Saturday, August 30, 2008

Disabled List

Lest you think I missed commenting on game three of Sox vs. Yanks because the Sox lost, I was in the hospital with kidney stones again.  One had to think after the previous games drubbing, the Yankees would do everything in their power to keep things close in game three.  John Sterling actually said that the Yanks 3-2 win gives them a glimmer of hope just because they weren't swept.  Nice try, they still lost ground, which they could not afford.

Meanwhile back at Fenway, Dice-K once again limited his walks and shut down Chicago last night.  Pedroia continues to scorch the ball getting four hits.  I would really love to see Boston show Chicago who's boss and make a statement about the playoffs.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My New Favorite Writer

This guy is hilarious, and he makes a lot of sense. Check out Joe Ponanski.

What a Great Night

Here are some thoughts about the game last night. It is rare that I get to see a Sox game while living in NYC, thankfully last night I had some time and watched the game on YES. I usually hate the Yankee guys in the booth, but last night I had two of my favorites; Al Leiter and John Flaherty. These guys were great. They brought their real big league experience to the broadcast. If they could only shut up Michael Kay it would have been perfect.

The Yankees played uninspired baseball. I first noticed it when I saw them play at the stadium a few weeks ago. That is the biggest difference between the Yanks and the Sox. The Sox are focused, working hard, and playing every game like a playoff game. (which in the reality of the playoff race every game is basically a playoff game) The Yankees are going through the motions. It is a good thing Pete is on vacation, but I have a feeling after this week he and the Yankees will be on vacation for the rest of the season.

It's the 8th inning, the Sox have just tacked on some insurance runs. I am enjoying some sushi, and wearing my Pedroia shirt. It's 2-0 to Pedroia, and I turn to my fiancee and say, "Here it comes." The next pitch, 3 seconds later, lands in the bullpen at Papelbon's feet. A moment I will remember for probably the rest of my life. (True Story)

Let's complete the sweep this afternoon and head home to Fenway going 7-2 on this trip.

Sox Bury Yanks in the Eighth

Congratulations to Dustin Pedroia on his first grand slam in the majors. It put a nice cherry on top of a seven run eighth inning for the Sox in a win that almost completely dashes all hope for the Yankees. Paul Byrd pitched like a poor man's Greg Maddox keeping the Yanks off balance with soft stuff. Here's hoping for a sweep in today's matinee.

I like the way the Red Sox front office has kept active all year, solving problems immediately instead of waiting around for things to get better. They knew Clay Buchholz probably wouldn't be pitching more than 100 innings (although they couldn't have anticipated that he would be this bad) so they went out and got Bartolo Colon. When he didn't work out, they got Paul Byrd. JD Drew is all but out for the season, so they picked up Mark Kotsay. Granted, he's no Willie Mays, but he's a capable player whose career average is .280 or so.

Theo and his crew seem to know how to find serviceable vets who will buy into the Red Sox system and play hard because they want to win. These pick ups may seem like they were off the junk pile, but when combined with the Sox solid core of players, they are good complimentary components. They just couldn't carry the crappy teams they came from.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Two Mannys, plus Instant Replay

I am very pleased with last night's results, especially since Tim Wakefield didn't get slapped around like he usually does against the Yankees. I started to get nervous when Manny (now I don't have to specify which one) loaded the bases in the seventh. But he induced A-Rod to ground into a double play and killed the rally. One game does not a series make. The Sox will have to be equally resilient for the next two games to make sure this is a productive stop in New York. Tonight's matchup between Paul Byrd and Sidney Ponson will probably be played in the teens and take about seven hours.

On that other Manny; here's a quote from writer John Donovan:
Sunday night, the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez loped over to a ball hit to him in left field in extra innings, instead of charging it, then flipped it casually into second base instead of firing it in. The Phillies Shane Victorino beat out the throw, and the Phils won a few batters later.

Ramirez's bat has also cooled off significantly in recent games, while Jason Bay continues to make solid contributions to the Sox efforts to make the playoffs. I think that new car smell is wearing off in LA. Take heed, all you would be Manny signers.

Finally, MLB has decided to institute instant replay starting Thursday for the rest of the year. Huh? I have no issue with instant replay in baseball, but I do have an issue with creating a major rule change with three quarters of the season over. It simply isn't fair. What about the hundreds of results that could have been overturned by replay earlier in the season? I just can't abide by the fact that the next two months of baseball will be played under fundamentally different conditions than the last five.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another Big Series

The Sox have held their own on this 9 game road trip by taking 2 of 3 from the O's and the Jays. Now, it is time to put the nail in the coffin. The Sox can basically eliminate the Yankees from playoff contention over the next three days. Taking 2 of 3 with the projected pitching match-ups would be a solid finish to the road trip. Tonight it is Wakfield, returning from the DL, against Pettitte. It should be interesting to see how Wake does with the rest he has gotten from being on the DL. The Sox will need some quality starts from the knuckleballer down the stretch with Beckett's health, now very uncertain.

I also saw a rumor that the Sox were looking to get Mark Kotsay from the Braves for a mid-level prospect. This would be a nice late season pick up. Also, this would make it seem that the JD Drew thing is pretty serious. He may continue to play or go on the DL, but the question is can he be effective when he is in the line-up? August is a tough time for every team and it seems within the past week everyone has had someone get hurt. Staying healthy is by far the biggest challenge for a MLB team.

On what Dan said about jinxing the "Sawks" with overconfidence. I remember being in a bar on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington DC, named of all things, Billy Martin's watching the final innings of the '04 ALCS. And the bartender says, "I'm buying everyone shots, what do you want?" with one look I silenced the bartender, and he understood you simply cannot tempt fate and the baseball gods like that. Needless to say, he waited for the final out before he spoke to me again.

Let's bury those bastards in the Bronx this week.

Smack Down at the Stadium

Never in recent history have the Red Sox had more of an chance to ruin things for the Yankees and their fans. If Boston can take 2-of-3, they can put even more distance between the Yankees and a playoff berth and further sully the final season at the Stadium by embarassing them in the last Yanks vs. Sawks series there.

Of course I am a Red Sox fan. Overconfidence will always get you in trouble. It's not as if the Red Sox have given me many reasons to believe they can win 2-of-3 in enemy territory. The Yankees may ultimately miss the playoffs, but they would love to spoil the Red Sox hopes along the way. Here's an example of how the baseball gods reward overconfidence:

I remember watching Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS when the Sox had their lead and were six outs or so from going to the World Series. On my way to the men's room, a fellow Sox backer looked at me and said, "It's ovah!" "Don't say stuff like that," I replied. We know how it all ended that evening. All I can say is that Boston has a good opportunity over the next three games to show some guts and make a statement. We'll see if they do.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend in Canada

Thank Zeus that the Sox won today after getting shellacked by the Jays yesterday. Lester had been pitching so well that there had to be a bad outing at some point. Let's just hope it's the law of averages and this doesn't start some sort of down period for John, something the Sox can ill afford. Dice-K pitched fairly well today, only walking one batter. However, he continues to be inefficient with his pitches, needing 105 to get through six innings.

I almost choked on my pizza when I saw Jacoby Ellsbury collide into the wall while making a catch in today's contest. Fortunately, it resulted only in an abrasion above the outfielder's right eye and a lost contact lens from that same eye. The Toronto faithful actually booed when it took what they felt to be an inordinate amount of time to return the contact to Jacoby's eye. I thought we were in Toronto, not Philadelphia. Classy, guys. Real classy.

We will find out a lot about Boston during the upcoming week, the media will want to talk about the next series against the Yanks at the stadium, always a challenge. But I'm particularly interested in how Boston fares against the White Sox in the next series. Both Boston and Chicago are fighting for a post season berth. After that Boston plays those damn Orioles again. They are a pesky bunch and are plenty good enough to play spoiler.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Big Weekend for the Sox

I have taken a little time away from the blog as one contributor got a week off to go to Key West, (pre-hurricane) and the other is going to Lisbon tonight. I figured I deserved a break too. Tonight the Sox play the Jays a team they have been embarrassed by this season. They are 2-6 against the Jays and were swept in their last series while playing AT FENWAY. The Sox need 2 of 3 this weekend. They miss Halladay and have Lester and Dice-K on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of this AL East road trip. If the Sox can go 6-3 away from Fenway that would be great. The Yankees are falling apart and Boston should take atleast 2 next week at the stadium and probably 3. So this weekend could define this road trip.

The Twins continue to win. This puts more pressure on the Sox. It is possible both the Sox and Yanks could miss the playoffs and that would just be weird. Boston's schedule favors them down the stretch as they have 20 home games and 15 away. If they can play around .500 on the road (7 or 8 wins) and continue to dominate at home, they are currently playing .700 at Fenway. If this continues, Boston would finish with a 14-6 run at home down the stretch. They would end with 94 or 95 wins, (just under their MLB best 96 wins in 2007) that should get you into the postseason. Hopefully I will be able to watch some games this weekend and see the Sox show some testicular fortitude.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Farewell for now

That's right, I'm taking off for a European adventure tomorrow evening so I will not be posting for the next week and a half. I guess I'm not leaving soon enough as the Yankees are currently working on putting another nail in their coffin up in Toronto. Everyone knows the Yanks are in a desperate spot now, but I wish they wouldn't show their desperation by letting Carl Pavano start a game.

Honestly I don't know if I would even let him throw in the minors, just to make it more difficult for him to get a contract after they buy him out at the end of this season. Anyway enough talk of venegance upon Carl Pavano, I will let thoughts of the off-season to come dominate my mind as I travel. So with images of CC dancing through my dreams and Joba and Phil getting his back, I will leave the rest of August baseball to Joe and Dan.

