Monday, February 28, 2011

A.J.'s Spring Training Off To A Good Start

("AND DOWN GOES GOLSON!!"  Courtesy of Charles Wenzelberg: NY Post)

Via The Post:

"Fright invaded Yankees camp yesterday when A.J. Burnett hit Greg Golson in the head during a morning batting-practice session on a back field at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Golson went down and stayed on the ground. Eventually he was taken off the field on a cart. The outfielder was taken for tests, which were negative."

Looks like the offseason meetings and work with Larry Rothschild is already starting to pay dividends, huh?


In all seriousness, I'm sure this was just a freak accident.  But when you're a guy coming into this year under a bigger microscope than anybody on the pitching staff and with much bigger expectations to improve upon 2010 because of the current rotation situation, this is not how you want to start things off if you're A.J.  Anybody else does this and it's no big deal.  But since it's A.J., it becomes a story and an opportunity for the MSM to bring up his past failures again.  For a guy who's already shown he can be is a mental midget, KO'ing your teammate in BP isn't exactly a good way to get some positive vibes and confidence going.

(Bad A.J. makes his first 2011 appearance!)

Offseason Space Filler Post: My Top 10 Favorite Yankees Part I

It's getting a little late in the game to put this off any longer, and with Spring Training in full swing now I'm starting to run out of time to be able to use the "Offseason Space Filler Post" tag.  So while I could sit here and comment on every early-2000s former All Star in camp on a Minor League deal and how he's performing so far, I think I'll just leave that to the blogs that actually care and instead take another trip down memory lane.

Many of you remember November's award-winning 2-part series on my most hated Yankees of all-time.  If you don't, first of all shame on you for that, and second of all you can check out Part I and Part Deux before diving into this lovefest right here.  All caught up?  Good.  Now let's take a look at some players who actually put a smile or 2 on my face during their time in pinstripes.  And remember, I'm focusing on players from the era in which I have lived and followed the Yankees, otherwise we'd just be looking at another Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio list.

10) Orlando Hernandez- I don't care how old he actually was when the Yankees first got him in '98 or how old he actually is today.  This guy was money as a Yankee and was the first Yankee free agent signing that I remember being legitimately excited about.  I also remember practically crapping myself at a card show when I stumbled upon a couple of his Bowman rookie cards for cheap.  Sure, they weren't the Chrome edition, which might actually still be worth a little, but that wasn't the point.  The point was this was the hottest new pitcher on the market, the Yankees had him, and I had a piece of him.

There was something special about watching El Duque pitch.  His windup, insanely high leg kick, and changing arm angles always made you wonder what kind of pitch was actually going to leave his hand when he let go of the ball.  His '98 and '99 seasons were his best, but even as AL hitters started to figure him out, he still managed to be effective and had a nice comeback season in 2004 after missing the entire '03 season.  Perhaps the best, and most memorable, thing about El Duque was his postseason success. He had an almost Mo-like calmness and quiet intensity on the mound, and nowhere was that more evident than in the postseason.

When you add everything up, El Duque was awesome because of all the mystery surrounding him.  The circumstances of his defection, his actual age, the number of different arm angles and pitches he used, and the ridiculous leg kick all added up to make him a sort of cult hero amongst Yankee fans during that late 90s-early 2000s time period.  And I bought into all of it hook, line, and sinker.  In fact, I probably would have been more excited to see El Duque's dusty ass in camp this ST than any other FA pitcher.

9) Tino Martinez- He had the unenviable task of having to come in and replace Donnie Baseball after the '95 season.  He had the even more difficult task of trying to win over the rabid Yankee fanbase, who had worshipped Donnie over his career, and so Constantino Martinez joined the Yankees in 1996 with a bit of a hill to climb.  All he did over the next 6 seasons in the Bronx was play in 5 World Series, win 4 of them, finish 2nd in the 1997 AL MVP race, and put together 5 seasons of 28+ HR, 105+ RBI, and .800+ OPS baseball, effectively winning over the tough Yankee crowd.  Add in the first pitch, 2-run homer in the 9th of Game 4 of the '01 World Series and, while not making the fans completely forget Mattingly, Tino's performance while in a Yankee uniform certainly made Donnie Baseball a distant memory.

Thinking back to the good old days of '96-'01, I think my favorite thing about Tino was how he went about his business on the baseball field.  On a team with all kinds of characters (David Wells, Paul O'Neill), mega stars (Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Mo), and other interesting stories (El Duque, Darryl Strawberry), Tino always flew under the radar, quietly doing his job, putting up monster numbers, and doing things to help the team win.  He had a reputation as a fierce competitor, a loyal teammate, and a clubhouse leaders, best emphasized by how quickly and viciously his teammates defended him in their ugly brawl with the Orioles in '98 after Armando Benitez drilled Tino in the back with a fastball.  But Tino always projected the image of a calm, collected, consummate professional who only cared about winning.  Every team needs players like this to help build the structure for winning, and Tino was the perfect piece for that foundation, representing everything that was right about the Yankees during those dynasty years and everything that was wrong about them after he left.

Even when he came back in '05 for his final season, a shell of the player he was in his prime, it was impossible not to root for and respect Tino, for what he did for the team and the way he played the game.  Even in retirement he remains connected to the Yankees, as a ST instructor and as of last year, a color commentator on YES.  Tino loves being a Yankee and being part of the Yankee organization, and I love him for it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baseball Is Officially Back Today

And I couldn't be more excited about it!  And also more pissed off because, as you all know, I don't get YES out here in Wisconsin.  But anyway, here's today's lineup:

1) Jeter- SS
2) Swisher- RF
3) Teixeira- 1B
4) Rodriguez- 3B
5) Cano- 2B
6) Posada- DH
7) Granderson- CF
8) Cervelli- C
9) Gardner- LF

Colon- SP

Remember, no Martin because of the knee and no Brackman because of the groin.  Also scheduled to pitch today are Joba, D-Rob, Noesi, and Eric Wordekemper.  Play ball, boys!

Friday, February 25, 2011

AB4AR Off-Topic Fun Time: Breaking Down The Charlie Sheen Rant Yankee-Style

("Go Yankees!  The gnarly gnarlingtons that they are.")

Say what you want about Charlie Sheen, but the dude's radio rant the other day was one the most entertaining things I have ever experienced in my life.  And as I listened to it, suddenly it dawned on me that a lot of what he was saying could be applied to the Yankees and their ongoing adventures.  So let's have a little fun now and take some of the best lines from Charlie's sobriety-induced rant and match them up with the Yankee to which they are most applicable and/or with the Yankee I'd most like to see drop them.

"Look what I’m dealing with, man. I’m dealing with fools and trolls." - Cash

With all the stuff Cash had to deal with this offseason - getting spurned by Lee, the Jeter negotiations, all the Minor League deals, Andy retiring, the beating he took in the MSM for the moves he made and for being more vocal, and finally being overruled by the ownership on the Soriano signing - wouldn't it have been awesome to see him get up there when it was his turn to talk at the Soriano introductory presser and drop this line when Feinsand asked him why he was against the deal?  I would never question Cash again on anything if he had the stones to call out Hank and Levine like this.

"... and then they look at me and say, ‘I can’t process it.’ Well, no, and you never will! Stop trying! Just sit back and enjoy the show.” - A-Rod

As much flak as he already takes for saying the wrong thing in the media, making bad decisions on when to announce things, and having Cameron Diaz feed him popcorn at the Super Bowl, I would have paid money to watch A-Rod drop this line on the media at the press conference after he hit his 600th homer last year.  Just go all out, play up the bad guy role, and tell everybody to bask in his awesomeness.  And then rise up on his hind legs and kick somebody in the face.

Friday Morning Thought To Ponder: Is Bartolo Colon Secretly A Voodoo Witch Doctor?

(Colon's alter ego?)

Seriously, this is something worth looking into.  Consider the facts:

- The guy has not pitched in the Majors since 2009.

- He has not pitched more than 100+ innings since 2006.

- He has not been consistently healthy since 2006.

- He managed to turn a handful of Dominican winter ball innings into a contract offer, albeit a non-guaranteed one, from the New York Yankees.

- He has shown Joe Girardi enough to all but eliminate the younger guys from the back-of-the-rotation competion.

- He has been given the first shot to show what he's got left in the Yankees' ST season opener tomorrow afternoon.

- His toughest 'young guy' competition for the 5th starter spot, Andrew Brackman, is going to miss this weekend's action with a groin injury.

The cards couldn't be falling into place any better for Colon to sneak into the 5th starter role right now.  There is still no concrete proof that he's behind this, but if Ivan Nova takes a digger down the dugout steps this weekend and messes up his knee, something is definitely up.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The "I'm Stuck Being A Cubicle Monkey" Mini-Linkapalooza

(I'm going to burn down the building)

Glaring lack of posts over the last 2.5 days, I know.  The 9-5 job is kicking my ass all over the world right now, to the point that I'm eschewing eating my lunch on my lunch break to be able to put SOMETHING up on the blog.  And that something is a quick look around the Yankosphere to see who is devoting enough time to churning out quality stuff in an effort to make up for my lack of activity.  Sorry I can't be a part of it.

- EJ Fagan at TYA unveils his new Top 30 Prospects list using a new rating system.

- Mark Feinsand of the Daily News has a piece about Eric Chavez and how he thinks he can help the Yankees this season.  Sorry, Eric, but making sure all the ice and ACE bandages get used up doesn't qualify as help in my book.

- Cliff Corcoran at Pinstriped Bible examines the Russell Martin health situation and takes a bit more of a positive approach than I did.  Hey, somebody has to.

- A couple bits on The Pitcher Formerly Known as Mark Prior.  Chad at LoHud had a little piece on Prior's capabilities and my eyeballs almost fell out of my head when I read that he's only pitched 12-13 innings since '06.

Ben Kabak at RAB is waving his Prior flag, rooting for Prior this season.  As for me, rooting, yes.  But expecting anything?  Hell no.  Not with just 13 innings over the last 5 years to work from.

- Lastly, Larry Koestler at TYA commits a nearly unforgivable sin by previewing the 2011 Fraud Sawx.  I know he's just doing his job, but for me, the only word that I need to know for the 2011 Red Sox is "BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This Could Be A Problem

("They called me Mr. Glass."  Courtesy of The AP)

Via LoHud:

"Joe Girardi said he does not expect Russell Martin to be behind the plate for Saturday’s spring opener.

Martin’s hip is fine, but his knee is still stiff and the Yankees don’t want to risk a setback. They still expect him to be 100 percent at some point this spring, they’re just moving slowly."

Great.  A starting catcher who can't catch.  He's not 100% healthy right now so they don't want to risk him playing the toughest position in terms of maintaining physical health yet.  But once he reaches that 100% level, then it's all smooth sailing and he won't suffer any setbacks after he starts playing the position every day.  Have I got that right?  Maybe it's time to rethink those CAIRO projections for Martin.

Should I be concerned about this yet?

Yankees Showing Their Hand In Announcing ST Rotation

Here it is:

1) Bartolo Colon
2) Ivan Nova
3) CC Sabathia
4) A.J. Burnett
5) Phil Hughes
6) Freddy Garcia

Here's 3 things I take from it:

1) Freddy Garcia is almost guaranteed a spot as the 4th or 5th starter to open the season.  For a guy with diminished stuff, league average at best numbers, and who's in camp on a non-guaranteed Minor League contract, the Yankees certainly seem to have a lot of faith in Garcia based on his "innings eater" reputation and past performance against them.  How else do you explain him being the last one to pitch in ST?  For a guy whose contract doesn't guarantee him a spot on the team, I would want to get a good look at him quickly to start formulating an idea of what he can offer and whether or not he's worth keeping around.  The fact that he's throwing after the other guaranteed rotation guys says to me that the Yanks have already decided to keep him around, at least for now.

2) The other rotation spot competition is just between Colon and Nova.  They are the first 2 pitch and so become the 2 with the most to prove.  It will be just like Joba-Phil last ST, except that this young guy is younger than Hughes and the fat guy is fatter than Joba.  I still don't see any way Colon gets a spot in the rotation out of ST, but the Yanks are determined to give him a real shot.

3) The Meat Tray is out.  No Sergio in the rotation means no shot for him and his groundball wizardry to show what he can do.  I can live with that, as now Mitre falls back into his role of long reliever in the bullpen, effectively rounding out that solid crew, and becomes the emergency 6th starter again.  But still, a bit of a tough pill to swallow for a guy who was penciled in as the 5th starter a few weeks ago and not gets bypassed for a big fat slob who threw a few decent innings of Dominican winter ball and probably will require a double bypass some time this season.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

You Cannot Stop Hank Steinbrenner, You Can Only Hope To Contain Him

"I think, maybe, they celebrated too much last year.  Some of the players, too busy building mansions and doing other things and not concentrating on winning. I have no problem saying that."

"... I was just saying, maybe they were riding the wave of '09 a little too much, and it happens sometimes.  This year in spring so far, from what I've seen and what I've been told, they've come in with a real, new drive and determination -- the kind they had in '09." (via The AP)

Hank.  Buddy.  Pal.  What are you doing here?  You know I'm a big fan of yours.  I love the bluster of the old man that you try to re-enact.  I love the potshots at the Red Sox.  But taking a shot at Jeter over the 2009 World Series?  Come on now.  That's just foolish.

If you were so concerned about the team's focus in 2010 then you should have said something in 2010, not waited until after that season had ended and the 2011 season was starting to chime in.  2009 was what it was and 2010 was what it was and they're both in the past.  The team wanted to win and played hard in 2009 and they wanted to win and played hard in 2010, the results just didn't come the same.  The team is going to play hard in 2011 and they're going to want to win just as much as they did in the past 2 seasons so there's no need to start jabbing at players to try to provide extra motivation.

Jeter can handle his business, A-Rod can handle his business, Joe can handle his business, they all can handle their business.  You just need to shut up about them and focus on what you do best, that being finding some stuff to tweak Fraud Sox Nation on and start stirring that pot a little bit.  They're sitting all high and mighty ovah they-ah in Beantown thinking they've gawt the fahhckin' toitle wrapped up with Gawnzawlez and Cahhl Crawfehd.  Tell them to check the calenders or count their rings or something.  Your boys are going to be fine.

Oh and put that cigarette out, dude.  Bad example for the young fans.

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Yankee CAIRO Hitter Projections, What They Say About Each Player, And What I Think Of Them

(No, she doesn't work for AB4AR.  But it'd be nice if she did)

Preseason projections are always fun, and there have been a bounty of them out there for quite some time now.  The school of thought I attend in projections is the CAIRO model.  If you don't know what that entails (and if you're a regular reader of this blog and know of its love for YouTube videos and bad jokes, chances are you don't), do yourself a favor and brush up here.  Long story short, the 2011 CAIRO projections for the Yankee hitters are good.  But are they good indicators of what will actually happen?

Time for me to put on the official AB4AR wizard hat and peer into the official AB4AR crystal ball as I examine each member of the starting lineup's 2011 CAIRO projection and give my take AND my projection for each player based off of the CAIRO numbers.

My Worst Fears Realized

From the man whose job I wish I had, Chad at LoHud, comes the worst news I've gotten since I calculated my tax return:

"Behind Steinbrenner Field, there is a practice field that is essentially two infields stacked back-to-back. That’s where all of the Yankees infielders, catchers and pitchers are going through fielding drills this morning.

Among them is Jorge Posada, who’s in full catching gear for the drills. It’s the first I remember seeing him really go through catching drills this spring."


Quick Hit First Week Of ST Recap As Week 2 Kicks Off

- CC did show up looking lighter, closer to the 25 pounds he said he lost.  He also made his first public indication that he would consider opting out after the 2011 season.

- Joba showed up looking fatter.  Bartolo Colon showed up just looking fat.  The Joba thing doesn't seem like a big deal to the organization, but apparently there's a plan in place to help Colon shed 25 pounds this ST and it doesn't involve him having a limb cut off.

- Phil Hughes was amongst the first to throw bullpen sessions last week, and also the first to start throwing offspeed stuff.  Later in the week, Joba joined him throwing his secondary pitches in the 'pen.  Both good signs.

- A.J. Burnett and Larry Rothschild continued spreading sunshine and good vibes about A.J.'s 2011 performance.  It all sounds good, but until the guy is out there pitching well against Major League hitters, I'm going to withhold judgement.

- The battle for the back of the rotation spots kicked off with few fireworks.  The old guys, young guys, and incumbents are all in camp, and while the organization did indicate that the battle was between the veterans, we're still at least 2 weeks away from anything materializing in terms of favorites.

- The Killer Bs are all in camp and getting attention, but Cash squashed any hope of them being factors in the rotation battle by saying ManBan and Beastances will start the season in Double-A.

- Mo was a late arrival to camp as he was tending to his sick child back home (presumably with his own God-like powers).  At this point in his career, Mo runs his own one-man ST camp so it's really NBD.

- Jeter and Gardner were both in camp early to work on their hitting.  Gardner said he's completely recovered from his wrist surgery.

- Jeter seems to be taking his bad 2010 and offseason negotiating barbs to heart as he's worked with Kevin Long extensively to rework his swing and get some speed back in his bat.

- Teix is also in camp, back to 100% health-wise according to him, and took a lot more swings this offseason to try to shake his recent history of starting cold in March and April.

- Robinson Cano had a case of the whoopsies and was a late arrival to camp, getting his days mixed up and arriving yesterday.

The team is all in Tampa now and the "real" Spring Training starts this week.  Let's see how these storylines progress and watch for what new batch of storylines present themselves over the next 7 days.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Evening Thought To Ponder: Is The Cliff Lee-Yankees Offseason Situation Influencing The Knicks?

Something I thought about last night at the bar while I watched Blake Griffin win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest as the announcers kept discussing the Carmelo Anthony trade situation was how similar it was to the Yankees attempting to trade for Cliff Lee last year.  This morning, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the latest moves made by the Knicks could have been in response not to the Nets making a big offer, but rather the Yankees and what played out for them after they failed to add Lee last summer.

Flashback to summer 2010.  As the Mariners put Lee on the trade block, the Yankees put together the best package with Jesus Montero, David Adams, and an unknown 3rd prospect.  The deal was agreed to and Lee was all but ready to put on the pinstripes until the Mariners saw Adams' physical, got concerned about his foot injury, and called the whole thing off.  While there was disappointment across Yankeeland for losing out on Lee, the general feeling was that it wasn't all bad because they were able to keep their top prospect and would still be the favorites to sign Lee when he became a free agent this past offseason.  As we all now know, Lee spurned the Yanks in favor of going back to Philly, leaving the rotation with a couple of gaping holes and plenty of salty feelings from fans and writers everywhere.

Now look at the current situation with Carmelo and the Knicks.  The Knicks are one of multiple teams in talks to trade for Carmelo.  They recently upped their offer this week to now include Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Eddy Curry plus his tits and contract, possibly multiple 1st round picks, and either Danilo Gallinari or Landry Fields.  Now on the surface that looks like a horrible deal to me.  The value of adding a player of Carmelo's caliber gets essentially cancelled out when you have to give up 3 of your 5 best players to do it and leave your roster depth in tatters.  And it's widely known throughout the NBA that Carmelo WANTS to play for the Knicks, so conceivably they could hold what they have and just sign him when he becomes a free agent in the offseason, adding him to their already solid core and becoming a legit contender in the Eastern Conference next season.

But as the Lee-Yankees situation showed us, it's never a foregone conclusion that the player you think you're going to sign is actually going to sign with you.  Sure Carmelo wants to be a Knick and sure the Knicks wants him, but once he gets to free agency it's anybody's game.  Maybe Carmelo gets traded to the Nets, hits it off with Jay-Z, and decides he wants to re-up there.  Maybe the Lakers get creative and find a way to sign Carmelo to come join Kobe and Pau Gasol.  The bottom line is, the Yankees didn't get their man through a trade and then didn't get him in free agency when everybody thought they were the favorite.  The Knicks are in the same situation with a guy they want right now and maybe the lesson learned from the Yankees and Lee is inspiring them to go all out in their latest trade proposal.  Is it a wise move?  Probably not.  But when you really want a player, sometimes you have to do whatever you feel it takes to make damn sure you get him.

P.S.- Check out Moshe Mandel's post on TYA about the same topic.  He focuses on James Dolan's meddling in the trade talks and compares it to another similar recent situation with the Yankees.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Just A Reminder

In case you haven't already done it, head to Facebook and check out the new AB4AR page.  It's got all the latest posts, my comments, and the Swanny Duckson Photoshop gallery, and will continue to be the primary source for all AB4AR-related material on Facebook from now until the world ends in 2012.

And be on the lookout for some changes to the site in the next week or two, including a link to the Facebook page.  It's suddenly becoming obvious that the white-on-blue setup isn't the best option for stuff like that, so I'll work on using my limited computer/design skills to update that and getting the page looking brand spanking new before the baseball (and my lacrosse) season starts in the spring.

But until then, just be a good AB4AR fan and Like the page on Facebook.  Your "Likes" go a long way to helping starving children overseas.*

*- They really don't, but I figured trying that approach couldn't hurt.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Putting Things Into Perspective

I went a bit off the reservation last night with my rant about the back of the rotation "open competition,"  I can admit that.  And then I woke up this morning, came into work, logged into my computer to read the post again and start surfing the net before I was officially on the clock at 8AM.  And as I perused the latest MLB news on various sites, suddenly it struck me that I made way too big a deal out that situation, especially considering everything else happening in the baseball world right now.

If you look around the MLB landscape right now, there are stories galore.  You've got Miguel Cabrera gettin' slizzard like a G6 and falling off the wagon big time right before camp starts.  You've got Albert Pujols' Flying Free Agent Circus setting up shop in Cardinals' camp.  And you've got the continuing disaster that is the New York Mets organization.  If anybody should be posting daily rants about their team's problems it should be Mets fans.  I mean, look at that situation.

- They've got a lineup of mismatched parts, unproven youngsters, and declining veterans, none suited to put up good numbers in that ballpark.

- They have a rotation that right now consists of Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, R.A. Dickey, and Jonathon Niese, with Chris Capuano and Chris Young competing for the 5th spot and Johan Santana and what's left of his shoulder not coming back until July.

- They have a new manager who has a reputation for being a hardass and has had teams quit on him at every stop in his managerial career taking over a team who has lacked energy, passion, heart, and effort over the last couple seasons playing under a guy who was considered a players' manager.

- They have a rapidly-declining, overpaid, physically abusive closer who will draw more unwanted negative attention to the team just by being a part of it returning to the roster and the bullpen this season.

- They have an ownership group who appears to have lost more money in the Madoff schemes than I can even comprehend and are so in debt that they are looking to sell off 20-25% of their stake in the team to anybody with a heartbeat in order to cover settlements with everybody who's suing them .  Mark Cuban, Charles Dolan, Martin Luther King III, and Donald Trump have all been mentioned.  Lotta baseball knowledge in that crew.

If you're a Mets fan, then your season has already ended before it has even begun.  The Mets roster sucks, their manager is going to make them worse, and the financial troubles caused by the Wilpons are leaving new GM Sandy Alderson no room to maneuver.  They are screwed.  Meanwhile, the Yankees' biggest issue is finding some viable options for the back end of the rotation whose weakness can be covered by their dynamite lineup and potentially lights out bullpen.  When I really step back and look at it, the Yankees have it easy compared to the Mets and I have it much easier as a fan of the Yankees than Mets fans have it.

Don't get me wrong, I still think it's a bad baseball move to eliminate Hector Noesi and David Phelps from the rotation competition.  But I'm much more at peace with that today than I was last night, and I know it's going to be just fine for the Yankees this season.  And any time I get a little down, I can just think of the Mets and the mess of an organization they have become from top to bottom and smile.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Back Of The Rotation Becoming An Oxymoron Situation

It seems all my blogging and suggesting and hoping and praying, to both forces of Heaven and Hell, for some younger guys to get a real shot at making the Yankee rotation out of Spring Training has already done no good as Joe has all but narrowed down the ST battle for the final 2 rotation spots to 4 guys.  LoHud has all the details in this post, which made me want to throw up my dinner and then knock on the door across the hall in my apartment building so I could slap the 3-year-old girl that lives there.

The biggest thing I took from this post can be summed up in this sentence from the post itself:

"... but for the most part this appears to be an open competition between four guys."

Does that statement not make sense to anybody else but me?  Is this a "jumbo shrimp" situation?  "Open competition" between 4 guys?  THAT'S NOT OPEN!!!!

Before I delve into the stupidity of Joe making that decision, let's first examine the phrase "open competition," key word being "open."  Open implies that the competition in question will welcome all participants, in this case the participants being all of the pitchers in camp right now, be they current Major Leaguers, former Major Leaguers, Triple-A guys, Double-A guys, free agents, guys acquired through trade, and all pitchers invited to camp, roster or non-roster.  To say that an "open competition" is limited to 4 select people is, in fact, a completely un-open competition.  It is a competition by invite only, and if you aren't one of the lucky 4 to find the Willy Wonka golden ticket in your locker then you're SOL, friend-o.  In short, a competition that limits the number of participants who can participate and then automatically selects the 4 participants before the competition actually begins is not open at all.

A "Catch Up" Linkapalooza

There's been a lot of real good stuff coming out around the blogosphere in the last couple days.  Being the caring, giving individual that I am, I figured it would be nice to provide it all in one small, easy-to-open package.

- The guys at the newly formed The Yankee Analysts are churning out quality stuff at an alarming rate.  Mike J-D examined Kevin Millwood & Edwin Jackson as potential back-of-the-rotation options.  We were both in agreement that Jackson was a far better option.

- Mike Imbrogno from TYA had a great two-part series comparing the 2011 Yankee batter projections, first against the 2010 positional averages and then by spot in the batting order.  Bottom line, the lineup is going to be good this year.  No reason for concern there.

- Jamie Insalaco at Bomber Banter put something right into my wheelhouse with his commentary on the current Mets ownership fiasco and an open invitation to Mets fans to come join the Evil Empire.

- Cliff Corcoran at Pinstriped Bible has a fantastically in-depth look at every pitcher in camp who is competing for the last 3 spots in the 14-man pitching platoon.  If you aren't up to speed on any of the new guys, this is a great read.

- William at The Captain's Blog goes nostalgic and traces the complete history of Yankee Spring Training, all the way back to 1901.  That's just good hustle by William right there.

- "All A.J. All The Time" was the perfect title for this post by Jason at IIATMS, as he collects recent commentary on A.J. and shows the breakdown between 2009 A.J. and 2010 A.J.

- Continuing the "examine A.J." trend is Mike Axisa at RAB, who breaks down A.J.'s 2010 K rates by pitch type.  Admittedly, it's hard to draw any conclusions from this, but it does make it clear that the curveball will be a key for A.J. in 2011.

- And lastly, if you didn't already listen to the epically hilarious on-air battle between Francesa and Mike from Hackensack, do yourself a favor and check it out NOW at LenNY's Yankees.  Lenny hits the nail on the head with his 2 favorite parts.

I am definitely going to use the "because they are magical" argument a lot more when discussing the Yanks this season.

The Sandman Has Entered

He's bAAAAAAAaaaaack!  Via LoHud:

"The closer has arrived. Mariano Rivera got into town last night and will begin his usual spring training routine this morning. As usual, he’s not sure when he’ll finally throw off a mound, but it won’t be any time soon."

Yeah, because the mound doesn't deserve to have him throw off of it yet.  The mound can wait its turn to get destroyed just like everybody else.  Somebody do me a favor and hit the music!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Joba Found CC's Lost 25 Pounds

Or at least some it, this according to Ben Shpigel's latest Tweet:

"Cashman on Joba: 'he's heavier.' How much heavier? 'He's heavier.'  Is he out of shape? 'He's heavier.'"

Ouch.  Not exactly coming to Joba's defense there, is Cash?  First Cash comes out and states that Joba is "not a lock" to make the 25-man this year and now he's subliminally calling him fat.  I can already hear the keyboards clicking as the anti-Cash horde gets ready to fire out more "Why is Cash talking so much in the media?"-type stories.

But the real issue here is Joba and his current status, both physical and within the graces, good or bad, of the organization.  I've already had my fun with Joba earlier this offseason, but I still thought the guy would eventually get it together and get focused on 2011.  Now he's showing up to camp overweight and doesn't seem to have anybody left in his corner, except for that half-eaten package of Ho-Hos.

After an up-and-down last couple of years and continuing media swirlings about his future, it would make sense for Joba to finally get committed and come have a dynamite year, throw it back in the Yankees' faces a bit for basically ruining his career and then bailing on him, and prove that he can still be a lights out pitcher.  Tweets like this one about his conditioning and what kind of shape he's in on the 2nd day of camp don't exactly speak to that.

If he stumbles out of the gate in ST, there's a good chance I start calling him Jabba from now on.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jorge Dabbling In Clairvoyance

Now that he's been put out to pasture as a catcher, it makes sense that Jorge would need to find some other activity with which to fill his time.  This quote from Mark Feinsand's blog at The Daily News suggests that maybe Jorge is delving into the mysterious arts of the mind.

When asked about a potential Andy Pettitte return some time in 2011, Jorge had this to say:

"It wouldn't surprise me.  Andy is a competitor. That's one thing you're going to miss when you stop playing. Hopefully we'll get to see him again."

Now I know there's a big difference between "Hopefully we'll get to see him again" and "He's definitely coming back," so I'm not going to start creaming my jeans over this and neither should anybody else.  But I will say that if anybody from the Yankees is in constant contact with Andy, I would put my money on Jorge or somebody else from the Core Four.  Jorge has never been the type to just spout off about stuff so you would assume that he's had to have some sort of conversation or conversations with Andy prior to making these statements.

I will say one thing, though.  If Andy does decide to come back, my reaction to that announcement is going to dwarf Suzyn Waldman's classic conniption about Rawjuh Clemens.  You can take that to the bank.  And I will also hail Jorge Posada as a prophet.

Andy to retirement: "You can't win. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."

AB4AR Finally Gets In Touch With The 21st Century

Good news, people!  The official AB4AR Facebook page is finally up and operational.  It took me a while to finally get to it, but it's there and will now serve as the Facebook forum for all information related to this glorious little site, from updates to links to new posts to general commentary on the Yankees as we inch closer to the start of the season.

Because I am a complete moron when it comes to computers, getting some "Like" buttons and things like that are a work in progress right now, but for the time being check out the page here and "Like" the crap out of it.  Tell your family about it, tell your friends about it, and then tell your family's friends about it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Big Change In The Yankee Blog Landscape

In case you missed it today, and shame on you if you did, there was a major change in the Yankee blogosphere.

Friend of AB4AR Larry Koestler and his team at Yankeeist have joined forces with Moshe Mandel and the crew at TYU to create the new blog The Yankee Analysts, a super-mega blog that will almost assuredly take over the world.

For me this is goods news because now it's one less internet tab I have to open up on my lunch break at work to get my daily dose of Yankee blog goodness.  For you it's good because now you can get the absolute best Yankee-related statistical analysis from the same source.  Even their tagline is good:

"Dedicated to thoughtful analysis of the New York Yankees"

Damn!  Why didn't I think of something that good?  Anyway, if you're one of the unlucky few who never checked out either of their original sites, do yourself a favor and get acquainted with the new one, and do it with the quickness.  Dudes are going to be spittin' hot fire on TYA for a while to come.

First Yankee Spring Training Pictures

First round of ST pictures are hitting the wire and they are fantastic.  Just oodles of visual gold.  I'll let the legit blogs handle the PECOTA analysis of the pitchers and catchers and continue to try to predict who the Yankees should go after at the trade deadline to shore up the rotation.  I'm just here to make some lame jokes.

Cash may not have been convinced that CC actually lost 25 pounds, but homebody looks pretty svelte to me.  Maybe I'm just being a homer here, but it looks like Carsten and Phil could go on "WWE Raw" tonight and win the tag time titles.  That's a couple of BIG dudes right there.  Too bad neither of them pulled a Dennis Reynolds and popped the shirt off for the photogs.

Holy Christ!  Who killed Rafael Soriano's cat??  Dude looks more miserable at camp than he was at his first press conference.  Come on, guy!  Crack a smile, would ya?  You're making $11 mil this year to pitch for the greatest franchise in sports history.

