Saturday, May 5, 2012

Down but far from out...

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…

There is a reason that Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee for a very long time.  I know that Derek Jeter is a quality guy and a favorite of many, but for me, Mariano Rivera has always been the premier player in my opinion.  It doesn’t mean that I feel Jeter’s not a great player…he is.  He is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the greatest shortstop in Yankees history (with no disrespect to Phil Rizzuto).  But Rivera has always handled himself with dignity and class, and he’s always been accountable when things have gone wrong.  He has never disrespected another player or team, nor has he placed blame anywhere but with himself.  He hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s clearly the best closer in major league history (with no disrespect to Goose Gossage). 

I have been dreading the day when Rivera walks off the field as a player for the final time.  But I never dreamed that, potentially, his final moment would be inability to walk off the field under his own power. It was very disheartening to see the pre-game injury when Rivera tore the ACL in his knee this week against the Kansas City Royals.  I kept hoping for the best when I first heard the news, but it is now known that he’ll miss the remainder of the season.  Given that he is 42, the road to recovery is going to harder than if he was still in his 30’s.  Nevertheless, withn 24 hours, Rivera was saying that he wasn’t going to go out like this and that he’d be back next season after much speculation this might be his final season prior to the injury.

If Mo says that he’ll back, I am fully confident that he will be.  I am sad that we won’t see #42 come out of the bullpen for the rest of the year, but I look forward to next season when Mo perhaps takes the final lap in what has been a legendary career.  I will always be appreciative that Rivera wore pinstripes, from beginning to end, and he’ll remain one of my favorites in the history of the storied franchise. 

That first step is a doozy…

David Robertson has big shoes to fill as he steps into the closer’s role but I have faith and confidence in his abilities.  I hope that Rafael Soriano is up to the challenge of making a positive impact as he slides back into the role of primary setup man.  Just as Andy Pettitte has become a much more needed pitcher than he was when it was announced he was going to pitch this year, the need for the return to good health for Joba Chamberlain is equally important.  I am glad that one of Manager Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work the bullpen so I continue to view the Yankees relief corps as a strong unit despite Rivera’s absence. 

A few favorites…

With Rivera as my favorite current Yankee player, it made me think of my other favorites:

·         Favorite living former Yankee:  Don Mattingly
·         Favorite former Yankee who played during my lifetime:  Thurman Munson
·         Favorite all-time player:  Lou Gehrig
·         Favorite manager:  Billy Martin (followed closely by Joe Torre)
·         Favorite owner:  George Steinbrenner
·         Favorite current Yankee (excluding Rivera):  Robinson Cano
·         Favorite Yankees team:  1998 Yankees (closely followed by 1927 Yankees)

There are many other players that I will always have special feelings for...most notably, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, for whom I attribute to why I am a Yankees fan today.  I was a fan of the Oakland A’s and Hunter in particular when I was young, but everything changed when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 1974.  I had always admired the history and the tradition of the Yankees (the first book I recall reading was a biography about Lou Gehrig), so bring the combination of the Yankees and Hunter together brought me to the team as a fan.  I’ve been a faithful one ever since that time. 

I’d be remiss by not mentioning Mickey Mantle.  A great player who really could have been even greater than he was.  I was able to attend his funeral in Dallas, and I remember seeing a few of the former Yankee greats who were in attendance.  It was an experience that I’ll never forget.  Bob Costas delivered a tremendous eulogy.  It’s amazing to think of what Mantle could have accomplished if he had held himself to the same standards as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do. 

Yogi Berra, of course, is an invaluable link to the Yankees’ history of success.  There are way too many guys to acknowledge, but these are a few that stand out to me.

Hard to close…

It’s amazing to me how 2012 has been the Year of the Fallen Closers.  So many closers on the DL (Rivera, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, etc.); so many demotions (Jordan Walden, Carlos Marmol, whoever is pitching for the White Sox, etc.); and guys who are on the brink of losing their jobs (most notable being Heath Bell).  This is one of the only years in fantasy baseball where all my bench slots are filled with guys on the DL.  But as they say, one guy’s misfortunate is another guy’s opportunity.  Sports is about the ability to step up and take it to the next level. 

Game of Stars…

I realize that Bryce Harper is only 19 but I am hopeful that he can find success at this level now rather than a return trip to the minor before he is ready.  I can’t recall a player who has received as much hype (well, perhaps Stephen Strasburg) but I genuinely would like to see the player match (or even exceed) the hype.  It is good for baseball.  Robin Yount was in the majors by age 19 and I think he had a fairly successful career (<understatement).  While I still question the signing of Jayson Werth, it is fun watching the accumulation of talent in DC.  I am just glad they play in the NL and not the AL. 

Where’s the caveat?...

When a pitcher throws a no-hitter like Jered Weaver did this week against the Minnesota Twins, they should come up with a degree of difficulty score.  C’mon, it was the freakin’ Twins!  It wasn’t like Weaver was facing the monster bats of Texas, New York, Tampa, Detroit, or Boston.  So, while a no hitter is a great achievement, it’s hard not to discount Weaver’s performance.

What am I doing writing this post?  I should be in line to buy my ticket to see The Avengers!  Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

--Scott

Saturday, April 28, 2012


The thrill of Victory...I just wish it would happen more often...

Going up or going down?...

About 20 games into the season and the Yankees are barely closer to first place than they are last place.  Only two games separate the Yankees from the dismal start by the Boston Red Sox but of course the Sox are playing better as of late.  It’s only April so at this point, the standings don’t really mean too much as the superior AL East teams will begin to separate themselves from the pretenders over the course of the next couple of months. 

It was nice to see the Yankees pull off a walk-off win at Yankee Stadium last night against the team that seems to terrorize them in the play-offs in recent years, the Detroit Tigers.  I am really surprised that Justin Verlander holds an 0-2 mark with 4.50 ERA for his career at the new Yankee Stadium.  When he is on the mound, it is hard not to expect bad things for the home team.  So, regardless of Verlander’s struggles at Yankee Stadium, it is still a great feeling to pick up a win on a night when he took the mound.

Cashman made the right decision…

Lately, there have been numerous columns and articles written about how disastrous the Yankees trade for Michael Pineda has become.  I realize that he’s lost for the season due to his shoulder injury, but he is still a young and talented pitcher.  I know there’s always a risk that he isn’t quite the pitcher was projected to be when he comes back, but I think it’s way too early to criticize the trade which sent talented hitter Jesus Montero to Seattle.  Pineda’s injury was suffered on the Yankees’ watch and not while he was in Seattle, and there is still a good chance that he’s a strong, contributing part of next year’s rotation. 

Phil Hughes is probably the beneficiary of Pineda’s injury as I feel that Freddy Garcia will be the odd man out when Andy Pettitte returns to the Bronx.  Hughes hasn’t exactly pitched like he wants to stay, but I am not ready to see the Yankees banish him to Pittsburgh or someplace like that.  Maybe I am an eternal optimist but I still believe that Hughes can prosper in New York. 

I am a bit concerned by the uneven starts provided by new Yankee Hiroki Kuroda, but I think he’ll settle in and deliver consistent performances in the coming weeks and months.  Yes, I do thank the lucky stars every day for CC Sabathia.

A sad day in the Yankees Universe…

I was saddened to hear the passing of Yankees great Bill “Moose” Skowron yesterday.  He was part of the 1961 Yankees which will always be a special team in Yankees history for the famed M&M Boys (the year Mickey Mantle hit 54 home runs, and Roger Maris hit the then record 61 homers).  But there’s no way either Mickey or Roger could have reached those heights without guys like Skowron on the roster. 

Next stop, Superstardom…

Well, the Bryce Harper Show begins its maiden tour in Washington with the scheduled first start today for the ultra-hyped, super prospect National.  Given that he was called up to take the roster spot of injured 3B Ryan Zimmerman, there’s always the chance that Harper goes back down when Zimmerman returns from the DL.  But if Harper starts to hit like we know he will, it will be hard for the Nats to remove him from the roster.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  America loves superstars and Harper certainly has as much of a chance to be the best as anyone in the game today.

When Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson are happy, so am I…

It’s only been three rounds, but I am pleased with the NFL draft selections made by the Minnesota Vikings.  Prior to the draft, my preference for the Vikings #3 pick in the first round was USC OT Matt Kalil.  There was talk that the Vikings were undecided among Kalil, CB Morris Claiborne, and WR Justin Blackmon, but in the end, it proved to be a smokescreen.  I was a bit anxious when I first heard the Vikings had traded down with the Cleveland Browns, but it was clear that the Browns were going after RB Trent Richardson so there was no risk of losing Kalil off the board.  At first, I didn’t understand the logic of the move, but clearly the Vikings (and GM Rick Spielman) had made the Browns fearful they’d trade down with another team which could potentially cost the Browns a shot at the premier running back in the draft.  The move brought three late round picks to the Vikings and it didn’t cost them anything as they were focused on Kalil from the start. 

I also like the Vikings’ subsequent picks (late first round selection of S Harrison Smith and early third round choice of speedy CB Josh Robinson).  For a team that was desperate of upgrades in the secondary, they fared well. It would have been nice if Robinson were a bit taller, but his 4.33 speed at the Combines was unmatched.  I think he’s good material for the coaching staff to mold for playing at this level.  The Vikings have a plethora of selections today as Rounds 4-7 are completed, and I am sure that the defense will continue to get attention.  I also expect the Vikings to choose a wide receiver, but I have no idea who they might target.  Nevertheless, with Spielman’s decisions so far, I have no doubt that he’ll continue to bring talented playmakers to Minnesota. 

As Luck would have it…

Like everyone else, I think that QB Andrew Luck has the potential to be one of the greats in the game but how much more difficult can it be to be replacing one of the greatest QB’s to play the game with added pressure of being the number one selection in the NFL Draft (along with the expectations that go with it)?  If Luck succeeds, and I do not doubt that he will, he will prove, without a doubt, that he was the right choice to replace Manning.  Luck, with a horseshoe on his helmet, seems like it was destiny.  Meanwhile, I continue to “ponder” things in Minnesota…

Today, with Yankees-Tigers on tap and the conclusion of the NFL Draft, will be a fun day.  Enjoy!

--Scott

Thursday, April 19, 2012

You win some, you lose some...

Uneven start to the 2012 season...

I guess the season opening series sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays set the tone, but this has been a hot and cold season thus far.  The New York Yankees followed the Rays series with their own sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, but they've struggled against the Minnesota Twins in the Bronx.  Given how the Yankees have owned the Twins in recent years and the fact the Twins were a 99 loss team last year with no notable improvements, it seems odd that the Yankees are fighting to salvage the fourth game of the series with the Twins and at least earn a split.

Now you see him, now you don't...

I was excited last week when Hiroki Kuroda pitched a gem, but after getting pounded by the Twins yesterday , he's had more bad starts than good.  It's only three starts in, and I am sure that Kuroda will not be A.J. Burnett Revisited, but I'd prefer the ratio of good starts to bad to be reversed.  I can't imagine what it would be like to change leagues, especially for a foreign player.  There is a difference in pitching in the AL versus the NL, and it would seem, to a novice like me, that it would be more enjoyable to pitch in the National League given the lack of a DH.

Odd men out...

As it stands right now, I think that both Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia are pitching their way out of the rotation to make way for the eventual returns of Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda.  I expect Hughes to be moved to the bullpen, but I am not sure what will happen with Garcia.  I don't really see him going to the pen if Hughes goes there, and of course, he's not going to the minor leagues.  Best case scenario is a trade to bring in a player with potential.  It obviously wouldn't be a high ranked prospect, but rather something of a gamble with upside.

What have you done for me lately...

I feel bad for Francisco Cervelli sitting in AAA simply because he had options, but I have to say that I was impressed when no-hit back up catcher Chris Stewart had 3 RBI's the other night.  Stewart is clearly on the roster because of his defense but his bat has never scared anybody.  It still won't, but it's always good to mix in a hit or two.

I didn't watch the game but the match-up of Cliff Lee and Matt Cain last night in San Francisco was stellar.  I was going to say that the game featured two of my favorite pitchers, but I am still a bit miffed at Cliff Lee for his rejection of the Yankees a couple of seasons back.  Tim Lincecum gets the press in San Francisco, but I've always appreciated Matt Cain.  If I owned a baseball team, he would be one of the guys that I'd target for acquisition.  I've always admired his competitiveness.  The marquee match-up didn't disappoint as Cain went 9 innings, allowing no runs, and Lee went an almost unheard of 10 innings.  Neither pitcher gave up a run.  A more startling statistic is that Lee only threw 102 pitches and Cain 91.  Neither pitcher figured in the outcome as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 in 11 innings.  But there is no doubt that was the season's prime pitching duel so far.  Kind of makes me wish that I had been sitting in AT&T Park last night.


The Grandy Man can...

As I am sitting here typing this blog, Curtis Granderson has hit three home runs in the first four innings of tonight's game against the Twins.  Yes, I think Grandy has settled into the Bronx.  As the song goes, with a slight variation, the Grandy Man can 'cuz he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.  Yes, he does.  I remember being disappointed that the Yankees gave up Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke for Granderson, but even though Kennedy has prospered in the Sonoran Desert, I am glad the trade was made. Grandy is a class act and probably the closest to Derek Jeter in terms of quality of character.

Will Los Angeles continue to take the best of Minnesota?...

As a resident of Minneapolis and a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I am very disappointed in the recent chain of events in the Vikings' efforts to secure a new stadium.  A state legislative committee nixed the Vikings' plan and it is looking like the subject will be tabled until 2013.  The Minnesota legislature goes on break in a week so they are running out of time to take action with the stadium issue.  There hasn't been any threats of relocation but they are starting to rumble to the surface.  The Vikings have passed the lease expiration of the Metrodome, so relocation is a genuine threat.  Based on reports, the Vikings will not tolerate delay until 2013 so this situation is critical.  I heard today that the NFL is coming to Minnesota in an effort to break the impasse.  But the odds of the Los Angeles Vikings becoming a reality have to be increasing.  This is very disappointing.  For me, I am not a native Minnesotan, so I'll stay with the Vikings regardless of what happens, but they belong in Minnesota.  You would think that the city of Minneapolis would have learned something with the Lakers...

Well, what would we do if sports weren't available to frustrate us?...

--Scott

Thursday, July 28, 2011

No Yankees game, but still a loss...

Sadly, it was learned today that former Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu has passed at age 42.  Early indications are that the death was attributed to suicide.  It is disappointing to hear that Irabu let his demons overcome him and he allowed his life to end much too soon.

When the late George Steinbrenner uttered the words, "Fat Toad", I was fearful that the words would stick to Irabu for the remainder of his career and of course that's exactly what happened.  I can only hope that the label was not a contributing factor to the decision that Irabu finally made at the very end.

I really wish that he could have experienced success in life, even if it wasn't on the baseball diamond.

You always hate to look back, but what if Irabu had not demanded a trade to the Yankees after he had been selected by the San Diego Padres.  If he had been allowed to develop in the low pressure environment in San Diego as opposed to the New York pressure cooker, how much different could have his career been?  He clearly was a talented pitcher.  I've made a few of those 'what if' decisions, and I know that we should never look back to what could have been.  But Irabu was not suited for New York so his decision to force a trade to New York was flawed.

But hey, what do I know about decisions, I suck at it...

Nevertheless, my deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Hideki Irabu.  I am sorry to see his departure and I can only hope that he'll find peace in the afterlife...

--Scott

Monday, July 25, 2011

Time for Change...




The dawn of a new day…

This is tough for me.  I started my blogging on MLBlogs and consistently ranked in the Top 20 during my two year association with the site (for fan blogs).  I’ve decided it is time to go to a stand-alone site, and just enjoy doing what I like to do…talk about the Yankees and whatever other sports topic that might cross my mind.  This is not about trying to seduce other bloggers to visit your site to boost the popularity numbers.  Hopefully, there will be key words or tags that lead people to my new site.    

I have truly enjoyed the blogging community regardless of what service you subscribe to.  People who like to write are a very passionate crew, and there is definitely a strong camaraderie that exists among the “family”.  Maybe nobody ever reads this blog, but is that really the point?  Everyone has an opinion.  I am no different than anyone else.  I like to write, and this is my release. 

Well, this is a sports-related blog so let’s get it going…

A huge week ahead…

This is a very crucial week for the Yankees as the trading deadline approaches.  Of course, I always feel like there needs to be a caveat attached to the July trading deadline as teams still have to the end of August to make trades albeit subject to the waivers process.  Yeah, like Evan Longoria is going to clear waivers.  Granted, there’s no way the Rays would be foolish enough to trade Longoria but you get the picture.

I still think if the Yankees make a move for a frontline pitcher, it will be a potential trade that we’ve heard nothing about.  There is no way that Ubaldo Jimenez is going to find his way to the Bronx.  I really don’t think the Colorado Rockies are motivated to make the move, plus I don’t think the Yankees would be willing to part with the talent that would be necessary to swing the deal.  At this point, I am not expected a frontline pitcher although I realize that is probably the only hope for the Yankees chances to compete for their 28th World Championship.  They have a good team, but not good enough to advance past the Boston Red Sox or the Texas Rangers in a short series.

You could say that this week will determine the fate of GM Brian Cashman, who’s contract expires at the end of the season.  He is in a tough spot as no team is going to hand him an ace, and if he fails to advance in October, there will be a press conference to announce him as some other team’s new GM in the off-season. 

I am glad to hear that 3B Eric Chavez is about to come off the DL.  With Alex Rodriguez still a few weeks away, it will be nice to have Chavez in the lineup…even on a part time basis with Eduardo Nunez.  I like Brandon Laird but his day will come.  For now, it’s time for him to go back down to Scranton/Wilkes Barre. 

Down, set, 244, 244, hut, hut…

I am glad the NFL has finally settled their differences with the Players Association.  Granted, there was no way that either side was going to pass up huge pay days, but it sucks for us fans that they put us through the lockout for the past few months .  As a Vikings fan, it is the end of July and I don’t know if WR Sidney Rice will be wearing purple or catching TD passes from some other team’s QB this fall.  The most experienced QB on the roster is a one year veteran (Joe Webb) who was originally drafted as a WR after playing QB in college.  I am a Christian Ponder fan but I don’t want Ponder to start until he is ready.  I would definitely prefer a stopgap at QB until Ponder is ready to take over, so I am okay with a signing of Matt Hasselbeck or a trade for Donovan McNabb.  But, as Brett Favre rumors re-surface, I really don’t want to see #4 back on the sidelines for a third season. 

I am excited about this football season.  I’ve been a Vikings fan all my life, but I’ve never attended a home game.  I’ve seen the Vikings play on the road over the years, but I wasn’t raised in Minnesota and hadn’t lived in the state until last week.  Work brought me to Minneapolis, so I am now within walking distance of the Metrodome.  Rest assured that I’ll be attending my first Vikings home game this fall.  Skol Vikings!

Have a great week, everyone!

--Scott