Monday, October 30, 2017

Astros Leverage Home-Field Advantage for the Win...

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
2017 World Series
Astros 13, Dodgers 12...
Astros lead Series, 3-2

You certainly do not expect a slugfest to develop for a game that featured frontline aces Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel. That game was as wild as any I have ever seen in the World Series. The YES Network was showing replays of the 2001 World Series yesterday, and Game 4 (a home run by Tino Martinez to tie it and Derek Jeter's homer to win it) might be the closest to the drama and excitement we saw in the Astros' big win. 

The win certainly puts the Astros in the driver's seat as the series will now shift back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday night.  

The game started very positively for Dodgers fans. Chris Taylor led off the game with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out, but then Dallas Keuchel walked both Justin Turner anKiké Hernandez to load the bases. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out and it looked like Keuchel might find a way to emerge unscathed. Logan Forsythe made Southern California sports bars erupt when he singled to left, driving in both Taylor and Turner when the ball booted off the glove of left fielder Marwin Gonzalez.  Hernandez took third. Then, the Dodgers picked up their third run of the inning when Logan Forsythe took off from first too early.  It looked like the Astros would get out of the inning but first baseman Yuli Gurriel's throw to second was wide which pulled second baseman Jose Altuve away from the bag.  It was just enough for Forsythe to safely slide into second (which the Replay challenge confirmed) and the run scored by Hernandez on the play counted.  

With Kershaw breezing through the first few innings, it appeared that the Dodgers were going to have their way. They picked up another run in the top of the 4th inning. After Bellinger struck out again, Forsythe doubled to deep center with a one-hopper off the wall. Yasiel Puig struck out for the second out but Austin Barnes singled to left, with the ball dropping in front of Marwin Gonzales which brought Forsythe home to score. The Dodgers were up, 4-0, and appeared to be in control of the game. Charlie Culberson subsequently reached on an infield single to shallow right when he beat Jose Altuve's throw, moving Barnes to second. That was all for Dallas Keuchel as Astros manager A.J. Hinch made the call to the pen and brought in Luke Gregerson. A wild pitch moved Barnes to third but Gregerson struck out Chris Taylor to limit the damage for the Astros. 

In the bottom of the 4th, the craziness ensued. George Springer led off with a walk. Following a fly out to left by Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve reached first on a solid hit to left. Springer moved to second. Carlos Correa smashed a double to left to score Springer. Altuve advanced to third, with Correa sliding into second under the throw (the replay challenge review showed Correa's heel touched the bag ahead of Charlie Culberson's tag). Yuli Gurriel then jumped on Kershaw's first pitch to send it very high over the left field wall for the game-tying three-run homer.  

The Dodgers quickly answered Gurriel's shot in the top of the 5th. Corey Seager and Justin Turner led off the inning with walks off Astros reliever Collin McHugh. Kiké Herandez had the first opportunity to bring the runners home but he struck out looking (in disbelief at the call). Cody Bellinger was next and he showed the World why he will be the NL's Rookie of the Year when he blasted a three-run shot to right a few feet above the wall to restore the Dodgers lead at 7-4.  

Credit:  LA Times - Robert Gauthier
Unfortunately, Clayton Kershaw did not survive the bottom of the 5th. He got two quick outs when Marwin Gonzalez flied out to left and Brian McCann struck out. But it unraveled from there. George Springer battled Kershaw through eight pitches before working a walk, and then Alex Bregman used a 10-pitch at-bat, down at one point to 1-2, to also walk.  Two outs, two runners and Kershaw was done.  

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
Kenta Maeda entered the game and was promptly greeted by a three-run homer to left center by Jose Altuve to tie the game at 7.

Credit:  AP - Charlie Riedel
The Dodgers were able to recapture the lead in the 7th. Brad Peacock was on the mound for the Astros. Justin Turner led off the top of the inning with a double to right center off the top of the wall (bummer, if it had only been a few inches higher). Kiké Hernandez bunted back to the pitcher, but the Astros were able to erase Turner at third with a quick throw from Peacock to third baseman Alex Bregman. Hernandez safe at first. Cody Bellinger's triple to center, which bounced past George Springer, scored Hernandez. The Dodgers were unable to bring Bellinger home but they had taken a 8-7 lead.   

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought reliever Brandon Morrow into the game for the bottom of the 7th. Morrow has generally been a lockdown pitcher for the Dodgers but not this time. George Springer led off with a massive Aaron Judgian home run to left to tie the game once again. Alex Bregman, swinging on the first pitch, singled to left center and he scored when Jose Altuve doubled to left center over the head of Joc Pederson.  A wild pitch advanced Altuve to third, but it didn't really matter when Carlos Correa launched a blast over the left field wall while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts could only shake his head. The Astros had their first lead of the game, 11-8. 

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
Tony Cingrani replaced Morrow to retire the next three batters in order and send the game to the 8th inning.

With Brad Peacock still pitching for the 'Stros, Joc Pederson hit a one-out double off the top of the wall in left. Chris Taylor was hit by a pitch in the ribs. The Astros pulled Peacock and brought in Will Harris.  Harris promptly gave up a double to left center by Corey Seager. Pederson scored and Taylor moved to third. After Justin Turner flied out to right, Harris was pulled in favor of Chris Devenski. The Dodgers sent Andre Ethier (that's a name I haven't written in a very long time) up to pinch hit foKiké Hernandez.  Ethier grounded out to first to leave Taylor stranded at third.  11-9, Astros.

In the bottom of the 8th and Cingrani still pitching for the Dodgers, Brian McCann went deep with a solo blast to right. The Astros had increased their seemingly safe lead to 12-9.

But the Dodgers weren't done yet. Cody Bellinger led off the top of the 9th with a walk. Devenski struck out Logan Forsythe for the first out.  Yasiel Puig was up next and his homer to left, which just cleared the wall, made it a one-run game. 

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
Austin Barnes followed Puig with a double to center.  Joc Pederson grounded out to short, but Barnes advanced to third on the play.  Chris Taylor's single up the middle scored Barnes and the game was tied yet again.

The Astros had a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th when Yuli Gurriel doubled (very nearly a home run) but they were unable to bring him home so it was off to extra innings with the 12-12 deadlock.

The Dodgers had a runner on base in the top of the 10th when Andre Ethier singled to left with one out, but they were unsuccessful in moving the runner.

It opened the door for the dramatic bottom of the 10th. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, pitching his second inning, retired the first two hitters before hitting Brian McCann with a pitch on the elbow. Next, George Springer walked. The Astros replaced the slow-footed and elbow-hurting McCann at second with pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman, jumping on the first pitch from Jansen, singled to left center well over the shortstop's head. Fisher raced around third to score the winning run for the Astros ahead of Andre Ethier's throw to the plate.  

Credit:  LA Times - Robert Gauthier
It was a nice touch by the Houston Astros to have former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush on hand for the ceremonial first pitch.  I am not sure how many more times we'll see the elder Bush in public but it was good to see that he was healthy enough to participate.

Credit:  Pool - Getty Images
A tough loss for the Dodgers but now the series heads back to Los Angeles and away from the raucous Houston crowd. They face an uphill battle but at least they'll be able to continue the fight on home turf.  

Editor's Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends...

Dave Martinez was one of my favorites, among current coaches, for managerial opportunities. As Joe Maddon's long-time chief lieutenant, I felt that Martinez was ready to run his own show. I didn't really expect him to get consideration for the Yankees job with no prior connection to Yankees GM Brian Cashman. So, I was not surprised that word leaked yesterday that Martinez is the new manager for the Washington Nationals, signing a three-year deal. It's a good hire by the Nats and makes the best of a bad situation after they axed former manager Dusty Baker.

There were also reports yesterday the Philadelphia Phillies are close to naming Gabe Kapler as their manager.  Kapler, currently, Director of Player Development for the Los Angeles Dodgers, does not have managing or coaching experience.  If Kapler gets the job, he'll beat out Phillies Triple-A manager Dusty Wathan, son of John Wathan, to do it.

As for the Yankees, Mark DeRosa is an intriguing name.  I know that like Kapler (above) or Jerry Hairston, Jr, he does not have any coaching experience.  An Ivy Leaguer (he graduated from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania), DeRosa may not have any past connections with the Yankees or GM Brian Cashman, but he's a Jersey guy (born in Passaic and raised in Carlstadt).  I respected DeRosa during his playing career and by all accounts he was a great teammate.  He was versatile playing all positions except catcher, pitcher and center field.  Listening and watching DeRosa, 42, on MLB Network shows he is a very  smart, talented guy and he would mesh perfectly with the New York media as well as the team's core of Baby Bombers.  I know you need more than a New York accent to manage the Yankees, but I could easily get behind DeRosa as a potential manager.  After watching the Nationals and Phillies (apparently) make very inspired choices for their field generals, I would like to see the Yankees do the same.  Nothing against Rob Thomson but he represents the old guard to me.  It's time for a fresh, new voice of leadership for the Pinstripers as they embark into the dawn of a new era.

Have a great Monday! It's an off day so if there will be baseball news before the end of the World Series, it happens today. Go Yankees!  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Empire Strikes Back, Dodgers-Style...

Credit:  LA Times - Robert Gauthier
2017 World Series
Dodgers 6, Astros 2...
Series Tied, 2-2

The Dodgers ensured that the World Series will begin and end in Los Angeles with their victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night. They may not win but Dodger Stadium will be the site of the next World Series Champions.  

This has been a very good World Series and Saturday's game certainly added to the collection of classics. Dodgers starter Alex Wood carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. When he gave up a hit, albeit a home run, he was gone and it was time for the Dodgers bullpen. Similarly, Houston's Charlie Morton picked up where he left off against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. The former Pirates starter, whom I always viewed...maybe very average, was magnificent with a three-hitter of his own. Neither starter figured in the outcome of the game which was decided in the ninth inning battle of Closers.  

The Dodgers started the game right when Chris Taylor led off with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out and Justin Turner got under a pitch to pop out to short. Then, with Cody Bellinger at bat, Taylor tried to do a delayed steal against catcher Brian McCann. Wrong move. McCann to shortstop Carlos Correa at second easily erased Taylor and ended the inning.  

Credit:  LA Times - Robert Gauthier
Wood and Morton battled through the early part of the game in a very good pitching duel. While Wood was still pitching his no-hitter, the Dodgers had their first real chance for runs in the top of the 6th. Austin Barnes, leading off, was hit by a pitch on the right forearm. After Joc Pederson flied out to left, Enrique "Kiké" Hernandez singled into right center field to put runners at the corners. Chris Taylor hit a grounder to third and Barnes broke for home. Third baseman Alex Bregman took the grounder and threw it to Brian McCann to nail Barnes before he could reach safely reach the plate. 

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
Hernandez moved to second but he would stay there when Corey Seager flied out to left to end the threat with no runs for Blue.  

In the bottom of the 6th, Wood kept his no-no intact for the first two hitters. Marwin Gonzalez grounded out to third (nice recovery by third baseman Justin Turner after knocking down the ball) and Brian McCann struck out. It brought George Springer to the plate. Three successive balls and a strike put Springer in a very favorable hitter's count. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Wood tried to place an 82 mph curveball over the plate. Springer got all of the ball to send it airmail high over the left field wall.  

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
End of Wood's no-hitter, end of Wood's scoreless outing, and end of Wood. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, taking no chances, went to the pen and brought in Brandon Morrow. Morrow finished off Alex Bregman by getting him to ground out to third, but the Astros led, 1-0.

The Dodgers tied the game in the top of the 7th inning. With Charlie Morton still on the mound, Cody Bellinger's bat woke up (0-for-13 with eight strikeouts) when he rapped a one-out double to deep left into one of those weird angles in Minute Maid Park.  

Credit:  AP - David J Phillip
Astros manager A.J. Hinch came out, removing Morton after a brief talk, and brought in reliever Will Harris. Yasiel Puig flied out to right for the second out to bring former Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe to the plate. Forsythe came up with perhaps the biggest hit of his career when he singled to left center, with Bellinger racing around third to easily score. Austin Barnes hit into a fielder's choice that erased Forsythe at second, ending the inning, but at least the Dodgers had made it a tie game.

After a quiet 8th inning for both teams, the game moved into the 9th. The Astros brought closer Ken Giles into the game, replacing Chris Devenski. Corey Seager singled to right center, past a diving Jose Altuve, and the Dodgers were in business. Justin Turner worked a walk to put runners at first and second.  Cody Bellinger, with renewed confidence after his hit in the 7th, doubled to  left center to score Seager. Turner held up at third.  Hinch pulled his closer at that point and brought in Joe Musgrove. The Dodgers also replaced Turner at third with Charlie Culberson. After Musgrove struck out Yasiel Puig, Logan Forsythe was intentionally walked to load the bases and create the potential double play opportunity. Austin Barnes lofted a sacrifice fly to right, deep enough to easily score Culberson. The Dodgers were up, 3-1. Next up was Joc Pederson, who struggled during the 2017 regular season including time in the minors. Redemption was delivered in the form of a 408 feet shot to right for a three-run homer.  

Credit:  LA Times - Robert Gauthier
The Dodgers had taken a commanding 6-1 lead. Meanwhile, closer Kenley Jansen was continuing to warm in the Dodgers bullpen. Kiké Hernandez flied out to left to send the game to the bottom of the 9th with the Dodgers holding the five-run lead.

Time for Kenley Jansen. Brian McCann had the first shot.  He laid down a bunt on the left side but Carlos Correa reacted quickly and his throw to first beat the slow-footed McCann. George Springer struck out and the Dodgers were just one out away from victory. Alex Bregman had other ideas and his shot to the short wall in left gave the Astros their second run of the game. The last lick (term courtesy of Michael Kay) was made by Jose Altuve who flied out to center to end the game. Dodgers win, 6-2!

It was great to see Cody Bellinger finally erupt. No home runs from the young slugger but his doubles were instrumental in the victory. As the Aaron Judge of the Dodgers, Bellinger is the key for Blue. After the win, Bellinger said, "It's a beautiful game". Yes, it is.

Credit:  LA Times - Wally Skalij
There were plenty of comments after the game that referred to Astros closer Ken Giles as Houston's version of Dellin Betances. Ouch. Dellin has some image rehabilitation to do. There's one way to do that...performance.

After team congratulations on the field, I liked the way Clayton Kershaw, by himself, walked to the pitcher's mound and looked down toward home plate for a preview of Sunday night. The tall Texan has a chance to put the Dodgers ahead in the World Series tonight on his native Lone Star turf. Whichever team grabs the win today will hold a tremendous advantage when the series resumes on Tuesday in Chavez Ravine.mLike the games before it, it should be an outstanding game and another classic.  

Editor's Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends...

I think it was Ken Rosenthal who mentioned it first, but the hottest name bubbling on the rumor mill yesterday for Yankees manager was Jerry Hairston, Jr. J-Hair has been a Dodgers broadcaster since he retired in 2013. I like Hairston but the lack of managerial experience, or more importantly coaching experience, is troublesome. I'd love to have a guy like Hairston on the coaching staff but I think manager is a bit of a reach at this point.  

It was awesome to see Yankees Legend Mariano Rivera, the greatest Closer of All-Time, at the World Series, along with Trevor Hoffman, as they participated in the Reliever of the Year Awards for Kenley Jansen (NL) and Craig Kimbrel (AL).  

Credit:  AP - David J Phillip
I really didn't expect Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to lose time in the World Series for his offensive gestures directed at Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, but I thought the five game suspension with no pay to start the 2018 season was weak. His racial insensitivity was not acceptable and MLB should have made a bigger statement.  

Have a great Sunday! Missing the Pinstripes. Go Yankees!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Help Wanted: For Winning Road Game in Houston...

Credit:  AP - Matt Slocum

2017 World Series
Astros 5, Dodgers 3...
Astros lead the Series, 2 games to 1

Well, that didn't go so well...  

The Dodgers have realized what the Yankees already's hard to score runs against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.  It didn't help when Yu Darvish failed to make it out of the second inning (the shortest start in his career) as the Astros used their bats to send Darvish to an early shower.  Credit their gloves too for some phenomenal plays to prevent potential Dodger uprisings.

Before I get into the game, I want to say that Yuli Gurriel sucks.  His racially offensive gesture toward Darvish was unacceptable, regardless of the reasons or intent.  Darvish was forgiving, but I think Gurriel should be punished.  After the game, Darvish said, "I saw it but, for me, it personally doesn't bother me.  But I am sure the Astros have Asian fans and there are a lot of Asian people all over the world and to those people, from a humanistic perspective and as a baseball organization, I thought the Astros image might suffer as a result."  MLB Commissioner is expected to meet with Gurriel today and hopefully MLB takes proper action for Gurriel's unacceptable behavior.  Gurriel apologized but of course that's just saying he is sorry for getting caught.  I doubt Gurriel loses any playing time in the World Series, but as Darvish added, "As citizens of the world, if we can learn from this and take a step forward, I think this can be a good thing."

As for the game, Darvish, unfortunately, looked as uncomfortable as Luis Severino did in the AL Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins.  The Astros made some early noise in the bottom of the first inning.  George Springer led off for the Astros with a double to the right center field wall.  He advanced as far as third before Darvish got out of the inning, but it already felt like the Dodgers were on the ropes.

Credit:  AP - David J Phillip
There was no doubt about it in the bottom of the 2nd.  Yuli Gurriel led off with a home run to left.  As Joe Buck of FOX said, "That is smoked!".  He was followed by Josh Reddick, who doubled down the line in left. Darvish lost Evan Gattis on a full count and walked him. It brought Dodgers manager Dave Roberts out to the mound for a "staff meeting" but it didn't help. Marwin Gonzalez hit a ball to deep left center off the wall for a single, with Reddick racing around to score.  Gattis moved to second. Brian McCann's single to right center scored Gattis while Gonzalez took third.  After George Springer lined out to second for the first out, Alex Bregman lofted a fly to center to score Gonzalez on the sacrifice.  The Astros were up, 4-0.  Jose Altuve doubled to left center, also off the wall, with the slow-footed McCann moving to third. Roberts had seen enough and mercifully pulled Darvish.  Kenta Maeda entered the game and retired Carlos Correa on a fly out to right to end the inning.

The Dodgers were able to pick up a run against Astros starter Lance McCullers, Jr in the top of the 3rd inning.  Thanks to three successive walks, the Dodgers had the bases loaded and no outs for Corey Seager.  Sadly, Seager hit a grounder to first that the Astros turned for a double play (Gurriel throw to second and back to McCullers covering first for the out).  But the runner on third, Joc Pederson, scored on the play with the runner on second, Kike Hernandez, moving to third.  Justin Turner grounded out to short to end the inning.  The Dodgers may have scored a run but it was a huge missed opportunity.  The inning looked more like the team that was 1-16 at one point in the season and not the one that was 52-9 over an earlier stretch.

Credit:  AP - David J Phillip
Credit Maeda for keeping the Dodgers in the game.  I thought he did a wonderful job in relief of Darvish.  He held the Astros scoreless for 2 2/3 innings and retired the only batter he faced in the top of the 5th.  

Credit:  AP - Matt Slocum
The Dodgers made a pitching change to bring in former Pirates closer Tony Watson.  Watson got Yuli Gurriel to ground out to short for the second out, but then Josh Reddick singled up the middle to center field.  Evan Gattis hit a pitch back to Watson on the left side but Watson's throwing error, a ball in the dirt that sailed past first baseman Cody Bellinger, allowed Reddick to score his second run of the game while Gattis took second.  Watson was able to strike out Marwin Gonzalez but the Astros had increased their lead to 5-1.

Credit:  AP - David J Phillip
The Dodgers had something going against McCullers in the top of the 6th.  Corey Seager led off with a walk and he moved to third when Justin Turner doubled to the left field corner.  McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, but it was the end of his day.  Astros manager A.J. Hinch brought in Brad Peacock to face Yasiel Puig.  Puig grounded out, a chopper to second, but Seager scored with Turner moving to third on the play.  With former Phillies great Chase Utley batting (pinch-hitting for Logan Forsythe), a wild pitch from Peacock that hit the dirt and went through Brian McCann's legs allowed Turner to come home for the Dodgers' third run.  Utley fouled out in foul territory beyond third base (nice running catch by Alex Bregman), but the Dodgers had made it a two-run game.

Credit:  Houston Chronicle - Karen Warren
The Astros rode Peacock's arm to the finish line.  While the Astros came close to busting the floodgates open in the bottom of the 7th when they loaded the bases with two outs, the Dodgers could not mount any offensive challenges against Peacock.  Peacock held the Dodgers hitless after he took over for McCullers and finished with four strikeouts to save the victory for McCullers.

Credit:  AP - Matt Slocum
After the game, Cody Bellinger said they had their chances and if they had played Dodger baseball, they would have won the game.  I agree.  Hopefully they'll find the magic that helped them win 104 games this season.  

Credit:  MLB Photos via Getty Images - LG Patterson
For Game 4 today, the Dodgers will hand the ball to Alex Wood.  Wood finished the regular season with a 16-3 record and 2.72 ERA.  For most of the season, he was clearly the Dodgers' second best starting pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw.  The Astros will counter with Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA).  Morton, as we know, stifled the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS.  It should be a good game regardless of the outcome.  

Editor's Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends...

Barry Jackson, sportswriter for the Miami Herald, reported this week that they do not expect a large migration of Yankees employees to the Miami Marlins.  Jackson indicated that according to a Marlins source, the Marlins will not take any further Yankees employees without specifically negotiating with Yankees GM Brian Cashman to acquire them.  The Yankees have already lost former VP of Player Development Gary Denbo to Derek Jeter and the Marlins.  The name probably won't mean much to most of us but Denbo did hire Dan Greenlee, one of his former player development analysts, away from the Yankees according to Joel Sherman, Baseball Columnist for the NY Post and MLB Network Insider.    

As someone who grew up with Yankees managerial changes seemingly occurring every year and often multiple times within a single season, it still seems odd for the Yankees to be searching for only their third manager in 22 years.  While I was surprised the Yankees decided to part ways with Joe Girardi, I am not shocked.  I thought he did a good overall job but I never felt that he was on the same plain as Joe Torre.  I trust Brian Cashman enough to feel confident that he'll make the right choice for Girardi's successor.  The stakes are very high with a young talented team that is World Series-ready and Cashman knows that his legacy will reside in large part with this choice. 

The early favorite for Yankees manager appears to be Rob Thomson, followed closely by Joe Espada and Al Pedrique.  The Yankees emailed permission authorization to all teams yesterday to grant them access to the Yankees coaches.  This action leads me to believe that Girardi's replacement will not come from the coaching staff.  One writer said that among the many names cited as potential candidates, it's very likely that we have yet to see the name of  the next Yankees manager.  I have no idea who I want or prefer at this point.  

Have a great Saturday!  I wish the Dodgers would just hurry up and finish the World Series (I know, the Astros appear to have the final say) so that we can get on to important matters like all things Pinstriped.  Go Yankees!

You're A Tool, Yuli Gurriel!

It's been a long time since I did one of these, but what I saw last night really ticked me off. Yeah... calling Gurriel a "tool" is an understatement. Racism, and any sort of bigotry, is the biggest issue facing this country. Just think about all the problems we face, and I bet each and every one of those things can be traced to bigotry.

The golden rule is this... don't be an a***ole. But Yuli doesn't abide by that rule.

I really hope I don't have to explain to you why I'm calling out Gurriel here. He's a racist, classless, piece of garbage. If Rob Manfred lets this go then it'll go to show what a tool he is too.

This Day in New York Yankees History 10/28: A Rod Opts Out

On this day in 2007 in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies we heard the news that Alex Rodriguez had opted out of his contract with the New York Yankees. The timing of the announcement as well as being a no show to receive the Hank Aaron Award, which honors the best offensive player in the league, did not sit well with MLB, Bud Selig, the fans, or the Yankees.

Also on this day in 1979 Dick Howser replaces Billy Martin as the Yankees manager. Howser would lead the Yankees to a 103-59 record with an American League East championship although he was fired by George Steinbrenner when he was swept in the playoffs by the Kansas City Royals.

On this day in 1953 Red Barber quit his job as the broadcaster of the Brookyln Dodgers and would find a new job with the New York Yankees. The man nicknamed "The Old Red Head" was upset with Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley over money and lack of support.

Friday, October 27, 2017

World Series Game Three Thread: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Houston Astros

Good evening everyone and welcome to Houston, the site of Game Three of the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The first two games of this series were entertaining to say the least and I expect nothing less out of these two teams tonight and going forward over the next three games here inside Minute Maid Park. In Game Three the Dodgers will send Yu Darvish to the mound to face off with Lance McCullers Jr. The game will be played at 8:00 pm ET inside Minute Maid Park and can be seen on FOX.

Follow us on twitter by following @GreedyStripes and enjoy the game. I have been right on my predictions, as far as the winner and not so much the score, in the first two games so let’s make it three-for-three tonight.

Prediction: Dodgers win 6-4 

Yankees Postseason History Recap: Alex Rodriguez in 2009

The 2009 season was a season for the Yankees and their fans that came with a lot of hope but a lot of pressure at the same time. The team had went out and signed huge free agents like CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira while acquiring the likes of Nick Swisher from the Chicago White Sox while their big-money star third baseman Alex Rodriguez started the season on the DL with a hip injury. Alex came back seemingly healthier than ever hitting a home run on the first pitch he saw this season and he ended up with 30 home runs and 100 RBI on the dot after a huge final game of the season.

Alex was riding high into the postseason as he looked to finally break out like a 13-year old boy and while the Yankees searched for the 27th World Series title in the franchise’s history. Alex finished the 2009 postseason with a .365 average, six home runs and 18 RBI but no home run may have been bigger than the one he hit on October 9th, 2009.

On this day against the Minnesota Twins the Yankees DH slugged a two-run home run late to tie the game, a game that the Yankees ultimately went on to win. Without that win the ALCS and eventually the World Series may never have come.

Another Reason To Be Excited About The Future

While I was already excited about the future of the Yankees, the recent decision to part ways with Joe Girardi has increased it.

Let me start by touching upon the reasons I was excited before....

1. The Yankees are stocked with young stars. Aaron Judge is not only an MVP candidate after his rookie season, but is also a finalist for the Gold Glove award. Among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances this season, Gary Sanchez was first in fWAR, first in wOBA, first in SLG, first in home runs, and first in RBI. Luis Severino, in his first full season as a starter, was third in the AL in fWAR, third in ERA, and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings. And then you have other youngsters like Greg Bird and Jordan Montgomery. Not to mention that Sonny Gray is young and under team control for two more seasons, and Didi Gregorius is in the same boat while being a prime candidate for a contract extension (although the Yankees are not keen on contract extensions).

2. While there are already youngsters in the Majors making big contributions, that doesn't mean there aren't more on the way. Gleyber Torres is the #1 prospect in baseball, and will likely make his MLB debut sometime in 2018. Chance Adams will likely debut next season too, while other good pitching prospects like Justus Sheffield are not far behind. Then there's Miguel Andujar, who could very well be the team's long-term answer at third base (this could be dependent on the team ridding themselves of Starlin Castro, of course).

3. This is the area that has me a little concerned. Emphasis on "little".

I believe young players need veterans to guide the start of their careers. For example, Matt Holliday had a well-documented impact on Aaron Judge this season. Adjusting to the spotlight, particularly in New York, is extremely difficult. So to see a player like Judge handle things in stride like he did should be enough to tell you that some veteran presence is a good thing.

That's an area where CC Sabathia has been big for the team. Sure, we haven't heard much about the interaction between CC and youngsters like Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery, but I'm sure some of CC's knowledge has been shared with them. And as long as the team has a starting spot to fill, and he's still effective, then Sabathia should be brought back.

But on the offensive side of things that veteran presence isn't so obvious. The 22+ years of experience in MLB from Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, and Didi Gregorius should be there for the kids of today and the future. But is it really? I'd like to know, because until then I'm just a little concerned here.

4. I have faith in Brian Cashman and the front office (btw, the fact that Brian Cashman had much to do with the decision to let Joe Girardi go tells you he's returning as the general manager). I know Brian has his share of detractors, but I'm not among them. What Cash has done the past few years is extraordinary. Before the 2016 trades of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman the Yankees farm system was middle of the road, but after those trades ranked them second. Brian was also able to get the Yankees a young, strong, cost-controlled starter in Sonny Gray without giving up that much (Fowler, Kaprielian, and Mateo are not bad prospects, but each has questions about their futures). And how about the trade for Didi? That worked out pretty well, didn't it? Or how about holding onto top prospects who have made it possible for the Yankees to not only build a winner, but have a winning team right away? Has Cash made some mistakes (Chris Carter)? Sure. But his pros significantly outweigh his cons.

And that brings us back to the first line of this post... the Yankees' new manager.

I wasn't against Joe Girardi, but I wasn't for him either. I saw the good... I saw the bad. My faith in Girardi as the manager mainly revolved around the fact that the front office had faith in him. Was that wishful thinking on my part? I really don't know. There are numerous articles out there talking about all the good and bad things Joe Girardi did for the Yankees, so I really don't want to repeat all of that.

My faith again is in the hands of the front office, and I feel good about that. Because the front office has made it so the future of this team is brighter than it's been since 1996. They could very well hire some guy that flat-out stinks, but seeing how well the vast majority of their decisions have worked recently, I feel good about what will happen. Especially since it's been made clear that they were not on board with the "binder" thing that many people hated about Joe Girardi's managing style.

To wrap things up, I'll never be happy about the Yankees losing, no matter what the circumstances surrounding the loss are. Losing in the American League Championship Series, especially being one win away from winning the pennant with two games to go, hurts. But the fact that this team, and by "team" I'm talking about players, coaches, and front office, lost gives them motivation to be even better in 2018. They may not be the underdogs they were in 2017, but they still have something to prove.

Yankees Postseason History Recap: The Flip

Derek Jeter did a lot of amazing things in his career as a New York Yankee and it would take me a few pages and 20-30 minutes to probably tell you all of them and that’s just the regular season. Jeter somehow found a way to step it up in the postseason and always be in the right place and the right spot at the right time. See the 2001 ALDS against the Oakland Athletics with the Yankees backs against the wall for a perfect example of this.

The Yankees were down 2-0 in a best-of-five series against Oakland and with their playoff lives at stake the Yankees sent Mike Mussina to the mound. The Moose did not disappoint as he was pitching a gem before Terrence Long ripped a ball down the right field line. Jeremy Giambi came rumbling around third base while Shane Spencer retrieved the ball and hauled it home over the cutoff man Tino Martinez. Giambi looked all but safe at home and the Yankees looked all but dead in the water before out of nowhere came Derek Jeter.

Jeter grabbed the ball and flipped it to catcher Jorge Posada who applied the tag to Giambi thus saving the game, the series and the season for New York. Some will say that Jeter should have been in that position anyway and that he shouldn’t be cheered for simple fundamentals but it’s the small things that make ordinary men great and other men mediocre in this game and Jeter was great. Plays like this cemented his legacy.

World Series Game Three Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Houston Astros

Welcome to Houston, welcome to the land of the designated hitter and welcome back to the World Series as the Houston Astros and Minute Maid Park play host to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Three of the 2017 World Series. The Dodgers and Astros split the two games out in Los Angeles after a couple of crazy games to kick off the World Series and much of the same is expected tonight in Houston for Game Three. In Game three of the series the Astros will send Lance McCullers Jr. to the mound to face off with Yu Darvish, the first right-handed pitcher for the Dodgers to take the mound as a starter during this Fall Classic.

Darvish has been the Dodgers second best pitcher this postseason behind only Clayton Kershaw so every time the Japanese-born right-hander takes the mound you have to think that Los Angeles is confident that they are going to win. Darvish has made two starts in this postseason allowing just two runs while striking out 14. This will be the first time that Darvish pitches in the World Series though in his Major League career.

McCullers Jr.  was a hero for the Astros in Game 7 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees where the right-hander threw four scoreless innings in the victory for Houston. McCullers pitched well in the ALCS overall throwing 10 innings and allowing just one run and three hits with nine strikeouts consistently keeping the Yankees bats down.

The game will be played at 8:00 pm ET inside Minute Maid Park in Houston and can be seen on FOX. Enjoy the game, and FYI my boycott of this year’s World Series is still going strong despite my feelings of missing baseball. I just can’t stomach to see the Astros in the World Series after the Yankees were so close to making it, it’s nothing personal to them. Oh, and I’m not the biggest fan of Yankees haters like Joe Buck but I feel like I’m not alone in that sentiment. 

Recapping Joe Girardi’s Tenure in the Bronx

The New York Yankees and Joe Girardi will no longer be a couple in 2018, the feels are real. Whether the news that Girardi would no longer be the manager of the team next season makes you feel happy, sad or indifferent the fact of the matter is this, Girardi did a great job for the Yankees during his tenure overall. Let’s take a look at that tenure here this morning.

Years: 10
Win/Loss: 910 – 710
Games Managed: 1620
Playoffs: 6
Missed Playoffs: 4
Playoff Record: 28-24
2009 World Series Champions
Three trips to the ALCS
Binders: 1
Fans Annoyed: Far too many to count

Thanks for the memories, Joe, even if they weren’t always so great. 

So it Seems… HELP WANTED

Good morning everyone, it is that time of the year again where we ask for help with writing here on the blog. The offseason is full of rumors, news, speculations and opinions and frankly I just can’t keep up with it all myself, so I am asking for a little help. Obviously, this is a volunteer-only job, I don’t even make a dime off the site, so you would not be tied down to minimums and such. Just post what you can, when you can.

For whatever reason the Gmail address we have for the site is acting funny, I won’t get emails for months at a time and then boom… flooded with them, so send me an email to my personal email if you’re interested at Daniel Burch 1102 at Yahoo dot com. Thanks in advance.

HEY YOU. Good morning. Another day of being blessed, another day of being happy because it’s another day of being your man. I love you Kari. 

This Day In New York Yankees History 10/27: 1999 Yankees Win!

On this day in 1999 the Yankees completed a sweep of their second consecutive World Series beating the Braves in four games. Roger Clemens led the Yankees to the 4-1 victory in Game 4 that ended the Fall Classic. The Braves become only the second team in World Series history joining the 1910-1919 New York Giants to lose four World Series in one decade.

Also on this day in 1954 Joe DiMaggio and his wife Marilyn Monroe decided to get a divorce after just 274 days as a married couple. This was a disaster waiting to happen from the beginning as this was well known to be a stormy marriage. Marilyn filed the papers citing mental cruelty as the reasoning. Say it ain't so Joe.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

2018 Free Agency: Joe Girardi – Yay or Nay

Well this didn't work out, did it? I had this scheduled to post today before news broke that the New York Yankees would not be bringing back Joe Girardi for the 2018 season. Oh well. Never waste content.

The New York Yankees have a lot of decisions to make this offseason as far as personnel and players go but the team’s biggest decision this offseason may be what the organization does with their vacant managerial position. Manager Joe Girardi’s contract is up after the end of the World Series and no one knows whether to expect Joe back on the Yankee Stadium bench here in 2018. With the uncertainty facing the team’s future and with the presumable lore that is Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins will the New York Yankees be in the search of a manager here in a couple weeks? Or should the team make it their decision to part ways? I will tell you what I think should happen as well as what I think will happen here in the post.

As unpopular of a post as this is about to be I think the Yankees should retain Joe Girardi on another three-year deal. I don’t pretend to be omnificent or all-knowing, but does anyone see a true upgrade over Girardi out there on the free agent market as far as managers go? And no, John Farrell is not a better manager than Joe Girardi is in my opinion. I just don’t see a better manager that can handle the bullpen the way Girardi does, not all the time but no one is “on” 100% of the time either, and I just don’t see a better manager that can handle a young team over Girardi. Girardi has handled a young team in Miami before and he did a bang-up job with the Baby Bombers here in 2017 as the team far exceeded expectations in every sense of the word.

Sure, Girardi may be an idiot to some and he may rely on his “binder” far too much at times but the Yankees have never had a losing record during his tenure, the team has a World Series championship and has reached the ALCS three times under his command. The players seem to rally around him and support him, Dellin Betances did so publicly lately, and I just don’t see an obvious upgrade out there to be had. For all those reasons and more though there will be teams out there wanting his services including the aforementioned Miami Marlins.

I think at the end of the day the Yankees will offer Girardi another contract, but I am torn on whether I believe he will accept it or not. The Marlins and the opportunity to manage the likes of Giancarlo Stanton may be exciting for Girardi but I am not entirely sure if Girardi is ready to start over. The Marlins don’t have the farm system the Yankees have and while they have some young talent on the team I think the Yankees are just a better fit right now. At the end of the day I think the Yankees will offer Girardi a three-year deal while the Marlins may offer more but I truly think Joe stays in the Bronx for at least three more seasons, and I am totally okay with that. 

Astros Win in Sudden Death Overtime...

Credit:  LA Times:  Wally Skalij
2017 World Series
Astros 7, Dodgers 6...
Series tied, 1-1

Wow! The Dodgers may have lost but that was one heck of a game! A low-scoring affair until the Astros tied it at 3 in the top of the 9th inning, the game became a battle of home runs in extra innings with George Springer's two-run homer in the 11th inning providing the final margin of victory for the 'Stros.

This was a magical game from the start. The first pitch was "thrown" (I use that term loosely) by legendary former Dodgers announcer Vin Scully with an assist from Fernando Valenzuela. I miss the days of Scully calling Dodger games but it was so incredible to have him on the Dodger Stadium turf. Great call by the Dodgers to have Scully, one of the greatest announcers of all-time if not THE greatest, throw the first pitch. It's time for Dodgers baseball!  Damn, love that guy. It was so wonderful to hear his voice again. Valenzuela, in relief of Scully (who suffered a "rotator cuff" injury on his attempted throw...wink, wink), threw the pitch to former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager.

Credit:  LA Times:  Robert Gauthier
With veteran Rich Hill pitching for the Dodgers and former Tigers ace Justin Verlander on the mound for the Astros, the game remained scoreless until the top of the 3rd inning. Josh Reddick hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Chase Utley in shallow right that got away from the former Phillie when the ball bounced off the palm of his glove. No error on the play but Reddick safe at first with a hit. Inexperienced batsman Justin Verlander was next in the obvious bunt situation. His first attempt resulted in a foul fly off the backstop net. He looked like an American Leaguer trying to bat. But then on his second attempt, he laid it down perfectly with a slow roller back to the pitcher. Verlander took five steps in the California heat before giving up for the out, but he did his job pushing Reddick to second. George Springer followed with a single to left to put runners at the corners. Alex Bregman's single to center scored Reddick and the Astros led 1-0. It may have been an extra-base hit if not for centerfielder Chris Taylor's hat. The ball went up on the diving Taylor but was re-directed toward left fielder Joc Pederson thanks to the bill of his cap. Hill prevented further damage when he struck out Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to end the inning. I thought the Dodgers did an excellent job limiting the Astros to only one run in that situation.

The Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the 5th when Joc Pederson took Verlander deep with a shot over the wall in right field.

Things were looking good for the Dodgers in the bottom of the 6th inning. Chris Taylor took a two-out walk. Corey Seager was next and he belted a Verlander pitch over the left field wall into the first row to give the Dodgers a two run advantage.

Credit:  LA Times:  Gina Ferazzi
Moving into the 8th inning with Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow on the mound, Alex Bregman led off with a ground-rule double to right. Right fielder Yaiel Puig made a running dive in an attempt to get to the ball but it hit the end of his glove and bounced up into the stands, much to the chagrin of the visibly upset Puig. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided to take no chances and brought in closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen had only blown one game all season and the Dodgers had a ridiculous stat of 98-0 when leading after eight innings. Jansen got the first batter he faced (Jose Altuve) to ground out to second, but Bregman moved to third. Carlos Correa singled to center on a chopper that got by second baseman Chase Utley, making it a one run game, 3-2. After Yuli Gurriel flied out in foul territory near first base, Jansen got Brian McCann with a huge strikeout to end the inning.  

Normally, a one-run lead at Dodger Stadium in the 9th inning is a guarantee for victory. Unfortunately, Marwin Gonzalez had other ideas. On an 0-2 count while leading off for the Astros, Gonzalez turned on a Jansen cutter (an unusual bad pitch from the All-Star Closer) to deposit it over the wall in left center to tie the game.

Credit:  LA Times: Robert Gauthier
The Astros had the go-ahead run at second when George Springer hit a two-out double down the left field line, but he was left stranded when Alex Bregman grounded out to short.

The Dodgers were unable to score in the bottom of the 9th against Astros closer Ken Giles when they were retired in order. I was really hoping that Cody Bellinger, who made the final out, could have come up huge in that situation but it was not to be. So, off to extra innings we went...

Top of the 10th and Jansen was gone. Dodgers reliever Josh Fields was on the mound in his place. The Astros decided it was time to play Home Run Derby.  Jose Altuve led off with a blast to the front row of the center field stands to give the Astros the lead, 4-3. Carlos Correa said 'I can do that, only better' and sent the ball fourteen feet further into the left center field seats. 5-3, Astros.

Ken Giles was still pitching for the Astros in the bottom of the 10th. Yasiel Puig led off with a towering shot to left to make it a one-run game. After Giles struck out Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes, Logan Forsythe drew a walk on a full count. With Enrique "Kike" Hernandez at the plate, a wild pitch by Giles moved Forsythe to second. Hernandez, the hero of the NLCS with three home runs in the final game to send the Dodgers to the World Series, singled to right to score Forsythe. Astros right fielder Josh Reddick made a perfect throw to catcher Brian McCann but Forsythe's speed was too much as he safely slid into home.  

Credit:  LA Times: Robert Gauthier
The game was tied once again. Hernandez advanced to second on the throw but the Astros made a pitching change to bring in Chris Devenski who retired Chris Taylor on a fly out to center to push the game into the 11th inning.

The Dodgers made another pitching change, bringing in their ninth pitcher of the game...former Yankee Brandon McCarthy. It wasn't McCarthy's finest hour (or maybe I should say minutes). Cameron Maybin led off with a single to center, just past the outstretched glove of Corey Seager. He subsequently stole second on a close play at the bag. George Springer handed the Astros another two-run lead when he homered to right center. 7-5, Astros.  

Credit:  LA Times:  Wally Skalij
McCarthy was able to retire the next three Astros to give the Dodgers, as Michael Kay would say, "their last licks". 

Houston's Chris Devenski came back out to the mound for the bottom of the 11th. He got the first two hitters when Corey Seager lined out to center and Justin Turner lined out to third. Charlie Culberson, who had just entered the game in the top of the 11th when he took over in left field, homered to left center, making it a one-run game for Yasiel Puig. Trailing by one run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, it was a huge opportunity for Puig who clearly loves the limelight. Not this day. After battling Devenski, Puig swung and missed on Devenski's ninth pitch of the at-bat to end the game. Astros win, 7-6.  

Credit:  LA Times: Wally Skalij
I know there is no "overtime" in baseball but that was as close to a hockey shootout as I've seen (especially in a World Series game).

The two teams take a break today to travel to Houston for Game 3 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park. The pitching matchup is currently scheduled to feature the Dodgers' Yu Darvish against the Astros' Lance McCullers, Jr. For Darvish, it is a homecoming of sorts with the return to Texas.  Although when you are from Dallas, anything from or in Houston sucks. I am sure that the former Texas Ranger will thrive back in the Lone Star state. It should be a fantastic pitcher's duel, particuarly if McCullers, Jr can pitch as well as he did against the Yankees.  

Credit:  LA Times:  Allen J Schaben
I will be watching with my Dodgers gear in hand...

Editor's note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends...

It is funny watching the daily tweets about Joe Girardi's appearances at Yankee Stadium. The fact that I know Girardi left the stadium at 1:10 pm yesterday shows how much New York writers are seeking to find stories about whether or not Girardi will return to the Yankees next season. So far, those writers have been disappointed. Girardi may not be giving away any signals of what is on his mind, but at least he's talking with the team.  I remain hopeful that it leads to a new deal for the long-time manager. Honestly, who is out there that can do a better job than Girardi? I know that we've been frustrated with some of his decisions but I seriously doubt that any of us could do a better job. Hopefully Hal Steinbrenner moves quickly to re-sign both Girardi and GM Brian Cashman so that the team can start its off-season strategy to bring the 28th World Championship for the Yankees next season.    

Credit:  NY Post:  Richard Harbus
Saw the pic of Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge and CC Sabathia taking in a Brooklyn Nets game last night. Admittedly, I would have preferred to have seen these guys playing in Los Angeles. Or maybe Judge should have been in a batting cage working on those breaking pitches. Ha!  Next year, guys, next year...

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Have a great Thursday! I wonder what time Girardi will show up at Yankee Stadium today or when he will leave. Go Yankees!