Results tagged ‘ C C Sabathia ’

My Review of the 2009 New York Yankees

 

 
 

The next two days might be the hardest two days to write a blog about a review for a team in the American League East. Today’s subject will be the team that most people outside of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and even Connecticut do not understand. they all know the symbols of the team, and maybe some of the legends who have come and passed through their great stadium. But sometimes the mention of just their name can bring about a avalanche of catcalls and opinions. Again, I want to stress that this blog is only my opinion and in such my views will try and concise and with merit. I expect blog comments, and I do not shy from them. So if you write it……..I will respond.
 

For years this team used to call Tropicana Field “Yankee Stadium South” when they into town for a series. But in the last few years, the Tampa Bay Rays have begun to take back their home stadium row by row until in 2008 you could hear both teams loud and proud in the stadium. So if you have not guessed by now, the third part of my review installment is on the” Evil Empire, the Bronx Bombers,” or simply “The Pinstripes” . Yes, it is time to try and review that team that everyone either loves or hates………the New York Yankees.
 

Several names have been deleted from the Yankee roster since their last game in 2008. Most have been erased because of  the team wanting to go in another direction for the future of the franchise. Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi are now going to play their ball on the west coast of the country, while long time starter Mike Mussina decided to hang up his spikes and watch his kids grow up. But that was not the only thing that left 2008 as the year the Yankees needed to forget about. The team suffered some pitching woes that tore the team apart and made their rise to the top again difficult. For the first time in 12 season, the Yankees were watching the playoffs from the outside. In the off season, the Yankee front office made a decision that this was only going to be a one-year vacation, and it was time again to rule from the top. 
 
 

Part of that move back into greatness was to fully open the checkbook and get some of the players needed to dominate for years again. With some of the team aging, the Yankees needed to get the young stars who were about to either come out with a bang, or were currently the cream of the crop. After all was said and done, almost a half a billion dollars changed hands for a handful of budding superstars that could again take the pinstripes back to the playoff for the next 5 years.  The three high priced free agents the team fought after did not come cheaply for the Yankees. With each player they had to trade and bid  for their services again and again. But the Yankee mindset is not to lose at negotiations, and in the end, they got their players.

 

 

           
 

If you begin to write a review for 2009 for the Yankees, you have to start with their newly revised rotation. Now, who can argue that Carsten Charles Sabathia was the crown jewel of the Yankees’ off season pitching makeover. The man came with a price tag as big as his trousers, but he also came with the statistics to back it up. He will be the experienced ace of the Yankees revamped pitching staff, and might  end up being the best investment the team has done in years. Sabathia is not just a power pitcher, but also an innings eater. His 253 innings in 2008 is not as impressive as his 251 strikeouts in those innings.  To provide such a statistic that you have almost a strikeout an inning, and you pitched over 250+ innings is remarkable in any league. Sabathia throws three pitches effectively, and uses his change up, which breaks straight to fool hitters because of his great arm action.
 


Coming in at the number 2 slot for the Yankees is former Toronto pitcher A J Burnett. He also came to the Yankees after a bit of a battle, but decided to finally become a Yankee. His familiarity with the American League East hitters will be  a premium for him in 2009. Because of his knowledge in the division, Burnett will already have a pitching style in place to combat each teams hitters. This will make his adjustment to the Yankees a bit easier.  But Burnett also posted some great numbers in 2008. He pitched in 221 innings and struck out 231 batters last year.  Burnett is mostly a power thrower, but his  hard curve is his magic strike pitch. After an injury to his fingernail last year, he began to play more with his change-up, and got the pitch to sink and tail more throughout the season.
 

 

Coming back from an injury can bring with it loads of expectations and pressure. But Chien-Ming Wang has dealt with the pressure pretty well the last few season in New York. His injury, which caused him to miss the entire second half of the season played heavily on the Yankees failure to secure a playoff berth. Wang had been a consistent member of the pitching staff, but only was able to piece together 15 starts before his injury shelved him for the year.  One of the greatest thing about Wang’s pitching style is that he relies on his sinkerball. His 2-seamer bores in on right-handers and  sinks past lefties. His slider is average, but if thrown correctly can be a knee bender.  He began to throw a splitter in 2008, and at times it looked like Jorge Posada was having difficulty with it. The pitch had a really late bite on the plate and made it a bit difficult in the last 3 feet to judge correctly all the time.
 

The top 3 pitchers in the staff have the experience starting games in the New York atmosphere either as a Yankee or a opponent. that will come in handy in 2009 when the new Yankee Stadium is opened and the roar of the crowd will seem to be a bit more focus towards the mound area. Joba Chamberlain did an effective job as one of the Yankees set-up men in 2007-2008.  After two seasons of setting up for Mariano Rivera, he will take his spot in the rotation in 2009. Chamberlain appeared in 42 games last season, including 12 starts. The one question mark in my mind here is if the reliever can quickly adapt back to starting a game after two seasons in the Bullpen. Starting games has a different mentality than relieving, and will Chamberlain be able to make that transition smoothly before the season starts. 
 

I think that he can become a great starter for the Yankees, but I will wait until the end of Spring Training to anoint him to the fourth spot. He seems to have the goods on the mound to transition without a hitch.  In the last few years, he has used his fastball, which hits 95 mph and above to set up people for his unbelievable slider.  Chamberlain has already been given a bit of a legend status as a pitcher even before he has effectively led the Yankees to the playoff promised land. Chamberlain used to use his change-up and curveball in the minors, but because of the dominance of his first two pitches, they are throw-in pitches to keep hitters honest at the plate.
 

Now we come to the fifth spot in the rotation. This player could also wind up in the fourth slot if Yankee Manager Joe Girardi wants to use him there. But in the fifth slot, he will face the opponents least experienced pitcher, which could play into a great Yankees mental game as they could dominate from the first pitch of the game. Yankee great Andy Pettitte is considered one of the great lefties to ever grace the mound.  His 14-14 record last season is no indication of the magic he still can provide on the mound. He still tossed over 200 innings last year, and still has one of the best pick-off moves in the major leagues.  Pettitte still relies heavily on his cutter, which resembles a slider and is effective in breaking bat when coming in on right-handers.  His fastball is pretty straight, but his command of it can catch the corners at anytime. One of the pitches he has in his arsenal that if it is going great, he is almost unhittable is his curveball. It can take a nasty dip fast into the ground if it is popping at the right time for him that night.


