Archive for the ‘New York Yankees’ Category

Sometimes it feels like, once you reach a certain age and possess a certain worldview, that your cynicism (or deep skepticism) gets to be too much like Brian McCann, blocking any and all “feelings” from reaching the home plate in the middle of your chest under the flimsy conceit of “professionalism”.

For a moment, it appeared Brian McCann would triumph inside me. Last night, just as Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter emerged from the Yankees dugout to remove their long-time friend and teammate from his final home game, there was a brief flare up of reflexive dismissal, a feeling which quickly gave way to more sincere, human emotions. It was a very touching scene, triggering brief flashes of humanity deep with an icy cold exterior.

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MLB: San Francisco Giants at New York Yankees

Wishing ill on the New York Yankees might be good for the soul but it is, ultimately, pointless. There are only so many creative insults one can lob toward the Bronx that won’t be instantly silenced by a cold, dispassionate utterance of the unofficial Yankees mantra: count the rings.

Worse yet: counting the rings can and does stop any good natured ribbing dead in its tracks. No team can argue more success, both in the last twenty years or the long history of the American League, than the New York Yankees. Few teams can claim a better nucleus of homegrown players than the authors of the last 18+ years of Yankees, all best known for their work in pinstripes.

Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, and Jorge Posada up the middle. Andy Pettitte on the hill in October, Mariano Rivera taking over late, baseball’s all-time leader in playoff games pitched. Since 1995, these are autumnal constants for baseball fans.

The Yankees have weathered the departure of most of their “golden generation”, the core of stars and near-stars that back-boned the Yankees to World Series titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2009, not to mention claiming the AL pennant in 2001 and 2003. All told, the Yankees only missed the postseason once in the Wild Card era – 2008. While the Yankees spent big on free agents and took on more and more salary to keep that machine running, the Yankees always featured that collection of well-known names.

The Yankees are, barring a miracle, poised to add a second playoff-less season to their unbelievable ledger of regular season triumphs. Not officially dead yet but, as they prepare to battle the Rays in Tampa Bay, the Yankees wildcard hopes are riding off into the sunset, following two more of their most recognizable stars.

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MLB: Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees

Life is tough for a second baseman. Making the double play turn as second base while some enormous base runners bear down on you, attempting to blast you into left field takes its toll on the body. Second base occupies a strange strata in the baseball universe – is it a defensive position? Sure helps. Is it an offensive position? You can hide someone who might not be quite good enough for shortstop there, sure.

For whatever reason, the number of great offensive second basemen throughout history is shorter than one would assume. Joe Morgan stands alone as possibly the greatest second baseman of all time. Roberto Alomar was recently inducted into Cooperstown for his legendary defense and oustanding offensive game.

If you look at the top second baseman since the mound was lowered in 1969, you see many familiar name. Dustin Pedroia, Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, even Alfonso Soriano.

All of whom trail Robinson Cano as offensive players. Through their age-30 seasons, only five second basemen can claim a higher OPS+ than Robinson Cano in the Live Ball era (1920 and up). Only one, Soriano, hit more home runs though Cano might pass him before the season ends. The man named after Jackie Robinson ranks 9th in WAR among similarly-aged 2B during the Live Ball era.

Quite simply, Robinson Cano is one of the best second basemen of the last half century. Despite playing for the storied New York Yankees, this feat seems somehow overshadowed. A free agent at the end of the season, Cano is sure to receive a pay check consistent with his exceptional skills and accomplishments.

I spoke to Robinson Cano about how he approaches his work between games, playing with legends, and staying consistent in the latest edition of My Approach.

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New York Yankees v Detroit Tigers - Game 4

Despite injuries, looming/eternal scandals, and a May swoon, the New York Yankees are still in it. Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner plunged back to earth in May with alarming speed while Robinson Cano was merely human, but the Yanks are still just just a game-and-a-half behind Boston for the lead in the American League East. CC Sabathia‘s fastball velocity is down, but he still managed to pitch to the score yesterday as the Yankees got the 6-4 over Cleveland.

Yesterday’s victory in New York also featured a home run from, off all people, speedy-n-scrappy Brett Gardner – a three-run shot in the bottom of the second that put the Yankees up 6-0. It was Gardner’s sixth home run of the season. In May, Gardner was actually the Yankees’ best hitter. That is very, to put it mildly, surprising. After losing 2012 to injury, saber-favorite Gardner seems to be back doing his thing. But it is a bit different that his Old Thing. The speed and defense are still there, but is it the same Gardner?

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Remember one week ago when we sort of poo-poo’d the idea of Lyle Overbay playing outfield for the Yankees? With platoon split-crazed Indians starter Justin Masterson taking the hill for the Tribe tonight, it looks like Lyle Overbay gets the call in the outfield.

Overbay, as stated above, played some outfield in college and possesses an uncommon cannon for a throwing arm. Range? It’s right field at Yankee Stadium. Where any ball hit in the air to right is going, you don’t need range in that bandbox. Add in lefty Andy Pettitte on the hill for the Bombers and Lyle Overbay should do a lot of standing, a lot of flop sweating, and not too much else.

Unless, of course, he doesn’t. Maybe the ball will find him as it seems to find so many other out-of-positions statutes thrust into unfamilar roles due to injury or desperation. Either way, I’m sure the Yankees will be fine. Please see the precedent-setting legal case of Vernon Wells v. Second Base.

And with that Earth-shaking thunderclap, Vernon Wells‘ OBP dipped below .300. Even though they all knew it was coming, it STILL scared the Yankees Scarier yet: they have to keep playing him.

Tease as we might, the Yankees got all they needed out of Vernon Wells. They stayed above water when all their starters were out. The inevitable regression (at the speed of sound, apparently) won’t surprise anyone, least of all the Yankees front office who saw their best case scenario play out.

Now, if they have to continue relying on him, well that’s a whole ‘nother matter.

At least, that’s what it looks like in this video clip. Sure, they came from behind to beat the beleaguered Yankees in a go-nowhere season but man, at least they had some fun with it. Scratching out two runs against Mariano Rivera on three consecutive bleeders? Whatever. There are no pictures in the box score and this win might well be the highlight of their season.

As was repeated ad nauseum last night, this was the first time in his career that Mariano Rivera blew a save and failed to record an out. Just the third appearance in which he failed to get anybody out of the 1072 career appearances.

So celebrate, weak sisters of Gotham. Last night was your night, you deserve to whoop it up a little bit.