Friday, September 19, 2014

Derek Jeter Gift Meter: Tampa Bay Rays

Earlier this week the Tampa Bay Rays gave both a farewell and a welcome home to Yankees captain and Tampa resident Derek Jeter.

1. A 16-foot kayak decorated with Yankee pinstripes and Jeter's number 2.

2. A framed jersey of Don Zimmer's, presented by his widow, Soot.

3. A $16,000 check payable to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation, which breaks down to $50 for every Jeter hit off Rays pitching.

Analysis:  The presentation started with a beautiful tribute on the Trop's video board, a video who's music alone was enough to bring tears to the eyes.  The kayak was fitting for Jeter's Tampa Bay lifestyle and, I'm guessing he can keep it docked at "St Jetersburg."  I loved the idea for the check as well, since Jeter has more hits off Rays pitching than an other opponent of the team.  Mrs Zimmer's presentation and the presence of a Rays farm system executive who held the same position with the Yankees when Jeter's career started, tied the two teams together nicely.

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

Last, and hopefully, not least: The Boston Red Sox.  Next weekend, at Fenway Park.

After Gatorade Goodbye, Jeter Shows His Flair For The Dramatic For, Perhaps, One Last Time

It might have been the last one of his career. If so, it is right up there with all of the other great moments he has entertained his fans with throughout the years.  Thanks to R.A. Dickey's decision to throw a fastball last night, Derek Jeter showed off his flair for the dramatic for one of the last--and maybe the last time--in his career, when he connected for his fourth home run of the season--his first of the year at Yankee Stadium.

Innings later, thanks to Adam Lind's error in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees won the game in walk-off fashion. A loss after what Jeter had done would have been very hard to take. A loss would have put a damper on an entire day devoted to The Captain--somewhat. The Gatorade commercial had the entire baseball world talking--and a lot of them crying--as Jeter continued to keep things in perspective during his farewell tour by keeping the focus on the fans. Have another look:

Just 10 more games until a career for the ages ends.  Cherish them, Yankees Universe.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Homegrown Betances Sets Single-Season Yankees Record

Regular readers of this blog know the story of Dellin Betances, the set-up man for the New York Yankees. In case you were sleeping and missed it, a new chapter was added to that story last night.

With his 8th inning strikeout of the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier,  his 131st of the season, Betances set a new franchise record for strikeouts by a reliever in a single season, surpassing the great Mariano Rivera who had held the record since 1996.  Here's the record-setting K:

Betances' accomplishment is actually more awesome than Rivera's, as he did it pitching in, for the most part, single innings. Rivera pitched multiple innings during almost every game in 1996.

It's been a stellar season for this hometown boy.  Things might get even more sparkling for him next season. With David Robertson set to become a free agent at the end of this season, it's entirely possible that the Yankees might let Robertson go in favor of Betances. We shall see. For now, let's enjoy, as he tries to add to his new record.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Yankees' Shifting Infield Alignment A Potential View Of The Future

Brian McCann at 1B, Francisco Cervelli behind the plate and Mark Teixeira sitting forlornly on the bench with an ailment of some kind. That was the defensive alignment for the New York Yankees on Tuesday night and it just might be the situation for the remainder of the season as manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that he doesn’t know when Teixeira will be back.

It’s also a possible harbinger of things to come if Teixeira can’t make it all the way back from his wrist injury next season, or even in a few years when his contract is up and he’s gone. Some might argue that he’s been gone for most of the second half of the season but, for as bad as he’s been offensively, he still retains his defensive prowess.

Couple Teixeira’s absence with the appearance of Cervelli, John Ryan Murphy and, in a few years, Gary Sanchez, and McCann might have to move away from catcher sooner than he thought.

As much as Teixeira frustrates me with his inability to stay in the line-up, his refusal to adjust his swing to beat the shift and his strike-outs, I’m hoping that he comes back healthy enough to play 1B for most of the rest of his contract. It strengthens the defensive makeup of the entire lineup.

When McCann signed his $85MM contract, I actually thought it was a good deal. It is relatively short term, which means it bought some more time for the prospects to get some seasoning in the minor leagues, and he was billed as a decent enough athlete that he could move to 1B in the latter years of the deal to replace Teixeira.

Most of the value, however, I attributed to his catching abilities. If he can’t carry over his strong hitting of the past two weeks into next year and he moves to 1B on even a part time basis, that deal no longer looks so terrific to me, especially since he has been learning 1B on the job, having only played fifteen games there. As seen with Kelly Johnson earlier this year, that’s not necessarily the best way to do it.

I’m also not sold on Cervelli as a full-time catcher. He hasn’t played anywhere close to a full MLB season since 2010 and I think he gets exposed if he does. Murphy and Austin Romine are probably back-ups at best and Sanchez has some maturing to do.

As seen in Tuesday’s game, just one player out of position can lead to game losing errors. Given the run scoring difficulties, that’s just one more wrench in the works that the Yankees can ill afford. Teixeira needs to get healthy and McCann needs to stay at catcher. As unsettling as it sounds, those two are the best chance at stability in a Yankee infield that will see more than enough changes next season.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Derek Jeter Gift Meter: Baltimore Orioles

Derek Jeter's team suffered a series opening loss in Tampa Bay last night. Before that, they lost a series finale in Baltimore.  The losses have become almost predictable, so much so that they are hardly news anymore. What is still news is Jeter's farewell tour.  The Orioles threw their hat into the ring on Sunday night.

1. A US Navy Captain's hat.

2. A bucket of jumbo steamed crabs from former Oriole Boog Powell.

3. An oversized crab mallet, made from the same wood as Jeter's Louisville Slugger bats.

4. An oversized cake depicting his number 2 jersey.

4. A $10,000 donation in Jeter's name to the Miracle League of Manasota, a non-profit group from Sarasota, FL, the Orioles' spring training home.

Analysis:  To paraphrase an old saying, the Orioles hit the crab on the head with this presentation.  The crabs scream Maryland shore. The captain's hat reminds us of both Annapolis and Jeter's leadership.  The cake: it has to be at least his second one this season but, who doesn't love sweets?  As for the donation, it seemed a little self-serving on the Orioles' part but, at least people who need the money will receive it.

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

Tonight: The Tampa Bay Rays. Hopefully, Joe Maddon won't get to upset when his stadium erupts in cheers for the Captain.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Yankees Stand-Out Bullpen Falters at Wrong Time

The only successful thing the New York Yankees did this weekend was prevent themselves from watching the Baltimore Orioles celebrate clinching the A.L. East.

The Yankees lost 3 out of 4 games and, unlike the story for most of the season, 2 of the losses were a direct result of the bullpen being unable to hold the paltry leads the offense was able to scratch out for them.

The Yankees entered Baltimore with momentum on their side and battled the Orioles admirably in the first game of Friday night’s doubleheader. When Chris Young connected on a HR in extra innings it seemed the momentum would continue.

Then Adam Warren, not David Robertson or even Dellin Betances, trotted in from the bullpen. It was the best choice of the remaining options, as Joe Girardi had spent his usual 8th and 9th inning options in their usual place making them unavailable by the 11th inning.

Girardi faced some criticism from the media in the Yankees final series against the Tigers for not bringing in his closer in a tie game on the road. In that series Robertson was sitting in the bullpen watching as the Yankees lost that game and the series. It’s common protocol and most managers do it but, in a season when the common approach didn’t seem to work for the struggling Yankees, the media questioned the strategy.

On Friday afternoon’s game, it seemed that Girardi decided to try it their way. Whether just to show he was willing to adapt or just to shut them up, Girardi pitched Betances and Robertson while the game was tied then called in Warren to close out the 11th inning.

Warren should have been able to do it. He has had a decent season for the Yankees, proving himself a more than capable bridging option in the pen. So he should have been able to do it. Only he couldn’t. He eventually walked the bases loaded and gave up a game-winning double.

Let this be a lesson to those who wonder why managers employ the “save your closer” strategy. Those last three outs are different. It’s difficult to explain. There are three outs in an inning whether it’s the 7th or the 9th but those last three are different. They just are.

Couple that with David Robertson’s inability to lock down a save after a momentum shifting HR by Brian McCann, who has somewhat frustratingly turned his game on about a month too late to really help the team, and it was a bad weekend for the team's only strong point.

Robertson was pitching for his third day in a row so it is difficult to blame him too much. You’d like to think that, when the games matter more, the great athletes turn their game up and rise to the occasion, but is Robertson has not been a three game in a row type of pitcher and he showed it on Sunday night.

For the past few weeks, John Sterling has said on the WFAN broadcasts that, for the Yankees to have any chance of going to the playoffs, they would have to win 90 games.

Well, the Yankees are fourteen games away from 90 wins and, wouldn’t you know it, they have fourteen games left in their season. Personally, I’m holding out hope. In this two Wild Card era, anything can happen. But, with their dismal showing over the weekend, they made the task that much more unlikely.