August 23, 2010

Yanks Hanging In There

One thing about starting the year off well is that when you get to July & August, you don't have to play .700 ball to get back into it. That's what the Yanks had seemed to do every year from mid-decade on.

This year the Yanks have played consistent baseball pretty much all year. They've had a week or two here and there where they've struggled but no month long doldrums. Because of this they're in first place.

However, because the Yanks have been so consistent there is the feeling that this team doesn't have what last year's team did. There have been less walk off wins and less instant YES classics.

Last year, we had the new stadium, new talent in CC, AJ & Tex, and a hunger to win after almost a decade of no titles.

This year we've had a slumping Tex & Jeter, an (even more) inconsistent AJ, and poor performing new additions Granderson, Nick the Sick, & Javy Vasquez. Plus injuries to Petitte and now ARod.

So even though we have the best record in baseball, it just seems like something is missing. Is this the year Texas or Minnesota beats us in the playoffs? Can we continue to hold off the Rays? Will Boston, despite numerous injuries, make it a three team race?

I think this team is potentially stronger than last year's. Our line-up is less dependent on Tex & ARod and our pitching staff, including the bullpen, is deeper.

The Yanks are right where they want to be going into September.

August 18, 2010

CC Does What Aces Do

The Big Man went to 16 wins last night. He's quietly having a great season. I say quietly because he's not mentioned as a Cy Young candidate or as one of the top starters this year. But he's having as good a year as anybody in baseball.

One thing that you have to love about CC is he's consistent. In fact, he's the first Yankee pitcher to start at least 15 games in a row, pitch 6 or more innings, and give up 3 or less runs since Ron Guidry in 1978.

That's domination, homes.

But despite that string of success, a 16-5 record, and an ERA of 3.12, he gets overshadowd by the likes of Cliff Lee, David Price & Jon Lester. All those guys have less wins than CC but better ERA's & WHIP's.

It used to be that wins trumped everything in Cy Young voting. But as Greink)e showed last year, now it's about new sabremetric stats like WHIP and FIP that influence voters the most. So, even though CC may lead the league in wins, he'll probably come up short to those other guys. Especially Cliff Lee who has walked like 10 guys all year and has a WHIP under 1.00.

Even still, it's good to have a true ace like CC who you can pretty much expect to win every time out. Those guys are few and far between.

August 12, 2010

Are You Ready For Some Futbol?

I am so ready for Football season. And, No. I don't mean NFL. I'm talking Barkley's Premier League Football which is England's top soccer league. I have been preparing myself for the start of the season for the last couple months. The season kicks off this Saturday.

The top teams in the league are Chelsea (champions from last season), Manchester United (they are basically the Yankees of the Premier League, most championships, top players, worldwide fan base), Arsenal, & Liverpool (although they had a so-so year last season).

This is my first year following the league so I've spent the past few months trying to decide who would be my team. I chose Manchester City. I guess if Man U is the Yankees, then Man City would be the Mets. They haven't won anything in like 40 years. Which is hard to do because each year there are like 4 different championships a team can win (I'll explain later).

I'm digging Man City because they are up & coming. They have a new Arab owner who is filthy rich buying lots of good players. And when I read about the team it said that their fans have a saying..."Typical City" which they say when the team lets them down again. That's almost the same as saying "Same Old Jets", so I knew they had to be my team.

There are 20 teams in the league. They play 38 games. 1 game a week. Each team plays each other team, home & away. Whoever has the most points at the end of the season wins the league. 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw.

What's crazy is that while the season is going on there are other tournaments going on at the same time. There is a Champions League where the top 4 teams from England play other top teams from other countries in Europe. Then there is the Europa League where other top teams that didn't get into the Champions League play for that championship. Plus there is something called the Carling Cup. So even though a team has 38 premiere league games, they could end up playing 20 or 30 more additional games!!!

At the same time whenever the National Teams play a match (England, Italy, Germany, Brazil, etc...) they will call up their players to play in that.

Imagine, for instance, the Dominican National Team saying "We need Pujols, Arod, Robbie Cano & David Ortiz" DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE BASEBALL SEASON!!! But that's what happens.

Then you have this thing called relegation. The bottom 3 teams in the Premier League each year get relegated to the Championship League (not to be confused with the Champions League) for the following year. Which is like the minor leagues. The top 3 teams from the Championship League get promoted to the Premier League. Teams can make a lot more money in the Premier League through TV money and stuff so being in the Premier League is very lucrative.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Pirates, Orioles & Royals could get relegated?

