Saturday, August 22, 2009

Red Sox Wave Early White Flag: Why Did Francona Abandon Fenway Magic?

The Yankees suffered through the most frustrating 20 run performance in major league history on Friday—one that should have been an easy victory filled with smiles and childish giggles.

A combination of mindless defense and incompetent “relief” by Brian Bruney instead left New York wondering if Mariano Rivera would warm up in what used to be a 12-1 stomping.

The final score was not indicative of how close the wheels came to falling off of a seemingly unstoppable Yankee freight train. Even a “comfortable” nine run lead felt like Boston was a mere stone’s throw away.

In any other ballpark but Fenway Park (and Yankee Stadium), the deficit would have been insurmountable. In any other ballpark, what Sox manager Terry Francona ultimately did would have been ho-hum protocol.

Fenway Park is not “any other ballpark.” It is a place where dreams never die and hopes never fade. It has redefined the word comeback, and is widely described as “the park where no lead is safe.”

Countless blowouts have been evaporated in a matter of innings, and even the careers of Ashley Simpson, Milli Vanilli, and O-Town could be resurrected within the stadium’s historic walls.

Francona, meanwhile, thought it logical to remove Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, JD Drew, and Victor Martinez from a lineup that had not yet retracted its fangs.

JD Drew could have used to rest to tend to a balky groin, but he had just launched two home runs against Toronto the night before. A third in two days would have ignited a crowd looking for something to latch onto.

The Red Sox had just scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 12-4, and had already raised Andy Pettitte’s pitch count near the feared 100.

They were about to be given the opportunity to feast on the underbelly of the Yankee bullpen, and at worst force New York to use its best relievers in a game they should have been donning their Snuggies.

After already falling victim to a 10-run comeback by the Orioles at Camden Yards on June 30, it is surprising that Boston would wave the white flag in the sixth inning at the comeback capital of MLB.

If not for an answered double play prayer off the bat of Red Sox SS Alex Gonzalez (who also swung at ball four) in the sixth, a 15-6 score easily could have become 15-12 in a matter of pitches.

Bruney could not find the strike zone, had just walked in a run, and the lineup was about to turn over.

Bay and Youkilis had now transformed into Casey Kotchman and Nick Green, however, and would have likely destroyed a possible Fenway miracle.

It made perfect sense for Francona to take his chances with unproven relievers as opposed to waste his top dogs on a game likely to end in defeat. The question that needs to be asked is “why did you give up offensively?”

The Yankees were not pitching a two-hit shutout through six innings. They were not maintaining a 10-run lead while Boston’s confidence withered away.

At two different points of the game, the Red Sox were one hanging curveball or poorly located heater away from a four or five run game. Anyone familiar with the rivalry knows that leaves a team one rally away from disaster.

What Francona did on Friday night sent a clear message to Fenway’s tiny visitor’s clubhouse. It told New York that the division was theirs, and Boston was more concerned with preserving a slim wild card lead over Texas and Tampa Bay.

For the first time in a very long time, Francona and the Sox displayed a defeatist attitude. The team that personifies the words fight, grit, and determination had taken on a “we’ll get ‘em tomorrow” persona.

It will be interesting to see how Boston responds with rookie Junichi Tazawa on the mound against the hard-throwing AJ Burnett.

Should New York push across a few runs in the top of the first inning, will the Sox succumb to a “here we go again” mindset?

Could an early deficit with another struggling pitcher on the mound steal the “never say die” swagger they have always had at home?

It should make for a very interesting weekend, and one that fans from both sides should watch very closely.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yankees About to Introduce Big “Bad” Wolf into their ‘Pen

Everything has been going right for the Yankee bullpen since June 1, and the formally much-maligned group has produced nothing but key outs in the biggest of spots.

In fact, the Yankee bullpen leads all of MLB in strikeouts, batting average against, saves, and WHIP since that date.

The old adage warns that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi seem reluctant to heed that caveat.

Damaso Marte is set to return from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre any day now, and it is possible he could be pitching during the Boston series in Fenway (*gulp*).

As hard as the Yankee “pig ‘pen” has worked to build a weakness into a reliable foundation, it appears Marte and the Yankee brass will attempt to “blow their house down.”

The Yankees and their fans better hope that Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera have built their house out of brick as opposed to straw and sticks, because no one with a pulse wants Marte inside.

It is not simply a matter of performance and replacing a weak link with a once dependable commodity. It is not about a glaring need for another lefty in the ‘pen, or that they have been hurt time and time again by hard-hitting left-handed hitters.

This, my friends, is solely about money. The irresponsible three-year contract they re-signed Marte to in the offseason is valued at $12 million.

They cannot allow their second highest paid reliever to waste away in the minors—though I’m sure Kei Igawa felt like he wasn’t alone for the first time.

No, the Yankees have to give him a chance. The same chance they continually extended to Cody Ransom when young players had already proved their ability to outperform him.

Unfortunately, this is not a matter of “if” New York makes a move. It is going to happen, and David Robertson is going to be the most undeserving of demotions.

Robertson is currently pitching to a 3.06 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 35.1 IP. He has allowed just 27 hits while collecting a remarkable 52 strikeouts—leading all relievers in MLB with a 13.33 K/9 ratio.

To make matters “worse,” the young man’s confidence is about to reach a new apex. His August ERA is 0.00 in eight appearances, and he has struck out 13 hitters over that span. This includes a Houdini-like escape of a bases-loaded, one out jam to preserve an important Yankee victory.

Some readers may be asking, “Why on Earth would the Yankees ever send him down? Won’t they choose someone less productive?”

Welcome to the harsh world of “minor league options.”

Due to the presence of Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin to offset the necessary extra days of rest in the “Joba Rules,” the Yankees are essentially one man short in the bullpen. Both will need to make starts over the next month, which makes it impossible to release either of them.

It’s safe to say that Phil Coke, Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, and Alfredo Aceves are going nowhere. If you’re not counting in your head, then Marte, Gaudin, and these four add up to six Yankee relievers.

Most teams, including the Yankees, implement a 12-man pitching staff with five starters and seven relievers. This allows for more bench flexibility for a manager to have at his disposal—especially with Alex Rodriguez’s rest schedule and Hideki Matsui’s balky knees.

This leaves the final battle between Brian Bruney and Robertson. Again, welcome to the harsh reality of minor league options.

Although Robertson has been vital to the bullpen’s success and has vastly outperformed Bruney, his ability to be sent down to Triple-A without first having to clear waivers makes him the odd man out.

To his credit, Bruney has performed much better of late. The problem is, Robertson is better than him, and Marte couldn’t carry Robertson’s jockstrap.

If you remember, it was the combination of Marte and Bruney that got the Yankees into this bullpen mess in the first place—forcing inexperienced youngsters like Robertson to blossom into trusted weaponry.

The days of Marte, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, and Jonathan Albaladejo seem like centuries ago. The Yankee bullpen puzzle is now complete, and it is firing on all cylinders.

The Yankees, nevertheless, are about to try to force Marte’s square peg into the gaping round hole that Robertson’s impact will be leaving behind.

Robertson will be back in pinstripes on September 1, as the 25-man rosters quickly expand to 40.

As the Yankees proved in turning a 3.5 game deficit into a 7 game lead, however, a lot can happen in a few weeks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Yankees Don’t Need GPS to Find the Easy Road to the ALCS

After a recent discussion with Bleacher Report’s Dave Foster, yet another interesting angle to the Yankee season was brought to the forefront.

There has been much discussion about the American League East race and the subsequent battle for the Wild Card among those unable to capture a divisional title.

Additionally, much chatter has been directed at the topics of the “Joba Rules,” the fifth starter role, Joe Girardi’s managerial skills, and the stark home-field advantage that New York has seemingly established.

However, a new wrinkle to the Yankee playoff debate revolves around the benefits of capturing the league’s No. 1 seed in the postseason gauntlet.

Every fan is familiar with the concept that the No. 1 seed will host the Wild Card winner in the American League Divisional Series (ALDS). This would only be altered in the event that the two teams arrived via the same division.

In all likelihood, this would pit New York against either the Texas Rangers or the champion of the American League Central.

What may not be as well-known or memorable to fans is a key choice that the No. 1 playoff seed is given with regard to the length of the postseason’s initial series.

This team is given the selection of one of two options:

The first of which is a “traditionally” constructed series, and one that would in most cases require the use of a fourth starter. There are fewer off days in between games, and it more so simulates the rhythm of the regular season.

A second option offers the No. 1 seed an extended series that is littered with off days—ensuring that two dominant starting pitchers can throw four of the five games on normal rest.

For example, the “longer” of the 2008 ALDS matchups was played between the Angels and Red Sox. The games were played on Oct. 1, 3, 5, and 6, and allowed (as previously discussed) each team to pitch their No. 1 and No. 2 starters four times.

Though their plan backfired in a four game defeat, the Angels chose to throw their aces John Lackey and Ervin Santana twice each—hoping to hold down a powerful Red Sox offensive attack.

This philosophy could benefit New York considering the uncertainties with fourth starter Joba Chamberlain, as well as concerns over the durability of Andy Pettitte’s body (but not mettle) moving toward the end of the season.

(It doesn’t hurt to have CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett at the top of the rotation, either.)

In the event that the Yankees are matched up with either the Chicago White Sox or Texas Rangers in the first round, the decision is a no-brainer.

Aside from the benefits of resting the aging or injured bodies of Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, and Alex Rodriguez, the bullpen will also be given ample time to recover.

The Yankees have had great success with Mark Buerhle, Kevin Millwood, and John Danks in their history, and they would avoid having to start Joba Chamberlain in a key playoff game.

Texas’ high-powered yet free-swinging offense would be the perfect matchup for the “expand the zone” philosophy that Burnett and Sabathia implement, and it would be very difficult for Texas in a short series.

New York’s rooting interest will clearly be with Chicago heading into September—especially after watching Justin Verlander throw 99-100 MPH fastballs past Red Sox hitters on Thursday. I could have sworn a few of them cracked the sound barrier.

Choosing the “longer” series against the Tigers would force New York to face Verlander and Edwin Jackson four times.

This decision would take away New York’s biggest advantage in the matchup—facing rookie Rick Porcello in the series’ fourth game as opposed to Justin Verlander.

Though Porcello and Chamberlain are both inexperienced starters, Porcello will face immense postseason pressure for the first time in his rookie season in the big leagues.

New York’s No. 1 ranked offense would likely provide the difference in a matchup of youngsters—as Detroit is ranked just 15th in runs scored.

The Yankees would also have an advantage in the series’ third game, as consistent playoff hero Andy Pettitte (14-9, 3.96) would face Jarrod Washburn (1-3, 4.91).

All of these factors would prevent the Yankees from entering into the “less rhythmic” of the series formats with the Tigers, though they would hold a clear edge in every probable ALDS scenario should they capture the No. 1 seed.

The ability to choose formats according to what opponent is placed in front of them in the first round is a benefit that cannot be overlooked or underappreciated.

There are many hurdles on the way to a World Series ring, but the road to the ALCS that is most reminiscent of The Audubon begins with the No. 1 seed and a very important power of selection.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yankees’ Late-Inning Home Run Magic Simply a Bronx Illusion?

The recent performances of Yankee sluggers while being stared in the face by adversity have been nothing short of miraculous.

Time and time again, New York managed to forge last-second escapes reminiscent of Harry Houdini, and made leads disappear in ways even David Copperfield would be envious of.

Whether breaking the hearts of Red Sox Nation or stunning their winged Canadian adversaries, the Yankees have displayed the mettle and “never say die” attitude that personifies a championship ball club.

It may be wise to ask yourself, however, if this tidal wave of valor is merely a product of the comfort, energy, and tiny walls of the imposing stadium they can now call home.

If the ghosts of Yankee past represent the supernatural ingredient, and the supportive crowd plays the role of New York’s assistant, is Yankee Stadium’s tiny right field porch its “magic wand?”

In no way are these statements attempting to diminish the achievements of a star-studded Yankee lineup, nor imply that the short porch was the sole catalyst for each of the game-changing long balls.

Nevertheless, it is important to point out that the majority of the walk-off and comeback magic has occurred within Yankee Stadium’s recently constructed walls.

The back-to-back shots of Sunday and Tuesday lifted the sprits of an entire city, but unveiled a potential problem moving toward October.

While this team refuses to give up, it tends to rely very heavily on the solo home run. Many of these comebacks and late-inning heroics have been built on this foundation, and most of these have gone to right field in Yankee Stadium.

When analyzing the statistics of each of New York’s double-digit home run artists, one will find that 102 of their combined 162 homers have been of the “solo” variety (63 percent).

This attack will continue to be a valuable asset at home, but will likely fail to translate on the road—especially in October.

Teams cannot come back from deficits in as many games as the Yankees have on a consistent basis, and they are going to have to rediscover how to manufacture runs in order to win come October.

The dynasty of the recent past hit key home runs when necessary, but were able to use clutch and situational hitting by Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, and Derek Jeter to score runs in bunches—as opposed to one or two via the solo HR.

The reason the Yankees have struggled so much against teams like the Tigers, Indians, and Angels in recent postseasons is centered on this very dilemma.

These teams pitched and defended very well, put immense pressure on their opponents with team speed, and found ways to scratch out enough runs to win.

The Yankees instead sat back and anticipated a three-run home run that never arrived—stood up like a high school chess captain by the head cheerleader.

The 2009 model has a drastically improved (infield) defense, as well as a starting staff and bullpen that translate much more favorably to postseason success. Unfortunately, the offense continues to rely on souvenirs to provide the difference-maker in big moments.

In many games, including those involved in the recent outbreak of heroics, the Yankees have let pitchers off the hook early in games when they were backed up against a wall.

They avoided placing their cleats on the opponent’s jugular, and were unable to stretch a modest lead into a convincing one. Zeros began to pile up during the middle of the game, where teams bound for consistent playoff success would have been able to add a run or two with small ball.

This “middle of the game complacency” has left New York in many precarious situations in the eighth and ninth innings.

At home, a prescription of muscle-flexing is usually just what the doctor ordered. On the road, however, most of these deficits turn into losses in the standings.

The Yankees have displayed grit, resiliency, and an unrelenting backbone. They have provided countless memories to prove to fans that the mystique of the old stadium did not die in its final game in 2008.

On the other hand, October baseball is an entirely different animal, and New York will have to finger through the recipes for success of a past dynasty in order to achieve a World Series birth.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yankees Turn Familiar Confines, Address of Yankee Stadium into “Home”

What a difference a week makes.

Last Monday, the Yankees and Red Sox took in a rare day off in August—separated by a mere half game in the AL East standings.

Since that day, New York has caught fire while Boston’s offense has shriveled up like a slug dropped into a salt shaker.

A six game losing streak by manager Terry Francona’s crew leaves them 6.5 games back in the standings on August 10, and the sand in the hourglass is beginning to get shallow.

What took place in the rivalry’s most recent confrontation cannot be deemed a “Boston Massacre” like those occurring during the 1978 and 2006 seasons.

The Red Sox pitched beautifully over the series’ final three games, and would have earned a split if they could have borrowed some of the “luck of the Irish” from a proud population of shamrocked hearts in the city of Boston.

The Yankees simply caught the Red Sox at the ideal time, and were able to benefit from the absence (whether mentally or physically) of their rival’s best offensive weapons.

It is important to understand that the Red Sox are not the team that was just mercilessly swept out of the stadium—just as the Yankees were clearly not the team that lost eight straight games to the Red Sox to begin 2009.

The most important aside of the extended weekend was not necessarily the results of the games themselves, but the atmosphere in which they were played.

Water cooler discussions and talk radio segments have spent time and energy highlighting the stark differences in intensity and electricity at the new ballpark—as opposed to its immortal ancestor across the street.

Many of these findings were warranted, though most were also vastly exaggerated.

April and May matchups with teams like Baltimore and Cleveland seemed to doom the stadium’s perception from the get-go, with writers and analysts looking for a way to bring seat pricing issues to the forefront.

What was seemingly forgotten is what originally built the reputation of “The House that Ruth Built.”

The prestige was founded on a history of 26 World Series victories. It evolved from a Petri dish of countless October memories that leaped over the miraculous and into an entirely new category of adjective.

The new stadium could not rightfully be judged on games that had nothing riding on them but momentum or frustration. It had to be given a chance to create a true “experience” at the right time.

That moment manifested itself as a key four game series this past Thursday through Sunday.

Evoking a true playoff atmosphere for the duration of the extended weekend, Yankee Stadium transformed from a simple feeling of familiarity into a warm and cozy “home sweet home.”

The bolts of the still youthful stadium seats were tested by the vibrations that emanated from the loud cheers of a crowd left in pure ecstasy.

The imposing walls of the majestic structure shook like Jose Mesa at the sight of a save situation, and the stadium itself was packed tightly with spectators like a Jonas Brothers farewell concert.

Witnessing the standing ovation extended to CC Sabathia after his masterful Saturday afternoon performance sent chills up and down my spine, and admittedly covered his skin in an army of goose bumps.

It may have taken five months of walk-offs, pie attacks, and record-setting home run totals, but Yankee Stadium gave more than a taste of what playoff baseball will feel like inside of its newest Bronx location.

An old saying correctly states that “home is where the heart is,” and the Yankees left theirs out on the field over the last four games.

Yankees Universe can begin to unpack its belongings and remove its coat, because the stadium’s confines no longer feel like a temporary address.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Yankees Reliever Puts a Dark Cloud Over an Otherwise Uplifting Victory

Any worries of a sweep of the season series in baseball’s biggest rivalry was squelched with a convincing 13-6 Yankee triumph on Thursday night.

The Bronx Bombers emphatically reinforced their moniker by launching four home runs into the night sky—though two of which would have been doubles in any other ballpark.

It was a feel good night for all Yankee fans watching from the Bronx and around the country, as an old-fashioned beatdown was being delivered without rubbing it in or acting like it had never happened before.

Things quickly changed in the top of the eighth inning, however, when Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia strolled to the plate in a 13-4 game.

Yankees reliever Mark Melancon proceeded to throw a 94 MPH fastball directly over Pedroia’s head—successfully crossing one of the most respected lines in Major League Baseball.

To make matters worse, Melancon then reiterated and stressed his intent by drilling the Sox leadoff hitter with the next pitch in his shoulder blade.

Hitters can, in most cases, understand being buzzed off the plate or thrown at when riding a hot streak—so long as all fastballs are kept from the rib cage to the cleats.

Melancon not only abused that unwritten rule twice, but also did so in a blowout win. It added insult to injury, and attacked a respected hitter who has absolutely no previous incidents with the ball club.

Pedroia’s hit by pitch was unprovoked and unnecessary, and added a new wrinkle to the rest of the 2009 season (as if the Youkilis-Chamberlain angle wasn’t heated enough already).

Entering Thursday’s game, Pedroia was just 8-for-31 (.258) with 0 HR and 1 RBI against New York in eight games. Is one opposite field gift home run now worthy of a head-hunting heater?

An old adage clearly states that one should “let sleeping dogs lie,” which is exactly what the Red Sox were. They were a struggling team looking for a spark; looking for a catalyst for a rallying cry.

Josh Beckett and the Red Sox will be out for blood tonight in the series’ second game. A fiery and borderline psychotic competitor when toeing the rubber, Beckett will not allow his MVP to be head-hunted twice without retribution.

The rest of the team will undoubtedly rally behind their gutsy and hard-nosed sparkplug, ensuring that revenge is packaged and sent with a bow to the home team’s clubhouse.

How will Yankee fans respond if their captain and fellow “leader by example” is drilled in Friday’s contest—perhaps suffering a broken bone on his hand?

What if recent Red Sox killer and white hot slugger Mark Teixeira (.343 AVG, .477 OBP, 4 HR) is sent to the trainer’s room with an elbow swollen up like Angelina Jolie’s lips?

Yankees Universe could not spend even one second yelling at the television set or calling for a bench-clearing brawl, because the Red Sox sadly would have done nothing wrong.

The “eye for an eye” retaliation method in MLB has a history as storied as the game itself, and the Yankees unfortunately chose the wrong method of message-sending.

Before hopping onto the couch to watch Game Two tonight, or popping the first potato chip into your mouth, please remember to take a second to say a prayer for the Yankee lineup.

Repent for the bullpen’s actions and ask for forgiveness from the baseball gods. Request that retribution leaves a Yankee star bruised but not disabled—making sure that he does not miss any important games in order to heal.

First instincts may understandably promote slurs, yells, curses, and jeers, but we have to try to remember one important factor: Mark Melancon (and possibly Joe Girardi) asked for this.

Cross your fingers and hold your breath, because tonight might be a bumpy ride.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wealthy Yankee Rotation Needs to Prove Its Bite is as Big as Its Bark

The Boston Red Sox have once again arrived at Yankee Stadium for a crucial four game series between division foes, and any and all excuses have been thrust far out of the window.
It is finally time for the cream of the Yankee rotation to rise to the top, and fly high like the countless home runs hit at the new ball park.

AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia were paid a king’s ransom to come to the Bronx, and they need to show they are prepared to take the throne.

Burnett has undoubtedly been the Yankees best starter thus far in 2009, but he has failed miserably at his most important task: win the big game.

Somehow earning the “big game” moniker without ever pitching a postseason inning, Burnett was 5-0 with a stellar 2.56 ERA in 8 starts against Boston during his Blue Jay career. They hit just .212 against him in those games.

This season, however, it has been a far more painful and less encouraging tale for Burnett.

In his first two introductions to the game’s most heated rivalry, he is 0-1 with a nauseating 12.91 ERA, 2.74 WHIP, and a .382 batting average against.

The man brought in to be Boston’s kryptonite has instead been its Lois Lane—someone to use and abuse and toss to the side when the sun rises and duty calls.

The question is, when will “Clark Kent” Burnett emerge from the telephone booth (locker room) with an “S” on his chest?

Is it finally time to discard the glasses, pen and notepad, and unconfident stammer in favor of an intimidating force to be reckoned with?

The same can be said for CC Sabathia, who is currently the highest paid starting pitcher in all of MLB.

Brought in to be a reliable and unquestionable “ace,” Sabathia has been pitching much more like a 10 of hearts. A steady card, sure, but not worth pushing in as many chips into the pot as New York did on his free agent contract.

Sabathia has given up four or more runs in 10 of his 23 starts, and five or more in four of his last seven. His ERA is floating around 4.00, and he has had just one month with an ERA below 3.75.

Problems have resulted from the inability to get on top of his changeup, displaying a lack of fastball command early in the count, as well as difficulty finishing his slider down and in to right-handed hitters.

We have all heard about the putrid postseason numbers for Sabathia, as he is 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA and 2.20 WHIP in 5 starts—two of which were against these very Red Sox in 2007 (0-2, 10.45 ERA, 2.32 WHIP).

In order for Yankee fans, players, and management personnel to truly believe in the possibility of a World Series run, Sabathia and Burnett are going to have to prove that they can handle the spotlight in the biggest of games.

They will have to out-pitch star hurlers in a pennant race, and stand tall on a mound that has made so many before them appear small and unprepared.

These games will provide as close to an October atmosphere as can be replicated in regular season baseball, and will go a long way in determining how these two infinite bank accounts will respond to a pinstriped playoff run.

It is time to unhook the leashes on New York’s two biggest dogs, and find out once and for all if their bites are truly as damaging as their barks would suggest.

Though it doesn’t have to be perfect, it has to make a clear statement that they can last 12 rounds in a ring with their most passionately despised enemy.

Armed with off-speed pitches as jabs and 95 MPH fastballs as a powerful uppercut, these two hired guns need to deliver a knockout blow.

Blue corner, are you ready? Red corner, are you ready? Ding. Ding. Ding.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Backing the Enemy? Yankee Fans Face Dilemma When Sox Play Rays, Rangers

An old adage advises people to “keep their friends close, and their enemies closer.” This thought process has seemingly never translated to the trench warfare of the Yankees-Sox rivalry.

Even at the expense of level-headedness and the bases of logic, fans on either side of the barbed wire fence refuse to wish good things upon their mortal enemy.

By no means is this concept intended to spark applause and fist pumps from Yankee fans each and every time the Red Sox capture a victory—or spend nights wishing on a star for an ALCS rematch.

There is, however, a time and a place for rationality to overcome disdain.

There exists a situation where it is acceptable and prudent to secretly raise a mental “foam finger” (no, not that finger) in support of the Boston Red Sox.

This does not prevent Yankee fans from sleeping like Rip Van Winkle in the event of a Boston loss, but any matchup of the Sox with a Wild Card contender should at least spawn a dilemma in their thought process.

The Yankees currently sit at 64-42, which is good enough to maintain a 1.5 game lead on Boston in the AL East race.

However, their hypothetical “Wild Card lead” is a mere 4.5 games over a surging and resilient Texas Rangers team. The Rays are not far behind, and currently face a 5.5 game deficit.

What does this mean? The Yankees are one bad week away from fighting for their Wild Card lives, let alone battling for reclamation of AL East supremacy.

With injury and “breakdown” concerns surrounding Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, and the bullpen in general, no team could benefit more from a tranquil September than New York.

The perceived “unmovable” innings limit on improving fourth starter Joba Chamberlain has also allowed doubt to creep into any late-season philosophies.

In order to supply adequate rest for their aging, recovering, and protected players, the Yankees will need to establish an insurmountable Wild Card lead.

The only chance New York has at a run to the World Series is ensuring that it is recuperated and refreshed when entering October baseball.

This is where the Red Sox, and to a lesser extent the Angels, come in.

Boston and New York can blow Tampa out of the race, and LAA can provide the same knockout blow to their Texan foes.

If the Yankees can then handle their business in head-to-head matchups with Boston, and prevent them from gaining ground in the standings over the series’ last 10 games, a playoff appearance is virtually guaranteed.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi and company would then have nothing to fight for in September but playoff positioning—without the pressure of having to overuse key starting pitchers, position players, and bullpen staples.

It may seem unorthodox or uncomfortable, but you should not feel like the baseball version of Benedict Arnold for occasionally golf-clapping Red Sox regular season triumphs.

You are not supporting the Taliban, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or the redcoats—or giving a metaphorical high-five to Kim Jong-il or Adolf Hitler.

You are instead rationalizing what is most important for your team to recapture the ring and trophy that “success” in this city is personified as.

It is ok to root for Brad Penny and Boston tonight in their series finale with Tampa Bay, so long as you can flip the switch to pure and unadulterated hatred come Thursday night.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Top 10 Unknown "Truths" about Yankee Utility Infielder Cody Ransom

Yankees infielder Cody Ransom has had a rather rough time in the Bronx. At 33 years old, he is far from a prospect, and fans are not willing to watch a player who struggled his entire career try to “figure it out” in New York.

Fans have ridden Ransom hard from the beginning of 2009, and countless jeers, screams, and negative gestures have been delivered in his general direction.

The Yankees Universe community on Twitter has been particularly harsh (yet clever) in coming up with many slogans, rhymes, and even songs to help to healthily release some of the anger and stress that his play generates.

In honor of this Twitter community, I have constructed a Top 10 list of facts a reader may or may not know about the much-maligned Yankee bench player.

Some may shock you, but others will help to explain more clearly the true roots of some of the economy and the world’s biggest issues/mysteries.

Pull up a seat, and let’s get started. Here we go:

10. Eve did not commit Earth's first sin by succumbing to the wishes of Satan and eating the forbidden fruit. Cody Ransom did.

9. After experimenting with chemical warfare, plane hijacking, and suicide bombing...the terrorists created Cody Ransom.

8. Cody Ransom shares his birth date of February 17 with Larry the Cable Guy, Paris Hilton, and Michael Jordan. Jordan later changed the date on his birth certificate after being cut from his high school basketball team, so as to never again be associated with Ransom.

Things have gone swimmingly for Jordan ever since. The two who maintained their connection to Ransom? Not so much.

7. There was always an 8th plague of Revelation, but God tried to keep it quiet until a later date. He would later unleash it in the Bronx in 2008 as Cody Ransom.

6. Scientists have finally discovered the central cause of the Global Warming process. It has stemmed from steam rising out of the ears of Yankee fans across the globe at the mere sight of Cody Ransom.

5. Prior to joining the Yankees in 2008, Cody Ransom was far and above the No. 1 subprime mortgage lender in the United States.

4. On July 30, 2004, Cody Ransom took the day off from playing Giants baseball to attend the release party of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village—which he helped direct.

Ransom left MLB for 2005 and 2006 in order to co-write Shyamalan’s next film Lady in the Water. It’s hard to believe Shyamalan had just created Signs and The Sixth Sense before Ransom’s arrival.

3. "It's the End of the World as We Know It" was written by REM when Cody Ransom became old enough to play Little League baseball.

2. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame opened in Springfield, MA on Cody Ransom’s birthday in 1968. As a result, he spent all of his time training himself to jump as high as possible instead of practicing his baseball skills.

2009 Update: Ransom can dunk, but he cannot hit, field, or throw a baseball.

1. In 2002, an episode of South Park presented “psychic” John Edward with the award for “The Biggest [Blockhead] in the Universe.”

Edward later demanded a recount, and a corrected error in the ballot process ensured the passing of the award to its rightful owner: Cody Ransom.
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