Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A-Rod Talks Surgery, Teammates, Jorge and Bobby V. Comments

Getty Images
This afternoon, Alex Rodriguez phoned into The Michael Kay Show on 1050 ESPN Radio, and answered questions from Kay on several topics. If you missed it, here are some interesting excerpts from the interview:

On the number of games he should play this season:

"It doesn't really matter what I say here in February or March. It doesn't really make a lot of sense for me to throw out any type of number. I've worked extremely hard [and] I'm preparing myself to go out there and put up a big number as far as games played and be very productive and help this team win."

On making adjustments due to his age:

"I think for me, I'm not lowering my expectations. You know...again, I've worked extremely hard and I think I'm in great shape and ready to go for a great season. I'm not lowering my expectations, that's for sure. The one thing, you wanna go in and put up the big numbers with games played and, you know, let the chips fall where they may."

On the orthokine treatment:

"I feel good. I talked to Kobe [Bryant] [and] he raved about the procedure. You know, I respect Kobe a lot and [when] someone of his stature endorses something like this that can be beneficial to me physically, I felt it was worth taking a look at it. I'm very happy with the outcome so far"

On Bobby Valentine's comments about his "fight" with Jason Varitek:

"I didn't actually read the whole thing. You know...I think it's important to know that the reason why everyone cares so much about this rivalry is because for a long time, both teams have contended for a championship. If both teams were losing games, no one would really care. It's because they have great players, great management and that's why they care. It's not for anything anybody says off the field."

On Varitek not taking his mask off:

"I don't remember that {laughing}."

On Michael Pineda:

"Electric stuff. I remember talking to some of the guys and we just looked at each other and said, 'Wow!' You know, this kid has all the potential in the world. When Cashman makes a move like makes you feel like a little kid again; it reminds you of why it feels great to be a New York Yankee and play for this great organization. I remember calling CC [Sabathia] and [Mark Teixeira] and half a dozen of my teamamtes, and celebrating getting such a great arm."

On Raul Ibanez:

"Raul and I were 1994 and I was in Wisconsin in A-ball. I hit third and he hit fourth and, you know, Raul is one of the greatest...classiest human beings you've ever met right there in the line of Mariano Rivera. This guy is...unbelievable. He gets to the stadium at 6:30 in the morning and I think I left [there] an hour ago, and he was still there. And he looked in the mirror and he said, 'Alex, can you believe I'm wearing this uniform? It's surreal, I still can't believe it.' Here's a guy that's played north of twelve years and feels like a rookie."

On AJ Burnett:

"Well, I respect AJ. [He's] a good friend, and I mainly want to thank him for helping us win a championship in 2009. He is a great competitor, he has great stuff and not only me, but all his teammmates...we wish him the best."

On the absence of Jorge Posada:

"You know, what Jorgie brought to this team was very unique. Besides being one of the greatest switch-hitting catchers of all time, he was a fierce leader for us. No one is going to ...replace that. I think other players are going to have to come in and step up their game.

"One thing for me, he belongs up there with the Yankee greats, and that's a tough group to crack."

 On A-Rod seeing the end of his career:

"You can always see the end. It's inevitable. You wish the game can go on forever, but it doesn't; we're sort of on borrowed time. I think all of us who are kind of in the seventh inning or the fourth quarter of our careers, we're cherishing the game more and more each and every day."

On talking Mariano Rivera out of retirement:

"Like I said, no one plays forever. Selfishly, I want Mo to play for a long time. The one thing about Mo, everyone calls him the best reliever of all time, but very easily, he could be the best pitcher of all time.

"What's overshadowed is what he [brings] to the clubhouse. Mariano for me, has been such a rock. I think it's even more impressive what he does in the clubhouse than what he does on the mound."

On Robinson Cano hitting third in the lineup:

"I think Robbie is in a very special place in his career. I think the sky is the limit for him. If he gets in a position where he's comfortable hitting in that third spot, and add probably 50 or 60 at-bats, he can get in a groove where he can do some very special things. And without a question, he's going to be the main ingredient of what we do here in the next three to four years."

On whether the Yankees actually practice the play where Derek Jeter makes the "flip:"

"Absolutely. I can't really explain it because that's the shortstop's responsibility. But when Derek is on [here], he'll explain it to you {laughing}. We probably practiced it eight or ten times today."

(Interview courtesy of The Michael Kay Show, 1050 ESPN Radio)

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Fifth Spot Belongs to Phil Hughes

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Baseball, like any other business, is full of politics. Sometimes, in order to keep "order," so that feathers aren't ruffled, management will tell an employee what they need to hear, instead of what they've already decided. As could be the case now with Brian Cashman and pitcher Freddy Garcia.

Below is an article from Joel Sherman of The New York Post, which pretty much confirms that, as per Cashman, Phil Hughes has already won the 5th spot in the Yankees rotation. This disspells the "illusion" that he and Garcia will be competing for it. Hughes' age, the Yankees investment in him and that they are only committed to Garcia for one year, seem to be the mitigating factors at play here. 

It will be interesting to see how other members of the media latch on to this story, as I am sure that Hughes, Cashman and Garcia will probably be asked to respond.

TAMPA — We can pretend there is a competition going on for the Yankees’ No. 5 starter spot, but that is what it is. Pretend. The WWE stages more realistic battles.

The Yankees are saying it is Freddy Garcia vs. Phil Hughes. But their general manager is also saying this: He believes Hughes is, right now, a top-of-the-rotation starter. That has not been said about Garcia since, oh, about 2001.

So this is a competition only because the Yankees want to sell you that this is a competition. They do not want a prideful veteran in Garcia to be offended. They do not want Hughes, who showed up out of shape last year, to feel he is being handed anything. And with six weeks to Opening Day, the potential for injury or stumble means the Yankees see no reason to publicly declare even a front-runner, much less a winner.

