Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I'm taking a break from blogging while I pursue other projects. To be honest, I've become a little depressed about the lack of hits/feedback.  I said I'd give it a year and I have done. Trouble is, there are so many stories written about the New York Yankees I feel as though I'm a small fish swimming in a big pool. If you've read my blog and miss it, please send me an email to let me know.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, May 4, 2009


NEW YORK baseball fans are never satisfied. How could they be with the level of expectation in the Big Apple? 

When the Yankees and Mets are doing well, the phone-in shows on ESPN and WFAN are pretty quiet.
But when things are going badly, the switchboards are jammed.

Right now, the talk radio hosts are having a field day. And why not. After all, there are plenty of negative things to talk about.

Here are just a few of the topics:

A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez. Okay, so we’re all fed up with talk about performance-enhancing drugs but tipping pitchers, well that’s a whole new ball game.

CC Sabathia: The hefty lefty is 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA, begging the question, is he worth the $161 million the Yankees will pay him over the next seven years.

Ditto AJ Burnett: He’s making $82.5 million over the next five years yet he can’t hold a six-run lead against the Boston Red Sox and has an ERA of 5.90.

Mark Teixeira: Even allowing for the fact that’s he’s a notoriously slow starter, a batting average of .182 is horrendously bad for any player, let alone one who is costing $180 million over the next eight years.

Bad Ollie leaves Mets with massive hole to fill

Oliver Pérez: The Mets have invested $36 million in their left-hander over three years yet it’s anyone’s guess when we will see him again in the Majors after he gave up 28 hits and 24 runs in five starts for an ERA of 9.97.

Sean Green: The relief pitcher is being labeled the new Aaron Heilman after blowing two saves.

David Wright: He’s rapidly “earning” the same tag as A-Rod, namely that he can’t hit in the clutch.

Carlos Beltran: All the ability in the world, but a player with a soft center. Why can’t he play hard every day?

These are just a few of the subjects being debated by disgruntled fans, who don’t seem too impressed with the job done by either Joe Girardi or Jerry Manuel so far this season.

So which side of the city should be worrying the most? Probably the orange and blue rather than the pinstripes.

Coming off dreadful collapses in each of the last two seasons, the Mets – more than anyone – needed to get off to a fast start.

The trouble with baseball is that no sooner have you solved one problem than another appears.

Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz have shored up one end of the game but they’re not of much use if you can’t hand them a lead. 

And, with the notable exception of Johan Santana, the Mets’ starters have been anything but consistent so far. I’m sure John Maine and Mike Pelfrey will get it right sooner rather than later, but that still leaves them looking for two more starters.

Yanks manager still has complete faith in CC

Girardi remains 100 percent confident Sabathia will become the ace Yanks’ fans are craving. He’s probably right.

But compare his figures with those of Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals, another name linked with the Bronx Bombers during the winter.

Greinke, who signed a new three-year contract worth $38 million with the Royals in January, has a 5-0 record with an ERA of 0.50. Now that’s real value for money.

Given their pitching problems, Chien-Ming Wang’s complete loss of form, injuries to A-Rod, Xavier Nady and Brian Bruney, the failure of Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom to reproduce their spring training form, and a complete lack of reliability in the bullpen, Yankee fans should be ecstatic their team is 13-11.

Let’s not forget that this record includes 15-5, 10-2, 22-4 and 16-11 defeats, not to mention a three-game sweep in Boston.

The Yankees are fortunate to have a sixth pitcher in Phil Hughes and their batting lineup will look a lot deeper if and when A-Rod returns next week.

The bad news for the Yanks is that they’re competing in the toughest division in baseball, especially with the Toronto Blue Jays getting off to an 18-9 start.

Despite being well below .500, the Mets are only two-and-a-half games out of first place.

Of course, we’re little more than a month into the season. But it’s going to take a major turnaround in the fortunes of both clubs to stop those switchboard lights flashing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


ON THE DAY the New York Yankees slashed premium ticket prices, there was a certain irony that it was a homegrown talent who should end their slump.

Not big-money signings CC Sabathia or AJ Burnett –two of the men signed to put bums on seats at the new Yankee Stadium – but Phil Hughes, the Yanks’ first-round draft pick in 2004.

Little more than a year ago, Hughes was so highly regarded that general manager Brian Cashman wouldn’t even entertain including him in a trade for the great Johan Santana.

When he failed to win a game in eight starts in 2008, that looked a serious error of judgment.

To his credit, Hughes took his medicine and returned to Triple-A baseball to work on his game and develop a curveball. His education continued in the Arizona Fall League.

Last night, in Detroit, the 23-year-old right-hander from Mission Viejo, California, made a triumphant return, allowing just two hits in six shutout innings to help end the Yanks’ four-game losing streak.

