Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Yankees Can Forget About Chien-Ming, Right? “Wang!”

Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang has had much more than just a tumultuous season in pinstripes.

A 0-3 record and 34.50 ERA turned a former ace into a rejuvenation project filled with fear and uncertainty.

The unexpected and full-fledged collapse left the Yankees organization stirring for answers—only to find more questions the deeper they dug.

Would Wang ever again regain the form of years past? Had he simply had his confidence forever shattered like the sad story of Rick Ankiel?

Did compensations for a recurring foot injury ultimately lead to overexertion of his pitching shoulder and elbow?

Golf enthusiasts refer to the persistent nightmare as “the yips,” describing the sudden and complete inability to perform even the most simplistic of mechanical tasks.

It usually starts with a missed putt or a wayward drive of the tee, but before long a golfer is left praying for a way to simply make decent contact.

In the midst of a battle with “the yips,” a golfer would rather wind up and throw the ball down the fairway than even attempt to address it with a golf club in hand.

Wang was experiencing the baseball version of the psychological phenomenon, suddenly prevented from utilizing the pitch that single-handedly paved the road for his success—a painfully heavy sinker.

Virtually nothing could be done to rediscover or repair mechanics “gone rogue,” as mental anguish seemed to be at the epicenter of the pitching issues.

New York released a very rational and sensible explanation for the happenings, highlighting Wang’s incapability of driving off the mound with his formerly injured foot.

Subsequent compensations in mechanics put added pressure on his hip joints, while also preventing him from getting on top of his patented sinker.

Whether or not the story is 100 percent true will remain a mystery, but it was far too logical to bother questioning.

After all, an injury is much more comforting for a fan base to hear than “he may need time in a mental health facility.”

On Wednesday night, Wang finally delivered a sense of optimism to Yankees Universe that all hope was not lost for his 2009 campaign.

It finally appeared as though it would be Wang’s fastball that would be rapidly sinking, as opposed to the prospects of his Yankees career.

Wang pitched two strong innings in relief against a very talented Rangers lineup, and closed out the game without allowing a single baserunner.

He struck out two Rangers, including one of the hottest hitters in MLB in Nelson Cruz. Cruz had recently produced 5 HR, 10 RBI, and a .462 AVG during a seven-game hitting streak.

Wang also generating two ground balls, proving that the depth and tilt on his sinker are beginning to round back into form.

There is a lot to still be concerned about, and two innings clearly is not enough of a sample size to deem Wang “cured.”

Yankees fans were looking to anything as a sign of progress, however, and this certainly qualifies as such.

Wang’s importance has been downplayed slightly in the recent past, as Phil Hughes has pitched dominantly over his last two starts.

Do not be a strictly nearsighted fan, and do not disregard how vital Wang is/could become to the Yankees ultimate successes.

In the event that Joba Chamberlain is forced back into the bullpen or AJ Burnett suffers an injury, Wang could be the difference between a playoff birth and scheduling tee times.

Let’s hope the result is not the latter…as Wang’s “yips” would likely worsen if he was lead onto a golf course.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nick Swisher’s Yankees Honeymoon Quickly Turns into Married Life

Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher was all smiles when the season began. He was ecstatic to be in New York, and the city was likewise elated to have him.

Swisher’s personality and youthful enthusiasm are infectious, and his playful antics added an uplifting dynamic to a once stale and businesslike clubhouse.

After a torrid start at the plate that made even Hell appear to have a cool and refreshing breeze, Swisher instantly became a fan favorite.

He engaged the fans with a genuine sense of interest and appreciation, and had an endearing “every man” quality about him.

Swisher was even given the opportunity to pitch an inning during the month of April, and his excitement and unyielding smile could have illuminated the stadium without the use of its light fixtures.

Smiles and laughs have quickly turned into expressions of doubt and concern, as Swisher has been nothing short of a disaster in the month of May.

In 22 May games, Swisher is hitting just 8-for-67 (.119) with 2 HR, 8 RBI, and 25 K. He has transformed into the same automatic out that made him expendable in Chicago during the offseason.

The discrepancy between home and away performance is even more startling.

In the undeniably “hitter-friendly” confines of Yankee Stadium, Swisher is just 8-for-65 (.123). He has produced just one of his nine home runs and three of his 27 runs batted in at home.

Unfortunately for “Swish,” the statistics don’t get any better from here.

In Yankee losses, he is hitting just .158, which helps to illustrate his inability to drive in key runs late in ball games.

Swish’s propensity to fail in clutch situations is further emphasized by his efforts in big games in general.

When playing against Toronto, Boston, and Philadelphia—the two biggest divisional threats and defending World Series Champions—he is 3-for-37 (.081).

Swish is also just 4-for-18 against Tampa Bay, and went 2-for-14 during the magical four-game sweep of the Minnesota twins—which involved three walk-off victories he clearly played no role in.

He has officially been placed on Yankees life support after hitting into a seventh inning double play with the bases loaded of a 4-3 deficit last night. He is now 0-for-5 with the bases loaded this season.

The numbers speak very loudly for themselves, and there are many more to focus on if a horde of stats had not already been forced down your throats like baby food.

Perhaps Swish needed the presence of Xavier Nady to push him to succeed. Perhaps the worry of losing his job gave him the extra edge he needed to maximize his contributions.

Nady and Jorge Posada appear set to return within the next 1-2 weeks, so Swish better begin to heat up—or face being returned to a utility role on the roster.

Luckily for Swish, it appears that Nady will be relegated to a DH role during his first few weeks back in pinstripes, which will help to expand his “rejuvenation” time frame.

Fans have every reason to love him, and he still has helped to positively change the clubhouse and dugout atmosphere.

However…it is becoming more and more obvious as to why he is a career .242 hitter. We may never see another month as productive as April 2009 for Mr. Swisher.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Alex Rodriguez Does NOT Hit Homer: Yankees Fans Given Reason to Rejoice

The New York Yankees beat the Texas Rangers on Monday afternoon, and Alex Rodriguez did something he had not done in a very long time.

A-Rod generated a multi-hit game for just the second time in 17 games, going 5-for-5 while driving in four runs.

However, it was something that A-Rod didn’t do that should have the baseball world stirring this morning.

His five hits including three singles and two doubles, without any balls landing beyond Arlington’s tiny walls.

Perhaps A-Rod just did not want to provide a souvenir for a fan base sending more “boos” his way than a haunted house attraction during Halloween.

Either way, he was able to raise his average 70 points in just one day, moving from anemia to respectability in just five swings.

We all know that A-Rod still has power, as some of his seven early home runs have yet to return from orbiting the Earth.

Hitting a home run on the first pitch he saw following extensive hip rehabilitation was enough evidence that mistakes will be punished; especially those located on the inner half of the plate.

A-Rod proved that he is no longer a one-dimensional weapon in the batter’s box, and pitchers now need to worry about more than watching him walk to first or job around the bases.

Rodriguez hit fastballs, breaking balls, change-ups, high pitches, low pitches, inside and out. He shots the gaps, yet was also able to drive the ball through the middle of the infield.

For the first time in 2009, Rodriguez’s balance at the plate rivaled Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson on the beam in Beijing.

Previously, he appeared more like a baby attempting to take his or her first steps, or a drunk collegiate encountering an unexpected patch of black ice.

The Yankees finally have a middle of the order that provokes nightmares, as A-Rod and partner in crime Mark Teixeira have heated up simultaneously—is anyone surprised?

Teixeira has collected five straight multi-hit games, raising his average to .273. Even after a putrid beginning, he is currently on pace for 49 HR, 136 RBI, and 117 R.

A-Rod’s multifaceted impact on the Yankees lineup has resulted in a 13-4 record since his return. He has been every bit as important as fans had hoped, and he has sparked a return of success to the Bronx.

The key to the lineup moving forward will be figuring out who will drive in Teixeira and A-Rod once they reach base.

Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera have done solid jobs thus far, but the health of Jorge Posada or Xavier Nady will allow for a more consistent power threat from the five hole in the batting order.

There are numerous holes to be filled on the Yankees roster, including figuring out the bullpen woes that worsened with the continued discomfort in Brian Bruney’s elbow.

The team still stands at 26-19, however, just one game behind Boston and two and a half games up in the AL Wild Card landscape.

A-Rod is beginning to once again become a force on the baseball diamond in 2009, and is just one hot streak away from boasting statistics worthy of an All-Star selection—even after missing the season’s first 6 weeks.

Rodriguez has also begun to absorb the looseness and youthful enthusiasm on the Yankee clubhouse, as cameras have even caught a multitude of smiles on his face.

He is no longer a distant and alienated “A-Droid,” and may finally be able to relax when pressure begins to crescendo.

Yankees Universe is beginning to develop a swagger and expectation for positive outcomes, as opposed to waiting impatiently for what will go wrong next.

As Toronto and Tampa have faded back to normalcy, it appears as though yet another Yankees-Red Sox battle is beginning to unfold in the AL East.

Stayed tuned, it could be a very interesting summer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yankees Should Have Used LIFO Method When Handling Jonathan Albaladejo

Yankees reliever Jonathan Albaladejo was ultimately the last player added to New York’s 25-man roster coming out of spring training.

As fans and sports announcers scrambled to learn the correct pronunciation of his surname, others (like me) questioned his selection over a proven long man like Brett Tomko or Alfredo Aceves.

All that Aceves has done after finally being called up is win three games in just one week’s time.

His 1.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 12-to-3 K/BB ratio, and .200 BAA show how important he has become to a struggling Yankees bullpen.

Albaladejo never deserved to be on the roster, and perhaps there was a reason that he was the last man considered for the job.

He has pitched to a 6.00 ERA overall, and a startling 8.18 ERA over the entire month of April. Hitters are getting on base at a .379 clip against him, and are producing nearly a 1.000 OPS.

Like most relievers, his ERA is skewed to the low end, as he has allowed countless inherited runners to score when he enters an inning in progress.

Regardless of his struggles, manager Joe Girardi has developed an unhealthy obsession with him.

“Alby” always seems to find himself on the mound in key situations, although every knowledgeable fan knows the scoreboard is about to light up like MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. on Nintendo 64.

In last night’s game against Baltimore, Alby took the ball after another masterful performance by Aceves.

Aceves had pitched three and one-third innings of scoreless baseball after an untimely injury to starter Joba Chamberlain.

Alby proceeded to turn a laugher into a pulsating drama, as a 7-0 lead quickly disintegrated to 7-4. Half of the runs scored via home run balls that still have not landed.

Mariano Rivera was forced to close out the game in the ninth inning due to Alby’s ineptitude, likely making him unavailable for the first game of a critical series with the World Champion Phillies.

A game that should have had Nick Swisher closing it out amidst chuckles and early celebration suddenly became a save situation.

If Rivera is indeed unable to go tonight, Yankees fans can anticipate watching Phil Coke attempt to retire Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the ninth tonight.

For all readers not “privileged” enough to take accounting courses somewhere along their educational roads, I would like to give a quick lesson on managing inventory.

(Don’t worry, it applies to baseball)

Companies can take two general stances with regards to inventory calculations for tax purposes, one of which is referred to as LIFO (last in, first out).

This implies the assumption that assets produced or acquired last are the ones that are used, sold or disposed of first.

To make this example relevant to the New York Yankees, let’s focus on the “acquired” and “disposed of” terminology.

Albaladejo was the last man to be added to the Major League roster as spring training concluded, and his performance has been nothing short of a disaster.

By using a LIFO method of managing their assets, New York could have already “disposed” of Albaladejo long ago in favor of Aceves, Tomko, or anyone with a pulse.

It may be too late for proper accounting practices, but it is long since overdue for a replacement.

The Yankees already have enough vowels on their roster with Mark Teixeira, and Albaladejo’s services are no longer required.

If Girardi’s strange commitment to the derisory reliever is not resolved quickly, his accounting techniques will likely be audited.

It appears as though the Steinbrenners will soon have to call in the Inadequate Reliever Service (IRS) to handle the situation.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recently Partnered With SportsBlogNet


Joe M. of http://sportsblognet.com/ has asked me to become part of the SportsBlogNet team, and I have gladly accepted the offer.

The union should help to both increase the traffic of Heartbeat of the Bronx, as well as open up a bevy of new advertising opportunities in the near future.

To learn more about SportsBlogNet and their business practices, check out their site in the aforementioned homepage link.

I will also include the site's own "About" section in order for all readers to get a better idea of their mission and objectives:

--------------------------------------------------

Sports Blog Net is currently built on the principal of making all blogs in the network as successful as possible. Both in terms of money and traffic. We want sports fans to Discover, Read, Write, and Build.


Our goals are to get all the small blogs out to the masses, give new bloggers the ability to get the exposure they are looking for, and give sports fans a destination that they want to visit everyday.

-------------------------------------------------

I suggest that everyone check out the site, as well as begin to blog for free on their network in order to express your own passionate sports ideas.

Talk to you all again soon, and take care.

C.C. Sabathia Proving to be Worth Each of his 2,300,000,000 Pennies

If it pitches like an ace, and it wins like an ace, and it’s paid like an ace—it must be an ace, right?

For at least the first month of baseball’s marathon season, fans and writers alike were not sure if their eyes were deceiving them.

Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia had certainly shown glimpses of brilliance over his first six starts, but the only things that matters in New York are wins and losses.

After a disheartening loss at the hands of the Angels in which he pitched very well before a late-inning collapse, Sabathia sat at just 1-3 with a bloated 4.85 ERA.

Since that point, Sabathia has had a pitching epiphany, once again solving the riddle of powerful American League batting orders.

Sabathia is 3-0 in his last three starts, posting a 1.12 ERA and dominating 0.75 WHIP. He has allowed just 12 H in 24 IP, all while pitching to a 20-to-6 K/BB ratio.

In just three games, Sabathia has transformed his season from 1-3 and a 4.85 ERA to 4-3 with a 3.43 ERA.

His slider has more tilt, his fastball has more consistent velocity, and his change-up rivals that of the great Bugs Bunny.

Sabathia has added a dynamic to the pitching staff far more important than wins—which I understand seems impossible when discussing the New York Yankees.

New York’s ace has made certain that the soft underbelly of the bullpen will not be exposed.

For at least one game every five days, Yankees fans can fasten a lock onto the household’s liquor cabinet.

Jonathan Albaladejo, Jose Veras, and Phil Coke will be getting the night off, and blood pressures around the tri-state area will begin to stabilize.

Only one important inning has been pitched by a reliever not named Mariano Rivera in his May starts, and New York subsequently lost that game 8-4.

Considering his “unacceptable” inaugural month in pinstripes, it is amazing that Sabathia still boasts a 1.14 WHIP and .221 BAA during the 2009 season.

To put this into perspective, the Cy Young Award winners of 2008—Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee—produced very similar statistics.

Lee generated a 1.11 WHIP and .253 BAA, while Lincecum sported a 1.17 WHIP and an identical .221 BAA as Sabathia’s current status.

Though wins and earned run averages make or break Cy Young winners, it is interesting that the “underperforming” Sabathia compares favorably in two increasingly important pitching stats.

If this is Sabathia’s benchmark through nine starts littered with inconsistencies, exactly how high can the bar be raised?

It is unreasonable and rather fantastical to expect another AL Cy Young to be placed on Sabathia’s mantle in 2009.

However, perhaps it won’t take as long as anticipated for him to adjust to the bright lights of New York City.

Some may believe that C.C. stands for “counting change,” as his salary accounts for 2.3 billion pennies in 2009 alone.

Carsten Charles would prefer his abbreviation to be confused with “cool and collected,” as he plans to ride his poise and expanding confidence into the latter part of October.

There may be more dollars in Sabathia’s 2009 salary than the entire population of the state of New York, but he may just turn out to be worth every penny.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Francisco Cervelli Story: How an Unsung Hero Replaced an Unsung Hero

It all started with events that could be described as nothing less dramatic than New York’s worst nightmare.

Not only had the Yankees lost starting catcher and offensive juggernaut Jorge Posada to a leg injury, but they had also been forced to add his underappreciated backup to a long list of wounded teammates.

Jose Molina has been the unsung hero of New York’s star-studded roster for quite some time now.

A 2008 shoulder injury to Jorge Posada should have created an inescapable disaster, but Molina quickly proved himself to be the best backup catcher in all of baseball.

The consistency continued into the early part of 2009, as Molina was sporting a 3.59 catcher’s ERA. He had also developed a strong working relationship with the new starters on the staff.

Furthermore, Molina’s offense was far exceeding expectations. A career .238 hitter with a .278 OBP, he was now producing a .273 AVG while getting on base at a .333 clip.

A stubborn quad muscle yanked the team’s underrated backstop from the lineup, inserting a 23 year old rookie into the center of an increasingly scorching pressure-cooker.

Little did we know, an unsung hero was about to be replaced by an even more unexpected unsung hero.

Francisco Cervelli was not your everyday rookie. In fact, he was hitting just .190 in 58 at bats in Double-A Trenton.

That’s right; Cervelli had never even laced up his cleats at the Triple-A level, and appeared overmatched thus far in 2009. His 13 strikeouts in 16 games helped to emphasize his troubles.

However, Yankees bench coach and “catcher extraordinaire” Tony Pena had become enamored with the way Cervelli carried himself over the last two spring camps.

His quiet confidence and relentless work ethic earned him an opportunity. Ultimately, it was an open door that Cervelli never again wanted to watch close in front of him.

A broken wrist suffered during a 2008 spring training game against Tampa Bay caused him to lose a chance at the Major League roster, and he would not let it happen again.

Cervelli was not supposed to be in this situation. Actually, he appeared to be the fourth option at catcher following the signing of veteran backstop Kevin Cash.

In an attempt to prove he could compete with the best talent baseball had to offer, Cervelli joined the Italian roster of the World Baseball Classic.

Mentored by former superstar Mike Piazza, Cervelli was able to mature at a pace that spring training would not have made available to him.

He was now the leader of a country’s “National Team” of sorts, and was calling games against some of the world’s superior sluggers.

Though Piazza was never exactly a defensive whiz, his ability to teach Cervelli the nuances of the game greatly impacted his development.

Cervelli returned to Tampa with a newfound swagger, finally feeling as though he belonged on a Major League roster.

He has done more than simply “impress,” and to say that he has “held down the fort” would be an insult considering his performance.

Defensively, Cervelli has been every bit as dependable as Molina. He has thrown out 50 percent of attempted thieves, and currently holds a 4.03 catcher’s ERA.

More importantly, he has not been submissive or timid with veteran pitchers, as he has worked very well with C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Rivera in recent weeks.

In addition, Cervelli has also become a genuine threat in the batter’s box. His .375 AVG and .400 OBP have helped to redefine how teams approach the bottom of the order.

During last night’s game against Minnesota, Cervelli went out to calm down a struggling Phil Coke.

Coke, who was in search of his first ML save, was noticeably nervous and unable to find the strike zone.

Cervelli told him to “just play catch” with him and to “relax,” and Coke credited him with getting his mind back on track.

If you would have told me that the team’s leader in batting average on on-base percentage on May 19 would be Francisco Cervelli, I would have pulled rib muscles from laughing so heartily.

Regardless of preseason expectations, Cervelli is stabilizing baseball’s most important position in New York, ensuring that a current six game winning streak could develop.

I can’t help but sit back and ask myself…where would the Yankees be right now “sans Francisco”?

Monday, May 18, 2009

In a Weekend Filled with Heroic Yankees, Alfredo Aceves Goes Unnoticed

Amidst a sea of heroes and inspiration in the Bronx over the weekend, one quiet and unsung hero was left unnoticed.

Yankees pitcher Alfredo Aceves helped to stabilize a bullpen recently diagnosed as bi-polar, ensuring that a tie score would carry over into the bottom half of the inning.

Without Aceves, New York likely would have stepped to the plate with its tail between its legs, having just allowed a horde of base runners to score.

Aceves pitched a scoreless and uneventful inning in consecutive games, lowering his ERA to 2.16. He has collected 9 K while surrendering just 2 BB, and currently displays a 0.84 WHIP in 8 1/3 IP.

While Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, and Johnny Damon allocated the role of hero over the weekend, Aceves quietly earned back-to-back victories on Sat. and Sun.

A.J. Burnett covered the faces of Cabrera, A-Rod, and Damon with a celebratory whipped cream pie, but it was Aceves who prevented New York from being left with the proverbial “pie in the face.”

Aceves has been the model of consistency is his time with the Yankees, holding hitters to a .214 BAA in 38 1/3 innings pitched. His 1.09 WHIP and 2.35 ERA help too further uncover the secret of his covert successes.

Though he is a rather unassuming man, do not be fooled by his lack of unbridled emotion.

Aceves uses his calm focus as a weapon, and is capable of handling pressure situations with poise. This is of course the most important section of the Yankees prospective player application.

Most importantly, he has the ability to—you might want to sit down for this—immediately throw strikes out of the bullpen. This is a skill the rest of his mound mates seem to purposely avoid.

Manager Joe Girardi seems to have finally granted Aceves the respect and trust that he deserved all along, and will look to place him into additional important situations down the road.

It is anyone’s guess why pitchers like Jonathan Albaladejo, Anthony Claggett, David Robertson, and Steven Jackson received shots on the 25-man roster before Aceves, but it is safe to say that he is here to stay.

New York has been waiting for six weeks to find a reliever not named Mariano Rivera willing to step up in clutch pitching scenarios.

Aceves has finally thrown his hat into the ring, and could provide a much needed emotional respite for a fan base steadily reaching for Xanax in the latter innings.

Continue to underestimate and disregard the inconspicuous Aceves, as it will further feed into his drive to succeed.

Don’t let his name confuse or mislead you…Alfredo is out to prove that he is anything but “chicken.”

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Brett Gardner’s Otherworldly Homer Proves More Powerful than Coincidence

The only running Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner was anticipating on Friday would occur during pregame warm-up activities.

Perhaps he would get the opportunity to pinch run for Alex Rodriguez or Hideki Matsui; the pair of damaged goods in New York’s struggling lineup.

Gardner had recently visited with Nico Viglitti (pictured above) and 15-20 other children before the game; brave patients at a nearby children’s hospital.

According to multiple reports, one little girl gave Gardner a lucky bracelet, which she said would give him the power to hit a home run.

Gardner specified that it would allow him “to hit a home run in every at bat,” which he admitted was slightly unrealistic.

The bracelet had the courage and strength of a sick little girl flowing throughout its threads, but unless divine intervention allowed him the chance to use it, this story would not have a Hollywood ending.

Shortly after the game’s first pitch, the stars all began to align; ensuring that something magical would manifest itself in the team’s new home.

After a first inning strikeout boiled his blood, Johnny Damon took protesting to a whole new level after a second consecutive backwards ‘K.’

Damon initiated a legendary tirade, one that would have made Billy Martin and Lou Piniella swell with pride. He was banished to the showers so quickly that manager Joe Girardi had not yet emerged from the top step of the dugout.

As a result, Gardner “coincidentally” received his chance to make a young girl smile back in her hospital bed at New York Presbyterian Children’s Hospital in Manhattan.

The supernatural aura surrounding the stadium knew to conserve its magic until the time was right, though the bracelet did produce a quick fifth inning single for Gardner in his first at bat of the night.

Once again, however, it appeared that the mystic spirits of “The House that Ruth Built” had taken the night off.

New York trailed 4-1 in the seventh inning, and were eagerly awaited a spark.

They welcomed a spark from anything in the stadium, anyone on the bench, any…entity watching from above?

Gardner stepped to the plate with just one home run in his Major League career, much more apt to “run home” than to launch a “home run.”

There was more than simple grit and determination involved here, and nothing else mattered aside from destiny and God-given speed.

Gardner could not hit a conventional home run in order to turn tears and fears into a night to remember for one 9 year old girl.

Not on this night…not in this moment. Not while wearing a bracelet constructed with admiration, love, and hope.

A pitch from Twins reliever Jesse Crain was looped down the left field line, conceivably nothing more than a single at best.

Once the ball touched the stadium’s “un-hallowed ground,” all rationality and baseball physics were replaced with a scene from Angels in the Outfield.

It kicked violently to the left, as if something had given it a little extra push. A bloop single had suddenly become a double…a triple…a home run?

As third base coach Robbie Thompson vigorously waved Gardner toward home plate, chills inevitably began to flow down the backs of each fan watching with baited breath from their seats.

Fans watching from home leaned forward in their chairs, their eyes growing wider and more awestruck as each fraction of a second ticked past.

The lightning quick outfielder dove into home safely to cut the score to 4-2, energizing an apprehensive fan base and tentative roster of teammates.

Gardner left his feet a Yankee utility outfielder, but crossed home plate an undeniable hero.

For the first time all season, the score did not matter. Gardner had done much more than put a run on the scoreboard or potential ‘w’ in the win column—he had renewed the faith of a child that needed it most.

The magical aura of the night began to spread throughout the Yankees dugout, as even the anemically insufficient Mark Teixeira contributed a clutch base hit.

Melky Cabrera delivered the walk-off miracle minutes later off world-class closer Joe Nathan, and the credits rolled on a tale almost too inspiring to be true.

You may not believe in divine intervention, karma, fate, higher beings, or the afterlife. You may not even personally invest in the phrase, “everything happens for a reason.”

Regardless of what is perceived as true, real, or rational…there are at least two people on Saturday morning that are giving a wink and a smile to something up above.

It was an inspirational moment for a fearless little girl, and I hope she was watching.

Let’s hope Gardner hangs onto that bracelet.

More importantly, let’s pray this brave girl hangs onto her rediscovered hope and faith.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

One Streak Ends, Another is Admired: How Joe DiMaggio Redefined ‘56’

Ryan Zimmerman grounded out sharply in his final at bat of the night, realizing that San Francisco would be the final resting place of his prolonged accomplishment.

Zimmerman’s 30 game hit streak had come to a close, reminding those around baseball exactly how impressive ‘56’ truly is.

The thought that somehow flies into my head at the exact moment a lengthy streak ends is a scene from the movie Old School.

Will Ferrell decides amidst a blackout drunk that everyone is “GOING STREAKING,” preferably “up the quad and through the gymnasium” if his plan works to perfection.

Suddenly he finds himself stark naked in the middle of the road, jogging alone in the dark of night. His face upon realizing the abandonment of streaking companions is utterly priceless.

As Zimmerman closed the book on his feat, Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio is smiling down from Heaven. No one has touched ’56,’ and no one likely ever will.

To put things into perspective, DiMaggio’s feat lasted from May 15 to July 16 during the 1941 season. It all began with one fateful swing off of White Sox pitcher Eddie Smith.

Hitting safely in 56 consecutive games requires countless factors to align at exactly the right time. It must be enveloped by a perfect storm of good fortune, skill, consistency, patience, poise, and a helping hand from the baseball gods.

What adds to the uniqueness of a hitting streak is that a player does not actually need a hit to be successful on a given day, and his ability to produce can literally be taken away from him.

If DiMaggio had gone 0-for-1 with two walks, a sacrifice fly, and an RBI groundout, he would have generated two RBI and a .667 on-base percentage. He may have assisted his team much more than a 2-for-4 with two singles, but the streak would be over.

Secondly, unlike most other professional sports, a team’s best player can be neutralized and virtually eliminated in America’s Pastime.

Whether simply expanding the zone to force DiMaggio to chase a bad pitch, or intentionally walking him in a critical point of the game, he was never guaranteed a chance to rewrite history.

It takes a very special player, and an even more special man, to possess the skills necessary to prolong a streak of this magnitude.

DiMaggio possessed all of these unique qualities and many more, as he was always composed and determined—but never rushed.

While I was never given the honor of watching DiMaggio turn a baseball diamond into his own personal playground, those who watched him on a daily basis couldn’t help but marvel at his God-like abilities.

"There was an aura about him. He walked like no one else walked. He did things so easily. He was immaculate in everything he did. Kings of State wanted to meet him and be with him. He carried himself so well. He could fit in any place in the world." - Phil Rizzuto (teammate)

"Joe DiMaggio batting sometimes gave the impression, the suggestion that the old rules and dimensions of baseball no longer applied to him, and that the game had at last grown unfairly easy." - Donald Hall (poet laureate)

"He was just a smooth outfielder and smooth in his hitting. No mistakes, ever. He was a solid ball player in every way. I never saw him make a mistake, but there was a smooth way he had of going about everything. That's why they put that name on him, The Yankee Clipper." - Red Schoendienst (opponent)

(All quotes can be found at http://www.baseball-almanac.com/)

These awed first-hand spectators seem to focus on the most imperative qualities for successfully developing an extended streak.

DiMaggio was mistake free and incomparably consistent, allowing for his mechanics and plate discipline to never waver. He had an air of confidence about him that provoked a feeling of impending success.

The game came so easily to DiMaggio that he never had to press, never had to question if he belonged, and never had to wonder what was missing.

Though the 1941 streak ultimately became the lasting legacy of an immortalized career, it was the second most important accomplishment of DiMaggio’s season.

He would tell you that winning the World Series over Brooklyn meant more to him than personal accomplishments. Adding another ring to his hand would be what truly lives on forever in his thoughts.

That was the kind of player DiMaggio was—always arrogant but never selfish. He knew he was the best and wanted to hear you acknowledge it, but he would never compromise the team for personal gain.

Hall of Famers have tried to replicate the streak, though Paul Molitor (39) and Pete Rose (44) fell short. Other potential suitors such as Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew never even approached intriguing terrain.

Of all the streaks seemingly meant never to be broken, Ted Williams’ .406, Cal Ripken’s 2632, Cy Young’s 511, and DiMaggio’s 56 stand alone.

Perhaps a player will one day realize the goal so many have failed in trying before him. Perhaps someone will one day be able to call himself equal to DiMaggio in just one area of his timeless career.

It is likely never to occur during my lifetime, however, and I hope it never does.

“The streak” is a record that cannot be broken with the benefit of performance-enhancing drugs, and does not require light tower power in order to move toward.

The number ‘56’ has become a symbol for all that was once right in the game that has since taken so many wrong turns.

DiMaggio will forever be recognized as a representation of greatness in the game he continually dominated, and he would have it no other way.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jeter, Matsui Out Again Tonight in Toronto

Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter will once again be missing from New York's lineup tonight at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

While Matsui's absence is considered precautionary, Jeter lacing up the cleats was never considered.

Jeter has also suffered an oblique injury in past seasons, and it was responsible for a stint on the 15-day disabled list.

The team does not ultimately want to risk additional injury for Jeter, and further derail a Yankees train already riding off the tracks.

Andy Pettitte will have to pitch brilliantly against the league's best lineup, as the offensive firepower behind him will resemble a cap gun more so than a stick of dynamite.

The Yankees need a win badly, and we shall see if the elder statesman will help to supply one.

Shelley Duncan Deserves Pinstriped Resurrection: Matsui Needs Benching

The relentless and inescapable injury plague has been contracted by yet another pair of Yankees contributors.

It has begun to spread like a thick river of hot magma, waiting to devour and destroy anything still remaining in its path.

Instead of the baseball gods taking the health of the first born, it appears as though everyone with the exception of the first born are being subjected to the cruel curse.

The four youngest members of New York’s 25-man roster, Ramiro Pena, Francisco Cervelli, Phil Hughes, and Joba Chamberlain have all been spared.

Meanwhile, veteran after veteran suffer the wrath of the “ghosts of DL past.”

During last night’s Picasso-like masterpiece by “Doc” Halladay of Toronto, Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui were unable to play nine innings. Jeter in particular never even laced up his cleats.

While Jeter’s injury “does not appear to be serious,” Matsui’s always are. Godzilla has missed 200+ games during the past four seasons with issues ranging from a broken wrist to chronic knee pain.

To his credit, Matsui claims that he “could have stayed in the game if needed,” and the injury to his hamstring is no more than a cramp. He is a proud man, but he was already undetectable in box scores long before these recent pains.

Another injury to his lower half will only compound the issues contributing to his lack of power, and will cause him to clog the bases worse than Butterbean after consuming a small cow.

Matsui has tried admirably to come back from yet another surgery, but it appears his body is finally conquering his dedication and determined work ethic.

Considering the lack of right-handed power in the Yankees lineup, it is time for a familiar face to get another chance. Xavier Nady is still recovering from arm pain, and Alex Rodriguez is clearly still feeling his way through Major League rotations.

Remember 1B/OF Shelley Duncan? Do you recall his thunderous biceps and intimidating forearm bash?

I am the first to admit that he is the streakiest hitter in the Yankees organization, and is as likely to go 0-for-3 with three strikeouts as he is to go 2-for-4 with a 400 foot blast.

Over the next few weeks, however, New York needs a legitimate power threat to compensate for the injuries or ineffectiveness of Posada, Nady, Matsui, Teixeira, and Rodriguez.

Duncan is currently hitting .333 with 10 HR, 29 RBI, 26 R, .405 OBP, and 1.092 OPS in just 23 games. His competition is clearly less fierce in AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but he has earned a shot to help a struggling lineup.

Currently putting the finishing touches on a seven-day DL stint, Duncan is expected to return any day now. His energy, size, and light tower power would help to rejuvenate a lineup without a potent designated hitter.

The eccentric Duncan is riding a hot streak dating back to day one of spring training. He excelled right in front of manager Joe Girardi’s eyes, batting .343 with 3 HR, 10 RBI, and a .425 OBP.

A streak that lasts for the better part of three months begins to take on the characteristics of a trend. Perhaps Duncan will flame out after a short stint in the Bronx, but 3-4 weeks is all the Yankees need.

If Duncan was able to send just a handful of pitches deep into the night sky, he would provide a dynamic that has not existed for the duration of the 2009 season.

Should he prove to be healthy in the coming days, the Yankees should seriously consider recalling Duncan from AAA. He has just the grit, fight, and Paul Bunyan strength that the roster has been lacking from the right side of the plate.

The Yankees have hit countless home runs at the new stadium in the Bronx, but the fans in left field are beginning to feel ignored.

Throw these fans a bone, as they have actually showed up to each game to support a flailing roster. Throw them a big, thick, angry bone.

Resurrect the pinstriped career of Shelley Duncan. Hey…it’s worth a shot.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A.J. Burnett vs. Roy Halladay: When Pupil is Forced to Face Professor

Yankees starter A.J. “don’t call me Carol” Burnett credits the Jays Roy Halladay for completely altering his pitching style.

Halladay’s tutelage has ultimately refined Burnett’s consistency, as well as allowed him to be placed on the “dominant list” more times than the disabled list.