But understand this: The competition is rigged. If it is close, Hughes wins. If it is advantage Garcia, but only slightly, Hughes wins. Hughes can only lose this by doing what he did last spring, having his fastball go on a mysterious hiatus. The early signs are Hughes’ better dedication to offseason conditioning has led to less gut and more heat.

Normally anything in February or March should be ignored, but it was obvious in his first live batting practice session yesterday that Hughes’ arm was quick and his fastball had life.

“It is a heavier ball,” Russell Martin said. “He changed his body. He looks more explosive. He has more arm speed, which leads to a better breaking ball and more deception on the changeup.”

For his part, Hughes is mostly dismissing early signals as pretty inconsequential and promoting the idea of a fierce competition in which he must earn his way into the starting five.

But, again, we turn to the general manager, Brian Cashman, who when asked about rotation competition talks about “six guys for five spots.” But when asked specifically about Hughes, Cashman says: “Aside from last year he was viewed, and not just by us, as one of the better young arms in the game; with success to prove it. He was a dominant reliever for us in 2009 and an All-Star as a starter in 2010. Why would I judge him by last year when he was injured? It feels like everyone wants to take him down a peg. I think he is a top-of-the-rotation starter.”

And why exactly would “a top-of-the-rotation starter” not be at least the No. 5 man? Especially when the words associated with Garcia are “dependable,” “competitive” and “savvy.” When he was signed for one year at $4 million, the Yankees had not yet pulled off their trade for Michael Pineda or their signing of Hiroki Kuroda.

So not only was Garcia in the starting five, but so was A.J. Burnett. The additions of Pineda and Kuroda to join CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova enabled the Yankees to trade Burnett and, now, de-emphasize Garcia. If everyone is healthy (big if) come April, Garcia will be the long man, a proven safety net.

The sport has been gravitating the past few years toward more high-end pitching, and the Yankees believe to survive in the AL East you have to have elite stuff. Garcia finished last year at 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA. But against Boston and Toronto, the two best offenses in the division not belonging to the Yankees, the righty was 2-5 with a 5.31 ERA. Hughes had a 7.43 ERA against teams with a better than .500 record. But the Yankees do not think that was the real Phil Hughes.

At 25, he is 10 years younger than Garcia. These days the best Garcia can do is maintain his now-limited fastball and rely on his unflinching nature and high pitching IQ to compensate.

Also, the Yankees are committed to Garcia only through this season. Hughes, though, as young as he is, can be a free agent after next season. So, right now, he is like a college senior who has yet to declare a major. Is he starter or reliever, back end of the rotation or front?

Cashman believes he is front of the rotation. So the No. 5 competition today is just theater. Nevertheless, Hughes’ scholarship ends after this. Time to declare who he is.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Don't Be Mad At Bobby Valentine

All this afternoon and evening, I listened to the waves of disgruntled Yankee fans who ripped Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, for the negative comments he made about Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter today. From Facebook to Twitter, to ESPN Radio, to The Mike Francesa Show, throngs of fanatics let it be known just how ridiculous and stupid it was for Valentine to make his comments, especially in regard to The Captain. In Yankeeland, any negative talk of Jeter is considered sacrilege.

If you were hiding under a rock today and haven't yet had a chance to read up on Valentines curious comments, here's the jist of what you missed:

AP Photo/Eric Risberg
On Jeter's famous "Flip Play:"

"I think [Jeter] was out of position and the ball gets [Giambi] out if [Jeter] doesn't touch it, personally.

"That was amazing that [Jeter] was there. I bet it's more amazing that he said he practiced it. I don't believe it.''

On Jason Varitek's "scuffle" with A-Rod in 2004:

"He was a man's man, he was a big hitter when needed, he was the leader of the pitching staff. … He was able to beat up Alex, all that stuff. He was exactly what he was supposed to be.''

So, Valentine turned what would have been an uneventful Tuesday, into a news-worthy day for both baseball journalists and bloggers, like myself. When I first read his comments online, I thought to myself that the inevitable reaction from Yankee fans would be more than what I would need to fill up an entire blog post. I could have filled this page with quotes from numerous worshippers of all things Yankees, but I decided to take a different approach. I decided to plead with the Yankee faithful to not be mad at Valentine, but to instead, be thankful.

Why would I ever ask this? I know it's a little crazy for me to expect that Yankee fans could ever not relish in the opportunity to bash any member of the Red Sox, let alone its manager. It's a simple reflex reaction that we've had programmed in us since we became Yankee fans and learned of this historic rivalry. It fuels us; helps ignite that feeling of superiority that we all agree belongs on our side, as the championship ratio between our boys and theirs isn't even close.

And because Valentine had the absolute audacity to dismiss Jeter's "Flip Play" as a "bad" play, and not recognize The Captain for his obvious genius in that moment, would justify any fanatics reason to let off a few chosen words for the Red Sox new manager.

Yet, I find myself still asking you all to forgive Valentine, and recognize his comments for what they really were: a way to rejuvenate the rivalry that would have taken a back seat to the fodder that had become Red Sox Nation.

Boston had become nothing more than a joke this past winter. After being touted the team to beat in the AL East before the 2011 season even began, the Red Sox would see themselves not even making it into the playoffs. Terry Francona was fired as manager after failing to get his team, with all its talents, back to World Series play, and amidst accusations of having lost control of his club. Then there was Jon Lester's  disclosure of drinking beer and eating fried chicken during games, which had become Boston's biggest storyline during the offseason. And, former GM Theo Epstein, who did a great job of building a championship team for Beantown, decided to escape the mutiny, and take his talents to Chicago.

