Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kick em' while they're down

             The Detroit Tigers were one of the most talked about teams of this offseason with their addition of Prince Fielder to their already dangerous lineup and the fact they have 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander as their ace. For 2012, things haven't been so peachy as the Tigers strolled into Yankee Stadium with only a .500 record at 10-10 after starting the season 3-0. Things got off on the wrong foot before any games were played as the night before at his midtown hotel, Tigers outfielder Delmon Young was arrested for hurling anti-Semitic slurs at a Jewish panhandler, which drew the ire of a group of tourists from Chicago.

             The Yanks were treated to Justin Verlander immediately as he took the mound on a chilly Bronx night against the Yankees' most consistent pitcher over the past year, Ivan Nova. Both looked human, especially Verlander who served up two homeruns to Alex Rodriguez and another to Russell Martin. Nova was touched up for 6 runs in his 5.1 innings of work, although to his credit some of those early runs were off of seeing-eye-singles which found holes in the infield. Tied at 6-6 in the bottom of the 9th, Derek Jeter scored the winning run from third just in time for the 7-6 victory.

              Freddy Garcia continued his magical 2012 with another awful performance as he was racked for 6 runs without even being able to get out of the 2nd inning. David Phelps, who has had the job of cleaning up Hughes and Garcia's messes so far this season, was able to steady the ship with three scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Nick Swisher provided two homeruns, including one in the 9th inning to help jump start a possible comeback as the Yanks scored 3 runs, but it was too little too late as the Yanks lost 7-5. Drew Smyly, in addition to having a weird name, held the Yankees to 1 run over 6 innings, and combined with Garcia's bad start put the Yanks in too deep a whole. After the game Garcia was sent to the bullpen having lost his job to Phelps. The honeymoon on Garcia's 2011 season seems to be on its way out the window. 

             With the pitching rotation looking real scary over the past week, Yanks ace CC Sabathia took the hill in the rubber game against the Tiger lineup which was still without the bigotry of Delmon Young. Sabathia followed up his strong 8-inning performance in Texas with another strong 8 innings in the Yanks 6-2 win to take the weekend series. Max Scherzer was shaky for the Tigers and wasn't able to get out of the 5th inning as his pitch count went well over a hundred. Other than a massive Fielder bomb given up by Sabathia, the big guy scattered four hits with eight strikeouts in his eight frames of work. Both Granderson and Andrew Jones went deep for the Yanks as they improved to 12-9 while the Tigers stayed at the same .500 they came in with at 11-11. Nick Swisher left the game early with a tight hamstring which could be a cause for concern with Brett Gardner still on the DL and the fact Swisher suffered leg problems most of spring training. Meanwhile Stockburn, that is Jim Leyland, tries to figure out how to get his team on track. 

              Next up the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles come to the Stadium in which YES announcer and former Orioles star Ken Singleton is sure to be calling the games....

Friday, April 27, 2012

The tale of Yu and Hughes

            There was a time when the Yankees would stroll into Arlington and run the place like it was their own ballpark. Those days are long gone, unless somehow the steroid pioneers of Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro comes out of retirement to rejoin the Rangers again. The Yanks dropped into Texas to face another team off to a great start, the Rangers. No, not the hockey ones.

           The highlight of the match-up was going to be the Yanks first look at the prized Japanese import Yu Darvish, who signed a 6-year $60 million dollar contract this past offseason, but the first game was CC Sabatthia vs. Derek Holland. The Yankee bats picked up from where they left off in Fenway and tagged Holland for 7 earned runs in 6 innings, with the biggest exclamation point coming from Alex Rodriguez's massive 3-run homer to left-center. Sabathia actually looked like Sabathia for most of the game and went 8 innings before passing the ball to Mo for his 4th save of the early season.

             On deck was the game to decide which team has the better Japanese pitcher as Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish fought to the death, and unfortunately for the Yanks, Darvish was the ruler of the dojo that night.  The Rangers had to shell out $51 million just for the rights to negociate with Darvish, then signed him to a $60 million dollar contract. The Rangers risk certainly paid off as Darvish sparkled for 8.1 innings with no runs and 10 strikeouts, to up his season record to 3-0. Kuroda wasn't actually bad himself, only giving up 2 runs, but he certainly picked the wrong day to run into Darvish. Yanks will have to hope Darvish gets a serious case of the Dice-K and burns out by July.

            The rubber game brought a twin billing of bad news to the Yankees as first it was revealed Micheal Pineda's sore shoulder turned out to have a tear and will require season-ending surgery. Pineda came over from Seattle in a deal for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, in which Seattle must be grinning ear-to-ear about. The other piece of bad news was Phil Hughes regressed from the positives he displayed in his last start against the Twins and was slapped around for 4 runs in 2.2 innings of "work". During spring training the Yanks were actually faced with a dilemna of too many starting pitchers, now with Pineda gone for the year, Hughes hasn't look good, Garcia hasn't looked good, and Pettitte still hasn't thrown a major league pitch since 2010; starting pitching is turning out to be a Hughes, I meant huge, problem.

              At 10-8 the Yankees will bow to the Rangers head back home to face a new murderers row lineup in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder for the Detroit Tigers....

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Dream Weekend at Fenway

            The Yankees brought their hot bats into Fenway Park and achieved something great short of winning the World Series, that is totally humiliating the Boston Red Sox and their jackass of a manager, Bobby Valentine.

              During the offseason, the Red Sox front office forced out long-time manager Terry Francona for losing control of the clubhouse and allowing his players to get fat from Popeye's chicken.

            To combat the fattening clubhouse calamity and awful September collapse of 2011, the Sox surprisingly hired former Mets manager Bobby Valentine and his clownish antics. Bobby V's pinnacle of success was in 1999 when he brought the Mets into the NL Championship Series and got wiped out by the Braves in 5 games, and then in 2000 he brought the Mets into the World Series against the Yankees and was also wiped out in 5 games. With some recent success in Japan (where the players probably had no idea what he was saying) and spending last season as a commentator for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball with his hair dyed a different color each week, this was the solution to all the Red Sox problems.

            The Friday game was proceeded by a ceremony to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park (which was also in the same week the Titantic sunk, any correlation?). Terry Francona, stilled bummed out on how the front office leaked stories to the press that an alleged addiction to painkillers hindered his ability to manage last season, changed his mind and joined the on field festivities which included a large amount of other former managers and players who once wore the Red Sox uniform. Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar led the entire Fenway crowd into a gigantic toast, and that was about as good as it got for Red Sox fans from there on out.

            The Yankees got to business right away, scoring Derek Jeter in the top of the first, thanks for a fielding error on a pop up by Dustin Pedroia to start the game. Then from there the Yanks played the long ball game against Clay Buchholz with homeruns from Nick Swisher, Russell Martin Alex Rodriguez, and two from Eric Chavez (who doubled his total from last year in just one game!). The 6-2 final score was actually generous by the Yankees, who left a ton of runners on base throughout the game. Ivan Nova was great yet again and improved his record to 3-0 this season with 6 strong innings. Restless Red Sox fans unhappy with the team's 4-8 start this season, let Bobby V hear it as he went out to make his pitching changes. The manager also ruffled Red Sox feathers by publicly calling out fan favorite Kevin Youkilis a few days before for "not being into it" like he used to, although Valentine claimed his words were twisted. Dustin Pedroia had to remind his manager, "that's not how we do it around here". Didn't the front office know what type of clown they were getting?

            After trashing the 100th year anniversary party a day before, the Yanks sent Freddy Garcia to the mound to help pile it on the sliding Red Sox, but instead the Red Sox actually showed a pulse. Garcia was battered around for 5 earned runs and wasn't able to even get out of the second inning. This is now three lousy starts from Garcia, which looms large as it appears Brian Cashman traded a top blue chip prospect Jesus Montero for a busted flatscreen from Kmart, as new pitcher Michael Pineda has now been shutdown again due to shoulder tendinitis and needs an MRI.

            Red Sox starter Felix Doubront was having his way with the Yankees lineup as he cruised through 6 innings, only surrendering a solo homerun to Mark Teixeira. Down 9-1 in the 7th inning, the Yankee bats started to chip away the Red Sox biggest Achilles heel this season, their bullpen. With Daniel Bard moved to the starting rotation, Jonathan Papelbon leaving for free agency to Philadelphia , and new closer Andrew Bailey hurt; the Red Sox bullpen has been about the worst in all of baseball so far in 2012. A Nick Swisher grand slam and a two-run homer from Mark Teixeira (his second of the game) highlighted a seven-run seventh inning for the Yanks and cut the score to 9-8 Boston.

           Scoring seven runs in an inning was so fun the Yankees decided to do it again in the 8th inning and went up ahead 15-9. Bobby V couldn't stop the avalanche of the Yankee bats as each bullpen move only resulted in the need to come out again to the mound shortly thereafter. The Red Sox faithful, having witnessed about one of the most brutal blown games in recent regular season history, booed the manager louder and louder on each of his mound visits, and even chanted for the front office to bring back Tito (Francona). With nothing else to do or say about the matter, Bobby V reached into his usual bag of foolish
behavior and actually tipped his cap slightly to his adoring public.

              The Red Sox were able to run into a little luck as Sunday night's game against the Yankees was rained out, so they dodged facing Yanks ace CC Sabathia and a likely weekend series sweep. After losing their first three games of the season, the Yanks at 9-6 are about the hottest team in baseball and square off against another hot club in the Texas Rangers.

               Bobby V and the rest of the Ringley Brothers head to Minnesota to face the Twins....

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hughes, we have a problem

             The Yankees did the unforgivable this week and split a four game set with the Minnesota Twins instead of giving their manager, Ron Gardenhire, his usual nightmare when he visits the Bronx.

             The opening game Monday night was a marquee match-up of pitchers who were awesome in 2003, Freddy Garcia and Carl Pavano. Yes, that Carl Pavano, who was on the DL for three out of the four seasons the Yanks had him signed. In a theme that would repeat itself over and over again throughout this series, the Twins jumped to a 3-0 lead on Garcia. The Yanks answered right back with back to back homers from Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson in the Yanks' first inning to make it a 3-2 game, and Gardenhire must have thought, "here we go again", but that's as close as the nightmare would come. Freddy later gave up  few more runs and the bullpen was no help either as the Twins walked away with a 7-3 victory.

            CC Sabathia took the ball for the Yankees in the second game against Yanks annual punching bag Francisco Liriano. Although Minnesota put a slight scare into the crowd by owning a 3-1 lead by the top of the third inning, the punching bag did his thing and the Yankees had Liriano knocked out of the game by the bottom of the third. Sabathia settled down and the Yanks took the second game 8-3.

           The Yankees really carried that momentum into the next game as they fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first inning, but yet again, they battled back in the bottom of the inning to cut the score 4-3. Opening Day hero Hiroki Kuroda was nothing like his previous start and was charged with 6 earned runs over his 4.1 innings of work, including 2 homers from Justin Morneau. Trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth, team captain Derek Jeter made it very interesting with his 4th homerun of the season to make it a one run game, but no one followed the captain's example and the Yanks went down 6-5.

           The Twins, playing with house money by this point, sent Anthony Swarzak to the hill against struggling Yankees starter Phil Hughes. In what might've looked liked a TiVoed game from the previous night, the Twins jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first, only to have the Yanks storm back to score 3 runs in the bottom of the frame to make it a 4-3 game. The rally was highlighted by Mark Teixeira's first sign of life this season, with his first homer, and before that a homer from Curtis Granderson, who would hit another homerun in the second inning......and yet another in the fifth inning, as part of a 5 for 5 evening.

            Hughes settled down and threw a few scoreless frames, but couldn't get out of the 6th inning and served up a massive 2-run homer to Ryan Doumit that made it a 7-6 game. Although only 2 of the 6 runs were actually earned thanks to yet another fielding error from Eduardo Nunez, filling in for Cano at second base, it was an underwhelming start from Hughes. In three starts this season, Hughes has not looked sharp at all and hasn't been able to peel off a good performance. Luckily for the Yanks, the combo of Soriano-Robertson-Rivera was able to make 7-6 stand as the final score. After a decade of misery against the Yankees, for the Twins to take 2 out of the 4 games must have been Ron Gardenhire's ticket to Disney World.

             At 7-6, the Yankees make their first overhyped visit of the season up at Fenway to see how many more dozens of rows of seats they can built on the green monster before it collapses...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I wish I could get $250 million to do nothing

            The Yankees finally opened up at their own ballpark this past weekend and played host to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, not to be confused with the Los Angeles Angels of Beverly Hills or the Los Angeles Angels of Compton.

            Not only was this weekend big for the Yankees' home opener as well recognizing the contributions of Jackie Robinson, but this was also the unveiling of the Angels' new $250 million slugger Albert Pujols in front of an audience consisting more than ten people. After 11 seasons and 2 World Series championships for the St. Louis Cardinals without any steroid allegations, Pujols signed a 10-year deal for $254 million to move to the AL west and play with the Angels. Always reliable birth certificates from the Dominican Republic has him at 32 years of age, so the 35 year old will be playing out this contract till he's 45.

            The Angels must have read Hank Steinbrenner's book on how to run a front office.


            In the first game after the humongous flag in centerfield and the fighter jets flying overhead crap was done, Yankee new-comer pitcher Hiroki Kuroda shocked the entire sold out stadium crowd by throwing 8 innings of shutout baseball. Kei Igawa he was not.

            The Yankees own mega-millions winner Alex Rodriguez and his $275 million-dollar contract out-shined Pujols with 3 hits including a mammoth homerun out towards monument park in centerfield. Curtis Granderson also lined a homer into the right field stands for his second of the young season. The game was basically over the the 1st inning when Nick Swisher's bases clearing double put the Yanks ahead 3-0 and Kuroda just mowed the Angels down from there.

            Unlike Kuroda, Phil Hughes wasn't able to bounce back from his first mediocre start in Tampa and he was tagged for 6 runs in the Yankees' 7-1 loss in the second game. Hughes was slapped around for 8 hits including 2 homeruns in 3.1 innings while the offense had no answer for Angels starter C.J. Wilson, another part of the Angels spending spree this offseason. Although Hughes was able to throw with velocity, he seems prime to be sent back to the kid's table once Pettitte returns in May.

            The rubbermatch of the series came down the first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball appearance for the Yankees this season and a 11-5 victory over the Angels. In honor of Jackie Robinson, aka MLB PR ploy to try to snare future black athletes from the assumption of basketball and football as the only meal tickets, players from all teams wore number 42 this day. The Yankees offense knocked out Angels starter, a journeyman pitcher, something Williams out rather early, taking a 5-1 lead. Derek Jeter added a cheap 3-run homer to the generous right field of Yankee Stadium to increase the lead to 8-1 as his hot hitting continues. Ivan Nova wasn't all that sharp as he gave up a few homers of his own, but was able to hold the Angels to 4 runs over his 6 innings of work.

             To the Angels credit they scratched and clawed their way to stay in the game and things got real dicey in the seventh inning when they had bases loaded and the winning run standing at the plate. Of course, when there's a bases loaded situation, Yankees reliever David Robertson gets out of it automatically.

             After tacking on another run to make it 9-5 Yankees, Raul Ibanez put the game away for good with a 2-run homer into the upperdeck that made it 11-5. The shot was only the third time in the stadium's brief history a homerun ball reached up there. The Yankees at 5-4 will roll out the red carpet for the usual-walkover Minnesota Twins who come into town next.

             As for Albert Pujols; his weekend series added up to 4 hits and 2 RBIs, but still without a homerun for 2012.

             Had he been hitting like this for the Yankees, the media and the fans would be burning him at the stake by now.....