Author Archives: Brian Danuff

“Experienced” players will decide the outcome of 2013

Turning 39 years old this June, Derek Jeter has re-iterated over the past few years that age is simply just a number to him and the rest of his veteran teammates.

Of course, most baseball minds have thought otherwise, saying as they have in prior offseasons that this upcoming season will be the season the old guard finally breaks down and prevents the Yankees from making the playoffs.

“I’ve heard it before,” Jeter told the New York Post in response to the skepticism. “Regardless of how old anyone is, it’s our job to come here and be ready to play and help us compete. We’ve been able to do that pretty successfully over the years. Our plans don’t change.”

It’s definitely great to hear The Captain having that mindset, and he’s right. With the old age and doubt at its highest, the Yanks have won consecutive division titles and made two ALCS appearances in three years. Mind you, the reason there was even a chance for a pennant last October was thanks to a 40-year old carrying the team on his back in the late innings – Raul Ibanez.

So whether it’s the experience factor, fate, plain luck, or some other reason, time nor age has phased this Yankees team. They have remained just as big a threat to win the World Series as they were when Robinson Cano was a teenager in the late nineties.

Without saying its a problem, however, the oldest guys on the roster must do the un-expected once again to keep the Yanks at the top of the American League’s totem pole.

That may have been stating the obvious, but the team is definitely centered around a group of extraordinary, extra-old veterans who somehow have kept up with the rest of MLB over the past decade. Jeter (38), Andy Pettitte (40), Hiroki Kuroda (38), Ichiro Suzuki (39), and Mariano Rivera (43) are absolutely essential parts of this year’s ball-club. As I said, it’s not too often players their age are still in the game, let alone performing at a high level.

Now is it fair to doubt them, with all they’ve done in each of their careers? No. But people will, and have some reason to do so. To think that these players can lead the team through a six-month season and still have it in them to keep it up [hopefully] in October is a lot to ask. It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t consider it the most likely scenario.

I refuse to say this will be the year the Yankees’ age finally catches up to them, as each year in thinking that they surprise me and win the division. They are not too old to compete, but we’ve seen in the past few seasons the team dominating in the regular season, and just running out of gas come October. Things could change between now and September, but a realistic take on the 2013 Yankees is that they have the talent to return to the postseason. But their efforts to win in the postseason may again derail their quest for a 28th title.

Accept it: Kevin Youkilis is a Yankee

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Not even one full day into his first day at spring training, the few sentences said by Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis sent fans and the media into a frenzy. Likely a few hours after he was sized for his pinstripes, Youk was telling reporters he’d always be a Boston Red Sox.

He’s learned now, but that’s a big no-no and certainly not something that will go unnoticed in the big New York spotlight. Of course, his allegiance to Boston spread all over the back pages of newspapers was not the only quote he gave, but it was the only one people cared about.

Already on Yankees fan’s bad side, Kevin Youkilis said he will always remember the first nine seasons of his baseball career, which just so happened to take place with the Bombers’ biggest rival. Two World Series rings, three All Star appearances, a Gold Glove and Hank Aaron Award, and he is being ridiculed for saying he enjoyed what he accomplished there? Are fans truly clinging to any little thing he says that sounds the slightest anti-Yankee? That is truly pathetic.

Now, there’s not a fiber in my body that tells me a clean-shaven Kevin Youkilis wearing our beloved Yankee pinstripes is right. This is not a plea of defense nor show of love to the  guy who batted .235 last season and yet received $12 million, from an apparently penny-pinching Yankees front office. But it’s just me accepting it.

Many people have brought up the argument that players like Sparky Lyle, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, and Johnny Damon all started out as hated rivals in Beantown, and ended up becoming fan favorites [and more importantly, World Series champions] in the Bronx. Did any fan really expect those four “idiots” to put on the pinstripes, play with Yankee pride and partake in some of the greatest moments the team has ever had? I don’t think so.

I’ll give you a moment to reminisce about Sparky’s 1977 Cy Young season. Or Boggs riding the horse after ’96. Don’t forget Clemens’ postseason dominance either. Or Damon’s double-steal.

That is not my number one point, but it largely contributes to the idea that fans need to just wait and see what happens this season. The fact is, no one knows what Kevin Youkilis will do for the Yankees this year. I don’t expect anything outstanding, but I don’t expect anything horrible either.

Yankees fans have been considered vulgar, ignorant, downright stupid and clueless in the past. They have also been known as classy, every now and then, for cheering for whoever is wearing the pinstripes. I’m not a fan of A-Rod and a number of guys on the team. But I still support them and cheer for them. Why? Because they’re Yankees. And Kevin Youkilis is now one too.

So forget what he was, as he is now a player for our favorite team. Forgive and forget. Give him a chance. All those statements and more apply. The fact is, you don’t know anything until you know everything. Who knows what these upcoming 162 games have in store for Youk. Only time will tell. Not me or you.

Blue Jays’ acquisitions ensure hope, not division title for 2013

Once again we have found the “winners” of the Hot Stove season, this time in 2012 being the Toronto Blue Jays of all teams. Barring a veto made by Commissioner Selig for a baseball-related reason he is having trouble finding, the Miami Marlins are dealing their entire franchise up north, aside from Giancarlo Stanton.

Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck will all be ditching the hideous rainbow costumes in Florida for some classy throwback Jays jerseys in Canada.

Everyone loves to give their opinions and debate over huge deals like this during the winter, but mostly everyone is on the same page in saying the Blue Jays are now “instant contenders” in the A.L. East.

Forget about that atrocious excuse of an owner Jeffrey Loria for a second. Should the trade happen, it’s a bright new beginning for baseball’s only Canadian team, after the Montreal Expos left to become the Nationals in 2005.

Not to discredit what the Jays have done though in the 21st century – they’ve actually won at least 80 games in 9 of the 13 seasons since 2000 and in 5 of the last 7 since 2006. So they rarely have a definitive bad team, and normally they are competitive throughout the year. That’s what draws people to the conclusion that this trade finally gets Toronto over the hump to become a playoff contender for next season and beyond.

It’s a very strong point, and the Blue Jays may very well make the playoffs in 2013. But if we have learned anything in the past three seasons, it’s that no one wins a World Series on paper.

And since 1993, not on Astroturf either.

I understand each team is unique and different, and you can’t compare acquisitions fairly. But there’s now been four teams in the past two seasons that were picked to win their division, a couple to win the pennant, and of course one to capture the World Series.

What happened? All of them missed the playoffs.

The 2011 Red Sox, the 2012 Angels, the 2012 Dodgers, and [as this all has happened because of them] the 2012 Marlins are those clubs. From Adrian Gonzalez (for Boston and L.A.) to Albert Pujols and to Jose Reyes, all of these teams have made significantly huge trades and signings that seemingly put them over the top prior to season’s start.

To me it’s incredibly shocking people are once again jumping on the bandwagon of the team that has spent or acquired the most talent. This Toronto team still lost 89 games last year and has a lot to prove before they can convince me to pick them for even a Wild Card spot. 

I’m not going to go in-depth with analyzing the team, as it would be a waste of time this early in the offseason.

Don’t get me wrong, the other teams in the division are by no means head and shoulders above Toronto, but they aren’t worse either. All of them still have holes and many questions about how to improve, yet it almost feels coy of baseball analysts to be ignoring the Yankees and Orioles’ intense race this past September, the Rays ability to always hang around, and the Red Sox being destined to improve.

There’s a remote possibility that Toronto could even move down into last place in 2013. Not necessarily due to bad performance, but all of the teams are tough opponents and the division could be separated by less than ten games, from first to last. Ranking this Blue Jays team as better than most or all of their A.L. East foes is childish, and it’s a simple question of “shouldn’t baseball know better?”

No matter what, this team will be sugar-coated and hyped up through the winter and into spring by the new guys coming in, much like all the recent clubs that spent loads of money and lost out big time. Though in reality, there’s a reason this team lost 89 games in 2012. And the majority of the players are coming back, and though they are young and certainly may become a strong team soon enough, no one should be picking them [unless you’re a bias Toronto fan] to suddenly explode and over-take the Yankees, O’s, and Rays to win the A.L. East.

We saw in 2012 that anything can happen in baseball, and that’s my thinking. Anything can happen next year and it’s still only November. There’s over two months left for the rest of the A.L. East to “catch up”, and it’s doubtful Toronto’s apparent inferior opponents will be the same as they stand now come Opening Day.

Overall, there is no doubt that this is a tremendous trade for the Blue Jays, and I’m happy for them from a non-bias standpoint. But not everything works out the way it’s supposed to, and it really hasn’t for most of the “winners” of the offseason for the past decade now. Toronto has the potential to change that pattern, but until they do I will have many doubts and continue thinking realistically while people guess away for the Jays to win 95 games and take the A.L. East crown.

Just ask the past couple of year’s World Series favorites. They’ll tell ya baseball isn’t played in the winter on paper. It’s played in the summer on the diamond, and there’s nothing to point to about next season when snow is covering the ground.

I guess that’s the “beauty” of baseball – it brings out the idiot in all of us during the season, debating what we thought back when it was 30 degrees outside and all we had closest to baseball was the MLB: The Show video game is simply guessing and nothing more.

There is one thing that is for certain however – the A.L. East just got a whole lot more exciting.

Nothing is guaranteed, but Swisher’s a given

In the days immediately following the Yankees’ elimination, when the anger and demand for answers was high, I finally conceded that Nick Swisher’s time with the Yankees needed to end. His goofy, smart Alec attitude had run its course here in New York, as for the fourth straight year he was an automatic out in the postseason.

