August 2009

Yankees vs. Orioles: 8/31/2009 Lineups

yankees.jpgYANKEES (82-48)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jerry Hairston 3B
Melky Cabrera CF

Pitching: Andy Pettitte (11-6, 4.18).

orioles.jpgORIOLES (54-77)
Brian Roberts 2B
Cesar Izturis SS
Adam Jones CF
Nick Markakis RF
Nolan Reimold LF
Melvin Mora 3B
Luke Scott DH
Matt Wieters C
Ty Wigginton 1B

Pitching: Jeremy Guthrie (9-12, 5.26)

Eleven years ago

By Jon Lane
Chris Shearn’s entertaining rant got me thinking.
While this year’s Yankees won’t match the legendary team from 1998,
like 11 years ago, they’ve been playing out of their minds. Here’s a snapshot comparison of where the 2009 Yankees currently stand to the 125-win team of ’98:

Record on August 31
2009: 82-48
1998: 98-37

Games ahead in first place
2009: 6
1998: 18.5

Team leaders (hitting)
2009: Average – Derek Jeter (.335); HRs – Mark Teixeira (32); RBIs – Teixeira (101)
1998: Average – Bernie Williams (.339); HRs – Tino Martinez (28); RBIs – Martinez (123)

Team leaders (pitching)

2009: Wins – CC Sabathia (15); ERA – Sabathia (3.56); Strikeouts – Sabathia (158)

1998: Wins – David Cone (20); ERA – Orlando Hernandez (3.13); Strikeouts – Cone (209)

Key acquisitions
2009: Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Teixeira, Nick Swisher (acquired for Wilson Betemit)
1998: Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, Hernandez, Tim Raines

Lights-out closer
2009: Mariano Rivera
1998: Mariano Rivera

Managers
2009: Joe Girardi
1998: Joe Torre

Tests of character

2009: Twelve walk-off wins, to date their highest total since 1978 (13); 41 comeback victories

1998: Seven walk-off wins; 50 comeback victories; Rallied from 2-1 ALCS deficit to defeat the Indians in Game 4. The Yankees did not lose another postseason game.

Yankees vs. White Sox – 8/30 lineups

YANKEES

Jeter – SS
Damon – LF
Teixeira – 1B
Rodriguez – 3B
Matsui – DH
Posada – C
Cano – 2B
Hinske – RF
Cabrera – CF

Chamberlain – SP

WHITE SOX

Podsednik – CF
Beckham – 3B
Pierzynski – C
Quentin – LF
Thome – DH
Dye – RF
Kotsay – 1B
Ramirez – SS
Nix – 2B

Garcia – SP

Starting lineups: 8/29/09

YANKEES

Jeter SS
Damon LF
Teixeira 1B
Rodriguez 3B
Matsui DH
Swisher RF
Cano 2B
Hairston CF
Molina C

Mitre P

WHITE SOX

Podsednik LF
Beckham 3B
Pierzynski C
Konerko 1B
Thome DH
Dye RF
Rios CF
Ramirez SS
Nix 2B

Contreras P

Grilli: Fear not the Yankees

By Jon Lane
Jason Grilli delivered the goods for the Rangers, escaping a first-and-third jam by getting Alex Rodriguez on an easy comebacker and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings. After the game he delivered the money quote.

“Fear not the Yankees or any other team that we come across,” Grilli said. “We’re playing well against them and this sent a statement to any team that’s out there. I really believe this team has all the pieces to get to the playoffs.”

This was a dichotomy to the play-em-one-game-at-a-time approach from the rest of the team and manager Ron Washington. It’s not a bad thing. Such an intense focus on the present has helped the Yankees, a veteran in Ivan Rodriguez who’s played in two World Series and won a ring with the Marlins in 2003, and it’s kept Michael Young’s mind from dreaming about competing in his first playoff game.

Ian Kinsler’s concern was putting a bug in the Yankees’ head, making them think about possible payback time.

“We’re trying to play good baseball and looking to get out of here, take this to Minnesota and get on a run,” he said.

But don’t blame Grilli for his bravado. He told me about the time in 2006, after the Tigers lost their final five games – three against the lowly Kansas City Royals – to blow the AL Central title to the Twins, he was on the charter flight to New York. One more win and Detroit would have hosted Game 1 of the ALDS. Instead they were flying to New York and written off.

“I wanted to puke,” Grilli said.

After dropping Game 1 at Yankee Stadium, the Tigers rallied past Mike Mussina to steal Game 2 and exhaled so loudly you felt a stiff breeze. Players whistled and screamed, “Who Da Tiger!” and passed around Coronas to celebrate the ending of a six-game losing streak. Detroit would bounce the Yankees in four and sweep the A’s en route to the World Series, where they ran out of steam and lost to the Cardinals in five.

“We were like, ‘What the [heck],'” Grilli recalled. “Let’s go out and play.”

Designated for assignment by the Rockies in June, Grilli was acquired by the Rangers for cash considerations four days later. Until getting A-Rod to bounce out, he had not recorded an out in nearly a month, having spent time on the DL and giving up three runs his prior two appearances. He’s another veteran who adds playoff experience to a franchise looking for its first-ever postseason series win. Someone had to declare the Rangers legit. Leave it to a guy who has nothing to lose.

Jeter engaged?

By Jon Lane
A game of he-said, she-said via the gossip pages. The New York Post‘s Page Six section cites a source who told the paper that Derek Jeter is engaged to actress Minka Kelly. A spokesperson for Kelly, however, is telling multiple outlets that there are no plans for the couple to marry in the fall.

As I write this, Jeter is at-bat in the sixth inning with the Yankees trailing the Rangers 3-2. He just grounded out to end the frame and is 0-for-3 with a walk, but I doubt it has anything to do with premature reports that he’s off the available list.

Rangers vs. Yankees: Lineups 8/27/2009

yankees.jpgYANKEES (79-47)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera CF
Jose Molina C

Pitching: A.J. Burnett (10-7, 4.08)

rangers.jpgRANGERS (70-55)
Julio Borbon DH
Michael Young 3B
Josh Hamilton CF
Nelson Cruz RF
Ian Kinsler 2B
David Murphy LF
Taylor Teagarden C
Chris Davis 1B
Elvis Andrus SS

Pitching: Dustin Nippert (4-2, 3.95)

Rangers vs. Yankees: Lineups 8/26/2009

yankees.jpgYANKEES (78-47)
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Jerry Hairston Jr. LF
Melky Cabrera CF

Pitching: Andy Pettitte (10-6, 4.25)

rangers.jpgRANGERS (70-54)
Ian Kinsler 2B
Michael Young 3B
Josh Hamilton CF
Nelson Cruz RF
Ivan Rodriguez DH
Chris Davis 1B
Taylor Teagarden C
David Murphy LF
Elvis Andrus SS

Pitching: Derek Holland (7-7, 4.72)

Rangers vs. Yankees: Lineups 8/25/2009

yankees.jpgYANKEES (78-46)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Melky Cabrera CF

Pitching: Joba Chamberlain (8-3, 3.98)

rangers.jpgRANGERS (69-54)
TBA

Pitching: Kevin Millwood (9-8, 3.48)

The dark side of Wagner

wagner_250_082509.jpgBy Jon Lane
Well, it was a thought.

On Friday I floated the idea of the Yankees making a move for Billy Wagner and how he’d be an asset down the stretch. Alas, minutes later Wagner was claimed on waivers and that night it was revealed the claimant was the Red Sox.

After days of will-he-or-won’t-he posturing, after the assumption Wagner would not waive his no-trade clause due to Boston’s refusal to meet a few conditions, this deal is done. Wagner is headed to the Red Sox for two players to be named later.

I asked last week for you not to go So Taguchi on me and review the benefits of Wagner in pinstripes. He would have rode shotgun to Mariano Rivera and possibly serve as a situational left-hander who’d share the load with Phil Coke and Damaso Marte. In Boston he’ll spell Hideki Okajima, Terry Francona’s lone lefty reliever, and his team-leading 56 appearances, and take a passenger seat to Jonathan Papelbon.

Wagner will help the BoSox and their recently overworked bullpen, counting on the return of Tim Wakefield and eventually Daisuke Matsuzaka to eat innings rather than spit them out. But as a public service to my readers, many loyal followers of the New York Yankees, here’s  why the Red Sox are also taking a chance adding Wagner to the mix.

In the interest of fairness, I would have done the same had Wagner officially become a Yankee, but I read your minds. The first time Wagner takes the mound wearing red, white and green, you’ll be having Taguchi flashbacks. You’ll see visions of Ramiro Pena or Jerry Hairston Jr. taking Wagner deep late September at Yankee Stadium, the Indians’ Luis Valbuena crushing Boston’s playoff hopes Sunday, October 4, at Fenway Park, or perhaps the Angels’ Maicer Izturis going yard in Game 5 of the ALDS in Anaheim.

Besides an inspiring comeback from Tommy John surgery, hitting the upper 90s on the gun and his bravery in big spots, here’s what the Red Sox may have to endure the next month or maybe two:

? Wagner was awful in his last postseason appearance of 2006 and not just because of Taguchi. His ERA was 10.38 and in 11 career playoff games, he’s 1-1 with an 8.71 ERA.

? The Red Sox’s front office was cheering when it beat out the Yankees on Trade Deadline day of 2007 when the team acquired Eric Gagne from the Texas Rangers. Gagne, who four years earlier saved 55 games, was supposed to form a lockdown duo with Papelbon. In his first 15 appearances, Gagne allowed 14 earned runs in 14 innings (a 9.00 ERA) with three blown saves and an opponents batting average of more than .350. Okay, the Red Sox won a World Series despite Gagne, but a few of their core players are a bit older this time around.

? Papelbon, the king of restraint who once had the gall to suggest that he and not Mariano Rivera close the 2008 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, will have to welcome Wagner days after saying his services weren’t needed.

“I don’t have anything to say about somebody like that,” Wagner said in response. “When he walks in my shoes, then I’ll say something. Let him be 38 and have Tommy John surgery and come back.”

Contrary to popular belief, the Red Sox aren’t dead yet. They remain the favorites to capture the AL Wild Card in my book. Yet this team has endured enough between injuries and David Ortiz. Two outspoken egos won’t help the clubhouse culture.

_______________________

Johan Santana is out for the season with bone chips in his left elbow. He’ll have arthroscopic surgery and expects to be ready for Spring Training. If you’re the Mets, no regrets trading for him. If you’re the Yankees, you’re taking a tremendous sigh of relief that you did not accept the Twins’ proposal of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and two mid-level prospects.

The Yankees would have made the playoffs last season with Santana, who in turn would have won at least 20 games and possibly his third Cy Young Award. However, the goal here – at least under Brian Cashman’s watch – is rebuilding and maintaining a program. Since 2002 the organization reverted back to overspending for a quick fix, a philosophy that led to a steady decline in the late 1980s and 67-95 record in 1990. One look at what Cabrera and Hughes have done – and optimism over how Hughes still can be – and you realize such a price was too steep.