Thursday, July 31, 2008

Greatest trade deadline ever

In my short lifetime I have never seen so many big name players move on a trade deadline like they have this year. CC Sabathia, Rich Harden, Mark Teixeira, Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez were all moved along with a bunch of smaller names that could have big impacts like Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, Casey Blake, Joe Blanton and Tony Clark.

The Yankees came away from this trade deadline in a much better position than they could have hoped for. Not only did they improve themselves by adding a solid left-hander(Marte) to the bullpen, but they balanced out the lineup by adding right-handed bats in Nady and Pudge. Both Nady and Pudge also fix broken pieces as they are essentially replacing Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui. Cashman still hasn't added that fifth starter to replace the black hole known as Sidney Ponson, but that can still be remedied after today.

The biggest reason that the Yankees are in a better position than they could have hoped for is something that another team did themselves. That of course is the Red Sox finally trading Manny Ramirez. Don't get me wrong the Sox came away with a pretty good player in Jason Bay, but everybody knows that Jason Bay has nowhere near the same lineup presence as Manny Ramirez had. And Jason Bay has never played a meaningful game in his MLB career.

The Red Sox have broken up probably the greatest 1-2 punch of this era by splitting up Ortiz and Ramirez and believe me I understand why. Ramirez was a constant headache for Red Sox management and I'm sure most Red Sox fans were tired of his bumbling play in the field and idiocy on the base paths. You can only laugh at the same stupid mistakes so many times before you want to smack him upside the head. But every Sox and Yankees fan knew he could hit and knew that he would kill almost any pitcher the Yankees sent out. This move was probably better for the Sox long term because Bay is younger and more affordable, but this for this season the Red Sox have definitely hurt their chances for succeeding in the post season or for that matter even making the post season.

The Yankees could not have asked for a better trade deadline. They filled almost all their needs and the watched their most hated rival weaken their position. Time will tell how all these deals truly impact each team and each playoff race, but today was a great day for the Yankees and a day of uncertainty for the Sox.

Cashman keeps making moves

As one of Brian Cashman's moves began to pay off yesterday, he decided to go out and make another. I doubt there is a Yankee fan anywhere who is upset with the deal to send Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez.

Farnsworth had finally gotten to be consistent with the Yankees and had put together a nice run as the set-up man. But Cashman did the right thing and assumed that Farnsworth was merely on a hot streak. He could easily implode the next time he is out there and for Krazy Kyle it is a slippery slope back to the bottom.

Cashman has one more move he should make and that is to steal Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners. With these first to thefts under his belt, it shouldn't be to hard for Cashman to fleece one more team. Every move he has made so far has been the right one, whether or not they pay off is a different story but you have to like how this team is starting to look.

Now if only Boston trades away Manny, then the Yanks can start to get a little optimistic about the outlook for this season. And I can't think about a better place to send him than Florida where he can finally get lost in the obscurity of the humid southeast.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Devil of a Time with the Angels

Congratulations! You broke up a no-hitter in the ninth. You should be very proud.

There is no reason a team with this talent should be playing this poorly. I thought the All-Star Break would give the Sox a much needed rest and that they would come out of the gate ready for the second half. Boy was I wrong. We are now looking at 1-4 on this home stand so far. Matsuzaka, right on cue, is showing his true nature. He lulls you into a sense of false security with some decent pitching then OOPS, POW, SURPRISE! a 6 run inning. Clay Buchholz continues his post no-hitter funk. And now to pour salt in a gaping wound, the Angels manage to get the Braves to take freakin' Casey Kotchman and a AA prospect for Mark Teixeira. Why didn't Boston just offer Atlanta Joe Thurston and Kyle Snyder? They might have given us their whole team.

Oh crap. I think I see War, Pestilence, and Famine riding up over the hill. And you know who comes around right on their heels.

Monday, July 28, 2008

An Open Letter to Manny Ramirez

Dear Manny,

This letter is a response to your statement that the Red Sox are sick of you and you are sick of them. First of all let me say that I have always defended you. As long as you smoke line drives to the gap and jack balls over the monster, it is easy to forgive the occasional, shall we say, miscalculation in the outfield. I for one never disapproved of your cell phone calls inside the scoreboard or your baggy uniform as some purists such as my father have. I understand; you don't like being controlled, micromanaged. You figure as long as you do your job, no one should care. I appreciate that and agree with you to an extent. But why on Earth are you sick of being in Boston?

Let's break it down. You've earned approximately $20 million per year over the past seven and half seasons. You have millions of fans in Boston who not only tolerate Manny being Manny but celebrate it. They celebrate it in spite of your rather casual approach to base running, not to mention the constant, ambiguous whining about being unhappy in Beantown.

Like I said, it's easy to look past certain things when you're having a typical Manny season, and 2008 is shaping up to be another solid one. But is it really up to Manny standards? Let's look at the stats. If we assume that you manage to suit up for 150 games (that could be a big assumption if you decide to pout and not play through a hangnail or something) you're on pace for 29 HR's and 100 RBI. If you play around 130 games as you have the last two seasons, that's 25 HR's and 87 RBI. All that for the bargain price of $20 mil. Corner outfielders put up those numbers in their sleep. I'm sure we can find a younger more productive version of yourself, say Mark Teixiera, for that same scratch.

Maybe you're right. Maybe it's time for both you and the Sox to move on. It was pretty good while it lasted. One thing I've always liked about you is that you seemed like the kind of person who would find a way to be happy no matter what. It wouldn't matter whether you were banging doubles off the monster or if you had stayed in Washington Heights and worked 40 hours a week like the rest of us. Your inability to be gracious and your displeasure with the Red Sox that you've never explained paints a different picture. There will be no trade, but I think the four spot in the line up will be and should be filled by someone else in 2009.

Disaster Averted

The Sox win last night in no way atones for their losses the previous two nights verse the Yanks. However, I can take solice in the fact that John Lester continues to improve, and I think he has made the case for him to be the number two starter ahead of Dice-K. At the very least, the Yankees are still in the rear view, and the win Sunday allowed the Sox to pick up a game on the Rays, which is the most important thing.

I am a little concerned that the Sox haven't been more active around the trade deadline. I know there's no point in making a trade just to make one, and I'm not talking about dealing Manny. (I don't think they should pick up his option but that's another post.). But it doesn't seem like they've been exploring any options to beef up the bullpen other than moving Justin Masterson there.

The Angels are up tonight. Boston looked pathetic against them last week. I hope they can show some pride and at least take two of three. If the Sox can't protect their house, a promising season could go down the toilet pretty quickly.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pettitte does it again

Another solid start out of Andy Pettitte who is living up to the hype of being a nasty second half pitcher. The Yankees are also living up to their hype as a second half team with their eighth straight win.

It was an ugly start of the game for the Yanks as an Alex Rodriguez error cost Andy two runs and 11 extra pitches in the first inning. But red hot Robbie Cano put the Yanks on the board and got the team back on track with an absolute bomb of a home run to dead center in the fourth inning. Of course the real fireworks started when Craig Hansen retaliated against Arod in the eighth inning.

The Yanks did the smart thing and simply battered Hansen out of the game to lock up the victory, but this little tiff seems far from over. It's nice to have a little heat between these two teams a la 2003/2004, but it also gets frustrating when you have to start watching your best players get suspended for these transgressions or worse getting hurt over them.

Youkilis and Joba will probably always have bad blood between them so as long as they are both in the bigs and on opposing teams, but the Yanks and the Sox need to turn that hatred into more intense play on the field and not more intense fighting on the field.

Barring an early afternoon trade the Yanks will be sending out Sidney Ponson. Even the Yankees have won all his starts he hasn't exactly pitched like a winner with an ERA near 4.50 and a WHIP of almost 1.70. If he gets the start it is probably his last in pinstripes with the Jarrod Washburn deal seemingly imminent. Not only that but Ian Kennedy is starting to get hot down in AAA and could be ready to rejoin the team soon if he keeps it up.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Joba deals on the mound; Cashman deals on the phones

The match up lived up to the hype as both Beckett and Joba were on point last night. It was a pretty good night in general for the Yankees who not only picked up a game on the Sox but also picked up two players who could be very important pieces for the stretch run.

Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte have been two of the most talked about trade pieces this deadline season. It seemed that most contenders were in on one or both of these guys at some point. The deal in general was a good one for the Yanks. They gave up Ross Ohlendorf who has potential as a starter or reliever but hadn't made an impact this season and they gave one of their better position player prospects in Jose Tabata. But Tabata had been a disappointment so far this season. After missing a good amount of time last year due to wrist surgery he had discipline problems this year and was suspended for leaving a game without permission. At that point Tabata admitted that he considered quitting baseball, but he decided to stay and started to play a little better until he hurt himself recently. The other two pitchers were solid prospects. Phil Coke doesn't have the pedigree of a top prospect but had been playing like one this season and George Kontos has always been consider a good arm.

The Yankees didn't give up a lot in actual talent or potential talent to get either of these guys. Now the have another right-handed bat to balance out the lineup and replace Hideki Matsui and the left-handed arm they lacked out of the pen that they have lacked for years. It remains to be seen who will win out of this deal since the Pirates got mostly prospects who are far away from contributing to the big league club, but right now it appears that Brian Cashman may have fleeced another NL team out of top talent. Now all he has to do is convince the Mariners that they just need to do a salary dump on Jarrod Washburn and his trade deadline season will be considered a success.

Until that happens I guess we will have to be content with watching more crazy games between the Yankees and the Sox. I sure there will be a brawl at some point after the Joba Chamberlain-Kevin Youkilis exchange last night so I'll be watching for that. Unfortunately it probably wont be today, at least not early on as Tim Wakefield is not the retaliatory type. He goes up against Andy Pettitte in what should be a very interesting Part II to this weekend trilogy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The rivalry resumes

Tonight the Titans clash again and they are set for fire works with the two hardest throwers toeing the rubber for each team. These two pitchers are remarkably similar in many aspects except experience. Each has excellent command of a hard fastball and a devastating second pitch. Josh Beckett has more development in the rest of his secondary pitches but Joba Chamberlain's repertoire is nothing to scuff at.

Though this game has no significant value beyond being one game in the standings during the regular season, it is the marquee match up of the series. So often we are disappointed when a game gets hyped up but this one has the potential to be a memorable one. Hopefully both guys decide to show up and we get to see a game that you wouldn't mind dropping a $100 on seeing. Beckett shouldn't have a problem holding up his end of the bargain since the Yankees decided to throw out a six-man lineup that goes something like this:

YANKEES (56-45)
Damon DH
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Rodriguez 3B
Giambi 1B
Cano 2B
Cabrera CF
Molina C
Gardner LF

Joba on the other hand could have more of a challenge considering he might have to face a rejuvenated David Ortiz and a fresh Manny Ramirez. Though, things could go the other way if Manny is still hurt and if Papi forgot that MLB pitching is a lot better than those chumps he toyed with at the AAA level. We'll see the level of competition Joba has when the Sox lineup goes up.

RED SOX (60-43)
Ellsburg LF
Pedroia 2B
Ortiz DH
Youkilis 1B
Lowell 3B
Drew RF
Lowrie SS
Varitek C
Crisp CF

Well Joba catches a break with Manny sitting this one out. It also helps him that the Sox aren't going to stop running V-Tek out there. The edge still has to go to Beckett in terms of lineup difficulty, but I think this is still a very close match up and here's hoping it lives up to the hype.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Celebrating in Seattle

Although this three game trip to the Emerald City was not without moments of trepidation, it was what the Sox needed to get back to some winning habits. I know it's the Mariners. I know they are horrendous, but an extra inning win on the road is always a confidence booster. The fact that Boston had a lead yesterday, lost it, but then fought back shows a little fortitude; something they've been lacking in recent road games.

Now they head back to Fenway for nine games. Their next opponents, the Yanks, Angels, and A's, won't roll over and die like the M's. The Sox will have to dig deep, but I don't think a 6-3 home stand is out of the question. Besides, the Yankees need to be brought down to Earth a bit. Their veterans are not going to let them slide too far, but I think they've been doing it with smoke and mirrors lately. This series should clue us in on what both Boston and New York are really made of this year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A win is a win

The Red Sox looked  bad this weekend and the showed their deficiency for a solid 8th inning guy. What do the Red Sox need? 3 games against the worst team in baseball. Lester was solid, but you have to question Francona trotting Lester out in 8th with a 4 run lead and only took him out when he took a line drive off the ankle. Then Francona brings in Papelbon  for a 5 out save against the Mariners. Come on! They may need to call NESN to see if they can purchase Dennis Eckersley's contract so he can pitch the 8th inning. 

I am only 25, but as long as I can remember the Red Sox have always had a weak bullpen. Some hope arrives this week with when converted reliever Justin Masterson returns from Pawtucket. Masterson is a good young pitcher with promise, but I don't think his inconsistency will provide any permanent relief in the bullpen. I think a trade is the real solution, but the Sox and Epstein are cautious because of the mess of the Gagne trade last year. I am not a GM and I don't know which relievers are on the market and what their price would be, so I cannot begin to offer a suggestion for a solution. But I will be disappointed if the Sox of July 22nd are the same team on August 1st.

On a sad note, a good friend of the members of this blog, Pete Rival, passed away today. Pete was a great guy and I don't think I have come across many people in my life who knew or loved the game of baseball like Pete. In my life there have been 3 people who taught me how to play the game of baseball and Pete was one of them. Pete was a diehard Yankee fan, so even I will be pulling for the Yanks to make the playoffs this year.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Angels Assault Sox

Nice way to start the post All-Star Break run, fellas. The Sox just can't put the bat on the ball away from Fenway. They seemed to really lack patience and concentration at the plate vs. the Angels over the weekend. They continue to squander a big opportunities with the Rays floundering. Now the Yanks are playing better as well, which is all Boston needs.

I'm making myself ill by discussing the Sox road woes ad infinitum, but they have to do something. As the road losses pile up, I think that has to work on Boston psychologically. Winning cultivates a winning attitude, which leads to more wins. I think the same is true of losing. The more road losses there are the more the Sox pine for the security of Fenway. But as we all know, baseball is not a game in which you can 'try harder.' The Sox have to relax and be themselves away from Boston. Then hopefully the wins will come.

Dandy Andy

I know the title could use some work but Pettitte was brilliant today and he needed to be in order to beat Justin Duchscherer who continued his dominating season. Pettitte has always been a great second half pitcher and like Mussina and Joba before him the Yankees are going to need quality outing from all of these guys to make sure their playing October baseball again.

The win puts the Yanks a mere 4 1/2 games out of first place and with the Rays losing eight of their last 10 things are getting a lot tighter in the AL East. This could be one of the more exciting summers of baseball if all three of these teams stay within five games of each other the rest of the way.

All the signs are there that usually show that the Yankees are about to bust out. The first sign is Cano is getting hot. He already has eight hits in his first three games after the break and he is starting to hit everything with authority, so even when he makes an out it is a loud one. The second sign is they are starting to get a little bit of that mystique and aura they have lacked. Now I know it is only one game, but they had never before come back against Huston Street. Also, plays like that Bobby Abreu bumble in the ninth inning today usually don't work out that well for you unless you have a little luck.

The most important sign though, has to be the work of the bullpen. It isn't just Reliable Rivera anymore, there are other guys Girardi can give the ball to and actually expect to get outs. Scariest of all is that Kyle Farnsworth is now one of those guys. So far Krazy Kyle has yet to allow a run over his previous eight innings. Things must really be going your way when you can count on Kyle Farnsworth to be a rock in your bullpen. Add in Dave Robertson and Edwar Ramirez and the Yankees seem to have found a group that can make you swing and miss at the most inopportune times. And that is a big key to the success of a bullpen, not to mention that is new back end of the game is going to be a key to the Yankees success. At least until they figure out how to make those bats work on back to back days.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The real New York Yankees

The whole first half of the season the Yankees almost actively avoided playing games this well. Solid pitching, clutch hitting and a few nifty plays on defense led to an easy victory. The Moose finally got his 12th victory despite allowing nine hits in just six innings. He is going to continue to be crucial to the Yanks success in the second half as part of the front three.

It was also nice to see a solid debut for Richie Sexson in pinstripes. Picking him up was a no-brainer for Cashman and the Yanks with the zero risk that was involved. Sexson will be a solid option against left-handers and here's hoping Joe Girardi has read the scouting report on Sexson and knows that he should never be allowed to look at a right-handed pitcher. Sexson probably wont stick long but hopefully he hits a few balls 400 feet before his strike out rate catches up with him.

Yesterday also had good signs coming from Robbie Cano and Arod. Arod might be able to shut up some of the critics who got on him about sitting out the home run derby if he starts the second half by ripping the cover off the ball. Meanwhile Cano, as always, needs a big second half to redeem himself for a first half of ineptitude and he's on the right path after last night.

Today it's Joba versus Sean Gallagher who arrived in Oakland after the Rich Harden deal. Gallagher was solid in his first start for the A's but that was against the Angels who like to pretend that they are a national league team. Hopefully today the Yankees give him a rude welcome to the American league and its power lineups.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Second Half Questions

Seeing as I have some extra time at work and taking cues from and here are some questions we are waiting to see answered in the second half.

1) Will the Rays make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history?

This is a debate bros at arms has been having for several weeks now. The Rays are talented, but young and their pitching still has some long-term questions. Scott Kazmir is the only member of the staff to throw 200 innings in a season. So how will the young arms produce in August and September in the late summer heat? Also, will management have the stones to go spend some dough at the trade deadline? The Rays would be scary good if they could land AJ Burnett or Joe Blanton. Matt Holiday would fit in well with the young environment in Tampa. (As a Sox fan I really hope that doesn't happen.) Right now, the Rays have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Twins 4 1/2 over the A's and 5 1/2 over the Yanks. If these 3 teams fail to make a run in the second half I could see the Rays in the playoffs and no one in the AL wants them in the first round.

2) Who will win the NL Central?

This division is going to turn into a brawl. The Brewers, with the recent addition of CC, and the Cubs with Rich Harden off the DL and a solid rotation clearly have the advantage. The Cards could be spoilers. If Chris Carpenter can give them 10 starts they could be trouble. I see the Cubs winning the division and the Brewers getting the wildcard. All three teams really should make the playoffs and the entire NL West should be religated to AA. That division is full of bums, the whole lot of 'em.

3) Can K-rod break the saves record?

This is one question I am pretty sure the of the answer. Yes. The guy is dominating he already has 38 saves in 41 attempts. Plus this is his contract year and when those baseball players see $$$ they go nuts. (I am looking at you Mike Lowell.) An added factor in this chase for 57 is that the Angels offense is anemic to say the least. So good pitching+bad hitting= lots of close games. Lots of close games= 60 saves for K-rod in 2008.

4) Will the Cubs finally win a World Series?

The Cubs are sick of loosing and are not messing around. With the aquisition of Dan Haren the Cubs made a statement, "This is the year to get it done." They have all the pieces in place and I would be surprised if they didn't get to the world series. (Unless they meet the aforementioned Brewers in the NLCS and CC and Ben Sheets throw 4-5 times in the series. Then who knows?) The question is what will the Cubbies do when they get to the series? With hardly any world series experience on the roster (with the exception of Jim Edmonds) what will they do when the pressure is on? And this is not normal world series pressure this is, God oh God I will jump on the L tracks if the Cubbies don't win it all this year. I know Bud Selig and the rest of baseball are hoping for a Sox/Cubs series and so am I.

Enjoy the second half of the season.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

All-Star Gripes

Sorry folks, but the all-star game brings out the inner curmudgeon in me. Here are a few of the things that have annoyed me over the past couple of days...

Talk of the home run derby: I love Scott Van Pelt from ESPN, but he referred to Josh Hamilton and Justin Morneau's final last night as an event where people will remember exactly where they were when it happened. Really?! Can anyone even name who won last year's HR Derby?! Nobody gives a damn.

I love you Jonathon Papelbon, but shut the hell up. Does it really mean that much to you to close the freakin' all-star game. You're a great closer and a key to the Sox success, but Mariano is the GOAT. Period. You have a ways to go. You'll get a chance to play, just like all the other little boys.

Why in the name of all that is holy, does this game count for anything?! It's an exhibition. Just because it ended in a tie a few years ago, Selig had to go crazy. Why did anyone give a damn anyway? Home field should be decided with the real games. The team with the better record gets it, too bad.

If MLB has any hope of me watching any of this crappy game, I'm not going to watch it at 8pm on a Tuesday, that's for certain. I work, I have a kid, I go to bed at 9:30. Sorry. Make it Sunday at 5:00. Then there's a chance.

Excuse me. The curmudgeon has to go shoo some kids off the lawn now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Back in the Saddle

The Sox are back on top of the AL East where they belong. After a solid week at home and an exhausted Rays team going on a 7 game slide, the Sox vaulted into first place with a 2-1 victory over the lowly Orioles today. Dice-K struggled at times, but put together a solid 6 innings to go to 10-1 on the season. Not for nothing, but how does a pitcher who struggles at least one inning per outing go 10-1 and have an ERA of 2.65? It's one of baseball's mysteries.

With Ortiz on the mend and expected back by the end of the month the Sox seemed poised to make a run in the playoffs. The bullpen is still shaky, but hope Masterson can help fortify the situation in right field.

At the break, I would have to say that Pedroia has to be the team MVP. He has been the most consistent player at the plate and in the field. His energy and passion for the game is something that every player should have. I think the Red Sox have found their Jeter for the next 10-12 years. When V-Tek is ready, I think Pedroia will have a C on his chest.

One last question, rain is in the New York forecast for tomorrow, what would MLB do if the All-Star game got rained out? Bud you should get the braintrust working on that now because we all know you don't think well on your feet.

All-Star Break Observations

This afternoon, the Sox finished their three game series against the O's. Both teams squandered a number of opportunities to break the game open. The Sox loaded the bases in the fourth and fifth and came up with one run. Dice-K pitched on the edge all night, but got out of jam after jam. Even Jonathan Papelbon made it interesting in the 9th allowing the winning run to come to the plate before he got out of it. As a result, the Sox are back in first. Here are the keys for the Sox, as I see it, in the second half:

Dice-K: His struggles are well documented, and yet he's persevered. He holds a 10-1 record and 2.65 ERA. But as Jason Page from ESPN Radio put it, those numbers are fool's gold. He barely makes it out of 5th most starts because he's over 100 pitches. Batters are 0-for-11 against him with the bases loaded. That can't last, can it? Will his overworked arm be worth anything in the playoffs?

Big Papi: Best case scenario for when Ortiz gets back is that he injects some needed power into Boston's line up. The bats have been consistently good without Papi, but they are lacking that feared power hitter (with all due respect to Manny). The worst case scenario is that David struggles and Francona leaves him in the line up out of loyalty when another, more productive bat remains on the bench.

The Bullpen: Can Justin Masterson help these scrubs?

Jason Varitek: His value in calling games for the young pitchers is priceless, but what about his bat? He just looks horrible. Would it be worth it to rest him from time to time in favor of Kevin Cash? Cash is no Yogi Berra, but sometimes you have to try something new.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Victory with a touch of tragedy

The Yankees won today and it was a much needed win. The bats got hot and after a rough first frame Rasner settled down and gave the Yanks five innings. Also impressive was that the bullpen continued its stellar play by throwing four shut out innings and only allowing one base runner in those four innings.

But the victory was tainted by sadness when it was announced that former Yankee player and broadcaster Bobby Murcer passed after a long battle with cancer. Bobby was always one of my favorite guys to have in the booth. He was unpretentious and he brought a classic knowledge of the game to every discussion.

Of course every one remembers the Thurman Munson game and Bobby's hero like performance in the wake of burying one of his best friends, but being of a younger generation my only experiences with Bobby were of him in the broadcast booth.

There was a time towards the end of high school and the beginning of college where my schedule put the Yankees on the back burner, and I neglected the team for a few years. It wasn't until the dark days of 2004 that I began paying attention with earnest again.

The 2005 season was my first time following the Yankees from the start of the season till the end since 2001 and aside from Arod's three home run performance in April the first game I usually recall from that season was a game against the Pirates where Jason Giambi began his road to redemption. Giambi had struck out in an important spot in the eighth inning and the fans were riding him hard. In the 10th he came up again, and this time he crushed a walk-off home run off of Jose Mesa. Bobby's call of that home run was one of unbridled enthusiasm and actual excitement that Giambi had won the game.

It was refreshing to hear someone in the booth call the play with the excitement of a fan but with the eloquence of a professional. That's what I'll remember about Bobby Murcer. His enthusiasm for the game and his ability to inject his excitement into the broadcast in a passionate but insightful way.

Our condolences go out to Bobby and his family who have endured his illness for almost two years and now have to endure his passing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Those damn Canadian Halladays

Every once in a while you run into an ace and that happens to be the night they decide to throw like an ace. Halladay is one of the best in the game and even though he has one a Cy Young before, I feel like he still gets overlooked by everyone outside the AL East because he pitches north of the border.

It is a testament to the skill of Halladay and the incredible slump the Yanks bats are in that they only managed two hits, one walk and two hit bats men in nine innings. Now it would only make sense that A.J. Burnett will start Sunday and probably decide to bring his A-game and shuts the Yanks down.

The All-Star break cannot come soon enough for this team as they look dead after their hard fought split with the Sox and the sweep of the Rays. Joba was good tonight and he was close to great. 6.2 innings pitched (which if not for Robbie Cano forgetting how to catch a pop up would have been seven strong) with nine Ks and no walks is what Joba is going to be doing for a long time. Now, if only he could get a little run support he wouldn't have to try to be perfect every time out.

I would like to hope that the Yankees finally realize that Billy Traber has no business being on the major league roster. As soon as that Matt Stairs home run lands Traber should already be back in Scranton. He is a mediocre lefty and you are better off having a decent right-hander
coming out of the pen to face a lefty than a substandard left-hander who is only there because of his hand preference.

It would have been nice for the Yanks to head into the break by taking three of these last four games but now they have to scratch out the last two games just to break even. Hopefully the bats come alive when they face Jesse Litsch who they usually hit hard. But the way the Yankees are hitting it might be asking a bit much for four runs for Darrell Rasner, who is going to need all the help he can get the way he has been pitching.

Rays Fade

Back in the friendly confines of Fenway, the Sox sweep the Twins in convincing fashion and the Rays have lost four in a row. The Rays are a scary team as we all know, but there's still a lot of ball to be played. Now the Rays' lead is down to 1.5. It's time for the Red Sox to put the pressure on and see if the youngsters in Tampa can handle it. Boston begins a three games set against the pesky Orioles this evening. These divisional games are always dangerous it doesn't matter if it's the Yanks or the Blue Jays. The teams know each other too well for there to be many blowouts.

Clay Buchholz gets the start tonight. I had almost forgotten about him since Justin Masterson filled in so admirably. I hope he gets that 5.53 ERA down a bit. Hopefully the Sox will take care of things tonight at home because then it's off to the west coast for the next week to play the Angels and Mariners.

I'm going to be honest. There's no way I'm going to catch most of those games. Although, sometimes the west coast trips work out well for me. Games that start at 1:00pm Pacific get underway around the time I get out of work. It's nice to come home, crack open a beer, watch the game, and know the result before it's off to beddy by for me. Don't look at me that way! I'm old, I have a kid, and I have kidney stones that make you afraid you're going to die... until you're afraid you're not going to die. I need my rest.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Abreu saves them, Veras let's them down

Bobby Abreu came through again but this time the bullpen wasn't at its normal shut down mode and Jose Veras quickly handed the game back to the Pirates. It was just a bad loss tonight. The Yanks seemed to be phoning in a lot of their at bats and Veras was just pitiful in walking the first batter after the Yankee rally and then serving up a meatball to Nate McLouth.

It hurts even more since the Yankees were playing well the first time this game was being played. They were leading that game 3-1 and they had Maholm on the ropes early. This time Maholm kept them off balance with big curve balls.

Veras looked off right from his first pitch. It's a big downer for a team when they rally to get back into the game and watch their pitcher come out and walk the number nine hitter on four pitches and then gives back both runs on a monster home run.

It didn't help that the 3-7 hitters in the lineup went a combined 1-20 including an 0-4 from Arod who is stuck in a mini funk at the moment being that he is only one for his last 12.

The Yanks looked like they couldn't get out of Pittsburgh fast enough and lucky for them they can hitch a quick ride up north to Toronto. They have the misfortune of catching Roy Halladay in the series opener, but after that they should be able to handle the rest of the Jays rotation that lacks A.J. Burnett and Dustin McGowan.

In other disappointing news the Big G lost out on his All-Star bid coming in a close third to Evan Longoria and Jermaine Dye. The baseball world has been robbed of a great mustache today. I just hope the Home Run Derby and the All-Star game are still mildly entertaining.

Support the Stache!

Today's the last day to vote for the final roster spot on the AL and NL All-Star teams. That mustachioed maverick Jason Giambi is trailing close behind Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and voting ends today at 5:00 p.m.

So Yankee fans and mustache enthusiasts, get out and vote, your running out of time to get the Big G his day on the All-Star stage.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Today's hero: Bobby Abreu

It was a big hit for Bobby Abreu, who had been mired in an 0-19 slump coming into today, and it was a big win for the Yankees. They had been awful at the start of the home stand with the Rangers shutting down their bats and the Red Sox embarrassing them in the first half of their four game set.

But Girardi rallied the Yanks and behind solid starts by Mussina, Joba, Pettitte and (of all people) Sidney Ponson, they made it a winning home stand. It makes it even better that the four straight wins were against the two teams in front of them in the division.

Though Ponson was exceptional today a lot of credit has to go to the bullpen which threw four scoreless innings. One of those was from Kyle Farnsworth. It was Farnsworth's second consecutive 1-2-3 inning. He hasn't been great for the Yanks ever, but at least he shows a flash of talent every once in a while. You would like to think they can get by without him and maybe they can but hopefully he can turn it around this season so at least Cashman can move him to someone before the break.

I think this win helps prove something about the Rays too. It proves why they wont be getting ready for October baseball at the end of September. The Rays are disgusting at home. Their winning percentage is a Red Sox like .720 at home. But just like the Sox they can't get it done on the road winning games at a pedestrian .475.

Now a little bit of simple math tells us that the Rays have played fifty games at home so far and only 40 on the road. That means they will be on the road for a majority of the second half. Not only that, but 17 of their final 27 games on the road including eight straight to end the season. Add to that mix the fact that the Rays are inexperienced, and their young arms will be reaching their max in terms of innings and depth in the season. I like the Rays. They're talented, they play hard, and most importantly they literally beat on the Red Sox. But I think their magical season will come to an end in the twilight of September.

Now the Yanks return to Pittsburgh to finish off their three game set. The Yankees were winning the game before the rain washed it out of the record books. Now they start anew with Mike Mussina giving it a second try.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pettitte and the Captain to the rescue

Well the Yanks sure showed those feisty Rays what's what. Andy Pettitte was just plain nasty. Five of his eight innings pitched were 1-2-3 innings. Pettitte did a great job of keeping the Rays off balance and he gave them some depth which the bullpen always needs.

The Captain, Derek Jeter, provided all the offense that Andy would need when he picked up Gardner and Melky, who both had atrocious at bats with a man on third and less than two outs, in the third inning. Not only was he clutch at the plate but his jump throw that ended the seventh might have been the most important play of the game. If Jeter doesn't make that play then Pettitte might have been knocked out of the game and that means that Krazy Kyle Farnsworth pitches the eighth and who knows what happens then.

Scott Kazmir always gives the Yanks trouble but they almost always get his pitch count up and get him out by the fifth or sixth. In 10 career starts against the Yanks, Kazmir has only managed 59 innings which, of course is just under six innings per start.

Kazmir was the tougher half of his series but the Yankees can't afford to forget Edwin Jackson. A victory tomorrow would give them a winning home stand and would redeem them a bit for losing the series to the Rangers.

Aside from pulling themselves to within 7.5 games of the Rays in the division, the two best things to take from this game are from bosom buddies Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano. Melky delivered a blast to right center for his first home run since June 10. Maintaining his composure after pulling down a hat trick with three strikeouts in his first three at bats is a good sign, but he is still a long ways away from his April totals of .299 and five home runs.

Robinson Cano on the other hand has been nasty lately and his 11 pitch at bat in the eighth innings shows you how well he is seeing the ball right now. If Robbie sees four pitches in an at bat Girardi must be ecstatic. But 11 pitches after falling behind 0-2 and finishing the at bat with an RBI single was great to see.

Jackson was bad in his first start against the Yanks but brilliant the second time around, throwing seven shut out innings. Hopefully he keeps pitching the way he did in June which was something to the tune of a 5.70 ERA.

Dice-K shuts 'em down!

Thank Zeus that Matsuzaka stopped the bleeding last night and the Sox actually won a close game. They win those at Fenway and lose them all on the road. I thought it was going to be a long night after Dice-K loaded the bases with two outs in the first by allowing a walk, a single, and another walk. But he settled down nicely, pitching into the 8th. I can't remember the last time that happened. I hope he's finally found his control. It makes me wonder if home plate is wider in Japan.

Then Okajimer (as Jerry Remy calls him) got in on the act preserving the shutout until Papelbon got in there to close. Jonathan redeemed himself from his last appearance against the Yankees by earning his 26th save. You have to like his mental toughness.

In an interesting move, the Sox will be placing Justin Masterson in the bullpen as Clay Buchholz prepares to re-enter the rotation. Masterson will first go down to Pawtucket. It's a smart move that doesn't require the Red Sox to make any trades to help their bullpen issues. They may still try to get someone else, but this is a good maneuver. You can't have too many arms down the stretch.

Monday, July 7, 2008

This is too good to be true

So every year since 2002 fans have had chance to fill the last All-Star roster spot on both the AL and NL teams after the initial vote. This year Jason Giambi is one of the five final players to have a chance at being selected. Now I want to see the Giambino in the game for two reasons. The first is that stache is awesome and the second is if Giambi gets in the Yankees will have a home run derby participant for the first time since 2003 when none other than the Giambino represented the Yanks and finished third.

But the best thing about this is the Yankees ad campaign which I first saw on Pete Abraham's blog. The Yankees now have an official "Support the Stache" initiative. That alone is reason enough to get me to vote for Giambi.

Stop with the Yankee hating Sportsnation

A few weeks ago Sports Illustrated had two separate player polls about who was considered the most overrated player in baseball and which player you would most want to start a team with. I can't remember the exact placement of both Derek Jeter and Arod in each poll but I know both were in the top three in each poll.

Ironic isn't it that players who see how hard every other player works on a daily basis would be so jealous as to call someone an overrated player and then say they would want their team built around them. But I am not just posting based on a month old poll that proved its own insignificance with its results.

I am writing this because I happened to see the ESPN SportsNation poll about the All-Star game rosters and figured I would vote for the sake of voting.

The question came up of who least deserved to be starting for the AL team. As I punched in my vote for David Ortiz (I know he was playing better after his a atrocious start but he got hurt and his numbers weren't that great) I fully expected Derek Jeter to top the list by a wide margin due to him having a down year and the fact that he is Derek Jeter. But to my surprise I saw Arod as the far and away leader by almost 40 percentage points as of 3 p.m.

Every once in a while I need to vote in one of these polls to remind myself why I don't vote in them and why I change the channel when Sports Center tries to use them to prove a point.

Arod currently leads all AL third baseman in batting average, home runs and stolen bases. He is third in RBIs and that is after missing 20 games. Evan Longoria may supplant him soon but he is not on the same level as Arod yet and someone like Mike Lowell never will be. To think he is not the best third baseman in the AL is absurd, never mind that he should still be garnering consideration as the best player in the game and perhaps of all-time.

And Longoria and Lowell are the only two guys are the only ones remotely close to backing up Arod. Which brings me to another point, that the players shouldn't be allowed to vote for any all-stars, because Joe Crede has no business being ahead of either of those guys. Also, Jason Varitek being chosen is a travesty. I know A.J. Pierzynski is a jerk but the players should be selected on talent and performance not likability.

A lot of this applies to Derek Jeter too. Micheal Young should be starting the game at short

I know that polls like this mean nothing and I usually just let idiots be ignorant, but sometimes I find it necessary to try and fight back the stupidity the sports world can bring out in some people.

Gardner salvages the series

I guess I'm just not allowed to watch the Yankees play the Sox. I watched the first two games and the Yanks were embarrassing. I barely catch a glimpse of the last two and they play with heart and guile to salvage the split.

This start has to be another successful one for Joba. Yea he is still a little wild with four walks in six innings but they weren't bad walks. He had his control he was just trying to make his pitches a little to fine from what I could see in the first few innings.

Brett Gardner is a fun player to watch. His speed is exciting and he runs counts deep in his at bats. Not to mention he can track balls down pretty well in the outfield. Gardner has started out well in his first 21 at bats but they haven't been weak at bats.

That's what gets me about Melky Cabrera. When he is in a slump his at bats seem quick with him making easy outs. Gardner grinds out each plate appearance and I think we will definitely see his value as he gets a good amount of playing time now that Damon is on the DL.

Now after Monday's off day the Yanks will have chance to make this a winning home stand when they take on the Rays in a two game set. This will obviously be a difficult task given the way the Rays have been playing and the fact that the Yanks will have to play one game against Kazmir.

I'm also sure that on Monday you will hear a lot about C.C. Sabathia going to the Brewers. There were some people who I'm sure thought the Yankees would get desperate and sell part of the farm system off to get Sabathia. I'm glad the Brewers beat them and the Rays to the punch.

I know most fans wouldn't bat an eye if Cashman parted ways with Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy with they way they started this year, but it would be a mistake. Not only would they be sacrificing young cheap talent but I doubt the Brewers are going to spend over $150 million on keeping C.C. in town. That means he will only cost a couple of draft picks in the off-season.

The Brewers gave up a lot when they gave up Laporta but I guess they figured that they figured he was blocked at first and it would be difficult to get him time in the outfield. They'll have a ton of draft picks to replace him if both Ben Sheets and Sabathia walk away after the season anyway. They are now a serious player with a top end of the rotation that can match up with any team so long as Sheets stays on the mound and off the DL.

It's a shame the Yankees already played all their games against the Indians now that they have already thrown in the towel.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dan's Mid-Season Awards

Everyone else is doing it so why can't we:

American League
MVP: Josh Hamilton.  As long as the Rangers stay in contention, recognition needs to be paid to this rising star.  He's the key in a loaded line up that has scored the most runs in baseball.  His 82 RBI is a sick total at this point in the year.
Cy Young: Justin Duchscherer.   He may not log enough wins to overcome Cliff Lee's torrid start.  However his sub 2.00 ERA in the American League can't be ignored.  Opponents are also batting a minuscule .198 against him and his WHIP is under 1.00.  

National League
MVP: Chase Utley.  With all do respect to Lance Berkman, who has a shot at the triple crown, Utley is having a historic season of his own.  He will likely break the record for HR's by a second baseman.  He's doing for second base what Cal Ripken and A-Rod did for short stop.  Second base has to be least glamorous position in all of baseball.  Name a second baseman in the HOF.  Doing what he's doing on a first place team doesn't hurt either.
Cy Young:  Tim Lincecum.  This guy looks like a gawky 12-year-old, but is pitching like Roger Clemens.  The Yankees wish any of their big three were as good as this guy.  Endurance could be an issue for this second year pitcher.  As long as he holds up and doesn't hit the wall in the second half he'll be holding some hardware.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sox Flaws Exposed

Well, it was a rough series, but I am not that concerned. The Red Sox confirmed what their flaws are throughout this series. The Rays are a good team and if you don't play well you will get swept. Some Observations:
1. The bullpen sucks with the exception of Papelbon. This needs to get fixed by the trade deadline. Theo, work your magic.
2. They can't win on the road. The Red Sox need to start being ridiculous at home . I mean like 12-2 every month at Fenway, so they can have home field in the playoffs. Also, Youk and Pedroia better tear it up at the all-star game so they can have 4 games at fenway during the world series.
3. They have had a ton of injuries. The presence of David Ortiz was not missed until this series. JD Drew has been playing well, but the guy is only human and Ortiz could have been one more quality bat in the line-up to cause problems for the Rays' staff. With all the missed opportunities Ortiz could have made a huge difference with a couple of hits. Other players who have been on the DL this year include: Colon, Buchholz, Dice-K, Beckett, Timlin, and Lowell. Take that many players away from any team and they will have problems.

If they can split with the Yankees this weekend and limp into the all-star break within a few games of the Rays, they will be fine. I still think the Rays will fade with all their young arms logging those innings, but they were very impressive this week against the World Champs.

The power of the stache

I can't write much right now as I'm running out to work, but it was an awesome game in the bronx last night. The Giambino rocked the house for a grand slam and six RBIs while Arod provided a three-run jack to ice off the Rangers. Sid the fat kid did show his true colors last night but I'm sure with the lack of options right now he is probably going to get at least two more starts unless he gets absolutely wrecked in his next one.

It's good to see Cano is staying hot now. By the end of this season he should be right around .300 with forty doubles and 15-20 homers. Whenever a player is in a bad slump, check the back of his baseball card. His final numbers usually always pan out. I was also glad I was there to see Brett Gardner's first major league hit. Everyone in the Stadium was pumped about it and F.Y.I. he is as fast as they say he is.

Now we have the big series of the Yanks and Sox over the weekend. There couldn't be anything more American than that on the Fourth of July.

Sox Bullpen Blows It

Everything was in line for a Sox win last night. Pedroia had the night of his life. He didn't quite get the cycle. His last hit was a second double instead of a single, so it's hard to complain. Dice-K had a quality start and left with a three run lead. Okajima regained some of his old form and held fast in the inning he pitched. Then the glimmer twins, Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen, gave it all away and then some.

The Sox bullpen's ERA for this series was a bloated 12.00. In 2004 and 2007, the Sox won the World Series largely because the bullpen was extremely effective. This year, who do they turn to exactly? I think, in spite, of some recent rough outings that Oki will remain a viable option. Other than him, who can be a bridge to Papelbon? David Aardsma?

I defended the Sox performance on the road earlier in the season by saying that all teams have road woes. However, their play on the road the past few weeks has been pathetic and inexcusable. You have to win on the road some times. If the Red Sox pulled it out last night, I would've been happy with that. It was a competative three game series. Playing the Rays close and leaving Tampa with one win is an acceptable result. The way they lost last night is just demoralizing. They failed to do any of the little things that will finish off a victory. I think the All-Star break is coming just in time. Sheesh.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sox Stranded

For the second game in a row the Sox had a few innings when they got some people on base against the Rays and just couldn't get the runners across. There were a few points last night when it looked like the Red Sox were getting to Matt Garza, but to his credit, he managed to finish the those innings unscathed.

Masterson and Wakefield didn't pitch all that poorly in their outings. James Shields and Garza were just better. Tonight it looks like the Rays may have the advantage in starting pitching again as the Sox go with Matsuzaka (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and the Rays go with Scott Kasmir. The scary thing is that Kasmir is just getting back into the swing of things after missing some time. The one advantage the Sox hitters have is that they are very familiar with Kasmir. Maybe they can work some counts and get him out of the game early. In any event, the Sox need to win tonight to minimize the damage before heading out to The Stadium.

Note: I am working on my mid-season awards. Perhaps I will have those for the weekend.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bad day in the Bronx for Joba, Rivera

Not much to say about tonight's game. Kevin Millwood was on his game, Joba was not. Melky Cabrera can't hit his way out of paper bag right now and Joe Girardi refuses to acknowledge that. It is impossible to fathom why Girardi wouldn't have Melky bunting in the ninth. Even if Melky was on a hot streak, it is the ideal bunting situation and Cabrera is the ideal hitter to have there bunting.

I think it's about time that Girardi send the Melk Man a message by sitting him for at least a game. That's why they called up Gardner. Tomorrow night Gardner needs be in center and Melky should be riding the pine. Gardner hasn't hit yet but I would have to imagine that the Yankees like what they see from him in terms of grinding out his at bats and the ease at which he stole that base yesterday. Every ball he has put on the ground has made the Texas infield rush their throws.

It was a rough day for both the first Yankee starter in the game and the last one. Joba just could not find the zone in those first four innings. Maybe it was the 114 pitch outing against the Pirates, or maybe it was the extra day off. Who knows. What is obvious is that he was way too amped in those early innings. His fastball was explosive touching 99 on the gun, but he was all over the place. Eventually Posada and pitching coach Dave Eiland made him throw more breaking balls to help him find the zone but by then his pitch count was out of control and he wasn't going to last long.

Mariano on the other hand just doesn't seem to be able to pitch in non-save situations. He has yet to allow a run in a save situation this season, but he always seems to get touched up in tie games or losing causes.

But the pitching has remained solid and that is the weirdest thing. Going into this series you would have expected to see a slug fest but it has been the polar opposite. It is impressive to see the staff shut down one of the best offenses in the game but the bats have to come alive against a mediocre Texas staff. There is no reason the Yanks have only scored three runs in these first two games.

In other news the Sox fell again to those devilish Rays. I do enjoy seeing the Red Sox lose, but the games between these two teams have been legitimately exciting. They feel like Yanks-Sox games circa 2003. There is a definite fire on both sides with the Sox are playing the role of bully while the Rays finally get to play the underdog spoiler. It's nice to see that franchise finally achieving something even though it may cost the Yankees.

You hate to see a perennial loser take 90+ loses year after year like Tampa Bay has. That's not what baseball is about. Now if only the Pirates could learn something and bring some pride back to the Steel City.

Anyway that's it for now. Tomorrow I will be headed down to the Stadium for Round 3 of this season. I will be doing my best to take some photos again. Maybe this time I will try to sneak down from the upper deck to get a few up close shots. I'll do my best to fit all of Sir Sidney Ponson in the camera frame.