It was just unacceptable, and I thought that all good things had to end at some point. Since Swish is an impending free agent, it would be easy to just let him walk and go help out another team in the regular season and then choke for them in the playoffs. The Yanks would re-up with Ichiro and all will be well, heck maybe even better in Yankeeland.

Of course weeks later I’m now in the more mellow, accepting stage of the end of the Yankees season. I’ve accepted that they just weren’t good enough this year. I’ve accepted that the blame does not fall on any one player. And I’ve accepted that sometimes I think too much with my heart rather than with my brain.

This is something I hope all Yankee fans have been able to do. Because hopefully, it’ll make them realize, like I have, that Nick Swisher is essential to the 2013 Yankees.

You heard me.

Look, I’ve always been a Nick Swisher fan. But as I mentioned, come playoff time, no one is off limits to trash, even if it’s one of my favorite Yankees.

Yes, Swisher had another horrid playoff performance, but that was simply a nine-game stretch.

Now, if you don’t hit in October, you don’t fit the bill on the Yankees, I get that. But with that thinking in mind, that means the Yanks should also get rid of Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and hey he went 0 for 8, Brett Gardner as well.

Without those players, you don’t get to the postseason. The Yankees are an 80 win team at best without those hitters. Would you rather miss the playoffs without those players, or have them carry you to the postseason to only have them hit a rough patch in October, against solid pitching? Most people don’t think of it that way.

The fact is Nick Swisher is an outstanding hitter in the regular season. It’s debatable he’s the best hitting right fielder in the game from April to September. Each year with the Yankees, he’s hit at least .260, at least 20 home runs, and at least 80 RBI, this year knocking in 92 in fact.

Yes, he has his hot and [very, very] cold streaks, but whenever he was out of the lineup, it always seemed like the Yankees were missing something. He’s so versatile as a hitter. He can hit near the top, in the middle, and in fact in 2009 he hit eighth a large number of times. Name another hitter on the Yankees who could hit anywhere in the lineup and still produce the same.

Some people do want Swisher back but say it’s impossible for the Yankees to do so, given his contract demands to go along with the Yankees suddenly tight  budget. I argue that Swisher isn’t going to get the money his agent wants for him. Do you really expect a team to shell out $100 million to a 32 year old outfielder not named Josh Hamilton? Not me. And after witnessing how much Swisher loved playing in New York the past four years, it would be hard to convince me he won’t give the Yankees a bit of a hometown discount.

I personally see him getting a deal similar to the one Johnny Damon received [from the Yankees] in 2006 – four years, $50 million. While that’s still maybe a bit too much for the Yankees to handle, if they are smart and deal Curtis Granderson’s contact, (as well as letting most of their other impending free agents walk) they’d certainly have room.

Another argument is that he’s too old to be counted on to produce as much as he has, as well as hold down right field for the next couple of years. A good point, but Swisher has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball over the past four years, and Yankee Stadium’s right field has been manned by the likes of Bobby Abreu, Paul O’Neill, and Gary Sheffield before. So I’m sure defense shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Also consider the fact that Swisher each season has trimmed body fat and added muscle, and has become a much better overall athlete.

The main question I have in defense of Swisher returning, is who plays right field next year if he leaves? Sure, the Yankees may simply not want him back, but then who will replace him?

As I write, I noticed a report that maybe Curtis Granderson will move to left field and Brett Gardner will move to center. That’s all good, but then who plays right? The Yankees by letting Swisher walk would create a big problem for themselves, with not many good players available to fill Swish’s spot in the field and in the lineup.

Some say sign Torii Hunter or Cody Ross, and others say trade for Andre Ethier or Josh Willingham. All three are solid outfielders, but are they New York outfielders? Swisher has proven he can play for the Yankees and most importantly play well. The potential replacements listed are of similar age to Swisher, and have never played on a big stage before, considering they all played for non-contenders in 2012 and have little (memorable) experience in the playoffs. Ross had one big postseason for San Francisco in 2010. Any guarantee he replicates that in pinstripes next year? No.

In replacing Swisher, Yankee fans are looking for someone who can come up big in October, something Nick has of course failed to do. But you can never sign or refuse to sign a player based on what he may do in the postseason. The playoffs are an entirely different animal, and nothing is guaranteed. Look at the World Series MVPs of the past six years – Mike Lowell, Cole Hamels, Hideki Matsui, Edgar Renteria, David Freese , Pablo Sandoval. I could go on even longer. Out of that group, were there any big-name free agent signings? Not that I can see. I see a group of gritty players, young and old, either coming out of the farm system or being traded for.

The fact is , you can’t run a player out of town because of the postseason. Nick Swisher is one of the best hitters on the Yankees during the regular season, and letting him go would be an idiotic move that I think they’d regret for years. Similar to the likes of trading Bobby Murcer, letting Reggie Jackson walk, and allowing Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte to go win a pennant for the Astros.

The Yankees have made many mistakes in the past fifty years, and this is one they can avoid by simply extending Nick Swisher a clearly deserved new contract. They already probably need a new bench, a catcher, and a closer. Why add ‘right fielder’ to that list when you can retain one of the best the Yankees have had in a long time? It just flat out makes no sense.

I hope for Swisher’s sake, he sticks it to the Yankees by being a thorn in their side whenever he plays them. If I go to a game next year and Swisher returns by hitting a home run, you bet I’ll be standing and cheering.

Cashman shouldn’t spend much to re-tool for 2013

They’re known as the Evil Empire. The New York Yankee$. Or in Nickelodeon’s “Fairly Odd Parents”, the Bankees.

Year after year, the Yankees and their fans are constantly discredited and disrespected because of how they take advantage of their surplus of cash, spend it on the best players in the game, and build a perennial All-Star team each year in the Bronx.

2009 is the most recent year anti-Yankee fans point to. After an 89-win 2008 season in which the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993, general manager Brian Cashman went on a mission to own the proceeding winter’s free-agent market to put a championship-caliber team in the Yanks’ brand new billion dollar ballpark.

Well, some 400 million dollars later, Cash got his wish. He brought in not only stud lefty CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay’s sidekick A.J. Burnett, but slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira as well. Three players who were all still in the beginning of their primes despite having accomplished plenty in the seasons leading up to their pinstriped days.

As many predicted, the Yankees won the World Series that year by defeating the Phillies in six games. It was a glorious moment (one I witnessed in person), and of course there’s nothing better than your favorite team winning it all.

Besides one thing though: winning it all multiple times.

That’s something this seemingly stacked Yankees team has failed to do, after now three straight playoff failures despite having trophy-worthy regular seasons.

But of course as we all know, that last point is irrelevant to us. No trophy besides the trophy matters. George Steinbrenner set a precedent that is followed by everyone in Yankeeland – that anything short of a World Series is an unsuccessful season. Throw away all the memories and historic moments of the past three years. The Yankees didn’t win it all, and that signals it’s time for change.

Most fans are convinced this offseason will be a replaying of the spending-spree of ’09. Brian Cashman will go out and sign the top free agents [Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke in this case] and the Yankees will become a superhuman team and power their way towards another world championship.

The worst part of it all is that they want this to happen. The same fans that are complaining about A-Rod’s contract are the ones begging ownership to give a drug abusing, clunky, and 32 year old Josh Hamilton hundreds of millions. Not to mention head-case Zack Greinke, who’s an A.J. Burnett waiting to happen.

Don’t get me wrong, those moves would definitely help the Yankees. The question is for how long? I don’t want to win another pennant/World Series, and then suddenly fall apart and fail to win again without a true core in place. This team is too old and has too many holes for it to be fixed with the ‘dough. Hopefully Brian Cashman realizes this and fans can stop their pre-orders of Josh Hamilton jerseys before they arrive at their doorsteps with Red Sox colors.

Just look at the San Francisco Giants. Here they are in a blink of an eye winning their second World Series in three seasons. Biting their lips in the 2000s and watching their West Coast foes enjoy championships and playoff baseball sure paid off, didn’t it? They let their farm system progress, made trades to help the club in a couple years, and locked up young players who clearly had potential others couldn’t see. Now they have two world championships with a roster filled with MVP contenders and Cy Young winners, and most of the players haven’t even reached their prime years yet.

To quote John Sterling, “isn’t that amazing?”

It really is, and quite embarrassing for the Yankees to be witnessing.

Austin Jackson. Phil Coke. Melky Cabrera. George Kontos. Arodys Vizcaíno. Jesus Montero. Ian, Patrick, Kennedy. Do you want me to continue?

Those players (plus many more) made up the future of the Yankees just a couple years ago. It seemed like the Core Four could pass the torch off to this bunch and they could continue the winning and success that Jeet, Mo, Andy and Jorgie enjoyed for the majority of their careers.

Now, after the Cash-man decided to deal away all of those young prospects, the Yankees are left with a team full of senior citizens (baseball-wise). Each season seems like a “last-hurrah” for this whittling core of the Bombers, and had the club simply instilled trust and held on to it’s promising young guns, a new dynasty could have just been getting underway.

Instead, we’re left with a home-run or bust center fielder, two injured pitchers, and suddenly many problems to be addressed this coming winter.

There’s no doubt in my mind this team is certainly still salvageable, and can get younger and stronger for the upcoming season. That’s of course as long as Cashman looks for trades that bring in youth, rather than dealing it away for pretty much nothing.

Then again, that’s just like telling a college student to change his study habits, or lack thereof the night before the big exam. It just won’t happen. Cashman isn’t that type of GM, and it’s certainly hard to be being in the “win-now” atmosphere of New York.

But I’m just flat-out tired of teams taking advantage of the Yanks’ farm system and winning pennants and making superstars due to our front office’s lack of faith in any youngsters. It seems like we hear about these top Yankee prospects for years and BOOM – they’re flipped to the Atlanta Braves for Javier Vazquez. Come on.

I want Curtis Granderson gone. Each time his name is brought up I think of IPK, A-Jax, and Coke. That’s it. He’s done nothing but make me regret that trade year after year. He still has value in being able to hit 40 home runs, and the Yankees could get a great deal including top prospects if you throw in a Phil Hughes or a Joba Chamberlain.

How about Alex Rodriguez? I don’t think he will be traded, and that’s because my personal lack of trust and faith in Brian Cashman. But if dealt, the Yankees could get a big head-case off the team and also either some prospects or a young established Major Leaguer in return.

Look, I am thinking of moves for 2013, 2014, 2015 and beyond. It seems like the Yankees’ offseason policy is just how to win in the next calendar year. And it really annoys me because clearly, that policy has only worked once in the past twelve years. When something ain’t broke, you don’t fix it. But something is clearly wrong in the Yankees organization, be it their outlook on fielding a team or the ones who do the very job.

As I stated, I want to win. But not for one season. I want a dynasty that can last with young exciting players you want to root for.

Hey, what can you say. I’m a Yankee fan. It’s in my blood for me to want that.

This has been a rant on the New York Yankees, sponsored by AARP.

Grading 2012 and Looking Ahead – SS/3B

There’s been a ton of talk about change that is needed for the Yankees to go even further in the playoffs in 2013. Some suggest blowing the team up, while others suggest slight tweaking and bargain-bin signings could get the job done. But what most likely will not change, despite Yankee fans’ cries to, is the left side of the infield, which has been a constant for New York nine straight seasons, and should be again for its tenth.

Shortstop – Derek Jeter

Right now, when you think about Derek Jeter’s 2012 season, you’re still picturing him falling to the ground and being helped off the field in Game 1 of the ALCS. What would be a broken ankle put a startling and abrupt end to one of the Captain’s best seasons, even though his “prime years” have long past. The 38-year old recorded 216 hits (good for a .316 batting average) and was a true jumpstart to the lineup atop it as the leadoff man. His leadership at the plate and in the field matched no other, and say what you want about his range, but he did not cost the Yankees any games in 2012 and hasn’t cost them much more in his 18 seasons. We’ll keep replaying that injury in our minds up until the Captain takes the field again in 2013, which is unfortunate, because up until that moment we saw an incredible season from a future Hall of Famer and one of the true Yankees legends. Grade – A

2013 Outlook:

As great a season as he had this year, expect that ankle injury to slow some of Jeter’s abilities in 2013. We’ve all counted him out before, but it was because of age and not necessarily any physical derailment. Now, he just went under the knife and had surgery to completely repair the ankle, and won’t be back for 4-5 months. He could still start more games at shortstop than at DH, but expect Derek to get a lot of time off and the Yankees to treat him very cautiously. Even still, hitting wise, the man’s a god, and should put up numbers that will be heads and shoulders above any other 39-year old starting shortstop.

Third base – Alex Rodriguez

2012 was definitely a trying year for A-Rod, as once again he couldn’t stay healthy and missed 40 games in the regular season. But when he was on the field he was an above-average third baseman, and that’s saying a lot considering he too is past his prime. He is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, and that alone was a big help to the Yankees in 2012. And yes, we all know he didn’t hit 40 home runs or was an MVP contender but that era of A-Rod baseball ended in 2007. 18 home runs, close to 60 RBIs and a .272 average are great statistics for a former steroid user who’s in what would be the twilight of a player’s career. Don’t blame him because Joe Girardi decides to bat him third or fourth every night. Grade – C+

2013 Outlook:

His postseason was absolutely horrible, I get that. But so too was any other Yankee player excluding Derek Jeter. So go ahead and come up with any trade ideas you think can get him out of New York, but it’s time to accept it: Alex Rodriguez will be the Yankees third baseman in 2013. Say what you will about his production in October, as detailed he still is a solid third baseman on all sides during the regular season. I expect similar numbers from him in 2013, and maybe even slightly bigger stats should he stay healthy. Which is a big “if”, and the Yankees probably should rest him a bit more than they did this year. But if they do, and A-Rod just does what he does best, and that’s hit, look for another good year from him, despite all his apparent issues this fall that were just simply a 9-game slump.

Scattered thoughts on post-mortem day

It’s become a fairly understood thought, if not a law in sports, that anything short of a championship is a failed year to the New York Yankees. The late George Steinbrenner instilled this mentality when he purchased the team in 1973, and it continues to this day now a few years after his passing.

So as the Boss would look at it (95 wins, home-field advantage, and a 17th playoff appearance in 18 years) this season was a failure. The Yankees got swept aside by the Detroit Tigers in four games in the ALCS, and while most teams would be content with playing in October, the Yankees feel they need to win it all in this glorious month for them to be satisfied. And we as fans accept that.

Blame anyone you want, [aside from the World Series-caliber starting pitching they had] but this was a complete team failure. There’s no doubt they went up to the plate trying to do the right thing and pick up hits and drive in runs, but when all nine guys struggle each night so immensely, this was the only way it was going to end.

The Bombers just barely survived the ALDS against their renewed foe in the Baltimore Orioles, and the A.L. Champion Tigers would not let the Yankees survive any longer on historically bad hitting and late-inning comebacks. Give credit where it’s due – Detroit earned this pennant. But the Yankees lost it more than the Tigers won it in my opinion.

Playing without Derek Jeter will be an excuse many will bring up, but I don’t want to hear it. This team without Jeter was good enough to win, had they played like they did in the regular season. No doubt he has the biggest impact on the lineup, but the two through nine hitters still should have been getting the job done. It’s horrible to think, but in a way this lineup’s RISP fails ultimately cost them their Captain. Had they capitalized on those three bases-loaded rallies in the first nine innings, the extra ones don’t happen, and the Yankees win Game 1 by a landslide and Jeter never fields that ground ball. It could have completely changed the series. But could’ve, would’ve, should’ve – that’s the name of the game in October.

Look, Alex Rodriguez certainly didn’t help the Yankees a ton, but stop treating him as the scapegoat. That’s like asking a dog to stop barking, but the fact remains with his contract aside, Alex had a statistically better postseason than Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, and Robbie Cano. Making 25 million dollars a year will never make his mistakes excusable, but like I’ve mentioned he’s older and his prime has long past, and it’s unbelievable to think the front office couldn’t have seen this coming  when they signed Alex to that mega-deal in 2007.

Unfortunately lost in this debacle is the outstanding pitching the Yankees received almost every game. Had starting pitching been the only factor that matters in the postseason, the Yankees win the World Series. CC Sabathia was dominant in his two ALDS starts, and unfortunately just ran out of gas yesterday and you couldn’t expect him to do it all. Andy Pettitte pitched better than anyone could have thought after taking a year off, and he deserved two more postseason wins added to his amazing resume. Hiroki Kuroda truly paid off as well, owning the Orioles and Tigers bats in the two starts he made. Phil Hughes also pitched a gem in Game 4 of the division series, and it looked like he’d grind another game out in Game 3 of the ALCS before tweaking his back. Too bad there’s no trophy or award they can win, but it certainly was some of the better starting pitching the Yankees have gotten since their late-90’s dynasty run.

Finally, just a quick note on Joe Girardi. As much as we all question him [and if I were GM he would have been fired four times already], his managing tactics were not something to look down on this October. He had an incredibly depleted team throughout the year, and managed to overcome the loss of Mariano, the loss of CC for a month, Andy for three, A-Rod for two – you see what I mean? And yet the Yankees still won the AL East and still looked like a good favorite to win the pennant. Wow.

Overall, this was a failure. The Yankees looked absolutely lost at the plate and never held a lead in the series. But people should not forget how the Yankees proved life does move on after Mariano, and they can survive losing their ace mid-season, and how this aging team can still come together and make a few more championship runs. Whether it’ll happen in 2013 is a big question, but the fact remains this year was very exciting and I’m proud of what the Yankees did – all the way up to the 12th inning of Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS.

Thanks for a wild ride guys.

Five years later, Torre’s exit still a shocking disgrace

This month it will officially be five years – that’s half a decade – since Joe Torre was manager of the New York Yankees.

In his twilight years, George Steinbrenner was still The Boss, and he professed it more than ever that postseason. Following a heart-breaking Game 2 loss to the Indians in the 2007 ALDS, George said that if the Yankees couldn’t rebound and win the series, then Joe Torre would be gone.

That was an unimaginable thought – the Yankees without Joe Torre. 12 years since he was hired and tagged with the nickname “Clueless Joe”, Yankee fans everywhere had come to respect and love their skipper. After all, making the playoffs every season was not always as easy as the Yankees had made it seem all those years.

But clearly, times were different in 2007. These weren’t the same Bombers who had gone out a number of seasons prior and ran off a streak of four World Series championships in five years. Where Tino Martinez make slick-fielding plays at first base, there was Doug Mientkiewicz. Where Paul O’Neill gave it all in right field, there was Bobby Abreu. Yes, Andy Pettitte was back, and Jeter, Mo, and Jorge Posada had never left. But the dynasty ended a long time ago, and with it went the clutch factor of postseason Yankees teams.

But not lost in that thought, was just how amazing the ’07 Yankees were [in the regular season]. After pulling through a treacherous 22-29 start, being 13 1/2 games behind the eventual Fall Classic champion Red Sox, the Yankees fought back with Joe Torre leading the way. A 72-39 finish from the end of May resulted in a 94-win campaign, and a Wild Card berth. Oh, and they ended just 2 games back of Boston for the division.
To say the 67-year old native New Yorker had lost touch with his team, was simply false. Joe was leading the Yankees the best he ever had. “Energy”, was the word he kept re-iterating to his team. Bring your A-game night in and night out, and you’ll win.

As much as it held true from the end of May to late September, in early October, the message had run its course. The Yankees dropped the first two games of the series, and were in a must-win situation heading back to the Bronx and the House That Ruth Built. It just so happened Game 3 and Game 4 would be the final postseason games held at the old Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees lifted the hearts of their fans and even Joe Torre off the bench with a thrilling 8-4 Game 3 victory. The momentum was back. The swagger was back. And for that one night, Torre’s Yankees proved they wouldn’t quit on their manager and that maybe, with all the comebacks they had made under his helm, one more was in the works.

The next night, chants of “Joe Torre” could be heard by all 56,315 in attendance at Yankee Stadium. But they were not for the right reasons. He made a bunch of pitching changes in the Yankees’ 6-4 loss, and each time he came out, the chants got larger and larger. People weren’t oblivious; they knew what was going to happen. As Cleveland celebrated on the field and later in the clubhouse, the Yankees’ players, and even the media, could not control their emotions. Torre’s post-game press conference was short and to the point – like it had been for all those years. He was bluntly honest, and gave credit to where it was due.

The days after the elimination, everyone was a bit surprised why Torre hadn’t gotten the boot yet. His contract was up, but the Yankees hadn’t officially dismissed him or announced they were parting ways. People had an idea – they were the classy Yankees. They’d give Joe time to move on, and then when he was ready, they would have a big glorious press conference, as well as announcing they’d retire #6 the following year in a ceremony at the old house.

At least, that was my opinion. And was I ever wrong.

The Yankees flew Joe Torre out to Tampa to discuss a potential new contract. With George Steinbrenner and sons present, along with general manager Brian Cashman and team president Randy Levine, they got down to business. Some say the Yankees never intended to bring him back, that it was more of a “courtesy” meet up – that they knew Torre would leave without a new deal.

In my opinion, The Boss bit his lip and knew Joe was far more valuable to the Yankees than he had ever realized. He was the only manager suited to lead this team in the coming years, and George wanted him back. But, being himself, he didn’t want to admit he was wrong about letting him go and sell out to Torre by giving him the praise and dollars he truly deserved. So he offered him what a lot of people like to call, an embarrassment.

Opinions aside, he offered Torre a one-year, $5 million contract, with incentives of $1 million added on for each postseason round the Yankees made. Also included was a guaranteed option for 2009 – if the Yankees reached the World Series.

One thing Torre stressed in his autobiography, The Yankee Years, was that he wanted job security. He hated managing on one-year contracts, and for a skipper of his caliber, understandably so. But with the roster the Yankees put together for 2008, there was no way they’d make the World Series, essentially being just another one year deal for Joe. But with him at the helm, maybe they’d get at least another playoff berth, which would have been a very important one for Yankee Stadium’s final season.

Torre was smart enough to realize that and decided that enough was enough. He didn’t want to continue playing games with The Boss, and did not want to stay longer than he was welcomed. George wanted him back I believe, but Hank, Hal, Cash, and Levine didn’t. Even though he’s The Boss, he wasn’t The Boss at those meetings. It truly seemed majority ruled in this decision.

So with that, Joe was gone. Discreetly, ironically, and in a sick, twisted way, the Yankees turned it on Torre, saying he rejected their offer. No, he rejected an opportunity for embarrassment and further scrutiny he didn’t deserve nor want at this stage of his life. Torre walked out with a heavy heart, but with pride, and the Yankees were left looking like fools.

They did find as good a successor as was possible in Joe Girardi, and he’s done a great job, leading the Yankees to the playoffs in every season but his first. Each year, Girardi battled injuries, controversies, and flat out inconsistent play to still lead the team to three division titles and a wild card berth, including a 2009 World Series win.

But even still, each time I look over to the dugout while at a game, or see a shot of him leaning over the dugout’s padded fence on TV, something looks off. Girardi definitely looks like the skipper, but to me, there was only one Yankees manager, at least for my generation. And that was #6, Joe Torre.

I will be a Yankee fan until I die and then afterwards, but I’ll never forget their idiocy in letting go one of baseball’s most iconic and successful managers [even at age 67] far too quickly. And now as we saw Joe Girardi incredibly over-manage and under-manage in the Yankees’ all but failed attempt for #28, we can only ask what would Mr. T, as Derek Jeter called him, would do.

Jeter’s loss can’t be ignored, and won’t be

Yesterday afternoon I went to New York City’s Comic-Con event for the very first time. A bigger fan of the movie adaptions instead of the comics themselves, I didn’t really enjoy myself as the thousands of others did. Also, I couldn’t help but check my phone every couple minutes, making sure I’d be able to get home in time for the 8:07 first pitch of ALCS Game 1.

Being bored out of my mind and having no where to go, I figured I might as well look through some comics that were on display and on sale to the public. Some were cool, like finding one of the first Superman comic books from the 1940s. But most were from the past 10 years, and clearly had little to no value at all.

But I kid you not, I did stop at one comic in particular as the date intrigued me – October, 1996. It was a Spider-Man comic, but with the Yankees on my mind I just stood there and thought “what a month that was.”

That month, the Yankees led by 22 year-old Derek Jeter defeated the Atlanta Braves in the World Series to win their first championship since 1978, their 23rd in franchise history. Of course guys like Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte, Jim Leyrtiz and David Cone played an arguably even bigger role, but New Yorkers were captivated by the play of this young adult from Kalamazoo, Michigan.

He went on to win Rookie of the Year that season, and five years later he was a 4-time World Series champion and the face of the New York Yankees. Giving it his all day in and day out, Jeter piled up multiple seasons of 200-plus hits and a .300 batting average, quickly solidifying himself as a true superstar.

Statistics of course can’t measure the other, over-powering elements of Derek’s game. His hard work, dedication, leadership and professionalism could not be matched by anyone in this day in age. The Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner realized this and made him their team captain in 2003.

Following the multiple championships, October baseball was still common, but playing in the final weeks of the month was not. Just two pennants and four early-round (ALDS, ALCS) playoff exits occurred from 2001-2007, but Jeter kept on fighting and searching for that elusive fifth ring.

New York missed the postseason all together in 2008, and Derek had an off year for his standards at age 34 (.300 batting average, 179 hits – yeah, what a horrible year!). People doubted him, and some even said he was finished being the Yankees’ everyday shortstop. But that year was just a reminder he was human, but still god-like.

He finished third in MVP voting in 2009, as well as becoming the Yankees’ all-time hits leader passing Lou Gehrig. Most importantly, he led the rejuvenated Yanks straight through October and into early November with a World Series win over the Phillies, the 27th for the team and the fifth for him, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. The Core Four was re-united and it never felt better, as in what you’d call the “twilight” of their careers, they were on top of the baseball world.

Following a 16-month period where he hit just .270 in 2010, had an ugly negotiating period with the Yankees on a new contract, and got injured in mid June, the second half of 2011 proved to be the Derek Jeter revival show. He returned off the disabled list and recorded his 3,000th career hit in the most dramatic way possible – a home run, and went 5-5 that day. For the rest of the year he’d bat .327 and truly hit like the Derek Jeter of old [and thankfully not an old Derek Jeter] at age 37.

The retirement of long-time teammate and friend Jorge Posada put a damper on Jeter’s thoughts as spring training began this year. But with a couple of key pitching acquisitions in Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, as well as the surprise return of Andy Pettitte, it looked like the Yanks had a shot at #28.

That shot heightened even more when Jeter had one of the best seasons of his career. The 38 year-old racked up 216 hits with a .316 batting average and 15 home runs. With many tough injuries and moments for the team throughout the year, Jeter was their old reliable and truly led the team to just barely winning the division over the Orioles and just as barely defeating them in five games in the recently concluded ALDS.

Therefore, all seemed right as today began. The Yankees in the ALCS, just four wins from the World Series with Jeter leading the way. 16 years after this same situation first occurred.

I returned home just in time to catch Andy Pettitte deliver the first pitch to Austin Jackson for strike one. There you go. Another postseason series for the Yankees with Andy on the hill and Jeter at short. Nothing seemed more usual.

Well, maybe yet another game of failing to drive in runners in scoring position was more usual. That’s sort of become Yankee culture the past three Octobers. But nevertheless, the Yankees overcame a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the 9th, thanks to who else but Raul Ibanez. The game was tied.

In the 10th inning, with the winning run on third in Brett Gardner, Jeter had a tough at-bat before he popped out to right to end the threat. In the 11th, a single by Ichiro would be all for the Yankees as well. All the momentum from that 9th inning was gone, and it was just a matter of time before the Tigers struck.

A hit by Miguel Cabrera, a strikeout of Prince Fielder and a mis-played line drive by Nick Swisher [hit by Delmon Young] put Detroit up 5-4. If that wasn’t deflating enough, nothing prepared us for what happened next.

Down went the Captain. A fairly routine ground ball was fielded cleanly, but Jeter’s momentum going to his left caused him to put too much pressure on his left ankle, and it twisted the wrong way and he tumbled to the ground. I hate to do a play-by-play, as I’m sure you’ll all watched it a thousand times already, but that’s what happened.

He lay on the field in tremendous pain, not being able to stand as the Tigers tacked on another run, but at that point the game was second in the Yankees’ priorities – Derek Jeter was #1. He was no doubt coming out of the game, and as Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue helped him off the field, the fans rose and cheered “DER-EK JE-TER – *CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP*”, as they had so many times before following a hit or during the Bleacher Creatures’ roll call. Tears were in mine and as I’m sure many of Yankee fans’ eyes as we watched it all unfold.

Joe Girardi said following the loss that it was what we feared the most – broken. Well, fractured, but the point being he was done for the remainder of the playoffs. In a matter of literally minutes, the Yankees went from being tied in extra innings, to down by 2 and their most important player in the past 50 years out of the game, and done for the year. Wow.