Yanks fans, keep the hope alive. I'm expecting a miracle run to get back in the playoff race. No one ever thought the Rays could be this good, and no one thought the Phils could win the division last September, so why not the Yanks playing in October again? Hey, it could happen. If doesn't, here's hoping the Rays hold on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ump Needs to Shut Up

In the eighth inning of last night's game, Pedroia was ejected for arguing, no big deal. It was the way things lead up to the ejection that was completely inexcusable. Dustin was ahead in the count 3-1. On the next pitch he checked his swing believing he had ball four and headed down the first base line as if he didn't hear the strike call. The ump said that Pedroia went around. It looked to me as though he had, but the problem came when the first base umpire yelled at the second baseman and mimicked Dustin's swing. Pedroia yelled back and also pantomimed swinging the bat, presumably saying that he had held up. The umpire then dismissively waved at him as if to say, get back to the batter's box. Pedroia then promptly grounded out, but continued talking. I might too if I had just been waved away like an insolent child. The home plate ump then ejected Dustin.

What is with these MLB umpires? There was absolutely no reason to act like a jerk. All he had to was say, you swung, please finish your at bat. In any other sport, the officials almost always take the high road. They are in control, so there is no reason for theatrics, screaming, or any other macho antics. They make the call, and the players and coaches accept it. Pedroia wasn't angry with the call (ok maybe a little) he was angry at being treated shabbily when there was no reason. How is it that there are more ejections in baseball than football? It's the showboating umps.

On the upside, Jason Varitek seems to be on a mini hot streak. He's batting .357 with 2 HR's in the last 4 games. Youkilis continues to rake from the clean up spot, and made the Orioles pay for walking Papi last night. It doesn't matter where he hits in the line up, lead off or clean up, he gets you what you ask for. He's becoming more of a power hitter while not sacrificing average. It's extremely tough to keep him off the bases as evidenced by a near .400 OBP. Sound like any recently departed left fielders we know? Plus he's a gold glover(decidedly not like that certain left fielder). I think Youk may be the team MVP this season.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Something to keep your eye on

I know that every Yankee fan out there has a basic idea of what they Yankees off-season plans are going to be whether or not they are successful in their run at the post season this year. On the top of the list will be recruiting a starting pitcher and at the top candidate is of course CC Sabathia.

Now a lot has been going on with the Yankees so you may have only heard the good/bad news that Sabathia is destroying the NL by putting up an 8-0 record with an ERA of 1.60. You would like him to pitch well but every victory he records with the Brew Crew means that his price keeps going up.

But the real bad news that comes with every Sabathia start is his pitch count. Last night's 9-3 victory over the Astros is the best example yet of what is happening to Sabathia. Even with a six-run lead Bob Melvin felt it necessary to allow Sabathia to pick up his fifth complete game in nine starts with Brewers. This one required a ridiculous 130 pitches for CC to finish.

It was the third time that CC has topped 120 pitches in a game with the Brewers and the fifth time he has surpassed 110. Now I don't blame the Brewers for squeezing every pitch they can out of CC since the gave up a ton of talent to get him knowing that he was walking at the end of the season. But I hope CC understands that the more the Brewers abuse him in meaningless situations, like last night's blow out win, the harder it will be for him to convince people to give him seven years and 150 million.

Sabathia's pitches per game is now a full nine pitches over his career average and five more than his career high of 107 which was set last year. I'm sure Brian Cashman will take all of this into account as well this off season during negotiations. It will be a big risk for any team to give him a huge deal especially if the Brewers do end up going deep into the post season and CC goes over 250 innings again.

And any Yankee fan that tells you that you should ignore these facts because the Yanks need a no-brainer left-handed ace at the top of the rotation to start next season, well, they may be right. But perhaps they should look at who might be starting for the Yanks on Saturday for a little history lesson on free agent pitcher signings.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Blue Jays Peck Red Sox Eyes Out

Sorry for such a gruesome headline, but it was seriously painful to watch the past two Sox games. Paul Byrd did ok in his debut. He performed how you would expect: 7 innings, 10 hits, 4 runs. If that's how he pitches in the majority of his starts, I think Boston would be happy. I would also predict that the Sox would win 50-55% of those starts. Byrd put the blame on himself for the loss, but really it was a satisfactory outing. The Red Sox were just completely shut down by Roy Halladay, who had his eighth complete game of the season. I know that Cliff Lee is the most talked about pitcher in the Cy Young race, but Halladay needs to be in the conversation as well.

Yesterday was just unbearable. Beckett let the light hitting Jays slap him all over the park. The Red Sox are starting to look like the paper tiger among potential playoff teams. I think, unfortunately, that a wild card appearance and an early exit will be their fate. Following last night's drubbing, they are 21-23 in the AL East, another disturbing trend. Perhaps they will limp into the playoffs and then turn it on for a run at the World Weries. Other teams have done that in recent history such as the White Sox and the Tigers, but Boston's play of late doesn't give me a whole lot of confidence.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The bats come alive

It has been a rare occasion this season when the Yankees have allowed the other team to score first and still won the game. Today was one of those days. Early on Mussina didn't have it but after the first he settled down and gave the Yanks six quality innings and for once the bats did the rest.

Arod led the way with five RBIs and a home run that seemed to revive the Yankees. There is always a lot of talk about Arod not coming through in the clutch or that all of his home runs come in blow outs. Now this home run came in a blow out but if he had struck out on that 0-2 pitch the entire game could have played out differently. What is more important a three-run home run in the first or a three-run home run in the ninth?

Arod catches a lot of flak for how he is perceived to crumble under pressure but just because a superstar doesn't have a twenty minute long ninth inning highlight reel (which Arod does have a long enough highlight reel of his own) doesn't mean the numbers he puts up are meaningless.

Anyway it was nice to see every player get in on the slug-fest today and maybe the Yanks can carry this momentum up north and capitalize on this mini-home stand. If anything they should have a pretty good day off tomorrow.

When the Yankees let you down

As I have mentioned before following some of the baby bombers down on the farm is one of my hobbies. So I figured if there are any Yankee fans out there who need a baseball distraction beyond the big league team I would mention some of the Baby Bombers who are worth watching.

The minor league team that has arguably the most talent in the Yankee farm system is the Charleston RiverDogs of the low A South Atlantic League. The headliners of the team are right-handed pitcher Dellin Betances and catcher Jesus Montero. Both of these players are not only beasts in physical stature but in terms of talent as well.

Betances is listed at 6'8" 245 and he can easily touch 100 on the radar gun. Like all tall pitchers he initially had trouble getting his mechanics together but it seems that in the second half of the season improving his K/BB ratio from 1.6 to 3.4. That decrease in walks has lead to 4-1 record and an ERA of 2.74. He is definitely going to be high on prospect lists this off-season and at 20 he could still move up the minor league latter fast, though the Yankees will probably take it slow with him.

The same can go for Montero as well. At 6'4" 225 his physical stature has many scouts saying he is not long for catching. But whether or not he stays there wont effect his skills with the bat. Montero started the season on a hot streak before cooling down in May and June. But he found his stride again in July when he put up a .341 batting average and nine extra base hits. He has continued this upward trend in August where he is batting .393 and slugging at a ridiculous .672.

The other half of the catching duo at Charleston and the other hope for the Yankees as to their internal heirs to the Posada catching throne is Austin Romine. Romine doesn't have the bat that Montero does but he has more skills behind the plate. Even though his bat isn't his strength
it is still solid, putting up a line of .292/.332/.416.

The prospect everybody knows about is Austin Jackson who is probably the Yankees new number one in the system. Cashman's hope has to be that Jackson is going to be the Yankee's center fielder of the future and with the way he has played since his promotion to High A ball in Tampa last season, it doesn't look like it will be long before he takes the job. Aside from a high strike out rate, Ajax has all five tools.

So if the Big Boy Bombers are getting you down you can always check out the kids and look to the future. Not to mention that if October baseball isn't in the cards for the Yanks, they have three minor league teams that are in position to make runs at titles in September: the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, the AA Trenton Thunder and the low A short-season Staten Island Yankees. Not to mention you can always follow various rehabbing Yanks like Matsui and Hughes. So like always minor league baseball is a cheap entertaining alternative to the MLB cash sucking machine that can sometimes leave you feeling letdown.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gardner comes through again

The Yankees needed this game bad. They needed last night's game too but like today it felt like they were trying their hardest to avoid a victory. They got another solid outing from Sidney Ponson. Ponson has been better than anyone could have expected over his last four starts, posting an ERA just under three. And yet the Yankees have only won two of those games after today's extra inning affair.

The offense just can't finish. It seemed like after they tied the game they were leaving men on base every inning. Maybe this time up Brett Gardner can provide the spark they need to jump start the offense.

In spite of all the injuries that the rotation and pitching staff have endured this season, they have performed an adequate enough job to win games. It has been the offense that has struggled and it seems to be contagious. The championship teams of the late 90s were great because every player in the lineup was able to pickup the guy before him if he couldn't come through. This lineup feels like everyone is trying to hit a six-run home run to cover up the deficiencies of everyone else.

Maybe if Brett Gardner can show that he can come through when it counts, Arod or Giambi can relax and just swing the bat. Both of those guys look like their pressing when men are on and it could be because they feel like if they don't get the job done no one will. Almost every season has a victory of some kind that defines the season or turns the corner for a team.

Now today's victory means nothing if the Yankees go out and fall down tomorrow, but if they can put together a strong effort tomorrow and then take two of three from the Jays, then the season will look a lot brighter. Joba is almost ready to throw again and Phil Hughes has looked strong in his rehab starts, so reinforcements are on the way if this team shows it has some fight in it and that the season isn't lost.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bye Bye Melky, hello again Brett

Well Melky finally played his way off the team. Today the Yankees sent Cabrera down to AAA Scranton and released Richie Sexson. To replace them the Yankees brought up Brett Gardner and career minor leaguer Cody Ransom. Ransom has been playing short stop for Scranton lately and has very limited major league experience. In 140 career MLB at bats, Ransom has hit at a clip of .236/.331/.364 which means he probably isn't long for this call up either.

This move could be the best thing that happens to Cabrera. Much like when he was sent down after his brief and embarrassing stint in 2005, Cabrera might use this as a chance to re-energize himself and as motivation. Richie Sexson also did well to earn his second release of the season.

Though Sexson had only 28 at bats, he only managed two extra base hits in those at bats. Richie might have benefited from additional plate appearances, but in all likelihood he would have produced at the same substandard levels as he did with the Mariners.

Here's hoping Gardner can finally capitalize on this opportunity and use his speed a little more.
He seemed very hesitant at the plate during his first call up so perhaps he will try to be a little more aggressive.

It is also being reported that the Yankees might be letting first round draft pick Gerrit Cole walk away to UCLA. I can't say that I'm happy that the Yanks are letting an 18 year old kid who throws 97 walk away, but he must not be to bright if he is going to turn his back on the money the Yankees certainly offered him. There were a lot of reports that Cole lacked maturity so perhaps it is best for the Yankees if he does take the road of higher education. And if Cole doesn't sign the Yankees will receive a compensatory pick in the first round of next year's draft which might be a good fortune since they'll probably lose theirs by signing away some big name free agent like Sabathia or Teixeira.

Tonight the Yankees get a brief stay at home and hopefully they use this time to right the ship against the Royals. They tend to beat up Gil Meche so here's hoping the trends continue tonight.

Dice-K and Sox too much for Rangers

Impressive. The 3 game sweep of the Rangers was a hitting clinic. The Sox scored a record 37 runs in 3 games. Dice-K pitched well again. I know he isn't dominating, but look at his numbers: 14-2, ERA 2.74, 103 SO, and WHIP of 1.34. I know the the WHIP is a little high, but if he finishes strong shouldn't he be mentioned for the Cy Young? I know Cliff Lee will mostly likely win and he deserves it. I'm just saying, shouldn't Matsuzaka be in the conversation?

Next time a Red Sox fan, myself included, complains about our pitching we should just look at the Rangers. They have scored 688 runs and their run differential is still -55. That is unreal and will probably be worse by the end of the year. If they had any pitching they would be scary. The Sox get the Jays this week and they unfortunately will get Halladay tonight and Burnett on Sunday. 2 of 3 would be a good weekend. I think Francona has basically figured out the lineup with Bay, and the Sox prove more and more everyday that Manny is a greedy clubhouse cancer who almost sabotaged the entire season.

One last note, I am entering enemy territory this weekend and going to the Bronx. I will try to take some pictures for the blog.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Digression

Having been in Key West for the past week, I haven't been able to watch my beloved Sox. I instead have sated my sports appetite on the Olympic games. I don't care what anyone says. I love the Olympics, especially the summer games. It gives me an opportunity to watch sports that I seldom get a chance to watch such as swimming, diving, gymnastics, and track& field. I enjoy these sports very much, and although I probably would not make the time to follow them year in and year out, I find them exceedingly entertaining when I have the chance to watch them at the highest level.

Some like to criticize the Olympics saying that they do not carry the same prestige as they once did, that no one cares about these sports, or that corporate sponsorship has ruined the games. Somehow I am able to see past all of that. I still see a purity of competition and camaraderie. For two weeks, countries are able to put aside political differences become a community. Does this happen across the board? No. All you had to do was watch the Croatia/Serbia water polo match to see years of bloody conflict and resentment boiling just below the players' skins. But I still feel that every few years, we get to see sports in its purest form, athletes who are there for the love of their respective games, and sportsmanship that transcends arbitrary lines in the sand.

Awesome Game

Last night's game was crazy. I hate that I couldn't see it, but that what happens to a sox's fan in the apple. The offense came alive and the pitching sucked. You can't expect much for Zink, a knuckballer brought to fill Wakefield's spot in the rotation. The bullpen sucked and if the Red Sox have any hope in the postseason the Big 3 are going to have to go 7+ everyday. The resilience the Sox showed after blowing a 10 run lead is something that will carry through the rest of the season. If they lost, the same could be said. With the Rays finally suffering some injuries like the rest of the AL East the stretch run will show what everyone is made of. Around the deadline I said the season could come down to the roadtrip that starts next week of 9 games in 9 days all against the AL East. The Sox have stayed within striking distance and now is the time to strike. Hopefully the Sox will play their best baseball of the year over the next few weeks.

I like the pick up of Paul Bryd. They need a guy to eat some innings at the back of the rotation and Byrd should be able to do that. You never know how long Wakefield will be out and Buchholz is a year away. The pick only cost Theo some dollars. My question is why, didn't the Yankees claim Byrd off waivers? They are as desperate as anyone for pitching.

Big win for for the Yanks

Can't say much more than that. They Yankees desperately needed a victory yesterday and things looked grim when the most reliable Yankee of all had an uncharacteristic collapse. But Mariano blowing a save wasn't the only rare thing to happen yesterday. The bullpen, aside from continual disappointment Damaso Marte, was solid during extra innings and Arod finally delivered a hit in a clutch late inning situation.

Tonight is just as big for the Yankees. The Twins are a team the Yankees have historically dominated and that much was true last month at the Stadium. Yes, the Twins are a good team but the Yankees have more talent and need to start winning games against teams they normally beat. The same goes for Kansas City this weekend. A sweep would go a long way to getting the Yanks back in the race and would become a necessity if Rasner falters this afternoon vs. Kevin Slowey.

By the way I thought we traded Kyle Farnsworth to Detroit. I guess he must have learned how to pitch left-handed and changed his name to Damaso Marte in order to sneak back onto the team. Marte has been atrocious since joining the team and is quickly playing himself out of getting his six million dollar option picked up for next season. Part of it has been how Girardi has decided to handle him, but his performance has been nothing but dreadful.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The tunnel is getting smaller

I have seen the Yanks play some uninspiring baseball before, usually at the beginning of the season. That's when you can dismiss most of the talk of how the Yanks wont make the post season this year. Unfortunately this lack of effort and look of death has come over the team while they are in the throes of the dog days of summer. And even though both the Rays and the Sox are having their own significant problems, the Yankees problems feel different this year.

Aside from all the injuries suffered by key players the Yankees just aren't performing. Everyone is well aware of their lack of production with runners in scoring position and how the bullpen has been hot and frigid all season long. The team just feels very disjointed and awkward. These are all problems to be expected when trying to transition in youth while still keeping veterans and pushing for a title. I think that all along this year Cashman felt this team would fall short of the ultimate prize but he has done what he can to keep them competitive while not deviating from his goal of rebuilding the infrastructure of the Yankee Franchise.

Yes, he has made some trades for more veteran players, but the reality is he didn't give up anything that was an integral part of his future plans and some of the pieces he got are what the Yanks need now and next year. Like the Sox not making the post season in 2006 this could be a good thing for the Yankee organization, as long as nobody overreacts of course.

The youth is working its way into the big picture and they have a ton of payroll coming off the books in the off season. They could score a big time arm or bat or maybe even both to complement the youth. Things aren't as dark as they appear to be.

I'm not saying this season is over. If anything the Yankees should do their best to take a shot at the wild card which is still very much in reach. But Yanks fans don't get down because the season looks grim. You have a lot to look forward to.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Rough homecoming for IPK

This was the first time Ian Kennedy had pitched in southern california since the Yankees drafted him out of USC back in 2006. You would think Kennedy would be rather embarrassed by his poor performance in front of so many people that he knows. But apparently he was unfazed by the nine hits and five runs he allowed in only two innings.

Pete Abraham at the Journal News quoted Kennedy after the game as saying:
“I felt like I made some good pitches,” he said. “I’m not too upset about it. … What was it, a bunch of singles and three doubles? I’m just not real upset about it. I’m just going to move on and I’ve already done that.”

Well Mr. Kennedy you should be upset. I hope that this is merely a front to cover the true frustration under IPK's skin, because most fans wont take to kindly to hearing how some rookie pitcher doesn't really care that he got his team blown out of the water and dropped them another game back in the standings.

Kennedy needs to look back at a year ago when Manny Ramirez told the world that he didn't really care if the Sox won the ALCS. "It doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like it's the end of the world," said Manny when the Sox went down 3-1 in the series that they eventually. Did Kennedy notice the fallout Manny got?

Yes Ian you should move on and let the tough defeats go, but don't act like you don't care the Angels kicked your but all over the diamond. So that you care a little or you'll lose the support of the fans along with the support of Joe G, Cashman and your teammates who I'm sure will all have a word with about your comments.

Here's hoping Dan Giese learns a little from Kennedy and saves the bullpen some. You can't count on the Yanks having another miracle comeback against the best team in baseball and their ace.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Solid as a Moose

It can't be said enough that Mike Mussina has been the MVP for the Yankees this season. Last night is just one more example of how he has been the steady hand for the rotation.

This upcoming series with the Angels carries a lot of weight with it. After getting handled by LA in the first two games at the Stadium the Yanks bounced back and took the last two to break even. After the same thing happened in Texas where the Yanks usually dominate, they coulduse a boost from Ian Kennedy who should feel like he has something to prove to after being abysmal in his early season starts. They should have a fighting chance regardless of Kennedy since the Yanks usually find a way to get to Jered Weaver.

The problem the Yankees always have with the Angels is holding down the offense. It will be asking a lot of Dan Giese and Ian Kennedy, not to mention a recently slumping Andy Pettitte to hold down the Angels.

Aside from the win yesterday the other good news out of Yankeeland was that Phil Hughes had a successful rehab start in Scranton last night, throwing 4.2 innings of one run ball. By all accounts he was touching 95 on the radar gun and sitting at 93-94. I have always been a big believer in Hughes and I think he could be just as important to the future of the Yankees as Joba is. Hopefully it will only be one more rehab start until The Franchise is ready to get back on a big league mound. If anything at least he get some much needed big league experience.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

One Week after Manny

Last Thursday Red Sox's Nation was shocked when Manny was traded to the Dodgers. Since then the Sox have gone 5-1. (Granted they have played the A's and Royals) The team seems to be much more relaxed and is playing well. Jason Bay has been productive and seems happy having a supporting role in an already strong lineup. Francona still hasn't quite figured out the lineup, but with time I am sure they have the bats to put some runs on the board.

This weekend the Sox get the White Sox. Even though they are on the road I still think they should be able to take two of three. I have never thought the White Sox were any good not even in '05 when they won the World Series. (they had a bunch of guys who had career years, i.e. Buehrle, Garland, Jenks, etc.)This year, they are benefiting from being in a divison of underachievers (Tigers and Indians) and teams who aren't willing to spend money (Twins and Royals). I would love to play the White Sox in the postseason if I were the Red Sox. Love it. Let's see if they can get it done this weekend.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Things go from bad to worse

First it was Jorge Posada going down. The Yankees expected him to come back after giving his shoulder a little break but all they did was end his season. Then Hideki Matsui went down with his shaky knees. The big injury came in June, though, when their ace Chien-Ming Wang went down for the year on a freak foot injury.

Even after all that the Yanks looked to be in good shape when the trade deadline came and went. Pudge Rodriguez would do a satisfactory job filling in for Jorge, Nady would be a good right-handed hitter who would step in for Matsui and balance out the lineup and Joba Chanberlain had successfully transferred back to the rotation and was doing a good job at filling in for Wang as the new ace. The stars were aligned for a second half run.

But now Joba has followed the path of Phil Hughes and the injury bug bit him in Texas. Chamberlain hit the disabled list today and a visit to Dr. Andrews pretty much means the end of his season if not most of next season too.

The Yankees will be extremely cautious with Joba, as they should be, but with the loss of Chamberlain the Yankees will almost assuredly face ridiculous odds at making the playoffs. It's hard to blame Brian Cashman or Joe Girardi for the flaws of this team. Girardi lost his two starters and two aces to injuries. Cashman did his best to fill the holes left by injuries, but replacing one ace is next to impossible. But to replace two is unfathomable. The Yanks may still pick up Jarrod Washburn and he will be an improvement over Sidney Ponson, not to mention a decent option to replace Pettitte as the lone lefty in the rotation. But he is a back end rotation guy and the Yanks have a plethora of those already.

Right now the Yanks are still in it but it's hard to imagine them lasting that long without Chamberlain, especially if Pettitte keeps pitching they way he has these past two starts. Tonight could get pretty messy with Ponson on the mound against the rookie Tommy Hunter.

By the way, how do the Red Sox have two plays in the same season where the ball balances on the top of the wall? Inconceivable.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Big Scare for the Sox and Yanks

Last night the Red Sox failed to pick up a game on the Rays and lost to the joke of the league the Kansas City Royals. The Sox just cannot seem to get it together on the road. After a good series against the A's at Fenway I thought the Sox had turned a corner. They got rid of the clubhouse cancer and Jason Bay is playing as well as anyone could ask him to play. I think the season comes down to a road trip later this month when the Sox play 9 road games in 9 days all against the AL East. (O's, Jays, Yanks) If they go 2-7 or 3-6 they won't have enough time to recover. The schedule down the stretch does favor the Sox with plenty of home games, but they got to start playing atleast .500 ball on the road.

If that is the bad news, then this only makes it worse. David Ortiz felt a "click" last in his left wrist. Now, I shouldn't even say it, but if Papi isn't 100%, the Sox are dead ducks. The lineup is good, but without Manny, now Papi is the power guy. He is the guy every pitcher in the AL is afraid of in this lineup. If he isn't in the lineup or not 100% the Sox have big problems. The starting pitching is good, but not great and the bullpen is inconsistent. This team was not built to win games 4-3. (example: last night). I can only hope the wrist is fine and will make it through the end of the season.

The Yanks also saw their golden boy leave the game with "shoulder stiffness" last night. The Yankees' rotation is below average at this point with Chamberlain, their #2, pitching well. If he misses significant time, the big Stein better start thinking of a plan to kidnap Jarod Washburn from Seattle because Ponson, Ranser, and IPK will not get you into the playoffs. The Yankees have been hit harder than anyone this season with injuries they cannot afford another.

On The Road

Much like the Sox, I will be on the road this week. I'm leaving the stress of Red Sox World to get a little R & R. I hope when I return, you will find me tanned, rejuvenated, and writing about a Boston winning streak. Hold down the fort, boys.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Moose to the rescue

The Yankees needed a big start out of Mike Mussina yesterday and he delivered. Everyone has pretty much realized by now that Mussina has been the Yankees MVP this season and it isn't had to imagine how far back they would be if he was pitching like it was 2007 rather than 2006.

The bats finally made some progress at the plate by roughing up Jered Weaver for four long balls. Even Jose Molina got in on the action, giving Pudge Rodriguez a lesson on how to swing the stick.

One little problem with the Yankees lineup though, is how the substandard performance of Derek Jeter continues to fester and nobody wants to bring it up. Jeter has done more for the Yankees franchise than any other player on the roster but this season he has been a disappointment for him and few people seem to want to acknowledge that.

Now I have always been a big Jeter fan. Ever since his rookie season he has been one of my favorite players and like most fans I would give him a free pass for an slips in play as the years moved on because he had always been there before and he had always taken care of business. But last year he grounded into a career high 21 double plays plus three more in four games against the Indians. This year he is fast approaching that number with 17 DPs already and this season his batting average has slipped to the point where the DPs are becoming a noticeable problem. His stolen bases and OPS have also taken prominent dives this year.

Now every player can have a down year and hopefully with Jeter that's all that this is. But it is very possible that this could be the end for Jeter. 34 is pretty old for a short stop and if the Yanks want to make a run over these last 52 games they need some stellar play from their short stop and Jeter needs to step up and be the Captain.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Say it aint so Mo

I have heard of closers not being able to pitch effectively if something isn't on the line but this situation with Mariano Rivera is getting down right ridiculous. He is filthy when it's time for a save but if it is anything but he just seems to lay an egg out there. And to think that Sidney Ponson actually pitched well and did it against a very tough team. I always have mixed emotions when the Yankees get something out of bad players like Ponson. I am happy that the team is doing well but I don't want Ponson to keep getting starts because everybody knows that sooner or later he's going to give it up when it matters.

Right now the Yankees are sitting in a very precarious position. They have a long road trip on the horizon and they can't afford to drop these next to games to the Angels at home. This little cold streak is just about at the point of wiping away all the good that came from their hot start out of the all-star break.

Today it's Mike Mussina vs. Jered Weaver. This is a big one especially considering that John Lackey is pitching the finale tomorrow against the likes of Darrell Rasner. It would take a lot for the Yanks to pull that one out.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bay, Bay, What Do You Say?

The Jason Bay Era could not have started any better. He reached base four times and scored both of Boston's runs. The winning run in the bottom of the twelfth was set up when Bay hit a triple off the Monster. Had it been Manny he would've been in his home run trot and ended up with a single or worst case, been thrown out at second when he realized, holy crap it's still in the ballpark. Bay on the other hand was hustling out of the box. And so was Jed Lowrie when he got the game winning hit on an infield single. Bay scores both runs. Lowrie gets both RBI. Awesome. I'm going to bed.

Manny off to Dodger Town

If a year ago you said Manny Ramirez would be playing for Joe Torre and with Nomar I would have told it is more likely Manny will get in a fight with Johnny Drama in the next season of Entourage where they would eventually hug it out and the episode would end in a chorus of "VICTORY!" Somehow this has happened. Manny goes to LA, the Sox getting Jason Bay, and the Pirates raked in 4 average prospects. It was clear Manny was ready to go and I am glad the Sox traded him as I could foresee Manny phoning in the rest of the season alla '06 just out of pure spite. Also the Red Sox have been playing awful as of late and I think they will start to play better this week with changes in the lineup and an easier schedule.

I have two qualms about this trade. How has this helped the Red Sox biggest weakness, the bullpen? I have been saying for weeks that they needed help and Theo has provided them with nothing.
How do you pick up Manny's salary ($7 million) AND give the pirates Moss and Hansen. Moss and Hansen are not the best prospects, but definitely OK. These prospects could have been used for bullpen help. The money was included when they were talking to the Marlins which is understandable, but the prospects were not. The Dodgers could and should pay Manny. How do do you give up the best player and spend the most money in a three team deal? Theo explain yourself.

This trade could end up costing the Sox the season, or it could turn out like the Nomar deal of '04. I have no idea. I have never seen Jason Bay a lick of baseball so who knows how good he is and how he will play in Boston. Plus he is Canadian. (It is something you have to consider.) The next two weeks will set the tone for the rest of the season. Either they will continue to fade or show the AL east they are still serious about winning another series. One final thought, at least the Yankees didn't steal Jarrod Washburn.

End of an Era

Manny is gone, if you haven't heard by now. And I think it makes total sense. I think Jason Bay will flourish in a still formidable line up. I wish the Sox could have obtained some more pitching but c'est la vie. I know some will argue that Manny's bat cannot be replaced, and that the Red Sox were bagging it when they decided to trade him, but that is only true if Manny were to actually give you 100% effort. Imagine if the Sox and Yanks were playing a critical series in September and Manny got caught in a run down, or muffed a fly ball, or ignored a stop sign from the third base coach, or punched the food service guy, or yanked on Youk's beard, etc. etc.

Jason Bay, on the other hand, will be thrilled to be playing in some meaningful games. I understand that he has no experience in such situations. We don't know how he will perform under the pressure. However, one thing is for certain, he will relish the chance to play for a pennant and will do whatever he can to win the respect of his teammates. I think the Manny distraction was a factor in the Sox poor performance. When things are going poorly, you have to shake things up.

The thing that has annoyed me the most in the Manny saga (and the Brett Favre saga) is the hypocrisy of the sports media. In years past when Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Milton Bradley and other clubhouse cancer types resorted to childish antics to get what they wanted, the media killed them. No matter how well they performed on the field, they weren't worth the headaches, we were told. We have a similar situation with Manny, and the Red Sox felt that whatever production he might have is not worth the constant distraction. Now everyone in the media says that you can't get rid of "The Greatest Right Handed Hitter in Baseball" and that doing so will doom the season. Which way is it? The bottom line is that Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay are in the midst of the most heated and interesting divisional races in recent history, and all Manuel can think of is himself. He was clearly tanking it. I guess two rings are enough for him. In the balance the Red Sox did the right thing.