Results tagged ‘ Red Sox ’
The 2012 MLB season is just about three weeks away. Players are currently in camp fighting for roster spots, getting in shape, and preparing for what will be a summer-long grind.
29 teams have the mentality of, “let’s put a good team together and have a fun season.”
The Yankees on the other hand have the mentality of, “when camp breaks we need to win the division, win the pennant, and then win the World Series.”
And as usual, it won’t be easy. A number of teams have bettered themselves during the off-season, and will pose huge threats to the Yankees bringing title number 28 home to the Bronx in October. A few teams will be breathing down the Yankees’ neck and they need to keep a sharp eye on them.
The top five are…
When the Tampa Bay Rays first entered the league, they were almost a laughingstock; a joke that always finished at the bottom of the AL East. But in 2008 they came out of nowhere, capturing the division over the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, and then going on to win the AL pennant.
Since then, the Rays have been pests; a team that won’t go away, no matter how many times a knockout blow is delivered to them. Last year they swiped the AL Wild Card from underneath Boston’s nose, and have been to the playoffs three of the last four years.
On offense this season, Tampa Bay might be under the microscope, at least a little bit. The Rays didn’t re-sign Johnny Damon in the off-season, but signed Luke Scott – who hit just .220 last year – to supplant him. After a year with the Chicago Cubs, Carlos Pena is returning to the Rays – and he only averaged .225 at the dish in 2011.
One of the only true powerhouses the Rays have at the plate is Evan Longoria, who only batted .244 last year, yet clubbed 31 homers.
With their seemingly thin offense, one might get to thinking, why are the Rays such a threat?
The answer is their starting pitching.
Number one man James Shields went the distance last year, tossing 11 complete games to lead the league in that category. He also threw four shutouts to lead the league, winning 16 games along the way.
Behind him is the pride of Vanderbilt, southpaw David Price. Last year Price compiled a 12-13 record; not the best numerically, but he was an All-Star and was coming off a season in which he won 19 games. He did prove to be a workhorse despite his uneven record, logging 224.1 innings and making 34 starts, which led the league.
Behind the 1-2 punch of Shields and Price is a supporting cast of excellent arms. 24-year-old Jeremy Hellickson is the reigning AL Rookie of the Year. He threw 189 innings in ’11, won 13 games, and notched an ERA of 2.95.
Jeff Niemann won 11 games last year, as did Wade Davis, giving the Rays five pitchers with double digit wins.
If a team has that kind of efficiency out of their starting five, they are going to be very tough to beat.
The Red Sox
Boston seems to be in a little bit of a state of flux. This off-season was busy in Beantown, as they let go of revered manager Terry Francona and signed on the ever-colorful Bobby Valentine to be their skipper. They allowed closer Jonathan Papelbon to walk, as he took his flame-throwing arm to Philadelphia to be the Phillies’ closer.
Two of their big-ticket starters, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, have undergone Tommy John surgery. Lackey will miss the entire 2012 season and Dice-K will be out until at least June or July, leaving the Red Sox with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester as their top starters.
Other than Beckett and Lester, the Red Sox have a ton of questions marks as far as their rotation in concerned. How will Daniel Bard make the transition from the bullpen to the rotation? Is Clay Buchholz going to perform at a high level?
Will Felix Doubront be a factor? What about Alfredo Aceves, who has had back problems in the past?
The starting pitching is not the only part of the team under scrutiny. Boston signed Andrew Bailey to replace Papelbon in the closer role, and will insert former Yankee Mark Melancon into the setup spot, supplanting Bard.
How will Bailey handle closing in Boston as opposed to Oakland? Will Melancon rise to challenge of setting him up in close-game situations?
All of these questions won’t be answered until the season commences, but if the Red Sox score runs – and they are capable of scoring runs – it won’t be a problem. Although Boston got off to a horrendous start and a fatal finish, they still scored 875 runs, which was good enough to lead the majors in ‘11.
And they always seem to give the Yankees a hard time.
Last June Boston swept the Bombers in three games at Yankee Stadium, being led by Yankee killer David Ortiz. Big Papi smacked two homers in the series, and stirred up controversy when he flipped his bat in what many felt was a move to show up the Yanks.
Bottom line: Ortiz proved he still has it when it comes to making the Yankees’ lives miserable.
Along with Ortiz, 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia will undoubtedly be swinging a hot bat this year, as will All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who hit .338 last season with 27 homers and 117 RBIs.
Like the pitching, speedy left fielder Carl Crawford and butch third baseman Kevin Youkilis are question marks. Crawford is dealing with a wrist injury that many analysts say caused a decline in his numbers last year. Youkilis had season-ending thumb surgery last August.
If Crawford and Youkilis come back – and return to form – the Yankees, and all American League pitchers for that matter, need to look out. These two sluggers have the potential to cause major problems for the Yankees when they are at 100%.
All things considered, the Red Sox will have a potent lineup. And no matter what anyone says, the Red Sox are always in the back of the Yankees’ minds. Always.
Last October the Detroit Tigers dashed the Yankees’ hopes and dreams of winning the World Series, eliminating the Bronx Bombers in five games in the ALDS. New York was forced to watch the Tigers celebrate on their soil, as the team from the Motor City proved to be too much for the Yankees to handle.
And it may have just gotten more difficult to beat them.
This off-season the Tigers signed power-hitting lefty Prince Fielder, who clobbered 38 home runs and drove in 120 runs last year. The hefty first baseman has twice averaged .299 at the plate (2009, 2011) and in 2007 Fielder led the National League in homers with 50.
It’s what you can expect from a big guy, but don’t let the size fool you.
Despite his heavy, 275-pound frame, Fielder is durable. He has played in all but one game since 2009, appearing in all 162 games in 2011 and 2009. He played in 161 games in 2010.
Fielder will join the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Delmon Young, two powerhouses who have already proven their worth in Detroit. Last season Cabrera led the league in doubles (48) and batting average (.344). Like Fielder he is also durable, as he appeared in 161 games in ’11.
Young dazzled in last year’s ALDS vs. the Yankees, punishing them with a .316 BA while clubbing three homers and posting a .789 slugging percentage. He collected six hits in the five game series and drew two walks, showing his worth when the stakes were high.
Detroit is obviously the front-runner to once again win the AL Central, and behind ace Justin Verlander – the reigning AL Cy Young winner and AL MVP – their chances of taking the central are high. The other teams in that division pose virtually no threat, and potentially the Yankees could face the Tigers in the ALDS again this year.
If a rematch is in the cards, the Yankees have to adjust accordingly. It didn’t work out for them in last year’s postseason.
It’s no secret that Texas is one of the prime teams to beat, as they have represented the American League in the World Series the past two years. The Rangers lost their number one starter C.J. Wilson to a division rival, the LA Angels, but something tells me it’s not going to matter. The Rangers’ pitching will still be top notch.
Colby Lewis won 14 games last year, as did Matt Harrison. If you were to ask manager Ron Washington, he would probably say both Harrison and Lewis possess the stuff to be number one aces. Alexi Ogando went 13-8 last year with a 3.51 ERA and he’ll be another weapon in the Rangers’ rotation.
Throw Neftali Feliz and Yu Darvish into the mix, and you have quite a set of pitchers, although there are some questions surrounding Feliz and Darvish.
Feliz is making a transition from the bullpen to the rotation, so much like Bard in Boston, his performance depends on how well his stuff translates; how well he works being stretched out. If it goes well for him, and he throws as hard as he did working in the closer role, he’ll be a feared pitcher in the American League.
Like Feliz, Darvish is making a transition – but not from the bullpen. He’ll be making the switch from Japan to MLB. In his native country, Darvish was one of the finest and most revered pitchers. Last year alone Darvish struck out 276 batters over 232 innings of work, and won 18 games with a 1.44 ERA.
Those numbers can be deceitful, however.
Ask Matsuzaka, or Hideki Irabu, or Kei Igawa, or any pitcher who sparkled in Japan and fell apart here. Pitching in the states is much different than pitching in the Far East, so Darvish is basically going to be an enigma until we really see what he can do – and we won’t know what he can do until he logs some innings here in the good ol’ U.S.A.
As far as the Rangers’ offense goes, they won’t have many problems if Josh Hamilton stays healthy. Even if he spends time on the disabled list, they have plenty of power to make up for it. Mike Napoli, the Rangers’ catcher, smacked 30 homers and drove in 75 runs last year.
You know you’re going to be alright when you’re getting that kind of production out of the catcher spot.
Along with Hamilton and Napoli, there’s Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus, and Michael Young – a perfect combination of veteran and youthful offense.
A message to the Yankees: when you’re in Texas, look behind you. ‘Cause that’s where the Rangers are going to be! (I couldn’t resist the cheesy/obscure Walker, Texas Ranger reference).
In recent times the Angels have almost had the Yankees’ number, being the only team with a lifetime winning record against the Bronx Bombers. LA’s pesky hitting coupled with their stellar pitching are going to make the Halos one of the best teams in the league this season, if not the best.
And it starts with one of their gigantic off-season acquisitions.
The biggest, obviously, is first baseman Albert Pujols. The slugging 3-time NL MVP signed with the Angels on Dec. 8 – and, as if LA wasn’t hard enough to beat already, they just got that much more difficult; that much deeper.
Pujols adds a surefire power bat to the lineup that already includes scrappy, young hitters like Howard Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis, and Mark Trumbo. Former Yankee Bobby Abreu gives the Angels a veteran presence, as do outfielders Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.
Last year LA scored 667 runs. Expect that number to go up in 2012.
Along with their strong offense, the Angels have stacked the deck as far as their pitching is concerned. As noted, the Halos snatched the Rangers’ ace C.J. Wilson over the winter, and he will join Dan Haren and Jered Weaver – who were both in double figures in the wins category last year. Haren notched 16 Ws while Weaver put up 18.
Ervin Santana sealed 11 wins last year with an ERA under four. If he does the same working in the back end of the Angels’ rotation this year, they are going to win a lot of games.
The Angels are pretty much the team that has it all; the complete package. If you were to ask me for my World Series pick, on paper, it would be the LA Angels.
But as Yankee Captain Derek Jeter always says, “on paper doesn’t win you ballgames.”
True. But the Angels look awfully dangerous, and have eliminated the Yankees from the playoffs twice, in 2002 and 2005. The last time the Yankees and Angels met in October (2009) the Yankees came out on top, beating the Halos in six games.
They may need to do it again if they want to win number 28.
No one gave the Yankees a fighting chance when 2011 started. The lineup and defense was declared “old.” The pitching rotation was called “comically thin,” and the fact that the Yankees did not pick up a huge free agent in the off-season led every skeptic to believe they were going to fail this year.
Now look where they are – and who is struggling for their playoff lives.
The Boston Red Sox were the favorites. They acquired Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, bolstering their already-potent, veteran-laden lineup. All the folks who talked up the Red Sox to win it all this season are probably kicking themselves now, as the Red Sox are just 2 ½ games in front of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL Wild Card race.
Yesterday the Yankees beat the Rays twice, sweeping a day-night double header. The Bronx Bombers won both games by the same count, 4-2, and captured their 17th American League Eastern Division title.
Meanwhile Boston dropped their second straight game – and they are 3-7 over their last 10 games. The Red Sox have gone ice cold at the wrong time and the Yankees have become red hot at the right time.
With the Yanks no longer having to worry about winning the division and the end of the regular season right around the corner, it’s that time of the year again: the time to reward the Yankee players for what they have achieved this season.
It’s the third annual Yankee Yapping End of the Year Awards!
Let us all find out who this year’s winners are.
Yankee Yapping Milestone Man Award
Winners: Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera
In 2009 both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera accomplished something special. Jeter became the all-time Yankee hits leader and Rivera captured his 500th career save.
Fast forward two years later and both of these perennial Yankees are still making history.
On July 9, Jeter stepped up to the plate at home and clubbed a home run to deep left-center field, his 3,000th career hit. He became the first Yankee to ever record 3,000 hits and the second person since Wade Boggs to leave the yard for 3K.
Rivera became the all-time saves leader on Monday, nailing down his 602nd career save, securing a 6-4 Yankee win over the Minnesota Twins.
With 602 saves under his belt he passed Trevor Hoffman for most career saves all-time. Including the postseason, Rivera has 644, as he also has saved 42 playoff games.
Jeter and Rivera have only solidified what we as Yankee fans have known all along: that they are legends. No one may ever duplicate what both of these men have accomplished. In the foreseeable future, there won’t be another Yankee to get 3,000 hits.
There’s also a good chance no one will ever do what Rivera has done in terms of closing ballgames.
I don’t have to sell the Captain and Mo at all; there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said a million times. Jeter and Rivera have earned the love and adoration of every Yankee fan in the world. Both are five-time World Series champs, and have an opportunity to become six-time champs this year.
Time will tell if they get there, but until then, there are Yankee Yapping Milestone Man winners. Congrats guys!
Yankee Yapping Most Valuable Player Award
Winner: Curtis Granderson
These past few years the Yankees have had a number of players in the running for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Last year it was Robinson Cano, this year it is Curtis Granderson. The centerfielder’s .270 batting average may be the only statistic that is holding him down, but he has done very well for himself in every other offensive category.
At press time Granderson leads the majors in runs scored (134) and RBIs (119), and is second in home runs (41) to Toronto’s Jose Bautista (42).
Yet, remember the old saying, which originated in 2005 when David Ortiz was in the running for MVP: it should go to “full-time players” only. Defense is part of being a baseball player too, and Granderson has exhibited excellent D.
In the field he is showing off his capability with 11 assists and a .992 fielding percentage.
Throughout the year Granderson has come up in some huge spots on both sides of the field, and has turned into the elite player the Yankees traded for before 2010. He has made a lot of progress and stepped up, especially against left-handed pitching – which was something scrutinized when the Yanks acquired him.
The big fuss about Granderson was his strife against lefties. But that has not affected him this year.
In fact, Granderson is actually hitting .277 off southpaws, as opposed to his .266 BA vs. righties. 16 of his 41 homers have come off lefties and his slugging percentage vs. left-handers is .614. Against righties, Granderson is slugging .549.
He has a chance to win the AL MVP this year. But if he doesn’t, he can always take solace knowing he has won the Yankee Yapping MVP Award. Congrats Curtis!
Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year Award
Winner: CC Sabathia
I started this blog in 2009 and this will be the third Ace of the Year Award I will be handing out. All three years it has gone to the same man and rightfully so.
It was announced tonight that CC Sabathia will not make another start before the American League Division Series begins, which means he went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA this year. He racked up 230 strikeouts, logged 237 1/3 innings, and registered three complete games (one of which was a shutout).
Sabathia has been the horse since day one; the leader. He takes the ball every fifth day and the Yankees seem to have a certain confidence and swagger whenever he’s on the mound. I think they take the field knowing they have a great chance to win with Sabathia pitching.
When the postseason begins, Sabathia has to be his usual self. Not that he pitched all that poorly last year, but he did end the American League Championship Series with a 6.30 ERA while surrendering seven earned runs in just 10 innings. If he can be that dominant pitcher we have seen, the Yanks can certainly win a lot of games. If not, they are in big trouble.
But we know what to expect from him – and he usually delivers. Sabathia won’t win the Cy Young Award because Justin Verlander of Detroit basically has that locked up. But he did win Yankee Yapping Ace of the Year for the third consecutive time.
Yankee Yapping Silver Slugger Award
Winner: Robinson Cano
The Yankees have a lot of players to thank for where they are. But the biggest thanks probably deserves to go to the studly second baseman Robinson Cano.
After he showed off his might winning the Home Run Derby, Cano continued to portray exemplary power – which is something that sometimes doesn’t happen. There has been a theory going around these past few years that the derby messes up a hitter’s swing.
Take David Wright on the other side of town, for example. He came close to winning the Home Run Derby in 2006, but according to some experts, never put up the same power numbers after that year. Same thing goes for Bobby Abreu, who won the derby in 2005, but never hit more than 20 dingers in a season following it.
Cano on the other hand has 27 homers, 116 RBIs, and is batting .305. He has been a consistent force in the Yankee lineup, taking on the cleanup hitter role in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. He has thrived in everything that has been thrown at him and continues to impress with his sweet swing and smooth stride.
Like Granderson he may be considered for AL MVP Award – last year he finished third in the voting. Whatever happens, he has been a major reason for the Yanks’ success. Congrats Robinson!
Yankee Yapping WTF?! Award
Winner: A.J. Burnett
When Spring Training started, Yankee analysts (namely Ken Singleton) raved about the difference in A.J. Burnett. Singleton called his pitching delivery “completely revisited” and after watching a bullpen session, said Burnett’s fastball and curve ball were “crackling through the strike zone.”
Under the tutelage of first-year pitching coach Larry Rothschild, I thought he could finally go back to that dominant form he once displayed when he pitched for the Florida Marlins and the Toronto Blue Jays. A lot of other fans also felt Burnett was primed for a big year.
But those thoughts were not well-founded.
The man who was signed to a lucrative five-year, $82.5 million contract has not lived up to it, as he is 10-11 with a 5.28 ERA – after going 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in 2010. He has given up 107 earned runs in 182 1/3 innings pitched, and has allowed more than a hit per inning. He also leads the league in wild pitches with 25 – and this is the third time in his career he has led the league in that category.
For the past few years I have attempted to defend Burnett for the sake of our initials. I can’t take away from the fact that he pitched the game of his life in Game Two of the ’09 World Series. If he had not won that game and pitched as effectively as he did, I’m not convinced the Yankees would have beaten the Phillies.
Yet New York sports supporters have one question, Burnett: what have you done for me lately?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And there is no way I can defend an ERA of 5.28 in a pitcher who cost $82.5 million. Burnett was supposed to be a solid number two starter and he hasn’t even proved to be a good number four starter; maybe an acceptable number five man, but he is nowhere near what the Yankees expected him to be.
I lost a little bit of respect for him when he made a start in Minnesota vs. the Twins on Aug. 20. Burnett tossed just 1 2/3 innings before Joe Girardi came to the mound to take the ball from him. He allowed seven earned runs on five hits, walking three batters and striking out only one.
As he left the mound, Burnett lipped off at his manager and stormed into the clubhouse.
In my mind it was a complete and utter display of unprofessionalism.
After this year he is still owed $33 million – which is a lot of money. Unless the Yanks can get rid of him somehow, they might be stuck with him for at least another year and a half. I just don’t know what to make of him anymore.
Burnett I have one question for you: WTF?!
Yankee Yapping “He Proved Me Wrong Award”
Winner: Ivan Nova
I had serious doubts about Ivan Nova when the year began. In a big game, I did not want to trust him with the ball, being that he was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 games (seven starts) last year. In my mind I drew a comparison between him and Ian Kennedy (when he was a Yankee), thinking he would flop.
But soon after I found myself comparing him to Kennedy, I found myself comparing him to Chien-Ming Wang, being that his sinker ball has worked so effectively and he has induced a good amount of ground ball outs. Using that pitch, he has cruised to a 16-4 record this year with a 3.62 ERA.
Nova is in the running for the American League Rookie of the Year and is probably going to be the number two starter in the postseason – quite a responsibility for a 24-year old.
Although he has certainly proved me wrong as far as the regular season goes, he still has to show he can get it done when it matters. It remains to be seen whether Nova can help carry the Yanks in the postseason. But for now, he has shown an outstanding capability on the mound.
For the past two years pitchers have won Rookie of the Year; Andrew Bailey of Oakland in 2009 and Neftali Feliz of Texas in ’10. I wish Nova the best of luck to keep the line of pitchers winning ROTY moving.
And if he doesn’t win it, at least he won a Yankee Yapping Award. Congrats Ivan!
Yankee Yapping Best Season From a Newcomer
Winner: Russell Martin
He may be Canadian but after this year, I think he is officially a New Yorker.
Russell Martin was a wonderful pickup by the Yanks before 2011 commenced. He has displayed sheer durability, playing in 121 games this year. His batting average is hovering around.236, but he has smacked 17 home runs and knocked in 62 runs while scoring 55.
There’s an old saying about catchers: having one that can hit is a bonus – and we have that bonus.
Martin has also done very well working with a pitching staff he has never worked with before. He has done very well with every hurler on the staff and in the bullpen, and can easily call a good game behind the plate.
I’m looking forward to another year with Martin in pinstripes and he deserves the honor of being called the best newcomer to the team. Congrats Russell!
Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year
Winner: David Robertson
This will be David Robertson’s second consecutive Yankee Yapping Reliever of the Year win. Last year he grinded through a slow start, only to become a lights-out relief man.
This year Robertson was an All-Star and in relief he is 4-0 with a tiny 1.11 ERA. The young man out of Alabama has struck out 96 batters in 64 2/3 innings pitched, has notched 39 holds, and has carved his niche as the primary setup man for Rivera.
He’s also earned the nickname “Houdini” for being able to get out of tight jams and sticky situations.
Robertson has been an asset ever since he joined the Yanks in 2008, and they have been lucky to have such a consistent bullpen pitcher on their roster. He scuffled a bit in last year’s postseason, but if he maintains that consistency he displayed all season, he will do just fine.
Yankee Yapping Future Star Award
Winner: Jesus Montero
On Sept. 1 Jesus Montero made his much-anticipated debut in a game against the hated Boston Red Sox. He went 0-for-4 while getting hit by a pitch, and didn’t impress many fans in his first game.
But he collected his first hit in the next game against Toronto, and a few days later on Sept. 5 crushed his first two homers against the Baltimore Orioles at home. He became the first Yankee since Shane Spencer (1998) to hit his first two Major League homers in the same game.
Montero has only played in 14 games and still has a long way to go in terms of showing off what he can do. There are certainly high hopes and expectations, but from what he has given us so far, I believe he is capable; he can live up to the hype.
With Jorge Posada likely on his way out and Francisco Cervelli constantly getting knocked in the head, Montero is likely the catcher of the future.
With Martin around for at least another year, he can learn the ropes a little bit and still act as a designated hitter. That way when his time comes and he is the every day catcher, he will be more than ready.
In the meantime, it was smart of the Yankees to call him up and at least give him a taste of the majors. If he gets his little bit of experience now, I have no doubt he will be very dangerous in the future. And for that, he wins the Yankee Yapping Future Star Award.
Well, that about does it for this year’s awards blog. Congrats to all the winners (save for A.J. Burnett; I’m just sorry for him at this point) and congrats to the Yankees on the AL East crown. Within the next few days we will have our ALDS opponent, so look out for previews and playoff analysis.
October, here we come.
The Yankees started and ended last night’s game the same way they did Tuesday night’s game: They let the Red Sox go ahead 3-0 in the first inning and Alex Rodriguez made the last out of the game. The Bronx Bombers once again lost to their hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox, 11-6.
I could go on all day about the mistakes the Yankees made and the bad luck they were handed. Francisco Cervelli’s throwing errors, Brett Gardner not running on the wild pitch, and Derek Jeter grounding into a 5-4-3 with the bases loaded and one out which did not just kill the rally, but beat it up it and then left it for dead.
Joba Chamberlain is going to the disabled list with a strained flexor in his right elbow and Russell Martin’s back locked up, forcing him out of the lineup…it was horrible. I, like any other self-respecting Yankee fan, would rather just forget yesterday’s game vs. Boston ever happened.
What I am writing about today is what happened before yesterday’s loss.
Apparently every year the Yankee beat reporters play the Red Sox beat reporters in a game of baseball. The writers play two games every year: one at Yankee Stadium and the other at Fenway. Before the ugly 11-6 loss, the Yankee reporters played the Boston reporters, and I believe they won.
I’m unsure of the official scoring; I’m not sure if they keep records of such games.
From what I read, last year the Yankee writers and Boston writers split the series, with each team winning on the road – meaning the Yankee reporters lost at Yankee Stadium and the Red Sox writers lost at Fenway.
I am sad I missed this.
What I would like to do is propose an All-Star voting for the Yankees-Red Sox media game, and personally add Yankee Yapping as a write-in vote. I am ready to begin a campaign.
Slogan: If your team is crapping, send Yankee Yapping!
I know, it’s a little cheesy, but it might win me the vote.
Technically, I am New York media – and I cover the Yankees with this blog. In fact, my blog was in the top 10 on MLBlogs for the month of May.
Although for work I only cover high school sports, I was issued a press pass, which is sanctioned by the New York Press Association. Yet, as I said, with this blog, I cover the Yankees, which (on a technicality) makes me New York Yankees media.
As far as my baseball skills go…well, I have blogged about that in the past. I played organized ball for five years, three of which were on the high school level, giving me experience when it comes to the game.
By trade I am a right fielder, but I can sure pick it at second base.
In order to send Yankee Yapping to the media game, re-tweet this blog post to the Yankee beat writers. Facebook it to the writers’ accounts and the YES Network.
Help send me to the Yankees-Red Sox media game. Vote for Yapping!
My campaign promise is this:
If the Yankees can’t beat the Red Sox, as a player on the Yankee media team, we will win by the mercy rule. My baseball skills can give us a huge win over the Boston press.
We will win, and we will win big. That I can promise.
Last night was embarrassing. Let’s face it. The Yankees, who had just taken two out of three from the Los Angeles Angels, came home to face their hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox. Having won six of their last seven games, the Bronx Bombers were stopped dead in their tracks, losing 6-4 to Boston.
But the Yanks didn’t just lose. They brought it to a new level.
In the first inning, Yankees’ starter Freddy Garcia surrendered three runs, putting the Bronx Bombers in a quick hole. Already down in the game, Boston starter Jon Lester beaned Mark Teixeira in the right knee cap, forcing the Yankees’ hottest hitter out of the game.
Later in the frame Russell Martin was hit, as Lester had no control at the outset of the game.
Luckily for the Yanks, Teixeira’s x-rays were negative. There is a contusion on his knee and he will be reevaluated today. As for him playing tonight, Yankee manager Joe Girardi said, “probably not.”
Were the bean balls intentional?
No. Lester was going to his cutter and it wasn’t cutting.
Could it have cost the Yankees if the injury had been worse?
Absolutely. If Teixeira had broken his knee cap, the Yankees would be in serious trouble.
At the end of the inning: two hit-batsmen and no retaliation. OK.
The Bombers scraped one run across the plate in the bottom of the first, receiving an RBI single off the bat of Robinson Cano. They blew their chance to break out and erase the three-run first however, leaving the bases loaded to end the first inning.
Down 4-1 in the top of the fifth, David Ortiz stepped up to the plate with Adrian Gonzalez on first. Reliever Hector Noesi threw an inside pitch (middle-in) that brushed Ortiz off the plate.
Big Papi looked a bit flustered, but clearly there was no intent.
The next pitch, Ortiz crushed over the right field wall. Instead of just dropping his bat and running, he flipped the bat in a rather cocky manner, as if to show up the young Yankee pitcher.
So now: two hit-batsmen, an act of cockiness, and the Yankees were losing. Perfect grounds for retaliation and the Yanks did not respond.
May I ask why?
After Ortiz’s bat flip, one thing came to my mind; I thought back to the worst movie in the Rocky series, Rocky V. In the final fight scene, Tommy Gunn and Rocky Balboa were fighting in the streets. Balboa knocked Gunn down, then Gunn’s manager, George W. Duke, screamed at his protégé, “Fight back, you bum, fight back!”
My sentiments exactly. The Yanks should have fought back.
In the bottom of the fifth, New York got two runs back and cut the lead to 6-3. Nick Swisher, who had grounded out in the first to leave the bases loaded, came around and clubbed a two-run double.
The Bombers made one last ditch effort to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. Brett Gardner walked, but Captain Derek Jeter, now 12 hits away from 3,000, lined out to right field.
Curtis Granderson struck out, setting up Jorge Posada, who replaced Teixeira at first base. Gardner took second on defensive indifference and scored on a single by Posada.
Up came Alex Rodriguez, the tying run, 0-for-4 on the night. He made it 0-for-5 with a strikeout to end the game.
But there was plenty of blame to go around; enough goats in this game, other than A-Rod.
Granderson was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and left three men on base. Quietly he has gone into a little slump, and his batting average has dipped to .269.
Andruw Jones was another non-factor, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He stranded three men on base. Girardi started Jones because he is a right-handed hitter and Lester is a lefty; he hoped Jones would have an advantage, righty vs. lefty, on the Boston hurler.
I guess there is no such thing as an advantage against Lester.
What bothered me the most about the game was not retaliating against Boston following Ortiz’s showboating. There was no reason for the conceited bat toss and no reason the Yanks should not have responded to it. It seemed as if the Yankees were just laying down for Boston without caring.
Plus, if they couldn’t beat them on the scoreboard and they’re showing off, beat them with the ball. Show some gumption and some fight by hitting back.
I couldn’t help but think of May 23, 2006, when the Red Sox hosted the Yanks at Fenway. Manny Ramirez belted a long, three-run home run, but before he ran the bases he stood in the box and admired his shot.
The home plate umpire even had to intervene, telling Ramirez to get out of the box and run.
Did the Yanks fight back then?
Nope. They just let it slide.
After the game Girardi let the media know that he was not a fan of the bat flip and he took offense to it.
“I didn’t care for it,” the Yankee skipper said.
“I don’t know if Ortiz was upset that he (Noesi) came in hard at him. I never had a problem with David; he has always played the game hard. I’m just protecting my young kid.”
Ortiz’s comments on the matter:
“That’s Papi style,” he said with a smile on his face.
“It’s not the first time and it’s not my last one. I’m a home run hitter. It’s not like I do it all the time. What can I tell you? Just another homer for Papi.”
The whole situation could mean retaliation tonight, but if history repeats itself and they just let it go as they did in ‘06, they won’t do anything back.
Yet tonight’s starter A.J. Burnett (6-3, 3.86 ERA) has a history of being wild. Whether he means to or not, there’s a good possibility a Boston batter could get hit with a pitch tonight. He is 2-0 with a 3.44 ERA and 15 strikeouts in his last three starts, and it will be his first start of the season against the Red Sox.
The Yanks will face 44 year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (2-1, 4.40 ERA) who took the spot in the Boston rotation left by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who needs Tommy John surgery. Over the last 10 years alone vs. New York, Wakefield is 7-13 with a 4.58 ERA – and he’s been around longer than 10 years.
The Yanks have had a good amount of success vs. Wakefield, but in turn Boston (34-26) has handled Burnett in the past.
It could be a wild one in the Bronx tonight, but only if the Yankees (33-25) show some fire; if they show some hustle. If they show they won’t lay down in front of their arch-rivals.
If they show some fight.
The Boston Red Sox were 0-6 coming into their home opener against the Yankees. Behind some weak pitching on the Yankees’ part, the Red Sox changed that. Boston captured its first win of the year, beating the Yanks 9-6 this afternoon. It was almost as if the simple baseball game turned into a fierce tennis match, both sides going back-and-forth with the scoring.
Tied 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth inning, a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought home Kevin Youkilis; making the game 7-6 in favor of Boston. Bartolo Colon, who put up such a valiant effort in relief, gave up the go-ahead run but it could have been prevented. An error by Mark Teixeira allowed David Ortiz to reach base, and the inning continued.
Boone Logan came on in relief in the seventh and gave up two more runs on a single by J.D. Drew. Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate, Boston went up 9-6, and eventually they finished off the game.
There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Yankees today. Obviously the biggest story…
Two games for Phil Hughes this year, and both times he has gotten shelled. Today the 24 year-old righty was tagged for six earned runs on seven hits in just two innings. He didn’t strike anyone out and walked two batters. He threw 47 pitches, all of which lacked command, movement, and velocity. He did not trust his fastball, which topped out in the high-80s, low-90s, and tossed a lot of cutters.
Hughes’s day could probably be summed up with one pitch: the hanger he threw to Dustin Pedroia in the first inning. He hung a breaking ball a little too high and Pedroia pulled it over the Green Monster for a solo home run.
From there, he never recovered.
In his previous start, Hughes lost to the Detroit Tigers, pitching only four innings and giving up five earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out one, as many analysts noticed location and velocity were nowhere to be found in that start.
His season ERA after his first two starts: 16.50.
I got the feeling Hughes was going to struggle this season for a few reasons. First of all, go back and look at how he finished last year. He registered the loss in the 2010 All-Star Game for the American League and from there it all seemed to go downhill for him.
He lost two important games in the American League Championship Series to the Texas Rangers – and both losses were all on him. He pitched very poorly in both starts and it cost the Yankees in a major way.
In fact, Hughes gave up 11 earned runs on 14 hits in those final two games last year.
Now fast forward and look at how he performed in Spring Training this year. His record wasn’t indicative of any failure (he was 1-0) but he gave up 10 earned runs in just five games. He also gave up four homers, his ERA was 4.09, and he pitched 22 innings giving up 24 hits.
It may not look like it in the box score, but he got knocked around all spring.
I had said on a few occasions that Hughes might have a year this year like A.J. Burnett had last year – not pitching effectively and thus ending the season with a lopsided win-loss record and a sky-high ERA. While it is early – extremely early – in the season, it looks as though my thought could be well-founded. Hughes is already 0-1 and pitched as if he should be 0-2 – the offense scored for him and got him out of a loss today.
Last year Hughes had the best run support of any pitcher in the American League, the Yankees averaging almost eight runs per game on days he took the mound.
But he can’t live off that forever; eventually it will come back to bite him, like it did today. Hughes was lucky that John Lackey pitched just as poorly as he did, throwing five innings and giving up six earned runs on seven hits.
Lackey walked two batters and struck out two, but notched the win because the Red Sox were able to scrape across that run in the fifth while he was still the pitcher of record. All in all Lackey was lack-luster, but the Boston offense got it done for him – which was the story of Hughes’s 2010 season. He would give up runs, but the Yankees would score for him to get him off the hook and most times, get him a win.
And like Hughes, Lackey might not be so lucky his next time out.
After Hughes’s departure, ESPN insider Buster Olney tweeted: “You’d have to think that the Yankees will talk about replacing Phil Hughes in the rotation. For whatever reason, he has no weapons.”
All true. None of Hughes’s pitches are working for him.
Right now, replacing Hughes in the rotation seems like a novel idea, especially since he admitted after the game that his arm strength is not where it should be.
And with the way Bartolo Colon pitched in relief (4 1/3 innings, two hits, two runs, one earned run, one walk, five Ks) he would be the obvious choice, although there are other options. Mark Prior is a pitcher they could call up, and Kevin Millwood isn’t far behind.
Heck, if the Yankees think about it, they still have Dellin Betances waiting in the wings.
What Hughes is showing right now reminds me of how Chien-Ming Wang pitched to start 2009. Wang struggled in the worst way and lost the faith of the Yankees. There’s only one thing that Hughes and Wang don’t have in common about their poor pitching in the early-going:
When Wang struggled, it was because he was hurt. There isn’t anything wrong with Hughes.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi confirmed after the game that there is nothing physically wrong with Hughes and that he just needs to command his pitches better. Wang was injured and eventually landed himself on the disabled list following his subpar start in ’09.
At least Wang had a reason for his struggle. Hughes just hasn’t been pitching well.
Hughes’s next start is supposed to be on Wednesday at home against Baltimore – a team atop the AL East right now, playing exceptional baseball. However, the Yankees have an off-day on Monday and could work around Hughes, pushing him back.
The likelihood of Hughes being skipped (I would say) is pretty high right now. So far he is only proving that he has a dead arm, he has nothing behind any of his pitches, and he isn’t doing his job as the Yankees’ number three starter.
I still have faith in Hughes. I think if he physically gets himself back to where he was during the first half of last year, he can be as dominant as any ace in the league. But he needs to get there.
He needs to get his fastball back up to the mid-90s, blowing hitters away and not letting them catch up to it. He needs to get his breaking ball working again, fooling hitters with its movement. He needs to locate his pitches, and get them down in the strike zone – not leaving them up for hitters to feast upon.
If he does that, he will be fine. If not, it will be a long season for Hughes.
Another Guilty Party
What is this guy doing on the team? Does he even have any business here in New York?
He is in the bullpen to be the Yanks’ lefty specialist, and so far he is not proving he is a lefty specialist because he isn’t getting any left-handed hitters out. Logan is only proving he doesn’t belong here, as he gave up a two-run single to Drew in the seventh. At that point the Yanks were only down by one run and still had two innings to scrape a run across and tie it up.
I think once Logan gave up those runs, the Yanks’ bats just gave up and never recovered.
Logan was part of the Yanks’ meltdown on Tuesday to the Twins, and was even tagged with the loss in that game. Right now the reliever is 0-1 with an ERA of 13.50.
I know he is only filling in for Pedro Feliciano, who is on the DL with shoulder soreness. I hope Feliciano comes back soon, because the Yankee bullpen could sure use a lift.
And we could all use a break from Logan.
Bright Spots of the Day
Although it was a bad day for Hughes, Logan, and the Yankee team, there is some good to take away from it. Here are some things the Yankees did right today and some things we learned:
· We now know Bartolo Colon can thrive in a long relief role. Despite the two runs (only one was earned) he cleaned up Hughes’s mess quite nicely.
· Alex Rodriguez homered today, his fifth career round-tripper off John Lackey. He now has three homers on the year and he is hitting .304.
· Curtis Granderson went the other way, slapping a double into left field. It’s good to see Granderson, a traditional pull-hitter, go oppo and hit to left field instead of right.
· Derek Jeter had a hit and an RBI. He’s now 68 hits away from 3,000.
· Brett Gardner had a triple, his first of 2011. He also stole a base, once again showcasing his Sonic the Hedgehog-like speed. A walk is as good as a double when it comes to Gardner. He can fly on the bases.
· Robinson Cano, a lifetime slugger at Fenway Park, was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Cano seems to be heating up. Look out opposing pitchers…
Today is done and there is tomorrow afternoon to look forward to. Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) will look to get the Yankees back in the win column. He is facing Clay Buchholz (0-1, 5.68 ERA).
The Yankees had a rare game on Tuesday – a complete meltdown of the bullpen, taking a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Yesterday’s game was rained out, making this afternoon’s game a rubber game. The Bombers came out on top, beating the Twins 4-3 in the series finale.
The Yankees and Twins will make up Wednesday’s rainout in September.
A three-run fourth inning by the Yankees gave them the lead, which they never gave up. Down 2-1, Andruw Jones blasted a double to score Alex Rodriguez, tying the game up at two. Russell Martin then grounded out to first base, allowing Robinson Cano to come to the plate.
Jones came home on a bloop single by Brett Gardner, finishing off the scoring in the frame.
The Yankees built a run in the bottom of the third, with Gardner ultimately coming home on a sacrifice fly to right field by Nick Swisher.
Speaking of Swisher, he took out Twins’ second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka in the seventh, sliding hard into second base to break up what would have been a Mark Teixeira double play.
Swisher broke it up, but in the process, fractured Nishioka’s fibula. The Yankees’ right fielder looked visibly disappointed in himself after Nishioka was removed from the game. He is headed to the disabled list.
Next time the Yankees meet the Twins…watch your back, Swish. (Although Swisher did apologize after the game. Will the Twins will get back at him? We’ll have to wait and see).
In another storyline, Derek Jeter had two hits and he passed Rogers Hornsby and Jake Beckley for 33rd place on baseball’s all-time hits list. The Captain now has 2,931 hits, just 69 base hits away from 3,000.
The Twins scored two in the top of the fourth receiving RBI doubles by Jim Thome and Jason Kubel. They plated their final run in the top of the seventh on a groundout by Denard Span to score Alexi Casilla.
A.J. Burnett pitched for the Yankees and turned in a good performance. The lanky right-hander tossed six innings and gave up two earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out five, mixing pitches and using his curveball with confidence.
He was backed by the combination of Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano, and Mariano Rivera who put the Twins away in the seventh, eighth, and ninth, respectively. It was certainly an improvement over Tuesday’s collapse. The only blemish was a run given up by Chamberlain – Span’s groundout to score Casilla was on him.
Burnett improved to 2-0 on the season and he is now 7-0 in 12 April starts as a member of the Yankees. He leads the Yankee staff in wins this year.
Rivera has saved all four games the Yankees have won this season, as the Bombers are 4-2.
Now they will head into Boston for the weekend, where things have not gone according to plan. While the Yankees have a winning record, the Red Sox have started the season 0-6, losing their first three games to the Rangers and their next three to the Indians.
Boston has only started two other seasons at 0-6 (1905 and 1927) and statistically it’s the worst start they have ever seen since 1945. Baseball analysts are asking themselves, “What have happened to these guys?” After all, many experts predicted the Red Sox to win it all this year, considering their huge off-season acquisitions. They added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to help bolster an already-potent lineup.
Although the BoSox are scuffling, they cannot blame Gonzalez. He is hitting .304 with five RBIs and he has a home run. Crawford on the other hand is not producing, hitting .174 with no extra base hits, only one RBI, and six strikeouts.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who is Boston’s leadoff hitter, is only batting .167 and has struck out seven times this year. Kevin Youkilis, one of the Red Sox main RBI producers in the middle of the lineup, is hitting a meager .105 with just one RBI and five strikeouts. Dustin Pedroia is batting .227 with no extra base hits and no RBIs.
After their 1-0 loss to the Indians today, Pedroia said he was going to go home and his wife was going to tell him “he stinks.”
Yet, it isn’t just the dead offense. Boston’s pitching hasn’t been much better.
John Lackey, who will start tomorrow afternoon against Phil Hughes (0-1, 11.25 ERA) was shelled in his first start of the year against Texas. He tossed only 3 2/3 innings and surrendered nine earned runs on ten hits. He walked two batters, struck out three, and served up two homers. Lackey’s ERA right now is 22.09.
On Saturday the Yankees will send Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) to the hill to face Clay Buchholz, who was touched up for four homers in his first start of the season against the Rangers. He pitched 6 1/3 innings on the way to a loss in Texas, as he is 0-1 right now with a 5.68 ERA.
The series will conclude on Sunday night with CC Sabathia (0-0, 1.38 ERA) squaring off against Josh Beckett – once the Boston ace, now throwing out of the number four spot in the rotation. Beckett only tossed five innings in Cleveland on Tuesday, giving up three earned runs on five hits. He walked four batters and struck out four, on the way to his first loss of 2011.
Look at it this way: tomorrow is Opening Day at Fenway Park. The Red Sox fans are going to be excited and hoping their team can put the abysmal 0-6 start behind them with a win over the Yankees. During the opening ceremonies, the fans will be cheering and going wild for their players, new life and rebirth fresh in their heads.
If the Yankees jump all over Lackey for a few runs early on, they might turn on their team and get angry. The Boston fans might be getting restless, witnessing their team – that everyone thought was going be dominant – struggle so mightily in the early-going.
And with the way the Yankees have been going ahead early, getting on base, and putting pressure on the other team, it could make for a long weekend for the Red Sox.
As the people in Boston continue to scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with the Red Sox, New York would love nothing more than to keep the ongoing Boston Massacre alive.
“I’m more entranced than the average fan…I used to play, you see, and I know I still can.” – Robert DeNiro in The Fan (1996)
Although you wouldn’t know it here in New York, today is the first day of spring. The reason you wouldn’t know it: because it snowed this morning and it feels as though winter is giving us one last jolt of cold to remember it by.
I woke up this morning and the first thought that came to my mind was, “Wow. I cannot believe that less than 24 hours ago I was wearing shorts and playing baseball.”
It was hard to believe, even though it happened. Yesterday I went to the park with my friends and we played baseball. It was such a nice day that we couldn’t pass up the chance to play our favorite game.
As we were playing catch and batting the ball around, we found ourselves remembering all the times we played organized baseball for the towns we lived in. We recalled what jersey numbers we had, the games we excelled in, and what it was like to play baseball in a coordinated environment.
I figured I would share a little bit of my journey through baseball, and sports in general; the years I played, the triumphs I enjoyed, the tragedies I endured, and how to this day I still love to go outside when the spring comes and play baseball with my friends.
Before I even started my baseball career, I played soccer and basketball – two sports that in this day and I age I do not particularly care for. When I was young I played soccer in the Peewee League. I scored one goal the whole time I played – and it was in a scrimmage.
To this day I’m not sure why I picked up soccer at such a young age. I suppose I needed to run around and drain away some of my pent-up energy, but other than that, I can’t think of a reason why I played it.
When I stopped playing soccer I started CYO Basketball. I played for four years and was on different intramural teams each season. The first year I played I was forced to sit out; I was on the bench the entire season with a broken wrist. It was the worst feeling in the world. I broke my wrist on the same day of my first ever basketball practice.
Ironically enough, my broken wrist had nothing to do with basketball. I fell off a bed.
The second year I played, my team was very good. We won every single game with the exception of one, nearly going undefeated for the season. The problem was, it was intramural CYO – there was no playoff system or trophy presentation at the end of the year. My team was the best, yet we had no concrete evidence to show for it.
I can remember the final year I played basketball, though I’d like to forget it. From being on the best team I went to the absolute worst team. The squad I was on was ridiculous; I have no problem admitting that. We lost every single game we played because most of the kids on the team were ball-hogs and had no clue how to play basketball. I think my ears still hurt from the amount of times the refs blew their whistles calling fouls on my team.
Come to think of it, my team lost a game that season by a score of 69-16. That’s how bad it was.
After that beating, I knew it was time to give up basketball and concentrate on the best sport in the world: baseball. In February of 1998 I signed up to play Rookie Ball – the level right below Little League.
A few days later my family got a call saying I was too old for Rookie League. I was already 10 years old and by the time the season began I would be 11, meaning if I wanted to play, I had to play Little League. They put me on a team and believe it or not, my team was the Yankees. In the town of Beacon where I played, each team was given the name of a Major League Team.
There were the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Giants, the Indians, the Dodgers…you get the idea. It was pretty cool. The uniforms were also great: we were given jerseys that boasted the logos of each team you were on. I was on the Yankees, and my uniform looked like this…
I was given number 19 to wear, which at the time was being worn by Luis Sojo. But looking back, some of the best Yankees have worn number 19. Dave Righetti, Robin Ventura, Al Leiter, and Aaron Boone (among others) have worn it; 19 is a pretty solid number in Yankee lore.
My team was coming off a strong season; in fact, the year before they had won the town’s Little League Championship. It was an incredible feeling walking in the Opening Day Parade with them and being introduced as a defending champion – although I did realize I had nothing to do with winning the championship and I was new.
Thankfully my teammates weren’t mean to me and didn’t try to make me feel as if I didn’t belong there. They welcomed me to the team with open arms, although I think they knew in their minds I wasn’t going to be very good, considering it was my first year playing.
Those thoughts were well-founded. I wasn’t good at the beginning.
In my first year, I drew a few walks here and there, but I couldn’t buy a hit. I played left field and didn’t see a lot of game action. Despite taking my first year bumps, we kept winning. My Yankee team was undefeated for quite some time, before the Orioles finally stopped our winning streak halfway through the year.
On one of the last days of the season I finally got my moment to shine. I stood in the batter’s box, saw the pitch coming, and swung the bat, cracking a line drive base hit to centerfield. My hit drove in a run for my first career RBI and we went on to beat the Indians that day. I stood on first base and looked over to the dugout. I smiled, looking at my whole team standing up and clapping for me.
After each game, the coach on the winning team awarded the game ball to the standout player on the team. It was almost like winning the “Chevy Player of the Game” award, if you will.
My coach tossed me the game ball and said, “Congratulations on your first hit and your first RBI.”
I was speechless. All season long I had watched the other players on my team receive the game ball and the honor went to me. It was an unbelievable feeling and one I’ll always remember.
The second year I played Little League I was a lot more comfortable. I knew what to expect and I had more than one hit all year. The first game of the season, we played the Mets. I struck out in my first at-bat and my coach had asked me if I was comfortable bunting before I stepped up to the plate. I told him I wanted to swing away, and he obliged.
My next at-bat however, he didn’t ask me if I wanted to bunt. He told me I had to.
I laid down a beauty and reached safely to drive in a run. That bunt almost set the pace for the rest of the season, and I went on to have a pretty good year. I remember laying down a lot more bunts after that game and my coach once called me “the best bunter on the team.”
That was evidenced when we played the Dodgers, and I once again laid down a perfect bunt. Pitching was a young man named Steve, who was in my class. During the day he and I talked a lot of smack about who was going to win, especially since he was pitching.
My bunt drove in a run and I reached second on an error. We won the game and for the second time I was awarded the game ball. Again, it was a great feeling to receive the honor and afterward there were no hard feelings between me and Steve. I think he actually congratulated me the next day.
Little League was quite an experience and I will not forget it. But it was just the beginning of my journey through baseball and the game afforded me even better memories as I continued to play at the next level.
I was in eighth grade when I started to play in the Babe Ruth League. The first day of practice was unreal. The field was so much bigger than the Little League field, most noticeably the outfield dimensions. Right and left field were 285 feet while dead-center was 315 feet – a foot longer than right field at Yankee Stadium.
Another change was the team names. No more MLB team names, but instead our teams were sponsored by the local clubs and organizations. My team was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and our team name was K of C.
I was only in eighth grade but played against high school kids. I knew that I was going to have to start from scratch again and I probably wasn’t going to be very good, much like how I was in my first year of Little League. However, the town put all us Babe Ruth rookies on a travel team as well our regular teams, just so we could get some more at-bats and fine-tune our fielding.
Suffice it to say, I had a better first year playing on the travel team than I did on K of C, the Babe Ruth team. On my travel team, I had a few key hits and played against another friend from school. Once again my team won that game, 7-6. I even had a hit that went right over my friend’s head; a bloop single that landed in between the right fielder and my friend who was manning second base.
The biggest change going from Little League to Babe Ruth was my position. The whole time I spent in Little League, I was an outfielder. I played mostly left field, but was tossed around quite a bit and saw time in right field and center field.
The first game I played at the Babe Ruth level, my coach announced my name and told me I was starting at second base. I had never been more confused – and scared – in my life. I had never played the infield before, and I was worried I was going to make a million mistakes.
I surprised myself by not performing poorly. I made a few defensive stops and before long I became comfortable at second, although I did see a lot of time in right field throughout the rest of the season. My travel team ended the year with a good record, but my K of C team had a rough year. We finished the season in fifth place out of sixth.
The second year I played was a different story.
I knew from the first day of practice that there was something different about our team. We went into these practices and performed as if we were playing in actual games. We were steadier, a little bit younger because we had some Little Leaguers coming in, and we wanted to erase finishing fifth the year before.
All in all, we were hungry.
There were so many defining moments that stand out to me in that season, but two come to mind. The first was painful, at least for me. We were playing the Lions, a team sponsored by (you guessed it) the local Lions Club. They had a very powerful left-handed hitter, who just so happened to also pitch and was one of the hardest throwing hurlers in the league that season.
He came up to bat with two outs in the fifth inning and we only held a small, 3-2 lead.
In right field, my coach told me to shade over toward the foul line. I knew that as a lefty, if he had gotten around on a pitch, it was coming to me. He had taken the first two pitches for balls one and two, but on the third pitch he saw, he swung and delivered a high fly ball…that was going over my head.
I turned around and immediately started to run. Frantically, I raced toward the right field wall as my hat flew off my head. I stuck out my glove and by some act of God, the ball landed in its webbing. Three outs with the lead intact. The parents and supporters of my team went nuts from the bleachers after I made the catch.
It was almost reminiscent of Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series. It was beautiful.
As fate would have it, after my web gem, I was due up first in the next half-inning. Facing the guy whom I had just robbed of an extra base hit, I walked up to the plate. He threw a fastball that came in so fast, I didn’t have a fraction of a second to react – and the ball plastered me, right on the outside of my left thigh.
I fell to the ground in such pain that, for a moment, I didn’t know where I was.
The coaches ran out and helped me get to my feet. I walked around behind home plate for a couple of minutes before my coach asked me if I wanted to stay in the game. Even though my leg was aching in excruciating pain, I refused to let him beat me. I made up my mind that I wasn’t leaving the game and I chose to stay in, bad wheel and all.
We wound up winning the game 3-2 and it was one of the better games I remember playing, just because of my attitude. Not the fact that I got hit or the fact that I made an outstanding defensive play, but for the fact that I stayed in the game and didn’t allow myself to be bullied.
To this day, I am convinced he beaned me on purpose. He may have won that little battle, but I feel I won the war. Not only did my team win, but I stayed in the game.
The second moment that stood out came later in the season. We were playing BPBA (Beacon Police Benevolent Association) and at that point we were scuffling a bit. We were down early in the game and for some reason that day, my coach decided to plug me into the number three hole in the lineup. In the fourth hole we had a tall, powerful right-handed hitter named Brian; a kid capable of hitting the ball out of the cavernous ballpark.
In the fourth inning I led off with a single. I remember checking the defense and every single outfielder backed up – they knew what kind of power he possessed.
Brian swung and hammered the ball to the deepest part of the park: centerfield. I came off first base a little bit, took a few steps back in case the ball was going to be caught, and then checked the center fielder. He looked up and watched the ball sail out of the park for a two-run home run, right over the 315′ sign.
I rounded the bases with a smile on my face; with joy in my heart. I knew that I was never going to hit a home run at this field, and this was the next best thing: being on base when my teammate hit one. The whole team waited for us at home plate and high-fived us after we crossed the plate.
Brian whacked the top of my helmet as we walked back to the dugout.
“Good job kid,” he said to me. “Thanks for that single. Because of that it was a two-run homer!”
I looked up at him, smiled, and simply replied, “No problem.”
We went on to win that game big, 14-3. From there we got hot and went on a winning streak. We finished the season with a record of 12-6 and were headed to the playoffs. No champagne celebration for us, but we were very happy and satisfied with getting there. We also knew that as well as we had played during the season, it meant nothing if we didn’t win the championship.
The playoffs were a four-team tournament: single elimination in the first round, and best two out of three in the championship series. We had a huge challenge in front of us, playing the Lions in the first round. We had faced them four times during the regular season and split the series, 2-2. This was the rubber game; the chance to show once and for all which team was better.
Not to mention the winner had a one-way ticket the championship series.
My team was not fazed by pressure. We obviously didn’t feel it because we pounded out 16 hits and went on to win the game 10-0. We were going to the championship series and for the first time in my baseball career, I would know what it felt like to play in a series for all the marbles.
I couldn’t help but think of my Little League days when we won the first round game. I remembered how I was recognized as a champion, even though I hadn’t earned it. This was my chance to earn it.
Unfortunately for K of C, the magic vanished.
We played a team named Palisi in the finals, a squad named after one of the local auto body shops. They were the only team that we lost a series to during the regular season, as they edged us, three games to one.
In Game One, they pounded every mistake we made. They went up 6-0 in the first inning and never looked back. They let us know that, in no uncertain terms, they were not going to lay down for us. After the game we obviously felt discouraged but knew we needed to win the next game in order to stay alive and push the series to a deciding Game Three.
We lost Game Two. But it wasn’t nearly as lopsided as Game One, as we were only beaten by a score of 6-2. We faced another power pitcher; a flame-throwing righty named Mark who was tall and built like Phil Hughes. In my only at-bat in Game Two, I drew a walk to lead off the fifth inning. Mark struck out the next three batters and the score remained 6-1.
In the sixth inning Brian came up and led off with a solo home run to bring it within four, 6-2. We all went out to greet him as he came to the plate, but our spirits just weren’t there; our enthusiasm had worn off. We tried to stay as positive as we could, but there was nothing that could be done. We lost.
After it was over, I watched from the dugout as Palisi celebrated. Crushed, I saw them get their picture taken for the local newspapers. My coach sat us down on the bench and told us not to feel bad about anything; he told us that from day one he loved coaching us and that we made a huge stride, coming from a fifth place finish to a second place finish.
I felt a little better when I found out that, despite our loss, we were getting rewarded for finishing second. We were going to receive the runner-up trophy and we were going to be a part of the trophy presentation ceremony.
“Ladies and gentlemen, your 2001 runner-up, K of C!”
Standing at the edge of the dugout, my name was announced first.
I jogged out to the area behind home plate and I was given my trophy. I shook my coach’s hand as he looked at me. With a reluctant smile he said, “Hell of a season, pal.”
The trophy presentation made me feel a lot better. It’s almost as if I forgot we had lost. It didn’t feel like a loss when I left the ballpark that day. I felt as though I had been a part of something special and I was honored to play with such a dedicated and hard-working group of players.
To this day I look back on that season and wish I could live through it again.
The final year I played organized baseball was bittersweet. I saw a good amount of game action, especially at second base, being that it was my final year and I was a team veteran. We had a decent year and again we made the playoffs.
But it was BPBA’s turn to feel what we felt; their opportunity to play in the championship series. They beat us in the single elimination first round game and I watched them celebrate as my Babe Ruth career came to a close.
But it wasn’t exactly over just yet.
After that loss I had one more game: an end-of-the-year battle between the departing veterans and the coaches. The league designed this so that all the players who were leaving could have one last game and go out in a good way.
Against the coaches I had a single, a walk, a stolen base, and two runs scored. We wound up losing count of the score, because we were beating them by such a wide margin. All in all, it was a fun night but I also understood that I would be closing a chapter in my life.
While I was playing in the Babe Ruth League, I wanted to try out for my high school team. In my first year in high school, I wanted to make the freshman baseball team and eventually work my way up to the junior varsity team, and if I was lucky, make the varsity team in the ensuing years as an upperclassman.
I attended a few open gyms during the off-season and got to know a lot of the players. The open gyms were intense; a lot of running, suicides, long toss, and fast-pitch batting practice. But I knew that, if nothing else, the workouts would prepare me for the Babe Ruth season.
Lady Luck was not on my side as a high school freshman, though. I struggled both academically and personally throughout the year and as a result I was placed on academic probation, prohibiting me from trying out for the freshman baseball team. I knew that if I couldn’t play in my freshman year, I probably wouldn’t be able to play at all for my high school, at least not without enormous competition for a roster spot.
So in a nutshell, although I played in the Babe Ruth League for two years while I was in high school, I never did get to play for my high school’s team.
And yes, I regret it. Had I had an easier time in my freshman year, and maybe pushed myself a little harder academically, I have no doubt in my mind I could have played for my high school and kept my baseball career alive.
I am not saying I would have continued to play in college, but it could have happened for me. I would have loved to go through the experience of facing other schools and possibly winning a few more trophies.
These days it’s nice to just go to the park on a spring day and put on my baseball glove. And when I do, I think about that base hit on the Beacon Little League Field that drove in a run for my first RBI.
I think about all those bunts I laid down in my second year of Little League.
I think about how special I felt when I was awarded the game ball.
I think about how I felt looking at the Babe Ruth Field for the first time.
I think about that Willie Mays-like catch I made to rob the best player in the league of extra bases – and how he exacted his revenge on me, and how I refused to leave the game when I was hurt.
I think about that home run Brian hit, and how awesome it felt to round the bases with him.
I think about the championship series, and how good I felt, even though we lost.
I think about the trophy presentation and how it felt to have my name called.
I think about how fun the game against the coaches was.
I think about how I wish I had played for my high school, and even though I didn’t, how fun the open gyms were.
I think about all these things…and wish I can have them back.
Ramiro Pena’s grounder in the bottom of the ninth with two outs looked as if it had a one-way ticket to center field. If it had gotten through the infield hole, it would have tied the Yankees’ exhibition with the Red Sox tonight at five. Oscar Tejada made a great play to rob Pena of a game-tying single, ending the tune-up game and giving Boston 5-3 win over New York.
Tejada not only made the game-ending play on defense, but he helped out on offense, padding Boston’s 2-1 lead. In the top of the seventh he clubbed a two-run triple to give the Red Sox a 4-1 edge. They had scored earlier in the frame on an RBI single by Juan Carlos Linares, breaking a 1-1 tie.
The big night continued for Tejada in the ninth when he singled to score Linares, making it a 5-1 ballgame. Daniel Nava drove Tejada in to score in the sixth inning, accounting for Boston’s first run in the game.
Robinson Cano recorded his first hit of the spring in the bottom of the sixth, an RBI double which plated Pena. Before Pena made the final out, the Yanks tried to stage another comeback by scoring two runs. Jordan Parraz singled to score Austin Krum and Gustavo Molina drew a bases-loaded walk which plated Kyle Higashioka.
Bartolo Colon started for the Yankees and although he did not face most of the regulars, he put up a strong showing. The tubby right hander tossed three innings and scattered two hits while not allowing a run. He walked no batters and fanned five BoSox.
On the other side Clay Buchholz made the start for the Red Sox and also showcased good stuff. The 26 year-old righty pitched three innings and allowed only one hit. He walked two and struck out two.
Tonight the Yankees and Red Sox met for the first time in 2011 and there will be a lot more where that came from. The rivals will meet again on Monday March 14 in another exhibition and will of course face off 18 times during the regular season. Not to mention they have a good chance to square off in the postseason.
Things to Look Out For & Notes
· The Yankee starters are proving their worth. They have only allowed one run in the first 15 innings they have pitched this spring, and have registered 13 consecutive scoreless innings. So far they are probably making it difficult for Joe Girardi, since they have all been producing.
· Russell Martin caught behind the plate tonight for the first time. After the game he told the YES Network that he feels good and felt comfortable catching. At the plate tonight he struggled, though; he was 0-for-3 and left three men on base.
· In some bad new for the Yanks, Francisco Cervelli will be out of action for at least a month. The details of his injury became apparent and he has a broken foot. He worked hard in the off-season, slimmed down, and looked good through the first few games. But then he fouled a ball off his foot on Wednesday vs. the Astros, and now he can’t play for awhile. Tough break for such a great guy.
· Now that Cervelli is out of action, the chances that Jesus Montero makes the team are high. Contrary to what I originally assumed, Jorge Posada will not be catching at all this season, at least from the looks of things. That being said, this is Montero’s chance to impress and maybe make the team.
· Robinson Cano has been pressing to begin the spring, but finally broke out with an RBI double tonight. Good to see the real Cano finally come out to play.
· Alex Rodriguez was 2-for-3 tonight with a double, and he now has four doubles for the spring. His double tonight, on any other night or in any other ballpark, would have been a home run. The wind down there in Florida keeps pushing the ball back and he is just missing home runs. Wait until he gets back to New York. He won’t be missing many homers at Yankee Stadium.
· I cannot believe I am even saying this, but Bartolo Colon is actually pitching very well to this point. When the Yankees signed him the headline in the New York Post read, “Cheap Colon.” Right now, that Colon smells pretty good. He does need to lose weight, however. He looks out of shape and that can eventually catch up to an athlete.
· Yesterday I wrote about Mark Prior and what he has been through in his career. He impressed me tonight: one inning, no runs, no hits, one walk, two Ks. I am really pulling for him and I would like to see him make a solid comeback.
· Manuel Banuelos pitched tonight and once again put up a strong showing. He worked two innings and gave up no runs on one hit. He walked a batter and struck out three. The 19 year-old lefty will probably not make the team coming out of Spring Training, but he is unquestionably turning a lot of heads and raising eyebrows. He topped out at 96 on the speed gun tonight and looks way ahead of his age.
· I made a small comparison in my head tonight: before 2007 began the Yankees had three promising prospects – Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. Here we are just before 2011 and we have Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman.
· Lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano pitched tonight, giving up an earned run on two hits. No walks and no strikeouts, but he did better than the other lefty reliever Boone Logan, who took the loss tonight. Feliciano might pitch more this season than Logan. When he was with the Mets, they gave him the nickname “Perpetual Pedro,” being that they used him almost every day to get the big left-handed hitters out.
· The Red Sox left most of their stars at home. Only Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Jason Varitek and Josh Reddick made the trip to Tampa. Reddick had a great diving catch in left field to rob Cano of extra bases in the bottom of the second. I’m pretty sure Carl Crawford has that spot locked up, but Reddick could state a claim to be Boston’s fourth outfielder.
· Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, and Curtis Granderson did not play.
· Actor Richard Gere threw out the honorary first pitch tonight. According to what they say, he is a big Yankee fan. I always liked that guy…
· The Yankees will face the Washington Nationals tomorrow and the Houston Astros Sunday. The next televised game is on Monday against the Phillies and A.J. Burnett will start that game.
· So far the Yanks’ Grapefruit League record is 2-4-1.
If you read Part I of my analysis of the Yankees and Red Sox on paper, here’s Part II
Right Field: Nick Swisher vs. J.D. Drew
Right field is such an important position on the field and playing the position requires a strong amount of defense. The Yankees and the Red Sox do not have the best defensive right fielders in the A.L., but both do so much to help the team win.
J.D. Drew was signed as a free agent prior to 2007 and had a history of injuries. Boston took a risk signing him, but with that risk has come a pretty good reward. Drew, for the most part, has stayed fairly healthy with Boston and his offensive numbers have climbed over the past couple seasons. Last season he hit 22 home runs and drove in 68 RBIs, despite holding a batting average of .255.
In the Bronx, Nick Swisher has quickly become a fan-favorite. His light-hearted attitude and funny personality has brought calmness to the Yankees and he brings a strong clubhouse presence to the table.
In both seasons Swisher has been with the Yankees, he has hit a total of 58 home runs and has knocked in 171 runs.
Center Field: Curtis Granderson vs. Jacoby Ellsbury
Speed and concentration are probably the two characteristics that define center field. Both the Yankees and Red Sox own center fielders that have those key essentials.
Curtis Granderson provides the Yankees with solid defense. He has the ability to catch fly balls on the run, has shown a decent arm (five outfield assists last year) and has overall demonstrated good leadership in center.
The only knock against him is his strife against left-handed pitching. Yet he still hit 24 home runs last year and knocked in 67 runs with 76 runs scored. If Granderson can show a little more patience at the plate and draw more walks, he will really be dangerous next year. He only walked 53 times in 2010.
Jacoby Ellsbury only played 18 games last season, being sidelined with an apparent rib injury. He didn’t hit any homers and only recorded five RBIs, but when he is healthy, he is deadly. In 2009, Ellsbury led the league in triples (10) and stolen bases (70).
In terms of his defense, Ellsbury is known to take a lot of risks; he dives for a lot of fly balls and his success rate is probably above average. But throwing caution to the wind one too many times can be costly, as evidenced by his injuries.
Left Field: Brett Gardner vs. Carl Crawford
The Red Sox have a slight advantage here, but only in terms of offense.
Defensively, Carl Crawford is as good as they come. As everyone knows he has the speed needed to be an impactful outfielder. Crawford won the Gold Glove for left field in 2010, showing once again he does not need to prove himself as a defender.
Brett Gardner was described by Michael Kay as, “Carl Crawford, just as a cheaper price.” In a lot of ways he was correct, being that Gardner is just as fast as Crawford, maybe faster. However, Crawford is a four time All-Star, an All-Star Game MVP (2009), and came in seventh in last year’s MVP voting.
Gardner was sidelined in 2010 with a wrist injury and he needed surgery in the off-season to rectify it. In 2010 he hit five home runs with 47 RBIs and batted .277.
Crawford on the other hand hit 19 homers, batted .307, drove in 90 runs, and led the league in triples with 13.
Designated Hitter: Jorge Posada vs. David Ortiz
Posada’s offense has already been highlighted, but as mentioned before, he will be the Yankees’ everyday DH. The Red Sox will counter that with their Big Papi, David Ortiz.
Like Rodriguez, people can say what they want about Ortiz being on the “down side” of his career. But if last year was any indication, Big Papi still has a lot left in the tank. Boston’s slugger clubbed 32 homers last year and knocked in 102 runs on a .270 batting average.
Ortiz says it all the time, “All I do is hit. That’s what I am here for, because I don’t play defense.”
And Ortiz can still hit. When he steps up to the plate, there’s no doubt that his presence alone can intimidate a pitcher.
Posada may not intimidate a pitcher the way Ortiz does. But the Yankee DH did have 18 home runs last year, as previously mentioned.