March 2010

Read It And Weep….Or Just Read

One of my favorite Yankees blogs is “It Is High, It Is Far, It Is…caught,” which is where I go whenever I need a good laugh. A couple of days ago, “El Duque,” their blogger-in-chief, posted the following. Keep in mind that Duque is a professional pessimist; he has a notion that if he keeps his expectations about the Yanks nice and low, he can only be pleasantly surprised. What I’m saying is, don’t hold his “predictions” against him.

Time to put up or shut up: 10 Yankee predictions for 2010

Commentators, readers, children of all ages… Lay down your Mothman prophesies…

It is time to separate the true prophets from those fools who are blinded by bloggery egoism.

10 PREDICTIONS MADE BY ME, EL DUQUE, ON THIS STAR DATE: MARCH 30, 2010.

1. The Yankees will finish in second place in the American League East. They will not win the Wild Card and they will not play in the post-season. This is because Baltimore and Toronto will be much improved. (The Jays didn’t, as has been popularly reported, give Halladay away for nothing.) As a result, the AL East will be one tough somebich division. And second place will not offer a Wild Card.

2. Johnny Damon will hit more home runs and bat higher than Curtis Granderson, who nevertheless will have a fine season and be popular in New York. It will not be Granderson’s fault that the Yankees fail to make the post-season. But Damon, as a point of personal pride, will make sure his numbers exceed the man wrongly viewed to be his replacement.

3. Mariano Rivera will pitch into August, then break down from age, and the Yankees will not have an adquate closer. If you saw me now, you would see tears in my eyes as I write these terrible words. But it can’t go on forever. He will tweak a muscle or something will fail, and when Mariano is not right, our whole team is not right. Who is going to replace him? Joba? Maybe someday. Not this year.

4. The Yankees will trade Jesus Montero and Brett Gardner for Carl Crawford at mid-season. The trade will backfire, as Crawford suffers adjustment pains in New York, and then, they have nobody to deal for a relief pitcher, down the stretch. But Jesus Montero will face growing pains at Triple A, when smart baserunners steal on every pitch. It will affect his hitting, and the Yankees will have no place for a DH. Tampa will be looking to trade Carl Crawford, and the Redsocks will be sniffing, and there will be no middle ground. Worse, we won’t just give up Montero and Gardner. It will also cost at least another top prospect. Yeow.

5. Javier Vasquez will pitch well for the Yankees, with an ERA of about 4.40; but he will not be offered a contract at the end of the season. It was never in the cards. They only traded for him because he was one-and-out. I don’t know how this will affect him, but I think he will give his heart and soul for this team, trying to win back fans who will never forgive him. He won’t get a shot at post-season redemption, and then he will be gone.

6. A-Rod will have the first off-year of his career, and questions will surround the future of his hip and the past of his bloodstream. He grew tired last year and really lost his swing for a while. Because of the great post-season he had, and that last game, when he drove in a pile of meaningless runs, we forget the ebbs and flows of his year. Also, he won’t have Hideki Matsui behind him in the order. We took Matsui for granted last year. We’ll miss him more than we think.

7. John Lackey will lead the Redsock pitching staff and become a notorious Yankee killer. He is a great pitcher and competitor, the closest to a Teixeira-type mentality that was on the market. I said it in December: Cashman is trying what Theo Epstein attempted in 2009 — to be too clever with his tinkering and outsmart everybody. The Penny/Smoltz/Baldelli/et al follies blew up in Epstein’s face, even though, just like Cashman’s moves this year, they were roundly cheered by the “experts.” This may be the year Cashman learns his lesson: If you got the cards, lay them down.

8. Nick Johnson will hit .300 and 20 home runs, but with nagging injuries to other key Yankees, his fulltime DH presence will prove a poor fit, and he will end up platooned. We will often lament the fact that he is slow on the bases, and we will look for a base-stealing benchplug, a Freddie Guzman, for the late innings, which will mean having to pare our outlandishly large pitching staff down to 11 or 10. This is the folly of a full-time DH on an old team.

9. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes will pitch hot and cold, finishing the season as question marks for the 2011 rotation. Seriously, can you imagine either of them ever being a sure thing? Even though it seems as if they must be pushing 30, they are still years away from their prime. That’s because we long ago began marketing them as future stars. Hell, we treatthem as if they are all-stars. We turned them into china dolls. They’ll come of age around 28, and I think they’ll be good. But that’s two-three years away. Question: Will they still be Yankees? Or will we be sick of them?

10. Kei Igawa w
ill return to Japan by the All-Star break. 
Everybody wants him gone. It was amazing that he was one of the first slobs cut from spring camp. He must have been awful. First, they announced that he would get a looksee as a situational lefty. Then he had a fine 1-2-3 outing. Then he got tagged. And then he was gone. No word yet on whether he’ll be a starter in Scranton. But really, can you imagine them paying all that money to a situational lefty out of the bullpen in Triple A? Nahhh. He’s gone.

My personal message to El Duque is this… Last February my Tarot card reader predicted the Yankees would win the 2009 World Series and they did. It’s time I paid her another visit and only then will we know what 2010 holds.


 

* “CC Needs The Adrenaline”

* That’s what Girardi said about CC’s rather abysmal outing against the Braves today (5 runs over four-plus innings). The truth is CC hasn’t been good all spring. I’m glad he’s been working on his mechanics and getting himself in shape…
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…but when does he actually start pitching well? The season starts in, like, FIVE DAYS.
“When the bell rings, CC will be ready,” the Yankees skipper told John Sterling during tonight’s radio broadcast. 
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Okay, so what Joe is saying is that CC will somehow be able to sweep away the cobwebs, pull himself together and turn himself into the guy who led the Yankees to a World Championship…by Sunday night. I certainly hope so. Maybe he does need the adrenaline that comes from pitching a game that counts, as opposed to a bunch of exhibitions. I guess we’ll find out.
I suppose I should weigh in (speaking of boxing analogies) on the Pat Venditte episode today. I’m all in favor of pitchers using whatever natural abilities they have to get hitters out, including the use of both arms.
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If Venditte, the ambidextrous wonder, proves he can retire batters from both sides, then he’ll advance through the Yankees system and become more than a novelty act. That said, he made me wonder about other possible permutations of pitchers. Like could there be a guy who pitches with his eyes closed?
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Doesn’t seem to be a problem for Hiroki Kuroda. How about a pitcher who literally turns his back to home plate?
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Hideo Nomo did it. So did Luis Tiant before him. And how about an insanely high leg kick? I need to go all the way back to Juan Marichal for that.
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What we’ve never seen is a pitcher who practically pokes his eye out with his kneecap when he winds up to throw the ball – and who has a dance named after him. Oh, wait. Yes we have.
I know. I posted this clip a few months ago. My apologies. I can never get enough of it.

Some Broadcasters Are Lame…But It’s OK

I was in my car for part of tonight’s game against the O’s, so I listened to Baltimore’s audio feed on my phone. While I appreciate partisanship in a radio broadcaster (John Sterling defines the term), tonight’s duo would have made anyone wince.
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Here’s why.
1) Yes, the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball. Blah blah blah blah blah. But do you really have to bring it up 7,000 times during a spring training game? And were you serious when you said, “The Yankees will probably go after Albert Pujols because he’s a big name?” Have you not noticed that we have a first baseman named Teixeira?
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(And no, I was not amused when he got hit on the elbow and had to leave the game.)
2) There were several (I forget how many) homers hit during the game. But, according to the O’s announcers, the ones the Yankees hit were cheapies that only cleared the fences because of the windy conditions. The shots hit by the O’s, on the other hand, were bona fide, honest-to-goodness dingers.
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3) When prospect David Winfree came in for the injured Teixeira, one of the O’s announcers said, “I wonder if he’s related to Oprah?” You think?
Winfree
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Winfrey
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And then they mused about the fact that Winfree spells his name differently from Winfrey. Duh. But the discussion didn’t stop there. “Oprah is America’s television sweetheart,” one of them proclaimed. “And Matt Wieters is America’s catching sweetheart,” added the other. America’s catching sweetheart?
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I’m sure Wieters has a very bright future in Baltimore, but I don’t think he’ll be getting his own talk show any time soon.
Oh, well. The truth is I enjoyed listening to the O’s guys tonight. No question they were nonsensical at times, but they had soothing, baseball radio voices – a nice change from the certain-to-be-overheated announcing we’ll be getting on ESPN on Sunday night. The important thing is that Tex’s elbow appears to be all right (the proverbial contusion), and Vazquez pitched well. I’ll take it.

A Week From Tonight

Next Sunday, at this very moment, barring snow or rain or the earth’s takeover by aliens, the Yankees will be in the midst of Opening Night at Fenway. Maybe the score is 0-0 in the 5th. Or maybe, since we’re talking about Yankees-Red Sox, we’re only in the 3rd. Either way, I’ll be watching, clammy hands and all.
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What’s to be nervous about? It’s only the first game of a long season, and it’s not as if the Yankees aren’t ready for prime time. They haven’t had the best spring training in terms of actual wins and losses, but everybody’s managed to stay healthy (shhhhhh – no jinx). Granderson finally seems comfortable at the plate, against both lefties and righties. Tex and Cano, two traditionally slow starters, have shown signs of life. A-Rod has gotten hot, despite the distractions. And the pitching is coming around, especially now that the rotation is set. And yet, I’ll be watching with my hands over my eyes.
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OK, I’m being ridiculous. We’re not talking about Game 7 of a World Series here. I need to get a grip, stop acting like such a wuss and approach next Sunday night with a new sense of fun. And here’s how I’m going to do it: I’ll imagine the worst things that could happen. That’s right. Once I get those out of the way, the game will be a piece of cake. Worth a try, right? 
The Worst Things That Could Happen Next Sunday Night
1) Jeter dislocates his shoulder.
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No problem. He already dislocated it in 2003 and the Yankees made it to the World Series anyway.
2) CC gets shelled.
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(Thanks to Bronx Goblin for the pic.) Again, no problem. He got shelled last year, giving up nine runs in 2 2/3 to the Rays and failing to win his 20th game. The Yankees won the World Series anyway.
3) Jacoby Ellsbury steals home.
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Sure, it was a little demoralizing when he did it last April, but, again, the Yankees ended up with the trophy.
4) Josh Beckett shuts the Yankees offense down.
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He’s done it before – last August, for instance. But thanks to Tazawa and A-Rod’s two-run blast, the Yankees prevailed in 15 innings.
5) A-Rod has to meet with the feds next Sunday – for Easter dinner with their families.
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I wouldn’t be happy about this, granted, but the Yankees made do without A-Rod for over a month last year, and it all turned out just fine.
So, I’m feeling much better about things after writing this post. What great therapy blogs are.

With This Ring….

I have to admit I cracked up when I read this via LoHud tonight…

TMZ Sports
New York Yankees — About to Get Rocked

The New York Yankees better clear out some space in their jewelery boxes — TMZ has learned the team will be getting their World Series rings on April 13th … when they play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

We’re told the design of the ring is being kept a secret — but we can only imagine they’ll be even more ridiculous than the 2000 rings, which included 22 major diamonds.

I mean, not only did I figure that TMZ had something more scandalous to write about, particularly in an EXCLUSIVE. But I wonder who their source was: a guy from the Diamond District?

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Here’s the 2000 ring they’re talking about.
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It practically defines “gaudy.” So what could the Yankees possibly do to top it? I don’t know. I have my own ring issues. I’ve had my eye on a certain diamond eternity wedding band from Cartier for a very long time. So in case my husband is reading this post, here’s what it looks like.

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The Old Guy Did Better Than The Young Guy

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Is 47 the new 24? It sure felt that way tonight against the Phillies. I mean, Jamie Moyer? Seriously? The guy gave up one hit and struck out six in six-plus innings. Hughes wasn’t terrible by any means, but what a show Moyer put on. He made me think the Yankees were hasty in allowing these two 47-year-olds to slip out of the rotation.
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For all I know, Whitey Ford could still pitch six innings of one-hit ball.
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So what if he’d have to stop after every batter and take a few deep breaths (okay, and some smelling salts). Don’t people say you can never have too many arms? Why not bring back every single member of the Gray Haired Brigade and see what they’ve got?
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Do We Have To Open At Fenway?

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Now that the #5 starter thing has been dealt with, I started thinking ahead to the Real Thing – the moment when the Yankees actually kick off the regular season. I got so excited until I reminded myself that we open at Fenway….and then my stomach turned.
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Won’t it be snowing in Boston? 
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Or, at the very least, won’t it be too cold for the ESPN Sunday Night extravaganza? Speaking of which, I guess most people have already seen ESPN’s commercial featuring Swisher. I watched it today, courtesy of River Ave Blues.
Okay, the truth is I prefer to ease into The Rivalry instead of jumping right into it. We should be playing Baltimore first, or maybe Toronto, since they have a retractable roof. And let’s face it – having to listen to Red Sox fans chanting “Yankees suck” isn’t my idea of a great time.
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Plus, the Sox usually beat us early in the season, and if this upcoming series is true to form they’ll sweep us. Yeah, I know. We’ll return the favor in August and September, but still. Isn’t there any way the Yankees can wriggle out of this date with destiny? Here’s what I was thinking…
1) We get a note from the team doctor.
Dr. Stuart Hershon could simply say the team has a headache.
2) The series really does get snowed out.
The weather has been crazy this year. Anything’s possible.
3) The Red Sox players go on strike and refuse to play.
They did it in 2008 when the coaches weren’t getting paid as much as the players for their trip to Japan.
4) The grass at Fenway is invaded by gophers, and the holes would pose an injury risk.
5) Bud Selig, acting on the advice of his special committee, suddenly decides to realign the division and put the Red Sox in the AL Central.

I’m out of excuses. Anybody else have one?

And The Winner of the #5 Starter Spot Is…?

As of this writing, the Yankees plan to announce their decision tomorrow (Thursday) – probably while I’m still asleep here in California. I’m sticking with my earlier prediction that their pick will be Huuuughes, but the point of this blog post is: I don’t care anymore! Just do it, Yankees, and get it over with!



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The #5 starter drama has had about as much suspense as whether Granderson or Gardner will open the season in center field. I’m not saying I don’t care care. Of course I do. The Yankees are my team, and I want what’s best for them. I’m just expressing the fact that I’m not losing sleep over it, because it doesn’t rise to the level of sleeplessness.
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When I was a kid, there were contest results worth staying up for. As silly as it sounds now, I used to love to watch the Miss America Pageant and try to guess who’d win.
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And presidential elections had tons of drama.
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When it came to baseball, I, like the rest of the country, was riveted by whether Mantle or Maris would break Babe Ruth’s home run record.
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But Hughes versus Joba (or Aceves or Mitre)? Phffffff. Of more interest to me was that Javier Vazquez pitched six strong innings tonight…that Mo looked great in relief…that A-Rod was in an offensive groove and that Tex, Cano and Granderson made nifty plays in the field (Cervelli too). For the first time since spring training started, I had the feeling I was watching a team that’s ready to begin the season. I know I’m ready.

My Talk With A-Rod

With A-Rod bound for Buffalo, I thought it was time to bring back my alter ego for another chat in the cafeteria with a Yankee. I know A-Rod will be lawyered up for his meeting with the feds on Friday, but there’s nothing like a fan to tell him how to conduct himself. I tried, anyway.

Pettitte: “I just didn’t want to hit nobody.”

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One of the things I love about Andy Pettitte is that he keeps things simple. The above quote was in response to the YES Network’s question today about the challenge of pitching against his teammates in an intra-squad game. “I just didn’t want to hit nobody.” Seriously. Doesn’t that say it all? Sure, he wanted to get his work in. Of course he was trying to make his pitches. But bottom line? He didn’t want to hit nobody! Can you imagine if he had nailed, say, Marcus Thames or Randy Winn and sent them to the DL? Talk about guilt. Luckily, everybody was safe.
Continuing to review today’s quotes from pitchers, how about the one from A.J., who, apparently, had a rough first inning in Clearwater. What did he have to say about those five runs he served up? “I threw some good changeups.” O-kay. Good for the Phillies maybe.
And then we have Phil Hughes, who struck out six in Clearwater but gave up three homers. His response? “I felt really good about all my pitches.”
Maybe it’s me, but doesn’t “good” mean, like, good? Just to be sure, I went to Webster’s dictionary and here’s their take on good:
Effective.
Efficient.
Desirable.
Worthy.
Producing favorable results.
It’s possible that pitchers use the word “good” to mean: “It’s spring training and all I care about is working on my mechanics, so bug off, bloggers.”
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Now I have nothing against Buffalo – I went to college in nearby Rochester and survived – but why couldn’t the feds meet up with A-Rod and his lawyers in Florida? Not only is it warmer in the sunshine state, but the sun actually comes out! Oh well. Nobody asked me.
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