He Doesn’t Look Like a Heavyweight But….

July 2nd, 2015 by
Photo: Elsa/Getty Images North America

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images North America

Chasen Shreve (gotta love some of these names) is becoming one in New York. A string bean-sized reliever, Shreve has gone from a nobody in the minors to Girardi’s go-to guy in the pen delivering time after time. Last night in Anaheim, he took care of a bases-loaded threat with relative ease and allowed the Yankees to go on to victory in the series finale against the Angels. Also remarkable is the fact that they had an awful road trip but still managed to come out of it in second place in the division. Teams are bunched together and it’ll be interesting to see which one breaks out of the pack at the end. One minute the Rays are on top, the O’s the next. I wouldn’t be surprised if Toronto, with their crazy-good hitters, also sees first place at some point. With all the jockeying for position, the Yanks have a real shot to end up on top.

If they do get into the playoffs, will fans embrace them then? What’s been startling about this team is how apathetic people are toward them, myself included. I’ve admitted it from the beginning of the season. The fact that none of the players was voted onto the All-Star team speaks volumes, along with the low ratings on YES and the lackluster attendance at the Stadium. No charisma on the part of the players, some say. No stars now that Jeter’s gone, others speculate. Too old, a lot of people are saying. They don’t play fun, someone wrote on Twitter the other day.

They don’t play fun. I thought about this one. Maybe when Ellsbury comes back and starts scampering around the bases, igniting Gardner along with him, they’ll play fun. Maybe when Andrew Miller comes back and starts firing fastballs at hitters again, they’ll play fun. And maybe if A-Rod goes on a tear and hits A-Bomb after A-Bomb, they’ll play fun. I don’t know. It just seems that no one is jumping up and down to see Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley, Didi Gregorious, Brian McCann and Stephen Drew. It’s a shame. I wonder what Hal is planning to do about it all. Some have suggested that Hank should get back into the mix because he says and does provocative, attention-getting things. What we need isn’t a clown though. We need a bright and shining young star (read: Mike Trout).

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Yanks Vs Astros = Split

June 28th, 2015 by

perfect-split-leap

This series was a snapshot of the Yankees’ season. They played well and they played ugly. There’s hardly any in between with this team.

What stood out for me was the second awful outing in a row for Tanaka. It’s worrisome. I’ve come to expect stellar performances from him and he’s certainly entitled to a couple of bad starts, but I can’t help wondering about that arm.

Pineda, on the other hand, rebounded nicely from getting battered his last time out. He was victimized by sloppy defense today and an opposing starting pitcher who stymied our offense, which had been so powerful just the day before.

Honestly, there were so many non-sports news stories breaking over the past week that I haven’t been all that focused on baseball or this series. Which is another way of saying I spent more time with CNN than I did with YES.

 

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Welcome Back, Nova!

June 24th, 2015 by
(courtesy: Russ and Daughters)

(courtesy: Russ and Daughters)

It seemed fitting to bring back the pic of the nova, bagels and cream cheese with the return today of Ivan Nova after his TJ surgery and rehab. What a shot in the arm for the Yankees, speaking of arms. He pitched great, as opposed to Tanaka and CC, who were awful against the Phillies, and if he can keep it up, the rotation will have a terrific “new” starter.

I really don’t know what to write about CC at this point except that he keeps saying after losses that his stuff was good, that he felt good, that he’s learning how to pitch without the big velocity, that he’s…..Well, it goes on and on. What he doesn’t say is that he’s not fooling hitters, and it’s hurting the team. Does he deserve to stay in the rotation? Of course. He’s earned his place. But someone needs to work with him on his mechanics. Someone needs to help him make adjustments. Someone needs to show him how to be a different pitcher. Maybe Andy Pettitte should sign up for a stint as CC’s personal pitching mentor.

On to the surprising Houston Astros. Who would ever have picked them for a first place team? Not me. I hope we can rise to the occasion.

 

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Taming the Tigers

June 21st, 2015 by

Tiger_Zoo_Sriracha
No, the Yankees didn’t sweep Detroit at the Stadium but winning two out of three games against a perennial playoff contender was pretty good. It was Tanaka who, surprisingly, was the weak link in today’s loss. He can’t be spectacular every time out, so I’m with Girardi and chalking it up to a bad day for him rather than panicking about a possible re-injuring of his arm. The offense was sleeping too, not counting the home run hitting Stephen Drew. (I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.)

Friday and Saturday were all about A-Rod, the #3000th hit, the way the fans embraced him, etc. And the Yankees actually acknowledged his milestone on the scoreboard and on Twitter. Pay him? I wonder if they’re starting to feel some pressure to do it. A-Rod is the biggest star they have at the moment and who would have guessed it. If I were the Steinbrenner boys I’d be grateful he was putting people in the seats, never mind RBIs in the box score.

What else…..let’s see. Old Timer’s Day happened. I thought the Stottlemyre tribute/plaque was the best part. I always loved him as a player and am so sorry he’s ill. He’s been the epitome of class, and I wish we had more pitchers like him.

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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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