Greetings Yankee fans! And welcome to the 13th edition of Yankee Yapping.
Well….start spreading the news. We’re leaving today….for October!
If October Gonzalez still blogs here on MLB.com, he needs to get ready to do some…Yankee Yapping.
Away we go!!
My thoughts on…
The AL East Title
As everyone in the world already knows, yesterday the Bronx Bombers clinched the American League East title with a victory over the Red Sox, completing a weekend sweep of their arch-rivals. It marked the first time since 2006 the Yanks have won the AL East and the first time since 2005 they won the title in front of the Red Sox.
In ’05 the Yankees won the crown on the second-to-last day of the season at Fenway Park.
The Yankees also won their 100th game of the season, and that marked the first time since 2004 the Yanks accomplished that feat. And oh, by the way, they have home-field advantage throughout the post-season.
The Yanks pretty much made out like bandits Sunday afternoon.
I have to admit I almost broke down and cried. I was so overjoyed when they won yesterday. Considering the Yanks missed the playoffs last year and remembering how sad I was on the last day of the 2008 regular season, yesterday was pretty special.
I liked the analogy Derek Jeter used when speaking of the Yankees early winter last year. “It’s almost like you’re a kid and your parents don’t let you go outside and play,” Jeter analogized.
“You’re watching everybody outside the window because you’re in trouble. That’s what it felt like. Now you’re off punishment and you can go back outside.”
The last day of the regular season is always melancholy; it means the summer is truly over. As a diehard baseball fan, I wish the season could last forever.
It doesn’t, but at least with your team in the playoffs, you are guaranteed a shot at the World Title and a chance to see your team try and give you a memory that can last a lifetime.
When your team wins it all, you will remember it forever.
But the AL East is only one step toward what the Yankees and we the fans are looking forward to. It was nice to celebrate yesterday, but we are going back to work this week vs. the Royals and this weekend against the Rays.
I’m sure the Yankees were proud of themselves, which they should be, but I’ll bet if you ask Jeter or Mariano Rivera, or any of the other players, they’ll say that there’s a lot more work to be done.
Which is certainly true. The Yankees have accomplished something good. And now they must continue to move forward and hopefully reach “baseball nirvana.”
Weekend Sweep of Boston
After the Yankees went 0-8 against Boston at the beginning of the season, I never would of thought they’d rebound as nicely as they have.
The Yankees have won nine out of their last 10 games against the Red Sox and the way they played them this past weekend gave me even more confidence in the Yankees’ ability to beat Boston if they happen to meet in the ALCS this year.
The last time the two teams squared off in the 2004 ALCS….well, we need not relive that. But at least the Bombers have demonstrated the ability to match the Red Sox punch-for-punch, which is what they need this late in the season.
In this weekend’s three-game sweep, the Yanks outscored Boston 16-7. Back in August when the Yankees swept the Red Sox at home, they outscored them 25-8. So it’s apparent that the Yankees know how to drive runners in against the Red Sox, a good ability to have against a potential playoff opponent.
On Friday I was thrilled to see Joba Chamberlain pitching well and the Yanks won, 9-5. He tossed six innings and gave up three runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out five. He got the win and ironically his last win before Friday came against the Red Sox on Aug. 6.
You see guys: when you let Chamberlain pitch without worrying about his innings limit, he can actually perform well!
However, I did feel sympathy for Jon Lester, getting drilled with a liner off the knee on a ball crushed by Melky Cabrera. I don’t like the Red Sox (obviously) but I have a lot of respect for Lester. He is such a great success story, coming back from cancer and throwing a no-hitter. So yes, I felt bad for him.
Lester had to leave the game in the third inning, but he wasn’t pitching effectively, anyway. He had given up a homer to Alex Rodriguez and was losing before he got hit, so I don’t think he would’ve been in the game much longer, as it was.
Lester was charged with five earned runs and registered the loss.
Saturday looked like a classic pitcher’s duel; Daisuke Matsuzaka for the Red Sox and CC Sabathia for the Yankees.
The “Dice-Man” hasn’t really had much success against the Yankees (going into Saturday he was 3-2 with a 6.35 ERA lifetime vs. New York) but he still put up a good game. Well, I don’t know if I should say “good;” the Yankees left a lot of men on base and just didn’t capitalize. They could have had some big innings, but just didn’t score.
And Sabathia was Sabathia, of course. He fanned eight BoSox over the seven innings he pitched and didn’t give up any runs. In fact, he was tossing a no-hitter up until Mike Lowell broke it up in the fifth with a line drive to centerfield.
Sabathia no-hit the Red Sox through 5 2/3 on Aug. 8 until Jacoby Ellsbury broke it up. I find that so fascinating; Sabathia carried a no-hitter into the middle-to-late innings twice against the Red Sox this year. I don’t know of any other pitcher in recent history who’s done that.
The Red Sox looked lost; I mean, they only had three runners in scoring position all day and they went 0-for-3. Boston also only had two hits all day. That’s containment, if you ask me.
Robinson Cano broke the scoreless tie in the sixth with his 24th homer of the year. It’s funny; I never really thought Cano would generate that type of power. He has made me look at him totally different. When he comes up to bat, I’m thinking, “We may have a shot at a homer here.” What an awesome year he’s had.
Saturday’s final: Yankees 3, Boston 0. Good enough for me.
And Sunday was the finale. Andy Pettitte was the man the Yanks sent to the hill to claim their AL East title and he completed their mission. The veteran lefty went six innings and gave up two runs for a quality start en route to the Yanks’ 4-2 win over Boston.
The champagne celebration followed the final out.
Cabrera and Mark Teixeira each homered while Hideki Matsui put the Yankees ahead in the sixth with a two-run single.
Here’s something I should point out: Derek Jeter led off the game with a single. That marked the 51st time this year the captain has led off the game with a base hit. I think the strategy of Jeter as the leadoff hitter has paid off in a big way and it could be something that is showcased in the playoffs.
Overall, it was a great weekend to be a Yankee and a Yankee fan. And that’s probably the biggest understatement of this century.
Chances in the Post-Season
The Yankees have made it to the post-season for the first time since 2007. But recent playoff memories for Yankees fans are…well….not fond ones.
The Bombers have not won a World Series since 2000. They haven’t played in the World Series since 2003. And they haven’t made it past the American League Division Series since 2004.
But here are a few reasons I think the Yankees’ chances are better than ever in 2009.
The one thing the Yankees accomplished in the off-season was the acquisition of starting pitching. I mean, let’s face it–these last few playoff appearances, the Yanks just didn’t have any effective pitching.
Not knocking Mike Mussina–he did some great things in the post-season. I can’t thank him enough for getting out of that bases loaded, one out jam in game seven of the 2003 ALCS (fans might remember it as the “Aaron Boone Game”)
Mussina came into the game in an extremely pressurized situation–really the weight of the game was on his shoulders. He thankfully got Johnny Damon to bounce into a double play to avoid any further trouble.
I just feel bad Mussina never got a ring. He always called himself “Mr. Almost.” Meaning that he almost got a World Series ring, almost won a Cy Young, and almost had a perfect game (Sept. 2, 2001 at the Red Sox. Carl Everett broke it up with two outs in the ninth with a bloop single to left field)
For as good as “Moose” was, he was never an overwhelming power-pitcher; he was more of a smart, mental pitcher. His strength relied primarily on his knuckle-curve ball and his fast ball was not a live as some of the Yankees’ starters today.
Case in point: CC Sabathia, who is 19-7 this season with a 3.21 ERA. Now a lot of people might be quick to judge Sabathia’s playoff numbers, which aren’t pretty–he’s 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA lifetime in the playoffs for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers (that includes two losses to Boston in the 2007 ALCS)
But I’m really willing to look past that right now.
Last year Sabathia was pitching a lot on short rest, something that will probably not be done this year. He has been dominant vs. Boston this year, so I’m not concerned with who he faces. It’s not only Boston; save for just getting himself acclimated to New York and struggling a little bit in the beginning of the season, he’s been dominant against every team he has faced.
I have a feeling the ace will be performing and dealing, just like he’s been all year. Sabathia has given the Yankees quality and quantity all season, so I’m not really expecting that to change just because it’s playoff time.
I would also take a guy like A.J. Burnett over a pitcher like Randy Johnson.
Now granted Burnett has not had the easiest season, posting a record of 12-9 with a 4.19 ERA, he has still been a force in the rotation. I would rather have a pitcher like Burnett who is in his prime than the older Johnson who was past his prime when he pitched for the Yankees.
When Burnett is on, he can be one of the best pitchers there is. A lot of people have compared him to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, meaning he is either really good or really bad when he pitches. I cannot say it enough; we need the “Mr. A.J. Burnett-Hyde” to show up in the playoffs.
He’s had some rough starts versus Boston, but also matched Josh Beckett pitch-for-pitch on Aug. 7. Not to mention, he went undefeated in July, going 4-0 with the Yanks winning all five games he started. And his last start–when he beat the Angels—gave me some peace of mind.
There’s also been talk as to which game Burnett will start: game two or three of the ALDS. If he starts game two, he’d be pitching at home where his ERA is 3.65 (lower than the 4.73 ERA he has posted on the road)
Ideally it would make sense to start a lefty, a righty, and then a lefty again, which would mean Burnett starts game two. Manager Joe Girardi has not yet revealed what his post-season rotation will be.
Johnson posted a record of 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in two playoff starts with the Yankees. I think Burnett can do a little better than that.
And lastly there’s Andy Pettitte, who has been a rock for the Yankees in October. In the LDS, he own a career record of 5-3 with a 3.92 ERA (which includes his 2005 appearance with the Houston Astros)
I remember he was really the only starter who kept the Yankees in the 2007 ALDS vs. the Indians. He started game two in Cleveland and was just incredible. He tossed 6 1/3 innings, giving up no runs on seven hits. He walked two and struck out five.
I expect the usual out of Pettitte, who claimed his 14th victory of the year in the Yankees’ AL East-clinching win on Sunday.
The pitching is just there, which it hasn’t been these past few years.
The Yankee bullpen has been so valuable to the team’s success. In the AL East-post game celebration, many people mentioned the bullpen in terms of the Yankees’ ability to win games.
Consider Alfredo Aceves, a middle reliever with 10 wins. In games where the Yankees looked like they were out of it, Aceves would come in and just get hitters out.
No, his fastball isn’t terribly overwhelming, but he’s demonstrated the ability to fool a lot of hitters with his breaking ball and he has found ways to make big outs.
On July 5 vs. Toronto, Aceves came on in relief of Joba Chamberlain, and tossed four innings of one-hit ball. He struck out five batters and didn’t allow a walk. That was when I thought to myself, “This guy might take us a long way.”
He certainly has.
Then there’s Phil Hughes, who is just virtually un-hittable.
He has cemented his spot as the Yankees’ eighth inning setup man and like I said in Edition 10, he has carved a niche for himself in the ‘pen. He started seven games this year with things not going so well for him, but he was sent to the bullpen and everything went right.
Everything from Hughes’s velocity to his win-loss record improved when he made the transition from the rotation to the bullpen.
In a close game, I fear for the opposing teams. Take Saturday, for instance. The Yankees were up by one run in the top of the eighth. Hughes came in and just shut down the Red Sox, allowing no runs and fanning two for his 18th hold of the year.
Hughes has also only allowed 65 hits in the 84 1/3 innings he has pitched this season. Obviously that is way less than a hit per inning, so the Yankees can feel at ease knowing they have Hughes out there. He keeps the opposition off base.
Oh yeah, and the Yankees have Mariano Rivera.
In the ALDS alone, Rivera is 2-0 with 15 saves and 35 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings pitched. If that doesn’t say lights out, I’m not really sure what does.
This year, Rivera has 44 saves (at press time) and he’s only blown two.
The confidence in the bullpen is existent and if the Yankees are in a close-game situation, they will be in good shape with their bullpen in the state it is in now.
3) Addition by Subtraction
The Yankees got rid of some players and added other players prior to this year and to this point, it’s looking like they made the right moves.
I think what some people sometimes overlook is Jason Giambi’s two home runs in game seven of the 2003 ALCS (once again, “the Aaron Boone Game”) but other than that, he wasn’t a force in the playoffs the way Tino Martinez was.
Martinez had a rough time in the 1996 playoffs, but he basically exorcised his demons in 1998, putting up great numbers and even hitting a grand slam home run in game one of the World Series. Giambi never did that.
He was good in 2003 but was rendered basically useless when the Red Sox came back from 3-0 to beat the Yankees in 2004. I think the subtraction of Giambi was good move.
And along with the subtraction of Giambi came the addition to Mark Teixeira, who has fit in so well in 2009. Not only is he a gold glove caliber first baseman (something Giambi never was) but Teixeira is posting mind-boggling numbers and is an MVP candidate.
He is doing so many things to help the Yankees win this year and his performance could be one of the deciding factors in the playoffs.
It took a little while for Teixeira to settle in, but when Alex Rodriguez came back, he was all systems go. Since Rodriguez’s return on May 8, Teixeira is batting .311 with 32 home runs and owns a .596 slugging percentage.
They protect each other in the lineup, another positive factor that works in the Yankees’ favor and something they never really had these past few years.
The Yankees also possess speed in a guy like Brett Gardner, something they never really had in playoffs past. In a close game situation when the Yankees need a stolen base, they basically have the Flash on the bench, ready to run for them.
They have never had speed like Gardner on the bench (not to mention Gardner is pretty good on defense and not a shabby hitter, either) and once again, it’s something that could decide a playoff game.
If you add players like Teixeira and Gardner (while subtracting them from Giambi and even other useless players, like Carl Pavano and Bubba Crosby…and Gary Sheffield…and…well, this list could go on and on) to the other hitters who have just had great seasons, like Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, and Nick Swisher, the Yankee lineup in going to be awfully tough to pitch to in the playoffs.
The Yanks made themselves so much better by adding the right pieces to the puzzle while dumping the liabilities.
Well, on behalf of the fans, I’d like to say Congratulations to the 2009 New York Yankees. The AL East Title is yours, but we have more work to do.
I will be back next week with the final regular season edition of Yankee Yapping. I’ll hand out my end-of-season awards and offer more post-season analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!
Greetings Yankee fans!
And welcome to the 12th installment of Yankee Yapping.
Away we go!
My thoughts on…
The State of the Yankees
The state of the Yankees has recently been in a state of inconsistent flux.
Coming off two losses (out of three games) to the Orioles, the Yankees looked ready to play and defeated the Angels 5-3 in a make-up game Monday night. It was certainly a step up from how they did right before the All-Star break in Anaheim. Nice work from Nick Swisher, who continues to look very good on the offensive side of the field.
He hit his 27th home run of the season along with collecting his 79th RBI of the year. Swisher’s recent success was a topic of last week’s blog and like I said last week, he’s gone above and beyond his expectations.
Either way, it was good to see the Yankees beat a potential ALCS opponent and it was hopefully a good omen in beating the Halos’ best pitcher this year, Jered Weaver. I hope the Yankees can do it again tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday against the Angels and if they meet in playoffs, I hope that also goes the Yankees’ way.
The Angels have not been very kind to the Yankees in playoffs past, eliminating them in the ALDS in 2002 and 2005. If they meet this year I really think things will be interesting.
Following the win over LA of Anaheim, the Yankees dropped a 10-4 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays in the first of their two-game series. I really think the Yankees just got very lazy in this game. There was no offense and Sergio Mitre was blown out along with the entire bullpen.
The Yankees gave up five homers to the Jays last Tuesday. If that doesn’t say sloppy, I don’t know what does. Of course Roy Halladay once again held down the Bombers, tossing six innings while nailing down six strikeouts. He is now 18-6 with a 2.84 ERA lifetime against the Yanks. Now that’s ownage.
In game two against the Jays, things were looking not-so-good before the eighth inning. Down 4-2, Hideki Matsui once again proved his resurgence as he blasted a game-tying two-run homer to keep the Yankees in the game.
But it was rookie Francisco Cervelli’s turn to shine on; he belted the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Jays. I was so happy for him–his first big league walk-off hit. Cervelli looked elated and could hardly speak before A.J. Burnett pied him in the face.
I could only smile as I watched the Yanks mob Cervelli. And I only had one thing to say as Cervelli was being mobbed and pied: “Thanks, rookie.”
Then we set out for the west coast, and I must say, there was a lot of good and a lot of bad to come out of Friday night’s pitcher’s duel in Seattle.
First the good: Burnett gave the Yankees a good game. He pitched seven innings and gave up only one earned run on seven hits. He walked three and struck out six, so I’ll take the quality start. He also picked off Ichiro twice. Nice work on Burnett’s part. If he continues to pitch like that, the Yankees are in good shape.
I was also pleased with Phil Hughes, who recorded his 17th hold of the year with a scoreless eighth inning. In these types of close games it’s refreshing to know we have Hughes in our bullpen. Nice work.
It’s also good to know the Yankees were able to reach base and pound out eight hits against a Cy Young caliber pitcher. Felix Hernandez tossed a complete game and is in the running for the American League Cy Young award. If the Bombers have to face an ace in the playoffs, they have demonstrated the ability to hit them.
Now onto the bad, which was basically the ending of Friday’s game.
Up 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, Mariano Rivera made two mistakes; two pitches that cost the Yankees the game. He left two pitches out over the plate that Mike Sweeney and Ichiro both crushed, and as a result, the Yankees lost 3-2.
I, for one, was stunned. I could not believe Rivera had blown that save. It was the first time since April 24 in Boston that he had blown a save and only his second blown save of 2009.
Rivera has been lights out for the Yankees, so I am certainly willing to forgive him for that hiccup; it’s probably better he got that out of his system now rather than the playoffs.
But he did lose the game. Burnett pitched well, Hughes pitched well, there was no margin for error, and Rivera blew it. However, the Yankees could have scored some more for him, as they only posted two runs. While it was good they were able to pound out hits, they struggled to score runs.
So we saw good and bad in Friday’s loss. Saturday night was another story.
CC Sabathia went out and dominated, just like he has all year and especially since the All-Star break. The Yankee ace went seven strong innings and gave up an unearned run on just four hits. He walked two and fanned eight. Yankees 10, Mariners 1.
I really enjoy watching Sabathia. This is exactly why the Yanks got him–to just shut the other teams down. He is a soldier, he is a horse, and he has been as advertised. And I love it. Sabathia leads the American League with 18 wins and 220.1 innings pitched.
As everyone knows, (like Hernandez) he’ll be in serious consideration for the AL Cy Young Award. But Sabathia could also win 20 games this year. He’s got a chance at it, anyway.
Mark Teixeira provided the Yankees with enough offense, almost hitting for the cycle. He needed a double, but instead he smacked his second home run of the game and 37th of the year. Teixeira leads the league in RBIs with 118 and has done some amazing things to help the Yanks win this year. He will certainly get some Most Valuable Player Award consideration.
It’s obvious the Yankees could be taking home a lot of hardware this year, that’s for sure. You can think about every opportunity for them to attain individual accolades: Sabathia for the Cy Young Award, Teixeira and Derek Jeter for the MVP, and there are multiple players who could win Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.
And of course they collectively want the big one: a World Series ring.
I also want to point out Matsui. He hit his 26th home run of 2009 in Saturday’s win and set a new team record. He now has the most home runs by a designated hitter since Don Baylor in 1984. Nicely done, Matsui; you can still provide a huge threat at the plate and you have proven me wrong.
Finally on Sunday it was Joba Chamberlain’s turn to try and finish off the Mariners. He did not succeed. The Yankees managed only one run, Chamberlain was lit up for seven runs in three innings, and the Bombers lost, 7-1.
This past week has basically been “hot-cold.” There were games the Yanks went out and played hard and looked consistent. Then there were games like yesterday where they looked completely lost.
To me, they seemed to get complacent. They own the best record in the majors, they are inevitably going to the playoffs, and they have played the most consistent baseball to this point. But it just looks like they are becoming a little too easy-going and are not playing well as a result.
With only 12 games left, the Yanks will need to win just one game to clinch a playoff spot. The magic number remains at nine for the AL East; any number of combined Yankee wins and Boston losses that add up to nine means the Yankees will win the AL East.
This next week will tell us a story: three against the Angels and three against the rival Red Sox. The test of toughness continues for the Yankees. We’ll see if they answer accordingly.
Tuesday Night Fight
It’s not that I condone fighting or brawls of any kind. I mean, I like pro wrestling just as much as the next guy, but Tuesday night went beyond the likes of the WWE or UFC.
Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion and Aaron Hill were both hit by pitches. The Blue Jays obviously took exception to it and threw behind Yankee catcher Jorge Posada. An exchange of words took place and the benches were cleared…and warned.
I think Posada took a little bit of a cheap shot when he scored and elbowed Jays’ reliever Jesse Carlson on the way to the dugout. It was unnecessary, but the Yankees and Jays got into a melee.
The fighting was unfortunate, but it was historical; it was the first Bronx Bomber brawl in the new Stadium. I’m sure there will be more fights to come in future years, but in hindsight it was probably not a good thing.
Posada was suspended three games for the fracas. It gave Cervelli a chance to win the game on Wednesday, but still it doesn’t look good for the team.
On the positive side of the coin, however, I think fights can sometimes ignite teams. The Yankees were losing pretty bad, and as noted before, were playing inconsistently. I feel that the fight may have energized them a little bit and gave them incentive to not lay down the next day.
I will say this, though: on May 19, 1998 the Yanks were involved in a real, knock-down drag-out scuffle with the Baltimore Orioles. Tino Martinez had been hit with a pitch by Armando Benitez right between the shoulder blades. There was thought to be intent and the Yankees responded with violence.
Both benches cleared, the bullpens emptied, and there were a number of players exchanging words and punches. I’ll probably never forget Ken Singleton’s words while calling the game: “You do NOT throw at Tino Martinez!!!”
Former Yankee Bernie Williams said of the 1998 brawl, “We (the Yankees) really banded together like a group of brothers during that fight.”
That aspect of the fighting I admire; if the Yankees can find it to keep themselves together while fighting, I say it’s good. Whatever holds the team together and motivates them to win, I like.
Violence is not always the answer, but I think the Yankees did the right thing in standing up for themselves. We haven’t seen that from them in awhile.
Joba Chamberlain’s Situation
I was happy on Monday with Joba Chamberlain’s outing. He gave up a home run to Vladimir Guerrero, but other than that he looked pretty solid, for what it was worth.
Four innings, one run, four hits, no walks, two strikeouts on Monday vs. the Angels. Alright, acceptable. I still think they should have allowed him to pitch more innings, but the “Joba rules” prohibited that.
But his start yesterday in Seattle was unacceptable. In terms of his individual numbers from Sunday, Chamberlain only went three innings and allowed seven earned runs. He also walked three and only struck out two.
After the game, the press questioned how he felt about his outing. He said it was embarrassing and not being able to pick up his team was frustrating. It’s frustrating to watch as a fan, too.
I didn’t like what Chamberlain said about his overall feeling. He said if you kick him, he’ll get right back up and keep moving, in terms of his confidence. That’s a great thing for him. But he also said he feels fine and that his overall attitude about his pitching is fine.
But it’s not fine.
Earlier in the year David Cone of the YES Network said Chamberlain needs to take more responsibility for what he does. For the most part he has; he said flat-out, “I was embarrassed and I let them down.” But he still wouldn’t say how inconsistent he has been and how he’s planning on fixing it.
I don’t know what the plan is for Chamberlain in terms of the post-season. I say he should not pitch in the rotation, at least not in round one. If they want to use him, use him from the bullpen or long relief if need be.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–the rules just threw him off course. His numbers were solid for the first four games after the All-Star break. They put him on the new rules and he went downhill.
Last week I blogged about each and every starter in the Yankee rotation. I said I was worried about most of them (save for CC Sabathia) Burnett impressed me on Friday and as long as he can keep pitching that way, I feel he’ll be fine. Burnett even said after the game that he felt good and is going to try and mimic that performance the rest of the way.
So I’m tending to worry less about Burnett at the moment.
As for Andy Pettitte, I am concerned about his shoulder but we’ll see how he does tonight. It was a wise move for Joe Girardi to skip him over because he was injured. Good move, let’s just hope his problem with his shoulder does not affect him in the long run.
But Chamberlain–I just don’t know anymore. I think most Yankee fans are tired of the rules and what they have done with him. It’s ridiculous, if you ask me.
Yet the bottom line is that I still believe in Joba Chamberlain. He’s gone through a lot this season–good and bad–but I still think he needs time to grow. Everyone expected him to be lights out every time he took the mound, but in reality it just doesn’t go that way. It’s not how life as a young pitcher works.
I still think the rules are just so unimportant and they should just let him pitch. I mean, no one seemed to say anything about his innings limit or pitch count when Chamberlain out-dueled Josh Beckett at Fenway Park in July of last year. And his critics didn’t say anything negative about him when he fanned nine Red Sox that night, either.
It’s amazing how some of the fans forget some of the better moments Chamberlain has enjoyed while he’s struggling. Yes, he’s scuffling now, but fans have to remember some of his better games, too, and what he is capable of.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
It is defined as a player who has a reputation for being able to defeat the New York Yankees on a regular basis. If anyone falls under the category of “Yankee Killer,” it’s Ken Griffey, Jr.
On Sunday, “the kid” smacked a double and a home run while recording four RBIs against Joba Chamberlain en route to the Mariners’ 7-1 win over the Bombers. It was just like the good old days for Junior.
In his lifetime Griffey now has 36 home runs against the Yankees with 101 RBIs and a batting average over .300. To me that’s not just a series of isolated incidents. That’s ownage over the Yankees.
I always liked him. In fact, when I was younger, every year before the start of each season I would try and map out in my head which players the Yankees could trade away to get Griffey. I wanted him to play in pinstripes every year, it seemed.
I didn’t realize until July 7, 2007 that Griffey’s dad, Ken Griffey, Sr., was a Yankee during his playing days. When I attended Old Timer’s Day that year, they announced his father by saying, “before there was junior, there was Ken Griffey, Sr.!”
I remember looking up at the diamond vision screen and just saying to myself, “WOW. I had no idea he used to be a Yankee…and Junior is a spittin’ image of him; they look so much alike!” That day was pretty special. I was able to see Griffey, Sr. during the Old Timers’ festivities.
I only had the pleasure of seeing Griffey, Jr. play once. It was August 27, 1999 at the original Yankee Stadium. He was hated back in those days by the Yankee faithful and I mean hated. In fact, the fans in the bleachers despised Griffey so much that they chucked batteries at him (while he was playing centerfield) during that game.
He didn’t muster any notable offense that night and neither did the rest of the team; Roger Clemens shut out the M’s and the Yankees won, 8-0.
I think they hated him because he was so good. He was one of the best all-around players in the game at the time, if not the best. And I wanted him on the Yankees so bad. But the more I have thought about it over the years, the more I realize that the Yankees never needed Griffey to win.
The secret to the Yankees’ success in the late 1990s was that there were no superstars; the Yankees had no players that hit over 40 home runs and drove in over 130 RBIs in a single season. They created their own ways of winning, simply by going on almost a rotation.
One game it might be Bernie Williams who produced, the next night it could be Derek Jeter. Maybe the game after it was Tino Martinez or Scott Brosius or Paul O’Neill. They didn’t need the big stick to get it done and win ballgames; they did it without an overwhelming show of sheer power.
That was the formula that shaped the Yankee Dynasty of the late 90s. For as good as the Mariners were with players like Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez (and so on) the Yankees were just better.
My heart was overjoyed when Griffey left Seattle for Cincinnati after the 1999 season. No more Yankee killer, I thought. As fate would have it though, the Reds came to the Bronx to play the Yankees last year, in June 2008, during inter-league play.
Griffey homered off Andy Pettitte and the New York crowd gave him a standing ovation. I think the Yankee fans recognized that Griffey is a player who has just been outstanding against the Yankees throughout his whole career–and he can still get it done in the twilight of his career. It was his final go-round in the old Stadium where he enjoyed a good amount of success, so they cheered for him. A very respectful gesture, I must say.
Griffey returned to Seattle (as everyone knows) for this year, 2009. “The kid” took Pettitte deep again on July 1, crushing a solo shot in the sixth inning. I’m not sure the fans gave him such a rousing welcome as they did in 2008, but he still showed he can get it done even at the age of 39.
That round-tripper marked the 44th MLB Park Griffey has homered out of.
It was noted during this past weekend’s broadcast that Griffey wants to come back and play in 2010. He’ll be 40 years old on Nov. 21, but personally I’d love to see him back for one more year. If he remains with the Mariners, I’d even buy a ticket when they come to the Bronx next year in the hopes of seeing Griffey play one last time.
With 627 career home runs, the title of “Yankee Killer,” and such remarkable stats all-around, Griffey will definitely be in the Hall of Fame someday. I even think that if he had maintained his health, he would be the all-time home runs leader right now.
And I am privileged to say that I saw him play during the best years of his career. I just hope if he plays next year, the Yankees can manage to hold him down. That’s highly unlikely, however.
Well that does it for this week’s blog. 12 games left in the regular season, it’s almost playoff time, and the Yankees are staring a post-season berth in the eye.
I’ll be back next week with more topics, highlights, and analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!
Greetings Yankee Fans!
And welcome to the 11th Edition of Yankee Yapping.
Away we go!
My thoughts on…
The Baltimore Series
The Yankees did not look sharp for the better part of this past weekend.
Coming off a four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Bombers lost two out three to the pesky Baltimore Orioles. It was the first time since June 17-18 (vs. the Washington Nationals) the Yankees lost two in a row at home.
On Friday night, Andy Pettitte did not look as dominating as he did the last time he faced the O’s on Aug. 31. Flirting with a perfect game, Pettitte tossed eight innings and only gave up one run on two hits. He allowed no walks in that start and struck out eight.
In contrast to Aug. 31, Pettitte only lasted five innings and gave up three earned runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out five.
The bullpen didn’t offer any help, giving up seven runs in the four innings following Pettitte’s departure. The Yankees were beaten, 10-4.
Saturday was yet another ugly day to be a Yankee fan, as the Orioles topped the Bombers, 7-3.
I really can’t understand A.J. Burnett at this point. He is an enigma, it seems. In his last game (in the night half of the doubleheader against Tampa Bay on Labor Day) he made a quality start: six innings, three runs, four hits, eight strikeouts. On Saturday he was touched up for six earned runs in the second inning.
Five of the six second-inning runs given up by Burnett came off the bats of Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts. Reimold smacked a solo home run in the inning while Roberts crushed a grand slam.
After the six-run second, Burnett allowed no more runs and only one other hit in the seven innings he pitched.
While Baltimore made the second inning a big one, the Yankee offense was basically lulled to sleep by rookie Brian Matusz. He tossed seven innings of four hit, one-run ball and looked good with three strikeouts.
Finally on Sunday the Yankee offense broke through, scoring 13 runs on 20 hits. Although they broke it out and scored runs, they still looked very sloppy; it seems they got very complacent. I almost lost my mind when Johnny Damon lost track of how many outs there were and allowed Jeff Fiorentino to score from second base in the top of fourth. But the Yanks’ offense was able to pull it out.
They also received yet another great game out of their ace, CC Sabathia. He didn’t look like he had good command of his pitches but he was still able to give the Yankees a quality start.
In Sunday’s game I saw a side of skipper Joe Girardi I have never seen before. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing, to be honest.
I suppose it was good because it fired the team up. In the bottom of the fourth, Alex Rodriguez was called out on a third strike that looked well off the plate. Obviously Rodriguez didn’t like the call and let home plate umpire Marty Foster know it.
When he went out to his position he argued with the umpire again. Foster did not appreciate Rodriguez’s words and ran him from the game.
Girardi dashed out of the dugout and got right in Foster’s face. Just seeing the vein on the manager’s neck bulge out made me cringe; Girardi was extremely unhappy and just infuriated. He was just screaming and so fired up, I have never seen Girardi that annoyed, and of course he was also tossed out of the game.
That was Girardi’s fourth ejection as Yankee manager, and from my point of view he certainly got his more than his money’s worth with his vehement argument.
His last ejection came in the sixth inning on June 24 in Atlanta during inter-league play against the Braves. The Yankees were down 1-0, but came back to win 8-4 after umpire Bill Welke ran Girardi from the game.
After the game Sunday, Girardi gave his reason for the tirade.
“It was premature,” he said to the press of Rodriguez’s ejection.
“All Alex told Marty was that there were a couple balls outside. There were no obscenities said by Alex, there were no warnings issued, and I took objection to it.”
It seems legitimate to me; Girardi was just trying to win a game after losing two in a row and Rodriguez didn’t say anything wrong, he just expressed his thoughts without being told to stop. Girardi said usually the umpire will say something like, “one more and you’re out,” or “stop or I’ll eject you.” They never said that to Rodriguez, and that got Girardi upset.
Not to mention the game was tied 3-3 when Rodriguez was tossed; Girardi didn’t want to lose his cleanup hitter, and for good reason.
Foster already has a strained relationship with the Yankees. Back in the month of July he called Derek Jeter out at third base when he was clearly safe, prompting Jeter to argue with him–arguing with an umpire is something Jeter rarely ever does.
Rodriguez has called Foster “unprofessional” twice, and said he doesn’t know what his problem is with the Yankees.
I, for one, hope he’s not umpiring the Yankees’ playoff games.
But despite the battle between Foster and the Bronx Bombers, Hideki Matsui hit a three-run home run, Melky Cabrera knocked in four runs, and like I said, the Yankees’ offense just sparked. Sunday’s 13-3 win marked the 46th come-from-behind win this season and the 17th win of the year for Sabathia.
Now the Yankees will play a potential playoff opponent, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, in a makeup game tonight followed by two more home games against their division rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays.
When they finish up the home stand, the Yanks will make a west coast trip this coming weekend to play the Seattle Mariners for three games followed by the Angels for another three-game set.
This next week will be a true test of the Yankees’ toughness.
Another Milestone for Derek Jeter
Although the Yankees were beaten on Friday night, history was once again made by Derek Jeter.
The Yankee Captain led off the bottom of the third inning with a single, his 2,722nd career hit. With that he passed Lou Gehrig on the all-time Yankee hits list and is now the all-time Yankee hits leader.
Until Friday night, the Yankee hits record stood for 72 years, five days. I’m not sure if there will even be another player that will come along and break that record. Jeter just might hold it for the rest of time.
If there was one player to break the record, Jeter was the man. He now holds four all-time Yankee records: most hits, most singles, most at-bats, and most hit-by-pitches…the fourth record doesn’t sound so good, but the rest of them do.
Jeter also needs just eight more hits this season to get to 200. If he does hit safely eight more times, it will be the seventh time in his career he had recorded 200 hits in a season. That gives you an idea of why he is now the franchise hits leader.
And it just seems that Jeter keeps on chasing the Iron Horse.
In Sunday’s win over the Orioles, Jeter scored his 100th run of the year. He has now scored 100 or more runs 12 times in his career, which puts him in second place on the Yankees list in that category.
Gehrig has scored 100 or more runs 13 times in his career and sits in first place on the “100-run seasons list,” if you will. If Jeter scores 100 next year, he’ll tie Gehrig and if he can manage 100 runs scored in 2011, he’ll be the leader.
In the seventh edition of Yankee Yapping I blogged about Jeter’s 2,674th career hit, which put him at the top of the all-time shortstop hit list as he passed Luis Aparicio; in other words he has the most hits among any other shortstop in the history of baseball. I said last week that Jeter keeps putting lines in his history, and it looks like he’s going to be doing that until the day he dies.
Last night after the New York Giants were finished beating the Washington Redskins 23-17, former defensive end Michael Strahan even pointed out Jeter’s accomplishment and remarked how extraordinary it is that Jeter holds the record.
I think that’s a great sign of respect from Strahan, and it just goes to show how much Jeter is admired amongst his peers.
After the game last night I read that Jeter received a phone call from the boss, George Steinbrenner. He told Jeter how proud he was of him for setting the record and even issued a statement about Jeter’s milestone.
“For those who say today’s game can’t produce legendary players, I got two words for you: Derek Jeter,” the statement read.
“Game in and game out he just produces…Jeter is one of the finest young men playing the game today.”
I couldn’t agree with Steinbrenner more. In fact, I think Jeter is the finest player in the game today and he is so humble. When he tied Gehrig on Wednesday night, he even remarked how he didn’t want to disrespect the Tampa Bay players by acknowledging the crowd.
Bottom line: Jeter is a class act. He is an amazing ballplayer bound for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I can’t say enough good things about the man, and I hope to God he wins the Most Valuable Player Award this year. If he doesn’t, I think it’s a major rip-off.
On the Yankee Yapping Facebook page, someone went as far as saying Jeter is the “god of baseball.”
In a lot of ways he is god-like to us fans, similar to Babe Ruth, Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson, and Don Mattingly. You can mention Jeter with the all-time Yankee greats, but in all likelihood, Jeter is in a class all by himself.
Hideki Matsui and Nick Swisher
Both of these guys have surprised me this year.
At the beginning of June I wrote an article about why I thought the Yankees should trade Hideki Matsui.
I noted that he is aging and can no longer play the outfield with his bad knees. I suggested maybe a trade for Jermaine Dye of the Chicago White Sox (although they are the same age, Dye can still play the field and hit for power) I also brought up trading Matsui to a team that has fallen out of their race, like the Oakland Athletics or the Cleveland Indians.
I didn’t think Matsui had it in him anymore but he has definitely proven me wrong.
Showing a clutch facet of his game, Matsui belted a huge walk-off homer on July 20 to beat Baltimore at home. That was basically the moment where I thought to myself, “Matsui is alright. He can stay.”
But I think he’s gone above and beyond his expectations this year. I don’t think at the outset of this season the Yanks expected him to hit 24 home runs and average .275 with 81 RBIs, which are the numbers he has posted this year to this point.
Matsui even earned himself Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Month for his ability to carry the Yankees throughout the month of August.
He played in 24 games in August and averaged .281 with eight homers and 25 RBIs. His biggest series came the weekend of Aug. 21 at Fenway Park in Boston against the Red Sox. Matsui crushed four homers over the three-game weekend in Boston and averaged .400 in close-and-late situations.
He was also the first Yankee since Mickey Mantle in 1966 to homer multiple times in a game over a seven-game stretch, and he is the second Yankee to win the Pepsi Clutch Performer honors in 2009. Melky Cabrera won the title in the month of May.
And then there’s Nick Swisher.
On Thursday Nov. 13, 2008 the Yankees made a deal with the White Sox that sent Wilson Betemit to Chicago. The Yanks got Swisher in exchange and it looks like the trade was a steal for the Yanks.
In 2008 Swisher hit 24 home runs but only averaged .219. I thought he would just be a bust with the Yankees, maybe putting up numbers similar to Betemit’s while being a full-time bench player.
Now consider Xavier Nady’s injury; He was slated to be the everyday left fielder with Swisher as his backup. But with Nady going down with an elbow injury (consequently needing Tommy John surgery) Swisher stepped up his game and has enjoyed some decent success this year.
Swisher has become a huge part of the Yankees’ loose attitude; he’s always laughing and keeping everyone loose. Swisher never seems stiff and I think that rubs off on the rest of the team. Do you think if Nady never went down, he would have made the same impact? I’m not so sure. Maybe it was a good thing Nady went down, who knows.
I do know that Nady’s injury allowed Swisher an opportunity to shine, and he certainly has. He had demonstrated his ability to play hard on the road, hitting 21 of his 27 long balls away from Yankee Stadium.
Swisher has also shown versatility, hitting home runs from every spot in the batting order except the number one and nine holes.
At press time Swisher has 27 homers and 79 RBIs, and like Matsui, I feel he has gone above and beyond his expectations. I’m sure the organization expected him to play to the best of his ability (like they expect every player to) but I’m not sure if they expected him to post the kind of numbers he’s put up.
On Wednesday Sept. 8, Swisher hit his first walk-off home run as a Yankee, capping a two-home run night and procuring the Yankees’ 90th win of the year–quite a feat considering the Yanks never even reached 90 wins all of last year. After the game he could barely speak, he was so happy with what he had done.
Both players have done very well this year; a resurgent Matsui and an off-season trade that has paid off royally in Swisher. I can only hope both players keep on swinging their hot bats in the autumn month of October.
The Yankee Starters
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about the starting pitching right now.
At this point, I could care less about individual numbers. CC Sabathia has 17 wins. Andy Pettitte has 13. A.J. Burnett has 11. Heck, Alfredo Aceves has 10 victories in relief.
That amounts to 51 wins among those four pitchers alone. And I really don’t care.
The only thing I’m concerned with is the inconsistency among the majority of the starters and how they will pitch in the post-season. The only rock in the Yankees’ starting rotation has been Sabathia. The rest of the pitching staff is totally up in the air. Some of them go out and just puzzle the opposition one game and the next look totally lost.
Since I’ve blogged about Burnett (and defended him to his critics) I’ll start with him.
Like I said before, I have no clue what to make of him anymore. YES Network analyst and former pitcher Al Leiter made the best comparison yesterday: he said Burnett has almost taken on a “Jekyll and Hyde” persona. There are games he can take the mound and just make pitches and get hitters out with his breaking ball while taking good command of his fastball.
Yet there are other games where he takes the mound and is just totally lost, leaving pitches up and out over the plate for hitters to feast upon. He seems to get rattled too easily and lets bad innings kill him.
He is fiery some games and you can tell he wants to win, but there are other games where he has almost that “gunslinger” mentality and he walks too many guys and gives up home runs.
Joe Girardi said they will straighten him out and I sure hope they do. If they don’t, the Yankees’ bid for a 27th World Series title is in jeopardy. The Yankees need Burnett to be dealing come the playoffs.
Consider Burnett’s numbers: in his first 11 starts he posted a record of 8-2 with 2.08 ERA while only allowing five home runs. It seemed everything was going according to plan with him until the nine starts that followed. In those nine starts he went 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA and gave up nine homers.
Those kinds of stats are exactly like what Leiter described: Jekyll and Hyde.
Joba Chamberlain is next.
This poor kid was doing just fine until the Yanks put him back on the “Joba rules.”
Right out of the stretch after the All-Star break he went 4-0 with the Yankees winning his first five starts. I have to admit, Chamberlain looked great; his velocity in the mid-to-upper 90s and his changeup fooling a lot of hitters. Everyone talked about his downtime over the break and how he sort of “found himself” during that period.
But then he made a start in Seattle on July 16 and lost. Since then he has yet to win a game and has lost twice since that start against the Mariners.
I have to defend him; it’s not all his fault. He made one bad start at Seattle and since then hasn’t thrown more than four innings. If you don’t allow him to throw he’s never going to get any better.
The problems with his command and the quality of his stuff are not going to get any better if they don’t stretch him out. The problems are just going to continue to get worse, which is what has seemed to happen.
I heard that Chamberlain is on the innings limit for his last handful of regular season starts. In his final start before the playoffs they say he will throw six innings. I don’t even know what to expect from him.
Hopefully Chamberlain can go out and pitch effectively in his last few starts and that will continue through the playoffs. I am also hearing that they don’t know yet what role Chamberlain will take for the playoffs–starter or reliever. Whether he is a starter or reliever, I just hope he can do it.
I can’t fully blame him for not pitching well. Chamberlain doesn’t know what he’s doing and it’s not his fault. I blame the innings limit. If they had kept him on a normal schedule I think he’d be enjoying a lot more success than he is now.
Message to the Yankees: the year is 2009, Chamberlain’s third season in the big leagues. If you’d like to baby him, send him to the minors. Take the leash off and let the dog run, already.
Then there’s Andy Pettitte.
There was a stark contrast between the start on Aug. 31 at Baltimore and the start he made this past Friday at home vs. Baltimore. Obviously he wasn’t bidding for a perfect game on Friday like he was on Aug. 31, but he only went five innings and gave up five hits.
That was somewhat surprising to me since he had pitched at least six innings his previous three starts.
Pettitte has certainly been extremely more consistent than the rest of the pitchers (other than Sabathia) especially through the month of August when he went 4-0. He’s also a big time pitcher when the post-season rolls around, as noted last week when I said he’s pitched in World Series clinching games.
We’ll need to see that version of Pettitte show up in the ALDS and the rest of the post-season.
And finally we come to Sabathia.
The ace has been the only constant in the Yankee rotation all year. Just looking at his numbers since the All Star break he is 9-1 with a 2.75 ERA. Obviously there’s a huge difference between him and everyone else on the pitching staff.
This is why the Yanks signed Sabathia–to put up these types of Cy Young Award-worthy numbers. And I seriously meant it when I said he is a “second half player.” Historically Sabathia puts up his best work in the second half of the year, and this season is no exception.
Despite all the worries and negativity about the starting pitching, I have to say, they’ve done well this year. The Yankees would not have 92 wins without each and every one of the starters throwing the ball well. All of them have contributed to the Yankees’ success.
I also have to point out their ability to pick each other up. When Pettitte was scuffling in July, Burnett was on fire, going undefeated in the hot summer month. But when Burnett was struggling in August, Pettitte picked him up by going 4-0 that month.
If they maintain that same formula in the post-season, there’s a lot of room for success and winning. Not saying I want one pitcher to be hot and the rest of them cold, but they can still find ways to win despite struggling. However, if history has showed us anything, it’s that a team cannot go into a playoff series with cold pitchers.
The starters have to be rolling and keeping the other team off the board, giving their offense a chance to win the game. Come Oct. 6 (game one of the ALDS) we’ll see if that happens for the Yankees.
Well that does it for this week. The regular season is almost over, days are closing in, and hopefully we’re on our way to more positive history in the Bronx.
See you next week with more highlights, analysis, and topics.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!
Greetings Yankee fans!
Hope you had a wonderful Labor Day. Welcome to the 10th installment of Yankee Yapping!
Away we go!
My thoughts on…
The AL East Road Trip
Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Blue Jays was somewhat shocking to me. Sergio Mitre was not in good shape, and the defense was shoddy and careless. Friday night didn’t shock me as much when Roy Halladay shut the Yankees down big time.
The only hit Halladay allowed on Friday was a double by fill-in shortstop Ramiro Pena. A little depressing.
But Friday and Sunday were the only two “blips on the screen,” so to speak. The Yanks went 5-2 on their past road trip, sweeping the Orioles and winning two of four against the Blue Jays.
On Monday night I thought the Yankees were going to add some history. Andy Pettitte looked (and really in fact was) lights out. He shut down the Orioles nicely until Jerry Hairston, Jr. bobbled a ball to end the perfect bid. It was charged an error to Hairston, but the no-hitter was still intact.
That is, until the next hitter.
Nick Markakis broke up the no-no with a line drive past Hairston at third for a base knock. I still think Pettitte was amazing and it was one of his best games of the year. Johnny Damon said after the game that it was the best game of his career.
Well I guess that’s impossible to say because Pettitte has tossed some huge games for the Yanks, including some big games (and series clinching games) in the World Series.
I just pray he can pitch like that in the playoffs and if history has showed us anything, Pettitte certainly can. Looking at the month of August, he was so strong; Pettitte went 4-0 in six starts, tossing 39 2/3 innings and striking out 38 hitters. That is some solid work from our veteran lefty.
The Yankees outscored the Orioles 24-9 in the series sweep earlier this week, and scored an average of nearly seven runs per game on the road trip. They also hit 13 home runs and averaged .296 at the plate.
Right now the Yankees own a record of 89-50. They only claimed 89 victories all of last season and there are still 23 games left on the regular season schedule this year. So obviously the number of wins will be greater this season. They are without question a totally different team in 2009.
Doubleheader vs. Tampa Bay
Making up the June 5 rainout, the Yankees played and swept the Tampa Rays in a day-night doubleheader.
CC Sabathia started game one of the twin bill against Tampa Bay and attempted to nail down his 17th win of the year. Although Sabathia didn’t win the Yankees did, 4-1. Good games from Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Eric Hinske and Jorge Posada who all helped the team win with RBIs.
When Sabathia takes the mound the Yankees’ chances are just so good and that was no different today. The ace went seven innings, gave up only one earned run on three hits, walked four and struck out 10. If he pitches like this next month, the Yankees will go a long way in the playoffs.
The 10 strikeouts by the way matched a season-high for Sabathia and he now has a total of 177 for the season.
Since the All Star break Sabathia is 8-1 in 78 innings pitched. Not only is he showing that he can win games but he’s showing that he can eat up innings and give the bullpen some breathing room.
I said at the All Star break that Sabathia is a “second half player.” I believe I was right.
