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Let’s Play Two!: Yanks hope to carry momentum into twin-bill

The Yankees have been gaining momentum over the past week or so.

The Yankees have been gaining momentum over the past week or so.

There was no doubt that this last week has been a magical time for the Yankees. For the last week the Yankees looked to be the Yankees of old, bringing power into their lineup, scoring more than six runs multiple times, when they’ve barely scored more than six runs most of the year. They had the home run power of Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Reynolds. Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano no longer had to feel like they were carrying the team on their backs. There was more than just those two. Yes, the Yankees are missing their captain, but they are also in a position where they can finally gain ground in the AL East. They play against their AL East opponents for the remainder of the season (minus the 3 game sets between the San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros) and if the Yankees play their deck of cards right, they can be in a position to take the second wildcard spot. They have their own future in their hands with a little more than a month to go, and a team that looked like sleeping dogs suddenly came barking back, and the offense isn’t much of an issue as it was before.

Sunday night was a prime example of the Yankees magic returning. Being down 2-0 in the second, Ryan Dempster intentionally hit Alex

Brett Gardner and the Yankees will try to extend their momentum into today's twin-bill vs. the Blue Jays

Brett Gardner and the Yankees will try to extend their momentum into today’s twin-bill vs. the Blue Jays

Rodriguez. Something snapped in that Yankees dugout. Brett Gardner and Joe Girardi showing their evident anger, the latter getting tossed from the game although it should have been Dempster. A-Rod was assured by Gardner and his other teammates that they could still get the Red Sox back by using HR power, and that was exactly what A-Rod did. He got the Red Sox back by hitting a HR off Ryan Dempster later in the game.

There was something that changed in that night in the Yankees. The pack of sleeping dogs suddenly awoke and came back with a vengeance vs. the Red Sox.

The Yankees have been playing well for the past week, taking 2-out of -3 from the Tigers, taking 3-out of-4 from the Angels and taking 2-out of-3 from the Red Sox. This is the way the Yankees have to play if they want to further their chances at a wild card spot. They are in the drivers seat of their destiny. They are the ones that can change the game and hope the game plan for the other teams fall apart. The Yankees cannot afford to lose anymore games, so hopefully the momentum from the past week builds on vs. the Toronto Blue Jays as they attempt to become one step closer to their dreams of contending in the play-offs. So let’s play two today and hope in the end, it all works out.

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The Interim Captain Steers The Yankees Ship

Derek Jeter has always been a leader for the Yankees, but when he went down with an injury, someone had to step up

Derek Jeter has always been a leader for the Yankees, but when he went down with an injury, someone had to step up

It’s not a secret that Derek Jeter is the Captain of the New York Yankees. His presence in the clubhouse, how he keeps his composure after tough losses and how he has that mentality that if it’s not broken, he can play is what makes him one of the greatest Yankees alive. When reporters go to the clubhouse, they anticipate going to see what wisdom Derek Jeter has for them today. What knowledge he’s going to instill in their brain, what sarcastic humor he has up his sleeve. The Yankees are a gigantic ship and Derek Jeter is their Captain.

But when Derek Jeter was constantly out of the lineup this season, the team started to look lost and confused, losing games constantly and feeling as if there was no hope for their play-off dreams. I remember discussing Derek Jeter’s injuries and the Yankees troubles with my mother one day, and the words that came out of her mouth had me thinking long and hard for the next couple of months:

“The Yankees ship can’t go anywhere if it doesn’t have a captain to steer them.”

The Yankees looked as if they were giving up, as if all was hopeless for the team. They still weren’t doing their best on the field and they became defeated–until the media decided to speak to the normally quiet Brett Gardner. For the last couple of seasons, Gardner was just one of the guys in the clubhouse. He was quiet, he never had much to say and he continued to try to keep his starting job in left field. But after a tough loss, something sparked Gardner to talk to the media, about what Derek Jeter had taught him.

One thing I’ve really learned from Jeet over the years. He’s not here right now, but he’s been so good at turning the page. Doesn’t matter if you are 0-for-5 or 5-or-5, or if we win or lose, we’ve got a game tomorrow. As soon as we walk out here tonight, we’ve got to focus on getting ready to play tomorrow.”

Mark+Teixeira+Brett+Gardner+New+York+Yankees+q8RvrbKr4gbl

Brett Gardner has become more vocal about the Yankees on and off the field and he’s slowly transforming into a leader

Ever since Brett Gardner uttered those words, I never looked at him the same again. Before that night, he was one of the guys just trying to get on base like he normally does in order to help the team win. But that night, he became someone–a leader. The times that he was quiet, he would spend it observing Derek Jeter, what Derek Jeter would do, what Derek Jeter would say, how Derek Jeter would handle a situation. Gardner would observe everything and in the end, it seemed like he was the one to learn the most from the Captain. From that moment on, Gardner became a huge catalyst on the team, driving in runs, getting on base, giving up his body for the game of baseball, playing hard and gritty as he always does, all to make sure that his team would reach victory.

He took it upon himself to create a new walk-off tradition after A.J Burnett took his pies to Pittsburgh. He thought of Gatorade. He would pour Gatorade on players that hit a walk-off. It became a hit with the crowd and soon, he was the one being doused in his own walk-off creation after saving the Yankees from two extra losses this past weekend. Joe Girardi would quip that Gardner enjoyed the walk-off tradition more than anyone on the team, and that when the time came, he should be a football coach just to take baths in Gatorade after a victory.

Gardner was even talking to the media more, the media wanting insight on what happened each night,  his thoughts on a particular player. Typical Gardner would nod politely, give his opinion as professionally as possible and still find some ways to bring the win around the team, even if he was the one that hit a game winning base-hit or saved a play in the outfield. With Gardner it was all about the team, something he learned from Derek Jeter. He would sign things for kids, he was more active around the team, he showed he was the heart and hustle, hence winning the 2013 Heart and Hustle Award. He proved he had love for the game and it wasn’t about the money. He enjoys being out there and it’s evident every time that he goes to the plate.

When he messes up and gets tossed from a game, he goes back the next day to apologize to the umpire for what he believes was his irrational behavior. When he doesn’t make a catch that he thought he could make, he vows to his teammates and to himself that he’ll get the next one. When the chips are down and things look impossible for the Yankees, Gardner steps up.

Joe Girardi took a notice to Brett Gardner’s leadership behavior and frankly, he has been impressed by the young spunky outfielder.

“Gardy is fiery, and I think his personality comes out. It’s been great having him all year. As I said, we really missed him last year – what he’s capable of doing. His personality has definitely come out this year. It’s good.”

When Jeter returns from the disabled list, the job of Captain will once again be his, but us Yankees fans can never forget to thank Brett Gardner for being the one to step up and keeping other teams from sinking our battleship.

Teixeira & Youkilis’ return serves as a sign of urgency for Yankees

YankeesInjuredPlayersBaseball161418--415x415Publicized to incredible heights, Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira were in the Yankees’ lineup last night as they opened up a three-game set with the Red Sox. After being swept by the Mets in a Subway Series where the offense never really posed a threat, re-acquiring [in a sense] two former All-Stars to bolster the middle of the order certainly is the biggest boost the Yanks will get all year.

Up until this week, the team had been excelling with the likes of Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, and Travis Hafner, but right now it appears they all are out of gas. The lineup’s struggles do not fall on their shoulders alone, but all three look lost at the plate and are shells of the .300 hitters they were for the month of April. Even Robinson Cano went through a cold streak, as he fell into the habit of trying to make contact with anything near the strike zone, which resulted in pop ups, ground outs, strike outs, and only the occasional bloop single.

Robbie did go 2 for 4 with a home run in Thursday night’s loss to the Mets, so he may be coming out of it. But the fact remains that he alone cannot carry the offense, and though the pitching has been solid the saying holds true that, “you can’t win if you can’t score.”

So unfortunately as we expected, the return of Tex and Youk can not just be a sight for sore eyes. These two sluggers must produce like they have in the past, otherwise the team could find itself battling it out with the Blue Jays in last place by the end of next week.

Maybe I’m over-exaggerating, but the upcoming schedule offers little time for the Yankees to struggle like they just did. As detailed the re-tooled Red Sox are at the top of the division and intend to stay there through the weekend, while next week Terry Francona will look to re-establish himself as a man no one wants to see in the opposing dugout when his Indians come for a visit. After that it’s off to the West Coast to battle it out with the Mariners, Athletics, and Angels – all of them improving and posing a real threat. Anything worse than a .500 record in those games and this joyful, miracle-like season could quickly turn to despair and doubt.

Am I saying Teixeira and Youkilis will decide our fate? Of course not. Robinson Cano needs to start hitting like he’s capable of doing, and Vernon Wells needs to stop hitting as he did with the Angels, as in, poorly. Overall, the Yankees have hit better than predicted, as they’ve scored just enough to win in numerous games. But now they aren’t, and it concerns me greatly.

Perhaps it’s the simple fact that the replacement-level guys such as Overbay, Pronk, and Wells couldn’t carry the team as much as we thought they could when everything was dandy in Yankeeland. Ultimately they were going to break down, and it looks like now is the time. Getting back Teixeira and Youkilis is a huge boost, but if that boost isn’t visible over the next two weeks, to paraphrase a baseball quote to fit this new month – “you can’t win a division in June, but you sure can lose one.”

Finally, a Yankees team we can love

Let’s be honest. When the “Yankees” lined up down the first base line on Opening Day, was this a team you were ready to watch for 162 games? Probably not.

Sure, there was Robinson Cano. You may have spotted Brett Gardner and Ichiro as well. But besides them, did anyone else catch your eye? Kevin Youkilis in pinstripes was “something else”, but what I mean is, did you feel comfortable relying on Lyle Overbay at first, or Vernon Wells in left? I don’t think so.

Where was Nick Swisher, the heart and soul of the team the past four seasons? What about Russell Martin, our Munson-esque backstop? How could we possibly win with these replacement-level, over the hill scrubs?

These questions and more swirled through many fans’ heads as the Yankees opened up the season back in April. Numerous analysts were picking them to finish last, and if they weren’t that harsh, they still predicted them to miss the playoffs.

Now of course it’s still early in the season, but who could have thought just how different the first month and a half would play out on the field, than we thought it would in our minds.

Here are our 2013 Yankees, at 22-13, first place in the A.L. East. A familiar sight without a doubt, but how they’ve gotten to the top of the division is as unusual as it’s ever been in the Bronx. Absent are the headlining stars – Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson – and present are former big name players revitalizing their careers, and youngsters trying to sink their teeth into the major leagues.

They still hit home runs like the usual Bombers, but win close games more often than not with solid pitching and nearly flawless defense. When was the last time those two aspects were keys to winning for the Yankees? It may have been in the playoffs, but certainly not on the path to get them there.

As mentioned, injuries have paved the way for players young and old to make an impact in pinstripes. Vernon Wells is second to Robbie Cano in runs scored, home runs, and average, Lyle Overbay already has 20 RBI, and Travis Hafner has made a fairly big impact when it matters with his still ferocious bat. Austin Romine, Preston Claiborne, Adam Warren, [and soon David Adams] have all made their big-league debuts and figure to be relied upon more as the days get longer and the season moves into the dog days of summer.

It’s hard to pinpoint the last time the Yankees have had so many role players, rather than superstars, and have been A) successful, and B) fun to watch. Maybe sometime in the 90’s, but they never went anywhere.

Sensing the sarcasm, no, this roster right now is not world championship worthy, and it will be a big help when everyone comes back off the DL. But, when they do, don’t be so willing to part with the Overbays, Hafners, and Wellses of the world.

Because truth be told, they’re the reason why Tex, Grandy, A-Rod and the Captain will jump right back into a pennant race they can win.

Keep it up guys…

The roster begins to shape up for the Yankees

The Opening Day 25-man roster has to be set by Sunday, but the Yankees got a head start and started making some cuts and additions. Here’s what manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees did after the Yankees 4-2 win over the Nationals.

1. The Yankees optioned Melky Mesa to Triple-A Scranton along with newly acquired pitcher Sam Demel.

2. Lyle Overbay officially made the team today. Overbay’s defense impressed Joe Girardi enough that he will be the 1B against right handed pitchers while Kevin Youkilis plays third base.

3. Ben Francisco and Jayson Nix also made the team as the 4th OF and a utility guy off the bench.

4. David Aardsma was designated for assignment by the Yankees today. The reason behind it was that Girardi felt the Yankees already felt that they had enough one inning pitchers. Didn’t seem the need to carry another one.

5. Shawn Kelley made the team. Girardi liked his approach on the mound as well as the fact that he’s a strikeout pitcher.

6. Vidal Nuno along with a handful of other players were reassigned to minor league camp. I guess winning the Dawson Award didn’t mean much in the Yankees eyes.

7. Before the game today, Joe Girardi and Mark Teixeira were watching Brennan Boesch do first base drills while Teixeira was giving him pointers. It seems as if the Yankees plan on carrying Boesch as the emergency first baseman although the Yankees didn’t officially announce that as of yet.

8. After the Yankees released David Adams, he became a free agent today and the Yankees re-signed him. Seemed like a lengthy process to get him off the 40-man roster and back into the organization.

Spring Training Notes 2/19/13: Hughes, Montgomery, Ichiro, Gardner, Phelps, Teixeira, Cano

Phil Hughes

There are a lot of notes from a lot of players today, so let’s skip the chit-chat for today and review everything that went on in Yankee camp.

Phil Hughes has been shut down by the Yankees for a few days after experiencing soreness in his upper back. However, according to Girardi, we shouldn’t worry too much about Hughes’s injury since its in the upper part of his back.

“It’s upper back, up here by his shoulder blades, so we’ll see how he is in a couple of days. The good thing is he was ahead of where he probably would normally be at this time which helps. You’re usually more concerned about the lower lingering. But until it’s gone, it’s going to linger. That’s like, a Yogi-ism.”

– After experiencing discomfort in his back, Mark Montgomery played catch today. Montgomery was also throwing to hitters earlier in Spring Training, and the Yankees should expect to get the young pitcher back soon.

Ichiro Suzuki is known for his behind his back catches when he’s shagging fly balls in the outfield, and Brett Gardner wanted to see it for himself. After the media spotted Ichiro making a catch from behind his back, they went to Gardner who was in the outfield with him during outfield drills, and Gardner admitted that he was the one who told Ichiro to do it, with a smile on his face.

“It’s my fault.” Gardner laughed. “I told him to do it.”

Gardner is already one-up on Joe Girardi, since Girardi has heard of the catches but never had seen one in person. I guess all he has to do to see one is ask Ichiro. Honestly, Ichiro sounds like a lot of fun to be around.

– Joe Girardi chose David Phelps as the starter for Saturday’s game (which is not televised). Adam Warren will pitch in Sunday’s game (which is televised on YES).

Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano are preparing for the World Baseball Classic, meaning that they both would leave camp earlier this year. Robinson Cano is leaving camp March 2nd while Mark Teixeira is leaving camp March 3rd. That gives both players to get in some Yankees games before heading out and representing their country. Don’t worry Yankees fans. Robinson Cano will be back on March 6th when Team Dominican Republic plays the Yankees at GMS Field. Should be a lot of fun.

Spring Training Notes 2/17/12: Jeter, Teixeira

Photo courtesy of Lohud Yankees

Photo courtesy of Lohud Yankees

Derek Jeter just heard of Kevin Youkilis making the back of every paper in New York City with his “I’ll always be a Red Sox” comment. Andy Pettitte suggested it would be a good idea for Jeter to start some controversy to get everyone’s mind off of Youkilis.

“Pettitte just told me. He told me to say something controversial in this press conference so that I can get Youkilis off the back pages.” Jeter said. “I’ll let him have it. Welcome to New York.”

Jeter then became serious while throwing in some quips now and again about how hard he was working to get into shape. He then poked fun of the New York Post cover where Jeter was considered “overweight.”

“It’s going to be a little harder to to get back in shape–in baseball shape. The Post is here. Gotta say baseball shape.” Then Jeter’s conference got down to business. Where was he in his Spring Training schedule?

“I’m on Mo’s schedule.” Jeter quipped. “Five innings and I’m done. But I’m not concerned with re-injuring the ankle. I know I won’t play be playing when they start playing in a week. You can write that down. I’m not playing in that game. I don’t necessarily think you need all of Spring Training to get ready. I don’t know exactly the date I’m going to play, but it will probably be somewhere there after a couple of weeks.”

The most interesting part of the whole conference? Derek Jeter thought that sitting on his couch for 5-6 weeks was boring and this was the “worst offseason ever”. 5-6 weeks on the couch doing nothing sounds like a dream to me.

– Along with Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira spoke to the media today and basically disclosed what he wanted to do this season.

“Stay healthy and have fun.” Teixeira said.

Teixeira had also done his workouts earlier since he is slated to play in the World Baseball Classic on March 1st. He figures that the World Baseball Classic will help him with not slumping in April, which sounds like a good idea. Teixeira also spoke about his offensive approach this season.

“There’s really no reason for me at this point in my career to try and start things differently. I’ve had such a successful career playing to my strengths. Now that being said, I want to be the best at what I do well, and that’s hitting home runs, driving in runs and playing Gold Glove defense. I know if I do those three things, I’m going to help my team. At the end of the day, that’s why I’m here. I’m here to help my team win. Not put up certain types of numbers.”

Last question. Was it strange not seeing Alex Rodriguez in camp?

“There’s 90 guys in here right now.” Teixeira said. “Even if he was here, I’m not sure I’d see him.”

Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, Travis Hafner and Curtis Granderson all reported to camp today and took their physicals. They all passed, don’t worry.

– Backtracking  to Ichiro, he was reportedly wearing one ‘glittery’ hat. He came into camp this morning with a Yankees hat but the Yankees logo had glitter on it instead of the normal logo.

Joe Girardi made it clear that Travis Hafner would be the Yankees DH against right handed hitters and wouldn’t take the field unless he was a backup first baseman. Girardi also said that Jeter could possibly DH against left-handers as the season begins, allowing Eduardo Nunez to play shortstop.

Spring Training Notes 2/16/13: Rivera, Sabathia, Chamberlain, Cervelli

Mariano Rivera watching Andy Pettitte throw a bullpen session

Mariano Rivera watching Andy Pettitte throw a bullpen session

The main event for the Yankees today was the bullpen pitching, provided by none other than Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Rivera threw his second official bullpen of the Spring, and feeling more and more comfortable on the mound.

“There’s no piece of mind when I say ‘OK, I feel good now.” Rivera said. “No, I knew the job that I put in during the whole year, it’s been a hard job and I always tell you guys I trust myself. I trust God first, then I trust myself. I’m capable to do this. I was expecting this, it feels good. I feel good.”

So what would be the biggest test for Rivera as he gets ready for the season while wearing a knee brace?

“Bunting. Comeback liners. Cover first. All that stuff. You can’t think, you have to react.” Rivera said. “That will be, what I think, the biggest test.”

CC Sabathia is also coming back from surgery, and hopes to make all his starts while staying healthy.

“After the season I had last year, being on the DL a couple of times, getting a little older, I just want to concentrate on staying healthy.” Sabathia said. “Any kind of numbers I feel will be there if I’m healthy, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”

Francisco Cervelli has confirmed that he will not play in the World Baseball Classic for Team Italy and made sure that he let the manager know.

“I talked to the manager a couple of days ago, and he understood the situation.”

So what was the situation? Apparently, Cervelli wants to win the catching job with the Yankees in Spring Training.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for.”

– In…interesting…news, Joba Chamberlain has been reportedly been acting a little–out there at camp today. According to Bryan Hoch, he got into a laundry cart and asked Boone Logan to push him in it. That just shows that 1) Chamberlain has an awesome child-like imagination and 2) it’s not all work and no play with that guy.

– Even the manager of the Yankees has to get in some Spring Training workouts this season. After workouts were finished, Joe Girardi spent time doing batting practice with his son Dante, warming up his catching arm. I wonder if Girardi is considering the role of ‘emergency catcher’ this season. I think he still has some game in him.

Spring Training Notes 2/14/13: Nova, Pineda, Phelps, Youkilis

Ivan Nova

Day three of Spring Training has come to a close, meaning it’s time for another Spring Training report. Yesterday was all about Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. Today, our Spring Training notes travel further back in the rotation (and briefly at third base). Today, we take you into the competition for the fifth starter spot between Ivan Nova and David Phelps, who had a great rookie season with the Yankees last year.

We should start by discussing the battle for the 5th spot between Nova and Phelps.

Nova vs. Phelps: Who gets the fifth spot?

Ivan Nova doesn’t know what went wrong last season after he posted  7.05 ERA after the All-Star Break. He does know that the fifth starter spot is his to lose to David Phelps.

“I was in competition when I had the season I had last year. Last year was a competition. This year’s going to be a competition. For me, next year’s going to be a competition. Like I told one of the guys, CC’s got 100-something million. With that contract, I can sit down and it won’t be a competition, but for me every year is a competition. I’m confident at the same time that I’m going to be there. I cannot sit here and let things happen. I’ve got to go and fight for it.” Nova told the media earlier today. One other person agreed with Nova’s words, Joe Girardi.

“He has to go out there and prove himself. That’s the bottom line.” Girardi said. “Because of what he went through the second half of the season, he has to earn a job. You’d like to think that every starter would go out and earn a job, but we know that’s not realistic. I don’t think we’re going to look at CC’s numbers real heavily, or (Hiroki) Kuroda’s.”

Coming into camp, it seemed that David Phelps had the disadvantage due to the fact that he was in a bullpen role last season? So does that mean Joe Girardi will judge Phelps on whether he’s a bullpen piece or not?

“We’re going to look at (Phelps) as a starter going into camp because that’s what we project him as in the future. And we’ll make adjustments if we have to.”

So for those of you who plan on watching almost every Spring Training game (or if you have MLB.TV where you would technically only miss three games), then this is the year for you to watch who gets the fifth rotation spot.

Michael Pineda loses weight and could be ready by June

Michael Pineda went to Spring Training camp in better shape than he did last season, weighing in at 260 and ready to work towards returning to the Yankees in June. Brian Cashman answered questions about Pineda but mostly gave a prognosis on where Pineda was at this point.

“Mike’s doing well so far.” Cashman said. “He’s completing his first week on a full mound, he’s had no setbacks, he’s worked very hard and it’s a very serious surgery he’s coming back from. No guarantees but so far we’re optimistic.”

If all goes well, Pineda could be back with the Yankees before the All-Star Break.

Youkilis comes to camp

Kevin Youkilis came to Yankees camp for a few minutes earlier today, but he did get his work in while at the minor league complex with some of the other players. Youkilis seemed excited to see teammate Juan Cedeno, who he knew since they were both in the Red Sox organization at one point. Youkilis got to Tampa at 6:30 this morning and went to work out at the minor league complex. Eduardo Nunez was also spotted in the Yankees clubhouse. Probably getting his work in.

A big reminder, tomorrow is the voluntary report date for the Yankees position players but we should expect more of them coming in the coming days. To Girardi’s knowledge, none of them have visa or transportation issues. Also, someone might want to call Robinson Cano. Remember in 2010 when he showed up a day late to camp because he had the dates mixed up? Yeah…

Spring Training Notes 2/12/13: State Of The Yankees Address

Photo taken by Mark Feinsand of the Daily News

Photo taken by Mark Feinsand of the Daily News

Today may be the State Of the Union Address for the United States of America, but today was the State of the Yankees Address live from the minor league complex by none other than the Yankees manager Joe Girardi (who might I add is in the final year of his contract). Girardi covered a plethora of topics but one of the biggest topics that Girardi covered was Alex Rodriguez. Here’s some notes and news from today.

Girardi on Alex Rodriguez:

“There really isn’t a lot to talk about. My concern is for him to get healthy. This club is used to having what people might call distractions.”

Girardi hasn’t spoken to Alex Rodriguez about the PED topic and has confirmed that Alex Rodriguez will not be in camp this spring. Instead, Rodriguez will rehab in New York.

Girardi on the 2013 team:

“We’re going to have to find a different way to score runs. Our offense is going to be different but I believe [we're going to score runs].”

Girardi also believes that the Yankees are going to win 95 games and the World Series. “There’s a lot of talent in this room. If we play up to our capabilities, I believe we’re a very good team.”

Girardi’s biggest concern:

Girardi’s biggest concern is finding a right-handed DH bat before the actual season begins.

Girardi on Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki:

As of today, Brett Gardner will be in LF, Curtis Granderson will be in CF and Ichiro Suzuki will be in RF. There’s no plans on moving Gardner and Granderson as of yet, but it could change as he discusses it with his coaches.

Girardi on concerns of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera:

He doesn’t have any concerns on both Yankees who are coming off of injuries.

MORE AROUND YANKEES CAMP

Austin Romine came into camp thirteen pounds lighter and his back in very good shape. He believes he sees an opportunity.

CC Sabathia is also 100% after having elbow surgery over the winter. He says that the surgery was a relief and he now has complete mobility of his elbow. Sabathia also lost a lot of weight, now weighing in at 290. His first bullpen session will be on Thursday.

– We also have new locker arraignments and numbers in Yankees camp. Here they are:

-Travis Hafner takes Nick Swisher‘s old number and will now wear #33. Hafner’s locker is now next to Youkilis, formerly vacated by Eric Chavez.
-Francisco Cervelli will now wear #29, formerly worn by Rafael Soriano.
-David Phelps changed his number to #35. Mike Mussina used to wear #35 back in the day as did Michael Pineda last season (who we never saw during the season).
-Michael Pineda will now wear #43. His previous number was #35.
-Kevin Youkilis wears #36 and now has Nick Swisher’s old locker.
- David Aardsma will now wear #34.
- Matt Diaz will now wear #22.
- Dan Johnson will now wear #27.
- Juan Rivera will now wear #54.

Morning Bits: Girardi calls P.A booth, Soriano, Ichiro, Gardner

Good morning everyone!! The San Francisco Giants are one win away from a WS sweep! So it’s a do or die game for the Detroit Tigers (music to Yankees fans ears). Let’s get onto the morning links!

– So remember in Game 1 of the ALCS when Eric Chavez pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez and they didn’t say A-Rod’s name? Well Joe Girardi called the P.A booth and made that special request to lessen the embarrassment for A-R0d. One problem with your plan Joe–everybody knows when A-Rod is pinch hit for. The booth doesn’t have to say it.

– With Yankees legend Mariano Rivera unsure if he’s going to return for another season, the Daily News writes that Rafael Soriano better think long and hard before following what his agent tells him to do and opt out for free agency.

– This was released a couple of days ago, but Ichiro Suzuki said he would like to return to the Yankees. However, if Ichiro does return–does that mean Brett Gardner gets bumped down to a fourth-outfielder?

Yankees Offseason Notes: Joe Girardi’s press conference

Good evening Yankees fans. Today Joe Girardi had his final press conference of the 2012 season and discussed some Yankees. Here was the gist of what Girardi said.

CC Sabathia hasn’t visited Dr. Andrews but Girardi believes Sabathia will be ready for Spring Training.

– Girardi hasn’t spoken to Alex Rodriguez since the end of the postseason and he said that Rodriguez was (totally) healthy during the playoffs. Girardi also said that Alex Rodriguez will be the everyday third baseman.

– Girardi said Ichiro was a treat to be around but he’s not sure if the Yankees will try to bring him back.

