Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cashman Coming Back

Brian Cashman agreed to a three year contract to remain the general manager of the Yankees today. Personally, I'm not all that thrilled but it has its good and bad sides. The down side for me is that I've never been particularly impressed with Cashman's philosophies, judge of talent, and the outcomes he's produced. This year certainly turned out to be a disaster and a portion of the blame can be squarely lain on Brian's shoulder.

There is an upside to the return of Cashman, however. When it comes to assembling a team and a farm system, consistency at the top is a good thing. Oftentimes a GM is fired before the fruits of his labor are fully realized. I think Brian has been around long enough that we see what he's all about and what he can do, but I think we're just starting to see his influences on the farm system start to pan out (for better or worse). Over the next year or two we'll really see some of his labors start to bear fruit. This offseason should be a great opportunity to once and for all see what Cash can do. He's got two new bosses to deal with, a big list of needs and a boatload of money to spend.

The last point is that I'm not sure who else is available that could fill in as GM of the Yankees other than Cashman. While I've not been his biggest fan, I honestly don't know if there is someone out there who is available that would be any better.

Now that the GM position is locked up, we should start seeing some action regarding the re-signing of current players.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Bright Spot at the End

Mike Mussina, pitching what could be his last game ever, earned his 20th win of the season for the first time in his career, making him the oldest player to hit 20 for the first time. Moose was in control from the start and pitched like the ace he’d become. In a season marked by disappointment, it was nice to see something uplifting on the last day. Moose hasn’t decided definitively whether or not he’ll return but most people think that it’s 50/50 at best with Mussina leaning toward retirement.

Joe Girardi pulled out all the stops late in the game and ripped through his bullpen to keep the game in hand and the Yankee offense stepped up and delivered a series of runs to ensure a victory.

The Pinstripers weren’t so fortunate in the final game of the doubleheader and ended up with an 89 win season, missing the playoffs for the first time in years. Here’s my take on the key points since the last season.

Final Season at Yankee Stadium – Unfortunately things didn’t end quite the way we wanted, and the final season was one we’d like to forget. There was a nice closing ceremony, but the man who brought the most recent World Series titles to NY was conspicuously absent. We missed you Joe.

Joe Torre essentially fired – Unlike Yankee ownership, Joe Torre was and is a class act. He knew how to handle big salary and big ego players and was arguably the best guy at handling the New York sports media. The contract he was offered was insulting and quite frankly baffling. The guy put the Yankees back on the map and is a big reason why they were able to get the funding for the new stadium. Joe held his head high throughout the entire affair and quickly landed a job in Los Angeles, where he has led the ragtag Dodgers into the playoffs. The Steinbrenners will have plenty of time this October to watch the man they let go coach in the post season.

Joe Girardi hired as manager over Don Mattingly – Quite a few people think Mattingly will make a great head coach. I have no idea but I do know he is a Yankee icon who would have been extremely well received. Joe Girardi on the other hand was a known quantity with an impressive but short managerial resume. Joe Girardi’s rookie season will be remembered for two things: missing the playoffs for the first time in years, and getting hammered for repeatedly lying to the media. Personally I’ll remember him for making several poor in-game decisions and being completely unable to motivate the team when he needed to. Joe will be back for another year but he won’t last too long in the Big Apple.

Yankees try rely heavily on 3 young pitchers – This was the biggest disaster and a valuable lesson learned for the Yankees. Joba Chamberlain was the only pitcher who amounted to anything and he predictably had injury problems late in the season. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy were total busts and essentially crippled the team early on. A baseball team can handle one fifth starter who is shaky from time to time. A decent bullpen can bail out the young guy from time to time and can step in when some of the others are having an off day. Two consistently bad pitchers, combined with veterans still having their share of struggles, absolutely depleted the bullpen, frequently put the team behind big early on and generally torpedoed the team’s morale. The situation was greatly compounded by the ineptitude of Girardi, who for some reason never bothered calling up a long reliever early on, despite having at least two decent options available.

Lack of Offensive Consistency – Every once in a while the sleeping juggernaut would awaken and have a big game but the runs seldom came when they were needed. Injuries played a role but the team always had enough guys around who were capable of big numbers that should have been able to pick up the slack. Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Wilson Betemit, Melky Cabrera to name a few. These guys didn’t live up to expectations in one way or the other. Giambi had a quite a streak later in the season but helped get the Yankees in a big hole early on. Cano had issues all season long that were apparent to everyone watching the game yet Girardi failed to do anything about it. All in all the offense was a disaster.

So there you have some of my early thoughts on the season. I’ll post a few more as time goes by.

Feel free to chime in with what you think were the biggest stories of this year!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wet and Wild Win

The Yankees scored 19 runs on a rainy Friday night in Boston. It was another game with a lot of young faces, some doing well and others not so well. Cody Ransom went 3 for 3 with 2 home runs and a walk. I like this kid at the plate. Brett Gardner went 2 for 6 and Juan Miranda 1 for 1.

Robinson Cano had another big night and it seems he’s been a superstar ever since his benching. I’ve been very critical of Cano all year but all of a sudden he seems to have found his game again. I don’t like players who can’t be relied on for consistent performance and wonder if his recent output will enhance his trade value.

Pitching wasn’t a pretty sight. Aceves struggled and has work to do before he’s ready for the majors on a permanent basis. Coke and Britton gave up too many hits in too short of a time period but Robinson looked solid.

I’m glad these guys are getting a chance to play at the end. Watching them in real big league games under pressure against a good team can help with next year’s scouting. There is going to be a big debate over how much home grown youth to have on the roster and how many overpriced, over the hill veterans to bring in. This years attempt at a youth movement was a resounding failure, but unfortunately many of the vets didn’t do much better.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rivera Might Need Surgery

Mariano Rivera returned home early with a sore shoulder and news is starting to come out now about an MRI and possible arthroscopic surgery. Joe Girardi continues his stance of telling the media anything but the truth and invented a story about a “cranky body.” Don’t bother looking that one up in your medical textbooks. When later questioned about the comments, Girardi became annoyed and demonstrated his complete lack of media savvy.

The Carl Pavano era is likely over in NY, finishing with a final season ERA of 5.77. I’ve heard some talk about the Yankees re-signing him for a single year and in a sick way, it almost makes sense as the Yankees will be in desperate need of starting pitching next year. Fortunately, saner and cooler heads will prevail and there is zero chance Carl will be playing for the Pinstripers in the future.

Brett Gardner has been reading my blog and comments about his batting skills apparently. Last night he started proving me wrong by going 3 for 4 at the plate. I’d love to see Gardner emerge as a starter if he can bring his batting average up a bit. Last night was a good start. Keep it up Brett!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Game in the Win Column

Phil Hughes lasted a career high eight innings last night, allowing only two runs on five hits. It was the first game all year when Hughes actually looked like a big league pitcher. Phil ins’t out of the woods yet but hopefully a fall season in the Arizona league will help him come around.

The Yankees had a lot of young guys in the lineup last night and the offense was mediocre at best. Things came alive a bit in the tenth inning when Bobby Abreau hit the game winning grand slam home run but ideally, it shouldn’t have to come down to the tenth inning.

At least the team is going out strong, safely in third place ahead of Toronto. It doesn’t take away the sting of not playing in the post season, but it leaves a little hope for next year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yanks Eliminated Despite Win

The Yankees didn't lose, but with Boston winning, ended up eliminated from post season play regardless. The good news is that Mike Mussina collected his 19th win of the season and should have a shot at number 20 before things wrap up for good. As a matter of pride, the Yankees now have a few games lead on Toronto for 3rd place in the AL East. It's not much, but these days you take all you can get.

Phil Coke and Damaso Marte had troubles in the bullpen again last night, but Bruney, Chamberlain and Rivera were solid. Bruney has sure been something of late and should be a big contributor next year. If Chamberlain moves to the starting rotation, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bruney get a shot as the set up man.

Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom got a few at bats and some quality playing time. Both could make the roster as utility guys or defensive players next year, but I, not too certain either has what it takes to be a full time guy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yanks Win Stadium Finale

For perhaps the first time this year, the team played with some heart, technically keeping their post-season hopes alive, but first and foremost playing for pride.

Andy Pettitte gutted out 5 innings earning the win. Newcomers Coke and Veras help the opposition hitless before the one-two punch came in.

It was reminiscent of years ago when Mariano Rivera would come in and shut down hitters with his blistering fastball while setting up all-star closer John Wetteland. This time it was Joba who finished the seventh, continued dominating in the eighth before Rivera came on in the ninth. Both Joba and Mo kept the Orioles hitless.

Jose Molina had the final homerun ever hit at Yankee Stadium, wearing number 26, the number of championships won during the stadium’s lifetime.

The win was a much needed one for a team that’s been down on it’s luck most of the season. I was concerned that the heartless, flat team would come out and watch another game slip away but these guys got the job done. Long time Yankees Pettite and Rivera and newcomers like Chamberlain did what they had to do to put the appropriate  finishing touches on a historic night at the stadium.

Cheers guys, nice job.

Yankee Stadium, we’ll never forget you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bernie's Back!

I've been watching the ceremonies here at Yankee Stadium and watching Bernie Williams make his return to the stadium and the tremendous ovation the crowd is giving him is giving me goosebumps. It's been too long since Bernie has been a part of this team and he is and will always be one of the greatest players to put on pinstripes.

Welcome back Bernie.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Phil Hughes Lasts 4 Innings

Taking the mound at Yankee stadium again for the first time in a long while, Phil Hughes looked a little different than the struggling pitcher I'd seen before. He seemed to have a little better command of some of his pitches and was aggressive going after guys right out of the gate. This didn't last too long and White Sox hitters started working Hughes over a bit by going deep into counts. In the end, Hughes only allowed one earned run, but only pitched four innings. Four innings isn't good enough in the majors. It's his first game back but Phil needs to turn things around in a hurry. My opinion is that he's a bust and this is the best we'll ever see from him, but he'll get plenty of chances to prove me wrong.

Robbinson Cano went 3 for 3 last night and I'm hoping he can finish out the season in stellar fashion to give himself some trade value. Phil Coke looked strong in two innings of work but I continue to be amazed at Brian Bruney. Another shutout inning for the guy who was told he'd need season ending surgery on his foot. Hopefully he'll stay healthy and can come back to be a big time bullpen contributor next year.

With Tampa's win over Boston, the Yanks remain ten games back and are still tied with Toronto. Boston is now two games back and really looks to be struggling against the Rays. At this point I think that the Rays are actually going to pull it off and take home the AL East title. I'm not sure that Boston has enough grit to pull out a playoff win either so I'm thinking it will come down to Tampa and LA of the AL title.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tied For Third

With a win last night the Yankees moved back into a tie for third place in the AL East. Boston is now tied for first with Tampa and it looks like this race is going to come right down to the end.

The Yankees had a nice game and Alfredo Aceves pitched well once again. He could turn out to be a nice addition to the rotation, but it's too early to tell. When a minor league pitcher gets called up, he often has a decent outing or two because batters haven't seen him pitch. The same thing happens when going from one league to another. Jeff Karsten's phenomenal first outing for the Pirates against the Cubs was a perfect example. Jeff did very well in shutting down one of the best hitting clubs in the league. The second time he faced them, he was lit up. Also, take a look at guys like Rasner, whose early success is nowhere to be seen these days.

Jorge Posada added more fuel to the Joba Chamberlain fire by saying he thinks Joba belongs in the bullpen. Good for Jorge. He's certainly entitled to his opinion, and while I don't necessarily agree with him, there's nothing wrong with having an opinion, despite what some of the media say.

Brett Gardner finally got another hit last night, bringing his average up to a whopping .170. Can you tell I never got on the Gardner bandwagon? Don't worry, I'm sure he's still number one in the hearts of many a Yankee blogger. Personally, I'm curious as to what Cody Ransom can do and could he be a legitimate option at second base?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pavano Keeps on Winning

Despite giving up five hits and four runs in just over five innings of work, Carl Pavano earned the win in last night's victory over Tampa. When he finally left he had a lovely chorus of boos to entertain him as he walked off the mound in the sixth inning. What really kept the Yankees in the game was a host of solid performances from the bullpen and an offensive explosion by the Yankee hitters.

Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig for the most hits at Yankee stadium and Robinson Cano was benched for a lack of effort. It's like the Manny Ramirez situation, except Cano can't swing a bat.

Humberto Sanchez is on his way up to New York as the Yankees slowly start brining up a few young guys to the big leagues with the expanded roster.

With Boston winning the Red Sox are now one game out of first while the Yankees are still ten games out in fourth. Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs tossed a one-walk no-hitter last night and the Cubs are looking like a team with a good chance to going to the series.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rained Out

The Yanks-Rays game was postponed yesterday due to rain, and will be played as part of a double-header today.

Hank Steinbrenner made the news recently by proclaiming he has going to have a lot more involvement with the team and with personnel decisions and that he would have a committee of advisors to help with the decisions. One of those people would be the GM of course. Brian Cashman fired back saying that he already has a committee that includes his scouts, his GM and others. This situation sounds like a disaster waiting to happen and at this point I think Cashman is going to leave NY. Nobody wants to get caught up in a job like that where your boss, who doesn't know much of anything about baseball, starts making more and more decisions, and brings in a bunch of other people to replace you, and will ultimately still blame you if things go sour.

Phil Hughes will be called back up to NY for some reason that eludes me at this time. If the Yankees actually needed him, it was a few weeks ago, when they were still in the hunt. At this point the Yankees have nothing to gain and a bad outing and some typical NY boos have the potential to do some damage to Hughes.

Lastly, it has been reported that Bernie Williams will be on hand for some of the closing celebrations at Yankee stadium. That's good to hear. It's a shame that the relationship between Bernie and the Yankees became strained. Williams was a critical part of the team for many years and will go down in the history books as one of the Yankee greats. It's nice to see him making an appearance and getting back into the Yankee family.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Should Andy Pettitte Come Back

Pettitte has been a staple of the Yankees rotation for many years, and an important part of the team. He returned to NY after a stint in Houston and this year hasn't been one of his best. He had a few impressive games, still has one of the best pick up moves in baseball, but just isn't the same player he was in the past.

The Yankees are in desperate need of starting pitching and need to have a major shakeup next year. Do they take a chance on older, veteran pitchers like Pettitte and Mussina? Moose had a phenomenal year this year but Andy has struggled. Could he do some work in the offseason and turn things around completely like Mussina did? Somehow I doubt it. Mussina's steallar performance this year was the exception rather than the rule. Most likely Andy pitching next year would look an awful lot like this year.

The real issue to me is whether or not the Yankees are going to be able to get enough starting pitchers to fill out the rotation if they let Pettitte go or if Andy decides to retire. Yanks fans will have plenty of time to mull over these issues this October.

The Yankees lost to Los Angelas, helping LA clinch a share of the divisi0n title. Chamberlain pitched two innings while only giving up a hit. Tampa beat Boston to maintain it's lead in the East while the Bombers remain 11 games out of first.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Yanks Throw BP for Angels

There was a brawl, pitching coach Dave Eiland passed out, and every Yankee pitcher to take the mound did their best to help LA score some runs. Carl Pavano got his ERA up over 5 and the bullpen was atrocious. The Yankees offense was largely inept, scoring only one run all night. Just when you think the team couldn't possibly look any worse, they do.

In other news, Yankee owership confirmed that manager Joe Girardi will be back next year, a move we all expected. Maybe over the offseason Joe will have a chance to stop by Barnes and Noble and pick up a book on coaching baseball. I know, probably not, but one can hope.

Meanwhile the Boston Red Sox beat the Rays, leaving themselves only a half game outside of first while the Yankees fell to ten back.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Yanks Slip To Fourth in AL East

That's right, despite Tampa losing and the door opening for the Yanks to inch a little closer, they looked amateurish in a loss to one of the worse teams in baseball. There was a lot of sloppy play and some truly bizarre calls by Joe Girardi. At this point, I'm completely fed up with the new coach. I had high expectations at the beginning of the season but now would classify Girardi as an utter failure. He simply can't coach. He can't handle the media or be the least bit truthful with reporters. He can't motivate his team, which is possibly one of the most underachieving teams in the history of baseball. Lastly, he can't manage a game. If there was a way to accurately quantify it, I bet we'd all be amazed at the number of runs Joe's horrible managerial skills have cost the team this year.

Of course he'll be back next year but I hope that ownership will have him on an extremely tight leash. I've made peace with the fact that this team is going to miss the playoffs for the first time in years, but I can't get over the ineptitude of the new manager.

The Toronto Blue Jays moved up into third place in the AL East and Boston moved a game closer to the division lead, now only 1.5 games out.

Another Win for Sir Sidney

The Yankees managed a win against the hapless Seattle Mariners late last night, with a decent outing from Ponson and some mixed action in the bullpen. Brian Bruney was strong but then Joba Chamberlain struggled resulting in Mariano Rivera getting called in early. The Yankees have said that they are keeping Joba in the pen for the rest of the year and would like to get him back into the rotation next year. If he can handle it, Joba is unquestionably a valuable starter. If injuries continue to creep up, the bullpen it is.

Thanks to some offense from Abreu, Giambi and Matsui, the Yanks tacked enough runs on the board to secure the win. With both Boston and Tampa losing, the Yanks inched  slightly closer and are now 10 games out of first and 7.5 behind Boston.

In other news, Alfredo Aceves will be replacing Rasner in the rotation. Darrel did everything we could have asked of a replacement pitcher at the beginning, but as the season wore on hitters had him figured out and at the end, he was just abysmal.

Tampa has looked a little shaky lately and I'm sticking with my earlier predictions that Boston will finish in first. If the Yankees could play some serious ball at the end, it's not out of the question to make the post-season. This Yankee team, however, doesn't have the stuff to put together the necessary late season charge.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Instant Replay Works!

Alex Rodriguez added an important home run at the end of the game that solidified the Yankees lead and allowed them to not have to bring in Rivera. The ball looked pretty foul to me and most everyone else watching, but the play was reviewed and a quick decision ruled it a home run. The replays being shown on ESPN afterward look like the call was the correct one, and the most impressive aspect of the process was that it didn't take much time at all. From start to finish the whole endeaver was under 2 minutes.

As to the game itself, Carl Pavano looked good early and then got tired out in the 4th inning, giving up a double, homer, and a hit batter. He came back out for the 5th but was quickly relieved. The Yankee bullpen did the job the rest of the way, and the offense made the most of it's opportunities with key hits and aggressive baserunning.

A-Rod was the offensive star of the game, and his late-game homer was important. Sure the Yankees had a 3 run lead already but having watched the team play recently, was anyone really feeling overly secure?

Tonight's win puts the Yankees 10 games out of first and puts Boston only 3 games out. Tampa has a tough schedule coming up and will have their work cut out for them if they are going to hold off the charging Red Sox. I don't see much hope for the Yanks, but it's good to see them winning again.

NY Gives Boston a Boost

A win by the Yankees over the first place Rays helped the Red Sox move a game closer in the AL East. The bombers are still 11 games back but now Boston is only 4 games out.

Mike Mussina gave up 10 hits but only 2 runs in 6.0 innings. Moose is certainly one of the best surprises of the 2008 season. I wonder how long he can keep it up. Damaso Marte was a little better today than recently, giving up 0 runs and 1 hit over 0.2 innings. Joba Chamberlain made his return to the bullpen and threw 1.1 innings, giving up one hit.

The offense scattered 9 hits around and put up 7 runs on the board. This is the type of game the team was playing at the very beginning of the year, when everyone was still filled with optimism and hope. This was the scrappy style of play that makes you think "why can't they play like this all the time?"

I don't understand some fans in certain markets. Granted, ticket prices are sky high and not going for financial reasons is perfectly understandable, heck, I turned down a few chances to see some big league games lately because they were just too expensive. The New York Yankees come to play the first place Tampa Rays and there are lots of empty seats? I don't get it. Maybe it is all financial. Maybe player salaries are forcing ticket prices to be so high that the average fan can't afford to go. Maybe everyone down there would rather watch the game on cable indoors where there is air conditioning.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Messy Win For Yanks

Most of the Yankees offense was heated up this Labor Day afternoon. Pitching, however, was rather cool. Sidney Ponson gave up 7 runs in 3.0 innings, placing him solidly in the company of other great Yankee starters this season including Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes and Kei Igawa. Edwar Ramirez boosted his ERA by allowing 2 runs in 1.1 innings of work while Brian "broken foot" Bruney got the win by throwing 1.2 innings with only 1 hit. Coke, Marte and Britton were likewise effective in cleaning up Ponson and Ramirez's mess.

Cano and Giambi continue to struggle at the plate. Giambi won't be back next year but Cano remains an enigma. Coke was the only pitcher brought up with the expanded rosters and it looks like the Yankees are going to let Kennedy and Hughes continue to develop the rest of the season in the minors. Hughes reportedly will be joining the Arizona fall league. This is probably a good idea for both youngsters, if they can truly apply themselves and work on becoming better pitchers.

There's a difference between beating guys in the minors, and using time in the minors to develop your pitches and improve yourself. Hopefully Ike and Phil are doing more of the latter.

It's only September 1st, and I love baseball, but as a Yankee fan this season cannot end soon enough. Ugh.