As I sit here and look at my bank account to determine if it is time for a microwaved dinner or if I can actually afford some decent food, I can’t help but feel utter rage over what I just read. In recent years, Major League Baseball players have been setting record contract deals almost every other day. The Los Angeles Dodgers just signed Clayton Kershaw to the highest pitching deal in MLB history. Kershaw’s new 7-year $215 million deal with Dodgers is the cherry on top of this insane baseball tradition.
Just one month after Robinson Cano signed the 4th largest contract ever with the Seattle Mariners, pissing off every Yankees fan by the way, Kershaw agreed to an astonishing $31 million a year deal for 7 years. This makes Kershaw now the 12th Pitcher in MLB history to sign a contract worth over $100 million dollars. Yes you read that correctly, there are now 12 different pitchers that have signed contracts for playing a sport that demands them to work no more than 40 days out of the year. When you look at it that way it really makes you wonder if any of these players are actually worth it.
I still remember when Kevin Brown signed the first ever $100+ million dollar deal and how absurd that sounded when it happened. Now it has just become absolutely disgraceful. To keep it in perspective, it isn’t just pitchers that are paid with these exorbitant deals. In 2013 alone, there were 20 different players that made at least $20 million dollars and only half of those were pitchers. The amount of money these “athletes” are making is unfathomable. If you don’t like my quotations on the word athletes take a look at the image below.
There is no denying that baseball is the overall least athletic of America’s 5 major sports (Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey and Soccer). I just don’t understand how some teams can justify paying a single player this much money. With Kershaw and Cano’s new deals there are now 6 players in the MLB that will make more money next season than the entire Houston Astros team (Houston’s 2013 teams total salary was slightly over $24,000,000).
So I ask everyone reading this, is there any justification for paying someone this much money? Sure, Kershaw has been the best pitcher in the National League, and arguably all of Baseball over the last 3 years, but even so is he worth $30+ million a season. In his first 6 seasons, Clayton has only hit the 20 win mark once (21 in 2011 when he won his first Cy Young). So let’s say that he is going to have a career year next season and win 25 games for the Dodgers; that would mean that LA paid Kershaw alone $1,228,571.43 for each of those wins. That’s not even taking into account the games he might lose. This is clearly a preposterous amount for any player no matter how good he may be.
All in all, my point is that Baseball needs to come up with some salary cap rules similar to those of the NBA to regulate what these players are making. At this pace, players around bound to be making close to $40,000,000 a year by 2020. That is just laughable!
Do you remember back during Spring Training in March when everyone was thinking that the AL East was wide open for anyone to grab? Well it turns out not much has changed in the last 5 months. Not only is the AL East the only division with 4 teams above a .500 winning percentage, but the 5th team that is under .500 is arguably one of the most dangerous offenses in the game. As a Mets fan, I am nearing the point in my baseball season where I can stop caring about the Mets demise and I can start paying attention to the contenders whom I’ll be watching come September and October. There is no doubt that the AL East is the most exciting division in baseball and I am going to break down how I feel the final 60 games will unfold and who will reign supreme in the East.
1st Place – Baltimore Orioles
Right now, Baltimore is 3.5 games out of first place trailing both Tampa and Boston. The reason I predict they will finish in first is because they are just too damn powerful in every position to not. I’ve had the pleasure of watching a lot of Orioles games this year because of my addiction to watching Chris Davis At-Bats. (Side note: I haven’t enjoyed watching two powerhouses like Davis and Cabrera go back and forth with bombs so much since the glorious 98′ season with Sosa and McGuire.) The Orioles rank first in baseball in Slugging Percentage, 3rd in Runs and 4th in Batting Average. Rarely do you see so much power mixed with batting average for a whole team. Buck Showalter has the luxury of changing his lineup on a nightly basis based on pitching matchups without ever sacrificing power or average. The one weakness that the Orioles have faced all year long is their uneven pitching rotation. While there have been some glimpses of success, for the most part the Baltimore rotation has sucked. So while I believe that the O’s will power through with their offense for the rest of the regular season, I also think that their dismal pitching will lead to their playoff demise.
2nd Place – Tamp Bay Devil Rays
If you jump back exactly two months from today you would have seen the Devil Rays sitting in 4th place in the AL East. If you look at the standings today, you will find Tampa in sole possession of first place by a half game over the Red Sox. Tampa has been lights out since May 27th by posting a 35-17 record since then. They have had all of their success with a steady balance of offense, pitching and defense. Between Evan Longoria doing what Evan Longoria does and Matt Moore proving in his second season that he is a legitimate Ace in this league, the Devil Rays are set for many more seasons to come. They have also found a nice diamond in the rough who actually used to hover around the Mendoza line while with the Dodgers; James Loney is hitting a remarkable .317 with 10 HR’s and 50 RBI’s after only hitting .249, 6 and 41 all last year between LA and Boston. It also helps that he has stayed healthy all year and has played in 101 of Tampa’s 103 games thus far. (Side note: The Devil Rays just lit up CC Sabathia, who I think is a top 5 pitcher in the AL, for 7 runs making it the third time they scored at least 5 on him this season.) The reason that I feel the Devil Rays will finish as one of the AL’s two Wild Card teams and not with the pennant is because while they are good in a lot of categories they aren’t the best in any of them and to win a division you need the best.
3rd Place – Boston Red Sox
If you tried to tell me before this season started that you believed the Red Sox would be leading the Majors in Runs and On-Base Percentage I would have laughed in your face. Well surprise surprise, that is exactly where they rank with just two months left in the season. Big Papi David Ortiz is having a career year when most people thought he should have been washed up at this point. It should only be a few months before we find out it is all from PED use, but let’s enjoy it while we can. In his 16th season, the ageless wonder has a ridiculous stat line that would easily be up for MVP talks if it weren’t for the seasons that Davis and Cabrera are having. The career .287 hitter is batting .323 with 19 HR’s and 65 RBI’s. With Ortiz proving age doesn’t matter, the emergence of Jose Iglesias and Dustin Pedroia putting up consistently great numbers, the Red Sox offense has been great all year. Their pitching, however, has the same issues that Baltimore’s does. Lester, Lackey and Buchholz have all had streaks this year of great successes but for the most part, their inconsistencies are the exact reason they will lose to the Devil Rays in the one-game Wild Card playoffs. Yeah, that’s right, I think both Wild Card teams this year are coming out of this beast of a division.
4th Place – New York Yankees
While it pains me to say this, the Yankees are the most impressive team, (based on what they have), in this division. Plagued with more injuries than I have ever seen a team suffer through, the Yankees have had to put laughable lineups on the field on almost a daily basis. No Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, and Granderson has led to lineups filled with the Overbay’s and Hafner’s of the world that would barely make it in the minors. Even with all of this adversity, the Yankees, whom I hate very much, have played way above average ball. In fact, they have been in playoff contention since day one of the season until recently. Even Yankees fans can admit that they did not expect to be above .500 at this point in the season but their roster and skill set are coming back to reality as they are now 7 games out of first. CC has been struggling worse than he ever has in his career and outside of Cano, there is not one bright spot on the entire roster. Thank God for Mariano Rivera who is absolutely killing it in his final year. If there was ever going to be a season where the Mets were going to out play the Yankees it was this one and yet it still didn’t happen. The Yankees have a lot of rebuilding to do over the next few years but they should not put their heads down because this season was way more of a success then it should have been.
5th Place – Toronto Blue Jays
Before this season started I was talking about how the Blue Jays had a great chance to take this division with the offseason moves they made. Turns out I was terribly wrong. My boy, RA Dickey, is proving that there is a huge difference between pitching in the AL East and the NL East. Last years NL Cy Young winner is getting lit up this year with a nearly 5 ERA and a pitiful 8-11 record. It doesn’t help that he pitches in the best hitting division in baseball and in a stadium that seems to give up 10 Home Runs every game played there. The Blue Jays struggles can not all be blamed on Dickey because their entire pitching staff BLOWS! In fact, the best ERA on their starting rotation comes from Mark Buehrle and his awful 4.50 mark. Pathetic! It was a very tough start to the season for Toronto with Jose Reyes being injured and not one person on their team hitting above .300. With the Blue Jays it has been Home Run or Strikeout all season long and it has led them to a pretty disappointing season. The brightest spot on their team this year has been the power surge that Edwin Encarnacion has been on. While his batting average is below .270 he has hit 28 Home Runs already and knocked in 80 RBI’s before August. Unfortunately for Toronto, there is not much to cheer about this year and with the amount of money they spent in the offseason you can expect to see this team dismantled during the Winter.
You might disagree with my predictions for how this season will unfold but there is no denying that the American League East is the premier division in all of Baseball.
This is not the first time the Yankees have sold their souls to bring in a former Boston Red Sox player. The list seems to be getting longer and longer each offseason. Mike Stanley, Wade Boggs, Sparky Lyle, Luis Tiant, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon, Derek Lowe were all once hated enemies before they put on the pinstripes. Hell, even Babe Ruth was a member of the Sox before he rewrote the baseball record books in the Bronx. I can deal with rooting for an old rival, especially in this day and age where players rarely play their entire careers in one city. Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon all helped bring World Series titles to the Yankees, and therefore will always be appreciated by the Bronx faithful. The fact that Kevin Youkilis spent most of is career in Boston is not my major concern.
I don’t view yesterday’s acquisition of Kevin Youkilis in high regard because I don’t think it really makes the Yankees a much better team on the field. Youkilis is a 34-year-old ball player who is absolutely on the decline. In 111 games last season with Boston and the Chicago White Sox, Youkilis hit .235 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs. During the steroid error, it was possible for a 34-year-old player to bounce back and have a good year after such a down year. Now it appears that players are aging as they used to and I’d be shocked to see Youkilis put up any of the same numbers as he used to when he was against the Yankees in his prime.
The Yankees problem is age. The roster last year reflects this issue. Injuries to Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Mark Texeira and others hindered their production all season long. Though the Yanks were able to get through the regular season and into the playoff tournament, the lone feat is not good enough for Yankee fans. Relying year after year on aged players like Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez and the before mentioned players will not be
enough to return us to glory years. I want the Yankees to build a dynasty like they enjoyed in the 90’s. Piecing a team of aging veterans is not the answer.
Youkilis will be needed to play third base until the aging, billion dollar investment A-Rod recovers from hip surgery. However, who is to say that A-Rod is even able to play an effective third base upon his return. Even when he is healthy, A-Rod only starts about a third of his games at third. Therefore, the Yankees will be relying on Youkilis to play a huge chunk of the season at the hot corner. The problem with that is for the past several years, Youkilis has been
battling a bad back and had only averaged 115 games per year. I’m not sure that backing up your aging, often injured third baseman with another aging, often injured third baseman is the best route. I’m just hoping Brian Cashman knows something that I don’t.
As a Yankee fan, I am prepared to root Kevin Youkilis on and welcome him to the Bronx when I see him at the Stadium. I hope I am wrong in my critique of this signing. Maybe Youkilis rediscovers himself with a new change of scenery and some extra motivation to show the Sox that they made a mistake. From watching him over the year, I know he is a smart, professional player who does all the little things that the Yankees and Red Sox both love. I understand the Yankees are probably thrilled with the fact that he accepted a one year deal, because of
the huge emphasis they have put into cutting their team salary in 2014. However, my frustration as a fan exists in the fact that I can’t see the Yankees long-term plans and the Yankees reduced spending on old players does absolutely nothing to solve this issue. In a world where my Jets are the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL and my Rangers are locked out of work, I am very reliant on the Yankees to bring me some joy in the near and long-term future. As of now, I’m having a hard time figuring out how this will happen…
Let me start by saying congratulations to the Detroit Tigers on their ALCS victory, as they were the team I picked in the beginning of the season to win the whole damn thing. Now for the topic at hand. The New York Yankees not only lost in the ALCS to the Detroit Tigers, but they absolutely got obliterated and they had more dysfunction in their dugout and front office then I have ever seen a team have in the playoffs EVER. After a hard fought ALDS against their division rival Baltimore Orioles in 5 games, no one in the world expected to see what happened to the Yankees in the Championship Series. From losing their captain, Derek Jeter, to a season ending injury, all the way to the worst hitting performance in playoff history, everything that could go wrong for the Yankees did and now there are tons of questions around where they should go from here.
While I wasn’t rooting against the Yankees, I can’t say that it doesn’t feel a little good that the always successful Yankees got a little dose of what it feels like to walk in the Mets cleats. The Yankees are the most successful and the most hated team in all of baseball so outside of the Yankees fans the baseball world is thrilled with this collapse. What the Yanks did in the ALCS was the single most pathetic offensive performance in PLAYOFF HISTORY! It’s pretty remarkable because after the historic 4-game comeback in the 2004 ALCS against their biggest rival, the Boston Red Sox, no one ever thought that the Yankees would be able to have a worse playoff series. Guess again people because this series against the Tigers was a hell of a lot worse. My fellow Sports Debater, NYBobby, stated in his ALCS preview (https://sports-debaters.com/2012/10/13/american-league-championship-series-preview-and-prediction/) that the Yankees would definitely lose if they continued to struggle at the plate. I guess he was right. This was the first time that the Yankees were swept in a playoff series since 1980. They had played in 36 playoff series since then which is a MLB record for most consecutive series without being swept.
We all saw signs of anemic hitting for the Yankees during their series against the Orioles, but not many people thought it would carry over to the ALCS. The Yankees had the highest payroll in all of baseball this season ($222 million), which isn’t a big surprise, but their playoff batting average sure was. The Yankees set a Major League Baseball playoff record with a microscopic .188 postseason BA. Even more pathetic then that was the fact that they only batted .157 in the ALCS, meaning that their hitting actually got worse from the Orioles series to the Tigers. The Yanks only scored an abysmal 6 runs throughout the ALCS and they never had a lead in any game. What is really bothering me about these disgusting hitting numbers is that analysts and fans are trying to place all the blame on the easy scapegoat, Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was benched in 3 different games in the playoffs and seemed to be getting all of the heat for the Yankees struggles. Luckily for ARod (.111 BA in ALCS) , he was at least able to get some digits from some hotties in the crowd while being benched. While ARod is an easy person to point the finger at, he wasn’t close to being the only problem for the men wearing pinstripes.
The Yankees scored in just 3 of the 39 innings in the ALCS, which seems really hard to beleive but it’s true. The “savior,” or ARod’s replacement, Eric Chavez, hit for a big doughnut 0-16 with 8 strikeouts, which I think ARod could have probably managed to hit if he tried really hard. Robinson Cano (.056 BA in ALCS) and Curtis Granderson (.000 BA in ALCS) were destroying the ball all regular season long but once they entered the playoffs neither of them seemed to be able to make contact. Mark Teixeira (.200 BA in ALCS) seemed to be blind at the plate and the Yankees regular season role players, Nick Swisher (.250 BA in ALCS), Russel Martin (.143 BA in ALCS) and Brett Gardner (.000 BA in ALCS) all seemed like glorified minor league ball players. Ichiro Suzuki (.353 BA in ALCS) and Eduardo Nunez (.333 BA in ALCS) were the only breathes of fresh air for the polluted Yankees during this demolition that the Tigers performed on them. The only bad thing about that is Eduardo Nunez wouldn’t even have been playing if Jeter didn’t get injured, so as a consolation prize it kind of sucks.
While the overall numbers of the series surprises me, the end result does not. I said it for the entire season that the Yankees will not be successful come playoff time if they didn’t find more ways to score runs outside of the long ball. The regular season and the playoffs are two totally different animals. Ask the Texas Rangers who lost in two straight World Series entering this year and couldn’t even get past the one game playoff against the Oakland Athletics. This epic failure for the New York Yankees comes with a lot of questions for the upcoming season and unfortunately for Yankee fans, it doesn’t look too good.
George Steinbrenner must be rolling over in his grave as his “Evil Empire,” that he has built for over three decades is slowly unraveling. From the beginning of the season for the Yankees something felt off. The season was bookended with injuries to two of the greatest Yankees of all time, Mariano Rivera went down really early with a freak like season ending injury and Jeter went down at the beginning of the end during the ALCS. Pitching was never a problem during the sluggish playoff run, but the sweep against Detroit was finalized with the Yankees Ace, CC Sabathia, getting absolutely manhandled by the Tigers power lineup. I think that’s what they call a cherry on the top of the shit sundae the Yankees served their fans this postseason.
For pretty much any other team in all of baseball, a trip to the Championship Series would be considered a successful season, but the Yankees and their fans know that this season will go down as an epic failure. The Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager, Brian Cashman, has a lot of issues to focus on during the offseason and non of it will be easy. Do the Yankees try and dump some of these outlandish salaries like Granderson and ARod? Do we place some of the blame on Joe Girardi and try get him replaced? If they return, how much time does Jeter and Rivera still have left? Was this series an indication of where Robinson Cano’s career is heading? What pitchers do the Yanks need to resign and or go after? The questions are honestly endless, but there is a lot of fixing that needs to be done and it needs to be done fast.
