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How Things End

November 7, 2009 Leave a comment

When my wife and I got married, we’d only known each other for two and a half months. There were many skeptics. When I told my father the news, he said something that has stayed with me to this day: “these things,” he said “are not measured by how they begin, they are measure by how they end”. I think this is an appropriate criteria for the 2009 New York Yankees. To say that we had an inauspicious beginning is an understatement, I’m not much for hyperbole but consider the following:

  • Before the first pitch of spring training The Yankees had to deal with Alex Rodriguez’ steroid circus, the accusation, the mea culpa press conference, and concerns over A-Rod’s mental fortitude to deal with it all.
  • Then it seems that the universe was piling it on to A-Rod, books by Selena Roberts and Joe Torre painted an even dimer view of Rodriguez in and out of the locker room. He pulls out of the World Baseball Classic with a hip injury, has surgery, and misses the first few weeks of the year.
  • CC Sabathia labored during his first few outings
  • Teixeira had his infamous slow start in April
  • Going 0-for-8 against the Red Sox to start the season, were criticism of Girardi’s over-managing gained momentum
  • Chien-Ming Wang goes 1-for-6 with a 9.64 ERA, hurts his shoulder, then his foot

The Yankees were 8 back of the Red Sox before getting it together in June and turning their season around in a hurry to get to their 27th Championship. Everything came together for this team, the pitching solidified, the offense became more consistent, the defense was sharp, all things that can be attributed to talent and execution. But then we began to notice other aspects of their game develop, the kinds of things that make a team special or at least poised for something great.

Things that we notice which excite us a fans and makes us wonder aloud: this could be the year. Two-out rallies, numerous comeback wins, consistent contributions from the bottom of the lineup, scoring almost 1/2 of their runs after the 6th inning, poise at the plate, working the count, no desperation when loosing by a few runs, bullpen contributions. These characteristics are the result of more than talent and execution, they are the tangible result of team character and chemistry.

Even after winning 103 games, the most in the league, there were questions about the way that Girardi was setting up the pitching rotation, the Joba experiment, would A-Rod finally come through in the postseason, can Sabathia improve his postseason record specially when asked to pitch with 3 days rest, how can the Yankees loose Posada’s bat in order to accommodate AJ Burnett with Molina behind the plate, which Burnett would show up…but this team embraced a blue collar approach and was determined to work through any obstacles to be victorious at the end.

The Yankees did not hesitate in their approach to the job at hand, they did not shy away from challenges, they didn’t get too high or too low, and they did not allow for doubt to permeate their thoughts. They were clear in their purpose and continued to do what was necessary to become World Champions. No one in sports is under more pressure to finish the job than the New York Yankees, to whom much is given much is expected, and finish the job they did. This is how things end, not with a whimper, but with the bang of fireworks and the loud proclamation that the 2009 New York Yankees are World Champions.

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GAME RECAP: WORLD SERIES GAME 5

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

AJ Burnett gets rocked early, Yankees unable to complete the comeback late

FINAL SCORE: YANKEES 6 PHILLIES 8 (F9th)

SCORING PLAYS

  • Top of the 1st: Johnny Damon singles to center field. Alex Rodriguez doubles to right field, Damon scores (NYY 1, PHI 0)
  • Bottom of the 1st: Jimmy Rollins singles to center field. Shane Victorino hit by pitch. Chase Utley homers to right field. Rollins, Victorino, & Utley scores (NYY 1, PHI 3)
  • Bottom of the 3rd: Chase Utley walks. Ryan Howard walks. Jayson Werth singles to center field. Utley scores, Howard to 2nd base (NYY 1, PHI 4)
  • Bottom of the 3rd: Raul Ibanez singles to right field. Howard scores, Werth to 3rd (NYY 1, PHI 5)
  • Bottom of the 3rd: Carlos Ruiz grounds into a force out, Werth scores (NYY 1, PHI 6)
  • Top of the 5th: Eric Hinske draws a 1-out walk. Derek Jeter singles to right field, Hinske to 3rd. Johnny Damon gounds out softly to first base, Hinske scores (NYY 2, PHI 6)
  • Bottom of the 7th: Chase Utley homers to right field (NYY 2, PHI 7)
  • Bottom of the 7th: Raul Ibanez homers to right field (NYY 2, PHI 8)
  • Top of the 8th: Johnny Damon gets an infield hit. Mark Teixeira doubles to left field, Damon to 3rd. Alex Rodriguez doubles to left field, Damon & Teixeira scores (NYY 4, PHI 8)
  • Top of the 8th: Nick Swisher moves the runner (ARod) to 3rd on a ground out to 1st. Robinson Cano out on a sacrifice out, Rodriguez scores (NYY 5, PHI 8)
  • Top of the 9th: Jorge Posada doubles. Hideki Matsui singles to left field, Posada to 3rd. Derek Jeter hits into a double play, Posada scores (NYY 6, PHI 8)

STARTING PITCHING (from Yahoo Sports)

  • AJ Burnett: 2 innings, 4 hits allowed, 6 earned runs, 4 BB, 1 HR, 2 SO, 7.00 ERA
  • Cliff Lee: 7 innings, 7 hits allowed, 5 earned runs, 3 BB, 3 SO, 2.81 ERA

KEY PERFORMERS: Chase Utley 2-for 3 with 2 HRs and 4 RBI

OBSERVATIONS: 10 down, 1 to go.

GAME RECAP: WORLD SERIES GAME 4

November 2, 2009 2 comments

Johnny Damon steals Philadelphia’s momentum and ARod delivers in the 9th

FINAL SCORE: YANKEES 7 PHILLIES 4 (F9th)

SCORING PLAYS

  • Top of the 1st: Derek Jeter singles, Johnny Damon doubles to right field, Jeter to 3rd. Mark Teixeira grounds out to first base. Jeter scores, Damon to 3rd (NYY 1, PHI 0)
  • Top of the 1st: Jorge Posada sacrifice to left field, Johnny Damon scores (NYY 2, PHI 0)
  • Bottom of the 1st: Shane Victorino doubles to enter field. Chase Utley doubles to right field, Victorino scores (NYY 2, PHI 1)
  • Bottom of the 4th: Ryan Howard singles to center field. Howard steals 2nd base. Pedro Feliz singles to left field, Howard scores (NYY 2, PHI 2)
  • Top of the 5th: Nick Swisher walks on 4 balls. Melky Cabrera singles on a ground ball to 2nd base. Derek Jeter singles, Swisher scores and Cabrera to 2nd (NYY 3, PHI 2)
  • Top of the 5th: Johnny Damon singles to right field, Cabrera scores (NYY 4, PHI 2)
  • Bottom of the 7th: Chase Utley homers to right field of Sabathia (NYY 4, PHI 3)
  • Bottom of the 8th: Pedro Feliz homers to left field of Chamberlain (NYY 4, PHI 4)
  • Top of the 9th: Johnny Damon works a 2 out single. Damon steals 2nd and 3rd base. Mark Teixeira is hit by pitch. Alex Rodriguez doubles to left field, Damon scores and Teixeira to 3rd (NYY 5, PHI 4)
  • Top of the 9th: Jorge Posada singles to left field. Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira scores (NYY 7, PHI 4)

STARTING PITCHING (from Yahoo Sports)

  • CC Sabathia: 6 2/3 innings, 7 hits allowed, 3 earned runs, 3 BB, 1 HR, 6 SO, 3.29 ERA
  • Joe Blanton: 6 innings, 5 hits allowed, 4 earned runs, 2 BB, 7 SO, 6.00 ERA

KEY PERFORMERS: Johnny Damon went 3-for-5 with 1 RBI. He had the best at-bat of the night in the top of the 8th with 2-outs and behind 1-and-2 on the count, and topped it off with 2 stolen bases. Alex Rodriguez working on an 0-fer came through in the 9th with a 2-out double that scored Damon and the Yankees regained their lead.

OBSERVATIONS:

  • For the second time in this World Series Sabathia did not look as dominant as he was in the ALCS. The Yankees gave CC a 2 run cushion to start the game, and he gave 1 right back to the Phillies on two consecutive doubles in the bottom of the 1st where he threw 24 pitches. Sabathia was getting behind on the count and had to work for every precious out. Having said that CC’s ability to grind it out, limiting the Phillies’ opportunities with men in scoring position, may make this outing more impressive than his dominance against the Angels. The bottom of the 5th was as impressive a performance by a pitcher as you will see in the World Series stage. Sabathia put men on 1st and 2nd without recording an out and he’d yet to face Utley, Howard and Werth. CC, and let’s give credit to Posada in this situation, gets Utley and Howard to pop-up before striking out Jayson Werth. Inning over.
  • Alex Rodriguez got hit by a pitch at the top of the 1st. It is his 3rd HBP in this series. A-Rod could not hide his displeasure at being hit again, and one can make the argument that it affected his at-bats throughout the night. He went 0-for-3 with 1 strikeout before a huge clutch hit in the bottom of the 9th propelled the Yankees to victory.
  • Damaso Marte was solid once again. Joba Chamberlain was dealing, but he made a mistake to Feliz (who was hot last night) and he made him pay for it. This may be a great learning experience for Joba and may only make him better next time around.
  • Come on chant with me: Jooohnny Daaamon tap tap, tap tap tap, Jooohnny Daaamon tap tap, tap tap tap. There is nothing more gratifying to a baseball purist, a fan of the fundamentals of the game, than a heads up play that shows a player’s awareness on the field and his keen instinct. Damon’s base running exploits in the bottom of the 9th has to be in your highlight reel for years to come.
  • The “Comeback Kids” did it again. 3 down…1 to go.

GAME RECAP: WORLD SERIES GAME 3

November 1, 2009 Leave a comment

After a ghoulish start Andy Pettitte & the Yankees’ bats come alive…it’s aliiiive, it’s aliiiiive!!!

FINAL SCORE: YANKEES 8 PHILLIES 4 (F9th)

SCORING PLAYS

  • Bottom of the 2nd: Jayson Werth homers to left field (NYY 0, PHI 1)
  • Bottom of the 2nd: Pedro Feliz hits a 1-out double to right field. Carlos Ruiz walks. Cole Hamels singles on a bunt to load the bases. Jimmy Rollins walks, Pedro Feliz scores (NYY 0, PHI 2)
  • Bottom of the 2nd: Bases Loaded. Shane Victorino out on a sacrifice fly to left field, Carlos Ruiz scores (NYY 0, PHI 3)
  • Top of the 4th: Mark Teixeira works a 1-out walk, Alex Rodriguez homes to right field. Mark Teixeira scores (NYY 2, PHI 3)
  • Top of the 5th: Nick Swisher doubles to left field to begin the inning. After Melky Cabrera strikes out, Andy Pettitte singles to center field, Nick Swisher scores (NYY 3, PHI 3)
  • Top of the 5th: Derek Jeter singles to left field, Andy Pettitte to 2nd. Johnny Damon doubles to center field, Pettitte and Jeter scores (NYY 5, PHI 3)
  • Top of the 6th: Nick Swisher homers to left field (NYY 6, PHI 3)
  • Bottom of the 6th: Jayson Werth homers to left field (NYY 6, PHI 4)
  • Top of the 7th: Johnny Damon is issued a 1-out walk. Mark Teixeira strikes out, Johnny Damon steals 2nd base. Alex Rodriguez hit by pitch. Jorge Posada singles to left field, Damon scores (NYY 7, PHI 4)
  • Top of the 8th: Hideki Matsui homers on a fly ball to left field (NYY 8, PHI 4)

STARTING PITCHING (from Yahoo Sports)

  • Andy Pettitte: 6 innings, 4 hits allowed, 4 earned runs, 3 BB, 7 SO, 6.00 ERA
  • Cole Hamels: 4 & 1/3 innings, 5 hits allowed, 5 earned runs, 2 BB, 3 SO, 10.38 ERA

KEY PERFORMERS: After giving up 3 runs in the first 2 innings of work, Andy Pettitte settled down striking out 7 hitters in 6 innings. Alex Rodriguez put the Yankees on the board with a 2-run HR that seem to ignite the Yankee offense, he was on base 4 times including a walk. Nick Swisher had the breakout game he’d been waiting for, he went 2-for-4 including a double and a HR.

COMMENTARY: Halloween’s origins can be traced to an ancient Celtic festival known at Samhain. The Celts celebrated new years on November 1st and it was believed that the night before the new year the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Aside from causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts believed that these spirits made it easier for the Celtic priests to predict the future. Over 2,000 years later can the Yankees performance on Halloween night be a predictor of what’s to come in this series?

It was a harrowing start for the pinstripes, the hour and twenty minute rain delay seemed to have quite an effect on Andy Pettitte. The Phillies were able to strike early and throw Pettitte off his game, even giving up a walk with the bases loaded. Cole Hamels was sharp and for the first 3 innings seemed to be a reincarnation of the 2008 World Series MVP. A zombie-like version of the Yankees made an early appearance in game 3, they were sloppy on pitching, hitting, and on defense.

But in the dawn of the 4th inning, after a 1-out walk to Mark Teixeira the man they call A-Rod hit on opposite field HR that would have to be reviewed, and the Yankees lineup got a much needed shot of electricity that seem to carry to the pitching as well. In a 7 game series not every win or loss can be a defining one. After they even out the series in Game 2 there were very large questions remaining for the Yankees to answer. A-Rod was 0-for-8 with 6 strikeouts, there was no consistent contribution from the bottom of the lineup, and the bridge to Mariano was non-existent.Winning the first game in Philadelphia to go up 2-to-1 in the series was big, no doubt about it. But the way the Yankees secured this victory may be an indication of how they will fare the rest of the series.

Alex Rodriguez ends his 0-fer with a 2-run HR. Rodriguez was on base 4 times, did not strike out and drew a walk in his last at-bat. He looked like someone breathed life into him, his demeanor and approach at the plate was more relaxed and deliberate and it looked like the ALCS version of A-Rod had resurfaced. Nick Swisher who has been struggling all postseason long, took his benching like a man, and returned to make big contributions with his bat hitting a double and a home run in 2 of his 4 at bats and scoring the tieing run. Chamberlain and Marte were solid, I don’t know if the bridge is complete but these two may be the pillars on which the highway to Mariano are built.

This series is far from over and there is no indication that the defending World Champions will make it easy for the Yankees to win their 27th World Series. Every game has it’s own nuance, tempo and flow, but beyond the win Yankee fans should feel optimistic about the contributions that were made up and down the lineup and the performance of this much maligned bullpen.

Heart of the Yankees

October 30, 2009 1 comment

From the time the Yankees stepped on the field last night to when they stepped off of it victorious, there was one particular question running through my head. Have there ever been four players who have stuck together as long as the Yankee’s core group has? Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter have been together since 1996, disregarding Pettitte’s vacation in Houston, and they have had unparalleled success together. I cannot think of any group of four or more players who have played together for the same team for such a long time, have had so much success, and all became integral parts of the team in the same year (1996)!

Jeter plays shortstop as well as any player in the league today, giving the Yankees consistency at a position that many teams struggle to find. Posada is the Yankee’s rock at catcher giving the team consistency at another position that is difficult to fill. Pettitte has had unprecedented and record-setting postseason success; being a dominant left-hander has given the rotation someone to rely on for over a decade. And, of course, Rivera has been the game-over guy who has been instrumental in the success the Yankees have enjoyed since 1996. For those who say the Yankees buy all their talent, these four men disprove that point. They play four critical positions and the Yankees management has done its job by putting in good talent around this core group.

Pettitte did leave the Yankees in 2003 but was quick to come back in 2007. Other than that it does not seem that any of the other three have ever considered leaving New York for some other place. This speaks to their loyalty, ability, and love of being Yankees. We as fans are blessed to have been able to see these players grow and succeed.

I was six years old when they won the championship in 1996 so I have grown up with these players. Though I do not remember much from the Yankee dynasty of 1996 to 2000, I do remember seeing the same four faces over and over while others left or retired or were traded away. I remember Derek, Jorge, Andy, and Mariano. Let’s hope that these brilliant players will lead the Yankees to their 27th championship and restore the Yankees to glory because this time around, I will be able to remember everything.

*About Me*

Born in New York City and raised in Connecticut, I have been a Yankees fan my whole life in a place where 50% of the people root for the Yankees and 50% of the people root for the Red Sox. My allegiances with New York sports teams runs as far back as my grandfather rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team he actually liked more than the Yankees. I have grown up in a time when Boston was the dominant team and have not had the opportunity to truly cherish and appreciate a Yankees World Series win. This had made me frustrated and like the Boss himself playoff appearances alone are not enough to satiate my need for Yankees dominance. I have not ever tried posting on a blog like this but I saw the opportunity to do so and took it. I hope to contribute to this site on a regular basis.

GAME RECAP: WORLD SERIES GAME 2

October 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Burnett & the long ball help even out the series for the Yanks

FINAL SCORE: YANKEES 3 PHILLIES 1 (F9th)

SCORING PLAYS

  • Top of the 2nd: Raul Ibanez hits a 2-out double to left field. Matt Stairs singles on a sharp ground ball to left field, Ibanez scores (NYY 0, PHI 1)
  • Bottom of the 4th: Mark Teixeira homers to right center field (NYY 1, PHI 1)
  • Bottom of the 6th: Hideki Matsui homers on a golf shot to right field (NYY 2, PHI 1)
  • Bottom of the 7th: Jerry Hairston and Melky Cabrera begin the inning with back to back singles. Brett Garner comes in to pinch run for Hairston. Jorge Posada pinch hitting for Molina hits a single to center field. Brett Gardner scores (NYY 3, PHI 1)

STARTING PITCHING (from Yahoo Sports)

  • AJ Burnett: 7 innings, 4 hits allowed, 1 earned run, 2 BB, 9 SO, 1.29 ERA
  • Pedro Martinez: 6 innings, 6 hits allowed, 3 earned runs, 2 BB, 8 SO, 4.50 ERA

KEY PERFORMERS: AJ Burnett pitched a gem through 7 innings of work, Teixeira and Matsui provided the bulk of the offense with 2 homeruns, Mariano closed out the game with a 6 out save.

COMMENTARY: During his pregame conference AJ Burnett talked about not being so careless “just throwing balls over the middle to get strike one”. You have to give it up to AJ because that is exactly what he did, throwing 1st pitch strikes to 21 of the 26 batters he faced. It was a coming out party for Burnett who had yet to record a win, or a loss for that matter, in the postseason. Prior to this start there were a lot of questions about Burnett’s ability to handle the big stage, specially given his rocky start in the close-out game of the ALCS series and the pressure of securing a win after a Sabathia loss. No doubt, AJ answered his critics.

He was dealing throughout the night, ringing up 9 batters and out-pitching Pedro to rack up a win in his first World Series start. The Yankees offense was subdued to start the night until Teixeira hit a long shot to right center field to tie the game at the bottom of the 4th inning and later in the 6th Matsui hit a golf shot to right field to give the team a lead they would not relinquish. Burnett’s 7 innings of solid work also allowed Girardi to set aside the nowhere bridge to Mariano Rivera and get Mo to close out the game with a 6-out save.

AJ’s performance in game 2 of the World Series is another reminder that everyone in this team contributes to its success and you may not now who will provide the next stellar performance of the series.

No Stopping Cliff Lee

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment