Travel Day

The first full week of baseball of the 2012 season is in the books.  Injuries, bad breaks, unlikely comebacks, and parity were among the dominating themes. In other words, it was business as usual.

Parity and Sweeps

The five teams in the AL East are separated by one game.  Although the season is only a week and a half old, it’s probably a foreshadowing of things to come.

The gap between the elite in this division and the chronic also ran’s has narrowed substantially.  Don’t expect much separation in this division anytime soon. All of these teams have great strengths and Achilles heels.  Baltimore looks to have solid young pitching and a good middle of the order but lacks a bullpen and depth. Toronto has solid starting pitching and a solid lineup but lacks a bullpen.  The Yankees have great depth and a great bullpen but lack consistent hitting.  The Red Sox have a good lineup and a strong 1-2-3 in the rotation but lack a bullpen and depth.  Tampa has a great starting staff but is inconsistent offensively.  This could be the most entertaining top to bottom duel in the AL East in decades.

Injuries and Maladies

Closer Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants has been lost for the year after an MRI revealed structural damage to his elbow that may require Tommy John surgery. Also in San Francisco Buster Posey, lost for most of last year in a home plate collision, missed a start due to the Shingles. I have to agree with ESPN writer Jerry Crasnick who tweeted: “What’s next for Posey? The plague?”

After losing free agent signing closer Andrew Bailey until at least July the Red Sox were dealt another blow when CF Jacoby Ellsbury was injured in a collision at second base and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks.

After struggling with pain in his elbow for over a year, Twins pitcher Scott Baker will undergo surgery and is lost for the season.  Baker will have surgery to repair the flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow.

Closer Drew Storen of the Nationals underwent elbow surgery that is expected to keep him sidelined until mid July.  Also in Washington, cleanup hitter Michael Morse will be shut down for at least six weeks after aggravating an injured back muscle that already had him on the DL.

Who Are You Calling Old?

In the last few years I’ve read too many predictions that “this will be the year that Derek Jeter and David Ortiz are finally done” to count.  Jeter and Ortiz continue to make those predictions look foolish.  Jeter, who turns 38 in June, is off to a scorching start in 2012. Jeter is batting .366 with an OBP of .395.  Jeter also has two home runs and 6 RBI’s to go along with an OPS of 1.005.

Ortiz, who turns 37 later this year, is off to an incredible start this season. Ortiz is batting .444 with an OBP of .475 with 10 RBI’s and 1 home run.

Extensions

The trend of teams locking up valuable players on long term contract extensions continues in MLB.   Catcher Carlos Santana received a five year contract extension worth twenty-one million dollars that includes a club option for the year 2017.  Having now locked up Santana as well as shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who was extended earlier this spring, the Indians have two valuable cornerstones locked up and can look to build around them.

The Texas Rangers extended second baseman Ian Kinsler this past week.  Kinsler received a five year extension worth seventy-five million dollars.  The Rangers can now focus on Josh Hamilton, who is a free agent at the end of the 2012 season.

The days of building a team through free agency are over and done with.  Fewer and fewer impact players are making it to free agency and those who do are receiving obscene 7-10 year deals that cripple payroll towards the end stages when production from these players declines in their late 30’s and early 40’s.  The free agent class of 2013, which once looked so promising, is looking less appealing by the week.

Are You Serious?

Justin Verlander has pitched shutout ball in the first eight innings of consecutive starts and received credit for a win in neither game.  In his first start against the Red Sox, Verlander pitched eight innings of shutout ball allowing only two hits, before being lifted before the ninth inning for closer Velaverde who surrendered two runs and lost the lead. The Tigers would go on to win the game.  In his last start against Tampa Bay, Verlander took a one hit shutout into the ninth inning.  Manager Jim Leyland, probably mindful of what happened against the Red Sox, allowed Verlander to attempt to finish what he had started.  Verlander was charged with four earned runs as Tampa Bay rallied to win.

Verlander looks scary good again so far in 2012 and will receive credit for plenty of wins before the year is over. His domination of hitters on both sides of the plate and his incredible velocity late into games is truly a marvel to witness. There may be more accomplished pitchers in MLB than Verlander but right now there isn’t anyone close to his level.

Top Of The Heap

To no one’s surprise, The Texas Rangers lead the way in the AL with an 8-2 record.  Their lineup’s blend of power/speed/avg/obp is the main reason they’ve won consecutive AL pennants and nothing about that lineup has changed.  The scariest part of Texas’s early success? Nelson Cruz(.211), Elvis Andrus(.194), Mitch Moreland(.150) and Mike Napoli(.125) haven’t even gotten going yet.  If anyone was expecting the Rangers to “bounce” off their consecutive World Series losses they were dreaming.  As much as everyone screams these days about pitching being everything, the bottom line is that a team with a lineup as deep as Texas’ doesn’t need an all star pitching staff.  Runs win games, and Texas will continue to score many of them this season.

To the surprise of many, the Dodgers lead the way in the NL with a gaudy 9-1 record.  Matt Kemp is playing like a beast.  Kemp is hitting .487 with an OBP of .523 and an OPS of 1.548.  Kemp also has 6 home runs and 16 RBI’s.  Watching Kemp so far this year has been like a watching a human highlight reel.

Chad Billingsley has allowed only 1 earned run in 14 1/3 IP to lead the Dodger’s staff.

The Natural

No, I’m not talking about Roy Hobbs. I’m talking about Terry Francona. Across the country people have been thrilled to listen to Francona in the broadcast booth since his debut during the 2011 postseason.  His work so far this season confirms that last year’s entertaining broadcasts were no fluke.  As good of a manager as Francona was and could be again, there are plenty of us who hope he decides to stay in the booth.  Listening to Francona speak is entertaining as well as informative. His insights into what a manager is really thinking in a situation, as well as his candid views of current players and managers in the games he is covering are fantastic.  His honesty and self deprecating humor combined with his sharp insights and experience are the same traits that another World Champion coach in another sport brought to the booth with him in the 1980’s. Francona could be the John Madden of baseball broadcasting if he sticks to his current position.  I personally can’t recall a single broadcast booth personality in a lifetime of watching baseball that I ever enjoyed listening to as much as Francona.  If he’s doing a game, I’m watching it.

Gee, What a Shock

Well that certainly didn’t take long. Bobby Valentine’s comments and motivating tactics have always been controversial and questionable.  I once wondered if his success in Japan was due to many of his players not being able to understand what he was saying.  His comments about Kevin Youkilis’ lack of effort this weekend were bizarre and greeted with an immediate reply by Dustin Pedroia that made it clear that the inmates are still running the asylum in Boston

“I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,” Valentine said on WHDH’s SportsXtra.

“I know that Youk plays as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life,” Pedroia said (also via WEEI). “I have his back, and his teammates have his back. We know how hard he plays. I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do. But that’s really not the way we go about our stuff here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon.”

That’s about as strong of an admonishment by a player to a manager that you’ll ever see. He’ll figure that out soon?

Valentine has to respond to Pedroia’s comments with either words or actions or will risk a failure of players taking him seriously.  I don’t think we’ve heard the last about this matter and expect a “Valentinian Response” sooner than later.

Tweet Of The Week

“Maybe Andino is mad because he found out his girlfriend has one of Derek Jeter’s gift baskets”

Eric from NY after a screaming Robert Andino had to be held back by his manager Buck Showalter following a loss to the Yankees this past week.

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About Michael P.

I am a Saratoga Springs, Ny resident whose been sports obsessed since I was 5 years old.

Posted on April 16, 2012, in Travel Day and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. Michael P, it’s way too early to talk about parity in the East, they have only played 10 games. The season is a marathon and you need at least 50 games to start to see where teams are at. Most seasons the worst teams are in first after 10 games.

    • Doug I obviously realize that this is a Yankee web site, and if you had any idea how much the Yankees mean and have always meant to me you’d think I was insane.
      When I write, I am stone cold objective no matter how painful the words are to myself sometims as I read them.
      I do not believe the Yankees will seperate themselves from pack anytime soon, to say the least. The Montero/Noesi for Shrek deal was a REAL tragedy for the 2012 team. In addition to that, I haven’t seen anything different this year than last year. The Yankees pound bad pitchers and struggle against good ones. Joba is still out, Soriano is still shaky, Hughes and Garcia haven’t given me any confidence, and the answer to the shaky starters is a 38 year old guy who hasn’t pitched a meaningful game in a year and a half.
      Tampa Bay’s starters and youth are built to last, they may not rip off long winning streaks due to the offense but they’ll have a stud SS up by August and they’ll grind away.
      Boston has lost Bailey until at least July, and has questionable pitching in the 4 and 5 slots but they’ve just shown again why burying them is a bad idea taking 3 of 4 from Tampa. Any team whose offense contains Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, Gonzalez, Ellsbury(who will be back), and Crawford(who will be back) is going to win a lot of games.
      Toronto’s only weak spot right now is the bullpen, and acquiring relievers is never as hard as acquiring starting pitching. They have a GOOD young pitching staff and enough offense and defense to hang tough all year.
      Can Baltimore hang the whole year? No, of course not. But this isn’t the old Orioles. They have some good young pitchers and enough hitting in the middle of the order to make playing them no day at the beach anymore.
      Just imagine how powerful this division is when you consider that many have written off the Red Sox despite the fact that they have guys named Lester, Beckett, Bucholz, Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, Crawford, Ellsbury, and Gonzalez.
      This division is going to be decided by records in one run games and injuries.

      • Michael, I just think it is total speculation on your part, there is not substance to it. The same as last year, the Yanks won 97 games last year. I think they must have beat some good teams like the Rangers last year. Your view is very narrow minded since everyone knows that last year really doesn’t mean anything and this year the Yanks have only played 10 games. Most teams hit bad pitchers better than good ones. Tampa would have never made the playoffs last year if the Red Sox didn’t collapse, see I can play that game. The Rays might not be that good, after almost being swept by the Sox who are 4-6. The Sox have many holes way more than the Yanks, Youkilis has looked terrible, poor SS, C, and weak relief pitching, along with poor starting. I still think Buckholz is a ? The Rays don’t hit that well, and I would take the Yanks players at every postiion except Longoria. The Rays pen is also a ? Your article is more of a pre season preview, and really has nothing to do with the real season.

        • Doug, with all due respect ehe “substance” is that when I wrote that article the entire AL East was seperated by a game and no other division was close to that in the same time period.
          Now, the comments I make after that are opinions, that’s true.
          The entire article was not about the AL East by the way, so calling it a preseason preview based on one segment of it is completely inaccurate.

          • Michael, I agree, I was referring to the AL East part of the article, you are intitled to your opionion I just don’t agree with it.

            • Doug the writers and media members I grew up liking and continue to like are those who draw conclusions based on what they see and aren’t afraid to voice opinions and predictions. Mike Lupica, Colin Cowherd, Peter King, Mortenson, etc.
              I have the ultimare respect for guys like Jon Heyman and Knobler who just report the news they have to report. I’m not a reporter, I’m a columnist.
              I have disdain for the Skip Baylesses of the world who incite simply to incite.
              I like to point out news, but I like to draw conclusions and even make predictions.
              I also like to point out the guys who try to be smartest guys in the room by overthinking things.
              I’ve been busting on Matt ever since we spoke on twitter during spring training and he said the Angels would beat the Rangers in the West. That’s not happening. Can I prove that? Obviously not, but on the board where I used to write I picked the Rangers to reach the World Series the last two years in the PRESEASON. I’m in love with their lineup and don’t mind saying so. They have a lineup like the Yankee dynasty teams had.
              Of course people will disagree with me on conclusions I draw. I expect that and what a boring world it would be if we all agreed on everything.
              I’m not here to be a contrarian anti Yankee guy or negative Nancy. What’s really funny is that last year in the preseason(and during the season) I said the Red Sox were the most overhyped team I’d ever seen and lacked depth, a farm system, and that the pitching was incredibly overrated. I said the Yankees would win the division and crush them. I was accused of being a “homer” and not being objective, so basically I can’t win either way.
              I call them like I see them, but the minute the games start I’m rooting for the Yankees like a maniac as I have from the age of 5.
              When I write, I have to call them like I see them.

              • U bust on me yet Mike D picked the Angels to win the W.S. lol. Still not giving up on my Angels pick :). I can at least take pride in my Tigers W.S. pick looking good. Idk why we are talking about this a week and a half in lol. Really dont need to even look much at the standings till the end of May.

                • Matt the fun is in the back and forth all year!! You know, last night when Soriano was getting lit up someone tweeted that we needed a hold. I said this would be a great spot for Bulaga!! He holds every single time!!

  2. yankees haven’t really faced many good pitchers this year. They bombed Shields, did well against Santana, not much against Price or Wilson. And if u think the bottom of the Yankees lineup is bad how can u not say that about Boston? Ross, Sweeney, Salty, McDonald. Lmao. Cannot possibly say that’s worse than what the Yankees are putting out there.

  3. Michael P…
    I am trying to be an optimist in regards to Jeter, most of the time I try to trade or move a guy about 1 to 3 years before most others, as with Johnny, Matsui, Posada and Arabu. After they left the team they have never been the same (after 2010).
    So, I look for Jeter to have a so, so year around .270+/-. He will have some good days and weeks but nothing like he was.
    If I am wrong, that is great for the team! I hope to be wrong! :)

    • I hear you loud and clear OldYankee. I happen to think that Jeter’s incredible mechanics and the attention hes paid to his health as well as his incredible desire to achieve will carry him through more good years than a typical late 30′s athlete.

  4. old yankee, Jeter can hardly be compared to those players, he is a declining immortal. I would be more worried about some of the lefy hitters like Swsher, Tex, and Gardner, rather than Jeter and A-Rod.

    • Doug, Swisher and Teixeira keep me up nights worrying.

      • one team has scrubs like Ross, Salty, McDonald, ans Sweeney at the end of their lineup and they have a good offense yet we worry about a guy who is on pace for close to 600 HR’s in his career and another who is good for 25 and 80?

      • Michael P…
        I like your style, even if we don’t agree all the time. That is the way it should be, if we all saw things the same…boooooring! :)

        • Thanks, lol, I agree. Although it won’t be long until everyone agrees with me and each other thant the 4 million Cashman gave slowball Freddy for this year would have been better spent on a free Gucci bag day at the Stadium. This guy is DONE. You can’t pitch that slow unless you have a gimmick pitch like Wakefield had and even he was done the last 3 years he pitched.
          Major league hitters given that much reaction time with no fear of having one blown by you will crush a guy like Freddy. He was smoke and mirrors last year and revealed what he was in the ALDS when he tossed batting practice.
          Why does everything have to be so planned in this organization? Planning is good, being so planned that you’re terrified to do something out of the box is a disaster. Can anyone give me a good reason why Phelps isn’t in the rotation in Freddy’s spot? Freddy is DONE.

          • I agree on Phelps over Garcia but to call his whole season smoke and mirrors is disrespectful to him. U do not pitch to a 3.62 ERA over a full season by smoke and mirrors. U can do it over short period of time but over a full season no. He was obviously doing something right to pitch that well it doesn’t just happen. He deserves credit for last season. And allowing 3 runs over 5 innings is hardly batting practice.

            • The guy stinks, do you hear me? He’s done!! You just missed a classic twitter meltdown where I started screaming get him out after the double when it was still 3-2 us. That stubborn, blockheaded Girardi not only left him in, but let him start this inning and gave them another free run. The guy is a joke now, no fastball at all. Yet here he is, still pitching, because he’s one of Joe’s guys.

            • If this washed up, no arm left at all, batting practice tossing Garcia makes another start in the rotation I will vomit. There is a time to you use your eyes when you are a manager and this is one of them. He has absolutely no stuff at all and the TWINS just banged him up after the Rays the Orioles did. Whats going to happen if he makes his next starts against the Tigers and then the Red Sox? I can tell you right now what will happen, he’ll get crushed.

              • I’m not talking about this year I agree with you. But to give him no credit for last year is completely disrespectful. You do not pitch to a 3.62 ERA over a full year by accident

          • Michael….What’s it say about our offense then that a guy throwing slower than Garcia just beat us? Velocity is a great tool but it’s not required. Pavano shut us down after the 1st inning with his changeup. And when Pettitte comes back he won’t be throwing much harder than Garcia is now.

            That said, Garcia is shot. The Yanks were lucky to get a solid year out of him last yr and wouldn’t have brought him back if they knew Andy & Kuroda would sign. I’d imagine he gets 1 more start and if he gets rocked, it’s Phelps time. The team cannot afford to carry 2 pitchers that can’t give them innings. That’s a recipe for a burnt out bullpen.

  5. Why would you inclued Brett with the othere guys, he is at .318 as of now? And what is this about Jeter being Immortal, What has he been so immortal with? Playing 18 years with over 3,000 hits?
    He has 5 WS wins and has the Yankee record for SOs. He has many Yankee records but not one MLB record. So again, why would he be anything more then a very very good SS for the Yankees, maybe even the best Yankee SS?
    He is a HoF player, no doubt about it but, Immortal…not so much!

    • First Ballot. Say it with me Ken. ;-)

    • old yankee, you could agrue Jeter is the best SS of all time, better than Ripken to me. He will end up at least in the top 5 in hits of all time, thats immortal to me. Wagner might have been better.

      • Doug he won’t budge on it. I have tried for 3 years. All you if you can convince him.

      • Doug…
        Maybe you have forgotten a guy by the name of A-Rod, he is the best SS of all time along w/Wagner. Both of whom are much better on defence and hitting.
        As Jeter has been the 2nd best hitting SS in the last 20-25 years but, he is way down the list at defence. A-Rod has out hit him and was better at defence while playing SS until he moved to 3rd. Most of the HoF SS are by far and away better fielders than Jeter.
        Jeter deserves to be in the HoF but, all this Immortal, captain clutch, 1st ballot unanimous HoF stuff is ridiculous…NO ONE not even Babe Ruth has ever been a unanimous pick! Jeter got the name Captain Clutch for one at bat, he is not a clutch hitter and never has been, In fact, he has one of the worse avg., for RBI’s in clutch situations on the team.

        And Matt…I have tried to tell you guys, I have always liked Jeter and still do but, it is ridiculous the way some of the fans talk about him as though he is the best SS ever etc., He is not and never was…some fans forget there is more to being a great SS than hitting for average one must prevent runs as well as score runs. As a .325 hitter his defence was overlooked but, .325 is in the past.
        HoF for Jeter…Yes but, be honest fans he is not a god as some act like he is!

        • that on the field stuff is somewhat accurate. But u are not factoring in being the face of the franchise and all the leadership, intangibles,and stability he has brought to the franchise. Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter either

          • Matthew….
            I have mentioned his being the face of the Yankees many times, no one on the Yankees could have done a better job.
            Where was Jeter when anyone had trouble with the press etc.? The only time he backs up a player is when they are guys he likes really well; Jason, Posada, Andy! When A-Rod was being trashed he was nowhere to be found.
            By the way, the HoF is for how well one has played the game, not being the face of the Yankees. I must say (as I have many times); Some of the players elected into the Hall over the years has shown it to be about like the Gold Gloves going to the most popular, not the best fielder.
            Again, he will make the Hall and he has worked a long time for his chance. :)

          • Matthew…
            Let’s put this Jeter thing to rest;
            1–Jeter will be in the HoF
            2–Jeter is the best SS the Yankees have ever had
            3–Jeter is not and never will be again the best.
            4–Jeter would have been a much better man and player if he wasn’t hung-up on the #3,000.
            5–Jeter should call it quits after this year, let the fans remember him as what he was, not what he is now.
            Number 5 is the main point I have been trying to get across!
            I think many will disagree with me but, that’s the good part of things they have not gotten around to change yet…free speach!
            We will have to agree to disagree! :)

  6. tomato seeds as a Yankee giveaway? that’s pathetic.

  7. They could give away hundred dollar bills for one night if they hadn’t given Garcia 4 million for this year.

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