"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: 2010 alds

The Rangers’ Last Stand

Why the Yankees will Beat the Rangers

Before the ALDS, I predicted the Twins would beat the Yankees. I was very wrong. I put too much stock in the minor advantages the Twins possessed and glossed over the obvious talent gap in the starting lineup. I also doubted Andy Pettitte’s health and thusly gave the Twins’ rotation an edge that was completely hypothetical and as it turned out, nonexistent. And then there was that song which seemed to signify a higher purpose for the Twins than ALDS fodder for the Yanks. Thankfully, the Twinkies and the song about not calling them Twinkies can now be enjoyed as vanishing points in the rear-view mirror.

I won’t make the same mistake with the Rangers. The Yankees feature the better, deeper lineup, sport a starting-pitching advantage (it’s a push at the very least) in every game not featuring Cliff Lee, and Mariano already filled his decade’s quota for losses to the Rangers. These Yankees are healthy, they are rested and they are still awaiting Alex Rodriguez to make his mark on this postseason. The Yankees will win in five games and Alex will be the MVP (which I thought he earned last year). Cliff Lee will win his game, but he’ll be left watching the Yankees in the World Series as he contemplates his next contract.

Tempting reasons to pick the Rangers abound. They hit the snot out of the ball in Arlington, where they’ll host as many as four games. But almost all of those numbers include Josh Hamilton’s obscene comfort in his home ballpark. The last time I saw him he was tugging at the flak jacket protecting his rib cage as he walked back to the dugout after his sixth and final strikeout of the ALDS. If Hamilton recovers form during the course of the ALCS, the Yankees task becomes decidedly more difficult and I reserve the right to cower.

The Rangers send up have a righty-heavy lineup that dealt with David Price in the first round and figures to give CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte fits. In small samples, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Vladimir Guerrero feasted on lefties this year, sporting a cumulative slash of .338/.402/.525. I would ignore their teamwide struggles versus southpaws for much of the regular season as many of the players dragging those numbers down will not be on the roster. 

Containing them is key to the Yankee victory and when Texas does win a game, I think it will be when this group does some damage in Yankee Stadium off Andy Pettitte and Cliff Lee makes it stand up. Luckily, the other lefty starting for the Yankees is CC Sabathia and he is almost identically excellent against righties and lefties for his career and even better against righties this year. I don’t think Sabathia can keep this bunch off the scoreboard entirely, but I’m betting he neutralizes them sufficiently for the Yankee offense to win the games he pitches.

And that offense is mainly why I am picking the Yankees. In the ALDS, Curtis Granderson, the DH platoon of Thames and Berkman and Nick Swisher were good enough to sweep the Twins. When the team is struggling, they still manage runs. When the team is clicking, the runs come in bunches. In the final game versus the Twins, it looked to me like the Yankees were ready to get clicking. Cliff Lee is good enough to beat any offense at any time, but I don’t think the rest of the Rangers’ pitchers measure up to the depth and quality of the Yankee hitters.

Up Against It

The Rays need to win today or else their season is over. I figure Matt Garza will give them a good start and they’ll live to see another day.

[Picture by J. Parthum]

Observations From Cooperstown: Big Puma, Grandy, and the Roster

The first five innings of Game One and the first three innings of Game Two provided too many flashbacks to the putrid way the Yankees played over the final two months of the season. They looked listless, uninterested, and generally helpless against the opponent’s starting pitcher. Thankfully, the Yankees made the most of the later innings in both games, giving us ten good frames that accounted for two wins in two nights at Target Field. With two memorable playoff games in the books, it’s time for some random postseason thoughts…

It took a little over two months, but Lance Berkman finally made a major impact as a Yankee. I was exceedingly impressed by his gargantuan home run in Game Two, which easily cascaded over the left-center field wall at cavernous Target Field. Frankly, I haven’t seen that kind of opposite field power from a left-handed Yankee batter since the halcyon days of Reggie Jackson in 1981. As if that left-field blast wasn’t sufficient, Berkman then burned Denard Span with a deep drive to center field, resulting in a run-scoring double that broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning. Berkman’s bat effectively carried the Yankee offense, which managed to score five runs against a hittable Carl Pavano and a parade of Twins relievers.

In some ways, Berkman is a lame duck DH for the Yankees. As a free agent, there is almost no chance that he will return to New York in 2011. The Yankees would like to make room for the younger and less expensive Jesus Montero, who can split DH and catching duties with Jorge Posada. Furthermore, ever since Berkman joined the Yankees, rumors have swirled that he would like to go back to the Astros. Houston’s impressive finish to the regular season has likely only reinforced Berkman’s thinking. If the Astros can find someone to take on Carlos Lee’s contract, they can create an opening at first base for Berkman to make his return.

Whether or not he is merely making a cameo in New York, I hope Berkman has a big postseason. If he helps the Yankees return to the World Series, the trade that sent Mark Melancon to Houston will be more than justified. Berkman has been a tremendously productive power hitter for most of his career, perhaps not a Hall of Famer but the kind of player who ranks only a rung below Cooperstown. He has slugged over .600 two times, drawn more than 100 walks three times, and driven in more than 120 runs four times. Yet, he hasn’t received full credit, mostly because he has been stuck on a number of also-ran Astros teams, with the exception of Houston’s 2002 and 2005 clubs. If it takes a little postseason glory with the Yankees for a standout hitter like “Big Puma” to receive his due, then so be it…

I’m just going to come out and say it: I love the way that Curtis Granderson plays! Even before his late-season tinkering sessions with Kevin Long, Granderson has always impressed me. He runs hard from the moment he hits the ball, a trait that helped him reach third base with that game-changing triple in Game One. He is a smart base runner, in an era when base running has become a lost art, even amongst star players. He also plays a fundamentally sound center field, whether it’s squaring up on catches so as to put himself into good throwing position, or showing a willingness and ability to hit the cutoff man.

Off the field, Granderson is one of the most thoughtful and well-spoken of all the Yankees. He is unfailingly polite, even when faced with difficult questions during his early season struggles. If there was one player on the Yankees who could serve as a model of proper behavior, Granderson might just be the best choice.


It’s the Twins

In my head the baseball season is divided into three distinct parts.  The first, of course, begins on Opening Day, a red-letter day on my calendar.  (Incidentally, I can’t be bothered with spring training.  I know that sounds like blasphemy, but with teams wearing t-shirts instead of uniforms, players with wide-receiver numbers, and pitchers jogging around the warning track while a game is being played, it just doesn’t feel like baseball to me.  Sue me.)  Those first few weeks of the regular season are like gold, but not for the reasons you think.  I’m a Yankee fan, you know, so it’s been sixteen years since I needed the false hope that Kansas City fans cling to in April.  For me, those games are a reunion with old friends.  “Look, there’s Nick Swisher!  And hey, Robinson’s swing looks just as quick as it was last year.  Wait a minute, can Derek Jeter possibly have — gulp! — grey hair?”  Even Michael Kay’s voice, absent from my living room for six months, is welcomed back with a smile.

The second part of the season begins on a different date each year.  The day after the Yankees clinch their playoff spot, I take a break.  I have little need for what usually amounts to five or six games of makeshift lineups and anticlimactic results, and the freedom from the nightly pull of the game feels like a vacation.  Auditions for the 25th spot on the playoff roster remind me too much of spring training, and after living and dying through 158 games, I just don’t have the energy left to care about who Royce Ring is and whether or not he might make the postseason roster.  If I see him standing on the chalk on the first Wednesday of October, I’ll pay attention.  (I must admit, though, that I loved Joe Torre’s old tradition of allowing one of the elder Yankees to manage the final game.  Who can forget watching Clemens come to the mound to pull David Wells, or, as Emma reminded us, Bernie Williams sending himself to the plate for a pinch hit double.  Good times…)

The third part begins today, and it’s the only part that really matters.  You sweat and bleed with the team for 162 games spread over six months, and suddenly five games in seven days will determine the value of the season.  The Yankees will match up against the Twins in the first round of the playoffs, and I can’t even pretend to be concerned.  Sure, once I sit down in front of the TV there will be butterflies, and I’ll get nervous if Minnesota manages to jump out to an early lead, but right now I keep coming back to one thing — it’s the Twins.

We’re not supposed to say things like that.  Somehow the characters I string together here are suspected by the superstitious to have some affect on CC Sabathia’s fastball or Alex Rodríguez’s psyche.  If I predict victory, or worse yet, if I assume victory, I’m somehow casting some terrible jinx over the team.  Rubbish.  Jinxes are for little girls who say the same word at the same time and count to ten to silence their best friend.  There are no jinxes in baseball.

So here’s how things will go.  CC Sabathia is CC Sabathia, so let’s just write down Game 1 as a Yankee win and move on.  In Game 2 the Twins have the audacity to pitch Carl Pavano.  I can’t find a link to support this, but I’ve also heard that they’ve brought in Jeff Weaver to relieve in that game.  This is the Twins’ only hope.  Pavano throws eight solid innings, Weaver comes in for the save, and the entire island of Manhattan bursts into flames, taking the Bronx down with it.  But since I can’t see that fairy tale coming true, I’ll put my money on the Yanks in that game also.

When the series shifts to New York for Game 3, Phil Hughes will finally get a chance to erase any bad memories he might have of last October when he takes the mound in the potential clincher.  Like a lot of folks, I think it might’ve made more sense for Hughes to pitch in Minnesota, but Joe Girardi surely made that decision because he preferred Andy Pettitte over Hughes in a possible Game 5.  What Girardi doesn’t know, though, is that there will be no Game 5.  Hughes will cruise in Game 3.

Yankees win, the Yankees win.  Cue Sinatra.

Massive Attack

The Yankees roster is set.

AJ Burnett isn’t all bad, after all. Dig this from Chad Jennings:

“It would be silly for Hughesy not to start,” said Burnett.

…“Joe’s the best manager I ever played for…He’s done more for me this year probably than any manager has ever done. He cares about me as a person and as a player. I’ll be down in that pen and be ready to get one out or two outs or whatever I’ve got to do for him.”

Cliff breaks down the line ups for the ALDS like only he can.

Jay roasts it up at BP.

And Steve Goldman’s always droppin’ science:

Andy Pettitte starts Game 2: This isn’t necessarily a bad decision, because if healthy, Pettitte is a terrific, experienced pitcher who any team would like to have on the mound in a tight spot. That said, foregoing the opportunity to let Phil Hughes pitch before Target Field’s wall of wind (“The Air Monster?”) seems like an error.

…Greg Golson makes the postseason roster: This is not a bad call as Golson can play defense, pinch-run, and swing at a southpaw in an emergency. Hopefully, Joe Girardi can remember not to make moves with Golson that he wouldn’t have made during the regular season. Otherwise, Golson will pinch-run for Nick Swisher in the fourth inning of some game and then end up getting three at-bats.

[Picture by Chris Giarrusso]

Don’t Fence Me In

According to reports, Andy Pettitte will pitch Game 2 and Phil Hughes will start Game 3.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver