Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Yankees Sign Hideki Okajima to Minor League Deal reported this afternoon that the Yankees have inked a minor league deal with former Red Sox reliever, Hideki Okajima.

Getty Images
The 36 year-old lefty spent most of last season playing for Boston's Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket where he posted a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances. He played only seven games in Boston, and pitched to a 4.32 ERA. Okajima's production took a slide starting in 2010, where in 56 games, he pitched to a 4.50 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 56 games; a major drop from his stellar 3.39 ERA, 53 strikeout, 68 game '09 season.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman is looking at Okajima becoming a lefty specialist for the team. In his 5 seasons with the Red Sox, he held lefty batters to a .218 average.

"He's somebody that definitely can get left-handers out," said Cashman. "We'll see what it looks like when we get to Spring Training."

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

A-Rod Gets Experimental Knee Treatment

This report was released by Bryan Hoch today on Alex Rodiguez travelled to Germany earlier this month to receive Orthokine treatment on his injured right knee and left shoulder. Apparently, the procedure was recommended to Alex by the Lakers' Kobe Bryant. Here is the article:

NEW YORK -- Following a tip from basketball star Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez traveled to Germany earlier this month for experimental treatments on his troublesome right knee and left shoulder, the Yankees confirmed on Wednesday.

With the club's approval, the Yankees third baseman was seen by Dr. Peter Wehling to undergo an Orthokine procedure during a Dec. 5-9 trip to Dusseldorf, general manager Brian Cashman said during a conference call with reporters.

Rodriguez's treatment was first reported by the New York Post. The three-time American League MVP heard about Wehling from Bryant, who has credited Orthokine with healing his right knee and left ankle to help him stay on the hardcourt for the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Kobe had maintained, according to Alex, that he felt significantly better because of it," Cashman said. "Alex was interested in pursuing it as long as the Yankees' medical staff was comfortable with it and vetted the process. He basically asked us to look into it."

Rodriguez, 36, reached out to the Yankees in November about the process. Team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad headed the research, checking Wehling's background as well as contacting the Lakers' medical staff to learn more about their experience with Bryant.
Major League Baseball was also consulted to avoid the appearance that Rodriguez might be receiving impermissible treatment.

Cashman said that the procedure is considered legal, is in compliance with the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and is currently being practiced in the United States. Wehling's reputation led the Yankees to send Rodriguez overseas.

"Ultimately, Kobe Bryant went with this individual in Germany," Cashman said. "The more our doctor researched on it, the more impressed he was with this guy's credentials and his reputation. Obviously, Alex is our biggest investment, so we agreed to allow him the extra miles to have it done in Germany."

Orthokine involves taking blood from the patient's arm vein and spinning it in a centrifuge to isolate protective proteins. That solution is then injected into the afflicted area once or twice a week; in this case, Rodriguez's knee and shoulder.

"A lot of athletes I've talked to really think this stuff works, but we really don't have a lot of scientific knowledge behind it of exactly what's happening," Dr. Jonathan Glashow, the co-chief of sports medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, told the Post.

It's a great way to reduce inflammation and therefore pain, and that's the essence of it. I think a lot of the athletes who have wear-and-tear on their knees benefit from this. You do it for awhile, and if it doesn't stay good you do it again in a few years."

Cashman characterized Rodriguez's shoulder ailment as minor and something that they decided to take care of while Rodriguez was in Germany to address the knee.

"I think this is more about maintaining health going forward, rather than having any problems at the present time," Cashman said.
Rodriguez is continuing offseason workouts and is expected to be ready for Spring Training. Hitting coach Kevin Long said that he plans to travel to Miami to begin working with Rodriguez next week.

"I think he's 100 percent right now, personally," Cashman said.

Rodriguez battled through what he called his most frustrating season in 2011, batting .276 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in 99 games.

"Hopefully going forward he'll be healthy for us again, because when he is healthy he's obviously one of the best players in the game," Cashman said. "Maybe this is an avenue that helps maintain his health.

"There's clearly a belief system that this type of treatment is beneficial, and if it is, it was time well spent. If it isn't, nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Rodriguez missed 38 games after being placed on the disabled list on July 14, retroactive to July 8, to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn right meniscus.

In Rodriguez's first game back from the DL on Aug. 21, he suffered a sprained left thumb while fielding a ground ball. He batted just .191 (13-for-68) after returning from the DL and was 2-for-18 (.111) in the AL Division Series loss to the Tigers.

"I've got a lot of work to do personally," Rodriguez said after the ALDS. "I've got to get my health back and I know exactly what I have to do to help this team get back to the top."

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Many Thanks and a Quick Shoutout

Happy Holidays, fanatics! As we approach the New Year, I just want to thank you all for keeping Bomber Boulevard on your radar; I continue to be surprised by the support you all have shown over this past year, and I hope it continues for many years to come.

In 2012, my goal is to get back to posting everyday as I did when I started Bomber Boulevard in 2010. This has been a very busy year for me, as I completed school and have worked on freelance writing projects outside of posting here. I am fully commited to keeping this blog current at the commencement of the holidays, and will do my absolute best to create content that will get us through what has been a very dry offseason for the Yankees. There's always a story to be told in Yankeeland, and I'll get it to you.

But before I continue my holiday vacation from posting, I want to take a moment to shout out to some of the other blogs that I have truly grown to love over the past year. These blogs, in my opinion, are some of the best on the web, and their writers are the truest of the true Yankee fans you'll ever find:

An A-Blog for A-Rod: What makes this blog so great is its sarcastic humor. "The Captain" creates blog posts that are funny, witty, snarky, but analytical and on point. He's not afraid to say whatever's on his mind, curse words and all. And, AB4AR employs the best use of photoshop you'll ever see. Check out this creation of "The Horse" aka Alex Rodriguez.

Bronx Baseball Daily: Truly one of the best. Rob Abruzzese and crew stick to a more traditonal journalistic style of writing here, employing more objectivity in their analysis, yet still enlightening readers on their own take of the goings-on in Yankeeland. You'll get everything here: recaps, analysis, player profiles including minor leaguers and an analysis of every rumor reported anywhere throughout the year.

The Yankee Analysts (TYA) - Just excellent coverage of games, players, moves...everything. And they provide some of the best in-depth stat analysis you'll see anywhere.

And last but not least...Bleeding Yankee Blue!

The Mighty Casey and his staff have provided for one of the best Yankee blogs that continues to grow in its readership by thousands each week. Like Bomber Boulevard, BYB was a novice blog created just a little over a year ago and has morphed into the blog that others should be trying to keep up with. This blog is full of content from posts to segments for BYB Fan of the Week and Bleeding Yankee Babe to exclusive interviews with former Yankee greats (check out the Paul O'Neill interview here). These guys are on top of their game and Casey and Mikey Blue are two of the coolest and nicest people you'll ever come across.

Thank you all again for everything you've done to make Bomber Boulevard a success. I wish you all the very best in 2012!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

(Update) Rangers Win the Yu Darvish Sweepstakes

I reported in my last post that the Yankees were said to have offered $20-$25 million to bid for Darvish; that was apparently incorrect. According to this tweet from ESPNNewYork's Andrew Marchand, the Yankees offered less than $20 million. Just wanted to get that info out to you all.

This is good to know, because I thought the offering I originally reported on was a bit too much.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Rangers Win Yu Darvish Sweepstakes

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With all the talk this week of the Toronto Blue Jays offering up a whopping $40 million to $50 million to bid for the rights to Yu Darvish, it was the Texas Rangers who utilized the stealth tactic to walk away the winner. According to a report by T.R. Sullivan who covers the Rangers for, the team posted a crazy $51.7 million fee to negotiate with Darvish's team in Japan. The Rangers have until 4 pm CT on January 18 to make a deal, otherwise, Darvish remains with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the Rangers keep their money.

So are the Yankees losers? My opinion is a loud, resounding NO!! Darvish is a star in his own right, but unproven in the MLB. Besides, the price tag set by Toronto was absolutely ridiculous; you had to figure that the Yankees were out of this at that point. the Yankees are said to have placed a bid in the range of $20-$25 million which is still a lot considering the $75 million, 5-year contract Darvish is said to be looking for.

It had been rumored weeks ago that the Rangers were seriously looking at Darvish and that this might have come down to them and the Yankees going head-to-head as they did last year for Cliff Lee. But Toronto quashed all that hype last week and was assumed the front-runner. With no other teams seeming to want to go near what the Blue Jays offered, it was easy for Texas to swoop in and win the bid.

So with Darvish off the Yankees Christmas list, what's next? There are still some good starting pitchers available; Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez rank high on my personal faves list, but only if the Yankees can acquire them without giving up too much. The Oakland A's want Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances for Gonzalez; Edwin Jackson's free agent price tag seems to be turning the Yankees away. Hiroki Kuroda is high on the Yankees' radar, but is seeking a 1-year deal similar to what he earned last year which was $12 million. That's a lot of money that the Yankees may not be willing to pay.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Saturday, December 17, 2011

And the Awards Go To...

...David Robertson, Robimson Cano and Derek Jeter!

Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Yes fanatics, the awesome threesome were winners of 2011 Greatness In Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) Awards, which aired on MLB Network yesterday. The GIBBYs are awarded in 19 categories and are calculated based on votes from fans who vote at, media, front office personnel and MLB alumni. Each group receives 25% of the vote.

Robertson took home the Set-Up Man of the Year award for his outstanding season as the bridge to Mariano Rivera. Robertson posted a 4-0 record this year with a 1.08 ERA.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Cano won the Wow Factor of the Year award after another all-star season and solidifying himself as the most feared hitter in the Yankees lineup; I dare say one of the best hitters in baseball, period. Robbie hit his way to a .533 slugging percentage with 28 home runs and 118 RBIs.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
And the Captain was recognized for his historic 3,000th hit day when he became the first Yankee to reach the milestone and the second player behind Wade Boggs to get it via the home run. Jeter also went 5-for-5 that day and drove in the winning run. He walked away with the Performance of the Year award.

Here is a list of some of the other categories awarded and where the Yankees ranked:

Curtis Granderson - Player of the Year (6th)
CC Sabathia - Pitcher of the Year (3rd)
Mariano Rivera - Closer of the Year (4th)
Ivan Nova - Rookie of the Year (4th)
Brett Gardner- Defensive Player of the Year (4th)
Russell Martin - Comeback Player of the Year (5th)
Joe Girardi - Manager of the Year (7th)
Brian Cashman - Executive of the Year (8th)

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Yu Darvish Sweepstakes

It's not something that happens often on Brian Cashman's watch, fanatics, but the Yankees have been completely outbid for a big-time "prospect" to a smaller market team.

While there have still been no reports of the actual price the Yankees laid out to get rights to Yu Darvish, what has been reported is that it was "moderate." We know that the Yankees are proceeding with caution in regards to signing talent these days, otherwise, the Angels would have had no chance of signing CJ Wilson to their roster. But the word "moderate" for the Yankees pretty much implies that perhaps rumors of the team's decrease in payroll availability are actually true, even if we don't want to believe it, right? Maybe.

So now, as per The New York Post, the Yankees may be on the verge of losing out on the Yu Darvish Sweerstakes to the Toronto Blue Jays.

According to the report, Toronta laid out somewhere between $40 million to $50 million for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters superstar, and closer to $50 million. Keep in mind, this is just the posting fee. Darvish has been rumored to be seeking somewhere around $75 million on a 5-year deal in an actual contract; you do the math.

Are the Yankees really losing out here? Some scouts contend that Darvish's production on the mound has waned recently. Others just flat out argue that he doesn't quite have the "stuff" for the price tag he's seeking. My thought is that by posting money termed "moderate," the Yankees were probably never really that keen on signing Darvish in the first place. Perhaps it's true that the horrific memories of Kei Igawa, that we all still suffer, have left such a pain in the Yankees' craw, that they are just unwilling to lay out that kind of cash again for another foreign import. When you think that Igawa's total price tag was at $40 million compared to Darvish's possible $125 million, it's not that difficult to understand why the Yankees have essentially passed on this one. That kind of money for a guy that has never pitched in a major league game is too risky anyway.

But there is still hope. The Nippon team has until next Tuesday to reject or accept any deal made for Darvish. Perhaps the Yankees' offering is enough to send the hurler to the Bronx and grace us all with another bonafide superstar from Japan. Stay tuned...

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Captain Is In Full Swing

Ha, ha, ha! I missed this one yesterday:

Jeter’s booty hauls

Autograph swag for one-night stands

By Emily Smith and Tara Palmeri of The New York Post

Not so classy, captain!

Yankees star Derek Jeter, one of New York’s most eligible hunks since his split with longtime gal pal Minka Kelly, is bedding a bevy of beauties in his Trump World Tower bachelor pad — and then coldly sending them home alone with gift baskets of autographed memorabilia.

The Yankees captain’s wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kiss-offs came to light when he mistakenly pulled the stunt twice on the same woman — forgetting she had been an earlier conquest, a pal told The Post.

“Derek has girls stay with him at his apartment in New York, and then he gets them a car to take them home the next day. Waiting in his car is a gift basket containing signed Jeter memorabilia, usually a signed baseball,” the friend dished.

“This summer, he ended up hooking up with a girl who he had hooked up with once before, but Jeter seemed to have forgotten about the first time and gave her the same identical parting gift, a gift basket with a signed Derek Jeter baseball,” the pal said.

“He basically gave her the same gift twice because he’d forgotten hooking up with her the first time!”

Jeter, who fiercely guards his privacy to protect his All-American image and multimillion-dollar marketability, split with the gorgeous actress Kelly this summer and has been playing the field ever since.

The veteran shortstop usually shies away from the limelight, preferring stay-at-home parties with a tight circle of trusted friends.

“He normally doesn’t go out with girls. He will have them come to his house. He’ll have cocktail parties. His friends invite girls they think he’ll be interested in. He’s very shy,” another friend explained.

“He’ll occasionally take girls to a restaurant. He has a couple of restaurants that he goes to that aren’t trendy,” the friend said.

“He goes to Nino’s in New York. He used to go to Mustang Grill on the Upper East Side. I know he’s been dating multiple girls. He likes a hole in the wall, or he likes a place that his friends own. He’s very cautious. He’ll only go out on off-nights,” the friend said.

Afterward, Jeter sneaks the beauties home for some heavy hitting.

“The girls go through the back-door entrance in the Trump World Tower to avoid the paparazzi,” the pal said. “He broke up with Minka in the summer and is definitely over her. He is playing the field.”

And while the parting gift may seem cold, signed Jeter memorabilia sell like hotcakes on the Internet, with an autographed baseball fetching hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Neither the Yankees nor Jeter’s reps immediately returned messages for comment.

Okay, fanatics, this isn't the nicest article we could read about our illustrious captain, but is this really news? It's been apparent for years that Jeter really enjoys being in the company of women; many women. Sure, his time with Minka Kelly made many believe that perhaps Jeter was growing up and choosing to settle down, and that would have been nice. But then again, the 3-year relationship was the longest he's ever been in, and before Kelly, Jeter kept company pretty often. Think about that.

 I guess after the split, it was just a matter of time before reports surfaced of Jeter's extracurricular activities. I have no problem with his excapades, actually. He's young, gorgeous, filthy rich and probably the most powerful man in New York City, really. He can do whatever he wants. And the alleged gift baskets are a nice touch. But that's our captain; forever the team player.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on  twitter: @ra_cooper

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Yankees Tender Contracts to Eligible Players

Today, the Yankees tendered contracts to all eligible players on their roster, including notables who were up for arbitration.

David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Russell Martin, Brett Gradner, Boone Logan and Phil Hughes, all arbitration eligible, were retained by the Yankees almost a week before next Monday's midnight deadline according to a report on No word yet on the amounts, which are most likely still being worked out.

Each of these players have been a huge part of the Yankees success in the past few years, and that is expected to continue for some time to come. There were rumors earlier this year of the Yankees considering trading Chamberlain in a package deal for a starting pitcher; that never happened as no starters were available for a trade, and Joba ended up missing most of the season following Tommy John surgery. Also, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon came up big for the Yankees in their starting rotation, so a trade really wasn't necessary. Word is that Joba has recovered from surgery expeditiously and could possibly be ready for opening day. If the surgery was a success, Joba should be back to hurling fastballs at 95 mph.

Of all the players mentioned here, I'm expecting nice raises for Robertson, Gardner and Martin. Robertson has solidified himself as the heir-apparent to Mariano Rivera, who may be retiring after this season. Gardy finally worked out his issues at the plate and came up big in key situations this season, although his batting average, RBIs and runs were slightly down from last year. Martin was a huge offensive threat in the beginning of the season and started to wind down around May, but his defense behind the plate was stellar; he ranked 6th amongst all catchers with a caught stealing average at 30%.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Meetings Recap

The 2011 Winter Meetings officially ended last Friday, and, it was a very quiet 4 days for the Yankees to say the least. The team made no really big moves during the meetings, same as last year, but without the scathing disappointment of losing out on the biggest free agent on the entire market like they did with "The Assassin" Cliff Lee. Sure, the big talk off the entire offseason thus far was that the Yankees would likely acquire former Ranger CJ Wilson, but I doubt that losing him to the Angels packs as much of a punch as losing Lee to the Phillies.

And how about those Angels? I'd say that they were the definitive winners of the free agent market signing sweepstakes this offseason, no question. They signed Albert Pujols!! Albert Pujols, fanatics, whose still considered the best player in baseball right now. Any team that got Albie would be the definitive winner no matter who else they signed.

Now of course, as a Yankee fan, I feel cause for concern; the Yankees have never had to face Pujols as often as they will beginning next year, with him playing in the National League with the Cardinal. The guy is a monster at the plate and a defensive threat at first base. But I'm actually looking forward to this because, I've been dreaming for several years now of an all-out slugfest of home runs going down between him and Alex Rodriguez, Let's be clear folks, A-Rod still has the goods to rake at the plate, and its always fun to see a match-up between the former king and his heir-apparent.

And aren't the circumstances surrounding the Pujols signing somewhat similar to that of A-Rod signing with the Yankees? The Angels were solid at first base before Kendry Morales' unfortunate celebration of a home run broke his ankle and seems to have possibly ended his career. The Angels never really recovered from the loss of Morales' defense, or his offense, but are sure to get it back with Albie on deck. And had it not been for Aaron Boone shredding his knee playing basketball during the 2003 offseason, the Yankees would have had no need to sign A-Rod in 2004. Not that any of this adds up to a hill of beans; the parallelity of their careers just struck me as the Pujols signing unfolded.

But anyhoo, the Yankees did make some "quiet" moves last week. They won the posting rights to shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima of the Japanese Pacific League's Seibu Lions. A star in Japan, Nakajima will have a significantly reduced role with the Yankees if they can sign him, most likely as a platoon infielder and/or relief for The Captain, which begs the question of what the Yankees plan to do with Eduardo Nunez. My belief is that with the strong 2011 season Nunez posted, he's possibly on the line as a trade chip for pitching, otherwise signing Nakajima would be a waste of the $2 million the Yankees paid to post him. Also, the Yankees signed two minor league pitchers via the Rule 5 draft, but neither are likely to see much action if any for the team next year. And, a minor league deal was finalized with DeWayne Wise, the hero of the Mark Buerhle perfect game. Again, I doubt if Wise sees much action in the Bronx next year, as he's a center fielder and Curtis Granderson needs no replacement. Freddy Garcia's new 1-year, $4 million deal was and signed, sealed and delivered on Friday; Greg Golson and Colin Curtis were both released to make room on the 40-man roster for the two new minor-league pitchers.

So it's been a very mundane offseason for the Yankees, but the deadline for Yu Darvish, the  phenom pitcher from Osaka, Japan to post for bidding rights is this coming Wednesday, so things may heat up. The Yankees are the front-runners to bid for Darvish's services, although the Texas Rangers are in the mix as well. Should be fun stuff, fanatics.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Thoughts on the Return of Freddy Garcia

I'm a happy camper. Freddy Garcia is returning to the Yankees, and I'm all for it. Following a season where he posted a 12-8 record with a 3.62 ERA, the Yankees made a good move by re-signing a vet who gave them much more than any of us in Yankeeland could have anticipated. It's a good show of faith by the organization, and I'm happy to see them reward a guy who was pretty much a non-factor in baseball following a stellar 2006 season with the the White Sox. My only question is, what does this mean for the Yankees' offseason plans?

According to numerous reports, the Yankees will pay Garcia about $5 million on a 1-year contract for 2012. That much of a payout almost guarantees that Garcia will have a spot on the 5- man rotation. So we can assume right now that the rotation will look like this:

CC Sabathia
Ivan Nova
AJ Burnett
Freddy Garcia

So who gets the 5th spot? The Yankees are certainly looking at the free agent market for pitching, and CJ Wilson still seems like their best bet. Mark Beurhle is also picking up some steam in Yankee circles with the memory of his 2009 season and perfect game performance still fresh in the mind of Yankee fans alike. I'm fine with either signing, but, wouldn't this mean forcing Phil Hughes back into the bullpen? Have the Yankees just conceded now that Hughes is far more potent as a reliever than a starter? It's a legitimate question fanatics, and one that I'm sure has Hughes working his butt off in "fat camp" to muzzle down.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Say" It Ain't So, Mo

Mariano Rivera, the ageless, eighth Wonder of the World, may be headed for some offseason surgery, fanatics.

But don't panic. It's not at all what you may be thinking.

According to an article by George A. King III of The New York Post yesterday, Mo may need surgery on his... vocal cords??

"At a charity event in New Rochelle, the Yankees closer revealed he could be headed toward surgery to scrape his vocal cords. Rivera will meet with a doctor on Monday to find out if the ailment will require an operation."

And according to Mo, this has been going on for a while.

It’s been a month," Mo said at the event. "Every time I talk it gets worse and worse."

Mo is probably one of the most soft-spoken "big" guys in any sport. For him to need surgery on his vocal cords is really ironic, considering he abuses his pitching arm far more, yet shows no signs of wear and tear. Well, as we get older, some part of our bodies will always need a tune-up. For Mo, I guess this is it, since the rest of him seems to be doing just fine. 

But in all seriousness, I hope that if he does require surgery on those cords, that he has the speediest of recoveries and gets to painlessly enjoy the rest of his offseason.


Congratulations to Justin Verlander for not only winning the Cy Young Award, but for also netting the American League MVP Award. I personally don't agree with him getting the MVP as a pitcher since he  pitches, what, every 5 days? Unlike, oh I don't know, perhaps the other MVP candidates that play everyday, barring injuries or a day off? Just my opinion, folks.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cano, Granderson Win Silver Slugger Awards

As I predicted in my last post, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano took home Silver Slugger Awards for their outstanding offense in 2011. This is Granderson's first award and Cano's third.

Also as predicted, Boston's Adrian Gonzalez was able to edge out Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for the Silver Slugger for first baseman in the American League. Although I thought Gonzalez had a chance, I still believe Cabrera should have won; his offensive numbers in the big categories (SLG percentage, HRs, RBIs and OPS) exceeded Gonzalez' by much. Truth is, Gonzalez was heralded by many of the sports writers since the very beginning of the season for his offense in his first go-round in Boston, and was able to "ride the wave" until the end.

So congrats to Grandy and Robbie. We fanatics are all very proud!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Silver Slugger Predictions

Tonight, MLB Network will announce the winners of the 2011 Silver Slugger Awards. The announcements are set to begin at 6pm ET.

If you're like me, you're probably looking forward to tonight's awards twice as much now after the shock of last night's Golden Glove Award announcements revealed that no Yankees would receive Golden Gloves this year. While I would have been absolutely shocked and amazed if Derek Jeter would have been able to get away with another award this year, I was really surprised that Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira didn't win; I'd really like for any baseball fan or analyst to show me any other first or second baseman in the American League that plays the position better than these two. I just don't see it.

But, some Yankees are almost certainly sure to win a Silver Slugger. The most obvious of the Yankees being Curtis Granderson, who is coming off of the greatest offensive performance of his career (thank God Jose Bautista plays in right and not center!). Cano may fare better tonight, as he once again hit over .300, had over 100 RBIs and slugged over .500. Boston's Dustin Pedroia fared slightly better in hits and average, but Cano's slugging and RBI numbers should really put him over the top. Teixeira would have had a great chance after hitting 39 homers with 111 RBIs, but Detroit's Miguel Cabrera blows him and pretty much every other AL first baseman out of the water with a .344 batting average, .586 slugging percentage and 1.033 OPS. Boston's Adrian Gonzalez could have a chance, as his numbers are only slightly lower than Cabrera's and he has 16 more hits.

As for the rest of the Yankees lineup, no chance. It's kind of disappointing though; at the beginning of the season, it would have seemed that Alex Rodriguez would have been on his way to his 11th Silver Slugger Award, perhaps even his 4th MVP Award. But injuries took his bat away. Let's hope that Alex gets himself healthy this offseason, and returns to form next year.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yanks Retain CC Through 2016

 Before CC Sabathia could even catch a whiff of the free agent market, he and the Yankees agreed on a contract extension last night that guarantees he will remain in pinstripes through 2016 and makes him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history. Bravo!

Since arriving in the Bronx three years ago, Sabathia has been clear on his fondness of the city of New York and the comfort of which the team and players have bestowed upon him and his family. He's said in the past that his intentions were to retire a Yankee, and yesterday evening, he made good on that intention. None of us fanatics would have blamed him for opting out of his already lucrative contract, in fact, I'm not sure if I know anyone who didn't believe that he would do so. We were all prepared for it, but I believe we all knew that the Yankees would do whatever it took to keep in the fold.

But of course, not all contracts are completely set up in the best interest of the player, and CC's is no exception. Here are the terms via Joel Sherman last night on twitter:

  • CC gets a guaranteed $30 million pay raise (going from the 4yrs, $92 million left on his original contract to 5 yrs, $122 million).

  • The contract includes a vesting option for 2017; the option is worth $25 million.

  • The option year will only vest if CC remains healthy through the end of 2016. If he suffers a left shoulder injury, spends 45 days on the disabled list, makes at least 6 relief appearances due to shoulder issues or is disabled at the end of the 2016 season, he will only receive a $5million buyout.

All in all, CC got a fair contract and the Yankees were able to protect themselves via the terms of the vesting option. CC will have to do his part to stay healthy, and as he says in the above video, losing weight is a priority.

It would have been a little scary to watch CC go into free agency, but I was kind of looking forward to seeing what other teams would have been willing to pay the big guy for his services.

So, now that the Brian Cashman and Sabathia deals have been locked up, the Yankees can spend the remainder of their offseason trying to secure a viable starting pitcher. Did I mention that the Yankees exercised their 2012 options on Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano? No? Well shame on me. Yes, both players will be back in pinstripes next year. Swish I'm sure breathed a sigh of relief, although, with him remaining on the payroll, the Yankees are now in a position to trade him; Cano...probably not too thrilled that his hopeful request for a new contract was never seriously entertained. I would think he had to expect that though, really.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter:@ra_cooper

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cashman Signs 3-Year Deal With Yankees

No real surprise here. I doubt if anyone thought that there was even a remote chance that the Yankees wouldn't re-sign Brian Cashman. He's been as good a GM as they come in baseball (See: 4 championships, 13 team postseason appearances and the signings of Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Roger Clemens, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and the re-signing of Andy Pettitte). And these are just to name a few. Sure, we could list some of the players who turned out to be absolute duds, but we'll keep it on the bright side in this post. With the offseason officially underway, it will be interesting to see what "Cash" has up his sleeves.

Now, on to a new deal for Sabathia!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter:@ra_cooper

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bad Timing: Boras Wants New Contract for Robinson Cano

I really love Robinson Cano. Really. This is a guy who has done nothing over the last few seasons except give the Yankees everything that they wanted and needed from him. Here's a dude that goes out on the field and plays at the highest level; off the field: no drama, no issues.You wouldn't be able to blame the guy if he were to develop somewhat of a "me now" attitude though, as he has clearly become the best player on the Yankees entire roster. But, he's never given me, and probably no other fanatic, any reason to believe that he would do nothing more than continue to go about his business the right way.

But, he hired Scott Boras as his agent. Big mistake.

According to this article in The New York Post, Boras is asking the Yankees to drop the two club options on Cano's existing contract and negotiate on a new one.

"I called [Brian Cashman] to ask about dropping the options," Boras told the Post. "He hasn't returned the call."

The Yankees have options on Cano that will pay him $14 million in 2012 and $15 million in 2013. For a player of Cano's caliber, it makes sense that the team would exercise both options; less than $30 million over two years for the best hitter on the Yankees, not to mention the best second baseman in baseball, is a gimme.

Let's break down the numbers. In 159 games this season, Cano hit .302 with 28 homers, 118 RBIs and had an OPS of .882. Last year, he finished the season with a .319 AVG, 29 homers, 109 RBIs and an OPS of .914. He was 1st for the Yankees in 2011 in hits with 188, second to Curtis Granderson in runs and slugging percentage with 104 and .533, respectively, and was promoted to hitting 3rd in the lineup during the postseason. Clearly Cano has a case here, as it generally goes that with more production comes more money, and the Yankees would have a hard time arguing that he is undeserving of a bigger paycheck.

But what bothers me here, is the timing. This news from the Cano/Boras camp is not as lethal a blow of disrespect as the opt-out announcement of Alex Rodriguez during the 2007 World Series, but it is reminiscent. Why come with this now, when it's clear that the Yankees need to be focusing all of their attention and ample resources on securing CC Sabathia if the big guy decides to opt out of his contract, and all signs say he will? Would it have been too much to ask to allow the Yankees to deal with that issue and then bring on the "mo' money" parade? No disrespect to Cano at all, but Sabathia is worth way more in Yankee gold than Cano is. With no outstanding starting pitchers on the market that the Yankees can buy, bringing back one of the best in the league should be priority no. 1. And let's not forget that Cashman still has to secure another viable starter for the rotation. The Yankees shouldn't  have to deal with talk of a contract extension for any other player on the team this offseason. To say that Scott Boras is probably the most hated agent in Yankeeland, is an understatement.

This is going to be something really interesting to watch unfold. It is the Yankees' "policy" to not offer contract extensions to their players. But again, Cano is the Yankees' franchise player right now; to not offer him an extension will be perceived by many, and possibly Cano, as the team not recognizing his value. The bar on recognition was set with A-Rod's $275 million, 10-year contract. Yankee stars have been hoping for that same acknowledgment ever since (See Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada). If the team won't pay him now, and Cano still has several years in his prime ahead of him, what do you think this will mean when he becomes a free agent in 2013? It could mean a super-big payday for Cano, as other teams are sure to clamor for his services, and a big headache for Cashman.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Return and Moves for the 2012 Season

Fanatics!! Look who decided to come out of hiding. Yes, folks, I'm back. I have figured out a way to keep up with my busy life and continue to bring you guys my take on everything Yankees. The secret? Force myself to write at least every week no matter how tired I am, even if it's just a paragraph. I feel as though I've been completely disconnected from you all, and I can't have that. You guys are my extended family, and so, here I am, ready to talk Yankees.

On the ALDS - I won't go into great detail on this; the last thing I want to do is re-hash horrible memories of a loss that hurt like crazy. All that I will say is that the offense was abysmal and Joe Girardi's management was again, questionable.

It's time for a shake-up, people!

So where should it begin? Let's talk about this lineup. If I'm Brian Cashman, my first move is to put Nick Swisher on the trading block. It hurts me to say because I love Swish, but the downfall in his production this year, combined with another failed postseason, means it's time to go. The Yankees have a $10 million option on him for 2012, and if they decide to pick it up, it should only be for the sake of trading him. I give Swish much credit for the adjustments he made at the plate mid-season, which obviously helped him end the season batting .260, and for his home run production. But it's no longer enough. At this point, Carlos Beltran sounds like a viable option if he can stay healthy. If not Beltran, why not Andruw Jones? Jones is still a great outfielder and I believe he will produce more if he can play everyday.

Next up is Derek Jeter. For those of you who believe that to say anything adverse about Jeter is sacrilege, please skip ahead to the next paragraph. It is time to move The Captain to the end of the lineup. The days of Jeter being the fastest, most productive hitter and base stealing threat are long gone. Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson have clearly taken over that role, and I say, they should fill the 1-2 spots, respectively. I'd place Jeter in the 9-hole to not only tighten the back-end of the lineup, but also to give him opportunities to hit as the second lead-off man. It would be quite the scene to watch eight players' names be called before Jeter's, but Girardi must not continue to allow the reality of Jeter's present to be superseded by the legacy of his past.

And it's time for a switch-up in the middle of the lineup. I say, have Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira hit in the 3-4-5 spots, respectively. Sure, the Yankees had nothing to show for this set-up in the playoffs, but over a season, I think this will work well. Robbie is clearly the best hitter on the team and should have the 3-spot. If Tex bats behind A-Rod, he'll see better pitches which will hopefully translate into more hits and a better batting average. And, regardless of what any of you fanatics may think, if A-Rod comes back as healthy as he was during Spring Training and the beginning of the season, he will still be their best clean-up man. In A-Rod I still trust!

Russell Martin will no doubt be back as the everyday catcher, but my vote for his back-up is Francisco Cervelli. If the Baseball Gods would allow this kid to get through a full season of baseball without injury, I see no reason why he can't back-up Martin. He's a decent hitter, he's fearless and he calls a great game; particularly when the ace of the staff is the mound.

Which brings me to all the hullabaloo over CC Sabathia. If any of you believe that he will not be back with the Yankees next year, you also believe that the Yankees will pick up David Ortiz. CC will opt-out of his contract, as he has every right to, but it will only be to force the Yankees to pay him more money. He's become accustomed to life in New York and his family loves it here. But besides that, he knows that the Yankees can't afford to let him walk; he's going to get every bit of money he asks for, even if it means Cashman giving up his own salary to do so.

Speaking of Cashman, he's expected to sign a new contract with the team any day now. Sorry to you fanatics that hate him, and too bad to the Red Sox fans who secretly pray that he will become the new GM in Beantown. It ain't gonna happen. With a questionable rotation to sort out last offseason, Cashman put on his best poker face with the signings of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia and came out a winner; he also gambled and won by bringing in Jones and Eric Chavez. He's not going anywhere.

But Colon and Garcia will most likely not be back in 2012, so again, the Yankees head into another offseason in desperate need of viable starting pitching. Texas' CJ Wilson seems to be on the list of everyone's favorites; he's pitched .500 over the last 2 seasons with a 31-15 record and an ERA just over 3.00. He also ranked in the top 10 lowest ERAs this season with a 2.94. The cardinals' Edwin Jackson has also been mentioned as an option for the Yankees. Yu Darvish, the phenom from Japan, is also picking up steam around the blogosphere as a possible candidate, but I doubt if the Yankees are open to signing another Asian pitcher; it hasn't worked out very well for them so far. I'm guessing all roads will probably lead to Wilson and the resurgence of talk about "King" Felix Hernandez. I'm resigned to giving up on that dream, however; he's not leaving Seattle.

So as the offseason gets underway and the Hot Stove heats up, I'm gearing up for an exciting few months of ridiculous rumors, speculation and the chase for Sabathia. Should be a really good time, fanatics.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Loss That Almost Wasn't

What a loss for the Yankees last night. Could you believe that game, fanatics? Talk about a nail-biter. By the time the 6th inning was over, I had convinced myself that a loss would be okay, as it would still keep us in first place in the AL East. But then the boys gave me reason to believe that last night would have been a good night for pie. It was too good to be true.

A. Causi / NY Post
So let's examine the loss. First, Bartolo Colon pitched another not-so-great game. I wouldn't call it a bad game, because he actually pitched pretty well; the fastball was on and he threw a decent slider, although he got tagged twice for homers on that pitch. He did manage to strike out five batters without any walks, but he also gave up five runs in his 6.1 innings (two of which had been left on base until Boone Logan gave up a costly double in relief in the 7th inning).

Watching Colon's past few starts, I'm beginning to wonder if my original fear is beginning to become a reality. As most of you already know, I was not a fan of the Yankees signing Colon during the offseason, and what's happening now is the reason why. Longevity. He is without a doubt a great pitcher, and I have completely conceded to his wizardry on the mound, but, having gone such a long time not pitching in the majors before this season, how long can he stay as fresh as he had been in the first half? Last night's game marked the most innings he's pitched in a season since his Cy Young year in 2005. That was six years ago, people!! It's no wonder that he is slowly winding down. We could point to the difference in his appearances after the calf strain and use the "he hasn't been the same since his injury" excuse, but I suspect something more obvious; Colon is tired. It's time to go back to a 5-man rotation for now, and give the big guy some more rest.

And let's face it, the offense had nothing clicking last night for the first seven innings. Oakland's RHP Brandon McCarthy, completely shut the lineup down with the exception of The Captain.

But that 8th inning, boy was that an exciting inning. The Captain gets his 3rd hit of the night. Curtis Granderson walks on a full count. Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano fly out and line out, respectively, but Nick Swisher slugs a first-pitch, 3-run homer to center. It's a 6-3 game now.

Then in the 9th, Jorge Posada homers and it's a 6-4 game. Russell Martin doubles. Brett Gardner reaches on an error. At this point, everything in me is calling for pie. Then something crazy happened.

Getty Images
Derek Jeter bunted over Martin and Gardner, putting them on 2nd and 3rd. He bunted! Normally I would have no problem with this, especially because there was no one out. But Jeter was 3-for-3 on the night; why bunt now? I can't understand at all why Joe Girardi would opt to give up an out there when, as hot as The Captain has been lately, probably could have driven in at least Martin who was in scoring position. Was I the only one who felt that the inning's momentum just died on that bunt? That out changed the whole dynamic of the Yankees chances to even tie the game, and it's another example of Girardi's tendency to over-manage in big-game situations. 

But it wasn't over yet. Again, Grandy walked on a full count, loading the bases. Tex would pop-out. Cano would walk and score Martin. With the game then at 5-6 with two outs, the hero of the 8th inning, Swisher, would step into the box and drill another deep drive to center. But that time it wouldn't carry, and Coco Crisp would secure the win for the A's. Oh, how I so wanted pie!

Speaking of Tex, what's with all the pop-ups? It just needs to stop along with his poor hitting. I said a few days ago that I might be able to overlook the lack of hitting because he's on target with his power. But last night, going 0-for-5 and leaving men on base in four of his five at-bats, was beyond disappointing to say the least, and that final pop-up magnified the poor judgment of the Jeter bunt by a thousand.

Tonight, CC Sabathia goes for his 18th win against Oakland's Trevor Cahill. CC has been shaky himself as of late; hopefully he'll be back to business as usual.


Corey Sipkin / Daily News
Alex Rodriguez is expected to be back in tonight's lineup. X-rays on the jammed thumb that kept him out of last night's game, came up negative. He commented that putting on a glove gave him the most pain, so I would expect him to be the DH if he does play tonight.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Friday, August 19, 2011

They Love Us in Minnesota

Let's gloat a little, fanatics. The Yankees OWN the Minnesota Twins. It's just a fact. I normally watch Yankee games feeling nothing but antipathy for the opposing team, and for me, the bigger the Yankee beat-down, the happier I feel. But when the Yankees play the Twins I actually feel bad, really. Of course I want my boys to win, but dang, sometimes I say to myself, "Will the Twins ever catch a break?" And will they? It just seems like they have no answer for the Yankees no matter who's on the mound or in the lineup; it's kind of sad, actually. Thank God I'm not a Twins fan.

Take last night's game. The Yankees won, 8-4. Another game where the home run dominance that the Yankees have shown all season was in the forefront. Mark Teixeira started the home run parade with a 2-run shot to left in the 3rd inning, scoring Curtis Granderson and putting the boys up 3-2. Speaking of Teixeira, I'm very disappointed in his .249 batting average, but if he continues to hit the long stroke with men on base, I'm more than willing to overlook it. Next up was Nick Swisher, who crushed another 2-run shot to left, scoring Tex and putting the Yankees up 5-2. Andruw Jones immediately followed with a solo blast to the 3rd level of the left field porch on a 3-1 count; Yankees go up, 6-2. I have to say that it's amazing how much you ignore great players that you're not privileged to see on a regular basis. I've never cared much about anything that I've ever heard about Jones throughout his career as far as his power goes, but I see now what baseball fans have been talking about; this guy can turn on a fastball like nobody's business. Not just the power behind it, but the speed on his swing is incredible. The blast was as Paul O'Neill would say, an absolute bomb!

Beside the homers, Yankees got hits from guys that have been coming up big in big situations. The Tex 2-run homer was made possible on a triple from Granderson. Brett Gardner hit a sac-fly in the 2nd inning that scored Eduardo Nunez, who has certainly earned the right to remain with the team for the rest of the season and the playoffs. In the 9th, a single from Francisco Cervelli scored Jones and Nunez, and pretty much put the game too far ahead for the Twins.

You would think that all this would have been enough to showcase the Yankees dominance over the Twins. But before a run was ever scored, the Baseball Gods, who can be downright cruel when they want to be, played the nastiest joke on Minnesota that could be played. CC Sabathia, who was beyond shaky in the first few innings of last night's game, gave up what was originally deemed a 2-run shot to Justin Morneau in the 1st inning, by the 1st place umpire. Unfortunately for Morneau, Joe Girardi, still reeling from the costly home run call the night before, had a better view of the shot and argued it a foul ball. The umpires reviewed the call and reversed it. Wow!! At that moment all I could do was shake my head, I mean, if this were any other team, reversing that call would have had me jumping out of  my seat. But I genuinely felt sorry for them. They have the absolute worst luck against the Yankees than any team I've ever seen. Really.

And it's becoming evident now how frustrating the bad luck is becoming. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, was ejected from last night's game after emphatically arguing the reversed call. It made no sense for him to argue the way he did; the umpires reviewed it. We can go back to Wednesday's game against the Royals and say that the umpires blew a call there that they reviewed, but this situation was completely different. Wednesday's call was to determine a homer or a double; last night was to determine a homer or a foul ball. It's highly unlikely that umpires will miss a foul ball call on a replay. But getting back to my point, Gardenhire's frustration, I believe, was less about the call, and more about the call coming against the Yankees. He knows that any opportunity given to the Bombers to take a game, they will, and they did last night. I really feel for Gardenhire.

Anyhoo, Alex Rodriguez was back with the team last night. He's not expected to be activated until either Saturday or next Tuesday, but it was a plus to just have him present in the dugout, eating quenepas. If you're curious about those "Spanish limes" that A-Rod tosses back, you can read up on them, here. I love them; got a batch in my fridge right now.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nova Struggles, But Keeps Win Streak Intact

Getty Images
Last night's start in Kansas City was not what we've seen lately from Ivan Nova. The rookie phenom has been as dominate a pitcher as any in the Yankees rotation for the past few months, well, with the exception of CC Sabathia. He's not quite there, yet. But he had been spectacular in his last few starts until last night when he struggled early on. Yet, he kept the game close enough for his offense to secure his 12th win.

Nova's performance was what I would call "AJ-esque." In the first inning, he struck out his first batter, induced a groundout to Melky Cabrera, who bats second in the Royals lineup, then gave up two singles and a double, putting the Royals up 2-0. How many times have we seen AJ Burnett get two outs with ease, only to implode and give up runs afterward? The Yankees would back up Nova in the 3rd inning, first on a single from Robinson Cano that scored Curtis Granderson who walked on an HBP. Later, a single from Russell Martin would score Cano and Mark Teixeira, who had also been walked by Royals rookie Danny Duffy. The Bombers were up 3-2.

But in the bottom of the 3rd, Nova would give up two more runs on a groundout which scored Alcides Escobar, who hit for a triple on his first at-bat, and then a home run by Cabrera. The Royals would go up 4-2. How many times have we seen Burnett give up a lead immediately following runs scored by the Yankees? Do you get the "AJ-esque" reference now?

Thankfully, the Yankees followed the 3rd with a 5-run outburst in the 4th inning; the big hit coming on a 3-run homer from none other than Cano, who scored Granderson and Teixeira. Before the homer, Derek Jeter scored Brett Gardner with a double to left and Teixeira scored The Captain with a single to right. The Yankees went up 8-3, and it was all Nova would need for the win, as the final score was 9-7. The win marked his 8th straight since early June, and it tied him with Andy Pettitte and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez for the most wins (12) by a rookie in the last 30 years.

Nova was lucky to have kept the Royals as close as he did. The majority of his pitches were fastballs, but too many of them were directly over the plate and high in the zone. In the 1st inning, he seemed determined to rely on his slider, which has been a successful pitch for him during his win streak, but the Royals were all over it so he wisely vacated it. Eventually, his control on the FB clicked, and he was able to pitch through for 5 solid innings.

''A win is a win, no matter the way you get it,'' Nova told the media afterward. Joe Girardi also seemed less concerned about the way Nova won, and more content with the win.

''We won the game. Bottom line is we won the game. He's pitched really well. Great pitchers get hit. It's going to happen.''

I was hoping that Nova would have a more representative outing than he had. The last time he pitched against the Royals in May, they tagged him for 8 runs on 10 hits, including 2 homers. He would only go 3 innings in that outing, making it his worst thus far for the season. Maybe the Royals will be one of those teams that just have his number. The good news is, this is the final series the two teams will meet this season. This is the first year that Nova has faced them, so it will be interesting to see how he fares against them in the future.

Robert Sabo/News
On a more enthusiastic note, Alex Rodriguez continues to move closer toward a return for the next series in Minnesota. In his first game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, A-Rod went 1-for-3 with a single in a 2-0 loss to the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. A-Rod played 6 innings at 3rd base; a great sign that the knee is doing well. Check out A-Rod's start and post-game press conference, here.

In tomorrow night's finale, Bartolo Colon will get the start against Bruce Chen. Chen is coming off of a 5-1 win against the White Sox last Friday, where he went 6 innings and allowed only one hit and 4 SOs. The last time Chen faced the Yankees was August 12, 2010, a 3-4 loss to Sabathia.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hip, Hip, Jorge!

It's been a rough year for Jorge Posada.

A valued member of the "Core Four," he has taken a lot of hits this year, beginning in the offseason, when GM Brian Cashman told him that he would no longer be the everyday catcher for the Yankees, but would instead be their designated hitter. It was a move that most of us saw coming, taking into account Jorge's age and the injuries that have plagued him for the past few seasons, coupled with the rising star of prospect Jesus Romero and the known defense of newcomer Russell Martin. Being the DH made sense, as Jorge has always been productive as a hitter, but his efforts in April and May were, for lack of a better word, lackluster, as he batted .132 and .219, respectively.

And who could forget "Jorge-Gate;" my term for the craziness that surrounded Jorge's request for a "day off" just an hour before a start on May 14, after learning of his demotion in the lineup during a series against the Red Sox at the stadium. It was an ugly turn of events that left many believing Jorge's run with the Yankees may come to an end this year.

But, Jorge managed to turn things around in June. He batted .382, getting 26 hits in 22 games. It seemed as though he was on his way back to being the hitter he once was, and on the verge of silencing the critics who deemed him "washed up." But it wouldn't last very long, as July saw his production dwindling again. He fared better overall than he had earlier in the season, but in 17 games following the All-Star break, Jorge went homer-less and managed only two RBIs. The lack of hitting was enough to force Joe Girardi to make a difficult, but necessary decision.

And so, it was announced last Sunday, that Jorge would no longer be the everyday DH, but would instead be a bench player. The honor of DH would go to Eric Chavez, who could be platooned to third base on days when starters like Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira need a day off from playing in the field.

"[Girardi] said he's going to put the best lineup on the field," Jorge said. "And he doesn't know when I'm going to DH again, so right now I'm sitting the bench."

The one thing that most of us had to know, was that there was no way Jorge would repeat the mistake he made on May 14 by throwing another "temper tantrum." The criticism he received by haters and fans alike was scathing, and I believe he learned all too fast how quickly even an icon can turn into Public Enemy No. 1. What Jorge needed to do was just be ready to play whenever called upon, and give Girardi a reason to rethink his position. He did that yesterday.

Coming up to the plate in his first at-bat yesterday afternoon against the Rays, Jorge received a standing ovation at the stadium from sympathetic fans who wanted to show him that they appreciated all he's done for the Yankees in his career. Jorge responded with a two-RBI single to right field. He answered a second round of cheers in the fourth inning, with a single to center. For an encore in the fifth, following a solo shot by Curtis Granderson and a double and two walks by Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez, respectively, Jorge smacked a grand slam homer to the right field porch; the tenth of his career. It put the Yankees ahead 7-0 and they would go on to win 9-2. This was an incredible day for a proud man who has to have been in doubt of his worth at this point in his career.

After the big hit, Jorge would wave to the crowd for a rousing curtain call; a definite act of vindication.

"The fans are a big reason that I love playing the game. They deserve a lot of credit,"Jorge said.

It's been rumored that the relationship between Jorge and Girardi has been sketchy since Jorge relieved Girardi of his everyday catching duties back in the late 90's. If there is dissension between the two, you wouldn't know it listening to Girardi's comments after the game.

"[Jorge] is a beloved Yankee and we all love him," Girardi said. "At times it's been a struggle for him but he's never stopped working. For that, I'm extremely proud of him."

As are we. I'll be the first to tell you fanatics, that I was in total agreement with Girardi for benching Jorge, and I still am. It's never easy benching a legend, especially when that legend plays for the Yankees, but what's best for the team must always come first, and I believe Girardi made the right call. I also believe that Jorge, although obviously disappointed, knew in his heart that the demotion was deserved. But today, he gave me, Girardi, and every other person in agreement with his benching, a reason to maybe think twice before relegating him to the dugout. The legend appears to have a lot of game left in him. With a month and a half left to the season, a continuation of today's performance down the stretch, could easily secure Jorge a spot on the postseason roster. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.


Phil Hughes continues to make a bid for a permanent spot in the rotation. He pitched 6 solid innings, striking out six batters, and only allowing two runs on four hits in yesterday's win. The fastball was definitely working for Hughes. It's likely that he may be designated to the bullpen, as Ivan Nova has clearly earned his way back in to the rotation, but Hughes certainly made that an even tougher decision for Girardi to make with today's performance.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back to Business

It's been a while fanatics. To say that I have been busy would be putting it mildly. So busy in fact, that I've missed numerous games this season. Sacrilege! Yet, while it pains me deeply to admit that, it has all been for a worthy cause: my pursuit of a journalism career in sports. I've been continuing toward my degree and doing some freelance writing for a few online outlets. It's kept me away, but, I'm back to Bomber Boulevard, and have no plans on vacating my post anytime soon.

But enough with the personal stuff, let's talk Yankees. It's been somewhat of an eerie week in Yankeeland, and while I'm not the least bit frazzled or deeply concerned about what's transpired, I would be lying if I said that I hadn't, like I'm sure many of you had, raised my eyebrows at the pitching performances of both Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia. Again, I'm not deeply concerned, but to watch these two--two of the very best pitchers in all of baseball--give up home runs the way that they have in their last few games, well, let's just say I'm a tad bit thrown.

In last night's 5-1 loss to the Rays, CC gave up five homers, three of which came in the third inning.The good news here, was that all of the home runs were solo shots (dare we imagine what the final score would have been had men been on base?). The bad news, is that CC gave up five home runs. How many times have you seen that happen, fanatics? Never. The five homers were a career-high for CC, and marked his worst outing at the stadium this season.

"They put good swings on balls right down the middle," CC said after the game. "It's baseball. It's a humbling sport."

Humbling for sure. Although this was the second time in his career that CC's given up three homers in an inning, it was his first time doing it in a Yankees uniform. Add to that, going into last night's game, he had only allowed eight homers thus far this season. And, consider the homers to Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman. Two lefties. CC had only given up two homers to lefties all season.

Cause for concern there? Not for Damon.

"I wouldn't make a big deal out of CC's start," Damon noted. "He's still the horse you want out there, and he's probably the Cy Young frontrunner right now, that's how good he is -- especially in the second half."

What I saw last night was a lack of location on CC's fastball. He's one of the best at "painting the corners" with the FB, but he let them fly directly across the plate last night, and Rays' batters took advantage. CC also had trouble locating his changeup, and was unable to get it over for strikes. He still had a representative night, going eight innings with seven strikeouts and no walks, and the ERA remains under 3.00 at 2.93.

And on the six-inning, 7-run debacle in Boston last Saturday? Let's just chalk that up to a loss that we're more than happy to forget.

And now to Mo. To say that the week he's having is any less than shocking would be an absolute lie. His ERA now stands at a whopping 2.40 for goodness sake. Whopping, you say? Yes! We are talking about Mariano Rivera.

He has given up a home run in his last three relief appearances, two of which resulted in blown saves. Unbelievable! The three homers came in games against the Red Sox and Angels, the Yankees biggest rivals, and the two teams that they will probably be in the most contention with for a playoff spot. Once again, Marco Scutaro, who would seem the most unlikeliest hitter to ever tag Mariano with a big-game hit, got him again with an RBI double that tied the score in the ninth of Sunday's game at Fenway. Remember Scutaro's walk-off, three-run homer against Mo in Oakland in 2007? And speaking of the Angels, they continue to be a pest for Mo; his 3.60 ERA against them, is the highest of any other opponent.

Could there possibly be any good news to this? Of course there is. We've seen this before, fanatics. Mo went through a similar stretch of bad game performances last year, and came out of it. The three homers, are the only homers he's given up this season. In 2009,the year they won it all, he'd given up seven. But the best news of all is, he's still Mariano Rivera. For those of you who have come ever so close to hitting the panic button, I would say, relax, breathe and remember who our closer is. He's never been perfect, yet he remains the greatest, ever. The anxiety we fanatics may have felt during his last three appearances, don't hold a candle to the anxiety that still rises in any opposing dugout.

And let's not wallow in our sorrows, people. There has been some good news to report. Alex Rodriguez began in-game rehabilitation yesterday, playing as the DH with the Tampa Yankees against the Blue Jays minor-league affiliate team in Dunedin, FL. And of course, he gave local fans something to remember: a solo shot over the left-center field wall in his first at-bat. He would go 2 for 3 on the night.

"Just to be able to drive the ball out of the park whether it's [Class] A, Double-A, Triple-A," A-Rod said. "The fact that I could drive the ball, hopefully it's a sign of good things to come,"

The surgery on the torn meniscus in his right knee seems to have been a success. Not only will A-Rod play in another start today, he'll be playing the field as well.

"The health of the knee is good now and it's all about ramping it up now."

Originally, Alex was assumed to be heading back with the Yankees this coming Monday against the Royals. Now it seems he'll be back on Thursday when the Yankees play the Twins in Minnesota. Either way, fanatics have to be rejoicing at his return. This may be his first season since 1997 where he won't get to the 30-hr, 100 RBI threshold, but then again, we've seen magic from Alex at times when he's been counted out. He stands at 13 homers and 52 RBIs right now; seventeen homers and 48 RBIs are certainly not an impossible achievement for the 3-time MVP to reach with a month and a half left to play.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper