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Free Agent Spotlight: Mike Cameron

December 10, 2009 5 comments

We move from the topic of pitchers on to outfielders, which believe it or not, is still a team need. Mike Cameron, 36, is one of the best available outfielders not named Bay or Holliday.
You might be wondering why the Yanks need another outfielder even though they just got Curtis Granderson. Well, with Granderson, we now have four outfielders; Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera, Nick Swisher and Granderson. Many people are anticipating the resigning of Johnny Damon. And with this, many people anticipate the trading of Nick Swisher. Which leaves us with a very good centerfielder, a decent corner outfielder in Cabrera, a fast outfielder who needs to improve his hitting, and an aging corner outfielder with no arm. Our minor league outfielders could be drafted away from us, as Shelley Duncan and John Rodriguez are expected to be drafted in the Rule 5. So we’re left with Colin Curtis, and newly signed Jon Weber and Eladio Moronta as our backups in case of injury/other needs.

photo from Sports Illustrated

Cameron has always hit for a low average and many strikeouts, but he is a perfect middle-bottom of the order hitter because of his power and speed. He hit just .250 last year but hit 25 home runs and 70 RBIs (and his home was Miller Park, typically a pitchers park). Though his speed has been decreasing over the years, he can still cover the outfield and still has a great arm, which would make his transition to a corner spot (most likely left because of said speed, and Melkys cannon for RF) much easier. He has 3 gold gloves under his belt, most recently in 2006.
Cameron would be a great fit in New York for several reasons. We know he can handle the New York media, as he spent 2004-05 with the Mets without any controversy (many remember him for his nasty collision with Carlos Beltran, breaking several bones in his face and causing him to miss the rest of the season). Second, he hits well against AL East teams for the most part in his career; 10 HR 26 RBI vs Boston, 3 HR 23 RBI vs Baltimore, 6 HR 27 RBI vs Toronto, and 5 HR 22 RBI vs Tampa Bay. Remember, his six full seasons in the AL were with Seattle and Chicago, who would face these teams a max of 10 times a year.

Scenarios with Cameron:
– Damon signed, Swisher traded for starter/reliever/minor leaguer. Cameron takes 6 or 7 spot in order and takes over RF/LF
– Damon not signed, Swisher stays- Cameron bats in front of Swisher because of speed and better clutch hitting; Swisher becomes everyday DH with ability to start in the OF when needed.
– Damon signed, Swisher kept- Cameron becomes everyday outfielder, Swisher and Damon must fight for DH job, one of the two rot on the bench, until Swisher/Cabrera traded before deadline

If the Yankees sign him, look for a 2-year, $17 MM deal.
Cameron has said that he wants to play for a team with a chance at the postseason, let’s see if the Yankees make a run at him.

Nick Swisher’s Appeal Ranges Beyond His Baseball Skills

November 20, 2009 4 comments

Photo Courtesy of Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Trading Nick Swisher would be a poor choice by the Yankees brass. Recent rumors about making Swisher available have been dismissed by the management but Swisher’s place on the Yankees is clearly not set in stone. He is not the greatest player but his positive externalities have a lot of impact. Clearly Economics 120 has taught me a lot. Swisher definitely had a positive impact on the Yankees this year and no one is denying that. Those who defend Swisher primarily point to his help off the field first and his abilities second. People who think Swisher is overrated are saying that his abilities, average by all accounts in the field, good at the plate, and his mythical clubhouse appeal, are not necessarily worth keeping if he is a part of a trade that might bring Curtis Granderson or Roy Halladay to the Yankees. In the end it comes down to determining just how important Swisher is to the Yankees. The only problem is that externalities are exceedingly difficult to measure. So while his talent alone might not justify keeping him, it depends on whether his positive impact on the team justifies keeping him. Since we will never know just how much he helps, it is not easy for management to make that determination.

For me, however, the choice is very clear. KEEP HIM. Does any Yankees fan remember the team ever being this upbeat or together? Make fun of the pool tournament and pies all you wish, those things are great to see. Could you ever imagine the 2007 team hitting each other with pies? I feel like they would have started fighting each other. Swisher played an integral role in changing the culture of the Yankees from a group of players to a team and that, in my mind, is the difference between missing the playoffs and winning the World Series (getting three of the best free agents doesn’t hurt either). The point is, Swisher might not be the best player in the world, but he is important to the Yankees in other ways than just on the field.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to club house morale, it’s important or it isn’t. Pundits absolutely crushed the 2004-2008 Yankee teams for being too business-like or a collection of 25 players rather than a team. But, as soon as the Yankees become a fun team rather than a bunch of stiffs with the additions of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, AJ Burnett, and most importantly Swisher, club house morale is suddenly overrated. I don’t quite see how this works.

I feel that the answer is that a happy club house helps but in the end talent is what determines a team’s success. In that case it would be a mistake to trade Swisher for anyone other than Halladay. He is the only person that the Yankees appear to be targeting that has the talent to justify the removal of Swisher’s swagger if talent is what wins out in the end. Is talent the key to winning and happiness overrated? Or is talent important for success and good team morale important as well? What do you think? Let me know in the comments section.

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.

Comeback Wins and Confidence

October 31, 2009 Leave a comment

A month into the Yankee’s season it appeared as if the season was going to be a bust. Nick Swisher was the best player on the team; no offense to Swisher, I still support him despite his postseason woes. Alex Rodriguez was not even playing and Mark Teixeira was slumping. But, through a combined effort the Yankees shook off the early season slows and won the 103 games, the most in baseball. They were able to do so primarily because of two things; comeback wins and reliance on teammates. These same aspects of the regular season Yankee team are showing themselves in the playoffs and they are what will carry the Yankees to a victory in the World Series.

The Yankees have won 8 games this postseason, 6 have been comeback wins. Though not as dramatic as walk-off hits, these wins show that despite trailing by at least 1 run, this Yankee team never gives up. Who would have thought that Rodriguez would have been able to hit a game-tying homerun off of Joe Nathan?

Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with comeback wins. When the Yankees go down I don’t get too nervous because I know they still have the ability to win the game. But, I hate them because they have happened so often this postseason that there are periods during almost every game where I can barely stand to watch. Comebacks are a critical part of this Yankee team, albeit a nerve-wracking part, and have given the Yankees swagger and identity that has got them into the World Series.

The knowledge that teammates will get the job done even if you don’t have also given the Yankees confidence they have lacked in recent years. Before, Rodriguez especially would feel that he had to drive in a run every time he was up at the plate. Who would have thought that some of the key hits that have started rallies would have come from the bottom of the lineup? From top to bottom, despite the recent woes of Rodriguez or the earlier slumps of Swisher and Teixeira, the Yankees have found ways to win. Having confidence in your teammates is irreplaceable and crucial for a baseball team. The Yankees have that and they will keep winning because swagger is fundamental for postseason success.

GAME RECAP: ALCS GAME 6

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Solid pitching and defense help secure the Yankees’ 40th trip to the big show

FINAL SCORE: YANKEES 5 ANGELS 2 (F9th)

SCORING PLAYS

  • Top of the 3rd: Jeff Mathis doubles to center field with 1 out. Bobby Abreu singles to right field, Jeff Mathis scores (NYY 0, LAA 1)
  • Bottom of the 4th: Robinson Cano Walks. Nick Swisher singles to left field. Melky Cabrera out on a sacrifice bunt that moves runners to 2nd and 3rd base respectively. After Derek Jeter is issued a 1-out walk, Johnny Damon comes to the plate with bases loaded for the second time in the game. Damon hits a line drive to center field, Cano and Swisher scores (NYY 2, LAA 1)
  • Bottom of the 4th: After a Mark Teixeira infield single to load the bases, Alex Rodriguez draws a walk. Derek Jeter scores (NYY 3, LAA 1)
  • Top of the 8th: Mariano Rivera comes in for an 6 out save. Chone Figgins singles on a bloop to left field. Bobby Abreu grounds out to first base, Figgins advances to 2nd base. After Torii Hunter grounds out to 2nd base, Vladimir Guerrero singles on a ground ball to right field. Chone Figgins scores (NYY 3, LAA 2)
  • Bottom of the 8th: Lead-off walk for Robinson Cano. Nick Swisher puts down the sacrifice bunt and a missed catch error by second baseman Howard Kendrick puts man on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Brett Gardner comes in to run for Swisher. Melky Cabrera puts down another perfect sacrifice bunt but an error throw by pitcher Scott Kazmir moves Cabrera to 2nd and Garder to 3rd. Robinson Cano scores (NYY 4, LAA 2).
  • Bottom of the 8th: Mark Teixeira out on sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brett Garner scores. (NYY 5, LAA 2)

STARTING PITCHING (from Yahoo Sports)

  • Andy Pettitte: 6 1/3 innings, 7 hits allowed, 1 earned run, 3 BB, 6 SO, 2.84 ERA
  • Joe Saunders: 3 1/3 innings, 7 hits allowed, 3 earned runs, 5 BB, 0 SO, 5.84 ERA

KEY PERFORMERS: Andy Pettitte gives another solid postseason performance, in the process becoming the winningest pitcher in postseason history. A solid 6 1/3 innings with only 1 earned run. Damon, Teixeira, and Rodriguez each had 2 hits and at least 1 rbi, none bigger than Damon’s 1 out hit to center field which gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish. Mariano Rivera was…well Mariano Rivera.

COMMENTARY: The New York Yankees have won the 2009 American League Championship. This is the most beautiful sentence I’ve written for The Pinstriper yet. What else is there to say folks? This team with its infectious attitude, steely resolve and clear focus has secured itself an opportunity to win another World Championship. There is a lot to be said about this closeout game, the pitching, the defense, the contributions up and down the lineup, and it will all surely be dissected numerous times before the first pitch of the World Series.

I just want to pay homage to a group of athletes that never lost sight of their goal, they played within themselves, they were patient and showed everyone that their confidence in each other is not mere bravado. The Yankees looked comfortable in every aspect of this game, inning after inning they never wavered and if there were any nerves it must have come from the bleachers because this team never showed a hint of worry. After a 6 year hiatus the Yankees are headed to their 40th World Series. They arrive to the October/November classic with a combination of youth, talent and experience unlike any team I can remember, along with the confidence that they finally have the right mix that can get it done. Let’s go get it! Congratulations to the 2009 AL Champions New York Yankees!