Monday, May 14, 2012

Andy Still Good In Return

Getty Images
Andy Pettitte made his return to baseball yesterday and although the results don't say so, he had a damn good outing. In their finale against the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees would lose 6-2; four of the six runs Andy was responsible for, as he gave up two 2-run home runs.  But the two shots were really the only black marks on his outing. Overall, I think it's safe to say that Andy is back!

On a day where there was much speculation that perhaps Andy might begin the game so hyped over his return he might over-pitch, he was actually his same old self--throwing his cutter and curveballs in the mid to upper 80's and inducing ground balls. He managed to get through the first three innings without giving up a hit  and wasn't hurt by the walks to Ichiro in the first and Alex Liddi in the second. But in the fourth the walk to Jesus Montero set up a the first two-run shot by Justin Smoak, and Andy faltered a bit from there. In the next 2 1/3 innings, he would give up six more hits, one being the second two-run homer by Casper Wells.

Getty Images
So again, the two homers were really the only mistakes Andy made in his return. he worked economical innings and threw 94 pitches into the seventh. Not bad for the 39-year old who returned after an entire year away from the game. Andy is most likely replacing David Phelps in the lineup, as Phil Hughes pitched to his best outing on Saturday in the Yankees 6-2 win. In my opinion, Phelps was a long-shot to beat Hughes for a roster spot, but it was nice to see this kid get his shot in the majors after staying atop the Yankees prospect list for the past few years. Any kinks in the rotation's armor during the season, and we could see him return.

Quite disappointing yesterday was the offense. The Yankees only two runs were both made on bases loaded walks, which was all they could muster because they could not hit Seattle's Kevin Millwood, who pretty much threw fastballs and sliders around 90 mph his entire outing. In the 5th with bases loaded, Derek Jeter hit into a double-play; in the eighth with bases loaded, Mark Teixeira swung and missed for the final out. Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano failed to hit again, but Eric Chavez went 2-4 as the DH, and has had a hot bat since returning from "concussion-like symptoms" on May 11.

Next up, the Yankees take on the Orioles at Camden Yards. Hopefully the offense will get itself back in order. Ivan Nova gets the start against Jason Hammel.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Friday, May 4, 2012

Is This A Joke???

The Associated Press
Before last night's Yankee game against the Royals, Mariano Rivera, shagging flyballs in the outfield, appeared to have tripped on the warning track and hurt his knee. While the sight of seeing Mo buckle to the ground wincing in pain--and Alex Rodriguez scream, "Oh my God, oh my God"--was scary and unsettling at first, the "unofficial" reports that he sprained his knee, didn't seem so bad. If you're like me, you were thinking, "Okay, he'll be out for a bit. No problem."

But reports from every news outlet this morning, are far worse. Apparently, Mo has a torn ACL and meniscus in the injured knee; two problems which mean he's probably out for the season.

It's a cruel world, folks. Freak accidents happen all the time, especially in sports, where the rigor of games and workouts make the possiblity of accidents much more likely. The problem here is, this accident happened to Mariano Rivera.

Is this some sort of sick joke? How could this be the thing to end the career of not only the greatest closer of all time, but one of the greatest Yankees of all time? Again, if you're like me, you had to have the mistaken belief that Mo would walk away from the game on his own terms. If age didn't stop him, what would? An injury? Never. In no time during his career has Mo ever suffered any injury that has caused him to take significant time away from the game. No way would the baseball Gods allow him to injure himself like this during what has already been speculated at being his last year playing baseball. It would be the equivalent of being tackled for the win in a football game at the one yard line.

But this has happened. Mo has suffered the worst injury of his career, at the most inopertune time. And now he, the Yankee fans who love him and the baseball world as a whole, are faced with the fact that April 30 may have been the last time he would ever closed a baseball game.

Now for those of you questioning what he was doing shagging flyballs in the first place, stop!! This is something that he has been doing for pretty much his entire career and without incident. It was part of his routine--and we know how having a routine plays with athletes, particularly baseball players. This was also what he did to exercise before games, and as good and healthy as he's been, no one should argue that this would have eventually been to his detriment.

Getty Images
So while the question remains who will be his replacement, I think the bigger question is, what will baseball do without him? He is probably the most revered player in Major League Baseball, definitely the most respected. Not just for his accomplishments--all-time saves record with 608; most seasons with at least 30 saves:14; most seasons with a sub 2.00 ERA: 11; lowest post-season career ERA: 0.70; most career post-season saves: 42; lowest ERA in Divison Series history: 0.32--but also for the class of which he has always possessed. With all his success, he could have been the most arrogant, self-serving and narcissistic player ever. But that's not Mo. He is humble, appreciative and extremely aware of all his blessings. How many times have we heard him thank God for all his achievements? For the success and hard work of his teammates? For being able to play the game of baseball? For his fans? That's who Mo is and that's why this is so unfair.

But getting down to the business of closing, who should replace Mo? The question may not be as simple to answer as you may think. My personal choice, without a second thought, would be David Robertson. To date this season, he's pitched to a 0.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 11 innings, making this the best start of his career thus far. This continues his All-Star season from last year, where he posted a 1.08 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 66.2 innings, the best in the majors. He's certainly in the right position to take over closing duties for Mo. But what about Rafael Soriano?

Yes, Soriano has been "okay" as a Yankee so far. But he was "lights out" as a closer in Tampa Bay, which is why the Yankees acquired him in the first place. In 2010 with the Rays, he saved 45 of 48 games (which was the best for all closers that year), had a 1.73 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP and had only allowed 12 runs the entire season. Those are excellent numbers, fanatics. So if Soriano is given the opportunity to close, and shines again, maybe his less-than-stellar showing with the Yankees was just the mental effect of losing his duties as a closer. It would also ease some of Brian Cashman's tension, as he would finally be paying Soriano "closer money" for closing games.

Either way, this is the biggest disappointment that the Yankee organization and its fans have had to deal with in a very long time. Is it just me, or is this worse than losing a World Series? Maybe it feels that way because, we've been through our team losing the Series before but we've never dealt with losing Mo. And if the Yankees were to win it all this year, without Mo, wouldn't the win feel bittersweet? If we're honest with ourselves, we know that he's been the main force behind all of the last five WS wins; how would another one feel with him watching from home, unable to have had any part of it due to some freak injury? Not too gravy.

The Associated Press
I have to believe in my gut that at some point, Mo will be back. He would never leave the game or his fans this way. Maybe this will work in our favor; if he does sit out the remainder of the season, it might make him want to come back next year. It would certainly give him something to prove: that, at his age, he could come back from a season-ending injury and remain a force on the mound. It would also allow him to walk away from the game with a proper good-bye.

So, until everything is decided, I will be praying for Mo to make a speedy recovery. We get caught up in what he means to us as baseball fans, but a knee injury can be life-altering for anyone, and it's more important that he gets well for himself. He should be able to enjoy life in good physical health, even if it's away from the game. I'll also pray for all the Yankee fans out there; this is big, and I hope that you all keep cool and stay positive until the final word on this has been said.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper