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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Just My Imagination

As far as I'm concerned, the first Yankees/Red Sox series of the season never happened.

That is all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Big Papi = Big Hypocrite

Joba Chamberlain is not a popular man in Massachusetts. And there is no love lost between the young Yankee hurler and Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis.

Yesterday, David Ortiz decided to weigh-in on the topic.

In response to the Joba vs. Youkilis feud, Ortiz said:

"None of that, man — just play the game the way it's supposed to be, and that's about it."

"This is a guy, as good as he is, the next step for him will be to earn respect from everybody in the league. He's not a bad guy, but when things like that happen, people get the wrong idea."

Now, I actually quite like David Ortiz as a person. But this is ridiculous. Hello, Ortiz, do you recall a longtime teammate of yours by the name of Pedro Martinez? No? Well, let me refresh your memory.

Once upon a time, Pedro Martinez pitched for the Boston Red Sox and was regarded as one of the most notorious headhunters of his era. Pedro enjoyed mango trees, long walks on the beach, and sending Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano to the hospital.

Ancient history, you say? Fair point.

Well, then, let me take you back to just two weeks ago. Josh Beckett- you know him, right?- was suspended 6 games for throwing at the head of (ex-Yankee) Bobby Abreu.

Remember that?

OK, David, just one more thing. Since you joined the Red Sox in 2003, more Yankee batters have been hit by Red Sox pitchers, your own teammates, than the other way around. That is an inarguable fact.

So, if you'd be so kind,

Shut your hypocritical mouth, Big Papi.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday Walk-Off

I spent a rain-filled afternoon (and early evening) at Yankee Stadium for Wednesday's series finale against the A's.

Thanks to some generous soul on
Razorgator, my friend and I sat field level, a mere thirteen rows from Nick Swisher, for an unbelievably low price. Arriving early for batting practice turned out to be hugely successful. First, we managed to secure an autograph from Joba Chamberlain (after a pleasant wave from Hideki Matsui).

Then we received a baseball each from a random assortment of Oakland Athletics.

And to top it all off, we appeared on the new Jumbotron. Let me tell you, it is TRULY terrifying to find yourself prominently featured for a good 30 seconds to a minute on a 103-by-58-foot, 1080p HD big screen at Yankee Stadium, your face alight with 8,601,600 LED lamps.

The game got underway under grey, stormy skies.
Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera hit back-to-back homeruns in the 2nd inning and Derek Jeter added his fourth homer of the season in the 4th.

But CC Sabathia was unable to hold any leads provided by his offense, and left the 7-7 tie game with two outs in the 7th. The Yankees loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the 7th but failed to deliver.

The Yankees emptied their bullpen as the game continued on into extra innings. Phil Coke, Jonathan Albaladejo, Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, and Edwar Ramirez each pitched an inning or less of scoreless relief before giving way to Jose Veras, who has struggled mightily thus far this season. Veras, however, provided 3 1/3 hitless innings, racking up 4 strikeouts and taking the game, still 7-7, into the 14th inning.

After celebrating the 14th inning stretch with a second rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame,"
Nick Swisher led off the bottom of the inning with his third walk of the ballgame. After a fly out by Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera stepped up to the plate. To this point, Melky had one walk-off homerun in his career, back in July of 2006. My sister and I just so happened to be on hand that rainy evening to witness Melky become the youngest player since Mickey Mantle to hit a walk-off homer for the Yanks. Could Melky send me home happy once more?

Flashback to '06- Melky's Walk-Off

Yes indeed!
Melky smacked a two run homerun to right field and celebrated the first walk-off victory at the New Yankee Stadium.

Despite the rain, it was a truly memorable day spent at the ballpark, and a great victory to build on heading into Boston.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bits and Pieces

Jon Heyman reported on WFAN earlier today that Xavier Nady will NOT need surgery on his right elbow. This is great news for both Nady and the Yankees. More details to follow, but expect a rehab assignment.

Bernie Williams' second album, "Moving Forward," was released last week and is receiving positive reviews from music critics. The CD includes the version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" that he played during the pregame ceremonies on Opening Day.

