Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sheffield for Hire

The Detroit Tigers released outfielder Gary Sheffield today. Sheffield, who will be due $14 million dollars, was having a very disappointing spring batting only .178 in 45 at bats.

Just like most people I was very surprised by this move. Of course it is probably the right move but how often do you see a team release a 9 time All-Star who is one home run shy of his 500th dinger. Sheff’s stay in Detroit was a major disappointment to say the least. In two injury plagued seasons he hit just .250 with 44 homers in only 247 games. Also while with Detroit the once versatile Sheffield became relegated to DH duties.

This move also will bring into question Sheffield’s legacy as he nears the end of his career and moves onto the Hall of Fame ballot. Assuming another team signs him for the ‘09 season, that will mark the 8th ball club he’s played for. Throughout his career he has been one of the most feared hitters in the league but in the steroid era is 499 homers and 2615 hits enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. Also take into account that he has never been the most media friendly player and is notorious for his surly attitude. Even after his release he stated he was “ probably the most athletic guy on this team”. Come on Gary, you’re 40 years old and haven’t been healthy since 2005, you wouldn’t be the most athletic guy on an independent team.

I think 2009 will be the last we see of Gary Sheffield. Im pretty confident there’s a club out there that will take him on as a bat off the bench/ 4th outfielder. Beyond ‘09 I just don’t see Gary’s inflated ego taking a contract for what he’s worth right now, which would probably be in the 1-2 million dollar range. The next question then becomes is he a Hall of Famer? I personally would say yes, but honestly if he does get in it will be after a number of years on the ballot. What do you guys think, would you vote him in?

-Robb Lennahan

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rivalry Renewed

Yankees vs. Red Sox: Position by Position

With the Yankees falling out of playoff contention last year, the rivalry took a bit of a year off. With the moves the Yankees have made this offseason I believe they have closed the gap with their bitter rivals and the war is back on for 2009! I am no way discounting the Rays because they are the defending division champs and they will battle the Yanks and Sox all year long. This post is just purely to highlight the special rivalry the Yanks and Sox share.

C-Yankees. If Posada is anywhere near 100% his offensive production should be head and shoulders above the woeful Varitek

1B-Yankees (Barely). Tex is primed for a big year in the Bronx, but Youk is also an offensive force, especially in Fenway Park. Tiebreak goes to the Yankees because they ended up signing Teixeira away from the Sox, who so desperately wanted the slugger

2B- Red Sox. Reigning MVP Dustin Pedroia will probably come down to earth a bit from last year but Cano’s inconsistency gives Pedroia the edge.

3B-Yankees A-Rod Returns in May. Enough said.

SS-Yankees. Jeter may be headed into decline but I’d still take him over the combo of Lowrie and Lugo anyday.

LF-Push. Bay fit into the Red Sox clubhouse nicely, but Damon continues to be a force coming off of another great year.

CF- Red Sox. Ellsbury is exactly the type of player the Yankees hope Gardner turns into this year. Excellent defensively and on the bases.

RF- Push. Drew still has yet to put together a complete season in Boston. While the combination of Nady and Swisher should be comparible to Drew's production.

DH- Red Sox. Papi had a down year in 08 while Matsui could barely stay on the field. Papi takes it on pedigree.

Bench: Push. The Yankees will feature a bench with Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera on it. While the Sox have Rocco Baldelli and Mark Kotsay on the bench.

SP- Yankees. Top 3 are a push. Sabathia, Wang, Burnett are just as good as Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka. 4-5 Starters give the Yanks the edge. Pettitte and Chamberlain over Wakefield and Penny easily.

Middle Relief- Red Sox. The Yankees should be improved but the Sox have the proven bullpen arms.

Closer- Yankees. Rivera is still the greatest of all time but Papelbon isn’t far behind.

Manager- Red Sox. Francona has shown a winner’s touch while Girardi has yet to taste the champagne.

Front Office- Red Sox. You can’t argue with their success in mixing solid vets with young players from within. A lot like what the Yankees did back in ’94-’01. Yankees are slowly getting back to that formula.

Final Score: 6-6

It should be a fun year.

I’m sure these will be hotly contested opinions. I’d love to hear your comments/arguments. So please Post ‘em!

-Favad Ali

My Yankees Opening Day Roster

Everyone else is doing it, so I figured why not me...

C Jorge Posada
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Robinson Cano
3B Cody Ransom
SS Derek Jeter
LF Johnny Damon
CF Brett Gardner
RF Xavier Nady
DH Hideki Matsui

C Jose Molina
RF Nick Swisher
CF Melky Cabrera
INF Ramiro Pena

SP CC Sabathia
SP Chien Ming Wang
SP AJ Burnett
SP Andy Pettitte
SP Joba Chamberlain

CL Mariano Rivera
SU Damaso Marte
SU Brian Bruney
MR Jose Veras
MR Phil Coke
MR Edwar Ramirez
LR Brett Tomko

Brett, the Best Bet for Center

Before Sundays win against Pittsburgh, skipper Joe Girardi named Brett Gardner as the team's starting center fielder. We are happy for Brett and think that his speed and defense will help the team immensely. Brett should be given the green light to run at his own discretion and if so he should rack up upwards of 40 stolen bases this year. The Yankees haven't had a speed threat like that since Alfonso Soriano.

My only concern was that maybe Joe could have held off with announcing the winner of the battle between Gardy and the Melk Man until the last couple of exhibitions against the Cubs christening the new Yankee Stadium. Gardner, being a young player could let complacency slip in much the way we saw with Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera in the past. However something tells me that Gardner will not let this oppurtunity go to waste and will play every game like he's competing to keep the job. Because in all essence he will be. If he falls into a prolonged slump I'm sure we'll see Melky or someone else trying their luck in conquering the center field position.

-Favad Ali

Thursday, March 26, 2009

David Price: The future is...in the minors

The defending AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays optioned 23 year old left handed pitcher David Price to their minor league camp today. The move was based solely on the Rays desire to closely monitor the workload of their young phenom. After pitching 139.1 innings between the majors and minors last season, the Rays do not want to increase his innings by more than 20% in 2009. A 20% increase would put Price’s ‘09 innings pitched to roughly 165 innings.

While I completely understand the decision made by the Rays and am not at all surprised by it, I think it’s the wrong one for the organization. The Rays who are hampered by a limited payroll, play in the same division with the infinite money of the Yankees and Red Sox and realistically have a short amount of time to be competitive. Regardless of how deep their minor league system is and how good they are at developing players, we just have not seen a team consistently compete with one of the lower payrolls in the league. Now I fully understand that with Price pitching in the minors he can be lifted at any point in the game without any real consequences as to the outcome of the game. In the big leagues though, this is much harder to justify. Removing Price from a 1-0 game in the 5th inning is easier said than done, especially if the Rays lose the game. I also understand the Rays desire to give Price regular work and keep him on a consistent pitching schedule but I think it would be more beneficial to their major league team if he was with them all season. They could possibly start Price in the bullpen and then move him into the rotation later in the season similar to what the Yankees did with Joba Chamberlain in ‘08.

Is it possible for the Rays to compete this year even with David Price in the minors for half of the season? Absolutely. In fact I think the Rays have a stronger team than last season. Unfortunately for them so do the Yankees and Red Sox. This means EVERY game matters. This is why I believe David Price should be on their major league roster all season, even if he’s in the bullpen. In such a competitive division you must have your 25 best players available even if that means taking a risk with the left arm of your future ace.

-Robb Lennahan

Yankees New and Notes

Manager Joe Girardi will experiment with the lineup batting Derek Jeter in the leadoff position for the rest of Spring Training. He will drop Johnny Damon to number two because he likes Damon’s ability to pull the ball and hit in situations. Story

[My Take: This could be an interesting move as Damon is one of the toughest players to double up and has more pop than Jeter. However, the move could be a wash as Jeter is also an exceptional situational hitter because of his propensity to shoot the ball to right field.]

Brian Cashman is still looking to move Melky Cabrera who is out of options and has taken a back seat to Brett Gardner in the CF mix. The White Sox are a prime target according to Ken Rosenthal who can throw Cabrera into their CF competition which features motley-looking crew consisting of Brian Anderson, Dewayne Wise, and Jerry Owens. Story

[My Take: Melky’s has had more than a fair chance to become a mainstay over the past 3 seasons. It’s time to cut him loose and see if the Yankees can get something worthwhile in return. Also, Gardner’s superior speed and defense along with his patience at the plate are more of an asset than what Melky brings to the table. Gardner could/should not be longed for this position in the future though, as Austin Jackson would be the ideal answer in center for the future.

CC Sabathia has been named the starter for both the season opener in Baltimore and opening day ten days later at the new Yankee Stadium against Cleveland. Story

[My Take: No surprise here as CC should take the ball for both openers as he is the big name/big money ace who was brought in to be the number one starter that the Yankees have lacked for so long now.]

-Favad Ali

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NYY Position Battles

It seems that Joe Girardi has selected Xavier Nady as the starting rightfielder to start the season instead of Nick Swisher. Much to our chagrin as the stats just show that Swisher is the more prudent choice as documented in this previous article.

Joe Girardi has not yet announced his choice for starting centerfielder but Brett Gardner has to be in the lead if you take in his performance this spring compared to Melky Cabrera’s. Whoever ends up starting will only be keeping the position warm for Austin Jackson, as the youngster looks primed for a shot at the bigs this year or next.

All things being equal, Brett Tomko looks like the frontrunner in the race to fill the long man role out of the bullpen. Tomko has out performed Dan Geise and Alfredo Aceves his spring and as a result deserves the shot.

Cody Ransom has won the dubious honor of holding third base for Alex Rodriguez until the slugger returns from injury. Ransom didn’t really have to compete for the spot as the Yankees didn’t have many other options. As a result of Ransom being forced into a starting role Angel Berroa looks have won the utility role of the bench.

-Favad Ali

Kudos to Japan

I didn't get a chance to post yesterday, but I wanted to congratulate Japan for winning a second consecutive WBC crown. The championship game was a thrilling one as they beat Korea 5-3 in 10 innings. Team USA can learn a thing or two from both Japan and Korea about how to play and win in these tournament showcases.

AJ Burnin' Up

For as long as AJ Burnett has been in the Majors, we have all heard about the stuff he possesses and his potential to be great. He is now 32 and his stuff and his potential have yet to translate into great success on the mound. He and the Yankees believe this is the year that it will happen. Burnett looked solid once again as the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 7-1 Tuesday night. He pitched into the sixth while allowing 1 run on 4 hits. His spring ERA in 4 starts is a stellar 1.20. Obviously, you can’t expect Burnett to pitch this spectacularly during the regular year, but everyone around Yankees camp believe he is primed for a solid first year with the club.

He has matured as a pitcher and learned a lot from former Blue Jay teammate Roy Halladay. AJ looks and works more like a pitcher rather than just a hard thrower compared to years gone by. Everyone knows about his fastball, but he has done an excellent job of mixing in his breaking pitches and changing speeds this spring. He has even been tutoring Chien Ming Wang, talking about mixing in more offspeed pitches to compliment his hard sinker. They key for AJ this year will be staying healthy. He has been injury plagued throughout his career and must stay off the DL as he and the rest of the Yankee starters will play a vital role in the team’s success this year.

-Favad Ali

Monday, March 23, 2009

So Long Curt

Curt Schilling announced his retirement today via his blog 38Pitches.com. Schilling is a borderline hall of famer and a bona fide big game pitcher whose loud personality almost outweighed his ability on the mound. He was truly one of the best big game pitchers to ever toe the rubber, compiling an 10-2 record in the postseason.

As a Yankee fan, I am glad to see him go, as he has been at the center of the Yankees misfortunes in recent years, from his MVP performance to beat the Yankees in the ’01 World Series as a member of the Diamondbacks to his bloody sock performance which propelled the Red Sox to overcome a 3-0 series lead in the ‘04 ALCS. Schilling could have been a Yankee going in to the ’04 season, but the Yankees chose to go and trade for the younger Javier Vasquez. At the time, it seemed like the right move, but it blew up in their face and the rest is history. He will forever be a legend to fans in Boston and a villain to the highest degree in New York.

-Favad Ali

Japan Knocks off Team USA

Japan defeated the United States in a semifinal showdown held at Dodger Stadium Sunday night by a final of 9-4. Japan now moves on to face Korea in an All-Asian final on Monday, looking to repeat as WBC champion. USA fought through injuries throughout the tournament and should be commended for their efforts. However, it just doesn’t seem right that Team USA felt like an underdog against Japan. If I’m not mistaken, baseball was created in the United States and not in Japan. The fact of the matter is that the United States and its players just haven’t bought in to the tournament at the same level as the Asian and Latin countries have. And that to me is a shame.

While the collection of players that did commit to the team were of all star caliber, you cannot sit here and say that the US had their absolute best roster that they could possibly field. Also, these single elimination games are in essence a game 7. One team played the game like it was game 7 and the other played like it was just another grapefruit or cactus league game. I know Davey Johnson was managing with his hands tied as he owes it to the clubs that which the players belong to get them into games and to get their work in, but if the US is ever going to do well in this competition they will have to play them to win.

What manager would leave their starter in the game to get brutalized the way Oswalt did in the fourth inning which in effect lost the game for the US. If its game 7 of a playoff series, you just don’t do that. But Johnson must have felt that he owed it to the Houston Astros to let Oswalt “get his work in.” This tournament can only be successful here in the US if and only if the USA is successful on the field. They won’t be successful on the field unless they can get their absolute best players to buy in and the manager of the team is allowed to manage to win the games at all costs.

-Favad Ali

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Derek Jeter is God"

Ozzie Guillen known throughout his managerial career for his colorful quotes was at it again recently. Only this time he was heaping all kinds of praise on Yankee captain Derek Jeter. Here is a quote from the post taken from MLB.Fanhouse.com. Guillen was commenting on White Sox Rookie Gordon Beckham and his comment on wanting to be like Derek Jeter:

"That's a great statement of confidence, but Derek Jeter is a god of baseball,'' opined Guillen. ''You look in the dictionary for God, and Derek Jeter's picture is right there. I wish he could play like God. When you have [four] rings, make a lot of money, captain of the New York Yankees, good-looking women, no way he will be Derek Jeter. Derek Jeter is God. Derek Jeter is baseball. Everybody else is just trying to play the game.''

Full Story

If I didn't know any better I'd say Ozzie Guillen wanted to take Derek Jeter on a man date. Speaking of man dates, I highly recommend taking a good buddy to see the new flick, "I Love You, Man." Very funny.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Best Wishes to Aaron Boone

We here at Jersey Hardball would like send our best wishes to Aaron Boone, who announced yesterday that he will undergo open heart surgery for a condition that he has had for about three years now. The surgrey and recovery time will cost Boone the entire 2009 season with the Houston Astros.

Boone of course, will forever be a part of Yankee history as he delivered one of the more dramatic home runs in baseball history to beat the Red Sox in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Lets all wish Boone a successful surgery and a speedy recovery.

Full Story

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Matsui Should Leave his Glove at Home

Hideki Matsui will be the everyday DH this year and as well he should be. In fact if he stays healthy, he should be among the best DHs in the league this year. He is a 34 year old who has the knees of a 68 year old. Joe Girardi recently placed a ban on Matsui playing the outfield until June, when Interleauge play rolls around. I say, he shouldn’t even play the outfield in those games. Instead, the games held in the NL park should be built in days off for the aging slugger.

Besides, even before Matusi had his knee problems, he was never considered a great defender. In fact, at his best, Matsui was considered on the edge of average to below average in the outfield. Couple that with his knee issues, and Matsui would be probably be closer to atrocious in the outfield.

The problem is the Yankees have too many DH types on their roster. One player who should see a significant number of at bats at DH is Jorge Posada. He is coming back from shoulder surgery so don’t count on Jorge catching 140 games this year. Because of this Girardi will have to start Posada as the DH at times to keep his potent bat in the lineup. This would no doubt cost Matsui some at bats, but he won't cost the Yankees any runs on defense if he is sitting on the bench.

-Favad Ali

Team USA Advances to Semis with Walk Off Victory

Trailing 5-3 going in to the bottom of the ninth, Team USA was staring in the face of another embarrassing early exit out of the World Baseball Classic. The team had looked flat all night long. They left tons of runners in scoring position, played sloppy defense, and didn’t look like they had any fight left in them. However, we all know baseball can be a funny game. This was just another example of that.

The inning started off with back to back singles from Shane Victorino and Brian Roberts. Derek Jeter followed by lining out sharply to right. That left runners on first and third with one out. Puerto Rico was a double play away from eliminating the USA. Jimmy Rollins was next and he drew a hard fought walk to load up the bases. The next two batters were Kevin Youkilis and David Wright. It was up to a Red Sox and a Met. Here I was, a tried and true Yankee fanatic, pulling for a Red Sox and a Met.

Youkilis had homered earlier in the game and my apologies to the Fack Youk blog as a Yankee fan, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing the Red Sox slugger do it again. However, he walked and a run was forced in. USA was still behind 5-4 and David Wright was next. I am in no way a Met fan. But, I’ve always respected Wright as a player. I had already rooted my heart out for a Red Sox player to succeed why stop there. Wright who finally seemed to be getting his swing going as he already had two hits in the game coming into the at bat looked determined to deliver. And deliver he did. He hit a flare down the right field line that touched down and allowed the tying and winning runs to score. It was a magnificent sight as the team rushed on to the field and celebrated as if they had won the World Series. And in the middle of the celebration was Derek Jeter hugging and high-fiving Kevin Youkilis and David Wright. A Yankee, a Red Sox, and a Met; all celebrating in unison. You won’t see that anywhere but in this tournament.

This competition has had its detractors, no doubt. However, you cannot deny the competition and drama that took place on that field on Tuesday night. Team USA staved off elimination to advance to the final four in Los Angeles in dramatic fashion. This surely was the type of game that could and should spark more interest into the tournament. This was the type of game that Bud Selig and others had in mind when they dreamed up the idea to have a World Baseball Classic.

-Favad Ali

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Royals Sign Former Yank Ponson

Are the Kansas City Royals attempting to build a bigger fan base in the Netherlands or are they just trying to give up more runs this season? Well good news KC fans your team should accomplish both by bringing in pitcher Sidney Ponson to camp on a minor league contract.

This made me wonder why do teams continue to bring in pitchers who are virtually assured not to be productive on the field. Here’s a list of 5 veterans who are in big league camps this year who fit the bill.

With these kinds of numbers and that many innings thrown I don’t want to hear about "potential", "catching lightning in a bottle", or "veteran experience." What good are those things when you can’t get anyone out? I understand the need to fill roster spots on the big club and in all the minor league levels but I’m sure there’s a number of pitchers out there who are 10 years younger that can give teams a high 4 ERA. I just don’t see the benefit to teams giving the Sidney Ponsons’ of the world a shot year after year but there has to be a reason. What am I missing?

-Robb Lennahan

Kei Contributor?

Don’t look now but Kei Igawa (the same guy who regularly wore sunglasses while pitching) has an 12 inning scoreless streak going this spring. His performance is notable as he finally looks like he trusts his stuff and is allowing batters to put the ball and in play and getting themselves out. I know spring training performances usually don’t amount to much, but it will be interesting to see what they Yankees do with Igawa.

The five man starting rotation is set with Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Chamberlain, and Pettitte. The bullpen should consist of Rivera, Bruney, Marte, Veras, Coke, Giese, and Edwar Ramirez. David Robertson is another promising bullpen arm the Yankees could go to. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are certainly higher up on the depth chart than Igawa is, should they be in need of an emergency starter. Igawa will, in all probability begin the year in Scranton. Either way, the Yankees will want Igawa to continue his excellent spring into the season as he will in my opinion, serve as trade bait later on in a potential deadline deal.

I Love Me Some Me

Oops! He did it again! Just when you thought our favorite slugger (who is apparently more full of himself than we thought before) would slip out of the public eye while he rehabs his hip injury; think again. In a story in today's New York Post which displays photographs from A-Rod's upcoming appearance in Details Magazine, the narcissistic slugger is seen smooching his own image in a mirror among other seductive poses. Here is a link to the full article entitled "Confessions of a Damned Yankee." This guy cannot seem to get of his own way.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mets Sign 50 Year Old, Julio Franco

He's back! The Mets have signed the ageless Julio Franco once again. However, this time, Franco won't be battling it out to become the 25th man on the roster. Instead, he will be calling the shots for the rookie-league Gulf Coast Mets. We want to wish good luck to Julio, as he was one of the true good guys of the game during his 23 year career, which started in 1982 and ended in 2007.

Casey on the Mound

The most talked about battle this spring in the Mets camp has been for the #5 spot in the pitching rotation. The three most likely candidates are former All-Stars Freddy Garcia and Livan Hernandez as well as Tim Redding. Unfortunately for the three pitchers none of them are doing anything to cement their place on the big league club. Redding has the best shot at cracking the Mets roster only because he signed a guaranteed contract this off season. His spring has been plagued by injuries holding him to only 2 innings pitched thus far and he looks headed for the long man role out of the bullpen. Garcia and Hernandez who both signed minor league deals are showing why . Garcia has only thrown 5 innings and posted a 14.40 ERA with 7 hits, 5 walks and 4 strikeouts. Hernandez has been a bit better posting a 3.72 ERA in 9.2 innings with 9 hits, 5 walks and 4 strikeouts. Not exactly encouraging numbers from either pitcher especially walking more batters than their striking out.

So who takes the last spot in the rotation? I say the Mets should give lefty Casey Fossum the first crack at it. This spring Fossum has looked good, throwing 7.2 innings with a 3.52 ERA. His other numbers have been good, allowing only 7 hits and 1 walk while striking out 6. The downside to Fossum is that he hasn’t started a game since 2007 and enters camp with a career 5.47 ERA. My question is can Fossum really do any worse than Garcia, Hernandez, or Redding. I really don’t think so. Outside of resigning Pedro Martinez or bring up youngster Jon Niese I think Fossum is the best option at the moment for the #5 spot in the Mets rotation.

-Robb Lennahan

Whew! MRIs for Cano, Marte Show No Damage

Precautionary MRIs done on Cano’s right shoulder and Marte’s left shoulder showed no structural damage as the two returned to Yankees camp after participating in the WBC for the Dominican Republic. Both have been listed as day to day and could return to action by weeks end. After the way the Yankees did or did not treat A-Rod’s hip all of last season, the team had MRI’s done for the two players despite both saying the examination wasn’t necessary.

Both Cano and Marte will be integral to the Yankees success this season. Cano is coming off of a down year in which he was criticized for mental lapses and lack of hustle after signing a big contract extension. Marte will be the left handed setup man for Mariano Rivera. He along with Brian Bruney, Jose Vera, Phil Coke, Edwar Ramirez could be a solid bunch out of the pen as all of them have shown flashes of brilliance in the past, but just need that consistency that is vital to all great bullpens

Jorge Back Behind the Plate

After enduring most of last year watching a cast of catchers trying to fill the shoes of Jorge Posada, it was surely a welcome sight to see Jorge back behind the plate Sunday against the Twins. His road to recovery from shoulder surgery seems to be right on track. Posada looked good in his four innings of catching duty although no Twins player attempted a steal while he was on the field. That is when we will find out just how close Posada is to being back to 100%. The Yankees sorely missed Posada’s bat in the lineup and his veteran presence behind home plate. Jorge ability to stay healthy will be the X-Factor once again this year, especially with the absence of Alex Rodriguez for the first month and a half of the season.

Friday, March 13, 2009

NY Ink

I came across this article by Kat O'Brien in Buster Olney's blog on ESPN.com. It talks about the numerous tattoos gracing the bodies of some of the Yankee pitchers.

I thought this was interesting. Obviously tattoos are becoming more mainstream with the growing popularity of TV shows such as Miami Ink and LA Ink. I also challenge you to turn on a NBA game and find a player without a tattoo. Sports team logos are becoming more and more common as well. ( I too have joined this category) Below are just a few pieces i've come across on the web that go beyond the simple logo and push the boundaries of baseball inspired tattoo art. Enjoy!

Santana So-So in Spring Debut

Johan Santana made his much anticipted spring debut Thursday against the Florida Marlins. He was touched up for 3 runs in 2 2/3 innings work, including a home run given up to Met nemesis Dan Uggla. The important thing for Mets fans was that his sore elbow held up just fine. Santana is now on track to make the opening day start against Cincinnati on April 6.

Now the Mets can focus once again on the battle for the final spot in the rotation. Right now it seems as if Livan Hernandez is the front runner for the job. Not because he has pitched particularly well this spring, but becasue Freddy Garcia and Tim Redding have been getting lit up all spring. If I am the Mets, why not give that Pedro guy another go? I know he has burned them in the past, but at this point if you sign him to an incentive-laden deal, what is the harm?

-Favad Ali

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rivera Rehab Right on Schedule

We could see the great Mariano Rivera make his spring training debut Monday against the defending World Series champion, Philadelphia Phillies. Rivera threw live batting practice on Wednesday and said he’s “feeling better and better” and he “has no doubts” about being able to come back better than ever. He is set to throw another batting practice session on Saturday before his scheduled spring debut on Monday. It will certainly be a welcome sight to see #42 back on the mound again, as he looks ready for another brilliant season to add to his brilliant Hall of Fame career.

The Yankees are off today, but travel to Ft. Myers to face the Red Sox in a spring training grudge match sure to set the stage for what should be another season long battle between the Yanks and Sox.

Team USA falls to Venezuela 5-3

Both teams already knew they had advanced to the second round of the WBC coming into yesterday’s game. The game was played for seeding purposes for second round matchups in Miami. As a result, Team USA will start the double elimination second round against a formidable Puerto Rico team and Venezuela will face off with the Cinderella Netherlands squad. My picks to advance out of this quartet are USA and Venezuela, but Puerto Rico should not be taken lightly as they are the only undefeated team left in the tournament.

The tournament has been a gripping one thus far and should only get better. I implore everyone to tune into Team USA’s pursuit of the WBC Championship and cheer on Captain America Derek Jeter, and the rest of the USA squad.

-Favad Ali

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Prelude of Things Worse to Come

If you took a look at the box score from today’s Yankees/ Tigers game you might be a little worried about the line from newly acquired CC Sabathia. 1.2 IP-5 ER- 6 H- 1 BB- 0 K. Looks bad and I’m sure the first thought in a lot of people’s minds was that CC’s heavy workload the last two seasons is finally catching up with him. This doesn’t seem to be the case though. As reported on Peter Abraham’s great LoHud Yankees Blog, Sabathia is still working on his cutter something that takes him a few spring starts to get full control of. So Yankee fans needn’t worry.

The fans that should be worried about the stat line from today’s game are those of Detroit though. The Tigers ace Justin Verlander posted a line of 2 IP- 2 ER- 3 H- 4 BB-2 K. After a 2008 season where his walk rate increased and his strikeout rate decreased from the previous season, today’s numbers look like it could be more of the same. Of course I’m sure he’s still working on his own pitches and it’s only one spring start that means nothing but after a disappointing ‘08 you can’t help being worried about today’s start.

If Verlander doesn’t return to his pre-’08 form the Tigers will be in a world of trouble. After Armando Galarraga the Tigers staff has a number of questions. Jeremy Bonderman is still an injury concern, Nate Robertson is coming off a +6 ERA season, Edwin Jackson showed a glimpse of his potential in Tampa in ‘08 and who knows if we’ll ever see an effective Dontrelle Willis again. 20 year old phenom Rick Porcello looks to be another year away from hitting the big leagues. The Detroit bullpen isn’t looking any better either. Oft-injured flamethrower Joel Zumaya hopes to have a healthy season but in his 23.1 innings in ’08 he walked 22 batters. Also returning are Fernando Rodney, Bobby Seay, and Freddi Dolsi who combined for a 4.43 ERA last season.

The man they brought in to help stabilize their pen, Brandon Lyon, registered an ERA of 4.70 last year allowing 75 hits in 59.1 innings. It looks like its going to be another long year in Detroit. Wasn’t it just this time last year when everyone was handing the Tigers the World Series Championship and touting their ’unstoppable’ offense? My, how times have changed.

-Robb Lennahan

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dominican Disaster

Down goes the Dominican! Down goes the Dominican! For the second time in a week the mighty Dominican Republic went down at the hands of the unheralded Dutch team. The Netherlands move on to the second round of the World Baseball Classic in Miami and the Dominicans will disassemble and rejoin their major league clubs. However, the likes of David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada, Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, etc will not soon forget the embarrassment they suffered with these two losses.

It might not mean much to us here in the states. But back home in the Dominican, where this tournament actually does mean the world, the people are surely shocked and outraged by the performance of their team. The Dominicans, rich with MLB all stars at virtually every position were beaten by a Netherlands team comprised of mostly minor leaguers and veterans of the world renowned Dutch League. If there ever was a David and Goliath match up this was surely it. And like the age old story, this one ended with David slaying the mighty Goliath not once but twice.

For those who doubted the worth of this tournament should only have to watch this game and they would be convinced about the importance and quality of this competition. Kudos to the Netherlands on a great victory and shame on the Dominicans who were the victims of one of the greatest upsets in international baseball history, twice.

-Favad Ali

MLB: The New Class

For the most part spring training stats don’t mean much. If Albert Pujols were to go hitless all spring or Roy Halladay didn’t record an out it’s still a pretty safe bet that they would still produce once the regular season rolls around. However spring stats are a helpful tool to gauge what the emerging crop of youngsters may or may not do in the near future. I’ve decided to look at the spring stats of 16 top prospects who have a chance at impacting the big club sometime this season.

Take these numbers for what you will. Obviously they mean nothing. Dexter Fowler could become the biggest star and Matt Wieters could be the biggest bust, we’ll never know until they actually hit the big leagues. It’s just interesting to see their stats thus far in spring and also possibly useful if you have a forth coming fantasy draft. My sleeper pick is Beckham, come on zero strikeouts this spring you gotta love that!

-Robb Lennahan

Lets Make a Deal

Before the start of the 2008 season the Yankees committed themselves to a youth movement of sorts in the pitching staff by refusing to part with a group of their youngsters such as Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy for Johan Santana. This proved to be a bad decision when a combination of injuries and poor performance held the duo to just 73.2 IP and a 7.45 ERA. Now for the ‘09 season the Yanks have gone back to their recent roots and spent heavily on the best free agents available, bringing in CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett to fill out the starting staff. This basically means another season in AAA for Hughes and Kennedy, unless, Joba Chamberlain goes to the pen and one of them win the #5 spot in the rotation, which as of now doesn’t seem likely.

Instead of sending Kennedy back to AAA, I think it would be in the Yankees best interest to trade the young righthander. While I do believe that you can never have too much pitching depth, especially young pitching, Kennedy just turned 24 years old and his trade value will only be decreasing regardless of how good he does in AAA this season. He last two seasons in the minors have been almost unbelievable. He’s pitched 223.1 Innings and struck out 246 batters while posting a 2.01 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP.

Unfortunately, he now seems lost in the shuffle in the Yankee organization behind the new big money guys CC and AJ, the phenom Joba and the younger Hughes. If the Yanks stick him back in the minors another year and attempt to move him next season they’ll find teams won’t be as interested in a then 25 year old pitcher with less than 100 innings experience in the big leagues. The time to trade Kennedy is now and here’s a few possibilities I thought could make sense.

1. A trade of potential for potential. Kennedy goes to the White Sox for power hitting 3rd baseman Josh Fields. The Yanks get a potential power bat to fill in at 3rd in A-Rod’s absence and the Sox get another young arm to go with Danks and Floyd. The Sox also throw in a 2nd minor leaguer to round out the deal.

2. At the trade deadline the Yanks send Kennedy, Mark Melancon, and Nick Swisher to the A’s for Matt Holliday. This is assuming the A’s have conceded the AL West and are looking to move Holliday and the Yanks are looking to upgrade from Matsui/ Damon in left field. If so its obvious what the Yanks get in this. As for Oakland they get a bat to replace Holliday for the rest of ‘09, a pitcher in Kennedy who they can put in their rotation right away and a young power arm for the pen in Melancon.

3. The Yanks send Kennedy, Melky Cabrera, and minor league pitcher Zach Mcallister to Milwaukee for Mike Cameron and Bill Hall. In Cameron the Yanks get a Gold Glove caliber center fielder with a little pop and in Hall the they get a replacement at 3rd for A-Rod and then a quality utility man off the bench when A-Rod returns.

Of course, I’m no general manager, I just play one on the internet, so I don’t expect any of these deals to happen. I haven’t considered salaries or any of the other fine points of making a trade. I just think in their raw form these deals make sense for both teams involved. More so, I like Kennedy and I just want to see him get a shot in the big leagues beyond a September call up and I don’t see that happening anytime soon with the Yankees.

-Robb Lennahan

Mets Release Duaner Sanchez

Omar Minaya announced today, that the Mets have released 29 year old reliever, Duaner Sanchez, citing diminished velocity and an inability to command his once devastating breaking ball. Sanchez returned last year after a lengthy layoff which included two shoulder surgeries. He was below league average last year out of the pen posting an ERA+ of 97. That, combined with his poor performance this spring led to the Mets decision to let him go.

A-Rod, A OK After Surgery

Alex Rodriguez had successful surgery Monday to repair torn cartilage in his hip (story). Everything went as planned and A-Rod is scheduled for a return sometime in May. A-Rod will have more extensive surgery on the same hip in the offseason but he should be ready to play for spring training 2010. The Yankees should be able to be alright without the three-time MVP in the lineup. However, it will take a concerted effort from the rest of the lineup as well as the starting rotation. Cody Ransom is still the leading candidate to fill in for Rodriguez, however another name has been thrown into the rumor mill as a possible A-Rod replacement.

According to the Kansas City Star, the Yankees are interested in aquiring Mark Teahen to keep third base warm until A-Rod returns. Teahen had an excellent 2006 campaign (.290/.357/.517), but has regressed the past two seasons with combined splits of .270./.333/.406. He would be a better option compared to Ransom and/or Angel Berroa. However, it would cost the Yankees a pitching prospect or two. I still think the best route would be to sign Mark Grudzielanek. He is a career .290/.332/.395 hitter and would only cost the Yankees a one year contract at around $1 million or so. Also, Grudzielanek would be an upgrade as a bench player once A-Rod does return.

-Favad Ali

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"I'm Dutch isn't that Vierd"

I always thought anything is possible but now I know that statement is a 100% fact. Why? The Netherlands beat the Dominican Republic yesterday 3-2 in the World Baseball Classic. The Dominican team has so much depth that Jose Reyes has to come off the bench. This is a team that features Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada, Jose Guillen, Robinson Cano, and Willy Tavres. Yet they could only put up two measly runs against Sidney Ponson. That’s right Sidney Ponson!! The loss basically came down to a lack of clutch hitting for the Dominicans. The were able to put up 8 hits and 8 walks against the Netherlands pitching staff but left 21 runners on base. Miguel Tejada alone left 7 guys on. Also throw into the mix Tejada and Miguel Olivo hitting into double plays and Willy Tavares getting thrown out attempting to steal 3rd base and you have all the evidence you need to explain why they only scored 2 runs.

The pitching staff was as advertised for the Dominicans though. All three runs allowed to the Netherlands were unearned coming in the 1st inning from 2 errors and a wild pitch from Edison Volquez. The games staff which consisted of starter Volquez, Rafael Perez, Pedro Martinez, Dmaso Marte, and Carlos Marmol combined to allow only 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 12. It was an especially impressive performance for Martinez who went 3 scoreless innings allowing only 1 hit and striking out 4.

The Dominican team is now one loss away from being eliminated in the tournament. Their next game is today against the Panama squad. If they can find a little life in their bats, the pitching staff should still lead them deep into the Classic.

-Robb Lennahan

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Others Must Step Up in A-Rod's Absence

Everything that could have gone last year for the Yankees did go wrong. And this resulted in them missing out on the postseason. This season, the Yankees will have to overcome the loss of Alex Rodriguez if they wish to stay in the AL East race and everything will have to go right in order for them do so. The lineup will have to step up in a big way to cover for the loss of A-Rod. Love him, or hate him; Alex Rodriguez has been an offensive force for the Yankees since his arrival. His production will surely be missed. But they can win without him; if, and only if the many question marks up and down their lineup are answered.

Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui both need to stay in the lineup and produce at their career levels. Whether this will happen or not is not a given by any stretch of the imagination. Posada is coming off of shoulder surgery which cost him most of the 2008 season. He has hit well thus far in the spring, although he has yet to catch this spring and has been a last minute scratch due to his shoulder once already. Hideki Matsui is trying to come back and play on two bad knees which will relegate him to playing exclusively as a DH this year. He also missed most of last year and will be counted on to come back healthy and productive this year.

Also, whoever emerges from the battle in CF between Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera will have to step up their production significantly. Cabrera has been regressing the past two seasons while Gardner is still an unknown commodity at the Major League level. Robinson Cano also needs bounce back from a disappointing year last year. If his production after being benched late last year is any indication, expect him to bounce back close to his 2007 form.

The Yankees should get average to above average production from the remaining positions on the field (Teixeira at 1B, Jeter at SS, Swisher/Nady in RF, and Damon in LF). But this will not be enough; they need solid production from Posada (at the catcher position), Matsui, and Cano at the least. Anything they get out of the center field position would be a plus.

Things certainly did go terribly awry last year. Lightning may just strike twice again this year. Its up to everyone in the lineup to pick up the slack while A-Rod is gone. The one difference between this year and last is a vastly improved starting rotation. This should help the lineup cope with the loss of A-Rod, and keep them competetive until his return.

-Favad Ali

Bro-Rod: "Alex Rodriguez to Miss Ten Weeks"

Just when you thought it could not get any worse for Alex Rodriguez this spring. A-Rod's brother told ESPN Deportes earlier today, that the slugger will have surgery to remove a cyst that has formed on his right hip. Sources also say that surgery is schedule for Monday in Colorado.

There has been no official word from the Yankees on this matter as of yet. If this story proves to be true, this could be a devastating blow to the Yankees, as Rodriguez would miss the entire month of April and probably most of May as well.

Since 2004, the Yankees are 20-23 in games that Rodriguez has missed. Trade rumors have already hit the airwaves on possible replacements for Rodriguez at third base until his return. Names such as Garrett Atkins of the Colorado Rockies, Chad Tracy of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Bill Hall of the Milwaukee Brewers have been thrown about. If the Yankees stand pat and do not make a trade, Cody Ransom will likely get the bulk of playing time at third base.

Either way, A-Rod's absence will leave a huge void in the middle of the Yankees lineup. However, with the vast improvement in pitching, particularly starting pitching, the Yankees should be able to tread water until Alex return's. Also, the signing of Mark Teixeira looms even larger now more than ever. Imagine A-Rod going down and not having the force that is Mark Teixeira there to soften the blow.

Right now, the word is 10 weeks. However, ESPN's Stephania Bell reports that depending on the severity of the injured hip, A-Rod could be looking at more than the reported 10 weeks of recovery time. Yankees fans, it's time to hold our collective breaths.

-Favad Ali

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Odd Man Out

Today on Rob Neyer’s blog at ESPN.com he has a link for a very interesting article about a book recently written by former Angels minor league pitcher, Matt McCarthy.

Check out the article, written by Benjamin Hill and Allan Schwarz, here.

Basically, the book recounts all the juicy details of his summer with the team, the truth however doesn’t seem to have a place in his novel. He alleges everything in his tale from steroid use, racism, and all around inappropriate behavior from his teammates and manager. McCarthy accusing current White Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks of advising him to fake an injury to avoid lifting weights and of showing up to the park hung over on several occasions. Jenks, who has never tried to hide his troubled past stated that McCarthy’s accusations are false and that he “..couldn’t point him out in a room. I didn’t know who he was then. I don’t know who he is now.”

He also describes an incident accusing current Angel Joe Saunders of making disparaging remarks on the team bus when in fact Saunders had been promoted from the club days before the supposed incident took place. These are just two of a great deal of claims in his book that have been proven false by statistical and transaction information or that have been called flat out lies by former teammates.

McCarthy who is a graduate of Yale and the Harvard Medical School is currently an intern in the residency program at New York Presbyterian/ Columbia hospital. Judging by his collegiate resume I’d say he’s a pretty bright guy and he looks to be doing pretty well for himself. My question then would be ‘Why write this book?’.

It seems pretty obvious to me this guy is blatantly trying to cash in with his sensationalized stories. If his tall tales were true maybe he could drum up some sympathy for being a good boy on a team of misfits, but with all the embellishments and inaccuracies he winds up looking the worst of all. The fact remains this book never needed to be written. Baseball players are just that, they’re not saints we all know that so we certainly don’t need to read about it in this nobody’s book. Shame on publisher Viking Press as well for putting out this book that has proven to be greatly inaccurate. They really need to stop production on this book and pull it from store shelves in my opinion. If this were to happen I doubt McCarthy will care, he’s got his paycheck and I’m sure that’s all he’s worried about.

-Robb Lennahan

A-Rod to see Hip Specialist in Colorado.

Surprise! Alex Rodriguez, is in the news again. Rodriguez was sent to see a hip specialist in Colorado after complaining of stiffness in the right hip (story here). Well, at least this time, Alex is in the news and it has nothing to do with his admitted use of steroids. Or, does it? Look, as a Yankee fan, you would like to give A-Rod the benefit of the doubt.

However, the cyst (which can form due to repeated injections in the same area) that has formed on his hip is definitely a head scratcher. Now, if you go along with Alex's story, then the cyst cannot be related to his usage of steroids in 2001-2003. That was 6 years ago; his current hip ailment certainly cannot be attributed to something that happened 6 years ago.

However, if you are like me, a cynic, who just cant take Rodriguez for his word, you might not be surprised if the cyst has formed because A-Rod has still been injecting something (HGH, maybe) in that same area of his body. I am in no way trying to make any type of allegations against Rodriguez, but due to his own sketchy stories, you can't help but wonder.

-Favad Ali

Manny and Dodgers Finally Agree...

The Dodgers have reached a 2-year $45 million contract with Manny Ramirez. The deal includes an opt-out for Ramirez after the first year along with a full no trade clause. Manny finally knows where he will play this year. All is well with the world! Now, we can finally get on with our lives!

Santana's Elbow, Cause for Concern

Mets fans, it is time to start worrying. Johan Santana, the most irreplaceable player on the Mets roster is likely to miss his opening day start. In fact, his elbow issues may keep him from making first start until the second series of the season. The Mets’ ace has been battling a tender elbow this spring training and has yet to make a spring training start.

My only question in all of this, if there is such a concern about Santana’s elbow, why has he continued to throw bullpen sessions? He was scheduled to fly back to New York for an MRI, which was cancelled because in part, because the Mets didn’t want Santana to fly back in the midst of a snow storm, and Santana claimed he felt “OK”.

If you are the Mets why are you taking any chances with this guy? He is your franchise player. He’s the player that you shelled out $137 million for. To risk anything with Santana is flat out ridiculous. If he goes on the shelf for any extended period of time because of this how silly will that make the Mets look? They would look flat out amateur.

If I’m Omar Minaya, I am shutting down Santana until he has passed his MRI and is showing no further signs of pain, tightness, irritation, inflammation, or any other ailment that he may have in that elbow of his. How can you not shut him down? Considering, that if Santana does end up going down for any extended time period, so will the Mets chances in 2009.

-Favad Ali

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jeter Has Big Day Against Yanks

The Captain had a strong showing today, against The Yankees. He led team USA to a 6-5 victory over the Bombers, going 2 for 4 with 2 RBI and a run scored. Let's hope this is the first and last time The Captain suits up against the Yankees. Also, Brett Gardner had another solid day at the plate (3 for3). He has taken an early lead over Melky Cabrera for the starting job in center, showing patience and power (2 HR) at the plate so far this spring.

USA Looking to Rebound From 2006 Showing

Jason Stark writes that Team USA is ready for the World Baseball Classic this time around. I am not ready to make the same statement. While manager, Davey Johnson has already proclaimed Team USA as the team to beat in this year's classic, it is far from a forgone conclusion that team will be able to make up for their embarrassing exit from the last classic at the hands of Mexico.

While, USA baseball has learned from their mistake from the last go-round of playing just one exhibition game leading up to the tournament, Team USA is still far behind in form when compared to the Japanese and Cuban teams, who have been in training for months. All in all, I believe it will be up to the players and how seriously they take this tournament, as the deciding factor on how the team fares in this competition.

Some glaring omissions from the roster could prove costly to Team USA's chances. Among those who will not be participating include Ryan Howard, Tim Lincecum, Joe Nathan, Lance Berkman, Chase Utley, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamiltion, etc. This is surely a who's who of players. If they push themselves and treat this tournament as they would a playoff series, this roster, even with the omissions, is capable of beating anyone. It will be up to Davey Johnson and the coaching staff to make that happen.

-Favad Ali

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cruz and Cabrera sign for '09

After Manny Ramirez the two biggest names left on the free agent market have finally agreed to contracts. Over the weekend the Kansas City Royals agreed to a deal with relief pitcher Juan Cruz on a 2 year- 6 million dollar contract. Also reportedly today the Oakland A’s have landed shortstop Orlando Cabrera with a 1 year - 4 million dollar deal. It was also reported that the A’s were close to a deal with free agent Nomar Garciaparra as well.

These are excellent moves for both teams. In Juan Cruz the Royals get a proven power arm out of the pen. Cruz, who has a 2.88 ERA and 12.6 K/9 the last two seasons should prove to be an exceptional 8th inning setup man to closer Joakim Soria. His signing also allows the Royals to use newly acquired Kyle Farnsworth in less stressful roles earlier in the ballgame, which should improve his overall performance.For Oakland, Orlando Cabrera provides a massive upgrade offensively and defensively over Bobby Crosby.

Though Cabrera doesn’t have the strongest arm, he has good range at the shortstop position as well as a very solid glove. In the lineup Cabrera is capable of leading off or hitting in the two hole, in either spot he’ll be a nice table setter for Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi. If Oakland can also complete a deal with Garciaparra, they suddenly have some impressive offensive depth. That is until Eric Chavez makes his annual trip to the disabled list.

Ultimately both these signings will help to improve their respected clubs but both Kansas City and Oakland lack the starting pitching to make them playoff competitors. Of course they still have to play the games and that means anything’s possible.

-Robb Lennahan