It Won’t Be Left To Fate; Yanks To Win#28

Last year, right around this time, I posted my Yankee 2009 season forecast. In that piece, I said the New York Yankees would win it all due to the fact that their pitching was much improved. In that season preview, I stressed “pitching wins championships”. Well, we all know what happened in 2009, as the arms of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett delivered the Yankees their 27th world title. The World Series victory was sweet, as the Yankees christened their new ball park in grand fashion. Soon after all the celebrations ended, General Manager, Brian Cashman and the rest of the Yankee brain trust started focusing on building a team that could successfully defend their title. By sticking to the theory that “pitching wins championships”, I feel Cashman has succeeded in building the 2010 Yankees as the going away favorites to win yet another world championship.

In my opinion, the key acquisition of the off-season was the Yankees adding Javier Vazquez to their starting rotation. “Javey” (15-10, 2.87 ERA) joins CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.37), Andy Pettitte (14-8, 4.16 ERA) and A.J. Burnett (13-9, 4.04) to arguably form one of baseball’s best starting four. In Vazquez, the Yankees are getting an “innings eater”, as he consistently logs over 200 innings pitched year-after-year. The defending world champions are also getting a pitcher who makes hitters swing and miss. Javier has struck out over 200 hitters in each of his last three seasons in the majors. While the Yankees list him as their “Number 4″, I have Vazquez as my Number 2 in this stacked rotation. Phil Hughes will be the Yankees fifth starter in 2010. With four quality arms in front of him, Hughes can now grow into his role as a starter with very little pressure.

Cashman has complimented his starting five by building a very formidable bullpen. As we all saw during the playoffs last year, every closer had a meltdown except one. And that one, will once again anchor the Yankee bullpen in 2010. Look, I don’t care how old he is, how many years he has been doing this, or if he gets off to a slow start, Mariano Rivera is STILL the best closer in baseball. He looks to be in great shape again this year and boy, is going to have a lot of help in that pen.

Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Chan Ho Park, Sergio Mitre and Afredo Aceves will be very important cogs in the Yankee pen. I’m looking for Chamberlain to regain his job as bridge man to “Mo”. A guy to watch from this bunch is Robertson. Last year, David struck out 63 hitters in 43-2/3 innings pitched. When you make hitters swing and miss that much, it means you have great stuff and the Yankees may just have another dominating arm in this pen. Everyone, keep an eye on Mr. Robertson.

While Cashman was putting together such a solid starting rotation and bullpen, the GM also improved on an offense that scored 915 runs last year. Despite losing Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui to free agency, the Yankee offense will be better this year thanks to the acquisitions of DH, Nick Johnson and centerfielder, Curtis Granderson.

In Johnson, the Yankees are getting an “on base machine” to bat behind Derek Jeter and ahead of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Last season, Nick had a .426 on base percentage. His career OBP is .402, and when you insert him in the second spot of the Yankee order, you have your first two guys (Jeter 2009 OBP .406) getting on base over 40% of the time. With those two hitters being followed by Teixeira (39-HR, 122-RBI, .383 OBP) and “A-Rod” (30-HR, 100-RBI, .402 OBP) that strong Yankee pitching staff is going to get a lot of run support.

Playing 81 regular season games in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium should help Johnson increase his homer total. If he stays healthy, and everyone knows that’s a big “if” with Nick, I feel he can hit 20 homers for the Yanks in 2010.

Granderson, playing in the shadow of the likes of Jeter, Teixeira, and A-Rod, has a chance to blossom into a superstar with the Yankees. Curtis hit 30 homers last year, despite playing 81 games in spacious Comerica Park. Playing all his home games at Yankee Stadium will certainly increase his homer total. All spring long, Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long has worked with Granderson in trying to improve his anemic numbers against lefties. If Long’s coaching works, it could truly be a “grand” year for Curtis.

A very important spot in the Yankee lineup is going to be that of the number five hitter, which is going to be Robinson Cano. In 2009, “Robby” finally lived up to his billing and became a true star. Cano hit .320 (OBP .352), clubbed 25 homers, and drove in 85 runs while playing an outstanding second base. This year, Cano is going to be called upon to “protect” A-Rod in the batting order. When three of your first four hitters get on base 40% of the time and the other (Teixeira .383 OBP) close to it, your number five hitter is going to have lots of opportunities to drive in very important runs. Cano is going to be asked to step up and do this job. It will be interesting to see how he responds.
Jorge Posada (.285, 22-HR, 81-RBI .363 OBP) will probably bat behind Cano in the Yankee order. Granderson will follow Jorge, and Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner or Randy Winn will round out this explosive lineup.

To summarize, this is how the Yankee lineup will look most of the time.

Jeter SS
Johnson DH
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Cano 2B
Posada C
Granderson CF
Swisher RF
Gardner LF

This lineup has it all. Guys who get on base, power hitters, speed, and experienced hitters who know how to make pitchers work. Imagine batting a guy who hit 30 homers last year seventh in this Yankee lineup.

Over the long season, a team —even the best team–is going to need a good bench. The Yankees are also stacked in that department. Randy Winn, Marcus Thames, Ramiro Pena, and Francisco Cervelli are at the ready to help out when called upon. If Gardner gets off to a slow start, Winn may get more playing time than most expect. Thames torches left-handed pitching and my get some time spelling Granderson or Johnson when a tough lefty is on the mound.

While only 25 guys go North with the team, it sometimes takes a 40 man roster to navigate through the year. Here are some of the names that you may be hearing during the course of the year, whether it be a player filling in, or being discussed in a July deadline trade. Boone Logan, Mark Melancon, Ivan Nova, Juan Miranda, Jesus Montero, and Austin Romine.

It’s all pretty impressive. The defending world champions are a better team than they were last year. I see this team having no problem winning the East and capturing their 28th world title in 2010.

Eastern Division Projected Order Of Finish

1. New York
2. Tampa
3. Boston
4. Baltimore
5. Toronto

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It’s 1923 All Over Again; Yanks To Christen New Stadium With Championship

After a very disappointing 2008 season, Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman went on an off-season mission to rebuild his team’s starting rotation. Brian knew that in order for the Yankees to have a chance to win their 27th world championship in the upcoming campaign, he would have to put together a starting five that would rival the ones the Yanks had in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Well, with two big signings, and a healthy return of an ace, the Yankee General Manager not only rebuilt his starting staff, but he may have put together arguably the best rotation in baseball.

Entering the 2009 season, the Yankees starting five will consist of CC Sabathia (17-10, 2.70), Chien-Ming Wang (8-2, 4.07), A.J. Burnett (18-10, 4.07), Andy Pettitte (14-14, 4.54), and Joba Chamberlain (4-3, 2.60). By far, this is the best starting rotation the Yankees have had in years. In Sabathia, Wang, and Burnett, you have three aces. CC (251) and A.J.(231) are both strikeout pitchers who eat up lots of innings. Wang is a ground ball pitcher, who, if he didn’t get hurt last season, might have notched his third straight 19 win season with the “Bombers”. These three starters are proven winners, and when pitching for the Yankees in a three game series, you’ve got to like the Yanks chances of winning at least 2 of 3.

While the starting three in this rotation are aces, the backend of this starting five is not too shabby either. Andy Pettitte struggled through the second part of the season last year with a sore shoulder. With the loss of Wang and Chamberlain, and the failures of Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, Andy felt he had to pitch with pain for the good of the team. His performances were subpar, and everyone knew the gusty lefty was pitching in pain. Pettitte got healthy during the off-season, and has pitched very well this spring. Basically, the Yankees could have a 16-17 game winner in the fourth slot of the rotation.

Joba Chamberlain will be the wildcard in the Yankees 2009 starting rotation. If Joba struggles, the rotation will still be strong (as most team’s fifth starter struggles). But if Chamberlain excels, as most believe, the Yankees will have the best starting five in baseball. The key point to watch for in Chamberlain is, Joba must be efficient in the way he gets hitters out. Many times last year, Chamberlain would throw too many pitches early on, and thus, would have early exits in games he was pitching very well. Unlike when he would come out of the bullpen and just blow hitters away with a fastball, Chamberlain uses four pitches as a starter. Joba must gain a better control of all his pitches to become the top of the rotation starter many project for him. If he succeeds, he could become a real big winner out of the five slot in the rotation.

Earlier this spring, Manager Joe Girardi set his rotation as follows:

1) Sabathia (L)
2) Wang (R)
3) Burnett (R)
4) Pettitte (L)
5) Chamberlain (R)

The Bullpen:

If your team sets a goal of winning a world championship, it better have a strong bullpen. The Yankees have such a pen.
Before we get into the names, the bullpen will be improved because the Yankees added two starters (Sabathia 7.2 innings, Burnett 6.5 innings) who go deep into games. When you don’t over-use your relievers, your pen becomes much more effective.

Once again, Mariano Rivera will be the Yankees closer. At age 39 he shows no sign of slowing down. Yes, many have been waiting for the day to come where he can’t do it anymore, but not me. Look, when the guy can’t succeed at his high level, we all will know it. Until it starts happening, I have no reason to doubt that “Mo” can continue to effectively close out games. Mariano had a great season last year, and he has looked very strong this spring. In short, once again the Yankees have one of the best closers in baseball.

Brian Bruney will probably the “bridge” to Mariano. Bruney, despite a foot injury which kept him out for a good part of the year, pitched very effectively for the Yankees when called upon. This spring, Brian showed up in great shape, and in his “walk” year, is determined to show all of baseball how valuable he is.

While some teams look long and hard for an effective lefty for their pen, the 2009 Yankees have two. Damaso Marte (though Girardi over-used him last year) should be the Yankees lefty specialist and Phil Coke can be a lefty you can bring in to pitch a full inning. Billy Martin always said don’t believe what you see in September and March, but I honestly feel the Yankees have a very good pitcher in Coke. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Phil Coke becomes the Yankees second most valuable arm in the bullpen.

Another “sleeper” in the Yankee pen could be Jonathan Albaladejo. Jonathan, who was out for most of last season with a strained right elbow, wowed the Yankees in camp this spring with a 94 mph fastball. The 26-year old right hander turned in a 0.93 ERA this spring.

Rounding out the Yankee pen will be Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras.

So in summary, here is what Joe Girardi has to chose from in the Yankee Bullpen:

Mariano Rivera – Closer
Brian Burney – Bridge Man
Damaso Marte -Lefty Specialist
Phil Coke – Lefty
Jonathan Albaladejo – Long Man
Edwar Ramirez – Righty
Jose Veras – Righty

The 2009 Yankee Offense

Whey you look at the projected Yankee lineup for 2009, you can assume this team will put up a sufficient number of runs.

Derek Jeter SS
Jonhnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Xavier Nady RF
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Brett Gardner CF

When the Yankees signed Johnny Damon three years ago, I felt he would be a better fit on this team as the second place hitter. Well, it took the Yankees three years, but they finally got it right.

Derek Jeter is a better leadoff hitter than Damon, and Johnny can be a more effective number two hitter than Derek. Jeter has a better on base percentage than Damon, and Johnny strikes out less than Jeter. You want someone who can put his bat on the ball batting second, and Damon does just that. Johnny has more “pop” in his bat than Jeter so there will be many situations where the Yankees may have runners on second and third with less than two outs, with Teixeira and Rodriguez coming to bat.

Speaking of Teixeira and Rodriguez, with these two hitters back-to-back, the Yankees arguably have the finest 3-4 hitting combination in the game. Adding to the strength of the lineup, is the fact that Teixeira is a switch hitter and really balances the Yankee attack.

This Yankee lineup could be an extremely explosive one if Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui bounce back from their 2008 injuries. Both players have had a terrific spring, and if it carries over to the regular season and playoffs, this lineup may average 6-runs per game.

For the past few years in my previews, I have touted Robinson Cano as being the best pure hitter on this team. I still feel this way, BUT, Cano must learn how to play hard, so he can reach his potential as a player. Cano has the ability to bat .300, hit 25 homers, and drive in 100 runs. That said, ability is just part of the equation. Robinson must show the drive and determination needed for a player’s true ability to come out.

There are lots of big names in the Yankee lineup, but please, don’t overlook Brett Gardner. Gardner has had a fabulous spring, but as everyone knows, once the regular season starts, that’s when the real test comes. If Brett can hit .260-.275, he will become an offensive force because of his ability to steal bases almost at will.

Team Defense

One of the weak points of the 2009 Yankee ball club is their defense. We all saw Derek Jeter slow up a bit at short.
Jorge Posada is coming off shoulder surgery, and we really don’t know how well he will be throwing once the season begins. Damon’s weak arm can be hidden in left, and so far, Brett Gardner has looked pretty good in center. As with his hitting, Cano, who has the ability to play a great second base, has to put in a better effort in the field. He must stop waving at balls, and instead, try to knock them down. The Yankees are going to remarkably improved at first base defense with Teixeira guarding the bag. For the first time since Tino Martinez was let go after the 2001 season, the Yankees will have a full-time first baseman that can actually turn the 3-6-3 double play.

Again, the thing to watch for here is Jeter’s range and Posada’s arm.

Bench :

Nick Swisher is going to be a great bench addition to the Yankees. Nick could spell Teixeira at first, and could also give one of the outfielders a rest when need. Look for Melky Cabrera to be a late inning defensive replacement for Johnny Damon. Melky will also spell Garnder in center when needed. Once again, Jose Molina will backup Jorge Posada. When Alex Rodriguez comes back, Cody Ransom will be the Yankees infield utility man. It’s not the best bench in baseball, but when you look at the starting lineup, there really is no need to pinch hit for anyone except Gardner. All this bench needs to do is give selected players a blow every once in awhile.

Down On The Farm:

During the course of a baseball season, one or two pitchers always get hurt. If this happens to the Yankees, the “Bombers” will tab one of their three top starters in Scranton to fill the void. Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves, and Brett Tomko will be at the ready if one of the Yankees aces goes down to injury.

Putting It All Together

I’m a firm believer in the saying, “pitching wins championships”. A solid starting rotation helps a team avoid long losing streaks. When you have a team with a strong starting five, coupled with a lineup that can score six runs per game, long winning streaks will occur throughout the season. While Tampa and Boston both have fine starting staffs, I believe the Yankees have a better 1 through 5 than both teams. I also believe the Yankee offense is superior to both the Rays and the Sox. Thus, I’m picking the Yankees to win the 2009 Eastern Division title. Because I feel the Yankees have three aces in Sabathia, Wang, and Burnett, I’m also picking the Yankees to win the American League Pennant, and the 2009 World Championship. Pitching wins championships, and the Yankees will win #27 this year because of their superior pitching.

American League East Projected Order of Finish

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

 

The tradition continues at www.yankeetradition.com

Underdogs, Just The Way I Like It – Yankees 2008 Preview

UNDERDOGS, JUST THE WAY I LIKE IT

YANKEES 2008 SEASON PREVIEW

 

 

 

Finally, the memories of those gnats that sabotaged the
Yankee season last October 5th, are out of my mind. Those bugs, along with an
excruciating ride home from Yankee Stadium after the Yanks were eliminated in
Game 4, seemed to stay with me all the way until spring training began in
February.

 Believe me, there is nothing worse than a 3- hour plus
ride home after your team has been eliminated from a playoff series. The only
thing I want to say about that night (actually early morning) is a “thank you”
to the convenience store /gas station right off exit 90 in Mystic, Connecticut,
 which was still open at 3:00 am. Without those two energy drinks I bought
there, I never would have made it back for work for 8:00am. Yes, I do LOVE this
game!

 So now that I have recovered from the disappointment of
the 2007 Yankee post-season, I now can focus on 2008, and analyze this Yankee
team–a team that will set out to capture their 27th World
Championship–and a team that will play its final season at historic Yankee
Stadium.

 

FIRST THINGS FIRST

 For the first time since 1998, the New York Yankees are
not the consensus odds-on-favorite to win the world championship.  For the first
time since 1996, the Yankees have a new manager leading the team. For the first
time in 13 years, the Yankee starting rotation has three big question marks in
it.  And finally, for the first time since 1998, the Yankees are not defending
Eastern Division Champions. In short, for the first time in a very long time,
the New York Yankees can be considered underdogs as they head into the new
season.

 

STARTING PITCHING – AFTER THE FIRST TWO, ALL WE HAVE IS
A CLUE

 The top two pitchers in the Yankee starting rotation can
arguably match up with anyone’s 1-2 in baseball. If they stay healthy, Chien-Ming
Wang (19-7 3.70 ERA) and Andy Pettitte (15-9  4.05 ERA) will duplicate or better
last year’s performances.  Both of these two starters are proven winners, and
can handle being counted on to be a stopper.