- The Yankees begin an abbreviated series against the Oakland A's tonight at the New Stadium. Monday night's game was rained out, to be made up in July, and I will be on hand for Wednesday afternoon's matinee.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Home Sweet Home?

Opening Day at the New Yankee Stadium

Indians 10 (WP- Cliff Lee, 1-2)
Yankees 2 (LP- Jose Veras, 0-1)

The New York Yankees did everything right during the pregame festivities at their new ballpark. Trying to evoke the ghosts of the past, Yankee legends, from Berra to Winfield, lined the infield. Bernie Williams played his haunting and melancholic interpretation of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in his old stomping grounds, center field. Babe Ruth's bat was laid across home plate as Derek Jeter stepped into the box. Johnny Damon collected the first hit in the history of the Stadium and Sabathia struck out the first batter. But it was all downhill from there.Starter CC Sabathia struggled with his control but managed a respectable 5 2/3 innings of one run ball. It took CC 122 pitches, though, so Joe Girardi was forced to go to the Jekyll and Hyde bullpen early. Thanks to a Jorge Posada homerun (the first in the history of the new ballpark) the game was tied 1-1 when Sabathia exited. By the time Jose Veras and Damaso Marte were finished, though, the game was out of reach, capped off by a Grady Sizemore grand slam. Veras and Marte were so bad that the listless crowd chanted, "We Want Swisher!" As easy as it was to blame the bullpen, the Yankee offense went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, an alarming trend dating back to last season. The first game at the New Yankee Stadium was memorable for all the wrong reasons, as Cleveland beat New York 10-2.

Game 11: Do Over

Indians 5 (LP- Jensen Lewis, 1-1)
Yankees 6 (WP- Brian Bruney, 2-0;
Save- Mariano Rivera, 3)

Derek Jeter hit the game-winning homerun in the 8th inning of a tie game and Mariano Rivera saved it with a scoreless 9th to secure the very first victory in the new Yankee Stadium.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The "Bronx Bombers" lived up to their moniker Friday afternoon, belting 5 solo homeruns (Damon, Teixeira, Cabrera, Cano, Jeter). The only other Yankee run scored via a throwing error by the Indians' Vinnie Chulk. It was just the right margin for victory. Joba Chamberlain, making his second start of the season, was not impressive, allowing 5 earned runs in less than 5 innings. Girardi was forced to go to the bullpen early once again, but, unlike the previous afternoon, Phil Coke, Jonathan Albaladejo, Brian Bruney, and Rivera got the job done by throwing 4+ scoreless innings. Earning the first victory at the new home of the New York Yankees was great, but the Yankees went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Timely hitting is sorely lacking thus far.

Game 12: Brutal

Indians 22 (WP- Fausto Carmona, 1-2)

Yankees 4 (LP- Chien-Ming Wang, 0-3)

Please don't make me recap this game for you. Look it up here if you must, but I advise against it.

Saturday afternoon's debacle featured 6 Cleveland homeruns and 16 surrendered earned runs between Chien-Ming Wang and rookie Anthony Claggett in only 3 innings. Every Yankee pitcher gave up a run (or eight) and every Cleveland starter had a basehit (or 4).

Embarrassing is an understatement.

A Look Ahead

The Yankees will try to salvage a split of the four-game series on Sunday afternoon when the newly appointed stopper A.J. Burnett takes on the Indians. Who will be opposing him, you ask? Why, none other than our old friend, Carl Pavano! Well, Carl is scheduled to pitch; he very well may break a rib or stub his toe or suffer a bee sting between now and 1:00 p.m. so it's best if you just tune in and see if he makes it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Outfield Situation Solved?

Let's hope not for Xavier Nady's sake.

The Yankees right fielder left Tuesday night's 7-2 win against the Rays after feeling a sharp pain in his right elbow.

had Tommy John surgery back in 2001 on the same elbow and was alarmed by the severity of the pain.

