Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kuroda's Desires And How They Benefit The Yankees

(Courtesy of Anthony Gruppuso, US Presswire)

With 2012 serving as the latest example of why you can never ever have too much starting pitching, and the current group of young starters bringing more questions than answers to the table right now, re-signing Hiroki Kuroda has to be near the top, if not at the top, of the Yankees' to-do list this offseason.  He ended up being a bargain at $10 million for 219.2 IP of 3.32/3.86/3.67 ball, plus 16 stellar innings in 2 postseason starts, and was the most important pitcher on a staff that was beset by injury and performance issues from day 1.

Normally a season like the one Kuroda had would have teams with a need for pitching lining up to throw a ton of money at him for a 2 or possibly 3-year deal, Yankees included.  But with teams continuing to shift their thinking away from high-dollar, multi-year deals for older players, and a report from Nick Cafardo stating that Kuroda is "content signing a one-year deal at this stage in his career," the chances of that happening are significantly reduced.  Kuroda's declaration that he is only seeking a 1-year deal also turns whatever happens with him this offseason into a positive for the Yankees.

Catching Up On News & Notes

(It's not a World Series ring, but at least some Yankees are taking home some hardware this year)

If you're like me and were out of the Yankeeland loop for the last day and a half, here's what you missed:

- Joe reportedly called Alex Rodriguez last Friday to start the fence mending after A-Rod's postseason benching and discuss plans for 2013.  The sneaky unnamed source that leaked the story indicated that the conversation went well.

- The Yankees officially exercised their 2013 team options on Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and David Aardsma.  C-Grand and Robbie will each make $15 million next season while Aardsma will make a paltry 500 thou.  All expected moves and all smart moves by the club.

- Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano were among the group of American League Gold Glove winners announced yesterday.  It was Teix's 5th award and Robbie's 2nd, and with absolutely no favoritism towards them as Yankees I will say that both awards were well-deserved.

- Jon Heyman is reporting that Rafael Soriano will officially opt out of his contract today and become a free agent.  That should help free up some cash to fill out the rest of the 2013 roster and ensure the Yankees get at least 1 compensatory draft pick after Soriano declines their qualifying offer.

Everybody Alright Out There?

I went with the longer sentimental version of this post over at TYA this morning, but now that I'm back in the swing of things here I had to reach out to the AB4ARmy too.

I chalked the whole "Frankenstorm" thing up to typical media hype and really didn't expect things to be that bad when the hurricane hit over the past few days, but when I finally got the chance to check in and see what was going on yesterday afternoon was legitimately shocked.  Sides of buildings blowing off, massive flooding, parts of the Jersey Shore pretty much getting wiped off the map; that's some pretty heavy shit.  My friends and family that I've talked to back home are all safe and sound right now and just waiting for the power to come back on, and I hope that's the case for everybody else out there.

Looking at the site traffic from yesterday it certainly appears as though a lot of people out there have power and were using the internet as a way to pass the time.  So if you do and you're using AB4AR as part of that time passing strategy while you wait for the rain to stop, the wind to die down, and the waters to recede, I thank you for that.  I hope you're all safe and dry, I hope everybody has enough food and water, and I hope I can be a small part of getting things back to normal for everyone now that the storm has passed and I'm back to my regular writing routine.

Monday, October 29, 2012

2012 AB4AR Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Bench*)

(No ALCS without this guy.  Courtesy of the AP)

With starting pitching always being the top priority every offseason, taking care of internal player contracts second, looking to address the lineup through trades or the free agent market third, and the bullpen fourth, the Yankee bench has been a bit of a forgotten element the last few years.  Not forgotten in the sense that the Yankees don't focus on building a quality bench, but in the sense that the strategy to build has become very simple; see what money is left and see what older veteran players out there fit the Yankee hitting formula and need a job.  It's a strategy that's served them well, but one that was questioned a bit more before this season, especially by me in my "Known/Unknown" bench preview, as Cash really looked towards some guys who were pretty long in the tooth at the expense of younger internal options.

The Handy, Helpful AB4AR Guide To Qualifying Offers

The World Series ended last night, which means Tim Lincecum is probably smoking a lot of celebratory weed right now.  It also means that the clock officially starts ticking on all the major offseason milestones, the first one being the deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to their pending free agents.  If you aren't familiar with the new free agent system, here's a quick rundown of how it works now.

There are no more Type A or Type B free agents; there is now a level set every year based on the average value of the 125 biggest contracts in MLB that teams can offer to any pending free agent who spent the entire previous season on their roster.  This year that value is $13.3 million.  Teams have until 5 days after the World Series to offer a qualifying deal to any pending free agent on their team who fits the criteria and then that player has 7 days to accept or decline the offer.  If they accept, they return to their team on a 1-year deal for the qualifying amount; if they decline, they are free to sign with any team and their former team is given a compensatory pick at the end of the first round of the next MLB draft.  Whatever new team the player ends up with does not have to surrender a pick, just the money that they are signing the free agent to.

The Yankees have a fair share of pending free agents this season, but only a few who are really worthy of having a qualifying offer extended to them.  As a helpful guide for the next 5 days, here is an all encompassing list of who should and should not receive an offer.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kiley McDaniel's Yankee Prospect Scouting Reports

Kiley McDaniel has taken his prospect scouting gig from ESPN to FanGraphs, and he's come out firing with a boatload of scouting reports from the instructional leagues on many a Yankee farmhand.  He's been releasing the reports in parts for a little over a week now, and he finally concluded them with Part IV earlier this week.  In case you haven't already, you can check out all four parts of McDaniel's report right here and I strongly suggest that you do.  If you aren't familiar with McDaniel's work, get familiar.  His reports are very detailed and insightful, but presented in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way that leaves you with a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses that McDaniel saw in a player.  Highlights of McDaniel's reports and my personal takes after the jump.

Yanks And Royals As Potential Trade Partners?

(Anybody who says they wouldn't want this guy is a liar.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Yesterday Chad Jennings of LoHud brought up the possibility of the Yankees getting involved with the Kansas City Royals this offseason, expanding on a report from Buster Olney that said the Royals would be in the market for starting pitching and would be willing to trade from their nucleus of good young position players to add that pitching.  Chad pointed out that the Yankees have a small cadre of young pitchers in Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps that could get talks started, and that the Royals have players who could fill positions of need for the Yankees in Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas, making a deal between the 2 teams a mutually beneficial possibility.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

2012 AB4AR Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Bullpen)

(Gotta love Untuck Time.  Courtesy of the AP)

While the starting rotation has been an up-and-down affair recently, a strong bullpen has been a staple of this extended era of success for the Yankees, going all the way back to the '96 World Series.  Mo has been the fixture at closer since then, and has had a cycle of solid setup guys in front of him each and every year.  D-Rob and Sour Puss set that table heading into 2012, with a group of familiar faces from the season before surrounding them, so this season was expected to be another successful one for the Yankee 'pen.  The depth was there, the roles were already known, and the future was being built during the present.  But as was the case with the rest of the team this year, it was a season to expect the unexpected.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 10/26

The big yearly trade show for my company's industry is next week, so I get to put on the monkey suit and go hobknob with customers next Monday and Tuesday.  It's back in Chicago this year, so while there aren't quite as many weird entertainment options as there were in Vegas last year, like a completely strung out homeless dude following us down the sidewalk for 5 blocks going, "weed, coke, weed, coke, weed, coke" as his sales pitch to try to get us to buy drugs from him, it should still be a good time.  One of my favorite things about trade shows is watching the number of people who will walk into my company's booth just to eat the food and drink the drinks at our hospitality area.  Dudes don't care who we are, what we're selling, or what we can sell it to them for, they just need a free half a sandwich and they need it RIGHT NOW!  It's these kinds of people that make other countries hate America.  Now onto the links!

