Saturday, October 30, 2010

CC Sbathia Knee Surgery Update

As I blogged this past Thursday, CC Sabathia had arthroscopic surgery performed on his right knee to repair a minor meniscus tear. The surgery was performed at New York Presbyterian hospital by Yankees team physician, Dr. Chris Ahmad.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi revealed Friday what most in the media and fan base had already assumed: Sabathia's knee was an issue during the 2010 season. However, according to Girardi, "there was never a start that was in question because of [it]."

Sabathia is expected to begin rehabilitation immediately. If all goes as planned, he should be ready to workout in 3-6 weeks to prepare for Spring Training. You can check out the following link to get an idea of how the surgery may have gone :

So, the Sabathia "knee watch" is officially on. Stay tuned...

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Friday, October 29, 2010

Three More Years of Cool Joe

The Yankees made it official today, formally announcing the signing of Joe Girardi to a 3-year contract extension, keeping the manager in pinstripes through 2013. The deal is reportedly worth $9 million, a reasonable pay raise from Girardi's prior contract: 3 years at $7.8 million.

The new contract includes bonuses of up to $500,000 if the Bombers win another World Series.

The move is welcome news for fans of Girardi, who may have been skeptical of his return, as rumors swirled during the season speculating Girardi was a front-runner for the manager position with the Chicago Cubs after former Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced he would retire at season's end. Girardi, however, always had staying with the Yankees in mind.

"I didn't really think about leaving the Yankees," says Girardi. " My thought process was that I was going to be back."

In three seasons with the Bombers, Girardi has a World Series championship (2009), and sports a 287-199 (.591) record; the best in the majors over that period.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting Back to the Ethics of Sports Journalism: Spitgate

Jerome Preisler, a New York Times best-selling author and regular contributor to, wrote the following blog today in response to media reports surrounding the now-controversial USA Today interview with Kristen Lee, wife of Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee. I decided to re-post this here on Bomber Boulevard for my followers.

The lack of ethics in journalism has become common amid the wealth of news articles, magazine articles, blogs, etc. Particularly in sports, where journalists seem more apt to report content that is subjective rather than objective.

In this piece, Preisler questions this practice and calls certain writers to justice. Pay close attention to the summation, where he dispatches a warning for the "ethically challenged."


As the Yankees sputtered through the final weeks of their regular season last month, I was observing the postgame happenings at Yankee Stadium when a senior baseball writer for one of the major New York City dailies asked manager Joe Girardi if he thought his team was playing “tight.”

Seated behind a microphone in the interview room, Girardi answered that it was not his view at all, and went on to give his reasons in some detail.

In the Yankee clubhouse minutes later, the writer posed the identical question to Alex Rodriguez at his locker. Rodriguez also insisted without hedging that the team was not playing tight.

The writer then went directly up to the press box to write his piece.

Curious what his story would be, I read his column in the newspaper the next morning. He wrote unequivocally about the team playing tight. There was no mention of Girardi’s rejection of his suggestion. Nor any mention of Rodriguez’s similar dismissals.

In fairness to the reporter, he may have asked his question to other members of the team or coaching staff at some earlier point and gotten answers different from those I heard. But nowhere in his column did he cite a source for his assessment of the team mood, or even state that he had a source. And, again, there was no mention that his hypothesis was rejected outright by the team’s manager and its star third baseman.

This struck me as the height of irresponsibility. If he was going to ignore all the answers to his questions, why had the reporter bothered asking them? His piece simply did not pass the sniff test. In fact, it had flipped the most basic of journalistic tenets on its head not once, but twice. Instead of following a story to its conclusion, he began with the conclusion and sought to prove it. And then when he couldn’t prove it, he went ahead and stated it in print anyway.

Which brings us roundabout to another Yankees-related story that drew a lot of attention from the New York sports media this week--and was covered with even greater slovenliness. Most of you have heard about it by now. For lack of a better tag let’s call it Spitgate.

The furor apparently started with remarks that pitcher Cliff Lee’s wife, Kristen, made to a reporter for the national daily USA Today. In the piece she was quoted as having commented negatively about her experience with fans at Yankee Stadium during the American League Championship Series. The article suggested that her feelings might impact Lee’s impending offseason decision about whether to play in Texas or New York.

Here is the relevant passage:

Perhaps the Rangers’ greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.

“The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen says.