He is scheduled for an MRI Wednesday morning in Tampa.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: Game 5

WP: CC Sabathia (1-1)

LP: Horacio Ramirez (0-1)

CC Sabathia took the mound Saturday afternoon looking to rebound from a rough Opening Day outing in Baltimore. Any panic over Sabathia's first start was quickly abated, as CC pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings, racking up 6 strikeouts and dominating the Royals. Nick Swisher had another big day, scoring 3 runs and driving in 3 with the help of a triple and a long 5th inning homerun. Jorge Posada drove in 3 runs thanks to two consecutive doubles and Xavier Nady also had a multi-hit ballgame to propel the Yankees to a 6-1 win.

The Bad: Game 6

WP: Juan Cruz (1-0)

LP: Phil Coke (0-1)

S: Joakim Soria (3)

Joba Chamberlain made his first start of the season in the series finale at the revamped Kauffman Stadium. Despite a rough 4th inning (made rougher by a Nick Swisher fielding error), Joba showed flashes of dominance and ended up striking out 5 over 6 innings while allowing only one earned run. Chamberlain left the game with the Yankees trailing, but the offense came back against Gil Meche in the 7th thanks to an RBI double by Nady and a Mike Jacobs error. The Yankees were winning 4-3 with no one on and two outs in the 8th when Joe Girardi pulled Damaso Marte in favor of Jose Veras. Veras came in and promptly walked one batter before yielding to Phil Coke. Coke then allowed three consecutive base hits and the Yankees found themselves trailing once again. Joakim Soria came in to pitch the 9th and dominated, striking out the side and securing a 6-4 Royals victory.

The Ugly: Game 7

WP: Scott Kazmir (2-0)

LP: Chien-Ming Wang (0-2)

Chien-Ming Wang allowed 8 earned runs and could not get an out in the 2nd. Jonathan Albaladejo entered with the bases loaded and allowed all of Wang's baserunners to score on a Carlos Pena grand slam. Tampa Bay scored 15 runs off the combination of Wang, Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, and Phil Coke. Just to further exemplify how ugly this game was, the most successful Yankee pitcher Monday night started the game as the first baseman and hit a solo homerun in the 4th- Nick Swisher.

, who apparently can do everything, pitched a scoreless 8th, even striking out Tanyon Sturtze's best friend, former Red Sox Gabe Kapler. Swisher kept the ball from his first (and hopefully last) Major League strikeout. It was obvious that Tampa Bay's season opener at Tropicana Field would not go the Yankees way
right from the start. Trailing 4-0 in the top of the 2nd, Xavier Nady smoked a ball 400+ feet to dead center that B.J. Upton effortlessly tracked down at the wall with an over-the-shoulder basket catch that would make Willie Mays proud. On the night they raised their very first American League Championship banner, the Tampa Bay Rays crushed the Yankees, 15-5.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Debate: The Overcrowded Outfield

Damon, Swisher, and Nady- Newest Rockettes?

The Yankees have three outfield spots available for five everyday outfielders.

Joe Girardi
recently stated that Hideki Matsui would be a ful
l-time DH, at least until Interleague play starts up this summer.

But that still leaves four outfielders vying for playing time.

Johnny Damon's days as a center fielder are long over, but he provides more than enough offense and still possesses enough speed in the field to warrant a guaranteed spot in left.

Brett Gardner beat out Melky Cabrera (a sixth player to consider in the OF, if you are so inclinded) for the center field job thanks to a power-filled Spring Training. Gardner does absolutely nothing for me except provide speed, but of the players being considered, he is the best option for center.

Nice guy, Brett Gardner. Liked him in person. Not so much in centerfield. Where are you, Austin Jackson?

So that leaves Xavier Nady and Nick Swisher. Girardi said during the Yankees' time in Tampa that the two would battle it out for the right field position and just before camp broke, it was announced that Nady had won the starting job.

Four games into the regular season, Matsui looks lost at the plate and Swisher has driven in 6 runs in the last two games alone. Nady is clearly the superior defender in right, but it's hard to justify sitting Swisher. As much as I hate to say it, perhaps it's time to thank Matsui for the memories and move on, with Nady in right and Swisher as the full-time DH.

