Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’
By Glenn Giangrande
With the Yankees playing on My9 versus Baltimore Tuesday night, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a game as a fan sitting in Section 223. Since I had been there as a YES employee for Opening Day, it was my first chance to get a taste of the new Stadium. Here are a couple of minor observations…
*I’m not sure how many extra entrance gates were added, but there wasn’t a single long line for people to wait on upon entering the Stadium. There were a lot of shorter ones, and that’s better overall.
*The garlic fries and natural lemonade are terrific. I actually didn’t make a cross-stadium trek to get the fries, but a polite fan named Larry sitting in front of me offered up a taste of his. Larry, if you’re reading, thank you.
*You know that big concrete wall beyond the retired numbers in left field, the one everyone wants to see painted? Here’s my suggestion: recreate the mural painted across the street that depicts Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, George Steinbrenner, Roger Maris, and Thurman Munson. It’d be on a smaller canvas, so it’d have to be redone in a smaller fashion in order to accommodate any potential additions.
*Anyone who says that the Stadium is quiet is mistaken. From the second A-Rod went deep in the first inning to the Yankees’ seventh inning explosion, there was buzz aplenty in the Bronx. My only disappointment was that the Yanks blew the game open to the point where I couldn’t hear “Enter Sandman” since the services of Mariano Rivera weren’t necessary.
Some other random notes from around baseball and life…
*My big money fantasy baseball team has a pitching staff in ruins. We know about what’s been ailing Chien-Ming Wang, so when will Tampa Bay offer up some reasoning for Scott Kazmir’s problems? They alone have anchored me down in ERA and WHIP, likely for the year.
*I missed the premiere episode of “Glee,” but everyone I know who watched it seems to have enjoyed it. With the disappointing finale of “24” behind us, unless you’ve yet to view it on DVR, I don’t have any scripted shows to watch until “Dexter” returns to Showtime in September. “Big Brother” doesn’t count since it’s reality programming.
*For the first time recently, I tried a mix of ginger ale and vanilla ice cream. It had been recommended to me, but I wasn’t a fan.
*My eating habits are getting weird. I tend to sleep through breakfast on normal days, so that would cut me down from three regular meals to two. But if I eat lunch too late in the afternoon, then I find myself either a) stuffing food on top when I’m not hungry or b) eating too late, neither of which is good.
By Jon Lane
“Friday is the day when everyone gets their motivation and energy back.”
– ‘Vice’ the coffee, bagel and danish vendor, 15th & 9th, Manhattan.
Nothing like a nice late-spring Friday morning to get you going and fill you with optimism. Our Steven Goldman, who can be a tough critic, gives props to the Yankees for taking two of three games from the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees haven’t gained traction yet, but there are reasons for hope. They have won 4 of 6 and are home for 10 games. CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera are looking like, well, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera, and the team has received surprising contributions from Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli.
Just like that, people are feeling good about the Yankees again. It’s truly amazing how in baseball the story changes every day, even every hour. Wasn’t two weeks ago when the Mets were declared finished because they lacked an “edge?” Last I looked they’re 10-3 this month.
“It’s a nice little shift for us,” said Joe Girardi. “This is something that you can build on.”
Back at .500 and trailing the Blue Jays by 4 ½ games, the Yankees face the Twins, Orioles and Phillies these next 10 days. Lots of baseball left to be played, but the time is now to take three of four here, two of three there – if not compile a winning streak. Girardi’s bunch wants to be both winning and fully healthy by the time they tackle the Rays and Red Sox from June 5-11.
Onto a few random thoughts hours before Alex Rodriguez test drives the new Yankee Stadium tonight against the Twins (YES HD, 7 p.m.).
- Big start for Phil Hughes, 0-2 with a 17.49 ERA after silencing the Tigers for six innings on April 28. Good or bad, I see Hughes headed to Triple-A if Chien-Ming Wang pitches well in his second rehab start for Scranton on Sunday and cleared medically, but a strong effort would be one of those “nice problems to have” and build Hughes’ confidence back up. There are people who are still expecting Hughes to throw zeros every time he pitches. Yeah, he gave up eight runs, eight hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings – the shortest start in his three-year career – last Saturday in Baltimore. Many are tempted to declare him a bust who will never live up to his promise as a first-round, can’t-miss prospect. He also turns 23 next month. What’s the rush? Not every youngster makes an immediate impact. Let him get more work at Scranton and allow him to mature as a pitcher. Then we can evaluate.
- Big day for Xavier Nady, out since April 15 with a partially torn elbow ligament and rehabbing in hopes of avoiding a second Tommy John surgery. Nady will swing a bat this afternoon and provided he feels no pain is hoping to begin a Minor League rehab assignment before the end of the month. The plan is for Nady to be a DH and ease him back into the outfield. Where that leaves Hideki Matsui is another story for another day. For Nady’s sake, let’s hope we have a chance to debate it.
- A-Rod is excited to play in his first game at the Bronx Mahal (© Chris Shearn). He’s 3-for-14 since returning last Friday, but hasn’t missed an inning. Look for him to be the designated hitter and for the home crowd to provide a nice response. Hometown fans have high thresholds for players who admittedly or allegedly dabble in PEDs (just ask Barry Bonds’ loyal following). Only if A-Rod continues to not hit or fails in a big spot will boos grow long and loud.
- Sabathia’s last two starts: 2-0, 17 innings, two runs, nine hits, five walks, 13 strikeouts. The left-hander got the Yankees going on the road with a complete-game, four-hit shutout in Baltimore, overshadowed when A-Rod hit the first pitch he saw over the left field fence, but also healing balm for an appalling 2-5 homestand.
- Cervelli (.316) has been impressive at and behind the plate, writes Tyler Kepner. At this rate it’ll be another one of those “nice problems” once Jose Molina is eligible to come off the disabled list.
- How great has Johnny Damon been? The reigning American League Player of the Week has at least one extra-base hit in 10 consecutive games, matching a single-season franchise record held by Don Mattingly (1987) and Paul O’Neill (2001). He’s 18 for his last 42 (.429), with at least one run scored in those 10 games. River Ave Blues analyzed Damon’s run and desire to stay in the Bronx once his contract expires at the end of the season.
By Jon Lane
We’re just approaching mid-May and have reached the season’s first “big” series. For once it’s not Yankees vs. Red Sox, for the Bronx Bombers are in Toronto to face the first-place Blue Jays.
That’s not a typo, folks. The Blue Jays, an afterthought for years in the AL East, are 22-12, boast four players (minimum 112 at-bats) batting at least .283 and have persevered despite a starting rotation held together by Roy Halladay, bubble gum and duct tape.
Already it’s a big series and a proving ground for both teams. The Yankees need to work out of their annual early-season doldrums and make a statement, writes Steven Goldman. They will greet the sub-.500 Twins and Orioles on their next homestand before welcoming the World Champion Phillies Memorial Day weekend. If they can hold it together, notes Goldman, Jorge Posada (and perhaps Brian Bruney) will be back and the team will (theoretically) be fully staffed for the first time all year and can really make some progress.
Don’t forget about Chien-Ming Wang either. Wang is starting in Scranton tonight and a strong effort might punch his ticket back to the Yankees along with the hope that his 34.50 ERA over three starts was a wicked aberration.
Think the Toronto media is pumping up this week’s three-game set? The Toronto Star is hyping tonight’s matchup as potentially the game of the year, and not just because it’s Doc Halladay facing A.J. Burnett. The scribes have noted the critics who have cited the Blue Jays playing 20 of 34 games against the AL Central and have not yet faced their rugged division rivals. Then there’s the return of Alex Rodriguez, and the sense of urgency growing in Yankeeland, that’s expected to draw a walk-up crowd that will boost attendance to at least 30,000. Figure on a few of them holding foam syringes and wearing blond wigs. Necessary? No, but it’s the nature of the beast.
