Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

Home Opener Thrills and Chills

F-18 Navy Hornets, gigantic American flags, player introductions, the Mayor and…

Kermit the Frog!

All the wonderful elements of the Yankees’ home opener this afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. What sweetened the whole deal? A 5-0 shutout of the Halos behind a brilliant outing from new Yankee Hiroki Kuroda.

The Japanese-born starter twirled an absolute gem, tossing eight-plus innings while not allowing a run. Kuroda allowed just five hits, walked two, and struck out six.

Talk about a fine way to introduce yourself to the Yankee faithful.

Kuroda probably would have finished the game had he not given up a leadoff infield single to Bobby Abreu in the top of the ninth, but he was at 109 pitches, therefore gave way to David Robertson.

Robertson got Albert Pujols to ground into a 6-4-3 double play before fanning Kendrys Morales for the final out.

Kuroda and Robertson were backed by a solid amount of run support, started by a bases-clearing double off the bat of Nick Swisher in the bottom of the first. The two-base hit plated Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira.

Up 3-0 in the bottom of the third, Rodriguez added a run with one swing. The slugging third baseman crushed a leadoff home run deep to centerfield, a shot that landed in the netting above Monument Park. With that homer, A-Rod tied his former Seattle Mariner teammate Ken Griffey, Jr. for fifth place on the all-time home runs list with 630 career round-trippers.

Curtis Granderson put the icing on the cake with a screaming line drive bullet home run over the right field wall in the fifth. Granderson’s solo blast gave the Yanks all the offense they needed to put the Angels away and boost their win streak to four.

Analysis:

Hiroki Kuroda

The Yankees couldn’t have asked for more out of their number two starter. The bullpen had thrown 11.1 innings in the final two games the Bombers played in Baltimore, and after an off-day yesterday, the relief corps basically received another day of rest.

Length was key, and Kuroda gave the Yanks more than enough.

It was a nice rebound start for Kuroda, having given up six runs in 5.2 innings in Tampa Bay last Saturday. He used his fastball to his advantage and his slider was dancing all over the strike zone.

Not even the mighty Albert Pujols could figure Kuroda out.

He didn’t utilize his split finger much, but he didn’t need to; he neutralized the strong hitters like Pujols and Morales without giving an inch.

In Japan, the best pitcher on the staff wears the number 18. Kuroda chose to wear number 18 upon his arrival in the Bronx and today he earned the right to wear that number. A crackling fastball, a moving slider, six K’s against a deep Angels’ lineup, and a win – that’s enough to sell me on him.

Now at 1-1 on the year, he will look for his next win Wednesday at home vs. the Minnesota Twins.

Alex Rodriguez

Manager Joe Girardi chose to bat Alex Rodriguez third in the lineup today. Having only collected three hits in the first five games of the season without knocking in a run or hitting a homer, it was clear A-Rod needed to move from the cleanup spot on account of lack of production.

All that changed today. The move clearly had an impact.

A-Rod went 3-for-4 this afternoon and belted his first home run of the year, a bomb that landed in Monument Park – not a cheap homer.

With the home run, Rodriguez tied his old buddy Ken Griffey, Jr. for fifth place on baseball’s all-time home runs list. It was A-Rod’s 630th career homer. He also raised his batting average from .174 to .259.

That’s the beauty of baseball: one day can turn everything around.

Nick Swisher

The Yankee right fielder is becoming a valuable asset to the team in the early-going. Nick Swisher has reached base in every game this season. He’s hit safely in six games and in the one game he didn’t reach base by way of a hit, he drew two walks.

Last Saturday against the Rays, it looked as though the Yankees were done in the ninth when Swisher stepped up to the plate. He proceeded to cream the ball for a home run to keep the Yankees alive, although they eventually lost 8-6.

In the series finale at Camden Yards vs. the Orioles, Swisher came up huge with what proved to be the game-winning home run, a two-run blast that gave the Bombers a 6-4 lead they held onto for the victory.

Today Swisher had the huge double in the first to clear the bases and give the Yankees an early lead and a ton of momentum.

So far this year Swisher has two homers, nine RBIs, has seven hits, has drawn five walks, and has scored three runs.

If there is a Yankee hero at this moment, it’s Swisher. Right now, he can do no wrong.

Honorary First Pitch

A special dignitary tossed out the honorary first pitch this afternoon: recently-retired catcher Jorge Posada. The Yankees stood behind the mound out of respect to their former teammate and watched as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

There was a lot of speculation as to what was going to transpire during this particular part of the Opening Day festivities. I had heard a rumor Posada was going to go to the mound, then one of his teammates would switch with him – and he would actually catch the honorary pitch rather than throw it, because that’s what he is most known for in Yankee lore.

But that didn’t happen.

While his teammates and family watched, Posada threw the first pitch to his dad who stood behind the plate to catch it. Following the first pitch, Posada emotionally hugged each of his Yankee friends.

It was a touching moment and Posada received a well-deserved standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd.

Overall

It was a promising win for the Yankees. The Angels are the only team with a lifetime winning record against the Bombers and with the additions of Pujols and starter C.J. Wilson (who the Yankees will get a look at tomorrow afternoon) they only got stronger; more difficult to beat.

But they got beat today – stifled by a lights-out performance from Kuroda.

Curtis Granderson’s bullet home run marked the second year in a row he has gone yard in the Yankees’ home opener. He homered last year in the Yanks’ win over the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Phil Hughes toes the rubber tomorrow against the Angels, gunning for win number one on the year. Hughes threw the ball well in his first start on Sunday in Tampa Bay, but came up just short.

He will look to pick up his first win and roll the Yankees’ win streak over to five games.

…………………………………………………………………………………

On a side note, is anyone else growing tired of the promos for the new “3 Stooges” movie?

If the three stooges walked up to me and paid me $50 to see this abomination, I would hand them a $100 bill and simply say, “Let’s pretend this never happened.”

I understand it’s totally irrelevant to the Yankees, but the TV spot kept popping up during YES’ broadcast of the game this afternoon. I just know a bad movie when I see one – and I won’t be seeing the “3 Stooges.”

All is Quiet on the Yankee Front

“What a mix we have goin’ on for the last two innings.

 

Sitting alone upstairs, owner Gary Wheeler…reportedly has already sold his ball club, the Tigers, to the corporate group in the box to his left.

 

Now an unconfirmed report beginning to ripple the water…that the corporate’s first business…would be to trade Billy Chapel when the season is over.

 

So as so often happens in a ball game, there are so many other undercurrents; so many more things that meet the eye.” – Vin Scully in “For Love of the Game” (1999)

The biggest move the Yankees made last off-season was the signing of Rafael Soriano – and some might argue that it wasn’t even a big signing at all. Aside from that and maybe the minor acquisition of Russell Martin, the Yankees who are normally alive during the winter meetings were basically dormant.

The same can be said about this off-season, thus far.

Baseball’s winter meetings kicked off this past Monday in Dallas and there has not been much to report on as far as the Bronx Bombers are concerned. The Yankee brass has not yet signed or agreed to terms with any of the top free agents.

It doesn’t mean they haven’t tried however, winning the bidding to first negotiate with Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. The 29-year-old middle infielder possesses a lifetime batting average .302 with 149 career home runs, 664 RBIs, and has stolen 134 bases in his career in the Far East.

How that will translate in the United States remains to be seen – as does whether or not the Yankees will sign him. Sources at the meetings said the Yankees may not even land him, despite winning the right to talk with him before any other team.

I mean really, what’s the point of signing him anyway? Unless they believe Nakajima is Derek Jeter’s heir, then why negotiate with him and attempt to sign him in the first place, especially when starting pitching is more vital to the Yankees than another infielder.

If they do sign him, it could mean the end of Eduardo Nunez’s Yankee tenure, one way or another. They could potentially package Nunez in a trade for a starter, then utilize Nakajima as a backup infielder.

Speaking of starting pitching, Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson are both off the market, as they have signed lucrative deals with the Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Angels, respectively. Buehrle followed his former manager Ozzie Guillen to South Beach for a contract worth four years and $58 million.

Meanwhile Wilson left the Texas Rangers for the Angels, a division rival. I suppose five years and $77.5 million will make him a richer and happier man – along with having Albert Pujols as a new teammate.

Pujols is coming off statistically his worst season: 147 games played, 37 home runs, 99 RBIs, and a .299 batting average. He is probably the only player in baseball who could call that his worst season, because any average player would kill for that kind of “off year.”

Yet he recovered with a remarkable postseason; five homers, 16 RBIs, .356 BA, and his second World Series ring. And after all that, “Phat Albert” took his talents to the west coast.

It surprised me, considering Pujols is basically the face of the Cardinals’ organization. He will probably be considered a legend in St. Louis for years to come, despite his abrupt and rather unceremonious departure. He now has the opportunity to make himself a legendary name in Anaheim.

Remember: Reggie Jackson’s number is retired in both New York and Oakland.

But I digress; back to the subject at hand: the Yankees and starting pitching. They may have lost out on Buehrle and Wilson but the Bombers may have one last chance to make a splash and sign a big ticket free agent starter:

Yu Darvish.

The 25-year-old phenom holds a professional record of 93-38 with an ERA of 1.99, and has collected several accolades in Japan including the Pacific League MVP twice (’07, ’09).

Last year I interviewed Brian Sweeney, a former Seattle Mariners reliever who played with Darvish in Japan on the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Sweeney called Darvish “a classy individual” and “an excellent player.”

Any team could always use a classy and excellent player. He’ll most likely fit in wherever he lands.

ESPN insider Buster Olney reported earlier today that the Yankees feel “lukewarm” about bidding on Darvish. Rightfully so, considering the Yankees have had bad luck with highly-regarded Japanese starting pitchers in the past.

Hideki Irabu was thought to be a one of the best hurlers in the Far East, having led the Pacific League in wins (15) in 1994 and ERA in 1995 (2.53) and 1996 (2.40). He also led the PL in strikeouts in 1995 and 1996 (239 in ‘95 and 167 in ‘96).

Those league-leading numbers didn’t help him when he went 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA in the U.S. – and those nice stats were far from everyone’s mind when then-Yankee owner George Steinbrenner called Irabu a “Fat, p***y toad.”

Ouch.

Kei Igawa was another pitcher the Yanks had on their radar and eventually signed for five years and $20 million. They had such high aspirations for him, taking his numbers in Japan into account: 86-60, a 3.14 ERA, and 1,174 Ks.

His overall numbers at the MLB level in the U.S., dating back to when the Yanks signed him prior to 2007: 2-4, 6.66 ERA and just 53 strikeouts.

Igawa obviously did not turn out to be what the Yankees had hoped for. In the eyes of most Yankee fans, the team spent $20 million for two wins and a minor league starter.

That being said, anyone can understand the Yanks’ reluctance to go after another Japanese starter in Darvish. If the Bombers do go after him and he happens to land in the Bronx he will be expected to accomplish a lot. Maybe not 20 wins in his first season, but a convincing winning record and a low ERA are not out of the question.

And that can be said of whatever team he goes to, not just if he goes to the Yanks.

We probably won’t know for a long time where Darvish will go – and we’ll have to wait even longer to find out if he lives up to the hype.

I don’t usually agree with people associated with the Red Sox – very rarely does that ever happen. But Boston manager-turned-baseball analyst Terry Francona said probably the smartest thing an analyst can say about the winners and losers of the winter meetings:

“Winning the winter meetings doesn’t mean winning the pennant.”

Francona should know that better than anyone. Looking at last year, the Red Sox won big at the winter meetings and didn’t even make the postseason, suffering a gigantic September collapse.

The Red Sox spent a fortune and signed big ticket free agent after big ticket free agent, only to choke worse than Mama Cass did on that…ham sandwich.

Bottom line: on paper does not win ballgames. I hope the Angels and Marlins both understand that.

As for the Yankees: they have a chance to make a splash – and even a chance to make a blockbuster trade – before they head to Spring Training.

But at least for now, like last year, all is quiet on the Yankee front.

MLB Weekend Highlights

 

 

So much going on this weekend!

It’s been a crazy weekend in baseball!

 

Yankees

 

 


Mark Teixeira hit a homer on Sunday 

I’d first like to begin by letting everyone know the Yankees have now won four in a row and have taken the first four series of the young season from their opponents. This is the first time the Yankees have done this since 1926, indicating one of the finest starts I have ever seen the team get off to.

 

Michael Kay said yesterday that “New Yorkers always look for the negatives,” speaking of Mark Teixeira’s huge slump. He may or may not be out of it, what with his towering, second-deck home run in the Yanks’ 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers this afternoon.

 

That moon shot marked Teixeira’s first homer this year.

 

Maybe when the Yanks hit the road this week and head out west he can really breakout and have a monster tear. I know Teixeira is historically a slow starter, but he is too good to keep down for so long. I still feel he will finish with a ton of home runs, over 100 RBIs, and close to, if not over, 100 runs scored.

 

As they say, it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.

 

The Yankees will now head to Oakland to start a series against the Athletics, who are turning a lot of heads in the AL West division. The A’s are currently in first place with a record of 9-4 in the West.  

 

Tuesday, Javier Vazquez and Gio Gonzalez will open up the series. Phil Hughes will square off with Ben Sheets on Wednesday night. Finally on Thursday, CC Sabathia will face Dallas Braden to close it all out.

 

It should be a good set of games out in Oakland and the Yankees will be on the road for the next nine games. After Oakland they will travel to Anaheim to play the Angels for three games. After that, they come back to the east coast to play against the Orioles in Baltimore.

 

The Yankees return home on April 30 to host the White Sox. Long trip! Looks like their frequent-flier miles will be put to good use.

 

AL East

 

 


A three..or two team race this year... 

I wanted to mention the struggles of the Boston Red Sox. At this point in the season they are probably one of the worst teams in the American League, just coming off being swept in three games by the Tampa Bay Rays.

 

The Yankees and Rays sit atop the division with identical 9-3 records.

 

Toronto is in third with a record of 7-6, one game over .500. Boston is 4-8 in fourth while the Baltimore Orioles are 2-11.

 

It seems this year could very well be a two-team race. I know it’s way too early to be speaking about the Division title, but if Boston keeps struggling the way they are, they might fall so far out of first place it will very difficult to make a comeback.

 

Not saying it can’t happen; in the 1970s the Yankees were 14 games behind the Red Sox in July and somehow came back to win the AL East. They called it the “Boston Massacre” back when it happened. If Boston wants the crown enough, they can certainly come back and get it.

 

At this point in the season however, the Yankees and Rays are better.

 

Ubaldo Jimenez

 


Ubaldo Jimenez tossed the first no-hitter in Rockies' history Saturday vs. the Braves    

 

What a great story!

 

Last night, Ubaldo Jimenez became the first pitcher in the Colorado Rockies’ 18 year history to toss a no-hitter. The 26 year-old righty no-hit the Atlanta Braves en route to a 4-0 Rockies win.

 

His no-no reminded me a lot of A.J. Burnett’s back in 2001. When with the Marlins, Burnett tossed a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres and the Fish won 3-0. Burnett did get his no-no, but he walked nine batters in the game.

 

Although he was in shutdown mode, Jimenez walked six Braves in the game.

 

Jimenez owes his life to Dexter Fowler, who made a spectacular circus catch in the seventh inning to preserve the no-hitter. Fowler got on his horse, dove, and robbed Troy Glaus of a hit in the left-centerfield gap.

 

Pretty play. Jimenez should buy Fowler a Rolex for that one.

 

That catch reminded me of Dewayne Wise’s catch last summer to save Mark Buerhle’s perfect game. Wise leapt the wall and took a home run away from Gabe Kapler and helped lead Buerhle to a perfect game. Keep in mind Buerhle had already thrown a no-hitter in 2007.

 

As for Jimenez, great work. And congrats on the big no-no.

 

Marathon Game

 


The Mets beat the Cardinals in 20 innings Saturday 

 

I never though it would end. I have to give the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals all the credit in the world for how they both played this game.

 

On Saturday, the Mets and Cards played for six hours and 53 minutes, a 20-inning game. The Mets came out on top, 2-1.

 

I’m not sure what it was. I suppose a combination of terrible hitting, very good pitching, and strange choices. The Mets first three hitters (meaning Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, and David Wright) were a combined 3-for-20 in the game.

