Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

Yesterday and today

By Jon Lane
Currently playing on Sirius 7: The Spinners’ “Games People Play”

It’s the morning after the Yankees’ 7-2 Game 1 win, a game the Yankees played with their usual never-say-die fervor. Alex Rodriguez was provided with his first chance at October redemption and Wednesday night he delivered. And all involved are confident this won’t be a one-hit (or in A-Rod’s case two-hit) wonder.

“Everybody makes a big deal [out of him], but Alex is a great teammate and it shows on the field,” said Joba Chamberlain. “He plays with everything’s got and always goes about his business.

Derek Jeter, Joe Girardi and CC Sabathia met the media in a formal press conference setting. While Sabathia did what’s expected of an ace, he too entered Game 1 with a shady postseason track record and his 6 2/3 innings of two-run (one earned), eight-strikeout performance was what the Yankees envisioned when they signed him. In short, Sabathia did exactly what he was supposed to do, writes Steven Goldman.

In A-Rod’s case, it’s taken a lot longer for he of greater stature to cash in when it truly matters. Many have been quick to dismiss and even boo Rodriguez upon every failure, but not this season, and that’s been refreshing.

“We don’t listen to it, so if somebody said that I don’t think too many people were talking about it in the clubhouse or reading it,” Jeter said. “He seemed like he looked pretty comfortable all yer. When he came back he seemed like he got better and better as the season went on, but I think a lot of times people read a little too much into final statistics.”

Chris Shearn was on location last night and hard at work, providing a pregame video blog and a Game 1 wrap. The Yankees work out today at 1 p.m. with Girardi and Game 2 starter A.J. Burnett speaking at roughly 2:15. I’m not there today, but will keep you plugged in leading up to my return trip to the Bronx Friday night.

Now playing on Sirius 23: L.A. Guns’ “Electric Gypsy.” Some serious cheese.

Twins vs. Yankees: Game 1

jeterreggie_300_10070.jpgBy Jon Lane
ton of money – $423 million to be exact – were spent on people after
the Yankees’ 13-year postseason streak ended last season. The result
was 103 wins, first place in the AL East and home field advantage
throughout the playoffs.

Now begins the quest for the real
payoff: World Championship No. 27. It’s quiet here at Yankee Stadium
right now. The Twins are taking BP and the stands are empty given the 6
p.m. start and the majority of fans about to file out of work. But
Derek Jeter and Reggie Jackson are in the house, Mother Nature spared
us precipitation (but not wind) and this place will rock moments before
CC Sabathia throws the first pitch.

Sabathia is earning $161
million of the $423 million. He delivered, winning 19 games and
emerging as a top AL Cy Young Award contender. Starting tonight,
however, it’s his job to start becoming a champion, to carry the
Yankees on his broad back en route to a championship, to halt a 4-13
postseason skid under Joe Torre from 2004-2007. Casting a large shadow
is Sabathia’s postseason track record, 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five
career starts, the last five runs allowed in 3 2/3 innings in Game 2 of
last year’s Division Series.

“I think maybe just trying to go
out and do too much,” Sabathia said on Tuesdsay. “Trying to go out and
throw shutouts and throw no-hitters and things like that instead of
going out and doing the same things I’ve done during the regular season
which is throwing strikes early in the count.”

Tonight marks a
new beginning not only for Sabathia, but for Alex Rodriguez (you know
his recent postseason past). Keep it here to see what develops.

5:45 p.m.
P.A. announcer Paul Olden is introducing the Twins’ non-starters. Carl
Pavano was greeted to loud boos – and this place is about half full.

6:05 p.m.
Mere minutes from first pitch. CC Sabathia got a nice applause. Also
with the team and in uniform, injured players Chien-Ming Wang and
Xavier Nady.

6:11 p.m. Not a good beginning as Denard
Span laces a leadoff double to left-center. The Twins may be tired, but
that adrenaline can do wonders, especially with the way this team has
played for the past month.

6:18 p.m. Sabathia throws 22
pitches, but keeps the Twins off the board by retiring their No. 3 and
4 hitters and stranding Span at third. Biggest pitch of the inning: a
1-2 punchout of Joe Mauer, a .365 hitter, after Span advanced to third
on a passed ball.

6:31 p.m. Alex Rodriguez’s first at-bat
came with a runner on second and two out. He filed out to right and is
eight for his last 57 postseason at-bats (.140) since 2004.