Blue Jays fans have had nothing to cheer about since consecutive World Series championships in 1992 and ’93, so you can’t blame them for getting excited about their team holding the AL’s best record. The Jays have rarely made a big bang during the offseason, but the core of the team is beginning to pay dividends. Cito Gaston’s group lead the Majors in batting (.294) and runs scored (204), and are in the top five in on-base and slugging percentage. Then of course there’s Halladay, whose six wins are tied with Zack Grienke for the league lead and his 52.0 innings pitched rank third.
It was September 24, 2008 when Burnett walked off the Rogers Centre mound for the last time as a Blue Jay after whiffing 11 Yankees through eight innings. A crowd of 28,701 gave him a standing ovation, imploring him to re-sign as a free agent. That didn’t work, so expect Burnett to receive the treatment given to Mark Teixeira (Baltimore), Johnny Damon (Boston) and A-Rod (everywhere).
“I’m sure I’m going to get some boos,” Burnett told the media in Baltimore, “as long as I hear a couple of claps in there. But to be honest with you, it’s probably going to fuel the fire. I’m going to channel it that way.”
Burnett needs something to get him going. He’s winless in his last four starts (6.66 ERA) while allowing five home runs and walking 13 in 24 1/3 innings. CC Sabathia stepped up Friday in Baltimore in what everyone hopes will spark a turnaround. Now it’s Burnett’s turn. He’ll have to out-pitch his old friend. Halladay was 3-0, 1.80 in two complete games against the Yankees last season and owns a career record of 15-5, 2.86.
By Jon Lane
George King of the New York Post dissected the numbers:
- Overall, the Yankees’ 5.79 ERA ranks 29th out of 30 teams. Only the Indians (5.83) are worse.
- The rotation is 28th in the Majors with a 9-10 record and a 5.64 ERA, leading only the Red Sox (14-10; 5.81) and the Phillies (7-10; 6.28), and Yankees starters’ .289 batting average against is the fifth-highest in baseball. Why are the Red Sox 20-12 and the Yankees where they are? Simple, the Yankees’ putrid bullpen is 28th with an ERA of 6.04.
- The Yankees deserve credit for a few big hits in big spots, especially from Johnny Damon, named the AL Player of the Week. Overall, however, the Yankees are 14th with runners in scoring position at .244 (70-for-287). Mark Teixeira, a career .324 hitter in the clutch, is batting .192 (5-for-26).
- Too many times have runners been stranded early in games and has haunted the Yankees in the later innings. It’s a problem that hasn’t gone away and needs to be stopped, immediately. CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have been singled out for uneven beginnings, and now it’s time for Teixeira to show his true colors. Otherwise, even Alex Rodriguez will fly under the radar while everyone wonders what’s wrong with the $180-million man.
By Jon Lane
Today on YESNetwork.com, reaction to the suspension of Manny Ramirez:
“Manny being Manny” reached a whole new level, writes Chris Shearn.
The latest Manny saga is disgusting and abhorrent to baseball, writes Steven Goldman.
Alex Rodriguez should be thankful for Manny’s logic-defying explanation, writes Kimberly Jones.
My hope, and I’m still holding out hope, is that players are finally scared straight into not doing anything so stupid.
Sadly, there was neither shock, nor awe, only sadness and indifference. Because Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez will now be judged against their recent (or distant) past, this will not go away and people will continue to bring this up.
I won’t be one of them.
A-Rod returns tonight and that’s great, because he’s going to give the Yankees a big boost. Tabloid reporters have had a feast with tales of his tomfoolery, narcissism, steroid use admission and Selena Roberts’ new book. Like him or not, the truth is he has 553 career home runs, a career .306 average, owns three MVP awards and is the Yankees’ record holder for most homers by a right-handed hitter (54). He will provide Mark Teixeira protection and the lineup is another step closer to becoming a circular threat. Teixeira needs Rodriguez behind him, anything to get him going, because right now, he’s batting .198 and he stinks.
