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Monthly Archives: February 2011

What To Expect From Bartolo Colon’s First Spring Training Start

Tomorrow, the Yankees kick off their Spring Training season against the Philadelphia Phillies, a contest that will feature Bartolo Colon‘s Yankee debut. Colon is, of course, a contestant in the Yankees most hotly debated (or at least it should be) game of rotation roulette, along with Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova.

I remember Colon (despite other stops along his career, including 39 IP with the Boston Red Sox) as the Angels thick slab of ace – at six feet tall and two hundred and fifty pounds plus, Colon was a site to behold, and he brought the heat to back it up, maxing out around 96 MPH, as far as I can remember. Then there was that game he gave up three home runs to A-Rod… that was something! Colon just kept feeding A-Rod four seam fastballs, and A-Rod took him deep three times. It was insane.

Now, several years and 70 pounds later (Baseball Reference lists him at 185 lb!), you have to wonder what Colon’s pitching arsenal looks like these days. I read a report I didn’t think was especially reliable that Colon was hitting 94 MPH with his fastball in winter ball, but maybe it’s true – there must be some reason the Yankees signed him. (Besides a lack of viable alternatives!) If Colon is as thin as everyone says (I still haven’t seen him), I’m a little worried about a loss of velocity – I always assumed he generated a lot of his velocity from his tree trunk thighs – couple the loss of those girders that supported him back then with an increase in age, and I have to wonder exactly what he has left.

If you take a look at Colon’s pitch type data on Fangraphs, you’ll see that Colon has always thrown a high percentage of fastballs, followed by sliders (a pitch he obviously didn’t trust in 2009 as much as he did in previous years – see the percentages). Now, I think it’s fair to say that most starting pitchers prefer to get ahead with their fastball and then get the hitter out with a breaking or off speed pitch – you run across the occasional guy who works backwards, but that’s pretty much the norm – hence, a starting pitcher’s highest percentage pitch thrown should be his fastball. What worries me about Colon is, what if his fastball isn’t what it used to be? That’s what we need to find out, and I don’t expect that question will necessarily be answered tomorrow, but given that Colon threw in winter ball, he should be in decent shape. Ideally, Colon has a fastball, slider and change up to work with; maybe we won’t see much more than fastballs tomorrow, but velocity is what I’ll have my eye on.

Given that this is Colon’s first spring training start, I would expect him to throw 2 IP or maybe around 30 pitches, which ever comes first. If he’s in the low nineties, I won’t get too excited, but it’ll be a good sign. Who knows, maybe the Yankees can catch lighting in a bottle with Colon. Given the need for starting pitching on the Yankees 2011 club, they sure could use it!

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Yankees First Spring Training Game is Saturday Feb 26

I drowsily drifted through yesterday’s NY Times article on Derek Jeter’s reaction (or lack there of) to Hank Steinbrenner’s comments about… I don’t know… Jeter’s new house?

The day after Steinbrenner, a Yankees co-chairman, seemed to take an indirect shot at Jeter, the team’s captain, by saying that some players were “too busy building mansions” and “not concentrating on winning” after their 2010 bid for a title repeat expired in the American League Championship Series, Jeter playfully deconstructed those remarks. He noted that Steinbrenner used the plural form of mansion and did not once explicitly mention him.

Anyway, Jeter didn’t seem to care about Hank’s comments, and I certainly don’t, so lets move on to the rest of the article… Oh wait, that’s pretty much all there is. Except at the very bottom, there’s this delicious nugget of info:

INSIDE PITCH

The chase for a rotation spot gets under way Saturday, when Bartolo Colon is scheduled to start the Grapefruit League opener against Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels. Joe Girardi said Ivan Nova, C. C. Sabathia, A. J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia would start the subsequent five games.

I don’t have any idea why the entire article wasn’t about this. Somebody explain it to me! This is easily the biggest storyline surrounding the Yankees this spring, and all it gets is two lousy sentences. Couldn’t somebody ask him any follow up questions about this? Like, uhm, I don’t know, maybe, “So does this mean that Bartolo Colon, Freddy Carcia and Ivan Nova are the only candidates for the four and five spots in the starting rotation in Yankee camp?” How about, “Is Sergio Mitre going to make a start this spring?” I’d like to know, wouldn’t you? I’m sure Ben Shpigel is a nice guy and all, but jeez – he really dropped the ball on that one. Who cares about the Steinbrenner comments and Jeter’s reaction? I want to know who’s contending for the starting rotation! And I didn’t find this article by digging through the bowels of the Times’ sports section – this link was on their HOMEPAGE! I spend a great deal of time running through the streets, heralding the exceptional work that the folks at the NY Times do, but this just abysmal. I want real news, not gossip! I could have read this same article anywhere – I’m sure it was the back page story on the NY Post and the NY Daily News, and I’m sure it’s on Yahoo! Sports home page right now.

