September 2009

Williams nominated for Latin Grammy

bernie_275_091809.jpgBy Jon Lane
Bernie Williams’ second album, “Moving Forward,” was nominated for “Best Instrumental Album.” Williams for the upcoming Latin Grammy Awards.

“I don’t have many words right now that can explain how excited and grateful I am about this nomination,” Williams said in a statement. “When I stopped playing baseball, I knew that I would become more dedicated to my music. Just to have the chance to sign with Reform Records and create this CD was a tremendous opportunity. Now, to already have my first Latin Grammy nomination from my fellow musicians is beyond anything I could have dreamed.”

For those who are interested, Williams has live performances lined up in the New York metropolitan area, including Saturday, September 25 at the Capital One Bank Theater in Westbury, Long Island. This nomination is most deserving. Williams, one of the greats during the Yankees’ recent dynasty, has put out two phenomenal albums and the sky is indeed the limit.

Yankees vs. Mariners: 9/18/2009 Lineups

yankees.jpg
YANKEES (94-53)
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 (11-9, 4.33)

mariners.jpg
MARINERS (76-71)
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Jose Lopez 2B
Ken Griffey Jr. DH
Adrian Beltre 3B
Bill Hall LF
Jack Hannahan 1B
Rob Johnson C
Josh Wilson SS

Pitching: Felix Hernandez (15-5, 2.52)

T-minus 10

number10_200.jpgBy Jon Lane
The Yankees’ magic number to clinch the AL East is 10 games – don’t forget, it’s only four to clinch a playoff berth – but Joe Girardi was quick to say, “I believe this is going to go down to the end.”

Think about it: The Red Sox have won seven of eight and play the lowly Orioles this weekend, while the Yankees are out west to play the Mariners (not easy) and the Angels (you know their history in Anaheim). Making the playoffs isn’t good enough. The Yankees want the division and home field, and are determined not to slip to Wild Card status – I don’t care how many Wild Card teams ended up winning the World Series.

Furthermore, tonight is the start of the rest of the season for A.J. Burnett. Handsomely earning $82.5 million, Burnett is 1-5 with a 6.14 ERA in his last nine starts having allowed 25 earned runs in his last 29 1/3 innings. This man is starting either Game 2 or 3 in the ALDS. He has no choice but to turn it around.

Worse, Felix Hernandez (15-5, 2.52, 193 K) is Burnett’s opponent. King Felix may be 1-3 with a 5.92 ERA in four starts against the Yankees, but he hasn’t faced them since May 3, 2008. If he’s on, Burnett is good enough to be anybody. But when he’s off, whoa boy.

Still something to play for

By Jon Lane
I wrote in this space after the Yankees’ took two of three from the Red Sox last month at Fenway Park that the men from the Back Bay aren’t dead yet. Alas, the Red Sox are winners of seven straight games and 10 in a row on Yawkey Way.

There won’t be too much suspense these last few weeks. The Yankees’ magic number for clinching a playoff berth is four, which means you seriously do not have to worry about a Mets-like September collapse. But homefield advantage throughout the postseason is far from wrapped up, even if New York leads Boston by 6 games in both the AL East and the right to host that extra DS and LCS game.

Red Sox-Yankees at Yankee Stadium next weekend now has some intrigue. The Yankees’ AL East magic number is 11, and the way the BoSox are playing you figure the Bombers will spray champagne in their own clubhouse either that weekend or the following week when the Royals are in town. This brings up a question, writes Pete Caldera. Do you celebrate clinching the playoffs with the big champagne party, or wait until you clinch the AL East?

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Nothing ever seems to go right for the Angels when they play the Red Sox. They’ll arrive to Fenway for the finale of a three-game set tonight still steaming  over controversial calls that they perceive cost them Wednesday’s game. Closer Brian Fuentes actually wondered whether the men in blue were too “timid” or “scared” to make a decision that riles the temper of Red Sox Nation.

“Especially here and some other places, they seem timid to make calls,” Fuentes said after twice failing to get a third strike called on Nick Green before walking him with the bases loaded score the tying run. “I’ve heard it from other guys that come in here and say that. That’s either because it’s a mistake, or they’re scared.”

Barring any late comebacks, the clubs will meet for a third straight time in the first round of the playoffs, where in the last two Octobers the Red Sox have eliminated the Angels, who are 1-9 against Boston in the postseason since 2004.

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Updating you on two of the Yankees’ potential playoff opponents, the Tigers rallied from a three-run deficit Wednesday to snap a three-game skid on the night they honored the iconic Ernie Harwell, while the Twins completed a sweep of the Indians to take a four-game win streak to a showdown with the Tigers this weekend, three of seven remaining games between the clubs this season.

Detroit leads Minnesota by 4 games entering today and is trying to hold on with a pitching staff of Justin Verlander and fingers crossed. (I initially didn’t mention Edwin Jackson, but the Royals are currently lighting him up and, like Rick Porcello, we’ll see how they respond with the season on the line.) Jarrod Washburn has given up at least three runs in each of his last five starts and a bum knee has bumped him from his scheduled start on Sunday. I’m just sayin’.

The art of the comeback

yankees_500_091709.jpgBy Jon Lane
The Yankees have rallied to win games 48 times this season, 14 via the walk-off hit, the team’s most since doing it 17 times in 1943. Joe Girardi feels that belief system was born during the memorable May series against the Twins, when three of the first four games were won on the Yankees’ final at-bat.

“I think there’s that feeling that you can always do it, because we’ve done it so many times,” Girardi said. “When guys have confidence, they’re different players. There’s no doubt about it. When you have success in situations, guys learn how to relax. The more success you have, the more you relax. That’s what allows guys to do that.”

Brett Gardner – that X-Factor – was once again in the middle of it. Not since Homer Bush in 1998 have the Yankees been able to deploy such a weapon.

“It’s just another way that you know you can win a game,” Girardi said. “It’s a great element to have as a manager. In these close games there’s always a spot where you look for him to be able to do it.”

Good for Francisco Cervelli. It’s not hard to remember how a third-string catcher named Francisco has come a long way, writes Tyler Kepner.

Good for Ian Kennedy, a good guy who’s had some tough luck and is coming back from surgery to remove an aneurysm. Kennedy pitched three perfect innings for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Durham in the International League finals Wednesday, striking out six.

Blue Jays vs. Yankees: Lineups 9/16/2009

yankees.jpgYANKEES (93-53)
Derek Jeter SS
Jerry Hairston LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera CF
Jose Molina C

Pitching: Chad Gaudin (1-0, 3.42)

BLUE JAYS (66-79)
bluejays.jpgMarco Scutaro SS
Aaron Hill 2B
Adam Lind DH
Vernon Wells CF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
Rod Barajas C
Jose Bautista RF
Travis Snider LF

Pitching: Brian Tallet (7-9, 5.26)

Yankees announce 2010 ticket pricing

New York Yankees Media Relations
The Yankees today announced 2010 full-season ticket license pricing for regular season games at Yankee Stadium. Prices for 97 percent of tickets will either remain the same or decrease.

Of the 50,086 seats in the Stadium, prices for 41,928 tickets (84 percent) will remain the same from 2009, while 6,454 tickets (13 percent) will see a decrease in price. There are 1,704 tickets (three percent) that will have an increase in price.

“At the beginning of the season I said that we would look into our ticket prices and review them at the end of the year to see where changes needed to be made,” said New York Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. “We have had a great opening year. Over 90 percent of our inventory has been sold, and we are leading Major League Baseball in attendance. This plan reflects the changes we believe are appropriate. We will continue to review the ticket policy on a year-by-year basis.”

A total of 3,400 Field Level seats currently priced at $325 as part of full-season licenses will drop to $250 or $235 each next season, depending on their specific location. Additionally, all 1,208 Suite seats in the Delta Sky360 Suite will see a decrease in price, as will 1,846 of 1,894 Suite seats (97 percent) in the Legends Suite. The balance of the Legends Suite seats will have no price change.

All Field Level seats not in the aforementioned locations will remain at their current prices. Additionally, non-Suite tickets in the Bleachers, Grandstand and Terrace levels will see no change in price in the 2010 season.

In the Main Level, 10,111 seat locations will see no increase. The remaining 1,704 seats in Sections 216-217 and 223-224 currently priced at $100 will be $125 next season. These mark the only increases for 2010.

A date is yet to be determined for the on-sale of 2010 season tickets.

A grid reflecting full-season ticket pricing in non-Suite locations is below. For information as it becomes available, please visit Yankees.com.

Price-chart.jpg

Pettitte being skipped

By Jon Lane
Word has come down from Yankee Stadium that Andy Pettitte will miss his scheduled start tomorrow and be skipped until Monday due to shoulder fatigue. Chad Gaudin will pitch in his place.

Joe Girardi isn’t worried and believes the extended rest will “knock it out.” This can be a case of the Yankees using the luxury of being extra cautious, but Pettitte was shut down last season after the team was eliminated from postseason contention due to shoulder soreness. An MRI revealed no major damage, but this is something to keep an eye on nonetheless.

Blue Jays vs. Yankees: Lineups 9/14/2009

yankees.jpgYANKEES (93-52)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: Sergio Mitre (3-2, 7.02)

BLUE JAYS (59-74)
bluejays.jpgMarco Scutaro SS
Aaron Hill 2B
Adam Lind DH
Vernon Wells CF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
Rod Barajas C
Jose Bautista RF
Travis Snider LF

Pitching: Roy Halladay (14-9, 3.03)

Gardner could be the X-Factor

roberts_275_091509.jpgBy Jon Lane
If you’re a Yankees fan, Dave Roberts still gives you nightmares. You remember, right? Game 4, 2004 ALCS, the Yankees three Mariano Rivera outs from sweeping the Red Sox on their turf and going to the World Series. Alas, Rivera walked leadoff hitter Kevin Millar, Roberts entered as a pinch-runner, stole second base, scored the tying run and a few things happened along the way ….

Despite subsequent seasons brimming with optimism and marked by late-season surges, the Yankees haven’t sniffed the World Series since and is one year removed from missing the postseason party entirely. That won’t happen this time – their magic number for clinching the AL East is 12 and a playoff spot a mere seven – but depending how the Yankees perform in the postseason, the 2009 season will be looked back as either one for the ages or a wholly disappointing, complete and downright disaster. That ’04 team won 101 games, but bring up that season and you’ll hear sob stories about Roberts, David Ortiz, Tom Gordon, Curt Schilling, Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez. In the Bronx, like it or not, fair or unfair, it’s win or else.

One reason why confidence is high this year will be different: The Yankees have their version of Roberts, Brett Gardner. Peter Abraham, author of the popular LoHud Yankees Blog, created the moniker “Gritty, Gutty Brett Gardner.” I look at him as a hot sparkplug, one that provides the speed and intangibles that wins many battles before their fought.

Take Monday night, when Gardner broke the Angels’ backs in the Yankees’ 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium, scoring the winning run on a double steal and a throwing error. It started with a bold decision by Joe Girardi, the type of gut-and-conscience tugging choice you need to make in the playoffs, when he pinch-ran Gardner for Mark Teixeira.

You read that correctly: Mark Teixeira, a top contender for AL MVP who was 3-for-4 and a home run from the cycle. Millar was far from MVP material in ’04, but still wielded a big stick (.297-18-74) and Terry Francona removed him with the season on the line, again a choice that must be made in October.

gardner_275_091509.jpgGirardi was aware the Angels are in striking distance for homefield advantage with three games still to play next week out west. He also knew that Gardner on the bases plants bugs in the respective minds of a battery. A pitcher looks over his shoulder like he’s being chased. A catcher is already thinking what if Gardner runs. And when Gardner took off for third, Mike Napoli was affected, so was third baseman Chone Figgins, who was playing off the line and could not corral Napoli’s low throw, one that skipped into left field and allowed Gardner to score.

The Angels seem to bring out some finesse in the Bronx Bombers, writes John Harper. For one night they brought out their best. The Yankees are six games ahead of a team that owns a 32-17 regular season record and two ALDS series wins against them. The last time the Yankees were in Anaheim, they were swept in the final three games (July 10-12) before the All-Star break. All they’ve done since is go 42-15, and now with Gardner and perhaps Freddy Guzman, they may finally have that edge.