Lions, Yankees and Giants
This is a resolution I will have no trouble abiding by: I will never, ever pick the Lions again. Ever.
So, it’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Giants Stadium, which makes perfect sense on Nov. 22. Better weather than Yankees had on Oct. 22. Figures.
The Giants are plodding along and Tynes somehow just missed a 31-yard field goal. Tynes won’t be back next season. If the Giants had an alternative, he wouldn’t finish this season.
Bronx cheer for Tynes, after he converted the PAT after the Manning-to-Boss TD. Fun times.
Phil Hughes: The kid has changed my life. Stay with me. He recommended “The Office” a million times before I finally gave the show a chance. Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched dozens of episodes. Hysterical. Thanks, Phil.
Antonio Pierce: Unless he comes back from the bulging disc in his neck this season, he almost certainly has played his last game as a Giant.
The Lions: They’ve rallied and trail 27-24 in the third quarter. Yes! Should have taped the Mangini interview with CBS’ James Brown in pregame. Forgot. Considering the number of episodes of “The Office” on the DVR, might not have had room anyway.
The Yankees: Whenever anyone asks me if the Yankees will sign a free agent, my response is: “Yes, if they want to.” I mean, is there any other appropriate answer?
The Lions again: They’re winning. There’s hope in the Motor City!
Perfect end to a memorable season
Well, it’s been extraordinary, the length of the season matched by its success, excitement and abundance of compelling story lines.
Today’s parade provided perfect punctuation to a memorable year — and that’s coming from someone who generally loathes parades. This one was fun.
Where did the Yankees season turn? There are several reasonable answers, but one ultimately stands out: When Alex Rodriguez returned.
With one swing of the bat he instilled confidence. And regained confidence. You could argue, and I have, that this was his most valuable season as a Yankee. Really.
The MVP always comes down almost solely to numbers, which I find silly. There is an intangible nature to the word “valuable.” Voters never seem to take that into consideration.
(If the award were Most Outstanding Player, I would understand all the obsessive numbers crunching. It’s not.)
And, to be clear, I’m not suggesting Alex should be the league MVP; Joe Mauer’s season was remarkable and the award should be his. Just suggesting that Alex has never been more valuable to the Yankees.
And who could have imagined that seven or eight months ago?
“This Week in Football”: I have been delinquent in making my picks for the week. Giants over Chargers. Why do I continue to pick the G-Men? Because their defense is getting healthier and because they have to win this game. Have to. And the Eagles over the Cowboys. The birds looked like a team ready to take off last week against the Giants. DeSean Jackson in particular.
I’ve been called for jury duty on Tuesday. If I don’t have to go, I’ll see you on “This Week in Football” next week.
I’ll pop up on WFAN in the meantime. And will continue to blog. As always, thanks for reading.
Prelude to Game 1
Couple of quick thoughts before I have to stow away the computer for the night:
Let the fun begin:
If yesterday’s Media Day was indication, this will be a fun series. (A better indication, of course, is that both teams are playing at a very high level.) Rollins stood by his prediction. Jeter paused, shook his head and laughed when I asked him about facing Pedro again. And Lidge told me he does think the Phillies’ staff can effectively pitch to Alex.
Media Day was set up like it is at the Super Bowl. (Good idea.) Pedro drew a crowd of reporters that Peyton Manning would have been proud of — easily the biggest of the day. And he seemed to relish his return to the spotlight. What else would you expect?
Game 2 will have amazing intensity. A.J. said he’s happy to be part of it.
The Phillies are extremely confident and loose, which would make them the first team this postseason to match the Yankees in both categories. (A member of the Twins told me before Game 2, “I just hope we don’t get swept.” That’s not a notion the Phillies could relate to.)
Making the calls:
Let’s hope the umpires are not discussed during the series. Not once.
Chat to come:
I’ll do a chat before Game 3. Details to follow.
“This Week in Football” moves on without me. Picks for this week — Jets over Miami because Sanchez can’t be that bad again. The angry Giants over the Eagles in what will be a crazy day, even by Philly standards. And Vikings over Packers — a game that most of the world will watch.
Bruney is back:
We’ll see Bruney in a big spot before this series ends. That’s an intriguing proposition for a pitcher who hasn’t pitched in more than three weeks.
And the ALCS MVP is …
A few of us in the press box broached this subject as Game 4 slowly drew to a conclusion: Assuming the Yankees find a way to win one more game, who’s the MVP of the ALCS?
It’s Alex or CC. Or CC or Alex.
My gut reaction is Alex, who has singlehandedly changed both the ALDS and ALCS. Just ask Joe Nathan and Brian Fuentes. His remarkable numbers represent personal redemption that is almost incomprehensible in its completeness.
Will anyone ever label him “un-clutch” again?
I don’t love numbers but his in postseason are these: .407, 11-for-27, five home runs, 11 RBIs, four walks, four strikeouts. That’s the tangible part. The intangible part is that there isn’t a pitcher with a heartbeat who wants to see him at the plate right now. In any situation.
Meanwhile CC has been almost unhittable. Neither the Twins nor the Angels have had a chance when he’s been on the mound. And his best outing of the bunch arguably was last night’s, on three days rest. (He’s also saved Girardi from some of those shaky bullpen moves.)
His playoff stats, in winning all three of his starts: 22.2 innings, 1.19 ERA, 17 hits, three earned runs, 20 strikeouts, three walks. He’s thrown 327 pitches, meaning he is allowing an opponent to get a hit every 19 or 20 pitches. And he allows a baserunner every 16 or 17 pitches.
When you watch CC, he never, ever appears to lose control, of his stuff or his senses, even when he runs into a bit of trouble. He doesn’t ever seem even slightly out of sorts. It’s amazing.
So, who’s your ALCS MVP?
The (possible) World Series: Those CC vs. Cliff Lee starts could be incredible, no? And in Ryan Howard, the Phils have their version of Alex. Should be fun.
The best closer of all-time: So, on the team bus to Angel Stadium yesterday, Mariano asked me if I’d heard a story about him spitting on the ball. Yes, I said. Then he laughed.
We chatted about it briefly; he said a friend had just told him in a phone conversation about the “controversy.” Clearly, Mariano found the whole thing preposterous. (As did MLB and Mike Scioscia.)
I asked Mariano if I could repeat this story. He said yes. (Ordinarily, I consider happenings on the bus and charter to be off limits.) And I asked if I could report that he laughed.
“You can say whatever you want to,” he said, smiling. And then he laughed some more.
Mariano has the ability to dismiss the absurd, or a poor outing, as well as any athlete I’ve ever seen. His temperament is as important as his cutter in making him the closer, and competitor, he is. Maybe more so.
Seems like a lifetime ago when people were doubting him back in April and early May, doesn’t it?
The three hole: Before you lash out, here is a disclaimer: Mark Teixeira’s defense has absolutely, positively saved the Yankees’ bacon at important times this postseason. No doubt about it.
But it’s amazing how little production the Yankees and the Angels have gotten from the third spot in the order.
Teixeira is hitting .133 in the playoffs, Torii Hunter .222.
Neither Teixeira nor Hunter has an RBI in the ALCS. If Hunter could have managed a big hit in Game 2, this series might be tied.
The Angels won’t lie down; they’ve overcome too much for that. Scioscia says it’s a “one step at a time” deal at this point; of course he’s right. And it’ll start with free-agent-to-be John Lackey in Game 5. But at some point the Angels’ bats have to help out.
The umpires: Where to start? Their incompetence, even on the easiest of calls, is the story of the postseason. It’s been that bad, that obvious, that inexplicable.
And people are finally starting to pay attention.
Yankees fans aren’t obsessed with this, and understandably so, because their team has benefited from most of the calls.
But maybe the sheer volume of blatantly bad calls has exposed the umpires’ collective arrogance and will lead to changes. For example, most of them simply refuse to move physically – even a step or two – to get into better position to see a call properly. And it’s mind-boggling that they so rarely confer with each other when there is doubt. What in the world would be the harm in talking it out, to try to be sure?
At least in the NFL they attempt to get the calls right and, in a sport where the number of simultaneously moving parts is unparalleled, almost always succeed.
As you know, Tim McClelland – the crew chief in this series – blew two calls last night, one immediately after second base ump Dale Scott inexplicably went Phil Cuzzi on us by signaling Nick Swisher safe.
McClelland explained his makeup call by saying, “In my heart I thought (Swisher) left too soon” from third base.
In the next inning, McClelland had a “Three Stooges” moment. Afterward he had no choice but to admit the replay “showed that Cano was off the bag when he was tagged. I did not see that for whatever reason.”
(How the famously even-keeled Scioscia didn’t get thrown out there, I’ll never know. And Scioscia simply refuses to make the umpires part of the story in this series, which says a lot about him.)
Anyway, here’s the most troubling part to me. When an umpire, no less a crew chief, admits to making a bad, bad call because it was in his heart, that sounds like dangerous territory. Imagine arbitrators at any level relying on heartstrings over rule of law to make decisions. Yikes.
Thank you: Speaking of the inexplicable – given the lack of blog posts by me over the past month – this blog remains popular. Really popular. I’m shocked and deeply grateful. Here are the rankings. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And we’ll do another chat soon. I promise.
This Week in Football: After a 2-1 week, guess who’s out of the cellar? Me! Take that, Ross, Howard, Gary and Gordon! It helped that the Favres, my pick, beat the Ravens, Tucker’s pick, head-to-head. Here are my picks for this week, only slightly later than TWIF producer Jared Boshnack would like them: Giants will rebound against Cards, but the pass defense has to improve. Lots. Jets over Oakland, which isn’t an easy choice. They have to simplify for Sanchez, no? And Saints over Dolphins because Sean Payton is a creative genius.
Playoff baseball back in the Bronx
Definitely, a playoff atmosphere at the Stadium. As you would expect. There’s lots of winds and big expectations of a Yankees sweep. Do you know anyone – anyone – picking the Twins?
I’m sitting in a booth – not the YES booth, a smaller one beside the Yankee radio booth – by myself. Cone is in his suite. Kay is hanging with some ESPN colleagues. It gives me an excuse to blog.
It’s the second inning, CC has four strikeouts and is getting a lot of swing-and-misses.
If Mauer comes up in a key spot in, say, the sixth inning, it might be Marte or Robertson who gets the call from the bullpen. That’s how much confidence Girardi has in Robertson.
The final decisions on the postseason roster were three guys for two spots. The three were Gaudin, Marte and Guzman. Once the Twins won, the pitchers were in. Gaudin is the long man, should a starter get knocked out early. As Girardi puts it, Gaudin is the insurance that allows him to use the rest of the bullpen however he chooses.
Mauer said his job tonight is to calm down Duensing and get him to keep the ball down. He also said the Twins are running on adrenaline and that it’s “probably good” that they have to play right away. There’s no time to be tired.
The Yankees were reportedly loose in the clubhouse before the games. Unlike the regular season, the media aren’t allowed in there before playoff games.
It would seem there’s even more pressure on A.J. in Game 2 now that Molina is in and Posada’s out.
As for “This Week in Football,” I am in last place in the picks. Last place. This week, I’ll take the Giants over the Raiders, the Jets over the Dolphins and am looking for a layup for my third pick. Eagles over Bucs.
Angela (from my chat), you were correct! Jesse Carlson was spotted by My9 cameras in the visiting dugout after he was ejected last night. Flaherty and Leiter say they were making the point during the broadcast that Carlson should not have been there. Nice catch, Ang!
“This Week in Football”: I’m required by producer Jared Boshnack to make NFL picks. Went 2-1 last week, hitting on Giants and Saints and missing the Jets. This week, I’ll take the Giants because of their pass rush. And the Patriots because they’re the Patriots. For my third pick, I’ll go with the Titans over the Texans because the Texans looked awful and somewhat disinterested.
Angels-Yankees: Yeah, it’s two days late, but Monday’s game yielded some interesting comments from the visiting clubhouse. Said pitcher Jered Weaver, who is having an outstanding season: “It’s pick your poison with anybody who comes up to the plate for them.” Said Mike Scioscia, who knows a thing or two about how much solid relief pitching can propel a team: “(The Yankees are) definitely not a team you want to get in a bullpen war with.”
Should be a fun three-game series in Anaheim, beginning Monday. And here’s a weekend highlight: CC against King Felix on Saturday night at Safeco Field.
Chat: Red-hot Red Sox, Posada brawl, 2010 and more
Check out the below chat for Kimberly Jones’ thoughts on the Red Sox closing the gap in the A.L. East, Jorge’s suspension, 2010 Yankees schedule and more.
<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=d25a52c318″ >Kimberly Jones chat</a>
The players reported at 11:30 today. A.J. was there long before then, doing some housekeeping around his locker. Among his objectives: To dispose of the cleats he wore Thursday.
“They’re the last things to go that I wore during that start,” he said.
We didn’t ask for specifics. What about the glove, wondered Dave Eiland.
“The glove stays,” A.J. said. “It’s not the glove’s fault.”
A.J.’s a veteran, a pro, a pie-thrower. He takes losses hard. Especially, it seems, losses that come down to one pitch on a day when he had nasty stuff from the moment he left the bullpen.
He pitches again Tuesday in Baltimore. A.J.’s lost his last three starts. His combined numbers: 19 innings pitched, 17 hits, 15 earned runs, seven walks, 23 strikeouts. He knows he has to do better than that; he is (much) better than that. And, in case you’re wondering, it’s a safe assumption that he would prefer to throw more than 105 pitches next time out.
Phil Hughes: He might spend more time in the clubhouse while the media are present than any other player. He looked on with amusement as A.J. tidied his locker. Hughes is one content guy these days. We spoke with Mike Harkey for tomorrow’s Innerview for “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi” and he marvels at the way Hughes has adjusted to the bullpen. And Harkey believes Hughes’ easygoing demeanor has played a large role in his splendid transition.
Michael Kay: He’s gone hog wild back into Atkins. His culinary choices today included bacon, a burger, caffeine-free diet soda and decaffeinated hot tea. That’s a rough go, if you ask us. Leiter had the commuter breakfast — muffin and coffee; he wasn’t hungry. And you just can’t beat the oatmeal in the Yankee Stadium press dining room. With brown sugar. Oh, a pizza just arrived in the booth. Leiter is partaking. Kay is eating only the cheese.
Jim Thome: He was today’s Innerview for “Batting Practice Today presented by Audi.” What a nice guy. He’s putting his 10 nieces and nephews through college. He and Reggie have a great relationship; he surpassed Reggie on the all-time home run list Aug. 15. At 564 homers, he said he can’t help but think about 600 sometimes. And he said when you play for Ozzie, you know you’re going to have fun. As for the toughest pitcher he ever faced, Thome laughed and said, “CC last night!”
What is it about Melky?
Beautiful day here in Chicago. A surprising number of Yankees fans were dodging raindrops on Michigan Avenue yesterday. Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us.
Melky Cabrera: What is it about Melky that he seems to come up with a big hit just when the Yankees need one? Like his three-run homer off Buehrle in the second inning.
Jerry Hairston Jr.: Girardi loves his versatility. Girardi also loves Ransom. It’s hard to see the need for both.
Ozzie Guillen: We didn’t have to bleep him at all for pregame today. That might be a first. He is fun. He also promised a quick game today. Um, maybe not.
Jake Peavy: If his new team’s preferred timetable is correct, he’ll face the Red Sox and Yankees on a road trip that begins Aug. 24. Ozzie hopes Peavy, who threw in the bullpen today, could make his debut even before then.
Al Leiter and the Rev. Jesse Jackson: What do these gentlemen have in common? Both paid dinner tabs last night in one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants. Leiter left a 20 percent tip, picking up the sizable tab for a table of four. Thanks, Al. (Full disclosure: Kay picked up the bar tab and also left a 20 percent tip. Thanks, Michael.) Restaurant sources indicated the Rev. Jackson went the 8 percent route, leaving $31 on a tab of just over $28 dollars.
CC Sabathia and Mark Buerhle: Halfway through and there are 20 hits and 11 runs on the board. And Tony Pena, not the bench coach, has relieved Buerhle. That’s baseball, as they say.
Finding a fifth starter
Let’s just say Sergio Mitre hasn’t exactly instilled confidence as a fifth starter. In three innings, he gave up seven hits, five earned runs, faced seven full counts. And threw 75 pitches.
What a coincidence that Mitre started, and departed early, on the day of the trade deadline. You have to wonder if the Yankees ultimately will regret not addressing their pitching depth before 4 p.m. today.
Or what they’ll do when Joba closes in on his innings limit — a number even he claims not to know — in six starts or so and they preemptively move him to the bullpen.
Or if, perhaps, Phil Hughes is being stretched out before our very eyes. Three of his six appearances in the second half have been for two innings. In three, he has thrown at least 35 pitches. With Aceves recently suffering from shoulder fatigue, Hughes might be the better option of the two should the Yankees need a starter.
For now, the Yankees will hope they don’t need a starter. Mitre’s next scheduled turn, by the way, is the series opener against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
Shelley Duncan: He’s absolutely delighted to be here, having become resigned to spending the entire season at AAA. “I can’t tell you how happy I am,” he said between hugs from Joba and Hughes. The Yankees have another roster move to make tomorrow, however, and Girardi talked during pregame about the versatility he would gain by utilizing Ransom and Hairston. You’ve got to think the roster move will be between Duncan and Ransom.
Roy Halladay: It will be interesting to see how he reacts to not being dealt. The Yankees will be the first to find out; he pitches Tuesday against Joba at Rogers Centre. J.P. Ricciardi overplayed his hand, never actually intended to trade his ace — unless the offer was completely ridiculous — or recently got assurance from inside the Blue Jays organization that he didn’t have to make the trade. Or something else. No matter what, the situation played out very publicly — probably to a point where it disrupted the routine-obsessed Halladay.
Ozzie Guillen: He was giddy while talking to Jeter before the game. Now he’s wearing a sweatshirt as he walks to the mound. A sweatshirt. Like Belichick, except Ozzie’s doesn’t look like it was at the bottom of the laundry basket.
Michael Bolton: He’s here. Love him! “Soul Provider” is a great song. CVS sells his greatest hits for $8.99 or something like that. A tremendous bargain.