He managed to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning and of the 99 pitches he threw, 58 were strikes. His fastball averaged 91.3 mph and reached a velocity of 94 mph.

With the Yankees making the most of a fielding error in the seventh inning to score 10 runs, Hughes was rewarded with the win his performance deserved.

Of course, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and Hughes has yet to prove he can pitch to this level on a consistent basis.

But with Chien-Ming Wang out of sorts, the Yanks need a fifth starting pitcher, and Hughes could hardly have provided them with more encouragement last night.

Young Yankees pitcher makes triumphant return

Dave Eiland, the Yankees’ pitching coach, said he was delighted but not surprised. “I think he has something to prove,” said Eiland.

“That’s a good thing. He can build on this, but it’s only one game. Let’s see him do it again and again and again. He was tremendous tonight. But I’ve seen him do that before and it doesn’t surprise me. That’s how good he can be. He’s much more focused and confident now.”

A healthy Hughes pitching well gives the Yankees so many more options. Dare I say it, but if Wang can iron out his problems, they can even consider putting Joba Chamberlain back in the bullpen where he belongs.

After getting swept in Boston, and losing game one at Comerica Park, the Yanks were in desperate need of a lift from someone.

Although Sabathia pitched competently the previous night, the Yankees were behind from the very first inning.

Hughes was so good that he was able to outlast Edwin Jackson and give his team the chance to feast on Tigers reliever Ryan Perry.

Now the challenge is for the rest of the Yankees’ starting rotation to follow suit. On paper, they have the pitchers to put together a similar run to the red Sox, whose 11-game winning streak came to an end in Cleveland last night.

As Hughes demonstrated in Detroit, a stellar pitching performance can cover up a multitude of sins, such as a struggling bullpen and out-of-form hitters.

Good things can happen, like a fielder misjudging a routine fly ball and your No. 8 hitter lacing a fastball over the fence for a grand slam.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


THEY'RE not in last place in the American League East…yet. But when it comes to pitching statistics, the New York Yankees are rock bottom of the AL pile.

Nineteen games played, 117 runs conceded, and an ERA of 6.18. Not bad for a franchise that spent close to $250 million in the winter in an attempt to improve their pitching.

Left red faced by the Red Sox, and tamed by the Tigers last night, it’s fair to say that things have not gone according to plan for general manager Brian Cashman and team manager Joe Girardi so far.

Okay, so they’ve had more than their fair share of injuries, losing Alex Rodriguez, Xavier Nady and Cody Ransom. But as one New York radio host put it, how can a team with an annual payroll of more than $200 million have so many needs?

Are the Yankees free from blame over Chien-Ming Wang’s complete loss of form? Shouldn’t they have seen the warning signs during spring training? Did they work him hard enough to rebuild his strength? After all, surely that’s what spring training is about.

Cashman has been given more money to spend that any other GM in baseball. Yet here we are, with the season less than a month old, and the Yankees’ roster is already looking threadbare.

There are more players lining up for the DH spot than a closing down sale at Circuit City. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon look as though they are ready to draw their pension. Jorge Posada, and dare I say it, Derek Jeter are not far behind them.

And therein lies the problem. A lot of the Yankee stars are growing old together – and, unlike the Boston Red Sox, the youngsters being groomed to replace them are not up to the job.

Optimism that Brett Gardner could become the everyday center fielder looks misplaced. Angel Berroa may be a good fielder but he can’t hit either. Melky Cabrera has not developed in the way the Yankees had hoped for.

Nick Swisher was signed to be a bench player, which is exactly what he looks like now the honeymoon period is over, and with Mark Teixeira (.220) failing to make an early impression, rejuvenated Robinson Cano is the only batter over .300.

Yankees’ many failings reflect badly on management

That might not have been such a problem had CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett justified their exorbitant wages. But Burnett couldn’t hold a six-run lead in Boston and Sabathia has been no better than okay so far, which isn’t good enough when you come up against someone pitching like Justin Verlander did for Detroit last night.

Am I the only one sick and tired of listening to Girardi wax lyrical about how good the opposition pitcher was? Let’s not forget that Verlander lost his first two starts so maybe some of it was down to the fact that he was facing a team devoid of form and confidence.

The Yankees are paying the price for continuing to believe that they can buy success, while other teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates build from within. Remember Carlos Pena, Russ Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens? Just three of the many Yankee rejects making the most of a second chance elsewhere.

In New York, eight years is a long time without a World Series. Patience is not a virtue among the fans. Anyone who listened to the phone-in shows on Monday morning will know that. Getting swept by Boston – and having your nose rubbed in the dirt by Jacoby Ellsbury – is just not acceptable.