“When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it's hard not to take it personal.”

In a separate Post piece, columnist Mike Vaccaro appeared to accept the allegations at face value when he wrote:

Let’s just say that on the list of smart recruiting tactics, re-enacting the Seinfeld magic loogie gag on your team’s most coveted target isn’t something {college basketball coach} Steve Lavin would probably endorse. Lee himself downplayed the incident, but then he wasn’t the member of his family who needed a roll of Bounty, either.

Also in that day’s Post, writers George King III and Mike Puma mentioned the incident without even mildly questioning its veracity, though their slant was to downplay its overall importance in the Yankees’ free-agency pursuit of Lee.

Over in the Daily News, meanwhile, Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand typed this:

Lee’s wife Kristen, had a horrifying experience at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS, telling USA Today that she and other Rangers wives were taunted with obscenities, spit at and had beer thrown at them while seated in the visitors’ family section in the mezzanine along the third-base line.

While citing a source that said the Yankees were investigating whether any such incidents were in fact reported, Feinsand went on to call the supposed perpetrators of this act “thugs” who had
“harassed” Lee’s wife.

But, gee, Mark ... how do you know that’s exactly how it happened, bearing in mind that you yourself wrote the episode was still under investigation? Before reporting it as fact, shouldn’t you, and George, and David and Mike, and the rest of the Post staff, and USA Today, and everyone else in the media who jumped on the story have waited for independent verification that spit and beer were really and intentionally sent in the direction of Mrs. Lee and other Rangers wives? Or is another contradictory version of events out of the question?

This isn’t to at all to suggest Mrs. Lee isn’t telling the truth as she perceived it. But it’s worth recalling the old Japanese film Rashomon, in which a crime is witnessed by different people, all of whom have different and conflicting versions of what transpired. And also worth keeping in mind that eyewitness testimony—subjective recollection—is considered the most unreliable sort of evidence in courts of law.

Moreover, the incident as it’s been reported evokes skepticism and credibility strain even on first blush. I wonder, for example, how the culprit was able to precisely target one particular individual amid the tens of thousands in the crowded stands despite blowing wind and other weather conditions—and identify this individual as the wife of a Texas player. Was he a spit sniper, able to hit his mark with deadly accuracy?

The bare bones USA Today account also leaves me wanting to know if anyone was actually seen hawking up saliva—or is it possible the moisture that fell on the wives was something besides spit? The remnants of a spilled beverage? Or some drops of standing rainwater from the precipitation that had passed over the New York area during the playoffs, like the droplets that splashed down on me and other fans in Section 106 during the ALDS. And like the liquid from overturned beverages on the upper tiers that fans in the lower sections have been complaining to the Yankees about for quite some time.

As for the tossed beer: the published accounts leave it unclear where it came from. If it streamed from above, the logical question would be whether there was any reason to conclude it didn’t spill accidentally. If it was deliberately, maliciously flung from someone in the same section as the Rangers wives, on the other hand, why wasn’t the person responsible stopped by security? In all my decades of attending Yankee games, I’ve never seen an incident of that type be witnessed by or reported to Stadium security guards without a subsequent ejection—and in this case it is said to have occurred in a section reserved for VIPS that was presumably under careful watch.

These questions aren’t asked lightly or coyly. If the behavior occurred as reported it is patently unacceptable and possibly criminal--and also the work of a small handful of fans among the nearly fifty thousand who attended each playoff game. But to assume it happened without any corroboration, and then hold fans responsible in advance should Cliff Lee opt to remain in Texas next season, exposes nothing but lazy, biased ineptitude of certain media members—and the generalized contempt they have for their audience.

For now, though, the story seems to have been written, if not at all proven. But if fans are to be called thugs and held accountable in the event Lee ultimately rejects an offer from the Yankees, then those who assign the blame can similarly look to their own professional failures—their lack of adherence to basic journalistic standards and practices—when their respective outlets are eventually abandoned by readers and listeners, leaving them to sell their stories only to themselves.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Sabathia's Knee Surgery Could Mean

The Yankees announced today that lefty ace CC Sabathia will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

The surgery, expected to be performed by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad on Friday, October 29 at New York Presbyterian Hospital, will require a 3-6 week respite for the southpaw who seems unfazed by the impending procedure.

"Nothing major," CC said in a text as reported by the New York Post. "[I] should be ready to work out in three weeks."

Of course the report of this surgery has triggered many in the media and the fan base alike, to now pin Sabathia's knee to his "not-so-CC-like" performances this post season. Understandable, given that his pitching performance this year was nowhere near the realm of domination he pitched last year. But this concern is just a blip of what could be a bigger issue: Sabathia's weight.

The function of the meniscus is to diffuse the weight of one's body and reduce friction when they move. So it stands to reason that less weight applied to the meniscus during rehabilitation would only benefit in its healing. Sabathia is 6-foot-7 and listed as weighing 290 pounds. Since this will be the first time that he has this surgery, there's no model to refer to in determining how he may heal or how well he can perform afterward. Now this is probably not going to be a big issue, especially since the tear has been reported as "minor," but it very well could be; there may be some needed pressure on CC to come down on his weight a little.

And as we all know, Sabathia has been the anchor of which the Yankees have rested their "best chance of a new dynasty" hopes on. Baseball seasons are long and grueling, and no one on the Yankees' staff has recorded more innings in these past two seasons than their ace. They need him to be at his best. You can bet that the organization is not being as cavalier about the surgery as Sabathia is.

However, there is always a positive for every negative. In this case, you've got to believe that Brian Cashman will be pulling out all the stops in his pursuit of Cliff Lee when the chase for the free-agent begins. A "compromised" Sabathia certainly adds fuel to the fire; the Yankees will surely want to secure the best arm available in case Sabathia's knee becomes an issue in 2011.

Stay tuned...

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra-cooper

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Paging Cliff Lee

As the Yankees look ahead to the 2011 season, one of their primary goals will be to add a big arm to their rotation.

"Pitching is the key to the kingdom," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. " You've got to collect as much as you possibly can, and we've tried to do that."

They certainly have. Signing CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett during the '08 offseason, and bringing back Andy Pettitte in '07 after a 3-year hiatus with the Astros is proof of it. Now, the Yankees are looking to bring in a pitcher who would evoke tremors throughout the other teams in the American League.

Paging Cliff Lee.

The rumors have been out their about the Yankees going after Lee for weeks now. You'd figure it's a given 1) for his obvious talent, particularly in the postseason, and 2) for the fact that the Yankees were within hours of acquiring Lee back in July before their deal with the Seattle Mariners fell through. Without the uncertainty that comes with trades, the Yankees seem certain to acquire "The Assassin," and make all of their fans dreams come true.

Easier said than done.

What could make this a not-so-easy process for the Yankees is the personality of Cliff Lee. He seems to be the kind of player that gets comfortable where he's at, especially if his teammates gel well together, which is certainly the case in Texas. Most people would assume that whether or not Texas wins the World Series could be an x-factor, but that may not be so; Lee was very vocal about his disappointment when the Phillies traded him to the Mariners during this past offseason after losing the World Series to the Yankees in '09.

Lee is certainly a competitor and wants to win. So the Yankees would absolutely fit that criteria. But, the Rangers just proved to everyone that they have a solid team that can compete and man-handle the reigning champs. And they have a lot of young talent. Couple this with Lee's "team spirit" and Cashman could possibly have another disappointment to explain to the media.

"I definitely enjoy it here, and it looks like it's going to be a good team for years to come," Lee recently said of the Rangers. "I want to be part of a winner, and that's what this team looks like it's going to be for a little while."

What the Yankees do have in their favor here are two things: history and CC Sabathia. Yes, Texas is a good team right now, and they have been for awhile. But this is only their first trip back to the postseason since the Yankees eliminated them in 1999. Since 1995, the Yankees have missed the postseason once and until the Cinderella-season of the Tampa Bay Rays in '08, the Bombers have either lead the AL East or won the wild card. And it's been well-documented the close relationship of Lee and Sabathia, dating back to their playing days together in Cleveland. Matter-of-fact, Sabathia took his best friend shopping for homes in New Jersey when the Yankees almost signed Lee in July. As he did with the undecided Andy Pettitte last winter, you can bet that Sabathia will be making continuous phone calls to his former teammate to get him to play in New York.

What the Yankees are hoping is that Lee in the pinstripes could mean the start of a new dynasty.

It will certainly be a very interesting pursuit to watch unfold. While the Yankees and their fanatics will be holding their breath anticipating the possible signing of a new dynasty's "messiah", everyone else will be crossing their fingers, hoping that Lee has made himself right at home in Texas.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sat It Ain't So, Joe

In my Enter Sandman? post, I stated that this year's ALCS would be remembered for the absent bats of the Yankees. I would like to take this moment to detract that statement.

As the thoughts of this ALCS and the Yankees humbling loss to the Rangers in game 6 continue to swirl in the mind of the Bomber faithful, what will be remembered, and discussed, and recounted to the point of nausea will be the "questionable" management of Joe Girardi.

For a second, critical game in this series, Girardi opted to overuse a struggling, starting pitcher and both times, it cost the Yankees the game. Phil Hughes, who to his credit pitched far better last night in game 6 than his efforts in game 2, gave up a game-ending, series-ending 2-run double to Vladimir Guerrero in the fifth inning after walking Josh Hamilton with a man on for the second time. The move worked in the second inning, as Guerrero popped out. But the second go-round, he made the Yankees pay.

If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

No one can argue that Hamilton continuously burned the Yankees in this series. But what will baffle fanatics from now until the fresh excitement of Spring training, is why Hughes was left in to face Guerrero with CC Sabathia available in the bullpen.

Again, Hughes really pitched a decent game, but it was obvious that he was winding down. As a manager, isn't it your job to know when your pitcher has had enough? Aren't you suppose to make critical decisions based on the present situation? Wouldn't you want your absolute best pitcher on the mound at this point?

And why did it even have to get to the point of walking Hamilton? Sabathia was available in the bullpen. Girardi said himself that if they used CC it would probably be to face two batters. And yet when the opportunity came for him to do so, he opted to stick with Hughes.

"Hughesy has had success off Vlad Guerrero and got him out twice, and that's why he stayed there," Girardi explained.

No. No. No. No. No.

Sabathia was brought over to the Yankees for moments like this. He was the ONLY pitcher at that moment who was supposed to face Hamilton and shut down Guerrero. If he couldn't, at least you knew that your best was out there. But Girardi never gave himself or his team their best chance to stay in the game.

So went the game, so went the series.

"You have to give some credit to their pitchers," Girardi said. "They obviously made some good pitches when they had to."

You have to also give credit to Ron Washington, who out-managed Girardi and optimized his pitch staff because he had to.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Enter Sandman??

So we've reached the crossroads, fanatics. The Yankees have lost their third straight game in this ALCS; a 10-3 rout by the Rangers, and are now down 3-1.

For the second straight night in a row at Yankee Stadium, the New York faithful exited the park early; unwilling to further watch the Bombers sink deeper into the dark abyss, aka early winter.

If there is anything positive that can be taken away from last night's game 4 debacle, it's that AJ Burnett pitched a quality game. The AJ of old was in full force for the first couple of innings of a game, that many fanatics--myself included--believed would go their way. He retired the first six batters he faced, with a fierce fastball that averaged 95 on the radar gun. Things got a little shaky for Burnett in the third inning when he walked Rangers left fielder David Murphy after being ahead in the count, 0-2, and then followed that with a hit to catcher Bengie Molina's left elbow. Shortstop Elvis Andrus scored Murphy on a ground-out, and third baseman Michael Young scored Molina on a tapper that Alex Rodriguez couldn't handle. But AJ recovered well and allowed the game to remain close until he gave up a 3-run moon shot by Molina in the 6th inning, which put Texas up 5-3. The Bombers would never recover.

I for one was proud of Burnett. I thought he was aggressive, confident and unnerved by the obvious pressure of a big game that would probably make-or-break the Yankees in this series. He did his job, albeit the mistake to Molina cost them the game, but he did his job nonetheless.

With that said, however, there are some questions that have to be answered about the sequence that lead to Molina's 2-run homer, and they need to be answered by Joe Girardi.

Why was Burnett kept in the game after allowing a lead-off single to Vladimir Guerrero in the sixth inning? At that point the Yankees were leading 3-2; Burnett had already given the Yankees what they needed from him, so why not pull him and perhaps bring in Dustin Moseley, who pitched a two-inning masterpiece in game 1 and hasn't seen action since?

Rangers top Yankees in Game 4
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Why in the world would you have Burnett walk Murphy to pitch to Molina, essentially putting the go-ahead run on base that late in the game? Typical Girardi wanting to play the "numbers" game; realizing that Murphy hit well against Burnett. Instead of a walk, wouldn't this have been the right time to call in a reliever? YOU DO NOT WALK THE GO-AHEAD RUN IN A POTENTIAL DO-OR-DIE GAME IN LATE INNINGS. Can anyone say baseball management 101?

And, why was David Robertson, who had excellent command of his fastball, pulled in the seventh after quickly taking care of the only two batters he faced, Andrus and Young? Was it absolutely necessary to bring in Boone Logan for a lefty-to-lefty match up with Josh Hamilton, who has become what A-Rod was to the the Yankees last year?

This kid's face says it all.
 Let's talk about A-Rod and Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher who are 2-for-15, 0-for-14 and 1-for-15, respectively. People talk about how good pitching and defense wins games. Well, what good is good pitching without good hitting to back it up?  When it's all said and done, this ALCS will probably be most remembered for the silent bats of one of the best offenses in baseball.

Can the Yankees stage a comeback? Of course they can. Has it been done before? Absolutely. Will fanatics be sitting on the edge of their seats for this afternoon's do-or-die game 5? No question.

Game Notes:
AJ Burnett: 6.0 IP, 6 hits, 5 runs, 1 HR (Molina), 4 strikeouts
Tommy Hunter: 3.1 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 HR (Cano), 5 strikeouts
Cano: 2-for-3, 1 HR, 1 BB
Jeter: 2-for-5, 1 run
Rangers scored 8 runs innings 6 through 9

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Take A Breath Fanatics, The Bombers Are Still In This

Okay, if you're a Yankees fan, you're probably ready to push the panic button after last night's baffling 6-run 9th inning, 8-0 loss to the Texas Rangers in game 3 of the ALCS. You might be thinking that maybe the baseball Gods have decreed that the Yankees domination of the Rangers in the postseason has finally come to an end; that maybe it's the Bombers' turn this time to walk away acknowledging--for the first time in a long while--that they were not the better team.

Let's face it, in this ALCS the Yankees have been completely over matched by the Rangers starting rotation; in all 3 games they've had to play from behind, and in their only win in game 1, the Yankees were only able to get to the Rangers' bullpen. Their offense seems to be asleep, having hit for a .194 AVG. with only 2 homers and 8 runs in the first 27 innings of this series. In last night's game, the Yankees could only muster 2 hits and work 1 walk off of "The Assassin", aka Cliff Lee.

"Bottom line, we just need to swing the bats better," said Alex Rodriguez after the game. "We had...chances to come up with some big hits and good at-bats. Bottom line, two hits and one walk is just not good enough for our offense."

Clearly. But it's not time to push the panic button just yet.

"Yeah, we're down 2 games to 1," Girardi said during the postgame interview. "But we're a very good club. We've been resilient all year. You don't win 95 games in our division without being resilient."


I will be the first to admit that I sat through last night's game feeling every emotion a fan feels when their team is being completely shut down by its opposition: anger, anxiety, sadness, fear, shock, etc., etc. But after awhile, I began to breathe again, and try to remind myself of the "Yogi-ism" the Rangers were forced to learn after game 1: It ain't over 'til it's over.

We've seen the Yankees lose back-to-back games before, only to come out in full force thereafter. Albeit three of the Yankees' all-stars--Jeter, Teixeira and Rodriguez--have not swung the bats well at all in this series, having combined for 3 runs on 5 hits with 12 strikeouts thus far, there's still something to be said for the Yankees only being down 2-1. Add to this sentiment the fact that with the exception of Andy Pettitte, who really pitched an excellent, gritty game 3, the Yankees' starting pitching has been lackluster to say the least. One can argue that this should be a 3-0 series and the Yankees should be preparing for an early exit. But fans know that you can never count the Yankees out in situations like this; that these Yankees are like a cornered gutter rat in New York City: they attack.

Of course, trying to show great face and stay optimistic will be a challenge for fanatics in tonight's game 4, with the unpredictable AJ Burnett getting the start against the Rangers' Tommy Hunter. AJ's "problems" this season have been well-documented, so we don't need to list them here. But, AJ does sport a 2.50 ERA in 3 starts against the Rangers in 2010, so we know that he can certainly come up big tonight.

"If you put [Burnett] out there, his stuff could get nasty," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "One guy who you don't think is going to do anything might be the guy who steps up and has everything fall into place. I'm concerned about him."

Hunter on the other hand has an 0-1 record with a 4.50 ERA this postseason. Another postseason rookie, he boasts a 4.45 ERA for his career, with batters hitting .265 against him. Hunter is a far better pitcher at home with a 3.06 ERA as opposed to .448 on the road. You figure that even if AJ sputters tonight, Yankees batters could fare well against Hunter and get this series tied at 2-2.

"I don't think we're in trouble," Girardi said. 'As I said we're a good club. We're down two to one; we're not down three to nothing losing in the bottom of the 9th."

It is clearly not over for the Bombers. Again, we've seen them in this situation before. Remember the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves?

Game Notes:
  • Andy Pettitte pitched 7 innings on 110 pitches, allowing 2 runs off 5 hits with 5 strikeouts; walked 0.
  • Yankees had 2 hits and 0 runs with 15 strikeouts in 29 ABs; 0-3 RISP
  • Cliff Lee pitched 12 innings on 122 pitches, allowing 0 runs off 2 hits with 13 strikeouts; walked 1
Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

    Saturday, October 16, 2010


    What happened yesterday in the late innings of game 1 in the ALCS between the Yankess and Texas Rangers can only be described as incredible.

    After being down 5-0 into the seventh inning off of a great pitching performance by Texas starter CJ Wilson, the Yankees rallied in the eighth inning and scored 6 runs off of the Rangers bullpen to win the game. Robinson Cano ignited the comeback with a solo homer in the seventh inning. Then, Brett Gardner's hustling slide into first base in the eighth continued the rally, and well, needless to say the Yankees lineup behind Gardner took things from there with big hits from Jeter, Rodriguez, Cano and Thames and two key walks by Swisher and Teixeira.

    Yankees take Game 1
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    We've seen the Yankees steal games from other teams before. We fanatics know that the Bombers are well equipped to stage comebacks like this when they're good and ready. But what makes this comeback so incredible and exciting, is that it was done in a playoff game against this Texas team who had so much momentum coming in the game, and on a night when Yankees ace CC Sabathia pitched like a postseason rookie, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits and 4 walks.

    "He was definitely off today," Joe Girardi said.

    "Off" is a mild interpretation of how bad CC actually seemed on the mound last night. But seeing the big 6 foot 7, 290 lb. southpaw dive into home plate to tag out a charging Nelson Cruz, on a flip-throw from Jorge Posada to end the first inning, more than made up for it. Sabathia got major backup from his relievers, particularly Dustin Moseley, who pitched 2 perfect innings and eventually picked up the win.

    Of course, this was just game 1. There is still plenty of baseball to be played in this series. Bomber fanatics love to make predictions about the outcome of games and series, because our team makes it easy for us to do so. However, I'm not going to go as far as predicting a winner of this series yet, but I will say this: on a night when Sabathia nearly handed the game to Texas, you have to feel like allowing the Yankees to come back and steal it could mean that the ALCS will be the Rangers' last stop this postseason.


    Game notes:
    • CC Sabathia pitched 4 innings, allowed 5 runs on 6 hits, walked 4 and struck out 3
    • Yankees combined for 6 runs on 10 hits  and 4 walks; Rodriguez scored game-winning run on an RBI single by Marcus Thames in the eighth inning
    • Dustin Moseley struck out 4 in two perfect innings; threw 21 of 27 pitches for strikes
    • Mariano Rivera picked up his third save this postseason; he's 3-3

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    It's On To Texas. And???

    The Texas Rangers advanced to the ALCS for the first time in their history last night by defeating the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays, behind what could only be described as an all-out assault by pitcher Cliff Lee.

    Lee pitched a complete game, striking out eleven without allowing a walk. He befuddled Rays batters with an array of fastballs, cutters and an unbelievable curveball. When it was all said done, Lee had pitched a complete game on 120 pitches; lifting his postseason record to 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA. Impressive.

    Too bad for Texas, he won't be their savior in game 1 against the Yankees and CC Sabathia.

    The fact that Texas allowed the series against Tampa to get to game 5 was assurance that Cliff Lee would not be available for game 1 in the ALCS. A plus for the Yankees, who could be dealing with another not-so "CC-like" start from Sabathia--if history repeats itself--due to the extra days of rest. The Yankees will face CJ Wilson who in their last meeting, gave up 6 hits, allowed 4 runs and walked 3 batters in only 3 innings pitched. In his last 3 starts for the regular season, he posted a 1-1 record with a 7.20 ERA. And he's only pitched 1 postseason game in his career.

    The odds are certainly in favor of the Yankees.

    You have to believe that if the Rangers allow the Bombers to take one game of the first two in Texas, they're playoff run might well be over. Without throwing Lee into the mix for the first 2 games, the Yankees are certainly the better team, offensively and defensively. And as far as pitching goes, you'll have Wilson vs. Sabathia and either veteran Andy "Dandy" Pettitte or Phil Hughes facing Colby Lewis, another postseason rookie. AJ Burnett will pitch game 4.

    And the Yankees win streak against the Rangers in the postseason is 10.

    Sure, Texas goes into the series with more momentum with only two days between games, but the Yankees enter this series well rested both mentally and physically, and with a lineup that has played on the big stage before. The fact that this will be the first time the majority of the Rangers players have ever been in an ALCS could be a huge factor in who takes this series.

    And the Yankees not having to face Lee in the first 2 games ain't too bad a deal, either.

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Note To Naysayers This Ain't 2004

    Talking to fans before the start of the game at the stadium last night, I got the sense that reports by some sports reporters suggesting that the Yankees could "crash and burn" in this ALDS series like they did in the 2004 ALCS to the Boston Red Sox, had really riled them up.

    "Are they kidding me?," a young woman sitting three rows down from me asked. "This isn't the same team that played back then. And, uhh, this [opposing team] is Minnesota."

    An older gentlemen sitting in my row, who jokingly claimed to have uttered the word "Yankees" at birth, shared the young woman's sentiment. "You can't compare the '04 team to this one. This is a better team and they play better together. We own Minnesota, but maybe these media hacks haven't noticed that. It's stupid."
    Maybe we should all just take a moment and try to give the reporters the benefit of the doubt on this one.


    Nah, that didn't work.

    What more do the Yankees have to do to convince the naysayers who still hold on to 2004, that this is a different team? How much more would they have to bear witness to in order to recognize that the caliber of this team, the cohesiveness of this team and the drive of this team are in stark contrast to the team in '04?
    And the irony of it, is that the loss in '04 is why this team is a far better team.

    TheYankees slept on the Red Sox in that ALCS series. After pummeling Boston with a 19-8 win in game 3, the Yankees thought they had the series in the bag. They played with no sense of urgency, their hitting sputtered and they committed costly errors in 3 of those last 4 games.

    What the Yankees did last year once they had the Minnesota Twins on the ropes, and what they've done again this year, is to play each deciding game knowing that being ahead in the series is no guarantee of taking it all. In yesterday's deciding game 3, the Yankees attacked early, getting things started with a triple off the bat of Sir Robinson Cano in the 2nd inning, who would eventually score on an RBI single from Jorge Posada. In the 3rd, Nick "Swishalicious" Swisher doubled to left and scored on a laser off the left field wall from Mark Teixera, putting the Yankees up 2-0. And then in the 4th, Marcus Thames sealed Minnesota's fate with a 2-run blast to right field, giving the Yankees a 4-0 edge.

    And Phil Hughes pitched like a madman on a mission. His "stuff" was as good or maybe even better than it was at the beginning of the regular season. He dominated Twins' batters for seven innings with a sharp cut fastball and nasty changeup, changing speeds on all his pitches. As Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley joked on the TBS postgame show: "He had that wristy cheese!"

    Different team. Different year. Different approach. Same winning results.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Puttin' Some Good Wood On It

    When it was clear that Andy Pettitte would not be returning to the mound for the eighth inning in last night's game 2 of the ALDS, I must admit that I was a little disappointed. As I had predicted the day before, Andy sparkled once again, mind you with a few hitches in his giddyup, but he sparkled nonetheless. It would have been pretty cool to see him pitch through the eighth, thus handing the ball to Mariano Rivera to close. So, yeah, I was a little disappointed.

    But like this ALDS series for the Minnesota Twins, my disappointment didn't last very long.

    Kerry Wood proved to be the right call for Joe Girardi in choosing his eighth inning guy. In game 1, Wood pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing one hit, no runs, and one strikeout. In last night's game, he upped the ante by striking out two Minnesota batters and allowing no hits, pitching a full inning. He now sports a .167 ERA with two holds in this ALDS series.

    In his postseason career as both a starter and reliever, Woods boasts a 3.52 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 38.1 innings over 10 games. Not too shabby for a guy who seemingly faded into obscurity following Tommy John surgery while a pitcher with the Chicago Cubs, after having been the toast of Chi-Town during his "lights out" rookie season in 1998.

    Wood clearly tapped in to his old self, baffling Twins batters with a fastball that seemed to disappear once it reached the plate. He has a distinct "across-the-body" delivery which allowed for great depth of his pitches and deception of his breaking ball.

    Three months ago, the Yankees' biggest issue was their bullpen. But since coming to the team, Wood has provided the depth and experience that makes this bullpen a force to be reckoned with down this stretch in these playoffs.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    2010 ALDS Game 2: What To Expect

    Don't be surprised if you see the Minnesota Twins head back into their clubhouse after the final out tonight with looks of gloom and doom. Minnesota pretty much sealed their fate last night by squandering a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning of game 1 in the ALDS to the Yankees.

    Tonight in game 2 should be no different unless perhaps the Yankees take the lead first and keep it.

    The Yankees continue to baffle Minnesota in what is becoming an embarrassing, continuous scenario. Expect that to continue tonight when Andy Petitte takes the mound in what I'm betting will be his record 19th postseason win. Yankees fan have to be a little squeamish about Andy's performance tonight having lost his last two games during the regular season. But true fans also know that somehow, some way, Andy will grind it out and lead the squad to a 2-0 lead against the Twins.

    Carl Pavano gets the start for Minnesota tonight having yet to win a game against the Yankees since leaving the team in 2008. He's pitched well against them, but not well enough.

    The way the ALDS has gone between the Yankees and Twins in recent years, you can almost taste series victory on Saturday in game 3 at Yankee Stadium.

    Pull out the hankies Twins fans. That's if you aren't already holding on to 'em.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Taking Back ARod

    We've waited seven years Yankees fans, and now the real Alex Rodriguez has undoubtedly shown up.

    I remember back before Alex signed with the Yankees, reading about him being revered as a hero in Seattle and Texas. He had become the young face of both franchises and had dominated sports pages and magazine covers for all the right reasons: his play, humility and love of baseball.

    When Alex came to the Yankees in '04, he seemed to show those same positive attributes in the beginning. His willingness to play at third base particularly made him seem like the kind of guy that was all about the team and winning. Yet somehow, things got all screwed up in A-Rod world, and this humble son of baseball became a tool for fodder and hatred by fans and the media.

    One could point to the everyday questions by the media regarding his once-close relationship with Derek Jeter. Some would argue that perhaps the pressures of playing in New York were getting to Alex. Others might even hypothesize that maybe he just never was the humble gentleman he had been perceived to be. How could he be with stories floating around of his demands for special perks in the clubhouse? Or the speculation that his real goal for joining the team was to de-throne Jeter as the face of the franchise?

    And, let's not forgot the announcement during the 2007 ALCS in which the Yankees weren't playing, that Alex would be going into the free agent market. Although according to Alex, he never wanted his then-agent Scott Boras to make the announcement when he did, people were still turned off by the fact that Alex sought free agency instead of securing a contract extension with the Yankees.

    In the midst of all this were great games played and 2 AL MVP awards. But it was never enough for fans to embrace Alex; the man and clutch player they thought the Yankees had signed in 2004, was a fraud.

    All that has long been forgotten. The real Alex Rodriguez has finally showed up.

    What fans and the media have been a witness to since Alex rejoined the team in Baltimore last year, following his hip surgery, can only be described as the rebirth of A-Rod. Humbled by the surgery that could have kept him out for the season, and an embarassing admission of steroid use while playing for the Texas Rangers, Alex has emerged as a renaissance man. The endgame having completely changed, life for Alex is no longer about stats, but about helping the team win and having fun doing it.

    And its showing. He has become the clutch player of years past, getting key hits and bigtime home runs in late innings. Young teammates like Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher have embraced Alex as a leader and model of the greatness they aspire to achieve. Most notably, he wears the crown of playoff hero; an accomplishment he could have only dreamed of before 2009.

    Now, with the Yankees heading into another ALDS against the Minnesota Twins, Alex leads the charge having won the AL Player of the Month for September. And make no mistake, the fans and the media are expecting Alex to lead a now limping Yankees team back to the promised land.

    Expecting him to.

    Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper