Young Kids Propel NY Yankees to Comeback over LA Dodgers

June 28, 2010

In the top of the 9th inning Sunday night, the New York Yankees scored four runs to turn a 6-2 deficit into a 6-6 tie game.

In the middle of the rally were Chad Huffman, acquired off the waiver wire in May, and Colin Curtis, a 2006 Yankee draftee who made his major league debut this past week. I repeatedly contend that the Yankees 2006 draft will go down as the greatest draft class of all time.

Both outfielders, Huffman was brought up from Triple A two weeks ago, and Curtis was promoted for the inter-league games in National League parks where the DH is not used. Curtis has yet to start a game, but has appeared as the primary left-handed bat off the Yankee bench (at least when Jorge Posada is catching.)

Huffman came through last night with a big two-run single, and was followed by Curtis who hit the score tying ground ball to first base.  Before plating the tying run, Curtis had a tremendous at bat, fouling off four two-strike pitches from Jonathan Broxton, one of baseball’s hardest throwing closers.

Huffman and Curtis made their major league debuts this season, as has utility man Kevin Russo, and right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova. Two other players, OF Greg Golson and RHP Romulo Sanchez, had cups of coffee for other teams, but until this year, both had not played in the majors in basically two seasons.

The four Yankee position players all connected for their first major league hits this season, and have helped the Yankees win games this year. Nova and Sanchez were each brought up in May to give an overworked bullpen some fresh arms. In fact, Nova’s promotion was to replace Sanchez.

That is four guys getting their first hits, and four guys making their major league debuts.

Joe Girardi has no issues in using his young players.

But this would not have happened if Joe Torre were still managing the Yankees. Torre was more of a veteran player type manager, continuously using veteran players, guys he trusted to do certain jobs. That is why Torre always used the same guys out of the bullpen. He didn’t really trust certain players, especially youngsters.

That makes last night’s game so ironic in that two rookies knocked in three runs in that last inning, helping to tie the game which Robinson Cano won with a two-run homer in the top of the 10th.

With the exception of Ivan Nova, probably all of the young players mentioned here will not have a impact during future seasons, but in 2010 they have all a little something to help win games for the Yankees.

The turnaround in organizational philosophy towards using their younger farm system talent is getting better all the time. Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, David Robertson and Ramiro Pena have greatly contributed in recent seasons.

There are even more young players “down on the farm” who will continue to get their shots at the major leagues in a Yankee uniform.

And that is a good thing to see, as the precedent set by their predecessors has been quality, winning baseball.

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New York Yankees Next 35 Games Are Of Extreme Importance

May 24, 2010

The Yankees began a crucial 35-game stretch Thursday night with a 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers then have split the first two games of the Subway Series against the cross-town New York Mets.

The Rays showed just how much better they are than the Yankees, with better pitching, scoring early and having a back end of the bullpen which did not blow games.

They also out-scouted the Yankees, using defensive positioning to help defend Mark Teixeira and surprisingly, the newly-promoted Juan Miranda. 

With all the injuries and the starting pitching not performing well (at least the last turn through the rotation), it will be interesting to see how the Yankees respond to this upcoming stretch.

After concluding their three-game set at the Mets, the Bombers travel to Minnesota, then home for seven games against second division teams Cleveland and Baltimore. The Yankees go on the road, seeing for the first time the pitching-rich and homer-friendly Toronto Blue Jays.

Interleague play continues with three against the Houston Astros, last year’s World Series opponent Philadelphia Phillies and another series with the Mets.

The Yankees go west for the second time, including visits at the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Yankees renew friendships with former Yankee skipper Joe Torre and former pitcher (and first-round pick) Ian Kennedy.

It is about this time where Jorge Posada should be ready again, out for about a month with a stress fracture in his foot. The foot injury is devastating for any catcher who continually squats down and flexes his feet.

However, with the defense which Francisco Cervelli is displaying, Posada mostly could be used as a DH with occasional catching duties.

While Cervelli has certainly been impressive, it has mostly been as the “backup” catcher. Despite playing the majority of the last 10 days behind the plate, it was not until Posada actually went on the disabled list (DL) that Cervelli became the “starting catcher.”

While no one expects him to become the next Yogi Berra, the pressure is now on Cervelli to keep playing well. If he doesn’t, there is no one behind him to help carry the load. He has only hit .227 over his last six games, the time which Posada has been out.

Nick Swisher is back and hitting. Curtis Granderson has begun a minor league rehab assignment, and the Yankees could have a full complement of starting position players (minus Posada and the easily replaceable Nick Johnson), within a week.

After being swept by the Rays, the Yankees need to win 20 or more of these 35 games over these next five weeks, before they get Posada back.

At least keep the distance manageable from the Rays, but these upcoming games are not important due to catching the Rays, but because the Yankees are looking to keep distance between them and the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

Minnesota has the same record as the Yankees while Detroit is only two games back of the Yankees entering Sunday’s schedule.  

Both those AL Central teams have good starting pitching, with the Twins complementing that with a really good, powerful lineup.

The Tigers are riding veterans Johnny Damon, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, and have had immediate success with rookie outfielders Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch. They did recently take three of four from New York.

Lots of question marks remain relative to the Yankees starting pitching, relief pitching, recent offensive woes and some defensive issues with Alex Rodriguez and his throwing. 

Is that all?

With certain guys still out, it is imperative that veterans Mark Teixeira (1 for his last 20) and Derek Jeter begin to improve their strike zone discipline and the starting pitchers work more efficiently to keep the weak middle relief off the field.

With all the other issues, the Yankees can ill afford to further their recent skid which has seen them drop nine of their last 14 games.

Other teams are lurking.


CC Sabathia’s Plunking Of Dustin Pedroia Was a Must for the New York Yankees

May 9, 2010

During Friday night’s New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox game, starting pitcher Josh Beckett hit Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter in the big eight run Yankee fifth inning. He also came close to Mark Teixeira and Francisco Cervelli in that same inning.

After Jeter’s plunking, I texted the guys from the Shore Sports Report , where I do a baseball analyst radio spot every Friday, saying that “Pedroia needs to get plunked.”

And when I saw various Yankees, including CC Sabathia, mouthing their displeasure towards Beckett, I knew that Pedroia was going to be a target.

It is nothing against Dustin. He is a prototypical baseball player, always hustling, frequently getting dirt on his uniform. Pedroia is the type of guy you want playing for your team. It is just that Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is a boring target who usually gets out of control when he feels like he is being thrown at.

Look what he did last season to Detroit Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello.

Since the Yankees second baseman was hit in Friday night and had to leave the game, it had to be THEIR second baseman who was retaliated against, plus Pedroia would take it like a man.  

Josh Beckett is an easy guy to dislike. He never smiles, and does not seem pleasant to be around. I spend some time down in South Florida and heard various stories about him, too, when he used to play for the Florida Marlins.

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. And he is very overrated. He has parlayed three good seasons (and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein’s rash judgment) into a new four-year, $68 million contract.

Not only is Beckett not pitching well this season, but come three/four years from now, Beckett’s contract will be viewed as one of the worst contracts in baseball. A dead weight contract which will further tie down the Red Sox.

But Beckett was throwing the baseball very well Friday night, at least for five innings. That is why it was incredible he would hit two guys, and come close to two others.

Not that I think the Cano plunking was intentional, because after Alex Rodriguez’ sixth inning leadoff double, the last thing Beckett wanted to do was put another runner on base with no outs and the Yankees already leading 3-1.

But I did believe Beckett hit Jeter on purpose, and tried to get Teixeira two batters later. He also dusted Cervelli just before Jeter’s HBP. At that point the score was 5-1 Yankees and it looked to me that Beckett had given up.

So why not hit Jeter? Beckett had given up, saying to the Yankees, “You beat me and all I can do is hit your players.”

That was wrong because pitchers should never intentionally hit batters for doing well against them, but only for showing up a team/player or in retaliation.  

That is why Pedroia needed to get plunked by Sabathia. But after it was over, Pedroia ran hard to first base, taking it like a baseball player, seeming to know it was coming. However, the next batter, Victor Martinez, hit a two-run homer to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.

The plunking hurt on the scoreboard, but the message was sent.

I also was not the least bit worried after the home run, as the Yankees were getting guys on base and it was a matter of time before they started knocking those runners home. Also, Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz was off his usual game.

I wrote a piece last year about Yankee manager Joe Girardi changing the Yankees mindset regarding protecting their hitters . For too many years Joe Torre let the Red Sox pitchers have a field day in hitting the Yankee lineup. Red Sox manager Terry Francona had no problem letting it happen, either.

Too many times Pedro Martinez would bean Jeter and others, and nary a Yankee pitcher would come close to dusting David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez.

But Girardi has changed that tune and will not let the plunking of Yankee hitters go unpunished. Neither will Sabathia.

And that is good to see.

// //


New York Yankee “Problems” for 2010 Are Actually No Problem

February 25, 2010

I have read a boatload of preview articles for the 2010 season, plus many articles on the 2010 Derek Jeter led New York Yankees and their attempt to be the first team to repeat as World Series Champions since, the Jeter-led Yankees of a decade ago.

Most pundits agree that the New York Yankees have the best team in baseball, and coming off a 103 win 2009 regular season and a World Series title, it is hard to argue.

But people always need things to write about. Many real baseball writer such as Jon Heyman and Buster Olney have written pieces about the Yankees chance to repeat. But hundreds of other bloggers have their viewpoints, too.

I believe most “bloggers” are just pissed off sports fanatics who could never play a major sport to any degree. Most of what they write usually is negative as they rip players, teams or GM’s. The writer never understands how difficult it is to do what those professionals go through on a daily or seasonal basis.

I even read one web site guy exclaim that the Yankees were too boring this off season and that he needed some controversy to write about. That guy has consistently provided material proving he is knows nothing about baseball.

The TMZing of baseball really galls me.

It was very difficult for Joe Girardi to walk in after Joe Torre was released, have many of his star players besieged by injuries, and be expected to win “because that is the Yankee way.” His team missed out on the playoffs in 2008 and Girardi was ripped mercilessly. Even after winning the World Series last season, many have wondered whether Girardi will be back for 2011 if the Yankees do not win a title again this season*.

*Truth is that Girardi will be the Yankees manager for at least as long as Torre, maybe longer. He is not inept. Girardi is a very intelligent as a baseball guy and as a former catcher, he knows the game pretty well. Most catchers make good managers as that position is involved in every single pitch made on the field, and the catcher is in the best position to see the entire field. That is one reason why scouts and front office brass sit behind home plate, it is the best place to see the game. Girardi also learns quickly on the job. His reversal last season of his 2008  totalitarian ways (with players and media) made for a better player/manager/media relationships.

Yep, Girardi will be the Yankees manager for a long time.

The non-extensions this off season of Girardi, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter was one of the “stories” created by a tired and broken down media. Those people writing about the Yankees possible losing one of those guys, especially Rivera and Jeter, are the same guys who thought the New York Mets were waiting for Minnesota native Joe Mauer to leave his hometown Twins, become a free agent and sign with them next season.

Yeah, like that was going to happen. Maybe Albert Pujols will leave the St. Louis Cardinals, too.

The fact that the Yankee policy of not negotiating until the contract is over was given very little credence. Also, the professionalism of all three guys were never really spoken about much either. Anybody who reads my articles knows how I feel about Jeter’s next contract.

Other off-season controversies written about include the finally ended Johnny Damon saga, the lack of getting a power bat for left field and the competition for the fifth starter spot in the rotation.

But the biggest thing I read about the 2010 Yankees is the phantom issue of complacency.

Complacency about what? Winning? Are they serious?

The complacency issue is the biggest non-issue, because complacency does not exist with today’s professional athlete. There is to much at stake—another ring, that next contract, fame, embarrassment, but most importantly is that desire to win every game, all the time.

Do people really think that these professional athletes are not going to have the personal pride to try and win every game they are playing?

Once you win, like the Yankees did last season, you know how great that feeling is and as a player, you want to win all the time. Even before a player wins a World Championship, they want to win all the time.

It is why they are a professional athlete. That desire to compete and at a high level and to win. These guys want to win on the field, in front of the Xbox and at the clubhouse card table.

While it is true that at certain times during a baseball season that players might give away at bats or go through the motions in a blow out game (but never the Big Dago Joe DiMaggio), these professionals are NEVER complacent about their jobs.

I have always said that athletes are so competitive that they would still play a game just as hard in an empty stadium with no television coverage. If a mid-July Wednesday day game were played on a sandlot field in the middle of New Jersey, Brett Gardner would still sprint towards second base hard to break up a double play, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez would still dive for hot smashes down the lines and Jeter would hustle down to first base on a ground ball.

That is the mantra of the athlete. Compete and win. You want to beat the other guy and team.

Even on the level I used to play in summer semi-pro hardball, the games and season were ultra-competitive. We used to play 40 regular season games in 60 days, then playoffs. The season would stretch from Memorial Day to early-August, playing night games after work to Sunday double headers. The teams in our league were pretty much the same every year, the same core with a few new ringers.

We wanted to win, and were really not happy when we lost a game. I remember  a bunch of us sitting around for hours after losing the final game of the playoffs one summer. It was terrible. We worked even harder to have a better team the next season.

We weren’t complacent even in a summer league.

Do you think that the pro players would be complacent? No way.

Do you think that Nick Swisher is complacent after he won his first ring last season?

No. He went out, improved his hitting mechanics with hitting coach over the winter and changed his eating habits, losing 12 pounds. Swisher wants to become even better this season, knowing he is the starting right fielder. He wants another ring.

Do you think Jeter is complacent after working hard again on his lateral movements to continue his tremendous defense at short? Is Gardner complacent by working on his bunting to expand his game?

Even management was not resting on their laurels. Do you think GM Brian Cashman was complacent this year? Nope. He made a couple key trades to get the Yankees younger and less expensive.

I read somewhere that Cashman made his first inquiry to the Detroit Tigers about Curtis Granderson during last years playoffs. The Yankees did not even win the World Series yet and Cashman was already looking to improve the 2010 Yankee team!

And if complacency did occur like in the old days, it would only occur in the off season, as players maybe would celebrate too much, not work out enough to improve their game and not be in the same physical condition entering spring training. Most of the time players had to hold off season jobs to make ends meet.

But with the money in today’s game, the players’ full time jobs are their overall health and keeping in shape year round. Spring training is not like it used to be when players would use the spring to get into shape. Now all players keep fit during the winter, and the players use the six weeks prior to the season to get into BASEBALL SHAPE.

Complacency is not an issue for major leaguers and especially these Yankees. Cashman has put together a team of high constitution players, without egos and with a strong desire for commitment to the team concept. And that commitment includes working out all year to improve and be ready to play every day.

The Yankees do have the best team in the Major Leagues but may not win another World Series Championship this season, as it is just so hard to do that with the three levels of playoffs.

But it will not be because of complacency.

That does not happen in pro sports.

It is just another media creation.


Yankees’ Damaso Marte Becoming the New Graeme Lloyd

November 2, 2009

In the 8th inning of Saturday night’s New York Yankee victory, manager Joe Girardi summoned left handed reliever Damaso Marte to begin the frame. At the time, the Yankees led 8-4, so the game was still within reach of Philadelphia, especially with the middle, power-part of the Phillies hitters due up.

It was a good move by Girardi (one of many he has made this post season), getting the lefty Marte to face Phillies slugger Ryan Howard leading off the inning.

Marte dispatched Howard on five pitches (all strikes), continuing the terrible World Series by the big first baseman. What was uplifting though is that Girardi left Marte in to face the right handed Jayson Werth, who already hit two monstrous home runs in the game.

Marte also struck out Werth (who looked at three called strikes) and then quickly got another lefty, Raul Ibanez, to hit a weak liner to Alex Rodriguez at third base. Marte threw 15 pitches, 13 of which were for strikes.

With Phil Hughes, David Robertson and lefty Phil Coke all available, Girardi could easily have brought in Marte to face Howard, brought in Robertson to face Werth, and then wear out the path to the mound one batter later to bring in Coke to face Ibanez.

And that is what Girardi WOULD have done if he didn’t have a change of attitude during the ALCS.

In Game Three of the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels, Girardi removed an effective Robertosn in the 11th inning to bring in Alfredo Aceves. Aceves promptly gave up two straight hits and the Yankees lost. Girardi used EIGHT pitchers in that game and was roundly criticized for making too many matchup moves.

Since then, Girardi has been more economical with his pitchers (except for Mariano Rivera), and was the reason for leaving Marte in for the entire 8th inning last night.

As many readers of my writings can attest, I have never been a big fan of Damaso Marte, and was highly critical of the last season’s trade , which brought Marte (and OF Xavier Nady) to the Yankees.

But last night, Marte combined an unusually high mid-90’s fastball (topping out at 95), with his precision placed slider. The key with Marte is that he is locating his slider (and his fastball) very, very well.

In this postseason, Marte has now retired the last nine batters he has faced. He is being used in bigger situations as Girardi begins to gain more trust in the veteran left hander.

He is becoming the next Graeme Lloyd, a former Yankee outcast who made the postseason roster due to being the only other lefty available, but then coming through all postseason long.

Lloyd was a tall Australian who was acquired by the Yankees in Aug. 23, 1996 for durable reliever Bob Wickman and OF Gerald Williams. The Yankees needed another lefty for their bullpen to complement…well, to complement no one because the Yankees had no effective lefty bullpen arm the entire 1996 season.  

Lloyd was not particularly impressive after the trade, giving the Yankees 5.2 innings while allowing 12 hits, five walks and 11 earned runs. His ERA was 17.47 and his Yankee WHIP was 3.000.

Still, Yankee manager Joe Torre kept Lloyd as his lefty specialist for the 1996 post season. He responded by throwing 6.1 innings, allowing a single hit, no walks while striking out five hitters. Lloyd continuously faced tough lefty hitters in big situations and proceeded to come through each time.

The big moment of his post season that year was in Game Four of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves

Tied at six entering the bottom of the 9th inning (in the same game Jim Leyritz hit the big three-run homer off of Mark Wohlers), with one out, Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera allowed a single to Mark Lemke and walked Chipper Jones.

Torre replaced Rivera with Lloyd* to face Braves lefty slugger Fred McGriff, who had homered earlier in the game. With the game and series on the line (if the Braves won they would have taken a commanding 3-1 series lead), Lloyd induced McGriff into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

The Yankees would then score two runs in the 10th inning and go on to win Game Four (Lloyd was credited with that win) and eventually win the World Series.

Marte has become the 2009 version of Graeme Lloyd. Marte was injured for most of the season, and when he was available, was largely ineffective and mostly ignored late in the season. His season ERA was a Lloyd-like 9.45 and Marte only appeared in mop up duty in September.

Many people, including me, thought Marte was not going to be on the post season roster, but like Torre did 13 seasons earlier, Girardi showed faith in the veteran Marte and kept him around for his left-leaning ways.

Marte has also been Lloyd-like in this post season, retiring all nine of the batters he has faced in the ALCS and World Series, and has become a thorn in the side of Philadelphia’s left handed hitters Chase Utley, Howard and Ibanez. With the struggles of Phil Hughes, it has been interesting to see both Marte and Joba Chamberlain being used more in later inning situations.

While I have not been a fan of Marte’s since his arrival in New York, I have written that if he does come through in the 2009 post season, that trade will have a modicum of redemption .

His continued post season success is critical for the Yankees in their drive towards another World Series title.

Who would have thought Graeme Lloyd could be reincarnated?

*Interestingly, Lloyd also appeared in Game Three, also coming in for Rivera, who eventually became the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Imagine replacing the great Rivera in back-to-back World Series games.


A Dominant World Series Performance while on the Mound at Yankee Stadium

October 29, 2009

An in-his-prime Cy Young Award winning pitcher was making the start in Game One of the World Series on the hill at Yankee Stadium (one of the few stadiums left that does not receive money for naming rights). He completely dominates the Bronx Bombers power laden lineup, and out dueled the Yankees ace left handed pitcher.

Having won the prior years World Series, his team was seeking to become the first National League team since the Big Red Machine in 1975-76 to repeat as a World Series Champions. The Yankees meanwhile, had not been to the Series in years and were looking to continue their comeback kid way of the prior playoff series.

However, on this Game One night only the Yankee shortstop and lead off hitter, Derek Jeter, crossed the plate, while a former Boston Red Sox hitter batting second for the Yankees had one of the few hits allowed by this veteran stud pitcher. 

A young slugger for this pitcher’s team hit two home runs, one a mammoth shot whose sound of bat meeting ball reverberated throughout the stadium, that is until the entire stadium went quiet. After the second home run in as many at bats, the way this starter was pitching, it was apparent to Yankee fans knew the game was likely out reach.  

Even this Yankee fan predicted that the Yankees would win Game One.

And on this night, the Yankee bullpen put gasoline on the fire, doing their part to allow that loss to materialize.

This pitcher had the Yankees waving at pitches all night, continuing his utter dominance in the post season. Up to this game, the pitcher started Game One in both prior series, was undefeated with a ridiculously low ERA and WHIP, handily defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers along the way.

His great start and solid offense from his teams lineup gave the Yankees thoughts that the Series might not go as they expected. They knew that even if they won the next couple games, they would have to face this ace once again.

After Game One, a Yankee hitter lamented that the next time his team “might have to beat that guy 1-0 or 2-1 the next time they face him.”

Could the Yankees beat this guy the second time around, likely going head to head again with that lefty Yankee ace on the hill?

Of course they can…and they already did! And that pitching rematch was one of the classic duels in World Series history, and the Yankees went on to win the World Series title.

Cliff Lee and 2009? Hardly.

We are talking about John Smoltz and 1996. He tore through the playoffs that season, and beat the Yankees in Game One , with Andruw Jones smacking the ball over the fence twice. Smoltz and Andy Pettitte both came back again in Game Five with masterful performances, only to see the Yankees win that duel 1-0. 

And that was AFTER the Yankees lost Game Two at home to a magician on the mound named Greg Maddux, similar to a magician the Yankees face tonight in Pedro Martinez.

So, all those prognosticators who think this 2009 Series has already taken a bad turn for the Yankees because of Lee’s dominance should look back at 1996. There was nobody better than Smoltz that season, and the Yankees beat him 1-0 the second time around.

MATSUI’S GAFFE

Anytime a ball is hit in the air within the infield, it is the runners job to get back to the bag. If the ball drops, it is the batter’s job to hustle down the first base line to beat a throw. Do your job and don’t worry about the other guy.

No matter what happened to that mini-pop up hit by Robinson Cano last night, Hideki Matsui should have been on first base immediately after the ball was hit. He never would have been safe on second anyway! Cano hustled down the line and thought he beat the relay throw, but he was actually out on the catch. Matsui needed to be back to the bag (and not on the infield grass!).

And where was the first base coach during all of this? Why was he not yelling to Matsui to come back to first? Stupid play all around and it goes to show that some ballplayers live on talent, and not on brains.

YANKEE HITTERS

Many times last night the Yankee hitters were consumed with home plate umpires Gerry Davis strike zone. Most of the times the strike zone was too tight as Cliff Lee, Phil Hughes and David Robertson were all severely pinched, but Cano and Melky Cabrera showed displeasure when strike calls were made.

Showing disgust toward the ump will get you no sympathy as the umps usually have long memories. As a hitter you will not get many calls your way after complaining.

Disgust on the field also takes the hitter out of his approach at the plate. While now a hitter is thinking about the SOB calling balls and strikes, the hitter should be concentrating on the pitcher and the count.

Don’t ever let the umpire dictate how you approach the at bat. If the zone is bigger than you thought, don’t swing at bad pitches early, but expand the zone with two strikes.

But players need to feel out the umpire and adjust accordingly. I would much rather see hitters voice displeasure than pitchers get squeezed. A bigger zone puts more balls in play. When I first began umpiring (now doing high school and college level baseball), I was told to start out thinking every pitch will be a strike, then after the ball is thrown find a good reason why it should not be.

WORKING THE COUNT – TAKING TOO MANY PITCHES

Rogers Horsnby was the greatest right handed hitter ever . His 1921-1925 seasons were absolutely sick. His first mantra was to GET A GOOD PITCH TO HIT. Ted Williams stuck to this mantra his entire career.

But now the game has changed to taking good pitches to hit. That is a bad move.

The Yankee hitters were taking too many fastballs down the middle early in the game. Do the Yankees really think they are going to pitch count Lee out of the game? This working the count is the biggest crock in baseball, especially the World Series game one. If the game was tight near the end, Charlie Manuel was NEVER going to pull Lee out of the game. He learned that lesson in the NLCS when he pulled Pedro too early and lost Game Two in Los Angeles.

The way to get Lee out of a game like that is to knock him around by spraying balls all round the field. And you do that by going after good pitches to hit early in the count.

You hear the announcers all the time saying, “So and so should be able to go another inning because he has a good pitch count.” Go another inning?

How about demanding to you manager that you will go nine innings and then shove the ball down the oppositions throat. Intimidate the other lineup by letting your ace dominate. Tell the other team, you can’t beat me and I won’t let you ease your minds by allowing the bullpen to come in this game. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa made that mistake in the NLDS by removing Adam Wainwright after eight brilliant innings against the Dodgers.

UMPIRES

There was almost another umpire mistake on the Cano infield pop up, but the correct call was eventually made. But the real problem is not the lack of umpire knowledge, but that umpires do not like to break that cardinal rule of overruling another umpire, especially a veteran guy.

After the second base umpire called Cano out on Jimmy Rollins’ catch he should have called Matsui out also when he saw Ryan Howard tag out Hideki. He should have rules on the out at first immediately EVEN IF IT IS NOT HIS CALL. he is the only one who clearly saw the catch made, so he should have the say on the first base call, too.

It appears these umps are too timid to make an immediate call, and replay on everything will only make that worse. Umpires should run the game and not worry about feelings or god forbid, worry about the media.

And in the next TV contract negotiations, Major League baseball should tell the networks that the strike zone F/x garbage shown on every pitch should be outlawed. It leads to too many psuedo-baseball fans complaining about every pitch.

AJ BURNETT

I have read many pieces today that all the pressure is on AJ Burnett to live up to that $80 million contract and pitch the Yankees to victory.

Fans at the game should just let the guy pitch tonight without putting more pressure on him. He gets out of whack quickly and fans jumping down his throat will only aggravate the situation.

That is such garbage. Sports contracts are like investments and those disclaimers at the bottom of the prospectus or spoken really fast at the end of a commercial. These disclaimers say that “past performance is not indicative of future results.”

Burnett was paid that money based upon what he did last season, pure and simple. It does not indicate how he will pitch in “big spots” or “pressure games.”

Big contract’s don’t force players to play better. If that was the case, would giving CC Sabathia another $100 million last winter forced him to pitch better last night?

So, before Yankee fans boo every ball out of the strike zone thrown by AJ and boo every out Alex Rodriguez makes, just remember that these guys will be here many more years and as a fan, you are not making it any better or easier.

Let these guys play and leave them alone.

Yankees win tonight 7-3 as Pedro gets knocked around.


Los Angeles Dodgers Make Two More Good Moves

September 1, 2009

Ned Colletti is an excellent General Manager, and if he decided to leave the Dodgers later this season (the final one of his contract), there would be a few teams who would immediately line up for his services.

First and foremost, a good GM builds a farm system, and keeps the major talent. Since being hired by the Dodgers in November 2005, Colletti has kept his talented young position players such as Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and Andre Ethier (obtained in a trade).

Colletti has augmented that group of young stars by signing a few veteran free agents such as Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf, while re-signing lineup stalwarts Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake.

Also, for the last several years teams have tried to pry away young, home-grown starters Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw (Colletti’s first Dodger draft choice in 2006) and Colletti has adamantly refused.

In addition to building and keeping a good farm system, another role of a good GM is to go out and get veteran players who would be good for a playoff bound team.

Always looking to improve his team, Colletti managed to get two veterans Jim Thome and Jon Garland late Monday night (both now former White Sox players) for the September stretch drive. And both are eligible for the 2009 post season.

The proverbial “prospect” was traded to the White Sox for Thome, while the even more proverbial “player to be named later” (PTBNL) will be moved for the starting pitcher. The PTBNL is usually a 40 man roster guy, who will be dealt in the off-season so as not to have to clear waivers.

Both Thome and Garland are former members of the Chicago White Sox 2005 World Series championship team, and have playoff experience.

It has been said that Thome will be primarily a bench player, used in a similar role to how Matt Stairs was used last season for the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies beat the Dodgers in the NLCS last season, with the main reason that the Phillies right handed relief pitching beat down the right-handed hitting Dodger lineup.

Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin threw a combined 12 innings last fall in the NLCS, allowing one earned run while recording 12 strikeouts.

Colletti hopes to alleviate that late inning righty relief problem with Thome on the bench. Thome was OK with this situation, waiving his no-trade clause and being reunited with his old pal Manny Ramirez, who played with Thome for eight seasons (1993-2000) in Cleveland.

Just like when Colletti picked up LH relief pitcher George Sherrill from Baltimore at the trade deadline, the Thome move was also made with a possible playoff rematch with the Phillies. The Sherrill trade was made to neutralize the three lefty power hitters, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez.

And Sherrill’s BAA versus lefties this year is an amazing .119.

The Garland move was made to fill up the fifth spot for the Dodgers, who like the more experienced Garland in place of 25 year old knuckle ball pitcher Charlie Haeger. Garland is starting Thursday night against his old team, the Diamondbacks, and likely against them next Tuesday night, too. 

Depending how manager Joe Torre shuffles his rotation, Garland could make five or six starts, against the weak hitting Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. Garland should be much more effective in this stretch drive than with the American League teams he was supposedly going.

It was another great couple of deal for the Dodgers in getting Thome and Garland, and during the most recent deadline getting the dominating Sherrill. And all this after last season getting Manny and 3B Casey Blake in deadline deals. The Dodgers did not give up any of their top young talent and received veteran players who could help them in September.

UPDATE (9/2/09): It was pointed out to me that the Dodgers sent C  Carlos Santana to the Cleveland Indians for Casey Blake. Santana appears to be a future star. My bad on that comment, but the Dodgers likely needed to give up someone of stature to get Blake, a needed piece in last season’s playoff push. And now is Blake is signed for a few more seasons. If I had to give up one of the top pitchers or Santana, I still give up Santana and keep Billingsley and Kershaw.

Colletti has done a masterful job as Dodgers GM in obtaining the players he feels could help his team with a World Series title. 

Now it is just up to the players to prove him right.