Tagged: baseball

The Biggest Threat

This is a blog I never wanted to write, but I feel it is important to address. For those of you who may have read my early winter rantings, you know that I made predictions — many of which ended up being wrong.

I hate being wrong.

That being said, I think it is time to address our biggest American League threat, and no, I’m not talking about those bums from Beanville. Let’s take a trip across the country to the pollution capital of the United States, Los Angeles. Because our number one threat in 2009 is those stinkin’ Angels.

I’ll give you three reasons why we need to keep our eyes on these guys not only for this year, but for the next few years.

#1 – The Angels in the Outfield.
Sorry for the cliche’, but seriously. What more of an offensive threat to boast in your outfield than Vladimir Guerro, Torii Hunter, and our former Bobby Abreu?

We should be familiar with Bobby’s abilities already, but for those of you just now tuning in we have one of the most patient hitters in baseball. Bobby can make a pitcher throw many times. He isn’t afraid of taking a walk. (73 times in 2008). He knows how to steal (22). He has a career .300 average (.296) and he plays very cautiously, which gives him full season endurance (156 games). Bobby is a very talented player, an offensive force, and will make a great #2 or #3 hitter.

Before coming to the Angels last season, Torii Hunter wasn’t much to worry about. The Minnesota Twins were never a real threat to anyone. They had their streaks, mostly built on the back of Hunter’s bat. (I’m editorializing pretty hard here, I know.) But put a potent hitter on this Angels team and you have a reason to swallow the lump in your throat. In 146 games, he collected 551 AB and 153 H, giving him a hearty .278 BA.  All total, he carried 60 extra base hits, 21 of which got him around the bases. Oh, and there’s the whole 1.000 FPCT.

I can’t even say his name with conjuring up images of burning villages, but this dangerous trio is led by 32 year old Vladimir Guerrero. The 12-year veteran is like Yogi Berra — he’ll swing at, and typical hammer off, anything. He is difficult to pitch to. I recall a scene where a pitcher attempted to walk him, so Vlad stepped across the plate and cranked the ball into the field anyway. He is a career .323 hitter (.303) who brought in less than 100 RBIs off of his 164 H for only the second full season in his career(91).

But these three men do not stand alone as an offensive threat. Chone Figgans and Howie Kendrick. I get chills thinking about these five members of a very potent Angel lineup that has dominated the American League over the span of the past few years. It is no wonder, to me, why the Angels did not persue some of the more costly free agents. They have no need to. Which brings me to my second point.

#2 – They Go Deep
And I’m not talking about just the offensive hitting ability either. Take a look at the Depth Chart. RIDICULOUS. It’s like a circus of talent, competing for every position. 

Infield depth has three guys, Izturis, Wood, and Quinlan, with a great deal of talent being availible to back up at every infield base position with a near perfect FPCT and mostly respectable batting averages (.269, .200, .262).

The offensive weakness may come from their catchers, but they have two guys have can handle the backstop with Napoli and Mathis (.273, .194). Napoli is yet another 20+ HR guy, of which the Angels have too many (4).

The outfield has protection for their big three if an unfortunate injury would occur. G. Matthews and Juan Rivera have acceptable BA’s and can fill in as needed and help to platoon either Vlad or Bobby in the corners with the DH role.

I’m not even going to address their pitching. It is sufficient and deep. The Angels are an island unto themselves with their throwing programs. Their farm system has made them almost entirely self sufficient and will be a model many other teams follow for the future.

#3 – 3-7
The Yankees and the Angels played each other ten times. Of those ten times, the Yankees only mustered up three wins. If the Yanks could have pulled those seven losses, the post season would have been written differently. But the fact remains that in that ten game series, the Yankees were outplayed by the Angels. the lineups look different now, so only time will tell how 2009 plays out.

Those are the reasons why I see the Angels as the team to beat for the New York Yankees. The rest of the AL West is still weak, despite a growing strength this year. 2009 will undoubtedly be a great year for baseball.