7:06 p.m.
2-0 Twins on Michael Cuddyer’s two-out RBI single, which preceded an
Orlando Cabrera single and Mauer double, with Mauer scoring on Jose
Posada’s second passed ball. Sabathia has allowed six hits, his pitch
count is at 64 and he’s been was up in the zone. It’s still early but
worry is already setting in, as are the voices of CC’s postseason past.

Brian Duensing, meanwhile, has been razor sharp, holding the Yankees hitless since Derek Jeter’s leadoff single.

7:15 p.m.
Leave it to the captain to set the ship back on course. Jeter’s two-run
blast to left ties the game at two. The homer was Jeter’s 18th in the
postseason (10th in the DS), tying Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle for
third on the Yankees’ all-time list. If I were in the old Stadium, I’d
feel the building shake.

7:22 p.m. A-Rod’s second at-bat: Swinging strikeout. Now on an 8-for-58 (.138) skid.

7:30 p.m. Some nuggets from Tyler Kepner, the outstanding beat writer for the New York Times:
Posada is the first catcher in 10 years with two passed balls in a
division series game. (Varitek in 1999); A-Rod has stranded 40
consecutive runners in the postseason.

7:32 p.m. From the
Nobody Talks About It Because He’s Not A-Rod Department: Hideki Matsui
has six hits in his last 29 postseason at-bats (.207) since 2006.

7:44 p.m.
Swishalicious! Nick Swisher’s two-out double scores a hustling Robinson
Cano from first to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. That’s Swish’s second
postseason RBI and third double in this his 11th game.

katehudson_250_100709.jpg8:06 p.m.
Breakthrough! A-Rod delivers with an RBI single that scores Jeter and
knocks Duensing out of the game. 8-for-58 slide over. Forty consecutive
stranded runners in the past. Feel the power of Kate Hudson!

8:11 p.m. That
Matsui stat is also in the past. Godzilla crushes one to Monument Park
off Francisco Liriano to make it 6-2 Yankees. It’s a shame about
Liriano. He was one of baseball’s rising young stars before Tommy John

8:16 p.m. Duensing’s line: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 1 WP, 79 pitches/59 strikes.

8:19 p.m.
Since Sabathia allowed two runs on four hits in the third, he’s retired
10 out of his next 11 batters. He’s at 95 pitches and will probably go
another inning. This is what aces do. Even when not at their best, they
find a way to get the job done.

8:47 p.m. Sabathia
departs to a thunderous ovation after retiring Denard Span on a fly
ball to right and throwing 113 pitches in 6 2/3 innings. Phil Huuughes finishes the frame with a strikeout of the pesky Orlando Cabrera following a 10-pitch at-bat.

9:06 p.m. A-Rod tonight: Two hits, 2 RBIs. To quote my colleague
Chris Shearn, “He stinks.” For one night, seriously, A-Rod has the
majority of haterizers off his back.

9:21 p.m. Enter Joba Chamberlain to a rousing ovation with runners on the corners, two out in the top of the eighth and a 7-2 lead. He needed two pitches to retire Delmon Young and end the inning. I’m not going there.

To whet your appetite

By Jon Lane
BREAKING NEWS: Jorge Posada told reporters today that Jose Molina will catch A.J. Burnett in the ALDS. Whether Posada or Hideki Matsui will DH remains to be seen.

“I just hope we win that game, that’s all,” Posada said. “That’s all I have to say. Matsui’s our DH, so we’ll see. Joe talked to me on Sunday. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. It’s the manager’s decision”

I guess it’ll depend on which Tigers or Twins starter faces Burnett. If it’s Game 2, it’ll be Justin Verlander or Carl Pavano (yes, him). In Game 3 I project Rick Porcello or Scott Baker, the two squaring off against one another later in Minneapolis.

For what it’s worth, here’s how each match up:

Matsui vs. Pavano: 1-for-5, 1 K
Matsui vs. Verlander: 4-for-12, 2 RBIs, 1 K
Posada vs. Pavano: 0-for-2, 1 K
Posada vs. Verlander: 1-for-10, 1 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 K

Matsui vs. Porcello: 2 BB
Matsui vs. Baker: 1-for-5, 1 RBI
Posada vs. Porcello: 1-for-1, 1 BB
Posada vs. Baker: 1-for-2


Some interesting nuggets from the Yankees and the Elias Sports Bureau:

? Joe Girardi is the fifth Yankees manager (Joe McCarthy, Ralph Houk, Billy Martin, Dick Howser) to win 100 games within their first two full seasons with the team. Girardi also joined Lou Piniella to have played for and managed teams that won at least 100 games. He’s done enough to be named AL Manager of the Year, writes Steven Goldman.

