Wednesday, November 3, 2010

State of the Yankees: Offseason Edition

Two nights ago, the San Fransisco Giants were crowned the kings of Major League Baseball for the 2010 season.  I know I have been slacking on my posts but school has consumed my life thus far.  So here's a quick recap of the 2010 Yankees postseason.

The Yankees were crowned the American League Wild Card Winners after losing the AL East title to the Tampa Bay Rays.  Winning the wild card was a good thing for the Yankees as they were able to play the Minnesota Twins in the division series.  The last few years the Yankees have played the Twins in the division round they were able to dispose of them easily, particularly in 2003, 2004, and 2009.  Nothing was different in 2010, as the Yankees swept the Twins.

The League Championship series was a different story for the Yankees.  The Yankees won games 1 and five, but were outplayed severely by the Rangers.  Cliff Lee was not the biggest problem, it was the Ranger's pitching in general and the Yankees inability to hit at all.  Robinson Cano was the only offensive player who showed up to play in that series.

Following the postseason, the Yankees made some changes.  Most notably, pitching coach Dave Eiland was given the axe in what General Manager Brian Cashman called a "personal reason".  The public was given no other explanation but Manager Joe Girardi did not object.  Girardi signed a new three year contract worth between $9 and $10 million.

Cashman's checklist for the remainder of this offseason should be a big one.  Here's some areas that need to be addressed:

1. What to do with Derek Jeter?
I like everyone else believes Jeter will be resigned.  The biggest questions however are how long will Jeter resign and for how much?  Hal Steinbrenner went on the radio yesterday to say that negotiations between Jeter's camp and the Yankees could get "messy".  The issue will be how the Yankees decide to reward Jeter.  I expect a very heavy incentive based contract.  But, will they reward him for the 14 seasons prior to this year's dismal performance, where five championships were won and Jeter put up MVP-caliber seasons?  Or, will Cashman try to play the card that Jeter is in decline after batting .40 points lower then his career average?  My guess is they go somewhere in the middle.  It has been rumored that Jeter wants to play until he is 42 - the same year Alex Rodriguez' contract will run out.  I don't expect Jeter to earn a six year contract but I would assume he could get a three of four year deal. Just think, nothing will look worse then Jeter getting his 3,000 hit in another uniform - one without pinstripes.

Closer Mariano Rivera is also a free agent, but after having another amazing season his new contract should not be an issue.  

2. How can the rotation be fixed?
As of right now, three of the five starters are coming back.  Unfortunately, this is not a guaranteed good thing.  CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes were two of the more reliable starters this past season and should be able to maintain (in Sabathia's case) and potentially improve in Hughes' case their form for next season.  A.J. Burnett was the most inconsistent starter in the major leagues all of last season.  One could never know what would occur each time he took the mound.  Hopefully, the new pitching coach that is hired will be able to correct Burnett.  It is unknown what  Andy Pettitte's plans are for next season especially since it was reveled Pettitte had injuries in the offseason in his back.  After taking some time off I do expect Pettitte to come back after having one of his best seasons - minus the groin injury he experienced.  Finally with one spot in the rotation up for grabs, I expect the Yankees to sign free agent Cliff Lee.  The Yankees tried to go after Lee before the trade deadline in July when the Rangers acquired him from Seattle.

3. What about the bullpen?
Last season, the bridge to Mariano was in pretty good shape.  With David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Kerry Wood the Yankees had the best late inning bullpen relief in the majors.  Chamberlain and Robertson will be back next season.  The Yankees already declined Wood's option for next season and they will try to resign him at a lower price but that does not seem possible as Wood was lights out next season.  Boone Logan was the Yankees most consistent and at times only left handed reliever in the bullpen.  Look for Brian Cashman to add another lefty in the pen for at least Spring Training.

4. Will the Yankees go after Carl Crawford?
My personal wish is no.  The Yankees did just fine this past season with Curtis Granderson hitting at a sub par level for the majority of last season.  But hitting coach Kevin Long worked with Granderson in late July to revamp his swing.  After Long fixed his swing, Granderson became one of the most reliable hitters in the Yankees lineup - especially in the postseason.  Granderson has proven he can handle the spotlight of New York and I think it would be wise to bring Granderson back with a smaller contract.  Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher should be able to handle left and right field respectively.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where is Derek Jeter hiding?

The inevitable has happened.  I'm writing a post bashing or rather questioning what Derek Jeter may or may not have left in his tank.

I had originally planned on writing this shortly after the All-Star break when it first became apparent that Jeter's slump  was sticking around.  But just as I sat down at my computer to write this post  Jeter pulled out of his slump.

And then a dismal August and the beginning of September forced me to criticize my favorite player.

And here it goes.

It's not even so much the statistics that is so bothersome, it's just how quickly he has seemed to drop off so much from one year ago.

Originally I tried to play it off like he had an injury that he was not disclosing to the media.  But manager Joe Girardi never disclosed any information on an injury and Jeter was never placed on the disabled list.

Even though he was never placed on the disabled list, Jeter has still suffered through pain.  His suffering is from the lack of offensive production he is not having.

Let's look at the numbers - although normally this is arguably one of the poorest ways to judge Jeter -  it's the best way to exemplify what I'm talking about.

Jeter's career batting average is .314.  Last season, he batted .328 while finishing third in MVP voting behind winner Joe Mauer and teammate Mark Teixeira.

This season however, Jeter is batting a dismal .266.  Well below the average fans and Jeter himself are used to.

So, what's the problem?

I wish I knew.  He wishes he knew.  Hitting coach Kevin Long wishes he could figure out how to fix the problem.

Over the past few seasons Jeter has grounded into more double plays then anyone else in the league.  In an attempt to fix this problem Girardi moved Jeter into the lead off spot to avoid this situation. However, much like Jeter's offensive production this season, the plan has failed miserably.

Luckily this season Jeter has been able to hide a little bit under the radar, or as much as he can in New York.  Fortunately the Yankees still have the best record in baseball even with Jeter struggling.

There are two pressing questions that remain regarding Jeter that will have to be addressed in the near-immediate future.

The first question, how will Jeter perform in the postseason?

Many believe that Jeter will be able to flip a switch and step up his game in the games that truly count to him and the team.  However, I'm still not convinced.  If that was the case, why wouldn't Jeter have made these changes already?

Believe me, this is not the way that Jeter would like to play in his last year of his contract.

Which brings me to the last point.

How will the General Manager Brian Cashman handle Jeter's contract situation this offseason?

It is widely speculated that the Yankees will reward Jeter for the greatness he has brought the organization over the past 16 years, including 5 world series championships and numerous All Star appearances, not too mention that Jeter is THE Captain.

I agree that the Jeter's contract should not be based on this season alone.  But I'm not sure how I feel about rewarding him for his service to the organization.

I honestly can't even guess what management will offer him.  But they will more then likely over-pay to keep Jeter in the organization.

Here is what Fox's Ken Rosenthal believes will happen

"if Jeter took say, a three-year, $36 million deal, the Yankees could make it up to him by giving him a massive bonus for 3,000 hits and a lucrative post-career personal-services contract. Would $10 million a year for 30 years be excessive for this generation’s Joe DiMaggio? Perhaps, but by that point, Jeter would not count against the team’s luxury tax. In essence, he would be deferring money so that the Yankees could better compete while he was still active."

The only thing I know that will happen is Jeter will be in pinstripes next season.  Can you imagine the PR disaster that would occur if that were not to happen?

Here's to hoping that Jeter will improve by season's end and that he will forgive me for criticizing him.  I truly mean no disrespect!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hokies men's soccer retools with youth

Here's my latest article for The Collegiate Times. Enjoy!

A younger and revamped Virginia Tech men’s soccer team will be tested this season with a challenging schedule.

The Hokies will face off against eight opponents ranked in the top-20 preseason poll, including St. John’s and defending national champion — and in-state Atlantic Coast Conference rival — University of Virginia.

“The rankings came out again and the ACC competitors are stacked up,” said Michael Brizendine, head coach. “All league games are dog fights. I think that we have some underdogs (on the team) like we did last year.”

The Hokies will look to new faces this season to improve upon a 5-12-2 campaign in 2009. There are 15 newcomers to the team this season, 12 of whom are freshmen.

Despite their inexperience, the freshmen will see significant playing time right away, including forward David Clemens, midfielder/forward Mikey Minutillo and midfielder Jose Velazquez.

“I think as the young guys get more comfortable you’ll see more out of them,” Brizendine said. “We have some exciting attacking players and most of those guys are young, so we have to get those freshman nerves out of the way as quick as possible.”

The team played the College of William & Mary Saturday in a friendly scrimmage. Although the Hokies lost 4-1, Brizendine was proud of the way they performed.

“From a learning perspective, I thought it went very well,” Brizendine said. “The score doesn’t obviously reflect it. But it gives us something to build on.”

A number of underclassmen received substantial playing time in the scrimmage, including Clemens — who played for 60 minutes.

Even with so many new faces, the team will still receive contributions from returning veterans.

“Clarke Bentley, Jon Snyder, Greg Cochrane and Dave Fiorello will be essential pieces to the puzzle, and they’re going to have to do well for us to have some success,” Brizendine said. “All those players play up the middle, so they’re always involved in what’s going on.”

The season goal for entire team, from the head coach all the way down the to players, is one thing: improvement.

“We want to do better in our league, we want to do better in our out-of-conference results,” Brizendine said. “Ultimately this will lead us to the NCAA tournament which is a goal.”

Bentley, a senior, said the players would like to see more wins this season, and hard work will be a main factor in reaching their goals.

“Individually, a goal for us would be to come out each and every training session and get better and work out,” Bentley said. “Hopefully if we come out and do that our results will improve and speak for our hard work. Numbers wise, I think that if we put the work in out here on the training field and then those things will come along like shutouts and goals.”

In addition, the players hope to continue the success in the classroom and on the pitch.

“We have a lot of goals set for the season ranging from GPAs and averages to finishing above .500 and making the NCAA tournament,” Clemens said.

He believes the preseason helped build the team’s chemistry and put the players in the right mindset.

“We’re looking to really find ourselves as a team,” Clemens said.  “Hopefully we can come out with wins this season to really define ourselves and show everyone what we’re all about.
“We’ve really become a family.”

The regular season will begin Sept. 3 with the UVa tournament in Charlottesville, where the Hokies will take on No. 12 St. John’s. The players are looking forward to a match that will show what the team is made of.

“Especially during preseason, we’ve been a much more exciting team,” Bentley said. “Going forward we’re going to be more fluid. Defensively we’re more experienced. We bonded over the summer, which was important because we’re trying to achieve hopefully something very special.”

The team will play its home opener Sept. 17, in its first crucial ACC test against Clemson University. With all the new faces on the team there is excitement in the air.

However, if the team starts out slow there is not a need to lose faith according to Clemens.

“It’s going to take us a couple games to come together,” Clemens said. “But we’re definitely on our way there.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Tribute to "The Boss". 1930-2010

Early yesterday morning, Major League Baseball lost its very own Yankee doodle dandy, George Michael Steinbrenner III.  Steinbrenner who was born on the Fourth of July was the most famous owner in sports history for the most popular and famous team in sports history.

Steinbrenner cherished everything about the New York Yankees from a very young age.  Growing up in Cleveland he always rooted for the Yankees.  When the Yankees would come to town Steinbrenner got excited seeing the luggage of famous sluggers like Joe DiMaggio being transported into the team hotel from the bus.

Born into a wealthy shipbuilding family, Steinbrenner attended Culver Military Academy, a prep school, where he learned the basic forms of discipline.  It was at Culver where Steinbrenner learned about General Douglas MacArthur, one of his idols.  Steinbrenner even had MacArthur's quote "There is no substitute for victory" hanging in the clubhouse.  Steinbrenner then attended Williams College, like his father and then went on to Ohio State University for graduate school, where he met the love of his life, Joan.

At the tender age of 42, in 1973, Steinbrenner headed a group that bought the New York Yankees from CBS.  At the time the group purchased the team for $8.7 million, a mere bargain considering the franchise is now worth about $1.5 billion.  Here's the kicker though, Steinbrenner's share was only about $160,000.  After his purchase Steinbrenner was excited to share the news with his dad, a man he desperately tried to impress from a young age.  The elder Steinbrenner's response?  It's about time George did something worthwhile.

At the press conference announcing George Steinbrenner's accession into the world of baseball, he famously made the statement that he would not be a hands on owner.  He would not be apart of the everyday operations and he was just there to provide the money and to bring the club back to respectability.  In the late 1960s and early 70s the Yankees became a laughingstock as CBS refused to appropriate the proper money to run a baseball club successfully.

Within his first six years of owning the club, the Yankees had made three postseason appearances while winning two World Series titles, the first of seven for Steinbrenner while he owned the club.

The Yankees of the 1980s and early 1990s were not so lucky.  Steinbrenner felt that he should control the operations of the team and be more hands on, the opposite of his proclamation at the press conference introducing himself as the new owner some ten years earlier.

Throughout his tenure with the team, Steinbrenner hired and fired 15 different managers, the most in the time period in baseball.  This also includes hiring and firing Billy Martin five different times.

Steinbrenner was also suspended from the game and his team for a total of 3 1/2 years.  Once, for being guilty of contributing illegally contributing funds for Richard Nixon's reelection campaign.  The other was for hiring someone to dig up information about one of his own players Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield.

During his last suspension, the one regarding Winfield, the "baseball people" in the front office were finally able to develop a farm system that would soon spit out stars such as Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.  The front office also began signing the right players which allowed the Yankees to return to the postseason.  Beginning in 1995 and ending in 2008, the Yankees made the playoffs every year.  They also won four World Series titles in that time period.

Today's baseball players can thank Mr. Steinbrenner's check book for the birth of free agency and how much they are making today.  Free Agency began with Steinbrenner signing pitcher Catfish Hunter to a $3.75 million contract in the '70s.  Some of the big names that Steinbrenner signed include Reggie Jackson, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, Winfield and Wade Boggs.

Steinbrenner was also known as a generous person off the baseball field.  He donated millions of dollars to needy school children, veterans who served the country, fire fighters, police officers, and numerous charities.  An elementary school in Tampa was renamed after him.  He also has the baseball field at UNC named after him, because his children attended the school.  He also donated $1 million to my school, Virginia Tech, following the tragedies of April 16, 2007.

I also know of a man who benefitted greatly from Steinbrenner's contributions.  He paid for his high school tuition to Culver Academy, and became close friends with his son Hal.  This man is forever grateful for Mr. Steinbrenner's contributions to him and his family.

The void that is left behind with Mr. Steinbrenner's passing will be unbelievably large to fill.  There will never be another owner like him.  I am grateful that he has been able to keep my favorite team so competitive for so long.  I'll end the post with a few of my favorite Steinbrenner quotes I found yesterday as well as some thoughts from those who truly knew George Steinbrenner.

George Steinbrenner:
"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next."
"I'm really 95 percent Mr. Rogers and only 5 percent Oscar the Grouch."
From the Steinbrenner Family:
"He was an incredible and charitable man," his family said in a statement. "He was a visionary and a giant in the world of sports. He took a great but struggling franchise and turned it into a champion again."
Derek Jeter:
It goes back to the first time I ever met him down in the Gulf Coast League. I had just signed, and you know, he was this figure that’s larger-than-life. Yeah, I was a Yankee fan, so I was well aware of him and his reputation. He came up to me and talked to me by name. I was more shocked that he knew who I was, but I guess because he gave me some of his money, he had to know who I was. Right from that day he said, ‘We expect big things from you.’ I’ll always remember that, because first impressions, you never forget. He expects a lot.”
Joe Torre:
“A lot of the huff and puff and blow the house down, there was so much more to him than that. Going into the job, I certainly went in with my eyes wide open. We all witnessed what went on from day to day and how tough it was to work for this man. But I knew I was at a crossroads in my career and when I accepted the job – I never hesitated in accepting the job in ‘96 – he was a great guy to work for because all he wanted to do was win. And in doing that he certainly spent a lot of money. He felt a great obligation to the fans in New York. The players would gripe about him and I would gripe about him and all that – tried not to do it publicly – but all he wanted to do was win and that’s what the city of New York was all about.” 
Bud Selig, Commissioner of Baseball

"He was and always will be as much of a New York Yankee as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and all of the other Yankee legends," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "Although we would have disagreements over the years, they never interfered with our friendship and commitment to each other. Our friendship was built on loyalty and trust and it never wavered."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Farewell Mr. Sheppard!

Early this morning, longtime New York Yankees and New York Giants public address announcer, Bob Sheppard passed away.  Sheppard was 99 years old, and would have been 100 in October.  Sheppard served the New York community for over 50 years, calling the different baseball (1951-2007) and football (1956-2005) games between the two teams.

Sheppard began his career with the Yankees in 1951.  His debut, April 17, 1951 was also the same day legendary center fielder, Mickey Mantle too made his debut (Mantle was 21 years Sheppard's junior).  Although Mantle may have received more attention throughout his career, Sheppard was still highly regarded by the players, coaches and fellow media members who covered the team.

Sheppard had a philosophy to the way he introduced the players.  He believed that any PA announcer should be clear, concise, and correct, which to a fan should be nothing out of the ordinary.  Sheppard would actually be disappointed with many of the announcers that are around in this era across the major leagues (we won't even discuss the NBA as to honor Mr. Sheppard). Here's what he had to say about the state of the announcers a few years ago.
"A P.A. announcer is not a cheerleader, or a circus barker, or a hometown screecher," the epitome of the old-school style once said. "He's a reporter."

Fans can actually credit Sheppard for the correct pronunciation of Hall of Fame center fielder Joe Dimaggio's last name.  Sheppard believed that a "short a" would have been equivalent of nails on a chalk board.

Sheppard attended what was then St. John's College (now University) and was a seven time Varsity athlete.  He was both the College's quarterback as well as the first baseman and his graduating class president.  After graduating he moved on to Columbia University where he earned his master's degree in speech, where he soon became a college professor before leaving for the Yankees.

Players and fans received chills at the beginning of each game when Sheppard would simply greet everyone in the stadium with "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium."  Once the game began, players would walk as slow as they could to savor every last moment of hearing their named called by the almighty Sheppard.

Reggie Jackson dubbed him "the voice of God" and the nickname stuck, although Sheppard, a devout Catholic did not particularly like the nickname.

Before Sheppard took his extended leave of absence after what was eventually his last game on September 5, 2007, Derek Jeter asked Sheppard to record the introduction that Sheppard did for Jeter, so that he could always walk up to the plate for as long as he was a Yankee. Sheppard agreed to which he said was an honor to have a player of Jeter's calibre request his services.
"One of the greatest compliments I have received in my career of announcing," and wryly added, "The fact that he wanted my voice every time he came to bat is a credit to his good judgment and my humility."
For the record, Sheppard pronounces Jeter's name "Derek Jeet-tah". 

For every championship team that Sheppard was a apart of, he received a championship ring.  This includes countless World Series rings from the Yankees and a Super Bowl Ring for the four world championships with the New York Giants.  

Here is some reaction to the passing of Sheppard from the Yankees and around the world of sports:

Derek Jeter, shortstop:

"Players changed year in and year out, he was the one constant," said Jeter, who will continue to have a recording of Sheppard's voice announce his at-bats.
"Every time you heard it, you got chills," Jeter said of having Sheppard recite his name. "I remember him asking how to pronounce it to make sure he was pronouncing it right."
George Steinbrenner, Yankees owner:
"I am deeply saddened by the death today of Bob Sheppard, a good friend and fine man whose voice set the gold standard for America's sports announcers. For over a half century, fans were thrilled to hear his unforgettable voice and players were thrilled to hear his majestic enunciation of their names. Bob Sheppard was a great member of the Yankees family and his death leaves a lasting silence. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Mary, and their family."
John Mara, New York Giants co-owner:
"Bob Sheppard was the most distinguished and dignified voice in all of professional sports. We are very proud of the fact that he was the voice of the Giants for so many years. Bob was a true gentleman and the consummate professional. There will never be another one like him."
Joe Girardi, Yankees Manager:

"It is extremely sad," Girardi said. "When I think of Bob Sheppard, you think of all the tradition with the Yankees. You think about Ruth and Gehrig and Yogi and Joe D and Mantle and I think you mention Bob Sheppard. That's how important he was to this franchise."

"You realized you hit the big lights when Bob Sheppard announces your name."

As a fan that has grown up in the age of announcers who attempt to hype up the crowd while introducing the players, I wonder what it would have been like growing up in an era with announcers more like Sheppard. I question the announcers who feel the need to hype up the crowd for certain players.  Isn't that just contributing to the player's already enormous ego's?  I'm going to agree with what Sheppard said earlier about how it's his job as a media member to introduce the players.  

Even though Sheppard never slipped on the Pinstriped uniform or wore the royal blue of the Giants, he was a big member of both organizations.  He even has his own monument in the hallowed Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, which is reserved for Yankee greats like Ruth, Mantle and Yogi.

It will be interesting to see how both teams honor the greatest announcer in sports.  I expect the Yankees to add the black armband onto their sleeves when former or current players die.

I'll leave the post with the greatest tweet I saw from the day regarding Sheppard.  It's from ESPN writer J.A. Adande:

"Your attention please. Now ascending to heaven, Number 1, PA announcer, Bob Sheppard. Number 1."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pictures from Orioles series & other information

First off let me start off by saying I have been slacking for the last two series.  But, let me say nothing major happened against the lackluster teams of the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros.

Alex Rodriguez was forced to come out of the season finale against the Orioles due to what he called a sore groin.  It was later diagnosed as tendentious in his right hip flexor, the same side in which Rodriguez had surgery on his right hip last season.  Consequently Arod sat out the entire Houston series and skipped the series opener against the Phillies on Monday.  Rodriguez returned last night to the game as the designated hitter.  It is not known when he will take the field.

In the Houston series, a Yankees sweep, Jorge Posada returned to catching and his stroke returned on the offensive side of the ball, hitting two grand slams in two games.  Phil Hughes also earned his ninth win of the season on Saturday.  Andy Pettitte also continued his masterful season, earning his eighth win.  With his start against the Astros on Friday, Pettitte can now boast that he's pitched against every team in the Major Leagues except of course for the New York Yankees.

Now I'll leave this post with some pictures I personally took at Camden Yards, when Phil Hughes beat the Orioles last Tuesday.  The final score of the game ended up being 12-7.  The highlight of the game was when New York scored six runs in the seventh inning.

So as promised here are the pictures.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blue Jays take two of three from Yankees

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
Location: Rogers Center, Toronto, Canada
Yankees Overall Record: 35-22
Series LVP: Mark Teixeira (see below)
Quote of the series: comes from Joe Girardi on Mark Teixeira's struggles throughout the season.
“I think sometimes when you see players of Tex’s caliber, you think it’s easy,” Girardi said. “It’s not easy. It’s tough, and you go through physical battles. You go through mental battles. There’s a lot of things you have to fight through. When a guy like Tex is where he’s at right now, we’re all a little bit surprised because we haven’t seen it, but it happens.”
The trip to Toronto,  the first series the two teams have played against each other all season, was rather unforgettable for the Bombers

On Friday, AJ Burnett had his first truly bad start of the season since the Boston series in early April.  Burnett could not seem to get anyone out, allowing six runs in six innings.  Compared to his last start in which he had zero walks, Burnett had four, which for him is still pretty remarkable.  Unfortunately when his pitches missed, he paid severely.  The majority of the runs that were given up were via home run.  Toronto leads the league in home runs, so it was not that big of a surprise.  As for the offense, the Yankees would have been better leaving their bats behind in New York.  Rookie Brett Cecil held the Yankees to just one innings, which is pretty amazing considering the offense came off the dismal pitching staff of the Orioles.

Saturday's game, a 14-inning affair, came down to the battle of the bullpens between the two teams.  Unfortunately for the Yankees, they wasted another phenomenal start by starting pitcher Andy Pettitte, denying him his eighth victory of the year.  Pettitte pitched into the eighth inning once again and allowed just two runs.  He struck out ten, which he hasn't done in many many years and lowered his earned run average to 2.47.  The only offense of the day came via a Derek Jeter two-run home run.  The Toronto pitching staff was able to keep the Yankees from scoring again, which wasn't too difficult, as New York could not seem to string together hits when men were on base.  Chad Gaudin eventually gave up the winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning.

Sunday's game brought the Bomber's first win of the series while also allowing the offense to score more then two runs.  Javier Vazquez finally got his record back to .500 by earning his fifth win of the season.  Vazquez had one of his best games, going five innings and allowed only two runs, while striking out nine.  Joba Chamberlain returned to his role of the  MIA eighth inning relief man, and allowed one run in just a third of an inning.  Manager Joe Girardi was thrown out in the eighth inning for arguing a third called strike call against right fielder Nick Swisher.  In that same inning, second baseman Robinson Cano hit the go ahead two run single.  The team was held scoreless before the eighth inning, when Brett Gardner scored on a wild pitch and Derek Jeter also hit a RBI double.  Mariano Rivera earned his 14th save of the season.

So who was the biggest goat of the series?  None other then Mark Teixeira, the first baseman who has not been able to hit anything this season. Teixeira had many opportunities to pick up his team throughout the series when there were runners on base but, like the majority of the season he couldn't come up with the big hit.  Teixeira had one of his roughest games of the year on Saturday, by going 0-5 with five strikeouts.  Girardi needs to seriously considering moving Teixeira out of the three-hole until he can find his swing.  Seriously what is the point of having a hitter in the three hole strikeout every time before the clean up hitter, Alex Rodriguez can even make it up to the plate?

Next Up: The Yankees head to Baltimore for a three game series against the Orioles.  I will personally be seeing Phil Hughes pitch against Kevin Millwood tomorrow!

Friday, June 4, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Eiland takes leave of absence

Before tonight's game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced that pitching coach Dave Eiland is taking an indefinite leave of absence.  It is unknown why Eiland is taking the absence.  Girardi was really broad and only gave the following information.
“Dave Eiland took a personal leave of absence,” Girardi said. “He’ll be gone as long as he needs. That’s all I’m going to share.”
This could be killer to the Yankee pitching staff who have one of the best in the league.  Bullpen coach Mike Harkey will fill the void that Eiland is creating via his absence.

It is also unknown if Eiland traveled with the team to Canada.

Here's hoping for everything to be okay for Eiland and his family. We hope to see you out there soon Dave!

Yankees sweep O's for second time this season

Opponent: Baltimore Orioles
Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY.
Yankees Overall Record: 34-20
Series MVP: The Yankee offense who made the Baltimore pitching staff pay for their mistakes
Quotes of the series: comes from Nick Swisher on Robinson Cano's inability to make an out.
“I think we’re all just trying to keep pace with him,” Swisher said. “It’s been special to watch. Guys are looking at each other in the dugout saying, ‘Let’s see how hard he hits this one.’”
The Yankees continued their dominance against the lowly Baltimore Orioles with their second consecutive sweep of the O's this season.

Tuesday night's game allowed Javier Vazquez to earn his second win in his last three starts.  Vazquez took advantage of the dismal Orioles offense.  He allowed just one run in seven innings, earning his fourth victory of the year.  The offense was led by Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson.  Cano and Jeter each had two hits a piece and Granderson hit his second home run since returning from the disabled list.  The final score of the game was 3-1. The only down side to the game was an injury to Mark Teixeira, who had to leave the game after fouling a ball off of his foot.  Although it was not serious because he was in the lineup for Wednesday's game.

Wednesday's game belonged to two Yankees who are having very special seasons; starting pitcher Phil Hughes and second baseman Cano.  Hughes pitched seven very effective innings, allowing only one run while striking out seven.  He lowered his earned run average to 2.54.  With the way Hughes has pitched this season, he is the second best pitcher in the rotation right now, behind only Andy Pettitte.  On the offensive side of the ball, Cano led the way with three hits, one of which a home run, his 12th of the year.  Cano's average sits at an outstanding .372, which believe it or not is second in the league.  Nick Swisher also had three hits while continuing to show he's improved his swing to get on base more.  Last season he hit around .260 and now he's currently hitting .320, which would be a career high for Swisher.  The Yankees won the game with a score of 9-1.

Thursday's game was played in the afternoon, as both teams had to leave town.  CC Sabathia won for the first time in five starts allowing three runs over seven innings.  He would have been able to go another inning if not for the unbearable humid temperatures.  The offense was led by Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner who both hit home runs.  Rodriguez, is now the all time active home run leader following the retirement of the Mariner's Ken Griffey Jr on Wednesday.  Joba Chamberlain was able to hold the lead and turned the ball over to Mariano Rivera who earned his 12th save of the season.

Next Up: The Yankees head north to Toronto for a three game series.  This will be the first time the two teams meet this season.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dear Mr. Commissioner

To Mr. Alan H. "Bud" Selig, Commissioner of Baseball,

Hey Bud. How are you doing?  Fancy a chat about the current situation of the umpires in your league, Major League Baseball?

No Chat?

How about some criticism or ways to improve the current situation.

First let's refresh your memory of everything that's happened regarding your umpires over the past month alone.

It all started in Chicago.  The White Sox were playing the Cleveland Indians.  Chicago Ace Mark Buehrle was called for a balk in the first inning, a feat that is rarely, if ever called on Buehrle.  Who made that call?

Everybody's favorite umpire, Joe West.  Now you may recall West's comments at the beginning of the season about the Yankees-Red Sox, the two biggest revenue-generating teams in your leauge.

Anyways back to Chicago.  Following the first balk, Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox manager came out to argue the call and was then tossed from the game, though not a shock to anyone.

Two innings later Buehrle was called for another balk.  He then tossed his glove in disgust with West's call and was then tossed from the game.  Funny thing is, Buehrle never actually committed a balk on either condition.  Major League Baseball is supposedly "investigating" the incident.  We still haven't heard what's going on with that situation.

The second major incident happened Memorial Day weekend in Texas.  In a game between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals, another umpire committed a major blunder. Astros ace, Roy Oswalt was displeased with the way one of his pitches was called in the third inning.  Oswalt felt he threw a strike but his pitch was called a ball.  Oswalt then yelled something towards the first baseline.

Home plate umpire Bill Hohn asked him what he said.  Oswalt replied "I aint talking to you".  And then Hohn lost his cool and tossed Oswalt.  No explanation was given to Oswalt's ejection.  It almost seemed like Hohn was actually jealous of Oswalt's popularity and wanted a piece of the spotlight himself.

And finally we come to the BIGGEST blunder of them all.

We all know the story by now but here you go Selig, just so you can ponder how to "fix" the situation, although I don't know if that's possible.

Tigers stater Armando Galarraga had a perfect game through 8 2/3 innings.  He appeared to get the final out of the game on a ground ball to the hole between first and second.  The throw clearly beat the runner, even to the naked eye.

Umpire Jim Joyce made a mistake which after the game he admitted to.  The Tigers handled the situation with class and claimed Galarraga still had a perfect game in their eyes.  Galarraga and manager Jim Leyland did not blame Joyce but still wishes the call went the other way.  The only problem is in the record books he doesn't.  Joyce later apologized to the Tigers.  Here's what he said after the game.
"I just cost that kid a perfect game,'' Joyce said. "I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay.''
"It was the biggest call of my career,'' said Joyce.
Now Mr. Selig, you have one of the last biggest tasks of your career to take care of before you retire.
What to do with this situation?  Many believe you should overturn the call and give Galarraga the perfect game. 
The only problem with that is where does it stop?  Will everyone get to appeal plays they know are wrong only after seeing instant replay? 
Here's my solution to fix the situation we have brewing with the umpires.
First, find some new umpires.  Many of the umpires that we have now in the league have been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Bring in new umpires.  Fresh young eyes in the game could make a huge difference.  
Plus this way we can get rid of the ones who like to complain like cowboy Joe West. 
Second, regarding instant replay.  Don't allow it!  Keep it the way it is by only allowing it for home runs.  Let's face it baseball games are already long enough, we don't need another 10 minutes added on to each reviewed call.  One of the greatest things about baseball is it's an all or nothing call live on the field.  If a mistake happens, the players have the ability to work around the calls on the field.  
Finally, have a talk with the umpires and remind them that the fans pay to see the players on the field, not the umpires.  Sometimes the umpires get a little to caught up in themselves (West and Hohn) and don't remember that people pay money to see people like Buehrle and Oswalt pitch.  
So Bud you have a lot of work to do.  Get to work and come up with a solution fast!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yankees take three of four from Indians

Opponent: Cleveland Indians
Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY.
Yankees Overall Record: 31-20
Series MVP: third baseman Alex Rodriguez
Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte
Quote of the Series: comes from manager Joe Girardi on the team's overall performance in the month of May
"Obviously you would've loved to have a better record in the month of May," Girardi said. "But 29 games in 31 days, some split doubleheaders, suspended games — we went through a lot. We went through some injuries. I thought our guys just kept going at it, and I'm proud of them for that."
The Yankees returned home from Minnesota and got back to winning ways in the Bronx.  The mediocre pitching staff of the Indians and the resurgence of the Yankees pitching staff was quite the dose of medicine the Bronx Bombers needed.

Friday's game allowed the Yankees offense to break out for the first time in a little more then a week.  The offense scored eight runs in an 8-2 victory.  Phil Hughes was once again masterful and allowed two earned runs, while lowering his earn-run average to 2.70, second to only Andy Pettitte.  Hughes earned his sixth win of the season while striking out eight.  Curtis Granderson returned from the disabled list and was in centerfield for the first time in over a month. To make room for Granderson on the roster, veteran Randy Winn was designated for assignment.

Saturday's game was rather unforgettable.  CC Sabathia was a bit wild once again.  Although he did have to sit through a lengthy delay in the third inning as Indians starter David Huff had to be attended to after taking a liner from Alex Rodriguez off of his head.  Huff was sent to the hospital and was back by the eighth inning.  But Sabathia gave up five runs in six innings.  His ERA stands at 4.16, much higher then normal.  The biggest culprit in Saturday's game though was reliever Joba Chamberlain.  Chamberlain allowed four runs in 1/3 of an inning.  The Yankees lost Saturday's game with a final score of 13-10

In Sunday's game AJ Burnett pitched eight masterful innings allowing three runs, only one earned, and had eight strikeouts.  Burnett's biggest strength of the day was he had no walks, which almost never happens.  (This is the guy who pitched a no hitter and had around nine walks in the same game.)  The offense broke out and scored seven runs.  Mark Teixeira  hit his eighth home run of the season.  Mariano Rivera came in in the ninth to pick up another save on the season.

Finally, Monday's game belonged to two people. Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte.  A rejuvenated Pettitte pitched seven innings and allowed only one run.  Oh did I mention he's 38 years old? The fact that Pettitte has been around for 15 years and still manages to rake up wins and have the second lowest ERA in the league at 2.48 in amazing.  Rodriguez hit his second grand slam of the season, and 20th all time after Mark Teixeira was intentionally walked in the seventh inning.  Rodriguez hits virtually everything in site after Teixeira is intentionally walked before he goes up to bat.  Hopefully opposing managers won't read those statistics.  Derek Jeter also had two hits in the game in the Yankees 7-2 victory.

Next Up: The Yankees are in the middle of a three game set with the Baltimore Orioles.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hokies get off to the Wright start in ACC tournament

After about an hour and half delay, the Virginia Tech Hokies finally got to start their first game of the ACC Championship.  And boy were they ready.

The Hokies took on the mighty Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, a team which the Hokies previously swept.

Georgia Tech started Derek McGuire, who was first team all-ACC, the ACC pitcher of the year and is expected to be a top ten pick in next month's Major League Baseball draft. But, during last night's game the Hokies made McGuire look extremely ordinary.

Virginia Tech starting pitcher Justin Wright was the one who truly put on a phenomenal pitching performance.  Not only did he pitch a complete game, he had a career high 15 strikeouts and only gave up two runs.

Considering how he was shellacked in his last start against UNC, he really exceeded expectations.

The offense helped out Wright's performance by scoring six runs.  In fact, Wright had a lead in the bottom of the first, thanks to a two-run home run by right fielder and first team all ACC, Austin Wates.

All of the Hokies runs came with two-outs.  They loaded the bases twice with less then two outs, and the Yellow Jackets should be fortunate that the Hokies were unable to take advantage of the miscues of the GT pitching staff.

The Yellow Jackets pitching staff allowed five walks and six hits total.

So exactly how good was Wright?  The Georgia Tech head coach put it best.

“We had no answer for Justin Wright," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said. "He’s good.”
Virginia Tech head coach Pete Hughes, also had his own opinion on Wright's performance.

“That was probably the best starting performance I’ve seen at this level in my coaching career. It was dominant,” Hughes said.
If the Hokies are able to continue to have games like that, they will be one tough ball club to beat. Their goal is to win the ACC tournament.  

The second baby-step towards that goal begins this afternoon with a game against Clemson.  Sophomore starter Matthew Price takes the hill for the Hokies who hopes to repeat a performance like Wright's.

Yanks get back on winning track against Twins

Opponent: Minnesota Twins
Location: Target Field, Minneapolis, MN
Yankees overall record: 28-19
Series MVP: Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera
Quote of the series: comes from closer Mariano Rivera on how Pettitte continues to amaze with the way he's pitching this season
“If there is somebody who can get out of a jam like that, it’s Andy,” Mariano Rivera said. “He made the pitches. All of his composure. Getting it done. I’ve seen it over and over.”
The Yankees made their first and only  trip of the regular season to Minnesota and the new Target Field.  Overall the ballpark is beautiful and one of the nicest ballparks around the league.

Leave it to the Yankees however to experience the first weather related delay in Minnesota since the 1970s.

Tuesday night was truly an interesting game.  AJ Burnett was dealing with Minnesota starter Scott Baker through five innings.  After five innings however, mother nature finally decided to punish the Minnesota sports fans.  The clouds opened up and it began down-pouring.  The game was suspended after a two-hour rain delay.

Luckily for Burnett, as the opposing pitcher, if the Yankees found a way to score in the top of the sixth inning, and the team could hold the lead, Burnett would earn the win.

And that's exactly what the Yankees did.  Derek Jeter hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth to score the only run of the game.  He also helped preserve that lead by making one of his patten jump throws in the bottom of the inning on the defensive side of the ball.

Rivera came in to get the save and the Yankees had won their first game since last Friday.

Just a couple hours later, the second game was set to begin.  This time it was Mr. Reliable, Andy Pettitte versus Francisco Cervelli.

Pettitte has continued to work magic by continuing his tremendous start to the season.  I've haven't seen Pettitte this dominant since his first initial few seasons with the Yankees, 15 years ago.  Not only did Pettitte out-duel Lirano for eight innings, he also lowered his ERA, which now sits at a miniscule 2.62.

The team won with a score of 3-2.  The offense was aided by a double from rookie Kevin Russo, a triple from Brett Gardner and the game winning home run from Nick Swisher.

Pettitte's greatest inning of the night came in the seventh when he got Joe Mauer to ground into an inning ending double play, with the bases loaded.  Rivera then came in for his second save of the day, to preserve the lead.

Thursday's game was Javier Vazquez's first time pitching since leaving his start early against the Mets on Friday. Unfortunately, good Javy was left behind in Queens.

Although Vazquez's ability to limit the damage by the opposing team has improved significantly, he  could still work on it.  He only allowed 5 earned runs, and should have been more if not for the spacious conditions in Target Field.

The bullpen gave up three more runs, making the final score 8-2.

Next Up: The Yankees return home once again for a four game series against the last-place Cleveland Indians.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pete Hughes deserves a little respect

Yesterday, the all ACC honors were announced for baseball.  Virginia Tech was represented only once for the first team all-ACC team.  Outfielder Austin Wates, a likely first round draft pick in this summer's Major League Baseball draft was the lone Hokie on the team.  Three other Hokies, catcher Steve Domecus, starting pitcher Justin Wright and reliever Ben Rowen made the second team.

The name most noticeably missing from the list was not a player.

No it was Virginia Tech's very own head coach Pete Hughes.

So who was the winner of the ACC coach of the year you might ask?  None other then Virginia head coach Brian O'Connor.

Now I understand O'Connor is a great coach and has really turned the program around at Virginia and kept the team in the top five nationally all season, but I feel that many people are still suffering a bit of a hangover from the Wahoo's trip to Omaha last season.

Hughes has done a remarkable job turning around the program down in Blacksburg.  The team has made the ACC tournament for the first time since 2005.  This also coincides with the teams reentry into the national rankings for the first time since 1992. The Hokies have been ranked for roughly half the season and were as high as #12 prior to a sweep at the hands of North Carolina.

Going into the ACC tournament which begins on Thursday, the Hokies have an overall record of 36-19.  Compared to last season's record of 32-21 and the 2008 season of 23-21, Hughes' determination to turn the program around is greatly visible.

His hope one day is to generate as much excitement over baseball as football and basketball get in Blacksburg.

I truly believe that with a good run in the postseason tournaments this will happen.  After all when I recently talked to Hughes he said the goal of the team was to make it to Omaha.

For now, let's just shoot for winning the ACC tournament and making it to the NCAA regional portion of the tournament.

Then we can focus on Omaha.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mets win first round of subway series

Opponent: New York Mets
Location: Citi Field, Queens, NY.
Yankees Overall Record: 26-18
Series MVP: utility outfielder Kevin Russo
Quote of the series: comes from third-baseman Alex Rodriguez on the struggling Yankees offense
“Absolutely it’s frustrating,” he said, “because we’re capable of so much more.”
What a series. So many words to describe such a miserable series.  The first one that comes to mind is embarrassing. But we'll start with the only positive game of the series.

Friday, the only win of the series, was quite the pitching duel between the two teams.  Starting pitcher Javier Vazquez pitched perhaps his best start since his return to the Yankees.  He pitched six shutout innings of just one hit ball.  Javy was rolling too, he only had 70 pitches after the sixth inning, when he went to go up to bat in the 7th.

Then the injury bug bit again.

While he was batting, he fouled a ball off which struck his finger.  Vazquez didn't even know initially how bad the injury was until he took off his batting glove and saw his finger was bleeding.  Girardi pulled Vazquez immediately.  He is officially listed as day to day and is expected to make his next start.

Friday's game was finished by the bullpen.  The only blip on the radar was the lone run that Mariano Rivera gave up.

On the offensive side, Kevin Russo, a native of New York City, and freshly recalled to the roster had the night of his life.  He got his first major league hit and on his second hit, he tallied his first two RBI's.  The two RBI's provided the two runs of the game, with the final score 2-1.

Saturday's game was more of a different story.  Phil Hughes was once again wild.  He gave up five runs over 5.2 innings.  Hughes pitches were in the strike zone yet he was just missing his pitches.  The Mets hitters hit  42 foul balls and were able to knock his pitch count up considerably.

Unfortunately for Hughes, the Yankee offense was not able to hit anything against starter Mike Pelfry.  They scored one run.  For the night they managed to break through for three runs, but ultimately lost with a score of 5-3.

Sunday's game was much of the same thing, except worse.   CC Sabathia was not good once again.  In fact, he gave up six earned runs in a game where he was matched up against Mets ace Johan Santana.

Santana lived up to his former CY Young status while Sabathia got knocked around.  He gave up two home runs to Jason Bay, who had been struggling all season.  The Yankees were able to rally in the ninth inning but fell short, leaving the bases loaded and losing the game with a score of 6-4.

Thankfully for the struggling Yankees, they have an off day today, which could not have come at a better time.  The offense and the pitching staff need to regroup and put this miserable week behind them.

The Yankees are now a season high six games behind the Rays.

Next Up: The Yankees travel to Minnesota for a three game series at the new Target Field.  This will be the last time the two teams play one another for the season.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rays sweep Yankees

Opponent: Tampa Bay Rays
Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
Yankees overall record: 25-16
Series MVP: no one
Quote of the series: comes from manager Joe Girardi and his thoughts on the series
"We battled back in every game here,” Joe Girardi said. “We scored runs. We just gave up too many.”
The Yankees had a chance to sweep the series against the Tampa Bay Rays and would have been only one game out of first place.  Unfortunately, the exact opposite happened with the Rays sweeping the Yankees, leaving the Bombers five games out of first place.

Wednesday's game was rather unforgettable.  AJ Burnett was once again wild and gave up six total runs.  He gave up four in the fourth inning alone.  The offense did their best to rally back yet were ultimately defeated, 10-6.

Wednesday's game also brought bad news on the injury front.  Marcus Thames tripped over his own bat and sprained his ankle.  He is listed as day to day.  It was also announced Jorge Posada has a fractured bone in his right foot and could be out for a month.  Chad Moeller was recalled to take Posada's place yet Francisco Cervelli will continue to start.

Thursday's game brought a beating to lefty starter, Andy Pettitte.  Pettitte gave up three runs in the entire game, doubling his total for the season.  The game began as back and forth offensive action between the two teams.  However, as soon as the two teams were tied in the fourth, Pettitte gave up more runs.

The end result of Thursday's game was a 8-6 Rays victory thus concluding a forgetful series.

Something needs to be done with the roster if this losing streak continues, if not the Rays will run away with the division, similar to a pace that the '98 Yankees did.

Next Up: The Yankees begin inter-league play with round one of the Subway Series.  The Yankees will travel to Citi Field to play the New York Mets.