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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Lament for Jeter

Photo courtesy of Nike

Soon enough, I'll fully come to terms with the fact that Derek Jeter will not
be the starting shortstop for the 2015 New York Yankees. But it is not this day.

As Legolas Greenleaf once said, "I have not the heart to tell you. For me the 
grief is still too near."

Replace "Gandalf" with "Jeter" and the tunics and furry hobbit feet with 
pinstripes and cleats, and you get the idea.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

World Series 2014 - The San Francisco Giants

We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast to bring you thoughts on the 2014 World Series. And by regularly scheduled, I mean my average of five-measly-posts-every-two-years. I've been battling crippling writer's block for the better part of two years but decided to fight and claw my way out with a little World Series preview that focuses on the National League side of the matchup.

Kauffman Stadium. Photo courtesy of KansasCity.com

The San Francisco Giants are, thus far, easily the most successful team of the 2010's. The '10's? Ten-ties? Have we actually settled on a name for this decade yet? I digress…

The Giants win the pennant. Photo courtesy of ABC 7 News

For all their success, they are surprisingly likable. Between San Francisco's eccentric fan base and eclectic roster, the Giants are an easy bunch to root for. You've got the boy-next-door, wholesome appeal of Buster Posey, the lovable enthusiasm of the "Kung Fu Panda," Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and his excellent taste in headbands and motivational speeches, and a trio of starting pitchers more country than… Any famous country trio you can think of (country music is not my forte). 



Photos courtesy of New York Daily News and Major League Baseball, respectively

Travis Ishikawa and Ryan Vogelsong both have incredible stories of toiling in the minors and Japanese leagues before persevering and making an impact at the big league level, and Yusmeiro Petit has been the stand-out player of the postseason thus far thanks to his stellar long-relief outings, including an unforgettably dominant performance in the epic, 18-inning affair between the Giants and Nationals in the NLDS

San Francisco's rotation is anchored by true ace Madison Bumgarner, the unshakable 25-year-old that pitches like a crafty veteran. Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and the aforementioned Vogelsong are all solid starters who will likely be more reliant on the Giants' impressive bullpen than Game 1 starter Bumgarner. Santiago Casilla usurped the closer's role from Sergio Romo in September and has excelled in the postseason, posting a 0.98 ERA in 22 games. Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez have also done some heavy lifting in relief and been excellent, neither allowing an earned run in the nine playoff games so far. Manager Bruce Bochy is another asset and gives the Giants an edge over the Royals, especially given Ned Yost's sometimes baffling decisions that the Royals have so far overcome and managed to win in spite of.

Bumgarner, Peavy, and Hudson. Photo courtesy of The New York Times

The only San Francisco liability to this point is Hunter Strickland, who has had a penchant for giving up massive home runs every time he takes the mound. The Giants are also very light on power, but so are the Royals, so if you're a fan of small ball, you're bound to enjoy this. 

Hunter Strickland gives up another Bryce Harper home run. Photo courtesy of Mercury News

My prediction for the series is San Francisco in 6. If the World Series had started within a day or two of Kansas City clinching their first World Series berth since 1985, I truly believe they'd have surged ahead, stayed hot, and won it all. But the young and highly inexperienced team had the wind knocked out of their sails with the long layoff and could struggle to regain the red-hot form they showcased throughout October. It will be six nail-biting games that will ultimately see the Giants continue their trend of taking home the trophy in even years (2010, 2012, 2014?). 

Let the games begin.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Go Go Go Go, Ichiro

The Yankees' acquisition of Ichiro yesterday would have been a blockbuster deal a few years ago. As it stands now, Ichiro is an aging superstar whose best days are behind him. 

But Ichiro has always enjoyed the spotlight and is a somewhat larger-than-life figure, not one to shy away from media attention but rather embrace it fully. Couple this persona with the fact that he went from worst to first and should be playing in October for the first time since his rookie season of 2001 and I believe Yankee fans will be seeing a rejuvenated Ichiro that thrives among the bright lights of the big city.

This trade is a shot in the arm for both Ichiro and the Yankees, who have become far too stationary on the bases without Brett Gardner. He provides speed and defense and, while obviously not a home run hitter, I expect he'll take advantage of the short porch in right at least a few times this season.  And while he's hitting .261 overall, his average away from the cavernous Safeco Field is a more Ichiro-like .296.

Ichiro tipping his cap to the Seattle fans after a lengthy ovation. (Yahoo! Sports)

Another important aspect that has largely been ignored by critics of the trade? The protection he'll be provided by the vaunted Yankee lineup. In his last game as a Seattle Mariner, Ichiro led off in a lineup that included FOUR men hitting below .200. After John Jaso (who has played in just over half of the games this season and is hitting .292), every single Mariner is hitting below .267. The Mariners are second to last in the A.L. in average (.230), home runs, RBI and runs scored and dead last in On Base Percentage and Slugging. Now he suddenly finds himself in a lineup full of productive superstars providing the sort of protection he could only dream of with the Mariners in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the league.

He's not going to hit .350 or steal 40 bases but before this season's over, I think Ichiro is going to make his mark on this team and fully embrace New York and all it has to offer.

__________________________________________________________________
Check out Ben Gibbard's (Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service) musical tribute to Ichiro

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Look Ahead to the Second Half...

Despite key injuries, the Yankees are in good shape heading into the second half. Owners of baseball's best record, the Bombers also have the largest division lead of any first place team. If you had been told all this back when Mariano Rivera went down for the season (and knowing later that CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte would both find themselves on the DL), I think you'd be quite thrilled with the results, no?

What do you think are the keys to the Yankees' success in the second half? More production with runners in scoring position? Less reliance on the home run? Health? Russell Martin? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Public Enemy Number One: Robinson Cano?!


In a game full of true ‘villains’ - cheaters and drug abusers and out-and-out criminals - an entire stadium, during an exhibition home run hitting contest that, while fun (or supposed to be) means nothing in the grand scheme of things, decided to pour its collective vitriol out on one of baseball’s best and brightest young stars.


Last year’s Home Run Derby was one of the most memorable contests in some time. Baseball is a sport with a rich history of being passed down from generation to generation. With his father on the mound, Robinson Cano launched bomb after bomb and for a moment it was as if the Cano’s were back in their backyard sharing that time-honored tradition of father-son baseball bonding. When it was all over, Cano leapt into his father’s arms victorious and every headline the next day harped on about the feel-good nature of that moment.


Flash forward a season, and both Cano’s looked as though they wanted to be anywhere but on the diamond as the ruthless Kansas City crowd cheered every Cano out mercilessly (this including his final out, the ‘gold’ ball that, when hit for a home run, turns into a charitable donation). Some fan went as far as to fly a plane over the stadium with a banner that read ‘You blew it, Cano’ in reference to his not selecting Billy Butler for his American League squad. Some fans claim their issue is not with Cano leaving Butler off but with him saying he would bring a Royals player along and going back on his word, but according to Cano, Major League Baseball wanted his selections a week before the All Star rosters were announced so he didn’t know who would be representing Kansas City at the Midsummer Classic.

Robinson Cano hugs his father after failing to hit a home run in the 2012 Home Run Derby. (Yahoo! Sports)

This whole ugly episode starts with, of all people, Billy Butler. Butler’s had himself a nice first half and was selected as an All Star reserve, meaning he will get a chance to play in the game in front of his hometown fans. You know, in the game that actually counts. It’s impossible to argue with Cano’s choice of Jose Bautista (27 home runs) and while Prince Fielder’s HR totals are low, he is a prolific home run hitter who won the contest in 2009 and can (and did) put on quite a memorable show. Mark Trumbo seems to be the player fans expected Cano to leave out in the cold, even with his 22 home runs compared to Butler’s 16. Butler’s 16 home runs, by the way, leave him 16th in the American League (not MLB, the A.L.) in that category, so Cano passed up a lot of home run hitters more deserving. Just because he happens to play in the ballpark doesn’t mean a player is entitled to a spot. And they say Yankee fans have a sense of entitlement!

While last year’s Home Run Derby was memorable for sentimental reasons, the 2008 affair at the original Yankee Stadium will always be remembered for the remarkable show Josh Hamilton put on, launching some of the longest home runs the old ballpark in the Bronx ever witnessed. Hamilton didn’t even win yet his performance will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Home Run Derby showings ever. The Yankee Stadium crowd oohed and aahed appropriately, loving every minute of the spectacular show they were watching, and guess what? Not a single Yankee participated in that Derby. The final season at historic Yankee Stadium and no Yankee participant? After last night, it’s a shock that no one rioted.

In the end, what is supposed to be a fun night that celebrates the game of baseball and the accomplishments of the first half turned into an ugly affair that did nothing but make the fans of Kansas City look bad. Prince Fielder’s eventual victory (on Robinson Cano’s American League squad that finished one, two and three in the contest) is almost an afterthought. What will be remembered about the 2012 Home Run Derby is nothing to write home about.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here..."
- The Beatles
Opening Day.
What's more exciting than those two words?
The Quest for #28 starts now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 Division Preview

The biggest MLB storyline for the 2011 season will be the beastly American League Eastern Division. The A.L. East has been the toughest division in the game for the past few seasons, and this year will be no exception. 


The New York Yankees are coming off a season in which they made it to the ALCS despite off years from Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and especially A.J. Burnett. The Captain has revamped his swing this spring, Teix is looking to start strong instead of dealing with his usual lackluster April, and new pitching coach Larry Rothschild is hoping to work his magic on Burnett. In addition, the Yankees still have a fearsome lineup that includes last year's MVP candidate Robinson Cano, the consistent Nick Swisher, and centerfielder Curtis Granderson, looking to continue his strong end to the 2010 campaign. Look for a better season from Jorge Posada, who should benefit from DHing and not having to worry about the wears and tears of catching on his 39-year-old body. With arguably the best bullpen in the league anchored by the legend himself, Mariano Rivera, the only question that remains with the Yankees is their starting pitching beyond Sabathia and Hughes.

The Boston Red Sox had an incredible offseason, solidifying an already impressive lineup by adding the likes of speedy Carl Crawford and slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are strong again after being sidelined by injuries in ’10, so the Red Sox lineup is another force to be reckoned with. Questions do arise in regards to their starting pitching, though. Youngsters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are reliable starters, but then you have to consider the remaining three- the often erratic Josh Beckett, an aging John Lackey, and the frustrating Daisuke Matsuzaka. Still, it’s hard to argue with many early predictions that the Red Sox might just be the team to beat.

Tampa Bay has been overlooked going into 2011. Their starting five is a talented group of young arms with enough firepower and experience to make opposing batters rather uncomfortable at the plate. The lineup is impressive, too. Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton are joined this season by two veteran superstars who each had a great deal of success with other A.L. East teams, Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. As hard as that lineup will be to navigate, the issue with the Rays is, of course, their bullpen. Sending away their closer Rafael Soriano, as well as Benoit and Balfour, the only problems the 2011 Rays will have will most likely be the late innings.

In the past, the Orioles and Blue Jays were the overlooked teams in the division. It might be time to give them a second look. Baltimore was an entirely different team after Buck Schowalter came along midway through last season and breathed new life into the Birds. Their 2011 revamped lineup is nothing to be scoffed at, with Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Brian Roberts being joined by Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, and J.J. Hardy. Jeremy Guthrie and Justin Duchscherer will anchor the rotation and propel the Orioles to what will probably be their best season in years. The Blue Jays, on paper, look to be the weakest team in the division, but being the weakest team in the toughest division in baseball doesn’t mean they can’t contend. 

The A.L. East is up for grabs in 2011.

Friday, October 15, 2010

... Remember Me?

Once upon a time, there was a dedicated young lady who loved to write about the New York Yankees. Then one day she got too busy and before she knew it five months had gone by without a single post. Now she finds herself five hours from the start of the American League Championship Series, waiting for the Yankees to take on the Texas Rangers to decide the pennant, and doesn't even know where to begin. So she decided to simply apologize profusely to her loyal readers and vow to do better from this day forward. The end.

Go CC!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Vintage Vazquez and a Breath of Fresh Air

On a gorgeous Friday night in Queens, with the Yankees scuffling from injuries and a certain degree of recent ineptitude, Javier Vazquez delivered his best start as a Yankee since the coaching staff comprised Joe Torre, Willie Randolph, Don Mattingly, Luis Sojo, and Mel Stottlemyre. Bubba Crosby was on that team. And Kenny Lofton. John Flaherty was backing-up Posada behind home plate, not in the YES Network booth and the bullpen was made up of the likes of Felix Heredia, Paul Quantrill, and Bret Prinz. In other words, it's been a long time.


Cruising through six one-hit innings, Vazquez was forced out of the game after bruising his finger in a successful bunt attempt. A trio of relievers, Robertson (coming off his best outing of the 2010 campaign), Marte, and Chamberlain combined for two scoreless innings and got the ball into Rivera's hands with the 2-0 lead (courtesy of rookie Kevin Russo's two-run double in the 7th) still intact. Things got a bit dicey with Mo in the 9th after back-to-back doubles by Bay and Davis, but he induced a ground ball to second to secure his 8th save of the season and a satisfying Yankee win that snapped a three game losing streak and left them four games back of the first-place Rays.
 

On Saturday, two young right-handers face off at Citi Field, with Phil Hughes (5-0, 2.25) taking on Mike Pelfrey (5-1, 3.02) in the second game of the three-game set.

Photos courtesy of Yahoo! Sports



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mr. Swish Goes to Washington

The 2009 World Champion New York Yankees were welcomed to the White House yesterday by President Obama and presented the Commander-in-Chief with a #27 jersey. I guess Reggie wasn't willing to unretire #44 for a day, not even for the President.


(All photos courtesy of Associated Press)




Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Little Heartbreak Before The Joy



The House that Ruth Built... In ruins.



It will surely be a sobering experience for some as they walk past the ruins of the original Yankee Stadium and make their way into the new one. At least the Yankees christened the new Stadium the same way they christened the original in 1923; with a championship. It's time for the new place to continue the legacy and for new memories to be created.


(Photos courtesy of AP)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heading Home


The defending World Champions finally return home to New York on Tuesday after a successful 4-2 road trip against Boston and Tampa Bay. Tuesday should prove to be an exciting day as the Yankees raise their 27th championship flag, receive their World Series rings, and welcome new additions like Curtis Granderson to the Bronx.

(Photo courtesy of Associated Press)