“Winning helps,” Posada said. “Coming here not knowing what to expect, as a player it’s different than as a manager, as a bench coach. The second time around is a little different. He did a lot of things to keep this team united. The first year I think he was tougher more on himself.”

? The Yankees’ 15 walk-off wins led the Major Leagues and were second-best in franchise history behind 17 set in 1943. Their 51 come-from-behind wins and 28 in their final at-bat were also best in the game.

? Think the Yankees enjoyed their new digs? After the All-Star break they won 31 of their final 39 regular season games at Yankee Stadium and compiled baseball’s best home record (57-24).

? Think Alex Rodriguez melts in the clutch? According to Elias, 15 of A-Rod’s 30 home runs either tied the game or gave the Yankees the lead, and seven came in the seventh inning or later and either tied the game or gave the Yankees the lead. Out of his 100 RBIs, 50 tied the game or were go-ahead, and 33 came in the seventh inning or beyond.

? Nobody will consider Phil Hughes for MVP, but consider this: The Yankees went 58-26 after Hughes was named Mariano Rivera’s primary setup man, and 31-5 in games in which Hughes appeared. In 54 games before Hughes, Yankees relievers were 13-10 with a 4.88 ERA and 14 saves). After Hughes, the ‘pen went 27-7 with a 3.37 ERA and 37 saves in 105 games.

All eyes on Joba

By Jon Lane
A bit of a late start for yours truly but ready to go minutes before first pitch. On the surface, the Yankees and Red Sox have little to play for. Between the lines, there’s still plenty at stake, writes Steven Goldman. And try telling Joba Chamberlain tonight’s game doesn’t mean anything. We’ll get a good idea what he’s made of, and if takes out any anger and embarrassment by punishing the Red Sox. A message will be delivered, both to opponent and employers.

Back with much more as the night progresses.

7:15 p.m. Side retired on 13 pitches – two ground-ball outs and a flyout to center. No fuss, no wasted effort. It’s early but a very good sign.

7:22 p.m. Joe Girardi was animated and passionate in his defense of Joba’s innings limitations and why it was in the Yankees’ best interest. Without naming names, Fausto Carmona is one example of when some young arms – not all – are pushed too far too quickly.

“Everyone seems to have an idea of what’s best for Joba,” Girardi said. “Let’s not forget that he’s 23-24 years old and that this is first full season as a starter. This is a growing process. We knew that going into this year. I wouldn’t say his season has been horrible. You guys make it sound like, and I’m not accusing anybody, he’s 1-19 with a seven or eight ERA.”

Here’s the full interview.

7:28 p.m. A-Rod’s RBI single made it 1-0, Yankees. That was his 90th RBI in this, his 118th game of the season. Overall he’s .285-27-90. Considering the emotional trauma with his PED admission and overcoming hip surgery, that’s darn good. But certain questions will not go away until he delivers beginning in a little more than two weeks.

joba2_275_092509.jpg7:40 p.m. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night, Jason Bay, who goes down swinging at an 88 MPH breaking ball. Joba’s got that look in his eye like he’s mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.

7:57 p.m. Joba after three: Nine up, nine down. Three strikeouts. 36 pitches/24 strikes.

8:03 p.m. Make it .287-28-92 for A-Rod as he hit one to the George Washington Bridge. Lester is getting pounded. This is what you don’t want out of your No. 1 starter in the ALDS.

8:12 p.m. Robinson Cano is 2-for-2 and two hits shy of 200 on the season. He and Derek Jeter will soon be the fifth pair of Yankees to each collect 200 in a single season (Lou Gehrig-Earle Combs; Gehrig-Joe DiMaggio; Bernie Williams-Jeter; Williams-Alfonso Soriano).

lester_275_092509.jpg8:16 p.m. Lester took a Melky Cabrera line drive off his right kneecap. He’s laying prone on the field being attended by the Red Sox medical staff. He left the field limping to a nice ovation. The game will be delayed for a bit because new Boston pitcher Hunter Jones will get all the time he needs to warm up.

The hit plated a run to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.

8:34 p.m. Victor Martinez ends Chamberlain’s brief flirtation with perfection. His two-out solo shot in the fourth puts Boston on the board.

8:37 p.m. Calm, cool and collected Chamberlain shakes off a two-out single by getting David Ortiz to tap his first pitch back to him. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for a report on Lester’s condition. Lester, by the way, allowed five earned runs in 2 1/3 IP, the most he’s given up since May 26.

8:50 p.m. X-Rays given to Lester were negative. He’s day-to-day with a contusion of right quad. This will be monitored, but it could have been a lot worse.

9:14 p.m. Breaking down Chamberlain’s fifth inning: Jason Bay single (7 pitches). J.D. Drew double (3). Jason Varitek pop up to third (1). Alex Gonzalez strike out (4). Jacoby Ellsbury ground out to first (2). Instead of imploding, Chamberlain quickly retired the No. 8 and 9 hitters and induced a .303 leadoff hitter to ground out. That’s answering your manager’s challenge.

9:32 p.m. David Ortiz goes yard and plates two with two out in what’s probably Chamberlain’s last inning. Nitpick about three runs allowed in six innings if that’s your thing, but Chamberlain needed to show some life and that’s what he did. He’s secured a Game 4 start in the ALCS (if the Yankees get there) from where I sit. He’ll work out of the bullpen during the DS when the Yankees take the extra off day and go with three starters. That’s when these Joba Rules you all love so much will be tossed into the Harlem River.

9:39 p.m. Great shot by YES’ cameras (the game’s on My9) of Dave Eiland talking to Chamberlain, Chamberlain listening and nodding intently, and Eiland ending the conversation with hands on both his shoulders and two slaps on his left one. If Andy Pettitte’s shoulder holds up, and Chamberlain and A.J. Burnett finish strong, the Yankees are fully loaded for October.

jeter_275_092509.jpg9:42 p.m. The Yankees’ six stolen bases tonight are a season high. They took a lot from that Angels series, didn’t they?

9:47 p.m. A-Rod has four RBIs and 93 on the season. Again, this is Game No. 118.

9:51 p.m. Mark Sanchez and Kerry Rhodes in the house. The 2-0 Jets host the Titans on Sunday. Even though Gang Green’s defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet, I’m taking Kimberly Jones’ advice and keeping Chris Johnson in my fantasy lineup.

10:16 p.m.
That stolen base count is now seven, two from Jeter. Talk about unveiling a new weapon.

10:37 p.m. It’s safe to say that Jonathan Albaladejo will not make the postseason roster.

10:46 p.m. Phil Hughes blows away Bay. It’s safe to say that Hughes will make the postseason roster.


joba_275_092509.jpgBy Jon Lane
Admittedly, I borrowed the headline from Peter Abraham, author of the LoHud Yankees blog. Pete, incidentally, begins his new job as Red Sox beat writer for The Boston Globe next week. We at wish him the best. He did great things for The Journal News and he’ll reach new heights in Beantown.

Based on the amount of Joba Chamberlain content on and various columns in today’s papers, it is Jobamania in the Bronx, though by no means is it running wild. Jobamania hasn’t been Hulkamania in nearly two months. Instead he’s been the jobber – in layman’s terms enhancement talent – old-school wrestling promoters feed to their established stars for a pounding.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. If you’re already calling Chamberlain “Joba the Bust,” get real, but the right-hander is 0-4 with an 8.42 ERA in his last eight outings. His start Sunday in Seattle was a complete embarrassment (seven runs, three innings), which left Joe Girardi to say – if you read between the lines – “Step it up, or else.” Pulling no punches, Bob Klapish writes that “the clock is running out on
this immature underachiever who threatens to take down the Bombers’
dream season.”

Simply put, there is no more polarizing figure in New York at the moment, perhaps in all of sports. Jim Kaat questions whether “The Joba Rules” are helping or hurting the right-hander. In today’s New York Daily News, Anthony McCarron gathered viewpoints from a few baseball experts. Former Mets and A’s pitching coach Rick Peterson believes the Yankees accomplished their team goals, but sports psychology consultant Dr. Jack Llewellyn told McCarron that any limits “might cause him to try to pitch better instead of just letting himself
pitch. It sounds like just words, but there is a big difference, and
the toll it takes is mentally. It just saps your energy when you’re trying to make yourself do things.”

To sum up, Chamberlain must pitch well tonight, at the very least keep the Yankees in the game. Another implosion and, unbelievably, Chad Gaudin may be your Game 4 ALCS starter.


Hidden within Jobamaina, here’s what you need to know for tonight and this weekend:

? The Yankees’ magic number is five. The only way they win the AL East is by sweeping the Red Sox. Otherwise the party will be on hold until next week against the Royals.

? Considering Chamberlain’s opponent, it’s even more urgent he pitch well. Jon Lester (14-7, 3.33 ERA) is 11-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 20 starts since May 31 – the third-best ERA in the Majors over that span – and 3-0, 1.90 in six career starts against the Yankees. In that same stretch. Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-13 (.154) and Robinson Cano 2-for-18 (.111) facing the left-hander.

? This season, Mark Teixeira is 3-for-9 (.333) with a homer against Lester. In their careers, Derek Jeter is 8-for-23 (.348), Melky Cabrera 6-for-16 (.375) and Jose Molina 5-for-11 (.455).

? CC Sabathia starts Saturday against Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Yankees’ ace was moved up a day to provide him with extra rest before the playoffs. Andy Pettitte – his shoulder his fine, folks – opposes Paul Byrd Sunday afternoon.

2night was the night

jeter_run_400_091109.jpgBy Jon Lane
For starters it’d be nice if Mother Nature would
cut us a break. The tarp is on the field and a strong breeze is making
a light drizzle do a dance. It’s so bad that many of the writers who
normally inhabit the first row of the press box moved up to the second
row to avoid being splashed.

We’re not starting on time. First pitch TBD.

While we wait, here’s a couple more Derek Jeter nuggets:

Jeter is looking to join three active players who hold their current
franchise’s all-time hits record: Todd Helton (Rockies: 2,113), Carl
Crawford (Rays: 1,274) and Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers: 1,738).

Jeter is 14 hits from 200 on the season, one shy of Gehrig’s club
record, and four from his 10th season with at least 190, which would
tie him with Stan Musial for third-most all time behind Pete Rose (13)
and Ty Cobb (12).

Furthermore, Ed Lucas, a longtime sports
reporter and a good man who conducts exclusive interviews for’s “Ed Lucas Show,” is here. Ed was recently hospitalized
for diverticulitis, digestive disease found in the colon, and is due
back for test results and to lower his blood sugar. When you get a
chance, check out his Strikeouts for Scholarships
program, which provides hundreds of Seton Hall students who have a
disability with financial assistance while earning their college

Back soon with much more.

7:10 p.m. To
kill time I took a walk up and down the Great Hall. As you’d expect,
that and Tommy Bahama’s was mobbed, but it was nothing compared to the
Hard Rock. There was a line just to get into the place. One guy walked
out in frustration and shouted, “Six-hour wait.” At least I spared a
woman from waiting on line or leaving the building to enter the HRC
from the front; she would have not be let back in. She had a good
response to my wait-time message: “The place won’t be open that long.”

7:12 p.m. Ominous sign: The women’s U.S. Open semifinals was postponed. At least they can try again tomorrow. Here, it’s not that easy.

7:29 p.m. PA man Paul Olden made an announcement to hushed silence: There will be a weather update in 15 minutes. Okey Dokey.

7:48 p.m. The grounds crew is removing the tarp. Fans are already chanting, “DE-REK JE-TER!” Approximate first pitch is 8:20.

8:21 p.m.The ceremony honoring the sailors of the USS New York,
tonight’s true heroes,  concluded with Navy Musician Third Class Laura
Carey’s rendition of our national anthem. Earlier today, Chris Shearn and Jerome Preisler eloquently shared their 9/11 thoughts

8:32 p.m.
Off and running, following a delay of one hour and 27 minutes, after
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano threw out the first
pitch. The Yankees are wearing red caps with the interlocking NY in
stars and stripes, and playing in a postseason atmosphere. It’s raining
again, but conditions remain playable.

8:38 p.m. Three up
and three down for Andy Pettitte as Jeter catches Nick Markakis’ pop up
for the final out, drawing the loudest ovation for a first-inning third
out I’ve ever heard. The rain, however, has intensified.

8:44 p.m. Jeter whiffs on his first attempt. Fans are scurrying for shelter.

8:50 p.m. On a night Jeter is trying to pass Gehrig, A-Rod hit a
Ruthian shot to left-field, a three-run bomb that gave the Yankees an
early 3-0 lead.

jeter_375.jpg9:23 p.m. 2night was the night. An opposite-field single on Tillman’s 2-0 pitch puts Jeter alone in first place. Now Mother Nature has to play nice for and inning and a half. Every Yankee emerged from the home dugout to congratulate Jeter at first base backed by an ovation at ear-splitting levels. As I write this, the count is 1-1 on Nick Swisher and fans are still chanting, “DE-REK JE-TER!”

9:34 p.m. Statement from George Steinbrenner:

jeter_250_091109.jpg“For those who say today’s game can’t produce legendary players, I have two words: Derek Jeter. Game in and game out he just produces. As historic and significant as becoming the Yankees’ all time hit leader is, the accomplishment is all the more impressive because Derek is one of the finest young men playing the game today.

“That combination of character and athletic ability is something he shares with the previous record holder Lou Gehrig. It adds to the pride that the Yankees and our fans feel today. Every Yankees’ era has its giants. It’s thrilling to watch Derek as he becomes one of the greats of his generation, if not of all time.”

9:37 p.m. Another statement, this from Dorine Gordon, president and CEO of the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter:

“The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter congratulates Derek Jeter for surpassing Lou Gehrig’s 70-year-old record. Derek epitomizes so much of what we admired in Gehrig. Each skillfully filled their roles as team captains with strength, determination and humility. In this, our 15th anniversary year, we’re prouder than ever to carry on the fight against a disease that bears Gehrig’s name and commend Derek on this accomplishment.”

10:03 p.m. Jeter will appreciate hit No. 2,723 a lot more. His single to right plated the Yankees’ fourth run before Brett Gardner overran third base and was tagged out. However, Gardner hustled down the first-line for a two-out infield single that extended the inning.

10:27 p.m. The game – and Jeter’s record – are both official after a laborious top of the fifth. Pettitte needed 36 pitches and a nifty play by Robinson Cano to escape a bases-loaded jam. It was likely the final inning for the left-hander (103 pitches/59 strikes).

11:24 p.m. Tonight’s historic moment had a different feel, writes Bob Lorenz.

11:36 p.m. Edwar Ramirez + pouring rain + rain delay = buzzkill.

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.

Joba limit painful, but necessary

arod_250_081309.jpgBy Jon Lane
Life in the penthouse as winners of 20 out of 26 is good, especially when one of the perks is having the luxury of dealing with injuries without succumbing to desperation.

Four major players left for Seattle with barking body parts, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. If the Yankees were close to falling off a cliff, you’d bet on all of them “manning up” and playing tonight, the first of a four-game set at Safeco Field that begins a seven-day excursion out west and a 10-day road trip that concludes next weekend in Boston.

The Yankees own a 5 game lead over the Red Sox, far from safe, but currently a luxury. X-rays on Jeter’s sore foot were negative, but considering the team had to immediately board a plane and fly across the country and further north, I’d be surprised if Jeter is in tonight’s lineup, and near shocked if Posada – he took a foul tip off his right hand and was beaten up chasing A.J. Burnett’s three wild pitches and many others in the dirt – will play. Remember yesterday he played after catching the night before.

Joe Girardi said A-Rod was already getting tonight off, but as luck had it, A-Rod was hit by a Shawn Camp pitch in a most minute spot, the part of his left elbow slightly unprotected by a huge pad.

Rivera’s status was unknown until after the game and anytime you learn about soreness in his pitching shoulder – the one that underwent a procedure to remove calcification from a joint – that’s frightening. Both player and manager insisted Rivera would be ready to go. Rivera, incidentally, did not leave with the team, but that was to attend a personal matter and unrelated to his heath.

These are the advantages of having a nice-sized lead in your division and a deep bench; you have the capability to manage nagging ailments correctly and be smart about resting your starting pitchers. This brings me to the latest obsessive-compulsive debate about Joba Chamberlain. First he belonged in the bullpen. Now he’s coddled and overprotected, which will adversely affect the rest of his career. Chamberlain is 8-2 with a 3.85 ERA and despite annoying inconsistency hasn’t lost a decision since June 18.

joba_250_081309.jpgThis isn’t complicated and it’s a not a big deal. This is the case of a 23-year-old ace in the making that in 2006 dealt with triceps tendinitis and was disabled late last season with rotator cuff tendinitis. It’s fair to debate that not being on a consistent schedule affects one’s rhythm – and Chamberlain is at the top of his game when working at a swift pace. I buy that, but don’t complain based on precedents. Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson are from a different era. Justin Verlander has averaged roughly 189 innings through three full seasons and 2009, but he has no history with injuries, but everybody is different. Just because Verlander and Felix Hernandez have gone unscathed doesn’t mean Chamberlain will survive the strain and stress of a way-too-soon heavy workload.

The Mariners, incidentally, were also careful with King Felix, deciding in 2006 to cap his innings to 205 (he threw 191). They did this by skipping his turns after falling out of contention and lifted the cap the following season. The Yankees aren’t out of contention, but the Red Sox are far from finished and division titles are won in September. News flash: The rivals collide in a three-game series September 25-27 at Yankee Stadium. Something tells me those meetings will decide who captures the AL East flag.

Giants ace Tim Lincecum was shut down in September 2007 after his innings count rose to 177 1/3 between the Minor and Major Leagues. The following season he was ordered not to throw bullpen sessions typical of an offseason routine. Manager Bruce Bochy told The San Francisco Chronicle they were being careful due to studies showing that pitchers who throw 200 innings early in their career were more susceptible to injuries.

Fausto Carmona finished fourth in 2007 AL Cy Young voting after going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 215 innings pitched – and threw 15 more in the playoffs. The following season he plummeted to 8-7, 5.44 in 120.2 IP and this season the Indians demoted him to their Rookie League when he was 2-6 7.42, 41 walks and 36 strikeouts in 60 2/3 IP.

Chamberlain pitched 88 1/3 innings in the Minors before he was called up in August 2007. He entered this season with 124 1/3 Major League innings pitched and will match that total with eight more outs next Wednesday. Because this is New York and Chamberlain’s team is the Yankees – anything less than a World Championship is a failure – many are in an uproar. Girardi told reporters last night, “This is not just about the next two months. This is about years and years to come.”

If this is Kansas City or Pittsburgh, it’s a mere subplot. Here in the Big Apple, this is “ruining” Joba Chamberlain, just like taking him out of the bullpen is traumatizing him and Brian Cashman is paying for his decision to rebuild a program with non-contending seasons.

Girardi’s later statement is most telling: It’s “all hands on deck” for the postseason, when The Joba Rules I, II, III, IV, V and so on are tossed away like trash. A fresh Chamberlain gives the Yankees their best chance to win it all this year and in future years, when every April the “This team stinks” and “What have you done for me lately” tsunami of complaints arrive with the Yankees’ first three-game losing streak.

Never too early for award talk


By Joe Auriemma
Johnny Damon made a statement after the Yankees’ completion of their four-game sweep over the Red Sox Sunday night that made me think a bit.
Damon said that Teixeira should be considered as an MVP candidate this
season. Now, I know there are 51 games left and there is
a lot of baseball to be played, but I still think it’s not to early to
talk about Yankees who are possible candidates for awards in
recognition of their 2009 regular season performance.

MVP Candidates
Mark Teixeira

Damon had it right when he proclaimed that Teixeira is an MVP candidate. The Yankees have the best record in the Majors and Teixiera’s play has a lot to do with that. His .286
average, league-leading 29 home runs and team high 83 RBIs are
astounding. He is proving that his offseason signing might be what the
Yankees everyday lineup has been missing for quite some time.

In some of the key clutch stats, he also comes up big. With two outs
and runners in scoring position, he is hitting .357 with two homers
and 20 RBIs. Seven of his homers have broken a tie, 12 of his 29
have come when the game is within one run and 19 have
come when the game is within two runs. In the close-and-late category,
which is after the seventh inning when the game is tied, within one run
or the the tying run is at least on deck, Teixeira is hitting .302 with
four home runs and 19 RBIs. He’s also having a tremendous second half.
Since the All-Star break he is hitting .326, with eight home runs and
20 RBIs in 23 games.

If that didn’t already make him a legitimate MVP candidate, then his
sparkling defense should put him at the top of the list. The two-time
Gold Glove-winning first baseman has proven why he has been
bestowed that honor in the past. He has range, leaping ability and can
really pick it over at first. He is certainly their best defensive
first baseman since Don Mattingly (no offense to Tino Martinez) and has
saved many potential errors this season. His presence alone has upgraded
an infield that has been in need of this type of player since the
dynasty days.

Alex Rodriguez
People may think I’m crazy for bringing up A-Rod’s name in MVP
talk, especially that he missed more than a month this season and
his numbers don’t really look MVP worthy. To me, A-Rod can stake as
much claim to being a candidate for the award as almost anyone in the
league. He may be batting .259 this season, he does have 21 home runs
and 63 RBIs in just 80 games. 

The MVP award is exactly what it stands for, the Most Valuable Player in the American League to his team. Well Alex can make a claim
that he is. The Yankees are 56-27 since his return on May 8 and 53-27
when he’s in the lineup. That means they’re a mediocre
16-15 without him in any game and were 13-15 before his return. 

The lineup has really been terrific with him. A-Rod changes the
complexion of the game. He disrupts a pitcher’s game plan and makes managers change their whole way of
thinking when you see his name penciled into the cleanup spot. Just
look at Teixeira’s numbers before A-Rod returned. To
start the season, Teixeira was hitting .198
with five home runs and 15 RBIs. Since the return of A-Rod,
Teixeira is batting.312, with 24 home runs and 68 RBIs in 82 games.
He’s seeing better pitches to hit because A-Rod is hitting behind him
in the order.

Let’s not forget to mention how clutch Rodriguez has been. In close-and-late situations, he is hitting .310 with eight home runs and
16 RBIs. He has also hit nine of this 21 home runs in tie ball games and
14 of his 21 round trippers are when the game is within one run. He
also has two walk-off wins this season, including one that ended a 15-inning marathon in a scoreless game against the Red Sox, which is as
pressure packed as it gets.

Johnny Damon – Honorable Mention
Johnny, don’t sell yourself short in the MVP talk. To this point , Damon has been brilliant in the No. 2 spot. When
opposing managers have to take a look at the top four in the Yankees’
order, it should make them cringe. Damon already has 21 home runs, only three off his career high from his first season with the
Yankees in 2006. He’s hitting .281 with 65 RBIs and is on pace for
another 100-run season (79). He’s already set the
single-season Yankees record with Teixeira with six back-to-back
home runs.

With that being said, I don’t think that he will be a candidate when it’s all said and done, but my question is why not?

Cy Mo
Don’t you think it’s time that Major League baseball rewarded the
greatest relief pitcher of all time with some hardware? Why can’t Mariano Rivera
win the Cy Young Award this season? I know that many critics are going
to bring up Mark Buehrle and his perfect game, Josh Beckett and his
13-4 record with a 3.12 ERA and Roy Halladay (12-5, 2.73
ERA) but Rivera is right there with them.

Rivera has not allowed an earned run since June 12 against the
Mets. Over that span, he has pitched in 21 games, 21.1 innings, allowed 10 hits, earned 18 saves, with 21 strikeouts and just four
walks. He has also lowered his ERA from 3.38 to 1.88. 

Even more astonishing is that Rivera has converted 32 of 33 save
opportunities this season and has not blown a save since April 24
against Boston. With all of the talk of the five home runs
he allowed earlier in the season, he has not given up a dinger since
May 20th.

Rivera’s total numbers on the season stand at 1-2, with a 1.88 ERA,
those 32 saves, 53 strikeouts and only seven walks in 48
innings pitched and 47 games. He’s only allowed 37 hits,
nine of which were for extra bases and opponents are hitting just
.206 against him. If that doesn’t wow award voters, I don’t know
what will.

Boston Massacre III

By Jon Lane
The Yankees have little time to bask in the glory of their four-game destruction of the Red Sox with a game tonight against the Blue Jays, and a seven-day West Coast trip without a day off until August 20, but the facts and figures generated from this Boston Beatdown are extraordinary:

? The Yankees completed their first four-game sweep of the Red Sox in 24 years; their pitching held Boston’s offense scoreless for 31 innings, the longest streak in 35 years.

? The Red Sox were 3-for-38 with runners in scoring position in the four games.

? The Yankees are 4-8 against the Red Sox this season, but from their perspective that’s more beautiful than a supermodel. Consider: Since the All-Star break, the Yankees are 18-5, the Red Sox 8-14. New York is also 18-3 in its last 21 home games and 56-27 since Alex Rodriguez made his season debut May 8. The Yankees have won seven straight and hold a commanding 6 game lead in the AL East, the Red Sox’s largest deficit since October 1, 2006, with 51 games left.

It remains too early to tell if this will finish off the Red Sox like the Yankees’ five-game sweep at Fenway Park did in 2006. And unlike the past four days, the Yankees’ famous sweep in 1978 put the Red Sox down, but not out as Boston rallied down the stretch to force a one-game playoff, the day Bucky Dent broke hearts all over New England. But a comparison of other numbers lends credence to this being Boston Massacre III:

1978: Yankees 42, Red Sox 9
2006: Yankees 49, Red Sox 26
2009: Yankees 25, Red Sox 8

Does this mean the season is over? Absolutely not. But as Steven Goldman writes, the success of the past four days have the Yankees in a very good place.