Results tagged ‘ Brett Gardner ’
Wow. WOW. That’s pretty much all I can say. Just another instance in my life when I am speechless.
Game two of the ALDS was one of the craziest games I have ever witnessed and that is definitely saying something as a lifelong baseball fan. It was most likely the craziest (Yankee) playoff game since game seven of the 2003 ALCS.
Tonight was one of those games where I just kept saying to myself, “I can’t believe what I just saw.” I said it several times during the game.
A lot of craziness, but the Yankees won, 4-3 in 11th outrageous innings. One hell of a win, for sure!
There’s so much I can say about this game, but I’m going to start with Alex Rodriguez.
In one of the biggest at-bats of his career and the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankee slugger delivered a mammoth, game-tying, two-run homer to knot the game at three.
I’m sure not many people expected it, but like I said on Wednesday, I think A-Rod learned the Heimlich maneuver. It was a pressure situation and he did not choke! He did what he was brought here to do–hit big time homers in pressurized, late-game situations. And he did not disappoint tonight.
You can look at some of his other big time homers as a member of the Yankees. The walk-off grand slam vs. Baltimore on April 7, 2007, the walk-off tater to beat Cleveland on April 19, 2007, but this was different.
Tonight was postseason. And against Joe Nathan, a closer who slammed the door 47 times during the regular season. And that home run…was a bomb!
Rodriguez has been excellent these last two games, driving in five runs and going 4-for-8. That’s better than we have probably ever seen him in the playoffs, certainly the best we’ve seen him since before they blew it in 2004 (I still don’t want to talk about that!)
“When I came back in May I felt I was off to a new start and it was great to have Mark Teixeira there,” Rodriguez said to the press after the game.
“It just felt really good, we needed it, and nothing’s changed. This is the way we have been playing all year. It was a lot of fun and I am doing the best I can.”
Rodriguez also drove in the Yankees’ first run in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single to score Derek Jeter, answering the Twins’ run they posted in the top of the frame.
Alongside Rodriguez with some big hits tonight was Mark Teixeira.
Not only did “Big Tex” smash the game-winning, walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning, he kept the Yankees alive in the ninth with a double to set up A-Rod’s glorious homer.
Without Teixeira, the Yankees would obviously be going to Minnesota with the series tied 1-1, so it’s safe to say he did his job tonight. At the beginning of the season, I heard some fans say Teixeira has never had a big at-bat in his life.
Well he answered those fans, coming up big time tonight in a clutch situation.
Now onto A.J. Burnett, who was pitching in his first postseason game of his career. I have to say, he looked a little off tonight, but still managed to turn in an acceptable outing and a quality start.
The lanky right-hander went six innings, giving up an earned run on only three hits. The walks were a little much, he walked five, but he also struck out six. Burnett’s breaking ball and fastball both looked great tonight, hopefully a sign of good things to come from him.
I also have to hand it to reliever David Robertson. The young man out of Alabama was “Harry Houdini” tonight, getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the 11th. He got the win and deserved it. An awesome showing from him and most of the bullpen tonight.
Now that I’ve examined the good of this game (and it was a good…great game) I have to look at the bad.
By all means, the Yankees should have won the game in the 10th. With Brett Gardner on third base and one out, the game was all but over. All Johnny Damon had to do was hit a fly ball anywhere. Left field, right field, center field–it didn’t matter. Gardner was going to score.
Instead Damon lined an old “at ‘em” ball right to Nick Punto, who was able to double up Gardner at third base. It was a bad play on Gardner’s part, but in all honesty, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
What happened was Gardner thought the ball was tipped off the pitcher’s glove and he thought he could score. But much to the surprise of Gardner, the ball was in the air. So a mistake on Gardner cost the Yanks a win in the 10th, but it didn’t come back to hurt them. No harm, no foul.
Then on the Twins’ part, they shot themselves in the foot in top of the fourth. Carlos Gomez slipped past second base, running on a single from Matt Tolbert. The stumble (or I guess just error in judgment) enabled Nick Swisher to gun him out from right field before Delmon Young–the lead runner–was able to score.
That play was crucial and may have cost the Twins the game. If that run had scored, who knows what could have happened.
Another mistake that might have cost the Twins was the error on right field umpire Phil Cuzzi. Joe Mauer hit a ground-rule double that was ruled a foul ball in the 10th inning. That was a real mistake and I was happy he made it. By all means, the Twins were cheated out of a baserunner.
My overall feeling on game two: dramatic. As my fellow blogger Virginia would say, it was a “drama club win.” Both sides fought and wanted it badly, but in the end it was the Bronx Bombers who came out on top.
Now onto game three on Sunday night.
It will be big-game pitcher Andy Pettitte squaring off against former Yankee Carl Pavano. Now the Yankees have a chance to punish him for all the money they wasted on him. I think it would be so poetically just to beat Pavano to win the series. He was supposed to help bring us a Title, but wound up doing nothing.
It would make complete sense.
Well, I said back on June 7 after the Yankees battled back to beat the Tampa Bay Rays that “they are seriously a group of warriors that do not quit.”
And tonight just proved that point even more, if they didn’t prove it with the 15 walk-off wins they had. Tonight also marked the 11th walk-off postseason win in the Yankees’ history–they have the most postseason walk-off wins all-time from any team.
Well, that does it for tonight. I’ll be back after Sunday’s game for more playoff analysis.
Until then, Go Yankees!!!
Greetings Yankee fans! Welcome to the first annual Yankee Yapping Awards!
Well, it’s that dreary time of the year again: the end of the regular season. It’s the most depressing time for most die-hard baseball fans, but for the Yankees and their fans, the journey is not yet complete.
With the AL East crown on their heads, the Yankees will soon make a run for the World Series Title. But before we embark on our playoff run, I’d like to hand out my personal end-of the-season awards to the Yankees who have demonstrated outstanding play on and off the field and who have made the greatest impact on the team.
Away we go!
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player
Winner: Derek Jeter
Was there ever any doubt?
Derek Jeter has done it all. This season the Yankee Captain just continued the traditional success he has built up and has played as well as he ever has.
Not only did he become the all-time leader for hits from a shortstop, but he became the all-time Yankee hits leader in 2009. Now that’s impressive!
On Aug. 16 in Seattle Jeter passed Luis Aparicio for all-time hits from a shortstop; what that means is no other shortstop in baseball history has had as many hits as Jeter. There aren’t even words to describe how amazing that is.
The game of baseball dates back to the late 1800s and Jeter owns the most hits by a player from one position.
Then on Sept. 11, Jeter passed Lou Gehrig on the all-time Yankee hits list, becoming the franchise hits leader. The Yankee team dates back almost to the beginning of the game of baseball; 1903 to be exact. 106 years and a modern day player–Jeter–has the most hits in team history.
And his numbers this season are outstanding: 18 homers, 66 RBIs, and as usual, an average over .300, currently at .335. Not to mention his 30 stolen bases on the year–I’m sure not many people expected that from a 35 year-old!
Jeter has also adapted very well to this new role in 2009, the lead-off hitter. He has led off a game with a base hit more than 51 times this year. Jeter needed to become the “table setter,” and he has done an excellent job from the number one spot in the batting order.
Derek Jeter: four World Series Titles, All-Star game MVP, World Series MVP, Rookie of the Year, three gold gloves…and now the Yankee Yapping MVP Award. Congrats Captain!
Yankee Yapping Best Season from a
Winner: Mark Teixeira
He struggled at first. Most Yankee newbies do. But when Alex Rodriguez made his return from hip surgery on May 8, Mark Teixeira was off like a shot and all-systems-go.
Before A-Rod came off the disabled list, Teixeira was slugging only .396–a vast difference from the .596 he was slugging going into Monday. A .200 increase is a huge advancement, I must say.
Along with the increase in slugging percentage, Teixeira’s home run count climbed; since Rodriguez’s return, Tex has clobbered 33 homers and is batting over .300. He hit 33 homers all of last year.
It’s obvious that the protection Rodriguez gave him made Teixeira a little more comfortable at the plate. And that’s why the Yankees got him–to protect Rodriguez.
Yet it hasn’t just been about his bat.
A gold glove caliber player, Teixeira has been unreal on defense this year. He has made some sparkling plays and web gems while putting up a .996 fielding percentage and recording 1,210 put-outs and 49 assists.
If that doesn’t say “gold glove,” I really don’t know what does.
Teixeira was signed on Dec. 23 and the idea of acquiring him is paying off royally. He has hit 39 homers, knocked in 121 runs, and is batting .294 at press time. He also has a good shot at winning the Most Valuable Player Award this season.
While the MVP won’t be decided until mid-November, Teixeira is the Yankee Yapping winner of the greatest season from a newcomer. Congrats Tex!
Yankee Yapping Rookie of the Year
Winner: Brett Gardner
He’s not the biggest. He’s not the strongest. But he might just be the flashiest and he’s definitely the fastest.
Brett Gardner has made a huge statement this season, winning the starting centerfield job right out of spring training. He was playing excellent ball before the season began and was rewarded for it.
On May 15 at home against the Minnesota Twins, Gardner did something I have not seen a Yankee do. What made it better (for me) was that I was there and saw it live and in-person; it’s a memory I know I won’t ever forget.
In 14 seconds, Gardner raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was probably the greatest show of pure speed I’ve ever seen in my life.
It wasn’t until I got home from the game that night that I found out Gardner had visited a sick girl in the hospital earlier in the day who wanted him to hit a home run for her. He said he’d try to, but couldn’t promise anything. She gave him a yellow bracelet for luck.
I think God was on his side; the fates were working in mysterious ways and maybe, just maybe, that yellow bracelet gave him what he needed to do it.
Gardner wasn’t even starting that night; he only played because Johnny Damon had been thrown out of the game for arguing a bad call. But he came into the game and gave me and the rest of the fans in attendance (and the fans watching around the world) a very special memory…and he gave a very special gift to a sick young lady.
He can just flat-out run; he has stolen 24 bases this year out of 29 attempts and has given the Yankees speed from the likes of which they have never seen before. I don’t think there has ever been a Yankee player faster than Gardner. He is the Flash, that’s all there is to it.
The point is Gardner has stood out from the rest of the rookies on the team both on offense and defense, and aside from being sidelined with a thumb fracture for a short while, he has done a wonderful job this year.
Gardner is a valuable player who has been good enough to be named Yankee Yapping Rookie of the Year. Congrats Brett!
Yankee Yapping Best Impact Player
Winner: Nick Swisher
In the very first edition of the blog a couple of months ago, I said the addition of Nick Swisher has lightened up the mood of the clubhouse and “loosened up” the team. And that was the truth.
If there’s one player on the Yankees who has made the greatest impact this year, it’s been Swisher. His looseness and infectious personality have affected the team in a positive way and he has been probably the biggest clubhouse presence and influence.
I knew from the first game I went to this season on April 22 he was going to have some kind of impact on the team. When the bleacher creatures called for him during roll call, he turned around and saluted them, just like an Army soldier.
I thought it was the greatest thing; while the rest of the Yankees just wave during roll call, Swisher made it a point to show a sign of allegiance to the fans.
It has since been named the “Swisher Salute.”
Swisher’s attitude is great, but it’s not just his feelings that are impacting the team. His numbers haven’t been shabby, either. He has hit 29 homers, something the Yankees probably never expected when they traded for him last November.
I also think he’s kept the Yankees in a lot of games; consider July 30 in Chicago. The Yankees were down by one run in the ninth with two outs. Swisher came up and drilled a solo homer to keep the Yankees alive.
One of the best things I’ve seen from him was the walk-off homer he hit on Sept. 8. Swisher was so excited after the game he could barely speak. It was his second homer of the game and first game-winning homer as a member of the Yankees.