– He hasn’t spoken to Mariano Rivera since the end of the regular season.

– There are no nagging injuries from any other player that we don’t know about.

– Girardi expects his coaches to return in 2013.

– And finally, Girardi will not discuss his contract that expires next season until next season is over.

If next season is Girardi’s last year…can there at least be a World Series trophy involved? Just saying.

Five years later, Torre’s exit still a shocking disgrace

This month it will officially be five years – that’s half a decade – since Joe Torre was manager of the New York Yankees.

In his twilight years, George Steinbrenner was still The Boss, and he professed it more than ever that postseason. Following a heart-breaking Game 2 loss to the Indians in the 2007 ALDS, George said that if the Yankees couldn’t rebound and win the series, then Joe Torre would be gone.

That was an unimaginable thought – the Yankees without Joe Torre. 12 years since he was hired and tagged with the nickname “Clueless Joe”, Yankee fans everywhere had come to respect and love their skipper. After all, making the playoffs every season was not always as easy as the Yankees had made it seem all those years.

But clearly, times were different in 2007. These weren’t the same Bombers who had gone out a number of seasons prior and ran off a streak of four World Series championships in five years. Where Tino Martinez make slick-fielding plays at first base, there was Doug Mientkiewicz. Where Paul O’Neill gave it all in right field, there was Bobby Abreu. Yes, Andy Pettitte was back, and Jeter, Mo, and Jorge Posada had never left. But the dynasty ended a long time ago, and with it went the clutch factor of postseason Yankees teams.

But not lost in that thought, was just how amazing the ’07 Yankees were [in the regular season]. After pulling through a treacherous 22-29 start, being 13 1/2 games behind the eventual Fall Classic champion Red Sox, the Yankees fought back with Joe Torre leading the way. A 72-39 finish from the end of May resulted in a 94-win campaign, and a Wild Card berth. Oh, and they ended just 2 games back of Boston for the division.
To say the 67-year old native New Yorker had lost touch with his team, was simply false. Joe was leading the Yankees the best he ever had. “Energy”, was the word he kept re-iterating to his team. Bring your A-game night in and night out, and you’ll win.

As much as it held true from the end of May to late September, in early October, the message had run its course. The Yankees dropped the first two games of the series, and were in a must-win situation heading back to the Bronx and the House That Ruth Built. It just so happened Game 3 and Game 4 would be the final postseason games held at the old Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees lifted the hearts of their fans and even Joe Torre off the bench with a thrilling 8-4 Game 3 victory. The momentum was back. The swagger was back. And for that one night, Torre’s Yankees proved they wouldn’t quit on their manager and that maybe, with all the comebacks they had made under his helm, one more was in the works.

The next night, chants of “Joe Torre” could be heard by all 56,315 in attendance at Yankee Stadium. But they were not for the right reasons. He made a bunch of pitching changes in the Yankees’ 6-4 loss, and each time he came out, the chants got larger and larger. People weren’t oblivious; they knew what was going to happen. As Cleveland celebrated on the field and later in the clubhouse, the Yankees’ players, and even the media, could not control their emotions. Torre’s post-game press conference was short and to the point – like it had been for all those years. He was bluntly honest, and gave credit to where it was due.

The days after the elimination, everyone was a bit surprised why Torre hadn’t gotten the boot yet. His contract was up, but the Yankees hadn’t officially dismissed him or announced they were parting ways. People had an idea – they were the classy Yankees. They’d give Joe time to move on, and then when he was ready, they would have a big glorious press conference, as well as announcing they’d retire #6 the following year in a ceremony at the old house.

At least, that was my opinion. And was I ever wrong.

The Yankees flew Joe Torre out to Tampa to discuss a potential new contract. With George Steinbrenner and sons present, along with general manager Brian Cashman and team president Randy Levine, they got down to business. Some say the Yankees never intended to bring him back, that it was more of a “courtesy” meet up – that they knew Torre would leave without a new deal.

In my opinion, The Boss bit his lip and knew Joe was far more valuable to the Yankees than he had ever realized. He was the only manager suited to lead this team in the coming years, and George wanted him back. But, being himself, he didn’t want to admit he was wrong about letting him go and sell out to Torre by giving him the praise and dollars he truly deserved. So he offered him what a lot of people like to call, an embarrassment.

Opinions aside, he offered Torre a one-year, $5 million contract, with incentives of $1 million added on for each postseason round the Yankees made. Also included was a guaranteed option for 2009 – if the Yankees reached the World Series.

One thing Torre stressed in his autobiography, The Yankee Years, was that he wanted job security. He hated managing on one-year contracts, and for a skipper of his caliber, understandably so. But with the roster the Yankees put together for 2008, there was no way they’d make the World Series, essentially being just another one year deal for Joe. But with him at the helm, maybe they’d get at least another playoff berth, which would have been a very important one for Yankee Stadium’s final season.

Torre was smart enough to realize that and decided that enough was enough. He didn’t want to continue playing games with The Boss, and did not want to stay longer than he was welcomed. George wanted him back I believe, but Hank, Hal, Cash, and Levine didn’t. Even though he’s The Boss, he wasn’t The Boss at those meetings. It truly seemed majority ruled in this decision.

So with that, Joe was gone. Discreetly, ironically, and in a sick, twisted way, the Yankees turned it on Torre, saying he rejected their offer. No, he rejected an opportunity for embarrassment and further scrutiny he didn’t deserve nor want at this stage of his life. Torre walked out with a heavy heart, but with pride, and the Yankees were left looking like fools.

They did find as good a successor as was possible in Joe Girardi, and he’s done a great job, leading the Yankees to the playoffs in every season but his first. Each year, Girardi battled injuries, controversies, and flat out inconsistent play to still lead the team to three division titles and a wild card berth, including a 2009 World Series win.

But even still, each time I look over to the dugout while at a game, or see a shot of him leaning over the dugout’s padded fence on TV, something looks off. Girardi definitely looks like the skipper, but to me, there was only one Yankees manager, at least for my generation. And that was #6, Joe Torre.

I will be a Yankee fan until I die and then afterwards, but I’ll never forget their idiocy in letting go one of baseball’s most iconic and successful managers [even at age 67] far too quickly. And now as we saw Joe Girardi incredibly over-manage and under-manage in the Yankees’ all but failed attempt for #28, we can only ask what would Mr. T, as Derek Jeter called him, would do.

Is it time to move on from Jones & Ibanez?

I’ve seen enough of Andruw whiffing in the field and at the plate

When Brian  Cashman was assembling the 2012 Yankees in the offseason, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez were two of the last pieces to be added.  Their roles were to essentially serve as a DH platoon with occasional starts in the OF.   However, when Brett Gardner was injured in early April, they both became the recipients of added playing time.  At first it  seemed like Gardner’s injury was fairly minor so it was thought that Jones/Ibanez could fill-in for the short-term.  Gardner had 2 set-backs in his recovery but wasn’t deemed to be essentially done for the season until mid-July so the Yanks stayed with Ibanez as his primary replacement  until Cashman added Ichiro.  But Ichiro’s arrival also coincided with an injury to Nick Swisher and subsequent injuries to ARod, Granderson & Teixeira.  So playing time for the 2 veterans just kept popping up.

Ibanez and Jones did a yeoman’s job for much of the first half.  Ibanez cracked a Grand Slam on Opening Day and continued his hot hitting thru April and May with a .268/.318/.543/.861 line,  9 HRs and 28 RBI in the first 2 months.  Jones was also doing a solid job filling in for most of the year and his season was highlighted by his huge 4 HR outburst in a 3-game series at Fenway in early July.  When that series ended Jones’ season numbers stood at an impressive .244/.326/.535/.862 with 11 HRs in 144 PAs.  So, while neither of them supplied great average, they drew some walks, supplied a ton of power and held their own in the OF defensively.  Both players are to be commended for their early season contributions and their ability to handle expanded roles.  I admit I was not on board with the Ibanez signing as I thought the team needed a better bat.  But Ibanez surprised me with his strong start and despite his defensive shortcomings, he always tries hard and hustles on the field.

However, both players have fallen off a cliff in recent months.  Since June 1st, Ibanez has hit .191/.278/.330/.608 with just 6 HRs in 234 PAs.  That’s more than half a season of games with an OPS barely over .600.  Terrible numbers for a DH/LF who’s only asset is his bat.  Lately, he has been even worse with just 4 hits in his last 55 ABs (.071 BA & .330 OPS).  He is clearly not the same player he was the first couple of months.  The popular theory is that he is worn out from playing the OF so much.  That may be true but he has always been a streaky hitter and his overall season numbers are nearly identical to what he put up last year in Philly. Last yr he hit .245/.289/.419/.707 and this year he’s at .222/.294/.415/.708.

Jones’ decline has been even more pronounced.  It seems like he sold his soul to the devil to get that huge series in Boston because since then he’s hit .137/.250/.225/.475 with just 2 HRs in 120 PAs.  He’s misplayed fly balls in the OF and has had awful at bats.

Due to injuries and Girardi’s dual-love of veterans and platoon splits, both have still been trotted out there to get regular playing time.  Yesterday, however, Joe finally left Jones on the bench vs a LHP and it payed off big as Ichiro won them the game.  Did Joe play Ichiro because he had a .360 career BA vs Romero and Jones had a career .154 BA against him?  Or has Joe finally realized that Jones & Ibanez are shot and he needs to go in another direction?  Unfortunately, I think it was more a case of the former but with Ichiro’s success maybe he’ll make it a permanent change.

With players coming back from injury, Girardi finally has other options.  Eduardo Nunez is clearly a better option right now than Ibanez/Jones and should be a factor the rest of the season including the playoffs.  Against a LHP, Nunez & Jeter MUST continue to split SS & DH.  There is NO excuse to play Jones over Nunez right now.  If you figure McGehee at 1B until Tex returns, it leaves you the choice of Ichiro, Jones or Steve Pearce in LF.  The Yankees have not used Pearce in the OF although he played 20 games there with Baltimore this year and 3 with Houston.   Pearce isn’t really hitting anyway so I think the clear choice is to go with Ichiro over Jones.  He’s swinging a hot bat over the last month at .351/.365/.468/.833 with 2 HRs and 7 SBs in 99 PAs.  He brings speed and defense to the table every day in addition to a hot bat.  He & Nunez need to play over Jones the rest of the way.

The Ibanez situation is a bit more cut and dry.  When Tex comes back, it becomes academic with Chavez  and ARod sharing 3B & DH vs RHP and Swisher and Ichiro as the Corner Outfielders.  It basically comes down to Chavez vs Ibanez and that’s a no-brainer.  Chavez  has hit .296/.353/.522/.876 with 13 HRs vs RHP in 249 PAs.   But until Tex returns or IF Tex returns, there’s no clear alternative to Ibanez.  Swish will play 1B so there is need for another corner OF.  The alternative is to go with Chris Dickerson.  Dickerson started the first 3 games after his September call-up and went 2 for 7 with a HR.  Since then he’s been only a defensive replacement with 2 scattered PAs – a Walk & a SO.  The only other possibility is rookie Melky Mesa or to go with McGehee or Pearce at 1B and Swish in the OF.  For now, I’d give the playing time to Dickerson.  He plays a great OF, has a little speed and has hitting ability.  He had a great year in AAA with a .316/.417/.515/.932 line with 7 HRs and 17 SBs in 321 PAs.  Give Dickerson the chance.