Last weekend, I predicted a New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers American League Championship Series and after a week of tough, gritty baseball games, I was correct. Before I break down the ALCS, I must give credit to where credit is due. The Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics were not supposed to have had the type of seasons either of them had. They were both tough nosed, clutch and a lot of fun to watch. Each team was able to grind out a Game 5, and unfortunately for the A’s and O’s, neither team could match the Ace pitchers Justin Verlander or C.C. Sabathia. Kudos to both Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin for managing their clubs to the brink of the ALCS. The Yankees and Tigers can breathe a sigh of relief for a few hours today, but then get back at it tonight. In last year’s ALDS, these teams played each other evenly, however the Tigers ousted the Yankees in Game 5 in the Bronx, ending the Bomber season prematurely. The two teams also matched up in the 2006 ALDS, which was won by Detroit in 4 games, a series remembered by Joe Torre’s decision to bat A-Rod 8th (not too much has changed). The Yankees have revenge on their minds and this is how I see the ALCS breaking down…
Yankees Lineup: Theoretically, the Yankees will have a lineup consisting of Jeter, Ichiro, Cano, Teixeria, Rodriguez, Ibanez, Swisher, Granderson, and Martin. This lineup would consist of 3 future hall of famers and 9 players who have made All-Star games in their career. However, the big wild card in this lineup is A-Rod. After his Game 5 benching, it is unclear as to how much playing time he will receive in the next round. Eric Chavez batted over .500 against Detroit this year, and the fact that all the Tigers pitchers are right handed might lead Girardi to keep Rodriguez riding the pine. Everyone except Derek Jeter and Raul Ibanez struggled against the Orioles, especially Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson prior to his Game 5 homer. I expect the Yankees to come out of their slump and start hitting like they are capable of. As far as I’m concerned, it is mostly up to Robinson Cano to pick his game up, because he is the one player capable of matching the fire power that Miguel Cabrera brings to the Tigers. This is a veteran team, lead by Derek Jeter and they will look at the Orioles series victory as a narrow escape which can lead to a chance for bigger things to happen with the bats.
Detroit Tigers Lineup: The Tigers lineup as I mentioned in the ALDS preview is very top heavy. Miguael Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson and to a lesser extent Delmon Young carry the rest of the bats for Detroit. Quinton Berry, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Andy Dirks and Alex Avila are all good ball players who do the little things necessary to set up their studs. Peralta specifically has always done well against the Yankees, dating back to when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers are not as deep as the Yankees from 1 through 9, but the power Cabrera and Fielder can bring will definitely overwhelm the Yankees if they don’t hit better than they did against Baltimore. Even though Cabrera had the best season any of us have seen in a long time, it is Fielder’s power shooting toward the Yankee Stadium short porch that scares me the most.
Edge: Yankees (by a narrow margin)
Yankees Starting Rotation: The Yankees starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes pitched unbelievable in the ALDS. Sabathia is currently on an 8 game winning streak and looks as good as any pitcher in the bigs. In tonight’s Game 1, the Yankees will throw Pettitte who will be looking for his 20th postseason win in a career filled with big games. Kuroda and Hughes will fall in line, after both threw great games against the Orioles on consecutive nights. The Yankees have a rotation with incredible playoff experience, something that the Tigers did not see in their previous matchup with the Athletics.
Tigers Starting Rotation: Enough can’t be said about how good Justin Verlander is. Last year’s MVP grabbed hold of his team during Game 5 in Oakland and lead them to the Bronx. He’s an incredible weapon to have in a playoff series. Thankfully for the Yankees, the fact that he threw Game 5 against Oakland means they probably won’t face him until Game 4, meaning they will take their shots at Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer before the see the Tigers Ace. Last year, both Fister and Scherzer did great jobs against the Yankees in the playoffs. Fister is a sinker baller, and fits the profile of the type of pitcher who always gives the Yanks a hard time. Although the Yankees faced a lesser experienced rotation against the Orioles, they had a hard time generating any offense, which leads me to believe their struggles could very well continue against a better Tigers rotation.
Edge: Detroit Tigers (by a narrow margin)
Yankees Bullpen: If Mariano Rivera was in this version of the Yankee bullpen, some might say it is the best they’ve had in years. Rafael Soriano has done an incredible job filling in for Mo this year, which he carried into the Baltimore series. David Robertson was unbelievable in the Oriole series as well, pitching flawless baseball in tight extra inning games. In fact, everyone that Joe Girardi called on against the Orioles did their job to the best of their ability. Boone Logan looked great against lefties and I’m sure he’s already visualizing any future at-bats against Prince. David Phelps, Joba Chamberlain and the veteran Derek Lowe round out a bullpen that has done a fantastic job all year long filling in for their injured closer.
Tigers Bullpen: Jose Valverde is the most annoying pitcher on the planet. He dances, celebrates and frustrates his opponents, especially the Yankees in recent years. We saw Valverde experience a bit of a hick-up against the Oakland A’s, as he surrendered 3 runs to Oakland in the 9th inning of Game 4 to force a Game 5 and therefore lose Justin Verlander for Game 1 tonight. The Tigers will set-up Valverde up with hard throwing Joaquin Benoit, the young and arrogant Al Alburquerque, ex-Yankee Phil Coke, veteran pitcher Octavio Dotel and demoted starter Rick Porcello. The Tigers bullpen isn’t nearly as spectacular as the pen the Yankees just defeated in Baltimore, though a lot of these pitchers, especially Valverde, Benoit and Porcello have given the Yankees problems in the past.
Prediction for the Series: This will be a close series, similar to last year in which each team will be limited offensively. If the Yankees bats heat up a little bit, they will win fairly easily. If they hit like they did against Baltimore, the Tigers will win fairly easily. I expect something sort of in between. The Yankees are too good offensively to hit as they did in the ALDS as an entire team. I don’t think they will instantly be a team that catches fire, but they will certainly improve. The Tigers have scrappy players who will set up Cabrera and Fielder, who will certainly inflict some levels of damage in this series. Against almost every team in the league, Justin Verlander has the clear advantage, though the Yankees countering more of CC Sabathia closes the gap immensely. These games will be close and will come down to late inning heroics and solid bullpen play. In 2009, the Yankees had to jump over the Angels to capture their 27th World Series Championship, an Angel team who had beaten them in previous playoffs regularly. This time around, the Yankees need to get past another opponent in Detroit who has been a thrown as their side for some time now. It will be a close series but the Yankees will prevail in 7 games in front of the Bronx faithful. Yankees in 7.
With last night’s Baltimore victory over the Texas Rangers in the Wild Card play-in, the stage is set for the first round of the American League Division Series. This year’s field includes teams that weren’t supposed to be in the postseason (Orioles, A’s), the all-time great postseason franchise (Yankees) and a team who has been knocking on the door for a while but has been unable to pull through (Tigers). Below is my prediction for who will be playing in the next round for a shot at the World Series.
Yankees vs. Orioles:
These two teams battled all the way to the last day of the regular season for the AL East Crown, so it’s only fitting they matchup in the first round of the playoffs.
In the past few postseasons, the Yankees have been unable to get the big hit with RISP, something that also plagued them in the 2012 regular season. They are a team that relies heavily on the HR, but in the playoffs, that recipe often fails. During their stretch run, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson caught fire, and the Yankees will need the two of them to drive in Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki, who have done a wonderful job setting the table. The Yankees pitching will be lead by C.C. Sabathia, who had an up and down year but is still a bona-fide ace. The Yankees biggest question mark might be one that has never been an issue before, as Mariano Rivera is replaced by Rafael Soriano this time around. Though Soriano had a wonderful year recording 42 saves, nobody can truly fill in for the great Mariano. The Yankees are hoping that Soriano does a serviceable and the supporting cast takes care of the rest.
The Orioles were supposed to fade a long time ago. The AL East was supposed to be a three-horse race, which it turned out to be, though the Orioles took the place held by the Boston Red Sox for the past decade. Though they don’t do anything particularly spectacular in either their lineup or starting rotation, this team has found ways to win all season long. The Orioles are an inexperienced playoff team, which didn’t seem to faze them at all as they ousted to Texas Rangers in the play-in game last night. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters will need to carry their offense through this series, and the presence of rookie Manny Machado provides the Orioles with a young 5 tool player in the making. While the Orioles don’t have a pitcher of the Justin Verlander caliber, they have a rotation that has given Manager Buck Showalter a chance in every game this season. Wei Yin-Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman have all put up solid seasons in a tough division. Oriole closer Jim Johnson converted a stellar 51 saves this year, blowing only 3 which was a main reason for their extra inning dominance.
Predicition: The Yankees and Orioles know each other well. The Yankees have the players who have been here before, know what to expect and have the rings to prove it. While I believe the Orioles have been gritty and shocked us all to get to this point, their run will end in the Bronx. The Orioles pitches haven’t faced a monster like October baseball in Yankee Stadium and they will prove to be in over their heads: Yankees in 4.
Tigers vs. Athletics
The AL Central Champion Tigers and AL West Champion Athletics both fought up-hill most of the season to reach this point. While the Tigers were disappointing most of the season as they chased down the Chicago White Sox, the Oakland A’s were the biggest surprise in baseball as they posted the best record since the All-Star break and catapulted over both the Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels.
The Athletics are led by Cuban Rookie Yoenis Cespedes, who jumped into the #3 hole and blasted 23 HRs while hitting .292 and stealing 16 bags. Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick, who was traded from the Boston Red Sox for Andrew Bailey last offseason, protected Cespedes in a lineup featuring players that casual baseball fans don’t know about. Like the Baltimore Orioles, the Oakland A’s don’t necessarily feature an Ace, but have been winning all season long with a solid cast of pitchers who were relatively unknown. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin will all be getting the ball in the first playoff series, as most of their rotation will be making their postseason debut. Grant Balfour was reinserted in the closer role in August and killed it for Oakland, nailing down 17 straight saves as the A’s caught the Rangers. He will need to continue his success, as Oakland isn’t the type of team who will blow anybody out.
As mentioned before, the Detroit Tigers had a fairly disappointing season. After losing in the ALCS last year, they signed free agent Prince Fielder and were expected the blow the AL Central away. They got off to a slow start and finally caught Chicago in the last two weeks, clinching the division with just a few games left. Lead by the Triple Crown winning Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers are a top-heavy team that relies on their stars to carry them. Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson helped Miggy provide the offensive punch for a team that has perhaps the best pitcher in the game. Having Justin Verlander in a short series is a huge advantage. The reigning AL MVP put up another unbelievable season, notching 17 wins and posting a 2.84 ERA. When Detroit can start him twice in a short series, and fill in the other spots with reliable Doug Fister and somewhat unpredictable Max Scherzer, they feature a rotation unmatched by any in the AL. Their closer Jose Valverde always make Tigers fan sweat, but does a good job closing the deal more often than not.
Prediction: Both these teams had to play good ball down the stretch to find themselves in the playoffs. The Oakland A’s have been on a magical ride all season long, as Bob Melvin is easily the Manager of the Year in the AL. However, the Tigers have more experience and more fire power in both their lineup and pitching staff. Like the Orioles, the A’s magical ride comes to an end, but not before they put up a good fight: Tigers in 5.
After quite the bender this weekend, I got home from work today and closed my eyes for a little nap. I woke up a few hours later to a number of missed calls, messages and ESPN alerts. I’m not sure what I dreamt about in my deep sleep, but no matter what it was, it couldn’t have possibly been as sweet as the news I received when I regained consciousness. As I’ve stated before, the three teams I am most passionate about in no particular order are the New York Rangers, the New York Yankees and the New York Jets. Today, as I was peacefully sleeping, each team made a deal to bolster their respective rosters. It was by far the best nap I’ve ever taken.
The first news flash I saw on my phone was that the Rangers completed a trade for the highly touted Rick Nash. Nash was the hottest player on the trade market and he greatly improves the Rangers in an area that they sorely needed help last year…goal scoring. Nash scored 30 goals and had 29 assists for the last place Columbus Blue Jackets, but he was on a team with very little support around him. He will have the opportunity to play with players like Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards next year, and I expect his production to increase. Look for Nash to light up the net next season and I think this trade has to make the Rangers an early Stanley Cup favorite. They were a first place team this year, made it all the way to the Conference Finals and improved on their one area of weakness. The Rangers gave up a decent package in Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixson and a first round pick, but Nash will be well worth it. He is a difference maker for a team that is on the verge of greatness.
After talking to a few fellow Ranger fans about our new acquisition, I caught another headline that the Yankees traded for Ichiro Suzuki for basically a bag of balls and a few bats (Thank you Ed B!). Now, we all know that Ichiro’s production has gone down over the past few years, but he’s also been on awful teams. I believe that both Ichiro and the Yankees will provide a spark for another, as there really is no downside to this trade. Ichiro will provide the Yankees with solid defense, great speed and the ability to work his way on base and steal a few bags. He is an absolute upgrade over the Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones platoon, which has performed really well. Ichiro is batting .261 this year, but I believe that a change of scenery will help Ichiro perform closer to his .322 career average. Ichiro has done everything imaginable that a player can possibly accomplish except play in the World Series. When you place him on a team like the Yankees, who are in first place in the bigs even after being swept in four straight one run games by Oakland, the possibilities are endless. I predicted the Yankees to win the Series this year prior to this deal and this transaction only fosters my belief that we will have a special fall in the Bronx.
How could a day that lands Rick Nash and Ichiro Suzuki get any better? How about finding out that the New York Jets upgraded their single biggest weakness, trading for Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Jeff Otah. Otah has battled injuries throughout his career, including playing in only 4 games last year, but the Jets seem confident that he will be available to start this year over the atrocious Wayne Hunter. The Jets had one of the best offensive lines a few years ago and as soon as they inserted Hunter into the right tackle spot, it crippled the team. Sanchez was on his ass all season long, the running game struggled and Hunter was often spotlighted by TV analysts as possibly the worst starting Tackle in football. If Otah is able to stay healthy, he has the ability to make the Jets offensive line one of the best in football again, which can possibly lead to a reemergence of the team as a whole. If he gets injured again, well then the team is in the same position as they were in yesterday regardless. In an offseason in which Mike Tannenbaum has received a lot of criticism (Tim Tebow), this is possibly the move that will save the Jets from another embarrassing season.
Overall, I am one very pleased sports fan. Hoping tomorrow I wake up and find out Dwight Howard is somehow a Brooklyn Net! Either way, can’t wait to see what my next nap brings me…
There is no sports organization that has a history as rich as the New York Yankees and there is no day that embraces the legacy of the Yankees as much as Old Timers Day. Each year, thousands of Yankees fans of all ages gather to watch their favorite all-time players compete in an exhibition game. For fans like myself who grew up in the 90’s, seeing favorites like Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and David Cone is well worth the price of admission. For the older generation of fans, seeing Yogi Berra and Don Larsen wear their pinstripes each and every season brings back such unbelievable memories of years past. For two plus hours every season, the Bronx faithful stand, chant and applaud their heroes and honor them in a manner that only Yankee fans are capable. Yesterday was especially memorable for a little known Yankee who played on the team for less than a full season. Though he didn’t receive the greatest ovation of the day, Aaron Small had to overcome the greatest of all obstacles to find his way into Yankee Stadium yesterday.
Most casual Yankee fans probably don’t know very much about Aaron Small. He was a pitcher who spent half of his career in the minors, as he appeared in only 172 games tossing 321 innings in his entire career. The list of teams he played for includes the Blue Jays, Marlins, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Braves and last but not least, the Yankees. Primarily used as a middle reliever for the majority of his career, Small didn’t appear in any major league games from 1998 until 2003, except for 1 inning pitched for Atlanta in 2002. However, Small never lost hope in his ability, worked hard and eventually in 2005, he found himself in the right place at the right time.
Due to injuries to the Yankee rotation, Small was called up from the minors and asked to fill in while their proven pitchers were rehabbing. Small turned one successful sport start into a regular rotation spot and didn’t look back. He came on to go 10-0 and was one of, if not the main reason the Yankees were able to win their division and make a postseason appearance. He finished the 2005 season at 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA. The next year the Yanks brought him back and gave him a role in the bullpen, but after a tough 0-3 start with a 8.46 ERA, the Yankees realized they caught lightning in a bottle the year before and Small’s big league career came to an end.
Although Small’s performance in 2005 was quite remarkable, it does not even compare to the challenge he overcame this calendar year. Small was at his home on Saturday, June 5th when his wife found him in the bedroom with a towel over his head. Small complained about not feeling well and said he’d shower and go to sleep. The next morning, Small’s condition worsened and his wife called 911. The Small family and EMT personnel has to wrestle and sedate Aaron to get him into the ambulance, as Aaron describes the situation by saying “they said I was wild, like a wounded animal.” Eventually Small was taken to a Tennessee hospital where he fell into a medically induced coma.
After tests were run, Small was diagnosed with encephalitis, a virus which causes swelling and inflammation in the brain. He woke up out of the coma, looked around the hospital room and asked “what am I doing here?” As a result of the virus, Small lost the ability to walk as well as perform all other motor skills. Breathing was a struggle and he was unable to talk due to a tube that was placed in his throat. Recovery involved him using a walker, feeding tubes and vocal chord exercises. Small lost 23 pounds while in the hospital. In case you missed it earlier, this all happened to Aaron Small on June 5th, about 4 weeks ago. The man who pitched the Yankees to the 2005 postseason lost all bodily abilities in a matter of minutes.
However, as June crept by, Small began recovering slowly but surely. The vocal training began to bring his voice back, feeding tubes were removed and he began physical therapy and gain usage of all his motor skills. He was originally planning on playing in yesterday’s Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium, but as a result of the illness, he was forced to modify his plans. His new goal was to walk out under his own power. In doing so yesterday, Small demonstrated the same work ethic and self-belief that allowed a career minor leaguer to go 10-0 in the heat of a pennant race. Though Aaron Small didn’t hit any clutch home runs, win any World Series or play long enough to leave any long legacy in Yankee lore, he deserved the loudest of all ovations yesterday. In the past 4 weeks he has shown more determination than any of us can even fathom and I have a feeling that next year we will likely see Aaron Small take the mound on Old Timers Day. Personally, I can’t wait to go to the Stadium to pay my respects to a legend. A legend who has earned that title in many ways that are unrelated to baseball.