Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Still the King

Barry Bonds' name is now atop baseball's home run list, but Hank Aaron remains the people's home run king.

His classy display on the scoreboard in San Francisco tonight proves it. While he has made it clear that he has doubts about Barry's pursuit of the record, he recorded a message of congratulations to Bonds, wishing him well and saying he would graciously move aside and let Bonds enjoy the record.

So, for now, Bonds is the HR King of baseball. Fortunately, Alex Rodriguez is a likely candidate to knock Bonds off the thrown within the next several years.

What will be interesting is to see how fans in other cities react if A-Rod remains a Yankee and breaks the record in pinstripes. He's not the most popular guy around the league, but given the choice between Bonds and Rodriguez, I think most people outside of San Francisco would rather have A-Rod atop baseball's most famous list.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bush league?

So, more than a month ago, A-Rod yells "HA!" as Howie Clark was trying to catch a pop-up. The Blue Jays all fly off the handle, calling it a "bush league" play, and vowing revenge.

A little more than two weeks later, the Jays came to Yankee Stadium for four games, and did absolutely nothing. A-Rod had hits in all four games, including a home run, and still Toronto pitchers got no vengeance.

Yesterday, Toronto starter Jesse Litsch threw his first pitch of the second inning behind A-Rod's knees, which should have been the end of it. Nobody got hurt, the message was sent, we could all move on with our lives.

Until tonight, of course, when Josh "Headed to the Minors" Towers drilled A-Rod in the legs in an obvious situation with first base open. A-Rod was understandably upset, benches cleared but nothing ultimately happened, except that Towers kept running his mouth and A-Rod wasn't too interested in listening to some guy who will be bagging groceries next week.

Benches cleared again, and for some reason Matt Stairs, who nobody has even talked about in five years, tries to get at A-Rod. Fortunately, Shelley Duncan intercepted Stairs, and cooler heads again prevailed.

I'm trying to wrap my brain around this one. How is it "bush league" for A-Rod to harmlessly yell when passing by a fielder, but perfectly acceptable to throw at a guy's knees on consecutive days?

The answer, of course, is that Blue Jays' manager John Gibbons is a horse's ass, and he's got a team full of guys just like him.

Ultimately, the Yankees had the best revenge, winning 9-2, having Roger Clemens ejected after drilling Alex Rios between the shoulder blades (now that's how you hit a guy), and generally kicking the Jays' collective ass.

Joba Chamberlain made his much-anticipated Major League debut, and while he struggled with nerves and control, showed the stuff that we all anticipated with a high-90's fastball and wicked slider.

Good night all around.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

500! And I was there!

When I say "there" I don't mean "in the stadium" I mean, "10 feet away from a 30-second free-for-all fight over the baseball."

Simply put, the most amazing thing I've ever witnessed in a ballpark, and immediately goes past Jim Abbott's no-hitter as my favorite moment at Yankee Stadium.

To be that close to such a milestone, to experience the electricity in the crowd as A-Rod stepped to the plate, the realization as the ball came off his bat that it was coming towards us, watching as the ball seemingly hung in mid-air before beginning its descent to the left field seats, then the mad scramble that took place directly in front of me.

I felt badly for the fan who got the ball, it bounced perfectly into his hands before he was swarmed by a mob of lunatics, some of whom were kicking and punching him in an attempt to get a piece of history.

I say I felt badly for him, because word filtered back out to the crowd later in the game that he was given $100,000 for the ball. Quite a day at the ballpark for that guy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hey, Michael, shut up about A-Rod trying for his 500th!

We get it. A-Rod is close to hitting his 500th home run. It's a big deal. He'll be the youngest ever to reach the mark. We're right there with you.

Now, just the hell up about it! You spent all night making a big deal out of it, then after the Yankees lost, said maybe people were making too much of a big deal of it and the team was distracted.

Guess what? If it takes 337 more days for him to hit #500, he'd still be the youngest to do it. It's going to happen, so stop trying to force it to happen but constantly bringing it up.

I realize you've got a pre-written call sitting on the broadcast table just waiting to show the world how horrible a play-by-play man you are, but hold your friggin' horses already.

In conclusion, shut up, and let the moment happen.

Where have the bats gone?

These are the Yankee run totals for the last seven days, including tonight's 4-2 loss in Baltimore:

7, 17, 21, 9, 9, 7, 1, 2.

Consistent, no? This is the kind of thing that has been the trademark of the 2007 Yankees. They'll look like world beaters for a week or two, then plummet back to Earth like a boulder.

I realize they aren't going to score 10 runs every night, but would it kill them to space it out a little? How about five?

Tonight the entire lineup looked like they were in a hurry to get out to Fells Point for a night of drinking, swinging at the first pitch repeatedly, and making routine outs all game. Hitters 1-4 in the order went a combined 2-15 at the plate, and the Yankees managed just seven hits one night after getting just six in Kansas City. This is the kind of frustrating evening that shouldn't happen more than a few times per season, yet has happened repeatedly all year.

At this point, they don't have the luxury of having an "off night." Winning the continuation of the suspended game was nice, but ultimately was balanced by losing yet again in Baltimore, their third loss in four games in "Charm City."

Naturally, the Red Sox have broken out of their slump and won easily in Tampa Bay, bringing the Yankee deficit in the AL East back up to eight games. The Indians also won, so the Yanks trail by five full games in the wild card race.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Igawa: Japanese for "hanging curve"

The combination of a typical Kei Igawa start and a total lack of clutch hitting of any kind brought the Yankees six-game winning streak to an end Thursday night, as the Royals avoided a four-game sweep with a 7-0 win.

Igawa dug his teammates a hole by allowing four runs in the second on a pair of doubles and pair of triples, part of a 10-hit Royals attack that included seven extra-base hits.

