Tagged: Yankees

Risky business to fall behind early

By Joe Auriemma

jeter_pena300_042909.jpgThe Yankees have done it before. This is
nothing new in the life of a Yankees fan. The team has had notoriously slow
starts in past seasons. Last season was no different, however,
unlike previous years, the hole that the team put themselves in was
just too deep of which to get out.

It’s really a risky proposition
for any team in the American League East to fall behind in a division so deep. The
Yankees and the Rays both have started this season off slowly, but they
are still within striking distance and one nice winning streak away from
forging to the top of the division once again. Some may say it’s too soon
to panic and that this is a very small sampling size of games. That may
be true, but it’s never too early to be concerned. The Yankees are only
four games behind the Blue Jays, but any extended losing streak can
increase the games back number to double digits, especially with the
way the Red Sox and Blue Jays are playing right now.

looking at the last couple of seasons in the AL as a
reference, it’s very hard to win a division when you are really far
behind to start the season. To use May 1st as the first marker, last
season the Yankees were behind both division-leading Tampa Bay and the Red
Sox. Now, they were only three games back at the time of May 1st, but
they continued to play inconsistent ball, while the other teams
thrived, giving the Yankees an insurmountable season-long climb that
would end with a third-place finish. In the AL Central, the Chicago
White Sox had the lead on May 1st and eventually won the division. The
Angels started off well, had the division lead early and built a major
lead by late August, securing another AL West title.

Going back
to 2007, Boston built a 5.5 game lead on the Yankees by May 1st, and
wouldn’t you know it, they held off the Yankees to win the division. Now,
the Yankees did win the Wild Card, but they were always playing catch
up, and, in fact, the Red Sox built themselves a commanding lead in
mid-July, but even with a hot second half the Yankees could not come
back and win the AL East. The Indians and Angels had the division lead
on May 1, 2007, and wound up winning the division.

biggest deficit by a team on May 1st over the last three seasons that
has been overcome to win a division was the Minnesota Twins in 2006,
who came back from nine games. However, that season the Detroit
Tigers were only one and a half games back on May 1st and wound up
winning the Wild Card. The Yankees were only one game back and won the
division. Out in the west, the A’s played well in April and were a half
game back of Texas and won the division.

This is certainly not
an exact science of who will win a division and there is a lot more
baseball to be played, but if recent history has shown us anything, the
teams that play well at the beginning of the season usually have pretty
good seasons and the teams playing catch up have a difficult climb the
rest of the way through their schedule.

That old adage says you are what your record says you are, but one nice winning streak puts that old adage to bed.

Lineups: Yankees at Red Sox, 4/26/09

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Nick Swisher LF
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Hideki Matsui DH
Melky Cabrera RF
Angel Berroa 3B

Pitching: LHP Andy Pettitte (2-0, 2.53).

RED SOX (11-6)
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Kevin Youkilis 1B
J.D. Drew RF
Jason Bay LF
Mike Lowell 3B
Jason Varitek C
Nick Green SS

Pitching: RHP Justin Masterson (1-0, 3.18)

Spring Training is way too long

spring_450.jpgBy Joe Auriemma
Years ago, once the baseball season
ended, the players would shut down completely in the offseason. Most of
these Major Leaguers had jobs to make extra income. I know most people
can’t even fathom the thought that Hall of Famers, Yogi Berra and Phil
Rizzuto used to work at a men’s shop in Newark, just to try and support
their family, but it’s true. This was a time in which players needed a
lot of Spring Training action to get back in shape and ready for the
marathon that is the baseball season.

Nowadays, most players
don’t have to worry about a second job and treat baseball as a year-round profession. By the time most of them report to camp in February,
they are already in shape. To be fair, a lot of these player do shut
down for at least a month after the season is over to rest, but even
the pitchers now throw in the offseason to keep up their arm strength.

This spring season was longer because of the World Baseball Classic games, and when it’s all
said and done the Yankees are going to play 37 exhibition games. That
is literally almost a quarter of a 162-game schedule. That’s also not
including the time in which they report to camp just to work out the
first week-and-a-half.

I spoke with John Flaherty and Jim Kaat
about the Spring Training season down in Tampa, Fla., and both agreed that the
Grapefruit/Cactus campaign is way too long. Flaherty told me that most position players are
ready to go by March 15. If that’s the case, there is almost three more
weeks until the regular season actually starts after the time frame in
which Flaherty told me position players are fully ready for the season.

tried to get the pitcher’s perspective on the spring season when I spoke
with Kaat. He told me that even though pitchers need more time
to strengthen out their arms and stretch out their innings, he
concluded that the spring schedule is ridiculous. One thought that he
had was make the Spring schedule only 15-17 games in the month of March
and just have the pitchers report maybe a week earlier than the
position players. Most of these pitchers take the time to stretch out
their innings over at the team’s Minor League complexes anyway in
extended Spring Training games.

As for getting a good look at
potential fringe players that managers have to put on their final
rosters, I think teams can see them in the
shortened spring schedule, simulated games, Minor League games and at
practice during the month of March.

I, like most fans, are just
ready to get this baseball season going now. I’ve been ready for the
last two weeks and I think from the reaction of a lot of the players,
they have been more than ready too.

Thoughts from Phillies-Yankees in Clearwater

By Joe Auriemma

The press box is packed here at Bright House Field, so I decided to go to an empty radio room to do my work today. While sitting there alone and editing my videos, in walks a man with a very familiar voice and he asks if I would mind if he sat next to me. It’s Harry Kalas, the Hall of Fame Phillies Broadcaster. All I keep thinking in my mind is him saying, “The career 500th home run for Michael Jack Schmidt!,” in his patented voice. I’m sure most of you have heard the familiar voice if you don’t know the name. The funny thing is that his voice is the same as if he was announcing the game. What a thrill!

Back to the game, Joe Girardi did something that I really think is a good move for this lineup. Derek Jeter is today’s leadoff hitter . Jeter has led off 448 games in his career with a .315 average, 359 runs scored and a .389 on-base percentage. Now I know most of you would say that Jeter is getting a little bit older, and might not have the average or on-base percentage he has had in previous seasons, but I really think that a move like this in the lineup, might get him to see more pitches and give him an opportunity to come to the plate more often. I also think that Jeter, who did hit .300 last season, is going to have a more Jeterian year in 2009.

Hideki Matsui, showing why the Yankees are opting to use him as their cleanup hitter most of the time until A-Rod comes back, hit a two run dinger to right. Matsui is another one of those players that was and is a question mark coming into 2009 after an injury-riddled 2008. Right now it looks as if his pop is back and he’s ready to drive in some runs this season.

Joba Chamberlain gave up back-to-back jacks to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard that may have given him whiplash with how quickly each left the park. The two pitches he gave up the home runs on were very flat. As the game has progressed, he has regained his command and is starting to look sharp.

Cody Ransom hit a solo home run in the top of the 4th inning to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Joe Girardi told me in our Q&A the other day that Ransom has been great this spring. In fact here is the exact quote:

Great spring. Very athletic player. He’s swung
the bat really well and we’ve still moved him around because Alex is
eventually going to be back. I feel comfortable putting him anywhere
and he brings a little thunder in his bat as well.”

I’ll be back with more from Clearwater. I might go bug Ken Singleton and Bob Lorenz for a half an inning and report back on how they are doing.

2:38 PM

I’m back from the booth after bothering Bob (the
official YES blobber) and Ken Singleton. I was in there while they were
talking to Joe Girardi. While talking to Girardi, Joba was pulled from
the game. His final line, 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HR. Not
really his best showing, but he has had a decent spring.

Coke came into the game. Coke, who Chris Shearn interviewed earlier
this week, is back in the game after a very bad left thigh contusion.
This is his first appearance since taking that line drive off of his
leg. Coke looked good. He faced the terrific lefty second baseman Chase
Utley. It was a battle and the count got to 3-2, when Joe Girardi told
Bob Lorenz and Ken Singleton that he would call an offspeed pitch in
the 3-2 situation and wouldn’t you know it, Phil Coke struck out Utley
on the 3-2 offspeed pitch. Great stuff from the booth.

3:05 PM

Brian Bruney now in the game here in the Top of the 7th inning. Bruney needs to have a good outing. Coming into this game he has 8.1 innings pitched this spring with a 7.56 ERA, (7 earned runs). He’s also allowed eight hits, struck out 10 while walking six and has given up three home runs. This is a pitcher that they have slotted in as a possible 8th inning bridge to Mariano Rivera. The Yankees have put a lot of stock in Bruney being a big time reliever for them.

He just allowed a lead off double to Matt Stairs.

3:14 PM

Bruney, after giving up that leadoff double, got out of the jam. This is a good sign for the Yankees. Like I said before, the Yankees need this guy to be good this season.

3:17 PM

Nick Swisher just went yard. Chris Shearn had an interview with him on Monday and he is the clubhouse clown according to his teammates. I know there was a lot of talk about possibly moving this guy in the offseason and there is still rumblings that he may be moved. I think that would be a big mistake. From what I’ve seen down here, Swisher adds some fun and life into the clubhouse. In fact, he even said in his interview with Chris that the clubhouse was, “A little stuffy,” when he got here.

Not only does he add a little pop to the lineup, but he does get on-base a lot. Our own Steven Goldman thinks he should be the everyday right fielder over Xavier Nady, now while I don’t agree with him there, I definitely think he is a terrific piece to this 2009 team.

3:52 PM

The Yankees win this one 10-2 over the Phillies from Clearwater. Some final thoughts from the game.

  • The Jeter move to the leadoff spot was a very favorable move in its trial period today.

  • Chamberlain didn’t have his best outing. He gave up back-to-back home runs to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Once again, and something that’s been a knock of Joba’s starting career up to this point is that he runs up his pitch count very quickly. Today he only threw 4.1 Innings, but still managed to earn the victory.

  • Phil Coke and Brian Bruney stepped up and pitched well today in key situations. Finally, with rumblings of Melky Cabrera or Nick Swisher possibly being traded, both smacked a home run today.

  • That’s it from the ballpark. Be sure to catch all of the video interviews from today and another edition of The Diamond Daily.  

Joba makes first start of spring

Joba-2-28-(2)-250.jpgYankees on YES is back on the air this afternoon live from George M. Steinbrenner field at 1:15 when Joba Chamberlain makes his first spring start against the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees are 2-1 this spring after losing to the Twins, 5-4, Friday at Fort Myers. 


Chamberlain showed last season he has the stuff to be an eventual starter, especially when he defeated Josh Beckett and the Red Sox, 1-0, at Fenway Park on July 25. But the Yankees plan on limiting the innings of their prized prospect. He’s never pitched a full season as a starter and had a bout with rotator cuff tendinitis that kept him out for nearly a month and forced him back to the bullpen.


About the Twins

Ron Gardenhire is 622-512 with one losing season during his seven years in the Twin Cities, yet taking an inexperienced 2008 club to a one-game playoff against the White Sox is being touted as his most remarkable job. The recent addition of veteran third baseman Joe Crede gives Gardenhire a power hitter who will add pop if he can stay healthy. Francisco Liriano, fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, will also be around for a full season. After a slow start, Liriano went 6-1, 2.74 in second half and was unbeaten in 10 of his last 11 starts and recently decided to not pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.


Stay logged on to YESNetwork.com for a game recap and highlights.