Based on that look I'd say Bartolo Colon's chances of making the team out of ST are about the same as mine.  That being said, with those tits he could have a good shot at making the cast for the next season of "Rock of Love."  So he's got that going for him.

A.J. and Dave Robertson take time out of pledge week at the frat house to show up for their physicals.  And I thought I was a slacker for wearing jeans to the office on a Wednesday sometimes.

"Bro, did you catch Arcade Fire on the Grammys?  It was sweet."

"Dude, I know.  Do you think coach is going to notice that I'm high right now?"

"I hope not, bro.  I wish we would have stopped at Taco Bell on the way."

The Jesus is injured???  NO!  It can't be!!  Why isn't he healing himself?!?!  GAAAHHHHHH!!!!!

(All photos courtesy of Reuters)

5 Things I Don't EVER Want To Hear About Now That Pitchers And Catchers Have Reported

Late last week I touched on my topics of interest during P&C reporting/ST time.  In all likelihood, not a lot of those will receive significant coverage.  My fear is that some other stories, ones that either have nothing to do with on-the-field stuff or are ones that should never be discussed, are going to take up too much space in the blogosphere.  Here are some of those stories that I could not care less about.

1) CC potentially opting out after 2011

This has already gotten more coverage than it deserves, with everybody trying to make "will he?" or "won't he?" arguments based on vague statements by CC.  Here's the deal, CC has never officially said whether he plans on opting out or whether he plans to not opt out, just that he wants to continue to play for the Yankees.  I think CC would be a fool to not opt out.  I mean, they got that clause into the contract so they could have the option to opt out and get more money if CC performed well, and he has certainly done that.  But that's AFTER this season, so I don't give a crap about it until AFTER the season.  For now, let's focus on what he's going to do on the field to help the team.

2) How much weight CC ACTUALLY lost

Late last week there was a bit of a stir when Cash stated that CC didn't look like he had lost 25-30 pounds in the offseason, as had been previously reported.  Just reading stories about that made me want to throw up.

I don't care if CC lost 5 pounds, 15 pounds, 25 pounds, or 50 pounds.  That's not the important thing.  The important thing is that he lost some weight and focused on getting in better shape to take stress off the knee on which he had offseason surgery.  This isn't "The Biggest Loser," people.  He doesn't get a prize for losing a certain amount.  The fact that he worked to lose some weight is the real issue, and any weight lost as a result of that is a positive.

3) Jorge Posada catching

I know there are a lot of pitchers in camp and they all need to be caught by somebody, but sweet Jesus, can somebody hide all of Jorge's catching gear or burn it or something?  The first time I read a story about him handling Betances in a bullpen session or see an AP photo of him making throws to 2nd, there's a good chance I book myself a flight down to Tampa to take the catching gear away myself.

Give it up, Jorge.  Your time behind the plate has come and gone.

4) Joe's Demeanor

IMHO there is still too much talk about how Joe carries himself around the team.  Some think he needs to loosen up, some think he needs to be like he was in 2009, some think this, and some think that.  Honestly, who really cares about his demeanor???  What bearing does it have on the team's success?  To a man, every player on the team has said they love playing for him.  They know Joe has their back and their best interests at heart at all times.

Lou Piniella was a complete asshole, but his players played hard for him.  Torre barely moved in the dugout and he won 4 titles.  The demeanor means nothing as long as the coach knows which buttons to push on which players behind the scenes and makes the right personnel decisions at the right times.  If Joe can do that this year and the team wins as a result, he can wear sad clown makeup in the dugout for all I care.

5) The Killer Bs

Yes, they are all badass.  Yes, they are all potentially ace-type pitchers.  Yes, I have a budding hard on for all of them.  But no, I do not want to see any of them in a Yankee uniform this season until the late summer/early fall, and only in an emergency bullpen situation.

These guys are the future of the pitching staff and there's no reason to push them right now, regardless of how shitty the rotation might turn out to be.  I don't care how good they look in Spring Training, I don't care who's raving about their stuff, I don't care if they strike out every guy they face in an outing.  They need to spend the year in the Minors, building up their arm strength, increasing their innings, and continuing to develop their secondary stuff.

We saw what happened when the Yankees rushed a prize prospect up too quick and ruined him (Joba).  And we saw what happened when they took it slow, let a kid mature and build up his skills before giving him a real shot at the rotation (Hughes).  If the organization wants success for the Bs, they need to follow the Hughes path, not the Joba one.

And So It Begins...

Today is a Monday, which sucks.  Mondays always suck.  But there was something a little different in the air this morning when I woke up.  For once I didn't lay in bed hitting the snooze button every 10 minutes until I absolutely had to get out of bed or risk being late to work, cursing my stupid job for interrupting what could have been a wonderful time in bed until noon.  For once I didn't stare blankly into the bathroom mirror while I waited for the shower to heat up.  For once, I actually got out of bed and got ready to go to work early enough to allow myself some time to actually eat breakfast.  And for once, I wasn't overcome with the urge to bash the first person I saw in the face with my keyboard as soon as I walked into the office.  What could be causing this sudden change of heart, you ask?

It could be that I'm finally maturing at age 25 (not likely).  It could be that I'm doped up on a wonderful concoction of prescription drugs and illegal narcotics, rendering me numb to the world (wouldn't mind it, but also not likely).  It could be a lot of things, but the reason is that today is one of the most beautiful days of the baseball season, the day that pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

The thrill of victory or agony of defeat has worn off from the Super Bowl, college football has long sense been over for the season, college basketball's time to be at the forefront is still too far away, and nobody really gives a crap about the NBA or NHL, so this day officially signifies that it's baseball season.  Across the various team facilities there will be the sound of gloves popping, the image of players jogging across the field, and the feeling of optimism that every fan is allowed on this first day of "real" baseball activity in 2011.

Cliff Lee is ancient history.  Andy Pettitte is yesterday's news.  All that matters right now are the players that are here and the guys who are going to show up today to start working on winning the 28th World Series title in Yankee team history.

It's baseball season again, kids.  It's a good day.  It's time to hit the music.

 P.S.- Can somebody please update the videos for this song with players from the last couple seasons?  I'm tired of looking at Giambi and Chien-Ming Wang.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vegas Gets It

The latest 2011 World Series odds were released and here's how the top 3 favorites looked:

- Phillies- 13:4
- Fraud Sawx- 5:1
- New York Yankees- 13:2

Oh, what do you know?  Looks like Vegas and the oddsmakers don't share the doom and gloom outlook that many seem to be taking on the 2011 New York Yankees.  They must be smart enough to realize what I and a few others have been saying all along, that even without Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee and even with a weak back end of the rotation right now, the Yankees are still one of the best teams in baseball and are not to be taken lightly.

Fact: The Yankees will enter the 2011 seasons with arguably the deepest and most dangerous 1-9 batting order in all of baseball.  At it's best, it has 8 All-Star caliber players, 1 on the fringe, and 3 guys who can be legitimate MVP candidates.

Fact: That lineup could get even more deep and more dangerous with the eventual addition of Jesus Montero.

Fact: Regardless of the rest of the rotation, the Yankees still have CC Sabathia, one of the best and most consistent starting pitchers in baseball, as their ace.

Fact: The Yankees will enter the 2011 with arguably the deepest and best bullpen in all of of baseball.

Fact: The Yankees are always at the forefront of the mid-season trade market and will be poised to strike if and when an opportunity presents itself for them to improve their rotation for the playoff stretch.

Vegas is smart enough to figure all this out, and everybody else needs to be too.  Lee isn't here and Andy isn't coming back, but there's plenty left to get the job done and get it done well.  I'm not an advocate of betting on your own team, but if you've got some money laying around you should think about taking these odds before the season starts and they start going down.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Afternoon/Weekend Reading Material

Mike Axisa at RAB put out his preseason Top 30 Yankee prospect list today.  'Nuff said.

If you consider yourself a real Yankee fan then there's no excuse for not reading this and then bookmarking it.  It's that good.  I had tears of joy in my eyes as I made my way through the list.