I think that game cemented his spot as a Yankee fan-favorite.
He’s also knocked in 82 runs to this point and is batting .251, a step above the .219 he hit last year. His numbers are kind of reflecting his attitude: positive and upbeat.
Congrats Swisher. We salute you!
Yankee Yapping Clutch Performer of
Winner: Melky Cabrera
He has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees this year. Melky Cabrera didn’t make the starting lineup at the outset of the 2009 season, but he has certainly earned trust and a great deal of respect among the fans.
On April 22, he hit the first walk-off home run in the new Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the 14th inning to beat the Oakland A’s.
The same kind of idea from last year popped into my head; Jose Molina was last player to hit a home run in the old stadium. Now Cabrera was the first one to hit a walk-off?
Well unlike Molina, it wasn’t just an isolated incident.
Not even a month later on May 15 he hit a walk-off single to beat the Twins. And again it wasn’t just a freak occurrence; eight days later “Clutch Cabrera” struck again, knocking in yet another game-winning run against the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies.
And it’s not like he stopped.
On Aug. 2 in Chicago vs. the White Sox, Cabrera accomplished something no other Yankee has done since Tony Fernandez in 1995: he hit for the cycle. A single, a double, a triple, and a home run all in the same game. It’s one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in all of baseball and Cabrera was able to do it.
The cycle was just another piece of the clutch year Cabrera had and he was recognized for it when he won Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Month for May. By the time he was named winner of the award, Cabrera had 23 RBIs on the year. Of those 23 RBIs, 11 of them either tied the game or put the Yankees ahead in the seventh inning or later.
His three walk-off hits were also the most by a Yankee in a single season since Claudell Washington, who had four game-ending base hits in 1988.
Cabrera has been a clutch, walk-off warrior in 2009, with timely hits in pressure situations. Congrats Melk-man!
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year
Winner: CC Sabathia
He has been a workhorse. He has been a big-game pitcher. And most games he has pitched, he has been almost un-hittable.
CC Sabathia has made it in New York, granted he was a little shaky coming out of the gate, losing on opening day to the Baltimore Orioles in embarrassing fashion. Many fans and critics suggested that Sabathia may not be able to handle being a Yankee, the way some others (*cough–Randy Johnson–cough*) couldn’t.
But he answered them by going 11-1 since the All-Star break with a chance at 20 wins for the season. Talk about having the stuff of an ace. I am impressed with what Sabathia has done.
I also am taken back by Sabathia’s ability to win against the Red Sox this year. Two of the last three times he has faced the Yanks’ arch-rivals, he has no-hit them into the middle-to-late innings, as noted last week.
That’s always a good sign going into the playoffs. If the Yankees have a pitcher that can throw effectively against Boston, it’s a huge advantage for the Bronx Bombers. And Sabathia has provided them with that edge.
I really think Sabathia should win the Cy Young Award this year. I know Zack Greinke has put up great numbers on a losing team and is leading the league in most of the major pitching categories, but if you ask me, Sabathia has just been more valuable to his team.
The Yankee ace can just eat up innings, (he currently has 227 1/3 for the year) strike people out, (194 on the season) and win games (19 wins, which leads the AL) so I really feel he deserves it a little more.
Plus, Sabathia kept his team in the race while Greinke and the Kansas City Royals sank to the basement of the AL Central rather quickly.
If there was an MVP Award just for the pitchers, Sabathia would get it. And although he may or may not be “Cy Cy” Sabathia this year, he is the winner of Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year Award, which is worth something in my book. Congrats, CC!
Yankee Yapping Most Improved
Winner: Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes has come a long way in his young career.
From his “almost no-hitter” on May 1, 2007 against the Texas Rangers to his brilliant show in October against the Cleveland Indians in relief of Roger Clemens; from his stint on the disabled list to his move to the bullpen, Hughes has been the biggest improvement for the Yankees in 2009.
At the beginning of the year, he looked pretty good, pitching somewhat effectively in the starting rotation. On April 28 he made an awesome start against the Yankees’ probable first round playoff opponents, the Detroit Tigers.