The implementation of a sharp two-seam fastball and a conservation of velocity have taken Burnett’s pitching prowess to levels much closer to his mountain-high potential.

Burnett will now be forced to face his savvy teacher and many former teammates, while also pitching in the ‘dome he called home’ for three years of his career.

In many master-pupil battles, such as the father and son dynamic, the pupil ultimately overcomes the master when he is far past his athletic prime.

The day that a son embarrasses his father in one-on-one basketball, or snaps off a curveball too nasty for his old hands to handle, it is both a proud and degrading moment in his life.

It is bad enough that he is going through a mid-life crisis, but now his son has officially evolved from the primordial soup into a far superior physical machine.

Dr. Frankenstein has created a monster that he no longer can control.

The only recourse is to now live vicariously through the son, suddenly arrogant that his seed and teachings have created such a phenom.

Unfortunately for Burnett, however, he must face Halladay near the peak of his physical existence. He is on pace for an illogical 29 wins this season, and currently stands at 6-1 with a 3.29 ERA.

It is ironic that Halladay sports the “Doc” moniker, as he has taught Burnett everything he knows about pitching as opposed to throwing.

“Doc” is named after the Arizona gunslinger Doc Holliday, though the nickname should reflect all the hitters he makes sickly after facing him start to start.

Hitters have not been sprinting up to the batter’s box to face Burnett this season either, as he has pitched very well outside of one lowly performance in Fenway.

When excluding the Boston start, Burnett is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 2.5 K/BB ratio in five starts. He pitched at least six innings in four of those five starts, minimizing the early exits which once plagued his career.

It will be interesting to see how Burnett approaches facing his former team, as he normally has a knack for elevating his performance against division rivals.

New York will hope for a much better result than C.C. Sabathia’s reunion with Cleveland, as a bullpen implosion left nothing but bruised egos and a 10-2 slaughter.

Burnett pitched admirably against the Rays in his last start, but will need better command of his breaking ball to shut down a potent Jays offense.

Toronto is currently first in all of MLB with 204 runs scored and a .294 team batting average. They are also sitting third with 44 home runs. Their bats are one of the many reasons they sport the best record in the American League.

During his tenure as a Blue Jay, Burnett was 21-8 while pitching at home in the Rogers Centre. Perhaps his familiarity and past dominance in the park will help to fuel his fire on the mound.

“Doc” is one of the most respected and classy hurlers in the league, but this is one day that I hope he gets dosed with a little bit of his own medicine.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Yankees Lineup Dissected, Evaluated: Where Do the Bronx Bombers Stand?

In the wake of countless college graduation ceremonies being performed across the Untied States, it is once again time to put the Yankees through the GPA gauntlet.

After giving out the individual April awards during a May 1 banquet, we will now focus on where New York stands after a 2-6 stretch following that date.

The issues surrounding New York’s starting rotation and middle relief have been well documented and assessed, and represent a major catalyst for the team’s 15-16 start to 2009.

This grading evaluation will instead focus on the Yankee lineup; a group of men that were anticipated to pummel opponents’ rotations until they cried in the corner of the dugout in the fetal position.

Before I hand out the A’s, C’s, and F’s, let’s first focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the offensive attack at this juncture of a marathon baseball season.

Offensive Strengths:

The Yankees currently stand at 8th in MLB with a .273 team batting average, as well as 6th with a .353 on-base percentage. Additionally, they are 2nd in the league in slugging (.468), 4th in OPS (.821), 2nd in home runs (48), and 5th in runs scored overall (172).

They have shown flashes of greatness, and have had a knack for hitting the long ball when they need it most in recent weeks. The bullpen has helped to mask this fact, but there is some reason to view the situation as “half full” moving forward.

New York sits near the top of baseball in a bevy of offensive categories, all while performing far below its expectations and skill set.

Offensive Weaknesses:

The season has produced many games that have been first round knockouts, as the starting rotation has left New York with seven and eight run deficits to overcome.

Many other games have come down to clutch performance, a skill once the lifeblood of any Bronx lineup. This season, however, the team is currently third to last in the AL with a .244 AVG with runners in scoring position (RISP).

The RISP number is also slightly skewed toward the positive, as many of these hits have occurred in convincing victories. The reality is even more dismal than the statistics indicate.

To make matters worse, the Yankees hit just .240 with RISP and two outs, a stat that truly encompasses the team’s struggles to produce with pressures magnified.

The inability to drives in back-breaking runs late in games has left the bullpen in a position to instead break the hearts of Yankees fans.

Semester One Grading Assessment

Valedictorian: Johnny Damon (A+)

After yet another clutch home run against the Orioles on Sunday, Damon now has 9 HR, 25 RBI, 23 R, and a .314 batting average.

Damon has had an incredible resurgence in 2009, and has helped to keep a struggling lineup afloat in recent weeks. In nine May games alone, he has produced 5 HR, 15 RBI, and a .350 average.

The Good:

1. Melky Cabrera (A)

Once left for dead within the Yankees organization, Cabrera was as much trade bait as he was a prospective starter. He has saved a center field situation that had become a black hole, hitting .333 in 81 at bats. He has also added 4 HR, 10 RBI, and a .407 OBP.

2. Robinson Cano (A-)

Cano has often been considered a lazy or nonchalant athlete, appearing to approach the task at hand without full dedication. His hard work during the offseason has paid off, as he is hitting .321 with 6 HR, 18 RBI, and 21 R. A recent homecoming of certain bad habits at the plate has caused Cano’s consistency to slip, preventing an A grade.

3. Nick Swisher (B+)

The true darling of the Yankees roster in 2009, Swisher had box scores treating him as kindly as fans during April. He ended the month at .312 with 7 HR, 19 RBI, and a stellar .430 OBP.

An ‘A’ grade has quickly fallen to a ‘B+’, as Swisher is just 3-for-23 in May (.130). The three hits have occurred in consecutive games, however, so perhaps he is ready to get back on track.

The Bad:

1. Derek Jeter (C+)
If Jeter’s stats were stretched over a full season, he would produce the lowest AVG, OBP, and RBI totals of his entire career. He had two 0-for-5 games in the last week alone, and has been rather pedestrian overall.

The Captain nearly climbed out of the “bad” category as a result of numerous clutch performances in the early weeks of April, helping to prevent an even more embarrassing start for the Yankees.

2. Hideki Matsui (C-)

“Godzilla” was counted on to provide pop from the middle of the lineup in order to compensate for the losses of Alex Rodriguez and Xavier Nady. In 98 at bats, he has produced just 2 HR and 12 RBI, offering nothing more than a keen eye to New York.

A .410 OBP for the month of April is the only thing saving Matsui from the “ugly” category, as he is just 7-for-33 in May (.212) with 3 RBI and a .250 OBP. He also has a propensity to clog up the bases due to his damaged knees.

The Ugly:

1. Mark Teixeira (D-)

Teixeira arrived in New York with a $180 million contract and lofty expectations. The subsequent injury to A-Rod then placed the lineup squarely onto his shoulders, and he couldn’t handle the responsibility. Still hitting an appalling .198, Teixeira has turned a “historically slow starter” moniker into fears of a never-ending train wreck.

While “Big Tex” is still on pace for 40 HR and 97 RBI, he has come up very small. He has resembled Pedro Cerrano from Major League, as he looks as though he has never seen a professional curveball before. Boos will turn into disownment is he does not turn it around with A-Rod hitting behind him.

2. Third Base (F)

The combination of Cody Ransom, Angel Berroa, and Alex Rodriguez collected just 1 HR, 9 RBI, .178 AVG, and .233 OBP in 25 games. Yankees 3B were also leading the league in errors at the point of A-Rod’s return. Ramiro Pena played admirably, but his individual moments cannot overcome the calamity of New York’s “frigid corner.”

The Infirmary:

1. Jorge Posada (A-)

Before an injury placed him on the DL, Posada was also in the running for valedictorian. His .312 AVG, 5 HR, 20 RBI, and .402 OBP in just 23 games were numbers fit for an All-Star starter at the position. He reenergized the lineup, and had proven that a surgically repaired throwing shoulder would not at all affect his production in the batter’s box.

2. Xavier Nady (Incomplete)
Nady played just seven games before injuring his throwing arm, hitting .286 with 2 RBI. He is very important to New York’s second half success, but has not played enough to earn a grading evaluation.

3. Jose Molina (B)

Molina is potentially the best backup catcher in all of baseball. His defensive prowess is unquestioned, and he quickly became the biggest luxury on New York’s bench.

Not known for his offense, Molina’s .273 AVG is more than serviceable considering his expectations. Unfortunately, a recent quad injury has left the Yankees scrambling for a worthy and dependable backstop.

Cumulative GPA:

After calculating all of these grades on an even scale for each grade, the Yankees offense possesses a 2.74 GPA. This causes them to fall somewhere between a C+ and B- in terms of an overall grading evaluation.

Considering the consistent pitching struggles and strength of schedule, New York is going to have to hit closer to an A- in order to earn itself a playoff spot come October.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Yankees Recall P Brett Tomko from AAA

According to rotoworld.com, the Yankees have finally given Brett Tomko his chance on the Major League roster after toying with a bevy of unproven and unprepared youngsters.

"The Yankees recalled RHP Brett Tomko from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Tomko posted a 0.64 ERA and a 17/4 K/BB ratio in 14 innings with Scranton. He'll take the roster spot of David Robertson and will pitch in middle relief."

All I can say is...IT'S ABOUT TIME.

New York now has two proven long men in their bullpen, able to compensate for virtually every occasion when a starter blows up in the early innings.

This should prove to be a major benefit for the Yankees, as they can now focus of using the "best of the worst" in their bullpen only during the season's closest games.

A-Rod Writes Script Fit for the Oscars: Why We Shouldn’t Expect Instant Encore

Like a story fit for Hollywood, Alex Rodriguez launched the first pitch he saw in 2009 over the left field wall.

Time seemed to stop momentarily as his bat connected with the pitch, and the Yankees quickly opened up a 3-0 first inning lead.

It is amazing how one pitch can completely change a team's outlook on the season, but A-Rod provided a much-needed resurrection of hope in the Bronx.

Though the bullpen, lineup, and starting rotation still have more questions and riddles than a law school final exam, New York finally had its superstar back.

More importantly, New York had a superstar with intensity and fire, ready to play with a large and persistent chip on his shoulder.

The glare that Rodriguez sent in the direction of the mound during his first at bat produced venom potent enough to kill an elephant in seconds.

A-Rod was on a personal mission to prove he could again be the player he always was, regardless of a debilitating injury and his subsequent shunning of PEDs.

The journey back from surgery is not always going to play out like the final scenes of a feature film in which Rodriguez wins the Academy Award for "Best Actor."

A-Rod will likely struggle with breaking balls in the weeks to come; unable to simulate the depth and sharpness of Major League off-speed pitches during his rehab process.

Hitting a fastball after a long hiatus is like getting back onto a bicycle.

Everything seems to come back to form naturally, and it feels as though your cleats had not been covered in dust just days earlier.

Off-speed pitches, however, are an entirely different animal.

In much the same way that pitchers need time to develop the feel for throwing them, hitters need repetition to master handling them at home plate.

It takes times to recognize the rotation of a baseball as it leaves a pitcher’s hand, as well as determining the variation of velocities from pitch to pitch.

There was no better example of this intricacy than Rodriguez’s second and third at bats.

Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie learned from his first inning mistake, snapping off a sharp two-strike curveball into the dirt. A-Rod feebly waved at it, removing some of the luster from his storybook homer.

Rodriguez’s third at bat featured the same pitch recognition issues. Again faced with two strikes, he anticipated receiving another sharp curveball low in the zone.

Guthrie instead threw a hard fastball on the inside corner at waist level, and A-Rod was caught frozen.

It will take a period of weeks for Rodriguez to become comfortable with this area of the game, so do not expect many more moments of instant heroism in the short-term.

It is important to remember that A-Rod did not at all participate in spring training, and he first has some rust and cobwebs to eradicate.

Rodriguez will not produce his fourth MVP season in 2009, but he doesn’t have to for New York to succeed. His mere presence has energized the roster, and Teixeira should finally be able to relax.

Teixeira even admitted recently that he “was going to give (A-Rod) a big hug” when he saw him on Friday.

As far as the offensive production that A-Rod will produce…it is anyone’s guess.

The important thing is that New York’s embattled star and lightning rod has again returned to his self-proclaimed “family.”

Though he is sometimes treated like an estranged uncle, this “family” is ecstatic to plug him into the lineup card hitting cleanup.

After all, this estranged uncle has an incomparable ability to hit a baseball.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Commitment to Yankee Mediocrity: A Fan’s Pledge to Put Away His Razor

Superstitions have forever been at the epicenter of baseball.

They have ranged from Wade Boggs’ matchless poultry obsession to Roger Clemens’ need to marinate Babe Ruth’s statue in his forehead sweat.

The minutest of details suddenly become the driving mental catalyst for success in professional sports.

Players genuinely believe something as simple as changing socks will cause a landslide with the power to destroy an entire season.

The Yankees worsening catastrophe has made this fan brainstorm how to prevent 13-149 from becoming a legitimate possibility.

The present losing streak has reached five, and the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be dimming as opposed to brightening.

Having tried virtually every superstition I’ve accumulated over twenty years of athletic participation, I resorted to the simplest form of irrationality. The superstition of choice would instead be not being superstitious.

Here is the background story behind my decision:

Following waking up on Saturday morning, I quickly realized that it was time for a non-violent protest against being proactive. In my first exploit to promote laziness, I decided that shaving was not in the day’s agenda.

After all, the Yankees were about the play an afternoon game against the Angels while riding the coattails of a four-game winning streak. An 8-4 drubbing ensured a disappointing weekend, as rain postponed any chance at Sunday’s redemption.

The Red Sox were next, and I was consistently reminded of the changes MLB has undergone since our 2004 collapse.

Two more dreadful losses stretched the incompetence streak to three, and despair had left my face looking less and less groomed.

I was beginning to resemble a man going through a painful relationship crisis. My appearance had become more disheveled each day I ignored the large bottle of Gillette shaving cream in the medicine cabinet.

An agonizing Wednesday loss at the hands of the Rays—in which I was forced to witness first hand—only made matters worse.

Mariano Rivera then contracted the debilitating “Herediatrosis,” named after former bullpen nightmare Felix Heredia. Back-to-back Rays blasts broke a ninth inning tie, and dropped New York to 13-15 on the season.

As I sit here on May 8, it has been exactly one week since a blade has touched my face. Exactly the same timeframe has passed since New York’s last victory, and I have decided to go anti-superstition.

Two decades of playing America’s Pastime would tell me that shaving could allow the Yankees fortunes to make a full 180-degree turn. However, a week of failed tricks and techniques has forced me to commit to the contrary.

I will not pick up a razor blade until the Yankees win a game.

I already look like an unkempt version of Indians’ starter Jake Westbrook, and it is imperative that something happens within the next two days.

Mother’s Day arrives on Sunday, and I cannot afford to disgrace my entire family.

This is essentially my final plea to the Yankees to somehow place a tourniquet on their gaping wounds. Something needs to stop the bleeding.

The respect of my family depends on these next two games in Baltimore. Please don’t let me down like you have day after day over the last week.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New York Yankees Star in Feature Film, Rip Van Winkle: A Baseball Tale

Steady and commanding rainfall attempted to halt the heartless nightmare of Yankees baseball on Wednesday night.

It almost appeared as though the dark sky was crying the tears of dejected Yankee gods unable to stomach watching another inning packed with emptiness.

Before the imposing cloud cover got its wish, Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira was seemingly able to revive a roster that had long since cashed in its chips.

His bases-clearing double in the eighth inning tied the game at 3-3.

Another bullpen cave in and RISP choke-job resulted in one more uncomfortable defeat, dropping the Yankees once again below the .500 mark.

As a result of the loss, New York had now become the leading role in Rip Van Winkle: A Baseball Tale.

The motion picture is about a weary ball club that suddenly slips in a comatose state. Worried spectators are left unsure of when—or if—its eyes will ever reopen.

After consulting a bevy of qualified baseball physicians, it is determined that brain activity is nominal, and the team’s weak heart makes an ultimate prognosis more complicated.

The heart in question is now pumping at just half its capacity; attributed to the removal of Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, and Bernie Williams from its moving parts.

Luckily for New York, its own vanity has stimulated the heart’s other half to continue functioning. Doctors feel this phenomenon is the only thing preventing an irreversible flat-line.

New York began to slip deeper and deeper into unconsciousness following the departure of Jorge Posada to visit his own series of medical personnel.

The emotional and vocal leader of the clubhouse had vanished, and New York’s heartbeat slowed to an even more perilous 30 beats per minute.

Though nowhere near the breaking point required to “pull the plug,” there is an indisputable need for daily monitoring and optimal care.

Requiring an expert opinion to help get a better grasp on the crisis, the Steinbrenners went to the only man they knew to turn to in times of medical need.

They flew to Birmingham, Alabama to visit Dr. James Andrews.

The Steinbrenners had Andrews’ number on speed-dial after signing Carl Pavano to a four-year contract, so he was rather easy to get in contact with.

Andrews was busy analyzing the brain function of Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez, as well as determining the chemical composition of his “doctor-prescribed medication.”

After returning their call some time later, the two sides discuss every possibility resulting in a complete recovery. Andrews suggests an MRI at his world-renowned facilities, but the Steinbrenners fear what could be discovered.

At long last, Andrews supplies a six month prescription for “bullpen competency,” and a “clutch performance supplement” guaranteed to pass through MLB’s drug prevention and treatment program.

In an effort to avoid spoiling the film’s ending, I will pause the extended preview at this juncture.
After all, the movie’s conclusion could always be altered and transformed to reflect the happenings of the remainder of New York’s season.

The Farrelly Brothers performed a similar correction to the ending of Fever Pitch after a historic Red Sox curse was lifted forever.

Let’s hope that New York can realize a restoration and recovery process equally as miraculous.

There is plenty of time remaining, as we only have reached May 7 on the 2009 calendar. It is not time to panic, but I would suggest planning some summer vacations…just in case.

Manny Being Injected: Ramirez Suspended 50 Games for Testing Positive

Wow. I cannot even begin to describe how disappointed I am right now. Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

I know as a Yankees fan I should be excited and alerting all of my "Red Sox Nation" friends of their tarnished World Series runs.

However, he was without a doubt the best pure and clutch hitter of my generation.

As much as I craved the will to despise him, it was virtually impossible.

I respected him far too much, and knew that he was doing things the right way.

Hell, he didn't even care enough to use performance enhancers right?

After all, his "Manny being Manny" persona doesn't translate into rampant PED use. Once again, I was proven wrong and naive, and am pained to realize how corrupt the game I love has become.

There is officially no one worthy of exclusion, and Manny represents the breaking point in baseball's PED revolution.

A-Rod was a shocking development, but as time wears on...was it really that surprising considering his personality and mindset?

Stay tuned for the bevy of updates in the coming hours from ESPN and other sources. I suggest turning on a television immediately.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

FOX Sports Columist Jason Whitlock Blasts SI's Roberts

Disclaimer: Heartbeat of the Bronx does not necessarily share the beliefs of Jason Whitlock, and should not be held accountable for the contents of his article. I do, however, also question the legitimacy of certain areas of her book.

Jason Whitlock, a columnist for the Kansas City Star and FOXsports.com, has openly attacked the credibility of SI's Selena Roberts.

In the wake of the release of her new book A-Rod, Whitlock has come forward in warning readers to be skeptical of her apparent "sources."

I do not know Mr. Whitlock's credibility any more so than Roberts', but wanted to share the article with my readers due to its controversial nature.

I also found it relevant considering my recent article which compared A-Rod and Roberts.

I hope you enjoy the read, and I would love to hear your comments on his piece.

Frustration, Concern, Anger: Emotions Still Guide Me to the Stadium Tonight

I will be heading into the Bronx tonight; though it is against my better judgment.

The past few days have resulted in an 0-5 start against the rival Red Sox, as well as continued ineptitude from the bullpen and starting rotation.

A desperate begging process for clutch hits was ultimately ignored, and yet another crushing injury to a Yankees star was realized.

The demons of the disabled list came calling for catcher Jorge Posada, landing him in baseball purgatory for anywhere from 2-5 weeks.

Jose Molina is the best backup catcher in all of baseball. Unfortunately for New York and its already anemic offensive attack, he is not quite known for his potent swing.

The Yankees now limp into a short two-game series with Tampa Bay, the reigning American League Champions. A.J. Burnett will be on the bump for New York against Tampa's Andy Sonnanstine.

Tampa Bay's young and aggressive lineup should help Burnett to expand the zone and pick up strikeouts, but the "shoulds" of baseball are less dependable than any other major sport.

The forecast calls for rain near the latter third of the game. If I am attending a Yankees game, this trend is easier to bet on than a Notre Dame-Navy football game (before 2007).

Hopefully I can help turn inconsistencies into victories with my attendance, but we shall see. Talk to you all tonight or tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Remembering Lou Gehrig: The Quiet, Forgotten Leader of “Murderer’s Row”

The 1927 Yankees are often considered the best baseball team ever assembled.

Their lineup’s potency was unparalleled, earning them the intimidating nickname of “Murderer’s Row.”

Throughout the glory years of this immortal roster, New York possessed a one-two punch of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Yankees Manager Miller Huggins could write Gehrig’s name into the scorecard months in advance. He knew nothing would ever prevent Gehrig from lacing up his cleats.

During Gehrig’s remarkable 2130 consecutive games played streak, he is said to have broken every finger on both hands, while also suffering countless other debilitating injuries. His toughness and dedication quickly earned him “The Iron Horse” as a moniker.

Ruth often joins Ted Williams, Willie Mays, and Joe DiMaggio as the first players to roll off the tongues of those debating the “best player of all-time.” Gehrig, meanwhile, has forever been underrated and underappreciated with regard to his greatness; somehow disappearing behind the shadows of baseball’s immortals.

Ruth is rightfully credited with being the greatest hitter in Yankees history, as well as potentially the best in the entire existence of America’s Pastime. He deserves every accolade, as 714 home runs and a career .342 AVG are untouchable when reflecting on the era in which he played.

Gehrig, however, was even more responsible for the team’s eternal admiration. By hitting cleanup in Murderer’s Row, he provided unequaled protection in order to maximize Ruth’s performance.

As a result, Ruth received many more fastballs than pitchers would have dared to throw had there been any other hitter standing in the on-deck circle. He hit 60 home runs in 1927, the highest total on his Hall of Fame career.

What makes Gehrig’s achievements more noteworthy is the fact that he was protected by Bob Meusel, a man who hit just 8 home runs in 1927. He never hit more than 12 homers in Gehrig’s Yankee tenure.

Gehrig stepped into the batter’s box with the bases empty an additional 60 times due to Ruth’s blasts, and had a gap hitter as protection in back of him. Even so, he still produced 47 HR, a .373 AVG, .474 OBP, and a team high 175 RBI.

As powerful and feared a hitter as Ruth was, it was actually Gehrig who performed slightly better in the World Series.

Ruth hit .326 with 33 RBI in 41 games, while Gehrig generated .361 with 35 RBI in just 34 games. During their time as teammates, Ruth hit .409 with 22 RBI, whereas Gehrig batted .422 with 25 RBI.

Both epitomized the word “clutch,” but Gehrig’s superior numbers should be celebrated and magnified by hitting behind Ruth.

After Ruth’s final .300 AVG and 100 RBI season in 1933, he became a mere shell of the hero he once represented. He struggled mightily in 1934, before eventually leaving the franchise shortly thereafter.

Gehrig’s production remained unchanged, even while shouldering the burden of the Yankees lineup for the first time without Ruth. From 1934-1937, he averaged 41+ home runs and 149 RBI, while also hitting .350 over that span.

The Yankees added a promising rookie to the lineup in 1936 named Joe DiMaggio, who was again placed in front of Gehrig in the batting order.

Additionally, “The Iron Horse” had a 20 home run hitter batting behind him for the first time in his entire career; Yankees catcher Bill Dickey.

The culmination of Dickey and DiMaggio helped to balance New York’s lineup and protect Gehrig. It led to three consecutive World Series Championships from 1936 to 1938.

The Iron Horse would have continued to collect jewelry had it not been for his sudden and disheartening retirement in 1939. He was ultimately forced to leave the game he loved after developing a rare disease which would later bear his name.

Gehrig was the product of a blue collar New York City upbringing, earning the right to make his mark on the sport’s most impressive franchise. He left baseball the way he entered it after replacing the injured Wally Pipp; feeling grateful and blessed for the years he spent living every kid’s dream.

The emotional and heartfelt speech Gehrig delivered is still regarded as one of the best in sports history. He was summoned to speak with no preparation or prior knowledge, and delivered a teary-eyed message straight from his heart to the microphone.



Gehrig is one of the most talented players to ever don a baseball uniform. More importantly, he is the classiest and bravest man to step foot onto the hallowed ground of Yankee Stadium.

Not only was Gehrig someone to look up to and admire, but he is also a true source of inspiration to anyone who knows his story or battles his disease to this day.

I tip my hat to you, Lou Gehrig, and sincerely hope that you are still hitting cleanup in God’s lineup.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Positive News on the A-Rod Front

According to The Associated Press, today was an excellent and encouraging day in the comeback process of Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod hit a home run, played seven innings in the field, and drew a walk off of J.C. Romero. The home run was already his second of the rehab assignment.

Romero is a bona fide reliever in the Major Leagues for the Phillies, but is currently serving a 50-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

The team would not put a concrete date on A-Rod's return, but it is believed to be within a week's time.

A-Rod will provide much needed protection for the struggling Mark Teixeira, while also adding right-handed power to a lineup dominated by lefties.