In the night portion of the doubleheader the Yankees received another good game from their starter and the offense just broke it out and scored runs, beating the Rays, 11-1.
I’m sure most of A.J. Burnett’s critics were ready to do some more “Burnett bashing” after the first inning when he gave up a run on a double from Evan Longoria that scored Gabe Gross.
But after that double we saw the “July version” of Burnett, as he completed six innings of work and allowed no more runs after the first inning. He walked three and looked good with eight strikeouts. With his solid performance, Burnett picked up his 11th win of the year and his first victory since July 27.
I had been defending Burnett the whole month of August when he was struggling and he finally proved my point: he can be dominant when he’s on. Plus, Jose Molina caught him and the two seemed to be in a good rhythm all night. I think Joe Girardi should have Molina catch Burnett the rest of the year and in the post-season.
I’m glad Burnett silenced his critics with his good outing. At least for now.
On the offensive side of the field, the Yankees scored eight runs in the fourth inning and three in the sixth. Mark Teixeira led the team and put on a hitting show with two homers in the game–both of them just absolute bombs.
He first hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the third, a shot I thought would hit the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar behind the centerfield wall. It landed just beneath the restaurant in Monument Park, however.
His second homer landed in the Yankee bullpen. Teixeira now has 35 home runs on the season, and has a good chance at winning the Most Valuable Player Award, along with his teammate Derek Jeter.
I’m predicting that Teixeira will finish with 41 homers this year.
Also credit Melky Cabrera with a good game, as he had two RBIs, three hits, and two runs scored.
Overall Labor Day was productive for the Yankees as they swept the doubleheader against the Rays. The last time the Yankees swept a doubleheader at home was in 1971 when they beat the Boston Red Sox.
And speaking of the Red Sox, the magic number for them is 17. Any number of combined Yankee wins and Red Sox losses that add up to 17 mean the Yankees will have a one-way ticket to October.
It will be a glorious moment when the Yankees eliminate Boston and celebrate with the 2009 AL East crown.
Derek Jeter to Pass Lou Gehrig, Set the Team Home Run Record
The biggest story recently has been that of the Yankee captain Derek Jeter.
He has 2,718 career hits and needs three to tie the Yankees’ all-time hits leader Lou Gehrig. If he reaches base safely through a base hit four more times (which is pretty much a given) Jeter will be the Yankees’ all-time hits leader. Talk about an accomplishment.
Last year Jeter became the all-time hits leader in the old Stadium when he hit safely for the 1,270th time on Sept. 9. Before long he will be the man who has the most hits among any other Yankee player who has donned the pinstripes.
I thought for sure Jeter would have a chance to break the record today in the doubleheader vs. Tampa, but he suddenly went into a little slump.
He had eight plate appearances on Monday and failed to hit safely, although he did draw a walk and drove in a run on a fielder’s choice in the night cap. Jeter made the Yankee fans wait for another day when most of us thought today was the day. But it’s alright; he’ll still do it.
I simply can’t say it enough good about him; he’s accomplished so much in his career that by now he’s probably used to breaking and setting records.
I can say Jeter is great and maybe the greatest to ever live, but the words just seem too small. He might very well go down in the annals of history as being the greatest Yankee to ever live.
You can speak of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson and Don Mattingly, but (for me) Jeter is the absolute best, ever.
I heard that Jeter had a talk with his parents Dorothy and Dr. Charles Jeter. They told him to enjoy it. He’s so humble, whenever he puts a line in his history he just quietly takes it in. But I have to agree with his parents here; he should be very proud of what he is about to accomplish and I’m sure deep down he will be.
The Yankee team can also accomplish something big this year, and it will most likely also be done by Jeter.
At press time the team has seven players with 20 or more home runs on the year. There have only been three other teams in baseball history with seven players that have had 20 or more homers: the 2005 Texas Rangers, the 2000 Toronto Blue Jays, and the 1996 Baltimore Orioles.
There has never been a team in baseball history that has had eight players with 20 or more home runs.
Jeter has 17 for the year and if he leaves the yard three more times, the Yankees will break another record, becoming the only team with eight players that have hit 20 or more homers.
Jeter’s hit record will most certainly be broken on this home stand and the home run record could also be broken within the next week. I guess it just depends on whether or not Jeter gets some good pitches to hit.
But the Yankees will play their next eight games at home where the ball sails, plus another six-game home stand toward the end of the month. So there’s a good chance that home run record gets broken this year.
Either way, Jeter will set new highs for himself when he breaks the hits record and the home run record. What an excellent ballplayer Jeter is (and what an understatement that is!)
When this kid came up I had a feeling he was going to be something good.
I knew he was one of the Yankees’ top prospects just from talking with my friends about the “Baby Bombers” (AKA the Yankees’ minor leaguers who are producing down on the farm) and when Sports Illustrated did their 2007 MLB preview they compared Phil Hughes to a young Roger Clemens, even calling him the “pocket rocket.”
There are two games that Hughes pitched that really stand out in my mind when he was called to the big leagues in 2007. The first came on May 1 when he nearly tossed a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers. Hughes no-hit the Rangers for 6 2/3 innings in Texas before suffering a hamstring injury, forcing him to leave the game.
Former Yankee announcer Bobby Murcer (rest his soul) called the game and stated that if Hughes did not have to leave the game, he would have pitched a no-no. I watched that game, too, and I have to agree–if he had stayed in (and not injured himself) he would’ve done it.
His stuff was great on that night; his fastball was live and moving brilliantly through the strike zone. And Hughes made those Texas hitters look silly with his knee-buckling, 12-6 breaking ball.
The second game Hughes shined in (that I’ll always remember) was game three of the 2007 American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians.
Facing elimination, Clemens started game three. He had to leave with a groin injury and Hughes relieved him. With the weight of the Yankee season on his shoulders, Hughes shut down the tribe with 3 2/3 scoreless innings as the Yankees went on to win the game 8-4 and stay alive.
I really think the “almost no-hitter” and the lights-out game in the ALDS convinced me that he’d be around for awhile.
Hughes started this year in the rotation, but has found a niche for himself as a middle reliever/setup man in the bullpen. I think it’s been the best thing for him.
In his last 11 innings pitched he has gone 2-0 allowing only four hits, striking out 15 batters, and only issuing four walks. Hughes has been virtually un-hittable.
Not to mention he has recorded three saves on the year filling in for Mariano Rivera, converting all three save opportunities. Perhaps one day Hughes could even be the Yankee closer, who knows. His role in the bullpen is defined now, that’s probably why he’s had success and I think it’s what separates him from Joba Chamberlain.
Chamberlain at this point probably doesn’t even know what he is. He’s going by the “Joba Rules” and I think that’s what’s thrown him off and he hasn’t been pitching well. Hughes isn’t like that because he has a role, knows what the coaches expect from him, and that is giving him the ability to go out and pitch effectively.
Unlike Chamberlain, Hughes knows what he has to do and he’s been doing it and doing it extremely well. I’m looking forward to some post-season dominance from this 23 year-old right-hander.
Well, that does it for this week’s edition of Yankee Yapping. See you next week with more topics, highlights, and analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!