Friday, December 26, 2014

Penn State, Boston College ready to rumble in the Bronx


NEW YORK -- One last thing before Christmas.
Penn State and Boston College took care of some final business before the holidays Wednesday, when they met the media in advance of the Pinstripe Bowl. The two regional powers will meet on the Yankee Stadium turf Saturday, and they'll be seeking fitting closure to their seasons.
Penn State played to a 6-6 record in the ultra-competitive Big Ten conference, and Boston College went 7-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a core that included several players who have already graduated. Now, they'll be looking for a victory that can springboard their team to next season.
Tyler Murphy, BC's quarterback, said both teams know what kind of game they can expect.
"It's going to be a roller-coaster type game," said Murphy. "One round, we might have the momentum, and the next round, they might have it. We just have to make sure we hold our ground and keep fighting and get the game to the fourth quarter, where we feel like we have a good chance of winning."
Penn State leads the all-time series against Boston College by a 19-4 margin, but the two teams have never met in a bowl game. BC has won the last three meetings, but the most recent was a decade ago, and much has changed for both programs in the interim.
BC is in a new conference, and it graduated its all-time leading receiver (Alex Amidon) and rusher (Andre Williams) last season. Murphy stepped into the void this season, playing behind a veteran offensive line that features five graduated players. Murphy threw for 1,526 yards and ran for 1,079 more this season, and Penn State is quite clear on who it has to stop to win in the Pinstripe Bowl.
"Obviously, they're a team that prides themselves on being able to run the football," said Bob Shoop, Penn State's defensive coordinator. "They've got a very experienced and solid offensive line. Tyler Murphy has played exceptionally well. He's playing with so much confidence. He makes plays with both his arm and his feet. They've got two or three good running backs, and they've got a group of wide receivers and tight ends -- although they don't catch a lot of passes -- when the ball is thrown to them, they make plays and they know their job within the framework of the offense. They're a bit unorthodox."
BC might be unorthodox, but it's absolutely not untested. The Eagles beat No. 9 USC early in the season and later lost a close game (17-13) to No. 24 Clemson. Then, last month, BC gave No. 1 Florida State one of its toughest games this season before falling in a narrow loss (20-17) on the road.
"We were able to walk away with a lot of confidence. But we were very confident before that game," said Murphy of the FSU game. "We felt like we were going to be the team that knocks them off. We expected to win that game and we had a game plan that we stuck to. We always say, 'Get to the fourth quarter and win it there.' We had our opportunities in the fourth quarter and we just didn't make them."
Penn State, meanwhile, won its first four games this season but will come into the Pinstripe Bowl with losses in six of their last eight. The Nittany Lions' toughest game came in a 31-24 loss to Ohio State in overtime, and Penn State also lost to a ranked Michigan State team by a 34-10 score.
Penn State has a sophomore quarterback and four freshman receivers, but it's been fairly productive on offense. The difference maker, for this team, has been on defense. Penn State ranks second nationally on defense, and senior linebacker Mike Hull was named a second-team All-American.
Hull will be playing his final game, and he said it's all been a blur.
"It felt like it would never come," said Hull of his final college game. "I never want it to end. I want to play for as long as I'm able. It really hasn't hit me yet that this will be my last time out there."
The senior made his first trip to New York City this week, and he remarked that it's "definitely different than Pittsburgh," when asked for his impression of the city. Shoop, who coached at Columbia, said he was thrilled to be in the city and that his team has enjoyed the Yankee Stadium experience.
"I'm from Pittsburgh, so I'm a Pirates fan. And my wife's from Boston. She's a Red Sox fan," said Shoop of his allegiances away from the football field. "I've been to a lot of stadiums and watched a lot of games, but to play a game in Yankee Stadium is special with its tradition and history. And not just as a baseball venue, but it's a venue that has hosted NFL championship games and heavyweight boxing matches and some of the greatest concerts in history. It's really a neat opportunity."
This is the fifth edition of the Pinstripe Bowl, which was won by Notre Dame over Rutgers last season. Syracuse -- twice -- and Rutgers are the other teams that have won in prior seasons. Boston College would love to be the next team on that list, but it knows that Penn State will provide a stern test.
"They have a very balanced attack," said BC defensive coordinator Don Brown. "They have two excellent wide receivers, the tight end is a good player, and they have a stable of backs they share the wealth with.
"We have 15 guys with sacks. That tells you a little something right there about us. We're a heavy pressure team and we'll come with all 11 guys. We kind of share the wealth in that department. ... We're kind of the no-name bunch, but the thing we do well is fit the run game well with all 11 guys."

BREAKING: Kuroda to Return to Japan in 2015

A little bit of breaking news that affects the New York Yankees specifically as Hiroki Kuroda has finally made his decision for the 2015 season as he will be returning to Japan and not pitching in the majors. Kuroda was very solid for the Yankees in his three seasons in New York and it always seemed like Kuroda would pitch in the Bronx, in Japan or retire in 2015 with no other options. Apparently that option has led him back to where his career began in his native country of Japan.

Good luck for the rest of your career Hiroki and thank you for all you gave the team. We appreciate you.

Sabathia Feeling Good About His Injured Knee

Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is making progress with his injured knee.

That's the message he sent while talking with the YES Network earlier this month, telling Yankees Magazine the wound no longer limits him in his baseball-related activities. It became clear Sabathia was suffering from the degenerative condition after a May game in Milwaukee, eventually causing him to miss the rest of the season.

"It feels good," Sabathia said. "For me, I have no complaints. I'm able to do all of my workouts, play catch and do everything. So I'm excited about how it feels."

It's a safe bet the Yankees are too after hearing that, as Sabathia is one of the biggest question marks on the team going into 2015. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova also missed good amounts of time last year, but Nova is coming off the much more common Tommy John surgery and Tanaka and Pineda were both able to return to the mound in September.

Indeed, Sabathia's issue is a unique one, and it's difficult to predict how he'll come back from it.

"I've been doing everything I can to stay active," he said. "I've been working out, playing catch, I'll just continue to do that all this offseason and be ready to go."

When next season begins, it's probable Sabathia will be penciled in as the Yankees' third starter, behind Tanaka and Pineda and in front of Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Capuano.

Eovaldi is a youngster of whom the Yankees just want to learn the capabilities, so it's unlikely he'll be expected to dominate much. Capuano is really just a fill-in until Nova gets back in May, so the same presumably goes for him.

That being said, it can be fairly assumed the Yankees will need Sabathia to perform well if they want to start the year off on the right foot, hard as that may be for him.

Max Scherzer Is Officially On The Clock...

The Christmas holiday is over and while things around Major League Baseball generally stay quiet until after the new year the game's best free agent is still available and is officially on the clock. Max Scherzer, a well known Scott Boras client, was the best available free agent coming into the winter and was not expected to sign a deal during the 2014 calendar year anyway. Where will Scherzer land now that he has officially been put on the clock by the staff here at TGP?

Surprisingly there are no real obvious suitors or front runners right now for Scherzer unless you consider Detroit retaining the right hander for a "discount" or the Washington National (and that's only if they trade Jordan Zimmerman). San Francisco presumably needs another starter to go along with Madison Bumgarner and Jake Peavy but fiscal restraints will likely keep them out of the race for Scherzer as well as the New York Yankees who are penny pinching right now with six starting pitchers including Ivan Nova already penciled into the rotation. 

The Dodgers can never be counted out of things, especially this offseason, and it's also worth mentioning that the Cardinals could add a starter and Max is a St. Louis native. Boston has been throwing around money and players like it's going out of style and would really distance themselves from everyone else in the American League East if they were to sign Scherzer. Another AL East team that needs Scherzer, although seems unlikely to pursue him, is the Toronto Blue Jays who only boast young arms in Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchinson along with RA Dickey and Mark Buehrle. 

I said all that to say this, I have no idea where Scherzer is going and I don't think Max, Scott Boras or anyone else does either. Really though, I'm predicting the Cubs just because of how insane that staff would be. 

Alex Rodriguez Makes's List of 2014 Sports Villains

What a shocker, Alex Rodriguez has made the Top List of Sports Villains from the 2014 season. does great work, especially Brandon Kuty and their Yankees coverage, and earlier in the week the team was at it again releasing their top sports villains of the calendar year. Click the link HERE to see the entire list but to no one's surprise Rodriguez made the list. See below for the Rodriguez excerpt and be sure to give those guys a click or two, they do great work. 

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has been a villain for almost his entire career, but 2014 represented the end of the line for the serial performance-enhancing drug offender. 

When an independent arbitrator reduced Rodriguez's 211-game suspension to 162 games, the verdict was hardly a win for the three-time American League MVP. After going scorched earth in his case against Major League Baseball, even asserting the sport was lying and out to get him, Rodriguez disappeared for the year and accepted a spot on this list.

What Key Yankees Got for Christmas

As we all know yesterday was Christmas so I called a few key Yankees to wish them well and ask what they got from Santa Claus yesterday. The presents were well thought out from the fat man up north, good work Mr. C. Anyway, on to those presents:

Mark Teixeira: A healthy and productive 2015 season

Carlos Beltran: The ability to play 125 games in right field

Brian McCann: The ability to beat the shift consistently

CC Sabathia: A healthy and productive 2015 season

Alex Rodriguez: $61 million and a "Enjoy retirement" card

Masahiro Tanaka: The Christmas miracle, no Tommy John surgery as a Yankee.

Thank You!

It's a slow day for news and it's the first day I have really written anything since my "Ghost of Yankees Past" post which was written on Christmas Adam (Adam comes before Eve so I heard). I've taken a much needed break to spend time with my family and a much needed break to recharge my batteries. I hope everyone had a safe, productive and great holiday off with family, friends, too much food and way too much fun.

With that said I just wanted to thank everyone for being here with us, I want to thank everyone for their positive feedback on the Ghost of Yankees Past and the Brian Cashman Significant Trades posts and I want to thank everyone for their patience in allowing the staff to spend the holidays with their families.

We're back, now let's get to it!

This Day In New York Yankees History 12/26: George Herman Ruth

On this day in 1919, although not official until January, the Yankees purchased pitcher in outfielder Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox. Ruth would end up costing the Yankees $100,000 with a $300,000 loan with Fenway Park as collateral. Too bad they didn't default on that huh?