Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rangers-Giants Begin WS Tonight

The World Series. Baseball's ultimate showdown. Not being seen by Cablevision subscribers thanks to the pricks from Fox and Cablevision. But I digress.

In a position by position comparison, the Rangers win almost every match up. But sometimes we have seen teams that are just fated to win. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1988 LA Dodgers come to mind.

Despite the fact that it would make Mad Dog Russo and Chris Berman happy, the pick here is the Giants in 7 games. Pitching wins and there should be plenty of it in this series starting tonight when Cliff Lee faces Tim Lincecum. Game 2 has C.J. Wilson going against the always underrated Matt Cain. Game 3 is Colby Lewis against Jonathan Sanchez with the fourth game matching youngsters Madison Bumgarner and Tommy Hunter.

Ron Washington has gotten high accolades for handling his team through the post-season and Bruce Bochy always does a good job. This should be a great one.

* * *

Hopefully, Mrs. Cliff Lee will be treated better than she apparently was during the ALCS road games.

Perhaps the Rangers' greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.

"The fans did not do good things in my heart," Kristen says.

"When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it's hard not to take it personal."

Lonn Trost, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman, and the Steinbrenner boys should be sucking up to her immediately!

CC To Fix Knee Knee

Yeah, I really just said that. It must be the early childhood influence of Dr. Seuss.

CC Sabathia is undergoing surgery on Friday to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee. It'll be anywhere between 3 and 6 months before the big guy can resume his normal off-season conditioning (no jokes there please.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The 2011 Planning Has Begun

Written For Baseball Digest.

From the moment Alex Rodriguez watched a called third strike to end the American League Championship Series, you could hear the wheels turning inside Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s head. Cashman has a busy winter ahead of him with a number of free agent issues to contend with, both internally and externally.

The two biggest free agents among the current Yankees are their skipper Joe Girardi and the face of the team, shortstop Derek Jeter. Cashman has already stated he wants Girardi to stay and said Jeter will not be going anywhere. The second is nearly 100% true, but Girardi’s situation could be a little trickier.

Girardi would have been in for a mega pay day had his contract expired at the end of the 2009 championship season. But he and his binder struggled at times this season and the Yankees season fell short of both management’s and the fan’s expectations. Which, of course, is easy to do when you’re expected to win the World Series every year.

Girardi also lost some negotiating power when the Chicago Cubs, rumored to be highly interested in the Illinois native, hired interim leader Mike Quade to be the full-time manager. That being said, according to several sources Girardi will sign a new deal shortly, likely three years in length. Should the Yankees and Girardi not work out a deal, Bobby Valentine, Tony Pena,and Willie Randolph would be among those considered for the job.

Derek Jeter is fully expected to be back in Pinstripes next year, but just like Girardi, Jeter’s bargaining power decreased with a subpar year after a huge 2009, and many questions remain. How much money is he willing to accept? How long does Jeter want to play? How long can he play shortstop and will he be willing to eventually move to another position/share time at DH? Will he be able to handle reduced playing time? The right thing to do would be to sign Jeter to a lifetime deal that specifies baseball and post-career life. Jeter should never be out of Pinstripes unless he wants to be. A deal will be made, but just how quickly a deal gets done remains to be seen.

The two other big free agents among current Yankees are two-thirds of the remaining “Core Four”- Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. The main factor in each player’s future is how strong their desire is to return for another year. Both have admitted they have pondered their future beyond baseball. Rivera said at one point not too long ago that he would like to pitch another five years. It was certainly tongue in cheek, but Rivera is likely to return in 2011. If for whatever reason Rivera decided to hang it up, the Yankees would certainly go hard and heavy after free agent closer Rafael Soriano.

Pettitte, as he has done the last two years, will probably take his time over the winter and not declare his intentions until after the holidays. At this point, chances are probably 50/50 that he returns next season. Though he was healthy for the most part, Pettitte suffered a debilitating groin strain that DL’ed him for two months, and then he dealt with back and hamstring issues in the post-season (which was revealed yesterday in a Brian Cashman-Joe Girardi season wrapup press conference.)

Aside from Jeter, the remainder of the infield is set with Mark Teixeira (1B), Robinson Cano (2B), and Alex Rodriguez (3B) returning to their positions in 2011. The Yankees catching situation will most certainly see a change though. Jorge Posada will be back for the final year of the four year contract he signed prior to the 2008 season, but backup Francisco Cervelli will likely be gone. Cervelli started out the season hitting like a house on fire, but his offensive and defensive production decreased with increased playing time. Posada’s time behind the plate is also likely to be reduced to try to limit the number of games he misses due to injuries.

The beginning of the Jesus Montero era, however long or short, should begin in the Bronx next season. In addition to backing up Posada, Montero should see time at DH as the Yankees take a serious look at his powerful right-handed bat. Austin Romine will also be waiting in the wings at Scranton and, as has been the norm for the past several years, the Yankees will sign a Chad Moeller-esque catcher to a minor league contract as a precaution.

The outfield situation is an interesting one. Curtis Granderson (CF) and Brett Gardner (LF) are likely to return, but with free agents Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth looming on the horizon, the Yankees could move Nick Swisher if either outfielder is signed. Everyone loves what Carl Crawford can bring to a ball club, but signing the right-handed, right field-playing Werth may actually make more sense (and could possibly be a less expensive option than what Crawford will demand). The Yankees could use another strong right-handed bat as well.

While it may sound like blasphemy to some Yankees fans, Swisher’s value will never be higher. He had a career year, but Werth is a better ballplayer in every aspect of the game. Swisher has one year ($9 million) left on his current deal with a club option ($10.25 million, $1 million buyout) for 2012. Age isn’t a factor in this one since Werth (31) is actually a year older than Swisher (30).

Crawford, who will start next season at age 29, can of course wreak havoc on the basepaths as well as hit for power. He’ll most certainly be looking for a long term deal (5-7 years minimum?), though the economy could impact his future. Crawford has always been a center or left fielder and he isn’t your prototypical rightfielder. So if he were to be signed, it would likely mean moving Granderson or Gardner out of town, and that doesn’t make any sense from a baseball or economic standpoint.

The starting rotation for now consists of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and a beleaguered A.J. Burnett. Javier Vazquez will be gone and NOT brought back a third time. While Pettitte contemplates his future, Cashman and the Yankees will be firing on all cylinders as they go after free agent-to-be Cliff Lee. But Lee’s signing isn’t as automatic as most pundits and fans thought several months ago. Lee likes it in Texas and he’s the guy front and center leading the team to its first World Series. The new ownership has plenty of bucks and has already vowed to do everything they can to keep Lee in Arlington.

The World Series outcome should have no impact on Lee’s decision. WFAN’s Evan Roberts believes Lee is much more likely to stay if the Rangers win, but just the fact that they are there could play a major factor in Lee’s decision. The Yankees will argue, of course, that they have a better chance of reaching the World Series in any season. And, of course, the Yankees will not be outbid.

If indeed the Yankees succesfully land Lee, they could look into dealing Burnett, who was a train wreck in 2010. With three years remaining on his five year deal, it’s a trade that could be accomplished, especially if the Yankees pick up some of the cash. The Yankees will also look at back end of the rotation options to replace Vazquez and/or in case Pettitte retires.

The bullpen, a key to the team’s 27th title, was a let down this season. Outside of Rivera, there wasn’t much consistency. Damaso Marte will be out until after the 2011 All-Star break after having surgery on a torn labrum. Boone Logan stepped up and did a decent job as the left-handed specialist. He should remain in that capacity next season. David Robertson had a hugely disappointing follow up to his breakout season in 2009. His spot is certainly not guaranteed for next year. Some of the young arms in the minor leagues will certainly get a chance to make the squad out of spring training. And then of course there is Joba Chamberlain.

In yesterday’s press conference, Girardi said Chamberlain will be a “bullpen guy”, a back end of the bullpen reliever. If not for the fact that he’s out of options (thanks to the guys at River Ave. Blues for that information), the Yankees could have had Joba working his way back as a starter in the minor leagues like they should have in 2008 or 2009. But that ship has sailed. Of course there is the very real possibility that Chamberlain could be dealt.

The Yankees won’t pick up the $11 million option on Kerry Wood, but will definitely be interested in resigning him if they can get him at a good cost and if he doesn’t mind remaining as a setup man. Wood excelled once he was acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline.

The utility infield position will be up for grabs, with Eduardo Nunez having a solid chance to push Ramiro Pena out of the job. While Pena has the better glove, Nunez has much more offensive potential. The Yankees are also likely to bring in a Miguel Cairo type to compete for the position as well as to push the youngsters.

The bench was a key to the second half of the Yankees regular season though it was a bit exposed during the playoffs. Lance Berkman’s option won’t be picked up and there is a good chance he’ll return to Houston and/or the National League. Both Marcus Thames and Austin Kearns are free agents that may or may not be back. Thames put up solid numbers, but is a defensive liability, while Kearns battled injuries and has always had an erratic bat.

One surprise that came out of the season ending press conference: pitching coach Dave Eiland, for reasons kept private, was dismissed by the team. Early candidates to replace him are bullpen coach Mike Harkey and minor league pitching coach Scott Aldred, who spent the last four seasons in the Yankees organization in Trenton and Scranton.

Finally, Brian Cashman himself has to do a better job this off-season. The GM himself admitted that last winter was not one of his best as moves for Vazquez and Nick Johnson, (who will also not be making a third trip back), blew up in his face.

Whatever moves are to be made this winter, you can bet the Yankees will be right in the middle of things. After all, there’s a 28th championship out there to be won.

Drew Sarver is the Yankees content editor and contributor for You can also read his work at his blog, My Pinstripes. He can be contacted at and can be followed on Twitter at @BD_Sarver and @MyPinstripes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yankees Kick Eiland To The Curb

In a surprising move today the Yankees have decided not to retain the services of pitching coach Dave Eiland. During a season end press conference GM Brian Cashman announced the dismissal and said it was for "private reasons".

The Yankees pitching came under fire for their performance in the American League Championship Series loss to Texas as well as A.J. Burnett's complete melt down during the regular season.

Eiland had missed a chunk of the regular season due to reasons of a private nature, but it's not thought that had anything to do with today's announcement.

If I didn't know better I would think George Steinbrenner were still alive. Unhappy with the manager's performance, the Boss firing a pitching or hitting coach was one of his classic moves.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thank You Yankees

Despite the way the playoffs finished and the frustration and anger that boiled over in September and the Texas series, I want to thank the Yankees for another exciting season.

A season in which I got to watch Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and yes though I am sometimes his harshest critic, Jorge Posada, for giving their all in another season in Pinstripes.

To Robinson Cano for his fantastic MVP-worthy 2010 season. He truly blossomed this year.

Mark Teixeira for playing through one injury after another in the 2nd half of the season and for providing another outstanding gold glove season. (Let's work on that post-season batting though).

Alex Rodriguez for continuing to amaze even as he was banged up. 30 HR 100 RBI, put it in the book.

Kerry Wood for his vintage moments.

Curtis Granderson for turning his season around and for showing just what a classy and great guy he is.

Nick Swisher for more entertaining moments and quotes.

CC Sabathia for being the ace of the team, another great guy, and Cy Young winner (better be).

And to everyone else who graced the Pinstripes. And for all those who we lost this year. The Boss, The Voice, and Freddy Sez.

And thanks to everyone who reads this blog. I know there aren't a lot of you, but I truly appreciate those of you who do and those comment to me on here or Twitter or Facebook.

Look out American League, we're coming back in 2011!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Texas' Deep Heart Downs Yankees

The majority of Colby Lewis' 12 years of professional baseball have been spent in relative anonymity. A 1st round pick (38th overall) by the Texas Rangers in 1999, Lewis spent parts of five seasons in the majors with three teams and compiled a 12-15 mark. He tore his rotator cuff in 2004 and missed all of the following season. Then there were the last two years playing for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan. But that's where Lewis began to hone his game. And tonight he shone, back with his original ball club, helping to close out the ALCS in six games over the Yankees.

Lewis dominated the Yankees for the second time in the series as the Texas Rangers repeated their knockout of Phil Hughes and topped the Bomberless Bombers 6-1. Lewis limited the Yankees to three hits over eight innings, walked three, and struck out seven to finish the series 2-0, 1.98. And he got plenty of run support to boot.

Hughes was on the ropes all night and Texas finally hit him with a haymaker in the 5th. Tied 1-1, Mitch Moreland singled and moved to third on a pair of ground outs. The Yankees, who mistakenly pitched to Josh Hamilton in his first at-bat, intentionally walked the soon to be AL MVP to face Vladimir Guerrero.

Guerrero didn't have an RBI in the series until a 1st inning ground out gave the Rangers an early 1-0 lead. He quickly added two more when he drove a double to center for a 3-1 advantage. Joe Girardi nearly ran out to the mound to pull Hughes, but it was to no avail. David Robertson came on and was greeted by a Nelson Cruz 2-run home run that was the death knell.

Lewis allowed just a pair of walks to Curtis Granderson through the first four innings before Alex Rodriguez started the 5th with a double. After moving to third on a deep fly out by Lance Berkman, A-Rod scored when Lewis' one hop pitch ricocheted off of Nick Swisher for a wild pitch.

Bengie Molina and manager Ron Washington argued vehemently, and correctly, that it should have been ruled a hit batsman and a dead ball, but home plate Brian Gorman saw it otherwise. Ironically, it was Swisher who was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in game 4, but the play was missed by then home plate ump Angel Hernandez.

Neftali Feliz retired the side in order in the 9th for Texas, setting off a massive celebration as the Rangers sealed their first trip to the World Series. Much will be made that former Ranger Rodriguez was the final strikeout and third out victim.


Mariano Rivera threw the 8th and final inning for the Yankees in what will hopefully not be his last time in a Yankees uniform.

Red hot Robinson Cano went ice cold for the first time in the series and went hitless.

The Yankees were completely outplayed, outclassed, out pitched, outhit, and out managed in the series. Their lackluster play began in late August and it never stopped, except for their ALDS series with the Minnesota Twins- a team they could beat with their eyes closed.

At times they looked old- stirring up feelings that were felt when they lost in the 2001 ALCS and the 2003 World Series. They also looked flat at times and appeared to have no fight or desire in their hearts or bellies, especially when they fell behind. They basically embarrassed themselves in the series.

There's some symmetry between the Rangers and the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat the Yankees in a wild World Series. Both teams had financial issues. The Dbacks had trouble making payroll, the Rangers couldn't get a sale to go through. But they stole Cliff Lee out from under the Yankees and their season was put into overdrive. Now they'll face the Giants or Phillies for all the marbles.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yankees Live to Fight Another Day

CC Sabathia wasn't as sharp as he is capable of being, but he was a lot sharper than he was in game 1 of the ALCS. The Yankees gave him run support just as they did in the series opener and forced a game 6 with a 7-2 win over the Texas Rangers this afternoon.

Unlike the earlier games in the series the Yankees came up with some big hits when they needed them. They also got some help from some sloppy Texas play and C.J. Wilson who wasn't nearly as good as he was in game 1.

Sabathia gave up three hits in the first two innings, but with the help of a double play, the game was scoreless in the bottom of the 2nd inning. That's when Wilson's troubles began. He walked the lead off man Alex Rodriguez and one batter later issued a free pass to Lance Berkman. Jorge Posada singled through the right side to plate Rodriguez, who went in standing just ahead of catcher Matt Treanor's tag.

Curtis Granderson then dropped one in front of Jeff Francoeur in right to score Berkman and Posada followed when Francoeur's throw ricocheted off the outstretched glove of third baseman Michael Young. Wilson backed up the play and had a shot at Posada at the plate, but threw over the head of Treanor for a 3-0 Yankees lead.

The Yankees brought out the big guns an inning later; Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano hit back to back home runs for a comfortable 5-0 lead. It was Cano's fourth home run of the series, tying him with Hamilton for the LCS high.

Sabathia bent, but never broke. He gave up a solo home run to Treanor in the 5th and ran into trouble in the 6th when he gave up three straight singles. But after Treanor's ground out produced a second run, Sabathia froze Mitch Moreland with a strike three breaking pitch to end the inning.

The Yankees got one of the runs back on a sac fly by Berkman in the 5th and added another in the 8th on a Granderson solo home run.

Joe Girardi, highly criticized here earlier today, didn't have to make too many decisions in this one. The lineup worked out for the most part, he had his ace on the mound and then he went to a Kerry Wood-Mariano Rivera duo for the 7th through 9th innings. It was just a matter of determining who would get how many outs.

As it turned out Woods was the two inning man, pitching a very effective 7th and 8th innings. His work included picking Elvis Andrus off of second base to quash any possible rally in the 7th inning. Rivera, working for the first time since game 1, allowed a two out single to Moreland, but retired Andrus on a foul out to earn his second save of the series.

On to Texas for a Phil Hughes-Colby Lewis rematch on Friday night.


As expected, Mark Teixeira was removed from the roster with a badly strained hamstring. Infielder Eduardo Nunez took his place. Should the Yankees advance to the World Series, Teixeira would not be eligible to play even if he miraculously recovered.

The Yankees nearly lost another first baseman when Berkman slipped on the warning track chasing a foul ball. His feet went out from under and he slammed down hard on the firm surface. He got the wind knocked out of him and stayed down for several minutes. Though he's sure to be sore on Thursday he was able to continue for the rest of the game...with a better pair of shoes.

Core Four Could Be Sliced In Half

No one wants to think about it. No one wants to talk about it. But today could be the last time Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte set foot in Yankee Stadium as active players. Yes, Derek Jeter is also a free agent, but that situation will be worked out one way or another. But the two elder statesman of the Yankees have pondered retirement this year and it is an all too real possibility.

Both have openly discussed that it's crossed their minds. Obviously neither will let on at the conclusion of the Yankees season, whether that be today or tomorrow. But the sad fact is it could happen.

Watching last night's game, I thought back to the 2001 and 2003 teams when the Yankees starting looking old. That '01 team was this close to winning it all, but so fortunate to be in that position. It was a team full of aging stars that were on their last leg or getting close to it.

The current squad is a mix, but many of the key players on the team have had more years behind them then they have ahead of them. Andy Pettitte may have had his swan song with his magnificent seven inning performance in game three. Whether up 10-1 or down 10-1 today, Mariano Rivera better be called in from the pen to ensure "Enter Sandman" is heard at least one more time.

Savor the memories, savor these men. Because you just never know.

Girardi Managing To Lose

I've talked all year about my discontent with Joe Girardi's in-game moves. He got away with many of them last year, no more so than in the 2009 ALCS. But this year Girardi's moves are coming back to bite him on the behind.

Down two games to one, Girardi opted to stand by his decision to start A.J. Burnett in game four rather than bring back CC Sabathia (93 pitches in game one) on three days rest. His reasoning did make some sense. He didn't want to push Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte to pitch on three days rest. But! and it's a but as large as Prince Fielder's. You have to get the momentum to swing back in your favor.

The Yankees have had trouble hitting in the clutch for well over a month. Translation- you need your pitcher to keep the opponent down. Andy Pettitte did that on Monday, but unfortunately was up against Cliff Lee. You go Sabathia game four and if need be, Burnett (or Dustin Moseley or whomever) in game five.

But, surprise of surprise, Burnett went out and gave Girardi a solid five innings and had a 3-2 lead. And then Girardi got greedy. Burnett hadn't started a game since September 27, but as his pitch count rose, Girardi stuck by him...and got burned.

Vladimir Guerrero led off with a single. Nelson Cruz hit into a force out, but Ian Kinsler just missed getting a hold of one, flying out to deep center. That should have been signal for the hook right there, but Girardi remained in the dugout. Yankee killer David Murphy was up and with a base open, Girardi called for an intentional walk, preferring to pitch to Bengie Molina. Burnett nearly threw a wild pitch in the process. Another signal to Girardi, but still no movement.

Burnett had misfired on a pitch to Molina earlier in the game and hit the bulky catcher in the back. This time Burnett's misfire was much more costly. With Francisco Cervelli set up outside, Burnett's pitch sailed right into Molina's wheelhouse. The result was a crushing three run home run and a 5-3 Rangers lead. Finally after six, Girardi went to the pen. But his mistakes weren't over yet.

David Robertson came out of the pen firing in the 7th. He dominated right-handed hitters Elvis Andrus and Michael Young. But Girardi and his friendly neighborhood binder said Boone Logan should pitch to Josh Hamilton. The leading contender for AL MVP smashed Logan's pitch into the seats for a 6-3 lead and things just got worse from there until it was an embarassing 10-3 final.

Yes, you have to give credit to the other team. As expected the Yankees hit Tommy Hunter well, but didn't break the game open. They've been unable to do that for months. Derek Holland then came out of the pen and pitched up to the potential we've all heard about him. And the Yankees were dead in game four and probably dead for the series.

When you're out managed by Ron Washington, you know you've screwed up. Joe Girardi will manage to find a way not to win.


As if things weren't bad enough, Mark Teixeira was forced to leave the game early with a strained hamstring and is probably done for the year whether or not the Yankees continue on. Though he was hitless in the ALCS his glove was invaluable.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Girardi Loses Bargaining Chip

Joe Girardi has more than enough on his plate tonight- his team is down two games to one in the ALCS and A.J. Burnett is starting for the Yankees- but the Yankees manager lost a big bargaining chip for his future today.

That's because the Chicago Cubs announced that they are making interim manager Mike Quade the full time manager for 2011. Girardi certainly had to have his interest piqued having been born and raised, gone to college, and having played in the area, when Lou Piniella announced his intention to retire at season's end. But because Piniella left early, Quade got a chance to show what he can do and the Cubs front office was apparently impressed by it. They gave their new head man a two year deal with an option for 2013.

Girardi had downplayed his interest all season, preffering to concentrate on this season, answering questions about his future only when the Yankees were in the windy city to play the White Sox.

The odds still say that Girardi remains Yankees manager in 2011. Now if there were only some better odds on starting A.J. Burnett.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Game 3: Critical, But Not Deadly

With both the ALCS and NLCS tied at a game apiece, I decided to do a little research, which will probably be available by Elias tomorrow (if it's not already tonight).

I looked back at all of the World Series plus all League Championship Series since 1985 (when the format went from five to seven games). Prior to this year's post-season there were 79 series that were tied at 1-1 after two games.

52 of those series occurred during the World Series. 16 teams came back from a 2-1 deficit to win the championship. They included the 1923, 1951, and 1952 Yankees.

There have been 13 ALCS that were tied after the first two games, with five teams going to the World Series after dropping game 3. They included the 1998 and 2003 Yankees.

Of the 14 NLCS series involved, four teams moved on to play in the World Series after dropping the third game of the playoff series.

So what does it all mean? While it's difficult to come back from a 2-1 deficit it is not impossible. Especially if you have games four and five at home.

68.3% winner of game 3 takes it all.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Start 23 Years in the Making

Phil Hughes will take the ball this afternoon for the New York Yankees in the second game of the ALCS. Two years ago there were many who could not have envisioned that scenario. Luckily for Hughes, none of those people mattered to his future.

It’s fortunate that athletes don’t generally read fan message boards or Twitter or blogs. Some of what they read in the mainstream media maybe damaging enough to their egos and confidence. They don’t need to be exposed to the rantings and ravings of the average fan. Phil Hughes is one of those athletes who has hopefully never googled himself on the web. Had he done so, he would have seen “thoughts” back in 2008 ranging from “This kid will never amount to anything” to “He’s another Carl Pavano in the making.” (Yes, I really did see someone state that back then.)

Read the rest of my story for free at

Friday, October 15, 2010

Yankees Win Bigger Than Texas

CC Sabathia has picked up his teammates up many times with outstanding starts. Friday night it was his teammates turn to pick up the top Cy Young contender with a come from behind, 6-5 victory in game 1 of the ALCS.

Bolstered by a 5-0 lead, C.J. Wilson dominated the Yankees through six innings before Robinson Cano finally put the Yankees on the board with a solo home run. An inning later the Yankees took advantage of a shaky Rangers bullpen.

Brett Gardner started things off with pure hustle on a tapper to first baseman Jorge Cantu. Gardner flew down the line and slid head first to beat Wilson to the first base bag. Derek Jeter followed with a double into the left field corner and Gardner scored as the ball kicked around in the corner. Ron Washington pulled Wilson and opted for left-hander Darren Wilson to keep Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira batting from the right side.

The move didn't matter though when Oliver, who faced the Yankees in the post-season as a member of the Rangers in 1996, walked both hitters to load the bases. Washington went to right-hander Darren O'Day to face Alex Rodriguez, but the Yankees third baseman ripped a 2-run single through his counterpart Michael Young to cut the lead to 5-4.

Washington's moves continued to backfire when he brought in lefty Clay Rapada to face Cano. The Yankees MVP candidate lined a single to center field that Josh Hamilton mishandled to allow Teixeira to score the tying run. Cue another pitching change.

This time Washington went with another left-hander, Derek Holland, but Marcus Thames singled home A-Rod to put the Yankees on top for the first time, 6-5.

Sabathia appeared to be rusty after not having pitched since October 6. His lack of command affected him immediately as he walked lead off man Elvis Andrus in the 1st inning. Young followed with a single and Josh Hamilton hit a 2-strike frozen rope into the right field seats for a 3-0 lead.

The Rangers would eventually load the bases and could have broken the game open early, but Posada fielded Sabathia's wild pitch and threw out Nelson Cruz racing home from third. Replays showed that Sabathia got the tag on Cruz's shoulder just before the Rangers outfielder crossed home plate. Sabathia appeared to settle down somewhat, but the Rangers staged a two out rally in the 4th inning that culminated with a Young 2-run double for the 5-0 advantage.

The Yankees bullpen combo of Joba Chamberlain and Dustin Moseley plugged up the leak and enabled the comeback. Moseley picked up the first post-season win of his career after Mariano Rivera escaped a jam in the 9th. Pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland led off the inning with a single and was sacrificed to second by Andrus. But Rivera won a long duel with Young with a strikeout and got Hamilton to ground out to end the game.


The Rangers relievers were most responsible for the loss, but Ian Kinsler has some goat horns as well. After drawing a lead off walk against Kerry Wood in the 8th, Kinsler was picked off for a huge out.

Cano's home run was the first by a left-hander off of Wilson since June, '08.

And Then C.J. Wilson Said....

Every major league team has a player or two to break up the monotony that builds up over a 162 game season. There’s the guy (Kenny Rogers) who gives the hot foot in the dugout. The quirky left-hander (Sparky Lyle) who ceremoniously sits naked in the birthday cakes. The player (Roger McDowell) who puts on a wig and dresses in disguises. And then there’s the Texas Rangers starter who lets his mouth and fingers do the talking. Sometimes entertaining, sometimes controversial, but never boring- that’s C.J. Wilson.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

ALCS Preview 2010

Written for Baseball

The Texas Rangers find themselves in unfamiliar territory facing an old adversary as they face the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

Texas has little playoff experience to show for the franchise’s 49 year history (the first 11 years of which were played as the Washington Senators.) They’ve made the playoffs just three times prior to this season and in all three cases- 1996, 1998, and 1999- they ran into the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees. All three meetings came in the ALDS, with the Rangers managing to win just one of the nine games between the two franchises. And that one win came the very first time the two teams clashed in post-season play 14 years ago.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Year of Inconsistent Hockey

60 minutes; that's what a regulation hockey game is. At some point, someone needs to inform the NY Rangers or some day, some way, maybe it will set in with them.

Fresh off their surprising opening night win in Buffalo on Friday, the Rangers went out to the Mausoleum in Long Island to play their hated rivals, the New York Islanders, on Monday afternoon.

I only saw the 2nd period of play live. A period in which the Rangers dominated, but gave up a late goal to go into the third period tied 3-3.

The Rangers have had a habit of taking bad penalties the last few seasons and it continued in today's game. Now granted, the first call which led to the game breaking 5 on 3 power play was a questionable one. Ryan Callahan went off for a tripping, a trip that coach John Tortorella said was non-existent. That being said, Marc Staal went off shortly thereafter and the Islanders took advantage, netting a pair of power play goals.

As usual, the Mausoleum crowd was sparse, and in this particular case, was filled with many Rangers fans.

Rick Di Pietro stopped Marian Gaborik on a 1st period penalty shot.

Big Blue Completed A Great Sports Weekend

The Giants have a long history of not being able to put good back to back games together. But Sunday they had a huge road victory over the even more inconsistent Houston Texans, 34-10.

The key was another great performance by the Giants defense. The pressured Matt Schaub continually and shut down Arian Foster and the Texans league leading rushing games.

Hakeem Nicks showed again that this guy can develop into a huge play maker and star. He had two touchdown receptions on Sunday and had a chance for a couple more had he kept his balance near the goal line and not dropped a deep route pass that hit his hands.

Good game for Eli Manning, 3 TDS, though he still managed to throw a couple of picks. One them a very poor pass that led to the lone Texans TD.

Ahmad Bradshaw's ankle was acting up, which gave Brandon Jacobs a chance to get some playing time and score another TD. Afterwards he said his attitude is much improved.

And how about the return of Osi Uminenyora. Looks like his knee is finally healthy.

With the Lions at home on tap for next week, the Giants could very well have a three game winning streak.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Yankees Smack The Twins With A Broom...Again

For the second straight post-season, the New York Yankees have swept the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series.

While the first two games were loaded with drama, the clincher seemed to be in the bag from the start. Phil Hughes was dominant; his fastball blew past hitters, his curveball broke off nastily, and his occasional change up did it's work. All told it was seven innings of shutout baseball for Hughes in his first post-season start. Hughes allowed just four hits, walked one, and struck out six.

Hughes' counterpart, left-hander Brian Duensing wasn't so lucky. Also making his first post-season start, Duensing departed in the 4th with a 5-0 deficit.

The Yankees MVP was in the middle of things as usual and got things started in the 2nd inning. Robinson Cano drilled a triple to center field and came home with the game's first run on a Jorge Posada single. One inning later Nick Swisher doubled to center and scored on Mark Teixeira's frozen rope single to left.

The Yankees delivered the knockout punch in the 4th. It was Cano again starting things off with a single. Then Marcus Thames pounded a sinker into the bleachers in right-center field for a 4-0 lead. Duensing retired Posada, but was sent to the showers when Curtis Granderson walked. The final run of the inning would be added to Duensing record when Granderson stole second base and moved to third on Joe Mauer's throwing error. Brett Gardner brought his outfield partner to the plate with a sac fly to left off Matt Guerrier.

Hughes, meanwhile, was cruising. He retired the first nine hitters of the game and faced the minimum number of batters through four innings. The Twins put two aboard with one out in the 5th, but Hughes struck out Michael Cuddyer and got rookie Danny Valencia to fly out. An inning later Orlando Hudson and Mauer stroked back to back two out singles, but Hughes blew away Jason Kubel for the third out.

Hudson would finally get Minnesota on the board in the 8th with an RBI single off a shaky Kerry Wood, but the Twins left the bases loaded. Boone Logan came on to get Kubel on a pop up and David Robertson retired Delmon Young on an inning ending fly ball. Then it was down to Mariano Rivera who, though it was not a save situation, retired the Twins in order with relative ease.

The Yankees now will wait to play until Friday when the ALCS starts in either Tampa Bay or Texas. The Rays avoid a sweep this afternoon by defeating the Rangers 6-3.

For the Twins, different year, same old story.

It's The Rangers Victory Song

No, not Texas..they couldn't pull off the sweep tonight, dropping a 6-3 decision.

But another Rangers team, those Broadway Blueshirts who make their living in Madison Square Garden, won their season debut tonight.

The New York Rangers doubled up the Buffalo Sabres by the identical 6-3 score. The most amazing part of the road win? Rookie Derek Stepan became just the 4th rookie in NHL history to score a hat trick in his debut.

Brandon Dubinksy scored a pair of goals, including an empty netter, and King Henrik stopped 33 shots.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Vintage Pettitte Gives Yankees 2-0 Edge

Andy Pettitte was concerned about his back and a lack of sharpness in his last two regular season outings. But his performance tonight against the Minnesota Twins should alleviate any of those fears. Pettitte gave up a 2nd inning run, but shut down the Twins the rest of the way as the Yankees won 5-2 for a commanding 2-0 ALDS series lead.

With the game tied 2-2 in the 7th, the Yankees took control against former teammate, if you can really call him that, Carl Pavano, but not before a bit of controversy. Lance Berkman got an extra chance to hit after an apparent called third strike was ruled a ball by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected from the game and the former Astro took advantage of the situation, drilling an ankle high pitch to deep center for a go ahead RBI double. The Yankees added an insurance run later in the inning when Derek Jeter's liner dropped in front of a diving Jason Kubel for a 4-2 lead.

The Twins had a chance to break the game open early when they loaded the bases in the 2nd inning on singles by Delmon Young and Jim Thome and a one out walk to Kubel. Danny Valencia gave the Twins a 1-0 lead with a sac fly, but Pettitte got out of further trouble when J.J. Hardy lined out to Robinson Cano.

Alex Rodriguez tied the game with a sac fly in the 4th, but Pavano got out of his own jam by inducing an inning ending double play from Nick Swisher.

Berkman drilled a 423-ft home run in the 5th inning for a 2-1 Yankees lead, but the Twins tied it back up in the 6th on Orlando Hudson's round tripper.

Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera recorded the final six outs in a row to put the Twins' backs up against the wall for Game 3 in New York on Saturday.

Teixeira Home Run Takes ALDS Opener

Written for

If you have ever watched a professional wrestling match you know that the guy in the, oh let’s say white, blue striped trunks, pounds away mercilessly on the guy in the, oh let’s say grey trunks. It appears the guy in the grey trunks is done for, but suddenly the tide turns and the guy in grey gets off the mat and delivers his own monumental blows. Then it is anyone’s contest. That was the case tonight in Game 1 of the ALDS series between the white, blue striped clad Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees, wearing their road greys. In the end the Yankees rode a Mark Teixeira 2-run, 7th inning home run to a 6-4 win and a 1-0 advantage in the best of five series.

Twins starter Francisco Liriano started out Wednesday night’s game like the ace of the Twins staff he has become. But just as he faltered down the stretch of the regular season, Liriano wore out as his pitch count rose in the 6th inning.

The Dominican born left-hander was dominant early, making Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada look silly for three of his seven strikeouts. He had retired nine straight and cruised into the 6th inning up 3-0. After Nick Swisher was Liriano’s 10th straight victim, Teixeira ripped a double into the left field corner and the tide began to turn. Alex Rodriguez fought his way to a full count walk and Robinson Cano showed why he’s a top AL MVP contender when he delivered an RBI single to right to get the Yankees on the board. Liriano bounced back to strike out Marcus Thames for the second out, but Jorge Posada roped a single to right to cut the deficit to one. Curtis Granderson, who had been criticized all season for his at-bats against left-handers, drove a 94-mph fastball off the wall in deep right-center for a 2-run triple that put the Yankees on top for the first time, 4-3. It also ended Liriano’s night.

Minnesota’s offense had given Liriano support early when Michael Cuddyer hit a 2-run bomb off CC Sabathia for a 2-0 lead in the 2nd inning. A frame later, aggressive base running by Orlando Hudson helped manufacture a third run. The O-Dog singled through the left side and a batter later advanced all the way to third base when Teixeira had to dive to beat Joe Mauer to first base to record the out on Mauer’s tapper. The O-Dog’s hustle paid off when Posada mishandled a Sabathia sinker for a run producing passed ball.

Sabathia couldn’t maintain the lead in the home half of the 6th after he retired the first two hitters. The Twins loaded the bases and Sabathia, showing a rare lack of control, walked rookie Danny Valencia to force in the tying run.

Teixeira’s mammoth go-ahead blast off of Jesse Crain stayed just inside the right field foul pole and allowed Girardi to begin mixing and matching with his bullpen. Boone Logan, David Robertson, Kerry Wood, and Mariano Rivera shut down the Twins the rest of the way and guaranteed the Yankees at least a split when they head home for Game 3 on Friday in New York. Rivera recorded a four out, four broken bat save, getting Denard Span to ground out with the tying runs on base to end the 8th inning and Jim Thome to pop out as the tying run in the 9th.

From Joe Girardi’s press conference,

On Sabathia: “’s odd that he walked that many guys, but I threw the ball decent.”

On Granderson: “Grandy’s been a different guy since August in Texas. He made that little adjustment..he’s a different guy.”

From Ron Gardenhire’s press conference:

On leaving Liriano in to face Granderson: “Granderson was hitting like .188 against him. We wanted to let Liriano try to work his way out of it.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcome to Doctoberfest

Roy "Doc" Halladay waited his entire career to pitch in the post-season. He made sure no one would ever forget his first apperance in October's spotlight. Halladay became just the second pitcher in baseball history to throw a no-hitter in the post-season as he and the Philadelphia Phillies blanked the Cincinnati Reds 4-0 earlier this evening.

Halladay, who threw a perfect game vs. the Florida Marlins during the regular season, joins Don Larsen as the only pitchers to not allow a hit in a post-season game. One walk separated Halladay from joining Larsen in the perfect game club.

Unfortunately, I did not see one pitch of it. I was busy all day and turned TBS on to check the score at about (what I figured) was the midway point. The game was in commercial and I turned the station off. And didn't go back... >:(

Halladay even helped his own cause out with an RBI hit. The Phils put a run on the board in the 1st and added three more in the 2nd for a quick 4-0 lead. Then Halladay cruised. He walked Jay Bruce with two outs in the 5th for the Reds' lone base runner.

Halladay struck out nine, mixing his reportoire of pitches as he baffled the Cincy hitters. In the 9th Ramon Hernandez popped out to 2nd for the first out. Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo followed with a foul out to 3rd. That left things up to Brandon Phillips, who hit a little tapper in front of the plate. Catcher Carlos Ruiz jumped out, fell to his knees, and threw to Ryan Howard to end the game.

Twins Got A Loss Before They Started

Pitching is the key to winning in the playoffs - just look at the 2009 New York Yankees for a surefire example - but in this year's Yankees-Minnesota Twins division series it is the loss of an offensive player that could sway the series heavily in the Yankees' favor.

Twins 1st baseman Justin Morneau is one of the best hitters in baseball; a perennial 30-HR, 100-RBI guy who hits .300 to boot.

But there will be no Morneau in the ALDS or beyond. Morneau missed the remainder of the season after suffering a concussion July 7. At the time he was hitting .345 with 18 HR and 56 RBI in 80 games. The Twins hoped Morneau could be back at some point in the post-season, but that was ruled out as well after concussion symptoms returned this past Saturday.

The loss is devastating to a lineup which scratches out runs and is not laden with big boppers. Though they finished sixth in the major leagues in runs scored, the Twins rely heavily on the M duo of Morneau and Joe Mauer (I refuse to call them the M&M boys, there was only one set of them). The latter has also been banged up and returned to his pre-2009 power (when he banged out 28 dingers) of just 9 home runs.

Morneau's absence for the second straight post-season, he missed last year with a bad back, will certainly put more pressure on a Twins starting rotation that was not a model of consistency this year. Other than Francisco Liriano, who re-established his ace stuff, most of the remainder of the staff did not perform up to their usual ability and fell short of expectations.

The Twins will most certainly rely on small ball and their running ability to score runs against the Yankees. Teams have stolen with ease this year against the Yankees rotation and catching duo of Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli and the Twins should continue that trend. Delmon Young (.826 OPS 21 HR 112 RBI) could be an 'X' factor in the series after finally living up to the hype surrounding him while in Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

The Twins lost Joe Nathan to Tommy John surgery during spring training, but 6'11" Jon Rauch filled those big shoes as a steady closer. When he faltered, GM Bill Smith went out and got closer Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals to deepen the pen.

Finally, reading is fundamental and so are the Twins. The organization is the best at teaching the basics and no one has utilized those lessons in the majors better than old manager Tom Kelly and current skipper Ron Gardenhire.

Position Comparison

1B Mark Teixeira > Michael Cuddyer
Cuddyer was in RF until Morneau's injury; his production dropped off substantially from last year (32 HR - 14 HR .862 - .753 OPS). Teixeira struggled all season until Kevin Long straightened him out and he went on a second half tear. Though he slowed in September due to thumb and foot injuries, he still finished with an .846 OPS and 33 HR, 102 RBI.

2B Robinson Cano > Orlando Hudson
Cano should either win the AL MVP award or finish second to Texas' Josh Hamilton. He had 200 hits for the second straight season and posted career highs in HR (29), RBI (104) and OPS (.914). He also played gold glove 2nd base. Orlando Hudson is a solid defender, but doesn't have much of a stick.

SS Derek Jeter > J.J. Hardy
Jeter had the worst offensive seasons of his career, but still managed to score 111 runs and was solid defensively, with a career low six errors. He started to come on in September after working with Long, finishing with 25 hits in his last 72 at-bats (.347). Hardy has been a disappointment after breaking out in 2007-2008 while with Milwaukee. He was limited to 101 games by injury and posted just a .714 OPS.

3B Alex Rodriguez > Danny Valencia
A-Rod put up another 30-HR 100-RBI year despite playing in just 125 games (123 RBI). He was also solid defensively. Valencia is developing into a nice player- his rookie campaign consisted of a .799 OPS, .311 AVG, 7 HR, 40 RBI in 85 games.

LF Delmon Young > Brett Gardner
The two are on par defensively, but Young's offense had a much greater impact on his team's lineup, especially when Morneau went down. Young posted career highs in virtually every offensive category. Gardner's speed can be a difference maker, but he must be more aggressive on the bases.

CF Curtis Granderson > Denard Span
Granderson was having a miserable season until Long once again worked his magic in mid-August. The result was a much more productive and powerful Granderson. Span had a horribly disappointing season after hitting .311 in 2009. This year he posted a sub-.700 OPS.

RF Nick Swisher > Jason Kubel
It's not by a lot, but Swisher wins out. He was a secondary MVP to Cano on the Yankees for much of the season. Kubel has good power, is a clutch hitter, but is better at DH.

C Joe Mauer > Jorge Posada + Francisco Cervelli
Mauer's power may be down, but the hits keep on coming. The health of his left knee could play a factor, but just like Jeter, he'll downplay it. Posada and Cervelli have had mediocre years on both sides of the ball.

DH Marcus Thames/Lance Berkman - Jim Thome
It's a toss up. Thames has been hammering righties and lefties. Berkman has hit better from the left side since a DL stint in September. Thome is still mashing the long ball, though Gardenhire might use someone else against lefties Sabathia and Pettitte.

Yankees Starting Rotation > Twins Starting Rotation
CC Sabathia should win the Cy Young. Andy Pettitte is a rock if healthy and Phil Hughes had a breakout year with 18 wins. Liriano has ace stuff and has backed it up. Carl Pavano has been a revelation. But the Twins have to be worried about a game 4 match up of Sabathia vs. Nick Blackburn.

Yankees Bench > Twins Bench
Yankees have more pop potential when called upon.

Yankees Bullpen - Mariano Rivera, Kerry Wood & Company a little > Twins Bullpen Matt Capps, Jon Rauch & Company
Rivera's post-season work speaks for itself and Wood has put up amazing numbers since joining the Yankees.

Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire > Yankees Manager Joe Girardi
Girardi has the World Series ring, but Gardenhire is the better in game manager. But he still hasn't figured out how to beat the Yankees, especially in New York.

Prediction: Yankees in Five.