 
                

 

The Yankees might have the luxury of keeping up Phil Hughes in 2009 as a long reliever and also an insurance policy if something should happen to a starter this season. Hughes, who will be throwing today against the Rays in Tampa, struggled with injuries himself last year. This might be the make it or break it year for Hughes, and a good Spring Training showing might get him a slot in the Bullpen as the long reliever for the team.  The Bullpen will be the place where a majority of the Yankees game will be won or lost in 2009. Last season they were not the most effective Bullpen in the American League, and that might have cost them dearly before they got the ball to Rivera in the ninth inning. 

 

Coming back in 2009 will be Damaso Marte, who has established himself as the Yankee leftie specialist in 2008, will be counted on more this season. Marte has always been a fastball/slider kind of pitcher and should see more action in 2009 with Chamberlain going to the rotation.  Both David Robertson and Dan Giese will get chances early on to cement a spot in the Bullpen. Both pitchers throw mostly fastballs and curves, with Robertson having more velocity and a change-up to mix things up at times. Left-hander Phil Coke might be the guy to take Marte’s spot as the left-handed specialist in 2009. Coke throws a nice mid 90′s fastball and a slider that break heavy into the plate. Humberto Sanchez, who came back  strong in 2008 after Tommy John’s surgery in 2007, should get a chance to again to sit in the Yankees Bullpen. Sanchez throws a nice moving fastball in the 90′s and has an effective 12-6 break curveball. 
 

Jose Veras also might have a shot at making the Bullpen after a great 2008. Veras is a tall pitcher and uses his leverage to  produce really good strikeout numbers as a professional. He also has a nice split-finger pitcher that tends to dip below bats. But his downfall might be that he is a high WHIP pitcher. Edwar Ramirez is another guy who might make a decision difficult for the Bullpen slots.  Ramirez is basically only a two pitch guy, but he will occasionally mix in a tight slider to right-handers.


 
 

 

Jonathan Albaladejo is another right-hander who throws a great moving fastball and two breaking pitches. He has been great at mixing up his pitches, which includes a powerful boring fastball, and a slow bending curveball. His slider is his second breaking pitch, but in 2008, it stayed up in the strike zone too much. But the one guy who will not have to ever worry about a roster spot is closer Rivera. Even if he is approaching 40, the man is still one of the most effective closers in the game today. Was is more amazing is that he has basically thrown only the cutter in and out for most of his career.  85-90 percent of the time, you know you will see some sort of cutter to the plate.  He does have a four-seam fastball that he uses up and in to right-handers. Simply put, if the game is on the line, you want this guy on the mound.
 

The Yankees outfield has taken a huge turn since the end of 2008. Left field will still be the home of trade deadline acquisition Xavier Nady who hit a solid .305 average with 25 homers and 97 RBI in 2008. This will be his first full season in the American League, and he is out to establish himself early on for his defense and throwing ability. Nady  will occasionally share his position with Hideki Matsui, who had a wild injury plagued year and is looking to rebound in both the field and at Designated Hitter for the Yankees. Matsui had a down year with only 9 homers and 45 RBI last season. This year he reports to camp in shape and ready to play.   Johnny Damon, who hit  for a .303 average with 17 homers and 71 RBIs might be the man on the go this year.
 

Damon is actually expected to play at several positions during the season, which will include both first base and the outfield. But in center field, the Yankees will be holding their biggest battle for a spot in 2009. Melky Cabrera, who hit for .249 with   8 homers and 37 RBIs will be pushed heavily for his spot. Cabrera is trying to make the decision between him and Brett Gardner more difficult this spring. Gardner, who took over for a bit after Cabrera was sent to the minors, came on to hit only .228 in his 42 games up with the Yankees last season. These two players will be fighting it out as they are the only two who might be able to cover the massive outfield grasses of Yankee Stadium. There is a chance that Nick Swisher might be given a chance to take over right field for the Yankees since they signed Mark Teixeira to play first base. I think both him and Damon will get ample shots at manning the right corner in the new stadium this year. The outfield looks competitive with the rest of the American League East, but it is not the best athletic or most powerful in the division in 2009. They will get their licks in and  might surprise you with their arm strength at times. But that might not stop the run happy teams in this division who tend to run on even good flamethrowers.
 

Coming into the infield, let start with the middle of the diamond. As we all know, Derek Jeter will again be manning the shortstop position for the Yankees. Last season he did not have a typical Jeter season, only hitting .300 average, with 11 homers and 69 RBI’s.  Jeter’s defense has also slipped a notch in the last few years, but is still the cream of the crop in turning the double play and getting base runners out at second base on steal attempts. He is till considered the heart and soul of this team. And how he responds this year might be a good indicator of the Yankee mindset.There is talk of maybe seeking a younger shortstop in 2010 and Jeter maybe moving over to second base to make that position more solid for the team. But in the present time, Robinson Cano will be the man at second base for the Yankees, Cano hit .271 for the year with 14 homers and 72 RBIs. With the Yankee infield having such high expectations by fans, Cano seemed to take a small step back in 2008.  It will be key to see him rebound this season and again post good number to even be considered for the spot in 2010.

 

                   
 

On the corners is where the Yankees will store their power in 2009. Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez will see 162 games of critical opinions and cat calls, but should still put up monster numbers in 2009. Last season he did not produce as expected, but still hit .305 with 35 homers and 103 RBI’s. He is considered one of the sports best players, but will also be feeling the heat in 2009 after his steroid allegations and confession. The first few months should be a good barometer of how the pressure and the voices from the cheap seats bother Rodriguez. He might get out of the gate a bit slow, but as things die down, he will again dominate the right side of the infield  both at the plate and on the field.
 

Coming into the Yankee fold after signing a huge off season contract is former Angel Mark Teixeira. He comes to the Bronx with the expectations of the team finally having another power alternative to Rodriguez.  Texieira, who hit .302, with 35 homers and 103 RBI’s is considered one of the best first baseman in the game. As good as he is at the plate, Texieira has just as good reputation manning  his defensive position. Texieira also bring into the Yankees fold the option of being a switch-hitter. This is something that the team has lack a lot of in the past few seasons.  
 

 

But he is not the only switch hitter brought in for 2009. Nick Swisher will also see time at first base and maybe Designated Hitter. Swisher needs to improve on his average, which was only .219 last season, but he does have better than average power, and can be a pest on the base paths. In the area of catching, the Yankees hope that Jorge Posada’s shoulder is fully healed and he can get back to his 2007 form behind the plate. Another hot spot in 2008 was the absence of Posada behind the plate after he went down with a shoulder injury.  He is getting up in age, and a move might be made in the next few years to get him time at D H or maybe first base, he has to cement the position for the Yankees in 2009.  The team still has Jose Molina back in 2009, and with another year under his belt with the team, Molina’s biggest concern is to get better at bats and produce when he is in the game for the Yankees.

 

 

 
So there you have the possible members of the 2009 New York Yankees. Not only are they trying to reverse the trend of missing the playoffs for the first time last season, they will have to impress the fans in their new stadium. Add the pressure of the usual expectations and the increased vocal noise towards Rodriguez, this team will need to mesh fast and stay tight the entire year. A pretty injury-less season could be the key for this team. Even though their outfield and their Bullpen are not huge strengths this season. the infield corners and the starting pitching might be the difference this year. As I have stated all off season long, the American League East will be a war in 2009. With each team playing 18 times against each other in the season, the winner of the yearly series will probably have the hand-up for the division title.  I can see this Yankees team win a minimum of 92 games if their  starting pitching stay intact. It is now up to the Yankees to again either prove or fail in becoming one of the premier teams in the American League.

photos credits for today’s blog go to: liciouscheery@Flickr.com, Garywilsong@Flickr.com, http://www.mnbc.msn.com, Packerfan@Flickr.com, http://www.sportsnet.ca.

C.C. is OK in N.Y.

 

                      

Baseball as always had a weird mindset in regards to a players’ weight. Certain players have been known to be able to gain tons of weight, and nothing has ever been said to them. A Designated Hitter could put on a few pounds of non muscle and people will value it as extra “hitting weight” or even leverage.  It would be regarded as a upgrade in the power behind the bat at the plate, not as a designated seat at the suspect Chinese All-U-Can Eat buffet down the street. When it comes to weight, the power guys are the ones who can get away with it. But why can’t a pitcher?

 


If you are in a skilled position in the infield, it could be the kiss of death for you to gain a  huge amount of weight. It would be viewed by these same people as a lack of focus and commitment to the team concept.That maybe your self control is anissue and you do not have the will power to push yourself away from the plate. If a second baseman should come in 15 pounds heavier, it better be in his arms and chest region, and not near the waist. For the skilled positions between the lines need to have their deer-like reflexes and players are expected to be jumping, leaping and scraping the clay to get to balls. Anything else would be a disaster.

 


So why is it that the odd call is coming from the media to bashing and badgering  the fact that C C Sabathia is a big man. Granted, at 6 foot 9 inches he will have to have some weight to just survive. But since he is about to hit the scales at a easy 300 pounds, do you think the Yankees might consider him for a Jenny Craig model, or even institute a eating program to help him maintain his weight in the 24/7 city like New York. Is this subject even coming up because of the amount of the pitcher’s contract, and New Yorkers are questioning something they all know can kill them, much less a pitcher on the stadium mound. Can the hounds of braodway really be so concerned with Sabathia’s figure even before he officially reports to Spring, or are they looking for a svior for the city to all lose weight?

 

 

             

 


But why is weight being thrown out so early in the guy’s New York tenure. It is not like he came into the first Press Conference at 220 pounds and he was seen at Serendipity III scarfing down a $ 1,000 dollars worth of fudge sundaes. He has not even  hit a scale, or even thrown a pitch, and the city is obsessing about a fact of life for him since he was a child. He is big and he always has been big, and he is proud of it all. But why now are people condemning or even questioning a wide girth in the Big Apple, it is not like he is the first big guy to hit the field for the Yankees.  Just because you have a few extra pounds on your bones doesn’t mean you will be open to injury or even performance problems with the size. Or is there a stigma to weight and the pitching performance in pinstripes. I always thought stripes made you look thinner and taller?

 


Come on people, Mickey Lolich, Rick Reuschel,Sid Fernandez and old Yankee “big boy” himself, David Wells, all carried a few extra pounds and performed pretty well for themselves and their teams. None of these guys would ever be considered role models for the obesity challenge for our youth today, but they are defintely performance role models in the way they played the game and competed in this league day in and day out on the diamond.


 

 


If you want to add another large guy to the fire, how about Fernando Valenzuela.  You have a list  above that did pretty well in the annuals of baseball. You have a heavyweight group that produced 17 All-Star pitching selections, a perfect game, a no-hitter, and  a few top  5 votes for the Cy Young award. But then you might also forget about a guy who was dominating as a big guy pitcher early in his career. A pitcher who had a 2.28 ERA before deciding that his bat had more power than his arm. Consider what Babe Ruth could have done if he stayed on the mound instead of want to hit every day. If he had continued to play both positions, would there be any debate as to if he was the best player to ever play baseball?

 


So why is it that a 28-year old pitcher, just maturing in his career, getting the ” what if..” treatment lately. Is it just the fact that he just signed a monster contract that might even dwarf the post-game meal table in the  Yankees’clubhouse, or is it a precursor to how he is going to be treated in the Bronx. Is this just a sample of the treatment he will get if he goes even .500 this season, or misses time due to injury?  C C Sabathia is coming to the Yankees with a pretty  solid set of  career numbers for a guy his age. He entered the majors  for the first time in 2001, and since that time he has accumulated statistics to put him in the  top 10 in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins since his first professional pitch. But as Janet Jackson once sang, “What have you done for me lately?”.


 

 


So why is it that the media is now putting up a  high weight issue so far into the off season. Can they at least wait until the pitchers’ and catchers’ report to Tampa, Florida for the Yankees before throwing out a cautionary yellow flag. Who is to say that  Sabathia is not at home right now in California doing some crunches or even a few miles on a treadmill getting into shape to impress the Yankees faithful. He has been called a fitness fanatic when it comes to training, or is the media just taking that as word speak and not even trusting anything right now. 

 


Who are these media guys who run for the Press Box buffet area and drink free sodas and coffee until it comes out their eyes. Seriously here people, can we give the guy the next 55 or so days to relax before you throw him under the microscope for the next 7 odd years. And with that in mind, do we expect him to go 11-2 with the Yankees, with a 1.65 ERA just as he did when he left Cleveland Indians for the Milwaukee Brewers in the middle of 2008. Will there be a lynchmob mentality if he even stmbles out of the gate and has a few bad outings. Will the media start to bring up names like Carl Pavano, or even Mike Hampton if a simple injury hits him early in the contract.

 


People forget it takes a bit of watching tapes and even facing a guy until you can get his timing and see his mannerisms on the mound. That might be one of the reasons he dominated so early in the National League. They are not used to a power pitcher like him barreling the ball in there. For years, the National League has been the finesse league, where a breaking ball pitcher can reign supreme. Most of the hitters’ in the American League still have scouting reports and even huge amounts of tape on Sabathia. We forgetr that he has only been out of the AL for a short period of time. Hitters have faced the big man before, and know what to expect out of his left arm. So why is it that people are questioning this guy because of his girth without even throwing a pitch in 2009. He has done great since 2001, think about that, that is almost 8 years up in the show, and they still treat him like a unknown at times.


 

 

Are they really expecting this guy to go into the New York summer without being in great shape. Come on people, this guy is a professional athlete, and if he struggles because of conditioning, are we going to blame him, of course you will.  Or is the Yankees strength and conditioning coach going to get a royal smack down for not keeping tabs on his players. Could we have a sweat-gate conspiracy because of a little heat fatigue. Do you really think this guy doesn’t already know what it is like to pitch in the 98 degree heat in New York or Boston. Seriously folks, he did pitch in it last season against the New York Mets, and he is still not a blob of  sweating jelly on the mound. Give the guy some credit, he has been here before.


 

But then you also get the self-fitness  sportswriters’ who themselves have not lost a pound since  their 20′s, who think that a slimmed down Sabathia would be a huge upgrade for the Yankees in 2009.  So what you are telling me sports gurus is that weight can be a factor for injury considerations?  You mean that you are willing to state your reputations and jobs on correlating size with injury? Really now, and where are you going to dig up this information. Will you devise a secret, totally unknown source in the fitness world who will swear a slimmed down Sabathia will prevail in pinstripes.

 


Do you forget that it is not just your size, but the  extreme measures of lean body mass, training, conditioning, power, endurance and above all strength that can be the cornerstones of a great fitness program.  Just because you might have a spare tire around your waist doesn’t mean you can’t run a mile, or even dunk the ball through the hoop, people do that every day in their respective leagues. Former NBA star Charles Barkley comes to mind real fast here. Don’t you think that mass might just be a part of the puzzle, but not the sum of all the parts here. So you are telling me that a well trained athlete, even if he is a pitcher of wide girth, can not control his mass and properly coordinate his muscles to maximum effort. I thought that was what off season conditioning was all about for baseball players. But for you to even suggest a slim down, or even a change in body proportions, it comes with some warnings.



 

 

Who are we to even question Sabathia’s off season training yet. He had probably been doing the same routine for years and he has done just fine so far. Or is it because he is about to hit the major microscope center of the free world that it is even being questioned now?  And even if the team and Sabathia wanted to maybe drop about 30 pounds, could that effect his performance, or enhance it.

 

If you go by a past big guys results, you might want to even rethink having Sabathis even look at a Slim Fast shake. If you remember, Fernando Valenzuela was pressured while with the Los Angeles Dodgers to lose a few pounds because his waistline seemed to be growing.  Valenzuela lsot the weight and could not seem to get anyone out at the plate. 

 

 

It is said that sometimes losing weight after you have systematically gotten your body used to throwing within a certain mass can effect the pitching sytle, and might even ruin your old natural throwing style. So would you want your newest millionaire pitcher to lose 30 pounds, then become another batting practice dummy up there throwing gopher balls to the masses.  I am not aying that will happen to Sabathia, but the situation is totally not out of context.

 

By losing weight, a pitcher can lose vital mental spots in their delivery. You might not have the same follow through to the plate, or might seem to be rushing your pitches when in fact it is the same delivery you have done for years. So is it an advantage to be a slimmer pitcher after you have had a paunch in your middle?  The answer is no. Now that is not to mean that a gradual slim down could not benefit you, but then you have to adjust your mechanics to fit your new body or risk injury.

 

 

So when Sabathia hit the scales in Tampa in a few months and might show a few pounds off, should you worry. I do not think you need to worry, he will always be a big guy.  And you got to remember, that he has gotten bigger since his debut in 2001, and he has made some pretty good adjustments in his game.

 

Even if he did lose 20 pounds, you have to be happy that he is taking this  huge contract on  with conditioning, power and endurance. So as we get close to the beginning of the 2009 season, are you really worried C C will not be able to take a huge bit out of the Big Apple?

 

 

Could the 2009 Yankees be Channeling the 2008 Tigers?

 



 

I was thinking the other day about all these signings by the New York Yankees for their pitching staff, will these moves guarantee that the team will be better in 2009. On the surface, it looks like the team has made a huge upgrade in talent in their pitching staff, but does that always commute to a championship, or even a playoff berth. You only need to go a less than 500 or so miles to the west to get your answer here. Just because you took the Hot Stove season by surprise doesn’t put you in the playoffs in December.

 

In 2008, oddsmakers, fans and  legions of experts ( including the talking heads in Bristol ) declared the Detroit Tigers  the early favorite to win the whole enchilada after their blockbuster 7-player deal with the Florida Marlins.  That deal was completed a little over a year ago at last season’s Winter Meetings  when they pickjed up vital cogs , pitcher Dontrelle Willis and  power hitter Miquel Cabrera.  Along with the other upstart pitching they had, the Tigers looked like the runaway favorite to crush the American League Central enroute to a playoff berth.

 

In fact, it was a player outside of that 7-player  merry-go-round who made the most impact in 2008. In a little thought of deal with the Teaxas Rangers, the Tigers picked up a young thrower, Armando Galarraga. During the season,  Galarraga went 13-7, with a 3.73 ERA to be the standout pitcher, not the veteran Willis, who spent most of the year fighting control and delivery problems.

 

 

 

At one point in the season, Willis was pitching in the Class-A Florida State League for the Lakeland Flying Tigers before coming back up to the majors late in the season for the Tigers.  When he did come back up, he had a poor performance in his 9 appearances, going 0-2, with a 9.38 ERA.  Cabrera also got off to a rocky start , was playing musical chairs in the infield, and finally ended up at first base before righting his ship in 2008.

Cabrera did get the offensive side of his game going, and ended up strongly in 2008, but it a example of a little too much too late as the team was by then buried in the cellars of the American League Central division. By the time the entire team rebounded and played solid ball, it was too late and the dream was shattered as the team ended the season in the cellar of the division.


 

 

 

The 2008 Tigers are a prime example of the fact that big splashes do not always guarantee wins in this league.  Some times the act of acquiring great players doesn’t add up in the wins column. They got a bit blindsided in a deal for Edgar Renteria where they gave up a promising  righthanded starter, Jair Jurrjens, who went an unexpected 13-10, with a 3.68 ERA over 188.1 innings for the Atlanta Braves.  Jurrjens ended up 2008, being a consistant  pitcher for the Braves, and exceeded the teams expectations for him at his young age.

Tigers starter Kenny Rogers got old quick during the season.  Reliable inning-eater Jeremy Bonderman got hurt, and Nate Robertson and Justin Verlander did not have the expected seasons, actually showing decreasing numbers and suspect pitching at times during the year. With the season seemingly going down the tubes, the team even traded away power-hitting catcher Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez to the New York Yankees at the Trading Deadline.  Rodriguez at the time was in a offensive decline, which added to the Tigers; frustrations during the season.

 

So we come down to now, a year later, and the New York squad  hit the neon-clad Vegas strip for the Winter Meetings with their purse strings wide open seeking the ‘ miracle fix’ for their upcoming season that showed the Yankees struggled all season long to even stay out of 4th place in the Americna League East.  The team came into the Winter Meetings with an aggressive plan to upgrade and take the  best players on the board back to their new  shiny and sparkling cathedral to start the rebirth of promise in the Big Apple and reclaim the legend that is the Yankees.


 

 

            

 

The Yankees did seem to hit the jackpot early this off-season and made the biggest splash in the pool so far in the league, but will it be enough to even guarantee a playoff berth for the Bronx team.  Two days after the Yankees signed C.C. Sabathia to a seven-year $ 161 million dollar  deal, they agreed to give A.J. Burnett  a five-year, $ 82.5 million dollar payday. With the Yankees still having their purse strings open, they might even still bring in another ace like Derek Lowe, or even solid leftie Andy Pettitte  might come back to his old locker and play again for the Bronx bombers in the new digs.

 

There is still speculation that sluggers Mark Teixiera and even Manny Ramirez might even pack their respective West Coast bags and head to the City that never sleeps.  With targets like that, can the Yankees even still claim a divisional title or even a Wild Card berth in their own division.

 

Most would these deals put the Yankees on the front burner in the A L East, or will they struggle against the up and coming Rays and Blue Jays, and the always offensive-minded Boston Red Sox. Both of the teams that the Yankees looked up at in the standings in 2008 come back for more with consistant squads both in the offensive and pitching departments. And the Blue Jays and Orioles can battle with the best of them when the matchups are equal.

 

Both  Burnett and Sabathia had remarkable seasons in 2008, and should warrant a upgrade in  their salaries and a better chance to claim a World Series ring, but will 2009 be that season, or will it just be the first year building up steam for future runs at the trophy. The once powerful Yankees offense still  still seems to be churning on 7 cylinders in the off-season, with both Abreu and Rodriguez not in the fold any longer, can the pitching upgrade bring the team’s  sudden offensive holes to a small diameter.

 

 

 

Hank Steinbrenner must now channel his best imitation of his father and figure out a fast fix for the offensive lineup of the Yankees.  Two mainstays, A-Rod and Derek Jeter are back for another season, and should have consisitant years, but first base has a hole, rightfield is an issue, and catching must find an offensive leader to carry the team. Jorge Posada might finally move from behind the plate and be the upgrade the team needs at first base, or Designated Hitter. But that still leaves a huge hole to fill in rightfield.

 

 

Do the Yankees throw a bushel of money at Ramirez and move Xavier Nady to right and camp Ramirez in the left-field corner of the new Yankees Stadium.  That answer might be forth coming in the next few weeks, but the issue of Teixeira maybe coming to the Bronx will be resolved in the next few days. He wants to have a solid playing location and residence area by the end of the 2008 year. With the clock ticking and money again being thrown at the top guys, can the pinstripes again be on a roll to the championship?

 

 

2009 is on the horizon for the Yankees, and with sure issues still going on in-house as to a payroll or even a roster, the team will plug and fill from now until Febuary. But can this upgrade on both sides of the ball even guarantee anything for them next year. Will the team go strong out of the gate and then suffer the curse of the Tigers in 2009. Or will an unsuspecting injury or injuries take the wind of out of the 2009 sails by May. This is the game of baseball, nothing is a sure thing, and no one player can take this team on their backs and lead them to glory.

 

The Yankees do look like the team to strive to beat every game in 2009, but all the Yankees have to do is look to the west and remember the pre-season expectations of the Detroit Tigers to remember that nothing is guaranteed in this game…………Not even the price of a hot dog and a beer.

 

 

 

 

The Hot Stove season is not over yet, and either slugger could make a huge offensive weak spot strong again. But the Yankees need to be smart and not just try and fill a hole, but fill them with the right players who will be productive for the next 4 years. The A L East has become a battleground, with the Yankees finally showing age and weak spots in 2008. Can they totally hide those spots, or will there be more signings and better numbers to follow in 2009.

 

Speculation is that the team is not done firing up the pen and signing a few more checks before all is said and done. By the time the team hits Tampa for Spring Training, the entire middle of the lineup might have a new feel. But this by no means is an indication that Yankees will need ‘ Hi, I’m_______  badges for the first few days after pitchers’ and catchers’ report .  

New York, New York in Las Vegas, Vegas

 

                           

 

 

The MLB Winter Meetings 2008 are now up and running, both Yankees head honcho Hank Steinbrenner and Met’s guru Omar Minaya are hunting for big game and will be seen all over the Las Vegas strip in small cubbieholes and behind the green curtain at your favorite steakhouse looking for that prized piece to their team’s puzzle. It is interesting that the meetings are in Vegas, not for the show and the flash, but for the bet big or leave philosophy.

 

And these two teams are the optimus primes of the 2009 seasons. People come to the city in the desert for different reasons, to make it big on the Strip, combine their luck with some skill to gain some cold hard cash, or maybe even leave with a prize beyond beliefs. Whatever your reason to come to the neon city, sometime what you do in Vegas can haunt you an entire season. And during the next several days, both these men will try and hone, piece together and ride the winning team to their goals. Or will both of them crap out and go home losers? That is doubtful, but this city can turn dreams in dust as fast as a roll of the dices.

 

 

 

Vegas has never been known as poor mans’ town. Not even in the early days of the Flamingo Hotel and the Golden Nugget did the town have a soft spots for losers or the weakly-rich. It is a town built on the riches of others and is not a forgiving town in the least. Wealth has always been thrown around the strip either for power or control. This years MLB Winter Meetings will  not  be any different.

 

The  filthy rich are throwing contracts at the  player du jour like a man with a gambling problem. Two of the biggest bets this season are pitchers’  C C Sabathia and Francisco Rodriquez. Both are considered the “aces” for both of the New York teams’ folly into the neons lights of Vegas. Both can either make the town smile or leave everyone in the state of disbelief that baseball fails to secure the prizes for the city. This is not to discount the power-hitters like Mark Teixiera or Raul Ibanez, or even shove under the table any discussions about them. But these two pitchers are the “make ot or break it” commodities of the two New York franchises.

 

Alot of poker is left to play in the Hot Stove season. Pots are boiling all over the place and people are starting to ladle out their favorites and make moves to secure their new seasons. After these two high end players either get signed or walk away from the tables, the rest of the cards will fall into place around the league. The benchmark salaries or contracts might be sitting in a Las Vegas hotel right now gaining dust or being prodded like cattle to search for loopholes or advantages. The next few days are critical for baseball, becuase as soon as the big boys leave the tables, the rest of the teams will put in their antes and see what they can get for their money.

 

 

                           

 

 

To say that whoever brings joy to the New Yorks’ will need al least a Brinks truck or a few Pinkerton guy’s to help them out of town. But would be an insult to the fabric that made Vegas a dreamers’ town if neither team got there man here, but in the works a contract or deal within the cinfines of the Bellagio Resort area.  But who out of the two giants in the Big Apple  will come away with what prize , and what price? 

 

Who will bet it all hoping for magic, and who will go home with their tails between their legs?  That will be a huge 2009 story, and it is so early in the game. Who has the guts and confidence to twist the hands of fate to the extreme  and test their will against the odds. Or who is winning to throw the dice and hope their number comes up with all their money on the table? This might be the true story of the next 4 days in the desert.

 

 

                             

 

Both teams’ might come home with a fortune in talent and could bankroll a great advantage going into the new season. The American League East will again be a 4-man race until someone seperates themselves from the pack and takes over that division. The Yankees do not want to be the team looking up at three teams again this season, and might make significant moves to illustrate their desire to agin be the top dog not only in the league, but in the city. The Mets on the other hand are in the division with the current World Series Champions. All they have to do is talk to the Rays players about the  stigma attached to chasing and passing the 2008 kings and gaining control, in the National League East race.

 

Both the Yankees and Mets have high hopes for these meetings, and both bolster full confidence they will come away as winners when all is said and done. Most of this bravado might be a illustration of the city’s personality and it’sinternational state of confidence, they get what they want, and then go on and conquer. That might have been the mindset in the past, but in today’s culture and today’s baseball, the best do not always rise to the top. Just because you spend in the 100′s of millions doesn’t even guarantee you a playoff spot in today’s parity league. To be the king of the hill, you have to remain consistant, which neither have done for years in their respective leagues.

 

Both teams have sparkling new stadiums that need to be filled nightly for there to be any signs of financial rewards and playoff glory again in the city,  I would honestly expect the Yankees to be the ones to put it all on black and try and pull out a near miracle to gain some face-time and again become the franchise to fear in the near future.

 

The Yankees have not had fate on their side the last few seasons. The team is in the payroll penthouse area, but almost slipped to the American League East basement last year with injuries and assorted offensive mis-alignments.  If not for a late season splurge, they might have fallen below the lowly Baltimore Orioles for 5th in the AL East. And that is not the place for a team spending money the way the Yankees have for the last 5 years. As Janet Jackson says in her song “What have you done for me lately?”

 

 

                             

 

To say it can not happen in 2009 would be an understatement. George Steinbrenner finally passed the mantel to his older son, and we are going to see if the elder Steinbrenner got any of Dad’s genes when it comes to building a competitive network and administering a firm hand on the roster.  “Big H” has to have all the cards and gamble his finest china to get the prizes of this years free agent crop. The prize knows his intentions and has already voiced a few odd comments to maybe put up a bluff before finally going for all the cash and playing in the Big Apple. But sometimes people do things for reasons other than money, so Sabathia might just go the “better judgement” route and not only stunn the NY crowd, but the nation as a whole.

 

After losing two starting pitchers, one to arrogance and the other to retirement, and maybe losing a vital cog in right-field, “Big H” has to toss the bones like a gambling’ whale and show the money or leave the Vegas strip as a loser going into Spring Training. The Yankees might have already played their first hand giving their top prize,  C C Sabathia their first offer, but you can be sure that this deal, if it interests the big guy will take a bit to complete. they might get a hand shake out of it all, but at this junction of the season, that can make the difference between night and day for a team.  A funny comment out of the Sabathia camp says the big guy hated Spring Training in Florida while he was with the Cleveland Indians, that might be a small cog in the road, but sometimes a better organization can mend that fence without too many problems.

 

The Mets on the otherhand, might have  a few  face cards up their own sleeves. They have already shown pitchers’ like K-Rod and Brian Fuentes that they have both the money and the reserved parking  spot for them just waiting for their signatures. The check waiting for the new closer of the Mets will have a few zeros behind it, and might even be the biggest payday of their career if they played their own cards right. 

 

 And with an offense that drawfs the Yankees squads, the Mets might have the leg up in the Big City. And with their own new sparkling stadium going up, they also have to win big now and secure some of the best talent to showcase their new digs. These two might not be the only high cost hauls of the Mets at the meetings, but it would be a nice centerpeice to showcase their new digs to have a starter who can command the game, and a closer who can execute with the best of them on board.

 

With the starter in mind, there are many floating on rafts  on the poolsides in Vegas waiting for a call from Minaya wanting to speak to them about a New York opportunity. The starting pitcher situation is actually alot cloudier than the closer or even right-field positions, becuase until the first few are off the board, the pecking order is out of kilter and might need to be rearranged by a Met’s signing. Do not be surprised if a name like Oliver Perez, or maybe even Edwin Jackson becomes the 5th starter for the Mets and outperforms the some of the best in the game.

 

 

 

Both teams have also selected  secondary targets who would be great prizes to obtain during the meetings, but might not be considered the “house favorites” right now.  The Mets have also set up back-up plans into effect if K-Rod decides to take his toys and go home without a Mets contract in hand. The team has also begun preliminary talks with Fuentes and wily veteran Trevor Hoffman for the vacant closers’ role. Both might not be the top shelf potential the Mets seek, but both have experience and might come at a discount considering the asking price of K-Rod services. Bott also might be a economical move as sure bargains considering the financial climate of  America and baseball. Another name that will be circling the shark tank is ex-Cubbie, Kerry Wood. He might have a busy week in Las Vegas shaking hands and eating expensive lunches and dinners while being courted all around the strip by interested teams.

 

Here is another thing to consider before shelling out  all the dusty money from the safe. Just how secure are we that the money will come back into the team’s coffers during this financial crisis. Will the fans be as eager to shell out up to $ 100 a visit to either of the pearly gates to see their New York teams play in 2009. Now tickets might not cost a hundred, but when you consider all the extras like food, beverage and maybe parking or transportation and a few after game suds, a hundred might even be a bargain. Teams might be looking for value in the fast lane this year and might even produce a few incentive laden contracts to help in case of a financial meltdown at the turnstiles and concession stands around baseball. People will still come to game no matter what, but the amount of expendible currency and the consistancy of that money might be watered down a bit at first in 2009. As fast as the nation rebounds, sports will shows an increase in revenues and sales of merchandise. But until then, it might be a buyers’ market for a short time.

 

I truly think the Mets might have the upper hand here in getting a few of the prized free agents based solely on the team’s current assets. What pitcher would not want to have a David Wright or Jose Reyes behind him makiing him look good. Those two guys on their own could be the best “face cards” to show for a prospective starter or closer signee. But of course the Yankees have their own cornerstones who can command respect and admiration in Jeter and A-Rod, but you never know how long those two will be together before age and injury finally takes them to the turf.  So we have a case of old guard and new guard in both the middle of the New York infields. One has been style and elegance for years, while the other has been power and speed. Sorry Yankees, I have to give this bet to the young turks on the Met’s roster based on potential after the fact.

 

 

                  

 

The next week will truly show if the worldly belief that you can bring home a fortune in Las Vegas holds true. Either team can be winners in this sweepstakes, but might also be smart to consider the penalties for thinking too far beyond the box.  Minor phrases and comments by Sabathia and by K-Rod might be indicators of just how fast all of this will be done. Sabathia might drag this out a bit and the Yankees might  just move onto A J Burnett or Ben Sheets because of less stress and more straight talk. But Burnett’s familarity with the division might be worth the extra dough to steal him out of a Braves uniform.

 

If this was 2008, and the economy and the job situation were bright, all power to the players for getting everything they can for their services. Prudent behavior has never been a strong suit of the ownership of either the Yankees or the Mets.  I have also heard recently that they will again petition for more bonds to secure the finishing touches to their stadiums beyond the Billions already spent on stadiums for both teams. Being financially prudent might also be the “river” card that could make or break their next few seasons.

 

By playing smart and studying the enviroment around them, they might come away with a minor player who will become a major contributor. High dollar doesn’t always mean high value.  Both these franchsies know this very well. Do we have to remind each franchise of their last high dollar low output signings. The Yankeess still cringe when the name Carl Pavano is heard in public, and the Mets might feel the same about Pedro Martinez and his ever changing body aliments. So it might be smart for both teams to take a step back and even re-evaluate a few things before sticking their heads back into the fire.

 

 People forget that baseball has always been a way for Americans to forget about their problems. Each World War was a huge emotional time for the country, and baseball helped ease the pains and the stress of life. During the Great Depression, baseball also served as a every man’s fantasy world that for a single nickel, they could watch 9 innings of guys working their hearts out for the common man without the stress of their own everyday life.

 

 Personally, I think that baseball keeps my head above water. Baseball is my primary solitude in a hectic world. And to think that the two giants in New York are struggling with success is almost too much to take at times. I am not a fan of either of these two teams, but I have a huge amount of respect for the organizations. And for that reason, I think the fan base deserves a winner, or at least a team that plays hard and nasty until the end of the 162nd game.  I always expect a New York team to come out bold and brash and carry their voice loud and proud into the night. But in 2008, for the first time in a very long stretch, both voices went silent in October. That is a silence that neither team can afford in 2009.

 

 

 

 

The cards are dealt and the bets are in………………Do they both win, or do they both lose?  

 

Does the play of the dealer and the teams bring out a push, or do they split the cards and find their glory in the end. The odds are in the favor of the house always, and the “house” in this matter is the players. Based on the climate of today, do they go to the penthouse, or do they give the team a chance and maybe back-load a contract a bit. The decision is about to come to light. No one knows but the guy holding the cards if it will be  a blow for a defeat or triumph.  A bit of gambling advice I was once given by a well known gambler, you never bet blindly on a sure thing, that only leads to a huge disppointment that neither you nor your dreams can ever rebound from….ever.

 

 

Joe Kennedy…..We Were Lucky to Have Known You…..Truly Lucky

 

I had just gotten home from work and  decided to pop on Yahoo sports to see what was going on Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan pie debauchery, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some comfort.

 

Was hoping to find out that A-rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest contract offer to Mario Riviera.

 

What I found sunk me in my chair and put a huge knot in my stomach.  It also  made me rethink  my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year since a similar tragedy in Oct 2006 took another of my favorite players in Devilrays history to an untimely death.

 

 

I hate it when a young ball player dies when he is about to hit the prime, or reinvent  himself in their career. Some hit that  invisible wall of physical and mental parts not able to endure  the rigors and challenges of Professional sports. Sometimes  their body just can’t take anymore, even at a young age.

 

 Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements rob them of their  current and post career lives. Some just hit a mental roadblock that can not be corrected by human means.

 

The ones that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way that life ended  the life of ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy.  Media thoughts are running  that Joe might have suffered an aneurysm or heart attack during the night. We will have to wait for the final results.

 

                                              

 

Joe had announced his free agency after this years’ World Series, and all indications were that the Toronto Blue Jays’ and their team president  Paul Godfrey wanted  Joe Kennedy for their 2008 staff. 

 

 Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home, and was to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the Tampa area. He had gotten up in the middle of the night and had collapsed to the floor.  An ambulance rushed to Brandon Medical Center, but Kennedy was pronounced  dead at the ER..

 

This is the second Oakland Athletic  to suffer a tragic and unexpected death since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate Cory Lidle, had tragically perished in a plane accident after the Yankees exit from the playoffs in 2006

 

One of my first blogs on here was a tribute to Cory Lidle. He was another player who  befriended me during his tenure with the Rays, and I looked for him every year when his team would make a visit to the Trop. I did the same for Joe Kennedy every time he came here for a series.

 

Joe was only 28 years old, but had already been a front end starting pitcher with our Rays.  He had  thrown for over 908 innings in the Majors, and had 558  career K’s.

 

He was selected in the 1998 Amateur player draft in the 8th round, out of Grossmont (Calif.) J C and went immediately to the minor leagues for the Devilrays. He quickly rose through the Rays’ minor league organization. Joe was a combined 6-0, with a .099 ERA with Orlando and Durham before getting called up to the big club ( Devilrays ) on June 2, 2001.

 

 He made his Major League debut on June 6th against the Blue Jays in Toronto and won 6-2 . He appeared in 20 games that season. During that Rookie season, Joe had 12 quality starts, only CC Sabathia of the Indians had a better stats( 13). Joe was also 3rd in Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.

 

                      

 

He was also the first  Major League player since Kip Wells of the Pirates to win both his first two  career starts. Joe was also the first Devilrays in franchise history to perform this feat.

 

In 2001, Joe pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 opponents.  These numbers would be his Devilrays best, but only his second best career totals  of his brief  Major League career.

 

In 2003,  Joe progressed to the point of being announced as the Opening Day starter. I found Kennedy to be the kind of pitcher who would not be  afraid to go inside on a batter or ” buzz the tower” if needed.  Every good pro has a mean streak in them.

 

I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Joe on occasions during BP and always found him to be funny and very intelligent.

 

I guess I was one of those people who knew that Joe would be traded at some point in his career, but had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win plateau with the Devilrays.

 

Joe might have seemed soft spoken and reserved to the crowds at the Trop., but he was a fierce competitor and was always going to the mound  with the belief he could to win every game.  That was a quality that I greatly admired in him. Going out with the idea you are going to win every time you take the rubber.

 

I know you are going to say that every pitcher does that, but in truth, they might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total commitment. Joe always felt he could win, that that is the basic mindset of a great pitcher.

 

After Joe left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to that  10-win plateau. Joe only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced 117 strikeouts for the year. He was traded to the Oakland A’s  during the All Star break where he was again considered a valuable member of the pitching rotation. He garnered a 2.31 ERA in 2006, a career best for Joe.  In 2006, he was rewarded with the number five slot in the starting rotation. 

 

 In 2007, Joe found himself as  number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon bad times and was  put in the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and situational opportunities.   He got another opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past 2007 season.

 

Joe  produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting. He received his 43rd win versus his old Rays team on September 29, 2007. Joe had the  fantastic pleasure of becoming a Dad this past year and was looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the Feb. mandatory reporting date for pitchers’ and catchers.

 

I will miss seeing Joe Kennedy pitch. More for the fact that he was a true professional and was always in the game both mentally and physically. I know he was just hitting the stride in his career and could have produced some great numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.

 

Joe is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the Denver area.

 

I hope that there is an afterlife. I can then again see people like Cory and
Joe pitch and have that  pure vision of seeing their ear to ear smile or grin knowing they were doing something they truly loved to do in life.

 

God Bless you Joe Kennedy, ………………I will be in Right Field watching you play in that league someday myself….. And I will always cheer for you as a truly great person and pitcher

 

Play Ball!

 

 

 

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