Yankees Come to Their Senses: FINALLY Call up Long Reliever

Yankees reliever Anthony Claggett was embarrassed in his Major League debut a few weeks ago.

Claggett, however, was still somehow the first option to be recalled from AAA when Damaso Marte was placed onto the DL.

No one quite understood the move, as New York has been in desperate need of a long relief option. Another unproven rookie is not exactly a solution to the current bullpen crisis.

With the bullpen currently holding a 7.18 ERA (when excluding the injured Brian Bruney and Nick Swisher escapade), it was time for a change.

Former Yankees No. 5 starter Alfredo Aceves has been summoned to the big club, giving manager Joe Girardi additional options to consider.

If a starter is knocked out of the game early, or extra innings arrive, Aceves can save the tired and overused arms of the bullpen.

This should help to take pressure of of Phil Hughes in tonight's series opener with the Boston Red Sox.

Should Hughes begin to elevate his pitch count in early innings, he knows Aceves is available to back him up. He no longer has to fear trapping the bullpen in the same nightmare that Chien-Ming Wang did before he replaced him.

If the rain allows tonight's game to procede, it will be interesting to watch how Hughes responds to being thrown into the fire in just his second start of 2009.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Special Thanks to WBSU 89.1 FM Radio

I would like to extend appreciation to the guys at The Point After of WBSU 89.1 FM radio in Rochester, NY.

They were generous enough to invite me onto their program today to talk Yankees baseball for 10 minutes.

The hosts do a great job up there, and I urge all of my readers to check out the site and give them a live listen.

We discussed many topics about the recent troubles of Alex Rodriguez off the field, the feedback stemming from the opening of the new stadium, and the current state of the Yankees.

The unavoidable topic of Joba Chamberlain's possible return to the eighth inning role was also covered, as well as the importance of Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes.

I look forward to speaking with them again in the future, and ultimately had a great time on the show.

Chien-Ming Wang Injury Update: Foot Again Blamed as the Catalyst

Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang has once again shot himself in the foot.

I of course mean this figuratively, and am in no way insinuating another Plaxico Burress nightmare.

According to reports produced by the New York Daily News, it appears that Chien-Ming Wang’s struggles were indeed magnified by a recurring foot injury.

The damage dates back to last season, when Wang was injured while rounding third base in an Interleague game.

Organizational pitching coach Billy Connors remarked that Wang was unable to push off his back foot, which is where pitchers gather their power from. Wang pitched four innings in an extended spring training game Saturday and is slated to do so two more times before rejoining the Yankees.”

Wang’s account of the early season disaster is that “stiffness in my right foot threw off my mechanics.”

As a result, the Yankees feel that his hip took on the brunt of the stresses. He was getting over onto his front foot too quickly, using hip rotation to compensate for an insufficient push off of his back leg.

Billy Connors and the Yankees organization seem to have targeted exactly what needs to be repaired in order to salvage Wang’s season. Actually succeeding in doing so is the next and more difficult step.

Phil Hughes, Wang’s current replacement, will pitch today against the Angels. His performances will ultimately determine the urgency of Wang’s restoration.

The Yankees have decided to implement a rehab process including a strength and conditioning program.

It wouldn’t hurt to also send him to a few sessions with a first-rate therapist, would it?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bullpen Makes Sure Another Comeback Falls Short

C.C. Sabathia was very strong through six innings, before eventually losing his command and dominance during the seventh.

The relief did not provide any of what their name insinuates, and allowed the Angels lead to stretch to 8-1.

The deficit was too much to overcome, even for a suddenly stimulated Yankees comeback campaign.

After a two-run blast from Jorge Posada, New York inched closer. Unlike last night's miracle, however, the Angels never had to truly concern themselves with thoughts of a collapse.

The loss dropped Sabathia's season numbers to a disappointing 1-3 with a 4.85 ERA. He has pitched much better of late, though his box score performance does not support this idea.

Sabathia is still performing at a higher level than virtually the entire Yankees bullpen, as Albaladejo (7.30), Veras (8.03), and Robertson (5.40) helped to stop any hopes of continuing the team's four-game winning streak.

Phil Hughes will square off against Joe Saunders tomorrow afternoon in attempts to capture a 3-1 series victory over the Angels.
If Hughes can build off of his impressive 2009 debut, the Yankees will feel much better about heading into a four-game battle with the Red Sox and Rays.

It appears as though this team is following the pattern of one step forward, one step back.

They will have to begin playing consistent baseball in all facets of the game in order to reach the top of their division.

John Sterling: A Gaze into the Heart, Soul, and Lungs of Yankees Radio

Most fans of baseball tend to recognize Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto, or Bob Sheppard as the historical voice of the New York Yankees.

For as long as America’s Pastime is continued, cleats, pine tar, bats, and high socks will be as American as hot dogs and apple pie.

In the same token, the aforementioned voices of Yankee past will forever be linked to the Bronx as definitively as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Lou Gehrig.

To Yankees aficionados growing up during the Mattingly years with a radio in their grasp, however, “there can be only one.” New York radio personality John Sterling is the play-by-play version of Highlander; both incomparable and irreplaceable in our ears and in our hearts.

Sterling has been announcing Yankees games over the radio waves for 20 straight seasons. During that time period, he has not missed one game for any circumstance. His streak of nearly 3400 consecutive games makes even Cal Ripken appear to be undedicated.

What most endears Sterling to Yankees fans is his unrelenting fandom. The passion and emotion flows from his brain to his vocal chords, forcing listeners to likewise hinge on every pitch.

Listeners can immediately discover the status of their ball club by the first words that pour from Sterling’s mouth.

When in the midst of a convincing victory, Sterling is often caught giggling and marveling at every action a Yankee performs. Something along the lines of, “Oh Suzyn, isn’t Jeter just UNBELIEVEABLE?! Did you see him stride so effortlessly after that pop-up?!” Suzyn refers to his announcing partner Suzyn Waldman, essentially only present to bounce rhetorical questions off of.

During an embarrassing loss or unanticipated collapse, Sterling becomes utterly soaked in sarcasm. He uses every reserved muscle in his body to circumvent ranting like a beer-drinking fan sunken into his couch. You’re likely to hear facetious phrases such as, “Well, the Yankees bullpen certainly did an extraordinary job holding onto the lead, didn’t they Suzyn?”

In a game that is one pitch away from complete transformation, Sterling becomes an entirely different animal. You can sense the excitement and fear in his voice, and are able to visualize his hands beginning to quiver. He can no longer control the baseball fanatic inside of him, as the pressure begins to build like an impending volcanic eruption.

At these moments, Sterling has earned a nearly mythological status. If New York is able to record the final out of a dramatic victory, he unleashes one of the game’s most famous calls, “Ball game over! Yankees win, theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankeesssss WIN!!

Sterling will differentiate the length of “the” depending on the importance and drama involved in the triumph itself. Furthermore, his body will begin to gyrate in a motion affectionately referred to as “the Sterling shake.”



Nearly as popular and unforgettable as his final call, Sterling’s home run calls apply a different twist. He has tediously invented a nickname for each and every offensive player on the roster, utilizing them to enhance an already wholehearted delivery.

There are enough timeless examples to fill an encyclopedia, so we will focus on some of the most beloved:

1. Melky Cabrera: “The Melkman delivers! It’s the Melky Way!”
2. Hideki Matsui: “A Thrilla…from Godzilla!”
3. Jason Giambi: “The Giam-bino! It’s a Bash from the ‘stache!”
4. Alex Rodriguez: “An A-Bomb…from A-Rod!”
5. Bernie Williams: “Bern baby Bern!”
And my personal favorite,
6. Shane Spencer: “Shane Spencer…the home run dispenser!”

Immediately before one of these slogans is let loose, Sterling begins with his patented home run hint: “Swung on and…drilled to deep left! That ball is high…it is far…ittttttt’s GONE!” It apparently takes no more than a keychain to translate the experience to fans:



Sterling is without a doubt one of the more eccentric and zealous play-by-play announcers in all of sports. Though clearly an admitted “Homer,” he captivates Yankees Universe each and every time a game is played.

No other NY sports media personality can better capture the intensity and exhilaration of a moment than Sterling, because it truly means as much to him as any fan crowded around a radio speaker.

Sterling has earned this tribute and many more, and will forever resonate in my head whenever I attempt to recall any great moment in Yankees history.

I will leave you with one more of Sterling’s epic calls, as he describes the final out of the 1998 World Series:

Hit on the ground on a hop to Brosius, fields, throws across. In time! Ballgame over! World Series over! Yankees win! Theeeeeee Yankees win! The New York Yankees, professional sports' most-storied gloried franchise has once again scaled baseball's Everest! For the 24th time in their illustrious history, the New York Yankees are World Champions!

The man, the myth, the legend...John Sterling.
 
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