Tonight in Baltimore will be a circus with inquiring minds asking all questions A-Rod, but here’s hoping that like yesterday, Manny’s idiocy will keep the focus to baseball. Rodriguez is peculiar, but he’s one of the best to play the game and his entire body of work cannot be judged on the three seasons spent in Texas in which he admitted steroid use. Starting tonight, it’s A-Rod’s chance to be a true impact player before judges and juries: the fans.
Thanks to Manny Ramirez, baseball fans have a new punching bag. That alone is a good start.
By Joe Auriemma
The Yankees are 27 games into the season and under .500. They already have two four-game losing streaks and are playing exactly like their record states. This team has problems and it’s the type of problems that won’t just disappear with the return of Alex Rodriguez into the middle of the order.
As was the case with last season, the Yankees already have had major injury issues. The loss of A-Rod was just the tip of the iceberg when they lost two of their big money relievers in Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte. Now Marte had not been good before he was injured, but he is an experienced pitcher. Bruney has not had a full season with the Yankees since his 58-game performance in 2007. He has been lights out every time he’s been in there and he seems to be what’s missing from what has been a subpar bullpen this season. There are many inexperienced arms out there that give up the big hit at the worst possible moment.
I never like to blame injuries, but it has ravaged the bullpen, the lineup and the bench. The Yankees lost A-Rod, then his replacement Cody Ransom went down, Xavier Nady has been out and then they lost their leading RBI man in Jorge Posada. To make matters worse, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui have been playing hurt and let’s not forget about Chien-Ming Wang, who was just putrid in three starts this season. Every team has injuries, but the Yankees’ situation is pretty bad.
Could the injury bug for the second straight season be blamed on age? Yes, I think the advanced age of these players has a lot to do with the injuries. The Red Sox and Rays have a pretty young core of players and they don’t seem to be going through this same problem over the last two seasons.
After the injuries and the bullpen issues, the Yankees have had a tough year defensively. That seems to be the difference between a lot of the upper echelon teams to how they are playing right now.
This team also is not manufacturing runs. They don’t move runners over and when they do, they don’t drive them in.
With all of this being said, the Yankees can still snap out of this with the talent that they have and win their share of ballgames. However, when you combine everything that’s going on with the team right now, it really is true, “You are what your record says you are.”
By Jon Lane
Maybe the suspension of Manny Ramirez is the best thing for the Yankees in some twisted, convoluted way. As Peter Abraham notes, the news broke one day before Alex Rodriguez makes his season debut. A lot of the heat is off of A-Rod – for now – and this topic is expected to share space with life as a sub-.500 team in the Yankees clubhouse before tonight’s game.
Ramirez said in a statement that he saw a physician for a personal health issue who gave him a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay. Multiple reports have stated that it’s an agent “customarily used for performance enhancing” and neither a steroid nor human growth hormone. Too many players are pointing fingers and not accepting blame. If you’re given a prescription for an unknown drug, or visit your local GMC for some strange supplement, why on earth do you assume – especially in this day and age – that it’s perfectly okay? What’s so hard about seeing your team physician and taking it up with the office of Major League Baseball to receive a second and third opinion?
Manny being Manny just took itself to an entirely different level, writes Chris Shearn.
Baseball’s new drug policy can improve, but it’s good and it’s tough. Phillies reliever J.C. Romero was given the benefit of the doubt when MLB never said he tried to cheat, yet he was ruled guilty of “negligence” and issued Strike 1. Here’s hoping players are finally scared straight into taking more responsibility for what they put in their bodies. A little accountability helps too. A-Rod’s explanation may have been shady, but he manned up and said, “I did it” without any excuse.
As far as the Dodgers, 21-8, off to their best 29-game start since 1983 and owners of a new record for consecutive home wins to begin a season (13), it’ll be easy to write them off. Don’t even think about it, third base coach Larry Bowa told Colin Cowherd today on ESPN Radio. Bowa looks at this as a challenge to his young players tired of hearing the Dodgers are winning because of Manny. Joe Torre’s Dodgers feature rising stars Andre Either and Matt Kemp in the outfield, and James Loney at first base. Veteran Juan Pierre slides into Ramirez’s spot in left field. Chad Billingsley (5-0, 2.21 ERA) anchors a rotation with promise (Clayton Kershaw), veteran stability (Randy Wolf) and supported by a lockdown closer (Jonathan Broxton).
And don’t forget the Torre effect. He’s the right guy to handle this crisis. Anyone who’s followed the Yankees since 1996 knows how Torre cemented his reputation.
“It’s time for some of our young kids to grow up now,” Bowa said.
Two sources told ESPN’s T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada that the drug used by Ramirez is HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a women’s fertility drug typically used by steroid users to restart their body’s natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle. It is, reports the duo, similar to Clomid, the drug Bonds, Giambi and others used as clients of BALCO.Yahoo! Health explains that HCG is used to cause ovulation and to treat infertility in women, and to increase sperm count in men.
The operative words are “steroid cycle.”
“It’s not infrequently part of the mix of the poly-drug approach to doping,” Dr. Gary Wadler, chairman of the committee that determines the banned-substances list for the World Anti-Doping Agency, told The Associated Press. “It typically is used most when people are coming off a cycle to restore to normal biophysiological feedback mechanisms.”
At least until first pitch, most of the focus is off another terrible loss from the Yankees and how they did nothing against Andy Sonnanstine, off whom opponents were hitting .366 and owned a 1-3 record with a 6.75 ERA. Blame the bullpen all you want; Phil Coke made one bad pitch, and Edwar Ramirez and Jonathan Albaladejo did their jobs. Second-guess Joe Girardi about not sending Mariano Rivera out for the 10th inning. But this is a problem which becomes more insidious with every loss: The Yankees went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and are 4-for-32 (.125) during their four-game losing streak. This team has showed little fire and passion, along with the obvious knack of failing in the clutch, but you have to love the mettle A.J. Burnett showed after the game.
“When it clicks, it will be ridiculous,” Burnett said. “When it clicks, it will be fun to watch.”
REACTION TO RAMIREZ SUSPENSION
“I’m still surprised. It’s not like you assume everybody’s doing it so you’re still surprised when you hear about it.
“It doesn’t look good. It seems like it’s a never-ending thing. That’s what it seems like as of late. So you want to put it behind you and then you have something like this come up.”
“I don’t like to give too much reaction until more details are out there. It’s just disappointing that it happened.
“I can only speak for myself. There’s no resentment because I can sleep really good at night and at the end of my career I can look my kids in the eyes and say I [kept clean].
“IWe’ve done a lot. Ever since 2004, I’ve been at the union meetings talking about what we can do. It’s almost every year like we try to test more and have it more strict. That’s the only thing we can do.”
“I don’t have all the specifics and I don’t know if we’ll ever get all the specifics. But the commissioner has vowed to crack down. The rules are very stringent and we’re seen another guy suspended 50 games.”
“I’m just surprised somewhat but everything that comes out with baseball it seems like it’s mostly negative stories and unfortunately, Manny’s one of them, a former teammate of mine and it’s disappointing to hear.
“This game has been able to withstand the test of time and this game has been able to I believe thrive so far this year. This is another black cloud and hopefully we can weed all this stuff out of the game in the upcoming years. Unfortunately, some very good baseball players have to go down with it.
“I think Manny’s going to be the one that can answer that the best. That’s all I have to say about that, I don’t know. These guys want to be the best and to us they did look like the best and now they’re paying for it.”
By Jon Lane
At what point do you worry about two of the Yankees’ big-ticket acquisitions? It’s still too early in my view, and people around the team will insist that Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia will turn it around, and soon. But since a baseball season is dissected in reaction to daily events, Teixeira and Sabathia have been anything but impact players, and fans are getting restless.
Teixeira went 0-for-3 in today’s 8-4 loss to the Angels, is 2-for-27 (.074) over his last eight games and is batting .182. In the sixth inning with Derek Jeter on third and one out in a 1-1 game, Teixeira flied out to shallow center, not deep enough to put the Yankees ahead.