The Yankee offense dealt with Igawa's customary ineffectiveness with a collective shrug of the shoulders, as if to say, "lets not waste our time scoring, we all know Igawa can't wait to give up a few more ropes up the alley."

Yankee runners were left stranded in five of the first six innings, and left nine men on base on the night.

The loss, combined with Boston's win in Cleveland, dropped the Yankees back to 7 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, while remaining 4 1/2 back of the Indians in the wild card race.

Mussina semi-competent, A-Rod smacks #499 as Yanks win again

Melky Cabrera provided all the offense Mike Mussina and five relievers would need with a two-run second inning homer, and Alex Rodriguez provided some eighth inning insurance with career home run number 499 as the Yankees won their sixth straight, 7-1 over the Royals.

Mussina was effective enough, pitching into the sixth while allowing only a single run, then watched as the bullpen merry-go-round held the lead for Moose's fifth win of the season.

Meanwhile, A-Rod moved within one of becoming the youngest member of the 500 HR club with his opposite field, two-run blast which - for the second night in a row - turned a tight contest into a rout. Hideki Matsui followed with a solo shot, before Andy Phillips' RBI double provided the final margin.

The Red Sox 1-0 loss in Cleveland allowed the Yankees to pick up a game in the AL East, where they are now 6 1/2 back. Kei Igawa takes the ball tonight as the Yanks go for the sweep, facing Jorge De La Rosa, the man who surrendered A-Rod's 400th homer in 2005 while pitching for the Brewers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yanks roll again in Kansas City, win fifth in a row

For the second night in a row, the Yankees jumped on top in the first inning and never looked back, pounding the Royals 9-4 to take the first two of a four game series.

KC starter Scott Elarton was brutal in his return from the disabled list, which was to be expected since he pitched to an ERA near seven in his minor league rehab stint.

The Yanks scored seven off Elarton in less than two innings, which was plenty of support for starter Chien-Ming Wang, who wasn't terribly sharp - likely due to an extended wait as his teammates batted around in each of the first two innings - but picked up his 11th win of the season.

Derek Jeter was one of four Yankees who had a multi-hit game, picking up three singles and a double to move ahead of Jorge Posada for the team batting lead - .335 to .334. Posada and Bobby Abreu each had a pair of RBIs, and the Yankees scored nine more runs despite leaving 14 runners on against a Royals staff that didn't seem terribly interested in throwing the ball over the plate.

Meantime, in Cleveland, the Red Sox won for the second night in a row, moving the Yankees within 4 1/2 games of the Indians in the race for the AL Wild Card.

With the Yankees on a winning streak, the only question now is how long will it take Mike Mussina to dump a bucket of cold water all over it when he takes the ball Wednesday night. My money is on the third inning.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A-Rod reaches century mark, Yanks top Royals 9-2

Hideki Matsui's two-run first inning single got the Yankee bats off to a good start, and Alex Rodriguez provided some insurance with a ninth inning single to drive in his 100th run of the season as the Yanks won their fourth in a row, 9-2 in Kansas City.

A-Rod has now recorded at least 100 RBI for the 11th consecutive year, having reached the milestone in the Yankees 98th game of the season. Four more runs would follow in the ninth as the Yanks turned a 4-2 game into a rout.

Roger Clemens picked up his third win, allowing two runs over seven innings of work. Luis Vizcaino followed with a perfect eighth, sparing us all the torture of having to deal with Kyle Farnsworth in a two-run game, and Ron Villone closed things out as the Yanks kept pace with the Red Sox, who beat Cleveland 6-2. The Yanks picked up a game in the wild card standings as a result.

Start of a comeback, or just another tease?

After their incredible offensive outburst this weekend in taking three of four games from the horrendous Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Yankees are playing phenomenal baseball and feeling good about themselves as they head out on the road.

Predictably, the Yankees were horrendous in my presence on Friday night. If I ever get tickets to a game Mike Mussina is pitching again, I will give them away.

Moose was predictably awful after striking out the side in the first, and Edwar Ramirez made a bad thing worse by walking the entire ballpark before giving up a grand slam to former Yankee farmhand Dioner Navarro.

The good news was that the 9-0 deficit was good enough for me to get the hell out of there after the fifth, and catch an earlier train to the Jersey Shore. It was the earliest I've ever left a game; there was simply no reason for me to remain in that ballpark any longer.

Naturally, during a weekend when I watched exactly zero seconds of Yankee baseball, they scored 45 runs in winning three games in a row. So, the Yanks have won 10 of 13 and everyone is feeling very good about themselves in the clubhouse.

Sound familiar? It should.

The Yanks began the month of June by winning 13 of 16 to reach their high-water mark at three over .500 before embarking on a nine-game roadtrip to Colorado, San Francisco and Baltimore.

One win, seven losses, and one suspended game later, they returned home back under .500, blowing a chance to gain ground on the Red Sox, who were also struggling for wins at that point.

Once again, the Yankees are seemingly back on track and poised for a run at either the AL East or wild card. Four games in Kansas City will be a good indicator of whether or not they have a shot at either. The Royals are not a bad baseball team - not nearly as bad as the Devil Rays - and took two of three from the Red Sox at Fenway last week.

After those four, the Yanks make a return trip to Baltimore. They will first complete their suspended game, leading 8-6 in the top of the eighth with Derek Jeter on second with one out, then play three more games for a total of eight results on the trip.

So that's eight results they will earn on the trip, needing to record just six outs to earn one win.

If the Yankees are to make a little noise in August and September, they can do no worse than 5-3 on this trip. We've been down this road before, and seen what can happen when a team "on a roll" goes on the road.

This week, we find out if this is the start of something great, or the beginning of the end for the 2007 Yankees.