Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FullCountPitch - The Full Count: Jack Curry

Jack Curry discusses CC Sabathia's contract and more

Jack Curry was a long time sportswriter for the New York Times before joining the YES Network prior to the 2010 season. In 2000, he co-write Derek Jeter’s autobiography, “Life You Imagine: Life Lessons For Achieving Your Dreams”. Today he joins us for a session of The Full Count.

FCP: We’ve all seen the decline of newspapers in this country. I still can’t have my breakfast without my morning sports page in my hands. Do you foresee a day when there will be no “paper” newspapers?

Jack Curry: I also enjoy reading the actual newspaper. Having worked at The NY Times for 22 years, I always enjoyed the routine of scooping up the paper in the driveway. That being said, the business has obviously changed a lot and a generation of “readers” get their info off the ‘net and not in the actual newspapers. I also think newspapers will be around, but I wouldn’t be shocked if some papers are someday forced to become online only.

FCP: If Yankees like Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada continue to struggle, do you see Brian Cashman trying to make a big splash for another bat or just deal for a serviceable bat (a Jeff Conine type for example)? Any chance Jorge Vazquez gets a chance in the bigs?

JC: A couple of weeks ago, Cashman told me that he makes daily evaluations of the team and is always searching for areas in which they can improve. At that time, Cashman said he wasn’t ready to move to do anything with Posada. He said Posada deserved the chance to emerge from his funk. He didn’t day mention Swisher that day, but I’m sure he feels the same way. The easy solution for the Yankees is for Posada and Swisher to be similar to the players they’ve been in their careers. If they’re not, like not, that’s when it gets dicey. It’s easy to say a GM should “go get someone,” but the execs I’ve spoken to say the market is bare right now. Vazquez has earned the shot to play in the big leagues. It’s just a matter of whether Yankees will pull trigger.

Click here to read the rest of this article for free at fullcountpitch.com.

CC Sabathia Jorge Vazquez Hector Noesi Ivan Nova

Monday, May 30, 2011

MLB Honors America With Ugliness

A picture paints a thousand words. This year's MLB holiday cap.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Nova May Not Be Long For Rotation

The Yankees brass was already impressed with Ivan Nova when the 24-yr old threw very well in spring training to earn a spot in the starting rotation. But with his recent control issues and number of base runners allowed, Nova may be headed to the bullpen soon, or more likely, Scranton.

Nova's 3.2 inning performance last night against a weak hitting Mariners team did nothing to help his cause. In his last four starts Nova has allowed 30 hits, eight walks, and hit two batters. He's been able to get a key ground ball when he's needed it most of the season, but that has not always been the case in recent starts. And when Nova looks bad, he looks really bad, as was the case last night.

With Phil Hughes throwing/working his way back, Nova is the likely candidate to be removed from the rotation. Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have been much more consistent and reliable. Until Hughes comes back, the Yankees could choose to move Hector Noesi to the rotation, call up Carlos Silva, or make some other move.

You can bet Nova's next start against the Los Angeles Angels Will Carry plenty of weight.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

"Don't Go West Young/Old Men"

I went over the flowchart scenario for failure in a recap of Friday night's game yesterday. Saturday's 5-4, 12 inning loss to the Seattle Mariners didn't vary much for the Yankees. They took the early lead, couldn't hold it, and lost it late. In fact the game would not have gone extra innings had Ichiro Suzuki made a rare misplay in right field to allow the Yankees to tie the game in the 7th inning. Of course, the Yankees then stranded the go ahead run at third base.

Both bullpens were solid until Mariano Rivera entered a tie game in the bottom of the 12th. Justin Smoak reached on a one out single (that resulted in Brett Gardner's grass facial above) and Jack Cust doubled to left center. The Yankees intentionally walked Franklin Gutierrez to set up the double play, but the strategy became moot when Adam Kennedy singled in the game winner.

The Yankees got off to a good start once again; Robinson Cano belted a solo home run and Mark Teixeira hit a two run shot off of Felix Hernandez for a 3-0 lead. It was Teixeira's sixth home run in the last nine games. Unfortunately for the Yankees, it was not a good night for starter Ivan Nova.

The 24-yr old struggled with his command, as he has done in three of his last four starts, and lasted just 3.2 innings pitched. The Mariners scored a single run in the second inning on a ground out - the fifth straight RBI via a ground ball for the M's in the series - and took the lead with a three run fourth inning.

Gutierrez reached on an infield single, that was originally scored an error on Derek Jeter (and should have remained that way), to start the inning and Kennedy followed with a double. Both runners came home when Miguel Olivo's deep drive to right-center took one hop and bounced over the fence for a ground rule double to tie the game. Nova struck out Carlos Peguero for the first out, but after a wild pitch moved Olivo to third, he allowed a go ahead single to Brendan Ryan.

Jeter drew a two out walk in the 7th and came home to tie the game at four apiece when Ichiro mistimed his leap, if he had to leap at all, on Curtis Granderson deep drive to right. The ball fell in play and Granderson was credited with an RBI triple. But after Hernandez pitched around/walked Teixeira for the second time in the game, he struck out Alex Rodriguez to keep the score tied.


Apparently the Mariners fans were spiking their Starbucks last night. Several fans ran on to the field, some sans clothes, and were arrested.

The classless crew also changed "Overrated" when Derek Jeter batted in the 9th inning.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yankees Follow Road Failure Flowchart

When it comes to getting things done right, no one is better than accomplishing a goal than the Yankees on a west coast road trip.

  1. Take a lead early and then stop hitting.
  2. Have your starting pitcher limit the other team, but be ineffective enough to not provide any depth of innings.
  3. Have the bullpen blow the lead.
You've seen it happen dozens of times. (Actually it feels more like hundreds thousands gazillions of times). It happened many times in the Kingdome in Seattle over the years and I'm happy to see the tradition has carried over to Safeco Field.

The Yankees entered the game with the tough task of having to face rookie intimidator Michael Pineda. The 6'7" right-hander, whose fastball pops in the catcher's mitt with a resounding bang that can be heard throughout the stadium, entered the game with a 2.16 ERA and impeccable control. In fact, YES reported that Pineda threw 71% of his first pitches for strikes..so of course he started things out with two straight out of the strike zone to Derek Jeter. After getting past the Yankees captain and Curtis Granderson, Pineda surrendered Mark Teixeira's 14th home run of the season for a 1-0 lead.

A.J. Burnett, meanwhile, was having an up and down game of his own. He walked two batters in each of the first two innings, but also struck out a pair in each frame as well. The Yankees added to their lead in the 5th when Granderson drew one of a season high five walks issued by Pineda, moved to third on Teixeira's single through the right side shift and came home on a wild pitch. Alex Rodriguez then singled back through the middle to plate Teixeira for a 3-0 lead.

But in the home half of the 5th Burnett ran into trouble of his own. After shortstop Brendan Ryan reached on a lead off single, Ichiro Suzuki placed (there's really no words to describe the swing he took and the contact he made) a double to left to put both runners in scoring position. Ground outs by Justin Smoak and Luis Gonzalez brought home both runners to cut the lead to 3-2 and Burnett's night was done at 97 pitches.

Boone Logan started the 6th, and has been the case all season, gave up a base hit to a left-handed hitter (Adam Kennedy). Joe Girardi then sent for Luis Ayala, who was of no use. Miguel Olivo greeted Ayala with a single and Carlos Peguero drew a walk to load the bases. Ironically, it would be two more ground outs that would score a pair of runs. Ryan bounced into a force out as the Yankees tried unsuccessfully to turn two and Ichiro hit a bouncer to short with the only play to first base, giving the Mariners a 4-3 lead.

Things could have been worse- Ayala threw a wild pitch and hit Luis Rodriguez- but Ayala escaped further trouble by striking out Smoak. The Yankees got a runner on in each of the 7th and 8th innings, but stranded them both against reliever David Pauley. In the 8th Jorge Posada drew a two out walk against Jamey Wright and was pinch-run for by rookie Eduardo Nunez. In an instant Nunez went from potential hero to definite goat. The rookie infielder stole second base (the Yankees third steal of the night), but fell asleep and was immediately picked off of second by Wright for the final out of the 8th.

The Yankees went down meekly in the 9th against closer Brandon League and just like that the nine game road trip got off to an ominous fashion.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kings, Princes, and Other Road Obstacles

The Yankees open a tough, nine game road trip tonight in pitcher friendly Safeco Field in Seattle. While most people point at Saturday's quest against Felix "The King" Hernandez as the toughest game on the road trip, things won't be much easier tonight for the Yankees when they face rookie Michael Pineda.

The native of the Dominican Republic, given the moniker "Prince", made the Mariners out of spring training this season after going 11-4, 3.36 (with 154 strikeouts in 139.1 innings pitched) between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

At 6'7", 255 lbs, Pineda is an opposing figure to deal with as is his mid to upper 90's fastball. Through nine starts, Pineda has compiled a 6-2 record, a 2.16 ERA (1.65 at home) and has struck out better than nine batters per nine innings (9.4). He's allowed just 41 hits hits and issued a mere 14 walks in 58.1 innings pitched, has allowed just three home runs, and limited opponents to a .194 average. For more on Pineda's outstanding control, check out this piece by ESPN's Lee Singer.

A.J. Burnett has the task of out dueling Pineda, while Ivan Nova must take on Hernandez tomorrow. The Yankees do, however, have several players with pretty good numbers against Hernandez.

Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Russell Martin, Brett Gardner, and Jorge Posada are all near or over .300 against the reigning AL CY Young winner. On the flip side, Nick Swisher, struggling already this year, is just 8-34 against Hernandez and could very well have a seat on the pines come Saturday night.

The Yankees most favorable match up comes on Sunday when CC Sabathia squares off with Jason Vargas. After the Seattle series, the Yankees move on to Oakland to face a pitching staff that leads the Major Leagues with a 2.87 ERA. The series opens Monday with Bartolo Colon facing Trevor Cahill and his 2.02 ERA. Tuesday's Yankees starter has not yet been announced, but the A's go with sharp left-hander Brett Anderson (2.84). No starters have been announced for Wednesday's finale as of yet, but's likely Freddy Garcia will get one of the two games. Remarkably, the weak hitting A's have scored just one less run than the Yankees (413-412), though NY does have three games in hand.

The trip concludes in Anaheim, the site of many of the Yankees in-season and post-season horrors. Who'll take a 6-3 road trip right now? A lot of hands.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Grand Reliever

I can't say that I honestly remember when Mariano Rivera made his Major League debut as a New York Yankees starter in 1995. But I most certainly remember him as a surprisingly effective reliever late in the season and in the playoffs. Perhaps if Buck Showalter had stuck with him longer in Game 5 of the ALDS, Ken Griffey Jr. would never have had the chance to slide home with the winning run and Don Mattingly's career would not have ended in such dramatic fashion.

None of that matters, of course, but what does matter is that 16 years later Rivera appeared yesterday in his 1,000th career game. In doing so he became the first pitcher to make all 1,000 appearances with the same team. (15 other pitches have accomplished the feat).

Rivera was modest as usual. When queried by YES' Kim Jones as to the achievement, Rivera replied, "It means I'm old". What it means to Yankees fans is just one more remarkable accomplishment in a remarkable career.

I'm shocked at how little mention there was as Rivera approached the mark. Though he probably wouldn't care, the Yankees should honor the game's top reliever with a pre-game ceremony on their next homestand.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Yankees Steal One In 9th

Tonight's Yankees-Toronto Blue Jays game looked like most other Yankees games these days. Fall behind, stay behind, lose. Maybe tease with a run or two late. But tonight was different, down 4-3 and down to their last out in the bottom of the 9th, Curtis Granderson singled home Chris Dickerson with the tying run. Moments later after Granderson had stolen second base, Mark Teixeira singled off the glove of first baseman Juan Rivera to give the Yankees a huge 5-4 victory.

After a Russell Martin home run gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead, things went south for CC Sabathia. Tied 1-1 in the fourth, the Blue Jays took the lead on an J.P. Arencibia double and a Rivera single. One out later, back to back singles by Edwin Encarnacion and Rajai Davis produced a third Toronto run and John McDonald made it a 4-1 lead with a suicide squeeze bunt.

Two batters later the Jays had the bases loaded and the team's top hitter, Jose Bautista at the plate. It was a make or break at-bat and Sabathia came out on top, getting the slugger to ground out to end the inning. Meanwhile the Yankees couldn't do a thing against Jays' starter Rickey Romero, who turned things over to the bullpen. It was the best thing to happen for the Yankees all night.

Granderson led off the 8th with a double off Casey Janssen and scored on a two out double by Robinson Cano off lefty Marc Rzepczynski . Martin brought home Cano with an RBI single and suddenly the Yankees had themselves a ball game. But Rzepczynski got Nick Swisher to pop out to end the 8th.

After Sabathia retired the Jays in order in the 9th, and the final 16 batters he faced, Jorge Posada delivered a pinch-hit one out double off closer Frank Francisco. Posada's gapper to right-center eluded a sliding Bautista, who still might have thrown Posada out at second base if his throw hadn't gone to the cut off man. With Dickerson attempting to steal third base, Derek Jeter bounced out to short and Dickerson momentarily thought about making a break for home. Thankfully for the Yankees, Dickerson left the game in the hands of Granderson and Teixeira.


CC Sabathia's complete game win was the first for a Yankees pitcher since May 8, 2009.

Soriano's Rapture

YES, my elbow hurts

I talked about my concerns at the possibility of signing Rafael Soriano this past off-season and unfortunately I might have hit the nail, or elbow, on the head.

The Yankees reported earlier today that Soriano was shut down while playing catch on flat ground Monday, and was sent for another MRI w/contrast (per YES' Kim Jones) today. After viewing it, the Yankees are sending Soriano to Dr. Doom, James Andrews. This does not bode well for the near or distant future. The Yankees did not reveal the results of the MRI, but speculation is that the inflammation is enough to go to the top guy for an opinion.

You may or may not remember that Soriano can opt out of his three year deal after both the first and second years. It's hard to imagine he would give up his contract if he's seriously injured, meaning worst case scenario the Yankees could be stuck paying someone who can't take the hill for an extended period of time (Carl Pavano anyone?).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Yankees Bloop and Single Mets To Victory

After a Saturday win over their crosstown rivals that was spurred on by four home runs, the Yankees dinked, blooped, and bounced their past the Mets Sunday afternoon with an eight run 7th inning.

Ivan Nova battled his way through six plus innings, but trailed 3-1 to Mike Pelfrey. That's when the Yankees sluggish offense awoke and not in it's usual manner. Brett Gardner started things off with a single through the box that an angry Pelfrey felt he should have fielded. Pelfrey proceeded to load the bases by walking Chris Dickerson and plunking Francisco Cervelli, who had squared to bunt, in the left shoulder. With Al Leiter in the YES booth, Derek Jeter bounced one back through the middle that, although it didn't take as many hops, reminded everyone of Luis Sojo's 2000 World Series Game 5 winner off the Mets' lefty. The single scored two to tie the game and sent Pelfrey to the showers.

Left-hander Tim Byrdak came on and to everyone's surprise and no one's surprise, team home run leader Curtis Granderson (he hit his 16th home run earlier in the game) laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position. The Mets opted to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez. Needing one more bases loaded home run to tie Lou Gehrig for the most career grand slams, Rodriguez simply singled off Pedro Beato to plate the go ahead run.

Robinson Cano followed with an RBI single of his own for 5-3 Yankees advantage before Jorge Posada was called out looking on a controversial strike three pitch for the second out...but the Yankees were not through. Gardner got his second hit of the inning, a double off of new pitcher Pat Misch to put the Yankees up 7-3 and the left-handed hitting Dickerson went the other way for a single to drive home the final two runs of the inning.

Luis Ayala picked up his first win as a Yankee after retiring the final batter in the 7th inning. He also pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning before turning things over to Lance Pendleton, who was recalled earlier in the day (Amaury Sanit was sent down).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Bobby Murcer | Baseball Digest

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Bobby Murcer | Baseball Digest

Bobby Ray Murcer was born in Oklahoma City, OK on this date, May 20, in 1946. He was a high school standout in baseball and football (All-State in both), and played basketball as well. During his senior year, he signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Oklahoma, but instead was signed by New York Yankees’ scout Tom Greenwade, the same scout that signed fellow Oklahoma-born star and Yankee, Mickey Mantle.

