Saturday, April 5, 2008

Yanks Take Opening Series 2-1

The New York Yankees split their last two games against the Toronto Blue Jays after winning the home opener. NY is now 2-1 on the season.

The New York media has had plenty to talk about after the opening series, both good and bad.

Joba Chamberlain's fist pumping self-congratulation after the Frank Thomas strike out has stirred up quite a bit of controversy in the media. Many are criticizing Joba for an excessive celebration that they see as a bit of a taunt. It didn't look like too big of a deal to me, just the natural reaction of a young kid who gets a big out against a tough hitter. I don't expect to see this happen every time Joba takes the mound, but in the opening game I can understand. Yankees skipper Joe Girardi said he didn't have an issue with Joba's actions, but if it becomes a regular habit and Joe feels it could have a negative effect, he would talk to Chamberlain about it and tell him to stop. Sounds reasonable to me Joe.

Alex Rodriguez and some big hits and big misses. I was watching game 2 of the series with some friends of mine (including a die hard Sox fan). When A-Rod hit his home run with the bombers down 5-0, my friend responded "Typical A-Rod, big hit when there's no pressure." Similar comments were made from the pundits on FSNY, who went on to bash Alex's poor post-season performances calling him the "best player in baseball - during the regular season." One of these days I'd like to go back and take a closer look at A-Rod's stats and situational hitting, but to the casual observer, he sure seems to lack "clutchiness".

The Yankees' starting rotation had it's ups and downs. Chien-Ming Wang was solid and Phil Hughes was very impressive, but Mussina struggled mightily. Hughes' numbers were great and I think he'll continue to deliver the goods as the season goes on, but I have the impression that once in a while he's going to get hit hard. Phil started out very strong, going right at batters and getting ahead in the count. In the 5th and the 6th inning, he seemed to have some trouble getting pitches over the plate.

Mike Mussina gave up too many runs in his 5.2 inning outing. One was due to an error, but it was clear early on that moose didn't have his best stuff. My impression is that we'll see a few better games from Mike but the number of wins he gets will largely be dependent on the run support his offense supplies.

The Yankees bullpen is looking strong early on. Hawkins is the only reliever to give up a run and Farnsworth allowed 2 hits in 1 inning pitched. The rest were rock solid. Billy Traber came in to face one batter and he did what they wanted him to do. Rivera already has 2 saves for the season. Chamberlain picked up a win for last night's work.

The Yankees are going to need someone to be a long reliever as the season goes on. Mussina is struggling, Pettitte has back problems and Hughes and Kennedy are young. Joba has the stuff to be a starter and will likely move into the starting rotation later in the year. Karstens is injured and Rasner and Igawa were sent down to the minor leagues. I don't know what Girardi has up his sleeve but before long he's going to need a guy who can come in and pitch several innings.

Latroy Hawkins caused some controversy when he chose to wear number 21. A few fans booed him, apparently taking it as a slight to former Yankees right-fielder and current announcer Paul O'Neil. For starters, Hawkins wanted to wear the number to honor Roberto Clemente, so fans shouldn't knock the guy for paying homage to another baseball legend. Secondly, Paul O'Neil shouldn't have his number retired. While he was a great player and a great guy he's not quite Mantle or Ruth material. The Yankees have gone overboard with retiring numbers and need to stop the insanity.

At the end of the series, the Yankees showed some holes in their starting pitching, some solid relief outings, and a somewhat lackluster offense. As the season goes on, look for more ups and downs with pitching and more runs being tacked up by their lineup as more bats start getting hot.

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