How will Joe Girardi shuffle his outfield? It should be fascinating to watch the ongoing saga of the overcrowded outfield.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Into the Win Column With A.J. and Andy

Game 3- New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles

WP: A.J. Burnett (1-0)

LP: Alfredo Simon (0-1)

A.J. Burnett made his Yankees debut during the series finale at Camden Yards, going 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs, and striking out 6. While Sabathia and Wang hadn't managed a strikeout between them in the first two games, it took A.J. all of two batters to break that
streak. Burnett got into trouble in the 3rd and 4th innings but had his offspeed pitches working well enough to earn the victory. Phil Coke, Jose Veras, Brian Bruney, and Mariano Rivera combined for 3+ innings of scoreless relief.

Nick Swisher
, starting in place of
Hideki Matsui, was the star at the plate, driving in 5 runs with a homerun and a double. Mark Teixeira also had a multi-hit ballgame and launched his first homerun as a Yankee, finally quieting the boos of the scorned Baltimore fans. Robinson Cano went 3-4 with his first homer of the season and scored 4 runs. The Yankees won the ballgame 11-2 despite the absence of Matsui and Jorge Posada and a combined 0-8 afternoon from tablesetters Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon.

Game 4- New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals

WP: Andy Pettitte (1-0)

LP: Sidney Ponson (0-1)

Save: Mariano Rivera (1)

Number 4 starter
Andy Pettitte pitched absolutely beautifully in the series opener against Kansas City. Pettitte breezed through 7 innings, striking out 6 and allowing only 1 run (although it really ought to have been a shutout, as Nick Swisher misplayed a ball in right that led to the one run). The late afternoon start in Kansas City had a lot to do with the success of the pitchers as the game went on, as shadows crept across the field and made seeing the ball nearly impossible. Ex-Yankee Sidney Ponson pitched fairly well for the Royals, and another familiar face, Kyle Farnsworth, came in to pitch the 7th and struck out the side. Mariano Rivera came on in the 9th and was his usual dominant self, striking out 2 and earning his first save.

Offensively, Yankee bats were quiet with the exception of Jorge Posada, who delivered a 2-run single in the first, and Robinson Cano, whose hot hitting and newly acquired plate discipline continues. Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher delivered the other 2 RBI. Swisher started in right field for the first time this season, spelling Xavier Nady.

The Yankees are now 2-2 on the season. CC Sabathia gets another chance at his first Yankees win Saturday night in Kansas City.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

R.I.P. Nick Adenhart

Nicholas James Adenhart

22-year-old rookie Nick Adenhart, along with two fellow passengers, was killed by a drunk driver early Thursday morning in a hit-and-run accident in Fullerton, California. Nick had just finished pitching six masterful, shut-out innings hours earlier and was considered the top prospect in the Angels organization. A moment of silence was observed before most Major League games and tonight's Angels/Athletics game was postponed.

What a needless and tragic loss for the Adenhart family, the Angels organization, and the entire baseball community.

Rest in peace, Nick.

Welcome to the Big Leagues, Koji

New York Yankees 5
Baltimore Orioles 7

: Koji Uehara (1-0)
LP: Chien-Ming Wang (0-1)
HR: Derek Jeter (1), Nick Markakis (1)

From the Mound

Chien-Ming Wang just did not have it Wednesday night. After giving up three consecutive doubles in the first, it was apparent that his sinker was not working. Once again, a Yankee starter failed to finish 5 innings or record a strikeout. This was Wang's first big league start since injuring his foot back in June.
- Between
Sabathia and Wang, Yankee starters have allowed 8 walks and no strikeouts. Not an encouraging statistic.
- On the bright side, New York's bullpen was effective.
Edwar Ramirez, Jonathan Albaladejo, and Jose Veras combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
- For the O's,
Koji Uehara, one-time teammate of Hideki Matsui with the Yomiuri Giants, went 5 innings and earned the victory in his Major League debut.

At the Plate

Derek Jeter had a nice game at the plate, capped off by a ninth inning homerun that jump- started a late Yankees rally that came up just short. Through the season's first two games, the new leadoff man and Yankee Captain has gone 5-9 with a homerun, 2 RBI, and a stolen base.
- Robinson Cano went 2-4, delivering an RBI double in the sixth. He also stole a base and made a nice defensive play. It's certainly too early to make any definitive statements, but I think the Cano of '06 and '07 is back again for 2009.
- Mark Teixeira looked woeful at the plate once again, popping up three times to the infield and striking out in the 7th. He finally came through with his first hit of the season during the late ninth inning rally, providing an RBI double that scored Johnny Damon.
- After pinch-hitting for Cody Ransom and working a walk in the ninth, Nick Swisher is still batting 1.000.

A Look Ahead

The Yankees will look to A.J. Burnett to avoid a series sweep when he takes the hill at 1:35 Thursday afternoon at Camden Yards. The Orioles will send Alfredo Simon to the mound, looking to start the season 3-0.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Inauspicious Beginning

Opening Day 2009

New York Yankees 5
Baltimore Orioles 10

WP: Jeremy Guthrie (1-0)
LP: CC Sabathia (0-1)
HR: Jorge Posada (1), Hideki Matsui (1), Cesar Izturis (1)

From the Mound

Sabathia had nothing working for him today. He really labored through 4+ innings, allowing 6 earned runs, and didn't strike at least one batter out in a start for the first time since 2005.
- Scary Stat: Five Yankee pitchers combined for more wild pitches than strikeouts today.

Jonathan Albaladejo, the last pitcher named to the 25-man roster, was the only reliable man out of the pen today. Phil Coke was left in too long, Brian Bruney was channeling Kyle Farnsworth, and Damaso Marte was similarly ineffective.

At the Plate

- Derek Jeter had a nice day at the plate from the leadoff spot until he stepped up with a runner on third and less than two outs and failed to drive in what would have been the tying run.
- Johnny Damon was the only other Yankee with a multi-hit ballgame.
Jorge Posada hit the first Yankee homerun of the season, a shot into the centerfield bullpen. Hideki Matsui followed suit in the 7th.
Mark Teixeira, booed mercilessly throughout the ballgame, went 0-4 and stranded runners in the 1st, 3rd, 7th AND 8th innings.
- The best debut for a newly-acquired Yankee? Nick Swisher, who came up with a pinch-hit double in the 8th.

Around the Diamond

Cody Ransom looked shaky at third, botching a potential double-play ball in the 5th that was generously (and inexplicably) scored a single.

A Look Ahead

The Yankees and Orioles will enjoy a day off on Tuesday, before Wednesday night's matchup, in which Chien-Ming Wang will take on Koji Uehara, the Japanese import making his Major League debut.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Opening Day 2009

Following a long and eventful offseason, baseball is finally back, as CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees take on the Baltimore Orioles and Jeremy Guthrie from Orioles Park at Camden Yards.

The Yankees christened their new $1.5 billion ballpark with two exhibition games over the weekend as a final tune-up before the regular season. I was fortunate enough to attend Friday night's game and experience the new Yankee Stadium for myself. Having attended the final game at the original Stadium last season, it was fitting that I should be in attendance for the very first game played at the new incarnation. But that's a write-up for another day. For now, it's time to look ahead to what promises to be an exciting 2009. New acquisitions Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira have gargantuan contracts and high expectations to live up to; Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Chien-Ming Wang are all coming back from injuries; Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano are looking to come back from sub-par performances in '08; and Manager Joe Girardi has to decide how to shuffle five outfielders in Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera, Xavier Nady, and Nick Swisher (not to mention Matsui once Interleague play rolls around). And, of course, there is Alex Rodriguez, who will carry all of his baggage onto the team sometime in the next few weeks as he recovers from hip surgery (and a bruised ego).
Despite the questions surrounding the 2009 New York Yankees, to me, they are the best team in the American League, if not all of Major League Baseball on paper. We'll just have to let the season play out to see if that translates to a division title and the ultimate goal of World Championship #27.

That quest for #27 finally gets underway April 6th in Baltimore.