 

Reyes and Jeff Francoeur were the only two Mets who recorded RBIs. The team left a total of 18 men on base and struck out 16 times. It took the Mets five innings to record a hit, as Cardinals’ starter Jaime Garcia no-hit the Mets up until Angel Pagan singled in the top of the sixth.

 

The Cardinals just confused me with some of their moves. They had Kyle Lohse, a pitcher, playing the outfield. Later in the game they had two position players on the mound. Joe Mather, an outfielder, recorded the loss in this game.

 

In the 14th and 16th innings, the Cardinals sent their relief pitcher to the plate to bat with the bases loaded. In both instances, the Cardinals could have won the game by using a pinch-hitter, yet instead they opted to use relief pitchers to hit.

 

Why? I have no clue. I guess they wanted to save their bullpen, but it cost them.

 

In any event it was a good game; very fun to watch. It was one of the more exciting games to watch this year, and maybe it can turn things around for the Mets. For as much of a Yankee fan as I am, I think the NL East is too boring.

 

The Phillies have dominated that division for too long. If the Mets can win games like yesterday (in that never-say-die attitude) they can make it more interesting. I don’t want to see the Phillies back in the World Series.

 

Besides, I’d rather see a Subway Series in October. But of course we all know which team would win that…

Yankees vs. Phillies: Thoughts and Notes

The Yankees had lost four straight games going into today’s spring training match-up, but were finally able to break out of it. The Bronx Bombers beat their 2009 World Series opponents, the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-5 in an exhibition game.

 

Here’s what I made of today’s win:

 

 


Javier Vazquez gave up a homer, but struck out four in his spring debut 

  • Javier Vazquez

 

The first pitch Javier Vazquez tossed this spring was a meatball. Jimmy Rollins launched Vazquez’s offering over the right field wall for a leadoff home run. It makes sense to me, because the last pitch I remember him throwing in a Yankee uniform was a grand slam in the ALCS. So the first pitch Vazquez threw back in pinstripes had to be a homer.

 

I guess it was only fitting.

 

But after the long ball, Vazquez settled down very nicely. He pitched two innings and only gave up one run on two hits. He did not walk a batter and he struck out four of the eight Phillies he faced.

 

Mixing pitches and pounding the zone, Vazquez looked very good. I think the best-looking pitch he threw today was a changeup that he fooled Chase Utley on for a strikeout. He was able to change speeds effectively as well, bringing the fastball up to the mid 90s before dropping down to the low 80s.

 

If he can match what he did today during the regular season, Vazquez can win a good amount of games.

 

Overall, I liked what I saw from him today. Aside from the homer, he was outstanding. And I feel it was important that he bounced back from the leadoff home run as nicely as he did. Vazquez showcased his nerves today and that he can get into some early trouble but rebound in a solid way.

 

 


Robinson Cano is having a good spring thus far 

·       Robinson Cano

 

The young second baseman was brilliant as usual this afternoon.

 

Robinson Cano boasted some of his defense today, making a brilliant diving catch in the first inning. That play stood out to me because he really showed great lateral range, but the story today was really about Cano’s bat.

 

In his first at-bat, Cano smacked a double inside the third baseline. He drew a walk in his second at-bat, and finally crushed a go-ahead, two-run single before calling it a day.

 

Right now Cano is showing that he knows how to play ball in the MLB. Even if he is without his buddy Melky Cabrera.

 

I love what I am seeing from Cano so far. I’m sure he will keep up the excellent work.

 


Nick Swisher had a good day, a rebound from his forgettable Friday   

 

·       Nick Swisher

 

Let’s just say Nick Swisher’s day was a lot better than the last time I wrote of him.

 

The right fielder knocked in three runs on the day, all with two outs in the inning. In the fourth, Swisher cracked a two-run double and then followed it up with an RBI ground rule double in the fifth.

 

Swisher’s hitting was great today. I just hope he can be a little more consistent defensively this season. He isn’t exactly the most athletic player on the field, but he certainly has a lot of athleticism. He’s proven that in the past.

 

On a Swisher side note, he looks to have shaved his head. Will the “swish-hawk” make a return this year? Or have we seen the last of it?