There are really no words to describe how much he has meant and means to the Yankees’ organization, and how devastating a loss this is. For the first time since 1995, the Bombers will try and win a World Series now not only without Mariano Rivera, but Derek Jeter as well.

I don’t know if any playoff loss in Yankees history will be as impacting and depressing as last night’s. That injury could be many things. It certainly could be the dagger in this  Yankees team for 2012. But even that aside, it could be the dagger in Jeter being the Yankees’ shortstop, and also being as consistent and clutch a player as he’s been all of these years. A broken ankle is never good, but turning 39 as Derek will be doing next June, it’s even worse.

We always say how much we love and appreciate Derek Jeter. We stop whatever we’re doing to watch his at-bats, and even go to games just to see him play. But now that he’s hurt and can’t do anything but watch the Yankees try and win the World Series, it’ll be very different over at least the next three games as it will make us all realize as we did when Mo went down, that we never know what we have until it’s gone.

Here’s to a quick and successful recovery for Derek, and for this current team who will try and win #28 for him over these next couple of weeks. Cliques are aplenty in these situations, but all I can say is – don’t stop believing. I know Derek Jeter won’t. That’s just who the man is.

A-Rod is not the problem

As regular as the Yankees being in the playoffs has become, so has the annual jeering of third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Despite carrying the team on his back to the World Series in 2009, all that was forgiven has re-surfaced as Alex has followed ’09 with three consecutive horrid postseasons.

Of course, this October is hopefully still just beginning for the Yankees after an exciting Game 3 win that put them up 2-1 in the ALDS. As you know, Raul Ibanez hit the game-tying and game-winning home runs in the 9th and 12th innings making for a truly historic playoff win. But unfortunately, the bigger story is that he came into the game for A-Rod, who has now struck out in 7 of his 12 playoff at-bats. The cheers that were heard when A-Rod was taken out rivaled the cheers that erupted following Ibanez’s homer(s).

You can’t go on one sports website (even here at Yankees Fans Unite) or watch one sports show without them bringing up the tremendous struggles of the Yankees’ $300 million man. They all point to that bust of a contract and also how he continues to bat third in the order through the first three games, despite clearly not deserving to be.

No doubt people have a solid argument to be mad at A-Rod and want him either benched or off the team completely. But they are thinking in terms that would have applied several years ago, but not at this present time.

Get it through your heads Yankee fans – Alex Rodriguez is no longer Alex Rodriguez. Forget about his contract; he clearly isn’t worth the money. But the guy is 37 years old, and a former steroid user. Not only is he at the age where most athletes begin to break down, but he’s also at the stage in his life where performance-enhancing drug use starts to take its toll.

Granted, he is far more mature and smarter than he was when he juiced down in Texas. Yet the fact remains that he is simply an aging superstar who is past his prime. Actually to me the numbers he put up this year are impressive considering he played in just 122 games. He will never hit 30 home runs again, and likely won’t fare too well in other offensive categories as he plays out the final half of his 10-year deal. He simply isn’t the same A-Rod, and yet Yankee fans think of him as that guy who should be carrying this team and getting at least a hit if not a home run every at-bat, which sparks their hatred and dislike towards his play.

Another gripe quick-thinking fans have with Alex is that he hits third in this Yankee playoff lineup. Correct me if I’m wrong, but does he put out the lineup card every day? Does he decide who to pinch-hit for and who to bring in from the bullpen in close games? No. Those are the duties of the Yankees manager, and that is Joe Girardi. Alex doesn’t ask to bat third and won’t refuse to when Joe says so. A-Rod batting third is nothing of his own fault. I’m not saying blame Joe, but certainly don’t act like him batting third is something that is catastrophic to the Yankees’ chances. Because the players fans want to replace him in the three hole – be it Robbie Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, or Mark Teixeira -none of them have done that much better as far as producing runs. (Teix has hit better than the other three, but he too has had his struggles)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Alex Rodriguez. I never have, and simply root for him mutually for him being a member of the Yankees. But acting like he is the only one causing the Yankees’ offensive woes is ridiculous, and so is the idea that he should be hitting like the A-Rod of old, because he’s long gone. What you have now is simply an old A-Rod, and fans need to accept it and understand him still being on the team is something to point fingers at Brian Cashman and the late George Steinbrenner for. The Boss especially had a change of heart after letting him walk and quickly re-signed him in hopes of him continually breaking records and establishing himself as an MLB legend in the Yankee pinstripes.

Instead of signing Mike Lowell, or trading with the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, George wanted A-Rod back, and he wanted him back for another decade. How could anyone turn down the money he was offered, and also, how could anyone have thought that at age 37 he’d still be hitting 40 home runs and being one of the top hitters in baseball? Not me. Most 37 year olds aren’t, no matter how legendary or productive they were in their prime. And especially considering his PED use, he only adds to the lesser production a veteran player like him will contribute to the Yankees.

So before you begin to hate on A-Rod and want him kicked out of New York, remember it was barely his fault he’s still here and certainly not his fault that at age 37, he can’t hit like he’s 29. I don’t remember too many others who were able to do that.

Bobby V the un-deserving scapegoat in Bo-Sox disaster

As everyone knows, [and in case you didn’t, you knew it was coming] Bobby Valentine is no longer the Red Sox manager. The team dismissed the 62-year old skipper after just one year at the helm, not even 24 hours after the Red Sox’ 93rd loss in their final game of the season.

From what the players and fans have said throughout this traumatic year for the Sox, you’d think Valentine’s firing was a huge step in moving forward and rebuilding a seemingly reborn franchise. Following 86 years of losing that ended in 2004, the Red Sox have won more World Series (2) than any team this century, and have appeared in the playoffs a total of 6 of the last 10 Octobers.

No, a dynasty to challenge their rival Yankees never happened, but right now, Boston has had the upper-hand in the first twelve years of the century where it counts most – the World Series.

Yet here we are, for the second straight year discussing the dismissal of the Red Sox manager and the dis-array the team lies in. Last time, it was well-respected and celebrated Terry Francona after a historic September collapse, that still left the Bo-Sox with a 90-72 record in 2011. Now, in 2012 it’s Bobby V, who miraculously survived all 162 games after the Red Sox’ worst season since he was fifteen – in 1965.

As the final result shows, Bobby V and the Red Sox fell well short of a “perfect match”, as some had predicted when he was hired by new GM Ben Cherington not even a calendar year ago. Tears streamed down his face as he first buttoned up the Red Sox jersey over his suit the day he was introduced to the Boston media.

Valentine was supposed to represent a change in the attitude of the defeated and disrespectful bunch of goons Fenway Park’s cramped dugout housed. People knew Bobby V was not a player’s manager, but at the same time was not as big a dictator as some perceived. So as spring training beckoned, it was hard to say that Boston couldn’t rebound this year and make the playoffs under the rule of Mr. Valentine.

Then came something so shocking to the Red Sox, that they immediately crumbled in Florida before they even played a game home in Boston – discipline.

I’m not trying to disrespect what Terry Francona did in his seven years as Red Sox skipper, but clearly he kept a very long leash on all of his players. Maybe it was because of how long he knew them, but then again, maybe that’s just who he is as a manager.

Bobby Valentine immediately tried to send a message that playtime was over and that it was time to start working hard towards returning to the playoffs. Yet amazingly, the Red Sox players completely tuned him out. Was he doing anything wrong? No. He was simply trying to assert himself and the changes that would happen under him, like every new manager should do.

But the players were so conceded and so used to being pampered by Francona for all those years that they just said “no”, and “that’s not how we do things” to nearly everything Bobby V brought to the table. Imagine a group of middle school children and how they act when a substitute teacher is in for the day. Now imagine a few of them with goatees, beards, and fried chicken. And viola! You have the 2012 Boston Red Sox.

The worst part of it all is somehow, someway, the Boston media too were in favor of the players and twisted Bobby Valentine’s actions into evil plots to make the players’ lives hell. If Mike Aviles did not cover his position properly, let it slide. If Kevin Youkilis is struggling, let it slide. If Dustin Pedroia hates you, let it slide.

Valentine didn’t let things slide, rightfully like a skipper should, and somehow he ended up being (to fans) the source of the Red Sox’ problems throughout the 2012 campaign.

Look here – the definition of a baseball manager is “someone in charge of training a team”. Spot the key phrase? In charge. That’s not what a baseball player is, and yet, that’s how the Red Sox carried themselves. They were the managers, and Valentine was the managed.

30 years ago, this would not have happened. Managers were specifically brought in because of spitefulness or disciplinary reasons, in an effort to focus the team more on winning than anything else that came with playing professional baseball. Now a days, it seems that a manager needs to “relate to the players” and needs to be lenient with them in order to be a good coach. And that is simply false. Had Bobby Valentine managed in the 60’s or 70’s, I’m sure he would have found more success and fame except for just one N.L. Wild Card and Pennant with the Mets in 2000.

Simply put – Bobby V is your classic old-school manager who the Red Sox dis-respected and mis-treated horribly. They didn’t want to accept change and didn’t want to man up to their childish actions, and therefore it showed on the field. With the team that was assembled this year, not many other managers could have done a significantly better job.

So before you go out and hang this embarrassment of a season for Boston on Bobby Valentine’s shoulders, it was the players themselves who started and deliberately continued a dramatic string of events that unjustly cost a great baseball mind another shot at managing.

May the Curse of Bobby V begin…and never end.

Yanks’ Have What It Takes, But Will It All Come Together?

One month ago, many people including myself were incredibly worried about the Yankees potentially missing the playoffs. The Bombers’ huge ten game lead in the division had dwindled down to one, as the Baltimore Orioles played their best baseball in 15 years. Not only that, but the Yankees themselves were playing absolutely terrible baseball, and many were calling for Joe Girardi’s head.

But by re-gaining some important sidelined players and taking advantage of an easy schedule to end the year, the Yankees came together and wound up making the playoffs and could clinch the A.L. East tonight with a win over the Red Sox. The calendar has now flipped to October, and this postseason is shaping up to be an uphill battle for baseball’s winning-est franchise.

As displayed in September, this Yankees team is not one to be taken lightly, and very easily could the club come together on all aspects and make a fierce run for their 28th world championship. For that to happen, the team will need to play as one unit, consistently producing by way of clutch pitching AND hitting – something we haven’t seen from the Yankees on a nightly basis really all year.

And ironically every time the playoffs roll around, the Yankees go about it saying, “it’s just another game on the schedule”. Yet for the past few years, they’ve played their worst baseball in October. Last year they couldn’t buy a run with men on base; and in 2010 their pitching (besides Andy Pettitte) tanked against Texas in the ALCS. Besides the glorious season of 2009, you can trace every Yankee playoff loss in the past 10 years to a lack of either clutch hitting/pitching, or both in the same series. Don’t even get me started about Jaret Wright or Chien-Ming Wang.

I’m not saying the Yankees lie about their approach to the postseason, but clearly something changes in them over the course of the days following Game 162 and Game 1 of the ALDS. They just aren’t the same Bombers we see throughout the summer.

Maybe this year though, that would be a good thing. No, a great thing.

I’m not saying it’s as simple as the law of averages, but the Yankees really haven’t been the consistent, overpowering force in the American League they normally are each regular season. Sure, they wound up on top of the division again, and you bet they were right there in the standings for the best record in Major League Baseball. But more often than not there was uncertainty and inconsistent play by New York. They’d sweep a series versus a pennant chaser, then lose 2 of 3 to a non-contender. The injuries piled up as well, largely the reason why the Yankees faltered in mid-August and nearly lost a grip on control of their playoff destiny.

Now, the Yankees are a much healthier and complete team then they were. Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira have returned and (for the most part) really haven’t skipped a beat. Not only that, but the past couple weeks the Yankees played some of their best baseball, getting hits with runners in scoring position that aren’t also known as “home runs”. Sure, they still heavily rely on the long ball, but guys who can’t crush a fastball 400 feet every night are learning to be better situational hitters, and looking to rather move a runner to third then trying to score him on one swing of a bat. As I mentioned, hitting with RISP has been the Yankees’ Achilles heel for most of this season and certainly a prime reason for their first-round exit last year. Hitting well now should have some level of a positive impact on how the Yankees swing the lumber as the playoffs begin in a couple days.

Not forgotten is also the pitching staff this year, which has had some streaks of success and streaks of utter failures. As mentioned earlier, the rotation is now re-stocked with the clutch southpaw Andy Pettitte returning from the freak injury he suffered in late June. He’s come back and shown no signs of slowing down, and is absolutely essential to any World Series run the Yankees want to make this year. If he didn’t come back from retirement, the Yankees may not have been back in the postseason.

The other pitchers who haven’t been gone as long – CC, Kuroda, and Hughes, all had solid seasons, Kuroda especially. From May on, he arguably was the ace over a hobbled and inconsistent Sabathia, posting a 3.34 ERA (as of the morning of October 3rd) with 15 wins. Hughes, as I tabbed him the Yankees “Comeback Player of the Year”, looked like his 2010 self here in 2012, hovering around a 4 ERA but putting in a number of quality/dominant outings. More importantly, CC has clearly re-gained his health and strength, as he finished the season with three outstanding starts following an up and down second half of the year.

Say what you want about them, but the Yankees’ bullpen still has many quality relievers who have postseason experience. That’s not something you can say about the Orioles and A’s, of course. It’ll certainly be bittersweet when instead of the Sandman entering, we have Rafael Soriano jogging out to some mamba music in the 9th inning. But he still did a fantastic job as the first successor to the great Mariano Rivera. Sori has been mostly automatic all year for New York, but of course, nothing is certain with closers in the postseason, so all we can do is hope Girardi doesn’t over-use him and he stays fresh enough to produce just as well as he did in the regular season.

The supporting cast, as I like to call them, also had good years, and should be able to transition into the fall. Set-up man David Robertson pitched to a tune of a 2.67 ERA, once again shutting down hitters and building the bridge to Rafi’s entrance in the 9th. Joba Chamberlain has emerged as the Yankees’ 7th inning man, returning back to pumping his 96 mph fastball and getting outs when needed. He’s nowhere near the superstar status he nearly achieved when he first burst onto the scene in 2007, but he’s definitely already had his share of moments in the playoffs and should be able to be relied upon to help the Yankees in those close game situations.

You’d figure the Yankees’ top flight starters of CC, Kuroda, and Andy should be able to get the Yankees to the 6th inning at the very least, but if not, you still have other options out of the ‘pen. Boone Logan, Cody Eppley, and David Phelps can all too contribute to the Yankees’ quest for another world championship.

All in all, this Yankees team is absolutely good enough to win it all. When they are firing on all cylinders, they are a very hard team to beat. The problem is, normally they aren’t. Stranger things have happened in the playoffs before, but the Yankees are going to have to do some quick soul searching and quick rebounding to try and play as a complete team and get those 11 more wins needed, for #28.

Yankees’ Outfield Due For Changes In 2013

Gardner. Granderson. Swisher. How often have you heard those names said together? Too long, is my guess.

Those three guys have been the starting outfielders for New York since the beginning of the 2010 season. Nick Swisher in fact has been saluting bleacher creatures on a daily basis since the 2009 campaign.

All of them have done more than the Yankees could have ever asked when they first arrived in the Bronx. Gardner has become one of the top defensive players in the game, as well as a lightning rod on the bases. Curtis Granderson, as predicted found his power stroke in Yankee Stadium and has now put up back-to-back 40 home run seasons. And Nick Swisher continues to prove he was worth way more than Wilson Betemit – the player the Yankees had to give up to get him. He’s now put up four consecutive 20+ home run, 80+ RBI seasons, recording his 90th RBI today in Minnesota, the first time he’s done that since 2006.

Clearly, this Yankees outfield is one many teams would only dream of having. But to me, this should be the final year those three man the outfield together. Here’s why:

Granderson = Dunn – Maybe Chicago should ask for me to apologize for that Wilson Betemit joke. This season, Curtis Granderson has truly evolved into a strikeout or home run hitter, a la Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn. He gets his share of doubles, but more often than not he’s heading back to the dugout, bat in hand and shaking his head. 40 home runs are nice, but not as nice as a high batting-average or on-base percentage, something Grandy has never really accomplished in his career, besides batting .302 for Detroit in 2007. Also, his defense is some of the worst among center-fielders, as he constantly is letting balls sail over his head or fall in front of him. As you know I’m no saber-metrics bust, but whatever stat there is for runs allowed, he was high up there in 2011 and once again is in 2012. The Yankees should look to trade Curtis for pitching, be it a #2 starter or a number of solid pitching prospects. Many teams will overlook the many flaws of Granderson to bring in a 40 homer hitting center-fielder. Because the saying does hold true – chicks still dig the long ball.

Melk, anyone? – Call me crazy, but I think the Yankees should strongly look into bringing back the original Melk man, Melky Cabrera. No doubt he has become one of the more idiotic players in recent memory, as he was suspended for 50 games for testosterone and tried to cover it up in the days prior to his suspension. But using PEDs or not, a return to New York could work wonders for him and the Yankees. Certainly, he must have learned his lesson, and if not he’ll be disciplined and put in his place by the Bombers. There’s no fooling around if you’re a Yankee, and a reunion with close friend Robbie Cano could inspire him to do his best and play hard, without cheating. Moving Gardner to center and Melky to left would greatly improve the defense and allow both of those guys to finally play in harmony on baseball’s biggest stage.

Stick it to the Red Sox – If that Melky Cabrera return frightens you too much, how about signing a guy like Cody Ross? That’s what I mean by sticking it to the Red Sox. Have the Yankees bring this guy in (they’re already reportedly very interested) and make him your starting left fielder. This year, in the AL East mind you, so no “can he produce in the division” talk, he’s hit .270 with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs. He also can play right field and a little bit of center, so he’s also a very flexible option in the outfielder. Most importantly to me, this guy has played in the postseason for the Giants, and came up big as the World Series MVP. Whether that’ll transition to New York is a question, but to me he’d be a solid option as the new left fielder as well, all considering Gardy moves back to center.

Swish needs to stay – As mentioned above, Nick Swisher has been arguably the most consistent outfielder in baseball the past four years. The energetic, always positive Swish has been a fan favorite and a very productive hitter, whether near the top or bottom of the Yankees’ lineup. He seems to just complete it- without him, there’s a hole in the order. The Yankees seem to have their sights on moving on from Swisher this offseason, and going younger or bringing in a cheaper option to fill his void. Which could happen and work, but to me, Swisher is essential to the Yankees’ chances next season. He’s still in his prime and simply is a Yankee if I’ve ever seen one. As long as he stays healthy, he should be a lock again for 20 home runs, 80 RBIs, and being a leader in the Yankees clubhouse for 2013. A three-year deal may be what Cashman will need to give him, but it’ll all be worth it if Swish just continues to do what he’s done for the Yanks since 2009.

So that’s my opinion. A Yankees outfield of Ross/Melky in left, Gardner in center, and Swisher in right is young enough and fresh enough to lead to even more production in 2013. Granted, Grandy probably won’t go anywhere and Melky may not be back in pinstripes, but Ross is a very likely option, and keeping Swisher should become a no-brainier for Cashman following this year. No matter what happens, one thing’s for certain – the Yankees outfield will still be one of the best in baseball in 2013.
What do you think the Yankees should do with their outfield? Should it change, or stay the same? Sound off in the comments below…

How The Yankees Helped Heal New York City

What has now become tradition for the eleven years since that tragic day, thousands gathered at Ground Zero yesterday to remember the victims of September 11th, 2001. The names of all 2,977 people who died that day were read aloud by family members and friends of the victims.

Being just a toddler, I can not say I remember 9/11 or fully understand what it meant to watch the events unfold live, either being in the city or watching from a t.v.  Luckily, not one of my family members or friends were lost, but being a police officer, my father did go down to the site of the Twin Towers just hours after the colossal buildings fell. He stayed there for a couple of days, keeping civilians away from the hazardous area and helping with the rescue efforts.

My uncles and aunts as well, who still work 9 to 5 jobs in the city, recall watching the towers fall from their office buildings, and the nightmarish time they all had in trying to get home safe and sound. From many holiday dinners we are all blessed to still have together, I’ve heard each and every one of their takes on that unbelievable day.

Through my family’s memories, documentaries, and books, I’ve come to understand 9/11 and respect the event as much as a person my age can. And of all the specials and news reports shown on TV each time the anniversary comes around, the most fascinating and inspiring one to me is “Nine Innings from Ground Zero”, an HBO documentary from 2004.

If the title does not give it away, the film is about baseball following 9/11, and how the Yankees managed to help jumpstart the healing process of New Yorkers and Americans everywhere by their improbable and magical playoff run to the 2001 World Series.

As my family recalls and the film details, the city was in a state of confusion and grief. They had no idea what to do. Should they continue on with their lives, as if nothing had happened, or should they keep mourning and grieving the tragedy that to this day has effected every aspect of American life?

No one was sure. Not even Major League Baseball, as all major sporting events ceased immediately after September 11th. Not one game in any sport was played. The now demolished Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium operated as recovery stations, as hundreds of care packages containing food, clothing, and water were delivered to the streets that just days prior were filled with hopeful fans and buzzed with excitement.

Finally, the city realized the only way to try and move past the horror and pain of the attacks was to go back to doing what they know best – going to baseball games. The September 21st Mets game against the Braves proved to be a rejuvenating moment in the city’s recovery period, as Mike Piazza’s home run, Liza Minnelli’s rendition of “New York, New York”, and more importantly a win, got New Yorkers understanding baseball was a safe haven, just like it had always been to escape the burdens of everyday life.

Then the Yankees came back. And baseball history took place.

The three-time defending world champion Yankees steam-rolled into the playoffs with another AL East crown. The aging dynasty seemed destined for at least one more glorious run. As third baseman Scott Brosius was quoted saying, “…if there was ever a fair time for the Yankees to win the World Series, this was the year.”

But the Oakland A’s tried to stop that from happening. And it seemed like they would, as they took a 2-0 series lead in the 2001 ALDS. But thanks in large part to Derek Jeter’s “Flip Play”, timely hitting and clutch pitching, the Yanks won the next three straight and the series, to become the first team ever to come back and win an ALDS after being down 2-0.

The series win gave the Yankees and their fans a ton of confidence. Forget about the upcoming series – New York’s biggest concern about the Yankees was if they had enough ticker-tape to cover another grand world championship parade.
If the ALDS wasn’t enough to convince people, try the ALCS. The Yankees took down the 118-win Seattle Mariners in just 5 games, and just like that the Yankees were back in the World Series. The city could not have been more confident heading into a Fall Classic facing an expansion team in the Arizona Diamondbacks, filled with a lot of inexperienced and majorly unsuccessful veterans.

The greatest thing about this Yankee playoff run was how it really did take people’s minds off of the ongoing devastation and threat of further attacks in the city. For give or take three hours each day, people could engulf themselves in a childhood game, and watch not just any team play well, but New York’s team, the Yankees, surge to the championship.

Now back to the Fall Classic. Once again, the confidence and strength of the Yankees was zapped out of them, as they quickly lost the first two games to put themselves in a big hole to climb out of.  Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, the eventual co-MVPs of the series, were unstoppable, and it looked like the Yankees’ hopes of delivering a championship to their ailing city were all but lost.

But the series now shifted to the Bronx, at Yankee Stadium. And the Yankees were not going to let the Diamondbacks celebrate on their home field. Not that year, not after everything New York had gone through. So, as they’ve done countless of times before, the Yankees made postseason magic at the House That Ruth Built.

With a tattered American flag found in the rubble of the World Trade Center waving atop Yankee Stadium’s scoreboard, President George W. Bush walked to the mound to throw out the first pitch of Game 3. He fired a perfect strike from the rubber, and gave a thumbs up to a full house at Yankee Stadium. Political allegiances aside, the stadium was united as Americans. Perhaps Bush’s appearance and show of support to the city may have been just what the doctor ordered for the Yankees and their fans.
Roger Clemens pitched a gem that night, and thanks to a game-winning RBI single by Scott Brosius in the 6th, the Yankees took Game 3 2-1, to infuse new life and confidence in the team.

The following night, which just so happened to be Halloween, would go down as one of the most legendary World Series games of all time. With righty Byung-Hyun Kim in for the save for Arizona in the bottom of the 9th, it did look bleak for the Yankees. A win in Game 4 would give the D-Backs a 3-1 series lead, with three more chances to win one more game.

Luckily, a fan favorite, in what would be one of his final games in pinstripes for a while, Tino Martinez stepped to the plate with a runner on and ended any thoughts of losing. He smacked a two-run home run into right-center that lifted the crowd to its feet, and the Yankees to a 3-3 tie with the four-year old Diamondbacks team.

As the game went into extras and the Yankees got their turn at-bat in the 10th, the clock struck midnight, marking November 1st and the first World Series game to ever be played in the 11th month of the year. The young Derek Jeter was at the plate, with Kim in fact still in the game, and  with the scoreboard saying “Welcome to November Baseball”, on a 3-2 pitch the soon-to-be Captain hit a game-winning walk off home run to right field, clinching a Yankees’ 4-3 Game 4 victory.

Just like that, the World Series was all tied up, and New Yorkers couldn’t help but think it was destiny. The Yankees had to do it for the city. There was no way they could lose. Right?

Well, Game 5 sure convinced the doubters.

Once again down by 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th, with Byung-Hyun Kim in to try and redeem himself, the Yankees tried to get a rally started. Jorge Posada doubled to start the inning, but then two quick outs were made to put Arizona one more away from a series-controlling Game 5 win.

Standing in the way of that happening was Scott Brosius. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Brosius swung with all his might on the next one and deposited a game-tying, two run home run over the left field wall. People were in disbelief, shock, and awe, this time for a good and happy reason. The Yankees did it again. Back to-back game tying home runs in the bottom of the 9th in consecutive games? Get out of here. I would think you’re lying if there wasn’t film to prove it.

And after all of that, the game still wasn’t over. Yes it was tied, but that was all. The Yankees still needed to score another run to win it and head to Arizona with the series lead. And three innings later in the 12th, rookie second baseman Alfonso Soriano drove Chuck Knoblauch home with a walk-off single, ironically the game-winning hit being less remembered than the game-tying one.  Either way, New York had now won all three games at Yankee Stadium to take a 3-2 series lead. They were one win away from winning their 27th World Championship, their fourth straight and fifth in the last six years. Talk about a dynasty.

Unfortunately back in Arizona, the Yankees laid an egg in Game 6 and got hammered 15-2. Maybe expected because of all the dramatics, the World Series was now heading to a 7th game.

With New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and many family members of those who died on 9/11 in attendance, the Yankees had to come back strong and win Game 7, not just for the team, but for the city that had gone through so much in the past couple months.
Shown in the documentary was a Game 7 viewing party which was set up in Rockefeller Center, as many of the Yankee faithful braced the fall cold to see their favorite team win the most important championship, potentially, in the history of New York City. Yankee flags adorned the poles surrounding Rockefeller Center, and whether you were in New York or Arizona, even after the Game 6 loss, you still felt Game 7 was for the Yankees to take.

39-year old Roger Clemens got the ball for the Yankees, while Curt Schilling was incredibly making his third start of the series for the Diamondbacks. This time, the Yankees brought their A game, at least on the pitching side, and entered the 8th inning in a 1-1 tie.

In later interviews, manager Joe Torre admitted to originally being reluctant to bring in Mariano Rivera to start the bottom of the 8th, as he would only bring him in if the Yankees had a lead. And at the time, it didn’t seem they’d get one for a while, as Curt Schilling was still in the game and pitching great. But all of that would change with one swing of the bat, by Alfonso Soriano.

On an 0-2 pitch, Soriano smacked a solo home run over the fence in left field. Everyone knew that he had just won the World Series for the Yankees, and that Schilling, though giving it his all, had lost it for Arizona. Having converted the last 23 straight save opportunities, Mariano Rivera’s entrance into the game seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for Arizona’s championship hopes.

New York couldn’t have been more sure that the World Series was theirs. How could anyone deny it? The Iron Man of all closers was coming into the game, and everything that had happened with 9/11, the anthrax cases, and the despair and depression of the most proud city in the world, only this championship, only the Yankees, could lift an entire nation’s hearts in winning another World Series.

After a brisk 1-2-3 bottom of the 8th inning for Rivera and the Yankees, the champagne was being put on ice. Modell’s stores in New York were prepping for overnight shifts. And kids were being allowed to stay up late on this Thursday night, as everyone was set to do what they had been doing for the past three straight years – celebrating another championship. But this one, you simply couldn’t miss, and couldn’t deny the importance of it.