While we may love to see the Red Sox weak and vulnerable; their fans embarrassed and ashamed, what good would it do us as devout Yankee fans to pounce on an unworthy opponent? The rivalry between our ball clubs has always been at it's very best when both teams were at full strength. Boston is coming into 2012 with a questionable pitching staff; a lineup that could see Carl Crawford have another down year offensively, as he continues to rehab from wrist surgery; the question of who will co-chair David Ortiz' role as leader, now that Varitek has announced his retirement and now that a "beer ban" has been enforced.

The Yankees on the other hand look like a strong contender to recapture the AL East, and possibly, another championship. The acquisitions of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda have arguably made the Yankees rotation the best in the East, with pitchers like CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes coming into Spring Training camp in the best shape of their careers. Same for Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, who dropped the weight and built muscle in hopes of having a better season offensively. While there is still the question of A-Rod's health, his recognition of what he needs to do to remain healthy, combined with getting help from orthokine treatment for his left knee and right shoulder, could prove him more dangerous than he's been in a while.

The Yankees are obviously the "better looking" club heading into the season, and Valentine knows it. I mean, again, beside the talk of beer, what else did anyone care about with Boston this winter? Valentine is smart enough to know that so much of what goes into the Boston mystique, has so much to do with this rivalry. He had to find a way to make that the focal point, as it's been more true than not that the Yankees are Boston's main focus. So why not heat things up again with a few sarcastic quotes that were sure to get the response it got today? And why not redirect Boston's "problems" from all the attention it's been getting, and start a war of words that could translate into historic matches during the season?

And another thing fanatics, keep in mind that Valentine has no love lost for the Yankees. While the Mets were certainly a far better team under his guard than they are now, they were always the underdogs in New York. Kinda like the Giants and the Jets. Valentine's clubs could never outshine what had become the greatest Yankee dynasty in decades. When the two teams met in the World Series in 2000, it would have been the one way, the only way, for Valentine to make the world believe that he managed the better club. Didn't happen, and now Valentine has what is probably his last opportunity to get revenge. Mincing the Jeter play is a great way to start.

So I say to you all, let this go. Valentine is doing what he has to do, and we could be the beneficiaries of some fantastic games against Boston as a result. All we have to hope for, is that the Yankees respond by doing what they do best: winning.

(Quotes courtesy of USA Today)

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Monday, February 27, 2012

Best of the Weekend Blogosphere

Happy Monday fanatics! The days are flying by and we're getting closer to having Yankees baseball. Everyone is in camp, and my fellow bloggers have been doing a great job of covering everything that you guys would want to know is happening with our boys in pinstripes and around the league. Here are some of my favorite stories from the blogosphere this weekend:

Over at The Yankee Analysts, Steve Sciacco argues that Joba Chamberlain should be sent to Triple -A to rehab from Tommy John Surgery as a starter.

John Munson/The Star Ledger
The Mighty Casey of Bleeding Yankee Blue gives his point of view on why Robinson Cano is ready to take over the no. 3 spot in the Yankees lineup.

At an A-Blog for A-Rod, Brad V. takes a satirical shot at the Red Sox in response to their "beer ban."

Michael Pawluk of Yankees Fans Unite breaks down the Yankees rotation and asks Who Should Be the Fifth Starter?

Bryan Hoch, beat writer for, reported Joe Girardi's use of a 2009 World Series celebration video to motivate players at camp.

Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
The Captain's Blog's William Julian, presents an indictment of MLB's handling of "leaks" after Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension was overturned.

Chad Jennings of The LoHud Yankees Blog, gives us an inside look at Alex Rodriguez' Saturday press conference.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chavez Agrees To Deal With Yankees

Andrew Theodorakis/Daily News
This is what happens when you trade your reporting duties for a night "in" with girlfriends. I've been calling for the Yankees to hurry up and make a deal with Eric Chavez, and when the deal goes down, I miss it. But, the white wine and cheese fondue that I gorged on last night, were well worth it. Anyhoo, here is the report courtesy of Bryan Hoch of

TAMPA, Fla. -- Joe Girardi spoke on Tuesday afternoon as though Eric Chavez was already listed on his roster, and the Yankees' manager had good reason for his confidence.

Chavez and the Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $900,000 contract that includes bonuses for performance incentives, has confirmed.

The deal was first reported by MLB Network and CBS Sports analyst Jon Heyman and has not been officially announced by the club because Chavez must first pass a physical

Earlier in the day, Girardi mentioned Chavez as one of his backup first-base options before quickly realizing his error and clarifying that a deal was not yet finalized.

"We don't have him, but there has been talk about him," Girardi said, adding, "I'd like to have him back. I thought he was productive for us and he gives me flexibility."

The Yankees had been negotiating with Chavez, 34, envisioning him as a solid option to back up Alex Rodriguez at third base and Mark Teixeira at first base.

In fact, his locker next to Nick Swisher at George M. Steinbrenner Field had remained vacant, an indication that he was eventually expected to arrive in camp.

Girardi said that he does not view Chavez as one of the Yankees' primary designated hitters. Those roles will be filled by Raul Ibanez against right-handed pitchers and Andruw Jones against lefties.

A six-time Rawlings Gold Glove award winner at third base and an American League All-Star for four consecutive seasons beginning in 2002, when he starred for the Athletics, Chavez will likely be the final addition to the roster before position players report to camp on Friday.

While the Yankees had interest in Chavez dating back to before December's Winter Meetings, the Yankees were most recently waiting to complete the trade of A.J. Burnett to the Pirates before further pursuing Chavez.

I love that the Yankees wasted no time in getting this done. Looking at this now, it was a smart move for them to release AJ Burnett and secure Raul Ibanez, so they could simply look at what money was available for Chavez and make a deal. I also love that Girardi will use Andruw Jones as his DH option against lefties.

Designated hitter(s), check. Loaded rotation, check. Full bullpen, check. Let's play ball!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ibanez and Yankees Agree On 1-Year Deal

Getty Images
So the inevitable has happened. The Yankees and outfielder Raul Ibanez have agreed on a 1-year contract, reportedly worth $1.1 million. Buster Olney of ESPN reported the deal this morning via twitter:

Now that the Yankees have seemingly taken care of their DH situation (which I am really not happy about, as my belief has been--and still is--that Andruw Jones was their best option for the DH role), the Yankees will hopefully find a way to get a deal done with Eric Chavez. Chavez is the best option to play third base throughout the season; we know that Alex Rodriguez will require days off or days in the DH slot.

The best that we can hope for with Ibanez is that he maintains his home run and RBI production. He no longer possesses a dangerous outfield arm, and he's not fast on the basepaths. Last year with the Phillies, he batted in 84 runners on 20 homers and 131 hits. Thirty-one of those hits were doubles. So the offensive production is definitely there.

And so, Yankees, I'm pleading with you: do what you have to do and go get Chavez!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Sunday, February 19, 2012

June Earlist Comeback for Joba: Cashman

As you can probably tell from the Fan Poll on the right, I think that Joba Chamberlain's return from Tommy John surgery, could be a major storyline for the Yankees this year. Joba has amazing "stuff" with a lethal slider, and the surgery may have helped him regain some of the speed he lost on his once 100 mph fastball. Reports on Joba have been that's he's looked well pitching from a half-mound so far, and Joba himself is excited about his progress:

So the question here is, when will Joba return to the bullpen? According to Brian Cashman, we won't get a look at his "new" arm until no earlier than June. The following is from Andrew Marchand's blog on

Joba Chamberlain's rehab is going so well, he will soon be throwing off a mound, but Brian Cashman will not rush Chamberlain back.

So Joba can talk about April or May or next week, but the GM will not listen.

"We have to really help him with that," Brian Cashman said.

Cashman said that Chamberlain, recovering from Tommy John, will be back around June, at the earliest.

"For all of our sakes, we just have to be careful for him and for us," Cashman said. "It was a huge loss when we lost him last year and it will be a huge gain when we get him this year. We just have to make sure that when we get him back , he is here to stay."

Joba, to his credit, is doing the work to be ready.

"If you want to have a scale from 1-to-10 with 10 being the best with someone fully committed to doing the rehab and not cutting any corners and doing everything done that he needs to do, he checked off at the highest level of that scale," Cashman said. "That still doesn't erase the typical time-frame of this surgery."

While it's a bit disappointing for us fanatics to have to wait so long to see our guy get back out there, I appreciate Cashman making a decision that's probably in the best interest of our young Joba. While I won't go on a rant about it here, we've seen the Yankees make bad decisions in Joba's regard in the past, and it's nice to know that there will be no pressure for him to rush back out on the mound any sooner than he has to. Good looking out, Cash!

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Spring Training Has Finally Sprung!

Well, not officially. Games don't begin until March, but pitchers and catchers reported for camp this morning, and I'm just as giddy as Alex Rodriguez:

Adam Hunger/Reuters

Once players begin reporting to camp, the days seem to move a lot faster, and before you know it, our boys in pinstripes are hitting the field to play their first game.

I was following some interesting tweets from Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork this morning. Here are two that caught my attention:

Since the Michael Pineda trade went down, a lot of noise throughout the blogosphere has been of the possibility that he might be the no. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia. Well, Cashman confirmed what my belief has been, and that is that Ivan Nova will most likely be following CC in that rotation. He's earned it by proving he's a big-game pitcher that doesn't fall under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.

And I think it's safe to say that Johnny Damon's time in pinstripes officially ended forever after the 2009 season. It doesn't make much sense to me why Cashman would prefer Raul Ibanez over Damon; in all the categories that count for a DH (RBIs, HRs, SLG and OPS), both players are neck and neck. But what you'd get from Damon is more speed on the bases and a player that has been there before, and was beloved in the Yankees clubhouse. My personal opinion on the DH situation is that the Yankees already have a DH in Andruw Jones. But if they want to spend money that they claim they don't have, then Damon would definitely have been my choice here.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Friday, February 17, 2012

Yankees and Pirates Finalize Trade on Burnett

Via Hardball Talk/NBC Sports
The Yankees set a firm deadline to all interested teams that a trade for AJ Burnett had to be finalized by noon tomorrow. The Pirates, who were the frontrunners throughout this saga, responded. According to this tweet from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Pittsburgh will eat $13 million of AJ's remaining contract. The trade will become official once MLB approves it, and Burnett passes a physical. Rosenthal mentions that the two sides were working out one final detail. No word yet on what that detail is.

I doubt that MLB will have a problem with this trade and AJ Burnett will more than likely pass his physical. So, we can pretty much call this a done deal. While Yankee pitchers will be headed to Tampa on Sunday, AJ will be having his body examined, and preparing to fly across town to Bradenton. We here at Bomber Boulevard wish him the best, and hope we never have to face him on the wrong side of his curveball.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yankees Set Deadline for Burnett Trade

Mike Carlson/AP
So the latest on the AJ Burnett trade saga, is that the Yankees have now set a deadline for interested teams to accept an offer: make something happen on Burnett by noon Saturday!

Smart move by the Yankees. Not only does this put pressure on teams that want Burnett to not waste more time haggling over money and players, it also avoids the Yankees having to deal with questions on Burnett during Spring Training. It's a distraction that would irritate Joe Girardi, Larry Rothschild, the players and most importantly, Burnett.

So it will be interesting to see who steps up and whisks him away. According to this article by ESPNNewYork's Wallace Matthews, the Yankees were reportedly in talks with the Angels about trading Burnett for Bobby Abreu, a move that I would have absolutely loved. But, AJ used his no-trade clause to block it. Apparently, he is not a fan of playing on the West coast, and his wife is afraid to fly.

There is also word of a "mystery team" that the Yankees are talking to. Such teams always to seem to appear from nowhere at the 11th hour, and normally walk away the victor. Think the Phillies for Cliff Lee; the Angels for Albert Pujols; the Yankees for Alex Rodriguez (heh, heh!), etc.

But in the midst of getting caiught up in all the craziness surrounding this trade, I also find myself feeling very sympathetic for Burnett. I really like him, and was one of the Yankees biggest cheerleaders when they decided to bring him to New York. He hasn't been everythig that this team has needed, but he has had his moments. Particularly Game 2 of the 2009 World Series where he completely shut down the Phillies. And when his changeup and fastball are on, he's one of the best out there. It must be rough for Burnett to sit back helplessly and watch his team fervently scramble to get rid of him. I personally wish him well; I think that it would be a better situation for him to go to a team where he's guaranteed a starting role, and could probably fit somewhere 3rd or 4th in a rotation.

And please, don't forget to check out Bomber Boulevard's first Fan Poll at the top right. What do you think will be the Yankees biggest story this year? The poll remains open until February 29 at 11pm.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pineda Brings Spring Fever

It's February 15, which means, there are only four days left until pitchers and catchers report to Yankees Spring Training camp. Four days! The blogosphere is lit up with stories covering the excitement of camp, and crediting those players who are doing a little something extra to be at their best for the 2012 season. One player in particular is phenom Michael Pineda, who is drawing much attention from the media already in place at the Yankees training facility. Here are just a few notes from the blogroll here at Bomber Boulevard:

At An A-Blog for A-Rod, Brad V. discussess the early entry of Pineda at camp, and how he is formimg a close relationship with Robinson Cano.

The Mighty Casey at Bleeding Yankee Blue gives credit to Pineda and Derek Jeter for setting the tone early by arriving at camp before the official report date.

River Ave Blues' Mike Axisa gives an in-depth look at some of the quotes Pineda gave to the media, and notes the "watchful eye" he will be under during Spring Training.

Via Bombers Beat/MLBlogs Network
Spring Training seems to have just a bit more buzz and excitement this year. I think that Yankee fans are excited about seeing what Pineda will do; we are all anxious to find out just how well the orthokine treatment has helped Alex Rodriguez' knee and left shoulder; we are a bit curious to see how The Captain looks healthwise, even if we aren't really coiming out and saying it; we just want to see Curtis Granderson and Robbie hit moon shots on a baseball field.

If you haven't done so already, please take a look at the fan poll on the top right of this page and place your vote for what you believe will be the Yankees biggest story this year. Voting is open until February 29 at 11 pm.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

AJ Burnett Trade No Easy Feat

Simmons/Daily News
If you thought the AJ Burnett trade saga would have been done and over by now, well, you thought wrong. Burnett has become the unlikeliest attention grabber of the Yankees offseason, being the centerpiece of major trade talks between the team and the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was believed just days ago that the two teams were close to finalizing a deal that would send Burnett packing for players from the Pirates minor league system.

But, as is normally the case for a player set to bank as much as the Yankees still owe Burnett, deciding on a ratio of who will pay what has driven talks into a stalemate. The two teams seem unable to agree on how much each should pay of the $33 million left on AJ's contract. And today, another team made things more interesting, momentarily.

Bryan Hoch of reported this afternoon that the Cleveland Indians were in talks with the Yankees on a possible trade for Burnett as early as today. However, the discussions fell through. As per Hoch, CBS Sports claimed the Yankees would have acquired slugger Travis Hafner. Makes some sense, as Hafner has a quality the Yankees are looking for in a potential DH: left-handed power.

But the deal was never made and talks have ceased. No word yet on why or on which side pulled out.

Unless another team decides at the last hour that perhaps their lineup could benefit from Burnett's fastball and changeup, it seems that either the Pirates or the Yankees will end up with him on their roster. It's common for teams to jump into trade talks at the last minute, but there may not be many teams left where a trade for Burnett would make sense, I'm assuming, since there has been no talk of the Yankees aggressively looking elsewhere.

Hafner might not have been a great option for the Yankees anyway. He is injury-prone, and hasn't played so much as 120 games in four seasons. His last great season was in 2006, where he managed  42 home runs and 117 RBIs, and slugged to a .659 percentage. Those numbers have dropped dramatically since then.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Fan Poll: What Will Be the Yankees Biggest Story in 2012?

There are a lot of questions for the Yankees going in to the 2012 season. Although they improved their bullpen depth with the signings of Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, other factors will play a huge role in how successful the team will be this year. One of the biggest factors being the health of Alex Rodriguez.

What do you think will be the major X-factor in the Yankees making another trip to the World Series this year? Please check out the fan poll at the top right and let your opinion be known. Poll closes on February 29 at 11pm.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Monday, February 13, 2012

No, No Guerrero

A few hours ago, ESPN's Buster Olney posted this tweet:


It's typical for players to reach out to teams like this, especially now, when Spring Training is just around the corner, and they have yet to sign a deal. Knowing that the Yankees are in need of a reputable DH that can provide power and play everyday, it makes sense that Guerrerro, of all the hitters left in the DH pool, would make himself available.

He's wise to the Yankees' reputation of signing stars; there is no question that Guerrerro is a future and possible first-ballot Hall of Famer, the stats speak for themselves. He's also wise to the fact that the Yankees offer the best situation for him to play and get back to the postseason, since many of the true contending teams in the AL (Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Blue Jays, etc.) are in no immediate need for a designated hitter.

But Guerrerro's offering comes a bit too late in his career. He is coming off of a season where his power numbers dropped significantly enough from the year before. In 2010 with the Rangers, Guerrero's slash line read .300/.345/496 with 29 home runs and 115 RBIs. With the Orioles last year, those numbers dropped to .290/.317/.416, with only 13 homers and 63 RBIs. Guerrero also seems to have lost some speed on his bat. The graph below is a measurement of Guerrero's ISO or Isolated Power.

US Presswire

The drop from '10 to '11 is an indication of the decline in his bat speed. Power is what makes Guerrero marketable. He has nothing else to offer that the Yankees could possibly be looking for. He has no speed on the bases, and no longer possesses the powerful arm that made him such a threat as a right-fielder. As the DH spot will see many players from the Yankees lineup throughout the season, it makes more sense for the Yankees to have a DH that can be a reliable platoon player. From the pool of Yankee possibilities, Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones are not as far removed from playing the outfield as Guerrero is, and possess more speed on the base paths.  They are better options to relieve the Yankee starting outfielders when necessary.

Adam Hunger/Reuters
Olney seems sure that Ibanez will be the winner of the Yankees DH sweepstakes. Ibanez didn't have a great season with the Phillies last year either, but was able to post 20 home runs and 84 RBIs, which is exactly what the Yankees need. As a lefty, Yankee Stadium is an ideal ballpark for Ibanez who should make great use of the short porch in right field. The same could be said for Damon, who has been there and done that.

Who do you think should be the Yankees DH? Add your comment below.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Best of the Yankees Weekend Blogosphere

Noah K. Murray/The Star-Ledger
While I took a break from blogging this weekend for family, parties and closet cleaning, many of my friends throughout the Yankee blogosphere kept rolling out posts for all you fanatics that simply can't go a day without some news on our boys in the pinstripes. One of the biggest stories in Yankeeland was the trade talks between the Yankees and Pirates for AJ Burnett and players to be mentioned soon. My fellow bloggers did a great job covering this. Here is the best on that story and others from the weekend:

The Mighty Casey and Co. at Bleeding Yankee Blue give their take on when a possible Burnett trade will go down, and recap news from notable sportswriters who are staying close to this story.

Over at The Greedy Pinstripes, BryanV21 discusses AJ's value and breaks down the drop in his numbers since the 2010 season.

Mike Jaggers-Radolf of The Yankee Analysts (TYA) recalls three memorable Burnett moments while in pinstripes. You should also take a look at this post from TYA's Steve Sciacco, where he inadvertantly discusses Burnett by debating the argument of not trading players when their "stock is low."

Matt over at Bronx Goblin gives his satirical take on the Burnett situation. Gotta love his use of Photoshop on this one!

Brad at An A-Blog for A-Rod does a nice job on his round-up of the Yankees Spring Training invitees. Here he breaks down his predictions on which players he believe will have the best chance of making it onto the regular season roster.

Delia E. of Yankee Fans Unite givers her take on what the Yankees lineup should like in 2012. Love that she is on board with my feeling that Andruw Jones should be the Yankees DH.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Take On the Forbes "Most Disliked Athletes in America" List (Part 2)

It's time to break down "Most Disliked" athletes 6 thru 10 on the annual Forbes list. Continuing from yesterday's list, I will again judge who should or shouldn't be on the top 10 of this list, and arrange their standings accordingly.

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6. LeBron James - I find it so ridiculous that people are so angry at Lebron for leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers. First of all, LeBron was a free agent and had every right to choose where he wanted to play basketball. I'd say waiting for his contract to expire was a lot more classy than the guy that follows him on this list, and Carmelo Anthony, both of whom demanded trades mid contract because they simply didn't want to play with their teams anymore. LeBron felt the same way about the mediocre crew surrounding him in Cleveland, but he stuck it out, and did everything in his power to make them the best team in the NBA his last two seasons there. I am in agreement with those who felt that going to Cleveland's owner and just saying he was done, was better than LeBron leaving him in suspense and announcing it on ESPN. But is that really enough to place him 6th on a list of so many athletes? No way.

And by the way, for those of you who all of a sudden have a problem with LeBron's "swag" and the way he plays the game--the chest pumps, the glares, the dancing--it's what he's done his whole career, so why is it a problem now that he's "taken his talents" to South Beach? And these ridiculous arguments of him not having the "clutch gene," please tell me who was coming up in the clutch for seven straight years in Cleveland? Anyone?

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: Somewhere between 10 and 15 (should be much lower, but I get that greatness is always hated)

7. Kobe Bryant - Bryant is one of the greatest NBA players of all time. No question. But he's also one of the most attitudinal and arrogant players to ever hit a basketball court. He's a whiner who plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he always has a problem with somebody. His feud with Shaq; his standoff with Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who, he admitted he purposely set out to embarass by demanding a trade in 2007;  his grudge against Ray Allen after a Seattle Supersonics route of the Lakers in 2004; his nit-picking of Allen Iverson after the Sixers took game 1 of the 2001 Finals. And going back to Shaq, Kobe was completely out of order when he threw The Big Diesel under the bus. He saw it necessary to mention Shaq's escapades with numerous women; a ploy by Bryant to take some of the heat off of himself after he got caught cheating on his own wife. Not cool.

It's been said that Bryant grew up around sisters that doted on him, and parents that spoiled him and it shows. He's a child, and something tells me that the way this season is going for the Lakers so far, we should expect to hear a lot of crying come season's end.

