Tag Archives: New York Yankees

Merry Cliffmas and Happy Halladays!

The Philadelphia Phillies gave their fans an early Christmas present by signing Cliff Lee!

Wow!  Just as I am trying to finish the semester (only one more day!) another can’t miss story comes along.  Like the results of the World Cup voting, how can I not comment on the Philadelphia Phillies signing one Clifton Phifer Lee for $120 million over 5 years (with a vesting option for a 6th year)?  I mean seriously!  Did this really happen!?  Things like this never happen to Philly teams.  Generally, free agents have spurned teams from Philadelphia, especially the Phillies.  I guess the winning culture developed over the last several years has started to pay dividends beyond the World Series title and 4 straight years in the playoffs.  The Phillies are now a destination for free agents.

The most interesting part of the Phillies signing Cliff Lee is that he left money on the table to sign with them.  Both the Yankees and the Rangers offered more cash and more years.  According to Phillies beat writer Randy Miller, Lee’s wife played an important role in him signing with the Phillies.  She was reportedly spit on and harassed during the ALCS.  Looks like the stupid New Yokr fans may have cost the Yankees.  All I can say is thank you Yankee fans!

I am almost too excited by Lee joining the rotation to write anything coherent! Think about this, Lee, who won the Cy Young in the AL in 2008 joins a staff that includes: reigning Cy Young winner Roy Halladay; 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels; and 3-time All-Star Roy Oswalt. What other team can match that pitching depth?  The answer – NONE!

Just look at their numbers from last season:


I know that Lee, Hamels and Oswalt did not have great records, look at the other stats! Ridiculous. Also keep in mind that when Oswalt was with the Phillies he was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA. The Phillies now have the best pitching staff in the league.  The only other team that could even make an argument would be the Red Sox with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and John Lackey, but a couple of those guys have some questions marks and underperformed last season.

Assuming the Phillies can score runs for their Big Four, a problem at times last year, they have to be considered the early favorites to win the National League and the odds on favorite to win the World Series.

For more information on Lee’s signing with the Phillies check out:

Todd Zolecki with MLB – Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Cliff …
Bill Baer at Crashburn Alley – Cliff Lee Signs with Phillies
Jeff Fletcher at FanHouse – In Spurning Millions, Cliff Lee Shows Value
Jayson Stark at ESPN – Cliff Lee’s return simply stunning

Boston Red Sox: Once Promising Season, Dead After 123 Games

The Blue Jays exit the field after their win. The scoreboard, in the background, shows the carnage.

The Boston Red Sox 2010 Season, once promising with the additions of John Lackey to the pitching staff and Adrian Beltre and Mike Cameron to the lineup, has died.  The season was just 123 games old.

The Boston Red Sox 2010 season died on Friday, August 20 with a sold-out Fenway Park in attendance.  The Red Sox had been battling a systemic illness brought on by poor play and mounting injuries to key players.

Even my Rally Cap couldn't help save the Red Sox night or season.

The Red Sox, a team that has been close to contention for most of the season, placed 6 players on the All-Star Team, could not overcome season ending injuries to Kevin Youkilis, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, and an injury that saw Dustin Pedroia miss nearly 50 games.  Pedroia, who returned to the DL Friday, will likely not return until sometime in September, and could be done for the season.  No major league team can hope to compete against the Yankees and (now) Rays while battling the injuries the Sox have contended with all season.  The Red Sox had been within 4 games of the Wild card leading Tampa Bay Rays as recently as last week.  However, following a 16-2 drubbing at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays it became evident to all in attendance that the Red Sox season (already on life support) would be unable to sustain itself.

Yunel Escobar squares to bunt in the 1st. This was the beginning of the end for Lester and the Sox.

The first signs that last night was the end came when Jon Lester, arguably the Red Sox ace, gave up 5 runs in the first inning.  Prior to last night, Lester had given up 4 runs in the 1st inning in his 24 other starts combined.  The night got progressively worse, as the Blue Jays pounded 3 3-run home runs and scored in every inning except the 4th and the 9th.  To add injury to insult, the Red Sox saw two more players go down during the early portion of the game.  Mike Lowell sustained an injury in after colliding with John McDonald, and Scott Atchison (who had pitched well in relief of the ineffective Lester) left the game after taking a line drive off his leg.

In a season where the philosophy was, “win with pitching and defense”, the offense has, surprisingly, carried the Sox for most of the season.  With Josh Beckett and Lackey both ineffective for long stretches and Daisuke Matsuzaka inconsistent at best, the Sox have relied on good outings by Clay Buchholz and Lester to carry them.  Unfortunately, last night Lester did not deliver.  His lack of command (51 pitches, only 26 for strikes) doomed the lefty and dealt the death-blow to the Sox season.

Despite the gloom of last night’s game and the season, there have been several bright spots and reason to hope for the future.  The Sox have gotten contributions from several players in their farm system. Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and recently promoted, Yamaico Navarro (who got a hit in his MLB debut last night) come to mind.  If the Sox can make some offseason additions (Hello Jayson Werth!), the team should bounce back and compete next season.

The grounds crew did a phenomenal job maintaining the field. The best work of the night at Fenway.

Survived by the 35,000+ fans in attendance each night at Fenway Park, and the millions of members of Red Sox Nation, the 2010 Red Sox season will go down as a lost season.  With this season dead, a familiar refrain could be heard as I exited Fenway Park, “Wait ‘Til Next Year.”

Check out some more pictures from the game on my flikr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/therallycap/

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A Week that Could Make or Break Contenders

With the trade deadline come and gone, pennant races throughout both leagues will heat up. In both the NL and AL East, the race has gotten much closer over the last week. The Phillies have pulled to within 2.5 games of the Braves. The Rays are a scant 1 game behind the Yankees after winning their weekend series. Trailing the AL East leaders, the Red Sox are making a run, having won 5 out of their last 6 games. This week could see some movement in the standings, as the contenders all have some tough games ahead of them (some against each other). With the races becoming so close, this week could propel a team into first place, or could crush the hopes of fans along the eastern seaboard.

With the Phillies looking to cut into the Braves' lead, Roy Halladay will go to the mound twice this week.

Both contenders in the NL East have tough weeks ahead of them. The Phillies start the week (on Tuesday) with a 3 game series against the Marlins in Florida, while the Braves take on the Mets in Atlanta.  The Braves and Mets have played 8 times this season, with the Mets owning a 5-3 advantage.  If the Mets can win the series, it will give the Phillies an opportunity to pick up a game of two on the NL East leaders.  While the opportunity certainly exists, the Mets had a horrible July (going 9-17), while the Braves own an MLB best 34-13 record at home.

The Phillies need to win their series with the Marlins, who are coming off a 16-10 July in order to keep pace with the Braves. With Ryan Howard hobbled by a sprained ankle, the Phillies might be without their most consistent offensive threat for some portion of the series. Howard believes he could be back in the lineup for the series opener on Tuesday, but you have to wonder if the Phillies will rest their slugger for a game or two using him for pinch hit duty if necessary. If Howard is rested, Ross Gload or Cody Ransom would likely start at first.  The Phillies will have Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick and Roy Oswalt going against the Fish.  Thankfully, the Phillies will avoid Josh Johnson, and will contend with Sean West, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad.  West and Volstad are middling pitchers, neither should scare the boys from South Philly.  Since both are going against superior pitchers, the Phillies are in a good place to win those games.  Will they win those games?  That is another story.  Both are winnable, but they have to go out and get the job done.  Sanchez, on the other hand, is a tough pitcher having a very good season (including a complete game shutout of the Giants in his last outing), and will pitch against Kendrick.  That game looks like the most likely loss for the Phillies; however, Kendrick has pitched well in his last two starts, throwing 13.1 innings, striking out 8 and giving up only 2 earned runs.  The Phillies are in an excellent position to win this series, even sweep it, but they have not performed well on the road.  Their road record currently stands at 23-30, they were just 3-11 on the road in July, and lost 2 of 3 to a Nationals team that is 17 games under .500 and was without their best pitcher in Stephen Strasburg.

Phillies fans will be rooting for Lincecum when he takes on the Braves this week (and not because he is on their fantasy team).

At the end of the week, the Braves will host the surging San Francisco Giants, while the Phillies will return home to the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park to host the Mets.  The Braves will face the top of the Giants rotation, with Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain pitching the first three games.  The series finale will see Jonathan Sanchez take on Derek Lowe.  The Giants won the last series between these two teams (2-1) and posted a .714 winning percentage in July (20-8).  Coming off a weekend sweep of the Dodgers, there is hope for Phillies’ fans.  San Francisco winning is a bit of a double-edged sword, as they are the current leaders in the Wild Card race and could put more distance between themselves and the Phillies.  Despite this fact, I know that I will be rooting for the boys in orange and black (it seems natural for a Philly sports fan, no?).

While the Braves take on the Giants, the Phillies will renew their rivalry with the Mets.  The Mets currently own a 4-2 edge in the season series, but as stated above have been less than stellar over the past month.   The Phillies will face Hisanori Takahashi, Jonathon Niese, and Johan Santana during the three games series, and will counter with Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels and Halladay.  Takahashi was tough on the Phillies in his only start against them this season, pitching 6 innings of shutout ball, striking out 6.  Though, if Blanton can pitch even moderately well, the Phillies should have a chance to win all three games.  Hamels is a better pitcher than Niese, and has been on fire lately.  The Phillies may not face Niese though, as there are rumors that his turn in the rotation will be skipped after he was blasted by the Diamondbacks in his last start.  Sunday’s match up between Santana and Halladay should be a great one, as two of the best pitchers over the last decade will be squaring off.  The last time Santana faced the Phillies he had one of the worst outings of his career, giving up 10 runs in 3.2 innings; and the Cardinals pounded him in his last start, scoring 7 runs in 5.2 innings.

Given the Phillies play of late, I think they pick up a couple of games this week, placing them in excellent position to retake the division lead within the next couple of weeks.  Of course, this prediction is predicated on Ryan Howard coming back to play most of the week.  Without Howard in the lineup, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez would need to continue their torrid post-All-Star play for the Phillies to have a chance.

There hasn't been much good in Cleveland sports for the last several months, and it is unlikely to change against the Sox at Fenway.

Turning our focus to the Al East, the Sox have a massive opportunity to cut into their deficit.  They start the week playing four games against a Cleveland team that just traded its best starter (Jake Westbrook) to the Cardinals, and one of its best offensive weapons (Austin Kearns) and its closer (Kerry Wood) to the Yankees.  The pitching matchups clearly favor the Sox, with John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka lined up for the series.  While the Sox will have to contend with Fausto Carmona in the first game, the pitcher for the 2nd game of the series is undecided, former Sox player Justin Masterson will pitch the third game, and Josh Tomlin, a 25-year-old rookie with 2 starts to  his name (though he has been impressive in those two starts, giving up just 2 runs over 12.1 innings) will start the finale.  While these games might seem like locks, the Sox are only 2-2 against the Indians this season, despite Cleveland’s season-long mediocrity. With momentum from two straight walk-off wins, the Sox are in an excellent position to win 3 or 4 of the games against the Indians.   As for their competition in the AL East, The Yankees face the Blue Jays in New York, while the Rays face white-hot Twins (9-1 in their last 10 games) at Tropicana Field.  Neither series will be easy for the teams with the two best records in baseball.  If either falters, the Sox need to take advantage by winning a very winnable series.

Following the series against the Indians, the Sox will travel to the Bronx to take on the Yankees for 4 games.  Just 3-5 against the Bronx Bombers this season, the Sox cannot afford to lose this series if they want to have a realistic shot of catching the Yankees.  The already potent Yankees lineup was augmented through two trades just before the deadline.  They captured the aforementioned Kearns (8 HR, 42 RBI, .271 avg, and .768 OPS), as well as Lance Berkman from the Astros.  Berkman, a shadow of his former MVP caliber self, still has some pop and fits in excellently at DH.  The Big Puma has struggled at the plate this year, batting just .242 – by far the lowest of his career, but still has 13 HR and a .794 OPS.  He provides an upgrade at DH over the oft-injured Nick Johnson, and can spell Mark Teixeira at first base.  Because the series is 4 games, the Sox aren’t lucky enough to avoid C.C. Sabathia, who will pitch Saturday’s game against Lackey.  The first game will pit Clay Buchholz against Javier Vazquez, while Sunday’s game will be a battle of former Marlins with Beckett taking on A.J. Burnett.  This series presents the Sox with an opportunity to cut into the Yankees’ lead, the question is can they do it?  While the Sox and Yanks battle in the Bronx, the Rays will be taking on Toronto in Tampa, not exactly an easy series.  Pending the outcome of the Sox-Yankess series, the Rays could find themselves in first place at the end of the week.

Big Papi and his clutch hitting have returned for the Red Sox. Will it continue against the Yankees?

I think the Sox will carry their new-found momentum through the Cleveland series, winning at least 3 of the games.  The biggest test of the season for the Sox will come starting Friday.  With their offense and pitching back on track, the Sox have a good chance to split the series with the Yankees.  If they can win the series, they will have passed their biggest test, and shaved at least 2 games off the Yankees lead.

Right now, the Phillies have a 31.9 % chance of making the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus, while the Sox have a 26.5% chance.  Hopefully, both the Sox and Phillies take care of business this week.   One of my teams needs to make the playoffs!

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Can the Red Sox Make a Run?

With less than week before the MLB trade deadline, many Red Sox fans are wondering what chances the Red Sox have at making a run toward the playoffs. Currently, the Sox sit 4.5 games behind the Rays for the AL Wild Card and are 7 behind the Yankees for the AL East crown. Clearly, the Sox need to make some additions if they are to compete for a playoff spot.

The Red Sox have been mentioned in trade talks involving Jayson Werth, Scott Downs and trading Mike Lowell to the Tigers. What do the Red Sox need? I think they need another bat and some relief pitching to make a run at the postseason. They do not need to trade for starting pitching with Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett back from injuries. Beckett was effective on Friday in his first game since May 18. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up 1 earned run and striking out 5. If the Red Sox can get vintage Beckett for the last 2+ months per season that will be a huge boost. Buchholz has been excellent all season, and while he wasn’t sharp in his return his presence in the rotation is also huge boost. A side effect of both Beckett and Buchholz returning is Tim Wakefield moving to the bullpen.  His addition to the pen, strengthens what has been a weakness for the Sox.  The Sox are currently exploring options, with Downs being at the top of the list.  ESPN is reporting that the Blue Jays are valuing Downs much higher than a reliever would normally be valued.  They believe he will be a Type A free agent after the season, meaning they would receive a first or second round pick as compensation if a team signed him after the season.  Ultimately, the Blue Jays will settle for something because keeping Downs does them no good going forward.  The question is whether the Sox will be willing to pay the price to get him.  Other alternatives include Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg (both of the Blue Jays) and Kyle Farnsworth of the Royals.  If the Sox can get a reliever before the trade deadline, the bullpen should no longer be a weakness.

On the hitting side, the Sox are slowly starting to get healthy. Jeremy Hermida recently returned from injury and Victo Martinez is due back Monday. Getting Martinez back will be huge for the Sox both behind the plate and at the plate. With Jason Varitek injured (he is still several weeks away from beginning a rehab assignment) the Sox have been relying on players that are at best backups and at worst career minor leaguers. Jacoby Ellsbury, out with broken ribs, also appears to be on his way back to the Sox. He will begin his rehab assignment at the Gulf Coast Red Sox on Monday and should hopefully be back with the big club in a few weeks. More good news for the Sox comes in the form of Dustin Pedroia playing catch without the boot. As of right now, the former AL MVP is slated to return for a pivotal series against the Yankees from August 6-9. Even with the impending return of many of their bats, the Red Sox offense has been stagnant the last several weeks. They are 8-11 in July, and are hitting .243 with a .315 on-base percentage and a .735 OPS over that same time period. This after hitting .276 with a .815 OPS before the All-Star Break.

Wouldn't this guy look good in a Red Sox uniform?

If the Red Sox want to navigate their way through a tough schedule, they have 10 more games against the Yankees (August 6-9 and September 24-26 in the Bronx, and October 1-3 at Fenway) and 6 more against the Rays (August 27-29 in Tampa and September 6-8 in Boston), they need to pick up a bat to help bolster their flagging offense. Between covering for injuries (J.D. Drew is bound to get hurt at some point, isn’t he?), filling in for slumping players, and possibly displacing a current starter (J.D., I’m talking to you) there are enough at-bats to accommodate a top-level bat. Adam Dunn, currently with the Nationals, is available and while not the best fit for the Sox would add a lot to the offense. He could play in the outfield and fill in at both first base and DH. His 23 home runs and .934 OPS would look mighty good batting behind Kevin Youkilis in the lineup. The Phillies are shopping Jayson Werth and he would be a great fit with the Sox. He would replace Drew in the starting line up (his numbers are better across the board and he has a monster arm in RF) adding more consistent pop to the line up. The righty would take advantage of the Green Monster and finally appears to be breaking out of a month-long slump. Another possibility would be Ty Wigginton of the Orioles. He can play several position in the infield (he has started games at 1B, 2B and 3B this season and has played SS and the outfield in the past), has good power (16 HR this season) and wouldn’t necessarily be looking for a starting job. Of the three players I’ve mentioned, he would likely be the cheapest addition for the Sox.

If the Sox can make some additions and their current players all return healthy, they are close enough to make a run at the Wild Card and maybe even the division.  While 7 games are a lot to make up before the end of the season, the Sox should look no further than my other team, the Phillies for inspiration.  The Phillies were able to overcome a 7 game deficit with 17 games to play in 2007.  Remember, anything is possible.  Believe!

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East W L PCT GB E# WCGB WCE# L10 STRK vs E vs C vs W INT HOME ROAD vs R vs L XTRA 1-RUN RS RA X W-L LAST GAME NEXT GAME
New York 61 35 .635 - - - - 6-4 L1 22-12 12-8 16-8 11-7 33-16 28-19 39-21 22-14 4-2 9-6 521 399 59-37 7/24 vs KC, L 4-7 7/25 vs KC, 1:05P
Tampa Bay 58 38 .604 3.0 64 - - 6-4 W1 25-13 15-8 11-6 7-11 26-20 32-18 36-27 22-11 6-3 16-15 493 380 59-37 7/24 @ CLE, W 6-3 7/25 @ CLE, 1:05P
Boston 55 43 .561 7.0 59 4.0 62 4-6 L1 20-21 10-9 12-8 13-5 30-20 25-23 36-28 19-15 4-8 17-16 513 453 55-43 7/24 @ SEA, L 1-5 7/25 @ SEA, 4:10P
Toronto 49 48 .505 12.5 54 9.5 57 6-4 W1 17-16 15-13 10-8 7-11 23-20 26-28 41-33 8-15 3-4 13-19 445 430 50-47 7/24 @ DET, W 3-2 7/25 @ DET, 1:05P
Baltimore 31 66 .320 30.5 36 27.5 39 3-7 L1 10-32 5-10 9-13 7-11 18-32 13-34 21-44 10-22 7-3 16-14 350 520 32-65 7/24 vs MIN, L 2-7 7/25 vs MIN, 1:35P
Central W L PCT GB E# WCGB WCE# L10 STRK vs E vs C vs W INT HOME ROAD vs R vs L XTRA 1-RUN RS RA X W-L LAST GAME NEXT GAME
Chicago 53 43 .552 - - - - 5-5 L1 7-11 17-20 14-9 15-3 27-19 26-24 42-33 11-10 2-4 18-12 431 401 51-45 7/24 @ OAK, L 2-10 7/25 @ OAK, 4:05P
Minnesota 52 46 .531 2.0 64 7.0 59 6-4 W1 11-16 24-15 9-5 8-10 30-20 22-26 33-30 19-16 5-3 17-16 459 411 54-44 7/24 @ BAL, W 7-2 7/25 @ BAL, 1:35P
Detroit 50 45 .526 2.5 65 7.5 60 2-8 L1 9-3 16-21 14-14 11-7 34-16 16-29 33-36 17-9 3-3 10-13 426 433 47-48 7/24 vs TOR, L 2-3 7/25 vs TOR, 1:05P
Kansas City 42 55 .433 11.5 55 16.5 50 3-7 W1 10-12 16-19 8-14 8-10 20-25 22-30 33-43 9-12 7-2 14-18 420 497 41-56 7/24 @ NYY, W 7-4 7/25 @ NYY, 1:05P
Cleveland 41 56 .423 12.5 54 17.5 49 7-3 L1 11-15 20-18 5-10 5-13 22-23 19-33 29-38 12-18 4-3 13-12 401 468 42-55 7/24 vs TB, L 3-6 7/25 vs TB, 1:05P
West W L PCT GB E# WCGB WCE# L10 STRK vs E vs C vs W INT HOME ROAD vs R vs L XTRA 1-RUN RS RA X W-L LAST GAME NEXT GAME
Texas 57 41 .582 - - - - 7-3 L1 9-16 18-13 16-8 14-4 33-20 24-21 39-28 18-13 6-5 18-14 497 408 58-40 7/24 vs LAA, L 2-6 7/25 vs LAA, 8:05P
Los Angeles 52 48 .520 6.0 58 8.0 57 5-5 W1 10-11 11-16 20-14 11-7 27-21 25-27 37-30 15-18 4-4 17-13 455 467 49-51 7/24 @ TEX, W 6-2 7/25 @ TEX, 8:05P
Oakland 49 48 .505 7.5 58 9.5 57 8-2 W1 14-17 12-8 15-13 8-10 29-22 20-26 36-35 13-13 4-5 15-10 412 394 50-47 7/24 vs CWS, W 10-2 7/25 vs CWS, 4:05P
Seattle 38 60 .388 19.0 46 21.0 45 3-7 W1 10-14 11-13 8-24 9-9 23-28 15-32

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