Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Posada Dogs it as Yanks Lose Again

I’ve had enough of Jorge Posada, the biggest prima donna on the Yankee roster, vastly outstripping egos of guys like A-Rod (and this is in no way defending A-Rod).

Let’s take a step back to last year when Jorge was struggling with injuries yet still managed to put up a stink about the possibility of playing at first base where he could actually help the team. Nope, he’s a catcher and would rather take the Carl Pavano route of sitting on the bench collecting a fat paycheck than actually helping out the team. Yes, I just compared Jorge Posada to Carl Pavano.

Next we have the whole clubhouse captain mentality that’s gone to his head as Jorge has a little talk with Nick Swisher about how a Yankee should act. Give me a break. Swish was just what the Yankees needed to maintain some vestige of sanity, not the dour faced “my feelings are more important than the team” Posada.

Lastly we get recent play by Jorge – typical big star behavior of “too good out forth effort”. Did anyone watch the game last night where Jorge had a a chance to drive in some runs and tie up the game? What did he do – hit into a double play. More specifically, he hit into a force out at second and gave the defense ample time to get him out at first. Now I understand he’s no Brett Gardner, but if you watched carefully, Jorge had his head turned to the left watching the play unfold as he jogged to first. Look straight ahead, put on a little extra speed, and you’ll be at first well before the throw, keeping the inning alive and advancing one runner. This is just one example of the way Posada’s been playing lately, head not in the game (stealing home?) and lack of effort.

Jorge has been a great player but somewhere long the way he became too caught up in his own stardom and has become an embarrassment. At this point I’m just fed up with seeing his half-hearted efforts, selfish focus, and lack of respect for the team.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Frustrating Stretch

The Yanks have lost the first two games to the Red Sox in heartbreaking fashion. Mariano Rivera blew a save and the next night Burnett blows a 6-0 lead. Despite all the horrific losses, the Yankees are still in a decent position considering they’ve been without Alex Rodriguez. The injuries are piling up and could be a problem soon.

The bullpen just plain stinks right now. Mariano Rivera does not have his good stuff right now. He has given up quite a few hits and has been lucky to get out of as many jams as he has. Mo got off to a similar start 2 years ago before settling down for one of his best seasons ever, but watching him get worked over still makes me cringe a bit.

The rest of the pen is even worse. Bruney was the one bright spot and he’s out with an injury. Everyone else has their good days and their terrible days. There are no go-to guys in the pen right now.

Joe Girardi doesn’t keep a long reliever around, and likes to over manage the pen and so the carousel of relievers continues to go round and round and the players just look wearier by the day.

Offensively we’re seeing the same thing as last year – poor clutch hitting with little to no success with RISP. A few scattered home runs here or there but very little in the way of  “production” when it comes to runs. The number of players LOB is too high for my liking as well.

Injuries are going to kill the Yankees soon. Chien Ming Wang isn’t 100% and doesn’t have his stuff (OK, calling this an injury is a stretch). The Bronx Bombers will definitely miss his usually consistent arm. Bruney is the biggest loss currently, as he’s the only reliever able to get outs on a regular basis. Ransom’s injury was a blessing in disguise as his offense was horrendous and his defense wasn’t up to par either. I’d much rather see Berroa and Pena get a shot at some regular playtime until A-Rod is back.

Center field is currently a bust as well. Brett Gardner just can’t get on base enough to justify a starting spot with the Yankees. He’s a great bench player, pinch runner sort of guy, but not a starting CF. Melky has come alive a bit lately but I don’t really think he’s the answer either. Currently, I’d start Melky over Gardner, but look seriously at making a trade or bringing up Jackson.

The Yankees have quite a few prospects who don’t really fit in to the overall plan of the club right now. If the right offer came along for a reliever or center fielder, I wouldn’t be suprised to see the Yankes pull the trigger.

Lastly, I’d fire Girardi without hesitation today. Objectively speaking though, I think he’s on the hot seat right now. The question will be, how patient will new management be? Will they let Joe finish out the year or are they willing to make a statement and let him go early?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Early Ups and Downs

The Yankees had their home opener yesterday afternoon and it was ugly. There wasn’t much to cheer about and the new stadium has drawn a great deal of criticism.

The team is currently sitting on a 5-5 record at the moment and that’s about the way I feel about the team and season overall right now. There have been quite a few positives so far this year, but there have been a great deal of negatives as well.

Starting pitching has been a mixed bag. Burnett has looked increadible, Pettitte solid, Chamberlain fine, Sabathia has been shaky and Wang horrible. I’m not worried about Chien Ming Wang, and am confident he’ll turn things around soon. Remember the horrible start Mike Mussina got off too last year before going on to 20 wins? Likewise Sabathia will be the dominant pitcher that we all know he is.

Relief pitching has been a disaster. For a short stretch they were lights out but the bullpen is crippled by Girardi’s poor pen management. The lack of a long man continues to pummel the Yankees. Damasao Marte can’t play in New York. He’s another Latroy Hawkins in that he’s horrible in the Big Apple but will likely be a star the second he leaves. Using him for anything other than a situational lefty against single batters will cost the Yankees dearly. The other lefty, Phil Coke, clearly isn’t ready for the majors yet. Maybe he’ll come around in time but for now he needs to be used in the lowest leverage situations only. A few guys in the minors like Melancon might make their way up and be able to contribute. Maybe Tomko will come back. A trade isn’t out of the question either. I think things will get better, but only if there is change.

The infield is slow coming out of the gates. Texiera is off to his usual slow start despite the fact that he looked on fire in the spring. His wrist injury isn’t helping matters any. Jeter gets older every year with both his defense and offense dipping down further and further. He’s still a solid player, but not the star he used to be. Ransom has been a huge disappointment. I thought he’d be halfway decent this year despite other’s criticism of him but it looks like I was wrong. The pressure got to him at the plate and to say he’s in a slump is putting it mildly. His defense, normally a big strong point, has been terrible. He had one spectacular play yesterday, followed up shortly by an error. Robinson Cano has been unstoppable at the plate. He’s made a few defensive mistakes but he’s really turned this around offensively.

The outfield is doing admirably well. Xavier Nady has been a flop and with his recent elbow injury may have played his last games as a Yankee. Nick Swisher is returning to 2007 form and beyond, looking like an all-star. I’m sure his numbers will return to the realms of mere mortals before long, but hopefully he’ll continue live up to his potential and clueless YES announcers like John Kay will back off with their criticisms of Swisher’s smiling during games. Gardner can be a weapon when he gets on base but unfortunately he hasn’t been doing that enough. I think he’s only a temporary solution at center and will eventually be replaced next season. With Nady’s injury, we might see someone called up or possibly have Melky fill in more often.

The manager won’t be around long. Two embarrassing losses and poor bullpen handling will cost Girardi his job. The possibility of him getting fired before the end of the season are looking pretty good to me right now.

The future still looks good. Wang and Sabathia will settle down. A few minor leaguers will come up to help out the bullpen. Alex Rodriguez will be back soon to provide more offensive pop. The Yankees still have an excellent chance to win the division and the kind of team that can win the World Series this year, but boy, has it looked ugly at times.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Just Fire Girardi Already

I’ve had enough of the Joe Girardi era in New York. Last night’s loss was downright embarrassing and I can’t imagine any Steinbrenner being able to let that one go lightly.

Who’s to blame here? Wang, the once staff ace who can’t throw a pitch to save his life? The dicey bullpen? Nope. It’s the coach.

My personal soapbox for a long time has been the long reliever. The Yankees desperately needed one last year when Hughes and Kennedy were unable to give quality starts. This year we’re having the same problem with Wang. A long reliever would ideally be able to come in and pitch 3 or 4 innings in the middle of a game, hopefully keeping things from getting too out of hand.

Girardi likes to micro-manage his bullpen. He over maneuvered 2 nights ago by bringing in the late innings and cost his team the game. When a reliever comes in and pitches well, leave him in for a full inning. If a guy is struggling, then you can pull in someone else who has a more favorable matchup. When you’re in a high leverage situation, the youngest guy in the pen is not your go-to guy. Phil Coke is not ready for the big time and is certainly not ready for the high pressure situations.

Albaladejo and the rest of the bullpen were almost as bad as Wang last night and before long, Joe had used up all the arms he had. The end result – Nick Swisher comes in to pitch. Throwing innings as a pitcher can wreak havoc with a fielder’s arm and is something you should hope never to see. Swish handled it well, kept a smile on his face and sadly, was the most effective pitcher the Yankees had all night.

Meanwhile Dan Giese is long gone, claimed off waivers by Oakland, Brett Tomko is throwing shutout innings as a closer in the minor leagues and I’m scratching my head as to why we chose to have Albaladejo in the pen over one of these long men.

Another aspect of the Yankees’ play that really bothers me lately is the poor defense. The large number of errors and bonehead plays seem to be a big part of the last few games. These guys just aren’t playing like a focused, disciplined team. Again, Girardi is my whipping boy here. It’s the manager’s job to get these players in line and ready to play good baseball. Joe Maddon had his guys giving 100% long after the game was officially a blowout, meanwhile Girardi had players bumping into each other and dropping easy pop ups.

The season is still young, and the Yankees have plenty of time to turn things around. I think Girardi is definitely on the hot seat and don’t see him lasting very much longer this year. He’s been an absolute disaster during his (hopefully short) managerial stint. Last year he had a complete inability to motivate the team and players, an embarrassing relationship with the media giving him no credibility in the eyes of the fans and the press, and his handling of the pitching staff has been rampantly unsuccessful.

At this point, the only thing that is going to keep Girardi in New York for the rest of the season is the availability of other suitable managerial candidates.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Getting Things Going With Good Pitching

AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte have calmed some of the early histeria surrounding the Yankees season. After horrible starts by Sabathia and Wang, the new ace and the cagey veteran delivered superb performances in the third and fourth games of the Yankee’s season. AJ Burnett just has some wicked stuff and if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a dominant pitcher for the Yankees. Pettitte was all around solid and no matter what happens with the rest of the rotation, we’ll still have Andy to fall back on.

The bullpen finally got its groove on and has gone from atrocious to lights out. They’ll be good days and bad days for the late inning guys, but hopefully we’ll see a little more of the good stuff in high leverage situations.

A few players have been noteworthy so far. Nick Swisher has really impressed. He had a few key hits when brought in to pinch hit in tight situations. He made one bad play last night in the field but has really stepped up when called in to play. His enthusiasm is off the charts and the Yankees need to hold tight to this guy regardless of the trade offers that may start coming in. Xavier Nady, on the other hand, hasn’t done much and needs to get on track if he expects to stay in NY very long.

Brett Gardner has been a pleasant surprise, hitting well early on, showing the speed that we all knew he had, and covering lots of ground in center field. He might not have the best arm, but he’s made some good throws and some smart plays. If he can keep up his average at the plate, he’ll stick.

Cody Ransom has likewise been satisfactory and will keep things going until A-Rod gets back. It’s sounding like Alex is making good progress with his therapy and might return sooner rather than later, but for now Ransom won’t cost you any games and comes a lot cheaper than anyone else on the market.

Robinson Cano has been downright awesome. I was a big Cano basher last year, and I stand by my criticism at the time but he’s a changed man. He’s worked on his hitting and shown definite improvements. His defensive play has been excellent this year and so far, we’re seeing the Robbie that a lot of guys knew was there, but wasn’t coming out last year. I’m very impressed with his turnaround so far but am a little wary as to whether or not he can keep it up when things get a little down for a stretch.

With the two nice wins, the majority of NY fans are breathing a little easier. If Sabathia and Wang get have better starts with their next outings, then we’ll be even more relieved.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ugly Opener

The Yankees two biggest offseason acquisitions came up empty in their Yankee debuts and the pitching staff was abysmal. CC Sabathia had no control over his pitches and had frequent communication issues with Posada.

8 hits, 6 runs over 4.1 innings for CC with no strikeouts. Albaladeho lasted 1.1 innings without giving up a run but Coke and Bruney got shelled. Mark Texiera went 0 for 4.

The offense had it’s moments. Brett Gardner had some flash, and with Jeter hitting behind him moved around the bases allowing Damon to drive in the run. Swisher came through in a clutch pinch hit. Posada provided some pop reminding us all why he was missed so much last year.

In the end, a 10-5 loss is not the way you want to start out the season and fans will have to wait to see the fruits of their offseason spending. It will be interesting to hear what CC has to say. I have no idea why Sabathia had a heating pad on his abdomen and right side between innings. The Yankees kept trotting him out there so I doubt it is anything serious.

I get the impression, despite the fact that these guys are all major leaguers, they still get opening day jitters. That’s what I’m chalking everything up to – jitters.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bring on 2009

The finishing touches have been put on the roster with Pena getting the final spot. Berroa, who I thought could be the surprise utility infielder, was sent back down along with Dan Giese. Giese will likely see play time in NY at some point if injuries pop up and Girardi does his famous bullpen dance. Berroa still has a little gas left in his tank and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him included in a trade package to another team.

Joba looked good in his final spring outing, Sabathia looks solid and Texiera is showing signs of getting off to a good start as well. Ransom and Gardner have people’s hopes up that they can contribute and almost every story coming out of spring training was positive. Sure, A-Rod will be missed, but he won’t be gone long and I predict his replacement will have just enough success to keep fans from screaming for trade and won’t cost the team any games.

For the first time in a while, these two new faces really have me excited about the upcoming season. Fine, to be more accurate I should say “even more excited than usual.”