Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Derek Jeter Gift Meter: Cincinnati Reds

During their recent visit to the Stadium this past weekend, the Cincinnati Reds surprised more than a few people when they joined the Derek Jeter Gift Parade.  Up until then, it was assumed (by me, at least) that opposing teams would honor Jeter only on the road.  However, the Reds changed all of that.

Jeter received signed jerseys of former Reds captain/shortstops Dave Concepcion and Barry Larkin, framed with pictures of Jeter playing at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.  Smart Yankees fans will remember that Jeter was named team captain during a series there in June of 2003. The gift was presented by Reds GM Walt Jocketty and Todd Frazier.

Analysis:  The Reds took all the tie-ins related to this gift and made them into a nice big bow. Three captain/shortstops, Jeter's much-talked-about relationship with Todd Frazier and memories of that day back in June of 2003 were all on display during this presentation.  Perfect.

Rating:  On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being perfect and 1 being garbage--  10

More gifts reviews on the way, including one for the biggest gift of all, on September 7th at Yankee Stadium.  Btw, that game is already the most expensive MLB game on the secondary market.  Are you surprised? I'm not. Read all about it here.

Headley Arrives In Time To Save Yankees From Frustrating Loss

Welcome to the New York Yankees Chase Headley! The Yankees newest player, acquired via trade on Tuesday afternoon, arrived in the Bronx in plenty of time to help the Yankees to a much needed win, in 14 innings against the Texas Rangers.

Up until that point, the game was looking like a dismal and frustrating failure for the Yankees. They looked like they were facing Clayton Kershaw instead of a Texas Rangers pitching staff that is the worst in the American League and second worse in MLB.

Facing that pitching, Tuesday night's game should not have gone extra innings and certainly not to 14 innings.  The offense managed only three hits against rookie Nick Martinez, who had an ERA north of 5 coming into the game and, for most of the game, they fared no better against the Rangers bullpen.

Yankees pitchers did their part. They threw up zeroes for 12 innings, showing, yet again, that despite the relative unknowns filling out their staff, they are not the source of the Yankees problems.

The Yankees, with their high priced but under performing offense simply could not score for twelve innings.  It wasn't until the bottom of the 14th inning when, with runners on the corners and one out, Headley stepped to the plate and, a few minutes after midnight, sent a single to left field, driving in the winning run and earning himself a storybook first game of his Yankees career.

When interviewed by about the trade prior to arriving in the Bronx, Headley said, “I loved every second in San Diego, all positive memories. But on the same token, I'm excited to move on to a team in a race right now.”

Thanks to him, the Yankees kept pace in that race for one more night.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five Errors Not The Story As Yankees Drop Series Opener To Rangers

Five errors in one game is pretty embarrassing for a team, especially when three are charged to its starting pitcher.  It's so embarrassing that it's easy to forget that none of those errors led to a run.

Yes, the Yankees gave up four runs to the Texas Rangers last night, and all four runs were earned.  In case you've been living under a rock, the Texas Rangers have the worst record in baseball.  The Yankees are desperately trying to stay in the playoff race, and losing to a team like this is not the way to do it.

Before last night, many agreed that the Yankees could not afford even to split these four games with the Rangers. Well, if they still want to do more than that, they will have to do it "the hard way." That is what YES announcer Ken Singleton says when a team wins the remaining games in a series after losing the first one.

They will have to do it with Yu Darvish pitching in one of those remaining games. However, after what happened against Alfredo Simon and Johnny Cueto this past weekend, I cannot say it will be impossible.

I don't have to say it will be difficult, though.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Overdue Bloop Helps Yankees Earn Sweep of Reds

Here’s how the New York Yankees came out of the All-Star break: A three game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in Yankee Stadium, featuring three quality starts and timely hits throughout the lineup. In the process, they gained 1.0 game on the Toronto Blue Jays and 2.0 on the A.L. East leading Baltimore Orioles. They could not have hoped for a better start to the unofficial second half of the season.

It would be hasty to make too much of a series victory against a team suffering from injuries to some of their key offensive players, but the Reds pitching staff is just fine, ranking 7th overall in the National League. The starters are even better, ranking 4th in the National League, and the Yankees faced two of their best in Alfredo Simon on Saturday and Johnny Cueto on Sunday. Both have sub 2.00 ERAs, and the fact that the Yankees were able to win those games is an encouraging sign.

Certainly the Yankees had some luck in completing the sweep. Brian McCann drove in the game winning run on Sunday afternoon with a bloop single to right field on a 100+ mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman, and acknowledged in his on field interview with Meredith Marakovits on the YES Network, that it was a bit of a lucky hit as the Reds defense simply could not find the ball.

If anyone deserves a little luck, however, it’s McCann, who ran into some bad luck in the first half with a .256 BAbip and had a hard time adjusting to A.L. pitching and defensive shifts. If that trend corrects itself in the 2nd half, the Yankees could finally see the catcher they thought they were signing.

Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts also picked up their offensive pace, batting .500 (3 for 6) and .333 (4 for 12) respectively in the Reds series. Add in Jacoby Ellsbury’s 4 for 4 game on Sunday and it was a great offensive showing.

The mission for the Yankees is clear: Make the playoffs. Their mediocre first half makes that more difficult than it would ideally have been, so the sweep was much needed. The Yankees need to build some momentum before facing off against the Toronto Blue Jays. With the hard-luck Texas Rangers, and their last place pitching staff coming into Yankee Stadium next, they just might be able to do so.

Aside from a blip by All-Star reliever Dellin Betances, who served up a game tying home run in the top of the 8th inning, there wasn’t much to quibble about on Sunday. The Yankees are still facing an uphill battle to the playoffs but, for three days, they did their part.