“I’m very upset,” Teixeira said. “I’m not getting hits. I’m very upset that I’m not coming through for my team. I’m embarrassed that I’m hitting one something. Whatever one is, it’s embarrassing.
“In the last couple of days, I’ve really worked hard. Kevin Long and I have been looking at videotape of my swings and my swing feels good. I just got to swing at maybe a few better pitches.”
Metro New York reporter and stats guru Larry Fleisher compiled a list of his batting averages through May 2 in his career.
2008 – .265
2007 – .223
2006 – .292
2005 – .259
2004 – .222
2003 – .188
To be fair, Teixeira hasn’t had Alex Rodriguez hitting behind him and once the sleeping giant awakens the Yankees will begin reaping the benefits of the $180 million they’re paying him over eight years. Combine the fact that A-Rod will fortify a lineup playing in a hitter’s park and Teixeira will turn those boos into cheers.
(A-Rod, by the way, went 0-for-6 in an extended spring game and is 2-for-18 in three games.)
Ditto Sabathia, who was brilliant for six innings before falling apart in the seventh. He’s 1-3 and winless since April 11 and the Yankees are 2-4 in games he’s started. Blame the big guy all you want, and he’s with fault, but his team has supported him with one run over his last two starts, and today was 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position while stranding seven.
“Sure, I had given up the lead, Sabathia said. “It was just frustrating. It was a tie game up until that point When we’re not scoring runs, it’s up to the pitcher to go out and keep it close when we get in that eighth and ninth inning. That’s frustrating. Every time you go out there, you want the team to win. I’m just going to keep working hard and try to turn it around.”
Fleisher the stat guru notes that Sabathia has thrown 656 pitches in 39 innings through six starts (119 today). At this point last season he threw 604 covering 32.
By Jon Lane
George King has coined the newest Yankees catch phrase: Phi Sigma Joba Starter (PSJS) nation. Here’s hoping the loyal order of the Joba-to-the-bullpen army was served with a reality check with Joba Chamberlain’s finest start since that 1-0 win over Josh Beckett and the Red Sox in Boston on July 25, 2007.
Yeah, right. This debate will never go away. Though I am guilty of adding kindling to the fire by only presenting the other side of the story, Chamberlain has to stay in the rotation. This won’t be an issue until (if) Chien-Ming Wang returns healthy and back in form, but people won’t stop talking about it. To be fair, this is indeed a tasty storyline and an excellent problem worth discussing, not those “revelations” from that new book coming out on some (in)famous baseball player.
Here’s why Chamberlain is a starting pitcher, case closed:
Imagine a rotation with Chamberlain and Phil Hughes pitching brilliantly? The jury will still be out on Hughes for awhile, but best-case scenario is you have two outstanding homegrown starters pitching well in a group that includes CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Remember, Andy Pettitte probably isn’t coming back after this season, so the long-range forecast includes Chamberlain, Hughes, Wang (he’s down, but not out) and Ian Kennedy if he can finally scale the roadblocks that have prevented him from pitching in the Major Leagues. Not too bad of a future for a win-now franchise, eh?
Everyone makes a fuss about how Chamberlain threw 97 MPH as an unhittable, intimidating reliever. Here’s something few actually talk about: He’s 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 16 career starts and has allowed 82 hits and struck out 91 in 88 1/3 innings – and he’s still getting warmed up. The next time anyone brings up how he’s only throwing 92-93 instead of 97 must be re-told the story on how Burnett has matured from setting speed records to a pitcher that locates and changes speeds.
Out-of-the-box storytelling from Peter Abraham on how Chamberlain’s approach against Miguel Cabrera and one pitch decided the game. This eliminates any doubt about Chamberlain’s capabilities as a starter. This sequence started a run of 10 straight Tigers batters retired by Chamberlain, five by strikeout.
One of my readers summed it up best: For years the story has been the Yankees’ lack of quality pitching. At this rate they will have a lot of rounds to spare. Too many arms are never – EVER – enough. Want proof? See last season.
Abraham compiled a report from Alex Rodriguez’s extended spring game in Tampa: 1-for-6 with a homer and two walks.
Another bad April for Mark Teixeira, his worst since 2003. Here’s a breakdown of his batting average, and on-base and slugging percentages for each April the past seven seasons:
2003 .188 .288 .344
2004 .276 .432 .552
2005 .262 .321 .485
2006 .293 .391 .495
2007 .231 .346 .341
2008 .290 .355 .490
2009 .197 .365 .364
Worried? You need not be.
Mariano Rivera has allowed a home run in his last two appearances, notes Kat O’Brien. He gave up four all of last year and hasn’t surrendered more than four since 2001 and five since 1995, when he began his career as a starting pitcher. Reason to worry? Uh, no.
For those who care (I don’t), the book on A-Rod says he may have been taking steroids since high school. I quote Al Davis, “Just win, baby.” Do that and nobody will talk about this stuff.
By Jon Lane
I know it’s April 27. I’ve said and written many times that last I checked, seasons do not end in late April. The Yankees are .500, but plenty of would-be contenders are in worse predicaments. Alas, because we’re in New York and it’s the Yankees, hell is breaking loose. Cries of “this team is aging, old, tired, and has no heart …” have caused sleepless nights, yet all it takes is one big game to re-write perception. That’s the baseball season. That’s how it works over 162 games and eight-nine months. How many times in recent history were the Yankees declared dead, only to find it within them to win 90-100 games?
That said, right here and right now, the Yankees have big problems. Being swept by the Red Sox is never good. Blowing two wholly winnable games and allowing a steal of home in the third is inexcusable. Look, Mariano Rivera is going to blow saves, so if that’s feeding your ulcers, get over it and get off his back. But neither Rivera’s gopher ball nor Damaso Marte and his 15.19 ERA had anything to do with a problem that simply will not go away: The Yankees were 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position and left 15 men on base Friday night. On Saturday, they scored 11 runs and still lost. Enough said there.
When was the last time the Yankees had a feared, unequivocal, no-fuss, no-worries stopper? Mike Mussina won 20 games last season and he was great, but I’m talking about a bona fide big guy in the prime of his career who has carried his team on broad shoulders before. That’s you, CC Sabathia. Tonight in Detroit, you have to stop this. You have to get the Yankees re-aligned with their universe, a place in which their contending against their history and the justification of a palatial new home. You were handed $161 million to win a hell of a lot more than you lose.
Tonight, CC, play stopper. Go long, go hard and if not all the way, get the ball to Rivera with a lead. You cannot hand over the responsibility of halting a four-game losing streak to Phil Hughes.
This Tigers team, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, etc., can rake, even if all the pistons aren’t firing at once. Still, you’ve been decent against them throughout your career (13-9, 4.70), especially at Comerica Park (7-2, 3.80). It’s the ideal time to improve those April numbers of 11-10 with a 4.47 ERA over your first eight seasons.
Everyone is expecting it: your fans, your manager. You’ve shown you can handle the media. You haven’t snapped, snarled or played hide-and-seek. You’re a guy who in crisis situations says, “It’s okay guys. It’s all good. We’ll be alright, just follow my lead.”
Do it, CC. It’s April 27, but fair or not, tonight is already a must-win.
The suggestion box
- The AP this morning called Alex Rodriguez a “conquering rescuer.”How many of you right now are wishing A-Rod would go away? It’s either A-Rod and his shenanigans or the awesome Angel Berroa/Ramiro Pena duet at third base. Berroa has played all of three games at third. It showed Sunday night and he’s has done nothing since winning ROY in 2003. Suggestion: start Pena and tighten your defense until Rodriguez returns, which may be well before the target date of May 15.
- Nice first impression by Mark Melancon, eh? Yes, two innings do not make a career, but he worked out of his own bases-loaded, no-out jam without allowing a run. Once Brian Bruney returns, wouldn’t a Rivera-Bruney-Melancon back end work nicely? David Robertson (yes, he allowed Mike Lowell’s crushing double on Saturday) also deserves a longer look and Phil Coke more rope. The alternative is more of Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Marte and Jonathan Albaladejo.