Monday, October 30, 2006

Let The Fun Begin

We’re only at Halloween and a lot has already taken place in Yankeeland. Let’s start from the beginning and work our way forward.

• George Steinbrenner quickly ended the biggest speculation of this off-season by telling Joe Torre he would be back for his 12th season as Yankee’s manager. I think Torre has done a great job while he’s been here, but I also think it was time for a change. Poor decision making in the playoffs since the 2003 World Series should have spelled the end.

• The tragic death of pitcher Corey Lidle on October 11th was a complete stunner to everyone, not just baseball fans. Bud Selig let Mother Nature cancel the Mets-Cards game that night, but he should have done it himself.

• M*A*S*H 4077th – The post-season surgeries began with Randy Johnson having his bad back worked on and Jason Giambi having a torn tendon taken care of in his wrist. Andy Phillips also had his right knee scope. All three are expected to be ready for Spring Training, with Johnson likely behind the other pitchers. Unless of course Carl Pavano is still here.

• The Asshole That Roared – Gary Sheffield may be more reliable than Tommy Henrich was. Of course in Henrich’s case it was referring to his ability to hit in the clutch. Sheffield on the other hand can be counted on to make outrageous statements and demands when his ego isn’t stroked enough. This time it’s because of a hot rumor that the Yankees will pick up Sheffield’s $13 million option for 2007, but only so that they can trade him.

Sheff’s all bent out of shape because he wanted to test the free agent waters and has already been quoted as stating that if he gets dealt on a one-year deal, it’s going to be a problem. Wait a second Sheff. Aren’t you the guy who was ecstatic in Spring Training when you thought the Yankees were going to exercise the option. And then weren’t you the same guy who was pissed because you misunderstood Brian Cashman – and the option was an auto-renewal like you were lead to believe?

Sheffield even went as far as dropping by George Steinbrenner’s place in Tampa. Only King George wasn’t home (though you can picture him peeking from behind a curtain as Sheff throws pebbles up at the window).

Bend over and take it like a man Sheff. Weren’t you the guy who negotiated your contract. Yeah, absolutely. So one more thing Sheff. Shut your fucking hole. You have NO leverage. The Cubs, Phillies, Angels, and Tigers are among the teams that have already shown interest.

• There, There A-Rod – Can we please Kleenex in bulk from Costco? We ask because it’s going to take a whole lot of therapy sessions this off-season so that Alex can come back and play with his teammates next season.

There’s no question that the abuse that A-Rod took this season from the fans went beyond what was called for. A-Rod took the heat for the Yankees failures this season, especially in the playoffs, when he was once again a no-show.

That being said, is this really the same player that won the MVP award in 2005? While he insists he wants to stay, and Brian Cashman insists he is staying, it would probably serve everyone the most if A-Rod went somewhere else. He’s about this close to becoming Nancy-Rod to the fans.

• You Stand Over There – When a manager returns after a poor season or playoff, one of his coaches usually takes a hit. Especially if that manager is working for George Steinbrenner. Though it hasn’t been officially announced, Lee Mazzilli is gone as bench coach for the Bombers and Don Mattingly has been “promoted” to bench coach. Long time minor league hitting instructor Kevin Long will be named to replace Mattingly.

Now we know that there is a push from behind the scenes to make Mattingly the successor to Torre in 2008. However, this move really makes no sense. Mattingly did a very good job as hitting coach and can’t be blamed for the horrendous performance by the Pinstripes in the last 2 playoffs.

Additionally we have no idea if Mattingly can manage and it would have made a lot more sense to make Joe Girardi, who it appears will not be managing this year, the new bench coach and possible successor to Torre. Instead it looks like Girardi’s talents will be wasted in the YES broadcast booth.

Can Kevin Long cut it as a hitting instructor at the Major League level? Especially, with a team full of egos. It’s great that the guy gets the chance, but it would have been greater if it were somewhere else.

• Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him this Winter. It was made crystal clear that this team cannot win on talent alone. The greatest lineup ever assembled couldn’t have beaten the cast of a Broadway musical. The starting pitching needs to be revamped, the bullpen needs to be strengthened, and some heads need to roll (besides Sal Fasano and Nick Green). It should make for a very rumor filled winter.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Jeter, Abreu Tame Tigers

Captain leads the way with 5-5 night.

Derek Jeter was arguably the regular season AL MVP. Last night he put the first exclamation point on the post-season with a 5-5 night that concluded with a home run and an 8-4 Yankees victory over the Detroit Tigers. Jeter wasn't alone though as the vaunted Yankees lineup got a big boost from Bobby Abreu who had 4 RBI in his first post-season game in 9 years as the Yankees. Jason Giambi chipped in as well with a 2-run home run as the Yankees captured the 1st game of their AL Division Series. Chien-Ming Wang was the recipient of the run support, but did his part as well by allowing 3 runs in 6 2-3 innings.

There is no weak spot in the Yankees starting lineup and Tiger's starter Nate Robertson quickly learned that. After throwing 2 scoreless innings and facing each batter in the order, Robertson ran into a roadblock in the 3rd. It started innocently enough when Johnny Damon's little dribbler eluded a stumbling Robertson for a lead off single. Jeter followed with his 2nd hit, a double to center to put two runners in scoring position for Abreu. The last time Abreu appeared in the playoffs he had gone hitless in 3 at-bats for the Houston Astros in the 1997 playoffs. Abreu grounded out his 1st time, but picked up his 1st career post-season hit when a slapped a Robertson delivery into the gap in right-center for a 2-run double. Gary Sheffield followed with a line single to right-center for a 3-0 lead and Jason Giambi capped the inning with a towering 2-run HR.

Wang ran into his only real trouble of the night in the 5th. Craig Monroe took him deep for his first post-season home run. Placido Polanco and Sean Casey delivered two-out, run scoring doubles and all of a sudden the Tigers were back in the ball game at 5-3. Magglio Ordonez represented the tying run, but Wang struck him out on a hard sinker to escape further trouble.

The Yankees added some much needed insurance in the 6th and once again Jeter and Abreu were right in the middle of it. Robertson retired the 1st two hitters, but Damon slapped a single to center and Jeter lined a double to left. Abreu came through again, hitting a bleeder just out of the reach of a diving Polanco and into right field to drive in both runners. Polanco appeared to aggravate the shoulder injury which kept him out of the lineup for 5 weeks in August in September, but he remained in the game. It was the last batter Robertson faced, however, as Tiger's manager Jim Leyland went to the pen.

Wang retired the side in the 6th and the first two hitters in the 7th before he was inexplicably pulled by manager Joe Torre after 93 pitches. It was one of those cases that have plagued Torre too many times in the last several years - overmanaging. And in bit Torre in the ass again as lefty specialist Mike Myers gave up a solo home run to left-handed hitting Curtis Granderson. Torre quickly replaced Myers with Scott Proctor who had trouble finding the zone as he gave up back to back singles to Polanco and Casey. Ordonez again failed to come through in the clutch, stranding both runners when he flew out to Damon in right-center.

Kyle Farnsworth continued the shaky bullpen outing when he walked Carlos Guillen to start the 8th, but bounced back to retire the next 3 batters to bridge the gap to closer Mariano Rivera. Torre had vowed not to use Rivera for more than 1 inning in the 1st round of the playoffs and possibly longer. Jeter made sure Rivera would have even more to work with as he belted a solo home run, his 5th hit of the night, to centerfield for an 8-4 lead. It was more than enough for the greatest post-season closer, who allowed a 1-out single to Granderson, but induced Polanco into a game ending 4-6-3 double play.

Except for the set up men, Yankee fans couldn't have scripted the game any better. Tonight the Bronx Bombers will try to replicate it in the sequel.


Derek Jeter entered the game with the most career hits in the post-season with 142. That quickly jumped to 147. The home run was the 17th of Jeter's career, spanning 116 post-season appearances.

Chien-Ming Wang became the 1st pitcher from Taiwan to win a post-season game. The LA Dodgers
Hong-Chih Kuo
, who is from the same town as Wang, will try to replicate the feat when he faces the Mets Wednesday night.

Former Yankee Tino Martinez had the honor of throwing out the 1st ball before last night's game.

One could not help but think about Twin's manager Ron Gardenhire last night as Ronan Tynan sang what seemed to be an even slower version of "God Bless America". Gardenhire was outraged during the 2003 ALDS when Brad Radke gave up a decisive 3 runs in the bottom of the 7th following Tynan's deliberate rendition.

Game 2 will feature Tiger's rookie Justin Verlander going against Yankee's veteran Mike Mussina. The Yankees are expected to use the same lineup.