Well? I did predict unequivocally that the Yankees would sign Rafael Soriano despite Cashman’s statement that he would not give up a draft pick, didn’t I? Yes, I did. On January 8th, I wrote:
“I predict that the Yanks will, indeed, end up signing Rafael Soriano….Despite Cashman’s comments about staying “in-house” for the eighth inning and trying to avoid an expensive LaTroy Hawkins/Kyle Farnsworth-type flop, Soriano is no Hawkins/Farnsworth. He’d fit the bill just fine.”
Now the deal is reportedly done and Soriano will be in pinstripes after all. Is it a perfect signing? No deal is perfect. We lose the draft pick. We risk being stuck with a guy who’s been injured. We paid (or, rather, overpaid). And, according to Paul Lebowitz, we’re getting a reliever who “gacks up” big games. But I’m happy right now. Cashman is alive and well and taking action, as opposed to watching every available player land with another team. Our bullpen will be stronger with Soriano than without him. He gives Girardi more flexibility as a bridge to Mo or even as a substitute for Mo (God needs his rest too). It’s not our money, it’s the Steinbrenners’. And maybe this Hot Stove move will lead to others, just like when I shop online for one item and end up buying way more.
Since we’re all feeling a little impatient/perplexed/downright angry about the Yankees’ off-season thus far, I figured I’d lighten the mood with a bulletin: It’s almost spring training, which means it’s almost Opening Day. I know, I know. I’m not the only one with a calendar, but I just might be one of the only ones with a preview of the new Yankee Stadium E-Guide, which is the fantastic creation of Kurt Smith as part of his BallparkE-Guides series.
Each e-guide is a detailed, PDF-formatted booklet that takes us through our favorite parks in a way that teams’ official programs and web sites don’t. For example, at Yankee Stadium you can’t get back into the ballpark once you leave, right? Wrong. Thanks to a tip in the Yankee Stadium E-Guide, I learned that if you enter via the Hard Rock Cafe and have your ticket punched there, you can come and go as often as you want. The E-Guide has insider info about buying tickets, paying less for tickets, figuring out what and where the best food is, not to mention getting to the Bronx without stress. It’s all here and it’s only five bucks, downloadable from Kurt’s site. I’ll definitely consult the Yankee Stadium E-Guide before my next visit to the Stadium.
Speaking of which, I predict that the Yanks will, indeed, end up signing Rafael Soriano.
Why? Because there’s precedent for bringing in a proven closer as our setup guy. Does the name Tom Gordon ring a bell? He worked out pretty well setting up for Mo even though he’d been a closer for the Red Sox. Despite Cashman’s comments about staying “in-house” for the eighth inning and trying to avoid an expensive LaTroy Hawkins/Kyle Farnsworth-type flop, Soriano is no Hawkins/Farnsworth. He’d fit the bill just fine.
It wasn’t raining here in Santa Barbara, but I sang while it rained in the Bronx. Why?
* Because the Yanks jumped out to a 4-0 lead over the Royals in the first.
* Because A.J. threw five shutout innings before the storm blew in.
* Because Cano is so damn good this year with runners on base.
* Because Jorge knocked in his 1,000th career RBI.
* Because A-Rod, while unable to hit #600, helped the team anyway.
* Because Colin Curtis got the start in right field.
* Because we won the game and only had to use Chad and Alby in relief.
* Because Swisher claims he hurt his Achilles while he slept, and there has to be more to that story.
* Because when we play the Royals there’s always a chance that I’ll see Farnsy again.
Last night I announced the 2009 She-Fan Award for Best Postseason Enemy – the opposing player who best helped the Yankees win the ALDS, ALCS or World Series. Congratulations again to Brad Lidge.
Tonight’s award goes to the opposing player who contributed mightily to this year’s most exciting phenomenon: the walk-off victory. The Yankees had 15 walk-offs during the regular season, some more significant than others but all a great source of pleasure for Yankee fans – and for A.J. Burnett.
And the nominees for Best Regular Season Walk-Off Enemy are…
– Brian Fuentes, Los Angeles Angels
Yes, Fuentes was one of last night’s nominees, but he merits another look in this category. On May 1st, he allowed a bases-loaded walk-off single by Posada in the ninth, and the Yanks beat the Angels 10-9 after having been down by five runs in the game. A big win against a big rival.
– Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins
Another return nominee, Nathan was on the mound on May 15th, which, by the way, marked A-Rod’s debut at the new Stadium as well as the game in which Brett Gardner had an inside-the-park home run. In the ninth, Gardner tripled off Nathan, Tex singled, A-Rod walked, Cano was walked intentionally, and – with the bases loaded – Melky blooped a two-out single to win the game 5-4. The Yanks went on to sweep the Twins with three consecutive walk-offs.
– Brad Lidge, Philadelphia Phillies
Yet another return nominee, Lidge pitched the ninth on May 23rd. The Yanks were down by two runs, but the Phillies closer walked Damon, gave up a game-tying homer to A-Rod, allowed a single to Cano, who stole second, and served up a walk-off single to Melky. A foreshadowing of things to come.
– Luis Castillo, New York Mets
We all know what happened on June 12th, but here’s the recap. The Yanks were down by a run in the ninth when K-Rod came in to close it out for the Mets. Jeter singled, stole second and K-Rod intentionally walked Tex to pitch to a struggling A-Rod, who popped up to Castillo for the third out. Inexplicably, L-Cas dropped the ball, and Tex and A-Rod scored the winning runs. The best part was watching K-Rod celebrate – prematurely.
– Shawn Camp, Toronto Blue Jays
July 4th was George Steinbrenner’s birthday and the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech. So it was only fitting that Roy Halladay did not get the win on this day. Instead, he left the game in a funk after Damon’s two-run shot tied the score in the seventh. It wasn’t until the 12th that Posada singled in the winning run off Camp, who is a double She-Fan Award nominee for the walk-off single he gave up to Cano on August 12th.
– Junichi Tazawa, Boston Red Sox
Who can forget the August 7th game that lasted 15 innings and five-and-a-half hours? It was Burnett against Beckett, two former Marlins, and the score was 0-0 when A-Rod stepped in against the rookie Red Sox pitcher and belted one into the seats with Jeter aboard for a 2-0 walk-off. The win expanded the Yankees’ lead in the AL East to four-and-a-half games.
– Kyle Farnsworth, Kansas City Royals
No, the game on September 29th against the Royals hardly mattered in terms of the pennant race. But seeing old friend Farnsy was a treat nonetheless. With the September call-ups in the lineup, Cervelli got the Yankees’ ninth-inning rally going with a ground ball that deflected off Farnsworth for a single. Cisco moved to third on Hinske’s single and scored on Cano’s sac fly. Up to the plate stepped another call-up, Juan Miranda, whose grounder off Farnsy’s leg scored Hinske. The Yanks won 4-3 and all was right with the world.
The envelope please.
And the 2009 She-Fan Award for Best Regular Season Walk-off Enemy goes to…
***** Junichi Tazawa *****
The sentimental favorite would have been Castillo, of course. But an interleague series against the hapless Mets that didn’t really count for a lot except in entertainment value? Conversely, the 15-inning game against the Red Sox was huge. They had beaten us eight straight times coming into the series, and first place in the division was on the line. Once A-Rod hit that shot off of Tazawa, they had to settle for a Wild Card berth. Congratulations to Mr. Tazawa. Oh, wait. Mr. Tazawa is out of the country and can’t be here to accept his award. Accepting it for him is his teammate.
“Oh, wow,” said Mr. Papelbon. “The She-Fan Award is really heavy.”
“That’s because it’s solid gold,” I said. “Maybe you’ll win one next year.”
According to Sam Borden on the LoHud Yankees blog, Joba told the media after tonight’s 4-3 loss to the Royals that he’d fold towels if the Yankees asked him to. In other words, he gets that he didn’t exactly impress anybody by throwing 91 pitches in three-plus innings and giving up three runs and four walks.
So will the Yankees put Joba Chamberlain on the postseason roster? In the pen, perhaps? Or will he spend the ALDS in the clubhouse doing this?
We’ll find out soon enough. I’m still digesting the fact that tonight was the last home game of the 2009 regular season. How fast it all went, right? It would have been nice to close things out with a “W” before the team heads to Tampa for the finale against the Rays this weekend, but the offense was in sleep mode for the most part. Jeter homered to lead off the bottom of the first, but the bats were quiet until the fifth when Swisher hit a two-run bomb to tie the score at 3-3.
If only he were a better outfielder. In the seventh, he bungled Buck’s fly ball and it went for a triple, handing the Royals the decisive go-ahead run – and the game. Graceful he’s not.
I thought the Yanks might mount another miraculous comeback in the ninth when Cervelli singled and Guzman reached on an error. (Where was Farnsy when we needed him?) Instead, Soria shut the Baby Bombers down, and that was that.
Afterwards, I tried to talk to my husband about the game – and about possible roster scenarios for the ALDS. But he was studying for a course he’s taking and said, “Go on Twitter and talk to @YankeeMeginPHL, the one with the rally bra, or @irb123, the one who comments on your blog sometimes, or @Legendary23, the one who does the Yankee Twitter Roll Call. Maybe they’re not busy.”
“It’s the middle of the night on the east coast,” I said. “My Yankee Twitter friends are asleep.”
I shrugged and went into my office, where I found someone I could talk to. No, she couldn’t talk back, but it’s not as if she didn’t want to.
Carmen Miranda was a Brazilian singer/dancer/actress in the ’40s and ’50s. She was famous for wearing fruit on her head.
But I’m talking about this Miranda.
Juan is a Yankees farmhand who was called up earlier this month, inserted into tonight’s game and – with two outs in the bottom of the ninth – singled off the leg of Kyle Farnsworth to score Hinske and give the Yanks a thrilling (yes, I know the game didn’t matter) 4-3 win over the Royals – the team’s 15th walk-off victory. Naturally, he earned a face full of whipped cream.
What is going on with the Yankees? Even when they play less than perfect defense, even when they can’t generate much offense against a tough pitcher, even when their starter is just back from his father’s hospital bedside, they find a way to win. Speaking of AJ…
Three hits over six-plus innings with eight strikeouts? Not a bad tune-up for a guy people were so worried about a couple of weeks ago. He looked great and I can’t wait for him to make his first postseason start against them…
The offense against Lerew, the Royals promising starter, amounted to solo shots by Swisher and Tex. The two runs might have been enough if Phil Coke hadn’t come into the game in the seventh suffering from a brain cramp.
First he spazzed out trying to field Gordon’s bunt. Then he threw wildly on Anderson’s fielder’s choice. Then he completely blanked on Maier’s grounder; he should have thrown home to nab the runner scoring but instead went to first for the out. Oh, Phil.
With the Yankees down a run, it was nice to see Robertson and Bruney hold the Royals scoreless in the eighth. But it was even nicer to see Farnsworth take the hill for KC in the ninth. Ah, the memories.
Poor Farnsy. Cervelli singled off his glove/hand/someplace. Hinske singled off him too. Cano clocked one of his pitches for a deep sac fly, scoring Cervelli. Hinske stole second on him – HINSKE! – and went to third on the catcher’s error. And up stepped Miranda, who got the winning hit when the ball caromed off Farnsy’s shin. The indignity.
Maybe the night had the happy ending it did because of the pre-game ceremony spotlighting Jeter for being the all-time Yankees hits leader, Melky for hitting for the cycle, and Mo for getting his 500th save and receiving his plaque from Yogi.
The expression on Mo’s youngest son’s face says it all for me right now.
Oops. Not that one.
As effective as Scott Kazmir was last night, Joba absolutely dominated the Rays tonight in the Yankees’ 6-2 victory.
He’s been brilliant since going home to Nebraska during the break. I’d like to know what they fed him while he was there, because he’s been a different pitcher since he came back.
No more shaking off Jorge. No more strolls around the mound between pitches. No more nibbling around the strike zone. He’s been aggressive, no-nonsense, focused. As a result, he only gave up three hits over eight innings – a memorable performance.
It was such a positive outing that I’m not even going to bring up the reliever who shall remain nameless, except to say he’s struggling and I don’t know why and he’s starting to remind me of guys who are no longer with the team.
I was fuming that Girardi had to drag Mo into the game in the ninth, but he took care of business in his usual it’s-just-my-job sort of way.
(Is there a stat for how many times he’s shaken Jorge’s hand after getting the final out?)
Jeter’s triple in the first inning set the tone, as did Tex’s single to drive him in. Then the home run derby kicked in: Cano (after fouling a ball off his knee – ouwww), Melky, Tex. The boys were unstoppable.
Speaking of Tex, on Twitter tonight I was kidding around with MLBlogger Yankeemeg about the resemblance between Jarrod Washburn and Kiefer Sutherland. Have you noticed?
Then we moved on to Eric Hinske (I kind of figured he’d play in this series, giving Damon or Swisher a night off from the turf) and how he reminded us of Kevin James.
I was trying to come up with a celebrity double for Tex and couldn’t think of one. And then Yankeemeg said, “He looks just like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.” And you know what? He does!
It’s easy to be lighthearted when your team is in first place and they just won a big series. Let’s see how jokey I am after the Yanks and White Sox go at it tomorrow night. I’d really like to keep the train moving, but I know better than to take anything for granted.
No, I’m not talking about AJ Burnett versus Nelson Cruz. By the time AJ threw over Cruz’s head in the fifth, prompting the home plate umpire to warn both dugouts, the Yankees had a comfortable 9-3 lead over the Rangers.
I’m talking about Mark Teixeira versus this guy.
If Vincente Padilla is the Rangers’ idea of improved pitching, the Angels have nothing to worry about in the AL West.
When Padilla came in high and tight to Cano in the first inning, I figured it was just one of these.
But when he plunked Tex on the arm in the second, I started to pay attention – especially since he also pitched inside to Jeter and went up and in on A-Rod. I said to my husband, “This guy better not go all Daniel Cabrera on us,” referring to the former Orioles pitcher who made a career out of disabling various Yankees.
Then the fourth: Padilla hit Tex again, this time on the butt. Mark was not amused, and Girardi accompanied him to first base in an attempt to talk him down.
But Tex continued to seethe, his nostrils flaring.
When A-Rod grounded into a potential double play, Tex slid hard into second, lifting Andrus high into the air. (Elvis almost left the building.)
Jeter scored the go-ahead run, and it was his 1,500th, making him the fourth such active player and placing him in the company of Ruth, Gehrig and Mantle as the only Yankees to achieve the mark.
The rest was gravy.
Cano had a big RBI single. So did Posada. Matsui hit a three-run shot off Holland, Padilla’s replacement (the same guy he homered off in Texas last week). Posada added his own three-run dinger against Madrigal in the sixth, boosting the Yanks to 12-3.
AJ pitched well, even without his A-grade curve ball, and Bombko and Veras finished it up.
Did I cringe when Veras came in for the ninth? You bet, even with a nine-run lead. Michael Kay was yammering on yet again about what great stuff Jose has. “You don’t give up on a guy who throws 96 mph,” he said.
Um, did he forget about Kyle?
I digress. It was a very satisfying win for the Yanks, who now have the best record in the AL at 10 games over .500. The error-less streak is over, due to an errant throw by Posada, but I’ll take good pitching and timely hitting every time.
The Yankees looked so robust, so enthusiastic, so good in spring training. They even looked good as recently as yesterday. And yet, after tonight’s 12-5 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards, they reminded me of them.
For those too young to remember, there was a 1963 sci-fi movie called “Children of the Damned” about a group of highly talented youngsters who had no ability to control their destiny.
Seriously. Am I supposed to believe that Phil Hughes has any idea how to pitch at the major league level? Was his outing in Detroit a fluke? Is he hurt again? What. Is. Wrong.
I know. The Daily News didn’t capture Phil in a very flattering pose. But he gave up eight runs in less than two innings!
Not that he had much help. Swisher’s throw to the backstop was amusing, but I wasn’t interested in watching a comedy show. Tex couldn’t stab Markakis’ line drive. And Cano didn’t even bend over on Scott’s “single.”
Then came Edwar Ramirez, who gave up homers to Markakis and Montanez. When did he become the change-up-throwing version of this guy?
Whatever. The Yankees might very well have chipped away against Eaton, who was staked to a 9-0 lead and nevertheless walked the first three batters in the fourth and served up back-to-back homers to Damon and Tex in the fifth.
As an aside, doesn’t Dave Trembly…
…have a slight resemblance to him?
Back to the game. For some reason, Girardi waited until the eighth inning to use the Yankees’ new “long man.”
Bombko had a great spring and an equally great stint in Scranton. But he lived up to his nickname when he threw one right down the middle to Jones. I nearly lost it when Jim Palmer (I was forced to listen to MASN, the Orioles’ feed) suggested that Brett might be groomed as our eighth-inning setup man. Over my this.
Oh, well. Tomorrow’s another day, and this one worked out much better than I thought. I woke up to fog and humidity and light winds – perfect conditions for getting the wildfires under control. Even though 8,700 acres have burned since Tuesday and there’s only 30% containment, I didn’t have to evacuate. The warning for my area is still in effect as a precaution and I’m not unpacking just yet, but things are definitely looking up.
I went for a beach walk this afternoon and it felt so good to resume normal activities. There were fire trucks everywhere, which was a little disconcerting, but I waved at each one and gave the guys the thumbs-up and said thanks. God, they’ve worked hard. Here’s a photo from the Santa Barbara News-Press showing them catching a much-deserved nap.
Surveying the damage (80+ residences were destroyed) has to be extremely tough for them.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to evacuate and then come home to this.
For now I don’t have to. To say I feel fortunate is an understatement.
No, these Royals.
In the opening game of the series, Andy Pettitte threw 99 mostly sparkling pitches to earn a 4-1 victory over old friend Sidney Ponson
whose athleticism is strikingly similar to that of this Royal.
Actually, Dame Sidney pitched pretty well. He wasn’t to blame when Jacobs couldn’t handle Posada’s hot shot in the first, allowing Damon and Tex to score.
There were other old friends present as well, like Farnsy
who appeared in the seventh inning, struck out the side and exhibited his usual good humor, reminding me of this Royal.
Also on hand was old friend Coco Crisp
who still has the odd habit of resting his chin on his shoulder in the manner of this Royal.
Highlights of the game?
* Cano’s sizzling bat
* Swisher’s double
* Gardner’s sac bunt
* Tex’s double and two walks
* Tex’s effortless defense at first (I’d almost forgotten what that’s like)
* Pettitte’s nearly flawless seven innings
* Bruney’s three up/three down
* Mo’s continuing brilliance.
* Swisher’s non-catch in the second that would have been an error if not for KC’s generous official scorer
* Cano’s wild throw in the ninth that should have been an error too
* Gardner’s inability to field balls over his head; he gets too close to the wall
* Matsui’s seemingly dead bat.
The best part of the game?
Treats from Cooperstown Cookie Company.
One of the truly great things about contributing the occasional article to the New York Times is that I get the most interesting emails after each piece runs. Last week, I heard from the president of Cooperstown Cookie, who asked if she could send me samples of her product.
I was not about to refuse.
Licensed by MLB, the cookies are delicious shortbread classics cleverly decorated in the shape of baseballs, seams and all. They’re available in both regulation baseball size and bite-sized “bunts” (as seen above). Plus, their packaging can be customized with the logo of your favorite team.
For more info, check out CooperstownCookie.com. Yum.