Monday, March 31, 2008

Game Cancelled?

From The New York Times Blog:
Update: Opening Day will have to wait. The game has been called and rescheduled for tomorrow.
And from LoHud:
Nothing definitive yet. But it sounds like they’re planning to cancel the game and play it tomorrow night. I’ll let you know once I hear something.
Thought weather in New York was going to be worse tomorrow. This will be interesting.

Bleacher Creatures On New Stadium

Filip Bondy, author of the excellent Bleeding Pinstripes book, took the temperature of the infamous Bleacher Creatures regarding the new stadium and the impending fate of the current House That Ruth Built.

But there is no stopping the cranes now. The new stadium is rising right across the street, scaring the Creatures half to death. Where will they be next year at this time? The Yankees are offering them season tickets again, but will their seats be further removed from the field? Will their section feature the beloved, butt-molded plastic benches?

It appears from early sketches that the Creatures may be forced to sit directly behind box seaters at the new stadium. This is good news, in that the heckling of fellow fans will be made easier and it will be difficult for beer vendors to boycott the Creatures. But it is also bad news, because opposing right fielders might not hear the carefully concocted taunts, and Derek Jeter might have to strain to recognize his name during the first-inning roll call.

“As far as 39 goes next year,” says Bald Vinny Milano, “there is a right-field bleachers now, there will be a right-field bleachers in the new stadium. When it comes time to pay for our seats, I believe they will offer us something ‘comparable’ to what we have now and we’re pretty much gonna be at their mercy. I have zero faith that anyone that works with or is involved with the Yankees actually cares one way or another if any of us go to the new stadium.

“Personally, I’m not even sure that I will make the move.”

"You know me well," says Tina Lewis, queen of the Creatures. "I'm very, very, very sad. It's going to be strange. I've seen things out there - the magic, the good, the bad - it just breaks my heart. Something hit me the first day I saw the place. I can't explain it and no amount of money in this world could replace it."
It appears from early sketches that the Creatures may be forced to sit directly behind box seaters at the new stadium. This is good news, in that the heckling of fellow fans will be made easier and it will be difficult for beer vendors to boycott the Creatures. But it is also bad news, because opposing right fielders might not hear the carefully concocted taunts, and Derek Jeter might have to strain to recognize his name during the first-inning roll call.
As a frequenter of the Yankee Stadium bleachers, it will be sad to see an end to that irreplaceable atmosphere - which includes the crappy confines, horrible food selection, alcohol-ban and dilapidated tunnel.

Weather Not Cooperating

Tyler Kepner, whose at Yankee Stadium, says rain and wind are pelting the Bronx and the tarp is on the field.
The Yankees are eager to play the final Opening Day at Yankee Stadium but, two and a half hours before it is scheduled to start, the weather is not cooperating. Rain is falling, it is raw and chilly and the tarpaulin is covering the field. The Yankees have moved their batting practice indoors.
Of course the next series will have the Yankees host Tampa Bay. Why MLB does not schedule the first series the Yankees play against the Devil Rays in Florida instead of the Bronx I will never understand. Last year saw the Yankees play Tampa Bay in snow and freezing temperatures while Tropicana Field sat dry, warm and unoccupied.

Mussina Picks Joe... Over Joe

Mike Mussina implies Joe Torre did little in-game discussing while Joe Girardi already displayed a more continuous discourse throughout a game. Whether this is a good or bad change will begin to manifest itself as the season rolls along.

From the article:

"Joe [Girardi] does a little more talking to the players as the game goes along," Mussina said on Friday. "Joe [Torre] kind of sat back and let the guys make the mistakes and then gave the instructions. Joe [Girardi] may not let it go that far. He might make sure he reminds people of stuff before it ever happens.

"I know he's talked to me a lot more than Torre did," Mussina added. "It can be good or bad, you know? There are certain situations where you want to let the guy work out of it.

"But there's also time to remind guys what to do in different situations because this is a game of different situations, where you can experience something suddenly that you haven't experienced for two or three years."

"Joe's just a couple years removed from the game," Giambi said. "He's got that enthusiasm — not to say Joe Torre didn't — but he's young and hungry."
"I think he [Girardi] is going to be good for this group," said Mussina, who is scheduled to start on Wednesday against the Blue Jays' A.J. Burnett. "It's going to give us an incentive to do some things differently, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
Hat tip to WasWatching.

Who Hits Who....

Every starting pitcher has hitters they own and others that own them. Today's starters Chien-Ming Wang and Roy Halladay are no different. Shannon Stewart will replace Matt Stairs who is out with a hip ailment. From The Star Ledger:
Jason Giambi has hit Roy Halladay well, .315 with three homers in 54 at bats, and Robinson Cano is 5-for-13 (.385) with two doubles and two homers against Halladay. But Hideki Matsui is 7-for-34 (.206) against Halladay.

Wang last year was 0-2 against Toronto, with a 6.35 ERA over three starts. He has a 2.23 ERA against the Jays in his career at Yankee Stadium, 12.46 at Rogers Centre. Aaron Hill hits Wang particularly hard: 9-for-14, three doubles and a triple. Frank Thomas is 1-for-11 (.091) against Wang.
Wang on carpet equals Kei Igawa. At home he's Brandon Webb.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Girardi Mentality

From yesterday comes a Tyler Kepner piece illuminating the intensity which carried Joe Girardi to the major leagues as a player and now the Yankees bench as a manager:
I couldn’t help but think of the Jedi Master from Star Wars on Friday when hearing an anecdote from Matt Treanor, the Florida Marlins catcher who played for Girardi in 2006.

Yoda’s most famous quote, of course, was: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Turns out Girardi believes the same thing.

“He expects you to get the job done,” Treanor said. “One time in spring training, somebody said, ‘I’m going to try to do this.’ I remember his comment was, ‘I can get a truck driver to try.’

“So basically that means, you’re out there to do it, by whatever means you have to do it.”

I can get a truck driver to try. Got to love that.

Opening Day Lineups

If Matt Stairs can't play [hip], Shannon Stewart is expected to play leftfield. Hat tip to Ed Price:


David Eckstein SS

Johnny Damon LF
Matt Stairs OR
Derek Jeter SS
Alex Rios RFBobby Abreu RF
Vernon Wells CFAlex Rodriguez 3B
Frank Thomas DHJason Giambi 1B
Lyle Overbay 1BRobinson Cano 2B
Aaron Hill 2BJorge Posada C
Marco Scutaro 3BHideki Matsui DH
Gregg Zaun C

Melky Cabrera CF

Roy Halladay PChien-Ming Wang P

Good to see Cano traveling north in the lineup. I still suspect the young lefty bat will ultimately find a home in the five-spot this season.

Serby Q&A With Lemon

Bobby Murcer is the subject of Steve Serby's Sunday Q&A in today's New York Post. Here are a few tidbits:

Q: First time you saw Yankee Stadium?

A: I just was mind-boggled by how big it was when I walked out on the field. I thought to myself, "Oh my goodness, how am I ever gonna catch a fly ball in this place?"

Q: You didn't appreciate Gaylord Perry's spitball, so you sent him a gallon of lard.

A: I think I got the clubhouse kid to get it. I just asked him to get me some pure, old grease.

Q: Toughest pitcher?

A: Mickey Lolich.

Q: Funniest teammate?

A: Sparky Lyle.

Murcer called Thurman Munson "one of the [greatest] clutch hitters of all time." Delivering Munson's eulogy was something Murcer said he "wanted to" and "had to" do.

Pettitte, Kennedy Primed For Season

Just in from the Star Ledger, Andy Pettitte pitched well and felt "great" during his minor league start today against Ian Kennedy:

Andy Pettitte told media in Tampa he felt fine after pitching six scoreless innings for Double-A Trenton against Triple-A Scranton in a minor-league camp game.

Pettitte, recovering from back spasms, threw 77 pitches, 48 for strikes. He allowed one hit (to Alberto Gonzalez) and one walk while striking out six.

Ian Kennedy faced Pettitte in his final tuneup. Kennedy's line: five innings, four hits, no runs, one walks, five strikeouts, 77 pitches, 48 strikes.
Pettitte and Ike both threw exactly 77 total pitches and 48 of them for strikes? Eerie.

What's remains impressive about Kennedy, even in the Spring starts where he was batted around, is his ability to miss bats. At his best, Kennedy could compile a pretty surprising k/9 - although it isn't very surprising to those who have seen him pitch several times. It would seem Pettitte is ready to make his regular season debut - slated for this Saturday against Tampa Bay.

Before They Tear It Down...

NY Times beat writer Tyler Kepner uses a slideshow to take readers behind the scenes for rarely seen locales within the "Old" Yankee Stadium .

Further explanation and anecdotal gems can be seen in Kepner's article about the forgotten crannies of Yankee Stadium.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hughes Strong In Final Start

Saturday night's matchup against the Florida Marlins didn't start well for Phil Hughes. The righthander needed 25 pitches and allowed a run on two hits in the first frame. However, he would use only 44 pitches over the next four innings, over which time he did not allow an earned run and only one more hit.

Of the 69 pitches thrown during his five innings of work, Hughes tossed 44 of them for strikes, struck out four and mixed in a good percentage of sliders and changeups throughout. According to MLB Gameday, Hughes was throwing his fastball 93-95 mph all night along with a solid curveball 74-76 mph.

In his final two starts of the Spring - often times considered the most important starts of camp - Hughes logged 10 innings, allowed six hits, struck out 10, walked three and allowed four earned runs. He threw 155 pitches, 98 of which went for strikes. A solid strike-to-ball ratio of 63%.

He commanded the fastball nearer the level associated with Hughes and appears to understand the importance of trusting his changeup and slider more often. Whether or not his command of these pitches translates to the real games will be seen soon enough.

  • The Yankees relief was very strong as Mariano Rivera retired the only batter he faced, Kyle Farnsworth struck out the two batters he faced and somehow threw 7 of his 8 pitches for strikes. Brian Bruney struck out the two he faced, throwing 11 of 15 for strikes. Joba Chamberlain struck out one and retired the only other hitter he faced, needing only six pitches all of which were strikes. Ross Ohlendorf allowed a double to lead off the 9th, but struck out two and stranded the runner to earn the save.

Kitty Hates Regular Season Games in Japan

Jim Kaat is not happy Major League Baseball is more concerned with revenue streams in the Far East than promoting the game here at home:

Aren’t we in an economic rundown in this country? I don’t know if or when we’ll get out of it. Will we be safe or tagged out? Don’t we want to promote jobs for our citizens? Not China’s or Japan’s? If Japanese and Chinese citizens learn to play the game skillfully enough to play in the Major Leagues, good for them, but let’s not neglect promoting “our” game in “our” country. I don’t mean neighborhood programs. I mean taking the players to the where our kids are. Maybe Shreveport, La., or one of many of our smaller cities that have potential big leaguers hoping to see their heroes up close. Not China or Japan on Opening Day.

Opening Day was a red-letter day on our calendar. Opening Day held many significances—a father/son bonding experience; it meant that spring was here; the fresh air and green grass.

I met a friend for breakfast this morning. He said “Did you watch the Red Sox and A’s this morning?” I said, “Wasn’t aware they were playing. I wouldn’t have watched it anyway.” Out of respect for the game and my Dad. It was a sunny morning, but when I walked out to the street, a sudden rain shower poured down on me. I looked up. I think it was John Kaat looking down and in the words of Eric Clapton “drowning in a river of tears”.

What are they doing to America’s game?

Tell us how you really feel Kitty. Guess he's just tossing some good old country hardball at Bud Selig and company.

Mets Fans Eat Lots of Hot Dogs

From The Biz of Baseball comes this study in MLB concession stands and the fans who devour them:

And which fans love hot dogs the most? Would it be Los Angeles with the classic Dodger Dog? Nope, it’s Mets fans at Shea Stadium.

According to a survey conducted by the NSDSC, Mets fans will consume more than 2 million hot dogs this year. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is the runner up, with fans projected to consume more than 1.7 million hot dogs. Third place goes to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, with approximately 1.5 million hot dogs expected to be consumed.

Introducing Mr. Disingenuous Canseco

The real reason behind Jose Canseco's contempt for Alex Rodriguez is not related to steroids or any pass made at the former Mrs. Canseco. Shockingly, the real reason is money, or so says Sports Illustrated:
Canseco claims in his new book, Vindicated, that the reason he "hates [Alex Rodriguez's] guts'' is because A-Rod hit on Canseco's then-wife Jessica. However, people who were close confidants of Canseco insist the actual reason the ex-ballplayer despises A-Rod has nothing to do with Canseco's former wife but regards Canseco's true passion, which, of course, is money.

Those former confidants told the rift between the two Miami-raised superstars actually occurred when Rodriguez chose not to let Canseco and his brother, Ozzie, be his agents. Those former confidants say Canseco was bitterly disappointed in A-Rod's business rejection.

"I know Jose, and I know Jose very well. He would be madder at A-Rod for not signing with the agency than for going after Jessica,'' said Juan Iglesias, a well-respected Miami-based player agent and former business associate of Canseco's.

Canseco writes that he introduced Rodriguez to a known dealer of steroids (his italics, not mine), and that he isn't sure what happened after that. Of course, it isn't a crime to shake someone's hand, and Canseco offers no proof that this happened. Yet without that tidbit, there is no book. Even with it, there's barely a book.
"Alex was a gentleman with the guy. If he says that about [Rodriguez], I hate to think what he says about me,'' Iglesias said. "I never heard one word about him going after Jose's wife. Never. Not one word. And I would have heard that. We were personal friends.''
"The whole thing with A-Rod is absolutely false,'' said Iglesias, who recalled that the Cansecos and A-Rod doubled dated at the 1995 Super Bowl in Miami. "Jose didn't write it in his first book, and Jessica didn't write it in her book. And she talked about everybody she [had a relationship with]. If A-Rod had anything to do with her, that's [a] headline and that would have been in the book.''

SNY's Clueless On Joba

SNY discusses the Joba rules and theorizes how Chamberlain should be utilized this season. Essentially, he wants all setup men to toss 100+ innings a year and thinks Chamberlain should throw more innings in relief this year as he ever has as a starting pitcher. That sounds asinine slightly ridiculous.

More from this genius:
There's been much written about the relative merits of using Joba Chamberlain as a starter or reliever. I say, for this Yankees team, relief is best. But I want Joba used in an old-school, highly leveraged way -- meaning 100 relief innings at a minimum. And I'd prefer about 120, which would give Chamberlain at least the value he'll have as a starter considering how much easier it is to dominate in relief.
Which means Chamberlain - who the Yankees want to test as a starter - would again start the 2009 season without enough innings under his belt to become a full time starter for the entire season because of a 150 inning cap. A question for Salfino - what if it became apparent Joba could be a Justin Verlander type of starting pitcher, but you wasted two years of his prime restricting him to a late-inning reliever? You'll never know until you try it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Roster Set, Pettitte To DL

The roster is set, and my previous post's discussion has become a reality as Andy Pettitte has been placed on the disabled list and eligible to return Saturday.

Without further adieu, your 2008 New York Yankees:
Johnny Damon LF
Derek Jeter SS
Bobby Abreu RF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Jason Giambi 1B
Jorge Posada C
Hideki Matsui DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera CF

Jose Molina C
Shelley Duncan IF/OF
Morgan Ensberg IF
Wilson Betemit IF

Chien-Ming Wang
Mike Mussina
Phil Hughes
Ian Kennedy

Mariano Rivera
Joba Chamberlain
Kyle Farnsworth
LaTroy Hawkins
Billy Traber
Ross Ohlendorf
Jon Albaladejo
Brian Bruney
The Yankees will not have a long man to begin the season, but the extra relief spot during Pettitte's absence makes up for it. Joe Girardi says there will be a longman reliever in the Yankees bullpen at some point this season - probably sooner than later.

Price Predicts Pettitte Starts On DL

Ed Price, reliable writer at The Star Ledger, made his projections of the opening day roster today. As the starting rotation and position players portion are already clearly defined, it's of note that Price chose Ross Ohlendorf over Brian Bruney and selected Darrell Rasner as the bullpen's long man.

However, most glaring was Price's belief that Andy Pettitte would start the regular season on the disabled list:
In my scenario (strictly a guess), Pettitte stays on the DL and gets a minor-league start next week to build up arm strength. Igawa takes one turn and then goes to the minors when Pettitte comes off the DL.
The Yankees faithful would collectively **** a brick if the first week of the 2008 season saw Kei Igawa pitching in place of the reliable Pettitte. Last year saw Carl Pavano replace Chien-Ming Wang as the opening day starter. I think the Yankees are done with the impromptu pitching substitutions.

Chad Jennings of the SWB Yankees Blog agrees with Price and offers an interesting explanation of how Pettitte starting on the DL could help the Yankees:

It seems possible that Andy Pettitte could start the season on the disabled list. He would be eligible to return by next Saturday, meaning the Yankees wouldn't need a spot starter and wouldn't have to disrupt the rotation.

Wouldn't it make sense, then, to start Pettitte on the DL and keep Rasner, Traber, Bruney (or Ohlendorf) and Patterson in the big league bullpen? That way the team gets an extra arm for the first few games and gets to reward Patterson for his amazing spring. As a bonus, the Yankees get to see Patterson in an actual big league scenario. Seems like a win-win to me, but a case could also be made for keeping Ohlendorf over Patterson or for keeping Nick Green -- to help get through the suspension games -- or for simply keeping Pettitte active through that first week.

The theory makes sense, but I'm sure Yankee fans would much rather throw a healthy Pettitte on the mound and end the prognosticating there.

Megdal: Pitching Still Uncertain

The New York Observer, like Pags, is a consummate professional in stating the obvious. Take this article which selects the Yankees pitching as the great question mark going into the new season.

Hold on just a moment. You're saying the Yankees offensive juggernaut, littered with consistent veterans, powered by proven young bats and guaranteed to approach 1000 runs-scored, is more bankable than a pitching staff comprised largely of unproven kids? What a concept.

Here's a writer panicking in March:

The Yankees’ planned starting rotation, which called for full seasons from Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang, is in jeopardy. Pettitte has missed a pair of spring starts with a back problem, and has already seen his first start pushed back. That means they could well end up with Mike Mussina as the number-two starter.

Mussina has actually been decent this spring, posting a 4.66 ERA and a 7/2 K/BB ratio. But his 9 2/3 innings over three games in a month provides no indication of how he will perform every fifth day, pitching at least five or six innings.

Of less concern are the struggles from Phil Hughes and Wang. Hughes has been hit by the homer bug, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio is just fine. Wang’s struggles are mostly due to an increase in walks. Ultimately, the stats don’t mean much—they are small samples, and spring ones, to boot—but neither pitcher is cause for concern.

He goes on to state Ian Kennedy's 2.00 ERA during Spring training is not as noteworthy as the four homeruns he's given up because of his "ordinary" 14/7 strikeout to walk ratio. So by this logic, Hughes is the only one suffering from the wind-assisted homerun illness because his k/bb is in better order.

Mr. Mussina Gets "Onioned"

Mike Mussina is "convinced he won a World Series," or at least that's what the hit-or-miss Onion "news" outlet is reporting.
Mike Mussina seemed to believe that he has procured a World Series ring despite all evidence to the contrary."Sure I did, I helped put away the Mets back in 2000," said Mussina, who did not join the Yankees until the 2001 season. "Boy, was that a great team.Paulie [O'Neill], Tino [Martinez], [Scott] Bro[sius], and me... Ya know, I think Doc Gooden was on that team too.
Poor Mussina probably does spend some October nights dreaming he had come to the Yankees a year [and a championship season] earlier.

Pags: Pavano Is Injury Prone

Former Yankee Mike Pagliarulo split the atom this morning, contending Carl Pavano is an injury risk. But in all seriousness, Pags breaks down why and how Carl the Crutch has been able to scamper onto the disabled list with such frequency:

Carl Pavano is at a very high risk for injury he has problems in pitching stage 2 (balance position over the rubber) and stage 4 (his tendency to leak his front side). Pavano has trouble repeating his arm-slot, therefore adding more strain to his shoulder and elbow joints.

And what does “leak his front side” mean? Good question. It’s used to describe when a pitcher opens up too soon. As a right-handed pitcher strides to home plate, his chest should be facing third and his front shoulder pointed toward home plate. The key to this process is effective balance over the rubber. The optimum position is reached when the pitcher is able to stay balanced over the pitching rubber long enough to allow his throwing arm to get in the proper position to throw. Pavano has horrible balance and tends to fall toward home plate too early. Because his body motion is ahead of his throwing arm too early, he has to speed up his arm in order to throw the pitch in the strike zone. This results in additional shoulder stress and hanging breaking balls and elevated fastballs.

And all this time we thought Pavano was just a brittle-boned wuss incapable of fighting through pain.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Poll: Trip Aces

The trio of young guns each have their own package of heightened expectations to cope with in 2008 and beyond. In an attempt to better understand the hopes of Yankees fans for each piece of generation trey, the poll asked which of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy would have the "best" season.

Not surprisingly, Ike received the least of the votes with only 16% of BL visitors believing the USC control artist would outdo Phil and Joba. This is to be expected, not to suggest Kennedy is an unworthy candidate, but because he does not have Chamberlain's blazing fastball or Hughes' pedigree. With that said, it would not be shocking if Kennedy - who is the most polished of the three - had the best year as a starter.

Though my vote goes to Hughes, who showed guile pitching in the second half without nearly his best stuff, a quarter of BL voters chose Chamberlain. Should Joba put forth a similar type of performance out of the bullpen this year as he did in 2007, his probable workload as a starter may be an afterthought.

That's a lot to ask of the youngster, but I still expect Chamberlain to fall somewhere between the very good setup man [Scot Shields] and his unhittable prowess last season. Whether he can be nearly as dominant in the starting role is the question for the ages. But it is one that must be answered before simply relegating him to the bullpen. [Remember, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and K-Rod all failed as starters before becoming lockdown closers]

The number one vote-getter was Hughes with nearly 60%. Hughes is somewhere between Ike and Joba in terms of "polish." He is also somewhere between the other two when comparing "stuff." Hughes is also a hybrid in terms of pitching IQ and experience, as the 21 year-old has been a more proven starter than Chamberlain but yet to eat as many innings as Kennedy.