Like Mantle, Murcer played shortstop poorly and was quickly moved to centerfield. He hit .365 in a 32 game stint in rookie ball in 1964 and followed with another .300 season and 16 home runs the following year at Greensboro of the Carolina League. He had cups of coffee in the Majors in both 1965 and 1966, but missed the next two seasons for military service.

When Murcer returned in 1969, his hero Mantle had retired and the 23-yr old was dubbed “the next Mantle”. It was an unfair expectation to put on any young player, but especially one who played the same position for the winning-est franchise in all of baseball. Murcer hit 26 home runs and drove in 82 runs in his first full season in the Bronx. Two years later he made his first All-Star team when he led the league with a .969 OPS, hit .331 to finish second in the batting race, and placed in the top 10 in the AL MVP voting.

Murcer began a streak of five straight AL-All Star Game appearances, won a Gold Glove, and smacked a career-high 33 home runs, but the Yankees continued to watch other teams win the AL East. In a doubleheader on June, 1970, he tied a Major League record by hitting four straight home runs in a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. Murcer, Thurman Munson, and Mel Stottelmyre were among the few stars that Yankees fans had to root for in the early 1970′s. Things changed later in the decade, but Murcer wouldn’t be a part of it. Yankee Stadium was remodeled in 1974 and 1975, so the Yankees were forced to play their home games at Shea Stadium. Murcer’s swing, customized for Yankee Stadium’s “short porch” in right field (294 ft.) was no match for the larger dimensions of the New York Mets’ home ball park.

Famed baseball writer Maury Allen, then of the New York Post, profiled Bobby Murcer, the Yankees Quiet Hero in a 1971 edition of Baseball Digest. Click here to read this classic article.

Murcer hit just 11 home runs in 1974 and saw his average drop 30 points from the year before. That winter, owner George Steinbrenner decided it was time to shake things up and dealt Murcer to the San Francisco Giants for Bobby Bonds in a swap of stars. Murcer only knew Yankeedom and was heartbroken. He would also be miserable in cold, windy Candlestick Park for the next three seasons. Murcer had a pair of 20+ home run seasons in 1976 and 1977 and watched as the Yankees reached the World Series for the first time since the mid-1960′s.

Prior to the start of spring training in 1977, Murcer was shipped to the Chicago Cubs as part of a swap for then-two time batting champion Bill Madlock. Murcer liked day baseball and the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. He hit 27 home runs in 1977, the most he had hit in five years, but slumped mightily the following season. In 1979 he got his wish though, a return to the Bronx on June 26 in a deal for a Yankees minor leaguer. Murcer’s old number 1 was now worn by manager Billy Martin, so Murcer suited up with number 27 (he quickly switched to number 2) as he stepped in against the Blue Jays in Toronto on the same day he was dealt. Happy to be back, Murcer went 2-4 with a run scored. But his happiness wouldn’t last long.

A little over a month later, one of his best friends, Thurman Munson, was killed in a plane crash while practicing take offs and landings at Akron-Canton airport. The two-time defending World Champion’s season perished right then and there with their captain and heart and soul of the team. Murcer delivered an eloquent eulogy at Munson’s funeral on August 6 in Canton, OH and the team returned that night to play the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. In front of a national television audience, Murcer paid tribute to his fallen friend with his bat. Trailing 4-0, Murcer hit a 3-run home run off of Dennis Martinez and then delivered a game winning 2-run single off of Tippy Martinez in the bottom of the 9th for an emotional 5-4 Yankees victory.

Murcer finally reached the playoffs with the Yankees in 1980 and his first World Series in 1981, though New York lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. In June, 1983, Murcer decided to retire from baseball and moved upstairs to the broadcast booth where he worked on and off for the next two decades, winning a trio of Emmy Awards. He also was part owner of the Triple-A Oklahoma City 89ers, became an anti-tobacco activist, headed the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.), wrote his autobiography (Yankee for Life: My 40-Year Journey in Pinstripes) and was generally liked and beloved by everyone he came in contact with.

In Decemeber, 2006, Murcer was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and underwent surgery. He would battle the disease for nearly two years before succumbing on July 12, 2008. He was survived by his wife and high school sweetheart Kay, and his children Tori and Todd.

Also Born On This Day:

Jayson Werth (Springfield, IL 1979): The outfielder was born into a family of college stars in track, football, and soccer. His uncle, Dick Schofield, and his grandfather, Ducky Schofield, were Major League Baseball players and his step-father, Dennis Werth, also played in the Majors. Werth was selected by the Baltimore Orioles as the 22nd overall pick in the 1997 draft, but was later dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays. After spending time in the Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations, Werth became a star as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Werth averaged 29 home runs and 84 RBI from 2008-2010 before he left for a seven year, $126MM free agent contract with the Washington Nationals.

David Wells (Torrance, CA 1963): “Boomer” was a standout at Point Loma High School in San Diego before being chosen by the Toronto Blue Jays with the second pick of the second round (30th overall) in the 1982 amateur draft. After scuffling as a starter in the minor leagues, the Blue Jays moved to the bullpen. The move paid off for both the organization and Wells, who became a fixture in the Blue Jays bullpen after he made his Major League debut in 1987. He was used as a spot starter by the Jays from 1990-1992 before he left the organization as a free agent to become a full-time starter for the Detroit Tigers. He went on to win 239 games for seven teams in his Major League career, World Series rings with the Blue Jays (1992) and Yankees (1998), and on May 17, 1998 tossed a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. It was the first perfect game by a Yankee since his fellow Point Loma alum Don Larsen completed the feat in the 1956 World Series. Wells wrote a controversial autobiography, “Perfect I’m Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball” in 2003, and was always outspoken and loved the night lifeduring his career. He retired after the 2007 season, and can now be heard on TBS baseball broadcasts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Wild, The Innocent, and The Eutaw Street Shuffle

Camden Yards in Baltimore was a crazy scene tonight man. The Yankees behind a dominant performance by Bartolo Colon looked like they were going to knock off the Baltimore Orioles in neat, fast fashion. Colon threw just 87 pitches and hit 97-mph in the 8th inning.

The Yankees had scratched across just a single run off starter Zach Britton with the help of an error. So you have Mariano Rivera in your bullpen with a 1-0 lead entering the 9th inning. What do you do? Unless you have a Roy Halladay on the mound you probably go to Mo. Girardi did and it backfired. Rivera gave up a pair of singles and a sac fly to Vladimir Guerrero to tie the game at 1-1.

So off to extra innings we went and went and went...the Yankees wasted opportunity after opportunity as did the Orioles. Rookie Hector Noesi made his Major League debut and threw the final four innings to earn his first big league victory.

The Yankees finally broke through in the 15th on back to back singles by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez off Jeremy Accardo, and a gapper to right-center by Robinson Cano off left-hander Mike Gonzalez. Teixeira scored easily and Rodriguez followed when centerfielder Adam Jones double dribbled the baseball. It also allowed Cano to advance to third base. Then things got scary.

Gonzalez then drilled outfielder Chris Dickerson in the bill of his helmet. The helmet or the ball all glanced off his cheek and left a huge welt. Dickerson was removed from the game and sent to the hospital for a CT scan. Gonzalez was (seemingly) erroneously ejected by home plate umpire Dan Bellino. It appeared Gonzalez wasn't throwing at Dickerson- why would he? (Oddly though, Gonzalez did not argue.)

With no relievers left in the Orioles bullpen, Buck Showalter, whose emotions ranged from rage to exhaustion throughout the game, had to go to Thursday's starter Jeremy Guthrie. Next strange step- with Jorge Posada as the only position (without a position) player left on the bench, Joe Girardi sent A.J. Burnett in to pinch-run. Brett Gardner's sac fly brought in a big insurance run before Guthrie recorded the final two outs in the inning. That was a good thing since it kept Burnett from having to run the bases. Burnett wore a big grin though as he received numerous high fives in the dugout for his "contribution".

The drama wasn't over though. Nick Markakis led off the 15th with a single and Noesi then walked Brandon Snyder. Luke Scott, mired in a big slump, lined out to left for the first out and then the nuttiness struck again. Matt Wieters grounder struck Snyder for the second out and Wieters was credited with a hit. Noesi then retired J.J. Hardy on a fly out to end the 4:56 of baseball.

So much happened in this game, but I am way too tired to recount the rest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Remembering The Killer | Baseball Digest

Remembering The Killer | Baseball Digest

No nickname was probably more misleading than that of Harmon “The Killer” Killebrew. The gentle giant (actually he was listed as just 6′, 195 lbs) was one of baseball’s greats, both on and off the field. Sadly, he succumbed to esophageal cancer on Tuesday at age 74, just four days after he ended his cancer treatment and entered hospice care.

Killebrew was born in Payette, ID on June 29, 1936 and became a 17-yr old star in Idaho’s semi-pro baseball. He became the Washington Nationals first “bonus baby” after being recommonded to the club by Idaho senator Herman Welker and the Senators’ farm director Ossie Bluege.

“Killebrew swings a bat better than any youngster I’ve ever seen”, Bluege told the team’s owners. He added that “Perhaps the only player who is faster in the American League is Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.” Killebrew was given a whopping $50K to sign with the club in 1954.

Though he made nine appearances and made a good impression for the Senators in 1954, Killebrew spent most of the new few years in the minor leagues. But in 1958, Killebrew unleashed his bat on the American League and there was to be no going back to the long bus rides in the minors. Though he was never one to hit for average, he was a .256 lifetime hitter, Killebrew’s first full season in the Majors saw him hit 42 home runs and drove home 105 runs. It was the first of six home runs titles he won and the first of eight seasons in which he hit 40 or more home runs.

Bob Addie of the Washington Post profiled Harmon Killebrew during his final season in baseball in 1975. Click here to read this Baseball Digest Classic.

Killebrew was a member of 11 All-Star teams, won the AL MVP Award in 1969 when he hit .276-49-140 and walked 140 times, and was a member of the 1965 World ChampionTwins. He was also a member of a pair of division winners in 1969-1970. People forget just how versatile Killebrew was; in addition to a combined 1,760 games played between first and third base, he also played 470 games in the outfield.

Killebrew was released by the Twins after the 1975 season and played one more year with the Kansas City Royals before he retired from baseball. His 573 career home runs, most of them tape-measure shots, and his 1,584 RBI earned him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. The street that fronted old Metropolitan Stadium (now site of the Mall of America) was named “Killebrew Drive” in his honor, his number three was retired, and Gate 3 of the new Target Field was named in tribute to him. Among his many charitables efforts was the start of the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament in honor of his former teammate who died of leukemia in 1976 at age 29. Killebrew helped to raise more than $8MM for leukemia and cancer research.

After retirement, Killebrew worked as a broadcaster and hitting instructor, and later was involved in the securities industry. He first suffered esophogeal issues in the early 1990′s and was diagnosed with cancer last December. He is survived by his second wife, Nita, nine children, 23 grand-children and two great grand-children.

FullCountPitch - A Decade Of Number Ones: Part I

Making draft selections is a gamble in any sport, but no more so than with the Major League Baseball draft that takes place every June. Teams stockpile high school and college players over a 50 round selection process. The majority will never get the chance to play in any Major League Stadium, while others will surprise and grow into a starring role.

The most pressure, of course, is to be the number one selection overall. For every Joe Mauer, there is a Brien Taylor or a Danny Goodwin, who was actually the top pick in two different years (1971, 1975). With that in mind, it’s time to take a look back at the first overall picks in the last ten years of the MLB amateur (Rule IV) draft.

Read the rest of the free article at fullcountpitch.com

Matt Bush Bryan Bullington Justin Upton Delmon Young

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Posada Bail Out Overshadows Yankees' Tumble

The Yankees lost their fourth straight game Saturday evening and fourth in five meetings with the Boston Red Sox this year, but during and after the game all anyone was talking about was Jorge Posada. That's because a little over a half hour before game time, the Yankees DH asked out of Joe Girardi's lineup.

Scheduled to bat ninth for the first time in exactly 12 years to the day, Posada approached Girardi in his office and told him he "needed a day". The Yankees manager relayed the information to the media in his post-game press conference and stated that Posada's statement was the extent of the conversation. There was no mention of any injury and Girardi did not ask Posada for the reason why he wanted out.

The press peppered Girardi with questions, but according to Girardi there was no more information to give. He said some days "Guys just need a mental break" and as a former player, he empthathized and was sensitive to his players' needs. Girardi did seem peturbed by the timing of Posada's request, as it necessitated a lineup change and all things associated with it.

As fans, we first learned of the Posada situation in the middle of the game. For whatever reason, GM Brian Cashman made himself available to FoxSports' Ken Rosenthal as play was taking place. Cashman informed Rosenthal that Posada had asked out of the lineup, that the request was not injury-related, and he had nothing further to add other than Posada had requested to speak with the media after the game.

Initial speculation was that possibly Posada, who has struggled all season and wasn't happy about his catching duties being taken away, might retire. But Rosenthal and ESPN's Buster Olney scuttled that idea and reported that the Yankees had contacted the commissioner's office to gather data on possibly voiding Posada's contract if things came down to that.

To complicate matters further, Laura Posada tweeted and posted on Facebook that her husband was suffering from back stiffness and that is why he couldn't make it a go on Saturday. After the game, reporters besieged Posada, who said that his back had stiffened up taking grounders at first base and he had received some treatment from the team chiropractor. However when pressed as to why he did not tell Girardi about the back issue, Posada replied, "...because it wasn't serious."

Posada had talked to reporters earlier in the day and told them that hitting ninth was not an issue and he had put himself there by not hitting all season. However, post game Posada repeated the mantra, "I hope we can just get past this and move forward", indicating there was more to what was going on than just a minor back issue. When pressed, Posada also confirmed he had felt disrespected by the organization in the manner that he was removed as the team's primary catcher. He was also upset by Cashman's in-game announcement and said, "That's the way he (Cashman) does things now."

Posada has been in the organization long enough and has done enough for the Yankees to deserve a mulligan in this situation, but if he truly backed out because of being moved down in the order, he will most certainly have done damage to his Yankees' legacy.

Meanwhile, Josh Beckett dominated the Yankees' lethargic lineup and CC Sabathia, after a sharp start, turned in another mediocre performance. Sabathia dominated Adrian Gonzalez his first three times up, but the Red Sox slugger smashed a three-run home run to put the game out of reach 6-0.

As usual, someone from the Red Sox just had to chime in on the Posada situation as well. David Ortiz told WEEI,“You want to know what I think? They’re doing that guy wrong. They’re doing him wrong,” said Ortiz. “You know why? That guy, he is legendary right there in that organization. And dude, DH-ing sucks. DH-ing is not easy.

“From what I heard, they told him from the very beginning that he’s not even going to catch bullpens. That straight up will start messing with your head. And you’re going to tell me that Posada can’t catch a game out there? Come on, man.”

It's a dark time in the Bronx.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jeter's Bat Says Take That

On a day when CC Sabathia wasn't sharp and the Yankees defense resembled the Bad News Bears, Derek Jeter made his doubters take notice. The Captain, who had driven a double off the wall the previous night, smashed a pair of long home runs to lead the Yankees to a come from behind12-5 victory over the Texas Rangers.

It was all part of a five-home run power display put on by the Yankees, who snapped out of their offensive doldrums in a big way. Francisco Cervelli capped things off with a grand slam in a six run 7th inning that put the game away. (Afterwards Cervelli candidly admitted he didn't realize the bases were loaded).

But Jeter was the story on Sunday, a day in which he had four hits in a game for the first time since August 4th of last season and hit his first home run since last August 24 (According to the Elias Sports Bureau - the 259 ABs was the second longest drought of his career). With the Yankees trailing 4-2 in the 5th, Jeter hit a David Bush fastball close to 400 ft. over the right center wall.

With the game tied at four apiece in the 7th, Jeter went even deeper, this time off of the Yankees favorite left-handed punching bag, Arthur Rhodes. Jeter had his first multi-HR game since last June when he hit a Rhodes fastball well beyond the 407-ft. in right-center, about 25 ft to the left of his previous blast, to put the Yankees ahead for good. It was Jeter's fourth hit of the game and pumped his average up to .281 (he would finish the day at .276 after going hitless in his final two at-bats).

Jeter wasn't the only one hitting the long ball on Mother's Day though. In the 7th inning alone, Curtis Granderson followed Jeter's second home run with his team leading 11th, Cervelli hit his grand slam, and Mark Teixeira smacked a 2-run shot, his ninth.

Sabathia picked up his third win despite a six inning, five run (three were earned), four walk performance. The Yankees were sloppy in the field, officially charged with four errors, but made many more physical and mental errors in the game.

Luckily for his teammates Derek Jeter was his old self, at least for one day anyway. And you can bet that when the Yankees return home to face the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday some of the "Doubting Dereks" will be giving him a big hand his first time at bat.

FullCountPitch - Is There A Market For Carlos Zambrano?

The season is barely over a month old, but it’s never too early to speculate on who will be moved during the 2011 trade deadline.

The first name that comes to mind is the hot-headed, hard throwing, anger management candidate (did I mention hot-headed?), Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs. Before I go any further, let me point out the obvious sticking point with Zambrano – and I don’t mean the hot-headed thing – his contract. The Big Z makes $17.875MM this season and $18MM in 2012 (there’s also a vesting option for 2013 worth $19.25MM).

First off, what in God’s name were the Cubs thinking in giving Zambrano the contract? But now back to basics. The Big Z is publicly trying to rehabilitate his image, at least on the mound. After he averaged better than 200 innings, made three All-Star appearances, and finished in the top five in the NL Cy Young voting three times during the period from 2003-2008, things went south for Zambrano. (Not that there weren’t issues during that time- the dugout scuffle with Michael Barrett comes to mind.)

Read the rest of this free article at fullcountpitch.com

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nova Grounds Rangers To A Halt

There isn't a day that goes by this season where I don't think, "Boy, we sure could use Andy Pettitte out there." Confession- not every day, but you get the gist. Last night, delivering pitches from the opposite side of the mound, Nova did his best Pettitte imitation. The rookie right-hander induced 16 ground ball outs and got a pair of home runs from Curtis Granderson to beat the Texas Rangers 4-1. The win snapped the Yankees three game losing streak, their longest of the season.

Nova pitched into the 8th inning for the first time in his Major League career before a walk and a Mark Teixeira error gave the Rangers an opportunity to rally. Nova was charged with one unearned run after an inherited runner scored off of Rafael Soriano, but Mariano Rivera cruised through the 9th inning for his 12th save.

Much to Michael Kay's joy, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano had all three assists in an inning (as did Texas' Adrian Beltre) to "tie a record held by many" and the Yankees flashed their leather, particuarly Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira, in support of Nova, who allowed just two hits.

The Yankee gave Nova a pair of runs to work with when they got on the board in the 1st inning, something that has become a bit of a regular occurrence this season. Derek Jeter started things off with a solid single off left-hander Matt Harrison and Granderson followed with a blast to right-center for a quick 2-0 lead.

An inning later, Jorge Posada and Russell Martin drew lead off walks, which lead to a lot of Twitter anger directed at Joe Girardi. The reason? The bunt. Particularly when it comes to Brett Gardner bunting. In a word, Gardner is a horrible bunter (okay, that's two words). Gardner's bunt was decent - at the third baseman like it should be. But the Rangers had the wheel play on and speedy shortstop Elvis Andrus easily beat Posada to third to force out the Yankees slowest runner.

The Yankees got a big break though when Harrison then fielded Jeter's infield bouncer and threw it into right field to score Martin from second base for a 3-0 lead. The Yankees had a chance to break the game open when Granderson walked to load the bases, but Harrison retired Teixeira and Rodriguez to get out of further trouble.

Meanwhile, Nova mowed down the Rangers with precise proficiency. He allowed a single to David Murphy in the 2nd inning and a Chris Davis base knock in the 6th, which was erased by a double play. Granderson added to the Yankees tally with another home run, this one of the solo variety, off of Ryan Tucker. The centerfielder's 10th home run didn't come last season until July 26.


The Yankees think they may have Eric Chavez back in four weeks. Kim Jones reported on YES that Chavez's broken foot bone was in actuality an old injury that got irritated. For now, Chavez is in a walking boot and will be for probably a couple of weeks.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Glove Headed Back To Yankees

Donnie Collins of the Scranton Times confirmed last night that Ramiro Pena will be joining the Yankees for their weekend series in Texas. Pena will replace Eric Chavez on the 25-man roster after Chavez broke a bone in his foot yesterday and was added to the 15-day DL.

It's likely Pena will also move ahead of Eduardo Nunez as Derek Jeter's back up at shortstop. Nunez's two errors yesterday gave him five for the season.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Changes Coming Yankees Way

Eric Chavez has been on the disabled list more times in his career than he would care to remember and unfortunately for him and the Yankees, the team's corner back up infielder is headed to the DL again. Chavez broke the 5th metatarsil bone in his his foot this afternoon while legging out a triple against the Detroit Tigers.

Chavez was in obvious pain as he slowed towards third base, but wanted to stay in the ball game. It became obvious as he walked off the field with some assistance that was never a possibility. Initial diagnosis was a small fracture of the bone that connects the pinky toe to the ankle.

There's no word on a call up yet, but possibilities include "El Chato", Jorge Vazquez, who tore up spring training and has continued to do so at Triple-A Scranton. The right-handed hitting first baseman (with some third base experience) has nine home runs, 27 RBI and a .906 OPS thru 25 games. Another possiblity could be good glove/no bat Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, who has gotten off to a slow start, and good bat/no glove Brandon Laird. The brother of Cardinals catcher Gerald Laird had an outstanding season for Double-A Trenton last season, but has just a .508 OPS for Scranton thus far.

A second, non-injury move may be necessitated by the play of Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees like his bat and his speed, but the utility infielder is not getting it done in the field. His two throwing errors today on routine plays led to a pair of Detroit runs that put the game out of reach for the Yankees. All five of Nunez's errors have come at shortstop in a limited number of chances. Though he made just 10 errors in 101 games at Scranton last season, the Yankees need a more reliable utility man in the field. Perhaps Nunez would be better served playing every day in the minors to continue to hone his craft.

The Yankees lackluster offense continued this afternoon in a 6-3 loss to the Tigers that also gave Detroit the series win (3-1). The Yankees have split their last 10 games, and except for a 12-run outburst against the White Sox, have scored more than four runs just three times in the other nine games. A fine effort by A.J. Burnett was wasted when the Yankees couldn't build on their 2-1 lead. Burnett had a no-hitter through five innings before the Tigers tied it up in the 6th. One inning later they broke it open with the help of Nunez's second error.

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were given routine days off though Joe Girardi may have actually sat Jeter due to a sore hip. A-Rod entered the game as a pinch-runner when Chavez had to exit the ball game in the 4th inning.

Big Puma Tops Big Surprises | Baseball Digest

Big Puma Tops Big Surprises | Baseball Digest

Every year it seems a light-hitting shortstop powers up in April, a team that isn’t expected to compete comes out like lightning out of the gate, and a journeyman pitcher dominates. But, the biggest surprise this season has been the resurgence of one-time All-Star Lance Berkman, aka “Big Puma”.

Berkman’s numbers had dropped drastically the last couple of years, especially when the switch-hitting first baseman was facing a left-handed pitcher. But Berkman, who has moved back to the outfield with the St. Louis Cardinals, came out swinging this season. He hit .393/.455/.753 in March/April with eight home runs and 22 RBI. Though his numbers are still pedestrian in limited exposure to left-handed pitching, Berkman has absolutely destroyed right-handers to the tune of a 1.352. Berkman kept the pace through the first two games in May with a home run, five RBI and four hits in eight at-bats.

The American League Central division standings are upside down. Favorites Minnesota and Chicago are at the bottom of the division while the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals are 1-2 in the standings. The Tribe rolled out to a 20-8 start, thanks in large part to outstanding starting pitching and effective relief work. One-time Boston prospect Justin Masterson has started 5-0, 2.25, thanks to outstanding control, which has been a major issue for Masterson in the past. Though he walked five batters in one of his wins, he’s allowed just eight walks in his five other starts. Masterson has also allowed less than a hit per inning. The right-hander’s only no-decision came in his last start when he limited the Tigers to two earned runs over seven innings in a game the Indians eventually won.

Masterson’s teammate Josh Tomlin also entered his start Wednesday night with an unbeaten mark (4-0, 2.45). Like Masterson, Tomlin has limited the number of opposing men on base and has a better than 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. The 26-yr old had shown promise since being selected in the 2006 amateur draft, including a 12 game stint with Cleveland last season. The Indians bullpen, which has allowed 27 earned runs in 79.1 innings pitched, has seen superb seasons from closer Chris Perez (1-1, 2.77, 8 SV), Vinnie Pestano (0.82 ERA) and left-handers Rafael Perez (2-1, 0.00) and Tony Sipp (1-0, 2.08).

Maybe the biggest surprise has been the Indians offense, which has averaged 5.36 runs per game, good for second-best in the American League. The Indians’ lineup has produced a balanced attack and received a boost when Grady Sizemore returned with force after missing the start of the season while recovering from microfracture knee surgery. The centerfielder has busted out a 1.058 OPS with four home runs and nine RBI in 13 games.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the power-packed Chicago White Sox lineup looks more like a bunch of Punch-and-Judy hitters. It’s the overwhelming reason the White Sox are off to an 11-21 start. Just when things seemed like they were at rock bottom, Chicago was no-hit by Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano this past Tuesday night. Liriano entered the game with a 9.13 ERA and had allowed over 10 hits per nine innings pitched.

Chief among the lack-of-offensive offenders is free agent DH Adam Dunn. The first year AL player is adjusting to a new league and being a full-time DH, but that being said, he entered Wednesday’s play hitting just .157 with three home runs, 12 RBI, and an anemic .582 OPS. He’s not alone though; outside of Paul Konerko (.298-8-24) and Carlos Quentin (.283-6-17), none of the White Sox regulars are hitting. The team is averaging less than four runs per game while the pitching staff has put up a decent 4.37 ERA.

Houston Astros first baseman Brett Wallace has heard the murmurs, “He’s a bust”, and things of that nature. The still just 24-yr old was drafted by the Cardinals with the 13th overall pick in the 2008 draft. He was then dealt to Oakland in July, 2009 as part of the deal that brought Matt Holliday to St. Louis. Eight months later, the A’s dealt Wallace to the Toronto Blue Jays for fellow prospect Michael Taylor, who was part of the Roy Halladay deal. Finally, in July, 2010, Toronto sent Wallace packing to Houston for a “project” minor leaguer in part of a three-way deal that landed Roy Oswalt in Philly.

Wallace showed 20-HR power in the minors and had a career .863 OPS in three minor league seasons. He got a cup of coffee with the Astros last season, but his splits (.222/.296/.319) were nothing to write home about. This season, Wallace was given the chance to prove himself at the Major League level, and so far he’s got everyone taking notice. He has an NL third-best .383 average with a pair of home runs, nine doubles, 10 RBI, 10 walks, and a .990 OPS. The Astros, who are surprisingly fourth in the NL in scoring, have even moved Wallace into the clean up spot. Only time will tell of course if Wallace can do it over the long haul.