Monday, January 30, 2006

Where Is The Love?

Today is Jackie Robinson's birthday. He would have been 87. We all know how important Jackie Robinson is to baseball. In 1947, Jackie became the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues and changed the face of the game forever. His number 42 is the only uniform number retired by Major League Baseball, though one active player still dons the uniform today, and that as you should know if you're a Yankee fan, is Mariano Rivera (he's allowed to since he was wearing it when the number was retired). He opened the door for fellow Negro Leaguers to play in the majors and also led the Dodgers to six World Series in his 10 seasons. He was a phenomenal player and I would have loved to see him play. So Happy Birthday Jackie!!
Not to take anything away from Jackie Robinson, but there is another player who is equally deserving of being recognized for helping to integrate baseball in breaking the color barrier, and that is Larry Doby. On July 5, 1947, 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Dodgers, Larry Doby became the first African-American to play baseball in the American League. Rarely do you hear his name mentioned when the topic is Jackie Robinson or breaking baseball's color barrier. Larry Doby had to endure the same problems as Jackie Robinson when he began his career with the Indians. He played his entire career, and spent much of his life after baseball, without the attention and support bestowed upon Jackie Robinson. What Larry Doby did for baseball is equally as important as what Jackie Robinson did, and he deserves to be recognized for it. Perhaps Major League Baseball should retire his uniform number of 14. It would only be fitting. Unfortunately, that likely won't happen. So next time you're at Cooperstown, please make sure to take special notice of Larry Doby's plaque and achievements. He's an important part of baseball's history and he has been overlooked for far too long.
Thanks for reading.

Mariano Rivera: Hall Of Famer?

My wife and I watched the Yankeeography of Mariano Rivera on DVD last night. I had seen it before and she was watching it for the first time. She looks at me in the middle of it and exclaims "Holy cow it's giving me chills!" And sure enough, the goosebumps on her arms were rather noticeable. My favorite part is when Aaron "Freakin'" Boone hots the game-winner against the Red Sox in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS and they cut to Rivera running out of the dugout as the ball is on its way over the fence, then collapsing on the mound and crying, and then getting carried of the field by his teammates. It was just an awesome sight. I remember watching the game at my in-laws house and going crazy as Boone put Wakefield's knuckler in the seats! If only the 2004 ALCS would have had ended differently.
Mariano is without a doubt the closer in the game. When he comes in and "Enter Sandman" plays you know the game is in the bag. He definitely is a first ballot Hall Of Famer. My only fear, is that he won't be.
Look at the results of this year's Hall Of Fame ballot for example. Bruce Sutter, in his 13th year on the ballot, finally gets elected, albeit by a slim margin. Sutter is the 4th reliever elected to the Hall, joining Rollie Fingers, Hoyt Wilhelm, and Dennis Eckersley. Sutter is actually the first pure reliever elected to the Hall as he never started a game. But Goose Gossage and Lee Smith don't get elected? Smith is the all-time saves leader. He should be in. Though he pitched in 10 more seasons, Gossage clocks in with 10 more career saves than Sutter and has over 100 career wins. He should be in. But that's an entirely different argument.
What makes it almost impossible for relief pitchers to be elected is that many sports writers don't see the position of relief pitcher as a position worthy of being elected into the Hall Of Fame. I was listening to "The Baseball Beat with Charley Steiner" on XM Radio. He spends 2 hours talking to various beat writers and spends about 20 minutes talking to each. After the Hall of Fame results were announced, he had on Atlanta Journal-Constitution baseball writer Furman Bisher. One of Mr. Bisher's responses during the interview is "I will never vote for a reliever to be in the Hall Of Fame," basically stating that he doesn't think it's a valid position. Someone tell me why does this guy get a vote? The role of the reliever has changed dramatically since the good old days from which Mr. Bisher is from. Closers, including Mariano Rivera, have changed the way the game is played. Gone are the days of pitchers throwing 20+ complete games in a season. Based on the era that we're in and the way the game is played, relievers definitely need to be recognized as an integral part of the game and worthy of being in the Hall. "The save" is a very valuable statistic and it is something that ALL baseball writers need to recognize. There is no way you can justify to me that Mariano Rivera is not a Hall Of Famer. Unfortunately, if there are writers that share the opinion of Mr. Bisher, it may be a difficult task. It did take Sutter 13 tries, and Goose and Lee Smith are still knocking on the door waiting to get into the party.
Personally, I think they need to do some form of review on the voters, or even change the process. Maybe give votes to TV analysts or radio announcers that have been covering the game for more than 10 years, like Vin Scully. Furman Bisher doesn't think that's a good idea. He thinks that analysts and radio announcers would be more likely to vote for players that were on the teams that they covered because they technically work for the team. Charley Steiner asked Mr. Bisher who he cast votes for. One of the players was Dale Murphy. When Charley asked him why, he said it was because Dale was an Atlanta Brave. Thank you for showing just how ignorant you are!! Charley mentioned to him that he said he didn't want radio announcers to vote because they'd be apt to vote for players on teams they cover, but he voted for Dale Murphy because he was a Brave?? Mr. Bisher wanted to explain, but the segment was out of time. I would have loved to hear him explain that one.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Minaya & The Mets

