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!!!