- A solid pair from my TYA teammates on Monday.  Mike Eder hit all the Swish haters with a dose of perspective, showing how it's not going to be easy to replace him this offseason.

- Mike Jaggers-Radolf followed that up with an argument against trading Curtis Granderson this offseason.  Curtis dropped a lot in my book this year, but Mike's right about trading 4-WAR players and Curtis is still that kind of talent.

- Mark Feinsand of The Daily News had an early report connecting the Yankees to 18-year-old Japanese high school pitcher Shohei Otani, who made waves this week by announcing he plans to jump directly to the MLB draft.

- Rob Abruzzese of Bronx Baseball Daily listed his personal top 10 free agent outfielders for this coming offseason for people who wanted to get a head start on finding their ideal Swish replacement.

- On Tuesday, Mike Axisa of RAB looked back at the biggest hits of the 2012 season.  Strange how 1 name kept popping up on that list...

- Brien Jackson of IIATMS wondered if Brian McCann was going to become available this offseason and what kind of fit he would be for the Yankees.

- On Wednesday, Matt Hunter of Yanks Go Yard broke down the numbers and the spray charts to show why Mark Teixeira should continue to try to pull the ball.  Tough to argue against it.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud had all the important details from Joe's end-of-season press conference, in case you missed anything.

- Steve Lombardi of Was Watching asked if Joe's contract situation should be looked at right now.

- Steve Goldman of Pinstriped Bible argued that Joe and the Yankees aren't being smart if they truly expect A-Rod to be their everyday third baseman next season, and hinted that they need to be aggressive in finding another option this offseason.

- On Thursday, fishjam25 of Yankees Fans Unite laid out his reasons for why Cash should try to trade Alex Rodriguez.

- SJK of NoMaas also laid out a very logical, detailed plan for what the Yankees should do with A-Rod.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog examined Justin Verlander's rough World Series outing and the history of similar bad WS showings by former Cy Young winners.

- On Friday, el duque of It Is High... stated that he thinks Mo deciding to not come back is the right move and that the Yankees should start making plans for life without Mo now.

- Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes started to change his feelings on bringing back Swish, and looked at some potential replacement options.

For this Friday's jam, I'm going back to an old standby.  I know I've used Mastodon here before, but I know it hasn't been this song and it really doesn't get much more badass of an under-3-minute song than "Where Strides The Behemoth."  Even the name of the song is badass.  If I was a closer, I would seriously consider using the 10-second guitar riff at the end of this song on constant loop as my entrance music.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

2012 AB4AR Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Rotation)

("Whaddaya mean I'm the 7th starter?  Don't you know who I am?" Courtesy of the AP)

Starting pitching has been a tricky thing for the New York Yankees over the last 5-10 years.  Despite their best efforts, they haven't built rotations good enough to truly compete for World Series championships.  In 2009 they had just enough to get by, but for the most part the constant theme has been that when push comes to shove, the quality of the Yankee starting pitching wasn't on the same level as the quality of their offense.  Improving the rotation was right at the top of the priority list heading into this season, and great steps were taken to try to build up a better staff capable of being good over the long haul of a regular season and postseason.

In previewing what was known and unknown about this group, there was cause for optimism as it appeared the Yankees' plans to build depth and depth of talent were carried out successfully.  But as we've all learned at various times in our own lives, sometimes even the best-laid plans don't work out.

Mo Unsure About His Comeback

Via Andrew Marchand:

"Cashman told ESPN New York that on Tuesday he and Rivera had a conversation in which Rivera said he does not know yet if he will return for a 19th season.

'He wasn't certain on what he is going to do,' Cashman said."

Alright, who changed the program on RoboMo to let it think it could actually retire?  Not cool, guys.  Not cool.

At first I thought this was just another classic exercise of Marchand pot stirring for pageviews, but the quote directly from Cash does make this a little more legitimate.  That being said, I wouldn't get too concerned yet until we hear something directly from Mo's mouth.  He's had this three-act offseason play after the last few seasons where he's up in the air on whether he wants to keep playing.  Act 1 is the uncertainty and desire to stay home and spend more time with his family, act 2 is the actual spending of time with said family, and act 3 is Mo getting the itch to pitch again and coming back.  Rinse, repeat.

Besides, what the hell is he really going to do at home with his family with all that extra free time?  There's nobody at his home who he can teach the cutter to.  Don't worry about the G.O.A.T.  My money's still on him coming back.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thanks But No Thanks, Ichiro

As mentioned earlier today on the AB4AR Page, Joel Sherman reported that Ichiro Suzuki enjoyed his time as a Yankee after the trade this season and that Ichiro "strongly wants to stay" with New York next season.  Without delving too deeply into this, allow me to make my case against this idea.

Average age of Yankee postseason roster- 33.08 years

Current Age of Ichiro- 39 years

It just doesn't make any sense to make an already old team with a ton of money tied up in its oldest players any older.  Ichiro did exactly what the Yankees wanted him to do and exactly what a lot of people thought he would do after the Yankees traded for him.  But that still doesn't change the fact that he has deteriorated significantly as a player himself in the past 2 seasons, and the odds of him replicating what he did in his short time with the Yankees over a full season next year are incredibly low.  Let him be what he was and go out on a positive as a Yankee and focus efforts on finding a younger, more versatile outfield solution.

2012 AB4AR Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Outfield)

(Not pictured: Brett Gardner and his elbow.  Courtesy of the AP)

The start of the AB4AR 2012 Season Review officially kicked off yesterday with the review of what we learned about the 2012 infield.  It continues today with that same review for the outfield.  The starting outfield for the 2012 New York Yankees was an interesting mix.  3 guys with very different but equally important skill sets who combined to be one of the most productive and underappreciated units in baseball in 2011, and 3 guys whose futures with the club were all potentially up in the air in the near future.  As with the infield, it was a big up-and-down year for this crew, so let's dive right in and see what 2012 taught us about them.

What's The Deal With Eduardo Nunez?