 

We’ll see. He will need to grow the hair out again, though. I don’t like the shaved head look for him. Not saying it doesn’t work for some other players, but Swisher…

 

Come on, Dude!!!

 

 


Nick Johnson was 0-for-3 with a walk today 

 

·       Nick Johnson

 

Playing in his first game since going down with a stiff back, Nick Johnson laced up his spikes and played today. The Yankees’ designated hitter had three at-bats and did not record a hit.

 

Johnson popped out twice and walked.

 

I just don’t have a great feeling about him. Johnson was second in the National League in terms of on-base percentage (with .462). The only other hitter in the N.L. with a higher OPB was Albert Pujols. So obviously Johnson knows how to get on base.

 

But he only hit eight home runs all of last year even though he did average close to .300 (he hit .291). The home run count has the possibility of climbing, what with Johnson being a left-handed hitter and the short porch at Yankee Stadium.

 

But we’ll have to wait and see if his power translates from the N.L. back over to A.L. I’m sure it might, if he stays healthy long enough.

 

I will admit the fact that he had a stiff back so early got underneath my skin. It was not a great first impression. The injury sidelined him for a couple of games, so I’m not really buying into Johnson just yet.

 

He has to prove to me he can stay healthy. Until then, sorry Nick.  

 

 

 ·       Other Notes

 

 


Spring Training 

 

–Ramiro Pena showed some speed and defense today. First he had a bunt single that should have been a routine play, but he beat it out for a hit. Then he made a nice defensive stop at short that he helped turn into a double play.

 

Nice work, Pena!

 

–Marcus Thames started in left field. He was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Ouch!

 

–Francisco Cervelli did not play. He was hit in the head with a fastball on Saturday vs. Toronto and sustained a concussion for it. He did however see a neurologist and Cervelli is cleared to resume activity tomorrow.

 

If anything extreme were to happen to Cervelli and he would not be able to begin the season, Mike Rivera would be the logical choice to be Jorge Posada’s backup. At press time, Cervelli is slated to be the number two catcher.

 

–Chan Ho Park was scratched from his bullpen session today with a sore gluteus. I have no comment for this one.

 

–While one half of the team stayed home and beat Philly, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and the rest of the squad traveled to the Pirates’ camp this afternoon. The captain and A-Rod helped lead the team to a 6-0, one-hit shutout win over the Bucs.

 

Alfredo Aceves pitched four shutout innings against Pittsburgh. He did not allow a hit and he fanned three, giving the Yankees a little reassurance that he is in good shape.

 

–The Pirates will travel to Tampa tomorrow afternoon and the Yankees will host them in another exhibition.

Edition Two

Hello all! And Welcome to the second edition of Yankee Yapping. I hope you all enjoyed my last rant about the Hall of Fame game, but now it’s time to do some Bronx Bomber blabbering. Away we go!

 

My thoughts on…

 

This Past Weekend

 

It was a bad weekend to be a Yankee fan, that’s for sure. It was disgraceful. Coming off that sweep in Minnesota, I had a good feeling about our chances in Anaheim. The Yankees were certainly carrying momentum, and it showed in the first few innings of Friday night’s game.

 

When the Yanks took that early 4-1 lead, I felt like they were going to win. But of course, Joba Chamberlain had to toss too many pitches and get himself taken out, not pitching past the fifth inning. Then the bullpen just couldn’t get the job done.

 

Saturday and Sunday were just as bad. Saturday was another game like Friday–getting a lead and squirreling it away. And Sunday we just kept trying to come back from deficit after deficit and couldn’t do it.

 

After this weekend, I truly know how it feels as a baseball fan to be burned by a former friend. It seemed every time Bobby Abreu was stepping into the box against us he was either hitting an RBI single or double. We just couldn’t get our former teammate out.

 

Abreu went 6-for-14 this weekend with six RBIs and three runs scored. I couldn’t stand it. Every time he got a hit I kept saying to myself, “we should have just re-signed him. He could be doing this for us rather than against us.”

 

Even the guys who aren’t hitting this season killed us. Robb Quinlan was batting .219 with no home runs and four RBIs, and yet he managed to start hitting in the series against the Yankees.

 

The Angels just seem to have the Yanks’ number. They eliminated us in the first round of the playoffs in 2002 and in 2005, and no matter what we do we just can’t seem to take them out.

 

What’s done this weekend is done. But I hope the Yanks can figure out a way to beat the Halos before October, because God help us if we’re facing the Angels in the first round. They have not been very kind to us in the past.

 

All Star Break

 

Despite the Yanks’ recent struggles against the Angels, they have played some incredible baseball to this point. They find themselves at 51-37 this year, 14 games above .500 at the half way point.

 

They are three games behind the Red Sox for first place in the American League Eastern Division, and the leaders by two-and-a-half games in front of Texas for the AL Wild Card.

 

Last year they were 50-45, only five games above .500 and six games out in the division race. As compared to last year, they are in a much better place.

 

If the season ended today, we would be in the playoffs, and it has to stay that way. Historically, the Yankees have great numbers after the All Star break, and usually come out of the gate swinging, so-to-speak.

 

CC Sabathia and Robinson Cano are two Yankees I can think of that are “second half players,” usually putting up their best work after the All Star break. I’m expecting both of these guys to continue that this year.

 

It’s safe to say the Yankees are doing a lot better than last year around this time, still in the hunt for a division crown and the leaders in the Wild Card. They have to make the playoffs this year, because Joe Girardi might be done as manager if they don’t.

 

Home Run Derby

 

Since it first began in 1985, the Home Run Derby has provided an enjoyable night for every baseball fan, and I am no exception.

 

In recent years I have kept score of who hits how many home runs in each round. It’s a little nerdy, but I am baseball fanatic, so I guess it’s normal.

 

The only thing I usually don’t like about the derby is the lack of pinstripes. There have only been two Yankees that have won the Home Run Derby, and ironically enough they have both been first basemen.

 

Tino Martinez (my favorite player during the Yankee Dynasty years) blew everyone out in 1997 at Jacobs….errm…Progressive Field in Cleveland. He put on such a great display of power and beat out the likes of Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Thome, Mark McGwire, and Chipper Jones.

 

Martinez even said he was more nervous about competing in the Home Run Derby than the actual All Star Game because he didn’t feel he was really a home run hitter. He didn’t want to compete in the derby and not hit a home run, but wound up winning the contest.

 

Jason Giambi became the second Yankee to win the Derby in 2002 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. I remember watching it, and just being happy another Yankee won the contest. I never really liked Giambi as a player, but I’ll give him his due.

 

Giambi beat out his future teammate Alex Rodriguez, the current home run king* Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa–all of whom were amazing home run hitters at the time. And he did it wearing pinstripes.

 

This year Brandon Inge (Detroit Tigers), Joe Mauer (Minnesota Twins), Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies), Nelson Cruz (Texas Rangers), Adrian Gonzalez (San Diego Padres), Carlos Pena (Tampa Bay Rays), Prince Fielder (Milwaukee Brewers), and Albert Pujols (St. Louis Cardinals) will all be taking their hacks for the Home Run Derby crown.

 

If you want my prediction, Pujols wins this easily.

 

He is leading the majors this year with 32 homers and 87 RBIs, and some people are going as far as saying he could win the Triple Crown. He is also playing in his home park in St. Louis, thus giving him a distinct advantage over the other participants.

 

Earlier this season, Pujols smashed a home run that went so far, it knocked out the “I” on the electrical McDonald’s “Big Mac” sign at Busch Stadium. He can hit and hit comfortably at his home park.

 

In my view, Pujols wins it by a landslide.

 

All Star Game

 

The mid-summer classic is always a fun night. The fans get to see the best-of-the-best playing on the same field at the same time.

 

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the game last year at Yankee Stadium, but at least the American League won it.

 

The AL always seems to hold down the National League in this game. The last time the NL won the All Star game was 1996 (If you don’t count the 7-7 tie in 2002).

 

These last few years have showed the AL’s dominance over the NL, and I expect the same this year.

 

My prediction is the AL over the NL, 5-3.

 

The only thing that would make this great would be to see Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira or Mariano Rivera win the All Star Game’s Most Valuable Player Award. The last Yankee to win it was Jeter in 2000, and it’d be nice to see a Bomber take it home to New York again.

 

I’d also love to see Rivera close out the contest and get the save. He has saved three All Star Games in his career (1997, 2005 and 2006) and is tied with Dennis Eckersley for most All Star Game saves.

 

There would be nothing more special than to see the greatest closer in baseball take first place for most All Star Game saves the same year he recorded his 500th career save.

 

Whichever way it goes, I have a feeling the AL will have home-field advantage in the World Series this year because of an All Star Game win.

 

Roy Halladay to the Yankees? Why?

 

As most baseball fans know, rumors have been swirling about Roy Halladay. Blue Jays’ General Manager J.P. Ricciardi put Halladay out there saying that he would be accepting offers for the ace.

 

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies are the only three teams that could possibly wind up with Halladay if he is dealt.

 

Olney said the Yanks and Sox have the prospects to trade for Halladay, but not the interest and the Phillies have the interest, but not the prospects. 

 

The Yanks should generate some interest, seeing as how two of their starters could not make it out of the fifth inning this past weekend.

 

Joba Chamberlain is too unpredictable. He can give you seven innings with eight strikeouts, a couple walks, and maybe two runs.

 

Or he can give you four-and-a-third innings with no strikeouts, four walks, and five runs. He can either put us in a hole or dominate the opposition.

 

As good as Pettitte has been this year (8-4 is not a bad record) he often struggles at home, and in that start against the Angels this weekend, he looked bad.

 

Then there’s Chien-Ming Wang, who was once an ace but now an injury-ridden nobody. Alfredo Aceves took his spot in the rotation, but Girardi doesn’t want Aceves to be in the rotation. He said they will need to make a decision on what to do about that fifth spot.

 

In my view, the Yankees need to make a trade here. They are contenders and struggling a little bit with some pitching. Although certainly not as bad as the makeshift rotation last year, they could use one more solid pitcher.

 

If I were Brian Cashman, I would think about packaging some minor leaguers and maybe some back-end bullpen pitchers to Toronto for Halladay.

 

There are a few guys that I’d be willing to part with, namely Sergio Mitre, Kei Igawa, Edwar Ramirez, David Robertson, and Brian Bruney. If you gave up some of those guys, the Yanks would be a lot safer, and here’s how:

 

If they give up Mitre, it’s fine. They’re not losing anyone important to the Major League team. Igawa is the same way, and so is Ramirez. Robertson has been useless, a la walking two batters with the bases loaded in Minnesota and pitching even worse against the Angels.

 

Bruney could go and we could ‘pen Chamberlain again. If he is going to be as unpredictable as he is, he should go back to where he was lights out: the bullpen. We could then use Chamberlain as the eighth inning set-up man and put either Phil Hughes or Aceves into the fifth spot.

 

So let’s say for hypothetical the starter goes six innings. The Yanks can put Hughes/Aceves in for the seventh, Chamberlain in for the eighth, and Rivera for the ninth. 

 

If they received Halladay in a trade, they wouldn’t have to worry about re-signing him until the end of the 2010 season when his contract expires. I think that was the reason the Yanks waited on getting Sabathia and Teixeira.

 

Both Sabathia and Teixeira were traded mid-season last year, and both players’ contracts were up at the end of the year.

 

If the Yankees had traded for both guys, they could’ve lost them to free agency after giving up their best prospects to get them. When Sabathia and Teixeira went to the Yankees, both the Brewers and Angels lost.

 

Milwaukee and Los Angeles lost Sabathia and Teixeira, respectively, and the players they gave up for Sabathia and Teixeira.

 

The Yankees wouldn’t have to worry about losing Halladay at the end of the season because he’d be locked up for at least another year before having to worry about re-signing him.

 

Even if you don’t have an extraordinary fifth starter, you have four guys that can carry you through a playoff series with Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Pettitte, and if we were to get him, Halladay.

 

I hope they do make a decision and opt to negotiate for Halladay. But they have to make up their mind soon–the trade deadline is at the end of the month.

 

Well that’s all for this week’s edition of Yankee Yapping. I’ll be back next week with more analysis. Enjoy the Home Run Derby and All Star Game, everyone!

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