Sure, Randy Johnson’s relief appearance for the Diamondbacks – getting all four batters he faced out – was impressive, but it didn’t matter, since New York still had the lead. He could do nothing to change the outcome of the game. It was up to the Diamondbacks’ hitters, going up against the goliath of all pitchers in baseball at the time.

Veteran Mark Grace led off the bottom of the 9th with a single to center. Yes, a runner was on base, but not every save is a 1-2-3 inning, especially in the postseason. So still, people felt confident.

But it would be the last bit of confidence Yankees fans would feel in the series. A bunt attempt by Damian Miller, fielded by Rivera, was thrown out of the reach of Derek Jeter and went into center field. The slick-fielding Mariano never missed his throws to second, and was trying to do what any pitcher would – get the lead runner out. But sure enough, the pinch-runner David Dellucci was at second, Miller was at first, and things quickly spun out of control for the Yankees, to the point of no return.

Mo rebounded and did in fact get Dellucci out at third, after fielding another bunt attempt this time by Jay Bell. Yet, instead of throwing to first base for the easy double play, third baseman Scott Brosius, who had been so clutch and so great for the Yankees in his four seasons with the team, held the ball and allowed Bell to reach base. So still, there were runners on first and second with only one out. And up came the future Yankee Tony Womack.

He smacked a double down the right field line on a 2-2 pitch, to tie the game up at 2. The save was now blown, and the lead was gone, and the hopes and dreams of the Yankees, their fans, and really the entire city, were gone in a blink of an eye. The worst part – the Yankees still had one out, and were not out of the inning. It would take a miracle to prevent another run from scoring.

Rivera then hit Craig Counsell to load the bases. If I had been watching this game live at my current age, I’m sure I would have been covering my eyes, trying to hide my tears and not see what was clearly going to happen.

As we all know, Diamondbacks’ slugger Luis Gonzalez lofted a walk-off single over the reach of a leaping Derek Jeter, to score the World Series-winning run. The Yankee dynasty had ended. The exciting and happy ride to this point in the playoffs was over. And the sinking, depressing feeling New Yorkers had felt weeks prior on September 11th, had returned.

The Yankees lost. They didn’t win it for the city. The weeks and months following were also painful, as people had to move on and accept life now without being able to escape from it nightly with exciting playoff baseball. The Yankees also lost Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, and Chuck Knoblauch that offseason, as fan favorites and the faces of that glorious run had either changed uniforms, or left the game entirely.

Immediately, it was extremely difficult. No matter the circumstances, no one wants to lose a World Series like that. Having the lead in the bottom of the 9th, with the best closer on the mound and not being able to get the job done is normally inexcusable and unacceptable.

Yet, 9/11 had made people realize the end to the World Series was not that important. It was every game that led up to it that was so special and so memorable. The Yankees did in fact lift the city up in the most difficult stage in its history. They couldn’t win the whole thing, but they won over the hearts of the mourning and provided a great escape to those who needed it most.

Sports-wise, it’s undoubtedly one of the greatest playoff runs and World Series in baseball history, that’s for certain. The very last play is what most remember, but what New Yorkers remember from that fall are the walk-off wins at Yankee Stadium. “Mr. November.” The Paul O’Neill chants in Game 5. The swagger and confidence the city regained after the attacks, knowing their team was playing hard for them, and most importantly, winning for them.

Once again, I don’t remember witnessing any of this. 9/11, the playoffs, or Game 7 of the World Series. But I can feel the emotions of New Yorkers and sense how it must have been like to be watching those incredible games. September 11th put a horrible cloud over the rest of the year of 2001. But not forgotten is how legendary and amazing the Yankees’ season and the Fall Classic turned out to be.

Yes, many people were lost on 9/11. So where the most iconic buildings in New York City. But as the horrible memories of that day flood back to the minds of people each year, so do the delightful memories of baseball, American pride, and love for each other.

The Twin Towers may not stand anymore. But one thing that will never go away, is the joy, unity, and excitement that postseason baseball brings to millions of peoples’ homes each fall.

This post is dedicated to all the lives lost on September 11th, 2001. May they rest in peace, and I hope the families of the victims have found comfort and closure in the years following that tragic and unforgettable day.

Red Sox and Dodgers truly wheeling and dealing

The dust has finally settled after a crazy past few days in Major League Baseball. If the non-waiver trade deadline wasn’t shocking enough, the waiver trade deadline was even more frantic and surprising.

In a blink of an eye, the Red Sox traded away three core players and over 270 million dollars worth of contracts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. And then some.

L.A. acquired slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, (the centerpiece of the deal), injured left fielder Carl Crawford, struggling 32-year old righty Josh Beckett. and utility infielder Nick Punto. Meanwhile, Boston receives first baseman James Loney and four prospects.

At first glance with little knowledge of what’s gone on this year, it seems like the most lop-sided trade in baseball history. But, as in football, “upon further review”, this deal is as equal as it can get.

The Dodgers, now 69-58 after a win over Miami in Gonzalez’s debut (1-5, 3-R HR), are two games back of the San Francisco Giants in the N.L. West. Prior to this deal, the team had already made numerous moves to improve the club, compared to where it stood on Opening Day.

Outfielder Shane Victorino, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, reliever Randy Choate, closer Brandon League, and starter Joe Blanton are the biggest names that most recently donned Dodger Blue, and all of them have fit in nicely since their respective trades prior to the July 31st [non-waiver] trade deadline.

Now in bringing in A-Gone, Crawford, and Beckett, the Dodgers have added a grand total of 94.75 million dollars to the team’s payroll [for this year alone] since starting to wheel and deal back in July. And I didn’t even bring up the home-grown superstars of Matt Kemp (making 10 million this year, jumping to 21 million annually in 2013) and Clayton Kershaw (making 7 million in 2012, jumping to 11 million next season, and then demanding a big payday afterwards). Clearly, the Dodgers are digging deep into the pockets of Magic Johnson to make all this happen.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the Red Sox.

Boston officially waves the white flag in making this deal, as they traded their ace, best hitter, and well, Carl Crawford, all in one deal.

It’s been a season of disappointment and bitterness for the Red Sox and their fans, as they are in fourth place in the AL East with a record of 60-67. Uttering the name Bobby Valentine on Yawkey Way is almost as bad as saying “Dent”, “Boone”, or “Buckner”. Seriously. The fans hate him, and so do the players, which is probably a reason why they’ve played so poorly all year long. If you don’t like your manager, it’s unlikely you’ll play hard or well for him.

The Red Sox to me are like a teenage girl following a sudden break-up. “This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.” I can hear Ben Cherington cry out to John Henry.

But in all seriousness, the team’s prior hopes and dreams of championships are crushed, and so Boston finally accepted it’s time to start looking towards the future and planning for 2013 and beyond, which is the smart thing to do.

The players that are coming to Boston aren’t really anything special. James Loney is only coming over to play first base for the remainder of this season, as he’s been a very inconsistent hitter for the past couple seasons now. And the prospects have all had their share of struggles and should be Major League ready by now, yet they’re not.

But for the Red Sox, it really doesn’t matter who they got for what they gave. The point is they are free from a couple of high-priced, long term deals, one that was very misguided (wink wink, Carl Crawford). And Beckett was making 15 million bucks per year as well, and simply had to go. Taking this much money off the books allows the Red Sox to spend freely on any of the big free agents this coming winter, and also a chance to reconstruct the clubhouse and create a happy and friendly environment in Boston, which let’s face it, will be the total opposite as long as Bobby V is manager.

It will be very interesting to see what the Bo-Sox do this offseason. As I said, they can spend the money they got immediately and maybe try to get back in contention next year. Or they could hold off, let their prospects get a chance to prove themselves and wait and see.

If nothing else, one thing is definitely for sure – Bobby V is gone following the season.

Hurrah Red Sox fans!

Yankees May Swing And Miss With Swish

As Nick Swisher continues to swing a hot bat in the second half of the season, it’s become a growing premonition with Yankees fans that the team brings him back and lets Curtis Granderson walk following next season. I’ve certainly been on board with that move, as to me Swisher is a much more dangerous and complete hitter than Granderson, not to mention Swish has put up consistent and terrific numbers for a Yankees right fielder. As many have said, the lineup feels incomplete without him, and I definitely will be watching the hot stove carefully to see if Swisher can remain in pinstripes.

But after what I heard this morning – that Swisher is seeking a Jayson Werth-like contract (seven years, $126 million) – it’s almost made me turn my position completely.

Of course, this is not the first outrageous claim by an impeding free agent, and it’s likely that Swisher will take a considerably less amount of money, wherever he ends up signing. But his price will be fairly steep, (likely in the 15 million dollar per year range)and I’m not quite sure – as great a player as he’s been in New York – if he’s actually worth it.

Let me re-phrase that – he IS worth it. But is re-signing him worth the production we’ll see out of a mid to late 30’s Nick Swisher? I don’t think so. Also, the Yankees have a ton of young outfield talent that may be ready for the Bigs as early as next season. But with Swisher’s contract, you can’t have a guy making big bucks sitting on the bench of platooning in a couple years – he has to still be starting.

Another thing worth considering is what about Robinson Cano? He is going to demand a  huge contract come 2013, likely in the 200 million dollar range. (I know, there’s been a lot of talk about range, but who knows what could happen in the next year or so) It’s worth saving shelling out cash to a player [in Swisher] nearly past his prime, in order to keep a player still in the first stages of his.

The Yankees have been talking a lot about getting down to an $189 million payroll, and resigning Cano, Granderson, and maybe Swisher is going to make it very difficult to stay on that route. Perhaps Swish gives the Yankees a hometown discount, and stays in New York only another year or two for a price reasonable for a 32-year old right fielder. But much as I’d love to see Swisher stay in pinstripes, his demands may be too much for the newly conservative New York Yankees.