5 Things I'm Looking Forward To Hearing About When Pitchers And Catchers Report

Pitchers and catchers report to camp in less than 3 days.  Yeah, I know, fucking awesome, right?!  With all that happened and didn't happen this offseason, there will be plenty of buzz, plenty of new faces, and plenty of storylines when everything kicks off Monday.  Here are the 5 things I'm really going to follow:

1) Phil Hughes' changeup development

I touched on this earlier in the week, but I think it warrants repeating given that Hughes could be assuming the #2 starter role this year behind CC.  Come to think of it, I want to know exactly what Hughes is working on at all times during ST, hour-by-hour updates, but definitely want to know how he plans to improve the changeup and implement it more in 2011 and what plans Rothschild has for him and the pitch he needs to master to take the next step towards becoming a big time pitcher.

2) Russell Martin's knee

Maybe I'm overreacting a bit, but I didn't exactly get a warm fuzzy feeling in my stomach when reports were coming out a few days ago about Martin still not being 100% recovered from his knee surgery.  I'm anxious to see how that knee holds up to crouching and getting through the grind of real catching activities.  Martin and Cash are all saying the right things and both say he's going to be good as gold heading into the start of the regular season, but when it's a guy who's been ravaged by injuries the last couple years, I'll believe it when I see it.

3) A.J.'s everything

There continue to be reports coming out from Rothschild discussing the plan for A.J. this season.  I want to see how the early talks and offseason work they did pays off right from the start.  How's his velocity?  How's his command?  How's his demeanor?  If anybody can fix A.J. and maximize the stuff he still has, it should be Rothschild.  The earlier A.J. has success, the better off he's going to be as the regular season starts.

4) How the Triple-A kids perform

Very few people around the blogosphere have any faith in Garcia and Colon (and with good reason) and regardless of what the Yankees expect or hope to get out of them, you have to think that the Hector Noesis, David Phelpses, Adam Warrens, and D.J. Mitchells of the world are going to get a fair shot to prove themselves worthy of winning the job.  Innings limits wouldn't be a concern for any of them, so I'm curious to see how they hold up against everybody else and what the coaches and Cash have to say about them if any of them pitch well.

5) The Jesus

He probably won't make the 25-man out of ST, but it will be fun to see what he can do and how hard he will work to prove he's ready.  How will he handle the pitchers?  How quick will his release to 2nd be?  How many home runs will he crush?  Will he walk on water?  Will he turn water to wine?  If that's still not enough to impress the coaches, will he make a blind man see?  Given Martin's new health concerns, it will be worth watching what happens if he struggles/gets banged up and Jesus wows.  Just like Hughes, this is something I feel warrants 24/7 coverage.  Assign somebody to just follow and report on Jesus.  I'm talking Twitter updates every 30 minutes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Francisco Liriano, Anybody?

After getting $4.3 mil in arbitration, it seems like Francisco Liriano could become available, at least according to The Star Tribune.

Where do I sign up for the list to support going after Liriano if this really is a possibility?  The dude is 27, is fully recovered from TJ surgery, has great stuff, and would play up to his skills being a lefty pitching in Yankee Stadium.  With all the other unattractive options that the Yankees have already dabbled in and even partaken in, this much more attractive one is certainly worth Cash picking up the phone to inquire about.

The big questions is, what kind of package do the Yankees have to put together?  The Twins balked at the Yanks' proposed offer for Johan a few years ago and then traded him to the Mets for a package that was less enticing than the Yankee offer, which could work for or against them here.  But what would you do?  Would you give up Jesus (I wouldn't)?  Would you include ManBan (I wouldn't if I could make the deal with him)?

This is barely even a rumor right now, but it will be interesting to see what happens if this does start to grow legs over the next couple weeks.  Adding a young pitcher of Liriano's pedigree, and a lefty at that, would more than make up for the loss of Andy Pettitte.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

ESPNNY Kicks The Stupidity Up A Notch

Seeing as how we're all already subjugated to the never-ending stupidity of Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand when it comes to ESPN's Yankee coverage, you would think that the Worldwide Leader would ease up a little and maybe throw us a bone when it came to adding to the ESPNNY "talent" pool.  Maybe somebody who was actually knowledgeable about the sport and could focus on actual meaningful things going on with the team instead of just writing down whatever illogical thoughts might be clanking around in his or her empty head.

HOWEVAH!!!  That just isn't the ESPN way, and so this guy...

... has been brought back to potentially add to the nonsensical blabbering that spews forth almost daily from the ESPN Yankee blog. 

Now don't get me wrong, I think Screamin' Stephen A. is a knowledgeable dude.  When it comes to basketball.  The guy was the first one to call the whole 'LeBron and Bosh to Miami' story and props to him for that.  But anytime he opens his mouth to make a point or an argument about any other sport, I start giving serious thought to cutting my wrists with the nearest sharp object to end my suffering at his hand.  And the only reason I bother to mention this is because Screamin' Stephen took time to mention how his Yankee talk was going to be different than everybody else's in his re-introductory column:

"Instead of limiting our focus to Yankees greats Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez -- or A-Rod's love life -- just as much attention will be paid to Brian Cashman's productivity."

Oh, you're going to talk about Cash and his decision making.  Good call, Steve.  There really hasn't been enough of that going on lately.  At all.  Good thing you're here now to pick up that slack.

Lord help us...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Red Sox Sign Aceves, I Die A Little Inside

Per this, Alfredo Aceves is now officially a pahht of Fraud Sawx Nation.  And that is just not good news.  I've been a staunch supporter/defender of Cash throughout this offseason, but I can't help but feel like he blew this one.

Yes, Ace currently has far from a clean bill of health, but all he's done since the time he joined the Yankees was pitch well, by any measurement.  And in a season where the Yankees were going to end up with back-of-the-rotation problems any way you cut it, it would have been worth the guaranteed money to bring Ace back into the fold and give him time to heal, knowing you could afford to let him get back to 100% at Triple-A while you weathered the early-season storm.  Maybe it's just me, but I would have felt more comfortable giving Aceves a guaranteed 900 thou than giving Colon his 900 thou Minor League deal.

I don't know, I guess maybe I had this crazy dream where Ace progresses ahead of schedule in his rehab and is good to go by the All-Star break.  He rejoins the team before the trade deadline and helps solidify the back of the rotation by becoming a rebirth of 1996 Mariano Rivera (minus all the Ks), chewing up multiple innings at a time and basically becoming a 1-man bullpen on the Mitre-Nova days.  Fans would fall in love with him, something similar to 2007 Joba, and he would begin to ride in from the bullpen on his motorcycle (being careful not to dump it and break his collarbone again).  Energized, the Yankees would come back and win the Wild Card, the ALCS, and the World Series, with Aceves pitching 3 shutout innings of relief in Game 7 at The Stadium, picking up the 6-5 Yankee win in the 15th inning.

Was that a little to dramatic?  Should I pump the breaks on the old dreammaker?  OK, I guess that's fair.  It would have been nice to have Ace back this year, and I think it's a bad move that the Yankees didn't do it, but now that he's pahht of the Sawx I hope he gets in a nasty bike accident on his first day in Boston and breaks both his arms, leaving him out for the entire 2011 season and putting his career in jeopardy.

(Sorry, Ace)

Offseason Space Filler Post: How Good Would The Current Yankee Team Be If This Were 2005?

 (I wonder how these guys would have looked in pinstripes)

The running joke around the blogosphere with this recent rash of ST invite contracts is that this year's Yankee team would be a shoo-in to win a World Series some time in the mid-2000s.  And that got me thinking, gee, I wonder what this team would look like if I piled everyone into my DeLorean, gunned it up to 88MPH, and traveled back to the mid-2000s.

My extensive quick research at has led me to the conclusion that 2004 was the last time that all of the current and "new" Yankees were healthy a/o productive, so we'll use that as our starting point and construct a team for the 2005 Major League baseball season.  I have to say, at first glance this team would be pretty damn good.


This lineup would be an interesting combination of veterans in their prime, young players establishing themselves as All Stars, and brand spanking new, completely untested rookies or 2nd-year men.  It wouldn't be hard to picture at least 5 All Stars coming out of this lineup.

A Little Lunchtime Reading

I'm not feeling particularly creative, clever, or motivated today, so I'll direct everyone to something much more interesting than whatever I might try to force in a failed attempt at sharp wit or solid analysis.

SJK from NoMaas interviewed John Manuel from Baseball America and there's all kinds of good stuff in there about Yankee prospects at all levels.  If you're a sucker for prospect info like I am then this should be right up your alley.

P.S.- absolutely nothing firing in the old brain today and I still come through for my readers and Yankee fans.  Dustin Pedroia has NOTHING on me in the "heart and determination" department.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hughes Is Becoming Self Aware

Any time I read about Phil Hughes doing something baseball-related, I usually get excited.  This little tidbit from today's NY Post was no exception to that rule:

"Hughes said when he looks back on last year, he thinks he did not throw his changeup enough early in the year. The development of that pitch was a big story last spring and a reason he won the spot in the rotation. But when the season began, Hughes did not throw the pitch very often because his other pitches were so good. When he tried to go back to the pitch later in the year, he had trouble throwing it.

'I felt like that might have hurt me a little bit, just not having it,' he said. 'Then, maybe when fatigue set in and I really needed that changeup to help me get through these games it just wasn't there.' " (via The Post)

I'm loving everything about that for 2 reasons.  One, it once again showcases Phil Hughes' maturity beyond his years.  He recognizes the fact that he worked on it a lot in Spring Training 2010 because he knew he was going to need it, he recognizes the fact that he got away from it early in the year because his better pitches were working and he stuck with that, and he recognizes the fact that because he didn't work it early on, it failed him later in the season when he really needed it. 

Hughes is acutely aware of his own strengths and weaknesses, before they happen, as they're happening, and looking back on them once they've happened.  He knows what he did to be successful last year and he knows what he needs to do to become more successful this year.  That may not seem like a huge deal, but to me, when I watch veteran pitchers who have been doing this for 5-10 years talk about how they didn't know what went wrong in a rough outing and then watch a 24-year-old kid with essentially one full year as a starter under his belt talk intelligently about their season as a whole, it's an eye opener.

Second thing that excited me was just the fact that Hughes is already in Tampa, working out and throwing bullpen sessions.  That shows me that he's ready to prove that the first half of 2010 was no fluke and the second half of 2010 was not a true representation of how good a pitcher he truly is.  Surrounded by question marks in the rotation, Hughes is already putting the work in to step and become a reliable 2nd option behind CC.  Dude is younger than me and he's already more mature and dedicated than I could ever hope to be.  Love it!

Then, as if that wasn't enough, the always spot-on Chad Jennings of LoHud brings up another interesting point in light of last year's performances and Hughes' early start to his 2011 campaign:

"CC Sabathia will obviously start on Opening Day, but who gets Game 2? Should the Yankees show A.J. Burnett that they still have confidence in him, or should they acknowledge that Phil Hughes seems to be the more reliable option at this point?" (via LoHud)

This should become one of the hottest ST storylines once things start getting into gear in the next couple weeks.  If it's based on career track record and money, then A.J. should probably get the #2 spot.  If it's based on 2010 body of work, then the nod should probably go to Hughes.  My guess is, if A.J. shows any kind of marginal success in his Spring Training outings, he will get the call from Joe based on seniority.  But if Hughes is lights out and shows continued improvement and better use of his secondary pitches, it's going to be hard to deny him a spot that he probably earned.

Why All The Horse Hate?

Other than the Packers winning, the commercials sucking, and the Black Eyed Peas continuing to be an embarrassment to the musical arts, the biggest story coming out of the Super Bowl last night was the image of Cameron Diaz feeding popcorn to the one and only A-Horse.  If you're one of the few of the unwashed masses who hasn't seen the image, here it is:

The reaction to this image has been negative across the board, mainly in the form of people mocking the majestic A-Horse for not being able to feed himself.  This is incredibly stupid and shallow, and so being the faithful soldier that I am, I will take it upon myself to explain the situation and point out why nobody should be criticizing A-Rod here.

First thing, the limp-wristed look.  Make all the gay jokes you want, but I think that's a smart move.  Spring Training is right around the corner and A-Rod hasn't exactly been a model of perfect health the last few seasons.  Why risk moving the wrist more than you have to in order to get popcorn when you can leave it there, nice and loose, and keep it ready for batting practice?  And why risk doing anything when you've got a perfectly good Cameron Diaz ready and willing to serve right next to you?  I mean, come on, she's no fool.  Homegirl is staring down the barrel of 40, she hasn't made a good movie since "Gangs of New York" (which she sucked in), and she's sitting there with the world's greatest centaur athlete.  She knows she has to step her game up to keep that seat next to The Horse, and he knows she knows it, so let her handle the popcorn so he can watch the game.

Secondly, and this is really a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned, THE GUY IS A CENTAUR!!!!!  Centaurs have hooves for crying out loud!  Have you ever tried to pick up popcorn kernels with hooves?  Doesn't exactly work well.  So instead of getting on A-Rod for looking like a homo and having a chick feed him like a little kid, let's show a little appreciation for the intelligence and forethought that he showed in bringing Cameron Diaz to the game in order to make sure he was not unable to enjoy a little snack because of his centaurian condition.

No worries, Al, I've got your back.  Haters gonna hate...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Come Back To Me, Andy

I'm not even going to waste time talking about the Eric Chavez and Ronnie Belliad signings because, quite frankly, I don't care.

I'm still recovering from the Andy Pettitte retirement announcement.  And also trying to accept the fact that he didn't give me enough time to use the new Jedi Photoshop.  Come on, Andy!!  You couldn't come back for one more year and give me some mileage out of that Photoshop?!?  If you don't have the hunger to come back and pitch for your team, at least do it for me, bro!

Screw it, I'm putting it up again anyway.

Now I'm going to light some candles, curl up on the couch, and cry while I think about the good times.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wallace Matthews Should Probably Stop Talking

Another day, another disgrace of a column from ESPNNY's comedy duo of Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews.  This time, it's Matthews grabbing the spotlight as he tries to turn Andy Pettitte's retirement into the end of the world for the 2011 Yankee season, all the while ignoring facts and basic logic and making counterpoints against his own points that he thinks he's trying to make so that the rest of us in the Yankee blogosphere don't have to.  But I will anyway.  Let's FJM, shall we?

"Four months ago, Andy Pettitte walked out of the visitors clubhouse in Arlington, Texas, after letting everyone know he probably wouldn't be back.
Now, we are 10 days away from pitchers and catchers and he still hasn't been replaced.
That is the real story today, not that Pettitte will hold a news conference on Friday morning to make official what everyone around the Yankees should have accepted back on Oct. 22."

No, Wally.  That story has been beaten into the ground for a few weeks now.  You're just late to the party and have nothing to write about today.  Today the story was Pettitte officially announcing his retirement and all of us getting a chance to reflect on his wonderful career.

"It may seem as if the winter got a little colder and the upcoming baseball season a little bleaker for Yankees fans with the confirmation that Pettitte will, indeed, announce his retirement... "

Did the children get a little older too, Stevie Nicks?  Jesus Christ with the melodrama!  Have you looked at the Yankee roster right now?  It's still one of the best in baseball without Pettitte.  Having him for 2011 would have been the difference between Top 5 and World Series front runner, not World Series winners and Double-A Trenton.

"... but really, nothing has changed."

And right here is where this article should have just stopped.  Matthews suggests that doom and gloom has swept through Yankeeland because Andy is gone, but then states that nothing has changed.  Good for you, Wally.  It's good to know you aren't planning on jumping off a bridge with Bill Madden.

AB4AR Linkapalooza: Andy Pettitte Retirement Addition

In honor of one the 5 greatest Yankee pitchers of all time, AB4AR presents these links from around the Yankosphere on his retirement.

- Phil Coffin from the NYT Baseball Blog has a collection of quotes from past and present teammates, players, and coaches.

- Jason at IIATMS put together Andy's Greatest Postseason Hits.

- Minor Matters takes a look at what Andy's retirement might mean for the Yankee pitching prospects.

- SJK at NoMaas uses another one of their classic Photoshops to reflect on Andy's career.

- Jay Jaffe at Pinstriped Bible puts together a nice reflective piece.

- Donnie Collins at the SWB blog examines where Andy's numbers put him in Yankee and baseball history.

- William at The Captain's Blog discusses Pettitte's HGH admission and how it should not be a stain on his great career.

- Matt Warden at Yankeeist with another beautifully-written piece on Pettitte's career.

- Larry Koestler, also of Yankeeist, talks about where Andy's retirement leaves the 2011 rotation.

- Mike Axisa at RAB put together a fantastic photo collection tracing Andy's entire Yankee career.  A couple of really good shots in there.  Definitely don't NOT check this out.

- And last but not least, and even though it really wasn't that long ago, Steve S. at TYU goes back and revisits Andy's final game in pinstripes.

It's been a great career for Andy, and obviously we're all going to miss him.  I'll take one more opportunity to thank him for all he's done for the Yankee organization and wish him well in his retirement.  My only regret is that I won't be able to watch the press conference today.

The final image of Andy's final play as a Yankee:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Andy Hangin' 'Em Up

As first reported by Michael Kay and since confirmed by Jack Curry, Andy Pettitte has decided to retire and will not come back to save the Yankee rotation in 2011.

Andy is reportedly on his way to NY today to meet with team officials and will make the official announcement of his retirement tomorrow.  While this is obviously a blow to the team, there can't be any resentment toward Andy from anybody for this decision.  Nick Swisher said it best:

“I can’t say enough great things about that guy.  To play that long and continue to put those numbers up year in and year out. We’d love to have him back.  But if he decided to ride off into the sunset, he’s definitely earned that.”

I will always have a special place in the Yankee-reserved section of my heart for Andy.  He was the first pitcher I really followed as I became old enough to understand and appreciate baseball, and it's a shame I won't be able to watch him take the hill one more time.

Congratulations on a great career, Andy.  You'll always be remembered by Yankee fans, especially this one, as one of the greats.

** UPDATE- 2:45PM- Here's a link to the official press release from the Yankees (via LoHud), confirming what we all already know.  Now I'm sad.  **

Grading The Yankees Offseason

 With the Justin Maxwell trade taking place yesterday, I think that pretty much signifies the end of the Yankee offseason in terms of moves that will actually affect the 25-man roster.  That means it's time to take a look back at the moves the Yankees did make and hand out some grades.  For the purposes of this post, I'm including internal re-signings as well.

- Derek Jeter- Signed a 3 year/$51 million deal with a player option for a 4th year: C-

I wasn't all that concerned about the money in the deal.  Everybody knew that Jeter was going to be a Yankee and everybody knew he was going to get way more than his recent performance warranted because of his pedigree and because of how important he and the Yankees are to each other.  The length of the deal was what bothered me; 3 w/ a player option instead of 2 w/ a team option.  Jeter is already hanging on by a thread defensively and needs to bounce back in 2011 at the plate to make this deal worth it.

- Mariano Rivera- Signed a 2 year/$30 million deal: A-

In a perfect world, Mo would be signing 1-year deals until he decided he didn't want to pitch anymore, or at least a 1-year deal with a team option for another after 2011.  But then again, Mo has never showed any signs of falling off in terms of his production, and he always manages to stay healthy enough to pitch.  When you factor in his past performance and the fact that he's the GOAT, 15 mil seems fair to me.

- Sergio Mitre- Signed a 1 year/$900k deal: C+

The Meat Tray definitely isn't the best pitcher around, but he's better than Dustin Moseley and Chad Gaudin, and with Ace getting hurt again, he was the best option to have around as a long man in the bullpen.  The fact that other pursuits didn't pan out and he's now slated to be the 5th starter is not a good thing, but for the money he's being paid, I can live with having him back.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day Linkapalooza

Southeast Wisconsin got hit by a  major blizzard last night.  As a result of what everyone is referring to as the "snowpocalypse" (I know.  Lame, right?), work was shut down today and I've had more time than usual to peruse the Yankee blogosphere and see what everyone else is talking about while I was busy posting Lil Wayne videos in my blog.

- el duque at It Is High... has some bumper stickers for the 2010 Yankee offseason.  Put me down for 20 of the A-Rod ones.

- Joe Paw at RAB analyzes Buster Olney's list of 11 pitchers who could become available in the 2011 season and how they might fit with the Yankees should the need for another starter arise (hint, hint: it will).  Not an inspiring list, if you ask me.  I would be in for Shawn  Marcum (track record of success in the AL East) and Felix Hernandez (best pitcher in baseball), but that's about it.

- If you're still in mourning over the 2010 offseason, you might want to steer clear of Jay Jaffe's post at Pinstriped Bible about how February 2 is a dark day in Yankee history.  When you really look at it, it's not that bad, but still a very interesting read.

- EJ Fagan at TYU has some criticism for Bleacher Report's Top 20 Yankee Hitters list and comes up with a Top 20 of his own.  I must say, I like EJ's list far more than that of Bleacher Report.

- In today's Hardball post, Joel Sherman of The Post comments on the ManBan and Betances starting situations and how the Yanks are doing all they can to hold these guys back by bringing in the Colons and Garcias of the world.  I'm all for not risking the future, but at the same time why try to bring a past that was dead years ago?  And why bother mentioning Carlos Beltran in the column?  The Mets suck.

- Finally, we conclude with a pair of gems from Larry Koestler at Yankeeist.  First, a damn good graphical analysis of Andy Pettitte's career showing just how good the guy has been.  It makes for more compelling HOF arguments, though I still don't think he quite makes it.

- Secondly, Larry took a look at the 2011 projections for Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi to decide who would make the better addition to the 2011 rotation.  I think Larry seems to be in the camp that sees these 2 battling it out for the 5th spot with Garcia getting the 4th to start the season.  As a start I could live with that, but I'd personally rather see both of them there instead of Arm Dead Fred.

So there you, people.  That should get you through the rest of your work days.  Suckers.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go dig my car out of the snow in the parking lot and see if there's any chance I can even drive down to the street to buy beer for the UConn-Syracuse game tonight.

Larry Rothschild Is Putting In Work (And Using Up His "Anytime" Minutes)

Wallace Matthews put a post up yesterday talking about Larry Rothschild visiting A.J. Burnett this offseason at A.J.'s home in Maryland, and there were quite a few points that stood out to me.

First, the fact that Rothschild went to Burnett's house and spent a few days there talking with him, watching tape, and watching A.J. throw.  I don't know about you, but that just seems like a big deal to me.  We all know that A.J. is a bit of a mental midget, and if you don't believe that then you're just lying to yourself.  The prevailing thought last season was that his season went downhill when Dave Eiland left and Eiland would cure him of his ills upon his return to the bench.  Well, that didn't happen, so maybe it shows that Eiland wasn't that tuned into Burnett and didn't know what made him tick and maybe, just maybe, didn't know or care that much about him at all.  Rothschild taking time to not just talk to A.J., but to make a trip to A.J.'s  home and spend a few days there working with him and talking to him shows me that he really does care and really does want to see A.J. succeed.  More importantly, it probably showed A.J. those same things, which could be a big help in getting A.J.'s mind (and stuff) right for this season.

The second thing that I noticed was this line:

"Rothschild said he has made has made contact with all 32 pitchers expected in camp beginning on Feb. 14 -- make that 33 with the addition today of Freddy Garcia... "

All 32 pitchers?  All of them?  Really??  Maybe I'm just being naive about what goes on between pitching coaches and their staff, but this seems like a really big thing to do for a new pitching coach with a whole new set of pitchers to learn about and handle through the season.  Sure they all report a few weeks prior to the rest of the team, but Rothschild sounds like he's hitting the ground running in getting ready for 2011 and isn't wasting any time in getting to know his pitchers.  Some of these guys aren't even going to throw a pitch for the Yankees in 2011 and Rothschild STILL made a point to call them.  That kind of commitment doesn't go unnoticed by players, and I see that as a sign of good things to come for the Yankee pitching staff.  When you know your coach cares about you, it makes you try harder and makes you want to succeed.

Lastly, as if Matthews knew I was going to love this, he drops in the line about Rothschild already working with Beastances and Brackman in Tampa, helping them refine their deliveries.  I have no shame in admitting I started giggling and clapping my hands like a 10-year-old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert when I read that.

A lot still remains to be seen once ST starts and the season really gets going, but Larry Rothschild is already looking like the man in my book.