(Hey! Nunez in the outfield was fun, huh?  Courtesy of the AP)

Eduardo Nunez is a strange case.  He reminds me of a joke that Patrice O'Neal told about Jeff Ross at one of the Comedy Central Roasts, where he called Ross a legend and then corrected himself by saying Ross was more like a myth because everybody had heard stories about how funny he is, "but nobody's ever really seen it."  That's Eduardo Nunez to me; he's been talked about as the next big homegrown position player piece for the future for what seems like the last 3-4 years, and he always ends up not being that.  I bring this up today because Cash and Joe each mentioned Nunez in their recent year-end addresses, but not in a way that makes his current or future standing within the organization any more clear than it's ever been.  To me, it almost seems like the Yankees have no clue what to do with Nunez anymore, and if that's the case then it might be time to trade him.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 AB4AR Season Review: What We Thought We Knew & What We Learned (The Infield)

(Photo used courtesy of Keith Allison)

For the second straight year I kicked off the official AB4AR Season Preview series with the "What We Know & What We Don't Know" sub-series.  It's a nice little way to make some assessments and quasi-predictions about the season to come while everything is still unofficial and unannounced at the end of Spring Training.  It only seems fitting to keep with that theme to start the official AB4AR Season Review series, and we'll start with the infield just like we did way back in late March.

After an up-and-down 2011 season, 2012 was expected to be a bounce-back year for the Yankee infield.  Robinson Cano was at the top of his game, and there was hope that a healthy A-Rod and more balanced Teix would help re-establish the middle of the Yankee lineup as the most feared in baseball.  The Captain was supposed to be the wild card of the group, but as it turned out he ended up being the most pleasant surprise of the bunch.  All in all, it's hard to say 2012 was a successful one for this crew, but it's also difficult to call it a complete failure.

Did Having To Play All The Way Through The Regular Season Hurt The Yankees?

(Ain't no lineup changes that fix tired.  Courtesy of the AP)

Yesterday I made a comment on our daily TYA email chain that it seemed like most of the blogopshere was caught in a no man's land when it came to Yankee coverage now that the season was over.  The combination of such a one-sided postseason exit with what was otherwise a very strong season seems to have put everybody in a situation where they aren't quite ready to go back and fully review 2012 and also aren't quite ready to let it go and start looking towards this offseason and 2013.  Well if that's the case then I'm just as guilty as everybody else, because I've had this idea jotted down for a couple weeks, even going back to the start of the postseason against Baltimore.

The general consensus was that playing hard through the end of the regular season would benefit the Yankees because they would still mentally locked in and would not lose any momentum by having guys sit and rest down the stretch like they would if the division was already locked up.  But for an older team like the Yankees, a team that was even more banged up than the poor Fraud Sawx and Blue Jays, did having to go all out for all 162 actually end up hurting them?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Real Impact Of Derek Jeter's Ankle Injury

(How's that ankle going to respond the first time Jeter has to make a similar play to his left next year?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The immediate impact of Derek Jeter’s ankle injury was major and painfully obvious to anybody who watched the ALCS. Without him in the lineup or on the field, the Yankees managed to score just 2 runs in the final 3 games while giving up more than that and committing 3 official defensive errors, 5 if you want to be a stickler like me and give Chavez and Teix Es for their stay-back botches in Game 4.  Even deeper than the on-field results, the entire attitude and morale of the team seemed to drop without the presence of The Captain. Say what you want about his robotic repetition of nothing comments to the media, but the tired, lifeless nature of the Yankees’ play in the final 3 games should stand as an example of just what kind of behind-the-scenes leader Jeter is in the clubhouse and how important he still is to the Yankees’ success. Losing Jeter for this year’s ALCS was a big enough blow to the Yankees, but the impact this injury has on next season could be even greater.

Pineda Still A Long While Away

Hey, remember that big trade the Yankees made in January?  They sent their best prospect to Seattle for a couple of young pitchers.  One of them was supposed to be this 22-year-old stud who the Yanks could pair up with CC Sabathia to form a top flight 1-2 punch for the next 4-5 years.  I think his name was Pineda?  Michael Pineda?  That's him, right?  Yeah, well if you remember him you probably also remember that he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder and missed the entire 2012 season.  Reports from Brian Cashman this past weekend have Pineda missing at least the first couple months of next season as well, so don't expect to see him as an option for the 2013 rotation, at least not right off the bat.

Monday, October 22, 2012

10 Years And "Top-Of-The-Market" Money, Huh Robbie?

(Talking big-money contract desires after a historically bad postseason.  Interesting strategy.  Courtes of the AP

While most of the Yankee-related news to come across the wire this past weekend was related to injuries and guys getting their options picked up or not picked up, a small bit that may have flown under the radar was Joel Sherman's Saturday piece in The Post about the upcoming Robinson Cano contract situation.  In it, Sherman made reference to Cano's reported desire to seek a 10-year deal worth "top-of-the-market dollars," phrasing that sounds all too familiar when talking about premiere infielders in pinstripes.  It's almost certain that this declaration is Scott Boras-driven, as Boras is notorious for never wanting his clients to negotiate before their deals are up and always seeking top dollar.  But if Boras, or Cano for that matter, really think they are going to get that deal from the Yankees, or anybody, they might want to start drinking some of that reality potion that Cash wanted Jeter to sip on a few years ago.

What He Said/What He Meant: "Cash On A-Rod" Edition

It's been a while since we've had the opportunity to dissect the subtext of some Cash commentary, so I was pretty excited to see he had plenty to say on ESPN Radio this past weekend.  Naturally, the topic was Alex Rodriguez, because that's all the guys at ESPN NY care about, and while he tried not to give in to their craving for cheap ratings and pageviews, Cash did set the stage pretty well for what the Yankees intend to do with Alex this offseason and what their mindset is when it comes to keeping or moving him.  If there was still any doubt in anybody's mind about how this organization views A-Rod these days, that was certainly cleared up in this interview.

What Cash said, Via ESPN:

"It's not like I'm going to hang phones up on anybody who wants to make any overtures about anything.  You're talking about realistic stuff and unrealistic stuff. I don't think it's realistic at all for us to be moving forward with anything but Alex Rodriguez at third base.

He's still an above-average third baseman. ... That means despite the contract that we had committed to him, that he's an asset at this stage still. I don't see us doing anything there. I don't anticipate it. If someone wants to make phone calls, we're more than willing to do all that stuff with any of our players, and that's fine. You can run into something that way."

What he meant:

Looking Ahead To The AB4AR Offseason

(Best believe we're going to keep the Horse talk to a minimum this offseason)

The players may be well on their way to cleaning out their lockers, making their golf plans, and setting the rest of their offseason schedules.  But at AB4AR, we aren't doing any of that, because...

/obvious sports cliche coming


Now that we got that out of the way, let me expound upon that idea a bit.  Yes, it's true, there won't be any big offseason breaks for me during the MLB offseason, at least none that I'm planning.  The baseball may be done but there's plenty left to talk and write about over the next 5 months, and I don't plan on missing any of it (unless I end up going to another wedding and miss something really exciting).

We'll start out taking a week or 2 to look back on the 2012 season and all its participants, the good, the bad, and the ugly, before handing out some Major League and Minor League end-of-year awards and putting 2012 to bed.  Then we'll really move the focus towards the offseason; free agent profiles, potential trade targets, payroll talk, building a lineup for 2013, etc..  There will be a few non-serious Offseason Space Filler posts sprinkled in for days when there really isn't anything of value to talk about, and there will be AB4AR Prospect Week and the unveiling of the 2012-2013 edition of the AB4AR Top 30 Prospects list sometime in late December-early January.

And believe me when I say that I'm going to cover the Alex Rodriguez saga only as much as I absolutely need to.  There are some things that will be worth discussing, and if some serious trade possibilities come up those definitely fit the bill, but if you're looking for a place to drag A-Rod through the mud for the next 5 months I suggest you look elsewhere.  There's plenty more to talk about than just how much A-Rod sucks and how the Yankees need to get rid of him, and I intend to make all of that stuff my primary focus this offseason.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Checking In On The Yankees' AZFL Contingent

The Major League guys are done for 2012, but there's still plenty of fall and winter league play worth covering for the MiL boys.  The Arizona Fall League has been underway for a few weeks now, and with the Yankees sending the full 7-man compliment of prospects there, including 5 of the AB4AR Top 30, that definitely warrants catching up on now that there isn't 100% focus on the postseason.  After the jump, check out how this group has been doing so far.

Nobody Panic, Sounds Like CC's Elbow Is Fine

One of the updates in yesterday's news roundup was a disconcerting one from Marc Carig, who reported that CC Sabathia was going to be heading to see Dr. James Andrews for his left elbow after admitting that it bothered him between his final 2 postseason starts and also for the majority of the season.  The name "Dr. James Andrews" in connection with the word "elbow" is never a good thing in Major League circles.

Yesterday, the story became more clear with Jon Heyman's report that CC is not going for any kind of ligament-related issues but rather a bone spur in his left elbow that Andrews will look at later this week and most likely remove in a minor surgery.

There's the obligatory grain of salt that comes with any Heyman report that's Yankee-related, but when it comes to just news like this he's usually pretty reliable.  A bone spur would certainly explain the discomfort the CC felt earlier in the year when he hit the DL for his elbow, and that discomfort that he was feeling again in the postseason would certainly explain his pitch selection in Game 4, when he went heavier on the changeup to cut down on stress on his elbow.  Bone spur surgery would be simple and not cause CC to miss the start of next season, which is a good thing.  As long as that's all Dr. Andrews' review turns up, the big fella should be just fine.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Playing The ALCS Blame Game

While the NY tabloids and the endless stream of talking heads at ESPN want to brainwash you into thinking that everything wrong that happened with the Yankees this postseason was Alex Rodriguez's fault, the fact remains that, like the team's successes, it was a true group effort to accomplish getting swept by the Detroit Tigers.  It's been a somewhat subliminal staging of The Blame Game taking place in the coverage of the Yanks' ALCS struggles, even within the blogosphere.  So being the fair, reasonable, even-keeled blogger that I am, I decided to take it upon myself to definitively state for everyone how the blame for what happened should be divvied up.  It took many hours of brain wracking to come up with this, so I hope you appreciate it.  Because I did it for you, Yankee fans.

End Of Season News Roundup

(The Cash does not abide.  Courtesy of the AP)

With the shock and disappointment of the Yankees being swept out of the ALCS still fresh, there has been a fair amount of updates, stories, and rumors already coming out relating to this team.  Who's staying, who's going, who's on the hot seat?  Almost any question you could ask has already started to be answered in the last day and a half since the final out of Game 4 fell into Prince Fielder's glove.  Before we finish up looking back on the ALCS and the season that was, and start looking ahead to what the 2012-2013 offseason has in store, let's quickly reset what's happened in the last few days.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 10/19

Truth be told, there's a small part of me that's glad the Yankees' season is over and glad that the inevitable didn't get delayed for one more game last night.  I've been a walking zombie for the better part of the last 3-4 weeks with all that's been going on in my life, and the really late nights and really early mornings of writing weren't helping.  And then there's the whole part where my apartment has devolved into the first stage of a future episode of "Hoarders."  I've got assorted empty beer containers everywhere, pizza boxes everywhere, piles of mail sitting around, a bathroom that I'm almost afraid to go into because it's so gross, and a litany of other chores and assorted daily tasks that normal human beings keep up with regularly that have been dying on the back burner for the last month.  So at least now that I don't have to stay up late drinking, cursing, writing, and getting 4 hours of angry sleep I have the opportunity to get reacquainted with the rest of my life.  That's a good thing, I think.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Michael P. of Yankees Fans Unite expressed a passionate take on the first 2 games of the ALCS.  I remember being that pissed after Game 2 too, so I can relate.

- EJ Fagan of TYA had a slightly more positive take on the first 2 games of the ALCS, commenting on the nature of being a Yankee fan and a offering a reminder to be happy that they made the playoffs again and passionate even if they lose.

- On Tuesday, Mike Axisa of RAB, almost always the voice of reason with the 'pen, reiterated the importance of Joe leaning on his best relievers in the ALCS.  Whoops, guess that didn't happen!

- William Tasker of IIATMS listed the reasons Nick Swisher won't be back next season, and the unfortunate role his postseason struggles are playing in making his departure more likely.

- On Wednesday, Marc Normandin of Pinstriped Bible rehashed Phil Hughes' checkered injury history and the role it may be playing in his Major League failure to live up to his Minor League hype.

- SJK of NoMaas was convinced that Joe benching A-Rod for Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS was a personal decision and not a baseball one.

- Alex Pugliese of Yanks Go Yard used the lessons currently being learned from the A-Rod contract as a foundation for an argument against re-signing Robbie Cano to a big deal.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog compared the shenanigans that sprung up in this year's postseason to the old Bronx Zoo teams of the 70s, ultimately concluding that they were still nowhere close to Billy's boys.

- On Thursday, Steve Lombardi of Was Watching asked, when the rumor mill was really swirling, if the Alex Rodriguez Era in pinstripes was worth it.  Even if he doesn't get traded, which he won't, that's a question that is still worth asking.

- Jamie Insalaco of Bomber Banter took a more clever approach than I in pointing out the ridiculousness of the A-Rod media storm this week.

- Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes attempted to put a bit of a positive spin on the ALCS sweep by pointing out that the Tiger bats didn't exactly blow the Yankees' doors off.  A small consolation to such a one-sided series outcome.

- On Friday, Alphonso of It Is High... weighed in with his personal choices for who should stay and who should go for next season.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud discussed the Yankees' postseason shortcomings and had some statements from Brian Cashman regarding the direction the Yanks will take this coming offseason.

For this week's Friday Jam I'm going with "Rays On Pinion" by Baroness.  This song has such a quietly kickass intro.  It came on my iPod the other night when I was driving home and it made me feel like I was acting out some kind of opening scene of an action movie.  An action movie starring me driving around in a green Honda CR-V, pretty sure nobody would watch that.  Whatever, this song still kicks ass.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

How's That Trade REALLY Looking Now?

(Another strikeout??  I'm shocked.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

A long while back in the summer of 2011 I wrote a short post gloating about the outcome of the '09 3-team trade that netted the Yankees Curtis Granderson.  At the time, Jackson was struggling through a tough second season in the big leagues and Granderson was one of the top offensive players in baseball.  That post, short as it was, is one of the top 10 most viewed posts in AB4AR history, and if you scroll down far enough on the page to see the "Greatest Hits" section, you'll still see it there, in all its glory.  It's one of the most popular posts I've written, and I imagine it's only going to get more popular now that I've used this post to out my stupidity in writing that one.  After last night, there's no doubt who the winner and loser of that trade really was.

2012 ALCS Game 4 Thoughts & Afterthoughts: DET 8 NYY 1

(Courtesy of the AP)

The odds were already stacked way against the Yankees going into yesterday's Game 4.  The likelihood of them winning the ALCS was incredibly low, and the reality of the situation was that even with CC Sabathia on the mound for them in Game 4 the chances of them getting a win to keep the series alive were incredibly low given the way they were playing.  This was a team on its last legs, a team that had nothing left, and yesterday they played like it.  They continued to not hit, setting the stage for all kinds of offseason talk around bringing in new players and re-evaluating their formula for building a lineup, and also added bad fielding and bad pitching to the mix to really make sure there would be no Game 5.

I hate to ever bring up effort in a discussion about a professional sporting event; I always assume that these guys are out there giving it everything they have.  But that Yankee team on the field last night didn't look like a group of guys who even wanted to be there.  The Yankees laid down and died in Game 4, and they probably would have been better off not even showing up.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


That was awful.  Just awful.  I know there's things I should be happy about this season, but to go out in that fashion is just mind-numbing and incredibly disappointing.  This team found its stride in the final 4 games of the regular season, entered the playoffs looking like they were primed to break out, and they just stopped hitting.  They stopped hitting and never started again, they just got worse.  Credit to the pitchers, but a heaping helping of blame and shame on the Yankee hitters.  Heads are going to roll this offseason.  Count on it.

The 2012 New York Yankees are dead.  Long live the Yankees.

Can Everybody Just Get Off A-Rod's Nuts??

(Really???  Courtesy of the AP)

Seriously. It’s getting out of control. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s A-Rod attracting all this negative attention and drama, because that’s what’s always followed him around his whole career and that’s always been SOP since the day he joined the Yankees and the New York media horde that follows them. What surprises me is how logic has completely gone out the window when talking about A-Rod and his struggles and his future in the organization. It’s almost as if everybody has been sent back through a time warp to 2006-2007 when bagging on A-Rod for anything and everything was the “cool” thing to do and it's absolutely asinine.

Appreciating Russell Martin's Postseason

(Ouch, guy.  Very ouch.  Courtesy of the Daily News)

Lost in all the talk about the sputtering offense, ever-changing lineups, and who Alex Rodriguez is or isn’t talking to in the stands has been the quietly valuable performance of a one Russell Martin. You remember him, right? The guy who spent the majority of the regular season batting below the Mendoza Line and then turned things around enough in September to probably earn himself a new deal with the Yankees next year? It wouldn’t be all that surprising if you had forgotten about him; his .172/.250/.310 tripleslash in the postseason isn’t exactly a resume builder and is more representative of his early-season struggles than his strong finish. But after playing through what is always a grueling regular season for a catcher, Martin has been out there behind the plate for every playoff game, has done a very good job back there, and that is something that should not be discounted.

Rainout Effects On Tonight And Beyond

(Good thing the tarp was out to protect against the rain that wasn't falling.  Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees have already gotten screwed enough by the scheduling of this year's postseason.  They started the ALDS on the road despite winning their division and having the best record in the American League; they faced a compressed ALCS schedule that could have required them to use a 5th starter.  So I guess it's only fitting to have them lose the one positive thing they still had going for them thanks to last night's rainout.

Personally, I thought it made more sense to start the game, try to get as much in as they could before the rain, and then wait it out and finish late night/early morning.  It would have cost both teams their starters, but with the forecast in Detroit not looking much better tonight or tomorrow, at least they would have had a better chance of getting the game in.  In any case, the Yanks and Tigers will try again tonight, and with CC still the scheduled starter the advantage is still Yankees.  But there are a lot more negatives that came with last night's cancellation than positives.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2012 ALCS Game 4 Preview: The Hour Is Getting Late

It's officially do-or-die time for the New York Yankees.  Their backs are against the wall, there is no tomorrow, and they've got to do the impossible.  They have to take it one game at a time, and overcome the odds, but they're playing with house money tonight so all that's left is to go out and do it.

Did I cover all the cliches for the 0-3 hole the Yanks are in?  Good.  Glad that's out of the way.  In all seriousness, the Yankees are in the best possible situation they could be for a must-win game tonight.  They're got their ace on the mound, they've got their 2 best relief pitchers rested and available for 2 innings apiece if needed, and they've got a lineup that at least showed the ability to battle last night against the best pitcher on the planet.  That doesn't change the fact that a win tonight only guarantees them one more day of must-win-ness, but it's something.

It's as simple as it could possibly be.  The Yankees need to win tonight or their season is over.  No stats needed to support that, no arguments for or against anything, and no looking ahead to the next situation.  Win tonight or it's curtains.

Updated Starting Lineups (4:25PM)-

NYY: 1) Ichiro- LF, 2) Swish- RF, 3) Cano- 2B, 4) Teix- 1B, 5) Ibanez- DH, 6) Chavez- 3B, 7) Martin- C, 8) Gardner- CF, 9) Nunez- SS

DET: 1) Jackson- CF, 2) Infante- 2B, 3) Cabrera- 3B, 4) Fielder- 1B, 5) Young- DH, 6) Peralta- SS, 7) Dirks- LF, 8) Garcia- RF, 9) Laird- C

Pitching Matchup-

CC Sabathia (17.2 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 16 K in 2 postseason starts) vs. Max Scherzer (5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K in 1 postseason start)

This Opposite-Field Hitting Situation Is Bullsh*t

The taking of hittable pitches, the popping up of hittable pitches, the swings and misses at balls way out of the strike zone, the glaring lack of power, and the constant shuffling of bodies is all frustrating enough when you watch the Yankee offense right now.  But to me the most maddening thing has been their continued stubbornness in not adjusting to the Tigers' pitching strategy and failing to take outside pitches the other way.  What is the deal?  Has everybody just gotten that bad at staying back on the ball and taking it to the opposite field?  Has Kevin Long turned every left-handed hitter into a pull-only baseball robot??  I refuse to believe that, but let's go to the numbers:

I knew it!  I know for a fact that Chavez hit an opposite field HR against the Tigers in their own park earlier in the year, and I watched Cano hit one over the Green Mawnstah.  Teix has pretty much given up on it, and C-Grand and Raul's numbers aren't pretty, but the other guys can get it done.

It's not like this group doesn't have the ability to go the other way; for whatever reason they're just not doing it in this series.  The Tigers' pitchers have executed their game plan and are just straight up taking the Yankee lefties to school.

2012 ALCS Game 3 Thoughts & Afterthoughts: DET 2 NYY 1

(I feel ya, guys.  Courtesy of the AP)

Justin Verlander is a great pitcher 25 hours a day, 8 days a week.  The Yankee hitters are beyond terrible right now.  On paper this was a decidedly one-sided matchup going into last night's game, and that's what scared me.  The Yankees were dying to score some runs, anyway, anyhow, and they had to face the pitcher who's hardest to score them against.  He wasn't even at his best, like he was in Game 5 of the ALDS when he closed out Oakland, but he was plenty good enough to beat this team and put them on the brink.  Valiant effort by the relief corps backing up an early-exiting Phil Hughes, but an effort that was once again in vain.  The fat lady isn't singing quite yet on the 2012 New York Yankees, but that bitch sure is humming loud.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2012 ALCS Game 3 Preview: Weak And Powerless

I don’t know if it makes me overly pessimistic after only watching 1 game of this series so far, or realistic because of how bad the Yankee offense looked in Game 2, but I admittedly have little faith in this team tonight. The manner in which they carried themselves on Sunday, more than the negative results they produced, was very disconcerting and signaled a dying team. There was no energy, no emotion, no life from a team playing an incredibly important home playoff game, and that doesn’t bode well for the Yankees in the rest of this series. Now the half-empty, boo-filled Yankee Stadium didn’t help matters at all, so maybe a change of scenery will help guys relax, but relaxed or not, facing Justin Verlander tonight is going to be a tough task. Yes, the Yankees have hit him before, but they’ve done that when they’re healthier and swinging the bats much better than they are right now. With the way they’re not hitting and the way Verlander is pitching, a complete game shutout seems like a very realistic possibility tonight.

In the most literal definition, tonight is not a do-or-die game. If the Yankees lose, they still have a chance to run the table and win this series in 7 games. But realistically, a Yankee loss tonight pretty much seals this deal up and in all likelihood ensures that this series doesn’t make it back to New York. If the struggling hitters have just been waiting to make their adjustments at the plate, tonight would be the night to do it.

Updated Starting Lineups (4:20PM)-

NYY: 1) Gardner- LF, 2) Ichiro- RF, 3) Teix- 1B, 4) Cano- 2B, 5) Ibanez- DH, 6) Martin- C, 7) Chavez- 3B, 8) C-Grand- CF, 9) Nunez- SS

DET: 1) Jackson- CF, 2) Berry- LF, 3) Cabrera- 3B, 4) Fielder- 1B, 5) Young- DH, 6) Dirks- RF, 7) Peralta- SS, 8) Avila- C, 9) Infante- 2B

Pitching Matchup-

Phil Hughes (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K in 1 postseason start) vs. Justin Verlander ( 16 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 22 K in 2 postseason starts)

Fair To Throw Some Blame K-Long's Way?

(Has the hitting doctor lost his touch?)

Kevin Long has done a lot of good things since becoming the Yankees’ hitting coach. He cleaned up Nick Swisher’s swing to help him make more contact, hit for a better average, and maximize the value of his power and pitch recognition skills. He did the same thing to Curtis Granderson’s swing to help him unleash his power potential in his speedy bat and make him a more effective hitter against left-handed pitching. He’s worked with Robinson Cano on pulling inside pitches with power, he did some things with Jorge towards the end of his career, and he’s helped Alex Rodriguez fix his timing and swing mechanics when A-Rod has been off multiple times during his coaching tenure. Sure, not all of his efforts have produced fruitful results (see Derek Jeter’s new swing last season or Teix’s new approach early this season), but overall Long has done a solid job, built a reputation as a coach that players in the clubhouse love working with, and inspired my “Dr. Long” Photoshop character that’s still one of my all-time favorites.

But in light of the offense’s collective disappearance in this postseason, the third straight season that the Yankees have had a playoff slump with the bats, the question is starting to be raised about Long’s future with the club and whether or not he deserves to have the spotlight shined on him for the lack of production from the lineup. It appears as though some of Long’s teachings have turned guys like Granderson and Cano into one-dimensional, dead pull hitters incapable of doing anything even remotely useful with pitches on the outside, and essentially provided opposing pitchers with an easy-to-follow blueprint for how to attack and shut down the Yankee lineup.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lineup Needs To Be Blown Up For Game 3

(Just sit down, Curtis.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The offense is fucking up big time in the postseason. They are the primary reason why the Yankees had to go 5 games to beat Baltimore in the division series and why they currently find themselves down 0-2 going on the road against Detroit. There’s no point in trying to say it any other way; these guys, with a few exceptions, have flat out sucked a dick at the plate and wasted what has been a great team pitching performance. The Yankee starting pitchers have allowed just 14 runs in 7 postseason games, a number that even in my wildest dreams I wasn’t expecting them to do, and yet the Yankees are 3-4 in those games. That’s almost hard to fathom given the names and reputations and career numbers in the Yankee clubhouse, but it’s a sobering stone cold fact.

Joe and Kevin Long have stayed consistent with their messages of guys “needing to step up” and needing to “make adjustments up there” to try to turn this around, but it just isn’t happening. The hitters clearly aren’t making adjustments, the small tweaks to the batting order and baserunning strategy are returning little to no dividends, and the clock is starting to count down on the Yankees’ season. At this point, the time for waiting and adjusting is over. The Yankees need a spark, something to try to generate offense where this is none, and it needs to start with a major shakeup of the lineup for Game 3.

The ALCS, Where Bullpen Logic Goes To Die

(Best relief pitcher on the time right now.  Didn't pitch in the biggest spots.  Does not compute.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

It got glossed over by almost everybody after Game 1 because of the 9th-inning drama and Derek Jeter injury in extra innings, and it got glossed over again yesterday thanks to Hiroki Kuroda's outstanding performance, the lineup's non-existent performance, and Jeff Nelson's horrible 8th-inning call, but I can't bite my tongue about it today.  The failure on Joe Girardi and his staff's part to use David Robertson and Rafael Soriano in the 8th and 9th innings of both games in this ALCS is an absolute managerial disgrace of the highest order, and a much bigger contributing factor to the Yankees losses in those games than people realize.

2012 ALCS Game 2 Thoughts & Afterthoughts: DET 3 NYY 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

As big a loss as Derek Jeter's broken ankle was on Saturday night, it didn't have to automatically signal the end for the 2012 New York Yankees.  There is still a lot of talent left on this team, and there is still a starting pitching staff that's throwing the ball as well as they have all year.  Pitching always wins in the postseason, and as long as you can get good pitching you have a chance.  Jeter's injury could have been just the wake up call that the rest of the scuffling offense needed, something for them to build from and pull motivation from and to use as a jumping off point for a turnaround.

Instead, it looks like the moment Jeter broke his ankle in Game 1 was the beginning of the end for the Yankees this season.  They came out yesterday against a perfectly average pitcher in Anibal Sanchez and looked absolutely helpless against him.  There was no spark, no energy from an out-on-their-feet offense, and another brilliant starting pitching performance, this one by Hiroki Kuroda, was wasted by their inability to do anything even remotely productive.  They failed to plate a single run, to even mount a single real scoring chance, and every boo they got yesterday from the Yankee Stadium crowd was well-deserved.

Down to 2-0 and heading to Detroit to face the best pitcher in baseball on Tuesday night.  The lights are slowly being turned out on the Yankees, and it doesn't look like anybody is in a rush to flip the switch.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Looks Like A Good Angle To Me...

At the end of today's game, Craig Sager said something to the effect of "just imagine if the umpires had a look at the same angle that we've gotten to to see."  Yeah, imagine that.

Jeff Nelson had the BEST angle to make that call and he straight up blew it.  Dude even admitted it.  Would it have made a difference in the end?  Impossible to say but probably not with the way this team is hitting.  But that was an unforgivable fuck up by Nelson and just another example of MLB looking like a bunch of assholes for not having a better replay process already in place.

2012 ALCS Game 2 Preview: Falling Away From Them

After the jubilation of Friday night's victory in Game 5 of the ALDS, the Yankees didn't have much time to celebrate.  They had to shift their focus to the Detroit Tigers, their opponent for the ALCS, and start working out some of their offensive kinks if they wanted to have a chance at winning this series.  Andy Pettitte took the ball last night and pitched pretty well, but another double dose of offensive futility and some absolutely abysmal bullpen management by Joe combined to waste Andy's start and put the team in a 4-0 hole heading into the 9th inning.  Some A+ drama sparked by 2 2-run homers off the bats of Ichiro and Raul Ibanez (who else?) tied the game, but only really delayed the inevitable as the Yanks ended up losing 6-4 in extras and losing even bigger when Derek Jeter broke his left ankle.  There's a lot to recover from heading into tonight's game, but the Yankees have to make the recovery and have to wake the fuck up offensively.  Going down 2-0 heading into Detroit would make this series damn near over already.

Starting Lineups-

NYY: 1) Ichiro- LF, 2) Cano- 2B, 3) Teix- 1B, 4) Ibanez- DH, 5) Martin- C, 6) A-Rod- 3B, 7) C-Grand- CF, 8) Swish- RF, 9) Nix- SS

DET: 1) Jackson- CF, 2) Berry- LF, 3) Cabrera- 3B, 4) Fielder- 1B, 5) Young- DH, 6) Dirks- RF, 7) Peralta- SS, 8) Avila- C, 9) Infante- 2B

Pitching Matchup-

Hiroki Kuroda (8.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K in 1 postseason start) vs. Anibal Sanchez (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K in 1 postseason start)

Why Does This Sh*t Always Happen When I Go To Weddings?

Seriously, that's not even meant to be a humorous question.  There have been four instances this year where I've had to take days off from the blog for wedding-related activities, and every single time something out of the ordinary happened.

My one buddy's bachelor party on April 21st was the amazing 15-9 comeback win against the Fraud Sawx, and his wedding on June 2nd was the 4-3 loss to the Tigers when Joe and Kevin Long got run by Bob Davidson.   My other buddy's bachelor party on September 22nd was the crazy 14-inning win against Oakland that started the almost month-long Raul Ibanez Clutch Hit Party, and his wedding last night was Game 1 of the ALCS, where the Yanks showed nothing on offense again only to make a dramatic 4-run comeback in the 9th to tie the game only to lose in extras.  Oh, and Derek Jeter, the most consistent player in the lineup right now, broke his ankle and is out for the rest of the year.

Maybe I should just start being a huge dick to everybody so I don't get invited to any more weddings.  I always end up missing out on great games and great blogging material.  Game 2 preview coming up shortly...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Morning Food For Thought: A-Rod vs. The Tigers

No time to look back tonight, as much as I'd like to gush about how absolutely dirty CC Sabathia is.  Game of the ALCS is tonight, and the biggest question surrounding the Yankees will continue to be how they plan to use Alex Rodriguez.  He's been absolute crap against righties (0-12 w/ 9 Ks in the DS), and the Tigers will roll out 4 righties in this series.  A-Rod's career numbers against each are as follows:

- Vs. Doug Fister: 1-5, 1 BB, 1 K

- Vs. Anibal Sanchez: 0-3

- Vs. Justin Verlander: 8-24, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 3 K

- Vs. Max Scherzer: 1-10, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K

Not exactly inspiring numbers, although he has been very good against Verlander.  My guess is Joe keep A-Rod out tonight, and if Chavez does nothing against Fister we will see A-Rod back for Games 2 and 3 against Anibal Sanchez and his lack of postseason experience and Verlander and A-Rod's familiarity and positive track record against him.

Still An Ace...

Friday, October 12, 2012

2012 ALDS Game 5 Preview: The End Or The Beginning

And this is exactly what I hoped wouldn't happen so that I wouldn't have to write this as my Game 5 preview.  The personal commitments I alluded to yesterday are a wedding that I'm in this Saturday.  And while that's a beautiful thing and an honor to be a part of and all of that stuff, it still royally screws up my plans to watch and write about the most important thing in the world every October, Yankee playoff baseball.  Rehearsal and rehearsal dinner is tonight, and the wedding itself is its typical all day/all night affair on Saturday, so at best I'm going to get to watch the first half of tonight's game, miss the end, and if the Yankees do advance I'll also miss Game 1 of the ALCS.

As for that whole "advancing" thing, what do you really say about this team?  If you would have said before Game 1 that the Yankee starters would combine to allow just 8 ER in 30.2 combined IP, that should have worked out to a slam dunk 3-1 series victory.  And if anybody in the lineup not named Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira would have shown up in this series that's exactly what would have happened.  But the station-to-station problems and RISP Fail that plagued the offense all season has been kind enough to stick around for the playoffs, and now it all comes down to tonight.

Updated Starting Lineups (2:30PM)-

1) Jeter- SS, 2) Ichiro- LF, 3) Cano- 2B, 4) Teix- 1B, 5) Ibanez- DH, 6) Swish- RF, 7) C-Grand- CF, 8) Martin- C, 9) Chavez- 3B

BAL: 1) McLouth- LF, 2) Hardy- SS, 3) Jones- CF, 4) Davis- RF, 5) Wieters- C, 6) Machado- 3B, 7) Mark Reynolds- 1B, 8) Ford- DH, 9) Andino- 2B

Pitching Matchup-

CC Sabathia (8.2 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K in Game 1) vs. Jason Hammel (5.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K in Game 1)

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 10/12

Sorry for the short intro this week. Everything I could possibly say here has already been said in my other series-related posts this week. The Yankees need to win tonight and they damn well better or I’m going to be really pissed about not at least being able to see the final game of the season.

- On Monday, Jimmy Kraft of Yanks Go Yard looked back at past performances to show how CC has been very ace-like in his Yankee postseason career.

- Mark Duggan of Pinstriped Bible broke down Russell Martin's brilliant defensive 5th inning in Game 1.  Russ probably earned himself a new deal next season with that performance.

- Brien Jackson of IIATMS, after A-Rod's slow start to the ALDS, asked how long a leash A-Rod should have been given before Joe moved him in the batting order.  We got our answer on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

- On Tuesday, Domenic Lanza of TYA compiled and presented the staff MLB and Yankee award selections for the 2012 season.  I went off the board with Teix as my biggest disappointment.

- Another one from the Pinstriped Bible team on Wednesday, when Bill Parker compared Robinson Cano's career performance against some great second baseman to try to project Cano's future and value of his next contract.

- Greg Corcoran of Bronx Baseball Daily made a point to remind everybody that this year's playoff format is absolute dogmess.  Because somebody has to keep saying it.

- On Thursday, Mike Axisa of RAB put a nice little bow on the A-Rod pinch hitting story by discussing it as the beginning of A-Rod's end, echoing the sentiments I had after the game.

- Brian D. of Yankees Fans Unite dished a harsh dose of perspective and reality to people who were ragging on A-Rod for his performance.  It is important to remember that most 37-year-olds aren't 30/30 guys anymore.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog analyzed Joe's decision to pinch hit Ibanez for A-Rod in Game 3 and similar decisions he's had to make managing an older team.

- SJK of NoMaas took a more positive look at the events that unfolded in Game 3 and punctuated Raul Ibanez's introduction into Yankee immortality with another great Photoshop.

- Alex Belth of Bronx Banter posted his frustrated take on Game 4 last last night.  It's worth reading based on the title of the post alone.

No Friday Jam today.  Song will be covered in the Game 5 preview.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.  Hopefully it includes a couple of ALCS games.

2012 ALDS Game 4 Thoughts & Afterthoughts: BAL 2 NYY 1

(Way to look alive, guys!  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The emotional high that everybody was surely riding from Wednesday night through yesterday afternoon was immediately grounded with the news coming out that Joe Girardi's father had passed away.  Things become even more somber when it was reported that Joe's dad actually died on Saturday, and that Joe had kept it quiet until an obituary was posted in a local paper earlier today.  Knowing that Joe has gone through the emotional ups and downs with his team through the first 3 games of this series while dealing with his father's passing makes the job he has done even more impressive, and puts an "emotional" decision like whether or not to pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in the proper context.

Another thing that this sad news did was give the Yankees another reason to go out and get a win last night.  It wasn't as if they were already lacking motivation with a trip back to the ALCS on the line, but to be able to do it for their manager, as a tribute to him and his dad, is the type of stuff Hollywood writers used to come up with before they all ran out of ideas.  If there was a "let's win this one for Joe" speech given in the locker room, odds are it came from the mouth of Derek Jeter, who despite being limited to DH duties because of his bruised foot wasn't missing this game for his life.

Emotions were high, there was a lot at stake, and the Yankees held the advantage going into the game again.  Everything should have added up to a win and a series victory.  Instead, last night ended up being one of those textbook deflating losses where everybody swinging a bat just didn't show up.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 ALDS Game 4 Preview: What More Can I Say?

I honestly don't know what to say after last night.  Or even after the first 3 games of this series.  It's been the highest of highs and the lowest of lows as a fan and as a writer these last 4 days, and to be perfectly honest I am drained.  The Yankees certainly looked like the were fixing to break our hearts last night, but some more Raul Ibanez fireworks, this latest round some of the biggest Yankee postseason fireworks in recent memory, changed all that.  Now the Yankees come into tonight's game with the series lead, the momentum, and the emotional edge with the way last night's game finished up.  Baltimore's got a tall order in front of them to try to keep this series alive tonight, and putting their playoff lives in the hands of a pitcher they basically picked off the scrap heap, even if he did pitch well in the Wild Card game, is a tough spot to be in.

I'm hoping for a nice easy game tonight.  I could really use it, and not just to catch up on sleep.  There are some personal obligations on the horizon for Friday and Saturday night that I was hoping wouldn't interfere too much in my postseason viewing/writing plans, and those obligations become a lot less intrusive if the Yankees take care of business tonight.

Updated Starting Lineups (3:55PM):

1) Jeter- DH, 2) Ichiro- LF, 3) Teix- 1B, 4) Cano- 2B, 5) A-Rod- 3B, 6) Swish- RF, 7) Martin- C, 8) C-Grand- CF, 9) Nix- SS

BAL: 1) McLouth- LF, 2) Hardy- SS, 3) Davis- RF, 4) Jones- CF, 5) Wieters- C, 6) Thome- DH, 7) Reynolds- 1B, 8) Flaherty- 2B, 9) Machado- 3B

Pitching Matchup-

Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23 ERA/4.56 FIP, 7.76 K/9) vs. Joe Saunders (9-13, 4.07 ERA/4.08 FIP, 5.77 K/9)

Giving D-Rob His Due

(Doin' the damn thing again)

The Yankee starting pitchers in this series, as awesome as they’ve been, have been completely overshadowed by the A-Rod saga and Raul Ibanez’s heroics last night, and that’s a bit of a shame. CC, Andy, and Hiroki last night have all been terrific and limited the Orioles to just a handful of well-struck balls that led to runs. Subtract maybe 3 or 4 pitches and we’re talking about a couple of shutout games here. And the small bit of credit and ink the rotation has gotten has also overshadowed another positive pitching story from this series- the lights out relief work of David Robertson.

The Yankee bullpen has pitched 5 total innings in the first 3 games of this series, and Robertson has pitched 3.1 of them. He’s the only Yankee pitcher who has appeared in every game, and as usual he’s been used in a variety of different situations. He came in to get the final out of Game 1 in relief of CC with a runner on, he pitched the 8th inning of Game 2 to hold the O’s down and give the offense a chance to come back in the 9th, and he pitched 2 scoreless innings in the 11th and 12th last night and got credit for the win.

And he hasn’t just been getting by on some lucky pitches, D-Rob has been BRINGING it. Dude has allowed just one baserunner, hasn’t walked a batter, and has struck out 4. He’s thrown 41 total pitches in his 3 appearances, 17 curveballs, 14 cutters, and 10 4-seamers, and 33 of them have been strikes. He’s pounding the zone, getting ahead in the count, and overwhelming the Oriole hitters with his combination of great late fastball life and near impossible-to-square up curveball movement. He’s essentially been a footnote in every game thus far, but don’t discount the great job that The Fireman has done in this series.