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: 2 (had Ndamukong Suh not purposely try to hurt someone, Bryant would be No. 1)

8. Terrell Owens - I guess what surprises me the most here is that T.O. has been out of the NFL for such a while now, it surprises me that people care enough to dislike the former Niners wide receiver for him to rank in the top 10. There's no discussion of Owens' talent. He's an All-Pro with two Pro Bowl selections, 153 career touchdowns and nine seasons where he ran for over 1,000 yards. But Owens has always appeared more about self-promotion than about simply playing the game. I guess his narcissism still rubs people the wrong way. But he did have a "quiet" season with the Bengals in 2010, and that should count for something.

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: 8 He's where he belongs.

9. Alex Rodriguez - I'm actually a little surprised, but also a little content with A-Rod's ranking. I thought he would be higher, but he actually is starting to move his way out of the top 10 and that's good news. Listen, I'm an A-Rod fanatic, but I criticize him fairly, just as I would any other Yankee. Was it stupid for him to use steroids? Absolutely. Has he shown himself to be too caught up in his personal drama? No question. Has he given many a Yankee fan reason to hold their breath when he takes the plate in the post-season. Yes, he has.

But let's get clear on a few things. A-Rod has been the Yankees best player since coming to the team in '04. If you're too prejudiced against him to believe that, check his stats. While his post-season numbers in New York have been paltry, the Yankees as a team were unable to reach beyond the ALCS until he carried them there. Think about that. A-Rod may be the best on the team, but he is not the only great player that the Yankees have had since '04; why no trips to the World Series? Hmmm.

Now as far as the steroids go, I get it, he cheated. But I do give him credit for owning it and moving on. Yes, originally he lied to Katie Couric on 60 Minutes years back, but who wouldn't have? Again, there we go holding players to a higher moral standard than we hold ourselves.

The personal drama? Like Tiger Woods, A-Rod never should have gotten married. He's a playboy and he knows it. Hopefully he's learned from that, and won't be marrying anyone any time soon. And him and Jeter? I think we all care more about the state of their relationship than they do. They're fine; Derek said so.

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: Between 10 and 15 (The steroid use keeps him near the top 10, but his heroics in '09 and his re-dedication to "team" moves him down just a bit)

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10. Kurt Busch - I'm not a NASCAR enthusiast at all, but I'm aware of Busch's rants and raves. He is definitely one with profanity, which is a no-no because we live in such a "straight-laced" society? It's not simply that Busch likes to curse, it's just never a good idea to direct it towards fans, the media and the owner that pays you. But again, I think we have far more examples of worse behavior by athletes than this. And a former Sprint Cup champ reserves the right to get testy every once and a while.

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: Not sure, but it's not so serious that he belongs in the top 10

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Take on the Forbes "Most Disliked Athletes In America" List (Part 1)

It's that time of year again folks. Forbes has released its annual list of the "Most Disliked Athletes In America," and I wasn't at all surprised to see the names that came in on their top 10. But that doesn't mean that I agree with whose on the list or their standing. So, I've to decided to go through each name, in order, and give my take on why this person does or does not belong here. I'll also re-rank names as I see fit. This is a two-part list and tomorrow's will feature Mr. Alex Rodriguez.

Erich Schlegel/Corbis
1. Michael Vick - I know that we live in a society where the abuse of animals is simply not tolerated, and for that reason, Vick absolutely belongs on this list. But at number one? Seriously? This is a guy who did his time for his treatment of dogs, and came back humble and fully aware of the scope of his crime. He came back as the undeniable leader of the Philadelphia Eagles and continues to carry himself as a young man whose trying to do better. If he were cocky and arrogant like many athletes are, I would be okay with this. But forgiveness is a virtue, and it's time to bestow some on Vick.

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: 10

2. Tiger Woods - My question here is, what are people really mad at? Are they mad because he cheated on his wife? Are they mad because he lived every man's fantasy and cheated with droves of women? Or are they mad because he shattered their image of the perfect guy and perfect athlete? Let's be real here folks. Our idols fall under the ridiculous standards that we create for them. No man, or woman for that matter, is perfect. Because Tiger was so great for so long, many of us held him to the standard of a God. The problem with that is, he's human, and when he makes a mistake--a very big mistake--the disappointment stings something horrible. But should Tiger have to suffer for our failing to recognize him as just a man? No. I think his biggest mistake was getting married in the first place. We tend not to care so much about our idols being "playboys" when they remain single. Derek Jeter, anyone?

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: 6 (because what he did just wasn't cool)

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3. Plaxico Burress - I'm really at odds with this one. I'm a Giants fan, hence, I'm a Plaxico fan. I can't stress enough how big he was for the Giants when they made that fantastic run in 2007. So when news of his "shooting" came, I wasn't thrilled. To see a young man with his talent and at the height of what looked to be a fantastic career, do something stupid like carrying an illegal weapon in a NYC night club? Sheesh. Didn't he get the memo: Mike Bloomberg ain't tolerating that here! So yes, I can understand the disappointment, but to end up 3rd on this list over that? Come on. We know that there are worst things an athlete can do.

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: Somewhere between 10 and 20

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4. Ndamukong Suh - The superstar defensive tackle of the Detroit Lions may have tarnished his "nice, humble guy" image after stomping a Green Bay offensive lineman in the chest on Thanksgiving Day. What makes this even worse is that Suh has yet to acknowledge that he actually did what the rest of us saw, and continues to say that he was just trying to get out of the way. Really? I don't like this guy, for this reason and because of other incidents Suh was guilty of during the season. The Lions suddenly became an actual football team in 2011, mainly due to their great defense, and I just think it all went to Suh's head. And to step into the chest of another man with cleats just don't do that.