I’m starting to get excited – we get to see at least a taste of what Bartolo Colon has on the YES network this Saturday at 1:05. I am pumped – pumped! If I’m counting right (and I’m probably not) we’ll get to see Freddy Garcia on Thursday, March 3rd, also at 1:05, and the battle of the non-roster invites will officially be under way! Between Garcia, Colon and Nova (assuming Mitre is already out of the running?), can at least one of these guys give us 200 innings and an ERA around 4.75? (6 IP per start and 3ER would be a 4.50 ERA, so I’m not exactly asking for greatness.) It’s a tall order, but if one of them did, he’d win 10 games easily.

It’s finally happening on Saturday! Let the games BEGIN!

Mariano Rivera Is A Role Model For All

I have spent a fair amount of time arguing that athletes (or any other entertainers) should NEVER be held up as a role model, EVER. These are human beings, trained professionals, but essentially, entertainers who do not (at least I think they don’t) go to bed every night and wake up every morning thinking about how they effect your life (OK, maybe Bono does), and they shouldn’t. Again, they’re entertainers.

Then you run across somebody like Mariano Rivera and you watch him and they way he’s done things his entire career and you can’t help but remark, “Wow. There goes a great man.” It’s not just that he’s been consistently excellent for his entire career, it’s that he never does anything crazy, and even more so, he always does and says the right thing. For example, Rivera was late to Spring Training this year because his family had the flu – it sounds like he never caught it – but Mo stayed home a few extra days to take care of business. Obviously, Rivera is fabulously wealthy can could of hired (not to say he didn’t, I have no idea) a full time doctor, nurse, nanny, butler, maid, etc to take care of his family, but he was there, making sure everything was cool, because that’s what a good dad or husband does. And the Yankees, of course, weren’t worried he wasn’t there. He’s Mo, not Carl Pavano. As he’s gotten older, he’s pitched less in spring training (I’m pretty sure he stopped throwing during the winter all together a few years ago) and of late, makes less than 10 appearances all spring and does not go on road trips. He’s Mariano Rivera – he’s certainly earned it. Not that it goes to his head. Check it:

“I know what it takes. I know what I have to accomplish. You earn that respect when you give everything you have, and that’s what I have done. It’s not right to talk about myself, but that’s what I have done all my career. If I needed time to do something, it’s not because I wanted to do it. It’s because I needed to do it. And now I’m here, and ready to work.”

He just states facts: he’s old enough to know his body, he’s earned the right to run his spring training anyway he wants, but he’s already shouting himself down for that tiny bit of self praise, and he makes it clear that he doesn’t want to be away from the team when it’s his job to be there, but sometimes, things that are more important than work crop up – we all know how that goes. Is that not the most perfect statement you’ve ever read from an athlete? But it’s Mo – he only does perfect.

Mariano Rivera at old yankee stadium ys2

So if your kids have to emulate a famous person (and I strongly encourage all parents to be such a factor and presence in their child’s life that they can’t help but look to you and only you for inspiration) as their role model, steer them toward Mariano Rivera. Not only does the man possess God like powers, he’s also a good man. And, as somebody once noted, a good man is hard to find.

(End proclamation of man crush on Mariano Rivera… for now.)

Is CC Sabathia Opting Out After The 2011 Season?

Our own Yankees ace CC Sabathia came to us in the fabled 08-09 off season and immediately helped propel the Yankees to a World Series Championship. Sure, he had been handsomely rewarded with a big contract, but his worth to the team is immeasurable as a true ace in every sense of the term: innings eater, high strike out totals, low ERA. CC Sabathia is a great pitcher.

Sabathia spent most of 2010 answering questions about the opt out clause in his contract, which can be exercised after this coming season. His answer had been a resounding no, he had no intention of opting out of his current contract with the Yankees. Then he was asked again and again. And again. Finally in 2011 Spring Training, he was asked again, and he said something that sounded like he’s keeping his options open.

You can look at this in a few different ways. I’ve heard some people say something to the effect that CC Sabathia lost a bunch of weight this off season because he intends to opt out and his latest statement confirms that. I thought he said he lost the weight (and he did lose some weight, but its not like he went on the biggest loser or anything… did he drop from 300 to 270 or something? That’s a step in the right direction, but he’s not exactly Mariano Rivera) because he had a minor knee surgery in the off season and he wanted to take some pressure of the joints by losing some weight. That makes sense to me.

I don’t really know what to think about all this, and I think it’s only getting so much play on talk radio because there is nothing else to talk about right now. Maybe Sabathia modified his answer to something about keeping his options open because he’s already said that he’s not opting out so many times and that didn’t stop the question, so now he’s trying another answer – maybe he’s having fun with this. I have no idea. Maybe CC is sympathetic to the baseball press and wanted to give them a story… I think this theory is as plausible as any other I’ve heard.

Let’s say Sabathia asks the Yankees for an extension on his contract to as far into his thirties (forties) as the deal there were going to give Cliff Lee. Should the Yankees do it? Yes, they probably should. If they were willing to give Lee that kind of money (who has a history of back problems and doesn’t have CC’s lifetime track record), why not Sabathia? On the other hand, the Yankees could easily say they want to allocate that money elsewhere and let CC opt out and leave the team. After all, the Yankees have made a serious commitment to their farm system, and one could argue they have nine serious rotation candidates at levels AA and higher, and the probably only need two or three to make it to the big leagues as starters, so maybe they feel that Sabathia, at an exuberant price and length of contract is prohibitive, and he suddenly becomes a luxury, not a necessity. Maybe the A-Rod opt out left a bad taste in the Yankees collective mouth… it’s impossible to know.

As for me, I love Sabathia and hope he doesn’t opt out and saves everybody the headache. But fortunately, we don’t have to deal with this until next fall.

Come On In, Mets Fans – The Pinstripes Are Fine!

Given that the Mets are in all this financial trouble and have a crappy team due to years of mismanagement, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite all of their fans to come over to my side and become Yankees fans.

I don’t get how Mets fans can stand it – this is worse than being a Knicks fan, I think.  Sure, the Knicks have been mismanaged for a decade and are finally climbing out of obscurity, but the Mets are ridiculous.  It’s clear that the team is going to stink next year and I’m thinking it’s going to be a long time before they right the ship.  Their MLB roster is in shambles and their farm system sucks – couple that with the fact that they don’t have any money, I don’t see how they can compete next year or any time soon.

How did this happen?

Omar Minaya makes Brian Cashman look like Nostradamus.  The teams he built were full of aging and broken players – sure, they didn’t trade any great stars (although that remains to be seen) for Johann Santana, but he cost them a fortune in cash and he’s always hurt, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as his velocity had been in steadily declines in the seasons leading up to his trade to the Mets.  Minaya never broke up the team and traded Jose Reyes when he had the chance – he probably could have gotten at least one good pitching prospect from the Red Sox for him, but that ship has long since sailed.  I’m not going to weigh in on and point out every crappy move Minaya made, but let’s just say he sucked at his job and the Wilpons were at least two years too late in firing him… and who the hell knows why they gave him that last extension, that was totally strange.

Which brings us to the primary issue with the Mets – the Wilpons are maniacs.  As if you needed more proof, the Mets are being sued for a billion dollars.  That’s billion. With a B.

Let me see if I can figure this out:  the Mets are owned by the Wilpon family, and they are tight with the Madoffs.  As I understand it, the Mets took some of their own money as well as some other people’s money and invested it with Madoff, and of course, we all know how that went down.  Here’s what the NY Times has to say:

[Irving H. Picard] has charged in a lawsuit that the owners of the Mets, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, willfully ignored a “litany” of warnings that Madoff might have been engaged in a fraud, and continued to invest the profits from those accounts, with Madoff coming to fuel almost all aspects of the two men’s financial empire.

Picard is seeking $1 billion.

Crazy.  “Willful ignorance” is almost like saying the Wilpon and Katz were in cahoots with Madoff without actually saying it…  although what Picard is not saying in the lawsuit, he’s saying publicly – mostly to the tune that the Mets owners should have known that something was rotten with Madoff.

And the Mets have been lying about it ever since – when the shiz went down, the Mets said they didn’t lose much money and it wouldn’t effect the Mets.  They are now claiming they lost $500 million and are looking for a buyer for 20% of the Mets and a piece of their tv station, SNY, which shows the Mets games.

So besides mismanagement under GM Omar Minya throughout his entire tenure, now they dont have any money, and aren’t likely to make any crazy profits next year because their team sucks and have no available capital to spend on it to make it any better.

To all Mets fans:  get out now.  You’ll never be more justified.  The team stinks and the ownership is being sued for a billion dollars after they told you everything was OK.  Jump ship, put on some pinstripes – we’ve got plenty of room over here!

I’ve got a Jeter t-shirt here waiting for you.

2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

The last email I got late last night was my invitation back to the Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball League I joined last year. I’ve been waiting for this moment for some time (well, the draft, actually – not getting the email) because this year, I have a drafting strategy.

That’s right, a drafting strategy. In 2010, my first fantasy baseball season, I had no drafting stategy, and this year, I’ve replaced it with a drafting strategy. That’s a pretty sweet upgrade, right? So, a full fantasy baseball season wiser than I was last year, here are my ideas on drafting for 2011.

The first thing you have to consider is how your league does scoring. For my league, the day to day starters are more important than the pitching staff (sure, the pitchers get you points, too, but I felt they were mostly just gravy – CC Sabathia would bring the points, but he’s a great pitchers on a great team, it’d be insane if he didn’t), and so after a year of trying (and kinda failing) of ringing some offense out of two key positions, I’m going to give them my first two picks this year: short stop and catcher.

Who’d I have at short stop last year? I can’t remember. The point is, if he’s available (and he should be because I should have a high pick after getting my ass handed to me for the entire second half), I’m drafting Troy Tulowitzki. I know he got hurt last year and played in less than 130 games – I don’t care. Tulowitzki is the man; he may not be the second coming of A-Rod, but he’s still pretty awesome. Now maybe it goes without saying that you should make one of the best young players in the game your first pick, but I just want to impress how difficult it is to get production out of a short stop – it’s really hard. Sure, you could pick Derek Jeter – he’s got something to prove next season, that’s for sure, but there’s no guarantee a guy his age doesn’t break – the same could be said for Jose Reyes. Bottom line: get yourself a good offensive shortstop.

Who’d I have at catcher last year? Jorge Posada, who was always hurt last year. The guy just didn’t make any plate appearances. He might be a good choice to carry this year because he’ll qualify as a catcher but probably won’t actually catch, but odds are, he isn’t going to DH every single game because he physically can’t and because other guys need time at DH. For me, I would go get Victor Martinez – the guy can flat out hit. Of course, you can’t necessarily go wrong with Joe Mauer,, who is obviously an amazing hitter and probably one of the better hitters in the game extent. But this is fantasy baseball; you’re not starting an actual team that has to play real games, so either guy will do.

If I was starting an actual team, it’s be all about the starting pitching, and depending on your league, starting pitching might be important for you, too. If getting the win earns a lot of points, you have to put CC Sabathia right at the top of your draft list, because you know he’s going to win a lot of games; between the Yankees offense and his own skills, you know he’s a good bet. Besides, he’s always healthy and even when he’s not, he still pitches, and on his bad days, he’s never really that bad. Who knows, maybe the weight loss will open a whole new door for him (which is hard to believe because he’s already so great), but you have to believe Sabathia will win 18 games next year. That’s a ton of points!

Saves are also worth a ton of points in my league, so drafting closers is the only way to go when it comes to picking relief pitchers – everybody else is just a waste of a roster spot. Even if they aren’t a top closer in the league, just grab ‘em.

Pick your outfielders last, and remember, their defense probably doesn’t matter, unless your league grades errors harshly. If offense is king your league, grab anybody with a bat. Don’t waste an early pick on an outfielder. Grab a high producer at second base – of course, Robbie Cano is a great pick, but you figure he will go early in the draft. You can always grab that D-bag that Boston runs out there…

While I don’t pretend to be a fantasy baseball expert, I would say that the brief strategies I’ve outlined above are better than no strategy at all. Ultimately, I still expect to get my butt kicked this season, but hopefully, I’m come out the other side wiser.

Alfredo Aceves Signs With Red Sox, Yankees Move To A New Team Store

To pour salt on a tepid off season, the Red Sox have signed one of my favorites, Alfredo Aceves. I won’t say that I’m not disappointed, but on the other hand, you have to figure that the Yankees have the inside dirt on last year’s injury(ies) and they didn’t offer him a deal, so tells me all I need to know on what the Yankees think about his odds of being effective in 2011. It’s too bad; I have a lot of found memories of Aceves: his starts at the end of 2008; his three inning save in 2009; putting out countless fires time and time again… oh well. Good luck, Ace!

And in the world of commerce, the Yankee team store is moving from 42nd St. between 7th and 8th Aves to the Paramount Building on Broadway. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Yankees signed a 15 year lease on 2000 square feet. I’m guessing they’re going to close that 42nd Street store, which was, frankly, a shoebox – its a pain in the butt to walk through there, and I won’t miss it.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for ya today… wake me when pitchers and catchers report and somebody gets a radar gun on Bartolo Colon and Joba Chamberlian.

Carlos Delgado Protests The Iraq War In 2004

Remember way back in 2004, when Carlos Delgado was protesting the United States invasion of Iraq?

Here’s a quick refresher:

Fervently anti-war, Carlos Delgado quietly carried out his personal protest this season, refusing to stand when God Bless America was played at ballparks across the majors.

Most fans never saw him disappearing up the dugout tunnel or staying in the dugout. And even teammates who disagreed with the Toronto slugger’s political stance accepted his right to call the United States’ invasion of Iraq “the stupidest war ever.”

I went to a Yankees vs. Blue Jays game back at the old stadium that year, and people who fell on both sides of the debate were in attendance:

 

Carlos Delgado For President
Some folks agreed with him: Carlos Delgado For President

 

carlos delgado is an american disgrace
Other folks did not agree with him: Carlos Delgado Is An American Disgrace

 

Yep, that’s how we used to do it at the old Stadium (YS2) – we’d break out the signs to express our stances on visiting player’s political views.  Hells yeah, we would!  As for me, I agreed with Delgado – invading Iraq was dumb, but this isn’t really the spot where I drop that kind of truth bomb (word up), so I’ll say this:  playing God Bless America during every single game is dumb.  First off, it’s not an especially good song, particularly when you compare it to The Star Spangled Banner, which is an excellent song, and is, after all, our national anthem.  Not only does the playing of God Bless America bring the game to a grinding halt, but we heard the Star Spangled Banner before the game started – how many pro America songs do we need to hear during one baseball game?  It’s a sporting event – its not a concert, and its certainly not some kind of weird pro America pep rally.

It’s just a ball game – don’t try to make it something it’s not.  Just play ball!

2009 World Series Champions Pictures at Yankee Stadium

If you can say anything about the New Yankee Stadium (YS3), it’s that there is no shortage of pictures of Yankee history all over the building.  With the exception of the rest rooms, the stuff is everywhere, and it’s great.  As soon as they put up the 2009 World Series Champions Pictures, it got my attention right away.  I took two pictures of it – here’s the first one:

2009 World Series Champions Pictures at Yankee Stadium

OK, looking good… uhm, wait a second, what’s that on the far right?  Is that…

Yep.  It is:

2009 World Series Champions Pictures at Yankee Stadium

So this is what sums up the Yankees 2009 World Series title:  Jeter looking triumphant, the guys celebrating, and ARod covered in white goo.

Seriously?  This is what we’re going with?  If it had to be a picture of Alex Rodriguez, couldn’t we have used a shot of him hitting one of those big home runs he hit?  Or any other picture of him that was taken, EVER, in his entire life?  Just a minor complaint, and I know the pie thing was a big deal in 2009, but I don’t think it summed up the year and out of context… it’s not easy to explain.  Oh well.  Maybe they’ll replace it someday.

Andy Pettitte Retires – The End Of An Era

andy pettitte

"Look into my eyes and dispare, for you are about to get K'd, bitch."

Everyone and their mother is writing that Andy Pettitte will announce his retirement yesterday, and I just got the official email from Yankees.com, so that’s that.

Andy Pettitte’s retirement marks the end of an era (much the way his contract with the Houston Astros did, but I digress) filled with poise, class and victories. I’m sure he’ll make his reasons clear tomorrow, but I suspect last year’s injury played a serious roll in Pettitte’s decision making process.

Pettitte was an extraordinary pitcher and gentleman, and for the record, I could care less about him taking HGH to recover faster from an injury (I think that should be allowed, assuming it’s safe, but now isn’t the time for that rant), but I doubt he ever gets voted into the hall of fame. I’m not going to go crazy about the irrelevancy of the hall, but we all know that a bunch of old men who think that only 300 victories qualifies a starting pitcher for the hall of fame, and Pettitte is over 50 victories shy of that mark. But whatever – Yankees fans will eventually get their Andy Pettitte Day (cough, Bernie Williams Day, cough!), and that’s all that matters.

Here’s to you, Andy – you rock!

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