After the top two in the rotation, it becomes a **** shoot
for the Yankees.  Twenty-two year-old, Phil Hughes ( 5-3, 4.46 ERA) is the
Yankees number three starter.  At times last season, Hughes pitched like an ace.
The Yankees number one prospect showed glimpses of “Clemens-like” stuff in many
of his appearances. Phil has a lively fastball that he’s not afraid to spot
inside on a hitter. He has a great curve, and shows no fear on the mound.

That said, Phil is only 22, and no one knows how he will
shoulder the load of being the make or break man for a team that everyone
expects to make the playoffs.  Every time Phil takes the hill for the Yankees,
many Yankee fans will view him as the guy Brian Cashman would not give up for
Johan Santana.

 Mike Mussina (11-10, 5.15 ERA) and 22-year-old, Ian
Kennedy (1-0, 1.89  in 19 innings pitched) round out the Yankees rotation. Both
of these guys scare me because they are very similar in style. Since the “Moose”
lost the zip on his fastball, he has been getting pounded. The problem with Mike
is, there is very little differential between his 86-88 mph “fastball” and his
changeup. From the little I’ve seen of Kennedy, he might have the same problem
as Mussina. Ian can hit the low 90’s with his fastball, but like Mike, he has to
have pin point command to be effective.

 

THE BULLPEN —  IF YANKEES LEAD AFTER 7 INNINGS, GAME IS
OVER

 In Mariano Rivera (30 saves, 3.15 ERA) and Joba
Chamberlain (0.38 ERA  34 K’s in 24 innings) the Yankees have the eighth and
ninth innings covered. In other words, if the Yankees carry a lead going into
the last two innings, they will be a good bet to win the game. Not since 1996
(Rivera to Wettleland) have the Yankees had this type of 1-2 punch in their pen.

Kyle Farnsworth, LaTroy Hawkins, Brian Bruney, Ross
Ohlendorf, and lone lefty, Billy Traber, will try to find a way to get the ball
to Chamberlain with the Yankees leading.  I was surprised that Scott Patterson
(1-hit, 0-runs, 7-K’s, in 7 innings this spring) didn’t make the team. Remember
his name, because if any of the above middlemen fail, Scott will get the call.

 

ONCE AGAIN, A POTENT OFFENSE – 1,000 RUNS A POSSIBILITY

 You can bet the Yankees will be in contention all season
long thanks to having one of the most potent offenses in baseball. While scoring
a ******** 968 runs last year, one can only wonder how many more runs the team
would have scored if Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi didn’t have off years.

 Coupled with the disappointing years from Damon and Giambi,
the Yankee offense also suffered from very slow starts from Bobby Abreu and
Robinson Cano. While 968 runs scored is a stellar number, the 2008 Yankees
should score over 1,000 runs if the above mentioned players improve on their
first half numbers from last season.

 For the most part, manager Joe Girardi will go with the
following lineup.

 

PLAYER                 
OBP.               
RUNS            HR          
RBI

DAMON  LF          
.351                 
93                  
12              
63

JETER  SS              
.388                
102                 
12              
73

ABREU  RF           
.369                 
123                 
16             
101

RODRIGUEZ 3B    .422                 
143                 
54             
156

GIAMBI 1B          
.356                   
31                  
14               
39

POSADA  C         
.426                   
91                  
20               
90

CANO  2B           
.353                   
93                  
19               
97

MATSUI   DH      
.367                 
100                  
25             
103

CABRERA  CF     .327                   
66                   
8                 
73         

 

A few notes on this lineup.

  Jason Giambi  played in  only  83 games
last season. In order for the Yankees to give A-Rod some protection in this
lineup, Jason is going to have to have a rebound season. The “GiamBino” had a
great spring, and the Yankees hope it carries through the season.

 Last preseason, I picked Robinson Cano to be the Yankees
MVP. Well, a historic season by Alex Rodriguez and a slow start by Cano, shot
that prediction down. That said, I still believe “Robbie” is the best pure
hitter in this Yankee lineup. I expect his power numbers to rise this year, and
this time, he just might turn in that MVP season.                 

 As noted earlier, Damon must return to form as being the
catalyst in this lineup. Johnny admitted this spring that he was out of shape
last year, and thus could never get over his nagging injuries. “Damon like”
numbers at the top of this lineup will surely help the Yankees push over the
1,000 runs scored mark.

 

A BENCH THAT CAN ACTUALLY CONTRIBUTE

 Unlike early last season, the Yankees now have a very good
bench.  Jose Molina (C), Wilson Betemit (3B, SS, 2B), Shelley Duncan (OF, DH, IB),
and Morgan Ensberg (1B,3B) will give manager Girardi  some lineup flexibility,
and a chance to rest some of his every day players.

 

 

THE MANAGER — NOT THE SAME OLD JOE

 Joe Girardi has the tough job of following a legend as he
takes over for Joe Torre.   Girardi will differ from Torre in that he will
probably play the “numbers” game more that Torre did. Expect to see the new
Yankee manager play match-ups with certain players when situations call for it.
Girardi will try to manufacture runs more than Torre did.

 I expect to see Girardi push for wins early on in the
season. Torre’s style was to manage for the long haul. I don’t see Girardi doing
this.  We are going to see intense playing and managing for the whole year.
Let’s just hope the young manager doesn’t burn the team out.

Like every team in baseball, at some point during the year,
the Yankees will go into a slump, and that’s when Girardi will be tested and
compared to the successful Torre. The former Yankee manager not only managed on
the field, but off the field too.  Everyone is convinced Girardi can manage game
situations. We just have to wait and see how he will manage the club after the
game is over. In New York, with this team, that may be more important than
managing the game itself.

 

HELP FROM THE MINORS – PROSPECTS GALORE

 During every season, a team will have to dip into their
minor league system to fill  holes on the big club or to make a trade. Here
are some names you will be hearing about as the year goes on.

 Besides Scott Patterson, the Yankees pitching staff could
be helped by Jeff Karstens, Darrell Rasner, Alan Horne, Jonathan Albaladejo, and
later on in the year, flame-thrower, Humberto Sanchez. Kei Igawa will start the
year in Triple A, but frankly, I can’t see this guy helping the Yankees at all.
Young outfielders Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata will be on everyone’s list when
the Yankees try to make a deal in July.

 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER – BOSTON AND NEW YORK MIRROR 
EACH OTHER

 The Yankees will fight for the division crown with Boston
and Toronto. The Blue Jays have already suffered some big injuries so I will put
them behind both the Red Sox and Yankees.

 Like the Yankees, Boston has three very big question marks
in their starting rotation. Boston can match the Yankee bullpen strength in the
eighth and ninth inning. Also, like their rivals to the south, the Red Sox also
have a lineup than can score lots of runs.

So it will all come down to which team will end up having a
better 3,4, and 5th starter. At this point, I see neither team having
an advantage. Maybe by the trading deadline in July, we will know, but until
then, I will give the division nod to the Red Sox because they are defending
champions.

 Here is my projected order of finish:

BOSTON

NEW YORK

TORONTO

TAMPA

BALTIMORE

 

This is going to be a very exciting and historic Yankee
season. To all Yankee fans out there, please enjoy being the underdog. I hope
many of you learned a lesson from last year, and now will not panic if the team
gets off to a slow start. It’s a very long season, and I can assure you changes
will be made as the year goes on.

 

Enjoy the season, everyone and I will see you at Yankee
Stadium!

The tradition continues at www.yankeetradition.com

 

 

 

The Girardi Era Begins, And It Will Start With Pitching

When the Yankees and Joe Torre parted ways a few weeks ago,
I figured Don Mattingly would be the next Yankee manager. I felt “Donnie Baseball” would be given the
job because he was Torre’s most recent bench coach, and because Mattingly would
be a very popular choice — something I thought would influence the Yankees
since they received a very negative backlash when they let the popular Torre
go.

 

Well, as we know now, Hank Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman
didn’t succumb to “the most popular choice” but instead, picked the man they
felt would best be able to lead a revamped Yankee team with a new
organizational philosophy.

 

In picking Joe Girardi as manager, and telling their most
potent offensive player, “see ya”, the Yankees sent a loud message to the “Yankee
Universe”. The message that was sent was, pitching is going to be the top
weapon of the 2008 New York Yankees.

 

The Yankees selected their former catcher as manager,
because they wanted an experienced man to handle a staff that may feature the
young arms of Job Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy. In my opinion,
this is why Girardi got the job over Mattingly.

 

In Thursday’s press conference, Girardi said, “Pitching wins
championships” and hinted he and Brian Cashman will focus on building a very solid
starting staff and pen to help bring world championship #27 to this storied
franchise.

 

If you’re a Yankee fan, you really can’t argue with the
direction Girardi is planning to lead the Yankees in. The ALDS failures of
2005, 2006, and 2007 had nothing to do with clutch hitting, managerial
decisions, or bugs. The Yankees failed to advance in the playoffs because Randy
Johnson and Chien-Ming Wang could not get the job done in the first round.
Simply put, the Yankees have been very short on quality pitching since the late
90’s and early 2000’s.

 

Steinbrenner, Cashman, and Girardi all know this, and that’s
why I feel you will see the Yankees build a team around solid pitching, and
focus less on offense.

 

Soon, I can almost guarantee that you will hear rumors that
the Yankees are in hot pursuit of

Minnesota

ace, Johan Santana. The Yankee brain
trust desperately wants to secure an ace for the upcoming season, and they will
target the Twins talented lefty who will be a free agent at the end of next
season. It will cost the Yankees a Melky
Cabrera, a Hughes or Wang, and maybe a prospect, but it’s a trade that will
enormously help the Yanks reach their goal of having a super staff.

 

While we can all hope that Chamberlain, Hughes, and Kennedy
can contribute greatly in next year’s rotation, we all must realize that
plugging in three kids in a rotation is very risky if your goal is to win a
world championship.

 

The Yankees need another experienced and quality starter to
join Andy Pettitte and anchor this young rotation. Santana should be that guy,
and the Yankees will probably pull out all the stops to acquire him.

 

As we know from his playing days and his experience as a
Yankee bench coach, Girardi is a very well-prepared individual. I’m certain the new Yankee manager has
already given Steinbrenner and Cashman some examples in how this team can
improve and reach their ultimate goal.

 

In the next few months, I expect the Yankees to make a
flurry of moves, and most of them will involve improving their pitching. Steinbrenner, Cashman, and Girardi all have
the same plan. Now we will see if they can implement it successfully and ready this team for
2008.

 

 

 

The New “Hammerin’ Hank”

With all due respect to baseball great Henry Aaron, there’s a new “Hammerin’ Hank” in baseball, and his last name is Steinbrenner. With a
statement that pleased this long time Yankee diehard, Hank Steinbrenner
essentially told Alex Rodriguez, Scott Boras, and the baseball world, that no
one player is bigger than the New York Yankees.

Reacting to the news that Alex Rodriguez was opting out of his contract with
baseball’s most storied franchise, George Steinbrenner’s oldest son made points
in Yankee Universe when he said the following:

"It’s clear he didn’t want to be a Yankee. He doesn’t understand the privilege
of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to
put a winning product on the field. I don’t want anybody on my team that doesn’t
want to be a Yankee."

Bravo, Hank. Bravo.

Steinbrenner’s words were music to my ears because as a fan, I’ve always felt
this way. Playing for the greatest franchise in sports IS a privilege.
When a player can call Yankee Stadium his home, play in front of 52,000 fans in
that “home”, and has a chance to be linked to legends like Ruth, Gehrig, and
DiMaggio, he not only should consider it a privilege, he should consider it a
very special gift.

On Sunday night, Alex Rodriguez decided to give up that privilege and return the
"gift". As a Yankee fan for 40 years, his decision did not upset me, because
like Hank Steinbrenner, if a player willingly gives up his pinstripes, it’s his
loss, not mine.

My reasoning for not getting angry at A-Rod is simple. You see, unlike Alex, I
do consider it a privilege and gift to be a fan of this team. I feel that way
every time I enter Yankee Stadium, and will always feel that way whether Alex
Rodriguez is there or not. In other words, I’m not concerned about any Yankee
“opting out”. In my book, no one Yankee is more important than the franchise
that has made us proud for so many years. I was so reassuring that Hank
Steinbrenner feels the same way.

I think my words have some weight here because I was never an A-Rod basher.
Many
times during his tenure as a Yankee, I “went to bat” for Rodriguez
and scolded
many Yankee fans for giving him such a hard time. Unlike many fans, I won’t
deride Rodriguez with name calling and be foolish enough to say, “He’s not that
good.” Truthfully, he’s one of the best baseball players I’ve ever seen since I
began following this game in 1967.

That said, the Yankees continued to thrive after the losses of Ruth, Gehrig,
DiMaggio, and Mantle, so I won’t be fretting over A-Rod’s departure. He doesn’t
want to be here, so it’s time for him to move out quickly, so the Yankees can
replace him with someone who wants the privilege, and accept the gift of being a
New York Yankee.


www.yankeetradition.com

The Toughest Yankee Loss Can Be Erased

Tough losses have been something Yankee fans have been feeling for the past seven years.  Ask a number of Yankee diehards about what
were their toughest recent losses, and you will get a variety of answers.

 

Some will argue, what could be tougher than losing a
World Series title in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7?  Some would
answer that losing an ALCS to their arch rivals– after being up three games to
zero– would head their list. Others would answer losing a World Series in Game
6, after winning a pennant in dramatic fashion, was tough to take. Finally,
others might say, losing an ALDS game due to a swarm of bugs, made them toss and
turn all night long.

 

To this diehard, the toughest loss in recent times came
on the day the Yankee brass forced Joe Torre out of his job as manager of the
New York Yankees.  For me, Luis Gonzalez’ blooper, the Boston Red Sox ALCS
comeback, a Florida Marlins World Series win, and three-straight ALDS series
defeats, all pale in comparison to the loss the Yankees  suffered when they
failed to realize what they had in Joe Torre.

 

When the Yankee brass let Joe Torre go, they lost more
than just a great manager. The entire New York Yankee organization lost a well
respected man. The organization lost a very classy man.  The Yankee family lost
a man that represented this team as well as any other Yankee had in the history
of this storied franchise. In short, Mr. Steinbrenner, the Yankees, and their
fans, have lost one of their biggest assets.

 

While losing Joe Torre is my recent toughest Yankee
loss, it is a bit different from the other losses I listed in my opening. The
reason why it is different than any game loss is because Mr. Steinbrenner and
his sons have an opportunity to turn this loss over.

I’m publicly pleading to the Boss, Mr. Steinbrenner, and
to his sons, to re-think what they have just done. Please, just listen to what
the players, fans, media, and the baseball world are saying.  Right now the
Yankees need a manager, and the best man for the job is Joe Torre.

 

Mr. Steinbrenner, you have changed your mind many times in
the past. By doing so this time, you will turn a tough loss into a great win.

 


www.yankeetradition.com

Magic Numbers? I’ll Give You Magic Numbers

Back on May 29th, when the Yankees trailed the first place Boston Red Sox by 14 1/2 games, giddy Red
Sox fans were actually figuring out the team’s magic number to secure the
Eastern Division title. Now that the Yankees are making a historic charge, and
have cut the lead to 1 game in the loss column, Red Sox "Nation" has forgotten
about "magic numbers". As a matter of fact, from what I heard and read today,
Boston had no intention of winning the division.  The spin from Yawkey Way is,
the Sox are really not trying to win games, but instead, they are trying to get
their team ready for the playoffs. Yeah, that makes sense, especially when the
team was running promos calling this a "September to remember".

Since
Red Sox "Nation" has no use for magic numbers anymore, I thought I would carry
their torch and list some "magic numbers" of  my own.

1 4  –  This
was the number of games the Yankees were behind Boston in the loss column on May
29th

46  –  Congratulations to Andy Pettitte who notched his 200
career major league victory against the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday
night.

6   –  When almost everyone was writing the Yankees off,  Joe
Torre stayed calm,  showed confidence in his team, and has guided them to their
best second half  since he became manager in 1996.

20 –  I wrote
about it many times during the years, but I have to say it again.  Jorge Posada
is the irreplaceable Yankee.  The Yankee catcher is having the best year of his
career, and still you hear nothing about him. The Yankees can’t replace him, and
this winter Jorge will finally be rewarded for what he has meant and means to
this team.

13 – He will probably be the MVP of the league once again,
but what really impresses me about Alex Rodriguez is how hard he plays the game.
He has truly been a joy to watch this year, and I hope and pray he carries it
over to the playoffs.

2 – While some players in Boston are sitting
out with "nagging injuries", Derek Jeter continues to play injured (bad knee).
His big homer against Curt Schilling on Sunday night didn’t surprise me one bit.
That’s what Derek has done since opening day of 1996–He’s a big time
player.

42- Don’t insult me or any other Yankee fan comparing anyone
to Mariano Rivera. Every year the "experts" tell us "Mo" is "losing it", and yet
all this guy does is get big outs. How ironic it was that soon after Jonathan
Papalbon gave up a grand slam, Mariano was nailing down another clutch. late
season save for the Yankees.

24,28,36,40, 62, 65 –  Robinson Cano,
Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain
all are home grown players that have contributed greatly to this current Yankee
comeback. We were told the Yankee farm system was "bare" but now we know that
was a false report.

1,565 – This number represents the number of  times I’ve
read or heard that the Yankees were "out of it this" year.

1- This is
the number of games the Yankees trail the Boston Red Sox by.

0 – This
number will represent the number of times I will read or hear that the Yankees
are "out of it" tomorrow.

1978 – Shame on anyone who didn’t believe
this could happen again!

The comeback continues at www.yankeetradition.com

Surprise, Surprise, Sour Grapes In Red Sox “Nation”

One of the best things about being a Yankee diehard in New England is, just about every year you get to experience a very entertaining
event here. This event usually happens late in the baseball season and sometimes
in early October. For people who experience this event for the first time, they
may find it pathetic or even alarming. Yet, for those us who have gone through
this seemingly every year, it’s one of the best parts of the baseball season.
The event? It’s the Red Sox "Nation" whine.

The "Nation" whine usually centers around the manager of the
team. He’s usually blamed for every loss. No, the "Nation" never gives the
opposition any credit, for it’s always  something the manager did that cost
the "Fenway Faithful" a much desired win.  Sometimes, the whine is directed
at a Theo Epstein free-agent signing that has gone bust on Yawkey Way. Other
times, the whine is directed at the umpires. You know, they’re all against the
Red Sox. But more than a manager, a poor free agent signing, or an umpire, the
whining is usually directed at the 26-time world champion, New York Yankees.

Today (August 7th) the official whining season began here in
New England, and not to my surprise, it was directed at the surging New York
Yankees who are in the process of erasing a 14 1/2 game Boston lead that was
established on May 29th. The only thing that surprised me about this whine, was
I couldn’t figure out who was more pathetic, the fans or the New England media.

You see Yankee fans, today in New England, the Boston fans
and New England media weren’t talking about the rise of Melky Cabrera and
Robinson Cano. They weren’t talking about the consistent hitting of Jorge Posada
nor Derek Jeter. Nothing was said about Hideki Matsui’s fabulous July. 
They didn’t mention Bobby Abreu’s offensive surge, nor the dominating pitching
of Mariano Rivera.  No, the self-proclaimed "most knowledgeable fans in
baseball" and the astute Boston media ignored all this, and pointed to the
Yankees "easy schedule" as being the reason why the Yankees are closing in on
Boston.

Most of the papers around here have pointed out  "there
is nothing to worry about" because soon, the Yankees will be playing "tough
teams". The local sports shows were flooded with whining Red Sox fans saying the
same thing.  Mind you, we heard nothing about "easy" teams when the Red Sox
had a 14 1/2 game bulge on May 29th, but now, that the lead is shrinking at an
alarming rate,  the whine is focused on the Yankees playing "easy" teams.

All the talk today about "easy" and "tough" teams, and lack
of talk about the real reason why the Yankees are winning, once again proved to
me that the label "most knowledgeable fans" and "astute media" should not be
given around here. The whine got so bad today, that I spent some time to look up
how both New York and Boston fare against "tough" and "easy" teams.

I went back to June 1’st (and stopped
after the last started series in July), and took a look at the Yankees and Red
Sox series wins against "tough" and "easy" teams. Interestingly enough, June
1’st started the second straight series win the Yankees had against a "tough"
team, the Boston Red Sox. Here are the results:

Series won against +.500 teams    
New York  5     Boston   4

Series lost against +.500 teams    
New York  2     Boston   3

Series won against -.500 teams    
New York  7     Boston    5

Series lost against -.500 teams    
New York  3     Boston    3

Series tied against -.500 teams   
New York  0     Boston    2

 

Not much difference is there? Keep in mind, this is two
months worth of data. Now when Boston was running away with the division, I
didn’t hear any member of Red Sox "Nation" or any member of the local media talk
about "easy" teams.  Yet now that the Yankees are on a tear, the reason
that is being thrown around here is, they are playing "easy" teams.

Now you may ask how could almost everyone around here miss
the actual reasons why the Yankees are surging? Well, members of the "Nation"
and the media,  were too busy writing off the Yankees in May.  Too
much time was being spent on planning an "elimination day" and not enough time
was being spent on the real reasons (an unbelievable amount of injuries to the
starting rotation, and slumps by Abreu, Matsui, and Cano) why this Yankee team
got off to a slow start.

According to the whiners here, soon the Yankees will start
playing those "tough" teams. So now, if the Yankees win series against those
teams, what will be the excuse then?  You guessed it, Red Sox "Nation" and
the media will just blame the manager.

www.yankeetradition.com

 

C&C Boys Leading Yankee Charge

When you’re a young player on a team with names like Jeter, Rodriguez, Posada, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera, it’s easy to get over-looked
no matter how well you are playing. Well today, that all stops, as I’m going to
praise the Yankees young dynamic-duo, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano. The play
of these two "Baby Bombers" is one of the reasons the Yankees have gone 25 and
10 since July 1’st, and closing in on a playoff spot. Both of these players had
a sizzling July and have continued the pace early on in August. Let’s take a
closer look.

In July, Robinson Cano hit .385 with a .420 on base
percentage. The 24-year old second baseman hit six homers in the month while
driving in 24 runs. So far in August, "Robbie" is continuing his torrid pace as
he has gone 9-18  at the plate. This surge in hitting has brought Cano’s
season average up to .309. His homer total is now at 11, and his RBI production
has climbed to 65.  While being one of the hottest hitters in major league
baseball in the last month, Robinson has also played a very steady second base.

For the second straight year, Cabrera has energized this
Yankee team. Like Cano, Melky got off to a slow start this season, and just like
his buddy, he’s gotten very hot at the plate in the last month.  In July,
Cabrera hit a ******** .368 (39-for-106) and logged a .410 on base percentage. 
The 23-year old has continued his stellar hitting in August as he’s gone
8-for-25 (.320)  and now is just two points shy of hitting .300 for the
season.

Besides making an impact at the plate, Melky has become a
terrific defensive centerfielder for the "Bronx Bombers". Gone are the days
where runners would go from first to third on a hit to center. Cabrera has a
strong and accurate arm that has saved runs for Yankee pitchers. If you’re a
Yankee fan who watches all the games, you’ve got to smile when you now see
runners putting on the breaks when they see Melky charging the ball in center.

Now while we are on the subject of 
young Yankees who are propelling the Yankees into playoff contention, we have to
talk about the "Yankee reliever in waiting", Joba Chamberlain. Folks, I can’t
contain my excitement when talking about this guy. I’m excited for two reasons.
First the Yankees have one weak point and that’s their bullpen. Besides Mariano
Rivera, they just don’t have a "lights out", late inning man.  Joba is an
asset the Yankees can use to make themselves better.  My second reason for
being excited is Chamberlain’s relief numbers in Scranton.

So far, the 21-year old Chamberlain has
logged 8 innings in relief in AAA. In those eight innings, Joba has given up no
runs on five hits. He has struck out 18-hitters while walking only one. I
understand AAA is a lot different than toeing the mound at Yankee Stadium in a
pennant race, but I feel the Yankees have a need, so why not give this guy a
shot? In all of his minor league stops he has proven he can blow hitters away,
now it’s time to see him do it in the majors. If Chamberlain can pitch like this
in the majors, he will be the most important pickup any team has made all season
long. The need is so great, and if the Yankees fill it they are going to be a
very tough team to beat down the stretch and in October.

www.yankeetradition.com

Hey Boston, Guess What? You’ve Got Yourselves A Pennant Race!

The date is July 18th, 2007. The nightly baseball results are in . The scores read, Yankees 6  Blue Jays 1,  Kansas City 6 
Boston 5.  The standings now show that the Yankees are only 6 games (loss
column) behind the Red Sox for the Eastern Division lead . Yes, the Yankees, who
were 14 games behind Boston in the loss column (May 29th) earlier in the season,
are now within striking distance of making 2007, 1978 all over again. Yes, Red
Sox "Nation", I will say it again, 1978 all over again.


It’s very quiet in New England right now. You see, no one is
giggling at my Yankee comeback talk anymore. The giddiness that blinded Red Sox
"Nation" for all of this season is gone.  Writers who deemed the season
"over" in May, are now trying to figure a way to explain what is happening. In
short, panic has gripped Yawkey Way,  as a pennant race has suddenly
developed.


You all remember my prediction that it would be a very damp
summer this year from the sweat of Red Sox "Nation" when the Yankees make their
charge. Well, right now, the "Nation" is sweating, fretting, and doing some bed
wetting, over the surging Yankees and the shrinking Boston lead. Forget "easy
schedules", forget "homestands", forget who "has to play .700 ball", forget
about "blowing up the team". It all goes out the window now folks, for we now
have a pennant race in mid July.


So now that the "non-believers" are resigned to the fact that
there is actually a race, let’s examine how the Yankees can complete this
comeback.


Despite the final score of 6-1, tonight’s game once again
exposed the Yankees weakest link, which is their bullpen.  Ron Villone,
Scott Proctor, and Brian Bruney can’t come in and start walking hitters in close
games.  Luckily for the Yanks, they had Mariano at the ready to record a
five save out.  That said, the Yanks won’t be able to go deep in October
with this bullpen.


During the next two weeks, Brian Cashman is going to have to
find two quality arms to fortify the bullpen. As mentioned before, Jeff Karstens
could be one of them. Karstens has been pitching well in his rehab starts and
could join the club late next week. Cashman will then have to pull off a trade
to obtain another much need reliable arm.


The Yankees also have to take a serious look at Johnny Damon. 
Once again, Damon had a futile night at the plate, and it’s apparent something
is just not right with him.  Having a leadoff hitter hitting under .240 is
not going to help this team make up 6 games in a little more than two months.
Damon has to be honest with the team and tell them if he’s hurt.


Phil Hughes had a very good rehab start this afternoon, and
he may need just one or two more outings before he becomes the final piece of
this now very good starting rotation.


Yes, the Yanks need a bit more to complete this comeback.
That said, it’s July 18th, 2007 and we do have a pennant race. Sorry, Red Sox
"Nation".


The comeback and tradition continues at www.yankeetradition.com

 

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