Some other crazy stuff about the Premier League:

1) The Kits (Uniforms) - The teams will have home & away uniforms that don't even match. They may wear Blue & White at home and then wear Orange & Yellow on the road. Makes no sense. Plus they don't have the team names on the uni's. Just the sponsor name. So, Manchester United uni's say "AIG" on them. Arsenal says "Fly Emirates". There is even a team, I forget who, that is sponsored by a Sports Betting service. So their uniform says "188BET" on it. HOW CRAZY IS THAT?

2) They call trades "transfers". If you want a player from another team that is still under contract you have to pay his team a "Transfer fee" first. It could be 20 million or more. Sometimes they do actual player for player trades but usually it's done with transfer fees.

3) You can also do loans of players. It works like this. Say the Yankees have a young player, Jesus Montero. He's their catcher of the future but he's not ready to take Posada's place and he's too good to stay in AAA. Imagine if the Yanks could loan him to the Royals. The Royals would pay all or just some of his salary while they have him, he'll be their catcher and probably be better than any catcher they have. Jesus will get valuable experience and the Yanks can call him back once the loan period is up. That's what they do in the Premier League and basically all soccer leagues around the world.

All the top soccer leagues in the world are under FIFA so you can do loans & transfers with other country's leagues. Last year the LA Galaxy of the MLS loaned Landon Donovan to Everton in the Premier League. He actually played pretty well and Everton reportedly would like him back but the Galaxy don't want to let him go again (not for the same money anyway).

4) Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owns Manchester United. Tom Hicks, former owner of Texas Rangers, who let team almost go bankrupt, owns Liverpool (and yes Liverpool is having money problems, too). Randy Lerner, owner of the Cleveland Browns, owns Aston Villa. Stan Kroenke, owner of Denver Nuggets, owns Arsenal.

Last month, there were reports out that the New York Yankees ownership were interested in purchasing Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. It is said that Hank Steinbrenner is a big fan of the club. I haven't heard anymore since, but that was right around the time that The Boss died, so maybe that deal got put on the back burner for a while.

First match is Saturday morning at 7:45 on ESPN2. To quote Cartman from an episode of Southpark, "I'll be watching. I know many of you will be, too."

Bullpen Coming Around

We're about in the middle of August. It's stretch run time in baseball. It seems as though we have 3 team race in the AL East. The Yanks had a chance to put nails in Boston's coffin last weekend but didn't do it.

I'm not upset about it though. I was happy with the split. Boston had the advantage in the pitching match-ups in 3 of the 4 games. Plus at the same time, Tampa was losing so although nothing was gained, nothing was lost either. And it could be said that when you're the leader just taking days of the calendar without relinquishing any of your lead is a victory in itself.

The Yanks are kind of treading water at this point in the season. They've looked a little off kilter since the All-Star Break. The offense has been inconsistent and the starting pitching has been average at best.

One positive, though, is that the bullpen has turned into a strength in recent weeks.

It seems that the addition of Kerry Wood, probably the least heralded of the Yankee deadline signings, has had the most impact. He hasn't done anything eye-popping but he's given Girardi one more option in the latter innings. At the same time, Dave Robertson, has been pitching his ass off. This seems to have taken some pressure off of Joba. Now Joba isn't exclusively used in the high pressure 8th inning set-up role. He's been called on in the 6th or 7th of some games, giving him a chance to relax and just pitch without the weight of the world on every pitch.

You also can't ignore the role Boone Logan has pitched. He's handled the LOOGI role excellently. With Damaso Marte out, the Yankees needed someone to fill that role and Logan has done it. Logan pitched poorly early in the season but after a demotion to Scranton, he seems to have righted whatever problems he had.

Plus, Alfredo Aceves appears to be nearing a return to action. By playoff time, the Yanks bullpen could be very formidable indeed.

Winning 1 of 2 with Texas in Texas was an acceptable outcome. Especially considering Tex didn't play and Cano didn't start 1 of the games. We'll take it. Now we can go to Kansas City and punish them for being...well...Kansas City.

April 5, 2010

1 Down, 161 root canals to go...

Being a Yankee fan I have no reason to complain about tough losses. I can only shudder to think of being a Royals fan, or an Orioles fan, or God forbid...a Mets fan. Besides, it was only the first game in a long marathon of a season. But when you have a 5-1 lead with C.C. Sabathia on the mound, who is seemingly in mid-season form, it just feels like you should win.

But, Alas! It was not to be.

If this was a loss to Detroit or Texas it wouldn't have been so bad but I hate to lose to the Pink Sox at any time of the year. To anyone who thought the Yank/Sox rivarly was drying up this game was a reminder of why it's still the best in baseball. That back and forth momentum swings, endless pitching changes, and constant tension is a hallmark of these battles of the titans. Of course, it helps that Fenway Park is a quirky bandbox where Arod can crush a ball that is long gone in every other ballpark in the majors but only a double in Fenway, while Dusty P. can hit a routine lazy fly ball that carries over the Green Monsta, or should I say "Green Billboard."

Ah, Yes! The Green Billboard. Can the Sawx squeeze any more ounces of revenue out of that park or what? Every year they find a new place to put ads. One of the great things, I admit, in baseball was to see a ball clear the green monster and go onto Yawkey Way. Now, even if you clear the monster, and you clear the extra seats they put in a couple years ago, still have to clear like 3 billboards. I wouldn't be surprised if the Red Sox put adds on the outfield grass next year. Seriously.

Now just to have a little fun, I will take what happenend in last nights game and overreact to it:

*Chan Ho Park will be this year's LaTroy Hawkins (i.e. veteran failed starter turned reliever who will stink it up for the Yanks, be released/waived/traded and pitch lights out for someone else.)

*Curtis Granderson will crush right handed pitching but late in games, the good teams will force him to hit against a lefty, forcing Marcus Thames to get more at bats than I would like.

*ARod just looks stronger this year. (Insert PED joke here) Even his throws around the infield had extra juice on them. No pun intended. He'll have a monster year. And a monster year for ARod is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 HR's and 140 RBI. Don't say I didn't warn you.

*The best thing for this team may be for Nick Johnson to get hurt. Not because I think Nick's not a great hitter. He is. But if Nick goes on his customary DL stint, it will force Jorge to DH more and Cervelli to catch full time. I love Jorge's bat but he's to the point where he's a passed ball waiting to happen and everyone knows he sucks at calling games.

*Joba Chamberlain will spend time in the minors this year trying to reassemble the pieces to what was once a very promising career.

Ok, I really should do some work now. I'm out.

April 4, 2010

Once Again, It's On...


Opening Day is here. Yanks at Sawx kick off the 2010 season in less than 3 hours. I can't wait. Here are my official predictions that the world has been waiting for:

AL East: Yanks (but of course)
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Texas Rangers
Wildcard: Boston Red Sox

AL MVP: Joe Mauer
AL CY Young: Justin Verlander

NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
Wildcard: Braves

NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez
NL CY Young: Roy Halladay

Yanks over Cardinals in the World Series

March 26, 2010

The Joba-Hughes Conundrum

The "big" news this week is that Phil Hughes has won the 5th starter competition. It has been written that this means Joba Chamberlain will most likely be the 8th inning set-up guy.

Put me in the camp that believes Joba should be a starter. I believe this not because "Joba is a starter" or "Joba is a reliever", but because Joba is a talented pitcher and talented pitchers are always more valuable starting. I'd like to see him get every chance to succeed in that role. If he shows he can't hack it, then by all means move him to the bullpen.

I understand his demeanor seems to favor that of a reliever: very emotional and fiery. But there are great relievers who are unemotional (see Rivera, Mariano) and there are great starting pitchers who wear their emotions on their sleeves (Josh Beckett and CC Sabathia are known to pump their fists and yell when they get a big strikeout).

Bottom line, the Yanks need to develop good, cost effective starting pitching. They can't hope to fashion a rotation of just free agents. If so, they'll be looking at paying upwards of 80 Mil just for 5 guys. That's just too much.

My hope is that the Yankee organization hasn't given up on Joba as a starter. I would like to see them send Joba down to AAA to work as a starter there. He could work on his secondary pitches and his efficiency. Let's face it, some time this year the Yanks will need another starting pitcher, either due to injury or ineffectiveness. Having a stretched out Joba waiting in the wings would be a plus. And then in 2011, if all goes well, the Yanks will have two young starters to plug into the rotation for good.