Should the Hughes fastball return to previous levels - one that sits 92-95mph and touches 97 - to compliment his laser-like command, the Franchise is capable of having one hell of a year. The development of his changeup is another key as his curveball seems to be back at Hughesian levels. Forecasting a season in which Hughes wins 15 games with an ERA under 4.00 along with 145 strikeouts in 170 innings is fathomable.

Jim Callis Chat Highlights

Yesterday's ESPN chat with Jim Callis leaked some interesting opinions on CC Sabathia as well as prospects Alan Horne and Jose Tabata:
Bryan-MA: Sabatthia will sign for $________ in 2009 to play for the _________________?

SportsNation Jim Callis: seven years and $150 million, Yankees.

Jeff (CT): Best Yankee pitching prospect in the Minors is?

SportsNation Jim Callis: Alan Horne.

Justin (NY): Yankees number 1 prospect for the 2009 season; Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata, or Jesus Montero

SportsNation Jim Callis: I'll go with Tabata.
The Sabathia contract prediction seems a little more substantial than I'd expect, especially if the Indians ace is agreeable to a five year contract before again testing the free agent market at age 32.

I would agree with Callis' prediction on Tabata and Horne is probably the easy choice regarding pitching prospects. The real question is who is #2.

Congratulations Godzilla

Hideki Matsui married "a 25 year-old civilian" yesterday, winning a bet with Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu. Here's a strange picture of Matsui's new wife. What, you couldn't find the back of a milk carton to draw on?

Looks like Godzilla can finally toss that legendary porn collection of his.

Pettitte Pushed Back

Andy Pettitte will be pushed back from his planned start against minor leaguers this Saturday and will instead pitch on Sunday. His regular season debut is now slotted as April 4th or 5th, meaning Phil Hughes will probably pitch the third game of the season.

Brett Gardner is ready to contribute to the big league club, or at least according to Gotham Magazine:
Many think Gardner is ticketed to be a fringe major leaguer. According to John Manuel of Baseball America, Gardner being a top prospect is more of “an indictment of the positional depth in the upper rungs” of the Yankees system.
Gardner has enough physical talent and baseball intelligence to make it in this game, and it’s not too difficult to see him roaming the new Yankee Stadium outfield, stealing bases to create great scoring opportunities or smiling in a winning dugout with a dirty uniform.
It will be interesting to see how Gardner turns out as a major leaguer. The journey will start with a stint at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, where he should play very well to reinforce his "knocking on the big league door" status. Gardner was reassigned to the minor league camp today.

Hank Blasts Canseco For A-Rod Claims

Hank Steinbrenner does not like Jose Canseco disrespecting his #1 man [Alex Rodriguez] and he told the Bergen Record as much:

In his spirited defense of A-Rod on Wednesday, Steinbrenner told The Record that “if [Sandy] Koufax, [Mickey] Mantle, [Babe] Ruth, [Willie] Mays or [Hank] Aaron were playing today, they all would be suspected of doing something — and of course, they didn’t do it. There was no such thing in their day. “This is the age of paranoia.”

..."Consider the source, that’s No. 1,” Steinbrenner said of Canseco. “He wouldn’t have been able to hit the ball out of the infield without steroids.

“And No. 2, if Mantle or Ruth were playing today, with the 550-foot home runs they hit, everybody’d be saying they were on something. They didn’t even lift weights in those days. They played on alcohol and hot dogs.

“There are certain naturals. There are guys who can just do it, and Alex is one of those guys,” Steinbrenner said. “He’s just friggin’ great.”

Wouldn't it have been nice for these words to come out of the mouth of Alex's teammates and not the blowhard owner?

Canseco: Behind The Musak

How about some Winstrol with your Wheaties?

If you haven't already read it - I sped through it yesterday evening - you must read Pat Jordan's piece on Jose Canseco. Absolutely great writing discussing absolutely horrible writing. It's an exercise in literary criticism - on steroids. That one was too easy, wasn't it.

Here is Jordan's excerpt on Canseco's current "significant other" - a phrase which could not have less meaning in this case:
Heidi, Rob told me, is Jose's girlfriend/publicist. She's a "cute, little, junior college graduate, who lives with Jose," said Rob. "She likes to let Jose think she's working hard for him when really all she is doing is ****ing things up for him." Rob said Heidi lives with Jose without paying anything, which may be literally true, but not figuratively. The price women pay for living with Jose is actually quite high. All those boring days and nights during which Jose rarely speaks, except to say, "Where's the Iguana?" because of Jose's fervent belief that when "women talk only bad things can happen." All those needles and vials of performance enhancing drugs around the house which his woman of the moment must learn to differentiate, winstrol from deca-durabolin from HGH, and then draw the proper amount of fluid into each syringe and inject that needle and its fluid into Jose's buttocks. All those variations of his moods from steroid-fueled anger to steroid-withdrawal depression. All those startling changes in his genitalia...swelling with steroid use at the same time his testicles are shrinking from steroid use. All those strange women's messages on Jose's cell phone. All those trips to the gynecologist to cure the STDs Jose brought back with him from one of his road trips. And, finally, most depressing of all, all those perfunctory sex acts with Jose, doggy style in front of a mirror so Jose can watch himself perform, his chest muscles and biceps twitching as he works. Which is why Jose's first two wives, Miss Miami, and Miss Fitness America, divorced him.
Helluva guy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jeter The MensHealth Cover Boy

Derek Jeter took the front of the MensHealth Magazine a week after Alex Rodriguez graced the cover of a MensVogue Magazine which featured a lengthy retrospective. The article discusses Jeter's competitive spirit and advancement through self-confidence. However, unlike the more sophisticated, aloof and cultured Rodriguez, Jeter involuntarily inspires images of the average Joe American:

The 33-year-old Jeter answers the door himself. He's wearing jeans and a T-shirt. "Did you have trouble finding the place?" he asks, referring to the dozen or so turns (and 30 or so speed bumps) on the way to this place.

"Nope, Mapquest has you pegged pretty good," I say.

"Aw, that's cheating," he replies, and I think he means it. He's taller and leaner in person than he looks on TV, and I remember that as good as he is, he's still five homers shy of a 200-homer career. With speculation about steroids and human growth hormone use at wildfire levels in baseball, it's refreshing to stand next to a future Hall of Famer who looks like a normal guy.

And who has a normal guy's house: The foyer is dominated by an indoor putting green, the kind you can adjust for break. Stacks of DVDs flank a big-screen TV tuned to ESPN. The only item that reminds you of the home's owner is the replica 1996 World Series trophy on a nearby shelf.

The lack of pretension is disarming. But yeah, the guy who just plopped down in an easy chair and put his foot up is the captain of the Yankees, the 1996 Rookie of the Year, the eight-time All-Star, the four-time World Champion, and the guy who should be joining the 3,000-hit club early in the 2011 season, just before he turns 37. Jeter is already considered one of the greatest of Yankees, and he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer to be sure.

The fact that A-Rod and Jeter are different people is not anyone's fault. The fact that the mainstream media and some impetuous fans continue to ask that they change, is. Rodriguez will never be as savvy and charming as Jeter, and the Captain will never be as vulnerable or "human" as A-Rod has been in the past. They are who they are, and as of right now, that adds up to the most powerful left side of any major league infield.

Joey Gathright Defies Physics

A routine grounder becomes an Olympic event when Joey Gathright is on the basepaths.

Hiroki Kuroda never saw this in Japan:

I love how Gathright doesn't even lose his balance in the process of hurdling an upright human-being. Check him out longjumping a car.

Hal Stein Speaks Again

Ed Price of The Star Ledger has the latest Q&A with Mr. GQ, Hal Steinbrenner. As was the case in earlier interviews with the younger half of the Brothers Steinbrenner, Hal comes across as most money-men do - i.e. boring.

There was this part about the offseason nonmoves:

So is life a lot different for you than a year ago?

Yes. But it's been great. I'm very excited about these young pitchers we've got.

Watching the Super Bowl ... the one great thing I really got out of it was watching Eli Manning, who -- you know better than I do -- struggled a bit when he first got there. And the lesson to be learned, that hopefully our fans have learned, is that if you're patient with young talent, great things can happen. That's all I could think of when I saw him on the field at the end with that trophy.

Having spent a lot of time in New York in the offseason, which I did because of the stadium, every person that came up to me said, "Good job not trading (Phil) Hughes, good job not getting rid of the young kids." So I think they are going to be patient, and hopefully these kids will do as good as we think.

Pettitte Healthy After Bullpen

Andy Pettitte is feeling fine after throwing a bullpen this morning which leaves the lefty ready to make the third start of the season. Pettitte is now scheduled to pitch a minor league game on Saturday and if he comes through it alright will be all systems go for the regular season.
"It makes me feel good that I got though that and I felt good," Pettitte said. "I could just tell that I felt a whole lot better this morning when I woke up. It loosened up nice for me."
In other news, Johnny Damon may miss a few more days of work after coming down with the flu.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Verducci: Yanks Take East, Boston WC

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated offered his predictions for the upcoming season and surprisingly had New York winning the AL East with *gasp* Boston taking the Wildcard. From the article:

Division Winners: New York, Detroit, Los Angeles. (Last year's prediction: New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles. Not bad. The Yankees fell two games short of Boston, but qualified as the wild card.)

Wild Card: Boston. (Last year's prediction: Boston.)

East: Two GMs told me this is the year the Yankees don't make the postseason, one of them going so far as to say they'll finish third, behind Boston and Toronto. I'm not buying it. The Yankees have so much talent it would take a multitude of worst-case scenarios to cut them low: Andy Pettitte breaks down, Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui and, most critically, Jorge Posada all decline significantly because of age, and kid pitchers Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy aren't ready to carry a full season of New York's physical and psychological load. Is all of that going to happen? No.

Boston seems more prone to a fallback, if only because recent world champions seem to be handed a tax bill the following season -- and if it hits Josh Beckett, look out. Toronto is intriguing, but there's a huge difference between 87 wins and the 94 you need to play with the big boys in the East. The Jays are not in that weight class.

Looks to be a knock down drag out type of season in the AL East. Toronto's injury woes continue to saddlebag their chances of breaking into the top two in the East and the Yankees/Red Sox will be neck-and-neck all season.


Indiana Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh has reached an agreement to run the New York Knicks next season, according to a Sports Illustrated league source. Adios Isiah!

A-Rod Responds To Canseco

Jose Canseco says in his new book that he hates "[A-Rod's] ****ing guts" because the Bronx Bomber tried to bed Canseco's then spouse and current ex-wife. The self-proclaimed Godfather of Steroids then explains how he introduced Alex Rodriguez to a prominent steroid source. Canseco never says that Rodriguez took steroids, or witnessed him inject them as he did with Mark McGwire, but he needs to sell books somehow doesn't he?

Rodriguez has already responded to Canseco's allegations via Newsday:
"I really have absolutely no reaction."
Regarding Canseco accusing A-Rod of pursuing his wife at the time:
"He said that in his book?", then said, "I have absolutely no comment."
There's no doubt that Canseco's previous book and statements panned out as enlightening when it came to Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and others. However, his comments on A-Rod and Magglio Ordonez [whom Canseco attempted to extort] appear to be opportunism without any foundation.

McGwire and Barry Bonds saw their numbers spike into the stratosphere, taking their offensive production into levels never before seen in professional baseball. Rodriguez's production - beginning with his first full season in which he hit .358 with 36 homers and 123 RBI - has remained consistently extraordinary and without any outlandish statistical aberrations.

Then there's this:
Canseco also wrote that Mitchell favored the Red Sox (the team that employs him) in his investigation, according to Lavin, and he detailed the interest that legendary "60 Minutes" reporter Mike Wallace expressed in steroids and human growth hormone.
"When the cameras stopped rolling, Wallace asked me if we could talk, off-camera. He kept me there for another hour, clearly curious about steroids. ... He wondered how the steroids and human growth hormones (HGH) might help him, a man in his eighties, live a longer, healthier life. He wanted to know everything. ... When Wallace was done interrogating me, I could see I had piqued his interest. Whether I'd made a convert of him, I can't say. Still, I know, I was pretty convincing."
On HGH Mike Wallace could have cut that show down to 40, 45 minutes tops. Sounds more like The Onion than reporting.

Pettitte Scratched, Throws Today

Regardless of what was initially expected, Andy Pettitte threw catch again today for the second straight day. Though Pettitte has been scratched from pitching the second game of the season, it's possible he will instead pitch the third or fourth game, with Mike Mussina and/or Phil Hughes moving up in the rotation. Pettitte through 42 tosses and believes his back is much better than it was just a day ago, though he still feels slight tightness. The lefty threw harder than his previous catch and said "it's progressing."

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Mystery Of Darvish

Yu Darvish, Japanese pitching ace and national celebrity, is the subject of an interesting piece from Yahoo! Sports.
Any general manager with a pulse covets Darvish. Last season, most of which he pitched as a 20-year old, he went 15-5 with a 1.82 earned-run average and 12 complete games. His fastball hits 97 mph, his slider 91, and he throws a curveball, changeup and sinker. With Darvish, it’s a matter of when he asks the Fighters to post him for auction to the highest major-league bidder.

So, when?

“That,” Iwamoto says, “is a question he can’t answer.”

Japanese baseball’s relevancy has teetered in recent years, and insiders fear that Darvish posting long before his ninth season – after which Japanese players become free agents – might encourage others to do the same.

Certainly there are benefits for Nippon Ham. One American League executive guessed if Darvish posted after this season the fee to negotiate a deal would cost “around $75 million.” Another suggested “it could be even higher.” If the Red Sox paid $51 million for a 26-year-old Matsuzaka, a 22-year-old Darvish could command a 50 percent premium.

“Right now,” Valentine says, “his stuff is probably sharper than Daisuke’s.”

The praise only begins there. Terrmel Sledge, the former Padres outfielder who joined the Fighters this offseason, calls Darvish “one of the five best I’ve ever seen.” Hillman believes Darvish would step in as the No. 1 starter on a majority of major league teams. Kojima thinks Darvish might be the best pitcher in Japanese history.

Checking out some of Darvish's performances on YouTube illustrates the level of command and poise he already possesses as a 20 year-old. His stuff looks to be a notch above Matsuzaka's and apparently will only get higher. An earlier scouting report on Darvish discusses the type of pitcher I've seen and read about over the past couple years:
Darvish throws a low-90s fastball (91-93 mph). At 21 years old, he is 6 foot 5 and under 180 lbs. which means he has the potential to add weight and thereby add velocity.

He throws a plus knuckle curveball along with a sinker, slider, and changeup.

His 2007 season, which earned him the Japanese version of the Cy Young was spectacular:

1.82 ERA, 26 starts, 207 innings pitched, 123 hits, 210 strikeouts, 49 walks and 12 complete games. That works out to a k/bb of 4.29, a batting average against of .170 while averaging 8 innings pitched per start.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cabrera, Tigers Strike $153 M. Deal

$153.3 million over eight years. Not too shabby for a guy some experts were calling "fat" and "a butcher" at third base. Although it's hard to disagree with the latter, Miguel Cabrera is definitely an elite hitter now and for many years into the future. The contract is the fourth largest in MLB history following Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Manny Ramirez.

A-Rod Unconcerned With Canseco Book. Within the Boston Globe piece Alex Rodriguez speaks about the new ownership, his friendship with Manny Ramirez, and of course himself.
The quote in which Rodriguez explains "I always knew I was a great player," by itself comes across as cocky, but when put into the context that he is explaining how he recovered from a disasterous 2006 season [disasterous by A-Rod's immortal career thus far] the statement is far less toxic.
From the article:
"To be in this Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is a gift. I think anyone who played in New York or Boston and then goes somewhere else, at least for me, it would be quite a drop-off."
A-Rod is also getting a kick out of Hank Steinbrenner.
"I think it's good for baseball," he said. "When you have a great, passionate owner, it's great. It's great for you [media] guys."
He spoke about his affection for Manny Ramírez and responded to a story that he had advised Ramírez to hire Boras.
"I talk a lot with Manny, but I really don't want to talk about any promotion for anyone," he said. "Definitely don't want to promote that.
"When all is said and done, Manny will be the greatest righthanded hitter ever. I'm very biased because he's one of my best friends. I just love Manny."

Can't Tear Down "The Bat"

The meeting hub for the Yankees universe has a cloudy future, according to this Newsday article:

“Meet me at The Bat.”
It’s as much the Yankee Stadium experience as a visit to Monument Park, the Bleacher Creatures’ first-inning roll call or a $7.50 beer.
It’s The Bat, a popular meeting place at The House That Ruth Built. And no one is saying what’s going to happen to it once the stadium is demolished.
The 120-foot Louisville Slugger outside Gate 4—actually a boiler stack fitted to look like a bat, complete with a knob at the top, tape at the handle and Babe Ruth’s signature on the barrel—seems to have been overlooked as the Yankees prepare to make the move across the street to a new Yankee Stadium in 2009.
“We do not have knowledge of what will happen to ‘The Bat,’” Yankees spokesman Michael Margolis said.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Tourney Weekend, From BL

Marisa Miller is so happy Davidson and Western Kentucky upset Gonzaga and Drake.

Actually, my bracket is happy... except for that whole Clemson implosion. Not thrilled with Sienna ousting Vandy, either.

Louisville cruised. So did UNC and Memphis.

All those upsets - including San Diego shocking UCONN - only adds some icing to UCLA's cakewalk to the Final Four.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Morgan Ensberg was added to the 40-man roster tonight, meaning he made the team and will earn $1.75 million for the 2008 season. Reiterating what he said earlier in Spring training, Ensberg does not want to wear #21 as he knows it is Paul O'Neill's jersey. Despite what some had predicted - carrying a utility shortstop like Chris Woodward - it would seem as though Ensberg completes a Yankees bench joining Jose Molina, Wilson Betemit and Shelley Duncan. Brett Gardner will be on alert, however.

Wang Named Opening Day Starter

No shocker here, but Chien-Ming Wang has officially been tabbed the opening day starter for the 2008 New York Yankees. Wang would have been honored with the 2007 opening day start had he not suffered a hamstring injury during Spring training. In his stead pitched Carl Pavano before returning to the comforts of the disabled list.

Betances, Garcia Look "Very, Very Good." Over at the SWB Blog by Chad Jennings comes the author's comments regarding two more promising young pitching prospects.

A commenter asked Jennings about pitching prospects Dellin Betances, Christian Garcia and Mark Melancon and this was his answer:
I wasn't at the Class A games because I traveled with the Triple-A team, but I talked to Patrick from Pinstripes Plus before the game and I know he was there. On his site he's saying Betances and Garcia were both outstanding but doesn't mention Melancon. I don't want to go into specifics because he has it as subscriber only content. Since I wasn't there, I don't want to steal his stuff. To give a general idea, though, it sounds like those two were very, very good.
Betances, who has hit 99mph with his fastball as a teen, is coming back from an injury-shortened season, shutdown after less than 30 innings of work. His velocity dipped into the 89-91mph range, but he is apparently back on track, hitting 92-94 on the gun consistently and able to touch 96 at times. The question for Betances is mechanics. As long as he can consistently repeat his delivery and armslot, his stuff should flourish - as well as his health.

Garcia has all the stuff in the world to become an elite major league arm, but has been bitten by the injury bug since being drafted out of high school. He needed Tommy John and serious knee surgeries in successive years, bringing his development to a halt. If he returns to the old Garcia, he features a plus fastball in the mid-90s to go along with a devastating curveball and changeup. His career as a professional ballplayer [at least with the Yankees] may soon become a question mark since he will be eligible for the Rule V draft this year. Should he not make major steps forward, he may be out in the cold considering the bounty of talented arms the Bombers now have injected into their farm system.

Bonderman's 1st Inning Woes

The Yankees organization pray Ian Kennedy's tendency to struggle early never reaches Jeremy Bonderman heights:

Jeremy Bonderman of the Detroit Tigers is one of the best young starting pitchers in baseball -- from the second inning on. Throughout his career, Mr. Bonderman has exhibited one of the game's most puzzling quirks. Last season, his earned run average in the first inning was a nightmarish 11.57. For all other innings, it was an admirable 3.75.

In 151 first innings in his career, Mr. Bonderman has given up 200 hits, 47 doubles, 27 home runs and 66 walks with an ERA of 7.09. Hitters facing him in the first have an All Star-caliber .316 batting average. In the second inning, their average drops to .216.

For the Tigers organization, Mr. Bonderman's mysterious problem has been the subject of hushed conversations, some unusual drills, a few pep talks and at least one unconventional theory (it's the umpires' fault). This season, the stakes are high: The Tigers are one of the preseason favorites to win the World Series, but they will need Mr. Bonderman's help. In his starts last year in which he pitched a scoreless first inning, the Tigers went 7-3. In starts where he didn't, their record was 8-9.

McNamee Crashes Lexus In Queens

Hat tip to Baseball Think Factory

Apparently Brian McNamee, the embattled former trainer and now professional accuser of Roger Clemens fainted due to a medical condition before ramming his car into a bus yesterday afternoon:

Roger Clemens’ former trainer Brian McNamee smashed his Lexus into a city bus in Queens yesterday after blacking out behind the wheel, authorities said.

McNamee was heading westbound on Central Ave. near Beach 11th St. in Far Rockaway when he rear-ended another car and careened into the bus head-on around 12:30 p.m., cops said.

The former Yankees trainer who confessed to providing performance-enhancing drugs to some of the biggest names in baseball told cops he fainted from his diabetes and then “woke up in front of a bus.”

No truth to the rumor that he threw Andy Pettitte and Clemens underneath said bus before the incident.

Sporting News On The Young Guns

From David Pinto, comes an original in-depth analysis of life with [possibly] three young starters on a contending team. He prefaces his remarks with the fact that most teams who implement young inexperienced pitchers [YIPs] are "rarely successful." A "YIP" has not spent more than one season in the majors, has started less than 15 games and is 24 years-old or younger.
A team's winning percentage has little to do with the number of YIP starts. Clubs win with YIPs, and clubs lose with YIPs regardless of the number of YIP starts.

The four first-place teams -- the 1961 Yankees, the '70 Twins, the '76 Reds and the 2003 Giants -- all went the playoffs the year before, and each bolstered their staffs with good, young pitchers. Many consider the '61 Yankees and '76 Reds to be among the greatest teams of all time.

The '08 Yankees offer parallels with those two clubs: High-powered offense, rotation anchored by two veterans. This year's Yankees appear capable of having a top-three offense, and Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte are the experienced arms at the top.

Both conditions should benefit the YIPs.

That is why Kennedy, Hughes and Chamberlain can be the exception to the rule this season. With the their the Yankees can afford to let their big three develop. They only need to be good in 2008. There's time for greatness later.

A analysis of the 2008 Yankees without an overbearing sense of doom and gloom? Preposterous.

What The Hell Is This About

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Breaking News: Joba Is Good

Joba Chamberlain struck out the side on eleven pitches in his one inning of work today. This was the first time this Spring it seemed like Chamberlain really let loose with his pitches. Slider was nasty, fastball well commanded 95-96 mph and the minor leaguers he faced looked defenseless. Joba is talented enough to pitch six innings every five days or two innings in two days, so it will be interesting to see his season shape up.

Ian Kennedy also looked very good. His target was 75 pitches for the day and he threw 76. Over 4.1 innings he allowed five hits [the last of which was a popfly misplayed by his infield], one run, struck out four and walked zero. His changeup looked exceptional and he was spotting the ball well with his heater around 87-90mph. The curveball was not as consistent, but he struck out a batter with a well placed deuce in the dirt. [Sounds like kindergarten humor doesn't it]

March Madness Is A Holiday

One of the best days in sports is upon us as March Madness commences. Every time I fill out my brackets I end up scratching more names than Steve Buscemi in Billy Madison. My final four ended up as Louisville, Georgetown, Memphis and UCLA with Ben Howland's Bruins winning it all.

Since recovering their status as a college national power I've never had much faith in them. They have, however, found their way into the final four the past two years. And, because I had the same perspective on the Florida Gators [until they won back-to-back championships], I figured now is a good time to jump on the bandwagon.

North Carolina is stacked offensively but does not play defense. An aspect of the game that Louisville excels in and I believe will ultimately enable them to pick off Tennessee and UNC to reach the final four. And - ESPN analysts might like to take note - you cannot simply pick the chalk from each region and expect to be taken seriously successful. Plus, one of the Cardinals power forwards is from my hometown.

Moose Supports Sox On Japan

From Pete Caldera's blog:
Mike Mussina backed the Red Sox’ planned boycott of their season-opening Japan trip, until money was added for coaches and support staff. “They’re out here a lot more than the players are a lot of times,’’ Mussina said. When the Yanks went to Japan in 2004, the coaches and support staff share came from the players’ pool.
The Moose is taking the high road on this one, though satisfaction is the death of desire.

Hughes Still Confident After Rough Outings. It's called Spring training for a reason, folks. I've never seen Phil Hughes throw more sliders, changeups and two-seam fastballs than in his four inning stint against the Pirates last night - leading one to believe he was doing a good deal of experimenting. Furthermore, after being pulled from his poor performance, Hughes was laughing on the mound with the infield, illustrating the difference between March and April baseball.

His curveball - while ill-commanded at times - looked like the dominant pitch it's been heralded as and his slider was also impressive when down in the zone. The changeup still needs work command-wise, but he threw some nice tailing ones to lefties, particularly Adam LaRoche.
Just talked to Hughes in the clubhouse. He said that he was overstriding on the mound because he was trying to throw too hard. “Even though it didn’t look it, the last few innings were better,” he said.

Hughes said he typically does not pitch well in spring training. “I wish that wasn’t the case but it seems to be,” he said.

"I have a few things I need to clean up but I feel like I'm close," said Hughes, who threw only 48 of his 77 pitches for strikes. "Even though it didn't look it, the last few innings were better."
Overstriding is one thing, but constantly leaving the ball up or out over the plate is not Hughes style pitching. Without the command of his four-seamer, Hughes becomes a run-of-the-mill starting pitcher. However, it's important to keep perspective as last week fans were oohing and ahhing over Phil's no-hit streak. Once the games actually count, then every pitch can be magnified with sanity.

Most Underrated Prospects

Alex Eisenberg of Baseball Intellect ranked the top four prospects who he believes are the most underrated in minor league baseball. Henry Sosa of the Giants, Jed Lowrie of the Red Sox, Chase Headley of the Padres, and Jair Jurrjens of the Braves were tops with two other youngsters filed under the "Players to Watch" category. The first was:
Austin Jackson, Age - 21, CF, New York Yankees (A/A+)

Jackson had an unusual transition from low-A Charleston to A+ Tampa. He struggled at a lower level of competition in a park that was tougher for pitchers before exploding against better competition in a park that was better for pitchers

Jackson was just 20 y/o last year, and has a projectable body. His success at Tampa carried over into fall ball in the Hawaii Baseball League. Jackson is also a plus defender in CF. If he can continue his success next year at AA, he has the potential to be a top-10 prospect next year.
Not sure how underrated A-Jax is anymore, but I agree with his last sentence whole-heartedly.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Girardi: Joba Starts In Pen

Joe Girardi finally declared what we already knew months ago, that Joba Chamberlain will begin the season in the bullpen:

Joe Girardi said just a few minutes ago that RHP Joba Chamberlain would open the season in the bullpen.

He left open the possibility that Chamberlain will move into the rotation later this season. “His future will be as a starter,” Girardi said.

Chamberlain will pitch in relief against Toronto tomorrow and again on Saturday. Ian Kennedy will start against the Blue Jays, a sign that he has nailed down the No. 5 starter job.

There will be no Joba Rules. Chamberlain can be used for multiple innings and on consecutive days. “It will be common sense,” Girardi said.

BoSox Vote To Boycott Japan Trip

UPDATE: "Mike Lowell has told The Boston Globe the team voted unanimously not to take the field for their final spring training game or to board the plane later Wednesday for Japan."

Remember a few weeks ago when Red Sox GM Theo Epstein called Mike Mussina a "bad apple" for complaining about an upcoming trip to play exhibitions in Japan. Epstein said his organization would make no such complaints. Well, according to ESPN, the Boston brigade has threatened to boycott their trip to the Rising Sun if their coaches are not paid $40,000 a piece. Pot, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Kettle:

The sense of international goodwill Major League Baseball was hoping to spread with the Boston Red Sox-Oakland Athletics trip to Japan has been threatened before the plane even leaves the tarmac.

At issue is whether the Red Sox coaches will be paid $40,000 each -- the same as each player will be getting -- for the Japan appearance, which includes two exhibition games as well as two games that will count in the standings.

According to the Boston Herald, the Red Sox will hold a players-only meeting Wednesday morning about the situation. The players are prepared to respond to Major League Baseball with an ultimatum -- if the coaches aren't paid, the Red Sox players will not get on the plane to go to Japan, the Herald reported.

Ok, Theo, we'd like that apology written in Chowder on a Fenway Frank wrapper.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Job Well Done

More photos available @ the Hokies Website.

[above] Derek Jeter signs for Virginia Tech students & fans.

Jeter signs for the V-Tech baseball team.

Members of the Yankees visit the memorial.

An emotional Star Spangled Banner.

A job well done . . .

Getcha Obama Ball !

From The Smoking Gun:

Major League Baseball has forced the closure of an online business run by a Barack Obama supporter who tweaked team logos to create t-shirts promoting the Illinois Democrat's presidential bid. The web site began selling the $19.99 shirts last month and had more than a dozen versions available when an MLB lawyer sent proprietor Morris Levin a cease and desist letter threatening legal action.
You know Hillary took notice and is going to start selling Clinton Caps or whatever else it takes to raise some freakin' dough.

Bonds & Fehr Belong Together

Barry Bonds is shocked he has yet to receive a contract offer, but - believe it or not - he's not the only one. Head of the MLBPA and overall arrogant shill, Donald Fehr believes an investigation is in order to reveal how such poetic justice oppression could bestow itself upon the honorable Bonds.

Less than two weeks before opening day, the 43-year-old home run king remains unsigned.

“He’s in playing shape right now. He just hasn’t hit off live pitching,” Bonds’ agent, Jeff Borris, said Tuesday. “I’ve had conversations with Barry. It would probably take him about two weeks to get ready.”

Bonds was indicted in November on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice, charges stemming from 2003 grand jury testimony in which he denied knowingly using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. The seven-time NL MVP pleaded not guilty.

Tampa Bay acknowledged last month that it had internal discussions about the prospect of pursuing Bonds. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa had interest in Bonds but Cardinals management decided against opening talks.

Borris said Bonds was working out in the Los Angeles area. He wouldn’t comment on the status of any negotiations.

“He wants to play,” Borris said.

After speaking with the Los Angeles Angels during his annual tour of spring-training camps, union head Donald Fehr said his staff will examine possible collusion against Bonds and others.
Let us hope by collusion Fehr meant delusion. And by against "Bonds and others," he meant from "Bonds and others." Is there a psychiatrist in the house?

Why You Play The Game

Today at 3:00 PM, the Blacksburg campus of Virginia Tech will be transported from grief and tragedy to bask in the warmth of professional sport. A continuing battle to bounce back from extraordinary loss will receive a tiny, yet meaningful push from a group of millionaires and superstars. A squad of baseball players hoping to help torn families and friends remember life can be good again.

From the Star Ledger story:

[Virginia Tech baseball manager Peter] Hughes said English Field "bursts at the seams" to fit 3,500 people, but they've managed to distribute 5,500 tickets for this game. Of those, 2,500 were set aside for school employees, victims' families and rescue workers who were on campus the day of the shooting. The other 3,000 were sold to the public, and those who got them will crowd into temporary bleachers and a newly refurbished left-field berm, which has been transformed from a sloping grass hill into tiered, stadium-style seating.

And for those who can't get in, the game will be simulcast on big-screen TVs in the school's football stadium.

"The whole town will be shut down," Hughes said. "They did not shut down the school, but a lot of professors are smart enough not to have class. We have 27,000 students, and there are 60,000 in the community, and everybody wants to go to the game."

So do the Yankees. They're bringing their star players -- Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi ... everybody in the starting lineup but Hideki Matsui, who continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. Major-league players are notorious for complaining about inconveniences or disruptions to their routine, but there hasn't been any of that around Legends Field.

For one day, that grief will mix with fun, and a one-in-a-lifetime chance for the hokies and their fans to get an up-close look at the New York Yankees.


Mattingly: O'Neill Needed Love,
Pagliarulo Needed Bobby Knight

The YES Network will present a new program entitled Captain's Corner in which current and former captains in professional sports recall anecdotes from their playing days. The show, which debuts tonight, includes former Giants linebacker Harry Carson, 1980 Olympic Hockey hero Mike Eruzione, current Yankees captain Derek Jeter and the Hitman himself, Don Mattingly.

During his contribution, Mattingly discussed which players needed a hug and which needed to be screamed at:

Mattingly discusses who on his teams needed some extra TLC, a “hug.”

Mattingly: (Paul) O’Neill needed to be loved all the time. Definitely, he needs the love. Yeah, if… Paulie was the kind of guy who was dead serious. If he went 0-for-4 like two days in a row, he’d say (to Mattingly) “Cap, I swear, I’m going home, I’m leaving,” and he was dead serious too. There was no question about it in my mind, he was ready to quit that day, so he was the one who needed a little hug.

Mattingly discusses who liked to be yelled at while he was playing for the Yankees.

Mattingly: You know who liked to be yelled at? Wickman, Bob Wickman (Yankees 1992-96)… and, like, Pags (Mike Pagliarulo) and I would be on the corners and, like, he’d be out there and be in a little trouble, and every once and a while, you’d go out there and kind of scream at him a little bit. He’d tell you after the game, “I like that. Do that to me (yell at him).”

During his appearance on the show, Jeter will most likely file Chuck Knoblauch under the category of needing psychoanalysis.

Can't Keep A Good Canseco Down

Jose Canseco is more than an amazing steroid-barbecue host, he's also an exceptional extortionist author. His new book Indicted Vindicated is due out on April 1st, one day after the Yankees open up against the Blue Jays. The book promises to enlighten baseball fans, including “revelations about Alex Rodriguez,... Mike Piazza and other members of the New York Yankees.”

This title is embargoed, and Simon Spotlight is not giving out information until Canseco appears on Nightline on Friday, March 28. Like Canseco’s career and reputation, the book has taken a beating on its way to publication. It was shopped extensively before finally being picked up by Penguin/Berkley in late December 2007. Shortly thereafter, former SI sportswriter Don Yaeger, who had been hired to co-write the book, dropped out of the project, saying, “There’s no meat on the bones.” He was referring specifically, he says, to the allegations about steroid use by Yankee Alex Rodriguez. “I don’t think there’s a book there,” Yaeger told the New York Daily News. “I don’t think he’s got what he claims to have, certainly doesn’t have what he claims to have on A-Rod.”

Less than a month later, Berkley dropped the project, and it was picked up by Simon Spotlight. PW asked Jen Bergstrom, v-p/publisher of Simon Spotlight Entertainment, why she decided to publish Vindicated. “The same reason I decide to publish any book,” she says. “I started reading it, and I couldn’t put it down. I devoured it in one sitting.” Asked if she was troubled that Berkley had dropped the project so quickly, Bergstrom says, “Not at all. They’re a fantastic publisher. Obviously, I wasn’t privy to their reasons for not wanting to move forward, but publishing is a very subjective business.” Yaeger’s comment about there being “no meat on the bones” didn’t bother her either. “Don Yaeger didn’t read what I read,” Bergstrom says.

Yaeger's reaction, along with Canseco's failed efforts to blackmail Magglio Ordonez are all sane people need when pondering whether the Juiced sequel was written for content or cache. [Or in this case, a desperate need for attention and cash]

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wall Street Journal: HGH No Rocket Fuel

According to a Wall Street Journal article, scientific evidence goes against the idea that an HGHed up Roger Clemens would result in an increase in fastball velocity, strength and rage associated with its PED cousin, the anabolic steroid. It will, however, let your body recover like a radioactive Peter Petrelli, but it would seem that is not a point of interest.

What if Roger Clemens did take human growth hormone? It’s not clear his fastballs got any hotter because of it — at least not according to the scientific literature.

Stanford medical school researchers, their curiosity piqued by the brouhaha around athletes using HGH, recently tried to determine if the folks alleged to have used HGH were practicing evidence-based medicine. Do the data demonstrate any benefit for athletes? Little, if any, according to the results published in the current issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Stanford researchers found 27 past randomized, controlled studies, with a total of 303 participants, that tested the physiological effects of injections of growth hormone compared with a placebo in healthy people. The studies were also double-blinded, meaning the patients and researchers didn’t know whether they got the HGH or not.

Participants in the studies did seem to show an increase in their lean body mass, which is generally associated with more muscle. But in the two studies that looked at muscle strength, HGH users didn’t show an improvement. One possibility is that HGH is causing fluid retention, Hau Liu, the study’s lead author, tells the Health Blog. It’s hard to differentiate between muscle and fluids, he explains.