What do you all think?  Should the Yanks be giving time to Nunez, Dickerson & Ichiro the rest of the way or keep trotting out Ibanez & Jones despite their pathetic recent numbers?  The Yanks swept a DH yesterday without hitting a HR thanks to good fundamental baseball, productive outs,  some key hits and stealing some bases.  Nunez, Dickerson & Ichiro can definitely help in those categories.  The upside with Jones/Ibanez is the potential to hit a HR which have been few and far between lately.  So which way do you go for the last 2 weeks of the season and into the Playoffs?

Should Girardi Be a Scapegoat?

The Yankees officially lost their lead in the AL East after last night’s 5-2 loss to Tampa . The Yankees have held sole possession of the AL East lead for the last 84 days before last night. They have gone 19-25 since July 18th, including loosing 10 of their last 13 games. That is how they have managed to lose their 10 game lead. If this trend continues the Yankees could not only lose the division, but their playoff spot all together.  If that occurs there is likely to be a scapegoat. Since it is always easier to fire the manager than the players Joe Girardi could be atop of that list. However, with the hand he has been dealt there is very little if anything he could have done to stop this slide.

It is probably still too early to be writing about this because with 27 games remaining anything can happen. The Yankees have had similar bad stretches to end the season in 1996 and 2000 and went on to win the World Series both years, so there is still a lot of season left to play. However, at this point everybody understandably wants to point their frustration at somebody. Based on the reaction I have seen on Twitter a lot of people want that person to be Girardi. Girardi is by no means perfect, but he is not the reason for this collapse right now.

No matter whom the manager is fans will always try to play armchair manager. A lot of people see managing a baseball team as something that could be done by anybody. This is obviously not true and the biggest issue is when fans second guess manager after the fact. This is not to say people aren’t allowed to have opinions or disagree with a decision, but if you do not first guess the move you are off base. It is easier to criticize something after you already have seen the result. I and everybody else has disagreed with Girardi at times, but that would be the case with any manager.

The other problem when people criticize the manager is that they don’t consider the alternative to the decision. For example, do you think Girardi really wanted to bat Steve Pearce 4th and Russell Matin 5th against the two in the Toronto series? What were his alternatives? Curtis Granderson? Jayson Nix? Andruw Jones? None of them are much better. Another example was on Sunday. Girardi was heavily criticized for leaving Phil Hughes in to face Mark Reynolds in the 6th innings. Hughes was showing signs of tiring, but with the state of the current bullpen can Girardi really be blamed for wanting to get everything he could have out of him? Once again the alternative of turning to somebody like Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada, or Cory Wade is not anymore endearing in a close game. The fact that Girardi does not have many good options to turn to is due to injuries and the fact that Brian Cashman has not given him good enough replacements.

With the platoon heavy roster Girardi has been handed there is nothing he could have done to stop the egregious hitting the last couple of weeks. He is also not responsible for not upgrading the outfield or bullpen situation enough at the trade deadline when there were obvious signs that they needed to be. It may not be Cashman’s fault either, because he might have been under a mandate from ownership not to add significant payroll. However, he is responsible for the talent on the field and it has just not been good enough lately.  Injuries are a huge factor that should not be dismissed. I am not using them as an excuse, but it is just a reality that they have killed this team. The only teams who you can say have endured the kind of injuries the Yankees have are Toronto and Boston and looked at what happened to those teams this season. However, Cashman should have gone to some younger guys quicker while the veteran replacements were floundering.

People get frustrated when Girardi says the same thing after every loss, but it is the right approach to take in the media. The complete opposite has taken place in Boston with Bobby Valentine and the results have been disastrous. If Girardi changed his approach now and started to rip players in the media he would just create more commotion then there already is. A perfect example is how Girardi defended Robinson Cano after he did not hustle on Monday. The right approach was to rip Cano privately about it but downplay it to the media so it does not become an even bigger issue. We have no idea what happens privately, so it is wrong to say Girardi does not have enough sense of urgency based on his media comments. I learned by reading Girardi: Passion in Pinstripes by Kevin Kernan how much the players really appreciate how he goes to battle for them. They love the atmosphere he creates in the clubhouse and a lot of them would run through walls for him.

Hopefully that relationship between Girardi and his players can get them through this tough time. Girardi is not one of the top managers in baseball, but he is far from one of the worst.  At this point he is the least of their issues. People should be focusing more on the flaws of the roster than the flaws of the manager.

Morning Bits: Girardi, Mattingly, Cone, O’Neill, Ichiro

Good morning everyone and a Happy Sunday to you all. Yankees and Red Sox play the rubber game of the 3 game series tonight at 8pm on ESPN. Josh Beckett hits the mound for the Red Sox and Hiroki Kuroda hits the mound for the Yankees. Here are your morning bits! 

– ESPN New York wonders who would be the better manager for the Yankees: Joe Girardi (or as they like to nickname him Joey Looseleaf) or Don Mattingly (Donnie Baseball)?

– The New York Daily News writes how the YES Network should trim the roster of analysts–but they should keep David Cone and Paul O’Neill with Michael Kay full-time.

– The Yankees get to see first hand what makes Ichiro Suzuki one of the most prolific hitters in baseball–and I must say, his ‘slap and run’ technique is very impressive.

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