Maybe the Yankees will turn it around when A-Rod returns. No pressure there then on a player not renowned for producing his best when it’s needed most.

Messrs Cashman and Girardi had better hope so because they’re drinking at the Last Chance Saloon. Cashman’s judgment is being questioned…and rightly so. How could he let the Yanks go into the 2009 season with such a weak bench?

When Girardi took over from Joe Torre in October 2007, many were expecting him to manage with a “bulldog spirit”, to drill his troops like a sergeant major. Instead, he has become an apologist.

Torre had the Midas touch. He was able to pluck the right man for the right situation from the bullpen. Girardi is exactly the opposite. He seems to micro manage and every move he makes backfires.

Maybe he’s just unlucky. Or maybe Torre was fortunate enough to have better players at his disposal.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


THE NEW YORK YANKEES – year in and year out the team with the highest payroll in baseball – are not accustomed to being cast in the role of underdog.

But that’s exactly what they will be when they renew their annual rivalry with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park this weekend.

For the best part of a century, the Red Sox had to live in the shadow of the “Evil Empire.” But that’s all changed in the new millennium.

The last of the Yankees’ 26 World Series titles came in 2000. Since then, the Sox have won two championships, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 and the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

Diehard Yankees fans still feel the pain of losing the 2004 American League Championship Series 4-3 after winning the first three games.

The balance of power in the AL East has shifted up the Eastern Seaboard to Massachusetts. The Red Sox ended the Yanks’ nine-year winning run in 2007 and even though they only finished second last year, they still beat the Yankees to the wild card.

New York fans are not used to such mediocrity. That’s why the Steinbrenner family said to hell with the economic depression and sanctioned spending totaling $423.5 million on three free-agent acquisitions during the winter.

Red Sox still in the ascendancy

Of course, money is no guarantee of renewed success. Both the Yanks and Sox were humbled by the low-budget Tampa Bay Rays in 2008.

It’s still way too early to make any firm judgments about what will happen in 2009. But we should get a few more clues over the next three days.

The 9-6 Yanks have won their last three games, but that’s nothing compared to Boston, who have recovered from a 2-6 start to win their last seven…and by a margin of 55-20.

Despite the loss of Manny Ramirez, the Sox still have a batting lineup with patience and power. 

In contrast, the Yankees’ batting is not quite as deep as it used to be, especially without Alex Rodriguez, who is currently rehabbing after hip surgery. First baseman Mark Teixeira can expect a similar reception to the one he received in Baltimore after rejecting both the Orioles and Red Sox in favor of signing with New York.

The Yankees have placed more emphasis on improving their starting pitching this season. So far, it has failed to pan out quite the way they planned.

AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte have delivered. But CC Sabathia has again struggled in the month of April, Joba Chamberlain has yet to prove he’s as good a starter as he is a reliever, and Chien-Ming Wang has been worse than awful.

Pitchers must match up to Beckett and Lester

Chamberlain goes up against Jon Lester tomorrow night. He’ll be followed by Burnett v Josh Beckett and Pettitte v Justin Masterson. So even with the Yanks' upgrades, it’s advantage Red Sox.

The Yankees are hoping Sabathia and Burnett will do for them what Beckett and Lester have done for Boston: be consistent aces.

There’s no substitute for solid starting pitching, especially in October, and the chances of the Yankees recapturing former glories hinge on a settled rotation.

They need their starters to go seven innings on a regular basis so they can hand a lead over to Brian Bruney and Mariano Rivera.

So it’s seconds out and round one of the annual 18-game slugfest between two of baseball’s heavyweights.

They finished dead level at 9-9 in 2008, but over the last seven regular seasons, the Yankees lead 68-63. Any advantage gained by either team could be especially significant this year.

Monday, April 20, 2009


THE GOOD NEWS is that, somehow, the New York Yankees are 7-6. The bad news is that there are more holes in their lineup than a Swiss cheese.

Despite spending $423.5 million on upgrading their playing staff in the winter, the early indications are that this is going to be another long, hot summer for Yankees fans.

The Indians were circling the wagons this weekend, outscoring the home team 40-19 in four games, yet the Yanks escaped with a 2-2 split.

Yes, it’s still early days; the pennant isn’t decided in April. But, right at the moment, you get the feeling that manager Joe Girardi is desperately trying to paper over the cracks.

The acquisition of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett has been offset by the inexplicable loss of form by Chien-Ming Wang.

Wang, a 19-game winner in 2007, has given up 23 earned runs and 23 hits in just six innings for a whopping ERA of 34.50.

The coaching staff secretly fears he has lost his velocity after being out for nearly 10 months with a foot injury. He’s certainly lost the sinker that gets him most of his outs.

Fenway Park is no place for a pitcher to try to regain lost confidence so it would be madness to throw him out there again on Friday.

Joba struggles as starter too

Then there’s Joba Chamberlain. Will the issue of whether he should be the eighth inning guy or a starter ever go away?

For what it’s worth, I’ve never wavered in my view that he should have stayed in the pen.

His pitching – and his psyche – is much more suited to one explosive inning, and who better to hand the ball over to Mariano Rivera?

With Brian Bruney pitching the seventh, Joba the eighth and Mo the ninth, nine times out of ten, the Yanks are going to hold on to a lead.

Not only that, you can use Joba two or three times a week, rather than just once every five days.

And if he’s going to be limited to throwing 150 innings this year, you’re going to be able to stretch him out longer from the pen.

Of course, with Wang struggling, that’s even less likely to happen now. The Yanks have Phil Hughes waiting in the wings for another chance, but he may have to stand in for the man from Taiwan.

With the notable exception of Rivera and Bruney, the bullpen has looked anything but solid so far this season.

Bullpen reliant on Bruney and Rivera

Phil Coke is a work in progress; there are no in-betweens with José Veras – he’s either brilliant or rank bad – and Dámaso Marte, the man signed to fool lefties, can’t fool anyone.

As for the batting lineup, there are too many easy outs without either Alex Rodriguez or Xavier Nady in it.

In the American League, you simply can’t afford to play Cody Ransom (.150), Brett Gardner (.244) and José Molina in the same team. Yet Girardi has no other choice on the days he wants to rest Jorge Posada.

Hopefully, A-Rod will be back in early May, and there’s a chance that Nady may play again this season rather than undergo Tommy John surgery on an elbow injury.

Nick Swisher’s hot bat has been a bonus but the once-formidable Hideki Matsui is hitting .194 and as one New York baseball reporter put it, you get the feeling that the Yankees are one more injury away from serious offensive problems.

When you factor in that the Yankees are not a great defensive team either, it’s hard to see them putting together the winning streaks you need to win the division.

A pessimistic point of view, certainly. But, right now, a realistic one too.

Monday, April 13, 2009


STILL WONDERING why both New York teams missed the playoffs last season?

Well, if any further evidence was required, just look at the way the Yankees and Mets contrived to lose games yesterday.

If he’s not the best starting pitcher in baseball – and he gets my vote – then Johan Santana is certainly the most dependable.

When Santana starts, the Mets must win. It’s as simple as that. You can’t rely on the rest of the rotation to produce on a regular basis.

Santana could hardly have done more against the Florida Marlins, striking out 13 in seven superlative innings.

But all his good work was undone when Daniel Murphy dropped a regulation fly ball from Cody Ross with two out. That enabled Josh Johnson to emerge the winner, even though he gave up five hits compared to Santana’s three.

So the Mets return to New York for today’s home opener against the San Diego Padres with a 3-3 record. It could be worse, but it could be so much better.

The Yankees are also 3-3. Not so bad, you might say, after losing their first two games.

But if you harbor serious ambitions of making the playoffs – let alone winning the World Series – you need to have a better than 50-50 record against the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

Quite frankly, the Royals stink. They’re perennial losers. The Yanks had them on the ropes but failed to deliver the knockout blow with a really sloppy performance that denied them the sweep.

New York teams show their soft center

Joba Chamberlain pitched well and they led 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth with two out and none on. But manager Joe Girardi’s faith in 26-year-old Phil Coke to get the final out proved misplaced.

Coke gave up the lead, plus another two runs, to leave Girardi’s critics (and there are quite a few of those now after last season) questioning why he didn’t call on mighty Mo – the game’s greatest closer, Mariano Rivera – for a four-out save.

Coke showed great potential at the end of last season, and again in spring training, but he was untested in pressure situations.

For all the money they spent in the winter, the Yanks lineup still has plenty of holes in it, especially without Alex Rodriguez and, now, Mark Teixeira, who has a wrist injury.

Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom have, so far, failed to reproduce the form they showed in spring training. Ransom is 1 for 20 and neither has done enough to convince that they can be an everyday player.

Add Jose Molina and Melky Cabrera to the starting nine and you have a National League batting lineup.

Hideki Matsui looks a shadow of his former self and the Yanks’ batting is nowhere near as fearsome as it was with Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu in it.

Less than a week into the season and Girardi is resting players. I’m sorry, Joe, but without A-Rod and Teixeira, that’s a luxury you can’t afford.

Instead of heading to Tampa today, and a difficult three-game series against the Rays, on a four-game winning run, the Yanks are on a down.

If they’re to succeed this season where they failed in 2008, then both the Mets and Yankees need to replace their soft center with a real ruthless streak.