 

I Hate Valentine’s Day

Mark Newman (http://mlblogs.mlblogs.com) wrote an interesting article about love and hate in the greatest game ever played. I suggest you read it and read my response to it below:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090213&content_id=3823592&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

I hate the Boston Red Sox. I hate their fans. I hate the attitudes. I
hated their stupid hair cuts. I hate looking at Kevin Youkalis’ ugly
face. I hate Dustin Pedroia.

I hate Josh Beckett. I have EXTRA hate for
him. Not only is he on the rotten Red Sox, but he helped to steal the
2003 World Series from my beloved Yankees. The only thing he did right
was go to the Sox — so I can hate him even more.

I don’t care how
clutch the Sox are. I don’t care how extremely talented they are.
They’re ugly. They’re stupid. I hate them.

I hate that Yankee games broadcast on ESPN are blacked out due to YES.
I hate my cable company in Northeastern PA for not carrying YES. I can
watch every Buckos game, I can watch every Phillies game. I can catch
what seems to be every freaking game but home Yankee games not carried
on My9. I hate going to my brother’s house to watch a home game on YES
that isn’t there because it is broadcast on My9. He doesn’t get My9. I
hate that.

I hate the National League. Pitchers aren’t supposed to bat. I don’t
care how good D-Train was at it or how cool it was to watch him slap
homers over the fence. It’s stupid. Get a DH. Platoon your outfielders.
Quit being in the stone age NLers. It’s like the pansy Western
Conference in Hockey. It’s not brutal enough.

I hate hearing the
whiners and haters whine and hate on the Yankees. Your jealousy is a
stinky cologne.

I hate when people say “We won” and “They lost” when
referring to their favorite teams. If you aren’t on the team, win or
lose, you aren’t on the team at all.

I hate Josh Beckett. Did I say
that yet? He’s evil. I wish he was a terrible pitcher so I didn’t have to hate him. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but somehow that makes me hate him even more. The idea of him being charitable makes me angry. I feel like he should be a jerk so that other people would hate him instead of just me.

I hate Sports Illustrated. I hate their post championship commercials where you can have a stupid DVD with your subscription featuring the eventual winner of the World Series, the Superbowl, The Stanley Cup, or Basketball’s unnamed championship. I hate that basketball doesn’t have a cool championship name.

I hate the Giants. I hate their stadium. I hate that home run balls fly into the water. I hate the stupid fans with their stupid canoes waiting for Bonds (when he was there) to crank another one out of the park.

I hate ballparks that are built for home run derbys. I hate ballparks built for pitchers to diminish home runs too. I hate the Green Monster. I hate that the Cathedral wasn’t good enough and some idiot decided to tear down Yankee Stadium. What the deuce?

I hate people who whine about salary caps. Salary caps will fix nothing. While we are being unrealistic with our salary demands on players lets actually look at a system fair to players and owners alike — flat rate salaries based upon years of service with incentive bonuses. Everyone gets a fair shake across the board. I hate salary caps.

I hate 7 game playoff series. Divisional round should be three games. League round should be five games. World Series should be seven games. I hate the Cubs. Scratch that. I hate Chicago baseball teams. I even hate Chicago. What kind of name is “The Windy City” anyway? That’s dumb.

You know what else is dumb? Teams from California. Quit crying, you have sunshine all year long. Come endure a Pennsylvania winter. Then you can complain to me. We have to bundle up for games in the late fall. You wear shorts.

I hate free agency and the lack of loyalty. Why can’t players come up through the system and fight for a spot on their team? My team is one of the worst offenders too! I hate when players slack off until contract years.

I hate that Don Mattingly isn’t good enough to get in the Hall of Fame. Guys like Mattingly deserve to be there. I hate that Roger Maris had an asterisk for his record just because of the different amounts of games played. I hate the record books.

I hate when small market team owners fail to put more resources into their teams. It’s not my fault The Boss made his money in the shipping industry and his Yankees are a side project that he loves. I wish Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, etc were given that amount of love from their owners. Let Mark Cuban buy one of these teams. He’ll dump resources into it, even if he goes broke doing it.

I hate reading about steroids. I want to read about baseball. I want to read about spring training. I want to read about prospects snaking their way up through the ranks. I hate only hearing rumors and accusations.

I hate that A-Rod doesn’t even know what he tested positive for. I hate that Selena Roberts is being given so much credibility when her magical sources are still unnamed. I hate that everyone jumped on the ‘A-Roid’ bandwagon without even an ounce of credible evidence. I hate that he was guilty before he even had a chance to defend himself. I hate the idea of records being erased. I hate the discussion about suspensions for anonymous drug tests that where the basis of baseball recognizing it had a drug problem and coming clean through it. I hate witch hunts. I hate irresponsible journalism. I hate when people break big news just weeks before they are to release a book about the target of their hear-say.

I hate when people leave comments on MLB.com’s news pages thinking that they are on the team website only. Hey morons, those news articles run on feeds that are displayed on relevant team pages as well as the MLB website. My comments about how evil Josh Beckett is and how stupid the Nation is aren’t posted only the Red Sox site — they are posted on all of the MLB. I can access your stories from the Yankee’s page.

Do you know what else I hate? I hate how almost every blog I wrote with
off season predictions ended up being wrong. My expectations,
apparently, were too low. I hate being wrong. I hate typos too. I hate Josh Beckett and
being wrong  and making typos. I also hate Bobby Abreu no longer being in Pinstripes. Mostly, I hate Josh Beckett.

But I love baseball. These are the best months of the year. I love this
hate. It’s a healthy hate. It makes the love that much sweeter. Thank
you for reminding me to hate. I feel good getting this hate out from off my chest.

Screw Christmas. Baseball season is the most wonderful time of the year.

Major League Baseball.

I live for this.

Yankees : Offseason Needs

Consistency.

That is precisely what is missing from the New York Yankees lineup. Talent abounds, but the ability to stay healthy and remain consistent has been hurting the Bombers for the past few years. Consistency is what General Manager Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners need to be focused on during this off-season.

The legendary payroll for the Yankees goes up for grabs this off season, and I think New York brass ought to hold tight their purse strings before the spending and resigning spree begins, as many fans are clamoring for.

There are several players coming up in the discussion of future. Free agents Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Rodriguez sit on the top of everyone’s minds.

It is a foregone conclusion that both Giambi and Pavano have spent their finals days in pinstripes. Pavano was never able to get his feet off the ground thanks to a plethora of injuries, effectively wasting his overloaded salary. Giambi has been on a steady decline since he weaned himself off of the juice. Fans have already written off both players and their juicy contracts as an end of the most disappointing streak of Yankees baseball since the 80s.

Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina both look to have options of returning. Despite criticism of age, both pitchers were big number producers as the heart and soul of the starting rotation.

Moose offered his best season to date and the thought of two or three more years to reach that pinnacle 300 win career must be weighing heavily on the soon to be 40 year old.

Pettitte, after being sidetracked this past off-season with legalities and accusations, provided a less than stellar year. His year, however, was not as bad as ace Chien Ming Wang’s, who had to bow out in June due to a major foot injury. With Pettitte’s distractions behind him, and his family’s approval, look for him to add at least one more year to his professional career in pinstripes.

Ivan Rodriguez filled a vital role as an everyday catcher substitute for Jorge Posada. But his future depends solely on Posada’s health and how understudy backstop Jose Molina fares in the off-season. Molina will have benefited greatly from having the experience of both Rodriguez and Posada in his ear throughout this past season. Do not expect to see Rodriguez remain in New York, though, as he will not be offered more than a year in contract which he will not accept, if anything at all.

There has been great speculation as to what to do with first base. Several current roster names have been thrown around including Damon, Matsui, or Nady, whom have all expressed interest from their overcrowded outfield posts, and even future hall of fame backstop Jorge Posada. But Cashman and the Steinbrenners have all commented on their desire to replace Jason Giambi with a traditional first baseman.

Rather than spending that money saved from Giambi’s salary on seasoned veteran, 28-year-old Mark Tiexiera, currently of the LA Angels of Anaheim, the Yankees have several potentials in their own system. Wilson Betemit has more than made his case for an every day role. Cody Ransom can also throw his name in the competition, as will late season call-up Juan Miranda. First base is NOT a problem in New York.

The rest of the infield remains solid. With Robinson Cano headed to the Dominican Republic for special off-season hitting instruction do not expect the Yankees to even think of moving him. He is a solid investment for the team, and investments like Cano and Melky Cabrera need to be cultivated for future gains.

The biggest problem the Yankees currently face is their glut of outfielders. Storied veterans like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, and Xavier Nady overshadow newcomers Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. Freeing up the outfield to allowing more breathing room is a must this winter.

Few players have provided consistency at the plate like Bobby Abreu. His contract ought to be renewed, and quickly. Abreu wants to play in New York and CAN play in New York. One thing that we have learned from the free-agent era is that certain players do well in certain markets. Bobby Abreu shimmers in Yankee Pinstripes. Abreu ought to be offered a three-year deal with a fourth year club option.

Damon has one year remaining on his contract. Look for him to stay in New York and possibly retire thereafter. His wife has stated that this will most likely be his final contract. Damon and Abreu have truly helped to solidify the Yankee lineup with the few rare instances of consistent hitting, placing their season batting averages at .303 (Damon) and .296 (Abreu) respectfully.

Their respective batting statistics provide clear evidence for argument to allow either to perform in the DH role. Both can hit, steal, draw walks, and pull extra bases when needed. The platoon system of OF/DH can work on this principle.

Hideki Matsui, however, has been plagued with injury and waning production since his first contract. Packaging him in a trade for a pitcher or reliever would prove very beneficial to the Yankees. Placing him in a DH role would be counter productive to bringing in those stranded runners that have left the Yankees deep in the loss column.

Cabrera and Gardner offer a light of things to come. By not overloading either’s workload and preparation in the event of an offensive or defensive bust, there will be an ease of allowing young players to work alongside potential hall of famers on a day by day basis.

Having an outfield with Nady in left, an alternating of Cabrera and Gardner at center, and the DH/OF platoon of Damon and Abreu in right would serve New York in its fullest capacity. Remember, injuries happen and having these two extras to serve as field ready alternates would do prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best.

There is far more turmoil on the mound. Much hinges on decisions about Pettitte and/or Mussina. There are too many unanswered questions to know what predictions to make. If Pettitte and Mussina both return, and a healthy Chien Ming Wang is able to regain his throne as Yankee Ace, there are few spots left to fill. However one thing learned this past season was to prepare for the worst.

Alfredo Aceves showed too much promise to be dealt away. Expect to see his return pending a good showing in Spring Training. However similar things have been said about Hughes and Kennedy, who busted this year.

Neither Darrel Rasner nor Sidney Ponson could find ways to make their pitching work. I would expect to see both moved in favor of younger talent, or as part of a deal for pitching somewhere. Packaged with either Hughes or Kennedy, they could pull a fine price on the trade market.

If neither Mussina nor Pettitte are to return, the Yankees will be taking their wallet to the free agent market, and will be paying top dollar for someone who will hopefully not be the reincarnation of Carl Pavano.

CC Sabathia would fit the New York lineup perfectly, except that reports say he wants to play on the west coast. His house in Arizona is further proof to his commitment to not end up in the highly competitive east coast.

AJ Burnett or Ben Sheets look to be more realistic free agency options. Cashman will most likely have to deal hurlers in order to get anyone else, but do not be surprised to see that happen.

KEEP JOBA CHAMBERLAIN AS THE SET UP MAN! He will maintain his longevity as a four tool pitching setup man for Mariano Rivera. Eventually, Mo is going to hang up his spikes and when that day comes, Joba Chamberlain will slide right into that role. Remember when Mo was World Series MVP?  Joba has the same ability to repeat that in a bullpen role.

We saw an effective bullpen come together at the close of the 2008 season. The combination of Marte, Coke, and Bruney would each take two outs beginning with the fifth inning. Joba would then take thr
ee outs in the eighth, and Mo would close the ninth. It was a system that worked, as the Yanks ended the season with 12 wins out of their final 15 games.

It will not take much to fine tune this Yankees team. They are good enough, they just need to play better. They need to be consistent.

Consistency is essential to the success of history’s most storied sports franchise.

Farewell Good Friend

Having traveled the world over mine eyes have fixed upon many great wonders.

I have seen the ruins of the great city of Rome. I
have walked inside the coliseum. I have stood transfixed at the
remnants of the Berlin Wall and walked through Checkpoint Charlie. The
Sistine Chapel has roofed my head on a hike through the Vatican.
Americana has unfolded at my feet through the visions of Mount
Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devil’s Tower, and the Grand Canyon.

These tired feet have touched the Atlantic and
Pacific oceans, the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas. I have crossed
the borders of fifteen countries, listened to dozens of languages, and
seen forty-three different states in the greatest nation in the world.

When France won the World Cup — in Paris, my
family was camping nearby. We witnessed the shot out windows of down
town and the countrywide party that followed. I have seen sporting
events, wrestling rings, carnivals, fairs, parades, fireworks, theme
parks, and numerous parties.

Regrettably, I have only been to Yankee Stadium once.

It has never occurred to me how dearly I hold that
old building. My one game there was an almost forgettable experience. I
was young, maybe twelve years old. The Yankees were not in their prime.
They were playing the Detroit Tigers in a double-header that, as I
recall, would be split in victory. I remember a few of my uncles having
been there, my father, and my brother.

Most of my memories of the House that Ruth Built
came from the countless hours spent transfixed upon the television. In
later years it became the computer monitor for the play-by-play of
games we could not watch.

I still remember the day Jim Abbott threw his no
hitter. It was early September in 1993 and such an unlikely chance that
a man born with only one hand could even play professional baseball,
let alone pitch, could achieve one of the greatest accolades for his
position.

Who can forget the Subway Series of 2000 when the
Yankees bested the Mets? I was in my junior year of high school and I
was puffed with pride for those brave Yankee soldiers.

Bile still rises to my mouth when I think of Josh
Becket. I loathe him for being on the Marlins team in 2003. I was going
through one of the darkest times of my life. I needed my Yankees to win
that World Series. When that young ace pitched the victory, I wanted to
reach through the television and rip off his arm and beat him with it.
Now I can continue to detest his very existence as he serves the enemy.

Both joy and frustration fill me as I remember
those long and hard fought games against the Boston Red Sox. The Sox
have gone through many transformations, but none of them have been just
or holy. All of them have been a nuisance and wholly evil.

I will never forget the Red Sox killer Aaron Boone and his little piece of walk-off home run history.

No one will ever forget the cheers of the New York
fans. They had respect for every player who gave it their all. Moose,
Bernie, Posada, Tino, Abreu – all are men greatly embraced by the New
York faithful.

There is something to be said of the New York
Yankees. As an organization and as a team there is much charity. There
is much class. The Yankees know how to throw a party, honor a
dignitary, and remember old friends.

For eighty-five years, Yankee Stadium has been a
living organism. The stadium breathes. It is said that when the cheers
from the stands grow loud, the stadium rumbles. Last night was the
final rumble. For eighty-five years New York Yankee Stadium has been
the epicenter of baseball history and living legend.

I welled up with pride, and with tears, as I
relived the memories of heroes of today and yesteryear. I beamed seeing
the stars that my father looked up to at my age, and younger. I laughed
with Yogi, Whitey, an Reggie in the broadcast booth. I shed a tear for
the imagery of the honoring of Thurman Munson’s memory by his teammates
as they took the field for the national anthem, leaving his place
behind home plate empty.

I finally understood why my father has never stopped loving the Yankees team.

I will never forget that old ballpark in the Bronx.

Thank you for your service, Yankee Stadium.

Godspeed. You live in us all.