season by the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bronx Bombers enter as the AL Wild Card winners, something that, historically, has not paid dividends.
The Yanks have never won the World Series when entering the postseason as the Wild Card.
In 1995, the Yankees won the AL Wild Card and were booted from playoff contention at the hands of the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS. In 2007, the Yanks once again captured the elusive Wild Card spot, only to fall to the Cleveland Indians in round one.
As much as the postseason history plays in the Yankees’ favor (their past vs. the Twins) it works against them (they have never won a World Series as a Wild Card team).
It’s anybody’s pennant to win. The road to 28 starts now…