Hughes tossed six scoreless innings that night while striking out six batters, a career-high for him at the time (he since has notched a new career high in strikeouts in a single game; he fanned nine vs. the Orioles on May 20) Not bad at all.
Another notable start of Hughes’s came five days after his nine strikeout game on May 25 against the same team he almost no-hit in ’07, the Rangers. The 23 year-old tossed eight innings of shutout ball to beat Texas.
When Chien-Ming Wang returned to the rotation after coming off the disabled list (only to go back on it) Hughes was placed in the bullpen, where he has been ever since. And since his move to the bullpen, Hughes has been virtually lights out and everything has gotten better.
As noted in Edition 13, every facet of Hughes’s game from his velocity to his individual pitching statistics has improved since his move to the ‘pen. Right now he has 18 holds and three saves with a record of 8-3 on the year–a huge step up from the 0-4 record he posted last year.
Hughes also has 95 strikeouts at press time. That’s the most he’s ever had in a single season. Last year he only struck out 23 batters. Not only do I have a feeling he will just keep getting better as he goes along, he could even be the next Yankee closer.
Hughes certainly stepped up his game from the abysmal 2008 season and has performed remarkably well in 2009. He’s earned it. Congrats, Phil!
Yankee Yapping Best Season from a
Winner: Chad Gaudin
A journeyman is defined as an experienced, reliable worker, athlete, or performer (in this case an athlete) who is distinguished from one who is brilliant or colorful. I would say Chad Gaudin has been that guy for the Yanks this year.
When I think of a journeyman, I think of a player who has bounced around from team to team without playing as a mainstay; instead of staying with one team he might have a “cup of coffee” with a number of teams.
Gaudin has been in the league since 2003 and has played for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Oakland Athletics, the Chicago Cubs, the San Diego Padres, and now the Yankees.
The poor guy couldn’t find a home.
But this year Gaudin has found at least a home until 2010 with the Yankees, being used in both the starting rotation and bullpen this year. And he’s made the most of what he’s been given to work with and has done a fantastic job for the Yanks this year.
When the Yankees acquired Gaudin from the Padres, his season record was not pretty; 4-10 in 19 starts on the year. But since his move over to the American League, Gaudin has gone 2-0 with the Yankees winning all six of his starts.
To me, that says he has the ability to keep the Yankees in the game when he pitches.
What’s also impressive are Gaudin’s numbers in September. He went 1-0 with two quality starts in the final month before the post-season, striking out 18 batters in the 26 2/3 innings he pitched.
Perhaps Gaudin can earn himself a post-season roster spot for the way he has been able to effectively pitch this season. And if nothing else, he earned my Best Season by a Journeyman Award. Congrats, Chad!
Yankee Yapping Comeback Player of
Winner: Hideki Matsui
“Trade him. His knees are shot. He can’t play the field anymore. His production and overall quality has gone down. Say sayonara to Hideki!”
All things I said at the beginning of the year. And boy did Hideki Matsui make me sound nuts! The 35 year-old designated hitter has had a resurgent 2009, putting up mind-boggling numbers this season.
First consider Matsui’s 2008 stats: 93 games played, nine home runs, 45 RBIs, only 143 total bases–the second lowest amount Matsui ever put up in a single season. He also only hit safely 99 times, again the second lowest total of his career.
Now take a look at his 2009 numbers: 140 games played, 28 home runs, 90 RBIs, 231 total bases, and 124 hits.
Talk about making a huge statement when fans like me thought he was totally washed up.
He proved a lot of people (including myself) wrong. He may not be able to play the field anymore because of his knees, but Matsui can still hit and be a force in the Yankee lineup. His presence and capability can still strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers.
This season Matsui set a new record for home runs by a Yankee designated hitter. He passed Don Baylor for all-time homers from a DH when he smacked his 26th home run of the season on Aug. 19. Baylor had hit 25 in 1984.
Not only that, Matsui won Pepsi Clutch Performer on the Month in August, following his teammate Melky Cabrera, who of course won the award in May. What put Matsui over the top was his amazing show in Boston from Aug. 21-23, when he crushed four homers in three games against the Red Sox.
But also keep in mind that he played in 24 games in August carrying a .282 average with eight homers and 25 RBIs overall.
Matsui has done a wonderful job this season and has turned a lot of heads and raised a lot of eyebrows with his performance at the plate. He may only be a DH now, but he’s making the best of it and he has earned back all of my respect. Congrats, Hideki!
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: Mariano Rivera
Again I can say, was thereever any doubt?
Mariano Rivera has been the rock of the bullpen all year long and has done as good, if not better, than recent years. Mo hasn’t reached 40 saves since the 2005 season and he’s even passed the number he put up that year; Rivera currently has 44 saves this season, basically giving opposing teams no chance in the ninth inning.
The Yankee closer has converted all 44 saves in only 46 opportunities, blowing only two saves on the season (April 21 in Boston and September 18 in Seattle)
But they were only two hiccups in what has been a historic year for Rivera.
On June 28, Rivera became only the second player in MLB history to reach 500 career saves, shutting down the Mets at Citi Field in a 4-2 Yankee win. Not only did Rivera get his 500th save in that game, he recorded his first career RBI, drawing a bases loaded walk issued by Mets’ closer Francisco Rodriguez.
At press time Rivera has slammed the door 526 times in his career. He may not tag Trevor Hoffman for all-time saves in baseball history, but the man is still a legend.
I attended the game on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at Yankee Stadium and was taken back by everything the Yankees gave Rivera in honor of his 500th career save.
They presented him with the rubber from the mound at Citi field the night he recorded the big save, a beautiful collage detailing his career in pictures, and they even gave him the bullpen bench from the old Yankee Stadium. (Ceremony Pictured below)
The entire team came out and congratulated Rivera and Derek Jeter (who was also being honored for his passing of Lou Gehrig on the all-time Yankee hits list in the ceremony) for their accomplishments. A classy act by the team, I must say.
Rivera has been the best in the business for years and years. This year wasn’t any different. He was the same old Mo–lights out and game over. Congrats Mariano!
Yankee Yapping Contract Player of
Winner: Johnny Damon
Allow me to first explain the nature of this award.
This accolade is going to the player whose contract is up at the end of this season, and he has earned the right to play another year for the Yankees. In my eyes, the winner of this award deserves a new deal.
And that player is Johnny Damon.
The soon-to-be 36 year-old left fielder is batting .280 this season with a career-high 24 homers and 79 RBIs. That is some decent production out of the number two hole in the batting order.
Damon has already made it known that he wants to come back to the Yankees and I’m pretty sure most of the fans would love to have him back. He has had such a positive impact on the entire team and has really done some great things in pinstripes.
I would hate to see him in a different uniform and playing for a different team next year.
And I think you have to look at his overall numbers from his tenure with the Yankees. In all four years to this point he has hit 77 homers with 293 RBIs while averaging nearly .285 at the plate.
I think the best show Damon gave us the fans came on June 7, 2008. He hit safely six times that day, knocked in four runs (including the game-winning run) and stole a base. It was one the best performances I’ve ever seen from a single player in one game.
In addition to his regular season stats and ability to reach base as shown last season, his post-season numbers have been solid all four of his Yankee years and really all-around in his entire career.
His career post season numbers for every team he has played on are impressive; he owns a .278 batting average with five home runs and 16 RBIs. That’s a good amount of production in the month of October, I must say.
His defense is a little below average now (namely his arm) and maybe his speed has gone down a little bit with his age, but no one can take away how valuable a veteran player like Damon is.
If the Yankees don’t at least offer him arbitration, it’s the wrong move. Damon deserves at least one more year in pinstripes. And if not, he at least deserves it in my view. Congrats Damon!
Well, that wraps up this award ceremony. Congrats to every Yankee on winning the AL East and what you have accomplished this year.
Good luck, Yankees. We’ll see you in October!
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!!!