Wednesday, February 29, 2012

YCN - 5 1/2 Reasons The Yankees Will Win The AL East

CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia. Those are the six pitchers for the five spots in the Yankees starting rotation that will win the AL East. Joe Girardi said there are four pitchers (not counting CC and Kuroda) competing for three spots, but you'd be fool to buy into that. Barring a physical setback, Pineda and Nova will be in the rotation.

To read about the 5 1/2 reasons the Yankees will win the East, click here to get the Yahoo Contributor Network.

The Bobby V Backpedal

One day after taking shots at Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (see what I wrote for Yahoo by clicking here), Bobby Valentine took back his words about the Yankees captain and the "flip play".

Valentine spoke with his catching instructor, and former Yankees' employee, Gary Tuck who set the record straight that the Yankees do practice the play. (In fact they happened to work on it Wednesday afternoon)

Valentine also made sure to tell the media, "I love Derek Jeter."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Yahoo Contributor Network - Replacing Mariano Rivera

My second post for the YCN is on possible replacements for Mariano Rivera should he indeed retire after this season.

David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, David Aardsma, Brandon League, J.J. Putz, and Jose Valverde are among those considered. Click here to read the article, and thanks.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Yahoo Contributor Network And Me

I'm always looking for some place to write and I have a new spot, the Yahoo Contributor Network. Today, I had my first article, "Golden Anniversary of a Fall Classic" published. Pretty exciting, link on the main Yahoo MLB page and all.

The piece on the 1962 World Series between the Yankees and San Francisco Giants. It was the last time Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays opposed each other in meaningful games as well as the Yankees last championship until 1977. It was also the Giants last series appearance until 1989.

Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mariano Hints At Closing Out Career

I wrote the other day that I felt this would be Mariano Rivera's final season in the Major Leagues. At Yankees' camp today, Rivera pretty much put affirmed those feelings when he met with reporters.

"I know now," Rivera said when asked if this would be his final season. "I just don't want to tell you. I know now. I will let you guys know when I think I should tell you." Rivera added that he wanted to leave before his game went downhill.

"I don't want to be seen like that. It is important for me to leave the game on top if God allows me to do that, just finish on top, knowing I did what I was called to do."

No matter what type of season he has, Rivera said he will not change his mind. If he were to come back in 2013, he certainly wouldn't make a statement like that.

Thet time has come...the time to appreciate every Rivera appearance and hope he stands on the mound in November celebrating the Yankees 28th World Championship.

Ibanez Makes It Official

According to's Bryan Hoch, the Yankees and Raul Ibanez have reached terms on a free agent contract. It would appear the two sides were set to agree to a pact long before A.J. Burnett was dealt, but nothing could be made official until the pie thrower was tossed out of town.

Ibanez, who will turn 40 in June, hit .245 last season with 20 HR, 84 RBI, and a career low .707 OPS (for seasons with at least 100 games played). He will be the primary DH against right-handed pitching and will occasionally give Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson a rest by playing left field, something he's not very good at. (A combined 11 errors for Seattle in 2007-8).

The majority of Ibanez's offensive numbers came against right-handed pitching (.747 OPS vs .585 against lefties) last season and that trend should continue this year with Andruw Jones seeing time at DH against southpaws. Of course plenty of DH at-bats will go to Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and the other older veterans on the team.

The deal is believed to be worth $1.1MM and is contingent on a physical. According to Ken Rosenthal, with incentives Ibanez can earn $4MM.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Days Of Wine And Closers

The bottom of the 8th inning ends and in unison the crowd rises to its feet. It's a one or two run game and everyone in attendance knows who is about to enter the game. In fact, some fans might have been hoping the New York Yankees didn't score any additional runs to ensure his appearance. The bullpen door opens, "Enter Sandman" blares from the loud speakers, and Mariano Rivera emerges from beyond the outfield wall and jogs to the pitcher's mound. The crowd roars its approval and stays on its feet, drowning out the name of the first batter of the inning.

It's an experience that has been repeated hundreds of times over the last 17 years, and sadly, may not be repeated past the 2012 season. The day has to come eventually, but it's becoming clearer by the day that the upcoming season will likely be the last in the Major Leagues for the greatest reliever of all time. Opponents will not be sad to see him go. Because even at age 42 and a pitch that everyone knows is coming, Mariano Rivera is still nearly automatic.

Rivera is a finesse pitcher with a wild man's passion and firepower. He doesn't throw as hard as he used to, the cutter doesn't bite quite as much as it did, but it still breaks bats at an alarming rate to this day. His pitches come effortlessly, fluidly. There's no out of control body movement, no wasted energy. A simple delivery leaving him in perfect position to field anything he can get his glove on. There's no intimidating glare at the batter, no bizarre facial hair, no wild fist pumps or spasmodic dances after strikeouts, and no showing up of opponents. Mariano Rivera is as perfect a ball player as you will ever find, both on and off the field.

I can't honestly say that I remember the exact "a-ha" moment when I knew that Rivera was someone to be reckoned with. I do remember a starting pitcher early in the 1995 season who didn't seem like he was anything special and thought nothing of it when he was sent back to the minor leagues. But when the same player returned later in the year, he had been transformed into a strikeout throwing, bat-eating machine. He stood out in the Yankees first post-season appearance in 14 years that Fall and perhaps if Buck Showalter had stayed with him a little longer in Game 5 of the ALDS, the Yankees may have had advanced to the next round.

Rivera then changed the complexion of the game in 1996. The Yankees' starting pitchers only needed to go six innings, sometimes even just five, before Rivera threw 2-3 innings as a setup man to closer John Wetteland. The game had been shortened and that October the Yankees had their first championship in 18 years. That off-season the Yankees decided to let Wettleland walk; they had their closer of the future, and present, set to go. There were ups and downs as Rivera learned the role, most notably when he watched Sandy Alomar Jr.'s home run shorten the Yankees 1997 post-season run. But then he became invincible, un-hittable, and started to pave the road to the Hall of Fame.

From 1998 - 2000 he merely had to throw his glove on the field and the other team was finished. For that matter, the Yankees opponents only needed to see Rivera warm up in the pen and they were already psychologically beaten. Then "Enter Sandman" played, causing a tangible chill to race up and down one's spine, and the game was over in a matter of minutes.

There have been some bumps and bruises since then- the 2001 World Series meltdown, the 2004 ALCS, when Rivera had the audacity to struggle against the Boston Red Sox. (Never mind that the Yankees would not have won the 2003 ALCS without his three scoreless innings against Boston.) But, as he always has done in his career, Rivera bounced back from adversity. There he was on the mound in 2009, 13 years after his first ring, picking up his 5th piece of jewelry as the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

Rivera signed a new three year deal during the ensuing off-season, a deal that ends after what Rivera hopes is a long run this coming October. And's almost impossible to even conceive of number 42 (the last to wear the number) not being out on the mound breaking bats, blowing away hitters, and getting the ball from his catcher after a game ending strikeout.

There will never be another Mariano Rivera, the greatest pitcher in post-season play, so remember every appearance this season. Whether it's a 1-2-3 9th inning, mop up duty, or a blown save, he will still be the greatest reliever of all time. And an even better person.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Will A.J. Walk The Plank?

Could it really happen? Could the Yankees rid themselves of the enigma that is A.J. Burnett? Not long after signing his five year deal with the Yankees, which has two years and $33MM remaining, the phrase "But he has such good stuff" or a variation has been thrown out there numerous times.

CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported on Friday that Yankees' GM Brian Cashman was in talks with several teams for Burnett's services, with the Pirates being the front runner. It's no easy match though, primarily because of the $33MM albatross hanging around Burnett's neck. The Yankees wanted the Pirates to pick up 50% while the Buccos said 10% was more to their liking.

The Yankees also asked for 30-yr old left-handed hitter Garrett Jones, who averaged 19 home runs the last three seasons. Pitt GM Neal Huntington answered that with a big fat 'NO'.

Sunday morning, ESPN's Buster Olney reported the two sides had the "framework" in place for a deal. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal later added that the Yankees would probably have to pay $19MM-$23MM and the Yankees would receive multiple prospects, none of which are on the Pirates' 40 man roster.

Unless the Yankees can unload Burnett, the DH position could very well be filled by an Andruw Jones/Russell Branyan platoon, with the every day position players taking the spot often as well. You can bet most Yankees fans are starting a prayer circle that Burnett is gone by the time pitchers and catchers report to Tampa next Sunday.