By recently acquiring the likes of Jorge Julio, Carlos Delgado, Duaner Sanchez, Julio Franco, Ramon Castro, Jose Valentin, and Endy Chavez, many are suggesting, including the outspoken Anna Benson, that Mets GM Omar Minaya is trying to build a team predominantly made up of Latin players. That has to be one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. Umm, hello. Billy Wagner?? Paul LoDuca?? Xavier Nady?? Tike Redman??
The Mets biggest problem in 2005 was the performance of their bullpen. Wagner was the best closer on the market and is arguably one of the game's best closers. Dodgers closer Eric Gagne expressed disappointment in losing Sanchez to the Mets. He's young and has the potential to be one of the better relievers in the game. Jorge Julio has good stuff and would be a welcomed addition to most bullpens. Carlos Delgado is Carlos Delgado, I don't have to elaborate on that. Julio Franco can still bring it and his veteran leadership is something you can't quantify. And why go out and get Paul LoDuca when you could have gotten Bengie Molina or Ramon Hernandez, if you're trying to build a team with players of Latin descent? It's ridiculous, it really is.
Minaya is obviously trying to put together a winner. The moves that the Mets have made have greatly improved their team. If the player can perform and is a fit to the team, does it really matter where he's from? I don't think so. If you do, tell me why. I'd love to know.

Friday, January 27, 2006

It's Gotta Be The Shoes

Pedro Martinez, fresh from his afternoon nap under the mango tree, is getting a new shoe. The shoe, manufactured by Nike, is specifically designed to help Pedro rehab his injured right toe. He'll likely need to wear the shoe for the remainder of his career, and so long as his shoulder holds up, it looks like that could be for quite some time. With the new shoe in tow, Pedro will likely participate in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Good news for the Dominican Republic, bad news for everyone else.
Going back to his rookie season , Pedro is arguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball. A career ERA of 2.72. He's held opponents to a batting average just over .200. The guy's just an awesome pitcher! This should be a landmark season for Pedro as he's 139 Ks shy of becoming the 14th pitcher to strikeout 3000. And considering that 1993, his second season in the majors, was the last time he struck out less than 139, it's pretty safe to assume that he'll easily surpass the total, if he stays healthy. For those that don't know, in 1993 Pedro was a reliever with the Dodgers and even then he struck out 119 in 107 IPs. I liked Pedro back when he was in Montreal. I obviously didn't like him as much when he was in Boston, especially when he threw Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground. And now that's he back with the Mets, it's okay to like him again. Pedro and I once had a brief conversation. It was at Camden Yards in 2004 when the Red Sox were playing the Orioles. He started signing autographs and I was right against the rail and he was coming in my direction. I asked him if I could please have his autograph. He said "Sorry, but I only sign for the children." As nice as it would have been to get his autograph on a ball, I can respect that. But what are we older fans to do? For those that are wondering, to get his autograph at a show would cost about $200. And that's just for him to sign a baseball.
I wonder if the Red Sox have any regrets about not giving Pedro the 4th year and letting him walk? I can see it now. Pedro will go on to pitch another 10 years, win 3 Cy Young awards, pick up a few more World Series rings, and earn his 300th career win and 4000th career strikeout. Wait a second? That sounds familiar, doesn't it? I think i've heard that story before. Wouldn't you think that the Red Sox would learn from their mistakes? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. In light of the recent events in Boston, I don't think Yankee fans have anything to worry about for a long time. In 85 years, we should start to worry.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Let's Get Physical

For a guy who wants to write about the Yankees, I sure do spend a lot of time on the Red Sox.
As the story goes, Red Sox reliever Guillermo Mota failed his physical, thereby sending the Sox back to the drawing board to try and complete the trade for Coco Crisp. The best part of all this is that the Red Sox, when acquiring Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett and Mota in a trade with Florida, did not have the 3 Marlins undergo physicals but instead relied on medical documentation to evaluate the player's health. And now we come to find, through the thorough investigation by Indians physicians, that Mota isn't up to par. So not only do the Red Sox get stuck with damaged goods, but they likely will have to part with another prospect (rumored to be Manny Delcarmen possibly) to complete the trade for Coco. If this is all true, and I'm inclined to think it is unless Larry Lucchino's quotes were made up, then the Red Sox organization, through their actions, continuously show why they are light years behind the Yankees, and have only won the World Series once in the last 87 or so years. Maybe it's not just Theo in a gorilla suit? Maybe there really is a gorilla pulling all the strings in the Sox organization? Ladies and gentleman, I'd like to introduce you to our new GM: It's Magilla Gorilla!! And here is our Assistant GM: Grape Ape!! It's like the ending to that failed Fox reality show "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss." A monkey in a suit making random decisions to decide the fates of all involved. How can anyone feel good about the Red Sox front office? It's a comedy of errors, one after another.
All I can do is laugh and shake my head in amazement. It's one of those laughs that make your belly hurt.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Return Of The Theo

Theo Epstein, Boston's boy wonder, has resigned, not be confused with resigned, as the GM of the Boston Red Sox, putting an end to the experiment of having co-GMs. But was he really ever gone? I have a theory on this. I don't think he ever really left. I think it was a big elaborate ruse to dupe the Red Sox Nation into thinking that their beloved Theo isn't the one responsible for allowing part of the heart and soul of the Sox (Damon) to leave Beantown. He probably wasn't in the grand scheme of things, but I don't think he wants the finger pointed at him for a decision outside of his control. I believe he probably wanted to keep Damon in the Nation, but his decision was likely vetoed by the rest of the front office. So this whole elaborate scheme was cooked up for everyone to save face and to have Theo return as if he were Mighty mouse, yelling "Hear I come to save the day!!" I have an idea of how the conversation went. If the Yankees are the "Evil Empire," that would make the Red Sox "The Rebels." Here is my opinion of how events unfolded and a "fictional" conversation that took place. Mind you, none of this is based on any kind of fact, it's just a theory of mine. One that can't be proved, or disproved for that matter, so it is certainly possible:
Anakin Epstein: You called for me Master Larry?
Master Larry: Mmmm. Yes. Asked to see you, I did. Talk to you, I must, about Johnny Damon.
Anakin Epstein: Yes. The force is strong with him. We must do all within our power to prevent him from joining the Darkside.
Master Larry: The force is strong with Young Damon, but let him go, we must.
Anakin Epstein: With all due respect Master Larry, I disagree. We cannot allow Darth Steinbrenner to bring Damon to the Evil Empire.
Mater Larry: Mmmm. Disagree, I do.
Anakin Epstein: I'm sorry Master. But I cannot have any part of allowing Johnny to join the Darkside. I ask that you reconsider.
Mater Larry: Consider, I have. Afford him, we cannot.
Anakin Epstein: But Master Larry, Johnny helped us to defeat the Evil Empire in 2004. We must reward him.
Master Larry: Reward him, we cannot. Let him go we must. He must follow the same path as those before him. Pedro. Derek Lowe. Nomar. Go he must. As must, Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller. Approved of this, has Master Henry.
Anakin Epstein: Sorry, Master. I can have no part of this. The Nation will want my head.
Master Larry: Mmmm. Idea, I have. Be part of the dismantling of the Nation, you will not be. Help rebuild, you will.
Anakin Epstein: Master, I do not understand.
Master Larry: Explain, I will. The Nation, you will leave. To the Degobah system, you will go. Jedi Hoyer and Jedi Cherington, for you, they will speak. From Degobah, the decisions, you will make. When all is done, you will return. Never know, will the Nation. Rejoice they will, when you return. Their savior, you will be. Know of this, they will not. Mmmm.
Anakin Epstein: I understand my Master.
And now, 80 some-odd days later, Theo is back and the Nation is rejoicing like the Ewoks did when the Rebels blew up the Death Star. If this happens to be true, then it would be one of the most brilliant PR moves in the history of PR moves. "Mmmm. Ingenious it would be." The Nation is probably jumping for joy and have already forgot about Johnny leaving for greener pastures. I hate to say it Sox fans, but you've been punked!! Brilliant.
I would love for a Sox fan to explain to me why every time a Sox player's contract comes up, the player rarely if ever, is resigned (except for Arroyo who gives up the home team discount). Pedro? Lowe? Damon? Millar? Mueller? Nomar? For all intents and purposes, Manny? Does the team not want to spend the money, or do the players want to get out of the Nation? Most of the Nation wants to believe so badly that their ship is on the right course, especially with Captain Theo back at the helm. Personally, I don't think everything is as rosy as it seems. It all just seems a little odd and a little shady. I don't buy what the Sox are selling.
May the Force be with You and Long Live The Empire!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Piazza With Cheese, Hold The Cheese

There are 2 published reports that Mike Piazza's agent has contacted the Yankees about their interest in the aging veteran. While I'm sure Piazza has a few more productive years in him, especially if he were to sign with an AL team, he's not quite a fit with the Bombers. Sure he could DH, but then you put out Bernie Williams and Andy Phillips. And unless Mike's asking price of $7-8 million is cut in half, there is no reason why the Yankees should invest their resources in Piazza, other than using his name as a ticket draw. He woudln't be an asset behind the plate either. Even though Piazza is better with the bat than probably both Posada and Stinnett, his arms and legs make him more of a defensive liability. The last thing Yankee pitchers need is a catcher with no arm. Opposing teams don't need any more incentive to run on Yankee pitchers. Their inability to hold runners on first is incentive enough.
The Yankees need to get away from signing high priced aging players and work on bringing in some younger prospects to improve the farm system. I think Cashman has his head in the right place, as evidenced by declining trade offers made for Cano and Wang. As much as I'd like to see Mike continue on, I really hope Cashman doesn't waste Yankee dollars on his signing. Personally, I don't think he will. Cashman's a smart guy and I'd be surprised if he made a deal with Piazza. The only benefit I can see would be a personal one. If Piazza were a Yank, I'd have several opportunities to get a signed ball from him when the Yankees visit Toronto.
Until Clemens signs his name on the dotted line, there's always an outside shot he'll return to the Bronx. Imagine if he and Piazza ended up being battery mates??? That would be classic.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mo Money, Mo Problems

The LA Dodgers are rumored to have lost interest in free agent catcher Bengie Molina, leaving Toronto as Bengie's likely final destination. My how fast the man's stock has dropped. The day Paul Lo Duca was traded to the Mets was the day that Bengie's value dropped significantly. Bengie's been quoted as saying that he'll be happy to sit the year out if he doesn't get the cheddar he's looking for, which is rumored to be in the $6-7 million per year range. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen, only time will tell. Now, I don't claim to be a rocket scientist, and my friends and family will certainly be the first people to tell you I'm not, but even I know that something is better than nothing. And how can Bengie, or his agent for that matter, think that taking the year off is going to get him that kind of money. Toronto has a "supposed" offer on the table for a 1 year deal worth $4 million. Bengie, what are you waiting for? Sign your name on the dotted line. It's not going to get any better.
If the Jays land Molina, they no doubt will be one of the most improved teams in 2006. JP Ricciardi has had an impressive offseason by adding Ryan, Overbay, Burnett and Glaus. The Jays are already a legitimate contender for the East crown though I don't think they have all the pieces to win the division. If Halladay remains healthy, the Jays could very easily place second. You can probably make an argument that the jays have what it takes to win the East, but I don't think they're quite there. If Ricciardi is committed to spending the cash as he says he is, they may be a year or two away from getting back to the postseason. The East is shaping up to be a hotly contested division. We can expect a lot of excitement.
i do have one gripe with the Jays. I guess you can say I'm a partial season ticket holder to the Jays as I have the 10 game flex pack, mainly to see the Jays take on the Yankees. One of the perks of being a season ticket holder was I had the ability to attend an exclusive autograph session up at the Rogers Centre. Being the autograph hound that I am, I was excited at this opportunity. I'm thinking they'll have their new acquisitions, maybe if were lucky Halladay would be there. So I leave work early, make the short 1.5 hour drive to Toronto. The drive was a breeze so I got there much earlier than expected. I stopped in to the Hard Rock Cafe, and dropped about $25 on a burger and 2 beers. I thought I'd need a second mortgage. Anyway, the session was being held in the Jays clubhouse. That was kind of cool to see. I get down there to find that the Jays have 4 people signing autographs. 4 people?? That's it? Wait, it gets better. Only 1 was a current Blue Jay, and that was Josh Towers (and I already had his autograph). Next up was Cito Gaston. That was kind of cool. He was the skipper of the 2 World Series teams. After Cito was the first Canadian inducted into the HOF, Fergie Jenkins. I would have been really excited to get an HOFers auto, but I already had 2 signed balls by him, so I got a 3rd. Now for the best part. Last but certainly by no means least...I take that all means least....Kevin Elster??? Umm. Someone want to explain that one to me? You couldn't get any other Jays, so you dug up Kevin Elster?? Someone said he's related to a guy in marketing, but still, Kevin Elster? ***??? And to top it off, I already had his autograph. What a waste of time!! The US Custom Officer had a nice chuckle when I explained to him where I was and what it was like. If it weren't for the extra alcohol in Canadian beer, the trip would have been a total waste.
I did get a chance to ask Fergie what his feelings were about Bruce Sutter being the only one inducted into the Hall (the signing was the same day as the results). He said he was disappointed that only one guy made it in and he thought that others were Hall-worthy. We shared the same opinion. But I'll save that for another entry.
Thanks for reading. Or thanks for not reading...I have no idea if anyone reads any of this. But it's fun to write, and that's what I draw enjoyment from.
ps- What up Koob? We'll have to hit up Dunn Tire this summer so I can snag you some more balls.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

They're Cuckoo For Coco

It looks as if the rival Red Sox have filled 2 big holes by landing Coco Crisp in a deal with Cleveland, and with the free agent signing of Alex Gonzalez, assuming of course that it all becomes official. As a Yankee fan, these acquisitions still don't make me feel that the Sox have a shot at winning the East. You'd be a fool to the think that the Sox were going to plug in a couple of no names. The Sox lineup is still much worse in my opinion than it was a year ago. Would you rather have Damon and Renteria in your line-up over Gonzalez and Crisp? No-brainer. I had the pleasure of seeing Crisp play when he did his time in AAA, with the Buffalo Bisons. No doubt the kid has talent and a very promising future. He can get to the ball like it's nobody's business and he's good with the stick and he's only getting better. He's definitely a suitable replacement for Damon. But even with the additions of Snow, Lowell and Loretta, they are still sub-par in comparison to the 2004 Sox lineup. Renteria turned out to be a bust and many feel he just couldn't handle the Fenway infield. What makes anyone think Gonzalez will do any better? They're pretty much the same defensively. Gonzalez though is a career .245 hitter with a horrible .OBP. I don't see why the Sox dropped the $$ on him when they already have the same player in Alex Cora.
One major area of concern for the Sox in 2005 was the performance of their bullpen. When they were able to land Mota in the Beckett deal, they acquired a pretty solid reliever. He's been flipped to Cleveland so the Sox pen is minimally better than it was last year, even with Tavarez and Saenz. Andy Marte is highly regarded in the world of baseball as the best prospect in the game and he's gone now. Are the Sox suffering from the same disease as the Yankees? Selling off the farm to try and win now?? Marte=gone. Hanley Ramirez=gone. Anibal Sanchez=gone. They have some prospects left I'm sure, but so did the Yankees at one point. As all Yankee fans know, our farm system is, or was, pretty depleted. I'm glad Cashman decided not to trade Wang and/or Cano. Smart move.
The Sox have lost something that you can't measure and is hard to replace, and that's heart and team chemistry. Mueller, Millar and Damon are gone. Those three were a pretty integral part of the Sox make up. They brought something to their team that is a hard thing to come by. The Yankees have been trying to find that magic from the 96-00 squads, and have yet to duplicate it. It's like capturing lightning in a bottle. So don't worry Yankee fans! As of now, the Blue Jays are still our biggest threat.
Now for something you might not expect.....
I love the game of baseball. I love the Yankees. The love and respect for the game will always outweigh anything else. I was able to attend game 7 of the 2004 ALCS and got to witness first hand the culmination of the great collapse. It was hard to watch the Yankees become the first team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead, and then lose the ALCS in such an embarrassing fashion in game 7, to your most hated rival no less. Then to have to watch that hated rival run right through the Cardinals and win their first World Series championship in 86 years. As you probably now, it was real tough. Gone are the chants of "1918." The curse is over. But, you have to tip your hat to the Sox for that accomplishment. As a Yankee fan, was I happy to see them win it all? Of course not. How could I? As a fan of the game, was I happy? Absolutely! It was great for the game, and like it or not, it was a pretty exciting thing to watch. So my hat's off to you Boston. Just don't do it again.
Nothing could beat being at game 7. As a Yankee fan, that is probably the most meaningful sporting event I ever could attend. That was my Super Bowl. If only there was a repeat of 2003. I was so hoping for another Aaron "Freakin'" Boone moment. But as we all know, it wasn't meant to be. As mentioned in my inaugural post, I'm from Buffalo. I'm used to seeing my team lose the big one.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Benson To Baltimore

It appears that Kris Benson will join his 3rd team in 3 years as the Mets have traded him to the Orioles for Jorge Julio and John Maine. I wonder how Anna feels about leaving the Big Apple for the beautiful land o' the crabcake? Perhaps the Mets were sick of her act. I'm sure we'll hear from her in the coming days, if we're lucky.
The Orioles acquire a "legit" number one starter in Benson and the O's now have a somewhat decent rotation in Benson, Lopez, Bedard and Cabrera. With the loss of BJ Ryan to free agency and the Julio trade, who's going to be the Oriole closer?
The Mets bolster the bullpen with he addition of Julio. I'm not crazy about the guy. An ERA typically in the mid 4s and a WHIP near 1.5. It'll be interesting to see if Willie will use him as Billy's set-up guy. Maybe a move to the senior circuit will bring his numbers down? With the return of Steve Traschel, Benson became expendable. Possibly Aaron Heilman will round out the Mets rotation now that Kaz Ishii bolted. If Traschel can remain healthy, and father time doesn't catch up to Tom Glavine, Perdo and his crew pose a serious threat to the Braves' stranglehold on the division. It'll be interesting to see if Omar is done with the deals, or if he has anything else up his sleeve.
Just over 3 weeks to go until pitchers and catchers report......I live for this, I really do!!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Breaking Down The Yankee Offseason

Less than 1 month until pitchers and catchers report. I'm getting more and more excited with each passing minute. As a die-hard Yankee fan, how can I not be excited about the upcoming year? In my opinion they've made some pretty good signings and the ballclub has greatly improved from where they were one year ago. My only fear is I said the same thing last year.
The best move the Yankees made this off-season was re-signing Brian Cashman as GM. The guy is a genius, there's no doubt about it. I would hate to think what would have happened had he not resigned. Maybe we would have then had 2 GMs that could help drop us from the top of the division to the middle of it. Thankfully, he signed and we don't have to worry about it for another few years.
The Yankees' number one priority was resigning Hideki Matsui. And why shouldn't it have been? The guy is consistent. You can count on him to play everyday, knock in 100 runs, hit close to .300, and hit 20 or so dingers. He worked through a few slumps in 2005 but ended up putting up another quality season. I would expect nothing less in 2006.
One of the biggest problem areas for the Yankees in 2005 was the bullpen. It was absolutely atrocious. If your name wasn't Mariano Rivera, then I was worried every time a reliever took the mound. Tom Gordon was a good set-up man, and he'll serve the Phillies well as their new closer. Every one you wanted to go is gone. Take the existing relief corps of Tanyon Sturte, Aaron Small, and possibly Shawn Chacon. Sprinkle in a little Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Villone, Mike Myers, and Octavio Dotel. Top it off with arguably the best closer in the game in Mariano Rivera and you have a recipe for possibly the best bullpen in baseball.
Kyle Farnsworth will undoubtedly be Rivera's primary set-up man. The guy throws some serious heat and isn't afraid to throw down if the situation arises. I like the guy. I have him on my Diamond Mind team. His strong suit is his ability to strike guys out, which comes in handy. Some will argue that he's inconsistent and I'd agree to an extent, but if he can duplicate 2005 (barring that meltdown in the NLDS) he'll do well as the Yankees 8th inning guy.
If Farnsworth falters in any way, Octavio Dotel could certainly step up and assume the role of the set-up man. Dotel isn't quite the pitcher he was when he was in Houston. His move to the AL in 2004 saw an increase in most major stat categories. How much of that is related to the arm troubles is hard to tell. His health is the major question. Can he bounce back from the TJ surgery he had last year? I think so. His best course of action would be to not rush his recovery to be ready for Opening Day. The Yankees should have him take his time and aim for a May return. Dotel is a gamble with the potential for some serious rewards.
The Yankees have had some issues with their LH relievers the last few seasons. Did anyone really think BoSox castoff Alan Embree would be the answer? No. Does anyone think that BoSox castoff Mike Myers will be any better? Keep him away from righties and he'll do okay. He's a LH specialist. I'd feel comfortable with him on the mound against the likes of David Ortiz in the late innings. He held lefties to a batting average of .158 in 2005. Not too shabby. Adding Ron Villone to the staff has several benefits. Villone's another guy I'm high on and he just so happens to be on the roster of my Diamond Mind team as well (if you don't know what Diamond Mind is click on the link). He can spot start if any of the 7 starters we have go down (wow, that's a good problem to have isn't it?). He's another one that shuts down lefties and is good to pitch every other game. His age is up there (yeah yeah, the Yankees are old, I know) but he's certainly a more viable option that bringing back Mike Stanton.
I'm glad to see Bernie Williams is going to be this year's Ruben Sierra. Every team needs the wise veteran who can quite bring it like he used to. You can still count on him for some quality production and his experience (especially come playoff time) is an asset. I was never high on Ruben Sierra. I never saw much of a benefit to having him there. I was at a game last year in Toronto where Sierra started for Sheffield in RF. At the time, the Yankees were trailing the Red Sox by a few games and the gap was closing. Sierra wasn't playing like the game mattered. He wasn't running for fly balls and was letting them drop with runners on base, had a few fielding/throwing errors. I can't see Bernie doing that. Bernie vs. Ruben?? I'd take Bernie Williams any day of the week. I'm glad he decided to come back.
An interesting pick-up was having Miguel Cairo cross the Triboro Bridge and make a return to the Bronx. I personally don't think they should have let Cairo go for 2005. But King George wanted Tony Womack and Cairo was a cast-off. We all know how Womack worked out (good luck in Cincy.) Cairo isn't exactly over-the-hill; he's 31 (just younger than I am). Can he fill the role of utility player? Absolutely! Will he? Let's hope his stats are more in line with his 2004 tour of duty and not his '05 numbers with the cross-town Mets.
Adding Kelly Stinnett and choosing to let John Flaherty go surprised me. I wouldn't have thought they would have let the Big Unit's personal catcher go. I wonder if they sought out Johnson's input on that move. I consider Stinnett to be an upgrade to Flaherty. He has a little better of an arm and is certainly better with the stick. If you're going to bat .165, you better be the best defensive catcher in the game with a cannon for an arm. Sorry Johnny, but you weren't. Kelly Stinnett gets stamped with a big UPGRADE, Best Week Ever style.
And that brings me to Johnny Damon. I would have rather seen the Yankees acquire the likes of Juan Pierre or Torri Hunter. Am I disappointed in the Damon signing? Absolutely not. It works on so many levels. He's a bonafide leadoff guy, which the Yankees needed so Jeter can go back to the 2-hole. He gets on base, can swipe a few bases, and can put the bat on the ball. A guy like that in the Yankee lineup makes the odds of winning another AL East Division pretty good. Sure, his power numbers were down from 2005 and his arm isn't really any better than Bernie Williams, but when you can have a guy like that setting the table, you do it. My one concern is going to be his ability to cover enough ground to run down some fly balls. Playing CF in Yankee Stadium isn't quite the same as playing CF in Fenway. And let's face it, Johnny just doesn't look like your stereotypical baseball player. Everything about him looks awkward. But, it works. Oh, I forgot the best reason. It was like ripping the heart and soul out of the Red Sox Nation. As a Yankee fan, you had to love that. I'll bet they didn't see that coming. Is it me or does it seem like players want to get out of Boston when there contracts are up? Some even before their contracts are up in the case of Manny and David Wells? Why do guys want to get out of Boston so bad? If any Red Sox fans happen to read through all of this, I'd really like to know. Pedro, Derek Lowe, Manny, Wells, Millar, Damon, Mueller, Cabrera? An organization in turmoil? Perhaps. I'll talk about that another day.
Well, if you made it this far, what do you think? I welcome all comments. Personally, I'd give the Yankees a B+ for their offseason efforts. A grade that I think is good enough to secure another division championship. We'll have to watch out for those pesky Blue Jays. As of now they're my odds on favorite to take second. I'm looking forward to seeing the Yanks/Jays hook up 9 times up in Toronto. I've already got my tickets. April can't get here soon enough.....

Welcome To The Boogie Down

Hey there! Welcome to Baseball & The Boogie Down. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you stop by frequently and find it to be a good read. I'm Jay, your host and i hope you enjoy your stay. A little about me: 32 years old, married just over a year, new homeowner, love baseball, love the YANKEES, and I'm an autograph hound!! Oh, and I'm a horiible typist as you'll come to find. More on all of that in future posts....
Are you asking yourself, "What's the Boogie Down?" For those of you not hip to the lingo, it's slang for the Bronx. And everyone knows what the Bronx means to the baseball world? If you don't, leave now and don't look back. And in case you're wondering, and you're probably not, I'm not from the NYC area. I'm hunkered down in the great baseball metropolis known as Buffalo. But, I make it to the Stadium quite regularly. More on that later......
Now, just because I'm a Yankee fan, a big Yankee fan, doesn't mean that this blog is going to be all about the Yankees. Much of it will be devoted to the Bombers, but I hope to write about many topics within the realm of baseball. I've got many things I want to discuss right from the start. The Yankees, the WBC, the HOF, the rival Boston Red Sox. I'll tackle it all. Hopefully at times, with a little humor to boot. I hope to post daily, or at least on a regular basis.
I need to say a special thanks to my wife for letting me start this blog. She knows how much I love baseball and this is probably the closest thing I'll ever do to be "part of the game." So thanks babe. I actually owe much of my love for the game to her. She helped to rekindle the love and bring it to a whole new level. We decided in the summer of 2004 that we wanted to visit all 30 major league stadiums. We got a late start that summer but we we're able to get to Jacobs Field, PNC Park, the Skydome (pre-name change), Camden Yards and Citizens Bank. I had been to the Skydome before, but getting to those ballparks was an awesome experience. It made me fall in love with the game all over again. We were in Philadelphia. It was the last day of the season. We were engaged at the time with honeymoon plans to go to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. Anyway, she gets out of the shower the day of the game and says she was thinking that a trip to the Caribbean would be silly because we're not beach people. "Let's go to more stadiums!!!" How can you not love that?? She's a keeper! Her one mistake was letting me plan the trip. What was meant to be a one week trip, turned into 2 separate trips. The first taking us down the east coast and back--about 4800 miles if I remember. Shea, RFK, Tropicana, Dolphins Stadium, Turner Field and ending with a game in the Bronx (that trip came complete with a trip to the Tampa ER). The second trip taking us a little west to Miller Park, US Cellular, Wrigley, Comerica and Great American. We did both trips by car (thank God for XM Radio and its MLB coverage!) That doesn't include return trips to the Jake, PNC, and the Skydome. All together, I think we went to 20 some-odd games last year (the majority at the Skydome for Yanks/Jays). That just leaves Fenway--but those tickets are pretty hard to come by. This summer our plans are to hit up Boston, St. Louis and Kansas City and I've got my 10 game flex pack to Toronto for Yankees/Jays. And of course, there'll be a few trips to the Stadium. If we can accomplish that--we'll have hit up every stadium east of the Mississippi. She's a teacher with summers off and I schedule my vacations around baseball, so it all works out. I'm planning on a post later with some stadium reviews.....
I think i've rambled enough for my inaugural post. I'll leave you all with my favorite joke......
A guy walks into a bar and says "Ow, that hurt."
I have a pretty oddball sense of humor.