Bomber Boulevard Ranking: 1

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5. Kris Humphries - Kris is exactly where he belongs on this list. Why? Because he should have realized that he would be no match for Kim Kardashian's alter ego. The seemingly polite and humble Kim, is actually very spoiled, very selfish and somewhat narcissistic. Watching this past season of Kourtney and Kim Take New York was likely watching a train wreck between these two in slow motion. Kim wanted everything her way and Kris did everything possible to not give in and retain his "man card." This was a marriage made for good reality TV, but at the end of the day, it's a marriage not suitable for real life. Humphries let himself get sucked into the Kardashian whirlwind because he simply wasn't paying attention. Kim is a serial athlete stalker, and like a serial killer, she gets her kicks and then moves on to the next victim. And besides, no one really knew Humphries before he became "Mr. Kardashian" anyway, so disliking him here is pretty easy.

Stay tuned tomorrow for "Most Disliked Athletes in America" numbers 6 thru 10.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Bob Lorenz Arrested on DUI Charge

All I will say to this is that Bob Lorenz is much loved and respected here at Bomber Boulevard. Every human being is entitled to make a mistake, and hopefully, however this turns out, Bob will be the better for it. Here is the report from The Hour Online:

WESTPORT-- YES Network studio anchor Robert 'Bob' Lorenz, was charged with driving under the influence after allegedly falling asleep at the wheel and nearly crashing into a telephone pole Wednesday morning.

Lorenz listed his occupation as "actor" on his uniform arrest report -- a document that details the personal information of an arrestee -- and he declined to reveal his profession to the bail commissioner at Norwalk Superior Court. After his arraignment, Lorenz was asked if he was an anchor on the YES Network, and he politely replied, "No. I get that all the time."

Lorenz, a three-time Emmy Award winner, was sleeping behind the wheel of his car with his foot on the brake and the car in the drive gear on Compo Road when police arrived on scene at 3:05 a.m. according to police. When police woke him up, the vehicle accelerated, speeding through an intersection, police said. Officers repeatedly yelled for him to stop, and he stopped the vehicle feet away from a light pole in the right shoulder of Greens Farms Road, police said.

Police say Lorenz was slurring his speech while talking to officers and his breath reeked of booze. He failed the field sobriety tests and later refused a Breathalyzer test, according to police.

Lorenz was charged with operation while under the influence and held overnight on $500 bond. He was arraigned Wednesday afternoon at Norwalk Superior Court, and released on a promise to appear in court. Judge Maureen Dennis ordered him to undergo substance abuse evaluation and treatment.
His next court date is Feb. 29.

According to his biography on the YES Network website, Lorenz is the host of the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets pre- and post-game shows, as well as the network's Yankees Baseball Daily, Yankees Hot Stove and Forbes SportsMoney shows. Lorenz also has play-by-play credits to his name at YES, including Yankees in-season telecasts, Yankees spring training games, Staten Island Yankees games and Ivy League football.

In April 2011, Lorenz won his third consecutive New York Emmy Award recognizing him as the top sports anchor in New York.

Prior to joining the YES Network in 2003, Lorenz served as an anchor for CNN/Sports Illustrated, which he joined in April of 1991.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Yankees Sign Russell Branyan

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The Yankees continue to load up on hitting prospects in the hopes of acquiring solid bats out of Spring Training. Their newest Spring invitee is Russell Branyan, who The New York Post reports has inked a minor league deal, most likely similar to that of Bill Hall.

Again, I won't go into "I don't know why they made this deal" mode, because of the low risk involved with signing a guy that probably won't make it out of Spring Training and would most likely have very limited play if he did. And Branyan can still smack a homer to all parts of the field, and a couple of those here and there can never be a bad thing. Just seems to me that with every new signing, the Yankees could be moving further away from a deal with Eric Chavez. You can find the article from The Post here.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Greatest Hits: Curtis Granderson

It’s been a while since we last visited the Greatest Hits segment here at Bomber Boulevard. With just two weeks left before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training camp, now is the perfect time to go back into the Youtube video vault and relive some great moments from a great Yankee.

CurtisGranderson had a season for the ages in 2011. Ending the regular season with a .262 AVG (not a sexy average, but we’ll take that), 41 home runs, 119 RBIs and 136 runs scored, he was easily the Yankees MVP last year. Speaking of the MVP, he came in fourth place in the AL MVP voting, which we here at Bomber Boulevard believe was a bit of a crime. He was also voted into the second All-Star game of his career and walked away with his first Silver Slugger Award. An international ambassador for Major League Baseball, one of the best defensive center-fielders in the league, and just an overall cool dude, here is the Grandy Man and these are his Greatest Hits.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yankees Sign Bill Hall to Minor League Deal

Cary Edmondson/US Presswire
The Yankees have agreed to a minor league deal with utility infielder, Bill Hall. Not a great pick up for the Yankees in my opinion; Hall put up less than decent numbers last year with the Giants and Astros, but played well against the Yankees in 2010 when he was a member of the Red Sox. I'm sure this will be the typical Spring Training invite scenario, and who knows, maybe Hall will surprise us all. My only real concern with this signing is that this may mean the end of Eric Chavez in pinstripes. Can't see why the Yankees would need to sign another infielder. Here is the official release from the Associated Press:

NEW YORK — The Yankees have agreed to a minor league contract with utilityman Bill Hall and invited him to big league spring training.

Hall announced the deal on his Twitter account Tuesday, and New York confirmed the agreement.

If Hall is added to the Yankees' 40-man roster, he would get a $600,000, one-year contract and have the chance to earn an additional $600,000 in performance bonuses.

The 32-year-old played with Houston and San Francisco last season before he was designated for assignment on July 28, batting a combined .211 with 14 RBIs and two homers. He finished the season at Triple-A Fresno.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper