Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cashman Returns

Rest easy Yankee fans. There will be no chaos in Yankee Universe this off-season. Brian Cashman has resigned with the New York Yankees for three years. He will get his chance to see through his hand picked manager's contract and to make sure his plan towards a youth movement will be fulfilled.

This will make getting through the off-season much easier for me and hopefully most Yankee fans. There will be no desperate signings and the rejuvenated player development system will get its chance to produce more homegrown talent.

Play In Game: Yes or No?

Though it is baseball tradition, I am not a huge fan of the play in game. The Twins won 10 out of 18 games against the White Sox this season. In my opinion, the Twins should be in by virtue of this fact. It's a 162 game season, and it should be worth something. Otherwise the season could be 100 games, and we can have a result a lot sooner.

There seems to be a growing trend in sports that devalues the regular season. More games, more teams in the playoffs, the best regular season record counts for less, all of these things have contributed. The regular season should separate the very best from the mediocre. The very best go to the playoffs; the mediocre should stay home.

I am in favor of shortening the regular season and contracting the playoffs in all sports. That would make the regular season a hell of a lot more valuable and insure that the best teams get in. For example, the baseball season would be reduced to 150 games. The four best teams in each league would get in based on record only. That way a team with a 0.500 record who would normally win a weak division (it happens every year) would not get in so a more deserving team could get a chance. I have plans like this for all the major sports. My football plan will come out in December some time. There's liable to be something that will make me cranky enough to tell you about it.

Now we're down to this play in game. A game where anyone can get lucky. Baseball is supposed to be a marathon where a teams greatness is confirmed over a long period of time. The Twins proved it by beating the White Sox 10 times this season. It could all be wiped away with one bad hop or one questionable strike call.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Playoff Preview

So it begins on Wednesday night. It's going to be difficult for me to watch all or most of any of the Sox games in Boston, never mind the ones in California. I must admit, I am worried that Beckett seems to be breaking down at the worst time. Some pitchers can tough it out through injuries and still give a good performance. Beckett is not one of those pitchers. Believe me, I am not questioning his toughness, just his ability to be effective with an injury. With Beckett, it seems that everything has to be aligned and feeling loose for him to be his best. He will definitely pitch through injuries, but it seems like every time he does, he's out of the game by the fourth inning. We'll know very quickly in game 3 how well he is doing.

I have no concerns, however, with John Lester pitching game one. He has been the defacto ace for the Sox this season despite Dice-K's 18 wins and sub 3.00 ERA. It's just unfortunate that Lester has in unenviable task of squaring off with John Lackey, who I think is extremely underrated.

The Angels might be better equiped to handle the post-season this year, but in spite of their dominance this season, I remain somewhat skeptical. Although they've had several playoff opportunities, they haven't shown me anything since the 2002 World Series years. Of course, I may live to regret saying that.

Congrats to Moose on #20

It has been a long time coming for Moose. It has been 18 years since he made his major league debut and 12 years since he last had 19 wins. This time he was fortunate enough to have a real closer in the game to secure the victory rather than Armando Benitez.

This is likely the end for Moose. It's possible he comes back. Anything is possible of course. But he sounded like he was resigned to a life with his wife and kids in Pennsylvania after a long career.

There has been talk for a long time about whether or not he deserves Hall of Fame consideration. I am not going to argue that point here but now they can't hold 20 wins over his head anymore.

What I would like to do is thank Moose for giving the Yanks eight great years and for being a consummate professional his entire career. If he decides to call it a career than it has been a great one.

I for one hope he comes back for a couple more years. The Yankees would need his experience and his ability to eat innings next year. He is a smart guy and I think he would be a good influence on the young kids to keep him around. Moose won't be high on the priority list this off season so it may be a while before we find out his fate.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yankees new vacation stadium

Yankees Building New Vacation Stadium In The Hamptons

Saw this posted at riveraveblues.com a few days ago. Pretty good stuff.

Rain Delay Ponderings

The rain is coming down in Boston right now and it looks like they're going to do everything they can to get in at least one game for Moose and his quest for 20 victories. It would be a travesty is Mussina missed out on his last chance for 20 wins because of a weekend of bad weather.

Anyway, through this delay I have been thinking a lot about various off-season decisions the Yanks are going to have to make. New York will be in a good position to contend next year. They have all the pieces they need to be successful next season, it seems to be more of a matter of execution by the players and their manager who now has a year of experience in the Big Apple under his belt.

Everyone knows that their first off-season move will concern Brian Cashman. The Steinbrenners have been nothing but vocal about their desire to bring back Cashman and pretty much every fan and media personality says they should bring him back. The only question is whether or not Cashman wants to come back. Obviously I don't have access to Cashman like some in the media, but I find it hard to believe that he would leave now, right as he is on the precipice of seeing the benefits of his rebuilding of the farm system. Not only that but Hal seems to be controlling his brother Hank a bit more which would also give Cashman more of that autonomy that he craves. I would have to say Cashman is probably coming back to the only organization he has ever known.

The next big question will be what free agents the Yankees decide to bring back. I think the answer to that question is fairly simply. You let almost of of them go.

Of the list only Pettitte and Mussina should come back, unless they sign a big free agent like CC Sabathia or Burnett (though they should avoid Burnett like the plague, all the numbers point to him being Carl Pavano Part II) then they should only bring back one of them.

They can afford to let Giambi walk even though he has been productive this year. I like Giambi, but he is 37-years-old and to much of an injury risk. Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui have both expressed interest at playing first base and in Matsui's case he can probably do little else anymore. Matsui at first base would be a smart move as the Yanks would lose little in terms of offensive production while insuring that Matsui could play most of the year.

The last move would be to let Bobby Abreu walk. Abreu is an ok player but he isn't great defensively and his bat will only get worse. He's 34 and will only get slower and more afraid of the outfield wall.

Of course they should offer all of these players arbitration. It would be stupid to let any of them walk without getting something for them. The only one who might accept it is Abreu but all of them are probably looking for one more big contract and if Abreu does accept it then the Yanks can tolerate one more year of good production from him.

All in all the Yanks should have $60 million coming off the books this year and an additional 25 next year. If Cashman comes back he will have a lot more flexibility in payroll and the Yanks will get younger and cheaper. Plus, if all of their free agents do sign elsewhere, the Yanks could have a treasure trove of draft picks next season.

That will be important considering the Yanks have got little to nothing out of their past four 1st round draft picks.

The tarp is off the field so I am off to watch the last meaningful game of the 2008 New York Yankee season.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cano looking good

There has been a lot of talk lately about what the Yankees are to do with Robinson Cano after such a down year. Many thinking trading the slumping second baseman is the best way to deal with the problem and they would be wrong.

What the Yankees need to do is what they have down. The sat Cano when he didn't hustle to send him a message. They reworked his stance to give him a more balanced and consistent approach. And I think the results have become evident in the few weeks since then.

I know that much of what Cano has done has been against team that are in the playoffs already or haven't had a prayer since May, but that doesn't matter to me.

To me what is important is the games don't matter to Cano and he is still working hard to make himself better. That says something about a player that most people thought was lazy and unmotivated. Now he has a nine game hitting streak and he has even walked a couple of times during the streak which is just as many times as he has struck out.

Cano was a big reason the Yankee offense was as flat as it was. When you combine his off-year with the injuries to Matsui, Posada, plus the minor ailments to Jeter and Rodriguez, the Yankee offense loses quite a bit of potency.

Thanks in-part to Cano's hot play and that of the recently hot Brett Gardner, the Yanks crushed the Red Sox last night. It was their second to last meaningful game of the season as their victory eliminated the Sox from the divisional race. It's a bitter sweet victory but it does make me feel a little better that the Rays are division champs.

Today's game is a no show for the Yanks as they are sending Sidney Ponson to the mound. Hopefully he doesn't last to long on the mound. Nobody wants to watch him anymore. Sunday will have some meaning and hopefully the Yanks get it done for Mussina. It will be nice to finally give him something he can he did, rather than something he has almost done.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rivera Could be Looking at the Knife

If the week wasn't bad enough for you Yankee fans out there, it could be getting a whole lot worse. According to reports in the New York Post and what is being reported by Peter Abraham, Mariano Rivera is going to need shoulder surgery after the season.

Now it isn't the worst possible scenario. Right now they are just saying that he needs to clean up some bone spurs in his shoulder which means his rotator cuff is ok. But that still doesn't put my mind at ease.

Anytime a knife goes near a shoulder you have to be a little worried, especially when that knife is going into the shoulder of your 38-year-old closer.

This off-season could be very messy and worrisome for Yankees. One of the sure things in their universe could be a big question mark.

Not only that but if Rivera isn't there to hold onto the closer job, Joba Chamberlain's role could be in serious jeopardy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Maybe it was him

Congratulations to Joe Torre and the Dodgers who clinched a playoff birth with Arizona losing today. 

If Torre had stayed with the team the Yankees might have made the playoffs this year, but I still think it was the best move for the Yankees to let Torre walk and honestly it was probably best for Torre's legacy that he leave too.

The Yanks needed to move in a different direction and Torre was part of the old dynasty years. Now he moved on to the Dodgers and has made the playoffs with a rag tag team of young players and veterans. It is his 13th consecutive season in the playoffs and the first time in 14 years the Yanks haven't. That is what how he will be remembered.

Time will tell if Cashman was right. But it was inevitable that the Yankees would need to make a change at manager and it would probably have been better if they did it sooner.

Good luck to the Dodgers, though, I would prefer to see Manny fail. 

As the season winds down...

... here are a few things on my mind.

  • I think I could get a hit against the Mets bullpen right now. They lost last night to the Cubs after having a four run lead. That is the eighth such loss this season. Atrocious
  • Is there room enough for a most valuable player and a most outstanding player? There's always this debate about what "valuable" means. It's bound to be a close race. The final three contenders seem to be Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Justin Morneau. But it can be debated that Alex Rodriguez has performed just as well statistically. He has 35 HR, 101 RBI, 103 runs, and an OBP of 0.391 in an off year after missing 20 or so games. Does he need to perform well beyond his ridiculous yearly averages to be considered for MVP? I'm not saying he should be MVP. I'm just saying.
  • Poor Carlos Quentin. With no clear cut MVP in the AL, he emerged with the right numbers on the right team to make it easy for the writers. Now he won't even get half the votes he would've if he had stayed healthy. Should that matter? All too often they dole out MVP's based on stretch run performance only. What about the rest of the season? Well I guess you're not that valuable if your down for the playoffs. I guess I answered my own question.
  • Again, we have to ask, is there any team in the NL that is going to challenge the AL winner in the World Series? Of course, anything can happen in the playoffs. I hate it when teams like the '06 Cardinals win.
  • Is it really possible that the Cubs will win it all? Could we see three perennial disappointments win the World Series within last five years?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hughes is back

Well I wanted to see Phil Hughes pitch well in his last start before heading off to Arizona to build up his innings and I was finally rewarded for my faith in him this season.

Now the Blue Jays don't have a Murder's Row, but they do have a solid lineup with some legitimate hitters in the middle. Hughes handled the Jays with amazing efficiency and matched free agent-to-be A.J. Burnett pitch for pitch.

Hughes is only 22 years old and he still has some maturing to do. He needs to stay healthy for a full season and he needs to start bumping up his innings. In a few more years he could finally be showing people why he was rated ahead of Joba when they were both in the minors.

Hopefully he builds off this start and carries this momentum into next season and beyond. Now all the Yanks need is one more win and they will secure third place and avoid an embarrassing fourth place.

I guess it's up to Carl Pavano to come through against Roy Halladay. Talk about opposites. Number of starts for Pavano in a Yankee uniform: 25. Number of complete games by Halladay since Pavano signed with the Yankees: 24.

Anyway, it's the last time I'll ever have to see him in a Yankee uniform. Thank the heavens.

Red Sox Clinch Playoff Berth

Last night the Sox beat probable Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and clinched their 5th playoff berth in the past 6 seasons. It is always good to get that out of the way, and it gives Francona the rest of the week to rest players and set up the rotation for the 1st round. Also, its nice to know the Yanks are done and their series this weekend will look more like Trenton vs. Portland than Boston vs. New York.

Now the real season can begin. Quietly the bullpen has been coming around, and you can almost believe they could get you 9 outs in a playoff game. The line-up seems to be just healthy enough and should be able to score some runs against the Angels. The Angels seem to be better this year than in years past, but until they do it in October, I am not drinking the Kool-Aid. The same could be said for the Rays. It seems that Percival is done, and do you really think you are winning the World Series with Dan Wheeler as your closer? I will love to see how this one turns out.

This is the End

There hasn't been a season of baseball that I have watched where the Yankees didn't end the season in October. It's a tough pill to swallow and it will be weird to watch the team play games that no longer have meaning.

I'm not wholly disappointed that they aren't in. I knew that this was a definite possibility when Cashman decided to rebuild and it was something that I accepted. Things could have been different of course. If Wang and Joba didn't get hurt, if Matsui managed to stay healthy, or Posada's arm didn't fall off, things could have been different.

But good things can still come from this. Robinson Cano now knows that he has to bust his ass every day during the season. Melky has been proven to be a fourth outfielder at best and pitchers like Phil Coke and Brian Bruney came into their own.

The season cannot be deemed a complete failure even if the absurd standards of Yankee Universe are applied. Hopefully Brian Cashman is retained so that he can carry out the remainder of his plan.

During this off season the Yankees will find it hard not to go crazy and sign every single free agent they see. One big signing is acceptable as long as it is along the lines of CC Sabathia. Other than that they should let a large amount of players walk this off season and grab as many draft picks as they can and shave a ton of payroll.

Anyway there will be plenty of talk about the off season in the weeks to come but right now I will announce my temporary status as a Rays fan. Other than that I'm going to get ready to watch Phil Hughes mature and grow against A.J. Burnett who will show up tomorrow because he thinks the Yanks are going to throw a ton of money at him.

Gotta love his attitude.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bay vs. Ramirez

Let's get one thing straight right now.  Manny Ramirez is an almost certain Hall of Famer, and Jason Bay is a very good player entering his prime.  There's a big difference.  But now that we've had a chance to let the trade sink in let's compare the two players' production this year, shall we.

Jason Bay has scored 109 runs this season.  That's 7th in all of baseball.  Manny has scored 99.  Manny leads in home runs 36 to 31. No big difference there.  He also has a slight edge in RBI, 117 to 100.  Manny is significantly better than Jason in average and OBP.  His 0.331 average would lead the American League.  So what is my point?

My point is that you could pencil in Jason Bay for 30 HR, 100 runs, and 100 RBI every season, even when he was on the crummy Pirates.  Now that he has familiarized himself with AL pitching and is hitting in the middle of a stacked line up, he has the opportunity for a huge year in 2009.  Oh yeah, and he can also actually play the outfield instead of being a glorified spectator.  Manny can compile his numbers all he wants.  Jason will do the things that are not in the box score plus his production is the kind that you will take on your team anytime.

The tear Manny has been on in LA is similar to the good behavior one gets out of a delinquent kid who has just transferred schools.  After about a month all of the old habits start to resurface.  I will be interested to see how much LA likes him by this time next year.  Jason Bay is happy to be in Boston and grateful for an opportunity to win.  It's clear now that he fits in and is capable of handling the pressure.  The fans have also embraced him as soon as they threw out their Manny dreadlock wigs. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Fond Farewell

Last night the Yankees won the game and managed to stave off elimination in the final game in Yankee Stadium history. I was impressive with what parts of the ceremony I was able to see in between working and I was actually not that upset with what I normally deem as sub-human coverage of Sunday Night Baseball that is conducted by Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.

I'll admit that I don't mind Jon Miller that much and I feel like he can be pretty good most of the time even if he is way to enthusiastic for some plays. Morgan on the other hand has no business ever hold a microphone and discussing baseball on a televised broadcast.

But I will give the pair kudos for their coverage of last night's game and in particular the end of the game.

After Rivera got Brian Roberts to ground out to end the game, Miller and Morgan did the right thing and just stopped talking. For the next few minutes they just let things happen and let the picture tell the story.

It was the best announcing I have ever seen from those two.

Now it's back to reality and the disappointment that is the 2008 New York Yankees.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My Farewell to the Stadium

In the grand scheme of Yankee history I am a fairly young fan. I missed the glory days of the 1950s, the rejuvenation of the late '70s and the dark days of the late '80s and early '90s. I was fortunate enough to begin paying attention to baseball when the Joe Torre Dynasty began.

My first game was in '96. It was rained out before I even got a chance to get into the stadium and see the grass. I had to wait until the end of the summer in order to get to my first game which I can't even remember to well.

What I do remember from that season is staying up late to watch the Yankees win their first title in 18 years. Watching Charlie Hayes make that catch and seeing Wade Boggs ride around the stadium on a police horse are two things about the stadium I'll never forget.

But as for actual memories of games at the stadium, I have few remarkable ones. I suppose the best one I have comes from only a few years ago.

It was June of 2006 and the Yankees were still in a race for first with the Red Sox. Every game I had attended that year had ended in defeat for the Yankees and it seemed my timing was way off. But this time I finally saw something special.

I was way up in the upper deck in right field with a group of friends. It was Chien-Ming Wang vs. David Pauley, some unknown rookie which usually spells doom for the Yanks, and It started out poorly as David Ortiz hit a ball half way up the upper deck, just a few rows in front of us.

But Bernie Williams was still around and use what little magic he had left to tie the game at one two innings later.

The Yankees took the lead late in the game after Pauley misplayed a Miguel Cairo grounder into a base hit. Then Johnny Damon singled him to second before Melky Cabrera walked. Rudy Seanez came in and walked Jason Giambi to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead.

The next inning in came Krazy Kyle Farnsworth. Immediately I thought we were screwed. We had come all this way and the Yanks had finally taken the lead only to see Joe Torre bring in Farnsworth to face the heart of the Sox line up and blow the game.

But Farnsworth surprised us by getting Mark Loretta on a fly ball and then striking out David Ortiz. Then up stepped Manny Ramirez who hit .556 against the Yankees that season.

There was only one logical conclusion to this match up.

And with a 1-0 count Manny drilled a ball to left-center field. From our seats we were perfectly lined up to watch Melky drift back to the wall. It looked like there was no chance the ball would stay in the park.

But then Melky leaped and pulled the ball from the air. No sat down after that play. The stadium was shaking with jubilation as Melky reached the dugout and we remained on our feet until he came out for a curtain call.

It was the first time I had ever seen the stadium give a curtain call for defense. That was one of my most exciting memories about Yankee Stadium.

Today I do feel some remorse at having to watch the stadium fade into the annals of history, but the reality is that this is not the stadium of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. That stadium died with the renovations of the '70s.

Yankee Stadium did. The new Yankee Stadium will have legends that grace it from the beginning, much as the original. Hopefully it will begin creating its own ghosts like the first stadium did.

I will miss Yankee Stadium but, aside from the prices, I am looking forward to the future.

Weekend Picks

Well, if you hurry you can still get your picks in to your bookie. I was 7-6-2 last week. Let's see if I can improve a little on that this week. Atlanta -6, Buffalo -9.5, Tennessee -4.5, Cincinnati +13, Arizona +3, New England -12, Tampa Bay +3, Carolina +3, Seattle -9, San Francisco -4.5,  Denver -5.5, Pittsburgh +3.5, Jacksonville +5, Baltimore -2, Dallas -3, and Jets +8.5.

As the season winds down I think the Sox are in a pretty good position. I know they will most likely end up opening on the West Coast, but they always play well against the Angels in the playoffs. I think  it will help the Sox have been in playoff mode for the past month, while the Angels were worrying about saves for K-Rod. This week was rough running into Halliday and Burnett, but it was good preparation as nobody was a 1-2 like that in the playoffs. Sox went 1-1 which I will definitely take considering the pitching matchups.

And finally, it looks like the Mets will back into the playoffs, because they Brewers have fallen apart in an even worse way than the Mets. Now, the Mets can go into Chicago and get straight up embarrassed and everyone will agree the Mets are an average team with three really good players (Wright, Reyes and Johan).

One more thing, Pedroia for MVP!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back in the middle again

The only travesty so far in this final home stand is the Yankees indifference to starting someone like Carl Pavano in a game at Yankee Stadium. Even though Pavano won his start and kept the good feelings going, I can't help but be infuriated that the Yankees are essentially giving him a free audition for his next job.

Pavano will assuredly not be a Yankee next season and the Yankees are almost assuredly out of the post season. The only side benefiting from the Yankees-Pavano relationship is Carl Pavano. Same as he always has. They should have let him rot in the minors rather than disgrace the Yankee Stadium mound.

Anyway, with that out of my system, Brett Gardner decided to make a final push to steal the centerfield job away from Melky Cabrera. I think the truth of the matter is that neither of them can really fill the job permanently and maybe not even through all of next year.

But maybe a little competition will help Melky mature a little faster and make both players into solid fourth options or turn them into trade fodder again.

Today Alfredo Aceves will take the mound for his third start. So far he has looked good, flashing good command and a good breaking ball. He could develop into a decent back end of the rotation pitcher.

The Yanks may need to win these final two games to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention at home, but for the first time since their ten game winning streak after the all-star break, I actually feel like the Yankees could win every day.

Oh and even though it was the Red Sox who beat them, Toronto has now fell back into fourth and the Yankees are back in third for the first time since September 6.

People may think that there is nothing for the Yankees to play for after Sunday night, but hopefully some of these guys have a little pride and make a push to stay in third.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Return of the Phranchise

Last night Phil Hughes finally made it back to the big leagues. It has been a very disappointing season for Hughes. Everyone expected a lot out of him and Kennedy at the beginning of the season and most of us were putting too much faith in a twenty-two year old kid who had barely any starts at Triple-A.

Hughes has the talent to be a very good starter and as he learns how to put away hitters rather than throwing thirty pitches an inning, he will become very valuable to the Yankees.

Hughes is likely to get one more start with the big club and then, as reported by Peter Abraham, he will be shipped to the Arizona Fall League to throw another 40 innings. Hopefully that sets him up for next season and around 150-160 innings.

Other than that it is nice to see the Yanks trying to give people their moneys worth in the final week of the stadium. I'm sure most fans would have preferred that this effort came in August or July but I guess we have to take what we can get.

Tonight they take on the Sox and try to keep playing the spoiler. Mussina vs. Vazquez, with Mike going for #18. Every win still counts for the Yanks. I can tolerate a third place finish this season but anything below that is just embarrassing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What a Waste

Another brilliant start by Josh Beckett was squandered last night. This team just does not score runs with their ace on the mound, and it makes me crazy. It all started back in April when the Sox lost to these same Rays after Beckett posted 13 K's and allowed only a couple of runs. Arrrggh!

Here is another great article by Joe Posnanski. It compares and contrasts Derek Jeter and Pete Rose. Both were loved and hated in their time, and were often labeled as overrated by the fans and media. It's very interesting, but extremely detailed. Make sure you've had your coffee first before reading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Posada is way off

It seems that Jorge Posada may be gunning for Brian Cashman's job this off-season. Apparently Posada decided to voice his opinion about Joba as a starter or a reliever while he was taping his episode of Centerstage with Michael Kay. Posada is very much against Joba as a starter and feels he should be wasted in the bullpen.

I read this story yesterday and my reaction was roughly the same as Joba Chamberlain's. Shut up Jorge. Joba has always been a starter. He flew through the minors as a starter and he embarrassed teams, including the Red Sox back in July, as a starter.

To relegate him to only 75 innings a year is a travesty and a huge waste of talent. His body type is perfect for starting and I don't understand what Posada's logic was in saying that his body is not one of a starter. I'm sure that he thinks Brandon Webb should be in the D-Backs bullpen considering he and Joba are listed at the exact same height and weight.

Anybody who doesn't think Joba should be a starter should just read his box score from that July 25 game against the Sox and Josh Beckett. That is the Joba Chamberlain that the Yankees envisioned as a the ace to combat the likes of Beckett, Halladay or Kazmir in the AL East.

I respect Posada a lot for his talent as a catcher and his leadership on the field and in the clubhouse but he needs to keep his opinions on player development to himself and not try to mess with something that works.

Game On!

The Sox won at the Trop for the first time this year and pulled into a virtual tie for first with the Rays. I appreciate the way they did it as well, with six jacks, leaving little doubt regarding the outcome of the game. Boston was in a similar spot a week ago and let things slip away. The Red Sox must not have hangover. You know the Rays will show some pride tonight. It's no fun getting embarrassed in your own building, even if you have been in first all year and there are still no people in the stands.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Last time at The House That Ruth Built

This past Saturday I made my fifth and final journey to Yankee Stadium. Even though the Yankees have been a disappointment to me in a general sense this season, they delivered every time I walked through the gate.

I would say that is an impressive feat for them considering the fact that of the five games I saw this season, one was started by Chien-Ming Wang and the other four by the likes of Darrell Rasner and Sidney Ponson.

Sir Sidney was on the mound on Saturday night and though he was his usual awful self, I did get to see Phil Coke make his Yankee Stadium debut. That was the highlight of my final trip to the stadium.

It may out do the original stadium in terms of amenities, but the new Yankee Stadium won't live up to the atmosphere of the old. I hope that at least the product on the field at the new stadium will provide the same satisfaction that the original did.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Long Weekend

The Sox had a tough task this weekend facing a hot Toronto team with nothing to lose. They laid one egg in their 8-1 loss in the first game on Saturday, but the took the next two to keep pace with the Rays before heading down to sticky, sweltering strip mall that is Florida. They are in no worse shape than they were last week when Tampa came to Fenway. They have another opportunity to make headway in the division and try to avoid the Angels in the divisional series. They have stunk it up at the Trop this season, so we'll see what happens.

I especially enjoyed the comeback win last night. And it was good to see Papelbon have a 1,2,3 ninth after blowing a critical save against the Rays last week. However, that warm and fuzzy feeling didn't last long, as Pap had to make things interesting again in today's game. Also, congratulations to Dustin Pedroia for his league leading 200th hit. It was a class move by Toronto first baseman, Lyle Overbay, to retrieve the ball for him.

Observation: If Jed Lowrie comes to the dish with a man on third and less than two out, he will hit a sac fly to drive in a run. He has warning track power, but is able to use it to the best of his ability. He's pretty clutch for a light hitting infielder with a 0.278 average. Any way you look at it, he's waaaay better than Julio Lugo, or as I like to call him, The Rally Killer. He will not be on the roster next season. At least Alex Cora can play defense.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekend Series and Picks

I needed a good two days to recover from the rough 14 inning loss the sox suffered on Wednesday night. Some quick thoughts about that game:
1) Ellsbury was safe in the bottom of the 9th. Pedroia would have been up with the bases loaded and the game would have been over with that AB.
2) Francona needs to start using that cue ball of a head and NOT put Timlin in game changing situations. He has no excuse now, because he is carrying about 20 pitchers with the expanded rosters.
3) Are the Rays good? Yes. Do they scare me in a short series? No. Their line up is inconsistent and the bullpen is starting to show its flaws.

The Sox started the weekend off with a solid win last night over the Jays and have 2 more today. The Jays are a pain in the butt. They have 2 really good top rotation guys throwing against the Sox this weekend, so a spilt or 3 of 4 would be good.

As promised here are my picks for week 2 of the NFL.(I use Vegas.com for the lines.)
KC -3.5, Tennesse +1.5, Indy -1.5, NO pk, Green Bay -3, Carolina -3, NYG -8.5, Buffalo +5, Atlanta +7, Seattle -6.5, Arizona -6.5, New Engalnd +1, Denver +1, Pittsburgh +6.5, Dallas -7, and Baltimore +4.5.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back in the Game

No there has been no miracle, the Yankees are not back in the race but I am back to blogging. After my long journey through Portugal and my arduous first week of school I am back to the grindstone. Though, suppose I should have just stayed across the Atlantic with the way the Yankees are playing.

It's a shame that things turned out this way, but you could see it coming with the way Cashman was building the team. It's an impossible task to build a team while you are trying to win a World Series. The problem with what Cashman is doing, is that they really didn't move the kids along that much.

Phil Hughes couldn't stay healthy again, Ian Kennedy let his ego get in the way and Joba's shoulder problems ruined his innings build up. The Big Three weren't the only ones who regressed as both Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano took big steps backwards.

The best thing the Yankees will come away with this off-season is a huge chunk of cash as the payroll should drop by close to $80 million. I'm sure a lot of that money is going to head in CC Sabathia's direction and if the Yankees manage to sign him their rotation is going to look pretty solid with Chien-Ming Wang and Sabathia at the top of the rotation.

But until Joba joins the rotation again in June, there wont be much behind those two unless the Yanks decide to drop more money on Ben Sheets or A.J. Burnett.

Either way, Joe and I will be heading to the Bronx for one final game on Friday night. Unfortunately, this will be the third time that I have to watch the tragedy that is Sidney Ponson take the mound. But regardless of Ponson and the sad disgrace that is the Yankees right now, I am going to enjoy Yankee Stadium one last time and I'm going to enjoy watching Joe have to cheer for the Yankees to help his Sox against the big bad Rays.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stretch Run

I really thought the Red Sox would take over 1st place this week. I especially thought this after playing well on Monday. Last night they had their chance, but it just didn't happen. Papelbon is human and he will blow one from time to time. I would rather have him do it now than three weeks from now. If Beckett can get the win tonight the Sox are in good shape.

Obviously, both the Sox and Rays are a virtual lock for the playoffs, but both these teams play much better at home. I think it is paramount that the Sox will the division just so they know they will have atleast a divisional series at home in Fenway. Last year, I doubt the Sox come back against the Indians if they don't have Game 7 at home. The ironic thing is, if the Sox want home field in the playoffs then they have to win on the ROAD next week.

The Jays are as hot as any team and baseball and they have Halladay and A.J. Burnett. (He can smell his huge winter contract) The weekend will be tough. Then they go to the Trop and going to the Trop has been a disaster this year for Boston. Do you remember in April when the Sox got swept by the Rays in St. Pete? Everyone said, "You suck, you're terrible you got swept by the f-ing RAYS." Now, if the Sox get swept next week everyone will say, "man, you got swept by the rays..." and just shake their collective heads. I guess the Rays never faded, as I, and many others, thought they would.

One more note: Since football season started last week, I figured, starting this week I will give you my weekly picks and keep a running tally. I hope it will ease the blog's transition from baseball to football. Also, it will be good practice for my trip to Vegas in November.

Bay's HR Wasted

The conclusion of last night's game just made me sick. Jason Bay showed his mettle yet again with a go-ahead home run in the eighth only to see his efforts go for naught when Pap blew the save. That's the position you want to be in at the end of these games, a lead with your lights out closer on the mound. What's even more disheartening is that Papelbon didn't give up the tying home run to Carlos Pena; he gave it up to some no-name call up.

I have to be careful not to get too down though. There are games yet to be played. If the Sox can win tonight, then I can be satisfied with two out of three games and a virtual tie for first. Even if that happens though the Sox must maintain focus and be successful in the next series with Toronto before heading to the Trop for three more against the Rays. No matter what they do tonight, Boston cannot let their recent success in closing the gap with Tampa evaporate by getting beat up by those same Rays in their building. Boston's inability to win in Tampa has been a major obstacle. They must win there to get over the hump.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Notes

There was so much going on this weekend I could hardly contain myself:

The Sox finished their series against the Rangers taking two out of three. The Yankees and Rays both lost. Boston is now 1 1/2 games behind the Rays going into the series with them starting tonight. Six of the Sox next nine games will be against Tampa Bay. They must be careful not to lose concentration when they play Toronto in between those games against the Rays.

I think the Sox will have the advantage in starting pitching in two of those three coming games. The lone exception is in game two with Dice-K vs. Scott Kazmir, although Matsuzaka has been nasty of late. Tonight it's John Lester vs. Edwin Jackson.

Week one in the NFL is in the books. All I can think of is, Tom Brady out for the season does not compute. Without Brady, the Pats may still make the playoffs. But I think the defense will show its age when they don't have a 30 point cushion to play with every game. 583 points covered up a lot of flaws for them on defense last season.

We also saw some compelling play in US Open Tennis yesterday. Andy Murray, a rising star for a couple years, is now more familiar to the general public after beating Rafael Nadal in the men's semis. We'll see how he fairs against R-Fed tonight.

I was hoping Jalena Jankovic, another rising star, would break through with her first title, but instead Serena Williams moved closer to immortality with her 9th Grand Slam. The Williams Sisters have been around so long it's hard to believe that Serena is still only 26. Her quotable father, Richard Williams, had this to say following the match. "Her desire is unbelievable. I describe her as being a combination of a pit bull dog, a young Mike Tyson and an alligator." Huh? He forgot Viking warrior and ocelot. Metaphors are not your strong suit Rich. Seriously, I get what he's trying to say. She is resilient. You can't count her or Venus out for anything. Tennis is a game of mental toughness, and Serena and Venus have bucket loads.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Beckett's Back Baby

Josh's game looked pretty tight against the Rangers last night.  I know the Sox have owned them all season, but that's still a pretty formidable line up.  Beckett painted the corners with a variety of fast balls, and his curve had a nasty snap to it.  He looks ready for the post season to me.  Even Manny Delcarmen got in on the act pitching two scoreless innings when sometimes he can't keep it scoreless for two batters.

From this point forward, the Red Sox just need to take care of what is immediately in front of them.  Don't worry about catching the Rays; just take care of the business at hand.  If they do that, the wins will continue to come.  The Yankees will look smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror, and if the Rays falter, Boston will be ready to jump.  They still have six games head to head with Tampa, I believe.  Those will be quite interesting depending on what the standings look like at that point.

I never thought I'd be trying to pull my friends together so we could head to the bar to watch the highly anticipated Rays vs. Sox.  Nothing says September baseball like Tampa Bay and Boston, right?

Friday, September 5, 2008

From Sox to 'Skins

No Red Sox on last night, so I figured I write about the Redskins, my favorite football team, who opened the NFL season by getting pushed around by the Giants. Unlike the Red Sox, who have become perenial contenders, the 'Skins like to smash any optimism you may have about the upcoming season right at the start.

Washington... couldn't... block... anyone. The Giants' line on the other hand completely controlled the game, at least in the first half. Fred Smoot was thoroughly picked on by Plaxico Burress as the Giants moved the ball at will. The second half was some of the most boring football a person could ever sit through. I think the first few games will be tough to stomach for 'Skins fans, but hopefully they will improve as the season moves on.

We will transition to the NFL after the World Series. I will continue to lament the Redskins. Pete follows the Eagles, and Joey backs the Giants.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pedroia for President

I am notorious for making cases for Red Sox for awards. I know sometimes it's a stretch ( Ex. Dice-K for Cy Young) but I think I might have a leg to stand on with Dustin Pedroia as MVP. Pedroia is now leading the AL in hitting batting .328. He has been unbelievable in August .374 average and 1.060 OPS. That is idiot savant good for a guy who is 5'6'' 160 lbs.

Its no secret, the Red Sox have been hurt all year from Lowell to Ortiz to Drew. Pedroia has been consistent all year hitting in nearly every spot in the order. (Including clean-up over the weekend.) He has been great in the field (6 errors) and good on the base paths (17 SB). He has done everything Francona has asked and kept this line-up going even when people were hurt or slumping or deciding not to play. He has played in 135 of 137 games.

In a year where no one is having an unbelievable offensive year. (Ex. A-rod '07) Why not Pedroia for MVP? By the end of the year Dustin will have similar stats to 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins. He will have a couple of less homers and stolen bases, but could have a batting title and fewer errors. His team looks to be playing October baseball and Dustin plays harder than almost anyone in baseball. With that I say Pedroia for MVP and President. This country needs a third party candidate to shake things up. As I write this the sox are putting a hurting on the O's.

Byrd Holds Off Birds

Another solid outing from Paul Byrd allowed the Sox to continue their winning ways.  Is he Sandy Koufax?  No, but Byrd is doing exactly what the Sox hoped of him, eating innings and keeping Boston in winnable situations when he pitches.

I like this pattern Boston is in: 2-of-3 from New York, 2-of-3 from Chicago.  Now they've taken the first game from Baltimore in this series.  Unfortunately, they seem to have let the division get away from them, but I don't think they care about that as much.  They are holding firm to their Wild Card position, and once they're in, I think it's actually the Red Sox who will be the most feared team in the American League draw.  I'm still not scared of the Angels until they show me they're not an also ran like every year since 2002.  Nay sayers will point to the Sox injuries as a reason they won't repeat, but they seem to have galvanized this team.

As I said a week or so ago, the Sox may end up an early playoff exit.  There are many reasons to believe this in the absence of Beckett, Lowell, and even JD Drew.  The fact that they are heating up now gives me hope, even though in the playoffs everything you've done gets re-set to zero.