It Really Is About A-Rod Now

June 18th, 2015 by
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Yankees were down and now they’re up again, having won two at home against the same Marlins they lost ugly to in Miami. Why are they up again? Last night the big reason was Pineda, who was superb, and Betances, who held/saved the game in an impressive way. Tonight, A-Rod drew to within one hit of 3,000 and while others made big contributions to the win (CC, Gardner, Beltran, Tex), the story was about whether he would get to 3,000 and how everybody would react, including him.

Unfortunately, the suspense will have to continue. It’s unlikely he won’t reach the magic number this weekend against the Tigers. I think it’ll happen tomorrow night. It’ll be a spectacle of some sort – not the Jeter sort where everything stops and he gives a speech and the Stadium goes wild, but where there’s genuine excitement on the part of the crowd and at the very least a press conference by A-Rod after the game. The Yankees may not want to pay him his bonuses, but they’ll give him the podium. I expect him to say he’s humbled to be among the greats in the sport, that he’s having fun playing again, that he feels fortunate to be healthy, that he’s grateful to the fans and his teammates for their support…..What am I missing?

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Miami Vice

June 17th, 2015 by

miamivice

The Yankees could have used those guys on Monday and Tuesday night. They needed help of any kind. On Monday the story was hitting; nobody could manage it. Tanaka was his high-achieving self, giving them more than enough room to score and win the game, but they couldn’t provide any run support, DH or no DH. And last night the pitching and defense were atrocious along with the silent bats, which is another way of saying it was a bad, bad showing.

Girardi said after the game about Evo (I can never remember how to spell his name so this abbreviation works for me), “He’s still young and growing,” or something like that. “Still young and growing” is fine as long as you’re not clobbered by your former team during a major league baseball game. “He’s still young and growing” is also what Joe has said about Didi. At what point do you keep making errors and still get a pass? If the Yankees were in a rebuilding phase with young and growing players, that would be one thing. But they’re trying to win a championship and fill seats, and you need to win games for that.

Maybe they’ll pull it together and go on another winning streak. Who knows. But someone commented here the other day that Ellsbury is a key missing factor and I agree. Without his bat and his glove and his speed, the Yanks have lost their catalyst. He’s reportedly not making good progress on healing, so I don’t know when he’ll be back but it isn’t soon. Cashman needs reinforcements. I hope he doesn’t wait until July.

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2015 Yankees: Feast or Famine

June 15th, 2015 by

feast or famine

When the Yankees are good, they’re very good, going on winning streaks and eliciting all sorts of praise from the media and predictions of post-season glory. When they’re bad, they’re just plain ugly, losing games in particularly gruesome ways and making me wonder how this collection of professionals could look so amateurish.

Yes, they salvaged the finale in Baltimore yesterday, but on Friday and Saturday nights they were at Camden pitching poorly, letting balls drop between players, failing to hit in key situations and making sloppy errors (what in the world is going on with Chase Headley this season?). It’s either feast or famine with this team, all or nothing, inconsistency to the max.

Also annoying is the cast of every-changing middle relievers coming and going from the minors or trash heaps of other teams. Other than Esmil Rogers (bye bye), I can’t tell one from another. We need a relief corps we can depend on.

CC has turned into a serviceable but unremarkable starting pitcher. I had hoped he’d morph into Pettitte or Mussina in his later years, but he hasn’t. He’s been better than Chris Capuano, but that’s not saying much for a guy the Yankees are paying a bucket load of money to.

Speaking of money, I figured it was only a matter of time before the Yankees and A-Rod would be gearing up for a battle over his milestone bonuses. Yes, he’s helped the team a lot and yes, he’s made quite a comeback and yes, his attitude has been humble and very rah-rah team. Behind the scenes, he wants his money and the Yankees don’t want to pay him his money and they’re all headed for a showdown. If I were A-Rod, I’d take the offer they made to give money to charity on his behalf, but it sounds like he’s not having any of that. Here we go again.

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Ugh

June 11th, 2015 by
Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

I suppose I should start with the good news: Andrew Miller doesn’t need Tommy John surgery (so far). There’s no tear. No ligament damage. Just a “muscle strain” in his forearm. There’s no rush to have him consult with specialists, no talk of another Chase Whitley, no talk of losing him for this season and next. I’m relieved.

On the other hand, he’s been such a fabulous closer for the Yanks and they’ve been on such a nice roll that it hurts to lose him even for a short term. Yes, Betances will step up, but who steps up in the eighth inning now?

This is the nature of baseball nowadays. Injuries. Who’s out. Who’s filling in. How a team fares under adversity. The Yankees have managed more than well after losing Ellsbury, but I’m not so sure how they’ll weather the loss of Miller.

Back to the positive side of things, Tanaka was superb in that first game against the Nationals, so his arm is holding up right now. (Knock on wood.)

kevin spacey knock wood

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Another This…Against the Angels Yet

June 7th, 2015 by

Broom_icon.svg[4]Boy, do I remember dreading whenever we’d play the Angels. They used to do bad things to the Yankees. We’d spazz out on defense. We’d pitch badly. We’d be limp with the bats.

No more.

This weekend’s series was a beat-down of the once formidable “Halos.” I didn’t watch every inning of every game, but I caught enough of each one to see that the Yanks were punishing their starters. Yes, they almost gave away that one game, scarily, and Betances didn’t look very Betances-ish. And while Didi continued to make errors (or maybe one error), he also made some great plays at shortstop.

But the big news is and continues to be the resurgence of power hitters A-Rod, Tex and McCann. (Having Gardner and others pop them out of the Stadium is nice too.) It’s gotten to the point where not only are all the broadcasters talking about Tex’s gluten free diet but also picking the Yankees to win what’s turning out to be a mediocre division.

It’s only June. Early June. So a lot can and will happen between now and September. But I had to laugh at myself as I listened to the Fox guys last night rhapsodizing over this team. I nodded my head as if I hadn’t been a doubter, am still a doubter, and said, “Well, maybe they’re better than I thought.”

 

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A Sweep, a Return and a Star Is Born

June 3rd, 2015 by
Garrett+Jones+New+York+Yankees+Photo+Day+tdvGntl3RjTl

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images North America

If you asked me to pick Garrett Jones out of a police lineup, I couldn’t do it. He’s a nice-looking guy for sure. He just didn’t register on my Yankee radar until the Mariners series when he was inserted into the lineup and hit some pretty big homers. Will he get more playing time and be a force to be reckoned with? No idea, but for now he’s had the beat writers gathered around his locker, which must feel good after being a minor character this season.

Tanaka returned to the rotation today and picked right up where he left off. He’s something else. If he has doubts about himself and his ability to pitch with his questionable arm, you’d never know it. He’s fearless – and so very talented.

Mark Teixeira and his homers have been such a pleasant surprise. He’s turned back the clock and played like the guy we were all so happy to acquire.

And Pineda’s first trip back to Seattle was dazzling. He outpitched his mentor, King Felix. Very, very impressive.

Of course the series wasn’t without more casualties. Beltran, who had finally started to hit, fouled that ball off his toe and is now gimpy. McCann, too, is gimpy but potentially more seriously if the soreness in his foot turns out to be the dreaded Lisfranc injury that felled poor Chin-Ming Wang. Let’s just hope it’s garden-variety soreness. The MRI will reveal all.

One last thought about Seattle….Cano who? He was a great Yankee, but he should have made a deal to stay in the Bronx. He’s not exactly tearing it up out west.

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So Streaky

May 31st, 2015 by

665a3ca0c89b34cd6bf256bbd9502042

Whether the girl in the above photo streaked her hair blue because she’s a Yankee fan I couldn’t tell you. I was just looking around for “streaks” images and there she was. The point is, after the Yanks and A’s finished up their series today, I was thinking that this team is so up and down it’s hard to figure out where they are in the scheme of things. They play the Royals, the best in baseball, and they sweep. They play the A’s, who stink, and they win one measly game. Consistency, boys. It would be nice.

And then there’s Slade. He was just beginning to look promising and – bam – lost to injury. Now the new kid is Ramon Flores. I wish him luck especially if, as reported, he’s taking his cues from Didi.

On the plus side, Beltran seems to have roused himself from his slumber. Adam Warren has established himself as a solid starter. And A-Rod, dear A-Rod, has inched 14 hits closer to the 3,000 hit mark. At some point, the Yankees will have to acknowledge these milestones of his with more than a mention in their game wrap-up press releases, won’t they?

Tomorrow night brings Seattle and King Felix. I’ll be asleep. Wake me if A-Rod has 14 hits.

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Didn’t See This Coming

May 27th, 2015 by

Broom_icon.svg[4]Good for the Yankees. They bounced back from an awful stretch and knocked off the AL’s best team. Pineda also bounced back, which is a relief. I was worried that he was hurt and not saying anything. But he seemed more than OK in today’s finale. A-Rod continued his hot hitting; it feels weird seeing him pass Ruth and Gehrig and, soon, Jeter on the milestones list, but he’s definitely spearheading a lot of these wins.

And now the Yanks travel to the West Coast and that feels weird too. When I lived in CA, I loved the games against the CA teams because they aired at a decent hour there. Here? Not so much. I’m not staying up to watch them now that I’m in CT – just won’t happen – but I wish them a good trip.

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Memorial Day Homerpalooza

May 25th, 2015 by

HomeRun

I didn’t watch today’s series opener against the Royals, but I checked the score around the third inning and was stunned that the Yanks were up 11-0. A big thank you to Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals’ starter and former Oriole, who clearly didn’t have his best stuff and allowed homers by seemingly everyone, even Stephen Drew. The Yankees tacked on three more runs in the game, including a homer by Slade Heathcott, and snapped their losing streak, got a very good performance by Eovaldi and ushered in the auspicious debut of young pitcher Jacob Lindgren. Wouldn’t it be great if Lindgen turned out to be really good – the star player I’ve been hoping for?

 

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This Is Why I’m Apathetic

May 22nd, 2015 by

For those who questioned my last post in which I said I couldn’t relate to any of this Yankee team’s players (what I really meant was that there were no great personalities, no characters, no excitement,  just….dullness), here’s today’s New York Times piece by Juliet Macur that encapsulates what I was talking about: Bryce Harper. Have a look.

 Bryce Harper Offers Reminder of the Yankees of Old, Not of the Old Ones of Today

But behind those stone faces and beneath those pinstripes, the Yankees’ hearts must have been lifted, for Harper’s exit gave them something they had not had moments earlier: a much better chance to win.

Harper, 22, has been one of the most talented players in major league baseball for several years, but he had recently been on a hot streak to rival some of the best hitters who ever played. Before Wednesday’s third-inning departure, Harper had hit 10 home runs in his past 12 games, including six in one three-game stretch.

His recent production was enough for his hitting coach, Rick Schu, to call it “scary” and his teammate Drew Storen to call it “scary” and one of the Nationals’ principal owners, Mark Lerner, to call it “so scary.”

Not just because Harper was hitting .333, which ranked third in the National League, or because he led the N.L. in homers (15) and the majors in everything from R.B.I. (38) and walks (37) to on-base (.472) and slugging (.732) percentage.

Watching him should give the Yankees a chill because he represents everything they are not: young, supremely talented and exciting.

A lifetime ago, or so it seems, the Yankees collected big stars like Harper. If they couldn’t build them from scratch — the Jeters and the Riveras and the rest of the so-called and recently departed Core Four — they just went out and bought them.

But those are the Yankees of yesterday. Today’s Yankees are aging and aching, with their biggest star, Alex Rodriguez, a serial liar pushing 40 (years, not homers). The rest? C. C. Sabathia and Carlos Beltran are on the downside of their career. Jacoby Ellsbury, the former Red Sox star, cannot seem to stay healthy and is now on the disabled list, where Mark Teixeira has also spent substantial time in recent years.

After the game Wednesday, when saying that the umpire went too far in tossing him out of the game — his second ejection in a week — Harper said what should have been obvious: “I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump tonight. Plain and simple.”

It was feisty, yes, but it was also classic Harper.

At spring training this year, his reaction to the Nationals’ surprising signing of pitcher Max Scherzer wasn’t the measured response of a humble player looking to avoid controversy. Instead, it was, “Where’s my ring?

That was juicy bulletin board material for every team that plays him, but it just made his fans love him more. In his fourth season in the majors, with a bushy beard and a head of hair that is often coifed like a pop singer’s, Harper is the biggest star in a city that hasn’t celebrated a championship since the Redskins won the Super Bowl eight months before he was born.

“I love his energy,” said Francisco Hernandez, an Army officer who came to Wednesday’s game with his 4-year-old daughter. “It’s like he’s still a kid out there, saying things that a kid would say.”

Early in his career, Harper had a reputation for being reckless. Twice, he hurt his knee running into walls. He injured his thumb diving headfirst into a base. But this season, he has been healthy, and his teammates have sensed a huge jump in maturity.

Schu, the hitting coach, said Harper’s excellence had been contagious.

“When you’re hitting .330 and hitting home runs it lifts the whole team,” he said. “I don’t care who you are, or if you have a personality, or no personality.”

There’s no sense of when he will peak, either. One of the songs Harper has chosen for his at-bats at Nationals Park is Frank Sinatra’s “The Best Is Yet to Come.” But while the Yankees would never admit it, I’ll bet they can imagine him walking to the plate to Sinatra’s “New York, New York” instead.

Harper won’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season, but his agent is Scott Boras, and Boras has been known to send a player or two to New York if the price is right. Which it usually has been, especially when the Yankees need a lift.

When Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16, he told the magazine that two of his goals in baseball were to play in Yankee Stadium and to do it in pinstripes.

When I reminded Lerner, one of the Nationals’ owners, of those comments this week, he laughed.

“Every 16-year-old kid says that,” he said.

But not every 16-year-old kid is Bryce Harper. And what Bryce Harper wants, Bryce Harper seems to get.

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