Posts Tagged ‘CC Sabathia’

Seattle Mariners Lockup Felix Hernandez

January 19, 2010

The Seattle Mariners invested not only for 2010, but in their future last night.

According to ESPN.com’s Keith Law, the Mariners have signed ace Felix Hernandez to a five-year, $78 million contract extension. The deal buys out Hernandez’s two remaining years of arbitration.

"King Felix" got paid last night

First, kudos to the Mariners’ front office for locking up Hernandez. It always pleases me to see when teams lock up home-grown talent to long-term deals.

The Cleveland Indians started this trend in the early to mid-90’s and it’s great to see the trend continuing into the 2000’s. We have seen over the years teams like the Kansas City Royals (Zack Greinke), and most recently the Florida Marlins (Josh Johnson) lockup young talent.

Second, kudos for Hernandez for taking a home town discount. I know it’s hard to say to a guy he just accepted a home town discount at $78 million, but the reality of the situation is, he did.

$78 million for a guy of Hernandez’s age (23) and caliber, is a pretty good deal for the Mariners. Just look at all the pitchers who signed contracts similar to Hernandez’s over the last couple of years.

Derek Lowe – Four years, $60 million

Roy Oswalt – Five years, $73 million

AJ Burnett – Five years, $82.5 million

John Lackey – Five years, $82.5 million

Carlos Zambrano – Five years, $91.5

Now, all of these pitchers are pretty good. There is no arguing that. But, none of them at the age of 23, have accomplished what Hernandez has accomplished so far at the major league level and has the skill level of Hernandez.

Last year, Hernandez was 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and struck out 217 in 238.2 innings of work. He also finished second in the AL Cy Young award voting to Greinke.

One could make the argument that Hernandez could have asked for a CC Sabathia (seven years, $161 million) or Johan Santana (six years, $137.5 million) like contract. But he didn’t and now the Mariners have Hernandez locked up to a reasonable contract for the next five years.

Now that they have Hernandez locked up, I wonder how this affects the re-signing of Cliff Lee? Lee is a free agent after this season and will be looking for a significant raise from his $5.75 million salary in 2010.

If the Mariners can lockup both Hernandez and Lee, then they will really have something going in Seattle.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Starting Rotation: American League East

January 18, 2010

Update:

I would like to make a correction to this post. I would also like to apologize to Blue Jays fans for making this error.

Shaun Marcum will be starting for the Blue Jays in 2010, not Dustin McGowan. Both are coming back from injuries in 2009, but Marcum will get a chance to earn his starting rotation spot back in spring training.

Again, I apologize for this oversight.

Original Post

On the heels of our Starting Nine posts that debuted last week, I thought we would take a look at the other side of ball this week. This week, I wanted to take a look at each team’s starting rotation as presently constructed.

Like last week, each day I will look at one division in baseball until all the divisions are analyzed. And like last week, we will start this segment with the American League East.

The American League East lost one major pitcher this offseason (Roy Halladay), but also gained a pretty good pitcher (John Lackey). While the offenses in this division get most of the headlines, the pitching staffs are no slouches.

Here are the starting rotations for each American League East team as presently constructed.

New York Yankees

1. C.C. Sabathia, LHP

2. A.J. Burnett, RHP

3. Andy Pettitte, LHP

4. Javier Vazquez, RHP

5. Joba Chamberlain, RHP

Quick Take – The Yankees’ starting rotation got better in the offseason with the addition of Vazquez. He becomes a pretty impressive fourth starter. There is still some debate as to who will start in 2010–Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. I believe Chamberlain will start.

Boston Red Sox

1. Josh Beckett, RHP

2. Jon Lester, LHP

3. John Lackey, RHP

4. Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP

5. Clay Buchholz, RHP

Quick Take – Beckett might be the No. 1 starter, but this staff is really led by Lester. He will be a leading candidate for the Cy Young award in 2010. Lackey gives this staff incredible depth. Look for Dice-K to have a bounce back year.

Tampa Bay Rays

1. James Shields, RHP

2. Matt Garza, RHP

3. Jeff Niemann, RHP

4. David Price, LHP

5. Wade Davis, RHP

Quick Take – This rotation won’t miss the highly overrated Scott Kazmir in 2010. Garza has really turned the corner and has developed into a very solid No.2 pitcher. Starting rotation will only go as far as Price and Davis take them.

Baltimore Orioles

1. Kevin Millwood, RHP

2. Jeremy Guthrie, RHP

3. Brad Bergesen, RHP

4. Chris Tillman, RHP

5. Brian Matusz, LHP

Quick Take – The Orioles acquired Millwood to mentor this young staff and to eat up innings. Tillman and Matusz are two top prospects, who will have to earn their stripes pitching in the very tough AL East. The Orioles need Guthrie to really step up in 2010.

Toronto Blue Jays

1. Ricky Romero, LHP

2. Scott Richmond, RHP

3. Brandon Morrow, RHP

4. Brett Cecil, LHP

5. Dustin McGowan, RHP

Quick Take – Any time a staff loses a pitcher of Halladay’s caliber, they are going to experience a major drop off. It looks like Morrow is going to start in Toronto, so perhaps he can realize his potential. Romero (and I think he is good) becomes the Blue Jays’ No.1 starter by default.

So that’s it for the AL East. Tomorrow, I will take a look at the American League Central, home of the reigning AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

New York Yankees Sign Nick Johnson, End Johnny Damon Era

December 18, 2009

The New York Yankees signed a left-handed hitter to hit second in their lineup in 2010 and it’s not Johnny Damon.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, via Twitter, is reporting that the Yankees have signed 1B Nick Johnson to a one-year, $5.5 million contract. The deal also includes a mutual option for 2011 for $5.5 million.

Johnson returns to the Bronx

The signing of Johnson essentially ends the Damon era in the Bronx.

Damon played the same game Jason Bay tried to play with the Red Sox. Both thought they were being undervalued by their current team and wanted to get paid what they thought their market value was.

It’s fine for them to try to get what they think they deserve, but you can’t strong-arm a big market team that isn’t desperate to sign you. It just doesn’t work.

CC Sabathia was able to strong-arm the Yankees last season because the Yankees were desperate to sign him. Their entire offseason last year was based on signing Sabathia. That is why Sabathia was able to get one more year and $20 million more out of Brian Cashman.

If a big market team is not desperate to sign you, then they will just find other options. The Red Sox found Mike Cameron and the Yankees now have found Johnson.

Johnson is more than an adequate replacement for Damon in the Yankees’ lineup. Johnson will serve as the primary DH and hit second for the Yankees in 2010 and it looks like Melky Cabrera will be the Yankees’ left fielder.

Johnson hit .291 with eight home runs and an .831 OPS in 133 games for the Washington Nationals and Florida Marlins in 2009. By comparison, Damon hit .282 with 24 home runs and an .854 OPS in 143 games for the Yankees last year.

So for $7.5 million less than what Damon was asking for ($13 million, the same amount he made last year), the Yankees got a very comparable player.

Johnson played three years for the Yankees from 2001-2003 and has played eight seasons in the major leagues. He has a career .402 OBP, which is ninth amongst active players.

And for those of you who are concerned with the loss of Damon’s power in the Yankees’ lineup, remember, Damon’s power surge in 2009 was greatly influenced by the joke that is the new Yankee stadium.

Johnson could hit 10-15 homeruns in that ballpark.

Last year, the Yankees paid Hideki Matsui and Damon a combined $26 million. Their replacements in 2010–Curtis Granderson and Johnson are making a combined $11 million.

The Yankees could get more value out of Granderson and Johnson both offensively and defensively than they did out of Matsui and Damon and in the process save $15 million.

Not a bad deal for the Yankees.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

10 Things We Learned About Baseball In October

November 3, 2009

Not only is October the best month on the baseball calendar, it’s also the busiest. Besides the playoffs, you have general managers being fired and hired, you have managers being fired and hired, and you already start to hear some free agent and trade rumblings.

This October was no different. Let’s take a look at 10 things we learned about baseball in October.

10. Kevin Towers and JP Ricciardi were let go. When a team doesn’t win two things happen. 1. The manager gets fired or 2. The general manager gets fired.

In San Diego and Toronto–the general managers were fired.

Towers spent 14 seasons as the San Diego Padres’ GM and they have won four division titles and made one World Series appearance (1998) under his stewardship.

I wasn’t in favor of this move when it happened. Towers can be the GM of my team any day of the week and twice on Sunday. He knows how to get the job done.

Ricciardi was let go by the Toronto Blue Jays after serving as their GM since 2001. The Blue Jays never won more than 87 games and only finished above third once with Ricciardi as the GM.

If you fire someone, then you need a replacement…

9. Jed Hoyer and Alex Anthopoulos will be making the decisions in San Diego and Toronto. The Padres hired Boston Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer to replace the above mentioned Towers.

Jed Hoyer

Hoyer is the new GM of the Padres

Hoyer joined the Red Sox front office at age 28, where he helped to build Boston’s rosters and assisted in contract negotiations.

In 2005, when Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino had a lover’s quarrel and Epstein took a ten week hiatus, Hoyer along with Craig Shipley, Bill Lajoie, and Ben Cherington took over the GM duties for the Red Sox.

Anthopoulos takes over for Ricciardi in Toronto on an interim basis.

While Hoyer and Anthopoulos take over as general managers…

8. Manny Acta and Brad Mills were hired as managers. Mills was hired to be the next manager of the Houston Astros. Mills replaces Cecil Cooper who was fired with 13 games left in the season. Former Astros manager Phil Garner and interim manager Dave Clark were finalists for the position.

Mills has spent the last six seasons as the bench coach for Terry Francona and the Boston Red Sox.

Acta was hired by the Cleveland Indians to be their next manager. The Indians signed Acta to a three-year deal with a club option for 2013.

This will be Acta’s second managerial stint. His first one, as we all know was with the Washington Nationals from 2007-2009. Acta was 158-252 with the Nationals and was relieved of his duties in July.

As manager of the Astros, Mills will be squaring off against this guy in St. Louis…

7. Tony LaRussa will be back as St. Louis Cardinals manager. The Cardinals and manager Tony LaRussa have agreed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2011. The Cardinals also got good news when pitching coach Dave Duncan agreed to return to the team as well.

But the big shock was the announcement of Mark McGwire as hitting coach. McGwire will replace Hal McRae as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.

While the Cardinals were making news, the team they beat in the 2006 World Series made news of another kind…

6. The Detroit Tigers suffered an epic collapse. The Tigers had everything going for them headed into the last week of the season. They were playing at home, they were playing a Chicago White Sox team whose season was over, and they were three games up on the Minnesota Twins with four games to go.

Despite all that, the Tigers couldn’t hold on the AL Central lead. The Tigers lost two-out-of-three to the White Sox and the Twins swept the Kansas City Royals.

Those results forced this…

5. The Tigers and Twins played an all-time classic. The Twins beat the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings in a one-game playoff to clinch the American League Central title. For four-hours and thirty-seven minutes in this epic classic there were no salaries, no free agency, no arbitration, and no steroids.

This game was about two teams playing their guts out and leaving everything on field. The Twins and Tigers not only captured the 58,088 screaming fans in the Metrodome, but they captured millions watching at home.

They captured four friends, who weren’t Twins or Tigers fan, but were so into the game that they were texting back and forth on practically every situation that occurred. We all knew we were watching one of the best games we ever saw.

This was just an amazing game. A true classic and a game which reminded us what is great about the game of baseball.

The Twins win allowed them to go to the postseason…

4. The 2009 postseason has given us a lot of memorable moments. Every year the postseason gives us memories that last a lifetime. The 2009 postseason has been no different.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim finally exercised their postseason demons by beating the Boston Red Sox.

Matt Holliday’s dropped flyball against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the NLDS opened the floodgates for the Dodgers.

Alex Rodriguez, doing his best Reggie Jackson imitation leading the New York Yankees to the World Series.

CC Sabathia finally putting his past postseason failures behind him and being worth every penny.

Jimmy Rollins walk-off double off of Jonathan Broxton shattering the dreams of the Dodgers.

Cliff Lee carrying the Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff throughout October.

While on one end there is triumph in the postseason, on the other end there is heartache…

3. It’s been a rough postseason for closers. 10 blown saves (the 11th happened on Sunday night) in the postseason by closers through October 31st.

papelbon

Even Papelbon blew a save in this postseason

Everyone thinks closers aren’t important until they blow a game in a big spot. Huston Street, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Brian Fuentes, Ryan Franklin, and Broxton all imploded at one point this postseason.

Only Brad Lidge and Mariano Rivera didn’t blow a save through the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s no coincidence that the teams they represent are in the World Series.

While the closers were one story of this postseason, the big story has been…

2. Bad umpiring has plagued the 2009 postseason. Major League Baseball just can’t win. It’s always something.

This postseason, the umpires have come under tremendous fire for missing calls, which has prompted many to call for more instant replay in baseball.

It seems like every game this postseason the umpires were missing calls. And these weren’t bang-bang calls–these were blatantly obvious calls.

But despite all the bad calls by the umpires, this has been a fabulous postseason. And all roads in the postseason lead to this…

1. The Phillies or the Yankees will be world champions. For the first time in maybe 10 years, the two best teams will be playing in the World Series.

The Phillies took Game One behind a complete game, 10 strike out performance from Cliff Lee. Chase Utley provided the offense with two homeruns off of Sabathia.

The Yankees evened the series at one behind a brilliant performance from AJ Burnett. Hideki Matsui’s homerun off of Pedro Martinez in the sixth broke a 1-1 tie.

The Yankees overcame a 3-0 deficit thanks to a two-run HR from Alex Rodriguez and some timely hitting by Johnny Damon to take a 2-1 series lead.

It’s very rare a World Series champion isn’t crowned in October, but this is an unusual year thanks to the World Baseball Classic. We will just have to wait to November to crown a champion.

November will be the final month of the baseball. Come back on December to get a recap of the World Series and all the award winners in baseball.

Brad Lidge Implodes, Yankees On Cusp Of World Series Title

November 2, 2009

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies rode Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge to a World Series title. In this year’s World Series, Hamels and Lidge have imploded in back to back games and now the Phillies are on the brink of elimination.

In a crucial Game Four, Alex Rodriguez broke a 4-4 tie with a double in the ninth inning off of Lidge and Jorge Posada singled home two more runs to give the Yankees a 7-4 victory over the Phillies.

The Yankees now lead the best-of-seven World Series 3-1 and are on the cusp of their 27th World Series title.

While Rodriguez might have broken the tie in the ninth, it was the great AB and then some heads up baserunning by Johnny Damon that was the story of the inning.

With two outs and nobody on, Lidge was cruising. He looked like the Lidge of 2008. He was throwing wicked sliders and more importantly–he was throwing with confidence.

Johnny-Damon_2

Damon's play last night was heads up

Then Damon came to the plate.

Lidge got Damon in a 1-2 hole, but couldn’t put him away. Damon worked the count to 3-2 and then served a single to leftfield.

What happened next was stuff of legend.

With Mark Teixeira at the plate, Damon stole second. But because the infield was in a shift, third baseman Pedro Feliz took the throw to second.

With Feliz taking the throw at second, nobody was covering third base. Damon realized that and immediately took off for third base. It was one of the most heads up plays you will ever see on a baseball diamond.

Now with Damon on third, Lidge was scared to throw his devastating slider because he didn’t want to bounce it in the dirt and he had to rely on his fastball.

Lidge then plunked Teixeira and the rest was history.

Here are some other observations from last night:

I don’t know why Lidge didn’t try to put Damon away with a slider in the ninth? He kept going to his fastball when his slider was unhittable at that point.

I don’t understand the theory of “If a guy is on third, you can’t throw your slider.” When did Carlos Ruiz become swiss cheese behind the plate?

If Derek Jeter makes that Damon baserunning play, Jeter’s cleats, socks, uniform, and the base are sent to the Hall of Fame.

I have no problem with bringing Lidge into the game at that point. If he can’t pitch in that situation when can he pitch?

Now Lidge knows what Mark Wohlers feels like when you don’t get beat on your best pitch.

All seven other closers have imploded at some point this postseason. The only one that hasn’t? Mariano Rivera. There is a reason why the Yankees are one game away from winning the World Series.

There was only one pitch that Feliz could have hit a homerun on and Joba Chamberlain threw it.

The Yankees got a glimpse of their future when Rivera retires on that Chamberlain gopher ball.

Chamberlain’s “win” last night is the perfect example of why wins for a relief pitcher is one of the most overrated stats in baseball.

It’s taken Rivera only 13 pitches to retire five batters the last two nights. Amazing.

Joe Buck talked more about the NFL than he did the baseball game he was announcing through the first three innings.

Somebody should tell Robinson Cano that the World Series started.

Ryan Howard still hasn’t touched home plate.

Very good, but not great performance from CC Sabathia last night. 6.2 innings, three runs, three walks, and six K’s.

I thought Blanton was good as well last night. And yes, it was the right decision to start him instead of Cliff Lee. Someone other than Lidge needs to a win a game for the Phillies. What’s the difference if it is Game Four of Game Five?

The biggest mistake Blanton made last night was walking Nick Swisher to lead off the fifth. That just can’t happen. It was no surprise that Swisher eventually scored.

Great baserunning by Melky Cabrera scoring on that Damon blooper in that inning. Great read on the ball.

Chase Utley just hit another homerun off of Sabathia.

The last team to come back from a 3-1 World Series deficit was the Kansas City Royals in 1985. Sadly, this was the last time any Royals fan felt any joy.

I wonder if the air has come out of the balloon for the Phillies? As Bob Boone said to Don Sutton on the play ride from California to Boston after the California Angels lost an epic Game Five (the Dave Henderson game) to the Boston Red Sox in 1986–“When the air comes out of the balloon, it’s hard to get it back up.”

That being said, I would be shocked if the Phillies didn’t win tonight. Lee on full rest and AJ Burnett on short rest should get them to Game Six.

Hero for Game Four – Johnny Damon

Goat for Game Four – Brad Lidge

Series MVP – Johnny Damon

Game Five is tonight at 7:57

Cliff Lee, Chase Utley Help Phillies Take Game One

October 29, 2009

There’s an old saying in baseball that has held true from 1909 to 2009–good pitching, always beats good hitting.

That saying held true again last night in Game One of the 2009 World Series.

On a rainy, misty night in the Bronx, Cliff Lee dominated a powerful New York Yankee lineup and Chase Utley hit two homeruns as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Yankees 6-1 to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven World Series.

58765118

Lee was performance last night was historic

Lee’s pitching performance last night was very similar to Josh Beckett’s performance in Game Six of the 2003 World Series. Beckett steamrolled the Yankees that night and Lee steamrolled the Yankees last night.

Lee made pitching look ridiculously easy last night. Like Beckett, Lee was in control the entire game. He set the pace, he pounded the strike zone, and he did what he wanted to do.

Lee became the first pitcher in World Series history to pitch a game where he struck out 10, walked none, and didn’t allow an earned run.

Here are some of my other observations from last night:

CC Sabathia didn’t have his best stuff last night and he still held the Phillies to two runs and just four hits in seven innings. Pretty impressive.

Sabathia missed his spot twice last night to Utley and Utley made him pay big time.

How great were Utley AB’s last night? He saw 30 pitches in four AB’s. His walk in the first inning might have been more impressive than his two HR’s.

Alex Rodriguez was very good defensively last night. Offensively? Not so much.

I really can’t believe Yankee fans are calling the radio stations this morning and complaining. What are you complaining about? You lost to a great pitcher, who pitched great last night. It happens.

Lee is on a roll right now like Bret Saberhagen in 1985, Orel Hershiser in 1988, and Josh Beckett in 2007.

The Yankees have a serious Phil Hughes problem. What ever he did in the regular season, he is doing the complete opposite in the postseason.

Hughes has faced 27 batters this postseason and has only retired 14 of them. Ouch!

You can have Mariano Rivera in the pen, but if you have nobody to get him the ball, then it won’t matter.

Here is what I wrote about Damaso Marte in my preview yesterday:

“Marte is going to be asked at some point during this series to get Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, or Raul Ibanez out.

Does any Yankee fan feel confident with first and second and one out in the seventh and Girardi calls on Marte to pitch to Utley and Howard?”

I was off by an inning. Marte came in the eighth with runners on first and second to face Utley and Howard and he did a really good job. He got Utley to strike out looking and got Howard to fly out to right.

Have you noticed that since Joe Girardi was hammered for overmanaging in Game Three of the ALCS, he has undermanaged since?

I was a little surprised he left David Robertson in the game to face Raul Ibanez in the eighth. I thought he might have gone to Phil Coke in that spot.

Was it a shock to anybody that Carlos Ruiz was in the middle of a rally in the ninth? This guy is so good in the postseason. I have become a huge fan.

Unlike the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Phillies expected to win last night and not hoped to win. The Phillies believe they are the better team and played like it.

Good job the umpires getting together to make sure they got the call right on that popup by Robinson Cano in the bottom of the fifth.

If a Yankee fan is going to complain about the check swing being called a strike in Cano’s AB that inning, then the Philly fan can complain about Lee striking out Hideki Matsui on an inside fastball and the pitch being called a ball. Matsui singled on the next pitch.

Lee coming out in the ninth inning pretty much ensured that Charlie Manuel will go with a fourth starter in Game Four instead of Lee on three days rest.

Tonight we are going to find out if AJ Burnett is worth his contract.

Now we are going to find out how tough the Yankees are. It’s one thing to take a punch in the face from the Angels in Game Five up three-games-t0-one.

It’s another thing to take a punch in the face in Game One of the World Series.

Game Two is tonight. First pitch is 7:57 ET.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

2009 World Series Preview And Prediction

October 28, 2009

Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees

Schedule

Yankee Stadium

Game One: Wednesday, Oct. 28 7:57 ET. Cliff Lee vs. CC Sabathia

Game Two: Thursday, Oct. 29 7:57 ET. Pedro Martinez vs. AJ Burnett

Citizens Bank Park

Game Three: Saturday, Oct. 31 7:57 ET. Andy Pettitte vs. Cole Hamels

Game Four: Sunday, Nov. 1 8:20 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Five*: Monday, Nov. 2 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Yankee Stadium

Game Six*: Wednesday, Nov. 4 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Seven*: Thursday, Nov 5 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

* If necessary

Umpires

Gerry Davis (crew chief), Joe West, Dana DeMuth, Brian Gorman, Mike Everitt, Jeff Nelson

Roster Changes

Phillies – In: Brett Myers. Out: Miguel Cairo

Yankees – In: Eric Hinske, Brian Bruney. Out: Freddy Guzman, Francisco Cervelli

Cliff Lee2

Lee will take the ball in Game One

Matchups

Yankee hitters vs. Lee, Martinez, and Hamels – .269/.327/.444

Philly hitters vs. Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte – .249/.281/.417

Preview

At 7:57 ET tonight, the Phillies and the Yankees will officially begin the 2009 World Series or “The worst case scenario for New York Mets fans.”

Not only do the Mets suffer one of their worst seasons in franchise history, but now they have to watch their hated division rival and hated cross-town rival in the World Series. Talk about a punch to the gut.

Don’t worry Mets fans, you will get through it. As a New York Jets fan, I went through something similar a couple of years ago when the New England Patriots played the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

I rooted for the Giants in that game. I decided there was no way I could ever root for the Patriots under any circumstances. I am getting a sense that most Mets fans are feeling the same way towards the Phillies.

Now let’s talk about the two teams that matter–the Phillies and the Yankees. This will be the first time perhaps since 1999 that the two best teams in baseball are playing each other for the championship.

I have thought long and hard about this series and which direction I want to go. For me, this series comes down to a couple of things.

1. Will the Phillies look like a deer in headlights like the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim did? Let’s be realistic here–the Yankees beat both teams because both teams turned into the Kansas City Royals.

It’s not like the Yankees bludgeoned both teams.

The Yankees will always capitalize on errors and bad baserunning. Their lineup is too good not to.

If the Phillies make the same errors and baserunning mistakes the Twins and Angels did–they will lose this series.

2. Chad Durbin, Chan Ho Park Scott Eyre, and Ryan Madson vs. Phil Hughes, Domaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson. This series will be determined mainly by the under-belly of the bullpen–not by the closers.

I laugh when people say the Yankees have the advantage in the pen because of Mariano Rivera. Isn’t that the case with every game of every series the Yankees play in?

Saying the Yankees have an advantage because of Rivera, is like saying the Bulls had an advantage at shooting guard with Michael Jordan. It’s a given.

It’s going to be how the pitchers before Rivera fair that will determine the outcome of the game. In particular, Marte.

Girardi was going to Marte over Phil Coke in the ALCS in late inning situations vs. a left-handed batter. With the way Girardi overmanages, Marte is going to be asked at some point during this series to get Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, or Raul Ibanez out.

Does any Yankee fan feel confident with first and second and one out in the seventh and Girardi calls on Marte to pitch to Utley and Howard?

Pedro Phillies

Pedro will go in Game Two

3. Can Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels step up? If the Phillies are going to win this series, then one of these guys is going to have to step up. Martinez pitched better than anyone expected in Game Two of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now Martinez is expected to win against the Yankees in Game Two of the World Series. I have my doubts about this move.

Why open up a hornet’s nest by starting Martinez in the Bronx with all his prior history with the Yankees? Martinez is a National League pitcher at this point in his career. Let him start in Game Three or Four against a National League lineup with the pitcher hitting.

If Martinez doesn’t pitch well in Game Two, then the Phillies are going to need Hamels to wake up in Game Three. There is no evidence to suggest that he can.

His fastball is flat, his curveball has no break to it, and his body language on the mound stinks. That’s a recipe for disaster against the Yankees.

4. Will the layoff hurt the Phillies? We saw a long layoff hurt the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and the Colorado Rockies in 2007. The Phillies haven’t played since the 21st.

I think for the Phillies, the layoff won’t matter. Remember, they had a long layoff last year going into the World Series and that didn’t affect them at all.

5. Will Girardi Girardi overmange the Yankees out of a World Series title? If Girardi was overmanaging in an American League game, what is going to happen in those three games in Philadelphia? It might get ugly.

Girardi has been bailed out by Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees’ overall talent. What happens when the Yankees don’t bail him out?

Prediction

I have picked against the Phillies all postseason. I have picked the Yankees all postseason. Everything in me is leaning towards picking the Yankees.

They have the better pitching and they will catch a break someone. The inevitable bad call that favors the Yankees will happen somewhere during the series

I’ll keep my trend going.

Yankees in Six

MVP – Mark Teixeira

Also, for those of you in the New York/Long Island area, I will be on AM 1240 WGBB this Sunday night on Sports Talk Live with Frankie The Sports Guy at 10:30 PM ET.

We’ll be talking about the World Series and some other things that are going on in baseball.

Sabathia, Rodriguez Give Yankees 3-1 Series Lead

October 21, 2009

So much for CC Sabathia not being able to pitch in the postseason huh?

On just three days rest, New York Yankees’ ace CC Sabathia dominated the feeble Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lineup and Alex Rodriguez hit yet another homerun, as the Yankees crushed the Angels last night 10-1 to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven ALCS.

The Yankees celebrate after a Game 4 win

The Yankees celebrate after a Game 4 win

However, before I get to my observations of last night’s action, I have to talk about something else first. I hate to talk about something outside the game itself, but in this case–it’s necessary.

Major League Baseball has a serious umpiring issue.

Throughout this postseason we have seen some atrocious umpiring and last night it came to a head. There were three brutal calls that is turning the baseball postseason into a circus.

In the fourth, Scott Kazmir appeared to pickoff Nick Swisher at second base, but Swisher was called safe. Swisher was tagged about a foot before the base with umpire Dale Scott looking right at the play.

I find it hard to believe he could miss something so easy.

In the same inning, Johnny Damon hit a ball to centerfield. With Swisher now on third, he attempted to tag-up on the ball. Hunter threw the ball home, but Swisher beat the play.

Swisher was called out because third base umpire Tim McClelland deemed he had left before Hunter caught the ball. Replays showed Swisher did no such thing.

This was a clear and blatantly obvious make up call.

McClelland said “In his heart he felt Swisher left early.” Really? In your heart?

I want to know what your eyes tell you, not your heart. In my heart, I am married to Jennifer Aniston. The reality is that is not the case.

I didn’t know umpires are making calls with their hearts these days.

The very next inning, McClelland was at the center of attention again. Swisher hit a ground ball back to Darren Oliver. With Posada at third, he broke for home.

Oliver threw the ball home and had Posada in a rundown. Mike Napoli ran Posada back to third and Robinson Cano, who was on second ran to third base.

Both runners were standing by third base and not on the bag. Napoli tags both runners, but somehow Cano was called safe. What???

I can handle bang-bang calls at first base. Those get missed all the time and in my opinion is completely understandable. Those calls come down to a half a second either way.

I can tolerate that.

But what I, and I think most baseball fans can’t tolerate, is obvious missed calls. It’s ridiculous.

Bud Selig really needs to address this issue. He can’t let this fester like he did with the steroid issue. Selig has a tendency to let things linger until it gets to a point where it becomes a mockery.

This is why David Stern is such a great commissioner for the NBA. Say what you want about him, but if there is an issue, he addresses it and sweeps it under the rug.

Stern had a referee (Tim Donaghy) possibly throw games in his league, which is the most egregious thing in sports. Stern addressed the issue and it really became a non issue.

To this day, I still can’t believe what a non issue it was. Do you know why it was a non issue? Because Stern cut it off at the head before it festered.

This is what Selig needs to do. He needs to address this issue and recognize that there is a problem before it gets out of hand.

And here is another thing that vexes me about baseball umpires and umpires or referees in general. Why are they all older than my dad (59)?

Why aren’t these umpires younger? Why can’t a 30-year-old be an umpire in the major leagues?

I would think younger umpires would be sharper, quicker and more attentive than a guy who is 65-years-old.

If someone could give me a logical explanation for that, I would love to hear it.

Baseball is held in higher standards in America than football or basketball (I don’t mention hockey because Gary Bettman has made that league irrelevant).

Get new umpires. Use instant more instant replay. Do what whatever you need to do.

Just fix it!

Now let’s get to the game. Here are my observations from last night:

How awful was Scott Kazmir last night? Did he talk to Steve Trachsel before the game? I never want to hear him talked about as an “elite starter” ever again.

CC Sabathia was great last night. After getting in a little bit of trouble in the fifth and sixth, he settled down and get out of the jams.

He finished strong by getting the final six batters in the seventh and eighth.

Sadly as great as Alex Rodriguez has been, if the Yankees don’t win the World Series, he will still be blamed for it. It’s sad, but is true.

I have been watching baseball for 25 years and I can’t remember a time where there have been so many pitcher-catcher meetings on the mound. It’s a trend that I would like to have come to an end.

The Angels won the game in Tim McClelland’s heart.

The Angels don’t have enough “hot” players in their lineup right now to beat the Yankees.

How bad has Juan Rivera been in this series? He is the human rally killer. His double play in the sixth ended the game for the Angels.

It’s amazing how talent can make Joe Girardi look like a good manager.

Where was Jorge Posada’s head last night? Running off the field with two outs and not scoring from second on a double. Very odd game for Posada.

Some team is going to give Chone Figgins a four-year, $42 million deal and regret it from the first day. I am not a fan at all.

Hero for Game 4 – CC Sabathia

Goat for Game 4 – Scott Kazmir

Series MVP – CC Sabathia

Game Five is Thursday at 7:57 ET.

CC Sabathia Dominates Angels: Yankees Take Game One

October 17, 2009

Here is what I wrote in my American League Championship Series Preview and Prediction post:

“But things are starting to break for the Yankees like they did in the 90’s. You can’t beat the unexplained. There will be a Joe Mauer foul ball or Nick Punto baserunning moment for the Angels in this series.”

It took all of five batters for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to have their Nick Punto moment.

That coupled with a dominating performance from CC Sabathia made a cold night in the Bronx even colder for the Angels.

Big CC was on his game last night

Big CC was on his game last night

The New York Yankees beat the Angels last night 4-1 behind Sabathia’s eight solid innings and some surprisingly bad Angels defense to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven ALCS.

This game really reminded me of an NCAA tournament game where it’s a No. 13 seed plays a No. 4 seed.

The No. 13 seed plays all nervous through the first five minutes, makes silly mistakes, eventually settles down, gets somewhat back into the game, but at the end of the day the No. 3 seeds imposses their will and wins the game.

That was this game.

For an Angels team that is a veteran playoff team, they played like a bunch of amateurs last night. The bottom of the first inning set the tone for this game.

With Derek Jeter on first base, Johnny Damon hit a flare down the leftfield line. Jeter went to third and Damon made a wide turn but stopped at first base.

Juan Rivera decides to throw the ball to nobody in particular and allows Damon to advance to second. Who was he throwing to? He threw the ball between second and third.

As bad of a play that was, things only got worse for the Angels. Now here comes there Punto bonehead moment of the evening.

After Alex Rodriguez’s sac fly made it 1-0 Yankees, Hideki Matsui came up with a runner on second with two outs.

Matsui hit a little pop up behind third. Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar stare at each other and let the ball drop in. Damon scored and it was 2-0 Yankees.

I really thought John Lackey was going to punch Aybar after the inning. This was such a bonehead play that you would never think it would happen to the Angels.

Unfortunetly for the Angels, this wasn’t the last bonehead play of the evening.

In the bottom of the sixth, Lackey inexplicably walked Melky Cabrera with two outs. I say inexplicably because you can’t walk someone like Cabrera with two outs and no runners on base.

Let him earn his way on. He is a fourth outfielder and Lackey is throwing 3-2 curveballs to Cabrera. Terrible pitch selection.

With Cabrera now on first, Lackey tried to pick him off and throws the ball into rightfield. What was Lackey thinking? Cabrera had a two foot lead at best.

Now with Cabrera on second, Jeter lines a single up the middle. Torii Hunter charges the ball, but the ball hits off the heel of his glove, and rolls behind him. Cabrera scored to make it 4-1.

With Sabathia on top of his game, four runs was more than enough. Sabathia scattered four hits, walked one and struckout seven in eight solid innings of work.

The key for Sabathia in this game was that he was locating his fastball. Up, down, in, and out, Sabathia threw his fastball where ever he wanted to.This was by far and away the best start of Sabathia’s postseason career.

The Angels want to run on the Yankees, but if you don’t get anyone on base, it’s hard to steal. Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, and Erick Aybar–the three Angels who can steal a base, went 0-11 with three strikeouts.

And how about Chone Figgins? Can this guy get any worse? He is now 0-16 this postseason. The Angels won’t win this series if he doesn’t get on track.

Game Two is a must win game for the Angels. I don’t think they can go back to Anaheim down 0-2 and win this series.

Game Two is scheduled for today at 7:57 ET. It’s supposed to rain tonight, but right now as of 11:15 am ET in New York, it’s not raining. I went to get bagels this morning and it’s pretty cold however.

Of course, if the game tonight does get rained out, I will keep everyone updated.

Hero for Game One – CC Sabathia

Goat for Game One – Chone Figgins

Series MVP – CC Sabathia

American League Championship Series Preview and Prediction

October 16, 2009

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees

Best-of-seven series

Game One: Friday, Oct. 16 7:57 ET. John Lackey vs. CC Sabathia

Game Two: Saturday, Oct. 17 7:57 ET. Joe Saunders vs. AJ Burnett

Game Three: Monday, Oct. 19 4:13 ET. Andy Pettitte vs. Jered Weaver

Game Four: Tuesday, Oct. 20 7:57 ET. TBD vs. Scott Kazmir

Game Five*: Thursday, Oct. 22 7:57 ET. TBD vs TBD

Game Six*: Saturday, Oct. 24 4:13 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Seven* Sunday, Oct. 25 8:20 ET. TBD vs. TBD

*If necessary

Prediction: There are a couple of big story lines heading into this series. Can the Yankees finally beat the Angels in the playoffs? Who pitches Game Four for the Yankees? And can the Yankees neutralize the Angels running game?

While I don’t have the answers to those questions, here is what I do know–Game One is key to this series. Normally, I feel Game Three is key in a best-of-seven series, but in this case Game One is key.

If the Angels win Game One, they got the Yankees thinking here we go again. And more importantly they’ll get Joe Girardi more wound up than he already is.

Girardi got torched last week on the radio and in the papers in New York about how impatient and high strung he was during the ALDS. And that is when the Yankees swept. Could you imagine if the Yankees lose Game One, what Girardi will be like in Game Two?

The Angels have the right guy going in Game One in Lackey. He looked very impressive against the Red Sox in the NLDS and Lackey is pitching for a contract in 2010. If Lackey can pitch well from here on out, he will earn himself some serious coin this Winter.

Figgins is key for the Angels

Figgins is key for the Angels

The key for the Angels offensively and for the series that matter is Chone Figgins. Can this guy show up in the postseason just once? He is supposed to be their table setter and he has a lifetime .182 avg. in the postseason.

The Angels can’t do what they want to do (run all over the Yankees) if their speed guys don’t get on base. Figgins has to show up this series. It’s a must.

If the Yankees win Game One then it does two things. 1. It puts all the pressure on Joe Saunders in Game Two and 2. Quite simply, it gives the Yankees confidence they can beat the Angels in the postseason.

I like Joe Saunders and he is a nice little pitcher. But would you trust him in a big spot with your season on the line? I wouldn’t. I don’t see the Angels winning Game Two no matter what happens in Game One.

However, if they lose Game One AND Game Two, now they have to win four out of five from the Yankees. That is going to be awfully tough to do.

I think there are two keys for the Yankees in this series. First, they need to get someone else going in the lineup other than Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

Overshadowed in the Yankees sweep over the Minnesota Twins, was the fact that Johnny Damon, Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera, and Robinson Cano didn’t hit at all during the series. The Yankees are going to need a couple of these guys to come through in order to beat the Angels in a seven game series.

Second, this series might just come down to how well CC Sabathia pitches. With the weather concerns in New York (I will get to that in a second) and with the Girardi contemplating going with a three-man rotation, there is a chance Sabathia will pitch three times in this series.

If Sabathia pitches on three days rest, history will be against him. It’s really amazing how the Yankees don’t have a No. 4 starter. They have nobody but themselves to blame for that.

The x-factor in this series is going to be the weather for the first two games of this series. It’s miserable right now in New York. Walking to work this morning it felt like Winter.

It’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow. If one of these games gets rained out, that clearly favors the Angels. The Angels have their rotation set regardless of the weather. The Yankees don’t.

Everything in me is leaning towards picking the Angels. I think they are in the Yankees’ heads, they are better equiped to play in a long series than the Yankees are, they are drawing inspiration from the Nick Adenhart tragedy, and they clearly have the better manager.

But things are starting to break for the Yankees like they did in the 90’s. You can’t beat the unexplained. There will be a Joe Mauer foul ball or Nick Punto baserunning moment for the Angels in this series.

Yankees in six

MVP – Mariano Rivera